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Portnikov: Crimea and the “confrontation of superpowers”

Image: Shutterstock/ (RFE/RL Graphics)
Image: Shutterstock/ (RFE/RL Graphics)
Portnikov: Crimea and the “confrontation of superpowers”
Translated by: A. N.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg linked Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula with the confrontation of superpowers. This is an important observation that turns the conflict around Crimea – like other similar conflicts – into part of the great global political drama. And which, I think, makes the inhabitants of the peninsula – as, indeed, of all other Ukrainian citizens – hostages of this great confrontation.

But a simple question arises: why did this confrontation arise at all? When we witnessed the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, we at least understood what was happening. It was an ideological confrontation – even if the influence of the communist frenzy weakened every year.

It was an ideological confrontation – even if the influence of the communist frenzy weakened every year

However, to whatever country Moscow came, practically the same thing happened. A “people’s democratic revolution,” albeit often imitated with the help of Soviet or Cuban invaders. Nationalization of private property. Establishment of a one-party dictatorship of some next people’s king. Connecting the captured country to the “camp of popular democracy.”

In a word, what Alexander Galich ironically wrote about in those years (Alexander Galich – Soviet poet, songwriter and singer, political emigrant – KR) – “there is no sadder story in the world than one about [Karl Marx’s] surplus value.” And it is clear that in countries that were oriented to the West – even if we talk about dictatorial regimes – there was a completely different economy, a completely different idea of ​​the state. It was a real confrontation of systems.

The current “confrontation of superpowers” seems to exist, first of all, in Putin’s head

And the current “confrontation of superpower” seems to exist, first of all, in Putin’s head. And because modern Russia, in contrast to the same Soviet Union, for sure is not really a superpower, as its economic potential – especially with such a vast territory – brings this country closer to dwarfs than to giants. And because the Russian “sphere of influence” no longer offers any alternative ideological agenda. And because, despite all the confrontation with the civilized world, Russia, as we see, continues to depend on it, and every new decision of the West to tighten sanctions against this country has a stronger impact on its economy than any destructive weapon. And because everyone knows perfectly well – both in the West and in Russia – that the “real” sanctions that would destroy the Russian economy – yes, they would impact the West itself, but they would end the “confrontation” forever.

Russia – unlike the Soviet Union – is not a real competitor, it is rather a global bully that they do not want to mess with

Russia, unlike the Soviet Union, is not a real competitor; it is rather a global bully that they do not want to mess with, so that there is no need to proceed to more decisive actions. Simply put – possibly so not to bring the matter to a big war, even if it’s an economic one.

And this is the essence of what is happening around Russia today. Residents of Crimea, like all other Ukrainian citizens, are hostages not of a confrontation between superpowers, not of a competition of systems, and not of a competition of values.

They are hostages of Russia’s international hooliganism.

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Translated by: A. N.
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