Vladimir Putin and the Limits of Thuggishness

 

A lot of American hawks have displayed a barely disguised admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin this year. Oh, he’s a thug and a bully all right, but at least he fights for his country’s interests—and wins. The appeaser-in-chief could learn a thing or two from him.

Not so fast, says Dan Drezner. Exhibit A in Putin’s 2013 display of statecraft was negotiating a deal for Syria to give up its chemical weapons, and Exhibit B was his strong-arming of Ukraine to reject membership in the EU’s Eastern Partnership and instead join Russia’s planned Eurasian Union. Victory goes to the thuggish! Except, not so much:

It turns out that a lot of Ukrainians were not happy about this turn of events, and have engaged in eleven days of massive protests. Even Yanukovich’s allies are now talking about reconciling with the domestic political opposition….[The New York Times reports that] “the anger over Russia’s role has made it all but impossible for Mr. Yanukovich to take the alternative offered by the Kremlin — joining a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan”….Furthermore, as the Economist points out, the way Russia has lost is even more damning. Rather than EU pressure, it is domestic discontent that has stayed Yanukovich’s hand: “It is far better for the EU that the backlash against Mr Yanukovych comes from the streets of Kiev rather than from Brussels.”

As for that Syrian chemical weapons deal, it turns out that (a) Obama and John Kerry had a lot more to do with that than we knew at first, and (b) regardless of the opposition of hardliners in Israel and Saudi Arabia, it’s worked out pretty well for the United States. The truth is that Putin hasn’t gotten a lot out of that deal, but we have.

Bottom line: Maximum belligerence isn’t the answer to every foreign policy problem. Obama’s approach might be messy, but over time it doesn’t look so bad after all.

 

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate