Russia: Friend or Foe ?
The Russian Conundrum
By Scott Michael Rohter, November 2019
For over a thousand years Russia has looked to the West to Europe for innovation and for advances in science and technology. French and Italian architects designed and constructed many of its most famous buildings including its lavish palaces, the former residences of the Tsars, as well as its iconic churches, and museums. English geologists explored the Ural Mountains in search of copper and iron ore deposits and they helped Russia turn its vast supplies of iron ore into the bridges that would eventually span its rivers and the railroads that would eventually connect its cities. A Dutch entrepreneur built Russia’s first armory which manufactured the first Russian made guns. These same deposits of iron ore were later used to manufacture the tanks that defeated the NAZI’s in World War II, and the cars, trucks, and planes that propelled Russia into the 20th Century and beyond.
When the oil industry began to take off in the 20th Century Russia with the help of Western financeers help and Western technology help convert one of the world’s largest supplies of oil and gas into the economic engine that transformed its economy and still powers it today.
Russians have always admired the West. They have always thought of themselves as Europeans even while their country was being attacked and plundered by armies of Swedes and Poles in the 16th and 17th centuries and by the French and German invaders under Napoleon and Hitler in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It seemed like nothing could dissuade the Russians from their fascination with all things European nor their desire to be accepted by other European countries and welcomed into the European family of nations. To that end Russian Tsars married the daughters of Europe’s leading royal families right up until the end. The last Russian Tsar, Alexander II who was murdered by the Bolsheviks was married to the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England.
Every European nation including Russia shares a common history which dates back to the Roman Empire. When Rome split into Eastern and Western halves, the capitol of the Eastern half of the empire was re-located at Constantinople. After the western half of the empire fell to Barbarians, the eastern half lived on for another thousand years at Constantinople. The church that was established there by the Roman emperor, Constantine was called the Byzantine Church. later it became know as the Eastern Orthodox Church .It developed its own liturgy which is different than that of the Roman Catholic Church. After Constantinople was conquered by the Muslims all that was left of the Roman Empire, the Eastern Orthodox Church was relocated to Moscow where it became known as the Russian Orthodox Church, or to Greece where it became known as the Greek Orthodox Church. The liturgies of the two Orthodox Churches are very similar. The Russian word for king is Tsar. The German word for king is Kaisar. The similarity is no coincidence. They are both derived from the name of the first Roman emperor.. Julius Caesar.
In the 18th Century the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great traveled to Europe where he took up residence in Holland for a time to learn the shipbuilding business from the world’s greatest seafaring nation at that time. In the 19th Century The Tsarina, Catherine the Great corresponded with leading French intellectuals including Voltaire. She welcomed the ideas of the French enlightenment though they ultimately proved detrimental to her rule. In the 20th Century Russia even experimented with the German idea of Communism which was the brainchild of two German intellectuals, Karl Marx and Frederich Engels.
Russians have always tried to be like other Europeans and in vein have wanted to be accepted by their more advanced neighbors to the West, but acceptance has always eluded them. The French and the British have always felt superior to the rest of Europe, even to Germany. Due to their small size England and France have probably feel threatened by Russia while Germany has traditionally looked down upon its Slavic neighbors to the east as a rather backward and inferior race. Nevertheless this rejection did not deter or diminish Russia’s ambition to be accepted by their European neighbors… Not until after World War II when the United States of America began to perceive Russia as a rival, and later as a threat did a majority of Russians begin to rethink they way they view the West.
The 1980‘s was a high point in Russian American relations. It was an era of unbridled optimism projected by two courageous leaders who shared a dream and a positive vision for the future. Together they ushered in a new era of detante and cooperation between our two countries. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbechev were visionaries who shared a dream, but after their departure from the world stage influential members of America’s foreign policy establishment with no positive vision for the future known collectively as the Deep State managed to reverse positive developments in our bi-lateral relations and turned back the hands of time. Small minded men with no vision successfully manipulated public opinion and destroyed Ronald Reagan’s dream of cooperation and peaceful coexistence with our main rival in the world. Instead of a dream they returned us to the nightmare of the Cold War… and they resurrected the old narrative that Russia poses a threat to our democracy and to America’s survival.
Just Hitler and the NAZI’s were a political anomaly in Germany, and Napoleon and Robespierre were anomalies in France, Russia has had its own political anomalies, but that being said, with the exceptions of Lenin and Stalin Russia has never posed a threat to Europe or to America. In fact Russia twice saved Europe from total annihilation, once by Napoleon and the second time by Hitler.
As far as Vladimir Lenin is concerned he was a revolutionary who was arrested and deported to Siberia in 1897 where he served a three year sentence for sedition after which he was allowed to emigrate to Germany where he became a lifelong Communist. When Germany was on the verge of losing World War I he was deported back to Russia in order to stir up trouble and divert Russia from the war effort.
The other aberration in Russian history is the anomaly of Joseph Stalin who wasn’t even a Russian… He was from Georgia. After eliminating all of his political rivals following Lenin’s death he took control of the government and went on to murder millions of innocent Russians while threatening to export his communist revolution to the rest of the world. Neither Lenin nor Stalin represent Russia any more than Napoleon or Hitler represent France or Germany. The myth that modern Russia somehow poses a threat to the United States or to any of our European allies is absolute nonsense. Maybe Poland and Lithuania should stop looking over their collective shoulders for some imaginary Russian invaders along their eastern borders and take a long, hard look at their own history of aggression against Russia and come to terms with their own guilty conscience. The Russians actually want to get along with Europe and the United States. The only condition is that we accept them as partners and equals.
The Russian threat is a myth that was fabricated and embellished during the Administrations of four American Presidents, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. This myth is perpetuated and reinforced in the minds of millions of Americans by the fake news media, not by anything that Russia has actually done, but rather by our own domestic partisan politics and political rivalries in collusion with the American military industrial complex which can always use a good bogey man to gin up arms sales and increase corporate profits. President Eisenhower warned us about this. The Russian threat hoax attempts to explain why Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump by shifting responsibility for her loss away from her and blaming it on someone else. To further assist in that goal the media keeps stirring up the pot with numerous false allegations of Russian interference or Trump Russia collusion. This led first to the Mueller investigation and later to the House Impeachment Inquiry which has occupied the national attention for so long that even if President Trump does want to restore friendly diplomatic relations with Russia, he can’t do it. His hands are completely tied.