Russia isn’t acting any differently than the United States would by taking control of the Crimea in Ukraine, according to the host of a popular history podcast.
“If you look at this from a Russian perspective, we haven’t exactly been non-provocative since the Soviet Union fell,” Dan Carlin recently said on his Common Sense podcast.
While the United States wasn’t entirely to blame for the situation, U.S. foreign policy certainly encouraged a backlash from Russia by carelessly expanding NATO, Carlin said.
“It is so funny to hear John McCain and people like that when they wouldn’t put up with that being done to us for two bloody seconds,” he remarked. “Total inability — or lack of desire, because I think these people have the ability, I just don’t think they want to — to see it from the perspective of how we would view a similar situation. There are some really not so savory aspects to all this concerning the fact that there are realities from the previous world, and by that I mean from the 20th Century until cave-man times, that haven’t gone away to the degree we all assume they have.”
Carlin said it was “ludicrous” for people to assume that classical staples of international politics — like buffer states and zones of control — were a thing of the past. He noted that the U.S. had followed the so-called “Monroe doctrine” since the 19th Century, asserting its sphere of influence over all of North and South America.
“That is called a massive zone of control, a massive sphere of influence, and yet we think it is OK for us to propose — which we were doing up until not that long ago — NATO membership for Ukraine?” he explained. “And the Russians just had to sit back and take that? I can hear somebody like John McCain saying, ‘Well, listen, we are protecting the Ukrainians, if they don’t want to have anything to do with Russia, they shouldn’t have to.’ Fine. Then tell people in Latin America who don’t want to have anything to do with the Monroe doctrine that they have a choice in the matter.”
“We were overthrowing governments in Central America and bolstering right-wing governments who killed their own people and didn’t allow elections and everything else based on this idea that you’re not going to have foreign interference anywhere near us, but it is OK to say the Russians have to put up with that? There is a reality, as I said, that is unsavory — and that’s that great powers remind of us great big planets… that have huge gravitational pull and smaller countries get roped into that, and to pretend that doesn’t exist is some sort of fallacy.”
Carlin said the United States was being hypocritical for telling the Russians they have to accept NATO forces at their doorstep.
“There are some areas where NATO is way too close to [Putin], just as they would be way too close to us if they were somebody else’s alliance in the Americans. We won’t let you have something anywhere in not just our hemisphere, but the hemisphere below ours.”
The situation in Crimea exposed the fact that the United States had carelessly pursued a foreign policy that was unpopular among Americans, who don’t want to start a nuclear war to protect Latvia from Russia, Carlin added.
“The powers that be — the ones who give money to politicians, which is like 0.1 percent or 0.01 percent of people in this country — those guys don’t want a nuclear war. Bad for business. Do you think the politicians are going to go through with it if those people tell John McCain, Mr. Hawkish John McCain, Mr. You’re All Weak John McCain, ‘Sorry, Mr. McCain, there is no more money coming to you if this war happens.’”
Carlin said Putin had bolstered his popularity at home by annexing the Crimea and asserting Russia’s dominance over its neighbors. He described Putin as a “Russified” version of President Ronald Reagan.
“Let’s be honest ladies and gentlemen, is that the Russian version of what Ronald Reagan is always credited with doing in the United States in that post-Vietnam malaise period we had after the ’70s ended? ‘He made us stand tall again!’ I mean, all the slogans that were big for the Reagan era in the ’80, ’81, ’82 period where this big transition happened, you could just Russify those statements and it works for Putin now. People like — especially if you are the citizens of a great power — the idea that the great power status is being protected. It’s a rah-rah patriotism, national pride thing, that as much as some of us would like to suggest this is a post-nationalistic world, [we] have to realize that there may be no such thing as a post-nationalistic world, especially for the really big powers.”
Listen to audio below.