"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
- Sun Tzu
Russians observers often see their political glass half-empty. Recent arguments on the pages of the Moscow Times about NATO membership provide an example. First there was Michael Bohm (19 November), recidivist Times editor, trotting out all the old Cold War stereotypes about Russia and Russians. Bohm doesn't think Russia could ever be included in the NATO club. Then comes Alex Kramarenko, of the Russian Foreign Ministry, on 9 December, refuting Bohm's analysis. Unfortunately, both Bohm and Kramarenko emphasize differences, not similarities. If we highlight what Russians and Americans have in common, then Russian NATO membership seems to be a match made in heaven.
First, there are things like money and energy. Russia has both. The EU is going broke. The Kremlin could be thought of as a rich uncle once removed, a kind of orthodox Santa Claus. The Russian economic model may be predicated on natural resources and larceny, but whatever the Russians are doing seems to be keeping Europe warm and working better than communitarianism. Indeed, if Angela Merkel stops writing checks, Western Europe may fold like a cheap tent. And Americans may not see black ink until sometime after they win a World Cup. NATO should welcome Russia because all clubs should have at least one member solvent enough to pay for the electric bill and the adult beverages.
Almost any Russian oligarch is a walking, talking stimulus package. Never mind arguing about the morality of their winning ways; there's no argument about oligarch or emerging market spending habits. The Russian rich spend like sailors on shore leave -- sports teams, big cars, big dachas, big condos, big watches, and big boats. And unlike their Arab counterparts, Russian energy plutocrats do not invest in anti-democratic, anti-capitalist, or misogynistic jihads.
Speaking of women, the Russian variety should be welcomed visa- and duty-free to the EU and the Americas. Ballerinas and leggy tennis players are, indeed, the two Russian exports best calculated to change attitudes in the West. Most female athletes in Europe and America look like East German weightlifters or Madeline Albright. Russian girls, on the other hand, have changed the viewing habits of millions worldwide. No woman since Anna Karenina has done more for the Russian brand than the two Marias: Kirilenko and Sharapova.
Before Glasnost and Perestroika, no one watched women's sports. The Russian beauty infusion has changed all that in the West. Not only have they raised eye candy standards, but Russian tennis moans and grunts have convinced many gals that international sports might be as much fun as sex.
Money and the ladies aside, there are prudent strategic reasons for merging the military capabilities of East and West, especially those of America and Russia. These two have pretty much cornered the megaton market anyway. Why not create a near-nuclear monopoly by bringing Moscow into the NATO camp? The French, ever given to hyperbole, call their atomic capability the "force de frappe," making these things read like breakfast choices. Imagine what a Russian/American merger might be called. For renegades and miscreants like the Persians and North Koreans, surely such a combine would be known as a smoked "s--t sandwich." Formidable!
But the best reasons for giving Russia a NATO membership are cultural. Europe has been drifting left, while Russia has tacked to the right. For many Europeans, all things American are seen as cultural imperialism. Unfortunately, as Margaret Thatcher might put it, the EU is about to run out of other people's money -- making social utopianism and European cultural pretensions more than a little tedious.
Russians, in contrast, embrace the same things that drive American entrepreneurs: women (most of us anyway), money, shopping, red meat, music, movies, art, alcohol, bacon, fighter planes, beets, lobster, fast cars, sports, bellinis, caviar, junk food, and Italian vacations. Indeed, grand ideas like capitalism and democracy (of a sort) are thriving in Russia -- in Western Europe, not so much. Russia might be the perfect foil to slip into the NATO mix, an ingredient that might stop what seems to be an inexorable slide into the delusional muck of a European commune. Americans and Russians in concert could save Europe from itself -- and Islamists.
Today, America has more in common with Russia than it does with many nations in Europe and almost all of the Muslim world. Indeed, Russia is, like America and England, a perennial jihad target. Unlike America, the Russians don't take prisoners. Surely, Moscow is a better fit than Ankara; Turkey acts more like a fox in the hen house these days.
And Yanks and Russians have more in common than Harley Davidson bikes. Beyond language, they share an affinity for kinky politicians: Khrushchev couldn't keep his shoes on any more than Putin can keep his shirt on; Bill Clinton can't keep his pants on any more than Hilary can take hers off.
And then there are guns! The two most famous guns in history originated in America and Russia: the Colt .45 and the Kalashnikov -- two great nations separated by millimeters of caliber.
Excepting language, the American cowboy and mother Russia might be a perfect match. And Brussels would be the perfect spot for a honeymoon.
The author was the last director for research and Russian studies at USAF Intelligence in Washington, D.C. He also writes at Agnotology in Journalism and G. Murphy Donovan.