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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

#36 - JRL 2007-16 - JRL Home
From: Ira Straus (IRASTRAUS@aol.com)
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2007
Subject: Re: 2007-jrl 15-# 27 - Liakhov [re: Energy Wars, Motives]

I find this somewhat strange item from Andrei Liakhov on JRL 2007- 15-#27, entitled "Response to Ira Straus".

What is strange, to me at least, is that it does not respond to what I said, or defend the mistake I was correcting (for which the original author has more or less thanked me). Instead it criticizes a side remark of mine on a logically separate point. It is a point that is far from peculiar to me, so I don't quite see why the "Response to (me)".

Perhaps he simply was taking the opportunity to criticize yet another Westerner for not buying the Kremlin arguments on this point; specifically, the arguments about how the energy wars have nothing to do with politics on Russia's side or attempts to put pressure on neighboring countries, and how Russia is simply pursuing objective market behavior in all this.

I should say that I am impressed that he has a legalistic explanation for the Russian actions on gas, and one, further, that serves to support the argument that it is an objective market price issue. However, this is perhaps not of great comfort, since this latest explanation, like the others, is intrinsically implausible, not in the sense that it is of no relevance, but that it is inadequate as something meant for explaining the course of events and denying the role of political motivations.

I recall hearing some expressions of frustration, at the time of the gas war with Ukraine, that, despite Russia's having carefully set things up in advance to make sure the blame would fall on Ukraine, still the blame somehow ended up landing on Russia's head anyway. Frustrating, perhaps, for Kremlin purposes; but it shouldn't have been a surprise, for the very reason that planning aforethought went into it, with political motivation. The political motivation against the Ukrainian government which was expressed just as frequently by Kremlin supporters as it was denied; how could they expect the denials to be believed?

Indeed, the political motivation was often expressed in the course of the very same statements making the denials. That itself is an interesting phenomenon. It's a kind of solipsistic logic that ones hears from some people everywhere, people who are so wrapped up in their own narratives that they don't realize when they're letting the cat out of the bag. I get an impression however that it happens particularly often in regimes that have set up a system of control of audible public discourse, and repeatedly hear their own narratives straight through without fear of interruption or contradiction. It seems that, after they run through the points in their narratives where they ridicule contrary views, and often implicitly threaten some penalties for any expression of such views, they feel they can proceed without risk of getting caught and called for it when they later proceed to contradict their earlier points and admit things that, within any framework of thinking other than their own, are damning. It is as if they believe that their framing of the issue is the only one that can be thenceforth heard, including their framing of how to interpret each of the otherwise contradictory points. Maybe this works at home, among at least part of the public, but they shouldn't be so amazed when the rest of the world fails to fall into line.

May I suggest that the Kremlin take to heart the advice of a certain Lord X on a recent JRL, or at least, that my friends on the somewhat too pro-Kremlin side do (I've heard from more than one, looking for a way to somehow undermine my correction to Dr. Ivanenko's comment -- and I answered the latter because it was in many respects a valuable comment, worthy of not leaving uncorrected a couple significant misstatements in it). Lord X thought it unfortunate that there is so much Russia-bashing and that a lot of the comment on Russia is unfair. However, he felt constrained to add that the Kremlin and its supporters really would do themselves a favor if they would stop "defending" Russia so often with transparently absurd or hopeless implausible arguments. He was referring, specifically, to the denials that Russia has had any political or geopolitical motivation in its gas wars.

As one who wishes Russia well, I cannot but agree with him.

I would add the further concern that it would be better if the regime not let its controlled media environment go to its head. It tends to lead, after all, to a loss of the reality principle. This can be seen in the attitude that the external world should be expected to be infinitely malleable to regime argumentation and repetition. That way lies madness. It is a danger that Putin might have thought he was sober and intelligent enough to be immune to, while he proceeded with media control for limited instrumental purposes. However, his sobriety has not extended to all subjects; and the media control has had a tendency to feed upon itself and exceed any wished for limits. The system has already exacerbated delusion, by helping him remain unaware of it when his take on some matters has been out of touch and his attitude out of control. And then there is the danger of less intelligent successors.