Sunday, July 26, 2009

Letter #9: Russian Bear Was Just Hibernating

In the September 11, 2008 issue of the Beacon there was a commentary about the fall of the Soviet Union and Russia’s current economic and political state. I wrote a response, which was published the next week. Below is my letter.


Russian Bear Was Just Hibernating

Colonel Quinn (September 11 Beacon, “Rising Russia – The Bear Awakens”) got his article off to an inauspicious start by making three errors of fact regarding events in Russia.

(1) Though it can be enjoyable to blame neo-cons for just about everything that upsets foreign powers these days, Russia has a well-developed and readily recognized predilection for subjecting its small near-neighbors to the vicissitudes of expansionist aggression. The means have been varied, in a macabre sort of way: there’s been creative violence (e.g. Ivan the Terrible, 16th century), modernizing imperialism (e.g. Peter the Great, 17th–18th centuries), enlightened despotism (e.g. Catherine the Great, 18th century), and Bolshevizing atheism (e.g. Vladimir I. Lenin, 20th century). The folks to ask about this are the victimized people of Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, East Germany, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, among others.

(2) Far from being subjected by the U.S. and NATO to a post-Cold War Versailles Treaty treatment, post-Soviet Russia was largely just left to sort out its copious self-induced problems; meanwhile, assistance and protection were extended to the numerous surrounding countries that Russia had crushed the life out of for the better part of a century. If Russia wants to seize on U.S. aid rendered to brutalized people as justification for expanding its sphere of military action, the justification includes a healthy dose of pretense.

(3) Recall, too, that 20 years ago the Soviet machine collapsed following a coup attempt, it did not “willingly” give up its empire. Gorbachev and Yeltsin were not Boy Scouts trying to clean house, they were hardened pragmatists scrambling to keep erect what could be salvaged of the collapsing Communist house of cards.

Today Russia – like China, who is also experiencing incredible domestic turmoil – is trying to solve its problems in part by nationalizing all issues; this tactic takes the focus off the fact that the people in charge are the ones chiefly responsible for the worst domestic problems. America hardly needs one of its own officers mischaracterizing the actions of a sitting American President in a way that echoes nationalist Russian agitprop.

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