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Why all Russians may be thinking like Putin

Posted by John Reed on

Walter Russell Mead’s column in today’s WSJ (page A15) is fascinating. It may be nonsense. I have no expertise in the subject. Pending someone refuting it, it seems mandatory reading to me given that nuclear war is at stake.
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I have asked the question “What is all this talk that comes out of Putin about restoring Russia to greatness? Russia was never great. It is an imaginary past.” Mead’s column explains it not as a Putin delusion, but as a national delusion.
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If so, we may be in for a nuclear war because the entire Russian nation suffers from insane delusions of grandeur that never was and some cosmic, religious, cultural, Marxist-capitalist delusion of war between them and the West. 
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My inclination would be to tell the Russians you were never great, we never cared about you one way or another, we are not at war with you because you are insignificant and we do not use war as a way to compete in any event. That may all be true, but according to Mead, it would outrage the Russians. Almost like being indifferent to them—as we are—would be worse than trying to put them down or defeat them.
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A nation of Putins.
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Mead says Russia may lose this war against Ukraine—although Putin and the Russians think it really is not Ukraine that is the enemy. It is The West. WE are somehow behind Russia feeling threatened by Ukraine. 
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Does Russia think Ukraine was going to attack them militarily. Obvious nonsense. They seem more drawing this conclusion from Ukraine rejecting Russian culture, religion, influence, for Western democracy, capitalism, decadence. Ukraine’s threat was not respecting Russia or seeming to be on the verge of that.
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What? Like some two-bit teenage gangster from the ’hood? Yeah.
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Mead points to Spain—a 19th century superpower—surprisingly getting its butt totally kicked by the upstart nation called the United States in the Spanish-American War. That shattered Spain’s self-image and caused Spaniards to question the monarchy and the Catholic church—its two main institutions. Important stuff in 1898 Spain believe it or not.
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He makes a similar comment about UK and France and their fight to retain control of the Suez Canal in 1956. They still saw themselves as major world powers. But President Eisenhower and Stalin told them to let Egypt have the canal. When they resisted, Eisenhower mentioned America maybe dumping all British bonds on the market which would instantly destroy the British pound. That mere verbal threat alone ended their Suez policy and instantly, starkly revealed that they were both impotent pikers compared to the US and USSR in the second half of the 20th century.
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Spain quietly left the superpower table. UK adjusted to reality accepting the new role of America’s best friend. France never got over is fall from world leadership and is still a pain in the ass. Witness France’s demand that French be one of the top two Languages in the UN.
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Back to Russia. According to Mead, the world is 7th grade, America and its Western buddies are the cool kids, and Russia is like Biden at the Obama party: ignored. No adjudication of fault or maybe that’s life and there is nothing to be done about it. But such maturity is not the nation of 7th graders.
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There is also some Russian notion that it was born in the heart of Ukraine. 
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Mead said almost all Russians believe:

1. Russia is different (maybe but no one cares)
2. That Russian being different is transcendentally important (to them maybe, no one else cares)
3. The above two “facts” give Russia a unique role in world history
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Obvious nonsense. But if they believe it, it may be that they see getting their asses kicked by Ukraine is a war is an existential threat to their nutty delusions of grandeur if not a physical threat. Mead seems the think Russia would do anything, including nuclear suicide, rather than quietly accept downward adjustment in their self-esteem.
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Mead says Russia has ALWAYS seen the West as the cool guys who won’t show them enough respect. And that they somehow see aggression against them in the West’s treatment of them. As I said, the West is indifferent to Russia, not trying to put them down, which might anger them even more.
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Russians also, like the 1930s Germans think a strong dictator is more what they need than democracy. Their longest serving leader was Stalin. Q.E.D.
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Here are the last three sentences in the column:
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“Mr. Putin and those around him know that in Ukraine, they aren’t fighting only for an adjustment of frontiers. They are fighting for their world, and it may be psychologically impossible for them to accept defeat until every measure, however ruthless, and every weapon however heinous, has been brought into play. 
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Victory or death—and take as many Westerners with them as possible.
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And the only way out for us is victory. This is how world wars happen: terminal nationalism. We have not provoked it in any western sense of the world. Rather, we have provoked it in the street gang, prison gang sense of disrespecting them.
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That is a psychiatric problem of theirs, but whatever the reason, it may take a nuclear war, that they will lose—contrary to the propaganda mantra that nuclear wars cannot be won—to cure them of this psychiatric problem. 
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China would appear to have a variation of this disease. Germany and Japan had it in the 1930s. Napoleon Bonaparte around 1800.


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