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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How Similar is the New Russia To The USSR? (Part II)

Links: A. Russia Wikipedia
           B. Description of Organized Crime in Russia
           C. Useful Background on Russian Political Structure
           D. Putin Wikipedia 

I've finally been able to shelve my disappointment at the direction Russia is moving in the twenty-first century.  In the last decade, Putin has repeatedly demonstrated his disdain for NATO and the international rule of law.  What amazes me is the European willingness to cling to the idea of international law, even while the Russians, Chinese, Iranians and Islamic terrorists are giving Den Haag the finger.  We live in a time during which an illness that I like to call the "Chamberlain Syndrome" seems to be infecting the leaders of Europe.  It coincides with another malady I have named, the "America has been naughty and we are so sorry" Syndrome, which has taken root in the present U.S. Administration.  It should come as no surprise that the bad guys aren't moved by "national moments of reflection".  They will take advantage of every inch and every ounce that they are given.  The Chinese, Russians and Iranians are a perfect example of how the rest of the world thinks and behaves. They follow military and diplomatic initiatives that have one purpose only: to further what they see as their own best interests, to the detriment of whomever it is that they consider to be their prime enemy.  In all four cases (throw in the Islamic extremists as well), the number one enemy is the United States.

In the case of Putin, his ability to build such a formidable base and consolidate his personal power has been phenomenal.  History demonstrates that while Yeltsin spent most of his
1999 Putin and Yeltsin with Patriarch Alexy II
time in office drunk out of his gourd, the Russian Mafia and related organized crime interests practically took over Russia.  The networks which now call the shots in Moscow are not nearly as numerous as they once were.  This is a direct result of one criminal enterprise swallowing up the smaller, less powerful guppies.  What we see in Russia today are a handful of criminal organizations, usually headed by one individual, who methodically and without conscience demand a cut of just about every piece of the Russian economy.  Who says criminals can't appreciate organization?  In the United States we have observed a number of law-abiding Wall Street firms go bad, and transpose all of their assets and training to almost 'legitimize" their corrupt activities.  Who is more powerful, the crime lords of Russia or Vladimir Putin?  Its basically a moot point at this juncture, since they continue to drink at the same trough.  But my suspicion is that Putin has the upper hand.  Why?  Because he never hesitates.  If one of the oligarchs pisses him off, they end up in jail.  It's that simple.  I don't know of a Russian, crime lord or not, who can give orders to Putin. He singularly controls the Duma, the Press, the Military and the Police.  The criminal elements understand that they need to play nice with Vlad, and then everyone goes home happy.  The recent problems with the Russian economy will no doubt cut into the profits of these various enterprises, and it will be interesting to see how things shake out if the price of oil doesn't rebound soon.
Putin with Chairman of Gazprom’s Mgmt Committee and the
Vice Premier of China, Zhang Gaoli; Source:
Continued crippling economic contraction is the one development which can damage Putin.  But in order for this to continue, the price of oil must stay low or go lower.  This will not happen, because the Arabs need a return to payday just as much as the Russians do. Once the price moves back in the other direction, Russia will again have its battering ram against Europe.  If only the countries who are dependent upon Russia for oil and natural gas were in a position to buy it from the United States instead, then Russia would lose most of its clout.

Why do Russia and Putin insist on being so contrary?  I'm no psychologist, but I believe Putin is a bit of a sociopath. He craves power, and conveniently for him, he has no conscience.  Putin doesn't want to share power with the United States. As a former KGB man, he has nothing but disdain for the American people and all those values we constantly lecture others about.  Putin wants to win, and he will do what it takes to end up on top.  The Chinese are a bit more pragmatic.  They don't take their endemic distrust of the United States personally.  Its about the glory of China, and the spread of Chinese power and influence around the globe.  I think Putin sees the world through a special pair of glasses, that allow him to always gauge his decisions vis-à-vis the United States.  Putin doesn't fear China because he considers the Chinese military to be a bit of a paper tiger — and he should know, given the volume of military trade that has taken place between China and Russia.  The American people had better give serious and full consideration on who they choose to elect in 2016, because the four main antagonists (not to mention the rise in anti-U.S. politics in Latin America and Africa) all see the U.S. as their principle adversary.  Its a very dangerous time to be an American, with so many enemies about.  Thankfully, we can rely on diplomacy and allies to deal with most of our troubles.  Islamic extremists are a whole different matter.  They must be dealt with as a priority, and with military determination and strength.  We may be saying the same thing about Russia one day.

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