It's possible that Putin may have been snubbing Xi by going back on the words in the joint statement. It's equally possible, however, that that Putin may not have even considered his actions as being related to Xi at all. For him, treaties are just words on paper, and vague communiques like the one coming out of the Putin-Xi meeting are even less significant. It is more important for Putin to subjugate Belarus, and one way to do that is by treating it as a constituent part of Russia.

Putin used the excuse that Britain's supply of depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine required an answer, but that idiotic propaganda point is laughable on its face.

If Putin is taking a swipe at Xi, there is one possible explanation: he's tired of all the jibes that he is now just China's vassal. It hurts even more because it is largely true. China is moving steadily to increase its economic role in Russia. China is also increasing its political and economic influence in the former Soviet states of Central Asia, something that can't be good news for Putin. During the Putin-Xi meeting, for example, China announced a May summit with Central Asian countries. There was, it seems, no invitation for Russia, which considers Central Asia its back yard. If it does turn out that Russia is on the outside looking in while China deals with its former satraps, that indeed will be galling. https://www.businessinsider.com/xi-snubs-putin-amid-summit-with-central-asia-power-play-2023-3

Expand full comment

Glad you covered this, thanks. Putin seems to thrive on snubbing everyone, regardless of how important they are.

But now we have to ask, will Xi do anything in response and how does this actually hurt him? He'll still buy energy because it's a bargain. It will be interesting to see what happens next with this giant, intimidating axis of Russia/China.

Expand full comment

I'm of the opinion that the practical effect of moving some tactical nukes to Belarus has no practical effect but putting Belarus on a target list. But nevertheless symbols matter and this seems like a one fingered salute to Xi. It will be no easy matter to peel Xi off from Putin but Prol McFaul is right. The US should definitely give it a try.

Expand full comment

As you mentioned one of Putin’s last cards are the nukes. Please correct me if I’m wrong. If Ukraine is nuked from Russia, the blame and consequences exclusively fall on Russia, but if it’s nuked from Bielorussia the crime and the consequences are shared by both and dilute.

Putin throws the “stone” from his friends house, and now the West has to deal with both, which complicates things but in Putins’ favor. Right or not?

Expand full comment

You know what? Let’s move on. Neither Russia, China, nor Belarus gives a damn about what they ignored, or said, or were supposed to be thinking according to western minds. It’s all propaganda to them.

Expand full comment

The one thing saving the civilized world from gangsters is that the gangsters don't have friends and can never trust anyone. It's every man (almost always men) for himself in gangster land, which makes it very difficult for gangsters to organize and sustain any kind of unified effort. For gangsters, all alliances are temporary and tactical, because they have no vision larger than themselves.

The one thing saving gangsters from the civilized world is that we are incapable of uniting against them as a class of human beings, and always get distracted by resisting them one by one by one, situation by situation by situation. And because we're distracted by fighting particular gangsters in particular situations, we miss the larger picture...

The marriage between violent men and an accelerating knowledge explosion is unsustainable. We can have either violent men or the knowledge explosion, but not both.


We don't like this ruthlessly hard choice being presented to us by the 21st century, so even the brightest among us cling to the 19th century thinking which is comfortable and familiar.

19th century thinking assumes, typically without examination or questioning, that we can keep on providing violent men with ever more powerful tools, at an accelerating pace, and somehow life will go on like it always has in previous centuries.


Sooner or later, one way or another, 19th century thinking is going to return us to the 15th century.

Expand full comment