Staunton, September 9 – One of the high points of the great movie on Watergate, “All the President’s Men,” is when the government leaker, “Deep Throat,” tells Bob Woodward of the Washington Post to forget everything he thinks he knows about people in the White House and recognize that officials there were not very bright and got in over their heads.
This passage comes to mind when one reads Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin’s latest article in which he says people should stop trying to discover cleverness behind the Kremlin’s moves when stupidity and crudeness are sufficient to explain why the Russian leadership is saying and doing what it is (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2020/09/08/1862541.html).
Among the examples he gives of such foolish actions are Kremlin suggests that the Germans poisoned Aleksey Navalny. No one is going to believe that, Shelin continues; and this “reduces the chances for the construction of Nordstream-2 and undercuts the leadership’s plan to cut off Ukraine from Russian gas transit.”
It is commonly assumed that “for Putin, there is nothing more important than geopolitics?” But if that is the case, why is he suddenly acting this way? According to Shelin, there is no cleverness or calculations involved. Instead, the Kremlin leader is displaying “only primitiveness and stupidity.”
Other examples of anything but clever moves are Putin’s interaction with Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the supposed “erotic” links between Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Mariya Zakharova and the president of Serbia. These things bring Russia nothing and they cost it a great deal.
Putin’s people are acting like not terribly clever gangsters and taking pride in that alone, an approach that may allow them to feel good among their own company but that won’t help them achieve the goals they have announced or serve the national interests of the Russian Federation.
That needs to be recognized rather than overcomplicating analysis of what Putin is doing and constantly suggesting that any foolish move is really part of some masterful plot that he has cooked up. There is less and less evidence to support that approach, and more and more to conclude that stupidity and crudity in and of themselves are sufficient explanation.
Window on Eurasia — New Series