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The prevailing assumption has been that Putin continues to have a firm grasp on domestic political opinion in Russia and that this extends to strong support for his muscular response to events in Ukraine. Time has published an interesting article which raises questions about this assumption.

4 Reasons Putin Is Already Losing in Ukraine  As Russia's Ukraine power play reaches boiling point in Crimea, there are clear signs a Russian invasion may be a disaster for its architect, President Vladimir Putin  

At home, this intervention looks to be one of the most unpopular decisions Putin has ever made. The Kremlin’s own pollster released a survey on Monday that showed 73% of Russians reject it. In phrasing its question posed in early February to 1,600 respondents across the country, the state-funded sociologists at WCIOM were clearly trying to get as much support for the intervention as possible: “Should Russia react to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities in Ukraine?” they asked. Only 15% said yes — hardly a national consensus.
That does not necessarily mean Putin will face an uprising at home. So far, the antiwar protests in Moscow have looked almost pathetically temperate. But sociologists have been saying for years that Putin’s core electorate is dwindling. What underpins his popularity — roughly 60% approved of his rule before this crisis started — is a total lack of viable alternatives to Putin’s rule. But this decision is sure to eat away at the passive mass of his supporters, especially in Russia’s biggest cities.
The gist of the article is that the balance of long term consequences for Russia will be negative. Whatever level of sanctions do come from the west will have an adverse economic impact. Russia will become more globally isolated. It makes the assumption that China is trying to find a neutral position in the mater.

There really isn't any question that this is a big gamble for Putin. He of course has a well cultivated image as a brash and steely poker player. I think that the Time article ask interesting questions. It is likely a bit soon to be so certain about the conclusions that they reach.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's OK.. (0+ / 0-)

    Republicans still get a chuby for Putin. He should run as the Tea Party candidate in 2016.

    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" - Edmund Burke

    by rclendan on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:08:16 AM PST

  •  Give him an 'Off Ramp'.....Please....Tankee. (0+ / 0-)
  •  There need not be sanctions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lawrence, mookins, terrypinder

    Businessmen are well aware that if Putin can tear up the Budapest Memorandum, no commercial contract is safe. Investment in and exports to Russia of things like machine tools they need to modernize industry and even drilling and other equipment needed for the oil and gas industries  could dry up. Putin has caused long term damage to the Russian economy.

    As I have pointed out before, there have been considerable shale gas reserves identified in England and, no doubt other countries that will now be exploited as a matter of national security - with environmental considerations around fracking taking a back seat. In a comparatively few years, the main Russian export will either be considerably lower in price or simply not needed by the EU.

    I think Putin has actually realized this and will take up the option of international observers as a save face.

    "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:13:29 AM PST

    •  Sanctions may be necessary. (0+ / 0-)

      However, you are correct in your assessment that this is going to badly damage the Russian State's credibility.

      In regards to shale gas - Ukraine is supposed to have huge reserves of shale gas.  If they proceed to unlock those they won't need Russian gas anymore and may even supplant Russian gas exports to Europe.  And that right there is a reason for Putin wanting Ukraine so bad.

      Throw loss of trust in the mix with Ukrainian shale gas, increasing energy efficiency, the rise of renewable energy, and LNG imports and Russia won't have any Western buyers left for its natural gas.

      "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

      by Lawrence on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:40:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You will want to read... (0+ / 0-)

      This, and perhaps my comment below, though you can skip my comment and just follow the link.

    •  Dream on. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Involuntary Exile

      We've encountered variations on this theme a few times. About Putin trembling before the market gods after the Russian stock market dips. About the Russian economy being a sinking ship. About wealthy Russians trembling in fear over potential U.S.-imposed "crippling sanctions" & asset freezes. About Putin looking for a face-saving way to back down. All hogwash.

      If the Ukraine crisis can be likened to a high-stakes poker hand, Putin is holding all the high cards in this round. As this plays out, it'll be the U.S./E.U. side looking for a way to "save face". Just watch.

    •  Dream on. (0+ / 0-)

      We've encountered variations on this theme in the American media - that Putin trembled before the market gods after the Russian stock market tanked for a day; that the Russian economy is a sinking ship; that wealthy Russians, fearful of potential Western economic sanctions, asset freezes & travel bans, will "talk some sense to Putin"; that Russia will be rendered some economic pariah state; & that Putin is looking for some face-saving way to back down. It's all hogwash.

      If the current stand-off can be likened to a round of poker, Putin is holding most of the high cards. As this plays out, it'll be the U.S./E.U. side that's looking to "save face". Just watch.

      •  Sorry for double-post. (0+ / 0-)

        I rewrote after the first comment disappeared into the ether.

      •  Funnily enough (0+ / 0-)

        President Obama appears to agree with the gist of my comment

        Businessmen are well aware that if Putin can tear up the Budapest Memorandum, no commercial contract is safe. Investment in and exports to Russia of things like machine tools they need to modernize industry and even drilling and other equipment needed for the oil and gas industries  could dry up. Putin has caused long term damage to the Russian economy.
        Since in a telephone call with David Cameron today they agreed:
        Russia has already started to pay a cost for its actions, such as reducing investor confidence in Russia

        "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

        by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 03:30:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The irony here is that - by attempting to occupy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Crimea - Putin is likely to end up thoroughly losing Ukraine and may come out of it all with a weakened position in Russia.

    He's definitely not helping Russia's image in the world much, that's for sure.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:15:50 AM PST

  •  So Time tells us that support for Putin (4+ / 0-)

    is "dwindling" to the point that it's reached a mere 60% before this crisis.  Most American presidents can only dream of doing so well.

    And while that support is no doubt "dwindling" further, it could well increase again.

    Not time to bury the guy just yet.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:18:38 AM PST

  •  Richard, I think you're going to want to check (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon

    this out.

    For all those bothering to actually read the link, it turns out the "leaked" conversation, between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet, has been acknowledged in Estonia today as genuine.

    For all those who never bother to follow the links, here's a little snatch of the conversation:

    Paet: "All the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides. ... Some photos that showed it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it is really disturbing that now the new coalition they don't want to investigate what exactly happened. So there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition."

    Ashton: "I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh."

    Paet: "It already discreditates (sic) this new coalition."

    That conversation took place in real time immediately after the end of the street violence. Subsequently, Catherine Ashton has stubbornly refused to investigate (Gee...big surprise) despite her initial reaction.

    Estonia has just confirmed the authenticity of the recording, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has organized a press conference to answer media questions today at 5 pm. From the Valisministeerium:

    No. 84-E Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton uploaded to the Internet today, a phone call is authentic.

    Paet and Ashton conversation took place on 26 February, following Estonia's Foreign Minister's visit to Ukraine, and immediately after the end of the street violence.

    Foreign Minister Paet communicate what he had said about the meetings held in Kiev last day and expressed concern about the situation.

    "It is extremely regrettable that such an interception is occurring at all""said Paet., Including its call for today's photos are not random," he added.

    I've been saying all along that it made absolutely no sense for Yanukovich to order the sniper fire, that he had nothing to gain by it and everything to lose, that it smelled like a false flag operation, and that those who stood the most to gain by it are the very people who took over the government in Kiev. I guess I look pretty prescient now.

    What really pisses me off is that not only did our State Department know this all along (I'm looking at you, John Kerry), they orchestrated the whole damn thing!

  •  Well, FWIW (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon

    United Russia's last win wasn't exactly decisive if I recall correctly. (also too, fraud, Florida style, apparently).

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

    by terrypinder on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:28:16 AM PST

    •  The challenge is trying to understand (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Involuntary Exile

      Russian politics on its own terms. It is a very different culture than the west and that is not just a hangover from communism.

      •  I'm hoping pico posts an explainer soon. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Involuntary Exile

        his diaries on Russia are informative.

        Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

        by terrypinder on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:46:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Russia has an Orthodox world view... (0+ / 0-)

        despite the communists' attempts to stamp out all traces of religion. That Orthodox world view has been permanently embedded in the culture and is an inextricable part of the Russian identity as a result of 1000 years of the Church as the center of one's life. It's very difficult for Westerners to understand.

        Orthodoxy is very different from Catholicism. It is a mystical and ascetic religion. Life flows with the liturgical calendar and its 180 days of fasting annually, and with the daily cycle of prayers. Few Russians actually observe all the practices but the culture is profoundly influenced by them.

        •  I should add, Russia never had an Enlightenment. (0+ / 0-)

          It never even had a Renaissance. It never had a Reformation or a Counter-Reformation. That is why the Orthodox world view has been so persistent.

          •  Please. (0+ / 0-)

            This line was trotted out to justify wars in the Middle East. Arabs, we were told, are a backward & benighted people who "never had an Enlightenment", ergo, the West is morally superior. To say that Russia never had an Enlightenment, one must ignore the reign of Catherine the Great.

            The Russian mind, we are told, is shrouded in mysticism & superstition. Why, no less an esteemed observer as Ayn Rand said as much! Russia is immobile & incapable of competing in the modern world. Russians are a fundamentally simple & backward people, an inert mass yearning to bathe in the light of the West. That's what Napoleon thought of them.

            For sure, Russia is spending lots of money to renovate  churches, the Russian Orthodox church has asserted itself politically & Putin has embraced the church to legitimize his rule. But Russians aren't an especially religious people.

            •  You totally misunderstand (0+ / 0-)

              Saying there was no Enlightenment is not the same as saying the people are unenlightened. It is not a condemnation. I am not accusing Russians of being simple, backward or benighted. I happen to love Russians and Russia and have great respect for the culture, the history and the people. I myself am an Orthodox Slav. I have spent my life around Slavs. I think I understand them. They are my people.

              My comment was trying to explain that the events that profoundly affected the Western world view did not affect the Russian world view. Life continued as it always had for 1000 years up to the Revolution, but the Revolution did not eliminate the Orthodox, or if you prefer, Byzantine, world view, could not supplant it, and could not inculcate a communist world view.

              Russians are as religious as Italians, which is to say, not much. Most only show up in church for three events in their lives: when they are baptized; when they are married; when they are buried - and when friends and family have those life events. Pretty much like most Italians. Would you say that Italy isn't a Catholic country with a Western+Catholic worldview?

              Did you notice the Russian female figure skater when she finished her program? She took the cross that was discreetly under her costume and kissed it. That cross almost certainly had been blessed, kept in the alter for 40 days, probably in the cathedral in her home city, but since she is an Olympian, it could have been blessed in the Patriarch's cathedral in Moscow. Either way, the point is, she did what all the Slavs I know do whenever they desire or are grateful for divine intervention - they kiss the crosses around their necks. That is just one tiny little example of how Orthodoxy is inextricably a part of the Russian identity.

              •  Appreciate your input. Do you mind if I ask where (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Involuntary Exile

                you're from?

                •  I have a complex lineage. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  My father was born and raised in central Serbia but his family came from Dalmatia. His grandfather emigrated in the late 19th century when the crowned heads of Europe were yet again in one of their periods of redrawing maps. His surname is readily recognized as a Montenegrin surname. He was captured by the Nazis at the beginning of WWII when he was not quite 21 and spent 4 years as a prisoner of war in one of the Nazi's most infamous prison camps, Stalag Xb, Sandbostel Prison. Ninety percent of the prisoners held there died. He survived despite having contracted typhoid fever. (It has been suggested that the Nazis were experimenting with typhus and purposely exposed the prisoners to virulent strains they were developing as weapons of war.) He lived to the age of 91.

                  My mother was born in East Prussia, but her parents were Germans from Russia. They were not typical Germans from Russia in that they were not yeomen farmers. They were very wealthy - prior to the revolution, that is. Her paternal line was originally from Salzburg and wound up in Odessa after the expulsion of the Lutherans in 1731. They had been titled, so they didn't arrive without resources. They owned ships and warehouses on the Black Sea. Her maternal line was Prussian, shirttail cousins to Catherine II. They had very extensive holdings in Belarus. My mother and her family were captured by the Russians at the end of WWII and spent 14 months in concentration camp. From there they were expelled to East Germany. My mother escaped to the West with her mother and seven younger siblings just as the Russians were stringing the last lines of barbed wire, closing off transit between East and West. To do this my mother had to cross the border five times to bring everyone safely to the other side. She is 84 years old and an incredibly brave woman.

  •  Too early to tell if one of the 4 reasons will be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon

    valid in the end.

    The economic impact on Russia is already staggering.
    The markets have already rebounded over 50% (and rising) on Putin's presser yesterday.
    •  I think that is a bit of a wet dream. n/t (0+ / 0-)
      •  What is? (0+ / 0-)

        The current state of the Russian markets vs historical levels.  The Russian stock markets took a much bigger hit last spring.

        Russia Stock Market (MICEX)

        Of course the West is going for economic warfare:

        US, EU push for Russia sanctions over Ukraine


        U.S. officials traveling with Kerry said the administration is considering imposing economic sanctions as soon as this week, but gave no details.

        Ed Royce, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, has called for "debilitating" economic measures. He said the U.S. and Europe should act collectively to threaten the Russian stock market, economy and ruble if Russia doesn't withdraw from Crimea.

        The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, also said talks were ongoing with the administration on possible sanctions ranging from "visa bans and asset freezes, to the suspension of military cooperation and sales."

        EU foreign ministers on Monday threatened Russia with "targeted measures," which typically include banning key officials and business leaders from traveling to the 28-nation bloc and freezing any of their assets held there. Some analysts speculate the EU could also hit Russia by blocking state-controlled banks' access to its financial market.

        Such steps would be fairly easy to do, but could harm Europe's economic interest. Russian investors hold assets worth billions in European banks, not least in Britain and Cyprus — two financial hubs popular with Russians.

        Ed Royce is also pushing to step up shipping of American fracked LNG to help replace Russian gas in Europe.

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