Monday, December 03, 2007

The Tsar is Dead. Long Live the Tsar

Russia has turned away from their historic opportunity after the Cold War to join the West.

Putin has engineered his dictatorship with the latest vote:

With ballots from nearly 98 percent of precincts counted, Putin's United Russia party was leading with 64.1 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission said — which would give it a sweep of 70 percent of seats in parliament.

The only opposition party to make it into parliament, the Communists, trailed with just 11.6 percent of the vote, with Kremlin-allied parties claiming the rest of Sunday's vote. ...

"Of course it's a sign of trust," Putin said in televised remarks. "Russians will never allow the nation to take a destructive path, as happened in some other ex-Soviet nations."

The election followed a tense Kremlin campaign that relied in part on persuasion and intimidation to ensure a rout for United Russia and the president, who has used Russia's energy riches in an effort to restore Moscow's influence on the global stage.

Putin is expected to claim the victory gives him the mandate to remain Russia's de facto leader even after he steps down as president in May, as required by the constitution.

It was "not a fair election," said Goran Lennmarker, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

If we actually see an Anschluss and the Remilitarization of the Rhine, I guess it wouldn't be too hard to see a Sudetenland take shape in eastern Ukraine where ethnic Russians could call for mother Russia to help.

Indeed, while I think that Russia is in fact a declining power both demographically and militarily despite the recent chest-thumping, this does not make me feel better.

If Putin wants to pretend to be a superpower, what better shortcut to reversing the actual decline of Russia for a time is there than taking over Ukraine and injecting that economic and demographic strength into Russia.

Then, Russia will have the geography to pose as the protecter of Slavs in the Balkans.

Will Russia become our enemy? I don't know. I suspect that unless they add foreign territory that Russia will never be more than a middling power with a Security Council veto and nukes to separate them from the status of Brazil or Thailand.

Who knows, maybe sanity will break out in Russia given enough time.

This is a bad event for us. We lost in this vote even if the Russian people will yet suffer for Putin's drive for power.

But clearly, Russia has decided not to be our friend. We shall see if that hurts us more than it hurts them.