His political opponents are either in Western exile or in Russian prison on dubious charges of tax evasion and money crimes- this in a country where financial corruption is rampant on every level of its commercial, political, governmental and social society and its court system is classic case of cronyism and blatant corruption. And Russia is again a great troublemaker in the international scene. It backs Iran and sells it nuclear fuel. It rearms Syria. It confronts United States ships at sea with overflying military aircraft. It demands a role in Mideast peacemaking, such as that moribund task may be. Its military leaders make bellicose and provocative statements about its intent to use military prowess to achieve its rightful goals. In short, Russia remains the very large elephant in the room of world affairs. It certainly has not as of yet joined the pacifist at any price crowd that so dominates Western Europe. The bear is not really in hibernation.
Whoever thought that after the implosion of the Soviet Union, Russia would turn into a democratic, cooperative European country, no longer expansionist and bullying, now has another thought coming. Russia has reverted to a form of dictatorship again under the malevolent Vladimir Putin. Whether officially President or a member of parliament, Putin is the man that runs Russia and all of the other new generation of apparatchiks are merely his dutiful stooges. He declares that he is the next premier of Russia and does not discount his return to the presidency once more. In short, in the time honored hubris of the powerful and cruel he is the head of Russia for life – his life at least.
In terms of human suffering Russia and its communist cohort, Mao’s China, inflicted the most damage, in numbers and quality of life, of any other ideal or system of government in human history. They were ruled for decades by men who were paranoid, ruthless, uncaring of human life and emotions and who demanded absolute obedience and brooked no independent voices or thinking. After the fall of the official Communist government in Russia it has, as a nation, waxed rich because of its vast oil reserves and the skyrocketing price of that commodity.
Individual Russians still struggle to make ends meet and to achieve the standard and quality of life present in the Western world. In the time honored fashion of all of the dictators, Putin takes credit for Russia’s national income and scoffs at all rumors that somehow he has personally profited from this new found cash cow. China, while officially still Communist and Marxist, is really a ruthlessly capitalistic society. It exploits its main natural resource – tens of millions of people – in a ruthless fashion just barely above the concept of slave labor. As such it has become the provider of cheap goods of all kinds to all of the rest of the world. It does so by using an overvalued currency, ruthless exploitation of its working force population and an enormous consumption of oil and other natural resources. It certainly is a major force to be reckoned with. It is Russia and China who are responsible for the failure of effective economic sanctions against Iran. In fact it is Russia who is supplying Iran with much of the technical knowhow and with the nuclear fuel necessary for it to become a nuclear power.
So Russia is once again engaged in its history-old policies of brinksmanship and xenophobia. It is still smarting from the loss of the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine as well as some of its richest resources to the fractured nations of the Caucuses. A few hundred thousand Russians are still stranded is Kaliningrad, a land-locked piece of Russia surrounded on all sides by Poland, Lithuania, and Germany. In addition many thousands of Russians are stuck in inimical societies in the Baltic states and other former parts of the Soviet Union that are now independent countries.
All of this is a potential witches’ brew of trouble and strife waiting to be mixed and served. The Soviet Union and Communism are relegated to the ash heap of history but they have left behind a tragic and most dangerous legacy. Putin may not be Stalin – after all, who can equal that champion mass murderer? – but he is a far cry from a democratic leader. Under him Russia has regressed in its attitudes, policies and influence. It is no longer viewed as a force for good and progress in world events. It has resumed its old obstructionist stances in diplomatic events and its military commanders again have resorted to its old fashioned use of saber rattling invective. In our very dangerous and violent world this is certainly not good news and it bears considerable and serious viewing and decision making on the part of the Western world…..a full plate of problems and issues