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Russia, How To End The Bad Behavior Of A Fallen Empire

Moscow is clearly testing the limits of the West, which must now put a stop to Putin's muscle-flexing with some muscle of its own. How about a German-Polish army brigade?

Looking West?
Looking West?
Jacques Schuster


BERLIN — With the brutal Soviet regime in mind, Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov once described his homeland as a "country of moral cretins, smiling slaves and poker-faced tyrants." Hardly any of his Western contemporaries shared this harsh verdict. It was just the opposite, because since the 1960s or earlier we've developed a penchant for glossing over Russian derailment, whether it concerned domestic matters or issues abroad.

Matters were only made worse by the fear of the sheer breadth of the land mass, of the size of the voracious bear that, from Poland to Hungary to Czechoslovakia, engulfed this or that state, or pressured it back into its power sphere. It was not infrequent that what we celebrated in front of the Iron Curtain as conciliation was nothing more than pussyfooting around.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall came the additional illusion — in Germany at least — that Russia wanted to be an equally entitled part of the West. The belief was that Moscow viewed power politics as a relic of the past. Germans celebrated "The End of History," rejoiced in the coziness of the new era, and overlooked the fact that this coziness, this supposedly lasting peace, sprang from a narrow horizon.

So it was all the more frightening when, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia proceeded to return to the cold, interest-driven politics of a fallen empire and — having carefully studied Western weaknesses — has been able to enjoy without consequences the perpetration of its crudeness and boorishness.

The West has answered with sanctions. But basically it's still not ready to see Russian behavior as a wake-up call requiring a new strategy of deterrence, a scare campaign.

Moscow will not stop challenging Europe and NATO. The Kremlin is not doing this to drive the West to distraction. By testing the rules — invading air space, engaging in threatening behavior in the Baltics, meddling in Ukraine — the Russian government is hard-headedly testing the limits.

Moscow believes that every Western step back is a step forward for Russian interests. Crucial for the West is not to let itself become intimidated, to stick to a hard line, to draw borders, to strengthen Western defense, to spend more money on the military, and to prove to Moscow that the Eastern NATO members are as important as the Western ones. Indeed, it may now be time for Germany to add a full German-Polish brigade to the multinational corps stationed in Szczecin, Poland. Boots on the ground.

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Influencer Union? The Next Labor Rights Battle May Be For Social Media Creators

With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor.

​photograph of a smartphone on a selfie stick

Smartphone on a selfie stick

Steve Gale/Unsplash
David Craig and Stuart Cunningham

Hollywood writers and actors recently proved that they could go toe-to-toe with powerful media conglomerates. After going on strike in the summer of 2023, they secured better pay, more transparency from streaming services and safeguards from having their work exploited or replaced by artificial intelligence.

But the future of entertainment extends well beyond Hollywood. Social media creators – otherwise known as influencers, YouTubers, TikTokers, vloggers and live streamers – entertain and inform a vast portion of the planet.

✉️ You can receive our Bon Vivant selection of fresh reads on international culture, food & travel directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

For the past decade, we’ve mapped the contours and dimensions of the global social media entertainment industry. Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, these creators struggle to be seen as entertainers worthy of basic labor protections.

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