March 24, 2012
Vladimir Putin and the Future of Russian Anti-AmericanismBy Georgy Gounev
The first logical question involving Russian anti-Americanism is: What were the origins and dynamics of the phenomenon? Secondly: What is its role in the politics of President Putin? And last, but not least, what are the nature and the magnitude of the real danger Russia is facing? The appearance of post-Soviet Russian anti-Americanism has been determined to a large degree by the events that took place during the early nineties of the last century.
The spread of large scale negativity towards the United States was closely related to the events marking the presidency of Boris Yeltsyn. On the one hand it was he who was pleading for the establishment of an American-Russian strategic alliance. On the other hand however, Yeltsyn was responsible for the disastrous privatization of the state owned sector of the Russian economy.
It turned out to be an act that was quick in dividing the Russian society into a small group of superrich oligarchs and an impoverished majority that had been left with no hope at all. It was this majority that developed a powerful anti-American attitude.
The appearance of a popular variety of anti-Americanism is all the more regrettable in light of a comparison with the situation existing during the Soviet period. It was a public secret that during the totalitarian times the USA commanded a lot of respect among the Russian people, regardless, or maybe because of the ubiquitous, stupid and annoying anti-American propaganda.
In the beginning of his long rule Mr. Putin turned out to be the leader that Russia badly needed at that time. During his first presidential mandate the Russian leader prevented a trend making possible an additional break up of Russia. He was also successful in reversing the advanced destruction of the social fabric of the Russian society. A new middle-class as well made its emergence from beneath the rubble of Mr. Yeltsyn's presidency.
As far as the attitude of Vladimir Putin with regard to the United States was concerned, there was no indication that the new leader had been seriously affected by the anti-American hysteria around him.
On September 11, 2001, for instance, Mr. Putin was the first foreign statesman who called President Bush in order to express his condolences. He rendered as well valuable assistance that contributed substantially to the American military victory over the Taliban during the first phase of the Afghan war in the fall of 2001.
Later however the opposing politics of Washington and Moscow on almost every issue created the conviction of Mr. Putin that the United States is not only the main enemy, but also the permanent enemy of Russia.
This attitude brought about a strategy that could be described as an attempt of Russian diplomacy to create a global anti-American coalition. It was designed to include every country which viewed the United States as an aggressive and threatening superpower.
The Cold War period was followed by the emergence of many new players in possession of enough strength and self-esteem in order to be so scared of the United States that they would rush to find a shelter under Mr. Putin's wing.
Another idea of the Russian president was his orientation toward somewhat strange symmetric moves considered by him as an adequate response to the American challenges. For instance, the visit of the Soviet Navy ships to Venezuela as a response to the calling of American Navy ships to Georgian ports. Or the Russian support of the separatist entities created on the territory of Georgia as a reaction to the American politics with regard to Kosovo.
Father Jacob Krotov, who is one of the original political and religious thinkers of contemporary Russia, compared this approach to a strategy applied by a not very bright chess player who repeats the moves of his rival.
As a matter of fact, what will determine the success or the failure of the foreign policy of Vladimir Putin during his third presidential term will be his ability to realize the main threat Russia is facing. Let's make one point abundantly clear: Totalitarian Islam is no less dangerous to the future of Russia than Nazism was in the past.
The fact that out of political correctness both Presidents Putin and Obama are turning a blind eye to this danger won't eliminate it. Just the other way around - it is growing by leaps and bounds, and it will continue to grow!
The undeniable truth is that the predominant majorities of Muslims everywhere are composed of people who don't have anything to do with any form of terrorism. At the same time however the scores of ignorant, fanatical, and arrogant graduates of the Wahhabist religious schools, by the use of threats, violence and propaganda, have assumed the right to speak on behalf of all Muslims.
It is tragic that those so-called schools are supported by the river of American petrodollars flowing under the form of Saudi financial support into the coffers of the Wahhabist foundations.
The same demographic factor that is about to change the balance between the numbers of Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, is at work in Russia as well. Swollen by the migration of large numbers of Muslims from Central Asia, Moscow already has become the largest Muslim city in Europe.
The national interests of the United States and Russia are already linked together regardless of the fact who realizes it and who doesn't. The growing legal and illegal migration of the residents of Central Asia toward the main cities of European Russia inevitably will include jihadists who will not be interested in either the job market, or in the rich cultural life of the former and the present capital cities of Russia.
By the way, not many people realize the fact that the armed forces of the United States and Russia are already fighting the same enemy. The Russian military and police detachments in Caucasus are fighting the Jihadists who are trying to create a Caucasian Emirate. In 2011 the losses of those detachments almost rivaled the number of the American casualties in Afghanistan.
In short, Russia does not have anything to lose and everything to gain if Mr. Putin finally realizes who the real enemy of his country is and who could be the most powerful potential ally in the growing and expanding conflict. The most important question is: How long will the fog of the anti-Americanism obscure the outlines of the real and imminent danger threatening Russia?
Georgy Gounev teaches modern history at two Southern California colleges. He is the author of the books "Fighting Evil with the Help of Satan" and "The Dark Side of the Crescent Moon." Both books are available through Amazon.
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