Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dwarf Russia

President Obama remarked, in his offhanded, no drama way, that Russia is not really a major threat to the place of the United States in the world. 
They are a much smaller country than us, he said, which shocked me.

Professor Google confirmed President Obama's numbers: Russia has less than half the population of the United States. Of course, it's land mass looks much larger, or at least longer--it covers 11 time zones. 
I was always accustomed to thinking of the Russians as vast.  They lost 20 million in the second World War. But  now Russia has roughly 144 million people to our 320 million.
Still a big guy?

President Obama went on to say: 
1. Russia doesn't innovate.
2. They don't make much of anything.
3. The only thing they have to sell  is oil and gas. 

Hell, Saudi Arabia does that. Is that all Russia's got?

Putin remarked, as he annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine, that Ukraine really isn't even a country, by which he meant, Ukraine is really just part of Russia. But, even if he could grab Ukraine, that  still would not reconstitute the Soviet Union. And, while I cannot know from this distance and with my limited knowledge of Ukraine, there is some reason to believe at least the Western half of Ukraine is populated by people who do not think of themselves as Russians. They don't even speak Russian as their first language. Ukrainian, apparently, is not Russian. I'm not even sure there's much affection for Russia in Ukraine or in any of those "Stan" countries. Not at all clear they'd send troops to Russia's aide.
Hope fulfilled 

The Russians do have lots of ICBM's with nuclear warheads. But North Korea has nuclear war heads on missiles and that remains nothing but a backwater and a bizarre anomaly. 

But the idea of Russia overwhelming Poland, Germany, France and England with a huge Red Army is just no longer in the cards. 

Nuclear weapons struck me as a good thing, when you considered a massive Soviet army overwhelming Western Europe and nuclear weapons were what stood as a wall against that,  but now that Leviathan is gone.

How little I know of Russia today. Just stories about their head of state ordering the murders of a defector in London with some radioactive cocktail, ordering the murder of journalists, of a woman dissident. They jail girl bands in Russia. As if "Pussy Riot" were a serious threat to national security. They cheat systematically by running Olympic athletes through doping programs. As if winning Olympic medals mattered enough to cheat like that. 
And their winter Olympics, where they could not even get all four Olympic rings to light up--why was that spectacle so important to them? For Hitler, in 1936, he was trying to showcase his ideas about the Master Race, but what was Russia trying to prove at Sochi?
 It's a sort of bad boy state.  
I will do what I want to do because I am big and strong and can get away with it.
Sort of a drunken frat boy, who wakes up naked and wonders why people don't respect him.

It's the classic small man syndrome: I will show you. I will make you respect me.

Never occurred to me Russia may be struggling with an inferiority complex.  Russia always seemed so big. It's amazing how you can listen to news programs so often, for so long, and never hear such a basic idea. 

I'm guessing President Obama said these things because he no longer feels constrained to follow a rule which says you don't belittle another country or another country's leader because you're just asking for trouble and why court trouble? But now. what does he have to lose? He can say whatever he wants.  

And what he's saying is Mr. Putin does not rule a superpower. He rules a second rate country. 

Japan makes great cars and lots of computers.  Germany makes cars and lots of highly engineered manufactured goods. France makes lots of high end stuff--food, clothes, the Citroen which has the world's best car seats. Britain has the City of London stock market and makes good movies, not to mention Downton Abbey.  Italy makes fashion, art, and entertainingly dysfunctional governments.  Even Finland made Nokia cell phones. Portugal makes Port and generates 100% of it's power grid by wind and solar some days. Iceland makes great sweaters. 

What does Russia make? Okay, Vodka, but really: a country with 11 time zones and the best it can do is vodka? Hell, the state of Kentucky makes moonshine, but that doesn't mean it's worth more than a bucket of warm spit.
So, great, you can murder people. Is that so admirable?

All Russia  makes, when you get right down to it,  is mischief. 

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