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Putin? Winning? Winning What?: Live from Potemkin's Villages

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I read the Economist, and I shake my head in confusion:

The Economist: The View from the Kremlin: Putin’s War on the West: "Look at the world from his perspective...

...and Mr Putin is winning... the Kremlin’s undisputed master... a throttlehold on Ukraine.... His overarching aim is to divide and neuter [the western] alliance.... Only the wilfully blind would think his revanchism has been sated.... To him, Western institutions and values are more threatening than armies. He wants.... supplant them with his own model... [in which] nation-states trump alliances, states are dominated by elites, and those elites can be bought.... The biggest target is NATO’s commitment to mutual self-defence. Discredit that—by, for example, staging a pro-Russian uprising in Estonia or Latvia, which other NATO members decline to help quell--and the alliance crumbles....

Those former Soviet countries that have joined Western institutions must be buttressed and reassured. If the case for sending arms to the Donbas is doubtful, that for basing NATO troops in the Baltics is overwhelming, however loudly Mr Putin squeals. Western leaders must make it clear, to him and their own people, that they will defend their allies, and the alliance...

Putin? Winning? Russia's generals used to dance in Paris and drink in Berlin. Now they are camped out on the lower Don in territory first governed for Russia by the original Count Potemkin and camped out in territory that the generals of Dreadlord Ivan IV Rurik fought over in the Livonia War. Russia at Putin's accession was an ex-superpower owed respect and aid by the west. Putin's domain--Muscovy--now is much-disliked but not much-feared.

Yes, of course there should be multinational NATO bases in the Baltic Republics: that is what an alliance is for. If the Germans and the French did not want their soldiers in harm's way in the Baltic republics, the Baltic republics should not have been allowed into NATO.

But the rest? Putin's Muscovy is potentially dangerous because it is a declining power whose rulers may well fear that they will be, relatively, even weaker in a decade than they are today. It should thus be treated with caution and respect. And helping the neighbors of Putin's Muscovy guard themselves against trouble coming from it is something the western alliance needs to do. And trying to lay the foundations so that when the people of Putin's Muscovy finally start to properly renovate their room in the common European home should be a very high priority--as I have often said, the people of western Europe, North America, and indeed the entire world owe a profound debt to the soldiers of the Red Army, the peasants who starved themselves to feed them, and the workers of Magnitogorsk who armed them with the tanks that played the decisive role in the overthrow of Adolf Hitler's German Naziism. And not even the interest on that debt has ever been paid.

But Putin: "winning"? Winning what? Winning how?