Sentences to ponder

EZRA KLEIN: Something you’ve said in different venues is that Putin’s essays, speeches about Ukraine are less revealing about the nature of Ukraine than they are about the nature of Russia. You wrote, “what is most striking about Putin’s essay is the underlying uncertainty about Russian identity. When you claim that your neighbors are your brothers, you are having an identity crisis.” Can you talk a bit about what’s being revealed, or for that matter, confused here about Russian identity?

TIM SNYDER: I think Russian national identity is extremely confused and you can understand the need for Ukraine as a kind of shortcut, as a kind of way of resolving all these problems. Because you can say, well, I mean, this is a kind of dumb analogy, but you can say, well, the only problem with my life is I don’t have somebody else, you know? But anybody who says that is probably incorrect. And what Putin is saying — if we kind of reduce all the philosophical stuff down to a very simple proposition, he’s saying, Russia is not itself without Ukraine.

But if you’re not capable of being yourself without attacking and absorbing, violently, someone else, some other country, the real question might be about you, the real question might be about how you see the world, how you’re living in the world. So I think there’s a serious problem with Russian national identity.

Here is the full NYT dialogue.


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