Russian Notes: Russia's Western neurosis
February 26, 2007
by Andrei A. Piontkovsky
The attitude of the Russian political class to Europe, and to the West in general, over the last three to four centuries has always been contradictory, hypersensitive and extremely emotional. The best Russian political text on the subject remains even today Alexander Blok’s 1918 poem, “Scythians,” with its famous lines about Russia: “She stares, she stares at you with hatred and with love” and “We will turn our Asiatic snout towards you.”
Just as 300 years ago, and 200, and 20, we know perfectly well that we cannot do without Western technology and investments, and that autarky and an Iron Curtain spell economic and geopolitical disaster for Russia. We understand that Russian culture is an integral part of European culture.
And yet, the West seems to irritate us by the very fact of its existence. We see it as a psychological, informational and spiritual challenge. We are constantly trying to convince ourselves that the West is inherently hostile and malevolent toward Russia, because this flatters our vanity and helps to excuse our shortcomings and failures.
If you take any mainstream Russian publication and read the last 100 articles dealing with foreign policy matters, 98 will be full of bitterness, complaints, irritation, poison and hostility toward the West. This despite the fact that most of the authors of those articles like to spend as much time as possible in Western capitals and Western resorts, keep their money in Western banks, and send their children to study in Western schools and universities.
As in the famous poem a passionate declaration of love for Europe turns, at the slightest doubt as to whether it is reciprocated, into a threatening, “And if you won’t, there’s nothing we can lose, and we can answer you with treachery!”
What have “5,000 bayonets deployed in Bulgaria,” three airplanes in Lithuania, Kosovo or the Jew-baiter of Iran to do with anything? The whole lot of them are mere opportunities for the manic-depressive Russian elite to check and re-check its endless love-hate relationship with the West. That existential Russian question, “But do you respect me?” is in reality addressed, not to our latest drinking partner, but to the starry firmament in the West.
Several weeks ago, that question was asked again at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in the latest spiritual striptease show put on by the latest Russian Patient. It doesn't matter what his name is: Ivanov, Petrov, Sidorov, Yeltsin, Primakov, Putin.
For some reason it is considered statesmanlike and patriotic to pout your lips and enumerate before various Western audiences the same old list of "grievances" about the unipolar world, the ABM treaty, the expansion of NATO, the creeping up of NATO, our encirclement by NATO.
Wake up, intellectual "heavyweights" of Russia. What world and what century are you living in?
Where now is that mammoth aggressive military machine of NATO you have so long been warning of? It truly has lumbered up to the sacred borders of the former Soviet Union, but not from the direction you expected. Indeed, my fear is that there it will meet its end, defending those borders from the advance of Islamic radicals. When NATO finally departs from Afghanistan and from history, the front of the Islamic revolution will cut through the countries of Central Asia. If we look a little further to the East, there too significant events are taking place."
In September 2006 the Chinese People's Liberation Army conducted a ten-day military training exercise on an unprecedented scale in the Shenyang and Beijing Military Regions, the two most powerful of the seven Chinese MRs. These border Russia, Shenyang confronting the Far East Military Region and Beijing the Siberian Military Region of the armed forces of the Russian Federation. In the course of the exercise, units of the Shenyang MR performed a 1,000 kilometer advance into the territory of the Beijing MR and engaged in a training battle with units of that Region,” said a Feb. 12 article, “Greetings from China,” in Izvestiya.“
The nature of the exercise tells us that it is in preparation for war with Russia and, moreover, that what is being planned is not defense but attack. Against Taiwan this scenario makes no sense. Deep invasive operations are being worked out on dry land, in a region of steppes and mountains. The lie of the land in the region where the exercises were held is similar to that of the Trans-Baikal region, and 1,000 kilometers is precisely the distance from the Russo-Chinese border along the river Argun to Baikal."
Andrei Piontkovsky is a visiting fellow with Hudson Institute.
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