Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Here's a question...

why waste men who are inevitably flawed; better to send one or two rockets over and… boom… installation defeated
Is there really a cold war?

A walk around the web shows us that there are literally hundreds of bloggers and print journalists trying to come to grips with Vladimir Putin's recent comments that he would have no problems firing nuclear missiles at Europe should the situation arise. Most of the writers take the stance that they are generally shocked by the development and then straight away start talking about a re-emergence of the "cold war". To me though, this is erroneous thinking. That period of time between the end of the World War II and the conclusion of the Soviet Union in 1991 was a time of potential nuclear strike at any given moment but that there was no direct fighting was what coined the term cold war. This however is not the current situation at all.

What makes you think that this will be a cold war and not a hot one?

The biggest difference between then and now is that there is actual integration and communication between east and west. Perhaps a better way to say this is that there is a lot more European goods over in Moscow than there was before. That iron curtain which consisted of a thousand-mile border turned out to be simply no good against satellite broadcasting and a global economy. And what is more, that Russia is a huge supplier of European gas and oil means that there is a huge economic input from the west as well.

What this means is that there is no longer that intrinsic mistrust and fear bread from isolationism. Two parties knowing each other does not necessarily lead to affection but it is also less likely to lead to violence based upon misunderstanding. A most obvious example might be the premise that France might invade Germany. Of course this is nonsense, there isn't even a defended border any more. And this is the point: As much as the people of the former Soviet Union might want to (need to) cling to their culture, the availability of information and changing markets will eventually have their affect; there is no way to really go back.

So are we really headed for a nuclear confrontation?

The "cold war' took place over 40 years but without any legitimate isolation, any thought of fighting due to economic or territorial issues will not be played out over a long period of time. But this doesn’t mean that the two sides like each other. And as fear and distrust is the reality of the relationship, the potential for actions absolutely exists. Certainly though we would never see a general mobilization of troops at this level, but gorilla scenarios aimed at changing access to the other sides ability to make money are more than likely. I could as easily see an attack on a Russian gas installation as I could an Israeli attack on an Iranian plutonium enrichment facility. And of course if the decision to make such an attack ever arose, why waste men who are inevitably flawed; better to send one or two rockets over and… boom… installation defeated.

And this is exactly the scenario that Putin is referring to. The US placing missile's in Europe, within striking distance of Russian gas and oil facilities is a potential threat to Russia's ability to exist as a power in the world. That this threat is being made is exactly what the Russians are responding to.

Do you really take Putin's threat to shoot at Europe seriously?

I have written many, many times here about what it has been like for the people of the former USSR. The poverty has been never-ending and the lifestyle of having to exist on $100 or $200 a month is a real weight on the soul, especially when the television tells you that there are others who live better. There are two sides to the argument of what to do about this from the Russian side. The first is complete integration. On the European side there is the image that life in Europe is one golden chance after another and the illusion that all can be accepted creates a desire for a better life. But on the other side of the coin, the Russians argue that there really is very little chance of real success and a much greater chance of exploitation and ever deeper misery. Home is where the heart is, money does not buy happiness and eventually people have come to the understanding that what they had is inevitably a better, more real existence. And of course people who have gone abroad verify that this is true: Life is not golden over there, you just get to buy more crap that you really don't need.

There is also no need to open the doors because travel is already available with the difference being that movement is controlled by the government. Controlling the flow of movement rather than simply watching the population run away, as has been the case in Poland, means that a certain status quo is retained and this means stability.

The west on the other hands gets available markets for its products and services, and wage slaves to works for their manufacturing and service enterprises. And though western media likes to point out how wonderful an opportunity this is for the east, the situation would eventually only take money out of the FSU.

Or in other words; the Russians have nothing to gain and everything to lose. This situation is what inspired in me the real fear that there is in fact a chance of a shooting war. One needs only to ask who would be more likely to strap a bomb around his chest: a boy from a well-off, middle class family with a car, a chance at college, girls, good times etc, or an undernourished peasant from a hut without electricity or running water who is looking at a like of goat herding for $45 a month? I would think that convincing that peasant that $10,000 would go a long way towards feeding his family and that having a chance to go out with a bang as a hero is much better than slogging through the rocks on the way to the greener grass every day of your life.

Makes sense doesn't it?

So I absolutely believe that all of this is the truth. Yes, I believe that Russia would push the button and take out a large chunk of Paris or Berlin if such a situation would arise that they felt their position in the world might be threatened. I have and I do believe that the US has made a huge mistake in playing Bay of Pigs with the Russians in Poland and the Czech Republic. I also really feel as though the US and Europe really and truly do not understand what life is like here and how angry people can be.

No matter how much Europeans might scream etiquette and gentility when speaking of Russian business practices, they are preaching to the choir. These are things that everybody had during the old days of the FSU but no one is allowed now. I suppose if I were to simply say the words Russian Mafia, the image would come to mind might make better sense to you. The days when a fair deal would have been appreciated are long gone. The lessons of the west were well learned. Now, the game is no longer called me and you together, it is called me or you.