It would be farcical and amusing if it were not so very sad and outrageous.
We report below on Russia's plans, in light of the threats it faces because of the increasingly dangerous political climate in southern Russia, to build an island in the middle of the Black Sea (shown above in an artist's rendering) to house the world's athletes at the Sochi games in 2014.
The irony cannot be lost on anyone: The world's largest country, in terms of land mass, doesn't have any suitable acreage on which to house the athletes, either in terms of ambiance or security, so it has to isolate them in the middle of the sea. And it can't build the island itself, it has to bring in the Japanese to do it.
When one considers Russia's plans to send manned flights to Mars and colonize the Moon together with its Russia-shaped artificial archipelago (to say nothing of Russia's astronomical military spending and universal conscription), one cannot fail to be outraged. Here is a country where the average man works for less than $4/hour and does not live to see his 60th year. A country whose population falls by hundreds of thousands every year and which yet holds the world's largest territory in its clutches as if to allow one grain of sand to escape would mean disaster. A country whose people are plagued by double-digit inflation and an unspeakable array of diseases from bird flu to Hemorrhagic Fever. And it is planning to spend $6.2 billion -- yes, that's right, billion with a "B" -- to build an artificial island shaped like itself.
What we see in Russia today is exactly what we saw three or four decades ago: A country which has brutally crushed all forms of dissent and hence all flows of information, a country with a government increasingly unhinged from reality, making policies that can only lead to the nation's downfall. Have Russians learned nothing from the mistakes that led to the obliteration of the USSR? Do they think that it was just bad luck that caused the USSR to implode, and that this time they'll get it right?
Those who think such thoughts could not be in the heads of today's Russians simply haven't met them. And indeed, an even more dire analysis would predict that Russians are fully aware that their government is pursuing self-destructive policies, and say nothing because they are hellbent on national suicide. Most dire of all, another analysis might suggest that Russians know their government is on a path to ruin, just as in the times of Stalin, but are simply too cowardly to stop it.