Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Russia East of the Urals

C-Span had an interesting symposium with just three interlocutors yesterday. A couple of insights:
Russia is heading for more centralization as it tries to control its "near abroad" with [clumsy] tools like energy exports. At the same time, Russia again clumsily tries to wield its energy tool by reneging on agreements with large international firms in ham-handed attempts to achieve energy autonomy. Mead attributes this reversion to naked nationalism as a reaction to declining population rates in the Russian Federation, a fear of the Yeltsin period of democratic near-anarchy among multi-party maneuvering, a fear of baronies established in the far-flung provinces in East Siberia where vast stores of natural resources remain to be tapped. Underlying this is a feat that Russia east of the Urals is underpopulated and huge; 35 million people living on land the size of the US and China put together. And 3.5 billion people living in rimland Asian countries nearby in over-crowded conditions. Russia needs a strong central government to keep its distant lands from drifting into autonomous regions. Democracy, as usual, is the first victim of this resurgent nationalism.

Mead also had a weird parallel that he expounded, after calling himself a life-long Democratk, concerning the War of 1812 and our present situation in Iraq. In 1812 the war was declared because of the British "Orders in Council" which mean that American sailors were impressed into British naval service during the wars with Napoleon. Just like Iraqi WMD, the Orders in Council had been rescinded [as the WMD had been exported]just weeks before the war began. The other cause the Federalist touted were the "terrorists," i.e., the Indian uprisings on the western frontier. And the American army had been disbanded in favor of local militias, which were expected to bear the brunt of the fighting. And there was the invasion of Canada, which was expected to greet the Americans with flowers. You get the picture. The anti-war Democrats used the same arguments used today in Iraq. And kept saying that gloom and doom were in the offing.

Strangely, however, with Napoleon out of the way, the British did not push hard to reconquer the colonies after Waterloo. Which gave the US the upper hand, and after the successful conclusion of the War [despite a torched White House], the pro-war Federalists were seen as to have been more realistic than the defeatist Whigs/Dems. Or so Mead's argument went.

Brzezinski was bullish on eastern Europe, now safely in the EU, and marvelled at the Polish newspapers springing up in Ireland, which is welcoming the Catholic Polish and Lithuanian immigrants as far better than the Islamic insurgent-wannabes infecting the UK and Continent. [my words interpreting ZB's Catholic comments.] ZB says that Polish farmers are making money hand over fist, which is news to me, altho I haven't been reading the FT as closely as I should each morning. Guess the French are bribing the Poles via the CAP to rip off the poor gullible Germans as long as the cornucopia of cash keeps spilling out of Deutschland into EU coffers.

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