Russia’s Thugboat Diplomacy
Last week, Russian military forces opened fire on two defenseless Japanese fishing boats in the Kuril island chain north of Japan. The boats returned home riddled with bullet holes. Any number of the fisherman could easily have been killed.
The lessons to be learned from this atrocity are many.
First, not only is Russia unable to forget the past, it insists on living in and glorifying it. After half a century, Russia and Japan are still at war because Russia can’t find it possible to return these islands to Japan.
Second, Russia insists not on merely holding the disputed islands, but on reacting with thug-like military force to any perceived incursion on them even though Russia already possesses far more territory than any nation on the planet but has a rapidly falling population, so it has no need whatsoever for these islands. The violence is absolutely gratuitous, yet Russians never tire of criticizing other nations for the use of such violence.
Third, Russians are cutting of their nose to spite their face. At the same time as this attack was occurring, two Russian fishing boats were in mortal distress in the Sea of Japan. To say nothing of being little interested in offering assistance to these boats, which often ply the sea, the Japanese will of course only sour towards Russian relations as a result of the KGB regime’s thug-like behavior, costing Russia even more friends around the world.
What we see in this episode, then, is Russia in microcosm. We see Russia unable to solve political problems except through brute force, yet we see Russia hopelessly outmatched in that category by NATO and insisting that NATO not use military force but “negotiate” instead, lest it be condemned by Russia. We see Russia alienating every single civilized nation on the planet if favor of relations with rogue states like Syria and Iran and Venezuela and Cuba, so that Russia stands ever more alone and friendless in times of crisis like the economic downturn or the war with Georgia. And we see Russia blinded by historical propaganda, turning the clock back on democracy and building a neo-Soviet state despite the horrific legacy of Soviet failure in the past.
It’s not a pretty sight.