I see that John Kerry met with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, in Paris yesterday. Talks failed to agree ways “to reduce tensions” over Ukraine. Washington could try butting out of business thousands of miles away, in particular it could try not overthrowing governments on Russia’s border.
Pat Buchanan does that rare (below) thing for an American conservative: he imagines himself in Putin’s shoes with Putin’s life experience and worldview. It’s a short, thoughtful piece and I think he gets it, echoing similar thoughts by Peter Htchens. No, this is not to support Putin or his actions, it’s simply to understand in some small way the most powerful man in a very important and proud country. I commend it particularly to Americans who, in my limited experience, find it difficult to imagine themselves in someone else’s shoes, or to flip a map around and look at the geopolitical matter from the other side. No, this is not a dig at Americans, it’s just an honest observation. I might be right, and if so it would be interesting to discuss why, or I might be wrong, in which case I’m just mistaken.
What Would You Do If You Were in Putin’s Shoes?
As the old saying goes, you cannot truly understand a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.
Perhaps Americans, a fortunate tribe, should try to see the world from the vantage point of the Russian people and Vladimir Putin, and, as the poet Robert Burns said, “see ourselves as others see us.”
At 35, Putin was a rising star in the elite secret police, the KGB, of a superpower with a worldwide empire.
The USSR was almost three times as large as the United States. Its European quadrant was half of the Old Continent. The Soviet Empire extended from the Elbe River in Central Germany to the Bering Strait across from Alaska. It encompassed thirteen time zones.
North to south, the USSR reached from above the Arctic Circle down to the Middle East. Beyond the contiguous empire were Soviet bases from Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam to Tartus in Syria to Cienfuegos in Cuba.
Consider, then, what the last dozen years of the 20th century must have been like for proud Russian patriots and nationalists.
First, the European empire suddenly and wholly collapsed. East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria all broke away to join the West. The Red Army came home, undefeated, but also unwanted and even detested.
The Warsaw Pact, the rival to NATO, dissolved.
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