Russia has gone rogue with its invasion of Ukraine.
I’ve always been willing to give Russia the benefit of the doubt in the past, even when it was the Soviet Union. I feel I know a little bit about Russia’s history and understand some of it’s beleagured, us-against-them outlook on the international stage.
The West was always willing to interfere in Russia’s affairs, including when the Communist revolution prompted the West to invade in order to stymie the Bolsheviks thus setting the pattern for Russians’ point of view for the next century. I had probably best stop right there when describing past historical events because I’ll probably expose my ignorance more than enlighten anybody.
Russia was a frequent topic of discussion amongst my circle of friends during my university years. Two of my roommates were Dukhobors from the Grand Forks area and so the nature of being Russian vis a vis a citizen of the North Atlantic “West” was fodder for long philosophical discussions on many a night.
My interest in Russia was such that I filled out a Bachelor’s degree requirement with an introduction to Russian course as an elective. It was fun. I like languages but I think I remember only about five words from the course.
Russia has always been attempting to prove it is a great nation and an international super power but instead it just always seemed to suffer from an inferiority complex while trying to catch up with the West. You still hear that in the vehemence behind Russian president Vladimir Putin’s diatribes against the West and his laments that the West is always trying to gang up on Russia.
He’s somewhat right, given the attitudes of the West during the Cold War, but in the last years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, I think Russia would have found more support than rivalry if she had just made an effort to join with the West. She was already being included in G-8 and G-20 groups.
That’s the tragedy of the current situation. It didn’t have to be like this. Russia was forcing its way into the upper echelon of developed nations as it evolved into a modern, predominantly western culture. The Soviet Union was always an economic and social backwater but Russia was evolving into a modern society.
Putin is forcing it to go backwards. He’s making the country an international pariah. Which is sad because it could have, instead, brought itself closer to Europe and North America. I feel her people want to. We have to distinguish Putin from the Russian people. The country has always had a disconnect between the people and their rulers – often murderous tyrants, going back to Soviet and Tsarist days. I hope the disconnect is still the same today and that the people will prevail. Some are voting with their feet as young men flee the country to avoid military duty fighting in Ukraine.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a criminal act and instead of securing the country’s borders that action has endangered them by forcing its neighbours to formally join NATO in order to secure themselves. Finland and Sweden have always been western nations but they had always made an accommodation with their giant neighbour.
Finland, in particular, had to, remaining neutral in the post-WWII era. But now even sitting right on the Russian border – probably because of it – Finland feels more secure signing up with the NATO alliance than making treaties with Russia. Putin’s strategy has failed and now Russia sits isolated, under sanctions and, once again, in danger of slipping into becoming another economic and social backwater. Russia and North Korea, two peas in an autocratic pod.
Alistair Taylor is editor of the Campbell River Mirror.