Staunton, November 27 – The only way to defeat Vladimir Putin and his nuclear threats is to make him “a serious problem for his entourage,” and the only way to do that is for the West to impose “total sanctions against the entire Russian elite in combination with a de facto international boycott of [the Kremlin leader] personally,” according to Igor Eidman.
Anything short of that – and both the sanctions and the way in which Western governments have dealt with Moscow since the Crimean Anschluss fall far short – will be something that Putin will use to strengthen his position and thus will ultimately fail, the Moscow analyst says (svoboda.org/content/article/26707808.html).
To make his point, Eidman recounts the legend of a group of gypsies who in medieval times extracted money from wealthy German burghers by saying that they had a dragon in their camp that would become angry and destroy the German city if the Germans did not pay enough money to keep the dragon well-fed.
For a long time, the Germans, filled with fear, paid up. But eventually, they ran out of money, and they decided to see this dragon for themselves. When they broke into the place where the dragon supposedly was staying, they found only a couple of barking dogs, and they were no longer willing to pay bribes to keep “the dragon” at bay.
Today, in an update of that medieval story, Eidman says, Putin and his regime are employing the same method to “deceive the world community” that the gypsies used to deceive “the stupid burghers” in the past.
Moscow is sending signals to the West that if it doesn’t “pay up” by making concessions to the Kremlin, Putin “could begin a nuclear war,” a threat that both the regime’s propagandists and even supposed opposition figures have been tireless in repeating. And when their words need emphasis, Putin re-emerges and makes comments that appear to support that idea.
The calculation behind this is “simple,” Eidman says. “The Russian ruling hierarchy headed by the president wants to receive from an intimidated West economic preferences and carte blanche for external expansion. Otherwise, things will be bad” as the German burghers were encouraged to think in the legend.
If this were simply “a crude racket,” that would be bad enough: For the leader of a nuclear power to make such threats is “extraordinarily dangerous” because it is “a delayed action mine under the world which could blow up at any moment.” But history suggests that there is an even more disturbing consequence to the way the West has responded up to now.
When people make threats, “even if they do not correspond to reality,” sometimes these assume a reality of their own. If people consider someone a dragon and treat him like one, “he will become a dragon” and may act worse as a result. Making concessions only “wets the appetites of an aggressor.”
“Even Hitler,” Eidman says, “initially did not want to begin a new world war. But having not met resistance for a long time, he finally decided that he could do what he wanted. When he attacked Poland, Hitler calculated that the West would not come to her help. And then it was already too late to retreat.”
“It is possible defeat the dragon only after one stops being afraid of it,” Eidman continues. “Then it turns out that he exists only in our own imagination” and that by recognizing that reality and then responding forcefully, “it is possible to stop the escalation of aggression and war.”
That means in the current context that the West must recognize that Putin and company are engaged in the same kind of behavior that the gypsies did in the legend, that they must send a clear message to Putin’s entourage that he is hurting them by his actions, and that they can do so by isolating him totally.
“No serious democratic politician should meet with him … except under the most extraordinary circumstances.” But when those are not present, then it is important that Western leaders should not simply refuse to sit next to Putin at a breakfast but that they make sure he is sitting “in a basement with the local bums.”
If the West does that, then those around Putin will understand that his and their game is up and they will take care of unmasking and thus destroying their own dragon.