[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Same Old Russia
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] In a few short years, President Vladimir Putin has managed to destroy Russia’s nascent democracy. Swiftly, he has moved to reassert old style Russian authoritarianism. At the same time, he has blasted apart the good feelings and cooperation in U.S. Soviet relations. We’re on our way back to the brink once again.

In years ahead, people will look back to the 1990s with longing insofar as Russia and Washington’s relations with Moscow are concerned. Not only had the evil Soviet empire been toppled, but democracy was taking hold in Russia. Free speech was blossoming. Human rights were a real possibility. A developing middle class was surging. Free and open elections were actually occurring.

Well, those were the days my friend. In December, Vladimir Putin rigged the elections to the Duma, the Russian parliament. Parties loyal to the president have an absolute majority. Liberal Democratic parties don’t even have enough seats to be a dissenting voice.

Some argue that democracy in Russia was a fiasco, in any event, because there was widespread chaos and crime. Putin has restored stability, we’re told. The dictators always get the trains running on time. Only a free society would tolerate Amtrak and its service.

National state run television stations tow the party line and report all the news the Kremlin wants to report. Business leaders who dare to cross the president find themselves in jail and stripped of their assets.

Putin is essentially uncontested in his pending re-election for another four year term. It’s only a question of time until the Duma changes the constitution to extend Putin’s next term in office. After all, it’s demeaning for dictators to have to run for re-election even if the result is controlled.

Perhaps none of this is surprising. Given Russia’s long history of authoritarianism, we must all have been delusional to believe the zebra could eliminate its stripes.

Recently, Secretary of State Colin Powel, with the approval of the White House, has spoken out not only in public but in an article in the Russian newspaper, Izvestia, against Putin’s stifling democracy, human rights violations and escalating war in Chechnya.

But these domestic Russian issues are only part of it. Putin is disavowing commitments in the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe which set limits on Russian troops on the borders with its neighbors. Russia has obligations to pull troops out of Georgia and Moldova, which it has not done. Recent statements make it clear that Moscow has no intention of honoring these treaties. Diplomatic wastebaskets are full of treaties abrogated and ripped into shreds by Russia in the twentieth century.

At a recent Munich conference, Senator McCain took Moscow’s Defense Minister Ivanov to task for these and other Russian incendiary activities in independent nations—formerly a part of the USSR. McCain was trying to reassure the frightened small nations who thought they were free from Russian dominance and now gripped by anxiety. And for good reason. The bear is on the prowl.

Let’s not forget that the United States did a great job of financing the gathering of Soviet nuclear weapons from the widespread republics and concentrating them in Russia. It seemed like a good idea ten years ago. Now, maybe not.

The Russian army is currently in tatters, but that could change over night. The history of the twentieth century proves that democracy is an anathema for Russia. It also establishes that powerful armies and state sponsored terror are the norm.

The Bush Administration is unwilling, at least for now, to view the hard gotten gains of decades vis a vis Russia to dissipate in the blink of an eye. The Powell speech, coupled with a nod, albeit reluctant, from Condoleezza Rice, is the tip off.

Georgia may become the flashpoint. It has a new democratically elected president, a thirty-six year old American educated lawyer. Instructors from the United States have trained the Georgian army. Upping the ante, the Russians have refused to pull out their unwelcome troops. With Georgia a stepping tone to Iraq and the Middle East, Bush is not about to turn tail and run.

This is no rerun of a movie from the Cold War days. It’s the same old Russian yearning for empire, and the U.S. determined to block Moscow’s expansionist designs.

Just what the world needs least right now is one more hot spot. The sad fact though is that authoritarianism in Russia always moves in lock step with imperialism.

Here we go again.