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That Putin Interview

So as you know, there was an interview with Putin a couple of days ago.   Here are some thoughts.

Couple things.

First, I didn’t watch it, but I read most of the transcript.

Secondly, I don’t have a dog in the fight.  To me, the ideal outcome is, Russia “wins”, but is so weakened they can’t do much with it other than lick their wounds and whine about how much everything sucks.  Well, more accurately, the ideal outcome is both Russia and Ukraine lose, but in practice, that’s unlikely.  Like it or not, Ukraine is very corrupt, and the Russian description of them being “Nazis” is not entirely unfounded.

So, anyway, here’s my impression.

My biggest impression is that Putin is very confused.  I got the impression that he cannot understand why the West is so resolute against him.  He spent thirty minutes or so laying out his reasons for invading Ukraine, going back for a few centuries of Russian history (or, maybe more accurately, history through a Russian worldview).  Through the rest of the interview, he seemed genuinely confused and bewildered as to why the west is behaving how it is.  It seems, in his mind, everything is clear and Russia is in the right.  Why is the west trying so hard to stop him, then?

He wants the west to come to the table, hat in hand, to give him at least most of what he wants, and then he’s perfectly willing to negotiate.

Of course the west won’t do that, because to them, Ukraine is a sovereign country, and there’s no room for negotiation.

At the end of the day, this seems to be a genuine inability, on both sides, to understand what the other side wants and is thinking.

You might ask, why should we care what Putin is thinking?

He has quite a few reasons for us to care aimed at us right now.  Will they all work?  Almost certainly not.  In fact, I even think half or less would work.  Will we be able to shoot down a few?  Almost certainly.  But we won’t get them all, and if there is such a war, the damage will be incalculable, and to Russia as well.  Both sides are completely incentivized to avoid such an outcome, and it really does seem as if Putin does not want such an outcome.  His risks are as calculated as the risks the west are taking, even though his calculations have mostly turned out to be wrong, and underinformed.

We don’t understand him, and he doesn’t understand us, and that is where most of the conflict is coming from at the moment.

I don’t know if this can be solved.  But I think both sides need to come to terms with the fact that they’re not going to get everything they want.

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