Wandering the Edge
Just a Blog: The Almighty Dollar
How did we get here? Putin? Absolutely! Our failure to reform Ukraine after the fall of communism? Correct! Limited response by the West when Crimea was illegally annexed in 2014? Yes!
But why was this response so limited and half-hearted? Well, it's all about the money! Or well, the perception of money - since financial links between the West and Russia have been very well documented. But why did this relationship flourish? Especially since everyone knew of Russia's corrupt ways, even in the early 1990s? Even after Chechnya, Georgia and all the political killings within Russia itself? Especially because we all know Russia lies...a lot! How do we know they lie?
Well - have you witnessed their army in Ukraine? I had a discussion with a friend about their lack of success in Ukraine and he mentioned something very important to me: the Russians are so corrupt, we don't actually know what their military capability is. On paper, they're large. But how many are actual soldiers and how many of them are made-up people so that officers can get more money out of the system? How much money were transferred to personal bank accounts instead of being invested in military technology, policy, logistics and training? We've seen how their army is being fed - and it ain't good.
But again - why trust Moscow? Why trust people who are clearly fine with murder, mayhem and terror? Well - it's because of an illusion of commonality and economy. Now, commonality stems from the false illusion of post-Empire Europe: France had an Empire, Britain had an Empire, Hungary believes they had an Empire - so why not work with Russia, who also had an Empire. You see, many people in the West still look at Eastern Europe as the former Russian Empire. We may have had independence for thirty years - but that doesn't mean that Ukraine will get a separate department head for Ukrainian Studies in any English university (nor will Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia). Because the West doesn't understand Ukraine - it doesn't understand how a country could exist, post European/Russian imperialism (same goes for Bosnia). I know this personally when TAing in an English university and first-year students could barely understand where Ukraine is, never mind what Russian imperialism meant for many countries in Eastern Europe (this was post Orange Revolution).
It's an empire state of mind, but an empire associated with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky (who themselves wrote about the problems of the Russian soul). The problem is: all those former Empires have worked to dismantle and reconcile (some better than others) their imperial past. But not Russia - never Russia. It just goes from one imperial state of mind, to another. And they take those ideas - that Ukraine isn't real, that the Ukrainian language is just a dialect of Russian, there's no difference. So when all those Russians come onto campus in England and interact with the locals - those ideas spread.
And how can they afford to be sent to some of the best schools in England? Well, money - lots of it. And that's another reason why the West looks at Russia and doesn't see what we see. They see a fellow capitalist country and capitalism = good, thus Russia = good investment. Because capitalism. If we have the same economic ideology, that must mean we share the same values? Right? NO! Russia doesn't care about human lifes! That's the problem when you have always had a lot of people with limited capacity. Stalin did it during the Second World War: just throw bodies at the enemy and you'll eventually win, no matter that you've sacrificed a large number of your own people.
What the West doesn't understand is that capitalism in Russia is a perverse sort of capitalism. It has enshired itself as a hyper-capitalist or neo-capitalist system. In the West you have capitalism that still holds the welfare state as important. In Russia - capitalism and money are cherished above all. You do everything and anything to get more money, even if you have to walk on the bodies of your fellow citizens. Bribes to get what you want? No problem. Kill a journalist that is investigating your business? Sure. Get creative with the numbers on spreadsheets about your financial net worth? Yup! All to get more $$ and influence in your small village where your neighbour doesn't even have running water or an indoor toilet. Anything goes! (Not to say that Ukraine was any better - it did the same thing, but it was getting better).
But the West just sees capitalism and it assumes that the Kremlin is filled with people who share the values of the French Revolution or the constitutional rights of the American Revolution or the laws of Magna Carta. What they don't see is that the Russian imperial/capitalist state of mind only cares about one thing: power. And it respects power - and when they see the EU and NATO sit back and offer their thoughts and prayers, Russia gets embolden and it's terrifying where that imperial state of mind will go.