Thursday, August 8, 2013

Don't Mess With Julia Ioffe

I've been a fan of Julia Ioffe well over a year and I really don't like to see anyone try to jerk her around. I say try because she doesn't let anyone get away with it.

No need for me to parse what she said. She can make her points in a way that no one can misunderstand, on her own turf. 
I was invited on the show to talk about Obama's (very wise) decision to cancel his Moscow summit with Putin, about which I wrote here. I am an expert on Russia. In fact, it is how you introduced me: "Previously, she was a Moscow-based correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker." I'm not going to toot my own horn here, but I was there for three years, I'm a fluent, native speaker of Russian, and, god damn it, I know my shit.
Further down she continues...
Because O'Donnell didn't let me get a word in edgewise after that, let me explain.

Yes. I am seriously suggesting that. I am also seriously suggesting the following things:
  • Vladimir Putin is not omnipotent. He does not control everything that happens in the Russian Federation, a vast and often inhospitable landmass that spans 10 time zones. 
  • Similarly, Barack Obama does not have total control over the minutiae of the United States of America. 
  • Putin does not orchestrate, he reacts. Putin is no chess player. He is a knee-jerk, short-sighted little tyrant. Don't give him credit where credit isn't due. 
  • Americans, especially Americans who have never been to Russia, overestimate the abilities of both Putin and the Russians. Because, I mean, come on. Tank! 
  • The Russians did not create the Snowden situation; Julian Assange and the U.S. government did.Assange insinuated himself into the situation and sent Snowden to Ecuador (the country granting him asylum) through Russia (his great friend). 
  • The Obama administration trapped Snowden in Russia. The U.S. unsealed the charges before it had Snowden in custody, revoked his passport, then downed the plane of the president of a sovereign state over other sovereign states because it thought Snowden was on board. The only place, by design, where Snowden could go was back to the U.S. Where he was charged with espionage, for which the maximum punishent is death. 
  • Russia is a brutal place where whistleblowers are harassed and killed, but Russia, unlike the U.S., has no death penalty. And it is only because the Russians made a stink about it, that Eric Holder was forced to come out and assure the Russians that Edward Snowden won't be put to death. This happened over a month after Snowden's arrival in Moscow, and after the charges of espionage were unsealed. 
  • If a Russian Edward Snowden ended up in JFK Airport, there is no way in hell we'd turn him over to the Russians. Not in a hundred years, and not ever. 
  • You can't back Putin into a corner and leave him no options. If you are a world leader worth your salt, and have a good diplomatic team working for you, you would know that. You would also know that when dealing with thugs like Putin, you know that things like this are better handled quietly. Here's the thing: Putin responds to shows of strength, but only if he has room to maneuver. You can't publicly shame him into doing something, it's not going to get a good response. Just like it would not get a good response out of Obama. 
  • The Obama administration totally fucked this up. I mean, totally. Soup to nuts. Remember the spy exchange in the summer of 2010? Ten Russian sleeper agents—which is not what Snowden is—were uncovered by the FBI in the U.S. Instead of kicking up a massive, public stink over it, the Kremlin and the White House arranged for their silent transfer to Russia in exchange for four people accused in Russia of spying for the U.S. Two planes landed on the tarmac in Vienna, ten people went one way, four people went the other way, the planes flew off, and that was it. That's how this should have been done if the U.S. really wanted Snowden back. 
  • I am not a Putin apologist. I think he and his people do bad things, like kill people and fleece the country for its wealth. But neither do I think he's oppressing the Russian masses. He is their most extreme and natural, their most post-Soviet manifestation.

Julia Ioffe ‏@juliaioffe20m
@jayrosen_nyu @Lawrence tweeted that I did get the last word, and that my column on the summit was the best he's read. I guess that counts?

Jay Rosen ‏@jayrosen_nyu13m
@juliaioffe Well, sort of.

Julia Ioffe ‏@juliaioffe11m
@jayrosen_nyu Meh. I'm over it.

Jay Rosen ‏@jayrosen_nyu5m
@juliaioffe What I saw in the seg: When a savvier-than-thou pundit has an unsophisticated view, but doesn't know it, the device breaks down.


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