Sunday Water Cooler

Peering Into The Mind Of Putin
Nikolas K. Gvosdev of The National Interest digs a little deeper into the mind of Russian President Vladimir Putin to gain better understanding of the antipathy and animosity he feels toward the United States.

Gvosdev contends Putin’s discontent with the US stems from his (and other Russians) belief that the US has “deliberately exacerbated Russian weaknesses during the 1990s in order to geopolitically profit at Russia’s expense” and that “U.S. humanitarian rhetoric about spreading democracy and securing peace and freedom was just that—talk to cloak the achievement of geopolitical objectives.”

Gvosdev suggests reading a 2007 National Interest article that also addressed Putin’s mindset.

In essence, Putin views the US-Russian relationship as one in which much is expected from Russia, but that the US is unwilling to reciprocate. This critical misunderstanding (or understanding from his perspective) greatly influences Putin’s attitude toward both the US and Western nations.

“Putin is simply not inclined to do any favors for the United States. On Syria or on Snowden, he will not change Russian policy unless he can be shown how a shift towards the American preference clearly benefits Russia,” he argues.

Protest Nation: They Are Young, Educated, And Frustrated
Francis Fukiyama looks at the spread of citizen protests across the world, which he says all share a common theme. The protests are not a symbol of a frustrated uneducated underclass, but, rather, they represent the growing anxieties of the middle class, who are young, tech-saavy, and educated.

This brand of protest, Fukiyama notes, is not new and actually reflects the revolutions of the French, Bolshevik and Chinese, which were led “by discontented middle-class individuals, even if their ultimate course was later affected by peasants, workers and the poor.

“While protests, uprisings and occasionally revolutions are typically led by newly arrived members of the middle class, the latter rarely succeed on their own in bringing about long-term political change. This is because the middle class seldom represents more than a minority of the society in developing countries and is itself internally divided. Unless they can form a coalition with other parts of society, their movements seldom produce enduring political change,” he clarifies.

The danger posed in Europe is that those protesters also included members of the working class, who are growing increasingly pessimistic about their short- and long-term futures.

Nima Sanandaji writes in the New Geography that the pessimism is particularly pervasive among young men, “Youthful exclusion from the labor market constitutes a major challenge to European economies. Unemployment for European youth is in many countries more than twice the level of adult workers.”

Surveillance Allegations Mar US-European Union Relations
For several weeks the administration of President Barack Obama has been engulfed by the controversy involving the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. For the most part, the damage has been limited to US-Russian relations and domestic politics. But that has changed following the publication in Der Speigel that the US also bugged the offices of senior EU officials.

In response to reports that the US conducted surveillance on EU officials in Washington and New York, EU President Martin Schulz demanded more information and warned: “But if it is true, it is a huge scandal. That would mean a huge burden for relations between the EU and the US. We now demand comprehensive information.”

Some officials are threatening to delay or call off negotiations for a comprehensive EU-US trade pact, which could have dramatic economic ramifications.

The War Inside The War In Afghanistan
William Dalrymple of The Brookings Institute reports on India and Pakistan’s proxy war that is being waged in the mountains of Afghanistan.















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