Friday, December 19, 2014

Incompatible Imperatives

Just back from Moscow, George Friedman of Stratfor has written for RealClearWorld an appraisal of how Russians view their situation today. It is a strange and interesting document, some key paragraphs:
I thought the economic problems of Russia would be foremost on people's minds. (snip) Yet this was not the conversation I was having.

The Russians pointed out that economic shambles was the norm for Russia, and prosperity the exception. There is always the expectation that prosperity will end and the normal constrictions of Russian poverty return.

I came away with two senses. One was that Putin was more secure than I thought. (snip) Things that would bring down a Western leader may leave a Russian leader untouched. Second, the Russians do not plan a campaign of aggression. Here I am more troubled - not because they want to invade anyone, but because nations frequently are not aware of what is about to happen, and they might react in ways that will surprise them.

The United States and Europe have trouble understanding Russia's fears. Russia has trouble understanding particularly American fears. The fears of both are real and legitimate. This is not a matter of misunderstanding between countries but of incompatible imperatives.