As a blogger drifting along the contours of institutions and media concerned with defense and national security, I’ve encountered two primary challenges: how to condense, distill, and package strong material for public overview and impact; and, sigh, how to give the “pebble” sufficient weight to get a firm small wave bouncing back and force across the Internet pond.
Without further ado . . . .
.Felix Dzerzhinsky, born September 11, 1877
.Dawisha (RIP) Soviet Nomenklatura Mid-1980s Transition Plan for the Distribution of State Assets
.Zawahiri in Russia, ’96-7
.Satter On The Moscow Apartment Bombings
.9/11 Reflexive Control->New Nationalism EU/NATO
.Sustained Active Measures | Russian Mafia State | Syrian Barbarism | Trump Ascendancy
.Ukraine, 2014 Crimean Annexation, Invasion 2022
*Section mentioned in “Russia Full Tonto Kleptocracy, Mafia, and Terrorist State” (BackChannels, June 28, 2022) and lightly edited for presentation in this post.
Do you see what I see?
Of course not.
You haven’t been on my specific poli-sci/poli-psy/poli-spy tour, but the clues in events and personalities don’t reside only my mind: they are all here on the web. My guess: the knowledgeable, say at GCHQ or NSA, have already put them together (well, those cats have got to have better resources and more interesting conversations), but the ordinary public appears to me to be struggling with what has happened–and with what may be happening if it doesn’t come to grips with a strong true representation of cultural and political reality.
Premise-Thirty Years Revenge for ’89 and ’91
I believe Bolshevik criminal elements within the Soviet KGB wasted little time prying their way back into power and prestige sufficient to bend the Russian Federation’s democracy and justice to their own will and for their own ends (ref.: Nekrasov documentary on Litvinenko, Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case AKA Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File).
In addition to focusing on self-enrichment and power, the cohort appears to have been bent on vengeance for the Soviet Army’s defeat in Afghanistan in 1989 and the dissolving of the Soviet Union itself at noon on December 25, 1991, an implication drawn by the manner of Vladimir Putin’s ascent to Russia’s presidency, his legendary affection for Felix Dzerzhinsky, Joseph Stalin, and Soviet Era Russia, and the inadequacy expressed through his “malignant narcissism” (see “Liar, Thief, and Tyrant”, February 20, 2022, on this blog) and related devotion to supporting his own Russian messianic heroic image through artifice (because that’s all he really has). The emperor may have no clothes but neither Russians nor the west are dwelling on that as he has Russia focused on his greatness (or else!) and everyone else his destructive threat.
Moscow’s Development of the East-West Rivalry Narrative
I believe conventional western financial and political leadership took the familiar tack of wanting to help the defeated get back on its feet through the extension of capital, the hand of cooperation, and patient tolerance or understanding for the Russian travail that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Only at the turning point of the Syrian Civil War (2011) did western detente return to play–and then containment. Today, for having accepted the position of responding to Russia’s initiatives and rollout of its own and quite evil narrative arc, EU/NATO have found themselves in various ways somewhat compromised; a little incoherent about corruption, legacy, power, and realpolitik in each state’s own way (for related review, have a look at authoritarianism or nationalism in Hungary, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and the United States) ; and finally brought to face once again a most dangerous confrontation with Moscow and its criminal Soviet-post-Soviet character now on full display in the ethnic cleansing and “rubbling” of Ukraine.
Perhaps Washington thought it progress to have worked on the “War on Terror” with Moscow, but in the end, the Pentagon and State Department found the Taliban kept in business by Russian arms and materiel–and both would leave Afghanistan with the Taliban guarding Russia’s embassy in Kabul.
Avarice, Inferiority, and Greed–Russia and Trump
Russia and Russia’s leadership may have a “special” narcissism and enormous compensating vanity, but I am certain that among nations and their full collection of political experiments that it has no “special truth”, for at every opportunity, Moscow has supported criminals, dictators, fanatics, and terrorists–and it has through its Active Measures and destabilization operations put to work similar elements in its targets.
The poster displayed in this tweet appears to have been a gesture of support from within Russia following Trump’s 2016 election win. One may take it as a comment on the medieval mentality and related methods popular with both leaders and their respective followers.
Donald John Trump as Malignant Narcissist
The steps and terms-of-art I’ve picked up in relation to “Malignant Narcissism” have been these, and while practically self-explanatory, academics and analysts have spent serious verbiage on each. I’ll step in most informally to convey the gist.
Narcissistic Mortification: experiences of humiliation or shame to the extent that the identity and self feel damaged, impotent, and small. The discomfort–for what it is to do to the person–may be considered remarkable.
Covering/Splitting: “Covering” refers to the hiding of the damaged self and the packing away of an awful experience; “splitting” refers to the creation of an heroic undamaged self to be both asserted and defended at all costs. With “MaligNarcs”–expressed through authoritarian, dictating, and sociopathic manipulation–the appreciation or recognition and respect for normal boundaries and limits fade before the objectives of the self in hiding damage and asserting extraordinary power.
Control of the Experiences and Perceptions of Others: most well known: “gaslighting”. However, add deceptions and lies without ends or limits. Whatever works . . . works.
Messianic Delusions of Grandeur: Although the MaligNarc creates the chaos–no different from the fireman who sets the fire, so he may show up and put it out as a hero–the vision is to stand astride the same heroically saving his class, creed, gender, race, and religion from all who would diminish any part.
Unlimited Narcissistic Supply: adoration and love unlimited.
The best example I’ve read and repeatedly distributed in relation to Vladimir Putin has been David Satter’s investigation in the National Review — “The Unsolved Mystery Behind the Act of Terror That Brought Putin to Power” (August 17, 2016). For Donald John Trump, one may explore the web for “Trump, Malignant Narcissist” and find the long list of both learned and light psychobabble. Here’s a passage just plucked off the web:
According to psychologist John Gartner, Trump clearly exhibits four key symptoms of malignant narcissism — the “most destructive” personality type — including paranoia, narcissism, antisocial personality disorder and sadism. “
This type of leader pops up all throughout history, and they’re always extraordinarily disruptive,” Gartner told AFP, noting that the same label has been applied to Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini.
“What is so strange is that we’re not used to seeing this type of leader in America.”Raynaldy, Romain. “Psychologist-backed documentary labels Trump ‘malignant narcissist’.” The Jakarta Post, September 1, 2020.
You can tell the condition’s gotten really bad when it expresses as the “Paranoid Delusional Narcissistic Reflection of Motivation“, which has been myself just calling it as I’ve seen it.
And for political theater . . .
Medieval leaders love mobs, also secret gangs, behind-the-curtain deals with other “nobility”, dumb but loyal armies, and the idea above all of being as if gods, blessed by religious power, and free to define the law of the lawless land–and in Russia’s absolute “patrimonial authoritarianism”, apparently free to treat persons and property as alike and to destroy either at will and with impunity.
Modern leaders do all they can to minimize and eliminate that mentality from their districts, regions, and states, for the modern world in every facet relies on complex cooperation and the integration of large systems. It may help if they’re devoted to the health and well being of their respective constituencies and not solely the representatives of one patrician class or another.
Thematic on this blog has been “Medieval v Modern”, and, of course, it or I, or the same 🙂 , has posed the question, “In which world do you wish to live? Medieval? Or Modern?”
As the European Union and NATO see more clearly what Moscow has “accomplished” with its barbarous medieval ambitions (or delusions) over the past 30 years of support for the post-Soviet but still Soviet spheres of control and influence–and, finally, in the so-far “ethnic cleansing” of Ukraine–both will have to determine to take apart the Putin’s Olde Regime and nurture in its place a modern Russia that Russians too (as it dawns on them what has been and is being done to them and their children) might appreciate and embrace. In this passage where every day is agony for Ukrainians and an eternity for diplomats and politicians, that day’s on a seemingly far horizon, but it’s there and will become more visible with time. So-called “leaders” like Putin and Trump have made themselves impossibly archaic and in cultural, ethical, and moral terms, if not financial (yet), bankrupt.
Truth be known: neither Putin nor Trump has anything–apart from a little money or laundering service–to offer anyone.