Thursday, June 30, 2011

Russia Fits!!!

In my book with Bill Ayres (again, the non-terrorist one or perhaps just the secretly terrorist one), we argued that Russia was one of the cases of the silent dog that did not bark--that Russia did not engage in irredentism, despite being voted most likely to engage in such activities at its prom in 1991.   We contended (daringly, I say, as non-specialists) that Russia's identity crisis (what does it mean to be Russian sans Ukraine et al.) was poor grounds for any significant effort to annex neighboring territories inhabited by Russians even with 25 million Russians left outside of Russia when the Soviet Union fell apart.

But then Russia has been playing around with supporting separatists in Georgia--the Abkhaz and the South Ossetians, even issuing some of these folks passports.  Yet Russia did not annex these territories or really threaten to do so.  Plus Russia still has not been so enthused about Belarus returning to the fold even though this most dysfunctional ex-Soviet ex-Republic has occasionally expressed interest.

So, we were never convinced that the interventions with Georgia really were irredentism since it was never about identification with kin and never really about a Greater Russia.  Now we have a bit more evidence to our central thesis--xenophobia can serve as a brake on foreign adventures and even encourage retrenchment:
“In Russian public opinion for both subjective and objective reasons there has gradually been the adoption of a view that Russia has more to profit by distancing itself from the Caucasus and its problems, though formally maintaining territorial integrity.”  (Italics in the original, red not so much).
The piece concludes with this:
Russia’s new nationalism is a mixed blessing for Europe. The chances of an expansionary ‘Weimar Russia,’ feared during the Georgia War are minimised – but the danger of a Russia that is more racist and at risk of a bloody divorce in the North Caucasus should keep Europe awake at night.
I don't know--if I were the Poles, Baltics, and especially the Georgians, I would be happy for some retrenchment rather than adventurism, even if it meant a more racist Russia.  Yes, there are tradeoffs as more xenophobia is not more happiness--it has mixed effects.  As we raise in the book, you get less irredentism but more discrimination at home.  I know how the neighbors would vote, just as I am pretty sure that there are significant folks within Russia that find this rising xenophobia to be less than appealing.

But, since this is my blog, it is all about me.  And these trends suggest that Bill and I were on target.  If Russia fits, our theory acquits?  Um, never mind.

PS  I think this post sets my non-Olympic record for number of parenthetical expressions in one post.

PPS That Russia is critical of France for arming the Libyan rebels makes me giggle.  Russia has hardly been restrained from arming folks it wants to arm.

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