Hitting the Reset Button

NOT the Fundraiser Post…in case you were wondering.

Sometimes I forget there are certain topics we don’t “do” at Gates of Vienna. They aren’t hot buttons everywhere, but on this website they function as such due to the uncommon makeup of our readership.

One such verboten topic is Russia. Don’t.go.there. Ever. It causes heartburn and intellectual indigestion. I apologize to anyone who was upset by my opinions.

…But it was those wonderful strong iconic images of Soviet Russia’s heyday that sent me over the edge. I forgot about the especially strong feelings that mentions of Mother Russia generate here at Gates of Vienna — and always have. Russia the Bear. Russia the Momma Bear. Russia, that tertium quid: not wholly European but certainly not Asian either; she exists on some other plane and those images evoke her enduring place in the American mind. Just as some iconic images of America work on those who live outside the U.S.

In the case of the USSR in particular, we move to the shaky ground of equivocation, since much of America’s clumsy “handling” of both the USSR before it dissolved and the fluid situation of Russia today have left much to be desired. Who trusts anything coming from either side? Whoever came up with that clumsy, bizarre “Reset” button Hillary Clinton delivered to Putin is just the most glaring example of our many missteps.

Do I think America has acted stupidly when it comes to Russia, whatever iteration we’re discussing? Indeed I do. There has been a century-long sotto voce humint war — sometimes sinking into such deep hatreds that it becomes a “wet war” — between the West and Russia, with America ‘leading’ the subterranean battle for the West, often rushing in wearing pig farmer’s muddy boots.

One case shows how far American citizens have come, though: when Edward Snowden ‘defected’ to Russia after leaking a bunch of not-so-secret confidential materials, the intense storm which followed in his wake passed over quickly. It’s not that Americans didn’t care about what he did, it’s that what he revealed about our government is so much worse. Thomas Jefferson was right when he advised us to avoid spying because we’d always do it so badly in comparison with other countries who’d been at it for centuries before America was even a gleam in history’s eye.

What exactly did Snowden reveal? Well, enough to make a lot of American companies rilly, rilly angry. Here’s a list of the top ten from last June, drawn from a Mashable list:

1.   Secret court orders allow NSA to sweep up Americans’ phone records.
2.   PRISM — which turned out to be not-so-bad.
3.   Britain’s version of the NSA taps fiber optic cables around the world.
4.   NSA spies on foreign countries and world leaders (looking at you, Mad Merkel).
5.   XKeyscore, the program that sees everything.
6.   NSA efforts to crack encryption and undermine Internet security.
7.   NSA elite hacking team techniques revealed (yes, the team called TAO).
8.   NSA cracks Google and Yahoo data center links.
9.   NSA collects text messages.
10.   SA intercepts all phone calls in two countries (which two? See their logo for MYSTIC).

Well, it’s a short walk from WikiLeaks to Snowden’s revelations to the Panama Papers. These are all variations on a perp walk for the corrupt cronies across the world (yes, Putin’s cash is there, but I don’t know about the Chinese). Each new revelation uncovers levels of governmental, corporate and individual corruption. What is the total effect on the average person? How do we maintain our own sense of integrity or refrain from becoming cynics?

We’re working on it, all of us.

18 thoughts on “Hitting the Reset Button

  1. Russia tightens her
    anti-extremism laws

    “The latest amendments to the Russian anti-extremist laws introduced in mid-2014 provide that public calls for extremism, or attempts to humiliate people, should be punished with up to five years in prison. This applies to internet posts, as well as mass media publications.

    Organizing and maintaining political or religious communities that spread extremist ideology is now punishable with up to eight years in prison, correctional work or heavy fines.”

  2. In both world wars, the U.S. and Russia were on the same side. At other times, they hone their skills by play-fighting with each other.

    My prediction is that as WWIII (against Islamism) eventually starts in earnest, the U.S. and Russia will once again be on the same side.

    This seems destined to be the case whenever the Europeans truly get out of control, which is largely what has enabled this latest idiocy, as well.

    • Good, Mike.
      At least they no longer have a pervasive lethal ideology driving them into a blissful scientific future.

      And, although they vote @11% communist, I bet they have a higher percentage of fervent anticommnists than any faculty lounge in the US. And they must hate you -know-what, starts with an I…. , ends with an m. And you gotta know what they think of critical theory and the Frankfurt school….

      What more can we want from an international ally?

      • I dunno. Part of me thinks that one day, we might have an anti-Communist Russia and an anti-Communist China allied against a semi-Communist USA.

        But maybe this election cycle will turn things around. Maybe the Shroooooo’s shenanigans will catch up with her. Maybe….

    • I hope your prediction will come true. Islam war against the infidels started 14 centuries ago only we ignore it at our peril. Britain, America and the rest of Europe try to death everything to push it aside, trying to give muslims an impression that we are not at war with islam. The west dreads that notion. The west imports muslims to show that the west loves muslims. Hoping that if they show them deep love the muslims will be reconditioned.

      But muslims are smart in their sixth sense: They have no respect for love emanating from abject fear and cowardice.

    • By century’s end, other peoples will have largely repopulated the Old Continent. Quote: “Vladimir Putin, who witnessed the death of Marxism-Leninism up close, appears to understand the cruciality of Christianity to Mother Russia, and seeks to revive the Orthodox Church and write its moral code back into Russian law.”

  3. I have always considered Russia as America through the looking glass. So , whose face do you see in the mirror?

  4. You do an excellent job on this topic. It’s an important one. A curious thing, btw, is that many Americans talk about Russia as if it were still the former USSR/Soviet Union.

    • It’s odd, too, that now it is not Russia’s foreign policy that alarms me but the US one. It’s every bit as cynical and sinister as the old Soviet one, especially as it’s wrapped in five layers of lies. I think the absolute Soviet maximum was three.

      We support ISIS and Al Qaida in Syria in league with the Saudi wahhabists to depose (and kill?) the man who’s obviously, hands down, the best leader who respects minorities and shows magnanimity to former enemies. An obvious mortal enemy.

      And there are tens of thousands of US troops 10,000 miles from home but not one on our southern border across which we’re being invaded.

      All of this takes place at the direction of a mystery man with less papers than a pedigree cocker spaniel and who started his political career in the living room of two communist terrorists, had a communist for a mentor, and has as his closest advisor a woman whose father, grandfather, and father-in-law were communists. Oh, and whose political Bible is a book dedicated to Satan.

      When the Soviet Union imploded I said in front of witnesses that we would come to long for the stark simplicity of the Cold War. Now the post-WWII paradigm of a healthy, powerful, decent America is crumbling and a new wind is filling the sails of Mr. Trump. To the great consternation of the Politburo.

  5. You know, only the other day our Lugansk soldier did die 10 km from me for the Holy Russia of the Polish sniper shot. And a 70 years old woman of an unknown Ukrainian or Latvian sniper a month ago. They killed her just for fun. It’s a small village Pionerskoye. I used to swim there. And look for the last week Yelenovka mortar shooting by the Ukrainian scum with 6 dead and 14 injured. Fun, isn’t it? Of these and the other facts there’s been NOTHING in your “Luegenpresse”. You know, we do die for Holy Russia and NOT for the May day.
    I watch now films with Cary Grant, Deanna Durbin, Ginger Rogers, Spencer Tracy only. What great culture did America have in the days! “Mrs. Miniver” is the film that
    wonderfully made by staying in the bomb-shelter easier. And, you know, I won’t watch any new Hollywood film even if you offer me 100$ for doing so.
    What have you made of your country?
    I won’t describe the details, for you won’t pass the message through if I told you what I REALLY think. Just look at Mr. Obama as your president.

  6. Don’t. Do. Russia. Because of Russia, or because of Putin (and ilk)? Great nations can never be friends but they are often allies.

    Was Eastern Orthodox for many years before doing the Tiber thing. (One can’t truly escape being a Latin Christian if born to.) Those years were more or less Russian (in all things) though officially, technically, Antiochian Orthodox (Damascus). So I can see your point – and your wariness.

    At seventeen, wounded up my first lesson regarding all things Russian in the middle of a horse pasture, in the Salmon River Wilderness watershed, when the Widow Waunda handed me a a glass of frosty lemonade and a much fingered envelope: “Samizdat”, she said. “It’s your Pumpkin Papers”, she added.

    That year we had exegeted every page of Mr. Chambers “Witness” so I was prepared for receiving so Russian, so *pumpkinish*. Ready for such. Wasn’t I reminded often enough that Stalin had died three years after I was born, so one so coursed alongside history should be in-the -know; and didn’t we say in Idaho, when a winter’s Northerner whipped especially bitter cold, that the Old Man was still exhaling from his tomb?

    Caught her by the eye.

    Then there was that flight she had recently taken in an eight-seater over the Marin headlands with . . . the point of which . . .”I’m leaving”, she said poking the envelope, ” going away”. No need to ask why, the Widow knew I was asking: “So God can give me a kind heart.”

    Mr. Cambers’ book, envelopes with samizdat, lemonade in an Idahoan field. . . . and the cold heart of widowed woman whose broken down house in a horse pasture was stuffed floor to ceiling with untold piles of books. What was purpose of drawing me in? What could a lad do with a manhandled Russian envelope in his hand? What was the point of unkind hearts – confessed? No consolation could be pending from a boy, let alone absolution.

    In a fashion, or the simple passage of time, I had my answer. A quite Russian one at that. Arrived after I was Orthodox, and only then because I was adrift in a boat in Monks Lagoon off of Kodiak island.

    The answered reason was enough – it was time to leave.

    Enough, now, knowing that the memory of the Widow Waunda can waft the air upon the sent of lemonade and horse manure.


    It’s good you choose to be wary of all things Russian. The vodka of it nips the tongue and clutters the table-talk with bottles.

    So you see, I understand. Yet the snare of fascination is almost irresistible. When seventeen or sixty-six.

    Even now, when I think through a thing, often something Russian sits at table and *vodkas* the looking-about. Not always unpleasant. And. At times. Still. Warmly. Insightful.

    [Just finished reading, again, Sholem Asch’s “Three Cities”. A nice corrective.]

  7. Sergey Glazyev is an advisor to Russia’s President Vladmir Putin. This is what he worte in the Russian paper Zawtra. Quote: “All my attempts on the Internet to explain that we need to transit to a conservative synthesis based on traditional values, involving religious confessions in the creation of an ideological base, were rejected by our European partners, although they have both social-Christian and Christian-democratic traditions. They don’t want to return to indigenous values, caring more about same

    • Of course he will say that and of course they will reject it.

      In order to form the less perfect union of the EU superstate, the phenomenon in Greece needs to be reproduced in every member country either through economic collapse, social collapse, or civil unrest. The EU wants this to happen, and Russia obviously doesn’t since an EU superstate poses a larger security threat.

      Irresponsible social policy feeds into irresponsible economic policy in addition to unacceptable crime and violence levels. In a more sane and ideal world, nobody would be willing to subject the population of Europe to this just to form the EUSSR, but unfortunately we have a world where leaders are willing to do stuff like this, kill 10s or 100s of millions of people, etc.

      Imagine large numbers of people in the future defecting from a totalitarian EUSSR to the Russian Federation. That may not be too far fetched.

      • Not that far-fetched at all. I have a television producer friend who returned from a 5 year stint in Moscow in 2012, only because his son was due to start school and he wanted his son to have a beachside Australian childhood. His take on Putin’s Russia is that it is a system that works in its own way, no worse than ours and no better, just different. And he is centrist in his politics. From his descriptions of life in Russia, he says that they have freedoms that we don’t have, anybody to the right of him would be pretty content in Russia. Personally, if I lived in the UK, France, Germany or (if Wilders doesn’t attain power soon and end the rot) the Netherlands, I would migrate to sensible Czechia or Hungary.

        This “Go East” phenomenon already has momentum. Some English friends of mine, after a 3 year stint in Oz, have relocated permanently to Budapest (where they wisely bought two very inexpensive apartments a decade ago) where, despite both being highly qualified professionals accustomed to earning high incomes, they started and run a cafe. They are happy as pigs in mud, only lamenting that it is a five hour drive to swim in the sea. But, the Istrian and Dalmatian coasts, what a sea?! They are slowly learning Hungarian. They will never return to live in the UK, despite both having parents and siblings (and nieces and nephews – they are childless) there. They are not political in the least, but occasionally a skerrick of concern about Islam in Britain slips out.

    • Sounds like he doesn’t understand the necessity of separating Church and State (while retaining the best values passed on by the former), like people from other cultures little affected by the Enlightenment.

  8. I’m always curious about the details not divulged by Snowden. But then, perhaps that was no accident.

  9. In my world history class, I asked students to look up Pushkin, Ivanovsky, Dostoevsky, Tolstoi, Tchaikhovsky, Glinka, Mendeleev, Lobachevsky, and a few others online. Why?

    Our textbook presented Russia as either the land of miserable serfs, autocratic Tsarism, and insufferable reaction or that of a blighted revolution that somewhere went bad (without quite suggesting that Marx himself had blighted it even before it got to Russia). I wanted the students to know that Russia had produced a brilliant literature, music, and made its contributions to scientific progress as well.

    As a child of the Cold War, I was raised to think of Russia as some great menacing giant–Russia, not the Soviet experiment. But I came to respect Russia, paradoxically, when I discovered both Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn (although I remain Reformed Christian to the bone). And then I got a post-Cold War perspective when, a couple years after the Soviet implosion, I went to Viet Nam a few times with the Orderly Departure Program (how the US processed former RVN people leaving re-ed, Amerasians [which probably included grandchildren of Frenchmen and Senegalese], and others eligible to immigrate to the USA prior to normalization).

    Seasoned colleague warned me that I should learn some choice Russian swearwords to fend of the knots of beggars who infested that socialist paradise that fought so hard to become one. It didn’t work for me. One night in a bar where there were a bunch of Slavic seamen a couple of tables away, I found out why: I was simply too big and healthy-looking to make a convincing Russian, and my shoes were too nice.

    It also struck me that perhaps one reason why we were so hostile to the Soviets and such suckers for the Chinese Communists was that if we learned Russian language and history, it was taught either by Jews, Balts, Ukrainians, or Poles, while those who taught us Chinese language and history were Han–even if anti-Communist to the bone. It made me wonder what I would have learned had my Chinese teachers been Tibetan or Uyghur. Even the most ardent Free Formosa Taiwanese can’t forget they’re descended from either southern Fujian or eastern Guangdong.

    Maybe Russia and America can finally have a real dialogue? I’m waiting. I’m hoping.

    Frankly, I wish Russia well. I sense that Putin’s reconciliation with the Orthodox Church (if not with Christ himself) is probably sincere; and that the Communist past is a problem rather than mere nostalgia for a lot of Russians. They’re the third country with which we share a border (the two Diomede Islands are a mere five miles apart); so I suppose that if I wish Canada and Mexico well, I ought to have the same feeling for Russia.

Comments are closed.