American history tells the story of how Anthony C. McAuliffe, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the siege of Bastogne, Belgium, in World War II, found himself surrounded by German forces in superior numbers. When the German commander sent a message demanding McAuliffe's surrender, he is reported to have responded with a single written word: "Nuts."
Just as Russians hypocritically cannot accept that the people of Ukraine and Georgia have exactly the same attitude towards them as Russians have towards the United States -- that is, an arrogant aggressor nation bent on imperialist domination (with the main difference being that Ukraine and Georgia, and many other similar states, have actually seen military domination by Russian soldiers occur on their soil) -- so too Russians, while hypocritically moaning and wailing about the lack of recognition they receive from Americans for the Russian role in defeating Nazi Germany, remain totally oblivious (even contemptuous) of the American role in that war. Think they've ever heard of McAuliffe's heroics? Think again.
But upon learning about him, we have no doubt that Russians would claim sympathy with him. They'd no doubt claim, for instance, that their recent repudiation of a U.S. State Department report condemning Russia in the strongest terms for gross human rights violations is McAuliffian in its courage. Russia stands surrounded by the entire world, a whole forest of fingers pointing at Russia from every corner of the globe and demanding a cessation of its barbaric attitudes towards civil rights and liberties, and Russia's response is: "Nuts."
Of course, if America gives this response (say, regarding the war in Iraq), then that is fodder for Russian condemnation. Then, Russia decries American "unilateralism" and demands that it submit to the will of the United Nations, or some other group that is more subject to Russian control. Then, American must negotiate or be labeled a pariah. But when the world unifies against Russia, then suddenly the world is engaged in a vast Russophobic conspiracy, and Russia is free to ignore it. Indeed, it is heroically obliged to do so, and the world be damned. Not only do Russians utterly fail to see any hypocrisy in this stance, they likewise find themselves unable to discern the vast difference between American and Russian power in the world, behaving as if the two nations were equals. A person who behaves in that manner often finds himself locked up in the booby hatch, especially in Russia. Too bad there is no psychiatrist for nations.
And so we have Russia's response to the DOS report, which is not only psychotically hypocritical but also frighteningly schizophrenic. The Kremlin simply cannot make up its mind whether its answer to the report is that is that the conclusions are false or that its conclusions are true but the United States is just as bad and therefore can't throw stones. So it simply tries both, furiously flinging mud in the hope that some will stick, somehow.
Reuters reports the Russian Foreign Ministry shrieking:
The report became yet another proof of 'double standards' in U.S. policy on human rights. It is obvious the human rights issue is being distributed for external and internal consumption. How else can one explain the fact that the United States, having de facto legalized torture and handing capital punishment to minors, denying responsibility for war crimes and massive human rights abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan gives a distorted interpretation of the situation in other countries?For time out of mind, when confronted with Western criticism, Russians have been claiming that the Westerners themselves are just as bad. This attitude is, perhaps, even more barbaric than the human rights abuses the world has documented in Russia. Basically, the Kremlin is saying that it doesn't matter how much the people of Russia are suffering, as long as people from other countries are also suffering. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that it doesn't matter if Russia destroys itself, as long as other countries go down in flames as well. How could any enemy of Russia have a more contemptuous attitude towards the welfare of the Russian people than the Russian Foreign Ministry?
The Kremlin seems to vaguely grasp that this response is utterly feeble and, indeed, embarrassing, so it tries to attack the substance of the report as well. But it isn't long before the Kremlin quickly realizes why it impulsively launched that neo-Soviet attack on the critic: There is no credible substantive defense to the charges. Catch-22.
Voice of America reports that "the Foreign Ministry also says U.S. criticism is based on groundless accusations and biased sources, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. That organization said Russian parliamentary elections in December did not meet democratic standards. Moscow says OSCE member states, which include Russia, never approved mandatory standards, and singles out the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for allegedly politicizing the election monitoring process." But VOA notes:
ODIHR spokesman Jens Eschenbaecher told VOA the organization has monitored elections in the 56 OSCE member states for many years. "We have a mandate from all participating states to observe elections before, during and after Election Day," he said. "We felt that [with] limitations imposed on us by the Russian authorities, we would not have been in a position to fulfill our mandate." The ODIHR did not monitor Russia's December election, saying Moscow did not issue observer visas in a timely manner.So it isn't Europe that has politicized the process, but Russia, which can't have its cake and eat it too. It can't prevent elections monitoring from occurring and then accuse elections monitors of issuing biased reports. Well, it can in the sense that the USSR always could -- if it wants to follow in the USSR's footsteps into the dustbin of history. Russia steadfastly refuses to conduct real investigations of the charges of human rights violations that are brought against it, and repeatedly loses when its cases are called before the European Court of Human Rights for fair adjudication. It simply can't mount a credible substantive refutation of the allegations against it, so it attacks the critic and ignores the problem, condemning the people of Russia to a life of barbarism, suffering and isolation.
VOA adds that nothing is going to change any time soon:
Political analyst Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center expressed skepticism about the offer. "Russia is in no mood to compromise. Russia enjoys its new power and influence as a result of its growing economic power," said Lipman. "And Russia is making up for past humiliations after the collapse of the USSR. This is the mood of the nation; this is the mood of the leadership. This is what brings the leadership and public together - the sense that we were humiliated, but no more." Lipman says unprecedented economic prosperity is another reason why a majority of Russians do not seek democratic accountability from their government. "Putin has offered, I usually call it a non-participation pact, we the government deliver and you the people do not meddle in politics or policy-making," added Lipman. "And since the government fulfilled its part of the contract, the people fulfilled theirs. Lipman says she does not expect gradual evolution toward greater Russian democracy without a crisis, such as the collapse in oil prices that underpin the country's current prosperity.Perhaps Russians will never understand the difference between Tony McAuliffe and the Kremlin: He said "nuts" FOR the American people, while the Kremlin says "nuts" TO the people of Russia. As always, the government of Russia is the worst enemy of the Russian people.