The Russia Piles
Russia is without any shred of doubt the bad actor on this world’s stage. Hannibal Lecter, Snidely Whiplash the despicable Boris & Natasha of Rocky & Bullwinkle are simply sad caricatures in comparison, and I could go on. Russia is simply an abysmal hell pit of devilish scheming and plotting. What more is there to say?
I hope that you are nodding and agreeing with my in depth analysis of what is obvious to all and confirmed by numerous talking heads: Russia is a huge existential threat to all that is pure, honest, bright, free, fresh and organically grown (like you and me)!
How is it possible under God’s warm sun that Russia was ever conceived, born, much less survived to the here and now… it is after all highly likely the world’s nastiest haemorrhoid?
This question has itched and scratched at the minds of our ‘free world’ since the dawn of media history, back in the misted swampy origins of the international wire services and the free press. After all, the Red Menace of communism was kick-started in the USSR. We all know where that led, do we not? Add to that Russia is just another word for the Soviet Union, isn’t it?
Let’s have a gander, just to confirm what we already know deep in the marrow of our Anglo bones that Russians are not us.
Non-English speakers strangely enough populate Russia entirely. In fact, of all the languages spoken in the Russian Federation none is Latin based. Of all the languages of Russia, Russian is the only official language at the national level. There are 35 different languages that are considered official languages in various regions of Russia, along with Russian. There are over 100 minority languages spoken in Russia today.
There may be no ‘official language’ in the United States, but there are at least 350 different languages spoken in the U.S. today. English is de facto the leader, and the top five in terms of native speakers are Spanish, Chinese (including Cantonese, Mandarin and other varieties), French and French Creole, Tagalog and Vietnamese.Within the European Union, there are 23 officially recognised languages. There are also more than 60 indigenous regional and minority languages, and many non-indigenous languages spoken by migrant communities.
Now we all know that Russia, and especially their president Vladimir Putin is a dire, imminent and direct threat to all that we comfortably know and love. Imagine the teeming hordes of vodka crazed Russians chomping at the bit to get a slice of the west, reaching over the Atlantic or the Pacific to yank back Alaska and the northwest coast of the USA. For that matter, rolling across the EU to snatch and grab everything that is or is not nailed down. Some believe this is inevitable, after all THAT is what Russians are supposed to do, isn’t it?
Let us have a look at this imminent threat. There are about 144 million Russkies living inside the Russian Federation. The real estate they occupy is 17 million square kilometres, which equates to eight Russians per square kilometre. Big place.
Although Sara Palin assures us that she can see Russia from her Alaskan home, I don’t think her talents include super-vision to scope across the Bering Sea. That said, there are 326 million of us Yanks occupying 9 million square kilometres equating to 33 Americans per square kilometre.
The EU is even more interesting, and while during the first and second world wars there was quite a bit of active travelling to Russia from Europe and back, although Hollywood rarely delves into those unimportant details. The EU measures (not including the Brexiting UK) of 3.8 million square kilometres squeezing in 124 Euro persons per square kilometre.
Where is all this this leading? Good question. So let us do some arithmetic. Russia, with a population that is almost 5 times less than the US and EU, spread over a territory almost double the size of the US and EU together, and a population density that is more than 20 times less than the simple average of the ‘west’ is an existential threat to the ‘free’ world. Russia thankfully has enough on its plate in trying to govern across its 11 contiguous in-country time zones.
The threat therefore must be the doomsday scenario. Thermonuclear Armageddon is real, the late Senator McCain assured us of that not just once. After all, the Russians are capitalists (with a big ‘C’)! They love fast cars, they develop real estate, they have mortgages, internet, they own businesses, go to McDonald’s, Starbucks, vote their own way, live, die and even pay taxes! What a dismal threat they pose to our way of life.
So what is Russia doing that scares the bejeezus out of the west? It is not ideology, as Russians are perhaps more oriented towards capitalistic systems than even the USA. Is it that we have become so similar, and the decades long, ‘us vs. them’ has grown into a fond and familiar mantra? It has been used to great effect by politicians both sides of the aisle, and to the benefit of increased arms budgets since WWII.
Let us gloss over some history, maybe that would give us a clue. After all, why study history if we are not going to use it productively.
International relations between nations are often built and fleshed out by defining or assigning an external peer in their efforts at self-identification. This external peer or foreign nation then becomes a useful ‘other’ when politicking domestically. This is true of the USA, Russia, in fact almost all nations and cultures to one degree or another. America’s ‘other’ by and large has been Russia for more than a century.
The first known American political muddle involving Russia was in 1813 when critics of the then President James Madison, who signed the U.S. declaration of war against England, framed their anti-war demonstrations as banquets to celebrate the Russian victories over Napoleon.
This inspired experts and politicians from the several U.S. political groups to debate about the ‘real values’ of Russia. On one side, many praised Russia for being Europe’s liberator from Napoleon’s tyranny; while others demonised Russia as barbaric and their successes against Napoleon’s tyranny did not deserve any praise. Largely ignored was the fact that the Russian army after chasing Napoleon could have stayed and occupied most of Europe, they had the forces. They did not; they did their job and returned home. Americans then had little to no interest in the very distant Russian empire. Nonetheless, politically this was used as a path to debate the policies of the Madison administration, and laid the foundation for U.S. domestic discussions about Russia.
Just over a century later the first U.S. ‘Red Scare’ began after the Bolshevik revolution, but this time it was not Russia, but the USSR (a rather different construct). The spread of communist dogma after World War II generated the second Red Scare. To get domestic politics cooking, and ensure Americans were fully on board a booklet was distributed called ‘Communist Rules for Revolution’, which only much later in 1970 the New York Times discovered it to be a fake and in fact 100% ‘made in America’. Nevertheless, at the time it was wildly successful in listing threats to the American way of life.
The Cold War was a time of distinct and understandable (from each viewpoint) ideological differences between the United States and the USSR. Therefore, between the late 1940s to the late 1980s, both sides energetically acted out the tit-for-tat hissy fits and mutual demonisation, which is ‘the sport of empires’.
While Armageddon thankfully did not happen, largely due to the MAD policies (Mutually Assured Destruction), both sides hotly fought each ‘other’ conventionally through proxies in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, but they did not alter the relative stability in US/USSR relations, or the principles of diplomatic behaviour.
When the USSR collapsed in the 1990’s and dismembered itself into a gaggle of independent countries, America and its NATO allies took that as their ‘win’. However, they did not appreciate the unintended consequences of losing their tried and true ‘other’. They tried and are still trying ‘terrorism’, and that does have traction, however Russia is on board with that, so the ‘other’ role does not work so well. Something else must be the trigger, something like the successful McCarthy era pamphlet.
Therefore, we fast-forward through the 1990’s to 2012, skipping over the period when the Russian Federation was essentially bankrupt and de facto a US client state. Then past the course change towards independent sovereignty and national development upheld by Putin. The fallout from the revitalisation path chosen by the Putin administration was no quick fix. It was a total overhaul of a collapsed nation. Many Russians did not welcome the changes, as they had to live through them. A period of active anti-government protests got the Russian government’s attention, and the easy path was to identify an enemy ‘other’. The Russian government attempted to isolate anti-government groups and individuals, and did this by alluding they were puppets of Washington. This approach demonised the USA for meddling in Russian politics, for planning regime change, and for using oppositionists as their pawns.
In the States meanwhile, Russia was not ignored, and during the then presidential elections (2012) it was stated that Russia was America’s number one geopolitical enemy as a Republican challenge to Obama/Clinton ‘reset’ ideas.
From late 2016, the game renewed with vigour. America was as divided as could be imagined after Trump won the election. Even as I write this flow, the debate and stresses within America are vigorously ongoing. The chasm between those Americans described as deplorables who ‘won’ and those citizens who believe they ‘lost’ has given rise to all sorts of conspiracy theories and accusations of skullduggery. For many of those still opposed to their new president he has been labelled as a ‘Russian plant,’ or better still ‘Putin’s puppet.’
Tuning down the noise, it is business as usual using a foreign ‘other’ as a distraction from domestic disorder and lack of harmony. The noise persists, especially the accusation of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Whether that will prove out or not only time will make clear. To be fair, interfering with foreign elections is not unusual; just about every nation has to one degree of another used various techniques to influence another to its better interests. There simply are no exceptions, not the USA nor Russia (or the rest of the nations of the world). Recently the New York Times wrote; ‘A Carnegie Mellon scholar, D. H. Levin, has scoured the historical record for both overt and covert election influence operations. He found 81 by the United States and 36 by the Soviet Union or Russia between 1946 and 2000’.
From the outside looking in I find it difficult to define relative advantages, or the ‘who wins’ part of the equation. There are many pluses and minuses, but one thing is clear anti-Russian mania adds to the disruption of U.S.–Russian and Russian-EU relations. Certainly neither Trump or May, or the Brussels based EU have shied from demonising Russia as per script. Also apparent as a byproduct is a persistent refusal to understand Russia’s concerns, perhaps fear of being seen as too independent by making such non-PC efforts –- bad domestic political fallout. The image of Russia as being a threat will remain long after Trump, May and Putin are gone, much like the seemingly immortal Soviet era Jackson-Vanik Amendment (now the Magintsky Act), together with the Cold War era myths about another country that is long dead, that have been dusted off and revived for use again.
Each of these points in time deserve some independent examination from various sources, and then I would suggest that the reader do what the people who lived in the Soviet times did: read between the lines, and the truth will become apparent. It takes effort and a desire to do that, if truth is to have any meaning.