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View Diary: So. What to do with Russia? (271 comments)

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  •  I disagree... (6+ / 0-)

       It is not always about expansion of borders. That is an American concept. For centuries Russia has wanted to maintain a border from Europe and China. Even though Russia has adopted many western ideas and corruptions over the last 30 years, their desire/need to look at the border around them to provide security is paramount. Look at the actions of the US after 1990. We have squeezed their border, dangling military training, money, NATO, and the EU. America is seen as a cunning monster just as deadly as Hitler. We often refer to our history of WWII and how it has effected our visions of the world. Look at it through the eyes of the Russians and read about the damage to their pyshe from Hitler. Now multiply this by 10 because they have had over the centuries that much damage to their nation.

    Eisenhower- "We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage."

    by NC Dem on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:59:33 PM PDT

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    •  For most of the 19th Century Russia was an (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jerome a Paris, soonergrunt

      Imperial power that extended its western borders from the Caucasus to China. It absorbed the Khanates of Central Asia, established control of the Caspian Sea and encroached into what today is western China. As with all empire, disaster struck at the turn of the Century, losing a war with Japan and the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, even so, much of empire remained and was taken up as a continued expansion under the banner of Marxism.

      The internal purges during the 30's were as much responsible for the psyche damage rather than the invasion of World War II (Napolean got farther), including the establishment of the Gulag Archipelago, where the twenty million lost during WWII pales in significance. As with all land invansions, with perhaps the exception of Ghengis Khan, Russians have proved invincible as much a fact of geography as a tribute to the people.

      Fact is they have sufferred aggregiously at the hands of their own in comparison to anything done by any other power, again excepting the Mongols, who they eventually pacified. And remain a stoic folk with a strong sense of nationalism.

      The current affair has little to do with any percieved threat by the Russian people to an encirclement. It's more a continuation of the Imperial game played out again in the 21st century, where economic factors have always been the casus belli.

      In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted. Bertrand Russell

      by cmorrison on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:32:07 PM PDT

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      •  Respectfully disagree (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jerome a Paris, corvo

        I won't dispute your contention that the Russian people can be persuaded to support plain old imperialism under the guise of self-defense, but I think you overstate your case by suggesting that fear of foreign invasion is just a red herring.  I must strongly disagree.  The folk memories and official mythology of what they call the Great Patriotic War frankly dwarf even our own mania regarding the Greatest Generation.  Think how we continue to dwell on the catastrophe of Pearl Harbor where we lost a few thousand military personnel and some great ships of dubious military value and how that continues to nourish the agenda of military preparedness, early intervention in far flung places and world policing.  Now compare that to losing 20 MILLIONS, most of the arable farmland, most of the cities; compare it to racially exterminationist policies applied to civilians, to war deaths that touched literally every family in the entire nation, to a large percentage of the remaining population living in caves and bunkers, starving, amidst the rubble for years on end.  And this in still living memory.  I think you are just wrong to suggest that this didn't leave a few marks on the Russian view of the world.    

        No one likes armed missionaries. -- Robespierre.

        by Gator Keyfitz on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:56:42 PM PDT

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        •  The Russians are no doubt a fascinating study (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jerome a Paris

          that provokes divergent opinion on whatever the current national malaise might be. Stalin remains a popular mythological figure to date, which seems inexplicable considering the internal terrorism that racked the country under his era. Your comparison of the two national paranoias is apt enough, but I personally do not think the Russian volk consider the events in Georgia a threat to the motherland.

          The borders were delineated in the 1991 dissolution. As someone pointed out these are the same people who embraced glasnost and some of Western culture for over a decade. There is a large immigration density to the West.

          The ideological axe of the cold war is buried, the wall has come down, the curtain ripped from the mooring. What remains is  global markets and their unrecogniable serpentine connections, in my humble view. And this to me is the lesson of history, because on a lesser scale, the economics of the Caucasus have been struggled over before.

          And on a grand scale, I do not see the Russian people's paranoia over the ghosts of Mongol horseman, Napolean or the tanks of Guderian.

          In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted. Bertrand Russell

          by cmorrison on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 04:45:30 PM PDT

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          •  No, I agree that it would be simplistic (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jerome a Paris, pacplate

            to anthropomorphize Russia and say Russia is scared of attack from the West and that explains everything.  But in terms of creating consent for Putinism, for lack of a better term, that history (by conflating Mongols and Nazis you make both seem ancient, but that's misleading, IMO), is extremely relevant.  The idea that Russians are paranoid is so common as to be banal, but banal doesn't mean wrong.    

            You're right, the Russians are not afraid of Georgia per se, but they are afraid of being attacked by bigger powers like the US or China or a mutated German-led Europe via client states on their doorstep.  They don't see Georgia as Nazi Germany, they see Georgia as 1940's-era Romania, a vassal state of Nazi Germany.  Whether any of this is likely or realistic isn't the point, but then why are we acting as if that is what we mean to do?  And that gives Putin greater leeway to suppress domestic critics in the name of security.    

            Maybe an example of something I experienced might help you see why I am arguing this.  When I was a teenager, I often spoke with my grandmother about her life.  She was a great person, open to discussion, even disagreement.  It helped make me who I am today.  She spent WWII working in a munitions factory when she was about my age then.  Coworkers died in accidents.  Her High School Class President died in the first months of the war, as did many other people she personally knew.  My grandfather was a marine in the Pacific, invalided back to hospital in the States where he met my grandmother.  Despite being unwell, he was reassigned to a combat unit for the expected assault on Japan proper.  Imagine her anxiety as a young woman, making bombs six days a week and unsure if she'd ever see her husband again.  I'm not even dwelling on the rationing, the material privation, etc.  You would never convince her that the A bomb attack was unjustified.  

            She was a lifelong right-wing Republican who believed strenuously in a strong national defense and the communist menace.  Her experiences undoubtedly shaped her views, and though I went a different direction politically, I continue to respect her memory.  Through a million conversations and as many unspoken assumptions the experiences of that generation became accepted wisdom for the US.  Who would have thought the television drugged Americans of the '90's obsessing over Brittany's navel or OJ would have suddenly rediscoverd a cult of WWII in the wake of 9/11?  It was in our DNA to some extent, I would argue.    

            It is no different for the Russians except that their experiences at the time were a thousand times worse.  They almost universally saw dead bodies in the street, ate unwholesome food if that, dodged bombs, mourned family members, worked inhuman hours to support the war effort on pain of death.  These experiences were real and recent.  How can you so blithely dismiss all this as somehow quaint or irrelevant or just a cyncial cover for depredation?  This is their received wisdom.  And, to answer your question, that is why Stalin is still "celebrated" among elderly Russians: he was the Terrible Czar who did what was needed to be done to drive the Germans out.

            No one likes armed missionaries. -- Robespierre.

            by Gator Keyfitz on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 05:42:44 PM PDT

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