Historian of the Cold War and after. Wilson E. Schmidt Distinguished Professor @KissingerCenter @SAISHopkins.
Sep 18 • 12 tweets • 4 min read
An interesting article by Timothy Snyder: . As a fellow historian with pretensions of a public intellectual, I will disagree with my esteemed colleague's analysis. I find that his key points are 1) theoretically unsustainable and 2) potentially defamatory.amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/…
First this here. Snyder argues that Ukrainian strikes on Crimea are "de-escalatory, as such attacks reduce Russia's capability to attack Ukrainian territory." The argument is of course directed at @elonmusk's claim that attacking Crimea could have been deemed escalatory.
Sep 13 • 7 tweets • 2 min read
Very significant language from the Putin-Kim meeting, where Kim claims Russia is waging a "sacred struggle", and says that he "always supported and supports all decisions by President Putin."
Elsewhere Kim says relations with Russia are North Korea's "foremost priority". This will not go unnoticed by the Chinese.
Jul 31 • 7 tweets • 2 min read
An interesting thread. A couple of notes.
For a start, the Chechen war actually started before Putin (under Yeltsin), though of course it was put on hold at Khasavyurt. Second - much more importantly - criticism such as this seems unfair.
The key issue for American policy-makers in the 1990s and early 2000s was how to strengthen democratic tendencies in Russia at a time when Russia was clearly facing democratic backsliding and a nationalistic resurgence. The line to be walked was thin and far from obvious.
Jun 27 • 11 tweets • 2 min read
Let's talk about where we are with Russia.
For the second time in three days, Putin addressed the Russian people to condemn an "armed rebellion." In this second iteration, he came across as much angrier. Yet, in the end, he simply repeated that Wagner can leave for Belarus.
Putin's impotent rage highlights the underlying weakness of his position. Long gone are the days when he promised to "beat the shit out of terrorists in the outhouse." Today's Putin has to settle for compromise solutions, and even resort to the services of Lukashenko.
Jun 26 • 4 tweets • 1 min read
Putin links Prigozhin to Ukraine, suggesting that they were working towards the same goal: Russia's defeat.
Main takeaways: 1) No backing down (Shoigu remains in post). 2) Harsh condemnation of Prigozhin's "treason" 3) Those Wagnerites who want to, can "exit" freely to Belarus.
Lukashenko earns a notable mention, suggesting that, as I previously argued, he has increased his weight relative to Putin's, as someone who saved Russia from a civil war.
Jun 14 • 19 tweets • 4 min read
A thought-provoking piece by Gideon Rose, FA's former editor: foreignaffairs.com/ukraine/ukrain…. The title is an obvious challenge to Samuel Charap's earlier piece titled "An unwinnable war." Let's take a look.
In the article, Rose criticises previous articles by authors like @scharap, @mkimmage, and others, who predicted that Ukraine would not be able to roll back the Russian advance, and that at best, Kyiv would end up with a long, drawn-out, inconclusive war.
Jun 14 • 18 tweets • 6 min read
A thread on the importance of checking sources. The work of the historian entails in-depth engagement with evidence. Evidence is rarely unequivocal. There is often plenty of scope for interpretation, for questioning, for doubting. Much here hinges on the veracity of sources.
I'll give an example from a book I am currently reading: a broad overview of Sino-Russian relations from the 17th century to the present day by Philip Snow. amazon.co.uk/China-Russia-C…. The book, published by Yale UP, presently strikes me as under-researched.
Jun 13 • 5 tweets • 1 min read
Karaganov, after presenting a dire picture of the world, where the declining, rotten, decadent West is simultaneously falling apart and posing an existential danger to Russia, proposes to quickly use nukes to finish the war in Ukraine, move Russia's capital to Siberia, and
... from there offer Chinese firm backing in fighting a war with the United States. Karaganov's calculus here - so familiar from Cold War musings - is that Washington doesn't care enough about Europe to retaliate if Russia went nuclear.
Jun 12 • 10 tweets • 2 min read
An interesting piece. theguardian.com/commentisfree/…. I previously argued (e.g. engelsbergideas.com/essays/what-dr…) that Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov provides an interesting reference point for understanding Putin's psychology.
But I am very careful (unlike Yermolenko & Ogarkova, whom Peter quotes here) not to draw sweeping conclusions from this about "Russian culture." I don't think there's anything particularly destructive about the Russian culture; nor do I believe in some national psyche.
Jun 11 • 6 tweets • 2 min read
A thought-provoking piece by Eugene Rumer: foreignaffairs.com/russian-federa…, where he argues that with the elites implicated and the public co-opted by the regime, even Putin's departure is unlikely to lead to a positive turn in Russia's relations with the West.
He points to two examples: survival of Stalinism after Khrushchev's de-Stalinization, and survival of the Communist Party despite it being banned by Yeltsin after the aborted coup of 1991. He thus highlights continuities in imperial thinking and the tendency to revert to tyranny.
Jun 10 • 15 tweets • 4 min read
A see a lot of discussion of this recent article by @scharap: foreignaffairs.com/ukraine/unwinn…. Instead of trashing it, people should read the article beyond the title and engage with the argument. I agree with Charap in some of his claims, and disagree in others. Let's take a look.
I think this is probably right. The best-case scenario - i.e. Russia being pushed out of Ukraine (including Crimea) - does not necessarily lead to the end of war. The counterargument of those who claim that it can hinges on two assumptions, one more convincing than the other.
Jun 8 • 6 tweets • 2 min read
I hear this argument a lot, and I think it's ahistorical. Or, let me correct this: it's historical but it stresses continuities and is unable to account for change. If the Kremlin were unable to change, then I am afraid Latvia would still be today the Latvian socialist republic.
Now, Latvian colleagues will be quick to correct me, emphasising that freedom was taken not given, and I would say they are about 50% correct.
Jun 7 • 5 tweets • 2 min read
Saving this for future reference. Fwiw, this idea of playing Russia against China is misplaced (as is comparison of Putin to Mao). China & the USSR were at each other's throats in 1969. Nixon & Kissinger took advantage of their acrimonious relationship to mend fences with China.
We are now in a very different situation. Although there are signs that the Russians are not all too happy to be China's "younger brothers," the two countries are extremely close politically and ideologically, and share a very solid (and ever deepening) economic relationship.
Jun 2 • 13 tweets • 2 min read
I've noticed sometime ago that I tend to self-censor in presenting my views on certain aspects of international politics, and I wonder why this is. It's certainly not because of concerns over job security (this would have been the case if I were a junior tenure-track academic).
I think it's something else, and it's psychologically fascinating. For instance, say, on issue A (say some aspect or another of Russia's invasion of Ukraine), I am convinced that the prevailing discourse is somewhat (maybe even very) misguided, yet I may not say anything.
May 27 • 14 tweets • 3 min read
Kissinger has turned 100. He is a key character in my forthcoming book on the Cold War, making appearance in at least half-a-dozen chapters. I have formed a very positive impression of Kissinger, because I saw in the documents how skilfully he played the Soviets and the Chinese.
t.me/superdolgov/94…. Prigozhin's full interview. Definitely worth your time, though I don't think it's subtitled (subtitled excerpts are being shared on this platform). His most vicious (by far) attack on Shoigu and Gerasimov, with lots of other interesting bits and pieces.
Progozhin repeatedly raises the spectre of a pitchfork revolution in Russia, trashes the elites. Calls for Shoigu and Gerasimov (among others) to be hanged in the Red Square. Calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty. Wants Russia to become North Korea "for a while."
May 20 • 5 tweets • 2 min read
Another reason to watch this is that Putin is followed here by Yuri Petrov, the head of the Institute of Russian History, who makes a bonkers claim about how the Russian Empire was never colonial though he does say (in contradiction) that the Russians had a "civilising mission".
The whole thing just shows how important history has become to Putin's imperialism, i.e. as a form of rationalisation. I wrote about this recently for the Journal of Contemporary History: cambridge.org/core/journals/…. Just another reminder.
May 20 • 4 tweets • 1 min read
Worth reading: the final declaration of the China - Central Asia summit: politics.people.com.cn/n1/2023/0520/c…. The most interesting bit is where it talks about the possibility of establishing a secretariat for China-Central Asia, a kind of mini-SCO with just China and the CA5.
My guess is that this is Beijing’s idea and I imagine they ran into difficulties with the CA5 who would have reasons to worry about such close embrace. This is just speculation of course.
May 18 • 4 tweets • 1 min read
kremlin.ru/events/preside…. Putin holds a meeting on the state of agricultural work. Not that anyone would care but Kremlinologists will of course pay attention because the meeting featured Patrushev's son, Dmitrii, the Agriculture Minister, reporting to Putin.
The elder and probably genuinely deranged Patrushev being three years older that Putin, he is an unlikely heir-apparent. The younger Patrushev is 25 years Putin's junior, and his name as a potential successor has come up before.
May 11 • 13 tweets • 4 min read
So to reflect a bit on Snyder's NYT oped: nytimes.com/2023/05/09/opi…. The key argument is that nuclear powers have lost wars. The examples include US wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the French in Algeria and the collapse of the British Empire.
The historical examples are not convincing. Vietnam and Afghanistan were both counter-insurgencies (minimising the usefulness of nukes). Still, Snyder could've reflected on Fracture Jaw (a plan, ultimately killed by LBJ, to use tactical nukes in Vietnam): warontherocks.com/2018/10/how-cl….
May 9 • 6 tweets • 1 min read
Another reflection on Prigozhin/Putin/Shoigu. I do not for a second think that it's some kind of a smart spy-op to distract the Ukrainians. This version can be fully discounted simply because it doesn't make any sense. So there are two possibilities:
1) Putin allows Prigozhin to trash Shoigu & the military because this is Putin's way of humiliating Shoigu and keeping the military under control. A conspirological version, so I am not a fan.