Saturday, September 5, 2009

Russian Authoritarianism and the threat of war

The above article, written by Paul Goble is entitled “Nature of Russian Opposition Defines and is Defined by Nature of Russian State, Moscow Media Analyst Suggests.” After quoting from the article, I’ll comment below:

“. . . Pokhmelkin, who writes frequently on media issues for the portal says “In the 1990s, . . . Russia was developing ‘some of the prerequisites for the creation of a competitive political system.’ Power was divided, and an important opposition party – the KPRF – existed. But it lacked ‘the first condition’ for a real opposition – agreement on the part of all players on the constitutional rules of the game.

“As a result, the government moved toward authoritarianism, while the KPRF moved in the direction of unrestrained radicalism at some points and cooperation with the powers that be at other times. The same thing happened . . . with parties based in the regions, something the Moscow government did not view as having accepted the same rules of the game.

“And the marginalization of these groups was “the inevitable consequence of the monopoly bureaucratic administration established in [Russia] . . . the authoritarianism of those in power . . . led to the further radicalization of these groups . . . .”

“. . . Pokhmelkin insists that he is not interested in denigrating any individual ‘personally,’ because ‘if one wants to change the face of the opposition,’ then it will necessary ‘to change the political system.’ . . . no easy matter . . . when a country like Russia has a government like the one that it does and the opposition that such a government gives birth to. . . .”


Just recently, Michael Kuznetsov agreed with Muhamar Qhadafi who argued that the US and NATO were aggressive threats to Russia. I tried to create some scenarios in my mind where that was possible and couldn’t manage it. Unlike Russia the US does not have an authoritarian government. We do have formidable “opposition parties.” We also have checks and balances. A military action initiated by the US couldn’t go on very long without the approval of congress and everyone, from congressmen to president has to be concerned about his constituency; which means that in the long run, the American people must approve as well.

We in the US have the very opposite of an authoritarian government. We make decisions by committee. We normally get “input” on any prospective military action from a wide variety of sources. “Think Tanks” are consulted. Various military experts are consulted, and none of this is done in secret. Oh the details might be kept secret, for awhile, but huge numbers of people will know that something is going on. “Leaks” to the media will occur constantly.

So it would be impossible for a president to actually invade Russia on a whim. Such an desire on the part of a president would probably indicate clinical psychosis. Such a president would only escape impeachment if he were sent off to a mental institution. Also, even if such a mad president made such a decision, the preparations would not get very far before a halt was called.

On the other hand, Russia does not have these checks and balances. Opposition, according to Pokhmelkin is a joke. Perhaps Putin and Medvedev have a group like the former Politburo who can offer suggestions, but the Russian government does not have the sort of checks and balances we have in the US – or that exist in Britain and the EU.

So if the Russians want to worry about someone starting a war, I suggest that they worry most about their own government. It would be very difficult and time consuming for the US or the EU to start a war. And there would be plenty of warning. Look at how we went about warring with Iraq in the second half of the Gulf War. We debated it in the press, in congress, in the UN, in history books. There was time for authors to write whole books before the war ever got started. The books were published and I read two of them before a shot was ever fired. There was no “Hidden Hand” at work. Everything was very visible, very methodical and very slow. We do not see anything of that sort going on today.

I dismiss the attempts to relate the Utopian ideals of the EU with “naked aggression.” The EU thinks it has something wonderful, a virtual paradise in the making, and it sees other nations wanting to join. Why wouldn’t they, the EU asks itself? We are wonderful. We are making an earthly paradise. Na├»ve, yes. Impractical, I’m quite sure, but “naked aggression”???? Pshaw!

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