For "Russians," Chechnya is "Them" not "Us"
(Except When it's Convenient, of Course)
Suppose the United States were to decide today that Russia is "part of America." It could use the same kind of twisted "logic" that tells Russia it owns the Arctic sea floor, or it could claim that all of Russia was actually sold to the United States during the Alaska transaction. Or it could simply point out that America's military power is overwhelmingly greater than Russia's and it will simply take what it wants.
Would that then mean that Russia is now "part" of America and nobody can dispute it? Did Russia become France when Moscow fell to Napoleon?
Unless you think so, you will have great difficulty concluding that the war-torn Chechnya region is "part of" Russia. Simply put, the Russian contention that it can do what it likes in Chechnya and the world must stay out whilst it can butt its nose into American affairs in Iraq or sell arms to an arch American foe like Iran with impunity from America sending weapons to place like Chechnya, all because Chechnya is "part of" Russia and Iraq/Iran is not "part of" America, is classically insane neo-Soviet gibberish. It's exactly this kind of "thinking" that caused the USSR to go the way of the dodo -- and if it's not very careful, exactly the same thing will happen to Russia.
Recently, a highly placed news item on the Yandex search engine, which handles the Russian Internet the way Google handles the rest of it, bore the headline: "Санта-Клаусы теснят наших Дедов Морозов." This might be translated: "All those Santa Clauses are Crowding Out Our Ded Morozes." Ded Moroz being Russia's version of Santa Claus, who comes not on Christmas but on New Year's and who works with a pretty female assistant.
In Russian, as we've pointed out before, the word "our" is heavily loaded in a way that is rarely translated accurately into English. When a Slavic Russian says "our" -- as in the name of Vladimir Putin's Hitler youth cult "Nashi" or whenever they refer to a Russian national sports team -- he isn't referring to matters of Russian citizenship. For sure, not all Russians are created equal in the "minds" of the Slavs. The word "our" refers to the Slavic Orthodox Russians and certainly not for example to the dark-skinned, Muslim people of Chechnya.
It's ironic, of course, that Russians will use the term "our" to refer to a sports team like the one that recently won the European Basketball Championships and included among its number an African-American (who incidentally sank the winning shot, as we previously reported). Ironic because a player like that wouldn't keep his "our" status for three seconds while riding to the game on the Moscow metro, where he'd in fact be quite likely to face an instant lynching.
Moscow newspapers are full of apartment and job listings that specifically say in so many words that Chechens and other dark-skinned people need not apply. In recent regional elections, the Kremlin so shamefully manipulated the polling that over 95% of the returns were pro-Kremlin -- this in the one region that above all others has reason to hate the current Kremlin government and wish to change it.
Simply put, virtually all Slavic Russians (and this is the vast majority of the country) see Chechnya as they used to see Georgia and Ukraine -- as conquered territories -- and they treat them accordingly. Just ask a Chechen, Georgian or Ukrainian, and you will find out that they complain about getting exactly the same high-handed, arrogant, unilateral treatment from Russians that those very same Russians complain about receiving from the United States. So for any Slavic Russian to claim that Chechnya is "part of Russia" and therefore can't be treated like an independent country is hypocrisy of the very lowest, most venal order.
None of that is surprising, of course, because Russia leads the world in mining hypocrisy from every conceivable source. Russians think it's perfectly fine to seek to annex the Arctic sea floor one minute and then the next to complain about American influence in places like Georgia and Ukraine. There's no problem, as Russians see it, in selling missile systems to Iran while objecting to the U.S. providing them to Poland. It makes no difference to Russians that Americans feel the same way about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Russians do about Shamil Basayev -- it's still just fine for Russians to arm Ahmadinejad, an outrage if America tried it with Basayev.
It's simply impossible for Russians to adopt a consistent set of standards and live by them, which is why Russians don't command any respect -- something they desperately crave -- on the world stage. Russia's only allies in the world are rogue lunatics like those who govern Iran and Venezuela, relationship that serve only to further undermine Russia's reputation and credibility. Russia imagines itself to be in competition with the United States, yet the U.S. stands at the head of a massive international coalition spearheaded by NATO, and Russia stands alone, like the Emperor with his New Clothes.
And let's be clear: When Russia provides military assistance to Iran, it isn't only doing so as part of geopolitical opposition to the United States. Russia is also seeking to destabilize the world's oil markets simply to keep the price of oil inflated. As noted in a recent column in the International Herald Tribune: "Keeping Iranian energy from becoming attractive for European consumers, while financing projects that will tie ever-hungrier South Asia and China into even greater dependence on Iran benefits a number of Russian objectives." The world has been much too slow in realizing that, in significant part, it is paying more at the pump because of Russian actions to foment discord in the Middle East. Russia needs to be shown that if it continues to do so, then it's own spheres of influence will increasingly be threatened. Paranoid fantasies about encirclement will become real. That Russia would be willing to provoke this kind of unified response from the West by behaving so outrageously in the Middle East only goes to prove how utterly shaky are the nation's economic foundations. A few downticks in the price of oil, and ruin could follow.
Russia is a nation that actually lives in the apparent belief that it can have it's pirozhki and eat it too, just as the Soviet Union did, that there will be no day of reckoning. For some strange reason, Russians cannot or will not see that such an arrangement can only lead to ruin -- not even when they've had ruin so recently rubbed in their faces.
And so it goes in Russia.