Friday, March 2, 2018

What’s in a Name? For Putin, Just about Everything

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 2 – Among the many revealing remarks Vladimir Putin made during his address yesterday was his observation that foreigners “called the USSR Soviet Russia,” a comment that reflects both his obvious belief that the Soviet Union should never have fallen apart and his apparent need to invoke the opinions of outsiders to justify that belief.

            The implication that the USSR was “Soviet Russia” because some foreigners called it that, of course, plays to Putin’s oft-suggested notions that it was a country rather than an empire, that its colonies should have known their place, and that, having recovered itself, Russia has every right to dominate them once again.

            Putin’s remarks about “Soviet Russia” came at the start of the section of his speech devoted to his view that Moscow has no choice but to rearm in the face of threats from the United States to Russia’s ability to defend itself with its nuclear arsenal (

            “After the collapse of the USSR,” the Kremlin leader said, “Russia which in Soviet times foreigners called Soviet Russia in speaking about our national borders lost 23.8 percent of its territory, 48.5 percent of its population, 41 percent of its GDP, 39.4 percent of its industrial potential … and 44.6 percent of its military capacity I connection with the division of the USSR Armed Forces among the former union republics.”

            After 1991, Putin continued, “technology in the Russian army grew old and out of date, the Armed Forces were, we have to say directly, in a terrible condition. In the Caucasus, a civil war was raging, and in our leading enterprises for the enrichment of uranium sat American inspectors.”

            “At one point,” he said, “the question even arose as to whether we could develop a system of strategic arms, with some asking whether our country was in a position to securely store and service nuclear weapons left to us after the collapse of the USSR. Russia was in debt to everyone … it was impossible to support the social sphere.”

            And he continued: “Apparently our partners came to the conclusion that the rebirth of the economy, industry, military-industrial complex and Armed Forces of our country to the level necessary to support its strategic potential in the foreseeable future was impossible. And if this was so, then there was no reason to take the opinion of Russia into consideration.”

            That Western view, Putin said, led the US to pull out of the ABM Treaty, expand NATO eastward toward Russia’s borders, and proceed with a missile defense system intended to make Russia’s nuclear arsenal an ineffective defense.  Despite Russian protests, the West has continued to do so.
            Up to now, he said, the West has ignored us; but with Russia’ recovery, it won’t be able to do so in the future.

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