Putin on the Merits

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the nation Monday that the collapse of the Soviet empire “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” and had fostered separatist movements inside Russia.

The minute I saw this, I could hear the right-wing hackles, couldn’t you? I’m no Putin fan, but I know this comment will be received in a way that will raise the DefCon at the Heritage Institute.

But before we get into analyzing what meaning Putin was trying to telegraph, let’s think about his claim. Is it correct?

No, it’s not, but it contains a kernel of truth.

First, the geopolitical fallout from the fall of the Soviet Union was not the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century. That easily takes a backseat to the rise of the Soviet Empire and the fall of Weimar Germany.

But on to the meat of the claim: was it a catastrophe at all? No, it was a wonderful moment. But the power vacuum created by the fall of the Soviet state has indeed been calamatous. It has left the United States as the lighting rod for anti-super power angst, especially in the muslim world. Fallout from this fall has occurred in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba, and North Korea. The United States has been left to be the world’s cop in the rest of the world, and we have done a shitty job in many respects.

In other words, it sure has caused catastrophes, but it wasn’t itself one.