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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Russia the Paper Bear

Writing in Asia Times, Nikolai Petro succinctly summarizes Russia's fundamental weakness:

Militarily, as everyone knows, Russia is but a shadow of the former Soviet Union. It poses so little threat that when Georgia seized four Russian military officers, the Russian parliament responded by speeding up the withdrawal of its remaining forces. Georgian Minister of Defense Irakli Okruashvili now regularly dares Russia to try to invade his country. Economically Russia has done better, but its foreign investments overseas still put it on a par with Malaysia. As an energy provider, Russia supplies Europe with about a quarter of its natural gas, but this is two-thirds of Russia's gas exports, so that actually Russia is far more dependent on its European consumers than they are on it.
But Petro clearly goes offtrack when he posits that, therefore, Putin should not be prevented from comparing his problems to ours: "The danger in such behavior should be apparent to all. If Russia's problems are seen as in any sense comparable to our own, then it can no longer be excluded from Western institutions on the basis of its cultural incompatibility, and what else is really left? "

Petro needs to read a bit of history. If he did, then he'd know that when Adolf Hitler came to power his country was also a shadow of its former self. And when he did, the West decided to adopt just the non-confrontational attitude of "understanding" the fact that Germany had problems just like us. It ignored, because it made the West feel so much better, the possiblity that Hitler's government might be evil, and biding its time until it could launch a counterstrike when the West's guard was down. It had the chance to move immediately against Germany to prevent Hitler from getting into a position where such a strike could be launched, the opportunity of the shadow. And it didn't take it.

The same can be said fo the USSR after World War II. Again, Petro's policy was followed and again it resulte in disaster.

Which is why, now, Petro's acticle can only appear in an obscure forum like Asia Times Online. Hopefully, after all that failure, we've learned our lesson.

All the warning signs on Russia are there, for all to see. Russia is providing massive quanties of arms to Venezuela and Hezbollah, financial aid to Castro's Cuba and Palestine's Hamas, and nuclear technology as well as anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, while also providing diplomatic cover in the U.N. In short, it's doing everything it can to help the West's enemies as much as it can.

We can wait until Russia gets itself into a position to be even more harmful, or we can do something else. And then we can reap the rewards or take the consequences.

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