Understanding Vlad?

There’s been a certain amount of commentary about “understanding” Putin.

Most of the world understands him quite well. He wants to re-create an authoritarian empire that never worked all that well and couldn’t really be supported by the fifth-rate economy that was all that the Russian political structure would allow.

He’ll also kill or incarcerate anyone who he thinks is a threat, and he’ll try to smash anything that he can if he believes that it stands in his way, just like the overgrown petulant child he is – if an intelligent, ruthless, scheming, and merciless child. Ukraine is just the latest example.

Although authoritarian societies can mass and direct concentrated forces in ways difficult for freer market-based economies, that concentration is inefficient and stifles economic growth and development. That’s one reason why both Russia and China work hard at stealing information and ideas from other nations, particularly the U.S. It’s also why Russia can’t, for example, build sufficient numbers of both military and civilian aircraft, or why it’s actually reliant upon U.S. oil production technology and equipment, and why Russian exports are predominantly either natural resources or agricultural products.

Vlad the invader either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to accept the fact that comparatively freer market-based economies can out-produce and out-engineer command-and-control societies, even while we “waste” incredible amounts of resources on goods and services others would term frivolous.

The current Chinese leadership certainly does understand the economic limitations of command-and-control governments, which is why that leadership is attempting to create a system of “controlled capitalism.”

But because Putin isn’t about to even try to follow that path, he’ll bleed the Russian people dry in pursuit of his goals. Over the long run, he can’t compete against freer societies, except by destroying them. The problem is that, while he can’t “win” in the long run, right now he can create extreme atrocities and destruction, and with his nuclear arsenal, in the short run, he could make everyone lose.

12 thoughts on “Understanding Vlad?”

  1. Censored Far Too Often says:

    Overgrown petulant children do not demonstrate consistency in their arguments.

    2007 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ58Yv6kP44

    2014 : http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/46860

    Nowhere is any reference to recreating an authoritarian Empire. Indeed, Putin seems mostly to be asking the world’s only Empire to follow international law.

    Russia is capitalist. It’s not the USSR. It may be “state capitalist”, but so to some extent is France, the US (Boeing gets a lot of military funding, as do chip companies), and China. And it’s in a much better shape than it was under Yeltsin who let “freer market-based economics” run wild. For example, unlike the US, it does not have a trade deficit.

    It did this, while being sanctioned, which obviously reduced its GDP growth. Now it’s suffering the harshest sanctions ever imposed against a country.

    Although one might laugh at selling commodities as not sufficiently value added, the EU is going to crash without these mere commodities. One can’t rearrange atoms, if one doesn’t have atoms to rearrange.

    Finally, the argument seems to be based on the assumption that this is all about one man. Since that is the frame of reference, it should explain why Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden were so much better presidents than Putin: how they improved the standard of living of average Americans, how their wars killed fewer people than Russia’s, how they demonstrate every day how “adult” they are.

    Russia is certainly a more authoritarian society than the US has been. This is due to being invaded many many times, not because of “one overgrown petulant child”.

    1. Dear, dear, Vlad couldn’t have a better apologist. You make the Russians sound like poor suffering souls, ignoring a mountain of facts. What about the fact that Russia has done far more invading in its history than it’s ever been invaded. What about the fact that this is at least the second time it’s brutalized Ukraine? As for the trade deficit, that has nothing to do with good management; it’s because Russia can’t afford such a deficit. Perhaps I was too generous to dear Vlad. How about just calling him an intelligent, brutal, and merciless sociopath who has a record of lying and murder?

      You also don’t seem to understand the structural differences between a free market economy where the government subsidizes certain industries and fascism, which is the closest approximation to the current Russian economy. And exactly what did Ukraine do to poor Vlad except show the deficiencies in his Russia by showing how more freedom works better than his authoritarian, dictatorial “state capitalism”?

      1. Censored Far Too Often says:

        Apologist. Wow. Insults are easy. Fair and reasoned argument isn’t.

        Perhaps you could actually back up your accusations with evidence? All I did was falsify your statement that we are dealing with a petulant child.

        For instance, prove your assertion that Russia is fascist.

        Give the reasons why the US can afford its deficit, and explain why the fact other countries are trying to buy commodities without the US dollar will not cause the US dollar to fall.

        As to Russia brutalizing Ukraine a first time, I’m not sure what you are referring to. If you are referring to the Holodomor, that famine also occurred in Kazakhstan, in Siberia and in Russia. The leader of the USSR at the time was a Georgian (Stalin). And how brutalized is Ukraine versus the 2 US wars in Iraq? Its war in Afghanistan? What about the 14,000 deaths in Donbas? A fair analysis would take that into account.

        Having experienced war, I hate it. But I also really care about the truth.

        1. Stalin was the dictator leading Russia. As head of state, his acts reflect the state, not his place of birth. From 1930 to 1940, his campaign against small Ukrainian farmers killed, directly or indirectly, at least one million and put over a million and a half in forced labor camps. His decrees about eliminating the Kulaks are quite clear, and more than a few scholars classify it as genocide.

          According to Merriam-Webster, Fascism is: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” If that doesn’t describe Russia under Putin. I don’t know what does.

          The U.S. has had a significant trade deficit for decades. If we couldn’t afford it, it would have long since been apparent. You’re postulating a “what if” that hasn’t yet occurred and may not.

          As for the Donbas, that’s effectively a civil war where the separatists are backed and supplied by Russia. That backing has likely increased the casualties. So how is that the fault of the Ukrainians?

          1. Censored Far Too Often says:

            I wrote a documented response, citing the Encyclopedia Britannica, but the answer was moderated away, again. The Encyclopedia Britannica can be found online and disagrees with LEM, for those that care to research this topic further.

            Time to leave the house of LEM in peace, since the host brooks little disagreement.

          2. No, the host just won’t allow misleading claims that sound like they came from Vladimir Putin’s “state news,” interspersed with cherry-picked quotes or facts that are at variance with most published facts and analyses.

    2. Chris says:

      You should read George Kennan’s Long Telegram. It is an exceptional analysis of Russian, not just Soviet, mindset. It is a mindset that Putin is demonstrating quite clearly.

  2. Tom says:

    Some added depth to “understanding Putin”.

    An interesting article from 2016: – https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2016/12/26/vladimir-lets-make-a-deal/ indicates … Putin was not a spy, per se, but rather a recruiter…. ie. he persuaded people to become traitors. A window into the last thirty years of manipulation of the world?

    Suplemented today with: – Opinion | What lies behind Russian support for Putin’s war in Ukraine? By James V. Wertsch 16 Apr 2022; South China Morning Post. This lends some support to why and how Putin is using the Orthodox religion to control Russian opinion of him.

  3. Corwin says:

    This might be a little facetious, but if you really want to understand the Russian mindset, let me suggest watching both series of the TV show ‘The Great’. I think you’ll see that very little has changed.

  4. Tom says:

    What made the Producer and Director think “The Great” was a comedy? It sure seems very Russian to me.

    Reviewing the archeological history of the tribes of “Slavs” it appears that if all Slavs are claimed by Russia then historically Russia was/is a part of Ukraine – and not vice versa.

    Fascist is more adjective than noun. The characteristics of fascism are authoritarian and thus the general term can be used to describe any group exhibiting a behavior set no matter what the associated group ideology happens to be. This extract might be of interest regarding the use of fascist applied to regimes of the authoritarian right and left:
    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science/article/abs/similarities-and-differences-between-leftwing-and-rightwing-radicals/C46411F0228745583D2EB8E91A19D881

    People who have fought in a war are usually loath to admit it and hard to get to express an opinion on any facet of warfare. I am interested to know what war has been experienced by people expressing an opinion on warfare. My experience of WW II is long forgotten for whatever psychological reason one wishes to engage, so my comments are biased by what I have been told and what I have read in various history books and articles. LEM has Vietnam experience in his bio; others? We might learn how the Ukraine invasion by Russia in 2022 is in any way similar to the US invasion of Iraq.

    1. There were essentially two U.S. invasions of Iraq, and they should be viewed as such. The first was in reaction to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The second, IMO, was an overreaction by the U.S. to brutal internal Iraqi political conditions and possibly to forestall a restructuring of the international petroleum markets.

      1. Tom says:

        Thank you for the clarification. I keep forgetting Operation Desert Storm.

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