Mark Ames writes: It goes without saying that Putin didn’t plan this crisis to happen — he already had his man in power in Kyiv. But Putin did exploit the situation, turning a major humiliating defeat in February into a massive political victory within Russia by doing what the Silent Majority would’ve wanted Putin to do: Redress grievances, air out resentments nonstop against the West and against west Ukraine fascists, and screw whatever the West thinks.
There’s not much comfort here for any side in the West when you frame Putin’s actions through local politics. Here, in our proxy war way of framing Ukraine, either Putin’s a crazy evil empire-r looking to reestablish his empire, meaning we better stop him now; or Putin’s merely reacting defensively to our aggression (or, according to the faulty thinking of a lot of people sick of American interventionism, Putin is heroically defying the US Empire, acting as a counterweight).
What he’s doing is shoring up his new political base while tightening the screws on whatever remained of liberal freedom in Russia, taking control of the Internet, seizing control of the handful of opposition online media sites, and ramping up the culture war against liberals, gays, the decadent West… The fact that we, the US and EU and a few billionaires, funded violent regime change groups in bed with west Ukraine fascists and Russophobes has only made Putin’s domestic job easier. You can see it in the aftermath of the Odessa fire massacre that killed over 40 pro-Russian separatists: It shut up even Navalny.
The liberal-yuppie elites’ momentum is over. Putin’s popularity among the rest of the country has never been higher.
So if Putin is neither the defiant counterweight hero or the neo-Stalinist imperialist, but rather playing a Russian version of vicious Nixon politics, what should the West do?
That’s easy: Stay the Hell out of Russia’s way for awhile, its version of Nixon politics is just beginning, and it’s going to get uglier. Russia has a history of turning inward in ways that will strike us as feral and alien, something the abandoned Silent Majority will welcome, but no one else will. (Our sanctions only helped speed up that process of inward isolationism.)
America’s Silent Majority was crazy enough in the Nixon years: the Silent Majority cheered Nixon on when college students were gunned down on campuses; 80% of Americans sided with Lt. William Calley, the officer in charge of the My Lai massacre. [Continue reading…]