The bear that walks like a man

The bad news is that Vladimir Putin is probably the good news, compared to the likely alternatives.

Earlier today, before the Russian-Ukrainian natural gas dealwas announced and when it looked as if Russia might really try to freeze its former province this winter for the crime of voting in a pro-Western government, I was chatting with an acquaintance who’s an expert on, and generally an optimist about, Russian politics. We were speculating about the Ukrainian options if the Russians stuck with what seemed to be deliberately provocative demands, and I wondered out loud whether the Ukrainian government could simply nationalize the pipeline.

The expert pointed out that the Ukrainian secret police, working for a government then closely allied with Russia, had poisoned Yuschenko when Yuschenko was running for president. “If I were Yuschenko, before I thought about nationalization I’d want to know how close the Ukrainian secret police still are to the FSB.”

He also reports that Putin is (1)very popular in Russia and (2) much less scary than most of the alternatives.

Remember, we were talking about a country that still has lots of nuclear weapons. Now that’s what I call “scary.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: