A friend sent me this:
‘President Vladimir V. Putin said Monday that he would scrap Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline, a grandiose project that was once intended to establish the country’s dominance in southeastern Europe but instead fell victim to Russia’s increasingly toxic relationship with the West. It was a rare diplomatic defeat for Mr. Putin, who said Russia would redirect the pipeline to Turkey. He painted the failure to build the pipeline as a loss for Europe and blamed Brussels for its intransigence.’
Say what? Militarily, Putin has had a mixed year: a clean and quick military victory in Crimea on the upside, but an ongoing military quagmire in eastern Ukraine on the downside. Diplomatically, though, it’s been an endless succession of bad news. Ukraine is more firmly allied to the West than ever. Finland is wondering if it might not be such a bad idea to join NATO after all. The Baltic states, along with just about every other Russian neighbor, are desperate to reinforce their borders—and their NATO commitments. Russia has been dumped from the G7 and Putin himself was brutally snubbed by practically every other world leader at the G20 meeting in Brisbane. Economic sanctions are wreaking havoc with the Russian economy. China took advantage of all this to drive a harder bargain in negotiations over the long-planned Siberian gas pipeline. Even Angela Merkel has finally turned on Putin. Diplomatically, this year has been a disaster for Russia.
Or am I missing something here? I gather that the Chinese public loves “Putin the Great” for standing up to the West, but that’s about it. Where are all the other diplomatic triumphs Putin is supposed to have won this year?
I admit, I read through it on autopilot until I got to the end, and thought:
Spotted the problem yet?
I gather that the Chinese public loves ‘Putin the Great’ for standing up to the West, but that’s about it.
That’s it? You do realise that they have as many people as America and Europe combined, right? Personally, if I were playing at international popularity politics, I’d count having the Chinese onside as a pretty big deal…
And then I went back and read the rest of the article, and realised that it pretty much just acts as though the non-white world doesn’t exist. Again, I say: dafuq.
For what it’s worth, the general Asian reaction towards the whole Crimea episode has been something along the lines of ‘Ugh. What are you Europussies whining about now? Waaah-waaaah-human rights-Syria-my-latte’s-too-hot-waaaah.’
It’s just not the huge issue that it is in Europe, and not entirely because it’s a long way away. Firstly, Asia is whole lot more comfortable with the idea of long-running border disputes. Everyone is pretty much down with the idea that states can survive and even prosper without official lines around the edges. China has border disputes with pretty much all of its neighbours, and in most cases everyone just agrees to disagree. Secondly, the idea of regional hegemons with a generally laissez-faire attitude but which enforce certain red lines is a very old one round here. As long as it doesn’t get too hot and heavy, Chinese regional dominance is accepted to a large degree throughout Southeast Asia. No one really sees Russian actions in Ukraine as anything to write home about. (Also, we’ve been too busy giggling about coatgate.)
Which brings us to the second point:
The Baltic states, along with just about every other Russian neighbor, are desperate to reinforce their borders—and their NATO commitments.
Well, no, actually. For the very good reason that only five of Russia’s 16 (18 if you count South Ossetia and Abkhazia as states) neighbours are in NATO to start with. As for border reinforcement, sure, ‘just about every’ neighbouring state is doing it, as long as you only count the white, European ones (and why count the others, amirite?).
Putin himself was brutally snubbed by practically every other world leader at the G20 meeting in Brisbane
‘Practically every other leader’? Not so much. A few, certainly. But to be fair to Drum, the ones who did were all white, and it’s not like he can be expected to keep up with the activities of people with unpronounceable names who come from countries that are a very long way away. Joko Wiwhatchamawhosit? Gimme a break.
And here’s the thing: I have read a million of these articles in the past few years. This viewpoint isn’t so much unique as majoritarian in Europe and the US. The only reason I jumped on this one was because it happened to be in front of me right now. And it’s actually kind of agonising to watch, kind of like listening to a fifth century Roman saying ‘Sure, Alaric’s popular among the Goths, but no one who matters can stand him…’