70 years ago I rolled up my sleeves alongside the Russians and together we turned the Nazis from the most terrifying killing machine the world had ever known into Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz. The Soviets sacrificed more lives in that conflict than anyone. Wikipedia puts “total Soviet population losses due the war (sic) at 26.6 million.” The US has got nothing close to that in our collective memory. So while we were curling up with our situation comedies and blithely forgetting how we ended that conflict, the Ruskies were firmly caught in the crazy-making historical remnants of that nightmare.
We thought WWII, which ended in fire, with a bang, would be the end. But it wasn’t. We endured a Cold War where the USSR became our new mortal enemy, and through a long twilight struggle, so the story goes, we endured and finally won a second time, this time beating the Soviet Union, this time in ice, with a whimper.
Why did we win? Perhaps it was largely due to the initial disadvantages they were operating under from the earlier trauma they endured as a country and we didn’t. We chose to believe it was due to the moral superiority of our way of life and culture. Vladimir Putin did not see it that way. And what we are now seeing is that, like the end of WWII, neither did the game end when we seemingly won the Cold War 44 years after we beat the Nazis.
There was supposed to be a New World Order, ideally different from the Nazi’s, and the Soviet’s, but as it turns out, and now we are being forced to witness, somewhat powerlessly, also very different from the American’s vision as well.
Indeed, now we are being shown how a more stable and sustainable Russia is going to balance the power. Originally, Khrushchev spun off Crimea to Ukraine, and was happy to do it. Shifting Crimea back to Ukraine was at the time a small accounting change on the USSR balance sheet. Ukraine was still one of the Soviet Republics, and anyway the Tatars, or many of them, didn’t side with Stalin in WWII, which is why he deported millions of them to the middle of nowhere in Russia. Today, given that Crimea is sufficiently within the Russian sphere of influence, it would seem that Putin was just blustering, and was aware he could get what he wanted simply leaving things as status quo. But it turns out this is not the case, and as of today we fully realize: he’s moving to annex Crimea. Indeed, he’s already annexed it. Even as he smiles and acts as if a referendum is forthcoming.
What is Uncle Sam to do? In light of the recent turn of events, I am struck by the amazing brilliance of what I call the Soviet soft touch, as much as by how living inside of history, as Putin clearly is, gives him power that we, cut loose from it, lack. Putin says no plans to annex, take it easy, relax, we’re responding to a crisis. He calms, as the killer knows he must, expertly, benefiting from years of KGB experience, to ensure the clear shot or clean slice. The subject must be relaxed lest there be any unnecessary, how shall we say, unpleasantness. There is a sophistication to the deviousness that even with all the advances from Kissinger to Cheney we have lately struggled to achieve, we cannot match. Those who say Putin will leave things status quo, based on any political or economic calculus, would be right, but for the rub of the long tail. And so they come for the Tatars.
~Comrade Uncle Sam