Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Putin and Russia's "Catastrophe"

"First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory."

Yesterday, a friend sent me this quote made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and asked me to comment about what might be going on in Russia.

My response was probably more organized and clear yesterday than it will be here today; but let me try to state again what I think is behind these statements.

Imagine if the United States of America ceased to be a "superpower"; that our economy collapsed; and that our currency had to be revalued, not once, but several times, with each successive change in value making it harder for anyone to buy the basics needed for life, much less to accumulate wealth. Imagine that these changes, over all, reduced life expectancy; and, in effect, made the USA a third world-country. Imagine, as a result, that the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, all left the Union.

Wouldn't we think such a collapse was catastrophic? Wouldn't we also be concerned about the former citizens of this country who lived in the now-independent states? These things have all happened in Russia since 1991.

This is not to say that Vladimir Putin is not trying to accumulate more political power, using these types of circumstances as an argument for doing so. However, this is not necessarily the case; it need be nothing more than what is mentioned above.

We must also remember that, throughout history, Russia, beginning with the state often called Kievan Rus', has never been a democracy. At times ruled by an oligarchy, or by a monarchy, or by a dictatorship, and being subject repeatedly to foreign invasions and conquests, her history and political culture is markedly different from our own. We should not adopt a "one size fits all" attitude when we attempt to export our system of government; and we shouldn't try to force the development of one form or another in a sovereign state outside our own. Influence the development, yes -- but force, no.

Let me know if you think I've missed something...