Jeff Tayler on what the US should do about Russia

Jeff Tayler has lived and worked in Russia for many years, writing for The Atlantic as a correspondent and editor.  (He also promotes atheism and criticizes religion at places like Slate and Quillette).  This is to say that he has considerably more experience and knowledge about Russia than those of us who rely on the news secondhand. And Russia is a pressing subject these days, what with Putin making incursions into Syria, Crimea and Ukraine, Trump apparently cozying up to Putin and threatening to abandon NATO, and with both the US and Russia still having a huge armament of nuclear weapons.  As I’ve said before, one of the things I fear about a Trump presidency is that he’s sufficiently clueless that he can’t play international politics, especially when the stakes are high, and both he and Putin have virtually unchecked power to destroy us all.

Tayler’s new piece in Quillette, “The deal Trump should strike with Putin“, should be mandatory reading for both leaders, but especially Trump. It avoids name-calling and is simply a sober assessment of the dangers we face and the opportunities that are within our grasp for detente. It’s a long piece, but well worth reading. I’ll give just one excerpt dealing with the issue of Russian “imperialism”:

How would Ukraine figure into the deal Trump should strike with Putin? Trump would renounce NATO’s promise of eventual NATO membership to Ukraine (and Georgia) in return for Russia’s recognition that both countries, while remaining neutral, would be free to join whatever political and economic blocs they choose. This is essentially what both Kissinger and Brzezinski have already proposed. Full implementation of the stalled Minsk Accords, reached in February 2015 and foreseeing autonomy for the Donbas, would end the conflict in Ukraine’s east. This might prompt a violent reaction against the Ukrainian government from the far-right militias fighting on Kiev’s side in the region. Ultimately, though, that would be an issue for the Ukrainian government, not the United States, to deal with.

Additionally, NATO and Russia would withdraw their militaries to pre-2014 postures. NATO would halt and reverse the deployment of approximately four thousand troops to the Baltic states and Poland. (Stationed on a rotating basis so as not to violate the alliance’s Founding Act with Russia, the troops are intended as a “trip wire” and could not, in any case, halt a Russian invasion of the Baltic countries, which would take as little as sixty hours.) Russia would redeploy forces it has moved close to the Baltic frontier, and take out the short-range, nuclear-capable Iskander missiles it has sent to Kaliningrad, on the Polish border. Both sides would cease conducting provocative military exercises, and Russia would stop sending its fighter jets to violate European airspace and buzz U.S. warships.

The status of Crimea presents a significant hurdle to be overcome. The peninsula officially became part of Russia in 2014. A great majority of both ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in Crimea favor remaining within the Russian Federation. To settle the matter, Russia could agree to hold another referendum, but this time under the auspices of the United Nations. If the results show that Crimea’s population wishes to stay within Russia, as is highly likely, the United States should recognize this, and, of course, the White House should drop the Crimea-related sanctions implemented by executive order. If Crimeans choose to return to Ukraine, Russia should honor their wishes.

There’s a lot more, and I haven’t seen anything this informative about the issue of Russia and the U.S.


  1. Cindy
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Tayler never disappoints.

  2. Mark Joseph
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Since Russia was mentioned, would someone in the know please comment on the factuality of the following? Thank you.

    Donald Trump was bailed out of bankruptcy by Russia crime bosses (by Mark Sumner Jan 09, 2017)

    Not that I don’t trust Daily Kos…but since election day, when they showed Hillary with a 91% chance of winning, I haven’t trusted them, and wonder how much of what they post is just wishful thinking.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    It’s become increasingly clear that Trump has been compromised in some manner by Putin and the Russians (although the source and extent of that compromising yet remain unclear). I believe that this matter will eventually come to light — perhaps by congress’s subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns, perhaps by the ongoing investigations by the intelligence community, perhaps by both or by some other means. When it does, it may bring Trump’s presidency to a crashing end.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted February 20, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      If it’s so clear you will have the evidence so where is it? come on tell us. And if this hypothetical evidence (which you don’t apparently have) turns up we get Mike Pence as POTUS. Great – fricking great!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 20, 2017 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        Apparently you haven’t been following the news lately. So let’s bring you up to date:

        — Trump’s refusal to turn over his federal income tax returns. (The reason he’s given — that they are the subject of an audit — is both unproven and pretextual, inasmuch a disclosure wouldn’t prejudice him in an audit.)

        — Trump’s insisting upon removal from the Republican platform the plank condemning Russia’s incursions into the Ukraine. (This was the only change in the GOP platform Trump requested, even though several other planks contradicted Trump’s publicly announced positions.)

        — Trump’s repeated refusal to say anything critical of Vladimir Putin, including his willingness to abase the United States on national tv so as not to cast Putin in a bad light by comparison.

        — Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, being relieved of his duties as soon as he came under scrutiny for his substantial financial ties to Russia.

        — The assistance that Putin-controlled Russian intelligence agencies (FSB, GRU) gave Trump during the presidential campaign, in the form of hacking of the DNC and John Podesta, and the planting of anti-Clinton fake news stories on the internet.

        — The repeated contacts between people associated with the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials during the course of the campaign — and the repeated false denials of same by Trump and those associated with him.

        — The communications between National Security Advisor to-be Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Kislyak (in violation of the Logan Act) discussing the election-hack sanctions and causing Putin not to respond in kind to those sanctions — as well as the Trump administration’s inability to present a plausible explanation for, or timeline of, Trump’s own knowledge and participation in these discussions.

        — The corroboration by US intelligence agencies of many of the travel, meetings, and communications detailed by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele in the “dossier” of Trump’s involvement with Russia. (Most intriguing among them is that the dossier alleges that Trump would receive a 19% share of the Russian oil company Rosneft if he were elected. After Trump’s election, in December 2016, a 19.5% share of Rosneft — valued at 10.2 billion euros — was transferred to an owner or owners whose identity is shielded in a tangle of shell corporations).

        There’s more, but I think this is a pretty good start toward a circumstantial case that there’s something very strange going on with Trump and Russia.

        But, hey, maybe you have been paying attention and have an innocent explanation for all this. Come on, tell us.

        [PS – Whether we want Mike Pence as president of not has nothing to do with the truth of Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.]

      • somer
        Posted February 20, 2017 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Says he who thinks Assad is “democratically elected” and Russia’s role in Syria bombing away at hospitals and supporting that genocidal little so and so Assad is fine because they were invited by Assad who is “democratic” (Comments to
        By the way I really liked Jeff Taylers article)

        • somer
          Posted February 20, 2017 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

          “By the way I really liked Jeff Taylers article” Heavy qualification. Well, Im impressed with the article on many of the proposals re nuclear armaments but I don’t agree with its key conclusions, particularly re removing sanctions, and removing troops from Poland and other Eastern European countries.

          For example Putin IS thuggish at home and abroad -even if he is popular, and Russia has a history of pushing other countries on its borders around, although we can do deals on say, inter ballistic missiles in Roumania and many of the other missiles deals suggested in the article.

          On Ukraine – Fact is Russian history changed irrevocably since the 14th Century when yes, Kievan Russ was the heart of Russia. But since 14th C the locus of Russia moved to capitals and territory far north and then Ukraine was dominated by other powers, mostly Russia since. Western Ukraine has long been majority Catholic and has no Russian identity. The eastern half – east of the Donesk mostly identifies with Russia and half speak Russian.

          I agree the west should Not have pushed extension of Nato to Ukraine and Georgia – It should drop that ambition and maybe allow Eastern Ukraine (under UN auspices) to vote what it wants to do but only after UN confirms Russian forces and paramilitaries are out. Until then Sanctions.

          Also the other countries currently in Nato have fought the Russians and others for their independence for centuries (though some of them have also allied with the russians against the Ottomans at times) Poland, Latvia Estonia and Lithuania suffered terribly at the hands of Stalin or during WW2 and Cold war period.

          I was always skeptical about no fly zone in Syria – its just too risky and frankly the conflict was caused by the Syrians, Iranians and Sunni extremists, not us no matter what the left say. Moreover the CIA have been preventing heavy weapons coming over the boarder in Turkey to Isis.

          Russia has some real security concerns but its history still leaves it conditioned to the dictatorial strong man mindset. Whilst I strongly disagree with the triumphant promotion of democratic institutions artificially imposed and supported by economic corporatism as per the Clinton Presidency I also disagree with Kissingers cynical pitch of support for dictatorships and agreements between superpowers with periodic destruction of small ones to demonstrate the strength and the spheres of power of the superpowers

          Putin is a strong man who has no respect for democracy and sees the human rights concern of the west as actually weak and immoral – perhaps something we can’t get our heads around. Concessions have to be real on both sides – the West acknowledging a right to take over other countries is just moral justification to Putin. Need to signal Nato is to go no further East than present boundaries but not cave in.

        • nicky
          Posted February 21, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          ‘Democraticaļly elected’ appears to stretch it a bit, just like Trump being ‘democratically elected’ stretches it a bit.
          I fully agree Assad is bad, but not worse than his opponents (al Nusra, IS and the like, I’d give a pass there to the IPG Kurds).
          If Assad is carrying out a genocide he’s pretty bad at it. All agree less than half a million (4-500.000,horrendous numbers indeed) in 5-6 years. Interahamwe did ‘better’ than that with clubs and pangas in less than four months. Also note that a substantial part (close to 200.000?) of these deaths are young males from his own Alawite minority.
          The notion he’s genocidal does not appear to be supported by facts. A dirty civil war with massacres? Yes. War crimes? Yes. A real genocide? No.
          Nobody is ‘democratically elected’ in Syria, but I think the support he receives from Hezbollah is more to blame for ‘the West’s’ enmity than any other factor.
          [Side note, I’m kind of an admirer of the IDF, not least because of their brilliant fight back in the Sinai in ’73, or their not raping Palestinian women at their mercy -sign of good discipline, but Hezbollah gave it a bloody nose: IDF nor ‘West’ does really like Hezbollah.]

  4. mordacious1
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t the Russians promise to respect Ukrainian borders with the Budapest Memorandum? I wonder how that worked out for the Ukrainians?

    • eric
      Posted February 20, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Taylor covered that. NATO also promised not to expand eastward – broken promises on both sides.

      • Christian
        Posted February 20, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        Not really. That’s just what the Russians want to make you believe: Moscow’s account of Nato expansion is a case of false memory syndrome

        • Christian
          Posted February 20, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

          Oy, dangit! Here’s the link.

          • chris moffatt
            Posted February 20, 2017 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

            The Guardian is your evidence? – it is to laugh. Funny thing both Gorbachev and Shevardnaze have stated on multiple occasions that this was the promise given by the West. I think they’d know.

            • Christian
              Posted February 20, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

              No, I don’t need the Guardian. There are also other sources.

              As I already said, back then the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact still existed. What was debated in pre-unification talks was the status of the former GDR within the reunified Germany. The consensus was that it should be part of NATO but that no foreign NATO troops should be stationed on its territory. And this is still upheld although the USSR and the WP no longer exist.

              Now I can understand that a Soviet Union might have perceived an expanding NATO as a threat. However, after it ceased to exist and Russia no longer regarded itself as a communist state that opposed the West on ideological grounds, I see no reason why this should still be the case.

        • chris moffatt
          Posted February 20, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

          As Putin once or twice said “look where our base are, then look where their bases are”.

          • somer
            Posted February 20, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

            except the Russians are fond of swallowing up surrounding independent countries and too many places have 20th C memories of slabs of their population being executed or shipped off to Siberia for a while – from Mongolia and Kazakhstan to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. True it has a history of suffering periodic catastrophic invasion. But its not primarily the West that inflicted catastrophic invasion on Russia – historically its been Mongol tribes or mostly Sunni regions on its southern flanks – which are now mostly a bunch of dysfunctional dictatorships semi dependent on russia if probably more peaceful than in the past.

          • Christian
            Posted February 20, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

            Yes, all those bases are belong to us, thanx Ceiling Cat.

            Putin is free to negotiate with other countries to form alliances and set up bases there if they so want.
            The only problem is Russia isn’t that attractive to begin with and I doubt he could afford even a fraction of those bases to begin with.

            Maybe he should take a lesson from China on how to do it: first get your economy up and running and only then start your imperialism schtick.

            But if he continues like this he might be on the losing end if China suddenly remembers that Outer Manchuria has always been Chinese.

            • Filippo
              Posted February 21, 2017 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

              Would you reasonably say that China took an imperialism shtick lesson from the U.S.(U.S. companies all too willing to offshore their manufacturing jobs to China and thereby help its economy get up and running so that it might that much more ably press its interests in the South China Sea)?

              Whatever the exact and full truth about U.S./NATO allegedly agreeing not to try to expand NATO into Eastern Europe (like shrewd lawyers and business types telling him it wasn’t “in writing”), how could reasonably prescient Western minds not reasonably predict Russia’s response? Were they calling Russia’s bluff? Why couldn’t U.S./NATO be quite well enough satisfied with the demise of the USSR/Warsaw Pact? Why provoke Russia like that?

              Were the U.S. in Russia’s position, what would be the U.S. response? We have intervened in Haiti, Grenada, Panama, Dominican Republic and other locales south of the border, openly or covertly, over the last century or so.

              In the Feb 20 NY Times, Brzezinski and an associate write: “What we need to hear from our president is why America is important to the world and why the world needs America. At the same time, he can take advantage of the opportunity to point out what the United States expects from the world.”

              Well, just what does the U.S. expect of the world – whatever it wants? Does Brzezinski ever think that America to some degree occasionally needs the world? Is it theoretically possible that the world reasonably and properly has expectations and requirements of the U.S.?

              • somer
                Posted February 22, 2017 at 6:51 am | Permalink

                Except the Warsaw Pact consisted mostly of satellite states conquered by Russia and deprived of autonomy or independence, hand in hand with the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance which bound them to the communist system with every darn economic thing planned from Moscow in most of the USSR. NATO consists of Independent states CHOOSING to join the thing because they don’t want to be absorbed into the USSR again. Putin is a kleptocrat and a thug surrounded by kleptocrats and killing/persecuting all dissidents not to mention persecuting gays. The guy despises democracy – and Trump has long expressed admiration of a number of dictator “strong men”
                Historically, America might have its own night soil but it doesn’t have this or a history of absolute dictatorship since at least the first Romanovs.

                Yes America was worse in the 19th C when it had slavery (and Russia had serfdom) but the US was prepared to fight a civil war over it.
                Moreover it mustn’t be forgotten Weimar and (initially) Nazi Germany cooperated considerably with the USSR in military matters in the interwar period

          • Posted February 20, 2017 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

            All your base are belong to us, you know.

            • somer
              Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:04 am | Permalink

              The Australian strategic analyst Des Ball, who is considered left wing in strategic circles and won a peace prize for his work on preventing Nuclear war has argued that our bases (which are nuclear intelligence gathering not military bases) are a critical elements in preventing nuclear war.

            • Rita
              Posted March 4, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

              🙂 I haven’t heard All Your Base for a while now.

      • Posted February 22, 2017 at 6:01 am | Permalink

        There is a tiny difference: NATO expands because more and more countries want to be members, while Russia invades these countries and grabs their land.

        It seems to me that, according to Tayler (and many others), countries with the poor luck to be close to Russia and to have Russian settlers/colonists on their ground must be happy to give pieces of their territory to Russia.

    • Posted February 22, 2017 at 5:58 am | Permalink

      Good remark.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I think his solution is a good one. It takes away Russia’s complaining that they were screwed over after a promise to Gorbachev and give them no where to go unless they want to just be jerks. In other words, they would lose the moral high ground (which most of us think they’ve lost already but they’d see they had no moral high ground themselves).

    I heard a really good interview on CBC with Richard Haas, a former diplomat who wrote the book, World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order and it’s very clear something must be done or we are all in big trouble….big nuclear trouble.

    • Christian
      Posted February 20, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Except there was no such promise.
      And all those Olgino-trolls who are continuously harping on this “point” tend to gloss over the fact that the Soviet Union still existed back then, as well as the Warsaw Pact.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 20, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        It doesn’t matter if there was or wasn’t a promise. Russia thinks there was and Putin uses it as a way to feel hurt over NATO. It costs really very little to stop him from doing this and from feeling good about it. You have to handle men like him this way.

        • bonetired
          Posted February 20, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          Sounds rather like appeasement to me.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 20, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

            One person’s appeasement is another’s diplomacy. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to reach your goal — trust me, I’ve survived many a narcisisst boss and abusive men in my life.

            • Cindy
              Posted February 20, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

              I have known a couple of abusive narcissists in my time. Luckily, I got the hell outta Dodge before I could get myself into too much trouble.

              Suffice to say, they love playing the victim. They use their proclaimed ‘victimhood’ as an excuse for special treatment.

              Second, the very first one that I knew, briefly, was utterly lacking in empathy. I would explain how he had done something that was unacceptable, and I asked him how he would feel if his wife, for example, took the money from his wallet without asking (he was always whining about his wife. I found out later that *she* was the victim, not him). He would agree with me…pretend that he understood…and the next day, repeat the abusive behaviour all over again. This was back when I was a gamer, actually, so it happened in the context of a game. Thankfully he was thousands of miles away, but it was very scary nonetheless.

              This website basically summed him up perfectly:


              This guy claims to be a malignant narcissist and I am inclined to believe him based on what I have observed.

        • Christian
          Posted February 20, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, I have to disagree here.
          Russian propaganda may not have much traction in the West but within Russia it is quite powerful since the primary source of information is national TV and maybe newspapers. The Internet (and especially foreign language news) is pretty much restricted to a minority.
          So if the head-honchos in the Kremlin want Russia to “believe” something, they can realize it in short order: just crank up the jingoism and broadcast it over the several “FOX-News-on-Meth” TV channels (just google Dmitry Kiselyov).

          Putin and many of his more important cronies are a product of the KGB, an intelligence agency of a totalitarian state (like the Stasi, Securitate, etc.). In other words, they are dyed-in-the-wool chekists (so I guess this would make them a chekist junta, to borrow a Putinism).

          You have to be very careful when negotiating with the likes of him and giving in too early or being too accommodating towards him might cost you dearly.
          Of course, one should always keep in mind that he has tons of nukes but it’s also a fact that he wants to enjoy his billions in this life and not use them to pay Charon the ferryman.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 20, 2017 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

            I hardly think waiting to have this conversation since Gorbachev is rushing in to anything.

        • Posted February 22, 2017 at 6:07 am | Permalink

          It is about more than Putin’s feelings. Eastern European countries have been invaded and subjugated by Soviet Union/Russia in the past and want some protection. E.g. Russia has regarded Bulgaria as its due belonging ever since liberating it from the Ottoman Empire. Without NATO, Russian troops could be on our soil. The problem with Georgia and Ukraine wasn’t that they were moving to NATO, but that they did not get there in time.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 22, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

            Well yes, I realize the global picture is more about Putin’s feelings but manipulating what Putin is claiming to take it off the table gives him nowhere to go if he tries to use this as an excuse.

            • Posted February 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

              He signed the 1994 Budapest memorandum and still attacked Ukraine, grabbed land and continues to cripple the country. As long as we exist, he has an excuse to attack us.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 22, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

                Still, not my point. This is about trying to descalate issues that could end up with a confrontation (even a nuclear one) between Russia and the US/NATO. It isn’t a solution to stop Russia invading countries around them.

  6. rickflick
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    His ideas sound plausible. Now which of Trumps cabinet members is going to take the ball and run with it? He could win a Nobel prize. It would be a joint win by Putin and Mr. X. Now that’s incentive for you.

  7. Posted February 20, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    This is the kind of information I am starving for. Why isn’t stuff like this in the major media outlets anymore? Maybe it is, but I have not seen it.

  8. Mark R.
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    That was well worth the read. Thanks for the post.

    Will Trump ever read something like this or act upon it? His temperament doesn’t give me any confidence. I think it’s general knowledge that he doesn’t read much.

  9. bonetired
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    The Poles, with good reason, distrust the Russians and would resist any weakening of NATO’s resolve to defend it. Apart from the not inconsequential fact that the Russians invaded Poland in 1939, they were under the USSR’s none too gentle control from 1945 onwards until the USSR imploded. They consider themselves to the the east-most western country and have always aligned themselves, when they haven’t been trampled upon by invaders, to the West.

  10. Sshort
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Well, Mr. Taylor is always informative and certainly entitled to his opinions, but I’m not sure how experience, sober analysis and insight helps public discourse these days.

    Bound to confuse people. At least half the polity, anyway.

  11. chris moffatt
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    At last! Someone with some common sense saying something sensible. I take issue with a few points here for example: it isn’t emphasized, as it should be, that Assad as the democratically elected leader of a sovereign nation (Syria) requested military assistance from the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation operates in Syria completely legally. It is the USA that by operating in Syria without Assad’s permission and under NO UN resolution is committing an act of invasion illegal under International Law – but don’t worry we’re a “nation of laws” as long as those laws accord with what we want to do. It is incumbent on NATO, having been the threatening party since Yeltsin’s departure, to make the first moves. If I were Putin removal of Iskander from Kaliningrad would be close to last on my detente list simply because history has shown that NATO is not to be trusted. What article of the NATO DEFENSIVE treaty justifies US, UK and Danish airforces attacking sovereign ME nations who have not attacked any NATO member? What possible legal justification can Australia cite for doing same?
    I could go on with regard to the annexation of Crimea, legal or not so legal, but will just point out that there was no “invasion” – russian forces were already there and were asked to intervene. Legally pretty shoddy but did NATO seriously think Russia would cede to them Its only warm-water naval base? I don’t think so.

    • somer
      Posted February 20, 2017 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      Im not that exercised about Crimea but I absolutely take issue with your glowing description of Assad. Assad who responded to the democracy protests by letting terrorists out of jail and arming them knowing they’d be as busy fighting each other as him and that they’d certainly destroy any calls for democracy by the Sunni majority. Assad who had been training terrorists, including Isis in Syria on route to Iraq for years prior to that.

      Assad is a killer and a Shia ally of Iran – (both allies of Russia) Iran wants to destabilise the middle east, setting the sunnis at each others throats to claim back part of what was once an Iranian empire – and which has remained a largely Shia region – e.g. Iraq is majority shia anyway. Its backed assad all the way, its attacked sunnis where they are a majority in northern Iraq and its backed Yemeni Houthi rebels against sunnis there

      • Posted February 20, 2017 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

        In all the “Obama made a bad deal with Iran” fuss, lost is the fact that our taking out Saddam unleashed Iran and Syria to do what they wanted. And which party pushed that?

        • somer
          Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:01 am | Permalink

          Ultimately Islamic tribalism and religious extremism –

          • somer
            Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:06 am | Permalink

            Admit we shouldn’t have armed Saddam against Iran earlier – other things contributed too but ultimately the main driver of conflict in the middle east is religious sunni shia hatred and tribalism from the bedoin kin loyalty/enmities that have been handed down in to the religion.

  12. Posted February 21, 2017 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a reasonable Ansatz for negotiations. It’s funny how many on the Left are finding Russkies under their beds these days. Great shades of the red scare of 1920. McCarthy must be smiling somewhere.

  13. imil42
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    So, basically, this guy proposes to give Putin everything he wants. Now, I would certainly welcome some relaxation of tension, but complete appeasement is likely to backfire. Maybe not as spectacularly as in 1930’s, but who knows.

    “Russia could agree to hold another referendum. If the results show that Crimea’s population wishes to stay within Russia, as is highly likely, the United States should recognize this, and drop the sanctions. If Crimeans choose to return to Ukraine, Russia should honor their wishes.”

    Sure, the current Crimean population will vote to stay in Russia. But one of the main points of post-WW2 international politics is that one country shouldn’t seize other countries’ parts at will! I mean OK, screw Ukraine, who cares about it. But what if next, for instance, China decides to “reunite” and invades Taiwan? Right now, hopefully, they see that this will carry economic repercussions, and their government won’t risk popular protest to the inevitable decline of living standards. However, if Russia gets away with the annexation, this might just tip other countries to follow lead. And while I’m sure that Putin will be more than content with the entry “Return of Crimea” in future Russian history books, his heir(s) might decide that, say, Baltic countries are left for their own glorious entries.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 21, 2017 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s far from giving Putin everything he wants. Putin wants NATO gone, the European Union destroyed and Russia to have the same influence it had during the Cold War. All that isn’t going to be given to Putin willingly, but he will try to take it through manipulation. ,

      • imil42
        Posted February 22, 2017 at 3:47 am | Permalink

        Well, obviously there always is something more to desire. And sure, gaining more influence is every ruler’s dream.

        However, I don’t think that disbanding NATO would make current Russian leadership happy. The whole point of Crimean affair was to raise popular pride despite economical crisis. The current regime is simply incapable of stimulating economic growth, because by doing this it would inevitably undermine its own supporters, both political and economic. Thus, they NEED a strong enemy to blame for any internal problems. If NATO is gone, EU dissolved, but Russia is no better, where does this leave the elite?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 22, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          With NATO gone and the EU dismembered, Russia would have more influence. This has been the goal of Russia since ages ago. Russia has been complaining that the NATO existence and expansion isolates them for years. Putin even told George W that he lost sleep over the missile program NATO put together to stop missiles from Iran.

          • imil42
            Posted February 22, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            It seems to me that you assume that Putin and the rest of the Russian elites want to serve their own country. I strongly doubt it. In my opinion, all they want is to strengthen their own leadership. It’s better, as Caesar said, to be the first person in a village then the second person in Rome. I don’t subscribe to this point of view, but then, I’m not in the government.

            You seem to evaluate the actions of the Russian leadership based on the external viewpoint, but it’s the internal one that matters.

            You see, before 2014 the popular support of current regime was pretty low. Mostly people were just ambivalent: Putin and the United Russia party were mediocre, but the opposition seemed no better. Annexing Crimea changed this in an instant. If you evaluate this action based on objective criteria, it’s a huge loss to the country. Economy is undermined by the sanctions, our closest country became our enemy, we have to invest more in the military while the oil and gas exports fall. But the majority of people regard these events as “Making Russia Great Again”. And that’s what matters to the leaders. Their position is secure, and even if the country is ruined, there is always enough money to be extracted for a few privileged men.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted February 22, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

              And how would the dismantling of NATO, the increased influence of Russia and the break up of the EU not benefit Putin? Putin’s first priority is to stay in power because losing power could also mean losing his life. If he is to stay in power, he needs the influence of other areas and he needs the support of the people. The last thing he needs is to have the people rise up against him because then he loses everything. If he controls the media, has money and influence and no pushback from powerful enemies (NATO, EU) nothing can stop him. Further, the Russian people dislike NATO and EU and see them as a slap to the face of the Russian people – standing up to them increases Putin’s approval.

              As for having an external view of Russia – what other view can I have? I’m not living in Russia!

              • imil42
                Posted February 23, 2017 at 2:03 am | Permalink

                Exactly, standing up to NATO/EU keeps Putin and his close circle popular. As in, the PROCESS of standing up. As long as Russia is perceived to be surrounded by enemies, some minor faults in economy, social care, human rights etc. are easy to be overlooked. As soon as there is no enemy, the leaders are judged by entirely different standards. Remember Churchill? Quite popular during WW2, gone on the first peace-time election. And these guys have more to lose than Sir Winston.

    • Posted February 22, 2017 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      + 1

    • Rita
      Posted March 4, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink


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