The next Cold War will NOT be in Europe

Ivan disagrees with that effete wanker, Thomas Friedman, who ought to shut the f— up about Russia for a while, considering how Friedman has lost so much credibility after cheerleading for the disastrous Iraq War.

Right. Now, our Tsar Richard sent me this Friedman article in entirety, and God only knows why the New York Times asks anyone to pay money for this kind of tripe.

I finally figured out how to cut and paste and post it. Some of my friends will know that it’s a watershed accomplishment for me, IT-Moron that I am. But I figured out how to do it, and so, Friedman’s 60 percent myopic article is appended below. 60 percent myopic is the best the Friedman ever does on his best days.

Hie thee hence and read Friedman’s article about how Russia is rising once again, largely due to Russia’s oil, upon which (as Friedman DOES accurately recognise) Europe will become more and more dependent in the near and medium future. Read it for that, because THAT much DOES make sense.

And it’s worth reading also as an example of how so many American journalists and pundits still….just….don’t…get it. They still don’t understand Russia, they don’t understand Russia’s long term aims vis a vis Europe, and they don’t understand how the entire geopolitical world has changed so much in the past 15 years. And they (including Friedman) still don’t understand that the world did NOT change in any radical way on September 11 2001. The epochal change in the World, and in Geopolitics, was when the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989.

And Friedman and his kind still don’t understand, that 1989 was the year when America’s role as a putative “Superpower” began to fade. Not to mention America’s even more dubious putative role as the “leader of the free world.” All of that began to end when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. And Friedman and his kind (whose collective name is Legion) still just don’t get it.

Well, at this time, I want to reserve most of my comments on Friedman’s article until I see some of our other readers’ comments on it. But for now, just for starters, I will say:

1. In the medium-long term, the condition of Russia being a main supplier of oil and gas to Europe, will be to the mutual advantage of Russia and Europe. And that leads to another qualification:

2. I am almost 100 percent certain that Russia will join the EU within the next 20 years. Probably in more like ten years.

3. I laugh hysterically at every moronic pundit/journalist fantasy about Russia making any kind of REAL alliance with China – EVER – or the notion that Russia might ever oppose the mutual strategic (and civilisational) interests of Russia and Europe, ever. Ever. It…will…not…happen. Ever.,

4. Russia (its leaders – even those who oppose each other in domestic disputes – and the vast majority of the Russian people) consider themeselves to be European. Peculiar kinds of Europeans, perhaps, but they will always, always, always, defend Europe against any and all real or imagined threats from the Far East or (more immediately) from the South, especially the resurgent Islamic peoples who are the most despised, most distrusted, ancient enemies of Russia.

5. Most of you (even those of you who disagree with me on most things) will agree with me that Russian Naitonalism is growing. Very simply, Russian nationalism is growing. It’s a mix of good and bad; Russian patrioitism, and the Russian sense of belonging to “Europe” (or to “Christendom”) is growing rapidly, in fact it’s the main ideology which is holding the vast country of Russia together today.

It’s very mixed, this new sense of Russian nationalism/patriotism. Some of them are vulgar thugs who actually admire Hitler (but their numbers are declining even now, as Russia’s government is on a campaign to re-educate Russians about their great struggle against the Nazis.) And a far greater number of them are sincere patriots, who are resurrecting their ancient (and noble) heritage of being one of the greatest nations of Europe, and one of the greatest defenders of European civilisation.

But what ALL of them have in common – what almost ALL Russians have in common – is an ancient (at least 800 years old) conception of Russia’s identity as being “the Defender of Europe, the Defender of Christendom.”

And unless you really know Russia, you can barely imagine how deep this idea of “Russia the Defender of Western Civilisation (or the Defender of Christendom) runs in them.

The ESSENCE of Russia’s identity, for a thousand years – ever since there was any “Russia” at all – has been this concept of Russia as the Great Warrior Nation Who Defends Christian Civilisation Against The Southern And Eastern Barbarians

That is Russia. If “Russia” exists as any kind of ideal at all, that’s what it is. The heroic (and often tragically unacknowledged) Defender of Christendom, the Saviour of Europe and of the White Race.

(And that was actually one of the main symbols which the Red Army believed in when they liberated half of Europe from the Nazis. They saw themselves as defenders and liberators of European civilisation – and at that time, when they fought against Hitler, they had some good reasons to see themselves that way.)

6. Friedman doesn’t know jack shit about Russia. Go and read his article, for an illustration of how so many Americans just….don’t…get it.

7. If there will ever be any new Cold War between Russia and other Western countries, it will not be Europe, but America which is left out in the cold. In the next 10 or 20 years, Russia will draw closer to Europe, while both Russia and Europe distance themselves from the American Empire which gradually collapsed after 1991.

The Really Cold War
Published: October 25, 2006

The Berlin Wall fell almost 17 years ago. At the time, the future seemed clear: The fall of the wall would unleash an unstoppable tide of free markets and free people — and for about 15 years it did just that. Today, though, when you stand where the Berlin Wall once stood and look east, you see a countertide coming your way. It is a black tide of petro-authoritarianism emanating from Russia, and it is blunting the Berlin Wall tide of free markets and free people.

Why? Russia is a classic example of what I like to call ‘the First Law of Petropolitics,’ which posits that the price of oil and the pace of freedom operate in an inverse relationship in petrolist states — states with weak institutions and a high dependence on oil for their G.D.P. As the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up. The day the Soviet Union collapsed the price of oil was near $16 a barrel. And as the price of oil goes up the pace of freedom goes down. Today, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, flush with surging oil and gas profits, is crushing domestic opponents, renationalizing major energy companies, throwing out Western human rights groups and generally making himself the big man on campus in Europe.

When Europeans tell you that they fear a new ‘cold war,’ this time they really are talking about the temperature — and the fear that Russia, if it wanted to turn off the gas, could make Europeans very cold. About 40 percent of Europe’s natural gas imports come from Russia, and that is expected to grow to 70 percent by 2030.

With prices high, Russia has gone from the sick man of Europe to the boss man. Russia is a having a much bigger impact on Western Europe “with gas pipelines than it ever had with SS-20â€? long-range nuclear missiles, remarked the German foreign-policy expert Josef Joffe, author of the smart book ‘Ueberpower: The Imperial Temptation of America.’

‘Ten years ago we thought Russia was out of it,’ Mr. Joffe said. ‘We knew it was going to come back. But suddenly, out of the blue, with the rise in oil prices, it is back on stage, and this time it’s much more skillful. The image we have of Russia is [the port of] Murmansk, where the Russian fleet is rotting — but power comes in many forms.’ And the most popular form today is oil and gas.

Goodbye NATO, hello Citgo.

The other day, the BBC quoted a senior ‘E.U. insider’ as saying of European Union leaders: “You know what happens when they get in the same room with Putin?” They all prostrate themselves “and say, ‘I love you, Vladimir.’ ” The BBC was reporting about a tense summit meeting last Friday in the Finnish town of Lahti. E.U. leaders reportedly beseeched Mr. Putin to honor contracts with Western oil companies, as well as to ease his crackdown on press freedoms, on human rights groups in Russia and on Georgia, and to investigate the murder of a crusading Russian journalist.

What the E.U. wants, a senior German official explained, is to be able to invest in more Russian oil and gas drilling projects and pipelines upstream, so that Russian and E.U. energy interests will be so intertwined Russia will never consider turning off the gas. Mr. Putin wants Gazprom, the giant Russian gas company, to be able to buy into more downstream consumer operations in Europe. That way Russia could dominate the industry from its oilfields all the way to the gas meters of Berlin and Brussels. Right now, the two sides are in a standoff.

‘We cannot allow energy to divide Europe as communism once did,’ Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, told The Financial Times. But it is.

In fairness to Mr. Putin, turnabout is fair play. After the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia was enfeebled, the U.S. and the E.U. crammed NATO expansion down his throat. He’s now using petro-power to push back. “Russia is very different from Venezuela or Saudi Arabia,� remarked Clemens Wergin, an editorial writer at the German daily Der Tagesspiegel. Russia has nukes and oil, he noted, and therefore has the potential to play a much more domineering geopolitical role in Europe.

German officials don’t really think Russia is about to turn off the gas if it doesn’t get its way on some issue. After all, it never did that during the old cold war, and Russia today is much more dependent on Western markets. But still, centuries of uneasy relations between Europe and Russia make German officials queasy about how dependent they’ve grown on the Kremlin to heat their homes and offices. Queasy or not, one thing they know for sure: Russia is back. The gas man cometh.

The Discussion: 12 Comments

I skipped the Freidman article, but those were some really interesting comments you made about Russia. I went there on a short trip with my parents about five years ago and was impressed with some of the national symbols. I always wondered about the double-headed eagle, perched atop the globe. And isn’t St. George the Dragon Slayer also the patron saint of Russia? They sound like they tie into your description of Russian identity pretty neatly

October 27, 2006 @ 5:40 am | Comment

I believe, and correct me if I’m wrong, that there has never been a society so obsessed with honor – personal and filial – as was Mother Russia’s in the late 19th century. Any of us who studied Russian classical literature of that time period during our high school English classes knows this. When first introduced to the ferocity of such feelings of Russian honor I was shocked! Could people actually respect each other so much?

What happened? Can we get it back? ‘Cause we need it, BAD!

October 27, 2006 @ 7:32 am | Comment

“That is Russia. If “Russia” exists as any kind of ideal at all, that’s what it is. The heroic (and often tragically unacknowledged) Defender of Christendom, the Saviour of Europe and of the White Race.”

….barf. If Russia was the heroic defender of the white race, why did it invade Finland at the start of WWII? Why did it go to war with Sweden? Why did it go to war with Austro-Hungary in WWI (I think they were White Christians…) Why did ….

(And that was actually one of the main symbols which the Red Army believed in when they liberated half of Europe from the Nazis. They saw themselves as defenders and liberators of European civilisation – and at that time, when they fought against Hitler, they had some good reasons to see themselves that way.)—-ok, why did the Red Army park 2 million troops, 60000 tanks, 50000 APCs, 100000 artillery pieces, 4500 helicopters, 10000 attack jets in E. Europe after WWII? Was it to “defend and liberate” European civilization from their own liberal democratic governments????

And furthermore, your analysis regarding the unlikelihood of a Russo-Chinese alliance is true, if only because eventually the Chinese will simply annex Eastern Siberia anyhow. (It’s not hard–their total population drops by around 4% every year, while the Chinese population within Siberia increases by 2% a year.)

October 27, 2006 @ 7:55 am | Comment

Hmmm. China’s going to annex Siberia?
The capacity for self-delusion in China is amazing.
Didn’t Ivan just establish the strength of the traditional notions of honour and patriotism that are reviving in Russia at the moment?
Do at your own risk, and based on your own shonky historical claims.

October 27, 2006 @ 10:23 am | Comment

Actually, t_co may be right about that. China has demographics on its side, and I think there are a lot of people in Russia who believe that Siberia will be heavily populated by Chinese, if not literally annexed by China.

October 27, 2006 @ 3:23 pm | Comment

@Ivan: I always understood the Defender of Christendom thing as the Third Rome idea – that after Constantinople started reconciling with the Vatican (and later the Ottoman Empire fell), the Russian Tsar took on the trapping of Defender of Eastern Orthodoxy because Constantinople had fallen like Rome before it. The Tsar (I forget exactly who – Ivan III?) was also consolidating power and having the trappings (included stuff like the crown, scepter, etc.) of a proper divine ruler was just what he needed. I got the impression, from the little Russian history I studied, that the Tsar and aristocracy were always trying to be as cool as the French.

@T_Co: Ivan was talking about an ideal. What Russia believes, not what it actually manages to do. And as for taking Eastern Europe to protect it, conquest has often been justified as “saving”.

And the Siberia annexation idea is for Russian Minutemen or Eurabia hysterics. It’s frankly racist. Never mind the Russian border counts business travelers twice over as migrants, never mind those migrants may not be interested in being citizens of the PRC again, never mind immigrants birth rates tend to drop, never mind the PRC has an enormous amount of “sovereignty” rhetoric they don’t want to just throw away, never mind all of Southeast Asia (Singapore especially) about the PRC taking territory because it has alot of Chinese descendents there, and never mind the Russian skinheads are already foaming at the mouth about it and if Russia and China make any deals, it’ll be precisely to live as comfortably as possible and not bother each other over Central Asia and their borders. That’s because each would much rather be focusing in the other direction; China on East Asia and Russia on Europe.

October 27, 2006 @ 3:44 pm | Comment

Ivan: “Russia will join the EU within the next 20 years”

I doubt whether the EU will exist in 20 years. Or even 10 years. In any case, I’ll bet my very last euro that the EU will never expand outside the Balkans. Romania, Bulgaria, a couple of the ex-Yugo states, and that’s it. No more expansion. Unless they want to start a wave of secession among current member states.

Friedman: “Goodbye NATO, hello Citgo.”

Wow, he really is a moron. Everybody knows Citgo is owned by Venezuela! What he meant to say was, apparently, Getty, which is turning into LUKOIL even as we speak.

October 27, 2006 @ 4:07 pm | Comment

You may or may not be right about whether the EU will exist in 20 years. But one way or another, Russia will be closely aligned and even militarily allied with most of Europe in 10-20 years.

October 27, 2006 @ 4:17 pm | Comment

I think t_co has missed the mark by a mile in his interpretation of Russia and its motives but one of my brighter students had an interesting prediction of what China would like to see Russia become in the future. He thinks Russia will become to China what Canada is to America. The two countries will be very friendly, the boarder will be largely undefended and they will back each other up in international circles.

I think he’s a mile off too. Some of the reasons the US Canada relationship works is because they share many of the same beliefs, values, a common language (except for Quebec but then again a WHOLE lot of Americans study French in high school, study it badly m ind you) and sprouted from the same colonial parent. And I have no real proof here, but the US usually at least TRIES to behave well when dealing with Canada. Despite the size and power disparity, the US does generally treat Canada as an equal (although I’m sure you can find examples where that’s not the case) Except for a bit of Marxist egalitarian rhetoric imported from Moscow, there is nothing in Chinese history, foreign policy or psyche that lends the Chinese to treat ANY nation as an equal. All nations are inferior culturally, some are more powerful economically and/or militarily, they are to be feared, treated obsequiesly (sp) occassionally cooperated with, others are small and should pay homage/tribute to China.

I really can’t picture Russia fitting comfortably into any of these square holes.

October 27, 2006 @ 6:00 pm | Comment

“Despite the size and power disparity, the US does generally treat Canada as an equal”

Indeed…the last time the US tried going to war with Canada (1812), Canada burned down the White House.

October 27, 2006 @ 11:32 pm | Comment

If I can add a few points: I too am pessimistic about a deepening of the Russia/China relationship. There was a moment in the late 19th/early 20th century when Russia (and later the Soviets) did appear as a model to some Chinese both in the CCP and the KMT. Russia sent aid to Sun Yat Sen when nobody else would. (For a good overview of the China/Russia connection, the classic is Don C. Price, Russia and the Roots of the Chinese Revolution). But then in 1927, the KMT threw the CCP under a bus and the Comintern swiftly lost what credibility it had with either party.

Before this, The Qing had a tense relationship with Russia at best. Russia is usually credited with ‘signing the first treaty between China and a Western power’ (Nerchinsk, 1689 with Jesuit help) despite the fact that the Qing never considered Russia part of Europe. (Russia was handled through the Lifan Yuan which dealt with Central Asia, European powers eventually through the Zongli Yamen.) After Nerchinsk, the relationship was never warm, both sought a strategic advantage over the resources of Central Asia. In the 1870s, Zuo Zongtang’s (Yes, that General Tso, the chicken guy) military victories over–what we might call–a “Muslim insurgency” in Xinjiang led by Yakub Beg were almost undone by diplomatic bungling by Qing officials in negotiations with Russia over fixing the new boundaries.

And the Sino-Soviet relationship…well, I’m sure there are commenters here more versed in that drama than I am but one thing I’ve noticed is that in most pictures of Mao and Stalin together, they look like the “divorced parents” at the daughter’s wedding…each one has the “And this is my first wife…” look on their faces. Says volumes.

I’m just not sure there’s enough love there to bring these two together. Ivan’s right. Chips are down: Russia sides with Europe and China knows it.

October 27, 2006 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

Just a bit more about that Doube-headed Eagle etc:
Yes it was adopted by the Muscovite Tsar (whose wife was a daughter of the Byzantine Imperial family) around the time of the fall of Contstantinople, which coincidentally was around the SAME time when the power of the (Muslim) Tatars was pretty much broken in Russia (except for a few residual holdouts like around Kazan.) So, yes, those are the origins of the idea of “Moscow the Third Rome.” Actually there’s a bit more to it than coinciding with the fall of Constantinople; it also involved the simultaneous intermarriage between the Muscovite Tsars and the Byzantine Imperial family, and Russia’s victory over its despised Muslim/Tatar invaders.

So, that was when, how and why Russia adopted the (former) emblem of the Byzantine Emperors.

As for what Dave said about the Tsars wanting to emulate the French: Actually that came later, under Peter the Great (circa 1700). That’s when the Russian aristocracy all moved to St Petersburg (which was built virtually overnight) and began speaking French among themselves (so much so that in a few generations, some of them could no longer speak Russian very well.)
cf, for example, the main character of “War and Peace” has a French name, Pierre (Bezukhov).

An interesting sidenote is that France and French ideas were the main “Western” influence on Russia for a long time. The first Russian attempt to hold any kind of “Englightenment” style “revolution” was in December 1825, when veteran officers of the Napoleonic wars (many of whom had invaded France and then become exposed to the French Enlightenment) attempted a coup at the Winter Palace. (They’re called the Decembrists, or Dyekabristi. They were exiled to Siberia, and many of their wives chose to follow them.) And yet, the Bolshevik Revolution was something very different, something far more brutal and extreme – and some (including me) believe this was because Lenin (who was half-German) and the Bolsheviks followed a more German idea of socialism and/or revolution. Today we tend to forget that Marx was not the only early Socialist – but he was a socialist who thought in very German ways.

Thus I wonder how things might have been different in Russia, if Russia’s revolutionaries had
remained more influenced by French socialism (and/or the French Enlightenment) than by the more fanatical and abstract German kind which Marx represented.

October 29, 2006 @ 2:38 pm | Comment

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