Kosovo and Russia
"The yells of 'Play the anthem!' grew stronger after each number. Finally, the orchestra played the Russian anthem three times and the French one once. But when someone demanded the Serb anthem, it turned out that the orchestra didn't know the tune."The above excerpt from a book review in the Moscow Times neatly summarizes the nature of Russia's relationship with Serbia. If anyone thinks that Russians are steeping themselves in the culture of their Serbian "little brother," they are deeply deluded. If you want to confirm it, just go up to your friendly neighborhood Russian and ask him to name a famous Serbian writer, musician or national landmark.
This eyewitness account tells of the atmosphere at Moscow's Aquarium pleasure gardens on July 28, 1914, the day that war was declared. It is quoted in a new book, "War and Muscovites: Scenes of City Life From 1914 to 1917."
Russia's great love of Serbia appears only occasionally, whenever it can be used as a justification to vent Russia's seething hatred of the West and its values. Such was the case in World War I, and such is the case today. Anyone familiar with the apocalypse visited upon Russia in that war, in which the nation experienced such brutal, humiliating failure that its government collapsed, knows the ghastly price this "family" relationship (reminiscent of the Cosa Nostra) has forced the people of Russia to pay.
Indeed, it was Russia's loss in World War I, not any national desire for social justice or economic egalitarianism, that brought down the Russian monarchy and ushered in the Bolsheviks. Russians have never, not for one single instant in their long history, shown a willingness to stand up for principles, values or morality, but rather have always been motivated simply by pecuniary instincts which, if we're being honest, can only be described as greed.
Which brings us to Kosovo. Not surprisingly, after Serbian madman Slobodan Milosevic attempted to liquidate its population, giving rise to the forceful NATO response that drove the dictator from power and tried him as a war criminal, the people of Kosovo decided they'd rather not wait around for the Serbians to work up a new head of steam, and boldly declared their independence. In so doing, they flouted Russian power in the region -- Russia had furiously opposed the move in support of its Serbian "little brother" -- and won a dramatic victory when all the major powers of Europe instantly recognized the new country. The EU "was sending a justice and law mission of 2,000 police, judges and administrators to Pristina" while the U.S. announced that it "had given $77 million in assistance to Kosovo in 2007 and would raise that amount to roughly $335 million in 2008."
The Serbian response was predictable: crude, criminal violence aimed at defenseless, peaceful diplomats, reminiscent of the actions of Iran's crazed religious fanatics during the Jimmy Carter years. The Serbians would never have dared to launch their suicidal attack on the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade without Russia's blessing. Indeed, the country's president declared: "As long as we live, Kosovo is Serbia. We're not alone in our fight. President Putin is with us." Just like Russia, Serbia seems unable to fathom that its actions only serve to validate the decision taken by Kosovo in the eyes of the world, laying the last doubts of civilization to rest. Increasingly isolated from the outside world, neither Russia nor Serbia are capable of realizing how utterly Quixotic their barbaric deeds make them seem, how far down the road to neo-Soviet failure they have already launched themselves.
Responding to the Kosovo initiative, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations Dmitri Rogozin stated: "If the EU works out a single position or if NATO steps beyond its mandate in Kosovo, these organizations will be in conflict with the U.N., and then I think we will also begin operating under the assumption that in order to be respected, one needs to use force." In barely comprehensible gibberish, without even letting one week go by, Russia was already sputtering nonsense about using force against NATO, a coalition that overwhelmingly dominates Russia in every military characteristic. Russia seemed to be suggesting that even though the U.N.'s security council had unanimously condemned the Serbian atrocities and all its key western members had recognized Kosovo's independence, it was Russia that spoke for the world, for peace and reason, for justice. The world wants what Russia wants, he's just sure of it. In fact, but for a NATO conspiracy, it would be clear that the whole world wants to be ruled by Vladimir Putin and the Russian secret police.
Who would be surprised to wake up tomorrow morning and learn that Russians had torched the U.S. embassy in Moscow? And if Americans (as they would) responded in kind, who would be surprised to hear Russians condemn them as barbarians while lauding their own actions as fully justified?
We are now fully through the neo-Soviet looking glass with Russia. The first battle of the new cold war has been fought, Russia has been emphatically defeated, and now it is behaving just like the old USSR would have done -- namely, sticking its head in the sand and acting as if it didn't happen. Confronted by the extent to which his policies have provoked and alienated the entire civilized world, and by the extent of his own transparent weakness both militarily and economically, Putin has no alternative but to take a long trip down the longest river in psychology: Denial.
And, saps that they are, the people of Russia have little choice but to accept the Kremlin's failure, mostly because -- just as in Soviet times -- they won't even know it is taking place. The Kremlin has crushed pluralism in the legislature, obliterated the flow of information in the media, and failed to establish widespread access to the Internet. Russians remain largely oblivious to the reality of their government's failure and its consequences, and this time they have nobody to blame but themselves.