This week's edition of Newsweek features one of the most bizarre articles I've read in a long time. It's called "Why Russia Is Really Weak," and as the schoolyard-taunting title suggests, it's a desperate attempt to convince Newsweek readers that Russia isn't as strong as they think. Really. No, really, Russia really isn't! Dontcha believe us?
It's the "Really" in the headline that's really, really revealing. Because it suggests nervousness on the part of the authors--a pair of academic beigeocrats with appropriate ethnic names: Rajan Menon and Alexander Motyl.
They're nervous--they and the presumed Newsweek reading public--for the obvious reason that Russia is actually getting much stronger. As we know, the American way to react to unpleasant turns in events is to simply deny they're happening, and then to posit their opposite, and leave it at that.
Russia wasn't supposed to get stronger, certainly not on its own, without the West's help. It just doesn't make sense. Moreover, it's somehow cosmologically wrong that Russia should become stronger right at the time when American power is in a freefall. That just ain't right...so therefore, the authors offer a solution: cup your ears, close your eyes, and scream, "Russia is really weak! Russia is really weak!" and it'll all go away, like a bad dream...
Oddly enough, the authors claim in the first paragraph that alleged Western "news stories" uniformly tout a "predictable theme"--that theme being Russia's growing strength. Moreover, these Western media outlets are guilty of an even worse sin: they're supposedly going farther by calling on Western leaders to "adjust to this new reality." In other words: appeasement.
And now Newsweek is out to set the record straight.
Umm...what the fuck are Menon and Motyl talking about? What media outlets have they been smoking? And can I score some of that shit? Seriously, where are these alleged rah-rah-Russia articles appearing? In the Washington Post? The Wall Street Journal? The New York Times?
Let's take a look over the recent past at these three leading papers, the most influential opinion-formers in mainstream America, and see just how predictable and pro-Russian their editorials have been.
First, the right-wing, pro-Republican Wall Street Journal. If you went into a drug-induced coma in 1986 and woke up last week on September 14th, 2006 with a copy of the Journal on your face, you'd be happily reassured that you didn't miss much in the way of historical events: the Cold War's still going strong, according to that edition's editorial, "The New New Russians," which argues that doing any business with Russia is dangerous for the free world: "For the Kremlin, gas, oil, metals, aircraft are not just tradeable goods. They are also tools of political power and security leverage. To devise the proper response on this side of the old Iron Curtain, that must be kept in mind." After reading that, you could smile, bang a couple more baggies of pure Persian Grey, and hibernate another 20 years without worrying about missing much.
Indeed, there's something comforting about the Journal editorial's choice of words and imagery: a nefarious Kremlin, the Iron Curtain, and the ever-naive West, which is such a decent, trusting fella, and so dedicated to keeping business and geopolitics apart, that it simply cannot fathom that another country, especially a country run by white guys, could be so cynical as to cheat, mixing business with politics. Wake up, guys! Before it's too late!
On the other side of the mainstream media political spectrum from the Journal is the Washington Post, whose Op-Ed page leans towards what you might call "Lieberman Democrats." You know, real leftie stuff. Because America has such a diverse and free press. So how does the Post's take on Putin's Russia differ from the Journal's? I won't keep you hanging, so here goes, the concluding paragraph to an August 23rd editorial: "The West relies on Russian energy supplies at its peril."