Russia’s Fist in America’s Belly
The major Russian daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda has opened a valuable window into Russian society by creating an English-language version of its website. A recent article entitled “Russia’s Fist in America’s Belly” (in Russian “«Русский кулак» под брюхом Америки“) goes a long way in illustrating just how seriously we can take the Kremlin’s claims that it wants a peaceful, cooperative relationship with the West.
For the uninitiated, the newspaper Pravda (“Truth”) was of course one of the basic propaganda organs of the USSR. Along with its counterpart Izvestia (“Information”), these two papers continue operating to this day, without so much as a name change. That alone should tell you quite a lot about how much has really changed in Russia (an old Soviet joke ran: “There’s no information in ‘Truth’ and no truth in ‘Information'”). and Komsomolskaya Pravda is an even more politicized name, since the “komsomol” was the youth indoctrination forum of the Communist Party. It’s as if Germany were still publishing a magazine called “Hitler Youth Life” two decades after the collapse of the Nazi regime.
Blogger Susan Katz Keating offers an ode to Putin:
My favorite international strongman, Vladimir (“I’m in charge here”) Putin, is surely a man of great spirit. I detect in him not just an inner Soviet, but also a Tsarist dreamer, who whiles away his idle hours crafting great visions of renewed empire. What, oh what, could Vlady have in mind now? Perhaps music, in the tradition of Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky or others from the Great Five Russian nationalist composers? In fact, I believe I hear the distant strains of a work in progress: Voyage From Murmansk, in which orchestral tribute is paid to the Russian warships now sailing for Venezuela, accompanied by antisubmarine planes and nuclear subs loaded with live weapons.
Dominique Moïsi, a founder and senior adviser at Ifri (French Institute for International Relations) and currently a Professor at the College of Europe in Natolin, Warsaw, writing on European Voice, argues for a “third way” of confronting neo-Soviet Russia. By no means are we suggesting we fully (or even partially) agree with him. Just food for thought.
“Let’s engage Russia if we can, but contain it if we must.” These two alternatives defined Western strategy toward Russia in the mid-1990s. Since then, Russia may have changed dramatically, but not our questions about it. What do you do when your big neighbour widens the gap that exists between its culture, which is European, and its political system, which is becoming increasingly ‘Asian’, at least in the bad old sense of ‘Oriental despotism’?
Writing on USA Today‘s blog Ralph Peters of the newspaper’s Board of Contributors argues that we should be scared by the racist evil that is Vladimir Putin:
Why Putin should scare us
He’s an ethnic nationalist with a mystical sense of Russian destiny.
Cold and pragmatic, he won’t play by the world’s rules.
Possessing a clear vision of where he wants to go and the ruthlessness to get there, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the world’s most effective national leader in power. He also might be the most misunderstood.
Grasping what Putin’s about means recognizing what he isn’t about: Despite his KGB past and his remark that the Soviet Union’s dissolution was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, Putin isn’t nostalgic for communism. By the time he joined the KGB in the mid-1970s, the organization was purely about preserving the power structure — not upholding abstract philosophies.
Neo-Soviet Russia, Unhinged
Russia’s crazed unilateral escalation of the new cold war continues apace. One might have thought that a civilized country would refrain from taking such provocative actions at least until its stock market had stopped collapsing, but then the world now begins to see that Russia is not, in fact, a civilized country. Look what Russia has done in just the past few days:
First, Russia announced a massive new escalation
in its military budget. The United States, of course, and its NATO allies will respond in kind, and a new arms race will be born.
Then, ignoring the concerted opinion of the entire civilized world, Russia inked formal treaties
of mutual defense with the breakaway Georgian regions of Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia’s neighbors in Asia
strongly condemned the move, as did all the Western democracies. America and her NATO allies can now do likewise in regard to Russia’s breakaway regions, Ingushetia and Chechnya, just for instance.
Still not content, Russia initiated another frenzied drive towards seizing the fossil fuels
of the Arctic region. A whole new facet of cold war arms racing will thus be born in the frozen north.
As if that were not enough, Russia threatened to instigate a second Cuban missile crisis
. Is the U.S. now free to install a space program in Kazakhstan? It appears so.
And finally, Russia sent nuclear bombers into the Carribean
. Naturally, the U.S. and its NATO allies will now feel themselves free to circulate their own nuclear bombers in places like Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltics.
All in just one week! Russia took all these actions in an utterly unilateral manner, without the support of even one other major nation of the world and flouting the clear opposition of most.
Here’s Looking at You, Russia
The latest news is Georgia’s revelation of Ossetian radio transmissions showing Russian armor moving into Ossetia, Georgian territory, without authorization a full day before Georgian forces moved against Ossetia’s capital, making a boldfaced liar and naked aggressor out of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Robert Amsterdam reports that China, supposedly Russia’s ally, has joined the rebuilding effort in Georgia in a big way.
Now that the United States and Russia are again at each other’s throats again, let’s talk war movies.
If you were to ask the average American citizen what was the greatest movie ever made, quite likely the answer you’d get would be 1942’s Casablanca by Michael Curtiz, a film very few Russians are aware of and which fewer still can even begin to understand. And therein lies America’s greatest advantage in the new cold war.
Casablanca starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Bergman was a foreigner, and spoke English with a thick Swedish accent. You’ll look long and hard trying to find a counterpart to Bergman in the annals of Russian film, indeed to find any Russian films, much less national treasures, where the Russian language is spoken with a thick accent by anyone, much less the hero(ine). That is an expression of Russian xenophobia, leading to ignorance, leading to failure in battle — a problem compounded by the lack of press information self-examination through opposition politics. A large number of other examples can be found on the American side, however, and not just in American film generally but in Casablanca itself: co-stars Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre all spoke thickly accented English (Greenstreet and Lorre co-starred again with Bogie in the classic Maltese Falcon). In a great modern example, Arnold Schwartzenegger, perhaps the most thickly-accented Hollywood actor in history, not only became a titanic star but governor of California. Such a thing is not only unheard of but starkly inconceivable in barbaric, benighted, paranoid Russia.
Getting Tough with Russia
On Monday morning, Russians woke to news that all 26 ambassadors of NATO, and its Secretary General, were in Tbilisi conferencing with Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili, who their president has called a “criminal.” Guess that makes all the leaders of the NATO countries criminals too, huh Vlad? The NATO chief explained the purpose of the visit: “We want to show our support for Georgia after what we have seen from the Russian side.” The meeting comes in advance of a NATO summit in December which could result in Ukraine and Georgia both being given formalized NATO status. It seems the world is finally waking up and getting tough with Russia.