Monday, September 15, 2008

Russian Hypocrisy - The Unstable Bear

Russia's invasion of Georgia was a clever power-grab, and a strategic embarrassment for the United States, highlighting our hypocritical policies in Kosovo. However, Moscow's actions have emboldened a slew of separatist movements within Russia itself, which could cause disaster.

Here's a transcript:

I was alive during the waning years of the Cold War, but not at the age of reason. My knowledge of the political climate in the Reagan years, the late Cold War, comes from reading books and articles or watching old speeches. Perhaps that’s why, after 9/11, I was one of those who thought that Russia could be our ally. I thought, “How great that they’ve thrown off the shackles of Communism, just in time to confront the new civilizational enemy.” Here was a European nation with a Christian background, a rich artistic and literary history, and great ancient cities. I thought in this post-9/11 environment, their interest must be in making common cause with the West. I was one of those who believed it, perhaps because it was comforting. The sheer size of Russia makes it a useful ally. It would be a huge buffer against the Islamic nations of the Middle East and Central Asia; a firewall for Europe. I still believed this deep down, even as they appeared to align with China and insisted on not-so-secretly helping Iran build a nuclear weapons program. For people like me, the invasion of Georgia was a wake-up call.

Russia is different from Europe, and always has been. It was too isolated from Europe in the Renaissance and modern period to take part in the same cultural, religious, and political shifts that were revolutionizing the continent. The Russians maintained a powerful king, a Czar, long after Western European monarchs had been dethroned or stripped of meaningful power. Their peasants were serfs. These were true, legal slaves to the landowners, who were only liberated around the time that black slaves were liberated in the American South. Russia has always seen itself as a world apart. Global trade, global tourism, the fall of Communism, and the advent of the internet have not changed that. In the years since 1991, Russia has been actively working against American interests. They have been fighting a new Cold War against us, and we didn’t realize it until they invaded Georgia. Just as 9/11 brought into focus the war that Islam had been waging against the United States for decades, the Georgian invasion underlined Russia's antagonism towards our interests.

At first glance it seems a propaganda coup for them. They've masterfully highlighted our hypocrisy. After all, in the 1990’s we bombed Russia’s ally Serbia into submission, forcing them to relinquish the separatist Muslim enclave of Kosovo. To add insult to injury we recognized Kosovo as an independent state this past winter. So why can’t Russia bomb Georgia on behalf of an Ossetian minority that desires separation from Georgia? First let me make clear that I am the first to condemn our Kosovo policy. It was a classic example of liberal post-modern international thought, conceived under the Clinton administration. The rule for Clinton, and keep in mind this would be the rule for Obama as well, is that we only help countries or peoples who are under threat when it is not important to our interests, or even better if it’s against our interests. In Kosovo we empowered the same Saudi-funded, al-Qaeda affiliated Muslim thugs who would literally blow up in our faces on 9/11, because the Kosovars were perceived to be the underdogs. And of course, there was no oil, no economic or political benefit for the US to fight in the Balkans, so it passed the liberal test. Destroying a regime that is demonstrably evil, but is in our interests to destroy, is of course a war crime; for example the war in Iraq. Thus the leftists were the first to cry “hypocrisy” in defense of Russia’s invasion of Georgia. After all, Bush attacked Iraq with no provocation, who are we to hold Putin to a higher standard?

Well, Russia’s chess-like move in Georgia may have highlighted the hypocrisy of the United States, but it simultaneously created a precedent that may threaten Russia’s very existence as a unified nation. By militarily supporting anti-Georgian separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia has lent great credibility and moral confidence to separatist movements within its own country, who have been waiting for an excuse to rise up against the Moscow government.

First let’s look just 100 miles northeast of South Ossetia, where we find the Russian territory of Chechnya. You might remember Chechnya from the 1990’s; it was the breakaway republic that Russia crushed in two bloody wars to underline its supremacy in the area and teach a lesson to other feisty separatist republics that might get out of line. The first war from 1994-1996 left approximately 5,000 Russian soldiers dead, and between 40,000 and 100,000 Chechens dead, mostly civilians. The second war from 1999-2000 left anywhere from 25,000-50,000 dead, again mostly Chechen civilians. The capital city of Grozny was a profound ruin, recalling scenes of World War II Stalingrad or Berlin. Compare this to Ossetia where Russia claimed that Georgian forces killed 2,000 civilians. In light of this, surely Russia would have supported a Georgian or American military foray into Chechnya in the 1990’s to protect indigenous Chechen rights. They would have recognized the independence of the poor, oppressed minority Chechens, and would have allowed peacekeepers in to guarantee that independence. No, I think not. This is what we call blatant hypocrisy, and we only have to look next door to find it, not hundreds of miles away in the Balkans.

Next, speaking of South Ossetia, did you know there was a North Ossetia? Yup, it’s just across the border, and is a province of Russia. Russia was so very quick to intervene on behalf of the South Ossetians in their quest for independenc. Certainly then independence for North Ossetia is just as important. Do you think they’ll allow their province of North Ossetia to join the South Ossetians, and create a nice consolidated Republic of Ossetia? Again, I think not.

And these are just small examples in the direct vicinity of the recent Georgian combat zone. See the links I’ve provided in the sidebar for more information on Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Adygeya, Karachayevo-Cherkesiya, Kabardino-Balkariya, and many other hotbeds of separatist resistance in Russia you’ve never heard of.

Other important things to keep in mind; there are 20 million Muslims in Russia, or 15% of the population. That’s more than the Muslim percentage in France and close to the Muslim percentage in Israel. It’s a population that has grown 40% in the past 15 years, while the ethnic Russian population has been dropping steeply.

Also, in Russia’s thinly-populated Far East, immigrants from poorer and more crowded nations like China and Korea have been flooding in and changing the demographic makeup. Unofficial estimates put the numbers at 1 to 3 million. How long before they agitate for independent status?

And so, fellow Americans, Europeans, and pro-Western peoples formerly under Russian or Soviet domination, don’t fret. Russia may have won the battle, but in doing so they have set a dangerous precedent, that may have ensured that they will lose the war.


Curtis Edward Clark; Dean said...

I'm not certain what you mean by "highlighting our hypocritical policies in Kosovo." Did we do something wrong by supporting Kosovo's independence? Or maybe I'm missing something you really meant.

But thanks for the "occidental soapbox." We certainly need it. My own "soapbox" blog is of a very different nature, but individual sovereignty seems to be the goal we share.

I hope I'm reading you right on that. I'd hate to have two misunderstandings here.
Curtis Edward Clark

Arius said...

He was right to refer to our "hypocritical policies in Kosovo". I disagree with his analysis of Russia's actions in Georgia which stopped the Georgian attempt to pull of their own version of a Croatian 'Storm' ethnic cleansing (the largest ethnic cleansing in the Balkans with US backing and operational support). Georgia attacked, killing Russian peace keepers, and thank God the Russians stopped it.