Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has an article running on CNN.com that purports to dispel five myths that conservatives have been nefariously spouting about the Ukraine.
Now, Miller is certainly a tight writer, and has some advantage on the rest of us because he was a diplomat, albeit his expertise was in the Middle East from 1978 to 2003, not in countries of the former Soviet bloc.
But after reading his apologia for Obama regarding the Russian seizure of the Crimea, I think it would be better if he brought more facts to his case rather than just rhetoric.
If his CNN article in is any wise an indication of his diplomatic skills I wonder that there is not more killing in the Middle East. He casually dismisses Obama’s complicity in the Ukraine pile up as an “urban” legend, forgetting that Obama pulled out of the missile shield in eastern Europe and helped pro-Russians gain power in the Ukraine.
Miller asserts that we are not gone back to the Cold War, basically saying that because Moscow is firmly in the grasp of a vast capitalist wave that it would be impossible for Russia to reassemble the old evil, empire.
“There’s no doubt that the United States and Russia have major differences,” says Miller. “But the issue is no longer ideological. Russian capitalism is here to stay, state-controlled and monitored though it may be. And what ideology exists has more to do with asserting Russian national interests than anything Marx or Lenin would have recognized.”
Yes, that’s true but Lenin and Marx didn’t fight the Cold War, did they?
And certainly Josef Stalin, who did fight the Cold War, would recognize Putin’s gambit and applaud it more than he would approve of anything Lenin or Marx said about it.
While it’s true there isn’t much that separates Russia and the West ideologically today, it would take someone very ignorant of Russian history to see the Cold War only in terms of a struggle between communism and capitalism.
Rather, Russia has always had a strain of “messianic” thought, especially in regards to the Christian religion—which communism was just a form of alternate religion in Russia—that sets Russia up as the Third Rome, destined to save the world by its global rule.
“The Russian messianic conception,” wrote Russian Ã©migrÃ© Nikolai Berdyaev, “always exalted Russia as a country that would help to solve the problems of humanity and would accept a place in the service of humanity.”
To Berdyaev, socialism and communism—as with other Russian messianics, which some say include Putin– were just character parts of the overall role of Russia as savior of the world.
Indeed, some welcomed the break up of the old Soviet Union, as it was delaying the Russian mission of neo-internationalism.
Russia, say some exponents of this neo-internationalist school of thought, because it has one foot in the West and another in the East, can serve as the bridge between all regions of the world.
“Following the Western geopoliticians,” writes Victor Yasmann, “the Russian Eurasians believed that there is no natural border between the European and the Asian parts of the continent. They accepted the geopolitical precept that Russia, as the central part of the continent, formed a natural bridge between East and West, North and South. According to this geopolitical formula, those who control the heartland also control Eurasia (or, to use their terminology, the “World Island”). Those who control the World Island dominate the world.”
This north-south, east-west dominion is at play in Putin’s moves in the Ukraine and Georgia.
To say, as Miller does, that simple proximity to eastern Europe gives Russia a great advantage in eastern Europe is to admit that simple proximity alone is the biggest advantage Russia has AFTER the advantage of facing a foe in the United States who doesn’t want to fight over the Ukraine.
After all, Russia is closer to Germany than the United States is, but undoubtedly the United States would fight over Germany.
Or would we?
And that is what Putin and his fellow messianics must ponder now.