Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Bear awakens

Michael Weiss reports on a debate regarding whether Russia is becoming an enemy of the United States once again.

The Monk says yes.

From the report, there's some evidence that "again" is not the right word -- the lingering Soviet apparatus and mindset was never eradicated in the Russian governing class or polity. Here's Weiss' description of the arguments by J. Michael Waller:

His brief rested on the strong evidence that Soviet tendencies, rather than simply reviving, never really died off. If Russia had erased or buried its Communist past the better to emerge more confident as a market democracy, then how to explain that the Foreign Intelligence Services offices, the FSB State Security Services offices, and the state prosecutor's offices all bear the sword and shield insignia of Felix Dzerzhinsky's Bolshevik Cheka? Waller spoke of the arrant "KGB-ization" of the state, and indeed, the most prominent form of "dissent" within the country occurs among the various factions of the siloviki--the new military and espionage class of which Putin is primus inter pares. Waller made the often-overlooked point that Russia never had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the corpse-strewn nightmare of Stalinism. To the contrary, the Kremlin has released new "ideological guidelines" for teaching social studies and history to schoolchildren.

Textbooks being studied by future Russian generations thus inform that Stalin was the "most successful leader of the U.S.S.R.," resurrect his personality cult on behalf of Putin, and resort to a level of hostile rhetoric against the United States not heard since the grumbling days of Brezhnev.

The other side of the debate stressed that viewing Russia-US relations through the prism of a friend-foe dichotomy would lead to antipathy between the countries. In other words, act friendly and the Russians will do the same. Those are famous last words for the unrealistic set.

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