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From Russia With Conspiracy Theories

Ellen Barry has a terrific piece in The New York Times on the Russian reaction to Joe Biden's off-the-cuff remarks about Russian-American relations.

Within hours, a top Kremlin aide had released a barbed statement comparing Mr. Biden to Dick Cheney. Commentators announced Mr. Biden’s emergence as Washington’s new “gray cardinal” — the figure who, from the shadows, makes all the decisions that matter...

For anyone subordinate to the president to allow themselves that freedom is inconceivable, said Vladimir V. Pozner, the host of a talk show on state television.

“If it’s not the No. 1 man or woman, clearly that person has been instructed to say what he or she said,” Mr. Pozner said. “It’s psychologically very difficult for a Russian to believe otherwise. If you write in The New York Times whatever you write, I’m sure Mr. Putin will say, ‘Of course. It was ordered.’ ”

If you don't think this is paranoid enough...

It will also be hard to convince the Kremlin that the comments don’t indicate a deeper drama. Russians have spent months searching for clues to Mr. Obama’s true intentions; when Mr. Obama killed a fly during a television interview shortly before traveling to Moscow, for example, several analysts here interpreted it as a message to Russia.

What is striking here--even more striking than the paranoia--is the solipsism. Every American gesture--all the way down to the swatting of a fly--is actually about Russia. 

Also worth noting is the Orwellian echo of the Soviet era:

“Nothing accidental can happen in this system.” [a political analyst] said.

--Isaac Chotiner