Written by Frank Li
In a previous post (America: What is Russia, Anyway?), I explained Russia to my fellow Americans. In this post, I will try to correct the top 10 American misconceptions about Russia.
Misconception 1: Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea was illegal
While two wrongs do not make it right, Americans should be fundamentally concerned about the first wrong: the Ukrainian mob overthrew its own democratically elected government by riots! Unfortunately, instead of supporting President Yanukovych, as Russia did, the Obama administration chose to side with the Ukrainian mob. Worse yet, after Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, America refused to honor the will of the Crimean people! For more, read: Crimea, Ukraine, Russia, and the U.S.
Misconception 2: Russia is becoming increasingly more aggressive
True, but that is happening only after the West, led by the U.S., has been squeezing Russia too hard for more than two decades! Three points:
The Cold War ended in 1991, with the collapse of the USSR. However, instead of enjoying and promoting peace, the West has been pushing eastward with NATO (e.g. in Poland and Czech) and pro-West democracy (e.g. in Ukraine). Russia was too weak to push back until now, when Russia is finally strong enough, with a wise leader in President Putin and a trump card in energy (e.g. oil and gas).
If Europe “misbehaves” further, Russia may simply shut down the energy supply to Europe! Which side do you think will hurt more: for Europe to lose gas for cooking and heating or for Russia to lose some steam in modernization (e.g. cars and TVs)? Besides, Russia has a huge back door to China! So forget about isolating Russia (West seeks to isolate Russia over Ukraine dispute)!
If Europe stops buying energy from Russia (and buying from America instead), Russia will speed up the construction of the pipelines to China. Any doubt? Wait for a huge energy deal between Russia and China coming soon! This will result in a new East-West division (Russia could become the backbone of China’s energy supplies). However, the East is guaranteed to win this time. Why? Because the East has the crown jewel of the West: capitalism, while the West will be burdened to death by democracy! For more, read: The U.S. vs. Russia: JFK vs. Khrushchev, again?
Misconception 3: Russia is still communism
Russia is a democracy! But it was a mistake for Russia to become a democracy right after communism! Fortunately for Russia, it seems to have realized that mistake, especially after viewing China’s success without democracy (Mikhail Gorbachev vs. Deng Xiaoping). So do not be surprised that Russian democracy becomes something very different from American democracy soon …
Misconception 4: Russia is not free
Russia is a lot freer today than its days of communism! Everything is relative and Russia is moving in the right direction!
Misconception 5: Russia’s capitalism is crony capitalism
Capitalism is new to Russia. So it will be a long journey to maturity. Meanwhile, there are indeed a lot of crony capitalists in Russia. For example, some Russians used their connections to become very rich through the process of privatization of public property (e.g. oil fields and oil companies). Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, is most likely one of them.
However, Russia has been working hard to create a pro-business and pro-growth environment. For example, its 13% flat tax rate has even attracted French movie star Gerard Depardieu (pictured below) to become a Russian citizen recently.
Misconception 6: Russia is very corrupted
True! But its predecessor, the USSR, was even worse – It was totally corrupted from inside out. So Russia is moving in the right direction! For more, read: Kleptocracy: A Fourth Similarity between Communism and Democracy.
In short, Americans must not be hugely alarmed by the corruption in Russia (or even in China). Understand it as a part of the transition from communism to non-communism, and let them work it out, over time.
On the other hand, American democracy is far more corrupted than most Americans care to admit. Here is one example: On March 20, 2003, President George W. Bush launched the Iraq War, at least partially, for the sake of his own re-election! It was one of the most corrupted human acts ever! For more, read: Blagojevich and Pearl Harbor: They Are Related!
Misconception 7: Russia is weak
Russia is no longer a super-power, but Russia in not as weak as many Americans think. Militarily, Russia has never been conquered by any foreign force and Russia still has thousands of nuclear warheads to fend off any foreign aggression, at least. Diplomatically, Russia is still a major player around the world, even more so with its strong president and America’s weak one. Very significantly, President Putin seems to have outmaneuvered President Obama in many international affairs recently, especially on Iran and Syria.
Misconception 8: Russia is the biggest threat to the U.S.
Read: Obama Learns Hard Way That Russia Is U.S.’ Biggest Threat. This article is mostly wrong, unfortunately!
The biggest threat to the U.S. is the bankrupting economy at home! Any doubt? Look at the image below!
Misconception 9: Cheney: ‘No Question’ Putin thinks Obama is weak
That was an understatement, at best! The U.S. is not as strong as many American politicians have fooled Americans into believing. Not only is President Putin well aware of it, so are the Chinese! For more, watch this video: China Says U.S. Economy Is Fake And Nothing Backs The Dollar …
Misconception 10: Russians are bulls and bears
Russia is a beautiful country and Russians are a great people! Americans love to adopt Russian babies! For more, read: The Anti-American Anger Driving Russia’s Ban on U.S. Adoptions