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Who's scared of Russia?
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-08-12 09:14:07
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While I'm writing this there are still bombs falling in Georgia and South Ossetia while there are suspicions that armies and bombs are gathering to another side of Georgia, Abkhazia and the obvious conclusion is that the big Russian bear hasn’t lost her claws. I’m not exactly going to talk about the conflict here, I have to admit that there are a lot of ‘buts’ in this story and a lot of gray areas from both sides and there are hopes, yes hopes, that this conflict will finish soon before it becomes something nobody wants or wishes.

But out of the whole thing I have to admit that there is one thing that really impressed me or better surprised me, we don’t know how to deal with Russia. And with that ‘we’ I mean all of us, I mean the states, the governments, the organizations, the media and the simple people. And on top of that, Russia was proved right to have objections about Kosovo because here we are dealing with a similar case but we are not prepared to solve it in the same way. On top of that, George W. Bush and his neo-conservatives don’t like the situation at all. The most difficult part in the whole situation also has a name involved, Vladmir Putin; the former spy, president, emperor and the presently total controller of the Russian future.

The information about Putin is totally confusing with only one thing for sure, he is popular. The majority of the Russian people just love him, the man managed to bring economy back on track somehow and brought back some of the pride Russia lost with the fall of the wall and this has nothing to do with Communism. At the same time, especially after Yeltsin, Putin was a fresh start for relations between west and Russia, he was the man who visited George W. Bush’s ranch and they were going around wearing their cowboy hats like best pals. But then never forget the US vice-president Dick Cheney and his new-cons who see Georgia as the last frontier in front the old enemy and, according to them, enemies who just changed clothes but remain dangerous for the west.

NATO last April nearly accepted Georgia as a full member and that was mainly because of the neo-cons, what really would have happened now if Georgia was a member of NATO and we must admit that it was the better informed - or better analyzing of the consequences -Europeans who kept Georgia out of the pact, if Georgia was a full member wouldn’t the rest be obliged to defend them against Russia and then what? Doesn’t that sound like a déjà vu with WWI? And does that mean that the Europeans know better the Russians as they have evolved or that they know Russians just better than the Americans?

A few months ago I wrote another article where I tried to emphasize how important pride is for the Russians, they were the other side, the fear and suddenly it became the sorrow, especially during Yeltsin times expecting Western help to survive. Nowadays they have turned to Putin and Vladmir; it is all good but what about his opposition that disappears mysteriously? Reporters getting killed or vanishing and there are rumours for youth training camps for a private army, an army that worships Vladmir! Who knows today Russia’s real power and one thing for sure however big this power is, there is only one man there to control it all and that is definitely scary.

But again is all that true or influenced from the Cold War years that are not so far behind us we are creating nothing more than conspiracy theories? We are too ready to blame Russia and throw our full support to the proven weaker Georgia just because of the old memories while we would make an international invading force if Serbia even dared to threaten Kosovo? And if USA gets involved in the Russian-Georgia conflict wouldn’t that make Russia get involved in Kosovo? Scary thoughts and let’s hope that diplomacy will take over.

And the media look equally numb. Did you notice that all of the having reports from South Ossetia describing the total destruction and the same time they have photos from …Georgia? But the number of dead and wounded is scary higher in South Ossetia, according to information coming from the very same news agencies there are cities that don’t exist anymore after the Georgian bombing. You see even the reporters who don’t have to analyze, just to report seem confused!

So the whole conflict has raise a series of new question with major one not what Russia is going to do but if anybody knows what Russia has become nowadays and if the big bear never died just had a long sleep gathering power. And if that is true then …what?

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Emanuel Paparella2008-08-12 10:00:23
Indeed, bears do not go away; they just hibernate. To deal with a bear one must understand the bear. Ironically it was Solzhenitsyn, who had dealt with the bear all his life who told the West during his exile in the US that the reason it did not understand the bear was not so much that Russia is not the West and it has a peculiar culture which will never slavishsly imitate the West (Dostoyevsky could have told us that much)but that, more importantly. the West did not understand itself. At that point he became a persona non grata in the US and we stopped listening to him; and when we did that we were the losers.

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-12 10:02:02
Here is an excerpt from Solzhenititsyn’s Harvard address of 1977 where, as the prophet that he was, he talks about a trend he had observed in the West (which he call “fashionable thinking” and now we call “politically correct thinking) which had just begun then but it is now in its full bloom:

“Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevent independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life. There is a dangerous tendency to form a herd, shutting off successful development. I have received letters in America from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of petrified armor around people's minds. Human voices from 17 countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.”

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-12 10:09:54
P.S. Of course Europe lives closer to the bear than the US but judging from how it reacted to it during the Bosnia events of the 90s, it will once again cower before is claws and call in its uncle from oversea to the rescue. Another thing that Solzhenitsyn reprhemanded the West in that famous lecture at Harvard was lack of moral courage. He wasn't that far wrong then, he wouldn't be that far wrong today.

Sand2008-08-14 18:45:03
See http://www.counterpunch.org/whitney08142008.html
For a somewhat different viewpoint on what happened and what might happen involving Russia, Georgia and the USA

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