Musings on Contemporary Waffle
“Russian forces skillfully employed 21st-century tactics that combined cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops in its annexation of Crimea.” – New York Times, April 21, 2014
Finally, the illusions mixed with hope that there could be a workable if never quite compliant relationship with Russia, 20 years after the fall of the Soviet system, have completely evaporated.
One now reads the statements of President Putin and of his various mouthpieces as they make their asinine statements about threats from the West and its “fascists”, as one did the predictable verbiage of Soviet leaders of the past.
As Russian troops ready themselves for further provocation at Ukraine’s eastern border now that Crimea has been liberated from the status of an isthmus dangling at the base of the Ukraine mainland to become a suburb of Moscow, there is no longer a difference between the words and actions of Vladimir Putin and the pronouncements in 1968 of Leonid Brezhnev that justified the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The same tactics of sanctioning invasion as an act of liberation of a citizenry supposedly threatened by a phantom treasoness internal aggressor are being used today as they were 45 years ago.
Many outside of Russia stand quite perplexed at how we got Russia so wrong. But I suspect that few are really that surprised. As a refugee of Russia’s aggression, I find it rather a relief that this leopard still has the same spots. Since, fool me twice …
A president/prime minister who worked for the KGB? And we believed that he was going to be progressive? With a past so firmly rooted in KGB imperatives?
… shame on us.
But, now that Mr. Putin has shown himself to be the same old creature of tortured logic as any inside the onion domes of the Kremlin during the Soviet era, we now know exactly what to do with him. The world may now simply return to the familiar strategy of presumptive wariness backed by military preparedness, with the added sting of sanctions and outing of individuals now identified on the front/home pages of every news outlet in the world as being unworthy of doing business with.
And so, cue the announcer. To borrow again from a recent headline in the New York Times: “In Cold War Echo, Obama Strategy Writes Off Putin”. In so doing, we no longer need to apologize for NATO’s continued existence, or for our “ignoring” of Russia’s “importance” in the world, as some commentators had stated we should have done. Our “needless” and “reckless” expansion of NATO closer to Russia’s geographic sphere of influence, as it sees it, has now been shown to be perfectly justified.
Yes, Your Grandfather’s Russia
Russia now acts as if it has sworn off the equivalent of paying reparations for the crime that the world considered the Soviet system to have been. Some there are even going as far as to want the architect of its disassembly, Mikhail Gorbachev, to be tried for crimes against Russia, 20 years on. And the equivalent of book burning – cyber censure – is in full throttle against anyone with a significant on-line following who disagrees with the Kremlin. It is an eerily familiar insanity that has descended, where dishonesties are propagated as truths, and vice versa.
But I will stop you right now from running down the rat hole of saying that extreme views also exist in America. The fact that they exist is the good part. In America, Fox News may contradict NYT or CBS, but no one is shutting any of them down by dictatorial fiat. So, let’s allow ourselves to be genuinely concerned that this is now happening in modern-day Russia.
The West may have been fooled into believing that Russia had “changed” since the fall of the Soviet system, but that is because it made sense to assume that Russia would want to consider an attitude of humility given how the game is so different today. To have Russia suddenly play by the old rules that brought it to near ruin from its internal turmoil 25 years ago, means that a nerve has been struck against the Achilles heel of this giant.
By “humility” I mean for the loathing of the system that ravaged the morals and psyches of nations that existed under the communist system in Eastern Europe that was underwritten by Russia. We can do business today, but don’t ask us to like your past or believe your lies about your supposed greatness. Germany apologized for World War II. Russia, as a victor in that war, never considered its agonizing oppression post-WWII as wrong. But, as I said, I am a refugee who begs to differ. And here we are again, being asked to reconsider our position about a system that clearly failed.
Suddenly we see that Russia is still fighting World War II; the Fascists have returned to do it harm, as have the other usual suspects of Jews and Islamists. Everyone, it seems, is threatening this land, and only the continued subjugation of Ukraine will make things right again.
And so, the tortured logic of the uniquely insecure Russian character has re-emerged – like a ’78 Lada sedan, only this time it has alloy wheels and a modern navigation system. But, to continue the flippant analogy, it’s evidently still a Lada. And it’s still ugly.
Through the glee of the Kremlin-controlled media at Russia’s “victory” in Crimea and of Ukraine being taught the err of its ways, a psychologically aware interpretation of the attitudes of Putin’s inner circle is that we are witnessing the stupidity of petulant losers.
Ukraine has already been lost by Russia. I have travelled to Ukraine and witnessed the harmony that exists between Ukrainian and Russian speakers. Russia will orchestrate unrest, which is its passion, and a few towns will fall. But Ukraine, as a nation, has become in the 20 years since its own independence a quite unique place – differentiated and self-aware. Perhaps this is not reflected in the Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) when the fist fights break out. But it is there in the gentleness of everyday Ukrainians.
Putin’s prideful stooge Yanukovych simply taught the majority of people where the line was drawn, and when that line was finally crossed with the refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, people reacted, spontaneously and definitively.
Quite simply, the bastardly Western ideology of free thought and action scuppered the careful plans for rigging another Yanukovych/Party-Of-Regions election win sometime next year. And now, Mr. Putin’s pride is hurt that America and Europe have been smarter and more successful at his game of luring Ukraine away.
And we act as if we’ve done something “wrong” to elicit this ire from the little man from St. Petersburg? Because we don’t want another Cold War? I didn’t want my wife to get cancer, either. But if it’s happened, then we have to fight.
Please, let’s not forget the fundamental act of Ukrainians’ sense of freedom to act against the crossing of the line. The people of all walks of life who came to the Maidan every day for three months had simply had enough of the degeneration of their political system and of the vulgarity of the aggression used against them. The fact that it enraged the Kremlin didn’t make it wrong, but rather more justified.