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The West and Russia: a Divergence of Values? #2

PART 2 Nationalism and the ‘dictator’ meme In the wake of Crimea, Gallup’s Julie Ray & Neli Esipova reported Putin had polled 83% approval, a massive gain from 54% the previous year – see graphic below. Clearly the Crimean takeover made Russians feel good about their president! Also interesting is the way approval slowly but surely dropped from 83% in 2008 to its low point in 2013. Was this drop a reflection of growing public awareness of corruption, the slowing of economic growth, restricted opportunities for personal advancement and widespread poverty? If so, it indicates Russians squarely put the blame on their president. From the same set of surveys, Ray & Esipova – see graphic below – found  that Russians reported greater confidence in their institutions after Crimea. Again there is a high in confidence in 2008 for national government and the electoral process, followed by a decline in confidence in the following years. Only the military bucks this confidence trend. However, all three institutions receive a significant boost in 2014. What is that much more interesting about the second set of results is that it allows us to see that, all institutions received a boost in 2008 – the year… Read More

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The West and Russia: a Divergence of Values?

Published in Eugene Pustoshkin’s Eros & Kosmos e-zine, August 2014. Click here to read it in English on the Eros & Kosmos site. Click here to read Part 1 in Russian and here for Part 2. It’s difficult to write an article triggered by, but not about, an ongoing crisis that has no obvious outcome in any predictable timeframe. The Ukrainian army may be gaining ground but the United Nations’ concern about a growing humanitarian crisis may force them to slow down their assaults – perhaps helped by rockets fired at them allegedly from across the Russian border. The brutal fact is that West is not going to go to war over the low-level but brutal civil war in eastern Ukraine. The West is likely to continue to support Kiev diplomatically and with military supplies and intelligence and there will be reluctant incremental upgrades to the European Union sanctions on Russia (and retaliatory Russian sanctions on the West); but no American or European soldiers are going to die for Donetsk or Luhansk, even if there were to be an overt Russian military incursion. Russian militiamen causing trouble in the Baltic states could be a very different proposition, though. Treaty obligations would… Read More

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Cuba on the Cusp…?

10 days in Cuba in the first half of January was an astonishing experience. A ‘special’ holiday to celebrate wife Caroline’s 60th, there was little of the ‘Winter sun’ we had been led to anticipate. Rather, near-hurricane level winds and torrential rain lasted several days, with sun, cloud and lighter rain alternating for the rest. If the weather wasn’t enough of an experience in itself, then Cuban music, art, architecture and the people themselves left indelible impressions. The music is, of course, fabulous…seemingly a well-schooled salsa and/or rumba band on every street corner in Habana (aka Havana) and a stunning concert by a version of the world-famous Buena Vista Social Club in Varadero on our last night. In contrast to the agonised grimaces of many American and British musicians, their Cuban counterparts seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and communicate that to their audiences. (There is plenty of healthy RED expressed in the way Cuban musicians so enjoy playing and PURPLE both in that musicians love to be in a band and the affection for their musical traditions.) The art is wonderfully expressive and the architecture awesome, even when it’s dilapidated. As for the people…. Cuba, is, of course, a victim… Read More

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Hope from the Tragedy of MH17…?

The terrible tragedy of MH17 may just have handed Valdimir Putin the leverage he needs to put Russia’s ultra-nationalists back in the box. Putin is often portrayed in the Western media – especially since the Ukrainian crisis erupted in late February – as a ruthless and tyrannical dictator. Undoubtedly Putin can be ruthless – on the face of it, he appears at least moderately psychoticist on that Dimension of Temperament – and some elements of his regime could justifiably be described as ‘tyrannical’…but he is far from being the omnipotent sole ruler of Russia he is often caricatured as in the Western media. Because this dictator stereotype persists and not all journalists are ‘investigative’ enough, Russian internal politics is chronically under-reported in the West. Additionally being secretive is the norm for Putin, the ex-KGB officer. He’s no Boris Yeltsin to wash his dirty underwear in public. (Which Boris literally almost did on several occasions, he was so drunk!) So it’s not that easy to find out what’s going on in and around the Kremlin…but, a little scouting around the internet will throw up blogs and forums which, ostensibly at least, give us some more insight into what is going on in top-level… Read More

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2 Presidents, 2 Crises

In the past I’ve doubted Barack Obama does 2nd Tier thinking – Obama a 2nd Tier Thinker? –  and wondered if maybe Vladimir Putin does – Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker? The latest state of play in world crises seems only to confirm my view of Obama. As for Putin, he’s certainly had a few wobbles in the last month or so and it may be he’s not as in control of Russia as he is usually portrayed to be…but his denunciations of president Petro Poroshenko’s renewed assault on ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, as reported by the BBC’s Oleg Boldyrev, have made him seem reasonable and Poroshenko the aggressor. A 4-way teleconference on Monday (30 June) between Poroshenko, Putin, French president François Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel had raised hopes the fragile truce of the previous week could be renewed – but Poroshenko’s ordering of fierce shelling of Kramatorsk dashed such hopes. Even in late Wednesday’s announcement that the foreign ministers of the 4 countries were working on steps for a new ceasefire, the Russians appeared more reasonable than the Ukrainians. As reported by BBC News (2014b), Ukraine’s Pavlo Klimkin, was all demands, including the release of hostages and security of its… Read More

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Has Vlad played a Blinder?

Was the Russian takeover of Crimea daring RED opportunism that took advantage of ethnic tensions in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea exacerbated by the new Kiev government’s apparent willingness to discriminate against ethnic Russians…? Or was it 2nd Tier-level strategic thinking that had been working towards this potential outcome, while balancing a whole load of other issues, and was ready to move when the time was right…? Last Summer I speculated Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker? and was rebuffed by some complex thinkers who saw Vladimir Putin more as a ‘wily’ RED-driven opportunist who seized his moment. Yet it has stayed with me just how tactical and strategic Putin was. He rescued Barrack Obama from the corner he had painted himself into with his ‘red line’ announcements about Syria and became the hero of the Summer by levering Bashir al-Assad into agreeing to give up his chemical weapons. Yet Putin’s solution allowed Russia’s client, Assad, to continue his brutal and ruthless war with conventional weapons. Syria only makes the headlines occasionally these days but the daily slaughter grinds relentlessly on. The West remains directionless and indecisive about Syria but increasingly less inclined to support the rebels as they become increasingly more dominated… Read More

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Tribal War in South Ossetia

As the Russian-Georgian conflict in South Ossetia inches towards a volatile, dangerous and perhaps quite short-lived peace, it is a good time for those who would intervene – ‘soft cops’ like France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and ‘hard cops’ such as American Vice President Dick Cheney – to study the nature of such conflicts, how they arise, how they can be managed, hopefully resolved and, better still, prevented. Better informed, their interventions may have a chance of working. With ethnic Russian breakaway forces in Abkhazia equally determined to resist Georgian attempts at reintegration and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pronouncing that Moscow cannot work with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, with both armies bloodied and ready to resume combat at the slightest provocation, with civilian dead estimated in the thousands and the two governments hurling accusations of ethnic cleansing and would-be genocide at each other, there is every potential for an awful lot more lives to be lost in the next few months. At root South Ossetia is a conflict of PURPLE tribalism. The PURPLE vMEME seeks security in belonging; in belonging to some, it demarks itself from others – all too easily leading to prejudice & discrimination against those who are “not… Read More

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