As the American founders declared, some truths are self evident. If only all of life were so simple. Some maybe, but not that many.
If you hold every truth to be self evident you will believe the world is flat. Some things have to be proven, and when they are proven everything looks different. At first glance things may appear level and quite flat, but actually they are further apart and farther at variance than one can imagine.
There is a difference between East and West that goes beyond the curve of the Earth. The perspectives and views of the Russian mind are fundamentally different than the Western mind. You cannot simply translate the language, you are forced to interpret.
At the same time, no matter how much you understand and believe that the world is round, your physical experience will always tell you that it is very flat. Perhaps that’s why, when our foreign policy experts and our politicians debate and negotiate with Moscow, they return confidently to Washington with a thorough understanding of the problems, and develop well laid plans to fix them — only for everything to fall flat. They forgot the world is round and you will never find a level playing field between East and West.
You simply cannot understand Mr. Putin from a Western perspective. You have to get out a bit and see the world. You can try to understand him as much as you like — but until you speak to him and deal with him from his position you fail to communicate. You must deal with an Eastern mind with Eastern thoughts, and Eastern words, and Eastern actions.
A major difference between East and West not so self evident begins with the idea of law. Everyone talks about the rule of law (it’s become a cliche), but not many take the time to define it. But a difference in perspective –a very great divide — began a very long time ago from a theological question. In Latin it’s expressed as lex rex or rex lex, meaning the law is king, or, the king is law. The Church split in two partly over this question, and it’s never been harder to put humpty dumpty back together again.
In the Eastern mind the king is law, just as in the Western mind the law is king. These two can talk all they want about law and never arrive at the same conclusion. The rule of law means radically different things to radically different minds. Remember, it doesn’t matter how long you walk West, you will never meet East.
Mr. Putin sees the rule of law as the exercise of a king. He is not above the law in an egotistical way, that’s an inadequate Western perspective — he is the law and everyone knows it. To the Eastern mind it’s self evident.
Accordingly, his view of American law is critical of our leadership, personalities, the current administration and our strength of resolve. His personal opinion of American law is weak because we are weak in his perspective — but in our view, we often tend to tolerate weak leaders and heroes because the law is king. (I could comment on the 2016 Presidential elections here, but I’ll restrain myself).
The law in America is much stronger than any who defined it, or any who might practice it. Leaders come and go, but the law and our constitution remain. Russia loves heroes, we love principles; and if we have any heroes, they are or were men of principles. Russia still loves Stalin and a less principled man would be hard to find. Russia loves a king. That king, hard man he may be, is the law — and today Putin is that man.