17 August 2009

Truck-Bombing in Russia

A Russian official takes a conspiratorial view of the suicide truck bombing that has killed at least 20 people in the nation's turbulent Ingushetia region. Muslim separatists are most likely to blame for the attack, but the Russian sees them laying with strange bedfellows. He accuses the U.S. and other western powers of supporting the separatists, the west's aversion to Muslim guerrillas and terrorists presumably being mitigated by their hatred of Russia. Using provocative language, at least as reported in English, the official accuses the west of scheming to stop Russia from regaining its "Soviet-era might."

That's a bombshell if the translation is accurate and the statement represents the Medvedev-Putin mentality. Russia, one would think, should have no reason to aspire to "Soviet-era might" because Russia and the Soviet Union are not synonymous. The USSR encompassed many nations that are now separate and independent, from Ukraine to Uzbekistan, so that, territorially speaking, Russia cannot have "Soviet-era might." If anything, these former Soviet republics should view references to Soviet-era might with more alarm than the west.

Furthermore, Russia often seems to act as if it's entitled to "Soviet-era might." Russians sometimes seem to think that their geographic size entitles them to a major voice in global affairs, a claim that Canada, perhaps surprisingly, never makes. Like other ambitious nations (including the United States), Russia has a lot of people who think that their culture has something to teach the rest of the world. That idea dates back well before the Bolshevik revolution, but has had little basis in genuine cultural appeal apart from novelists and classical composers.

No nation is entitled to be a superpower. At the same time, no nation has a right to prevent another from becoming a superpower. If the U.S. is backing separatists to make mischief for Russia, it ought to stop. In turn, Russians really should get over themselves a little. To the extent that there is a global marketplace for cultural ideas, it's been clear for a long time that the world hasn't been buying what Russia's been selling. Russia is entitled to no more influence in the world than they've earned fairly as a model for emulation. The fact that there are separatist movements signals that the country still has a long way to go.

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