Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Russia v Ukraine -- a dissenting view

Russia v. Ukraine

I am disturbed by the Western response to what is going on in the Ukraine.  We often seem to have a knee-jerk feeling that everything Russia does is bad.  Russian, in turn, seems to have very bad PR, not doing a good job selling us on what they do.

Let us start with the situation in Afghanistan.  30 years ago, Russia was involved in a protracted military campaign there.  We backed the mujahideen, who were billed in our press as "freedom fighters."

I remember reading press interviews of these people at the time, where they said they were fighting, because Russians wanted to send girls to school.  In fact, the mujahideen were the precursors to the Taliban, Muslim fundamentalists who believed in holding women under house arrest and preventing us from having any rights.  The Russians were promoting a government where women are equal.  The USA was backing the bad guys, because we didn't trust the Russians.

Later, the Muslim fundamentalists turned against us -- the very people we had trained and helped. 

We seem to be very easily manipulated to questionable political action.  For instance, in Iraq, refugees told our intelligence people that Iraq was still building nuclear weapons after the first gulf war.  This turned out to be false; however, it was what we wanted to believe.  These refugees wanted green cards in the US, so they told us what we wanted to hear.  We were gullible. We believed them. We started a war on Iraq over believing the wrong people.

When we see Russian invading the Ukraine or Georgia to protect ethnic Russians, we automatically go back to WWII in our minds and think of Hitler invading Austria, because they were ethnically German.

But who are the Nazis here?  Is it the Russians?  In fact, there is quite a bit of Neo-Nazi activity in the Ukraine, and some of it directed against ethnic Russians:


If there were Neo-Nazis threatening ethnic Americans somewhere, mightn't we invade?

Yet the Ukrainians are good at manipulating us into thinking the Russians are the bad guys.  Their internal anti-Russian witch hunts are appealing to us, because it reminds us of the Cold War, itself likely ill conceived.  We don't look too closely at how Ukrainian internal politics has been looking a lot like McCarthyism of late -- an anti-Russian witch hunt.  It's that anti-Russian witch hunt that makes Russians feel that ethnic Russians are not safe in the Ukraine.

We remember Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium at the UN saying "We will bury you."  Some scholars have opined that this gesture was misinterpreted.  Westerners saw this gesture as a threat of violence, a threat of invasion.  But these scholars say it wasn't.  Instead it was merely an expression of belief that Russia was headed to being the best in the world, that Russia was going to be too strong to be invaded itself, again.

We need to remember that the Russians themselves were invaded by the Nazis and suffered great losses, before responding by taking over Eastern Europe.  They had their own fears.

In any case, that gesture, likely misinterpreted, possibly with inadequate investigation as to what was really meant, led to the cold war, which probably should never have happened in the first place.

So the Ukrainians have manipulated us once again into believing that the Russians are the bad guys here. 

Let us not be patsies.  Let us not be manipulated into conflict.  Let us take the Ukrainians with a grain of salt.