The Cold War, Part II
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
—The Holy Bible; Proverbs 16:18
In 1964, a Stanley Kubrick film called Dr. Strangelove: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb was nominated for four Academy Awards. It’s a film about how America screws up and allows a rogue general to instigate a global thermonuclear apocalypse. Can you name the Russian counterpart of this film, where the Russians express similar doubts about their government’s ability to manage their nuclear weapons programs? No? We didn’t think so. That’s because there isn’t one. And that, as much as anything else, explains why America beat Russia in the first cold war.
And now, it’s starting all over again.
At the beginning of August, Russian forces crossed the boundary of Georgia’s breakaway province of Ossetia and stormed into Georgia proper, bombing civilian targets in the city of Gori.
At the beginning of September, the United States retaliated by sending an armada of warships into the Black Sea to provide humanitarian aid to Georgia, and disregarding Russian protests.
Russia then replied by scheduling anti-U.S. war games in cooperation with Venezuela. “President” Medvedev stated: “I wonder how they would like it if we sent humanitarian assistance using our navy to countries of the Caribbean that have suffered from the recent hurricanes.”
It’s predictable, then, that NATO will now schedule anti-Russian war games in places like Poland, Estona, Ukraine and Georgia. Russia will retaliate, and soon the two sides will realize that the games might become quite real at a moment’s notice. This will compel them to boost their military capacities, leading to a new arms race.
Of course it does. It sounds just like what happened during the latter half of the 20th century. Russians apparently feel that, although they were totally defeated in the first such conflict, leading to the dissolution of the USSR, they may have better luck the second time around.
It’s an odd conclusion for them to come to. The USSR had a population double what Russia has today, larger than America’s, and it had the Warsaw Pact allies for further support. Today, America’s population is twice that of Russia, it’s GDP is 12 times larger and its military budget is 20 times larger (even in bad economic times, the U.S. economy continues to dominate the world while the Russian stock market is in abject freefall). And Russia stands utterly alone in the world while the U.S. is back by the mighty NATO alliance. The USSR had a command economy and a totalitarian political system, so it didn’t matter much when the Politburo decided to take bread out of people’s mouths in order to build tanks and missiles. By doing so, it could match the U.S. jot for jot in miltary expenditures — that is, until it was ultimately bankrupted by the process. But now, even though Putin has undertaken a massive crackdown, there are still gaps in his control over society which will result is widespread social instability if the same crazed policy is pursued again.
As crazy as Russia’s decision seems when viewed in the context of overwhemling American power, it seems even more insane when measured against Russian interests. What, exactly, does Russia feel it has to gain by confronting the United States and reasserting imperial control over the former USSR? Russia already has the largest land mass of any country in the world, and can’t populate it. Russia loses up to 1 million people from its population each year, and yet it is seeking more territory? Is it Russia’s goal to invade and conquer the U.S.? If it successfully did so, what would it then do with it’s “prize”? Wouldn’t it find itself very much in the shoes of Napoleon after he marched into Moscow and then couldn’t remember why he had done so?
Is Russia motivated solely by blind, irrational, bull-headed pride?
Some people, like even Russian Alexander Golts of Yezhedevny Zhurnal, keep trying to convince themselves that, because it would be illogical, Russia can’t possibly provoke a new cold war. Golts, seemingly panicked by the prospect, speaks in ridiculous hyperbole: “There isn’t any possibility of a new Cold War.”
Oh really, Mr. Golts? Then let La Russophobe ask you this:
- What was the “possibilty” that Nikita Khrushchev would visit the United Nations and, in full few of the world, take off his shoe?
- What was the “possibility” that Russians, having just seen decades of totalitarian horror in which the KGB murdered millions, would choose a proud KGB spy as their second “president”?
- What was the “possibility” that Josef Stalin would stab his allies in the back and make a secret deal with Adolf Hitler?
- What was the “possibility” that Putin would abolish local government, political parties and independent media and the civilized world — to say nothing of the craven people of Russia, — would simply look the other way.
- What was the “possiblity” that the Kremlin would assassinate Alexander Litvinenko using radioactive toxin?
You simply can’t, in short, make any money betting that Russia won’t do irrational, self-destructive things, no matter how bizarre they may seem when suggested. How quickly Mr. Golts has forgotten the self-imposed implosion of the USSR, and the Tsarist regime before it. How quickly he has forgotten that while Russians bravely defended themselves from Hitler, they turned a blind eye to Stalin’s mass murder of their neighbors, which easily exceeded the brutality of Hitler.
That’s why it was possible for Russia to lash out at the small group of foreigners who are insane enough to call Russia home. It suddenly revoked a prior agreement to waive testing of expats for leprosy, syphilis and four other diseases when applying for work permits. The notion that Russia, one of the sickest and most dangerous countries on the planet, would feel the need at any time to test Americans, Germans and Britons for these diseases, much less at time when Russia stands virtually friendless in the world, can only be described as another Khrushchev moment. Just days ago we republished an editorial from the Boston Globe, one of the world’s most respected newspapers, stating in so many words that Russia’s leaders had lost touch with reality as they promulgated loony conspiracy theories about American spies in Georgia.
So frankly, being Russian, it’s quite possible that Mr. Golts is slightly loopy too, and has forgotten what country he is in and just what it is capable of.