Yesterday I decided to watch a documentary about Joseph Stalin, probably influenced by all the news surrounding Russia over the past weeks. Later I watched a documentary about the history of the secret police in Russia since WWII. I came to realize that what is happening in Russia currently, with the invasion of Crimea, is nothing new, and in fact it would be stranger, historically speaking, if Russia didn’t bully its neighbors.
I am not saying it is okay, and I certainly feel bad for the individuals who will suffer because of Putin, and the tens of millions that died because of Stalin, but these actions are deeply historically rooted. Frankly, Russia doesn’t care if the U.S. doesn’t approve of their actions, and they may even be trying to provoke the U.S., as Stalin did in hopes of starting a nuclear war. So will America fall into this same old song and dance routine, or can we finally just step back and say, good luck, its not our problem. We’ll be preparing defenses and planning strategic fortifications, but this just is not our problem.
I learned from the documentary “Declassified: Joseph Stalin” that long before Stalin, the Russian population had been halved twice by internal purges carried out by the leader of the country; first by Ivan the Terrible, then by Peter the Great. I learned that Stalin ordered the deaths of the most Jews in the history of the world, and that he previously held faith that Israel would become a socialist ally to the USSR. I learned from “Cold War: Inside the KGB” that Russian intelligence built possibly the farthest reaching and most effective spying ring the world has ever seen, stealing the secrets of how to make the nuclear bomb, and assassinating political dissidents far and wide.
And reading up on Vladimir Putin, I found that he was a KGB officer promoted to Prime Minister by President Boris Yeltsin, and became President later that year. He “won” a second term in 2004, was restricted by term limits from running again in 2008, but was graciously named Prime Minister again by President Medvedev, before Putin again “won” the Presidency in 2012, and appointed Medvedev his Prime Minister.
Putin was a KGB intelligence officer in East Germany from 1975-1989, and retired as a Colonel when the Soviet Union fell in 1991. After working in politics for a few years, in 1998 “Putin was appointed head of the Federal Security, an arm of the former KGB, as well as head of Yeltsin’s Security Council.”
So to read between the lines, Putin had followed in the footsteps of many past Russian leaders who climb to and maintain power while giving off a semi-legitimate appearance of working within some sort of legal guidlines. But for our intents and purposes, there is no reason to think that Putin, in power for the last 15 years, will give up that power anytime soon. Presidential terms (the term limits of which apparently only restrict successive terms, or were simply ignored) were increased to 6 years, meaning even if Putin left the Presidency after another 2 terms, he would be at the head of the Russia state until 2024.
Cracking down on protesters, Putin seems to be using what he learned as a KGB officer in the Soviet Union. His Cold War job may also be influencing where he thinks the boundaries of the Russian empire should again be erected. And people seem to be surprised by Putin’s invasion of Crimea? With his resume, we can bet that that will not be the last invasion by Putin. All signs hint to the desire to revive the old Soviet Union, complete with the power, the boundaries, and the American adversary.
But America doesn’t have to play the part, we could bow out, focus on our own issues at home, while maintaining vigilance in the East to deflect possible attacks. America did not exist when Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great left their marks on Russia. America helped Stalin commit his atrocities by allying with Russia in WWII and sending countless supplies, food, and other resources, while Stalin starved and massacred his own people. To think that America would act in a way that would have a positive effect on the people of Eastern Europe is to look at the situation through the narrowest and most naive of lenses. The best thing for America to do is focus on true defense, not offense, and get our own affairs in order before we try to act like we know what is best for the world.