As a trip down memory lane, I often recommend to people this piece from 2001, still embarrassingly available on the Internet for all to see. An uncompromising title, isn’t it? “Russia is Finished: The unstoppable descent of a once great power into social catastrophe and strategic irrelevance”. By one Jeffrey Taylor.
Who, unabashed, is still at it.
The lessons that emerge from the Russia-Georgia war are clear: Russia is back, the West fears Russia as much as it needs it, and those who act on other assumptions are in for a rude, perhaps violent, awakening.
News reports have been circulating recently that Russia, fresh from slapping down Georgia in the Caucasus, is now taking steps toward reclaiming other former territories.
Why did Russia’s two highest political figures refuse to join the global festivities over Obama’s election win?
Watching protest leaders heighten their rhetoric as the regime digs in, and remembering past episodes of political violence such as the October 1993 crisis in which 187 people were killed, one hopes that the government takes the protesters’ demands seriously and act on them — before it is too late.
2011 (Remember those protests? That was SO long ago.)
But whoever rules Russia will have to take into account the newly incensed political consciousness of its younger, and now most active, generation of citizens and voters.
But, at this point, Dear Readers, I have a confession to make. For years I have delighted in sending his piece on how Russia is finished to people as a classic example of being really, really wrong; an example of the wish being father to the thought, so to speak. And I expected, when I started this little piece, to be able to turn my Sneerometer up to eleven.
But, I must confess, having read more of his stuff, that Taylor’s not that bad. He understands, for example, that Saakashvili was egged on by Washington. He kind, sort of, understands that the protesters aren’t really all that representative of Russians generally. Many of his pieces say that Washington not only doesn’t understand Moscow’s point of view, but isn’t even trying to. So, maybe he’s doing his best under the heavy hand of editorial policy. After all, people with unearned incomes can afford to defy convention but others have to pay the bills.
Anyway, I seem to detect a change this year. Note these below. (I assume the “Russia’s orbit” stuff is editorial. In respect to understanding Moscow, Moscow doesn’t want Ukraine in its “orbit”; what it wants is a Ukraine that pays for what it buys, that isn’t a NATO launch pad and that doesn’t have a political crisis every five years that keeps everybody in Moscow up nights. That’s not exactly rocket science: if Russia really wanted to expand the “empire”, Georgia and eastern Ukraine would already be in the bag. If we must use “orbit”, “Ukraine” and “Moscow” in a sentence it would be “Moscow does not want Ukraine to be in NATO’s orbit.”)
Before traveling further down the road of confrontation with the Kremlin, the Obama administration needs to answer these questions—or face the prospect of a humiliating climbdown when it becomes clear, as it will, that the United States and the European Union cannot save Ukraine from becoming part of Russia’s orbit.
But will it [the West] change course? The NATO summit in Wales has set in motion moves to create a rapid-reaction ‘spearhead’ force that, though of little real import, will further convince Russia of the threat posed by the bloc. The logic of escalation moves in only one direction: up.
Will the West change course indeed? Jeffrey Taylor seems to have.