Don't Mention the (Cold) War

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Russian ships docking in Cuba and Venezuela, the rekindling of an alliance with Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, the beating and arrest of dissidents in Moscow, military conflicts with its former colonies, the mysterious deaths of Kremlin critics. All sounds rather familiar, no? And while it still doesn't quite rise to the level of a "new Cold War," the parallels are, at this point, unavoidable. (Incidentally, I wrote a piece last year rather misleadingly titled "The Cold War's Return," though I did—and do—argue that there is a concerted effort on the part of the Putin/Medvedev regime to turn back the clock on Russia's relations with the United States, I don't think that the Cold War has "returned" just yet.)

And now the Duma is considering legislation that, according to Reuters, "broadens the interpretation of treason and espionage to include the vague definition of 'acts against the constitutional order.'" "Russian liberals," the wire service writes, "have appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev to veto a set of new laws they say could lead to purges reminiscent of the Stalin era." The Times of London points out that "The measure also threatens to revive the Soviet-era habit of placing under suspicion anyone who has contact with foreigners. It gives warning that people could be guilty of treason for 'rendering financial or material and technical or consultative support to … a foreign organization.'"

Now member of Parliament and ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoy, who British intelligence accuses of murdering dissident Alexander Litvinenko with polonium-210 (the very Markovian case is neatly outlined in Alan Cowell's recent book The Terminal Spy), has told a Spanish newspaper that "If someone has caused the Russian state serious damage, they should be exterminated." They might have dropped all that nonsense about Stakhanovite workers controlling the means of production, about the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the Chekist spirit persists in today's Russia.

Also, a bunch of very, very good stuff on the situation in Russia over at reason Contributing Editor Cathy Young's blog.

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  1. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

  2. Russians have had a tendency to dislike disorder and support strong leaders and a strong state. They also are wary of outsiders and seem prone to a certain xenophobia. They rally around the state most when there is a perceived common enemy. Making the US that enemy is very useful since doing so entails little cost. We won’t retaliate and there are no pockets of Americans living w/in Russia that might be prone to carry out terrorist attacks.

  3. Basil! Basil! Basil!

  4. The Times of London points out that “The measure also threatens to revive the Soviet-era habit of placing under suspicion anyone who has contact with foreigners. It gives warning that people could be guilty of treason for ‘rendering financial or material and technical or consultative support to … a foreign organization.'”

    How do you say Lonewacko in Russian?

    Oh, that’s right… ??????????????????.

  5. First rule is: The laws of Germany
    Second rule is: Be nice to mommy
    Third rule is: Don’t talk to commies
    Fourth rule is: Eat kosher salamis

  6. First rule is: The laws of Germany
    Second rule is: Be nice to mommy
    Third rule is: Don’t talk to commies
    Fourth rule is: Eat kosher salamis

    (Reference explained here–in cartoon form.)

  7. Neo-conservatism in a nutshell.

  8. Boy, that whole privatization thing really worked well for those guys, didn’t it? We should do more of that here!

  9. The poor Russians suffered from having economic dogmatists actually get to run their benighted country, something Americans have thankfully been spared. The Bolsheviks managed to carry off a revoltuion, the fucking stupid libertarians–our Marxists of the right–can’t even manage to publish a magazine with begging for donations.

  10. True, it’s the lack of a dictatorship of the libertariat in our plans that is our core weakness.

  11. You would have the dictatorship of the plutocrats, but I would talk it up a lot if I were you.

  12. one wag at d.o.d. commented on the russian ships: “i’m surprised they even had one that could make it all the way here.”

    the russian navy is almost as big a threat as moldova’s.

  13. Just in case anyone’s wondering those russian ships are rather pos ones (except the Chabanenko). Although the Peter the Great certainly looks impressive

  14. Ah, missed it by that much. And to clarify, that’s not the Pyotr Velikiy but another ship of the class.

  15. Boy, that whole privatization thing really worked well for those guys, didn’t it? We should do more of that here!

    Yeah, privatization is the exact problem with Russia. You nailed it. Report to the Embassy for your new assignment.

  16. Just in case anyone’s wondering those russian ships are rather pos ones (except the Chabanenko). Although the Peter the Great certainly looks impressive

    Thanks for the link, Kolohe. She’s a looker. The Russkies have always designed beautiful and formiddable looking warships. It’s nice to see they’ve kept up the art.

  17. I just had a major realization. When did Edward/Lefiti first appear here? About the same time that Fidel Castro stepped down. Given his love with excessively long posts, the “intellectual” depth of his arguments, and his paranoid obsessions, I surmise that Lefiti is actually Fidel posting from his hospital bed.

  18. Privatization and the “shock therapy” market measures wrought some serious havoc on Russia. The people were poor, organized crime and the oligarchs (often the same people) made a killing in the corrupt privatization that followed and coruption flourished. It made those people clearly think their embrace of “Western liberalism” was a mistake. They gladly turned their back on it.

  19. The Russian GDP per capita fell from around 8.5 k a year in 1990 to 5.9k in 1995 in the following the disasterous privatization. Under Putin it climbed back to around 8.5k. Crime also decreased under Putin.

    The Russian people equate the privatization/shock therapy free market reforms with Western liberalism and they want no part of it. The fact that they are less poor and safer now makes it hard to brow beat them on this…

  20. When did Edward/Lefiti first appear here?

    I think it was when the story came out about John Edwards’ $400 haircut. He first posted as “Edwards $400 haircut” IIRC. I think he was a fan of the ambulance chasing, lovechild producing, scum sucking senator, and took offense to it. And he’s been here ever since. Once I tried to find that post, but I realized that no troll is worth that kind of effort.

  21. If the Cold War is coming back, maybe we can convince the Russians to invade Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran.

  22. Guys, we should consider our trolls a gift and appreciate their presence. Without them, who would have the vision to ascribe Russia’s troubles to Reason’s business model and repeat hackneyed/idiotic objections to freedom?

    WHO I ASK YOU WHO!?!

  23. Hey Plate-O, kindly fuck off and mind your own business, or you’ll live to regret it. Just ask those Urkobold ass clowns if I’m for real or not. Fool.

  24. Nasikabatrachus is correct. The posts here would be boring as everyone would more or less be in agreement.

  25. You ignorant slut, Edward/Lefiti. OMFG! Are you part of some sort of troll Legion of Doom?

  26. sage,

    Did you just totally p3wn me with a terrific Lefiti post?

  27. Mr. Nice Guy-

    A word of advice; Kleinian non-sequiturs don’t substitute for real arguments, particularly for an audience disinclined to regard them in the first place.

  28. Hugh,

    MNG just does what everyone else does. He cherry picks his facts. Can’t blame a guy for tryin’.

  29. In Soviet Union, Cold War mentions you!

  30. Boy, that whole privatization thing really worked well for those guys, didn’t it? We should do more of that here!

    While technically “privatized” what actually took place in Russia was very, very, far from a free market. Much of the soviet economic apparatus was never dismantled, as the Communist Party retained 1/3 of the Duma right through 90s, and were able to resist reforms. That was what led to the shelling of the Duma in ’93.

    Yeltsin, tragically, responded to the efforts to resist liberalization by authoritarian measures. Subsequently privatization efforts were never really market based but simply involved handing over assets to the elite group of businessmen, many of them former Soviet officials, who became the “oligarchs”. Yeltsin was a corrupt, incompetent fool, much like our current present, and managed to associate both Democracy and capitalism with the corrupt state-sanctioned plutocracy that Yeltsin actually ran.

  31. More to the point, Russia in the 90s lacked basic mechanisms for a market economy to function, such as enforeceable contracts, clearly defined private property rights, and functioning capital markets.

    They also inherited the USSR’s byzantine regulatory system, and only partially lifted price controls in a haphazard way.

    Pretty good description of the problems here:http://www.fas.org/news/russia/2000/russia/part03.htm

  32. “Kleinian non-sequiturs” Love that!

  33. How long until Sean Penn starts buddying up to Putin?

    I’m not being sarcastic.

  34. The Bolsheviks managed to carry off a revoltuion,

    Nope. The Bolsheviks managed a successful putsch, after the revolution. The claim that the bolshies toppled the czar is pinko propaganda.

    -jcr

  35. ambulance chasing, lovechild producing, scum sucking senator,

    Just call him “Fluffy the Trial Lawyer” or “Fluffy the Slut”. It’s much more concise.

    -jcr

  36. Dictatorship of the Polonium.

  37. Hazel
    Sure, the privatization did’nt work because in hindsight its plain to see it was set up wrong, it was the wrong type and/or it didn’t go far enough.

    You know that’s just what the communists kept saying about communism, right?

  38. The Cold War can’t come back, because Russia is too puny. Back in the day, it was standard, ponderous geo-political analysis that European history in the first half of the Twentieth Century was largely a struggle between Russia/USSR and Germany for the control of Eastern Europe, a struggle that the USSR, of course, won. Except that now Germany is larger and more powerful than ever, and Russia, after three centuries of trying to catch up with the West, is behind South Korea. It’s true that Russia can beat up on countries one tenth its size, if they happen to be nearby, but that’s about it.

    Oh, and “Workers Of The World, Unite!” is a much better rallying cry than “Other Countries, Do What Holy Mother Russia Wants You To Do!”

  39. Man, for a second here I thought I was at Drudge Report by the way that this article is fear mongering about Russia. Putin could sneeze and Drudge would have it as his main title in big red letters.

    Stop fear mongering please.

  40. Russia’s doing something very common–let the people get all riled up about U.S. hegemony to distract them from bad economies and poor governance at home. I doubt the leadership is particularly anti-American or willing to really cross us.

  41. dictatorship of the libertariat

    I am so using that.

  42. …shit
    libertarians are the marxists of the right.

    sure it sounds inflammatory, but the whole true communism was never tired/ wasn’t a true free market is a fucking astounding dichotomy.

  43. You are all missing the real issue: Russian kids shows are much awesomer than ours.

  44. The problem is for the most part it is the US that keeps trying to provoke Russia. There is no reason whatsoever that Southern and Eastern Ukraine should not be allowed to join back with Russia if that is what most of the population wants. Yet in America we keep hearing our pundits acting horrified that Russia might try to take back Ukraine. Crimea and Odessa have no historical connection to the Ukrainian nation whatsoever, and cities like Kharkov, Dnipropetrovsk, and Donetsk are culturally Russian. Russia without Ukraine is like England without Scotland. If we acknowledge that the Soviet Union was an illegitimate evil political entity, then we should also acknowledge that political injustices foisted upon the various peoples of the USSR by the Communists, i.e. giving Crimea to Ukraine, drawing random borders in the Caucuses and Central Asia, ethnically cleansing German East Prussia, carving a pseudo-nation of Belarus out of Eastern Poland, etc. are also illegitimate acts, and it is not unreasonable to expect people to try to redress those wrongs.

  45. Sure, the privatization did’nt work because in hindsight its plain to see it was set up wrong, it was the wrong type and/or it didn’t go far enough.

    It would help if you would do some actual research instead of repeating the same tired bullshit that has become conventional wisdon.

    It’s not exactly radical to suggest that you need private property rights and contract enforcement to have a functioning market.

  46. vanya, I’d be careful throwing around allegations of ethnic cleansing as if Russians were the victims. Stalin may not have invented the practice, but he sure industrialized it.

    That said, I really don’t give a rat’s ass what happens in the Ukraine. Russia is and will remain a third-rate power. If their attempt to acquire part or all of the Ukraine via a clandestine dirty tricks operation succeeds, the only real international implication I can see is that they get probably get more control over Europe’s energy supply. The Euros are so fucking smart, let them sweat that one.

  47. RC, I didn’t say the Russians were the victims of ethnic cleansing. The people who were ethnically cleansed out of East Prussia (now Kaliningrad) were Germans, in that case the Russians were the perpetrators. Why East Prussians “deserved” to suffer any more than Bavarians or Rhinelanders has never been clear to me.

  48. one wag at d.o.d. commented on the russian ships: “i’m surprised they even had one that could make it all the way here.”

    These the same wags that said Iraq would be a cakewalk?

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