Tuesday, November 30, 2021

They’re Mostly Patriots

COTTonLINE’s favorite analyst of foreign affairs - George Friedman - makes interesting points about the mental gymnastics intelligence analysts must accomplish in order to do their jobs. He uses Russia’s Putin as an example.

Whether Putin is good or evil is a nice conversation to have. But if you want a sense of what he might be thinking, start with the fact that he doesn’t think he is evil and grasp what he is afraid of and confident in. Empathize with him. He is a former KGB officer and a patriot who watched his country collapse and be treated with disdain. Feel the pain he feels and then grasp how intelligent he is. Then it is possible you might catch a glimpse of his next move.

Analysts must bury themselves in the countries and leaders they’re dealing with. It’s their job to know the leader’s mind, and to do that, passages like Matthew 5:44 are essential. Loving your enemy is the means to destroy him. Hating him blinds you to his fundamental strength: the fact that he believes deeply in his virtue. And if you don’t understand the pride and patriotism of someone like Putin, you will never contain him.

In the instance of Putin vs. Ukraine, know that he feels morally responsible for the defense of ethnic Russians who live there. He will support them as the Pakistanis supported the Taliban. 

Unfortunately, this doesn’t tell us if he will invade, as he surely wishes to. We must also understand his assessment of the risks to Russia inherent in that act, and how much those will negatively impact his other aims in Europe and beyond.