Friday, August 22, 2008

The Russian Bear

Two interesting quotes flagged from the August 15 Wall Street Journal.

On A13 in Garry Kasparov's article, Russian Alexander Dugin is quoted as saying that "Russian forces 'should not stop until they are stopped.'" Kasparaov describes Dugin as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin.

Yaroslav Trofimov quotes a Russian soldier outside the town of Gori in his article on A6. Gori sits in a strategic location along the major east-west highway in Georgia. It's an hour drive from there to the capital of Tiblisi. Control of Gori cuts off access between Tiblisi and the town of Poti on the Black Sea. Trofimov queried as to the odds of the soldier's unit proceeding to Tiblisi, at which point the soldier "spat and answered, 'Anyone who stands up to Russia, we shall destroy them.'"

Now, my greatest accomplishment in the study of Soviet/Russian affairs occurred in Howard Davis's Soviet Systems class in November 1982. On the morning of a test, the Soviets announced that Leonid Brezhnev had gotten over his case of the flu by passing into the Realm Beyond. So Howard asked us, in a opportunity for extra credit (something completely unheard of at my alma mater), who we thought the next Soviet General Secretary would be.

I was completely correct predicting that it would be someone already on the Politburo with a KGB background--probably Yuri Andropov, former KGB chairman who had made a name for himself by calling in the tanks to crush the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The ten extra credit points meant that I earned a 99 on the test. It was the only time I can ever remember hiding my test from my classmates out of embarrassment for having done so well. No one got a 99 on a Howard Davis test.

Keeping in mind that that was the highpoint of my Soviet/Russian eduction, allow a few observations.

The Russians remain a bully on the Playground of World Affairs, led once again by a KGB-trained master of the art of realpolitik. As the second largest oil producer in the world, they reportedly have quadrupled defense expenditures in the last six years. They rank ninth in population (half the size of the U.S.), but second in military might. They have no problem invading Georgia or cutting off natural gas and fuel oil exports to Ukraine.

Now they are willing to fight for oil. They want their empire back. They'll never leave Abkhazia and South Ossetia again. And they don't much care about the UN or the rest of us.

I don't believe they will be stopped. . . until they're stopped.

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