February 21, 2007

What exactly is going in on Russia? [WIGOR?]

Is a new Evil Empire brewing?
Are we on the verge of a New Cold War?
Who is pulling the levers of power in Russia?
What is the Kremlin engineering for a post-Putin Russia?

There are plenty of questions circulating in the media about Russia these days. But often too little of what is published takes a long-term, balanced and critical view.

Time for a reality check.

  1. Russia is not perched on the abyss of Totalitarianism

  2. The US and Russia are not about to start slinging ICBMs at one another

  3. Vladimir Putin is not the Wizard of Oz, pulling levers from behind a Kremlin curtain

  4. Russia does not seek to hold Europe hostage to gas or oil supplies

But none of this is to say that everything is fine and dandy in Rossiya-Matushka. Far from it.

Any country - particularly one the size and age of Russia - is a very complex place. It would be as unfair as it would be ridiculous to say that Russia is red or brown, good or bad, free or enslaved. It would also be cliche and relativistic to say "there are no easy answers," so I won't say that. Instead, I will say that there are no final answers, just some very interesting questions.

I will also say that Russia is not an incomprehensible Churchillian riddle. It is a country with a history, a people, a geography and a way of life. And, just like anything else, if you study it and if you pay attention, you can eventually understand it. Maybe not perfectly, but pretty damn well.

I have been studying and paying attention to Russia for over 25 years. I don't claim a line on the truth, just a general distaste for a lot of the Russia-bashing and Monday Morning Quarterbacking I have been reading over the past few weeks. Therefore, over the next few weeks, I will post a series of short essays about what I feel is going on in and with Russia. With luck, some people will find them interesting and even slightly useful.

I will start at the beginning. [PR]

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