For those that don't know, I was born in the USSR and spent the first 9 years of my life there. My family immigrated to the US as refugees from ethnic oppression, and I grew up on a variety of historical and scientific literature about the internal politics of the USSR and its successor states before I even went to school for political science. I find that the grand majority of Americans (and indeed westerners in general) to this day lack any semblance of understanding of the realities of what's East of the Iron Curtain - and the Russian government (much like the Soviet government back in the day) constantly abuses this to its political advantage. It makes my blood boil to watch Americans talk about Putin and his pathetic charade of a government as if it presents any sort of formidable threat or challenge to the United States - economically, politically, or most laughable of all, militarily. Hence, I offer this explanation as to why Putin's discontent with our policies (the idiocy of those policies for other reasons notwithstanding) belongs at the top of your "who gives a f*?" list as Americans.
RUSSIA IS INDUSTRIALIZED LIKE CHINA IS DEMOCRATIC
For almost a century, the Soviet government and its successor Russian Federation have put up a facade for the rest of the world to appear technologically up to par or almost up to par with the western world - hence implying they are capable of both economic and military competition as a global power. These claims are simply lies. Russia's industrial development - military, civil industry, infrastructure, and agriculture - has always been approximately 30 years behind that of the US and Western Europe. I know because I LIVED there, because I still have family there that describes what I'm about to tell you in vivid detail. They achieve the illusion of being right behind us by throwing all their resources toward a few objects - whether it's tourist attraction cities Moscow and St. Petersburg gleaming with development or very small arsenals of some extremely expensive new weapon system - and then making sure no foreigner gets a more balanced glimpse of the whole country through tight media and access control. Travel outside those two museum cities and you will find poverty that Mexico would be ashamed of; epidemics of communicable diseases; infrastructure built half-ass and in such colossal neglect that you would be terrified you're near it; levels of corruption and crime that will make you think Chicago is a legal paradise; and alcoholism dominating the populace like the religious faith they use to deal with this reality. The same goes for Russia's military. Outside the very small proportion of special divisions essentially designed to demonstrate might - it is a mass-collection of uneducated, untrained, malnourished draftees with weapons and technology that are outdated, do not work properly, and face shortages of fuel, ammunition, and maintenance. Russia's humongous nuclear weapons stockpile falls into this same category, and accidental detonations or hazardous materials leaks that damage the global ecosystem are a far greater risk to us than any potential war.
Russia's allegedly strong and growing economy is essentially an export economy of its vast natural resources - oil, timber, diamonds - resources located in regions very geographically far from Moscow such as Siberia and the Pacific Coast of Russia. While regulations surrounding the extraction of these resources and their export DO exist, they are vastly ignored as the corporate plutocracy that controls these businesses is closely affiliated with the government. Hence, average people in those regions slave away in subhuman and often dangerous working conditions for miniscule wages so the oligarchs can collect billions and spend them abroad or at best in Moscow and St. Petersburg, while leaving the rest of the country to live in the 1950s; and the regulatory bureaucracies and courts are bribed and coerced to side with the oligarchs. Even ignoring the lack of credibility of Russian government data about its own economic measures - these reflect only broad growth and production and don't account for the stratification and unbalanced consumption.
PUTIN'S REGIME IS HANGING BY A THREAD
In recent weeks, Putin has taken several bold (read "desperate") steps to make himself appear powerful and in control. These have included large weapon shipments to the murderous Syrian dictatorship knowing the US backs the rebels, talking down our own pandering excuse for a President at the G8 Summit, and now apparently taking in Edward Snowden. Again, my view on US policies regarding these issues notwithstanding - Putin is driven neither by ideology nor any actual power behind his words; he is doing everything he can to agitate the US and re-start the Cold War for political reasons. Why?
Well, here's a list of recent political events in Russia:
- The 2012 Presidential elections which EVERYONE knew Putin would cheat to win drew the largest popular protest movements in Russia's history; far bigger than those associated with the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917 and the fall of the USSR in 1991. Putin' party even cut back on election fraud to reduce its parliamentary majority for 67% to 51% in an attempt to look legitimate.
- The arrest of dissident rock band Pussy Riot in 2012 on completely fabricated political charges in an attempt to intimidate the same protest movement, which has yielded the opposite results.
- The pitiful removal from office in November 2012 of Russia's Defense Secretary Anatoliy Serdyukov and his replacement with General Shoigu. The significance of this is that Serdyukov was Russia's first EVER Defense Secretary that was, himself, a civilian. And of course, not just any civilian but a Putin-administration insider and high ranking officer of the KGB. The military refused to tolerate this and managed to pressure Putin to remove him - allegedly for corruption.
- Despite cooked data, Russia's economy is NOT growing. Consumption markets in places like the US, EU, and Japan have continuously shrunk for 5-6 years as we've witnessed a stubborn global recession, and production economies like China and India have in turn taken a hit as there is less of a market for what they manufacture. Yet somehow, the raw material exporter for those production economies that can't sell what they produce is still exporting the same amount of goods? BULLSHIT. I haven't seen any source corroborate this other than Putin's despicable propaganda machine.
So, Putin is unpopular with the masses, the military which has ALWAYS been at odds with the KGB does not support him and is able to stand up to him politically, and the economic situation in a country with extremely unbalanced and neglected development is becoming ever more unbearable. As appealing as I find the prospect of Putin being torn limb from limb by a crazed mob a la Gadhafi - this in Russia is both unlikely and unnecessary. The USSR was brought down by the secession of a few economically and geographically crucial member-States like the Ukraine and Kazahstan, and similar defections by the Russian Federation's natural resource regions will leave Putin the President of a small, overpopulated, underdeveloped Eastern European country with extremely demanding weather conditions and 0 natural resources to speak of. It is clear that neither the military nor the populace will back Putin in any attempt to reclaim those regions by force or suppress separatist movements there - so his scrambling solution is to try to unite the various elements that all agree they hate him against an old common enemy; the United States.
There will not be an actual US-Russia war over Syria or anything else, because Putin and friends realize that despite the front they put up - they would last about 2 days. Further, Putin is not "stepping it up" as a defender of anyone's civil rights or an opponent of US imperialism - Americans who fall prey to his own charade of doing so simply don't understand his real motivations. I'm not usually one to sing praises to Ronald Reagan, but this particular situation makes me wish we could have him as President for a few weeks - just so he could tell Putin where he can stick his hollow threats and facades of power and ideology. After 25 years of placating the USSR, Reagan did that ONCE to Gorbachev and that entire shithouse went down in flames. Stop buying into the fears and praises of Putin, and tell our current joke of a Commander en Chief to follow Reagan's example - even a slight shift in policy toward more disregard for Russia's stances may be just the edge needed to bring down one of the most despicable dictatorships in existence today.