It could have been a scene straight out of "Dr. Strangelove" when President Vladimir V. Putin stepped into the Russian Ministry of Defense's brand new, three-tiered, multibillion-dollar control center this week, for a war briefing that had its fair share of movie-like pageantry.
The fortified National Control Defense Center was Putin's first stop after officials confirmed that the Russian charter jet crash that claimed 224 lives last month was the result of an act of terror.
Luckily, the capabilities of the Russian military haven't improved enough to need this massive facility.
But if they do improve, worry. The Soviet Union showed how bad Russia can be and how stupid Westerners can be in dealing with them. After recounting her experience in the Soviet Union, Applebaum writes:
Recently, this has begun to seem significant to me. Not because my own experience was significant, but because it means that the living memory of the USSR is now truly fading and the nature of the USSR—its peculiar awfulness, its criminality, its stupidity—is becoming harder and harder to explain. The sense of being surrounded by lies; the underlying anxiety that someone might be listening or reporting on you; the constant, screaming, inescapable propaganda; the sullenness of the crowds on the Metro; the memories of mass terror just below the surface; the useful idiots and the cynical sycophants who supported the whole thing, both in Russia and abroad; all of that is now absolutely impossible to convey.
I haven't forgotten. But I'm older than 40. The Soviet Union was the reason I enlisted. And I haven't forgotten what the Soviet Union was.
And I remember the ease with which Westerners sought to excuse and minimize the Soviet threat and their level of evil.
And even praise them.
I'll never forget a test I took in college where one question was about whether the USSR of Stalin was gone because small freedoms in the gaps of Soviet power have appeared.
I was astounded. I basically wrote that it was ridiculous to argue that because some peasants were allowed to keep a few chickens apart from the collective that the system was any less evil. The apparatus of oppression and control used by Stalin to kill and imprison was still in place even if it wasn't being used to its full effect at the moment.
The system was still evil.
Putin hasn't rebuilt that system. But he is rebuilding the kind of government that can rebuild that system.
Yet it isn't enough to say that those under 40 don't remember the horrors of Soviet communism. Bernie Sanders--a United States Senator and presidential candidate--honeymooned in the Soviet Union and would not see the gulag all around him. He's pretty old. What's his excuse?
And here we are with Putin rebuilding his military and trying to rebuild the empire. And there are Putin fanboys in the West eager to excuse and minimize--and even admire--Putin's actions.
I truly hoped that Russia could put aside their past after the Cold War and join the West. I really did. I did not miss or pine for the Cold War days of hair-trigger nuclear balance of terror. I wanted Russia to join the West.
But Russia under Putin has chosen to confront the West.
Perhaps when Putin's cohort of leadership passes from the scene, a truly post-Cold War Russia will have another chance to reject paranoid confrontation with the West and actually join the West.
Although by then, the question might be moot depending on what China decides, eh?