Welcome to the blog of Miroslav Georgiev - classical pianist and conductor. Here you can read and discuss interesting stuff from the world of music, life, politics and more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Russian Complex

I am deeply troubled by the latest developments in our world. To an impassioned analyst, it all points to a time of desperate and to a certain degree chaotic actions in which one superpower tries to regain control over something which is essentially uncontrollable - the hearts and minds of many Eastern peoples which don't share Western ideas and rhetoric, as well as the hearts and minds of some Western people which start to see through these ideas and rhetoric and dismiss them as essentially moot.

We are seeing nowadays flaring conflicts in the whole world: some of them are open war, as in Syria and Afghanistan; some of them are rebellions, as in Ukraine, Iraq and some African countries; finally, some of them are widespread social protests and unrest, as in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Turkey.... And the fact is that practically no region of the world is spared of these happenings. It all points to me to failed policies, and the fact that we see them in so many different social systems means that the policies are not related to a certain social order, but rather to the Zeitgeist - the Spirit of our time.

For me one major conflict, however, is more dangerous than all others - the Ukraine crisis. It is more dangerous because of several reasons:

  1. It involves two nuclear powers, which also happen to be 'old enemies' - US and Russia. 
  2. It plays on old fears and strong feelings in the region, which threaten to blow up at any moment. The whole of Eastern Europe hasn't forgotten communism, or rather that period in which the Soviet Union dominated politically and economically a range of countries. 
  3. It also comes with dangerous ignorance on the part of the US. It is ignorance because US policymakers insist in old-style prejudiced views towards Russia; and it is dangerous because they refuse to recognize that Russia is being threatened by their prejudiced policies. And unlike the US which has never really experienced a foreign invasion, Russia is all too well acquainted with it. In fact, they still can't recover from the last one - the German Nazis killed so many Russian soldiers during World War II that their society is still unbalanced, having more females than males. And that's not mentioning all the infrastructural devastation. 
The development of this particular conflict brought into full light something which I find extremely troubling, and I choose to call 'The Russian complex' (complex being here that pathological state in psychology which arises from historical assumptions which are often groundless and leads to dangerous mistakes). It is also in just another form the old 'Us versus Them' mentality which perpetuated the Cold War and seems to permeate the Western society today. Why do I think it's a complex? Because it is founded on incorrect assumptions about Russia, and is leading Western society to accept Russia as an enemy - something which might become extremely dangerous, as I will point out.

Contemporary myths about Russia

Western society today is permeated by myths about Russia and its predecessor - the Soviet Union. Those myths were created during the Cold War, and they were perpetuated even after the Soviet Union was no more. Those myths govern the way the West sees Russia today, and the way they form their foreign policy towards Russia. But actually, these myths may have originated much earlier, during the era of Catherine the Great, in which Russia had its greatest territorial expansion.

Myth N 1: Russia is an imperialistic invader and it threatens European territorial integrity

Russia has always been at war with Central European powers during the Renaissance. Especially with their good neighbors, the Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Sweden. Of course, we can hardly say that any European country at that time was a shining example of peaceful coexistence and non-expansionism. It was rather the norm for countries to change borders every couple of decades. And what about the European colonies all over the world? Some of them existed until some 60 years ago!

During the Napoleonic Wars Russian armies reached Central Europe on several occasions, although they were actually a part of the anti-Napoleonic league (so they were allies with other European nations). Also, we can't forget that it was actually the French Napoleon which first invaded Russia! Note this well: here we have a Western European country going as far as Moscow!

Then comes the Second World War, during which the German Hitler decided to break an alliance with the Soviet Union and invade them. The result - Soviet armies reached Berlin again. Oh yes - AFTER having been invaded.

And then, there's the formation of the Soviet Union itself, and their de-facto annexation of various neighbor countries, both in Europe, and in Asia. Well... this happened right after the war. Since then, there have been only one Russian (Soviet) invasion - Afghanistan. But even the most vociferous 'Russian imperialism' defenders acknowledge that this was in fact a de-facto proxy war between the US and the Soviets, and again - the invasion happened AFTER a pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan was faced with a US-instigated rebellion.

Here come modern times, with the much - advertised 'Putin' invasions of Georgia, and Crimea. But wait! Both happened again after .... hold your breath.... US-instigated coups in Georgia and Ukraine. Afterwards we had Russian-instigated counter-coups in respectively South Ossetia and Crimea, after which the proverbial genie left the bottle. So... Russian again seems to be reacting to, not initiating wars.

I'd like to present a historic comparison for a second here, on the question of imperialistic-style land grabbing. European countries, essentially ALL of the more powerful Western European countries, were land-grabbing like crazy for the entire Renaissance period all across Africa, India, the Far East, and the Americas (both of them!). This land-grabbing and general meddling even prompted ancient and honorable societies like Japan and China to close their borders for Europeans - whose armed traders and missionaries were everywhere! Until the advanced weapons of the peace-loving, progress-bringing European businessmen of the time forced said countries to reconsider their positions, of course.

Then comes the United States of America - that paragon of democracy, world peace and International law. The US started by rolling over the native populace of North America, then starting several wars with Mexico which ended with the annexation of California, Texas, etc., then some more wars with Spain (annexation of Cuba)... During World Wars I and II they annexed various islands in the Pacific, which were later used for nuclear experimenting.

After that they went through a 'more peaceful phase' - they stopped annexing land and simply started extorting governments all over the world to accept American military bases and American business partnerships. When countries wouldn't comply, democracy was being generously dispersed to them in the form of bombing campaigns, and several invasions (Panama, Guatemala, and more recently Iraq, Afghanistan, etc).

So... let's not be too quick to brand someone 'Invader'. Geopolitics are at play here, and although invasion can never be fully justified, Russia has a bit of an excuse here - as I pointed out, they are extremely sensitive in regards of their security, and they DO feel genuinely threatened by NATO expansion on their borders. On the other hand, the US is playing way out of their immediate sphere of interest here, simply wanting to wreak havoc and mayhem on the borders of their old enemy.

Myth N 2: Russia is a barbarous, backwards country which isn't worthy to compete economically with us

Well, until late 19th century that might even have been true, to a certain extend - at that point the West was busy industrializing itself, factories were belching smoke all over the countryside, cheap clothing and other items were being mass-produced (by men AND women AND children laboring in most inhuman conditions and being 'employed' by heartless businessmen who only cared about profit). While Russia's society was still agrarian, mired in bureaucracy.

Then came the Bolshevik Revolution which altered immensely this society. Over 15 - 20 years, amid political turmoil and social unrest, amid problems and wars, that same society became an industrialized nation. That same backward, barbarous nation found the strength and technology to withstand the mightiest army that Earth has seen since the days of Alexander the Great (an army which rolled effortlessly over Europe and was well on their way to bombing the UK to the Middle Age)! Several years later that same backwards communist society found the resources to compete with the US and the entire European West during the greatest arms race this planet has ever seen, AND beat them in Space! That same backward society provided the entire Eastern Europe with Nuclear power, while a good part of the rest of the world was still choking under toxic clouds produced by Coal Power plants. And no, Russian reactors haven't been proven to be inferior to Western reactors. Yes, there was the Chernobyl disaster, but then again there was the Three Miles Island disaster in the US and the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Soviet-time Russian reactors are still functioning, until this day!

And let's not forget - the ENTIRE Soviet economy was state - planned, while the ENTIRE western economy was private. One thing is certain - private initiative has a much greater power to develop new technologies quickly, although it turns out these new technologies are seldom very useful. I mean.... LED TV's, iPhones and tablets might all be a revolution in personal communications, but they hardly help us in very meaningful ways. At the same time Russian rockets are now the only means to reach the International Space Station, after the advanced, high-tech Western society shut down their own launch programs due to .... spending. Yep, there is money for advanced weapons, but there's no money to send men to space, apparently.

And yes - let's look at Russian culture. One can hardly deny its value when the majority of brilliant classical musicians in the last 100 years were Russians (Soviet), the same goes for ballet-dancers, and in all other cultural spheres Russian maintains an influence which is at least as strong as Western influence. Just look at last years' Sochi Olympic opening and you'll know what I'm getting at. Again - we've had all of this during the hardest economic race the planet has ever seen, and afterwards during one of the greatest economical disasters a single country has ever passed through - the fall of the Soviet Union. If after all of this we still cherish Russian culture, that means something.

Myth N 3: Russia is an authoritarian, non-democratic country.

Well, this was most certainly true during the communism. Although... the Politbureau which held the supreme power in the Soviet Union was comprised by several people, not one single person. OK, we had Stalin, and several others, but even the Russians recognized him as a crazed dictator soon after his death, and reformed their policies afterwards. I'm reluctant to blame Stalin for all atrocities which are known to have happened in the Soviet Union, of course - there were horrible mass-killings and persecution of dissidents before him, although not so much after him. Oh well, it was war, it was a regime change, and at every such moment there are mass-killings. Look at the French revolution, or the English revolution before that. Look at Hitler. We can hardly say that the Russians are the only monsters here.

And nowadays we have glorious, free democratic West, and backwards, authoritarian non-democratic East. But wait! There are many more parties presented in the Russian Duma (Parliament) than in .... say.... the United States of America Congress! There are the same amount of media outlets in Russia as there are in the West, nobody's forbidden any social networks there, unlike in Turkey, and to my knowledge the Russians aren't persecuting with vengeance everyone that damages their image to the rest of the world! It wasn't Russia which forced Julian Assange to live in an Embassy, because of a phony sex scandal, and under fear of being extradited to the US and spending his life in prison for 'disseminating state secrets'; it wasn't Russia which exiled Snowden for revealing the mass-surveillance network of the US....

At the same time, it IS Russia, and the hated Putin, which continues to call for negotiations in every major world crisis today, while the free, democratic and peace-loving West is itching for bombing campaigns and ground invasions. It is that peace-loving West which continues to turn a blind eye to an Ukrainian army bombing Ukrainian cities and killing Ukrainians in their own country. It is that West, and most notably - the US, which keeps using drones to bomb targets halfway across the world (which often turn out to be innocent civilians, because the great CIA is apparently not omnipotent!). And NOT ONCE has the US consulted anyone else over their War on Terror campaigns; over Iraq, Afghanistan, over special ops resulting in men being killed.

So, who's an authoritarian country? Russia, which keeps trying to cooperate with the rest of the world, or the US, which bombs and kills, believing they are the Guardians of World Peace and Democracy? And let's not get into the part how it always turns out there are vested US or European interests behind all these bombings and killings. What, let's even forget how the US vice-president's son was recently appointed to a post in .....Ukrainian energy company, which holds the rights to drilling for shale gas in ....EASTERN UKRAINE!

Myth N 4: Russia is a corrupt country, governed by oligarchs

Let's discuss oligarchy, shall we? The Wikipedia gives the following definition of an oligarch:

Business oligarch is almost a synonym of the term "business magnate", borrowed by the English-speaking and western media from post-Soviet parlance to describe the huge, quickly acquired wealth of some businessmen of the Post-Soviet states (mostly Russia andUkraine) during the privatization in Russia and other post-Soviet states in 1990s.

So... 'huge, quickly acquired wealth'. Mmmmmmm, how fast did Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates acquire their wealth? Or a person that wins the Lottery?

And Privatization... that is, transforming State property into Private property, with other words - selling stuff owned by the state to private investors. This word is probably the single word most used when we, from the former Eastern bloc, want to accuse someone of being unfairly rich. Because, you see, he used his connections to acquire state property, and then turn into a businessman. Well, acquiring a property tends naturally to turn you into a businessman, and if you're smart and successful, you WILL become rich out of that property. So, let's accuse, on that basis, all Western business magnates that acquired some property thanks to their connections, of being 'Unfairly rich'! Let's forget how the others abused workers during the Industrialization; let's forget how they used slaves as workers before that; let's forget how they manipulated stock markets and financial centers to their own ends and enrichment. Let's also forget how the Waltons are paying pitiful salaries to their workers in the US, and salaries which amount to slavery in their overseas sweatshops. Let's just accuse those that acquired some factory thanks to being close to a Party member and turned it into a business empire!

So, what would be a 'fair privatization'? Probably the one that gives a factory to a Western company. Even when most of these companies didn't demonstrate the slightest interest in acquiring what they deemed to be 'backwards, non-modern, low-tech, useless pieces of crap from Soviet times'. I know a bunch of cases when state factories in Bulgaria were offered for privatization, and there wasn't even ONE candidate for them! They had to lower the asking price again, and again, and again, until finally someone would demonstrate interest. Some years later, everyone started to accuse the organizers in selling state property for pennies, or to friends. Well .... they had no choice.

Of course, I'm not saying that there were no misuses during the privatization, that there were no 'mafias' cooperating to get properties. What I'm saying is that the 'oligarch' concept is inherently flawed - these people became rich because they managed to modernize and use outdated factories; to turn them operable again and offer jobs to millions which had despaired of working again. In the last years of the Soviet Union, and the entire Eastern bloc, decay was settling everywhere - modernization was indeed sorely needed, but there were no resources for it. Not when the political will for that had all but vanished. So, I say we should THANK those people we call derisively 'oligarchs' for getting these factories back on their feet, one way or another.

And then - Putin is working with the oligarchs, and for them. That is to say that Western politicians are never work with their businesses? That is to say, It's good when the US president defends American business interests across the world, but it's bad when Putin defends Russian business interests? What about the whole western political system, where only people backed by enormous funds ever make it to the public eye, so that they could have ANY chance of being elected on an important public position? How's that different from the situation in Russia? Oh, but it is, because Russia is 'A BACKWARDS, CORRUPT, AUTHORITARIAN COUNTRY, RULED BY OLIGARCHS'.

Now, corruption is something very difficult to pinpoint and define. Is a government official accepting bribe 'corrupt'? Most certainly. But: is a State Senator voting for a law after being lobbied for months corrupt? No? Yes? Maybe? Recent surveys in Western democracies have shown that more and more resources are being spend by private firms on lobbying. As a result, more and more legislation is being passed which is in the immediate interest of these firms, and usually to the detriment of the general populace. Isn't THAT a corrupt practice? Yet it is fully accepted by us, simply because it is disguised under the term 'Lobbying'.

So again, let's not be too quick to point the finger at others, when our own practices may actually be as corrupt as theirs.

How these myths endanger the world's stability today

So, I hope I've managed to at least make you think and question what the Western media is pouring out at you. Russia is no more, or less corrupt than any other country; they are economically less developed than the West (how can they not be after 70 years of planned economy?), but they are catching up at an astounding speed; and most importantly - THEY HAVE NO MORE ASPIRATIONS TO RULE THE WORLD THAN THE UNITED STATES HAVE. They are simply protecting their interests. And here comes the danger:


Well, these unspeakable thinks are well on the way of happening BECAUSE of this policy! NATO, an organization whose SOLE purpose is to defend the West against Russia, has been expanding continuously for the past 20 years, and now BORDERS Russia. The last serious buffer between NATO and Russia, Ukraine, is being torn apart by dangerously inept pro-western parties with messianic delusions; parties which drive Ukraine towards NATO membership. At the same time, NATO chiefs and their de-facto masters from the US are ramping up warlike rhetoric unheard of even during the times of the Cold War - all over the dubious developments in Ukraine. They couldn't swallow up the derailment of their plan to turn Crimea into their first base in the Black Sea, and are now risking an all-out confrontation with a nuclear power. And dragging the entire Europe in it! Now.... wouldn't you feel threatened if the school bully who terrorized you before all of a sudden moves next door and starts threatening you?

Now, there is a fine point here. There are two possible explanations of the course the West is taking:

  1. Western politicians feed this crap to the public, in order to create the necessary public support for their policies. This is a (somewhat) less dangerous situation, because it shows understanding of the basic truth here, and that means that these politicians won't actually go all the way to war. 
  2. Western politicians actually believe themselves in the above myths. Now, here is where the true danger lies - such politicians will be ready to do anything to stop Russia, including triggering a war and turning it thermonuclear. Instead of just maneuvering for greater power and more economical leverage, they might in fact threaten Russia or China directly, at which point there WILL be a response. Neither country has forgotten the World Wars and what they cost them - a cost that the US never had to pay. We can only hope that in this case cooler European heads will realize the danger before it is too late and reign in the American trigger-happy warmongers. 
Let me ask some questions here:

1. Why the new Kiev governors, if they really intend to govern the ENTIRE Ukraine, never did any attempt whatsoever to reconcile with the rebels in the East? Or do they claim that artillery and airstrikes are a form of negotiations? A wise governor that thinks about the interests of an Ukraine containing millions of Russian descendants would prevent this situation by extending an arm to them immediately after the 'revolution' on the Maidan. But even after they missed the opportunity (and actually did the exact opposite by attacking the Russian language as a second official language), Yatsenyuk and Turchinov continued with a rhetoric aimed almost exclusively at demonizing Russia, and by extension, everyone who wants 'warmer' relations with it. They claimed countless times that Russians are invading, that they're sending arms to rebels; that there are special agents in Ukraine, etc. All of these claims were either given without any proof, or the proof turned out to be false.

2. Why the US, if they're so intent on letting Ukraine governs itself and its affairs, meddle constantly there? Since (and during) the Maidan, there has been an almost endless stream of American officials openly and covertly visiting Kiev; that includes the chief of the CIA, as well as the US Vice-president. Their claims that all they do is support democracy are starting to look pretty transparent, especially after it turned out the vice-president's son has been appointed to an Ukrainian energy company's board.

3. Why the European officials, if so intent on assuring peace in Ukraine, haven't called ONCE for the Kiev government to suspend the military operation in Eastern Ukraine? Or do they imagine that anyone will want to negotiate freely with bombs falling nearby? It is now evident that the rebellion won't die on its own; and it's not as if the Ukrainian army is showing the vaunted restraint: there have been, to this point, multiple hits at local hospitals, schools and government buildings; even residential buildings. Maybe it's the case that after weeks of ineffective action in april-may, during which there have been multiple defections from the army when they entered the 'terrorist cities' and faced the grandmas and grandpas asking them to turn back,, that same army has determined that there is simply no way they can quietly eliminate the leaders of the rebellion, and they've decided to turn up the heat? There were no artillery and airstrikes in the beginning, now there are - on a daily basis. And, to what extend are they prepared to keep turning up the heat? Maybe until we get Syrian - style images on TV? And to what extend are the peace-loving, reconciliation-bent, democratically-oriented Western powers prepared to support this situation, after they did their utmost to condemn Bashar-al-Assad doing absolutely the same? Again, Russia is the one that keeps calling for negotiations and restraint, while the US keeps supporting unconditionally Kiev. But maybe they're gonna change their mind, and the God help us all.

The failure of US's 'We don't negotiate with terrorists' policy

There's more, unfortunately. I'm sorry to keep pointing the finger at the US, but there's simply no helping that today. I'm so disappointed in their leadership... Because in the last 20 years US politicians seem to have forgotten the meaning of the word 'compromise' and how important it is for diplomacy. They seem to have believed in their self-professed 'Manifest destiny' to bring peace and prosperity to an unsuspecting world....

We've had now more than 10 years of the War on Terror. The war which was intended to reign in the terrible danger of jihadists and terrorists who want nothing more than scare the peaceful people into accepting stuff. Or at least that's what we were led to believe - that all these people in the Middle East are terrorists. More like 10 years of War OF terror, in fact, because all it seems to have achieved is to have multiplied the extremism in all the original flarepoints. Nowhere where the US' regime change policies have been applied lately have they been successful: Afghanistan and Pakistan are still fighting with unrelenting Taliban; Libya is in chaos; Tunisia - also; Egypt is quickly reverting to the old ways with a new face at the front. We see today insurgents in Iraq which have taken major cities, in rebellion to the central government, and forced the Americans to cooperate with their archenemy, Iran, to stabilize the situation. I won't even comment on Syria. So, is this how foreign policy should be conducted? Bash the scull, then see if the victim recovers with your 'careful' attention???? Why did this happen? Because the principle 'We don't negotiate with terrorists' is wrong? Or because .... the people US is fighting aren't in fact terrorists?

It's been more than 10 years since the US unilaterally decided that they have a license to kill wherever they want in the world, in the name of extinguishing terrorism and/or bringing democracy and freedom. But it seems that each kill they make spawns 5 more enemies! Like the mythological hydra, the enemies of the US, hell-bent on causing mayhem and havoc, have sprung again and again, with fresh strength and determination. Enemies that actually have other things in mind than attacking the US! They have much more local goals, based in old conflicts, tribal warfare which has been going on for centuries, and in which the US jumped completely unprepared. They believe that Western-style democracy is applicable everywhere, and they just need to remove the current despot or tyrannical hunta, and all will be well.... Instead, they manage to earn the enmity of both sides in the conflict. 

What's more - after 50 years of largely peaceful influence on the rest of the world, an influence which caused even teenagers in communist Russia and China to secretly love the US, they are now managing to extinguish single - handedly all their achievements! US wars have caused more damage to their image in the last 15 years than any communist propaganda ever could; US foreign policy has earned them more enemies than they had even during the Cold War; their economic influence has turned into a synonym of unhealthy dependence. The world is now scared of Monsanto and their GMO monsters; the world is terrified by the effects of American fast-food practices, and uses American social habits as an example of how NOT to live. Even staunch US allies like Germany and France have been stunned by the scope of NSA' spying activities. But most of all, the world is starting to see the steel hand under the velvet glove - yes, even their staunch European allies have started questioning America's true goals. And on top of that, they create more and more hate by killing more and more! Until when is this going to continue?

We all thought that Barack Obama would restart American foreign policy, that he will bring an end to the belligerence and high-handed actions. Instead, if anything, he has exacerbated these. And all of that is now backfiring - in a terrible way. The danger is that Obama and the people he has surrounded himself with insist on not seeing any of this, they insist on showing the world a scarecrow in Russia, so that the world may forget their failures! It is for this reason, along with the riches to be had in Ukraine, that this crisis has been brought to this point - because the US hopes of cutting the ties that European countries were forming with Russia and its energy riches - riches which were not controlled by the US. They hope of convincing the rest of the world that Russia is the archenemy, and it needs to be 'contained', if the world is to be 'saved'.

The Russian complex again

So, this is the Russian complex I've been talking about. That it's Us versus Them, and if we don't choose a side, we will suffer from a terrible fate. This viewpoint is being enforced with terrible strength today in the entire Europe, where the US is forcing us to choose a side - them or Russia. Why? Why not be independent and work with both to everyone's advantage???

This is the 'Russian complex' - a mortal fear, born out of false myths and misunderstanding history; a fear that We, which live in peace and prosperity, have to fight continuously to protect these from THEM, the demons that are trying to take all this away from us. That we have to sacrifice everything we deem precious - freedom, human rights, liberty, just so that the government could protect us. This is a veritable Orwellian nightmare!

We have lived in fear from the terrifying Russians for so long that we've forgotten to think for ourselves. We react instinctively on what we hear on the media, and we never stop even for a moment to think - 'Hey, that doesn't sound quite right... Are they trying to manipulate me?' And until we, the people of the West, are in this state, we will continue to dance to a music we can't even hear. And the masters of the world, whomever they happen to be, will be free to do whatever they want.

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