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Dancing with the bear

Political scientist Ivan Krastev developed his insights — and presumably his views of Russian-ness — from neighboring Bulgaria, where he grew up.

A satellite image shows Russian battle group deployments and artillery support equipment at Pogonovo training area near Voronezh, Russia.
A satellite image shows Russian battle group deployments and artillery support equipment at Pogonovo training area near Voronezh, Russia.
Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

I know what I’m rooting for, and it’s definitely not a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Beyond that, I don’t claim to know how to get past the current tensions on the border with the least damage.

(I’m actually kinda relieved that so many smart people with solid insights into the region, including Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, are telling the most alarmed people in Washington to calm down, at least a bit.)

But I’ve benefited from the insights of a smart, funny op-ed piece that ran a week ago in New York Times by political scientist Ivan Krastev, who has developed his insights and presumably his views of Russian-ness from neighboring Bulgaria, where he grew up. (He is also a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and an expert on international politics, according to the Times.)

Read the whole piece here. But if you’re in a hurry and need a grin to tide you over, I offer the first and last paragraphs of the op-ed:

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First paragraph: “In the final weeks of World War I, a German general sent a telegram to his Austrian allies summarizing the situation. It was, he wrote, ‘serious, but not catastrophic.’ The reply came back: ‘Here the situation is catastrophic, but not serious.’”

Last paragraph, quoting a Russian proverb: “If you invite a bear to dance, it’s not you who decides when the dance is over. It’s the bear.”