Shaking the Tyrant’s Bloody Hand

Please read this piece, from the excellent Mauldin Economics page, entitled Something Rotten in the State of Russia. It shows the many profound problems besetting the Russian state.

That horrible, horrible man, Putin, is indeed horrible.

But how dangerous is Putin to the USA? Or to our allies?

Putin presides over a crumbling country.

Meanwhile Trump, who some believe is under Putin’s control, is focused on driving down oil and gas prices and pushing NATO to increase defense spending, both of which are hard blows to Russia. Trump is also promoting pro-growth policies which will help fund a military buildup and modernization.

Russia has no prayer of matching this.

Putin has real problems, with no real solutions.

Trump is confronting Putin with challenges he cannot overcome, which will only grow worse over time.

The idea that Russia is capable of embarking on a new Cold War against the United States is laughable.

Russia is only considered to be a country of the first rank because of its nuclear arsenal. But that arsenal is useless, other than as a deterrent to invasion, or as a way to commit suicide. No one is going to invade Russia any time soon. More importantly, Putin and his cronies are not suicidal. Putin may even be the richest man in the world. Putin and his posse have a nice life, and a lot to lose. They likely want to enjoy the benefits of their despotism in peace, not see their dachas reduced to radioactive ash.

(Further, the Russian nuclear arsenal may be of diminished value if, as expected, Trump pushes forward on missile defense.)

China is a rising power; Russia is a declining power, even a dying power. Russia is a menace to its neighbors; Islamic Terrorism is a menace around the world.

China is the long term challenge, Islamic Terrorism is the acute, immediate challenge, to the USA and its allies. Russia faces a long-term threat from China, which seems destined to simply overrun the entirety of Asiatic Russia. Russia is also threatened by Islamic terrorism. The USA and Russia face the same serious threats.

Russia should be aligned with the USA with regard to both China and Islamic terrorism.

The current situation is absurd and should be resolved.

This does not mean the USA will become “friends” with Putin, or the Russians.

We will not trust Putin or the Russians.

We will not be allies, beyond allies of convenience, case by case, with Putin or the Russians.

We will not have shared values with Putin or the Russians.

We will simply recognize important common interests, including ramping down the hostility between our countries, cooperating where it is mutually beneficial to do so, and focusing on more important, mutual threats and challenges.

There is plenty of room for a deal here.

Nixon shook Mao’s hand, a hand dripping with the blood of 65 million victims.

FDR shook Stalin’s hand, a hand dripping with the blood of 50 million victims.

Trump will do what is best for the peace, prosperity and security of the United States.

That will likely include shaking the tyrant’s bloody hand.

32 thoughts on “Shaking the Tyrant’s Bloody Hand”

  1. So I write about how the USA and Russia should cut a deal, and one of our more unhinged regular backbenchers writes a diatribe about how Putin is really OK. Totally off point, and done in an insulting and stupid way.

    I am actually soliciting (intelligent, informed) disagreement with this post. But arguing with something I DID NOT SAY and being a total tool about it?


    See the Comments Policy.

  2. To be frank, I have two problems with this article.

    First, comparing Putin to Mao & Stalin seems far too close to the standard American Leftist tactic of comparing President Trump to Hitler. Putin may not be a nice person, but he is not in the same league as Mao & Stalin — nowhere close.

    Second, and this is purely anecdotal, Mauldin Economics may not have captured the whole story in their analysis. In the last year, I have had the opportunity to pay a number of visits to western Russia, and meet Russians from Siberia. What Mauldin Economics describes does not match what I saw through my little keyhole. Not saying Mauldin Economics is wrong … simply that there is more to the story than they recognize.

    The visitor to a place like St Petersburg cannot help but be impressed by the pride of the people, and their confidence in the future — a civilizational confidence which is hard to find in the anti-American swamp of Washington DC. The cleanliness & graffiti-free nature of the streets, the well-tended parks show a healthy society far beyond the dreams of contemporary Detroit or Cleveland. The lack of public drunkenness & hooliganism would be the envy of a Londoner.

    Yes, Russia certainly has its problems — as do most of the countries in the world, saddled with self-serving over-spending Political Classes. And yes, United States policy towards Russia should be based on serving US interests, including keeping the peace. But there is no need for alarmism.

  3. Peter Turchin addressed the issue of China taking over the Russian Far East-

    He’s probably only slightly less biased than Kinuachdrach when it comes to Russia, but he still makes some valid points. It isn’t consistent with historical patterns.

  4. You really don’t think the ‘bloody butcher’ rhetoric is overdone? This is international politics and no one at all has any traces of innocence in this field.

    It’s really difficult to tell what Trump is going to do. I don’t think the Russians know and will wait and see. Now Obama had a full throated attack on Russian perfidy in progress, which Hillary might nave escalated, but Trump is sending mixed signals.

  5. My first inclination is normally launch bombers first and ask questions later. However, after seeing Russian hackers (not trolls, don’t get any ideas Kinuachdrach) working to save democracy in the the 2016 election, while the (so-called) Intelligence Community tried to undermine it at every turn, I’ve decided to step back and take another look at this situation with fresh eyes.

  6. PenGun:

    My point is that EVEN IF Putin is as awful as Russia-hawks say, it is irrelevant. We have dealt with far worse in the past.

    Perhaps that could have been clearer.


    Good to hear. If Russia is in better shape than observers say, good. St. Petersburg May not be a good indication of the state of the country as a whole. Nonetheless, what you say is consistent with what others tell me about the strong patriotism in civilizational confidence of the Russian people. That gives me great hope that they will preserve them selves against the many hazards they face. That’s one reason I want them on our side.

  7. Putin, for all his crimes,has been playing a weak hand fairly well.

    One does not look too closely at Russia without a strong stomach.

  8. “Putin, for all his crimes,has been playing a weak hand fairly well.”
    Well, he sure had the number of the previous president, that’s for sure. “After my election I have more flexibility.” Pathetic.

    Russia is a third world country with lots of nukes, some of which might even work, and no future. Their demographics are horrifying.

    China has no future either. One-child has made sure of that. They’ll get old way before they get rich, and I don’t see how they’re supposed to overrun Siberia when the border regions aren’t Han.

    It’s not clear to me where the areas of mutual interest are supposed to be. Each of the last 3 presidents have started by thinking they can reason with Vladimir better than their predecessors and it never works out, because he’s a Russian nationalist with all that that entails. He sure hasn’t shown any interest in prioritizing anti-ISIS efforts in Syria.

  9. I take issue with several points in this article. For one thing, it opens with the suggestion that there is some kind of new cold war brewing between Russia and the United States. In fact, if anything, Trump appears to be aiming for some kind of accommodation with Russia, despite Putin’s obvious efforts to undermine American leadership around the world. That is the real threat to U.S. interests–not the possibility that Russia might outcompete the United States strategically or economically. And while Islamic terrorism may be an “acute, immediate challenge” to the United States and its allies, it is by no means the existential threat that Trump and his advisers think it is. Since 9/11 there have been no similar large-scale terrorist attacks on US soil and fewer that 100 Americans have been killed by Islamic terrorists inside our borders. True, the violence and barbarism exhibited by ISIS have been beyond the pale, but their barbarity masks their impotence as a political, military or ideological force that represents a truly “existential threat” to the United States. ISIS and other Islamic terrorists, for all their barbarity and for all the horror they have wreaked, are nowhere near capable of overtaking any Western democracy. Even one of Europe’s weakest states, Belgium, has withstood terrorist attacks without succumbing to terrorist rule. Local law enforcement in the United States has also been able to handle the handful of terrorist attacks on US soil largely on its own, without significant federal help or firepower. That is not the kind of threat that necessitates a fundamental overhaul of US foreign and strategic policy, as Trump advocates. As for China, it may well be the “long term challenge” the author suggests. But Russia is an unnatural ally in confronting China and there are at least as many opportunities for things to develop in America’s best interests vis-a-vis China as there are potential dangers. It all depends on how “smart” Washington is in leading the international community in shaping China’s direction. Here again, Trump’s inexperience, skepticism toward America’s long-held allies, and apparent lack of interest in the nuances of strategic decision making do not auger well. As for the final point on Trump working out some kind of “deal” with Russia, this presumes that America actually needs Russia’s help. As the author notes, Russia has many internal weaknesses. It has a large nuclear arsenal so it must be taken seriously. But Russia is mainly in decline. Putin punches above Russia’s strategic weight class. It may be able to annex a weak neighboring region like Crimea and it may be able to lend a hand to a despotic regime like Assad’s in Syria. But it does not have the resources to wage a sustained campaign in the Middle East that would bring any significant level of stability over the long run. Unfortunately, Trump and his advisers overestimate Russia’s power and influence. Their admiration for Russia stems, instead, from their admiration for Putin’s autocratic leadership style, his nationalist policies, and his opportunistic power grabs that have made him a very wealthy man. In sum, I have much more confidence that Trump can make Russia a model for a new American kleptocracy than I have of him making Russia a truly useful ally that serves US strategic interests in any meaningful way.

  10. So, Putin thought he could manipulate Trump – that makes sense. So did Hillary. On the other hand, the wisdom of crowds is beginning to make more and more sense – the gut knows. This isn’t a wisdom Putin or Hillary consults – only the wisdom of the power of the fist.
    Okay, Flynn waffled. Maybe he had to go. I have my doubts he was in the tank the way the leftist demonstrators are or that he would have ensured Russia would get some plutonium (if money went into his account) as Hillary did. To hear Pelosi complain Trump is too close to Russia is to realize they really don’t think we have memories – or they don’t.
    Bombing entire tenements full of his own people to win his own election is evil. But what is more likely to do damage to us is either the down channel effect of Soros’ money and the organizations that have been around, in different forms, since the twenties and thirties that undercut our culture and remain energized by Russia. The greater harm from the terrorists is our passivity that sees Islam and Sharia law as one of various, quite equal, alternatives. If it comes to a clarifying war with either, I’d bet on the U.S. And trust to a man I found irritating, one who often seems the least eloquent of presidents but is perfectly clear about these issues. We need to know, to be proud of our heritage and protective of it – which may make for strange partners (but then, Trump shook Trudeau’s hand but I don’t think we’re going to see Canada’s attitude toward free speech as just another view, different from but equal to ours.)

  11. When the slow motion coup against Trump succeeds your Republic will essentially be over. Very sad, but there it is. The absurd narcissist from Noo Yawk is your last hope, but it’s possibly too late, and he’s probably too unsubtle, for the Republic to be saved. The three duds in a row – Slick Willie, W and O – were at least one too many.

    What does it say about a Republic that it can’t survive three duds in a row? Perhaps only that much undermining had gone on before those duds took office; in other words, that Franklin was right. “A republic, if you can keep it.”

  12. Dearie,

    The Republic has been pretty much dead since Hoover/Roosevelt. The put the nails in the coffin that Wilson And Teddy Roosevelt built.

  13. I am inclined to agree. I do agree. And yet it moves. There is a great deal of ruin in a nation and we seem determined to find out exactly how much. But we haven’t hit bottom yet. I fear nihilism most.

  14. I agree with Ginny. Our real enemy is what Samuel Huntington once termed Davos Man, gold-collared workers with their dead souls dedicated to globalization. The 2016 election was repudiation and roll back of their march to hollow out America.

    “But Russia is an unnatural ally in confronting China and there are at least as many opportunities for things to develop in America’s best interests vis-a-vis China as there are potential dangers”

    Russia is unnatural to who?. Globalists who want to make us subservient to supranational organizations unaccountable to voters suffering under their stifling yoke.

    Why is it that three decades after the Berlin Wall was toppled garrisoning divisions in Germany is natural? If the Germans have made it abundantly clear they consider it unnatural for them to help defend their own neighbors, then we have to think long and hard about what we we’re doing there.

    We’ve already tried our options with China, and the only thing it achieved is economic and cultural devastation for a large number of Americans, all the while enriching the European led hollowing out of Western Civilization. That my friend is as unnatural as it gets.

  15. Is Putin a reliable partner for the US?

    Will he live up to promises made to Trump?

    Will Putin suck the US into actions which the American people don’t want to be associated with?

    Russia is the major military technology and arms supplier to China and Iran. Will Putin end these relationships to work with the US to constrain China and Iran?

    Putin’s performance in living up to international agreements is mixed. Crimea, Georgia, and the Minsk agreements come to mind as Russia not living up to international agreements in a serious way.

    Our European allies are generally very wary of Putin and Russia, what is the cost in Europe of siding with Putin over our NATO allies?

    The US presidents have been shaking Putin’s hand ever since he came to power. The question is what is the expected value of embracing Putin now?

  16. One of the underreported stories is the internet comment offensive run by contractors in Russia. You don’t have to look at stories about Trump. Just look at any internet story about Georgia (the country) or Ukraine on YouTube or other public sites. The ham handed and crude commentary against the two countries is astounding. These are only two examples but you also see it in other areas. Here’s an Example from Defense News..

    Laurent Alain De Brezons · Boss at Self-Employed
    And remember Victoria Nuland plotting the coup in Ukraine and saying “Fuck the E.U.!”…
    The sole purpose of NATO, post cold-war, is to avoid a military alliance between the EU and Russia, thus maintaining the US as the sole super-power. We shall EU-ize NATO and becoming allies with Russia is THE thing to do as we share the same security issues, the same geopolitics too and even closest cultural connection with Russia than with US/UK.
    Like · Reply · Feb 1, 2017 8:14pm

    That’s one fine piece of political analysis my friends! Somehow the US has a closer cultural connection with Russia than the UK? Wow. I guess writing these beats working in a factory in Siberia.

  17. We have to start by recognizing reality — the major problem the US faces is the Enemy Within the Gate. And unfortunately the Enemy Within the Gate includes most of the Political Class and their running dogs in Academia & the Media.

    Face facts — it was not evil Russians who goaded Mrs Rodman-Clinton & Barry to provide the military muscle to back up Europe’s senseless destabilization of Libya — it was the evil Europeans, with full support of the usual suspects within the US.

    The US will not be able to run any kind of sensible international policy as long as we are being undermined internally. And it is hard to see how the internal enemy gets dealt with short of major surgery.

  18. it was not evil Russians who goaded Mrs Rodman-Clinton & Barry to provide the military muscle to back up Europe’s senseless destabilization of Libya

    I have to agree. It was Britain and France that drove that decision and I have never figured why.

    Gaddaffi had given up his nukes (That will never happen again.) after Bush invaded Iraq.

    Apparently Britain and France were after his oil. I can’t see any other reason for what happened.

  19. “Our European allies are generally very wary of Putin and Russia, what is the cost in Europe of siding with Putin over our NATO allies?”

    This is false.

    Our NATO allies refuse to spend money for their own defense, in violation of their treaty obligations. I expressly stated that Trump would be pushing NATO to increase its defense spending. This is the opposite of abandoning NATO. It is making NATO into a credible deterrent to force, which it is not at the moment.

    The only way to deal with Russia is from a position of strength. Russia is currently week, and they were things we can do to make Russia weaker. One of the main ones is domestic energy production. Russia is entirely reliant on energy exports. To the extent we drive down prices, we strengthen her hand and dealing with Russia. Media framing of this issue is so pervasive that people can’t break out of it even if someone, like I did in this post, expressly rejects that frame.

    Being strong against Russia in a way that makes sense means making NATO strong again, which means making NATO members spend the money they committed to spend on armament. It does not mean, what Hillary Clinton proposed, creating a no-fly zone in Syria and shooting down Russian aircraft. That would accomplish nothing but could potentially start a war with Russia, a country that is completely irrelevant to us.

  20. And … it’s into the weeds already. Trump has said he expects Putin to return Crimea to the Ukraine. That’s not ever gonna happen.

    I’m going back to my flight sim, I’m learning to fly quadcopters, and crashing in the sim is so much cheaper. This RL stuff is harsh for an old man. ;)

  21. “Russia is entirely reliant on energy exports. To the extent we drive down prices, we strengthen her hand and dealing with Russia.”

    Not really, but if you drive down prices to the extent they are a problem for Russia you have made fracked oil uncompetitive, shutting down US production. Russia has said they are happy with $50 oil, which is just too low for the frackers.

  22. When the US allied with the USSR and Stalin, the USSR was fully at war with the chief enemy of the US, Nazi Germany. When the US made friends with the PRC, the PRC was at odds with the chief enemy of the US, the USSR.

    Putinist Russia is not hostile to any enemy of the US in any substantial way, and is allied with important enemies of the US, notably Iran. OK, some Russian arms have been used against Daesh; a limited and local campaign. Meanwhile, Russia arms Iran, bases air and naval forces in Cuba, and helps prop up the Chavista government of Venezuela.

  23. Israel sells drones to Russia that it uses in Syria. They both sell arms to India. British Intelligence passed a dossier to a Republican Senator who then passed it to the FBI who then used it to try to prevent the Presidential inauguration.

    The rest of the world establishes policies according to their own strategic concerns. We on the other hand get led into entanglements by Internationalists and Supranationalists with questionable allegiances that often don’t have anything to do with our interests.

  24. “you have made fracked oil uncompetitive, shutting down US production.”

    Have you noticed them shutting down ? I haven’t.

    The EIA expects crude oil prices to average $34/b in 2016 and $40/b in 2017. However, if oil prices reach $50/b, instead of decreasing, U.S. production will likely increase because many of the shale oil drillers on the brink of insolvency will view this as a Godsend and boost production to remain in business. They are just waiting to re-open the floodgates here.

    A study by analysts for ITG Investment Research Inc. concluded that in a few areas in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, the Eagle Ford shale and Permian Basin in Texas, drilling was possible even if crude prices dropped to $25/b.

    Fracking has gotten far more efficient. They used to call that “American ingenuity.”

  25. you have made fracked oil uncompetitive, shutting down US production

    Pengun, you have the causality backwards. Constant tech improvement makes fracking increasingly efficient, lowering the breakeven price for oil production in the USA and other fracking economies. The US oil industry continues to profit, and oil consumers benefit worldwide, as Russia and the other oil-export-dependent economies get squeezed.

  26. The author of the Fortune piece says:

    -Oil prices are difficult to predict.

    -There’s a cost-driven squeeze on the domestic fracking industry that may drive marginal producers out of business.

    -If marginal producers go out of business, better-capitalized lower-cost producers may increase their market share and take up the slack, keeping prices soft.

    -If that doesn’t happen, and oil prices rise, the Saudis will probably increase production and thereby drive prices lower.

    None of the above supports your argument. You are confusing the financial health of fracking industry incumbents with the oil price level. There is every indication that oil prices will remain soft and deprive Russia et al of vital revenue, which was Lex’s point. The windfall from $100 oil isn’t likely to be repeated.

  27. Good news about the Dakota Access Pipeline. The final last ditch legal hurdles are being dismissed so that last quarter mile can be completed.

    Just in time because production is skyrocketing. It’s going to double from February to March.

    The main obstacles holding back North Dakota have been excessive regulations limiting necessary infrastructure like pipelines. These are things Texas hasn’t had to worry about.

    The ban on pipelines was actually forcing drillers to increase flaring off natural gas at the wells because there was no place for it to go. Bad policy causing terrible waste. Then late last year the Obama Administration put into effect new regulations severely limited flaring. The 1-2 punch would have sunk the industry in the state. Another case where we dodged a bullet with the election.

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