Has Russia Gone Rogue?
Has Russia gone rogue?
Information revealed last week indicates that it has, and that because of the reckless weakness of Barack Obama, America now faces a neo-Soviet Russian bear primed for aggression, just as in the era of the USSR.
Last week, the spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, announced that Russia is now a vigilante nation. He stated: “And if not a single state in the world is capable of admitting the evident facts that Ukrainian authorities have been acting as criminals, Russia’s Investigative Committee will shoulder this responsibility by opening a criminal case.”
So in other words, Russia will act alone to arrest and punish leaders of foreign governments whom it declares guilty of “crimes,” no matter what the rest of the world may think about it. This from a nation that routinely demands that the U.S. bow to international organizations in places like Syria.
In the Wall Street Journal, seasoned Russia expert Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute took a crack at analyzing this new brand of neo-Soviet Russian exceptionalism. He highlighted how Putin has disturbingly offered comments tending to imply the superiority of the Russian race, comments he’s been offering the world for years now. Aron feels that Putin’s “recent rhetoric harks back to Russia's two most reactionary rulers: the 19th-century czars Nicholas I and his grandson, Alexander III.”
Russia’s profound hypocrisy in relentlessly attacking the USA for exceptionalism while embracing the notion fully itself is palpable, and its military onslaught leaves no doubt about its pretensions to its own brand of scary exceptionalism. And Russia is getting away with it because of Obama’s even scarier brand of craven weakness.
Since Obama came to power, Russian military spending has more than doubled, while U.S. spending as a share of GDP has plummeted by one fifth. The result was that in 2013, Russia passed the U.S. in military outlays as a share of national income, investing nearly as much in weaponry and troops as Germany and Britain combined.
Immediately after seminal event occurred, an emboldened Russia launched a bloodthirsty war of aggression against Ukraine, which borders many NATO members, whom the U.S. is bound to defend as it would itself. At the same time, Russian exceptionalism, buoyed by stark racism, burst forth upon the world.
While Russia’s total financial outlay is still well less than a quarter of U.S. spending, that disparity is deceptive, because many Russian costs, especially manpower, are far lower in a country that thinks nothing of paying workers slave wages and providing them with substandard medical care.
And Russia has a second major advantage over America, which the world saw clearly displayed as Russian tanks rolled into Georgia in 2008 and into Ukraine this year: Russia has a ruthless, almost feral willingness to use military force, regardless of risk, where one sees only hesitation from the likes of Obama.
It is that hesitation, combined with Russia’s relentless spending, that accounts for Putin’s reckless imperialist aggression.
Obama justified his massive cuts in military spending by claiming that Russia was a different country now, no longer an foe of freedom and democracy, and therefore should not be thought of as an American enemy. He embarked upon a bold “reset” policy designed to prove this to the world.
He failed miserably. The net result of the Obama “reset” was that the leading Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny, was silenced with criminal charges, the internet came under siege, and Russian tanks rolled into Crimea, annexing it from Ukraine just as Hitler annexed the Sudetenland.
Now, Obama is exhorting the world to join him in imposing sweeping economic sanctions on Putin in response to the Ukraine incursion. But Obama is not providing significant economic support to Ukraine, much less military support, even though the U.S. pledged to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity against Russian aggression in the Budapest Accord in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal. And Obama has not issued a single word of mea culpa apologizing for his ghastly “reset” mistake.
You may ask how Putin can think his countrymen will let him get away with spending roughly as much on war as Germany and Britain combined. You’ll surely ask if you know that those two countries have a combined GDP three times larger than Russia’s, meaning the burden of Russian spending is three times tougher for the already impoverished Russian population to bear.
Putin achieves popular compliance the same way the USSR always used to: with repression. When he recently announced that the Kremlin would need to recapitalize Russia’s major banks in order to stave off their collapse, a revelation that would produce calls for the head of any other head of state, Russians didn’t even blink. Russia is mired in recession and increasingly isolated in the international community, yet Putin wields the same 80%+ approval rates in polls that the Politburo used to brag about.
That’s because, as in Soviet times, most Russians simply don’t know what is going on around them, and those who do find themselves under arrest when they say anything about it.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Putin’s pattern of aggression and confrontation is that, as with Hitler, his actions are laden with heavy doses of extreme racism. He has repeatedly made public comments openly proclaiming Russian genetic superiority, and he clearly believes that Russians have some type of global manifest destiny to bring their racial purity to bear in cleansing the world.
In Soviet times, this type of racism didn’t characterize state policy, because the USSR was much more racially diverse, and the KGB never had the kind of sway then that it does now. As the price of oil rises, it’s possible to coherently argue that in some ways, at least, the Putin regime is worse than its Soviet predecessor.
Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.