Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Bear might have backed off a bit, but it is still back.

For nearly 17 years, we in the United States have lived under somewhat of an illusion that Russia was our dear friend, and that the old Russian Bear was tamed. Despite the fact that the bear appears to be backing off a bit, the act of Russia over the past few days in regards to Georgia show the Bear is back and it is willing to bite.

Russia has never had an open and above board government truly accountable to its people. Strong Czars with secret police and cruel methods were replaced by the Soviet structure with his strict adherence to communism and use of the KGB, which Prime Minister Putin headed as a young man. The “new” Russia that developed after the collapse of the Soviet Union had promise, but it developed into a state ran by corruption, oppression, propaganda and organized crime running rampant.

The United States and Europe should have known the true state of the Russian Federation when Vladimir Putin ended his second term as President of Russia. Supposedly banned by Russia’s constitution from a third term as President, Putin did not retire to private life as leaders of other developed countries do when their legal time in office has expired. Instead of seeking to write memoirs or join some company board or build a library, Putin made moves to put his puppet in the Russian presidency. Putin then had his puppet appoint Putin Prime Minister and move most of the important powers of state to the Prime Minister’s office. It was a bloodless coup against the rule of law. No other G-8 nation-state has ever, since that group was formed, had such an occurrence of political events.

That was the warning. Alarm should have grown more when Russia began a propaganda campaign against Georgia recently. Forget the feelings of the people in the break away region that supposedly started this crisis. Russia wanted a pro Russian, not a pro Western leader heading up the government that led a country that had one of the most important oil pipelines in the world running through it. The attack on Georgia by Russia was a clear geopolitical power play and meant to send a message to the United States and the Europe that Russia was back.

From most news accounts, President Bush and the leaders of Europe got that message loud and clear and are moving to blunt the Russian invasion through diplomatic means. However, when puppet President Medvedev issued his call for a pull back of sorts, he and Putin still had the Russian foreign minister demand that the legally elected President of Georgia leave office. Since that President was elected in a manner respected by the United States, Europe and the G-8 nations, Russia is still sticking a thumb in the eye of the free world.

Why does Russia risk such a thing? It is simple, they think they can. Russia traditionally has viewed foreign policy through the eyes of strength and sacrifice. I believe that the Russians saw how the American people can not handle well relatively low war casualties in Iraq and how the American people and the people of Europe seem to embrace the Obama campaign that espouses compromise and deal making first. Add to that President Bush, who while tough on terror, seems to have been oblivious to what was going on in Russia. In short the Russians see the United States and the other developed nations of the world as weak and without the courage or ability to stop them from doing whatever they want in Georgia.

Medvedev’s announcement of pulling back a bit might be a sign that the Russians realize it will not be as easy as first thought to take over a sovereign nation. However, things are still very dangerous for the United States and Europe. History shows us that Russia, under a Czar, under Communism, or under a de facto dictator like Putin will be aggressive towards its small neighbors and consequently, Europe. We had better realize the Russian Bear is not anywhere near tamed.

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