Groupness, Russia and Why the Neocons are All Wrong

In-group/Out-group bias is one of the strongest drives in human behavior.  Our learned responses to known threats and successful actions are strong survival traits that become a detriment when paradigms shift against them.  U.S. foreign policy is a classic example of this phenomenon.


I got an email from my wife the other night that was really astute.

No, we don’t normally e-mail each other.  After 25 years we still find plenty of things to talk about in person. But she was listening to a book on human psychology while waiting for her next Lyft customer, so e-mail.

The book in question is Everyday Survival — Why Smart People Do Stupid Things by Lawrence Gonzalez.

Here’s Camille’s observation:

Hey, this book about inflexible mental models and scripts that are reinforced by in-group/out-group bias (groupness) and confirmation bias is interesting.
Xerox tried to run a tech company like old industry, it failed.

Intel was able to break their mental models of being a memory company and became a microprocessor company, and were wildly successful.

This strikes me as a complete parallel for the US and Russia today. Russia had a complete break from it’s mental models and scripts, it is rebuilding itself, creating new models.

The Neocons cannot give up their mental models from the Cold War.

It is evidently pretty devastating to go through a complete break down of your mental models.
I think we have personally been through it.

It’s going to be hard for a whole bureaucracy to do it. Probably impossible.

These are the species wide strategies that have enabled us to get here. They are going to kill us if we don’t become consciously aware of the process.

She’s absolutely right. I added in that IBM is one of the few technology companies to remake itself more than once in its lifetime — from typewriters to mainframes to home computing to servers to software.  It’s an impressive run.  They even made M-1 Carbines in WWII.

It makes it a remarkable case study in corporate management.

For everyone one Intel there are hundreds of Xeroxes, Eastman-Kodaks, and DECs relegated to the ash bin of history.

Why Congress Won’t Change

Our Congress is led by people with a Cold War mentality.  Washington is filled with people who were inculcated in neoconservative interventionist foreign policy.  They believe we are that ‘shining house on the hill’ that Reagan called the U.S. that fought the evil Communists and won.

Therefore, we cannot be the bad guys.  Anything we want is good and anyone who opposes us is bad.

This is simply the way these people think.  They are entitled as the stewards of the greatest country in the world to decide what is and what is not moral.

John McCain steadfastly refuses to believe that anything coming from Russia can be any good.  Neither can Max Boot, Ralph Peters, Lindsay Graham or Nikki Haley.

Russia, to them, is a “gas station masquerading as a country.”

It doesn’t have advanced robotics, miniaturization, aeronautics, engine technology or anything like that.  All Russians are poor, porn-addicted drunks.  And Putin is their evil overlord, responsible through his shadow government for all of the bad things that happen to the U.S.

It couldn’t possibly be the fault of our morally-courageous leadership?

It’s only an American’s fault when they are on the other team during an election cycle.

Otherwise, it’s 419-3 against the Russians.

It is why the U.S. Empire will fail just like every other Empire has ever failed.  Government systems are sclerotic because they are coercive and the performance of its employees is detached from their funding source — i.e. elections do not determine tax revenues.

It rewards people for inflexibility.  Or, at least, it doesn’t discourage the behavior.  That’s why Empires always rot from within.

The Russian ‘Other’

The U.S. Congress, its political think-tanks and the media still see Russia as a communist ‘shit-hole.’  They only see it in terms of that which they themselves advocate: state-aggrandizement, centralized control and crony-capitalism.

They hold up a mirror, look into the Abyss and assume everyone is as corrupt as they are.

In Russia, Mr. Putin is no saint, but he is making moves to gradually roll back the state from everyday affairs in Russia at a pace that causes the least amount of chaos for his people.  Has he broken as few eggs along the way?  No question.  Was he engaged in a war against the very things I just talked about?

Yes.  And those people who have that much power will fight with every erg of energy to win.  So, while I wouldn’t want to be friends with Mr. Putin, I understand what he felt he had to do.

Could change in Russia have happened faster?  Sure.  But, let’s not quibble about disagreements of degree rather than kind.  No rational observer would say that Russia is less prosperous or free than it was under the U.S.S.R.

Remember, John McCain isn’t rational.

Mr. Putin, a very flexible thinker, has been exceedingly patient with the U.S. over his career, especially in the past nine months. He hoped there would be a change in policy towards Russia under Trump that would allow the two powers to co-exist and pursue interests without conflict.

He has implored us to come to the table and treat both Russia and China like partners, not subjects.

But, it’s clear that Trump feels Russia deserves punishment for daring to defy the U.S. on important matters pertaining to its survival, i.e. the petrodollar system.  The sanctions are not about interfering in the election or supporting separatists in the Donbass.

They are about energy and money.  They always are.

Trump knows that Russia holds cards that allow it to undermine U.S. primacy as a financial center and now it is clear that makes Putin his adversary.

Putin uses different tactics to pursue Russia’s goals.  He governs today more like a libertarian-minded person would.  He seeks diplomatic solutions whenever possible with everyone.  Signs major trade deals to solidify diplomatic successes. He explores new technology to improve his bureaucracy (Ethereum blockchain technology).

In short, he crafts real win-win solutions for his partners.

We thought Trump would be that guy.  But, he’s not.

Because, unlike Putin, Trump is not a free-trader.  He isn’t interested in mutual benefit unless the U.S. wins.

He is a mercantilist.

It sucks to admit this, because I believed otherwise about Trump for months now, but the reality is quite clear in light of where we are headed.

See, this is the hallmark of a flexible mind.  Data, all puns intended, trumps opinion.

Humility always beats hubris.

Watch any interview with Trump and then one with Putin.  Tell me who has which attribute.  Then you’ll know who will win this fight.

Why Trump is so angry with China and Germany is that they have been allowed to be better mercantilists than the U.S. over the past twenty-odd years.

Der Trumpenfuhrer

Therefore, it is right and proper for Europe to pay three times as much for its energy to ‘stifle the ambitions’ of Russia and save the U.S.’s fading petrodollar system.  Any complaining from Germany on this is simpering because, as well, the “Germans are bad on trade. Very bad.”

It doesn’t matter that trade balances are irrelevant when you print the world’s reserve currency.  Such subtleties are lost on Trump.  His mental model is ‘trade surplus good,’ ‘weak currency good.’

That’s mercantilist thinking.  And, by the way, its not sustainable.

Now, we add in that Trump has a blind-spot when it comes to Iran.  He is convinced Iran and North Korea are the root of all evil in the world.  What moves he has made on foreign policy support this thesis.

Nothing is going to change that because Trump is not going to change.  He’s been nurturing these ideas for more than thirty years and now that he has the reins of power he’s going to implement them.

Even though they are wrong.  Not completely wrong, mind you.  Iran and North Korea have governance problems that need to be resolved. But they are not the sole problems in the world.  And they won’t be solved with sabre-rattling or warfare.

And they are not worth a continued alliance with Saudi Arabia nor a trade war with the European Union.

Moreover, he is not the only person with the solution to them.  Contrary to his opinion.

“We’ll handle North Korea. We’re going to be able to handle North Korea. It will be handled. We handle everything,” –Donald Trump this morning.

Do you see the problem?

Trump falls victim to the classic problem all authoritarians and many libertarians have.

If they can’t see a solution one must not exist. 

And it’s not just Trump.  This problem is everywhere.  And it comes back to these faulty scripts we learned over the course of our lives. And it means that the collision course between him and Angela Merkel in Germany will not be avoided.

In fact, Trump relishes it, because it confirms the rightness of his position.

And if Russia gets in the way of this, so be it.  And he’s willing to allow Congress to tie his hands to go after China and Germany over Russia.

The Chaos of Inertia

Human behavior doesn’t change.  And it is the inertia of these learned systems, the inflexible minds of most people, that creates the chaos we are experiencing now and reaches a crescendo every few generations.

It’s a trait that has been wildly successful in our evolutionary past.  But, today it is becoming a liability.  With the pace of innovation accelerating, the ability to shift mental modes and incorporate new paradigms into your worldview is the key to success.

Believe me, I’m not saying I’m any good at it personally.  But, it takes a strong person to break down old versions and rebuild themselves.

As a martial artist of high enough rank to instruct new students.  I always tell them not to practice outside of class for the first year or so.  Practice doesn’t make perfect.

Practice makes permanent.

And the last thing I want to see is an enthusiastic white belt become a disillusioned green belt because they didn’t allow their brain to learn things properly the first time.  It’s harder to ‘unlearn what you have learned’ to quote Yoda than to learn it right the first time.

We are led by people who have misinterpreted the reason for our success in the post WWII institutional order.  The Neoconservatives and the Progressives believed it was because of the rightness of our ideas not simply the inheritance of what capital survived the war.

That illusion is ingrained in nearly four generations of American thinking.  It’s not going away anytime soon.

9 thoughts on “Groupness, Russia and Why the Neocons are All Wrong

  1. Pingback: Why it is needful to lose the occasional election. | Dark Brightness

  2. While I agree with many points you’ve made about the psychology of the situation, & the way we as a human race generally have evolved it, there are aspects of this that lie outside the general as well. I’m not convinced that Trump’s real motivation of running for POTUS was not something quite personal, even in a way petty. He had a long standing rivalry with Obama, they both taunted each other, as those who want to be top of the heap do. Both are addicted to power & personal prestige in a big way, albeit possibly for different reasons. One of Obama’s taunt’s to Trump, when he was criticizing Obama, was that he was POTUS, something that Trump could never be. This was like a red rag to a bull in Trump’s case. He decided that he would become POTUS, but he did not have any political background as such, he is really in many ways a very ignorant man, someone who boasts he has not read a book in over 50 years. An extraordinary admission, & one that could only be made by someone who believes that, knowledge or wisdom is in some way redundant, based really on the fact that he made it ‘successfully’ in so called ‘business’, which in the main part was through property development & wheeling & dealing. This only requires a certain kind of instinct for where the best opportunities lie, & who your competition is, so is a relatively small market. However that success & the huge personal wealth he acquired through it, & the power of influence over certain people gave him a hugely bloated sense of his own importance & also what he could achieve on a much grander scale, but without knowing anything whatsoever like history, or the more complex types of economic ideas to do with whole nations & their peoples. Not that it appears that many people, especially in US politics seem to know much either, but in his case he, more than most, due to his personal ‘success’ believes he knows much more than he does. Just about everybody with a few exceptions on the US political scene are a bunch of ignoramuses, but they all manifest in different forms, some more virulent than others, & all to some extent aggravated by the belief in their own BS.

    Trump’s belief in his own BS is, to quote him, ‘bigly big’. He has got where he is by wielding the influence of his personal wealth & self madeness, or madness, & by quickly ‘firing’ anyone who did not dance to his tune, or he felt in any way were likely to use or betray him in a way that did not fit with the ways he could use for himself. He could easily ‘make or break’ other people, so those that survived were, as always the sycophants, or who could play a good game of it. He never even ‘dreamed’ of what was involved in being POTUS, all he cared about was getting the ‘top’ position, where he naively imagined he could play the same game. He had no idea of all the insane ideas & people involved in US politics, because his level of ‘understanding’, was based on very little, except what he gleaned through the people he met or was involved with, & popular TV & social media, little bits & pieces like so many who comment on social media & in forums etc. who imagine they know what is involved & can quickly come up with solutions & judgements based on their own very limited ideas & thinking. His own so called ‘thoughts’ are similar little bite sized bits of thoughts, without any depth or complexity.

    I’m not even sure that, when Hilary & her campaign started to unravel, that those who really are interfering in the politics of the US, (not the Russians), began to think that it was not as good an idea for her to get in power after all, & that it was becoming obvious that what they could achieve through the manipulation of a huge ignoramus with overblown ego, was going to be a far better & more successful way to implement their strategies, for world domination.
    One of the biggest beneficiaries has to be Israel, who Trump makes no secret of supporting in the most brainwashed way. His son in law’s family are very close & old friends of Netanyahu. The Israelis have recently become more transparent about their support, or collusion with the Saudis. But possibly lots of niceties will be lost on Trump, who has to rely heavily on ‘advisers’ more so than others, due to his overwhelming ignorance of so many things. So it’s been easy to ‘con’ him or corner him, with the type of advisers he has. His overt patriotism, in many way makes him very vulnerable to certain lines of persuasion, as does the belief in many other myths & lies about history written by the people who did so little in WW2 but claimed all the victory & most of the spoils. He of all people would not want to be seen to be ‘unpatriotic’ not to mention, ‘anti Semitic.
    These are the things he has now become hostage to, & his so called desire to make America great again, can in terms of what he understands now, from what he’s been told, most of which he believes, has to be achieved by ‘coercion, or the ‘force’ & might, of the threat of the American military, because as you say in your article, he has such limited notion of how that can be achieved. Negotiation for him is only to do with wielding power & influence, nothing to do with understanding.
    Not that he is alone in this respect, but he was able to fool people into believing in his own BS when he ran his campaign. He probably also believed his own BS as many do, because no one wants to have to admit, even to themselves, that they are not as good as the make out they are. They have to get other people to believe that they are not as incredibly self interested as they actually are.
    It would appear, that he, in his hubris believed that he could succeed where others had failed when he spoke with Putin, & that it would be a big feather in his personal cap to be the one to succeed in getting Putin to ‘knuckle under’ However
    because Putin is a man of reason & not inconsiderable patience, he was able to get some actual facts through. This did not, & was never going to, go down well with the aims & prejudices back in the US, so Trump was quickly brought back to heel.
    He has no idea how to deal with it, because he is surrounded by people who he apparently always assumed were trustworthy & had America’s best interests at heart, as he believes he has them at heart, but due to his ignorance, & also that people who really do have America’s best interests at heart, are always prevented from having any position of influence, he is now caught in a trap, with few, if any he can really rely on for the truth, & he has very little idea of it himself.
    It is easy to influence him through the campaign of hate & lies in the MSM, because he is an egotist, & it’s a shock to his ego to find so many against him in an industry where he was so seemingly successful before. The amount of money & resources poured into these campaigns of lies & propaganda are considerable, & have a definite desired outcome. All the people working in the media are carefully selected, no one keeps a job there if they deviate far from the official line.

    I don’t know why you claim to dislike Putin, whether in some way you have still bought into some of the propaganda against him, but from everything that I can observe about him, in the open forums he conducts with people, to the one on one interviews he’s given, there are many signs of his genuineness, humanity, & great understanding of many things. He is also trained in, & still practising Judo, & had a great love & respect for the man who trained him. Not only that he is a brilliant chess player, alongside of many other attributes, which even for many politicians in Europe, are rare qualities to possess. In many ways he is one of the most thoughtful of all the world leaders, which the majority of people in Russia also recognize, those that have not been corrupted by out & out US subversion & propaganda. There are always some that are a bit too stupid. He may not be ‘perfect’ but that would be unreal, However, I get the impression that Putin would be a really good & loyal friend to anyone of reason & humanity, & while not being the kind of unreal fake perfection that so many American politicians project, he is still far better, more genuine & kind than most, if not all of them. I put this down to the fact that he is a realist, & is also committed to the truth, which he believes is crucial to the solving of complex national & international problems. He is also committed to doing things legally, & by International Law, unlike the US, which flouts the law, constantly breaking it in the most outrageous, sometimes almost unbelievable ways, then turning round & accusing other nations & or their leaders of doing what they themselves are doing, even when they haven’t, in the most insane, blatant hypocrisy & amazing self deceit of all time. The US has between 8-900 military bases all over the world, & has meddled in so many countries elections & actual democracies, in the name of democracy, it almost beggars belief that it can get away with getting so many people to believe that the US & it’s people are the so called ‘victims’, or ‘under threat’. They are only able to do this because so many people are still so ignorant.
    The extent to which lying deceit & the dissemination of this through the MSM owned by the very interests that all this serves is almost beyond comprehension. By comparison, most other countries failings or corruptions pale into insignificance. Russia for example has only 2 bases on foreign soil, & these are there through negotiation. The US just makes up a load of lies, starts a seeming ‘civil war’, then invades with no mandate, except to ‘bring peace’ to the place it actually caused the war in, then builds itself some bases, proceeds to bomb the civilian population into submission, or into leaving, but the US bases, actually remain there, forever. Once there, they are like a permanent parasite, interfering, grabbing everything, raping & pillaging, but all the time pretending that they are they are there ‘for the good’ of the people.
    Trump would have to see through all this to actually be even remotely on a level with someone like Putin, who has far fewer illusions. Trump believes in a lot of the propaganda, even if he thinks he sees through some of it, it just gives him the idea, that he is a ‘smart’ & ‘savvy’ man, who knows how to deal with things on the international stage, or even domestically. All his ideas are like the ideas of someone in the kindergarten of life, they are so simplistic as to actually be
    ridiculous.
    Not that people who were more ‘savvy’ in some ways, like Obama, for instance were better. He was just as bad but in a different way, in that he knew to some extent, how much he was lying, & how he was being used, as well as how to use, he was much more opportunistic, & played his politically correct advantage to the absolute hilt. He also went in totally prepared & with a well run & oiled administration who backed him all the way as long as he played as he was meant to. Ironically, once upon a time, he actually admired Trump, & the fact that he was able to achieve “the American dream’ That is almost laughable, if it were not so seriously indicative of his own personal vanity & ambition, & played out by becoming the ‘top man’, POTUS as an achievement of personal vanity & ambition, the same as Trump! Nothing to do with the ‘American people’. No, just a sign of reaching the highest step on the ladder, & having ultimate power & control, for whatever personal prejudices or weaknesses that they possess. All of course masquerading in the good old American tradition, of selling themselves as the ‘saviours of the people’
    What a load of incredible self deception, & outer deception.
    This whole collective ‘illusion’ of the POTUS, serves those interests very well, who have anything but the best interests of anyone at heart, but themselves, & they are a relatively small select club of people who most people will never know about, because as much as possible the are hidden away behind all sorts of seemingly everyday or even innocent exteriors, always pretending to just be plain little old billionaires, or other seemingly unconnected interests.

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  3. Ros,
    Wow. Quite a comment. I don’t disagree with much of your analysis of Trump as a person, but I will say that I his character flaws are close to how you describe them, but I disagree with the idea that he had a rivalry with Obama and that’s what prompted his run… petty ego.

    I think Donald Trump has been convincing himself to run for President for 20 years. And it took certain catalysts to make that happen.

    As for my ‘dislike’ of Putin. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have great respect for Putin as a leader and see all the things that you see. But, I’m also not going to blind myself to the things he’s done while in office to achieve his goals. When fighting for your survival you do what’s necessary.

    He is eminently pragmatic. He is no saint. But, he is a tremendous figure.

    And, in fact, it is Putin’s pragmatism that is is strength. I see Putin as the one world leader with enough humanity left in him to try and lead us out of this quagmire created by US/European oligarchs without resorting to world war. But, don’t kid yourself, Putin will go to war if he is pushed hard enough. And I’m sure he will weep if it comes to that.

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  4. Thanks Tom, you could be right about Trumps aspirations, although when he was interviewed earlier on, he actually denied that he was interested, or even going to consider running for POTUS, & only relatively recently stated that this was his intention. But he is such a self interested person, it is all about him in the end, not about any altruism. So maybe in the back of my mind the doubt about the contributing personal jealousy of Obama still lingers on. Whatever, if it was that crucial to my thesis, it would be worth ferreting around for more tell tale info, but it is a time consuming effort, & hardly worth it in the end. The end result for all of us out here in the world would still be the same, he is just ignorantly blundering around, with little or no idea of what the real consequences are, whether it is all outer manipulation, or a combination of his own efforts & those that are controlling/’advising’ him. He seems to be very vulnerable to misdirection, from the point of view of his ignorance, character flaws & weaknesses, which could well include some major blackmail.

    I got the impression that possibly you didn’t like Putin, because you said, you would not want to be friends with him. I
    suppose that could just be a personal thing for you, but of course I could see you do also have respect & admiration for him. For me, it would be an honour & a gift to have him as a friend, & I can’t think of anyone, on the world stage, that I would rather have as a friend before him. He has humility as well as great integrity & inner strength, you could always trust him to be honest, with good insight, & a great sense of humour. Not perfect, or a saint, or trying to pretend he is one, but a real human being. In my experience those who try to pass themselves off as saints are actually, usually sanctimonious hypocrites, & full of themselves, they don’t actually give a toss about anyone else, although they often pretend to, the perfect example being of so many in politics in the US, & it’s vassal states, who often do far worse than anything Putin is alleged to have done. Most of the stories of which come from his enemies & those that want to replace him, not through reliable sources. However, what he has done for Russia, as with Gaddafi, who was even less of a saint, has been considerable, & not matched by any mealy mouthed, politically correct ‘saint’ in the West. Still the ‘West’ in all it’s hubris & egotistic self righteousness, is addicted to people who seem like saints, so to me, it is yet another credential
    of credibility if a leader is not like that.

    I think, as you say, if push came to shove, & there was really no other way whatsoever, that of course Putin would have to be prepared to go the war, although as he says, it would probably result in the annihilation of almost everything, so I’m sure he would always look very hard for more ingenious solutions before this step. This does not rule out the possibility that the US warmongers could create a false flag attack, making it look like Russia was the aggressor, to start that war themselves. They have already tried a number of tactics to try lure or trick them into retaliating.

    Russia always has to be well in front to prevent that as they are already very aware, There is always Agenda 21/30 to keep in mind as well. In some ways, when the US military, succeed in developing certain weapons that limit damage, & or fallout, to actual material things & resources they want to plunder, but can still wipe out vast numbers of civilian populations, there is a real possibility that they’d be willing to risk an all out war with Russia, if they believe they have a big enough advantage, because of course they are the ultimate cowards. It is almost 100% certain though, that even if they thought they had this advantage, that they would come off a very, very bad 2nd best. But what would be the position of the victor either, with so much death & destruction? Unfortunately as we know, the few & very wealthy, mainly Western elites, who are really behind all this, with their humongously expensive, hidden & stocked up bunkers, are prepared to to wait it out, so even after the annihilation of millions, if not billions, of people, those cockroaches would still be there, with their other contingency plans.

    The US has an strangely incredible history of not winning any war despite all their vast weaponry & expendable soldiers, so it seems as if they are, almost completely incompetent & useless at fighting, & by now they are even more decadent in many ways, addicted to comfort & delusions built on years of movies, TV shows & other propaganda about how great they are, so it seems highly likely that they can only lose, but at a hugely terrible cost, as with all their wars. All those wars that have made a relatively small number of people immensely & stupendously rich. Is this really it? Do they just start the wars with no intention of winning in the first place? Just using them as the excuse to rape, pillage, depopulate & seize everything for themselves like a load of low life, bloodthirsty, utterly corrupt & decadent pirates, at the same time as obscenely profiting from the manufacture of all the weapons & accoutrements of war etc?
    How close they are to some of their crucial objectives for moving onto this step is hard to tell, but it could be close & they seem to be itching to bring it on. There is the other possibility that they will wait & try again to get rid of Putin, & ‘help’ to replace him with someone they can get at, who is more reactive, to lure into their traps. Putin is well aware of their constant attempts at inciting regime change in Russia as in all the countries not totally under the influence & control of the US.
    How many Putins are there available to replace him?
    I’m certain it would take an incredible & shockingly irretrievable situation for Putin to take Russia into a war with the totally dishonourable, 2 faced, lying, decadent & corrupt, war addicted ‘United States’, due to what he has said he believes the overall outcome for mankind would be.

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    • Ros,

      There are no Putin’s to replace him. Precisely because what stands behind Putin is the reason why the U.S. Deep State pushes so hard to get rid of him. They can’t manipulate him into doing stupid things. He’s too smart for that. I tell my friends all the time when they repeat the lie that “Putin is a butcher who hates gays” that if you think Putin is bad look behind him.

      And then do a little digging to see he’s not 1/10th the monster you see him as. Most Americans have been propagandized to the point where they can’t see anything clearly and are in a hyper-emotional state all the time. There is no reason to their positions, only anxiety and confrontation based on ignorance at best, and implanted cognitive dissonance at worst.

      I have a lot of cred, however, with people being a hardcore, anarcho-libertarian in explaining the reality to people. Precisely because I have greater distrust of power than they do. And eventually, they come to see Putin closer to the way I do…. pragmatic, with most of his humanity intact, with a different value set than them. Liberals in the U.S. are obsessed with identity politics and want to see the destruction of all infidels on this point, mistakenly believing that being less than completely accepting of homosexuality means they are really closet totalittarians.

      It’s nonsense, but it plays on the coasts. In flyover country, most Americans are still fighting the cold war. Hell, in North Florida, where I live, there are still plenty of people still fighting the Civil War. So, these things die hard. It is the script in their heads and it’s not going to change.

      Putin is flexible, smart and capable. I expect he will continue to make strong moves for Russia while countering the worst the deep state has to offer. And thank the gods for it.

      Like

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