Interesting audio interview with Stephen Kotkin in Foreign Affairs.
“We tend to exaggerate the influence that our policies have in Russian behavior, Iranian behavior, Chinese behavior….They’re ancient civilizations that preexist the United States by many, many centuries. And there are internal dynamics there that are deep, profound…. It’s not to say that there weren’t major policy mistakes. Of course there were policy mistakes. In retrospect one can criticize many things that the West did. You just can’t get that to be the prime driver or explanation for where we are with Russia today…”
“In many ways, systems select for leaders. You can get into power randomly through some accident, if you’re appointed, or there’s a death—you name the cases where there’s an accidental rise to power of a figure. But you can’t stay in power for 20 plus years accidentally. You actually have to sustain yourself in power, and that’s much harder, more complex. And so the random characters who might get in are not there 20 years later. But then they’re transformed by being in that position.
The argument of Stalin….. is that he wasn’t a fully formed personality before he got to the position of being the despot of the Kremlin. It was being in that position that made him the figure that we know. Something happened to Putin as well…..”