Friday, September 4, 2009

RE: Is Russia going to be numbered with Hugo Chavez?.

Michael Kuznetsov left the following comment in response to "Is Russia going to be numbered with Hugo Chavez?":


There is no such notion as "modern day" Russian. The Russians are all the same Russians always.
In fact, one may be either a Russian, or a non-Russian, or an un-Russian.
Quartum non datur.

As to the Leader Muammar Al Gathafi, he proved to be a brilliant politician who understands Russia much better than many of his Western counterparts.
See his article Provoking Russia




By "Modern-Day Russian" I just meant a Russian living in these modern times. I wasn't intending any ontological implications, although what you suggest, that the Russian is the same yesterday, today and forever, sounds a bit blasphemous. Surely we all change. Surely we as individuals and as nations learn from our mistakes.

You provide Gathavi's article seemingly with approval, that is, as embodying arguments you agree with. Let us look at it. It is a fascinating bit of analysis; so I've quoted the entire thing:

"Every European Eastward expansionist move had Russia as its target. All Western powers moved their armies in Russia's direction.

"At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon invaded many European countries in his quest to reach Russia's rich resources of coal, iron ore, oil, gas and gold. In World War II, Hitler followed suit, directing his vast armies towards Russia.

"Nowadays, NATO is following in the footsteps of Napoleon and Hitler to reach Russia. NATO wishes to exploit the vacuum that resulted from the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The West declared victory in the Cold War against the Eastern Bloc under the leadership of the USSR. It considered the Soviet defeat and disintegration an historic achievement. After bringing most of the ex-Socialist countries, adjacent to Russia, into its membership, it has been striving to include the ex-Soviet republics from Central Asia to the Black Sea and the Baltic in order to fully surround Russia. Russia saw this move as an act of dangerous provocation as it aimed to encircle it from all directions. This is indeed the case. The implosion and disintegration of Yugoslavia provided the missing link in NATO's chain surrounding Russia. However history, both distant and recent, abounds with proof that Russia is not a power that can easily be besieged, broken, or defeated.

"Russia possesses the largest nuclear stockpile in the world numbering around 16,000 warheads. Those can be launched from land silos, submarines and strategic bombers that Russia alone possesses. The nuclear trio of ICBMs, strategic bombers and nuclear submarines makes up for any deficit in Russia's military capability in terms of training, mobilization or logistics.

"Proceeding from the keen interest we take in world peace, we call for the avoidance of any new adventures that, unlike the case with the two World Wars, might cause the destruction or even the annihilation of humanity. The provocation of Russia and attempts to encircle it threaten with a new and unnecessary all-out nuclear conflagration. The threat is all the more real in view of the fact that America has based its positions in many cases on fabricated information, naïve analyses and shortsighted and self-serving opinions. When the West enthusiastically supported the independence of Kosovo, did it expect ripple effects to reach Abkhazia and South Ossetia leading them to call for independence? Was it aware that the analyses that led to America's dilemma in Iraq were based on fabricated and unconfirmed intelligence provided, in the hope of gaining favor with the CIA, by agents who fled their country?

"The continued existence and expansion of NATO, after the disintegration of the USSR and the end of the Cold War, can have only one motive; occupying Russia then the rest of the world.

"Like all countries in the world, America has the right to defend itself. Its distant geographic location between the Atlantic Ocean in the East, the Pacific in the West, the Arctic Ocean in the North and its weak neighbors to the south who cannot pose any threat to its security, all enable it to be a safe haven for immigrants and refugees away from the conflicts and ambitions of the continents of the Old World. It is a universal power. All peoples of the world have contributed to its formation and prosperity. With a return to this tradition, it will be worthy of hosting the UN and its Security Council. However, it is a major threat for world peace, security and stability for America to continue to be, as it is today, a party to every act of aggression that takes place in the world.

"America must return to the Monroe Doctrine, advocated by President James Monroe in 1823, which states that 'The United States would not interfere with problems in Europe, and that European powers were no longer to or interfere with the affairs of the newly independent states of the Americas'. It must enlarge the Doctrine to encompass non-interference in the affairs of the whole world.

"Europe is entitled to become an independent and unified political economic and military entity. It is entitled to become a new pole in international politics.

"Russia, as both a historical and emerging power, must be left free to develop its political, economic and military strength for the purposes of self-defense.

"United Europe, if it is not linked to distant America, can act as a strategic buffer between Russia and America. The Atlantic Ocean could also act as a buffer between Europe and America. Europe should continue to benefit from Russia's abundant oil and gas supplies. Russia, rather than the American continent, is the natural demographic partner of Europe. If Europe were to be guided by a logical assessment of its own interests, rather than by racial motives or by a continuation of the fait accompli that resulted from the American occupation of Europe after World War II, it would establish friendly ties with Russia.

"Stupidity and greed are going to drag humanity into a new catastrophe. There will be no one left to reap the profits of that war which is going to be a war among parties that possess lethal and destructive nuclear weapons.

"The world would be well advised to heed my warning that Russia is not the USSR. The USSR was a vast, multi-national empire. It imposed itself upon many ancient nations. It was based on an ideological doctrine that the peoples of the USSR did not believe in. Actually, the leaders of the Kremlin themselves did not believe in that ideology.

"By contrast, Russia now is not defending a philosophical belief or a political and economic ideology. It is defending the Russian nation itself. When the Marxist ideology of the USSR met its end, the Soviet peoples did not die with it. They continued to exist. They even celebrated the fall of the USSR and its ideology. What is at stake now is the very existence of the Russian nation. It cannot be allowed to fall for that would mean the demise of the life, freedom and existence of the nation. Death would be preferable to such an eventuality.

"The situation must not be misjudged. The lessons learnt from the confrontation with the USSR must be taken fully into account. Failure to do so is tantamount to suicide. It would be destructive for certain powers to repeat the maneuvers of the past against Russia today. The imperialist policies followed in years past against the USSR would be devastating if used against today's Russia."


Perhaps Qhadafi understands Russia as you say, but that doesn't mean that his assessment of NATO or the US is correct. Aside from his comment about the CIA too readily accepting faulty intelligence inputs, he is wrong about the motives of the US and NATO. He is probably right about Russia's fear of attack by NATO, a fear plausible only if one imagines some "secret design" by a group of non-visible conspirators.

Sometime ago you expressed a distaste for the term "paranoia," but this is a valid psychological term. Here is the Wikipedia definition: "Paranoia is a thought process characterized by excessive anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs concerning a perceived threat towards oneself."

That Qhadafi is paranoid in this sense is not surprising. Daniel Pipes in his The Hidden Hand, Middle East Fears of Conspiracy, describes how Britain, Germany and France were especially prone to the acceptance of Conspiracy theories, i.e., that there was a "hidden hand" behind the scenes working at their destruction. There was a common belief, for example, that Lenin was sent by the Germans to Russia to take Russia out of the war. Most British politicians at first refused to take the Russian revolution for anything more than a German trick.

Subsequent history, however, disproves one "hidden hand" after the other. There are some secrets, as for example the "Secret Protocol" to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, but such a secret doesn't remain so for long. And note that this pact wasn't inconsistent with the policies of the USSR and Germany at the time.

On the other hand, what Qhadafi suggests is inconsistent with the policies of the US and the EU. The EU is very nearly pacifistic in its foreign policy. It would be better to define NATO as a policing activity than a serious military force. So you would have to propose a Daniel-Pipes-type "Hidden Hand" in this case. You would have to say, "Sure, on the outside for public consumption, the EU is peaceful and unwarlike, but behind the scenes there is a Hidden Hand that intends to invade Russia."

You would also have to propose something like that for the US as well. On the surface and for public consumption, the US fights only wars that are threats to itself or its allies, but you would have to argue that "behind the scenes there is a Hidden Hand that intends to invade and conquer Russia."

But such "Hidden Hands" cannot be supported by (1) evidence or (2) argument. Sure you could point to the EU's opening of its arms to former Soviet-controlled states, but that is hardly an invasion of Russia. The EU fancies itself the most enlightened form of government and society. It ignores the US military presence that made it possible and believes it is the modern paradigm for peace in the coming century. Evidence of the acceptance of the Czech Republic into the EU is not evidence that the EU intends to invade Russia. Even if Ukraine decided to join the EU that would not be evidence of a desire to invade Russia. The EU is a viewed by its members as devoted to peace not war. There is no evidence that what it is doing in the way of inviting new members is warlike.

As to an argument, I don't believe you can build from the peaceful assumptions of the EU to the aggressive conclusions that Qhadafi's "argument" suggests. In other words, Quadafi has not advanced a valid argument.

You would be on sounder ground if you suggested that the US has warlike intentions in regard to Russia. I'm sure the US has war-gamed the idea of coming to the assistance of Georgia should Russia invade them again. Whether they would actually come to the aid of Georgia or some other nation formerly under Soviet control, I don't know, but it is possible. Still, coming to the aid of a nation invaded by Russia hardly comprises aggressive intentions. Surely Russia could better be termed "aggressive" in such a scenario.

Whether the Russian is the same yesterday, today and forever I don't know, but the American isn't. Trying to revert us back to the 19th century and the Monroe Doctrine may sound like a good idea to Qhadafi and Russia, and there were plenty of American "Isolationists" who would have favored that approach as late as 1941, but the Second World War destroyed that sort of thinking forever. We are not the same as we were "yesterday" because "yesterday" we were isolationists and our isolationist stance almost destroyed our allies, and without doubt cost us dearly.

We have learned that "today" we must be ready to thwart aggression as soon as it becomes apparent. We tend to dislike our own intelligence organizations, as can be seen in what we are doing to the CIA today. During the Clinton administration the CIA was eviscerated; so it is hardly surprising that it fell for the faulty intelligence about Iraq that Qhadafi describes. Whether we will become smarter in this arena I don't know, but the inclination of many of us, especially in this age of nuclear, biological, and chemical weaponry, is to destroy the aggressive potential as soon as it becomes evident.

Is the US likely to feel that Russia intends some aggression against it or its allies? We have had a whole Cold War to temper our desire to use weapons of mass destruction, and while it is inconceivable that the Russia would attack a Western European nation, it is not inconceivable that Russia could attack a nation that was formerly in the Soviet bloc. That is the risk, not a Hidden Hand. I'm sure there are people in the US government trying to keep us out of commitments to nations of this sort, But when such nations ask for our support it is often hard to turn them down.

So, yes, it would solve Russia's problem if the US could revert to 18th century (Monroe Doctrine) thinking and abandon our allies and those who rely upon us. But it would also solve Russia's problems if it could resolve not to invade nations which hope for protection from the US. The US has disappointed such expectations in the past. It did so with Czechoslovakia and Hungary during the Cold War, and it did so with the Kurds and Shiites after the first Gulf War, but it doesn't always do so.

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