Russians Bashing Russia
The United States gave it to Russia with both barrels over the weekend.
With U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in Ukraine and loudly denouncing Russian aggression and imperialism, the U.S. warship Mount Whitney sailed into the Georgian port of Poti with relief supplies even though it is still being held by Russian stormtroopers. It was an in-your-face moment Russia was just as helpless to do anything about as was tiny Georgia when Russian tanks rolled in. How does that feel, Russians? “President” Medvedev whimpered: “I wonder how they would feel if we now dispatched humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean, suffering from a hurricane, using our navy.” Maybe they’d feel like sinking those ships, and do it — except that the U.S. hasn’t really rolled tanks into any Caribbean countries lately, has it? But if that’s how you think about the Whitney, Dima, excellent. Mission accomplished. So go ahead, Dima, sink the Whitney and block its delivery of humanitarian aid if you have the guts and the ability. Show the world what Russians are made of. And while you’re doing that, ask yourself how Russia would have felt if America behaved in Chechnya the way Russia has behaved in Georgia. Ask yourself why U.S. warships are in the Black Sea, where they weren’t in July. But Medvedev wasn’t pondering those questions, nor did it appear there was any connection whatsoever between his brain and his mouth.
We have to admit, it’s rather startling to see the whole world — including many Russians themselves (Putin even lost his title of Russia’s sexiest man to, of all people, Boris Nemtsov) — talking about Russia in exactly the way we have been doing ever since April 2006 when this blog was founded (even far off Australia is considering repudiating its deal to sell uranium to Russia; it should do so). Then, we stood virtually alone in the world sounding the clarion call of warning. Now, we’re conventional wisdom, even in Russia.
Let’s take a look at what three Russians are saying about their country these days.
Writing in the Moscow Times last week, Russian Yulia Latynina stated: “Russia’s resources also cannot be compared to those of the West. This is because Russia has nothing but oil and gas. Our stores sell Turkish clothes, Chinese electronics, Indonesian sneakers, Finnish toilets, Taiwanese cell phones, and so on. Even cement is now cheaper to import from abroad than to produce in Russia.” She then said Russia was “turning itself into a terrorist enclave” and pointed to its support from Hamas and Hezbollah, alone, on it the Georgia invasion as proof.
Then came Former Supreme Court deputy chairman Vladimir Radchenko, writing in the Kremlin newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. As reported by the MT, he stated that between 1992 and 2007, more than 15 million people were found guilty of crimes — the equivalent of one-quarter of the male population and one-tenth of the total population. He concluded: “Our own historical experience shows that excessive harshening of criminal legislation and strengthening of the punitive system gives the opposite result.”
After that there was economics proffesor Konstantin Sonin, who stated in his MT column that if Russians could not admit their performance at the Beijing Olympics was questionable “there is a danger that instead of making this a ‘Russian century’ in which the country plays a leading global economic and cultural role, we could end up with a repeat of the 20th century, when the Soviet Union wasted resources on a senseless arms race and on competing with the West.” He observed:
When comparing Russia’s economic progress with that of the United States and other developed nations over the past 100 years, the picture is not rosy. Russia’s per capita gross national product was a bit less than 30 percent of the United States’ in 1908, and it remains about the same in 2008. Stalin’s repressions and two world wars definitely took their toll on the country’s economic development. Russia must do better in the 21st century.
Russians, of course, know few of the real facts about their national performance because their leaders keep lying about them. And indeed, you certainly will not find Sonin, Radchenko or Latynina being featured on any national television broadcasts, since all the TV networks are owned and operated by the Kremlin. Instead, you’ll find the Kremlin spewing out new textbooks rationalizing Stalin and explaining what a misunderstood genius the greatest mass-murderer of Russians in history really was.
And all this ignorance occurs for just one reason: Because the cowardly denizens of Russia invite and encourage it. Suppose we were to awake tomorrow to the news that all three of these courageous Russians had been assassinated, just like Anna Politkovskaya before them. Would the Russian people rise up and demand justice? Or would they turn their backs and allow the Kremlin, once again, to sweep the whole nasty business under the fetid carpet of dicatorship?
Anyone even vaguely familiar with Vladimir Putin’s Russia knows the answer only too well.