Showing posts with label Czarist Imperialism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Czarist Imperialism. Show all posts

12 October 2022

Holding Back the Tide (Putin's Folly, Pt. II)

The story of King Canute trying to hold back the tide by royal decree is sometimes framed as a fable of kingly vanity, but it’s in fact the reverse.  Canute was rebuking the flatterers in his court who pretended to believe the king’s powers were so absolute he could command the waters to obey.  Canute plunked his throne down on the shore and waited for the tide to come in, and of course got his feet wet.  His point being that only God had the final word, and the power of kings was for naught.

It’s nothing short of amazing that the vanity of princes keeps leading the rest of us to the precipice of doom.  Mitch McConnell clearly thinks Trump is a parasite and a clown, and a danger to the republic, but you won’t hear him say it, because Trump’s base are still useful idiots. A similar paralysis apparently holds sway in the upper reaches of the Kremlin apparat. Putin is dangerous to Russia because Putin has a dangerous idea of Russia, rooted in an imperialist, pan-Slavic, and imaginary czarist past. 

The clamor and the crazy don’t abate.

The voices on the Russian nationalist right are only getting louder.  I don’t know whether Ramzan Kadyrov, the puppet caudillo of Chechnya, or Yevgeny Progozhin, shadow commander of the Wagner Group, are trying to give Putin cover from the right wing by sounding crazier than he does, or positioning themselves as kingmakers for the succession, but their public rhetoric probably mirrors private sentiment, namely, Off With Their Heads, with no lack of fall guys.

Not that heads haven’t already rolled.  No fewer than eight one- and two-star generals have been killed in action this year in Ukraine.  This is a consequence of the Russian army’s institutional dysfunction: there is no professional NCO corps, and junior officers aren’t trusted to make command decisions; generals have to be on the battlefield, which gets them killed.  More to the point, the actual theater commanders are being relieved, retired, or packed off in disgrace.  Dvornikov, given ground command in April, was fired in June.  Serdyukov, commander of the airborne, shown the door.  Zhuravlev, commander Western Military District (responsible for the security of European Russia), got the boot last week. 

The new guy, and the first Russian general in Ukraine to be given sole command and complete responsibility, is Sergei Surovikin, known for tactics in Syria that included two months of airstrikes on Aleppo.  What this means for the war in Ukraine is anybody’s guess, but the Kremlin seems to measure success by the numbers of Russian dead.

Which brings us to the media hysteria.  It’s tempting to compare this to the MAGA bubble, the Fox echo chamber, but we’re not talking about Rupert Murdoch, we’re talking about Russian state media.  RT, Russia Today, is supposedly independent, but that’s a complete fiction, they channel the Kremlin id. Just today, after Russia went after dozens of targets across Ukraine, many if not most of them obviously non-military, Putin’s on-air cheerleaders were nothing if not gleeful.  Labeling the attack on the Kerch bridge an act of terrorism, they eagerly recommended a scorched earth policy, and targeting Zelensky and members of his government specifically and personally, to rid us of these “roaches.” 

I don’t know how to read this as anything other than panic. I think they’ve actually lost their marbles. Putin’s position, both inside and out, is now so weak that his stooges are using language that sounds like a parody of Kim Jong-un’s scripted praise.

I said this before, and I’ll say it again. Putin is a dead man walking. It can’t happen soon enough.