Is Putin Crazy? Is He Hitler

Rick Salutin, The Toronto Star on Thu Mar 07 2014

Is Vladimir Putin crazy? Former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright says Putin is “delusional.” Germany’s Angela Merkel says he’s “out of touch with reality.”

I have no idea if he’s crazy and I don’t think it matters. According to The Psychopath Test, numerous CEOs and politicians make the cut based on criteria like their ability to blithely take decisions that wreck millions of lives. And if you look at what he’s actually done, I doubt it matters either. If you designed a computer program to react “rationally” on the model of great power leaders pursuing what’s consensually viewed as the National Interest, it would probably “behave” as Putin has, or perhaps more drastically.

When the Soviet Union broke up, the West said it wouldn’t advance against Russia militarily. Since then it’s tightened a NATO noose around Russia’s neck: Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states, the threat of missiles based near Russian borders. When the Soviets put missiles in Cuba in 1962, the U.S. went berserk, metaphorically or literally, blithely promising to incinerate the planet in response. Was John F. Kennedy delusional? Does it matter? It’s how great powers behave, especially in their own backyard.

I think this is wretched, immoral bullying — maybe I should put that in caps: THIS IS ODIOUS BEHAVIOUR — and bullied nations like Ukraine are right to protest, just as people in Latin America hate it when the U.S. does it. But it’s normal great power activity, crazy or not. By the way, Madeleine Albright, who’s presumably non-delusional, was asked in 1996 if half a million dead Iraqi kids was a “price” worth paying to assert U.S. power in far-off Iraq. She said: “We think the price is worth it.” Please note her use of “we” — indicating a possible collective psychosis.

Is he Hitler? It’s always springtime for Hitler analogies. Hillary Clinton has done it, also U.S. Senators John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and lesser luminaries. But the only government leaders who’ve taken that plunge are Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. I think the distinction is significant. Out of power, you can say anything since your only purpose is to get elected or re-elected. When you hold power, like Harper and Baird, you might actually have an effect so you tend to be more cautious and less stupid. Except for our guys.

I’d say what this shows is that Harperites have simply abandoned foreign policy as anything except a way to sweep up votes. They’ve already made themselves irrelevant in forums like global climate conferences or the UN; they just don’t give a damn. If you want to become a Canadian diplomat, forget working your way up or getting degrees in global affairs. Become head of the PM’s security detail or shill for the Israeli government instead. This must be discouraging for generations of civil servants. I agree with Yves Engler that Canadian diplomats were never neutral “brokers”; they acted mostly in the interest of the U.S. But that was sometimes useful, offering a little distance from the boss. That’s all gone, too.

The dilemma of the squares. There have always been spontaneous outbreaks of democratic will, like the Paris Commune or slave revolts. There’s a collective as well as an individual need to control one’s life. But recently the eruption and takeover of public spaces — in Tunis, Cairo, Madrid, Wall St., Kyiv’s Maidan — seem more coherent and continuous, perhaps due to social media.

These movements are the lifeblood of democratic renewal. They’re also susceptible to manipulation. Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004 seemed far more stage-managed by western forces like the U.S.’s National Endowment for Democracy or George Soros’ Open Society Institute than the Maidan has been. But there’s no doubt the same forces still operate. See the phone intercepts from U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland. They make these eruptions vulnerable to charges of being illegitimate fakes.

The trick is finding a way to link the genuine popular outbursts to institutionalized, constitutional, representative forms. I know that’s a mouthful but I don’t think anyone’s come up with a solution. Yet who wants to be stuck with merely voting in the occasional election, then going to sleep for another four years? If anyone has the answer, please write or call.

Rick Salutin’s column appears Friday.

  1. Putin or Not

    The unfolding of events indicate that Kiev’s interest is and has always been in the real estate that is Crimea and not the welfare of ethnic Russian-Ukrainian nationals. From all indications, Kiev would be content if the ethnic Russian-Ukrainian nationals are banished to the farthest corners of Siberia or Africa as long as the Crimea is part of the greater real estate that ethnic Ukrainians consider Ukraine.

    Post Soviet Ukraine had over 20 years to initiate its own version of “civil rights” movement to contain or moderate the ethnic mistrust if not outright hostility prevalent in the region. Instead the ethnic Ukrainian officials chose to drumbeat the antiquated and unproductive slogans of Ukraine for  (ethnic) Ukrainians.

    Kiev has pushed ethnic Russian-Ukrainian nationals to Mother Russia. It’s a done deal and would have been so with or without Putin at the helm.

  2. Putin’s Strategy

    I think Putin is one of the smartest politicians of the century.  His recent acts were planned with a weapon in-hand – Syria.
    Sooner or later Putin will invade Crimea and if the west will give him too much trouble, he will trade Syria for their silence.  i.e.: he will let US get into Syria in return for Russia getting into Crimea.
    We have to wait and see.
  3. Crimea

    Why Putin is pushing into Crimea? The answer is so simple but the West does not mention it. Crimea has been Russian since the day Catherine the Great took it from Turks more 200 years ago. It stayed Russian until the fat slob Khruschev gave it, as a good will gesture (?) to Ukraine, just like Stalin gave Karabagh to Azerbaijan as a good will gesture to the Turks.

  4. Putin Crazy?

    This is another article from an author who is ready and willing to blame the US for any and all of its foreign policies. It has little to do with the title he proposes.

    Putin is a stealth Stalin who is now the god of the Big Brother Russia. His aim, from the very first day he became the leader of Russia, was to re-create the Soviet Union under the rubric of a new Union to counter EU. His next 'occupation' will be Eastern Ukraine, then Moldova and then the Caucasus?

    The US and the West are powerless to stop Putin's escapades.

    1. Double standards

      Hi Kenell, so what you are saying – it's ok if US invades countries in remote regions of the world, just for its own financial interests, but it's not OK if any other country does the same for lesser reasons.  Like Armenia takes back Karabagh and Russia takes back Crimea.  Those two regions belonged to the respective countries throughout history.  Did Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. belong to the US in any specific time?  of course not!
      What's next for US invasions, Iran, Pakistan, Armenia???  of course you will be ok with all these illegal and criminal invasion of the 'west', perhaps it aligns with your ideology, but god forgive if any other nation protects its sovereignty!!
      People have to look at the issues with common sense and open mind, putting aside their political party affiliations…


  5. Putin and Armenians

    Whether Putin's Russia may have its justified reasons to push into Ukraine or not does not matter, but it is done in a very wrong manner and is pregnant with bad consequences. However, my comment is not about Putin or his push. Armenians actually play an important role in Putin's politics. S. Kurginyan in ideology is a less famous Dzhirinovksi and A. Gabrelyanov with M. Simonian are mouthpieces of Putin's propaganda machine.

    That reminds me of eagerness with which Armenians embraced the Young Turks party. Their service to the tsar looks ridiculous and of NO benefit to Armenian state or nation. Russia probably will not massacre Armenians in gratitude, as Turks did, but they will absorb and dissolve the country. This time it would be final, because in communist Russia there was at least this false premise of  "дружба народов" (friendship of peoples) and the fever of nation building. They created states which did not exist and after Soviet Union crumbled they discovered with surprise that these countries have aspirations for independence and sovereignty. Putin certainly is not going to commit the same error. 

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