Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Putin vs. Stalin: Memories of My Cold War Childhood

image via flickr.creative commons;DonkeyHotey
I know I said I was through with political blogging, but watching Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, zero in on Ukraine like a schoolyard bully going for the new kid, got me thinking about my Cold War childhood.  Somehow all the doublespeak and propaganda seem very ominous and very familiar to someone who learned to " duck and cover" in grade school. 
If Putin wants to bring back the USSR, he's doing a pretty good job of channeling Josef Stalin, and I am far from the only person to have noticed. First we got an updated version of  what Stalin did at Yalta, when Russia grabbed most of Eastern Europe and half of Germany while Churchill, and a dying Roosevelt believed, and just let it happen. In 1947, after Yalta, Churchill coined the phrase " Iron Curtain" and it was definitely appropriate until the fall of the Soviet Union.
Now, in the wake of Putin's Crimea annexation,a crackdown on the press and limitations on personal freedom in Russia have begun. It's all being sold to the public as a return to empire and glory.  Me? I'm not so sure.  I remember the bad old days of the Cold War all too well. I don't relish a return to the constant fear of Russian military aggression that marked those days in America. I remember having to swear that I had never been a member of the Communist Party in order to get a passport when I was 20. Though I was a child at the time,  I also remember McCarthyism and the anti-communist xenophobia of the '50's. I don't relish seeing history repeat itself.


 According to today's  Washington Post  in an article titled' In Russia, A Soviet Revival Grips Leadership:
"The State Duma gave a final reading Tuesday to a bill that, as part of an “anti-terrorism” package, would require any blogger who gets 3,000 or more visitors a day to register with the state and be subject to state regulation. Other legislation before the Duma would make it a crime punishable by five years in prison to take part in an unsanctioned protest or to publish information that puts the government or military in a negative light. Members also are considering a bill that would add a course in political instruction to the school curriculum"
 So much for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Oh, did I mention that the article also says that all members of Russia's police force, and possibly also their families, are now unable to travel abroad?  The ruling clique is dancing with joy and counting its money.   Now that the boy oligarchs have privatized everything and have all of what used to belong to the Russian State in their own pockets, they are ready to flex their egos and play bigtime war games with the west. You know how it is, boys will be boys and it's all about mine is bigger than yours.
The sabres are rattling as Putin plays schoolyard bully, first with Crimea, and now with Eastern Ukraine.  Will Russia invade Ukraine?  Not in the conventional sense, I am sure, but Russia will manage to destabilize it, doing its own little " death by a thousand cuts" number, while China watches in the background, and Europe and America sharpen their economic tools.  You can bet there will be some guys from Texas showing up in Western Ukraine real soon to show the homeboys just how fracking is done and plans for an Eastern European " Oil Lift" ( kind of like the Berlin Airlift) are no doubt on the drawing board.
As John McCain observed so trenchantly, " Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country" That is to say, the 2 trillion dollar Russian economy is based almost entirely on oil and natural gas reserves, and if Eastern Europe stops buying; well, you get the picture. Russia cannot hope to win economically or militarily over the West, and I don't see China getting involved(but you never know, especially with China).  If the egos get big enough, and the desperation is great enough, I can see Putin and company going for the nuclear option... and that scares the living, you-know-what out of me.  I grew up with that possibility and I don't want to go back to it. I'm too old to " duck and cover"
I leave you with a little ditty written in early 1960's, at the height of the Cold War which epitomizes how my generation felt about the whole thing.  Anybody else remember Tom Lehrer?

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