Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Perhaps We've Been Hasty Comrades

Russia portrays the West as their near-enemy, thwarting their just goals at every turn with evil machinations:

The West may face new diplomatic problems with resurgent Russia because of European and U.S. efforts to stifle Moscow's influence, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in an annual review on Tuesday.

And actions like this over Serbia and Kosovo seem to show that Russia is intent on restarting the Cold War:

Russia on Monday announced plans to send humanitarian aid to Serb-populated enclaves in Kosovo at the request of the Serbian government, a step that underscored Moscow's rejection of Kosovo's independence.

Yet despite the harsh words, sending food and medicine to the Serbs of Kosovo is a far cry from airlifting a motor rifle regiment in to create a new Cold War line to confront the West.

And other actions show that Russia's leaders aren't determined to be our enemy despite the words.

After their sabre rattling over the declaration of independence from Serbia by Kosovo, Russia has not sent troops to leverage the crisis into an opportunity to display their military power:

Despite all the dire predictions, Russia did not mobilize troops and threaten violence when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Russia did warn that this would lead to more separatist problems in Eurasia, as several other separatist regions use Kosovo as an inspiration to more action and violence.

So why didn't Russia ship in some troops?

And the Russians are getting set to let us supply our forces in Afghanistan through Russian territory, from a story a week ago:

NATO said on Saturday it was nearing a deal to use Russian land and airspace to supply its security forces in Afghanistan, but Western diplomats denied any trade-off with Moscow to keep Ukraine and Georgia out of NATO.

Still, the danger is that the cynical manipulation of public opinion by Russia's new autocrats will turn around and compel them--lest they lose power to Russians willing to adopt confrontational policies--to adopt the policies of confrontation that they only pretend to adopt now. The Russian leaders only want a pretend Cold War. But they need to convince their people it is real.

Yet while Russia is no democracy, it is not the communist dictatorship of the Cold War. Russian public opinion matters. and if the public is convinced that Russia needs to confront a supposedly hostile West, what Russian leader will risk telling the truth to the Russia people that the claim that the West is hostile was all a charade?

I think we need to be patient with Russia to allow the Cold War relics to pass from the scene. Bbut in the meantime we must make Russia's leaders suffer for pretending to be at war with us to make them stop, lest that hostility become the reality.