Monthly Archives: December 2013

Your Typical Non-Russian, Western Russophile

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following is strictly satire of others and does not reflect my beliefs in any way. If this reminds the reader of any particular individual I assure you it is largely due to the fact that nearly all these jackasses sound virtually identical.

 

Hello there! I’m your run of the mill dissident from America, here to lecture you Russians on what you should do to be a successful country.  Specifically, you need a national ideology, and who better to teach you about your national ideology than myself, someone obsessed with your country? Of course I didn’t dream up this ideology myself. See, ever since I came to Russia and learned that Russians aren’t as obsessed about their own country as I think they should be, I have managed to surround myself with only those Russians who appreciate my service as a mouthpiece for their ideas.  As a foreigner, you can rest assured that I have totally surveyed the full spectrum of Russian politics and decided that these particular ideas are right for you. How fortunate you are to have me.

 

First off, Russia needs to reject everything Western. Well, everything except me of course.  I’m perceptive enough to understand that I can’t risk telling you to give up your iPhones, Playstations, Xboxes, foreign made PCs, import cars, and foreign fashions, but deep down I kind of wish you would because I would much rather see a Russia that better conforms to my romantic, patronizing idea of your country.  I have serious problems dealing with the pace of modern society and global capitalism, but I’m too ignorant and lazy to actually study and understand these phenomena. Therefore just like an arrogant Westerner who goes to India to have a spiritual experience, I secretly wish you would stick to your old traditions and not advance into the 21st century.

 

The best way for your country to treat my identity crisis is to conform to some kind of contrived, arbitrarily designed national ideology dreamed up by those intellectuals whom I designate.  I left America because I felt alienated by pluralistic society and I don’t want you to fuck things up for me by having controversy, debates, different viewpoints, and interests in other countries which are of no concern to me.

 

Let me just come right out and say it. Even though I swear up and down that I have purged myself of Western arrogance, you are my noble savages. I want to assimilate into your culture while still remaining just aloof enough so as not to have to face the consequences of my words, and naturally I’ll be keeping my American passport! I want to be Russian, but only if I can live in Moscow with a salary several times that of the ordinary Russian worker. Now that we have got all the preliminaries out of the way, let me proceed to lecture you on your national ideology, which you should certainly adopt.

 

1. The ideology should reject anything Western.  Well anything but the fun stuff. Also me; you have to accept me even though I’m not Russian and barely Slavic (if at all). I’m still not decided on potatoes yet. They are from the Americas and the most popular strains originate in the United States. On the other hand, I haven’t yet worked up the gall to demand that Russians give up potatoes.  Give me another year of hanging out with my small coterie of Russian fascists and I’ll give you an answer later.

 

2. The ideology should not be exported. Never mind the fact that I’m rooting for Russia to “win” in a global economy, or the fact that I clearly take inspiration from fascists who have preached about creating a new Russian Empire which stretches to the Atlantic. Clearly the most positive thing would be for Russia to create a contrived, Russians-only (and me too, of course) ideology and then force that on other ethnic groups and countries.  I get upset when America exports its culture and uses military or economic pressure to bully or even overthrow governments which don’t cater to its interests, but I’m totally cool with Russia doing the same, or even worse. Why? Because I like Russia, of course! Anyway, the Russian ideology has precedents which clearly didn’t work out well, perhaps the best example being the Qing dynasty in China. Luckily I’m too politically, economically, and historically illiterate to know any of these historical cases and therefore there is nothing to prevent me from recommending a reactionary, fascist ideology which has only lead to disaster everywhere it’s been tried!

 

3. Russians need strict rules and someone to tell them how to behave; it’s just your nature. Yeah I know it sounds like old Western imperialist arrogance, but it’s really not, because I say it’s not. I love Russia, I really do. But when I say that I don’t mean I love the actual people in Russia, but rather the fantasy of Russia that exists only in my minds and the minds of the narrow groups of Russians I associate with (others I write off as Western-corrupted liberal self-haters).  So you need some people such as me to lay down strict codes of behavior for you to follow.  I totally can’t see the irony in the fact that I support this while simultaneously claiming that Russia is freer than the West.  Freedom is the problem, because many Russians don’t behave the way I think they should, nor do they take as strong of an interest in Russia as I do.  I’m allowed to be a black sheep in my country, but you are not allowed to do the same in yours.

 

4. The ideology must be totally neurotic and focus on petty aspects of life rather than systemic problems or injustices. That’s the beauty of ideology- if someone tells you what to believe you can obey and just pretend those bad things don’t exist.  Neither I, nor my Russian fascist buddies have any real analysis or solutions to Russia’s problems other than to demand that people conform to our cooked-up ideology so that we can feel special.  Or in other words, we need to spend a lot of time thinking about and agonizing over homosexuality and masculinity.

 

5.  Although I hate American exceptionalism and those who tried to ram it down my throat in my native country, I think it would be great if a new elite in Russia did exactly that to you people. Did I mention I love Russia?  If it sounds like I see you as a herd of stupid cattle, you’re merely being shocked and confused by the fire hose stream of Russia love I’m dousing you with.

6. I’m not really religious myself, but you should be. One reason is that religion and national identity were closely linked in Eastern Europe, though my actual knowledge of history is quite pathetic for someone so obsessed with Russia.  Religion is also useful because it is the antithesis of critical thinking, a skill which leads to nothing but problems.  Ideology solves those sticky problems.

 

I realize that some Russian readers may be too stupid to understand why they should adopt a national ideology without question under pain of being excluded from their national community, but please try to keep up.  I’m only doing this because I love Russia. I love it so much that I purposely downplay, ignore, or even flat out deny serious ongoing social and economic problems which severely impact the lives of millions of Russian citizens, thus helping to suppress discussion about them so that there is no hope of solving them.  I’m very sorry but I’m rooting for my team, and my fascist friends taught me that admitting anything wrong with your country, even for the sake of suffering people, is treason.  Of course it’s perfectly fine for me to criticize my native country, the United States.  It may sound a bit hypocritical, but don’t be fooled, I don’t really care about poor people in the US either. I’m just using them as a prop to score points with my new masters.

 

So remember to be good Russians and do what I and the various obscure Russian intellectuals I admire say, otherwise you’re a self-hating liberal wannabe Westerner. I decide what Russian is, not you.  You’re too stupid to think for yourselves, much less go out into the world and see how other countries work, taking those things which could be beneficial to your own nation. Trust me, I REALLY love Russia!

 

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Sorry but the Cold War is Over

 

Ever since Putin took the reins of power in Russia the idea of a “new Cold War” has been the go-to metaphor for lazy journalists. As is typically the case, all events in Russia and Russian history must be reduced to one guy, and that guy can only be compared to someone else in Russian history, such as a Tsar or Stalin.  Therefore when hostile rhetoric flies between Russian and Western leaders it must mean that the Cold War is back, because this is the only way they can imagine to comprehend this conflict.

 

Hmm... How can I characterize this recent unpleasant verbal exchange between Russian and American officials? I'VE GOT IT! "A new Cold War is brewing after..."

Hmm… How can I characterize this recent unpleasant verbal exchange between Russian and American officials? I’VE GOT IT! “A new Cold War is brewing after…”

 

Let us first consider the definition of the Cold War.  It was typically defined as the struggle between the two superpowers and their allies, specifically the United States and the USSR.  What good is this in proving that the Cold War is over?  First, there is no USSR and no Warsaw Pact; this should be enough for most people to understand.  But even if you’re one of those poor, confused souls who thinks that Russia is the continuation of the Soviet Union, you’re still wrong. Russia is not a superpower.  I’ll repeat that. Russia is not a superpower.  Yes it has nuclear weapons, but it’s pretty obvious that no sane government is going to use those in a first-strike role.  Therefore it’s going to come down to conventional military power.  NATO has 28 member countries, one of which is indisputably the most powerful military on the planet, plus 22 countries in its “Partnership for Peace”, one of those being Russia.  It is unlikely that Russia will be able to call upon any allies, and if China gets involved it will probably want something in return for coming to Russia’s aid.  No doubt such a move would lead to Russia playing a subordinate role to China, a nation which in modern times deserves the status of superpower far more than Russia.  So what is Russia’s military power if it cannot use its nuclear weapons and it has no true allies to support it?  Well according to the Ministry of Defense, among the new reforms slated for 2014 is that conscripts will now have socks instead of foot-wraps, and they will be able to shower every day instead of a couple times a week.

 

Now at this point the Team Russia fanatic is gritting his teeth and his face is redder than the Soviet flag.  He silently screams, “But what about the T90/Sunburn anti-ship missile/S300 SAM system/etc.”   Couple things to say to that. First of all I hate to play these stupid pen-and-paper war games but military weapons are rarely better than the men who wield them.   Russian conscripts now serve for one year, and this time obviously includes basic training. Training and field exercises (among many other conditions) determine how fast that SAM battery is operational or whether a high end main battle tank ends up rolling into a ditch due to an inexperienced driver. Furthermore, many of Russia’s latest weapons are largely for export.  Russian aviation has produced some amazing planes and helicopters but that doesn’t mean it is deploying squadrons exclusively made up of these aircraft.  Lastly, there is this tendency, even for people with military experience, to assume that the problems one encounters with high-tech Western equipment don’t occur with Russian or Chinese counterparts.  Anyone who has served in the US military knows that those high tech weapons and systems don’t always work the way they do in Tom Clancy novels, yet for some reason we assume that these kinds of Murphy’s Law defects are totally absent from Russian weapons.  So much for Russian wunderwaffen.

 

The whole point of that war nerd exercise is to show that Russia is not a military superpower, and more importantly it lacks the ability to project military power around the world.  As for economic power, we see that it only has the ability to lean on former Soviet republics.  Therefore it is not a superpower, nuclear weapons notwithstanding.  You cannot have a Cold War without more than one superpower.

 

Now if the reader still objects, citing the Syrian conflict as an example of Russia projecting its power in the world, just keep in mind that another country is doing far more to fight for Assad than Russia has. This is Iran, a regional power which strikes fear into the heart of both Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iran of course has been engaging in a war of rhetoric against “the Great Satan” since 1979. Unlike Russia, Iran is neither a member of US CENTCOM nor NATO’s Partnership for Peace. Do you see any journalists talking about a Cold War between Iran and the US? Nope.  Can it really be solely due to Iran’s lack of nuclear weapons that it is unable to be called a superpower, and thus unable to be in a Cold War?  I would say no, because Pakistan, India, and Israel all have nuclear weapons and aren’t typically referred to as superpowers.  If there is anything resembling a struggle between superpowers in the world today, it is happening in the Pacific and the “winning side” so far is China.

 

I write this because in Russia there is a certain community of nationalistic-minded people who obsess over this idea. More importantly because there is also a community of Western hucksters who are more than happy to feed them with tales of an “information war” between the United States and Russia.  If you’re a Westerner with an identity crisis that only a distorted, romantic version of Russia can assuage, by all means take up this career. It obviously worked well for Tim Kirby.  Or you can work for the “other” side and warn your countrymen of the “rising” Russian bear that is restarting the Cold War.  If you’re allowed to use pen-names and aliases perhaps you can work for both sides.

 

As for my position on the question?  The Cold War has ended, at least between the USA and Soviet Union, and there is not and has never been a Cold War between Russia and the United States.  If there is a true Cold War at present or if there shall be one in the future it will most likely be between the USA and China, with Russia possibly siding with the USA since that country cannot possibly outright annex any territory as China could theoretically do.  The truth is that despite the sensationalist press, most Americans do not care about Russia or Putin, and among those who do there is probably a significant number of those who look favorably on Russia.  In fact the more America’s mainstream media outlets and politicians attack Russia, the more favorable many dissatisfied Americans look upon her.  At the same time, Western media attacks on Russia often unite Russians behind the government, including many who are at other times fervently opposed to the regime.  If America toned down its rhetoric against Putin, it would no doubt lower the opinion of that country among those Americans who have taken up its banner.  If Russia toned down its rhetoric, more Russians would realize that they are living under a puppet regime which has merely cut a few of its strings.

 

A marionette with some freedom of movement is the best term to describe Russia in a geopolitical sense. It’s certainly a regional power but not a superpower, unable to project military force globally and incapable of waging even proper proxy wars.  Most likely both the European Union and United States dream of collaring that puppet to work exclusively for them, but since Putin cannot be unaware of this it affords him some freedom to play both sides against each other and wrangle for better deals, much like the way Mobutu Sese Seku of Zaire manipulated the Belgians, French, and Americans.  Russia can also serve as a source of fresh manpower in various global hotspots, and it would certainly excel in its 19th century role as the Gendarme of Europe if workers in Eastern Europe or Central Asia become unruly(as they did in Kazakhstan in 2011).  Perhaps if we expanded our analysis of Russian politics and leaders beyond the narrow confines of a simplistic, Western Cold War narrative of the second half of the 20th century, we could fully analyze what’s going on with Russia and paint a more accurate picture for people who are unfamiliar with the topic.  I don’t see that happening any time soon, however.  It’s simply too easy to pigeonhole everything as a “new Cold War” and compare Putin to Stalin or Ivan the Terrible.