Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Sick Angry Man of Europe

Americans need to stop excusing Russia's bad behavior. Much like the German army complained of a stab in the back following the World War I Armistice, Russia today is claiming betrayal by the West and America in particular.

That thinking is hogwash:

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States and Europe eagerly embraced Russia's young democracy. Western economic aid to Russia totaled $55 billion from 1992 to 1997 (not counting private charity). While some aid was conditioned on the continuation of market-oriented economic reforms, none of it was tied to political demands for a formal condemnation of the Soviet legacy. Russia was not required to dump the Lenin mummy from the mausoleum in Moscow, to put former party apparatchiks or KGB goons on trial, or to restrict their ability to hold government posts and run for public office. Nor was it forced to pay reparations to victims of Soviet aggression, or surrender territories such as the Kuril Islands, seized from Japan after World War II.

Read the whole thing, as the saying goes. I swear, after we won the Cold War under the premise that we were not going to let the Soviets dominate their neighbors, some in the West are eager to throw away that victory by arguing that it is natural that Russia should dominate their neighbors.

We were too easy on Russia after 1991, the way the Allies were too easy on Germany after 1918:

Russia isn't a part of the West because Russia's leaders lately have been a bunch of a-holes. Right now I'm glad we've pushed NATO east as fast as possible. Russia has a lot further to go if it ever rebuilds its military and that alone will deter the Russians. I seriously get an eerie inter-war feel for the whole situation.

You know, the common wisdom is that the Treaty of Versailles was too harsh on Imperial Germany after World War I, which led to the rise of Hitler. When you compare the occupation, dismemberment, and de-Nazification of Germany after 1945 which created a prosperous and democratic allied Germany, you have to conclude that the Allies weren't nearly harsh enough in 1918.

And since 1991, we've treated the Russians with kid gloves, and now they too think they've been betrayed and deny they were really defeated in the Cold War. Now the Russians pretend they were being reasonable and just voluntarily gave up their empire. Of course, occupying Russia and de-Commiefying Moscow was never going to happen. We didn't have much choice at the time since Russia still had lots of working nukes. But the result has been a Russia that increasingly acts like they want to be our enemy.

And about a week later, Russia invades Georgia.

We just left the "former" Soviet communists in positions of power to nurse grievances and pine for the past. And now we've got Putin, who nursed those grievances and popularized the "stab in the back" theory:

The September 2007 Naval Institute Proceedings included a disturbing article by Norman Friedman who asked it Putin was resurrecting the stab-in-the-back theory of post-World War I Germany to explain away their Cold War defeat and (not by design, but by effect) pave the way for round two to restore their glory.

In 1945, we destroyed and dismembered Germany, digging the Nazis out by the root and forcing Germany into the West. Granted, with the ex-Soviet Union's nuclear weapons we could not do the same thing to post-Soviet Russia, but the problem with Russia is Russia--and not our actions toward them since 1989.

Now we have to figure out what to about the Russia Question: An angry sick man of Europe that has nuclear weapons and enough residual conventional power to threaten small neighbors, whose potential for collapse is as disquieting as their aggressive stance.