Russia: Paranoia, Xenephobia and a longing for "better days" Posted by: McQ
on Thursday, July 26, 2007
If you've been watching the news about Russia over the past few weeks, you're seeing signs of the old Russian paranoia creeping in again coupled with a seeming desire to recapture some of the past "glory" the old USSR gave the nation. AP reports another indicator:
President Vladimir Putin vowed Wednesday to strengthen Russia's military capability and step up spying abroad in response to U.S. plans to build missile defense sites and deploy troops in Eastern Europe.
"The situation in the world and internal political interests require the Foreign Intelligence Service to permanently increase its capabilities, primarily in the field of information and analytical support for the country's leadership," Putin said at a meeting with senior military and security officers in remarks that were posted on the Kremlin's Web site.
Of course the Foreign Intelligence Service is the KGB is sheep's clothing. And naturally he chooses to interpret the stationing of US troops and the deployment of a missile defense in Eastern Europe as a threat to Russia.
Russia's youths admire Soviet dictator Josef Stalin — who presided over the deaths of millions of people — and want to kick immigrants out of Russia, according to a poll released on Wednesday.
The poll, carried out by the Yuri Levada Centre, was presented by two U.S. academics who called it "The Putin Generation: the political views of Russia's youth".
When asked if Stalin was a wise leader, half of the 1,802 respondents, aged from 16 to 19, agreed he was.
"Fifty-four percent agreed that Stalin did more good than bad," said Theodore Gerber, a sociologist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Forty-six percent disagreed with the statement that Stalin was a cruel tyrant."
Wonderful. Except for the fact that the subject is Stalin, you could almost mistake them for products of the US school system (although US students most likely don't know who Stalin is).
The majority of respondents thought the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy and two thirds thought that America was a rival and enemy. Only a fifth viewed Iran as a potential rival or enemy.
Given the mess that Russia is politically and economically, that's probably not a "thought" that's being discouraged. I continue to wonder if we might not see the rise of either a ultra-nationalist or a hybrid socialist state (or a combination) sometime in the near future. In fact, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see something like the "China model" emerge at some future date.
"And naturally he chooses to interpret the stationing of US troops and the deployment of a missile defense in Eastern Europe as a threat to Russia."
What is the reason US troops were moved to Eastern Europe, closer to Russia? I think there is some logic, if not truth, to his interpretation. Nato existed to counter potential Soviet aggression. The Soviet Union disintegrates, moves what remains of its military out of Eastern Europe back to Russia. The US moves its troops forward, closer to Russia.
Russian history is always one where progress has been through authoritarian means. That is a huge part of the problem; even the reformist Czars used the power of the state to try to force Russia into the future. Many Russians (probably correctly) see Putin in that light. He wants to fix a country Yeltsin let slip into near chaos, and the only way he can imagine doing it is through control and planning. Also, Russia is doing rather well recently on the economic front, thanks to petrodollars. They have a positive balance of trade and a current accounts surplus. Their growth rate (GDP) is near 8%.
The problem also is the lack of a middle class. In China, the middle class is growing, and the growth of a middle class almost always precedes the development of a stable democracy. Moreover, China is using a model similar to the ones successfully used by Taiwan and South Korea: state capitalism. Their "communism" is really in name only, it harkens more back to Chinese imperial history which was defined either by strong centralized imperial control, or chaos and violence between rival warlords. I think China and Russia will only break out of this mindset when each gets a middle class, connected to the west, and wanting a say in the system. The Chinese will likely feel this challenge in 20 or so years (1989 was the students and intellectuals rising up, the emerging middle class was happy getting rich). Russia first needs a middle class, and then it takes a generation or so for that middle class to decide wealth isn’t enough, they want a say in the way the country is run.
I say: trade with them, try to keep them as open as possible to outside markets and influences (to aid the growth of a middle class), not press them on their internal politics and let them change at their own pace. There is no need for a rivalry with Russia or China. But might emerge (involving all three states) if there is a fight for oil and gas resources in central Asia.
Pre-emptive strike doctrine: the USA launches a massive pre-emptive nuclear attack on Russia that is effective at depleting, but not destroying Russia’s nuclear forces. To protect against retaliation by a depleted Russian arsenal it is neccessary to have forward anti-missile defenses.
Russia sees the deployment of ABMs as facilitating a possible pre-emptive nuclear attack on Russia.