Dima and Elon’s Excellent Twitter Adventure
Kremlin officials and captains of industry were once serious people.
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Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wrote some Twitter fan fiction over the weekend in which he hallucinated the fall of the West and the rise of the Fourth Reich. Elon Musk thought the thread was “epic.” But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
Dima Trolls; Elon Rolls
I do not miss the Cold War. The United States’ great conflict with Soviet communism dominated the first 30 years of my life and determined the path of my early career, and I am glad it is over. And yet, here I am, in a strange reverie about the Cold War at the end of 2022, more than 30 years after the lowering of the Soviet flag. Why? Well, allow me to introduce you to Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Russian Federation’s Security Council, and his new conversation partner, the Twitter CEO Elon Musk. The debates of yesterday, the banter between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev, and the frosty competition between Ronald Reagan and Yuri Andropov have been replaced by the equivalent of Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan shouting “Excellent!” and high-fiving each other over freaky Russian fan fiction.
In case you missed it this weekend, Medvedev—a crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was also once the actual president of Russia—went on a long Twitter rant with his predictions for 2023. I do not know if Little Dima (as he is sometimes called in Moscow) is a drinking man, but I can only hope that he was completely swacked when he went on this tirade. In any case, let’s take a look at what a guy who was once the supreme commander of all Russian forces thinks will happen next year.
Medvedev is a lawyer by training, but he had some deep thoughts on economics. He predicts that oil will rise to $150 a barrel—which is of course Moscow’s dearest wish now that the Russian economy is seemingly based on nothing but petroleum, exit visas, and coffins. For some reason, he thinks the United Kingdom will rejoin the European Union, which in turn will destroy the EU and end the euro as a currency. (He also thinks that the “largest stock markets and financial activity will leave the US and Europe and move to Asia,” and that the euro and the dollar will be replaced by—no, really—“digital fiat currencies.”)
When it comes to war and politics, Medvedev’s visions get even weirder.
“Poland and Hungary,” he writes, “will occupy western regions of the formerly existing Ukraine.” (I suppose this comes after Russia magically defeats and partitions Ukraine.) After this, a “Fourth Reich” will be created “encompassing the territory of Germany and its satellites, i.e., Poland, the Baltic states, Czechia, Slovakia, the Kiev Republic, and other outcasts.”
I’m sensing a little cultural resentment here. But let’s press on.
“War,” Dima continues, “will break out between France and the Fourth Reich. Europe will be divided, Poland repartitioned in the process.”
If you’re keeping score in this trippy game of Risk: Russia defeats Ukraine, Poland and Hungary seize the western areas of Ukraine, Germany then subdues Poland and everything else in East Central Europe and declares itself a new Reich. France then defeats this Fourth Reich and proceeds to partition the same Poland that is now part of a joint Polish-Hungarian occupation of Ukraine. Or maybe someone spilled a bottle of Stoli all over the board, and this is how we’re putting it all back together now that the pieces are soaked and the map is blurry.
But he’s not done. “Northern Ireland,” he predicts, “will separate from the UK and join the Republic of Ireland.” Hmm. The U.K., in Medvedev’s world, would have just voted to rejoin the EU, which is about to fall apart, but in any case, how would Northern Ireland …
Look, stop asking questions. Medvedev was once a moderate and relatively pro-Western Russian president, but he’s changed his mind. As William Hurt’s character says in The Big Chill, “Sometimes you just have to let art flow over you.”
The real fun begins when Little Dima foresees the end of the United States: “Civil war will break out in the US, [with] California and Texas becoming independent states as a result. Texas and Mexico will form an allied state.” Medvedev might not be the keenest observer of American politics: Texas Governor Greg Abbott does not seem to have any obvious wish to move the Texas border south so that more people from Mexico and perhaps even Central America may move freely through Texas as citizens and allies.
Little Dima’s final flourish was a clumsy, racist pirouette: “Season greetings to you all, Anglo-Saxon friends, and their happily oinking piglets!” Russian chauvinists going back centuries have always been a tad salty about “Anglo-Saxons” and their supposed sense of superiority over the Slavic peoples. The reference to piglets is a throwback to old-school propaganda about international capitalists (whose ethnicity Dima leaves unspoken but which, in Russian and Soviet usage, is often an anti-Semitic reference).
No Twitter thread this nutty would be complete without trolling the gargantuan ego of the self-described Chief Twit, Elon Musk. According to Medvedev, Musk will “win the presidential election in a number of states which, after the new Civil War’s end, will have been given to the GOP,” whatever that means.
Musk’s response? “Epic thread!!” He even made sure to add that extra exclamation point. You can almost see him nodding and hitting the power chords on an air guitar when he says it, probably in an attempt to be sarcastic and generate attention at the same time. Several hours later—perhaps after the intervention of an adult—Musk clarified his position and wrote, “Those are definitely the most absurd predictions I’ve ever heard, while also showing astonishing lack of awareness of the progress of artificial intelligence and sustainable energy.”
Great. That ought to do it. Thanks very much, Elon.
This is where the nostalgia creeps in. I don’t care that Dmitry Medvedev sounds like a guy in a musty Soviet beer joint railing about the United States. I care that a senior Kremlin official—a man who was once at the top of the Russian nuclear chain of command—is tweeting out vile nonsense and people are merely shrugging, like it’s just another day in our weird century. I care that one of the richest men in the world, an industrialist who controls a large swath of the public square, responded to these unhinged tweets like a goofy teenager.
I look forward to the new year. I am glad that the dangerous 20th century is long over, and I am convinced we live in better times today. But I admit that I find myself ruefully nostalgic for a world that was dominated by serious adults who believed in serious things.
- At least 30 people have died in western New York from the severe winter storm.
- China has announced plans to relax its COVID-19 restrictions for entry into the country. Beginning January 8, people with a negative nucleic-acid test will not be required to quarantine upon arrival.
- Adam Fox, one of the men convicted of plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison. Prosecutors say he led the plot.
- Work in Progress: The economy’s fundamental problem has changed, Annie Lowrey argues.
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I Love My Clutter, Thank You Very Much
By Burt Solomon
A confession, first: I love clutter.
The horizontal surfaces in my family room are covered with newspapers, magazines, books I’ve started, books I intend to read, books I want to read but never will, erasable pens, a sweatshirt or two, a soccer ball, a bucket of toy cars, and wayward Legos that gouge my stockinged feet. In addition to a computer, two telephones, and a TV remote, my desk at home is strewn with notebooks, folders, loose papers, birchbark, a modem, scraps of paper with notes to myself, photos of my wife and kids, flash drives, nail clippers, pens, coins, a stapler, a thesaurus, shopping receipts, a hand-grip strengthener, a blood-pressure cuff, two- and three-dimensional likenesses of Abraham Lincoln, four baseballs, three baseball caps, two 1909 baseball cards, two flashlights, a pair of AirPods, a miniature boxing glove my father gave me before I can remember, one Pokémon card, and two Tibetan bowls.
More From The Atlantic
Read. “A Black Birch in Winter,” a poem by Richard Wilbur, which was published in The Atlantic in 1974.
“You might not know this old tree by its bark, / Which once was striate, smooth, and glossy-dark, / So deep now are the rifts which separate / Its roughened surface into flake and plate.”
Watch. Stream Glass Onion on Netflix, and then read an interview with the director Rian Johnson about why the Knives Out sequel is louder and angrier than the first movie.
I have a few New Year’s resolutions, and they tend to be the same as all of my previous New Year’s resolutions: I want to stop aging and wear the same clothes that fit me in college. Failing that, I usually hope for world peace, and then I settle for a general hope that whatever kind of a person I was last year, I can do a bit better this year. (At least I don’t fall down the Steve Martin rabbit hole, although his epic bit from Saturday Night Live in 1986 is probably a more honest set of wishes than most of us will admit.)
What’s your New Year’s resolution? Tell us! Send me an email at email@example.com, or just hit reply to this newsletter. I ask only that you keep it short—one sentence!—and that it reflects something you’re actually resolving to do or hoping for or trying to achieve in 2023. Funny is good too, but I’m curious to see what you’re all striving for in the coming year. I am going to nudge some of the Daily team to add their resolutions as well; we might even get my colleague Isabel Fattal to resolve to see some of the 1980s movies we keep referencing here in the newsletter, but we can’t promise miracles. We’ll collect all of your resolutions over the next few days, and we’ll close out the year on Friday by discussing them.
Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.