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Jan 25, 2022Liked by Robert Wright

Substitute 'Russia' for the 'Soviet Union' in this quote: ..... "I find the view of the Soviet Union that prevails today in large portions of our governmental and journalistic establishments so extreme, so subjective, so far removed from what any sober scrutiny of external reality would reveal, that it is not only ineffective, but dangerous as a guide to political action.

This endless series of distortions and oversimplifications; this systematic dehumanization of the leadership of another great country; this routine exaggeration of Moscow's military capabilities and of the supposed iniquity of Soviet intentions: this monotonous misrepresentation of the nature and the attitudes of another great people -- and a long-suffering people at that, sorely tried by the vicissitudes of this past century; this ignoring of their pride, their hopes -- yes, even of their illusions (for they have their illusions, just as we have ours, and illusions too, deserve respect); this reckless application of the double standard to the judgment of Soviet conduct and our own, this failure to recognize, finally, the communality of many of their problems and ours as we both move inexorably into the modern technological age: and the corresponding tendency to view all aspects of the relationship in terms of a supposed total and irreconcilable conflict of concerns and of aims; these, believe, are not the marks of the maturity and discrimination one expects of the diplomacy of a great power; they are the marks of an intellectual primitivism and naivety unpardonable in a great government. I use the word naivety, because there is a naivety of cynicism and suspicion, just as there is a naivety of innocence.

And we shall not be able to turn these things around as they should be turned, on the plane of military and nuclear rivalry, until we learn to correct these childish distortions -- until we correct our tendency to see in the Soviet Union only a mirror in which we look for the reflection of our own virtue -- until we consent to see there another great people, one of the world's greatest, in all its complexity and variety, embracing the good with the bad, a people whose life, whose views, whose habits, whose fears and aspirations, whose successes and failures, are the products, just as ours are the products, not of any inherent iniquity but of the relentless discipline of history, tradition, and national experience. If we insist on demonizing these Soviet leaders -- on viewing them as total and incorrigible enemies, consumed only with their fear and hatred of us and dedicated to nothing other than our destruction -- that, in the end, is the way we shall assuredly have them, if for no other reason than that our view of them allows for nothing else, either for them or for us.

George Kennan, THE NUCLEAR DELUSION: SOVIET-AMERICAN RELATIONS IN THE ATOMIC AGE, 1982.

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Jan 25, 2022Liked by Robert Wright

After Putin succeeded Yeltsin in 2000, he moved quickly to bolster relations with the West, even suggesting that Russia join NATO. Lord George Robertson, NATO's secretary general from 1999-2004, recently recalled how Putin asked him if Russia could join NATO. Robertson told him that Russia would have to submit an application to join, as other countries do. Later Putin stated that NATO was unwilling to embrace Russia because the West and the US feared its power and independence. Thus, Putin was exploring NATO and closer ties with the West with George W Bush to forge political and security relationships. How different the US-Russia relationship would be today, if we enabled Russia to join NATO. We probably could have nudged Russia towards a more democratic perspective and less authoritarian tendency. Perhaps Putin would have not been re-elected? It would have been a win-win Non-Zero outcome. Instead we have this tense revitalized Cold War condition.

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Jan 25, 2022Liked by Robert Wright

Very well put and I like the Mexico example. One question I have is about why Americans seem to support this bellicosity? I agree that foreign policy types and the military industrial complex are key to providing concentrated support for NATO expansion but I also see Americans too often swayed by a type of idealism. They can’t understand that other people in other parts of the world are different than they are so Putin seems evil. They also seem susceptible to arguments that every crisis is something the US should be involved in. I think Mearscheimer and Steve Walt captured this liberal imperialist tendency well in their recent books. The proponents of America as the great liberator find a receptive audience but Americans tire quickly with the reality of what they find when we do get involved. Support for a Ukraine intervention will evaporate pretty quickly once it starts.

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Any support by "Americans" is very thin, in my opinion. My impression is that there are a lot of people who still associate Putin with Trump, and therefore consider him the enemy. But these people are not the ones driving the conversation. Rather, it's the foreign policy professionals including the military industrial complex and the mainstream media that are leading us in the direction of a disastrous war.

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Agreed. I am shocked by how few people seem to ask why we care about this. I live in an elite area but not necessarily foreign policy connected. I agree the Putin/Trump connection is part of it.

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...and Putin's "cognitive empathy" ? That's not just a quip, but a serious query about how this nonzero perspective should play out when both 'sides' don't embrace cognitive empathy.

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Well, I noted near the top of the piece that I thought Putin might lack insight into Biden's current political situation. That aside, I think it's valuable to exercise cognitive empathy even when the person you're directing it toward isn't exercising it. (And I mean valuable from *your* perspective.) In other words: Whether or not Putin understands us, it's in our interest to understand him.

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Question, Nonzero? Have you read Wesley Clark's account of the Kosovo war?

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No. And was he in charge at that point?

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I almost did the same after reading the headline "Is Robert Malone Crazy?... Then I practiced a bit of mindfulness and reminded my self of the importance to listen/ reading stuff that you do not agree with.

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Bob is correct that it was always an unnecessary provocation to Russia for the US to allow NATO to be extended to former Soviet republic's on or near Russia's border. US presidents failed to recognize the consequences of this "bridge too far" policy because they both disregarded Russia as a world power and tried to keep isolating it as though it was still an enemy world power. This was a monumental error.

Now that Russia is strong again it doesn't want all these foreign military presences lined up on its border and NATO should agree to retreat from that policy and agree that Ukraine can never join NATO. But that is no longer the central point in this dispute. Putin doesn't actually care about getting his demands met. In fact his biggest fear is that the allies will agree to his demands. What he really wants is to annex Ukraine in its entirety to restore the relationship that existed between Russian and Ukraine in the former Soviet Union. Therefore he is going to launch a Ukraine invasion no matter what the US and NATO allies would agree to. As Putin knows he can easily take all of Ukraine as easily as Hitler took Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1939/40 and that there is no credible military force that can intervene to stop him, he will invade unless he can install a puppet Ukrainian government that will stage an annexation vote reasonably promptly.

Bob's failure to recognize this obvious fact shows a big failure of "cognitive empathy". Bob doesn't understand Putin's motives which are very simple. He just wants Ukraine back under his/Russian control. Then all the other issues go away and he is a national hero and dictator for life in Russia. That's what people really need to understand about what is going on in Putin's mind.

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Few quibbles.

I am not sure that Lockheed has made lots of money off of NATO expansion. Afaik, the largest deal that Lockheed has accomplished in Eastern-Europe is a deal with Finland. They just signed a 10 billion contract to deliver 64 F-35-s to Finland. But Finland is not a NATO member and is not planning to join NATO. Sure, Lockheed has made deals with NATO countries from Eastern-Europe too, but all in all, it does not seem huge.

I guess you got this argument with conversation from Hanania and though there is a kernel of truth in it, there is a risk of over simplification. Weapon-manufactures are/were supporting NATO enlargement and sure, we can say "they just want to make money". But there are other explanations.

A) If you go to work for Lockheed and make a career in Lockheed, I guess your worldview is by default more militaristic and interventionist. If you are pacifist, Lockheed is not your first choice for career; b) If American culture and foreign policy thinking becomes more interventionist, militaristic etc., then it influences also how weapon-producers see the world. Hananias argument is that weapon producers have a militaristic worldview and from them, this particular worldview will flow to the national security establishment. But causality can also be in the opposite direction: The national security establishment takes certain views, and these views are later adopted by weapons-producers.

Another note.

In your conversation with Mickey Kaus, you said, "I haven’t heard a single good argument for expanding NATO". I try to give one. Part argument, part explanation.

At first, empirical observation. If you look at Eastern-Europe, at countries what are part of NATO and countries what are not, you quickly notice the difference.

NATO members are successful, rich, peaceful and in good developmental path. Non-NATO countries are, pardon my French, quite often shitholes, full of poverty, human misery, violence, military conflicts, etc.

Coincidence?

Let's compare Estonia, a small NATO country (I am coming from Estonia) and Moldova, a small non-NATO country. When the Soviet Union collapsed, these two countries started more or less from the same footing. But in 2021, GDP of Moldova per capita is 4600 dollars and GDP of Estonia per capita is 24 000 dollars.

My point is that there is at least one mistake assessing NATO enlargement to Eastern-Europe. You look at the current conflict in Ukraine and think it is bad and dangerous. And I agree, it is bad and dangerous. I even agree that it is probably unreasonable to bring Ukraine into NATO.

But the mistake is to think that without NATO enlargement everything would be the same, minus the current conflict in Ukraine. I am pretty sure that it would not be the same, and there is a non-trivial chance that it would be worse.

NATO enlargement, EU enlargement and generally integration into "western" world have helped to pacify Eastern-Europe, to mitigate possible risks and conflicts, ethnic rivalries, border disputes and many-many other factors. In 1990-s there were a lot of risks and uncertainties, there was no guarantee what kind of possible conflicts will arise in Eastern Europe, how this region will go further.

I recently read transcripts of talks between Gorbachev and Baker during the German reunification process. Both guys were seriously discussion how to prevent Germans from getting nuclear weapons and how to prevent the Germans invading Poland once again. Today it seems absurd, but 30 years ago serious people were taking it seriously.

From an American point of view, Eastern-Europe is far-far away. I do understand if America takes "realistic" position, says that it is not our business, we do not have interest there.

But it should be also noted, that Eastern-Europe is not as far to the east as some people think. Berlin is just 100 miles from the Polish border. Prague, the Czech capital, is actually farther to the west than Vienna. History has shown that when there is a mess in Eastern-Europe, there will be spillover effects. History has shown that when there is a power vacuum in Eastern -Europe, the Germans and the Russian love to fill it and the Germans and the Russian have shown that if they manage affairs of Eastern-Europe, their toolbox is not filled with catchy pop songs and Coca-cola, but more with genocide and labor camps.

I am not saying that without NATO enlargement, Eastern -European countries would have been in hell. But it is easy to see failures. US invaded Iraq and see what happened. It is harder to see success stories. It is possible to argue that NATO enlargement have helped Eastern-Europe and have helped to avoid some bad scenarios.

It is easy to say that western leaders during 1990-s were stupid, naive or outright evil, but I would suggest some empathy, to think yourself back into these times and think about what kind of risks, possible conflicts or negative developmental paths have NATO enlargement helped to not come true.

(Btw, I do not say that US leaders have been perfect. I agree with lot of your criticism. I also think that leaders from my own country, have made and so on. )

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Bret Stephens seems to be calling you out in his latest op-Ed on this topic, though he mentions no opponents by name. Maybe it is time to have him on the Wright Show again or to meet him in another venue like the NYT Argument podcast to discuss?

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Maybe a revised edition of 'THE MORAL ANIMAL' might be worth while? Worth being a relative word. Jest asking? :-)

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The Kosovo intervention wasn't just a "wag the dog" story. There was some recent history (as I see in Croatia in the burned-out homes and the bullet holes remaining in many walls), and concern about Turkey and Greece entering the fray. I don't recall hearing of any equivalent in Georgia's enclaves.

About treating Russia with more respect than post-WWI Germany after WWI--maybe one should look at how the USSR treated East Germany. But Russia was not made to pay reparations. In fact, under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine gave its nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for a promise to respect its borders. Current events cast doubt on the wisdom of that decision. If power comes from the barrel of a gun, respect comes from nuclear missile launch tubes. Kim Jong-un is not the only one to draw a lesson from Ukraine's example.

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Nothing in my analysis, or the practical implications I see flowing from it, presupposes that the Russian government *isn't* thugs and criminals. So if you want me to understand your complaint, you'll have to elaborate.

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You are totally right about the Russian gov or Serbian, or any populistic corruptive government which is using it's power not to fulfill the better life for its fellow citizens (on a contrary) but to back up its own (most of the time) nationalistic mythologies, or to back up the profits of the companies of the businesses that are making your country more powerful.

And it is easier to understand things when you had your own experience (perhaps, you had with the Russian gov, i had with my fellow Serbian governments. So, in the same way Bob and other people regarding of their nationalities, have their own experiences with their own governments, and they have their rights to criticize them. At the end, that is one of the main thing we as a citizens can do, is to follow their work and constantly criticize them about many different issues. But the better understanding and knowing the concept of cognitive empathy, the better for everyone. So, i do agree with this particular usage of cognitive empathy in foreign policy of a country.

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Very well argued critique ....Yes I`m being sarcastic.

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I get it. However, Bob is trying, however oblivious to his own blind spots.

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