Tag Archives: putin

Free Parking and Ukraine

May good friends Dr. Samuel Liles (who I had the pleasure of meeting in person the other day) has taken to twitter to advocate to an isolation response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea.


Sam has written a tweeted a number of times, but this tweet is probably the most concise description of a pro-Putin line you’re likely to see in the non-lunatic West:

If you say “POTUS should do something” I’ll ask you why. Ukraine wasn’t in NATO or EU so NATO & EU shouldn’t do anything absent specifics.

I like Sam, he has a lot of cool stories and is a serious guy, but his comment is an exact analog to

If you say “McDonalds should provide parking” I’ll ask you why. Customers aren’t yet in the building so McDonalds shouldn’t spend money on them absent specifics.

The common thread in my friend’s Sam’s comments on Ukraine, and that crazy comment about McDonalds, is called “free parking.” Most successful enterprises, whether business or governments, provide subsidized or free secondary services in order to acquire customers for their primary services.

McDonalds runs one of the largest parking lot operations in the world, not because they are in the business of running profitable parking lots, but because the parking “business” is actually critical infrastructure to being successful in the restaurant business.


Similarly, the US has traditionally supported the expansion of the European Union, not because the US is in the EU, but because the Eu is critical infrastructure to being successful in the security business.

The European Union, like the United States, has a political-military system that focuses on extracting taxes from producer surplus of the non-carbon sectors of the economy. An interesting result of this is that the EU and US focus on peaceful relationships with each other, as economic integration allows the economies of scale in multiple sectors necessary to increase the tax base thru increasing the producer surplus of the non-carbon sectors of the economy. Besides the first-order economic gains of this “capitalist peace,” this also provides second-order gains as the costs of the US of providing security are lowered.

Supporting the EU’s provisioning of that political-economic infrastructure throughout Europe is in America’s interests, in the same way that paying parking lot pavers is in McDonald’s interests. The US is not the EU. McDonalds is not a paving company. But McDonalds is in the paving business in order to provide free parking to its customers. And the US is in the business of supporting the expansion of the EU to provide free parking — access to the legal, technical, and economic infrastructure the EU provides — to its customers.

Putin! jumps the shark

Tom Clancy’s Putin! began its run on December 31, 1999, as a spin-off of the political-military thriller, The Hunt for Red October. V.V. Putin (named I.Y. Putin in the original series) debuted in the first pages of the novel

For the hundredth time Ramius told himself that Putin was the perfect political officer. His voice was always too loud, his humor too affected. He never allowed a person to forget what he was. The perfect political officer, Putin was an easy man to fear.

… and while he appeared to have be killed by Captain Ramius in the opening minutes, the pilot episode of Tom Clancy’s Putin! revealed that he had been secretly smuggled out of the ship, and transferred to political duties inside the Kremlin. Though some critics raised questions as to the likelihood of his rise to the presidency, paralleling another Tom Clancy character, the first seasons of Tom Clancy’s Putin! were promising. Mysterious helicopter crashes, Muslim rebels, and even Wall Street Shenanigans combined to entertain viewers turned off by The War On Terror (starring Kiefer Sutherland).

On-set problems led to a defection of much of the writing staff, however, and as years rolled on qualities suffered. The Rigged Re-election subplot of 2004 was derided as particularly improbable, as writers had previously established Putin’s popularity with the Russian people. Attempts to attract younger viewers with a radiation poisinong subplot also faired ill, as many criticized the “cartoonish” and “needlessly theatrical” methods off killing of periphrial characters.

The unorthodox decision to kick off the last full season of Tom Clancy’s Putin! on January 1 (instead of the early fall or early spring convention used by other networks) likewise did poorly. Advertising executives universally criticized the unorthodox decision to debut the Marching through Georgia subplot of Tom Clancy’s Putin! opposite The Beijing Olympic Games, resulting in depressed viewershp, and audiences were left frustrated that heavy foreshadowing implying that Putin would hang series-regular Saakashvili “by the balls” came to naught. Finally, the writers’ decision to have Putin lose billions in sub-prime assets, while an effort to keep the show topical, struck audiences as simply requiring too much suspension of disbelief.

Heavy promotions for “The All New Season of Tom Clancy’s Putin!!” do not appear to be paying off for the show’s producers. The revelation that Putin’s enemies were being organized by a secretative cabal of Communist-Nazi anti-immigration activists caused Robert Ebert to exclaim, “Tom Clancy’s Putin! has lost touch with all history, logic, or sense.” Likewise, Putin’s reaction to a a loss of his credit cards with a plan to make his own credit card company introduced a slap-stick, absurdist humor that alienated the long-running series’ few original fans.

(The last one of these is true, by the way)

MOSCOW: So you don’t like how the world’s largest credit rating agencies rate your economy? Create your own.

That’s what Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed at a cabinet meeting Monday.

“All of us understand the enormous influence enjoyed by rating agencies and the drastic effects their mistakes, let alone abuses, may have,” Putin said, according to a government transcript.

With Russia’s economy sinking, the ruble battered, its markets hammered by investors and its sovereign credit rating downgraded, Putin has complained his country isn’t getting a fair shake.

He told ministers that Russian companies and the government was too dependent on international agencies like Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s.

Read the full article, as Associated Press

A Warmongering Version of Portugal

Yglessias’ hit piece on Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili is the same faddish blame-America’s-friend-first gargabe manages to be less balanced than Kos, but his post on Russia’s capacity is top-notch:

Via Robert Farley, Charlie Whitaker makes the important and too-often-neglected point that notwithstanding Russia’s evident ability to kick around a tiny country that borders it, present-day Russia is really a poor man’s peer-competitor:

Now that we can measure it,* we find that Russia’s GDP is approximately equal to that of Portugal (which is not to knock Portugal). Much of Russia’s wealth comes from resource extraction: in other words, Russia is not making stuff. Is it thinking stuff instead? Well, is there a nascent biotech or semiconductor industry in Russia today? (Or is there maybe some other, more esoteric kind of activity that hasn’t yet permeated popular consciousness?) How are Russian universities doing?

Russia is fairly populous, although no one would call it densely populated. However, its population is shrinking; in part, because it is not a healthy country.

Long story short, the whole “Russia’s Back!” narrative needs to be kept in perspective. There’s a lot of demand out there for “new cold war” scenarios featuring Russia or China or maybe both, but fundamentally that kind of talk is out of step with reality.

Matthew Yglesias » Russia’s Weak Fundamentals.

Indeed. Putin isn’t a new Stalin, or even a new Brezhnev. His country is much to weak for that analogy to hold. Putin’s a Saddam with nuclear weapons, a dangerous criminal whose power must be taken from him.

The Rise of Europe

Two stories, two maps.

To the Borders of Russia

The first: the European visa-free zone increased, incorporating many of the new EU members. Germany and Austria no longer have guarded frontiers, formerly having checkpoints on the Polish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, and Slovene borders. Russia now borders the four members of the visa-free zone: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland (in addition to Finland and Norway).

Europe and the West Balkans

The second is the continued dismemberment of the Russian client state, Serbia, at the hands of Brussells (and Washington, and Berlin, and…). When Kosovo declares independence, which is already a few months overdue, Serbia will find itself surrounded by eight countries — three of whom are already in the EU, another (Croatia) which will probably be the next EU member, and the rest looking for eventual EU integration.

Relatedly: Vladimir Putin, who has been invaluable in accelerating Europe’s rise, is Time‘s Man of the Year.

Give Thanks for Putin

The death of Alexander Litvinenko reminds us how fortunate the world is for Vladimir Putin. An infinitely less bloody version of Stalin, his combination of political mastery and strategic incompetence guarantees us a safe Europe, a safe Asia, and a safe world.

Russia is situated in the Heartland of Eurasia, a “pivot of history.” The lands of central Eurasia are protected from the oceans by the frozen Arctic Sea. They are also thus protected from the liberating force of trade. Central Eurasia has brought Europe and Asia pestilence, plague, war, invasion, and death. When Central Eurasia is strongest — as under Czar Alexander I — Europe is forced in authoritarian reaction. When Central Eurasia crumbles — after World War I and the Cold War more recently, the European community expands and liberty (and the market) moves forward.

Therefore, we are thankful for Vladimir Putin. He ruins Russia’s image as if he is a double-agent, weakening his country before micropowers and allowing satellite after satellite to be humiliated.

Vladimir Putin is continuing the disintegration of the Russian Empire that has occured since 1815 (with only a brief respit in the 1930s and 1940s). Because of Putin, Russia’s “wins” are measured in individual bodies while Russia’s losses are those nations freed from the Bear’s grip.