An op-ed in today's New York Times provides more context to help understand Josh Marshall's observation in my last post. Former Obama deputy secretary of state and former Biden national security adviser Antony Blinken says that Russia is actually very weak under Putin, so putting a wedge between their two biggest threats—The E.U. and the U.S.—gives them breathing room:
When it comes to sowing doubt about democracy and fueling dissension among Americans, Mr. Putin is eating our lunch. And Russia retains the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, with new weapons in the works that Mr. Putin saw fit to brag about during last week’s state of the nation speech — even if his rhetoric far outpaced their technical reality.
But elsewhere, Russia’s adventurism is feeding a growing, gnawing case of indigestion. And it masks a deep-set rot in Russia itself. Mr. Putin is a masterful painter of facades. But his Russian village looks increasingly less Putin and increasingly more Potemkin.
NATO is more energized than it has been in years — not because of President Trump’s browbeating, but in response to Mr. Putin’s aggression. The alliance now has forces on regular rotational air, land and sea deployments along Russia’s border, and its budget is increasing, in part with a sustained infusion of funds from the United States. The European Union has revived the idea of strengthening its own defense capacity, spurred on by Mr. Putin’s threats and Mr. Trump’s rhetorical retreat from America’s commitment to Europe’s defense. Europeans are getting more serious about energy security. They are multiplying new routes, connections and sources for fuel and renewable power. That’s making it harder for Mr. Putin to use oil and gas as strategic levers. American-led sanctions, despite Mr. Trump’s reluctance to impose them, have done real, sustained damage to Russia’s economy.
As for keeping Russia’s fist on Ukraine’s future, Mr. Putin has managed to alienate the vast majority of its citizens for generations. Systemic corruption is now a bigger bar to Ukraine’s European trajectory than is Moscow.
Keep in mind, one of the principal aims of Russia's interference with our government is to get rid of the sanctions we imposed on them when they invaded our ally Ukraine. They could get the sanctions reduced or eliminated by ending their occupation of Crimea, of course, but that would expose Putin's fundamental weakness.
Authoritarian governments are corrupt, full stop. The whole point of authoritarian systems is to protect thieves from the rule of law. Russia has been in this state for more than 20 years now. Let's not follow them.