Puti-Toots on a Roll

Vladimir Putin's closet eyes.

The New York Times characterized this as a “rare diplomatic defeat” for Putin, though I’m not sure why. Indeed, diplomatic defeats appear to be the only thing the Russian president has accomplished lately.

Steve Benen

Sometimes I think the problem is that news organizations have stripped down the news so much that reporters are often left not calculating which words they can strike in order to fit within the column allocation without wrecking the writing, but, rather, how to fill electronic column space with words that nobody pays that much attention to.

The thing is that generations of writers are now raised to believe that every sentence must be vivid and dynamic and active. Then again, the thing would also seem to be some sort of disconnection between words and their meanings. We might borrow from Lemony Snicket and, saying nothing of watermelons, suggest that “The New York Times called the defeat ‘rare’, a word which here means ‘frequently occurring’.” Or maybe we should just run with Andrew Roth of the New York Times:

President Vladimir V. Putin said Monday that he would scrap Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline, a grandiose project that was once intended to establish the country’s dominance in southeastern Europe but instead fell victim to Russia’s increasingly toxic relationship with the West.

It was a rare diplomatic defeat for Mr. Putin, who said Russia would redirect the pipeline to Turkey. He painted the failure to build the pipeline as a loss for Europe and blamed Brussels for its intransigence.

The decision also seemed to be a rare victory for the European Union and the Obama administration, which have appeared largely impotent this year as Mr. Putin annexed Crimea and stirred rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Russia had long presented the $22 billion South Stream project as a sound business move. But Washington and Brussels had dismissed it as a thinly veiled attempt by the Kremlin to cement its position as the dominant supplier in Europe while sidestepping Ukraine, where price disputes with Moscow twice interrupted supplies in recent years.

There was a time, not so long ago, when American conservatives fell in love with Puti-Toots. This was not so hard to understand, given their memory problems. (No, seriously, have you checked in on the Republicans who wax macho about how President Bush wouldn’t have taken shit from Putin, but also forget how the Administration stood by and allowed Russia to invade Georgia?) After all, here we have a closet homosexual running a pogrom against gays in Russia, clodhopping his way through the Ukraine, and absolutely burying the state he leads under its own economic detritus while chasing down the Manichaean hole of glory days gone by when the KGB had free rein in a useless dualistic struggle.

Vladimir Putin, ca. 1985 (top) and 2010 (bottom).Perhaps Putin is taking a page from the Bush playbook in order to boost petroleum prices by creating a market crisis. True, that would be a bit more cynical than usual, even by the Puti-Toots standard, but we might also notice that it was only a few days ago that Neil Irwin explained of the recent downturn in crude prices:

Loser: Vladimir Putin. Russia’s economy is already facing its sharpest challenges in years, as Western sanctions imposed after Russian aggression toward Ukraine crimp the nation’s ability to be integrated in the global economy. Russia is a major energy producer, and the falling price of oil compounds the challenge facing its president, Vladimir Putin.

Then again, very little of what Vladimir Putin does seems oriented toward a healthy, prosperous society. Rather, he seems mired in avaricious delusions of a former era.

Meanwhile, the Associated press notes what all this has earned for Russians:

The Russian government has acknowledged that the country will fall into recession next year, battered by the combination of Western sanctions and a plunge in the price of its oil exports.

Andrew Roth might call the pipleine plan a “rare” defeat for Vladimir Putin, because, well, the state of things in Russia look so much like a two-bit bully on a lucky streak, eh?


Benen, Steve. “Putin’s failures leave Russia reeling”. msnbc. 2 December 2014.

Roth, Andrew. “In Diplomatic Defeat, Putin Diverts Pipeline to Turkey”. The New York Times. 1 December 2014.

Boehlert, Eric. “Flashback, 2008: When A Russian Invasion Made Fox News Shrug”. Media Matters for America. 4 March 2014.

Irwin, Neil. “Oil Prices Are Plunging. Here’s Who Wins and Who Loses.” The Upshot. 28 November 2014.

Klare, Michael T. “The oil price villain? Bush”. The Toronto Star. 29 June 2008.

Associated Press. “Sanctions, falling oil prices to push Russia into recession”. The Toronto Star. 2 December 2014.

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