Has the world changed enough to see modern-day Russia in a new light? Vladimir Putin has attacked the United States on ideological grounds. The following is from “Who’s Godless Now? Russia Says It’s U.S.”
“At the height of the Cold War, it was common for American conservatives to label the officially atheist Soviet Union a ‘godless nation.’
“More than two decades on, history has come full circle, as the Kremlin and its allies in the Russian Orthodox Church hurl the same allegation at the West.
“‘Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,’ Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a recent keynote speech. ‘Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.’
“In his state of the nation address in mid-December, Mr. Putin also portrayed Russia as a staunch defender of ‘traditional values’ against what he depicted as the morally bankrupt West. Social and religious conservatism, the former KGB officer insisted, is the only way to prevent the world from slipping into ‘chaotic darkness.’”
“As part of this defense of ‘Christian values,’ Russia has adopted a law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ and another that makes it a criminal offense to ‘insult’ the religious sensibilities of believers.”
Then there’s this recent interview with Luciano Fontana of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera about charges of Russian aggression:
Luciano Fontana: “Speaking of peace, the countries that used to be parties to the Warsaw Treaty and today are NATO countries, such as the Baltic states and Poland, feel threatened by Russia. NATO has decided to create special forces to address these concerns. My question is whether the West is right in its determination to restrain “the Russian bear”, and why does Russia continue to speak in such a contentious tone?
Vladimir Putin: “Russia does not speak with anyone in a contentious tone, and in such matters, to quote a political figure from the past, Otto von Bismarck, it is not discussions but the potential that counts.
“What does the actual potential show? US military spending is higher than that of all countries in the world taken together. The aggregate military spending of NATO countries is 10 times, note – 10 times higher than that of the Russian Federation. Russia has virtually no bases abroad. We have the remnants of our armed forces (since Soviet times) in Tajikistan, on the border with Afghanistan, which is an area where the terrorist threat is particularly high. The same role is played by our airbase in Kyrgyzstan; it is also aimed at addressing the terrorist threat and was set up at the request of the Kyrgyz authorities after a terrorist attack perpetrated by terrorists from Afghanistan on Kyrgyzstan.
“We have kept since Soviet times a military unit at a base in Armenia. It plays a certain stabilising role in the region, but it is not targeted against anyone. We have dismantled our bases in various regions of the world, including Cuba, Vietnam, and so on. This means that our policy in this respect is not global, offensive or aggressive.
“I invite you to publish the world map in your newspaper and to mark all the US military bases on it. You will see the difference.
“Sometimes I am asked about our airplanes flying somewhere far, over the Atlantic Ocean. Patrolling by strategic airplanes in remote regions was carried out only by the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War. In the early 1990s, we, the new, modern Russia, stopped these flights, but our American friends continued to fly along our borders. Why? Some years ago, we resumed these flights. And you want to say that we have been aggressive
“American submarines are on permanent alert off the Norwegian coast; they are equipped with missiles that can reach Moscow in 17 minutes. But we dismantled all of our bases in Cuba a long time ago, even the non-strategic ones. And you would call us aggressive?
“You yourself have mentioned NATO’s expansion to the east. As for us, we are not expanding anywhere; it is NATO infrastructure, including military infrastructure, that is moving towards our borders. Is this a manifestation of our aggression?
“Finally, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was to a large extent the cornerstone of the entire international security system. Anti-missile systems, bases and radars are located in the European territory or in the sea, e.g. in the Mediterranean Sea, and in Alaska. We have said many times that this undermines international security. Do you think this is a display of our aggression as well?
“Everything we do is just a response to the threats emerging against us. Besides, what we do is limited in scope and scale, which are, however, sufficient to ensure Russia’s security. Or did someone expect Russia to disarm unilaterally?
“I have proposed to our American partners not to withdraw from the treaty unilaterally, but to create an ABM system together, the three of us: Russia, the United States and Europe. But this proposal was declined. We said at the time: “Well, this is an expensive system, its efficiency is not proven, but to ensure the strategic balance we will develop our strategic offensive potential, we will develop systems of overpowering anti-ballistic defence. And I have to say that we have made significant strides in this area.
“As for some countries’ concerns about Russia’s possible aggressive actions, I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO. I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia. They just want to play the role of front-line countries that should receive some supplementary military, economic, financial or some other aid. Therefore, it is pointless to support this idea; it is absolutely groundless. But some may be interested in fostering such fears. I can only make a conjecture.
“For example, the Americans do not want Russia’s rapprochement with Europe. I am not asserting this, it is just a hypothesis. Let’s suppose that the United States would like to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic community. It needs an external threat, an external enemy to ensure this leadership. Iran is clearly not enough – this threat is not very scary or big enough. Who can be frightening? And then suddenly this crisis unfolds in Ukraine. Russia is forced to respond. Perhaps, it was engineered on purpose, I don’t know. But it was not our doing.
“Let me tell you something – there is no need to fear Russia. The world has changed so drastically that people with some common sense cannot even imagine such a large-scale military conflict today. We have other things to think about, I assure you.”