May 15, 2008
The West Rains on Russia’s Parade
By Robert Bridge
While Russia enjoys cloud-seeding technology to guarantee the rain does not spoil its parade plans, it still has not found the formula for dispelling the West's downpours of criticism.
On the 63rd anniversary of Victory Day, in remembrance of that historic moment when the Soviet Army hoisted a red flag over broken Berlin, Russia apparently did the unthinkable: It took its new and improved military hardware for a joyride around Moscow to celebrate its long-awaited resurgence. Russians earned it, right?
After all, without Russia's massive sacrifice in World War II, Europe - and possibly the entire world - would be greeting each other today with fascist salutes. So was it too much for Russia to expect some international congratulations on this momentous and emotion-charged day?
Russia's "saber-rattling" (which was really nothing more than "road-rattling" considering that Moscow had to set aside 1.5 billion rubles to fix its damaged streets following the heavy metal parade) immediately sparked a predictable response from the West, similar to that of Dr. Frankenstein when his monster began to writhe on the operating table: IT'S... IT'S ALIVE!
C.J. Chivers of the International Herald Tribune, with no small amount of paranoia, argued that the provocative parade "followed a year in which... Russia's aging strategic bombers conducted international patrols, entered British airspace and tried approaching American naval groups."
Dear C.J., considering that the U.S. Armada now freely sails the seven seas, not to mention a few gulfs and duck ponds, even Delta Airlines could be accused of "approaching American naval groups."
And concerning the accusation that Russian planes "entered British airspace," this is preposterous. The only Russian planes that are given clearance to enter British airspace carry the Aeroflot logo and several hundred rowdy football fans, shoppers and oligarchs.
To add fuel to the fire, the staid Associated Press trembled that "tanks and nuclear missile launchers were to rumble across Red Square... in a seemingly fearsome parade of military might."
Meanwhile, The Moscow Times, with its trademark objectivity, suggested that the "whole display" was meant to "capitalize on people's demand to see their country as once more great and powerful - even menacing."
Funny how everybody just adored Russia when it was slobbering all over itself in the intensive care unit, signing contracts on the dotted line when it could hardly hold a bedpan, let alone a pen. In 1991, just after being rescued from the debris of fallen empire, Russia was forced to go beggaring for high-interest loans and sit through Economics 101 classes with the International Monetary Fund (whose teachers, we should add, gave totally asinine homework assignments). And now that it is learning to walk again, and is even capable of belching some tank fumes around its capital once a year, it is being accused of acting belligerently. Give me a break.
What is the more attractive scenario: a nation that showcases its military capabilities around its own town square, or inside the borders of a foreign (Read: occupied) nation? I think we can guess what the people of Baghdad, Belgrade, and especially Washington, D.C. would say in response to such a question. While Russia may be guilty of saber-rattling in front of the home crowd, it is the West, and specifically the United States, that is saber-thrusting around the world, often in direct violation of international law. Meanwhile, Russia can't even send an additional 2,000 peacekeepers to remote Abkhazia without being accused of feeling nostalgic for empire.
Can we remain hopeful that the Western media will set the record straight? Don't bet on it. Perhaps nowhere else than inside the expensive pages of the fourth estate do the "victors" enjoy more arbitrary power. As Howard Friel and Richard Falk demonstrated in their book, The Record of the Paper, out of the seventy New York Times editorials on Iraq from September 11, 2001, to March 21, 2003 (the invasion of Iraq), the words UN Charter and international law never appeared - not once.
But more to the point. If every nation used their militaries specifically to enhance their parades, imagine what a wonderful world it would be! And in reality, that is exactly how Russia has been behaving. While the Bush administration continues to export its warped version of democracy from the deck of aircraft carriers around the globe, Russia has sat quietly on the sidelines as the traveling circus approaches its borders.
Russia has demonstrated infinite patience as the West casually ignores old promises not to grow NATO, the Cold War military relic that struggles for some real purpose aside from reckless expansionism and sweeping up after US-led invasions. Now, in its latest push eastwards, Uncle Sam wants to install a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Naturally, Russia feels threatened.
Given the incredible gains that have been made in missile and satellite technology, compounded by America's totally reckless foreign policy decisions, this initiative has every chance of snowballing into a later-day Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the US and the Soviet Union to the brink of disaster in 1962. After all, the NMD plan is not limited to just Poland and the Czech Republic, as many in the West pretend it to be.
Yes, Russia's critics are correct: many nations in the West do not hold military parades in their capitals. But maybe they should give the idea a chance: Parade military hardware around Washington if you must, but please spare the world from any more military misadventures.