A few months ago, my kids and I stumbled on a great cartoon that recent events are not likely to make more popular. Masha and The Bear is a Russian cartoon featuring a mischievous girl who makes the life of a Shrek-like bear a lot more complicated, and it’s brilliant. Will Putin’s Russia bring us to reject all things Russian? Maybe. Given my almost obsessive fascination with oddball news, regular blog readers may be shocked to see a rather serious post – I promise not to make it a habit. There are however events which warrant comment by virtue of their gravity, and recent history in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine give cause for alarm.
A friend recently posted a cartoon poking fun at the inability of those who know history to avoid watching it repeat itself. The allusions to Nazi Germany in 1939 were clear. It is not to 1938 or 1939 we should be looking however, but to 1934, as the Nazis took full control of the German State and implemented a propaganda machine that served to create consensus within Germany for a campaign of violent aggression, first against internal enemies, and eventually against neighbors near and far. The parallels with Putin’s Russia should not be pushed too far, but his tyrannical control over the media and information –not unlike that exercised by the Chinese government, by the way– should have been of great concern to the West, rather than the subject of polite protests between cocktails at the G-8. We watched as political rivals faced trumped up corruption charges and then voted to hold the Olympics in Sochi. We even sat passively as Russia redrew borders for neighboring independent countries, as in Georgia in 2008. Russian gas was too critical to Germany to allow Europe to take a stand. Putin was Obama’s ally in a new global order, and we turned a blind eye as Russia shipped weapons to Syria’s blood thirsty leader, in order to ensure that their last ally in the Mediterranean stayed loyal to Russian interests. Of course, Russia was watching while we applauded the overthrow of Egypt’s democratically elected government. Inconvenient sometimes, these elections.
It took the brazen aggression in Crimea for the West to wake up, and for Russia too. The West could no longer find excuses for Putin, and Putin could not believe how passive the West could be in the face of blatant theft on an international scale. And others were watching. Be assured, the international ‘roll over dead’ on Crimea was not unnoticed in Beijing, where plans to invade Taiwan to impose ‘popular sovereignty’ are not even disguised. What indeed could the West do, given our financial and economic links to China? Our two decades of poor policy and willful blindness have prepared a lethal cocktail. I read a report stating Putin wouldn’t possibly invade the Ukraine as it would have a negative impact on Russia’s economy. When has that ever stopped a country from going to war? Putin’s popularity is at all time highs. Even Nobel Prize winner Gorbatchev has declared that Eastern Ukraine was ‘civilized’ by Russians and rightfully should be Russian. It seems only the Ukrainians disagree. Don’t worry. The World Cup is coming soon, and the politicians will find a means to appease the Bear in the East. Unless of course we are now in 1939, and no longer 1938… Bright leaders from time immemorial have kept hungry lions and wine for the crowds. I wonder if there is a law of inverse proportion connecting sports-related government spending and the health of civic government…
For my Canadian friends, who watch as interested observers of the international scene, we need not look so far afield. The very same techniques of muzzling opposition and infiltrating and controlling the media have been effectively used in Canada for several years to create conditions under which government can behave with brazen disregard for the national interest, to meet the objectives of a select and very discrete few. And elections can be inconvenient in Canada too, especially if independent authorities have the power to investigate electoral corruption. Nothing a quickly drafted law can’t fix though. True, Canadian tanks are not threatening any neighbors. I guess it doesn’t really matter if our country is taken away from us while we watch the hockey game.