Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New
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||Vlad's New Bad
An old joke runs that even paranoids have enemies. But what can we make of the quasi-dictator of a middleweight state who insists on making enemies of those who'd hoped to be his country's friends?
Russian President Vladimir Putin reminds me of the old Soviet Inturist organization: Instead of figuring out how to make a thousand bucks from happy tourists tomorrow, Inturist went to absurd extremes to squeeze an extra fiver out of disgruntled visitors immediately.
Ralph Peters - Contributor
Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books,
as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both
under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist
for the New York Post and other publications. [go to Peters Index]
Putin just can't wait to restore Russia's great power status. Good luck. Great powers don't exist in isolation. Rather than building useful alliances, Putin has frightened his neighbors into closer relations with NATO and the West, alienated Europeans who longed to hug him - and made even the most gullible Americans wary.
Putin is a classic bully who aches to beat the pocket money out of the class wimp, who judges the entire world by the size of its biceps. He just can't get beyond his KGB past. To him, strategy is a zero-sum game and everybody secretly wants to harm Russia.
In fact, no country in recent history enjoyed as much foreign good will as Russia did after the Soviet Union dissolved. And no country has made more stupid decisions that appalled those who sincerely wanted to help.
If he sees enemies everywhere (and he does), Putin's also impatient and clumsy, though he thinks he's wonderfully clever. For all his icy exterior, he's a calculating, short-sighted peasant out of Gogol. His recent rant at a defense symposium in Germany only reminded the Europeans that the United States really isn't all that bad.
Instead of waiting to completely addict Europe to Russia's natural-gas supplies, he turned off the flow to Ukraine and then Georgia in fits of political pique - interrupting European supplies in the first instance. And leftist posturing is one thing, but no French café philosopher or German professor wants his heat turned off in mid-winter.
Oh, and Russia's selling arms to Iran's mullahs, Syria's Baathists and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
Brilliant move, Vlad. You're really betting on the all-stars.
The Kremlin's also encouraging Serbia to take a hard line against formal independence for Kosovo. Belgrade's been there and done that, but Serbs, like Russian bureacrats, tend to be slow learners.
Thanks for getting the Balkans stirred up again, Vlad. Maybe Russian troops can replay the atrocity-riddled Chechnya war?
The only bright spot is that Russia has stopped supplying nuclear fuel for Iran's reactors. Officially, it's about Tehran's failure to make on-time payments, but it appears that somebody finally showed Vlad a map and pointed out that Russian territory lies within slingshot range of Iran. And Persians and Russians haven't always been pals.
Domestically, Putin has censored the media, staged purge trials of businessmen whose politics he didn't like, hounded out western investors, murdered journalists and dissidents (abroad, as well), done his best to turn the new Russia into a besotted, AIDS-ridden mockery of an Arab oil sheikhdom, moved to stifle academic freedom and generally made a joke of his country's fledgling democracy.
The latest phase in the Kremlin's campaign to restrict political freedom came in the build-up to last Sunday's regional elections. In an Orwellian move, Putin's henchmen built a tame opposition party, Fair Russia, that's allowed to politely criticize certain policies, but whose real purpose is to draw off votes from the old political left, especially the Communists, and to hasten the demise of the half-strangled liberal parties.
Putin does want a two-party system - with his cabal controlling both parties.
Conditioned to do what the czar desires, Russians went for it. Preliminary results show that Putin's United Russia garnered almost two-thirds of the vote, while Putin's Fair Russia finished about even with the Communists, undercutting their base.
Putin isn't a Communist - but, then, neither were any of his predecessors: Russia has always been ruled by autocrats, and one starts to suspect it always will be.
The dream of a free Russia is over. Vladimir Putin destroyed it as we watched, sucking our thumbs (to put it politely). The best for which we now can hope is that, once the Kremlin's done killing democracy, it won't start killing masses of human beings again. CRO
latest book is Never
Quit The Fight.
piece first appeared in the New York Post
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