Last week, Vladimir Putin decided it was time to bring back heated rhetoric against the west. While speaking at what was obviously a rigged press conference in Sochi, he stated that America’s brand of imperialism will no longer be tolerated. Russia would be poised to expand its influence into Eastern Europe in what were once its satellite countries. It sounded like the Ukraine was only the beginning. And, it sounded like we were witnessing a return to the Cold War.
“The bear will not even bother to ask permission,” he boasted. “Here we consider it master of the taiga, and . . . it will not let anyone have its taiga.”
Taiga is a reference to a type of forest that occurs in the Northern pars of Russia and North America. In his mind, the Ukraine is part of the taiga and he is entitled to it. However, if you look closely at a map, the Taiga seems to include what is considered most of the Baltic Region. Could this be Putin’s thinking? Is he telling the world in this speech that he is going to attempt to exert Russian influence in the Baltic’s and maybe even Belarus as well? That seems to be the case as there are reports, as recent as last week, of the Russian Air Force, “conducting significant manoeuvres over the Baltic Sea, North Sea/Atlantic Ocean and the Black Sea.”
Maybe Mr. Putin actually longs for a return to the Cold War days when the Soviet Union was isolated from the rest of the world: A time when only the Eastern Block countries had any form of trade or relationship with the country. It was a more simpler time when the only threat facing the world was nuclear annihilation. Of course, Putin’s background has always indicated this was a possible threat. After all, the man was a former KGB agent prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. I’m sure he learned quite well the powers of dictatorship during those days. And, I’m sure he would definitely want them back. During his speech in Sochi he even went so far to praise Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s famous episode of pounding his shoes on the rostrum at the United Nations in 1960. He stated the west feared Russia at the point and maybe felt Khrushchev was too dangerous to mess with.
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Since Putin is behaving like he wants to return to the Cold War, maybe we should begin to treat him a manner that befits a Cold Warrior. Maybe it is time to really isolate Russia as they were isolated from the end of World War II until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. I’m sure the Russian upper class would really tolerate this sort of behavior currently. Can you imagine the billionaires in Russia being told they couldn’t leave their country. Can you imagine these same people being told they couldn’t sell their wares outside of the Russian sphere of influence? I don’t think so. In fact, the more Putin heats up the rhetoric, the more isolated Russia will become. And, under these circumstances, the more Russian citizens will put pressure on Putin. He will cave long before the west. It will be a replay of the Cold War’s end all over again.
These are not the days when you could easily suppress news. In the world of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, everything eventually comes out. In fact, China is having a real hard time suppressing information about the Hong Kong protests on the mainland. I don’t think it’s even feasible for the Russian government to suppress information when they already have a somewhat free society. The people will find out. They will understand what’s going on. And, they will revolt. If Putin tries to quell the revolt, he will have a much harder time than the pre-internet days – unless of course he wants to become a murderer like Stalin. And, from what we are learning of Putin, that is not too far from reality.
So, if Putin wants to bring back the days of the Cold War, he should seriously think twice. After all, he doesn’t want to be dethroned. And, since he’s still in his early 60’s and in good health, he has the ability to enjoy his dictatorship for a long time into the future.