Russia is back, bigger and badder than ever, how the hell did this happen?
Well, there’s one good thing about Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to some extent they have drawn attention away from some of the other foreign policy catastrophes that are slowly unfolding on Bush Jrs watch. OK, that’s not really much of a silver lining, but it’s a start. Anyhow, today I discuss Russia and the situation there. Fortunately at least most Americans can find Russia on a map. And we have an official line about Russia, simplifying things further: Putin is a gangster and dictator no different than Stalin. It’s a great line because it means the USA can do whatever they want in regards to Russia, and it’s easy to swallow in Peoria because unlike certain other countries, there is no well financed pro Russian lobby in the USA trying to influence Congress.
The reality is far different, which pretty much is the case when reality is compared to anything coming from the White House these days. Putin is far from a gangster, our misguided policies toward Russia have made his hold on power nearly unbreakable and rejuvenated Russian nationalism like it hasn’t been seen in decades, and even made a huge resurgence of Russian economic and military power possible with the ever rising price of oil. Russian has even declared that a US or Israeli attack on Iran will be considered an attack on Russia, for all practical purposes Russia, China, and Iran have quietly allied against the USA.
How did we get to this messed up situation? Considering that Russia basically unconditionally surrendered to us and wanted to be an American ally at the end of the Cold War, it almost boggles the mind. Instead of accepting them as an ally, we promised not to expand NATO, then broke our promise and expanded NATO right up to Russia’s borders. We financed pro American “revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics. We have financed a pipeline designed to cut Russia out of Central Asian oil, and cancelled the ABM treaty and started deploying an ABM system right on Russia’s borders. Not to mention doing our level best to demonize and eviscerate Russia’s only ally in Europe, Serbia. Basically the USA has done everything in it’s power to isolate and weaken Russia since the end of the Cold War
Why did we decide to kick Russia when they were down? As far as I can tell, old habits die hard. The USA had been paranoid about Russia for decades, and we were simply unable to get out of our paranoid mind set. Or maybe we really did believe that as the world’s only superpower, we simply no longer had to play by the rules and could just do as we pleased. Since even at its height the threat posed by the Soviet Union was wildly exaggerated, this continued treatment of Russia as an enemy served no purpose.
And it continues to this day. The press releases about the recent Russian election for example were utterly predictable. We claimed the election wasn’t fair. Coming from the White House of course that’s pretty ironic, if not downright hypocritical. It does obscure the fact that the USA doesn’t want the American public to know: Putin is wildly popular in Russia. And he’s popular for good reason, he has completely turned Russia around both economically and internationally. He in fact jailed or exiled the worst of the actual gangsters who so thoroughly looted Russia in the 90s, much to the chagrin of the USA who is even pretending that some of these gangsters are political dissidents.
In fact speaking of democracy, Russia is infinitely more of a democracy than many key American allies, Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia leap to mind for instance. Russia is easily more democratic than it has ever been in history, and is arguably more of a democracy than the United States. At least in Russia third parties can get in Parliament, in the USA the two parties have such a lock on the system that third parties are completely excluded no matter how popular they are.
So now instead of having Russia as an ally, a resurgent and stronger than ever Russia is rolling back the “gains” we have made in Eastern Europe and central Asia, and is well on the way to being able to exclude America entirely from central Asia’s resources. And no, this isn’t a return of the Cold War, why Americans can’t grasp that the past doesn’t repeat itself and that the world continues to change year by year is one of the mysteries of life. It’s especially weird since the good old days of World War Two and the Cold War we’re more a a propaganda narrative than a reality in the first place.
Oh well, what the future will bring for Russia is anyone’s guess, but right now they are at the top of the list of countries who have good leadership. And that bodes well for Russia and poorly for it’s badly run enemies. Will Russia be a superpower again some day? Nope, not while Putin is in charge, he’s a hell of a lot smarter than that. As usual, other people have said this better than me. Much of the information for this column came from here and here. Have a good day everyone, tomorrow I will write about the forgotten war in the Congo.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, and, um, that’s about it. It came from this fine site which I highly recommend for people who are curious about modern day to day life in Russia. It is a picture of the Russia cruiser Aurora, one of the very few capital ships that escaped the disaster at the battle of Tsushima Straight, where most of the Russian fleet was sunk by Japan in 1905. Aurora went on to play a part in the Russian revolution, and basically I think it has such an interesting history that I am using this post as an excuse to post an image of it.)