I don’t have a lot of time for blogging these days. The finishing touches on the dissertation (one . . . more . . week), job applications, and getting ready to spend the next year in Russia fill up all my time. Inevitably commenting on missiles, Medvedev the modernizer, not to mention Moscow’s Holy Father of Fury, has been relegated to the eternal back burner. Yet, there are some things in the world of Russia that just can’t be left to simmer on the boiler plate. Especially when it involves a pant-less Boris Yeltsin.
Former President Clinton recalled getting a security alert in 1995 that the Secret Service had found Mr. Yeltsin, in his underwear, outside Blair House on Pennsylvania Avenue trying to hail a taxi. He was clearly inebriated, wanting a pizza. And he eluded security the second night, nearly causing an even more serious ruckus when he was initially mistaken for a drunken intruder, according to these accounts. What that says about the security near Blair House or those who protected Mr. Yeltsin is anyone’s guess.
Forget about the Blair House security, though the inability to nab a drunken Yeltsin does raise eyebrows. Is this tale not the perfect metaphor for the Yeltsin era? A mere four years after boldly standing on a tank and mouthing whatever democratic platitudes he could ride into power, Yeltsin is in America, plastered, and looking for pizza in his skivvies. Or worse almost getting 187ed by Blair House security. One can imagine a similar scenario when he signed the Belovezh Accords abolishing the USSR or when robber barons freely pilfered the Russian state. Drunk, pant-less, looking for pizza. If only a cab picked him up. If only . . .
Two questions, though. Did anyone ever explain why Boris was in his underwear? And, more importantly, were they boxers or briefs?
One things for sure. The dude knew how to par-tay.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
The Ossetians are slowly creeping into view, though the articles highlighting their history, plight, and desire for self-determination are still relegated to the journalistic periphery. One article to recenter the Ossetian (and also Abkhaz) problem is Donald Rayfield’s “The Georgia-Russia conflict: lost territory, found nation” on OpenDemocracy.net. Rayfield opens with a point that I made a few days ago. Namely,
Much of the media reporting of the “short and nasty war” has been strong and detailed, with a good dose of scepticism in questioning the tendentious (and often downright mendacious) versions of events relayed by Russian and Georgians spokespersons alike. This is in contrast to the lack of attention among commentators to the essential task of exploring the roots of the conflict; indeed, a lot of the opinion-flood persists in ignoring completely the local and regional factors in favour of an instant resort to high geopolitics, as if South Ossetia and Abkhazia – which lie at the heart of what has happened – do not in themselves even exist. [Emphasis mine]
When the Ossetians and Abkhazians at the center, the answer to the problem is clear: recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s right of self-determination, whether that be independence or integration into Russia.
To get there, however, Rayfield suggests that the Georgians come to grip with the idea that losing South Ossetia and Abkhazia are not the end of the world.
Sadly, rationality and nationalism rarely mix well. When he came to power in 2003, Saakashvili put taming Georgia’s separatist regions at the center of his populist nationalism. It didn’t take him long to begin putting pressure on both Ossetia and Akhazia to comply. Under the auspicious of “decriminalizing” both regions of smuggling, corruption, and gang-like rule, Saakashvili ordered his navy to down all foreign ships (i.e. Russian) heading for Abkhazia and replaced his border police with US-trained Georgian troops, who quickly began trading small arms fire with Ossetian militias. As the New York Times‘ C. J. Chivers noted in August 2004, critics were already saying that Saakashvili’s antics were “showing his inexperience and flirting with war.” One wonders where such criticism in the Western press is now.
Or as Mark Ames says in his most recent article in the Nation,
At the root of this conflict is a clash of two twentieth-century guiding principles in international relations. Georgia, backed by the West, is claiming its right as a sovereign nation to control the territory within its borders, a guiding principle since World War II. The Ossetians are claiming their right to self-determination, a guiding principle since World War I.
These two guiding concepts for international relations–national sovereignty and the right to self-determination–are locked in a zero-sum battle in Georgia. Sometimes, the West takes the side of national sovereignty, as it is in the current war; other times, it sides with self-determination and redrawing of national borders, such as with Kosovo.
In that 1999 war, the United States led a nearly three-month bombing campaign of Serbia in order to rescue a beleaguered minority, the Albanians, and carve out a new nation. Self-determination trumped national sovereignty, over the objections of Russia, China and numerous other countries.
Why, Russians and Ossetians (not to mention separatist Abkhazians in Georgia’s western region) ask, should the same principle not be applied to them?
It should but it’s not. What the Ossentians, Abkhazians and Russians have gotten in response is the worse chest pounding, slander, and great power blustering from the United States. The best example of this is Bush’s feeble attempt at continued relevancy by spouting tired rhetoric about how “Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.” “Only Russia can decide whether it will now put itself back on the path of responsible nations or continue to pursue a policy that promises only confrontation and isolation,” he continued. Russia’s response? Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said the Americans had to chose between have a “real partnership” with Russia or a virtual one with Georgia.
The funny thing is that so much of this conflict has simply existed on the virtual plane. How people saw the war was skillfully crafted by their specific culture industry. Each side, whether it be the Russian or the Western press created its own villains, victims, historical parallels, and defense of grand historical ideas. The South Ossetian war was as much, if not more, about narrative than it was about bullets and bombs. The universal opinion is that Russia lost this war of narratives. Yasha Levine put it best in his analysis on the Exiled.
Even the most cursory look at this conflict shows that Georgia’s attack was an almost perfect textbook example of how modern warfare should be fought on the information front. The Georgians showed an amazing grasp of Info Ops concepts, pulling off counterpropaganda, launching disinformation campaigns and manipulating media perceptions as if they did this type of thing every day.
Oh, the Russians tried to do their part, too. But it still isn’t clear if they didn’t give a shit about what the world thought or just failed miserably. Either way, it was bad news for the Kremlin. Despite a military victory, they are going to have a heard time getting the world to go along with their plans for post-war Georgia. All because they failed to win over the hearts and minds of the world community. The Georgians knew the importance of a well-defined information war strategy. That’s because Georgia has had ample training by the masters of this art: America and Israel.
Saakashvili turned out to be a master at manipulating American narcissism. Perhaps his time at Columbia Law School taught him that Americans only react to codes. For example, in his “exclusive” interview with CNN on August 8, Saakashvili repeatedly said he loved freedom and democracy:
“We are right now suffering because we want to be free and we want to be a democracy multi-ethnic democracy that belongs to all ethnic groups and that’s exactly what’s happening there. So, basically, I have to – I mean, it’s not about Georgia anymore, it’s about America, its values. You know, I went to two U.S. universities. I always taught that these values were also those of my own. We have held them not because we love America although I do love America, but because we love freedom. And the point here is that I also taught that America also stands up for those free-loving nations and supports them.”
“We are a freedom-loving nation that is right now under attack.”
His 13 August interview on CNN, he laid the freedom on even thicker. He said the word “free” or “freedom” seven times. He also dropped “democracy” seven times. Perhaps this is why people like CNN’s Glenn Beck are so apt to believe after talking with Saakashvili for 30 minutes that “This is for America. This is for NATO. This is for Bush” was written on the Russian bombs falling on Georgia. Beck is an utter boob. And Saakashvili, well, he should get a fucking Oscar.
One can tell how effective freedom and democracy rhetoric is just by looking how American politicians deploy it themselves. If you can make the conflict about America, its people, and its values, the public will respond. This is why John McCain told a crowd in Pennsylvania that “Today, we are all Georgians.” This is why In Colorado, he said that he wanted to avoid any armed conflict with Russia, “but,” he emphasized, “we have to stand up for freedom and democracy as we did in the darkest days.”
McCain’s blustering has paid off politically. The New York Times, in an application of the “Rolled up sleeves theory,” noted that McCain displayed his “foreign policy credentials,” while Barack Obama “seemed to fade from the scene while on his secluded vacation.” Now American liberals are scrambling out of fear that McCain’s get tough on Russia stance will give him a bump in the polls.
But the narcissism on display is not simply relegated to Bush, McCain, or the American voter as such. American liberals, who pride themselves on seeing through the smoke and mirrors of the propaganda state, are no less myopic. Once upon a time, national self-determination was a principle of the American liberal left. National liberation movements were mark of internationalism and solidarity.
Now those days are long gone and anti-imperialism has faded from the American liberal doxa. Now, they are probably the most egregiously narcissistic bunch that are so steeped in their own “it’s all about me” mentality. They call for the better management of empire rather than its ultimate dismantle. But what do you expect from liberalism? The South Ossetian War can’t be about well, the Ossetians and the Abkhazians (Who are they anyway?). Their struggles, desires, and agency doesn’t just has to, they must be a metynom for a much wider issue: American hegemony? Oil? Iran? McCain-Obama? Make your pick. Because, if the South Ossetians and Abkhazians can’t be molded into a reflection of one of a liberal cause, they might as well not exist. To not do this would require American liberals to actually realize that there is a world out there that isn’t a simple reflection of their values and concerns.
Instead, the South Ossetian and Abkhazian right of self-determination is erased in favor of some grand scheme of American Empire. Take for example, the Nation‘s Robert Sheer’s speculation that the Georgian War was some kind of neocon conspiracy, an October Surprise to influence the American Presidential Election. The logic is beautiful in its simplicity. Randy Scheunemann is McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser. He previously served as a lobbyist for the Georgian government. Scheunemann is also a neocon who championed the invasion of Iraq. Connect the dots people. Sheer does
There are telltale signs that he played a similar role in the recent Georgia flare-up. How else to explain the folly of his close friend and former employer, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, in ordering an invasion of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which clearly was expected to produce a Russian counter-reaction. It is inconceivable that Saakashvili would have triggered this dangerous escalation without some assurance from influential Americans he trusted, like Scheunemann, that the United States would have his back.
Why did the US want a Russian counteraction? American needs a new enemy. A good enemy. Not one that hides in caves, blows himself up, and wreaks havoc in failed states with no targets. There’s nothing photogenic in all that. Perhaps this is why all the war on terror films have fallen so flat in the box office. Perhaps this is why there is no Rambo for this war. Even liberals need a simple, flat binaried world of “us” and “US” to make their unfettered political way in an otherwise complex world.
So for Sheer, the Georgia Crisis has been about us from the very get go. Or if you listen to Michael Klare, it’s “South Ossetia: It’s the oil, stupid.” Or if you really want a duesy, read Frank Shaeffer, who says that Russia actions in Georgia “is the slow-motion counterattack of the Orthodox world against the West’s latest crusade. Georgia is just a symbol for the counter-punch to the modern version of the West’s sack of Constantinople in 1204.” What? He’s kidding right? The fact that Georgia is also an Orthodox country (he admits this) doesn’t seem to matter.
Clearly, South Ossetian and Abkhazian bodies don’t matter unless they are used as canvas for sketching out larger and more sinister political designs. Someone should have done the decent thing and sent them the memo. No matter, the cultural industry and its managers will write them in as necessary. Or not.Post Views: 1,072
By Sean — 11 years ago
David S. Foglesong, The American Mission and the “Evil Empire”: The Crusade for a “Free Russia” since 1881, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
“Civilization is spreading rapidly eastward, it cannot stop or go around Russia, and whether with bayonet or psalm-book the march will be made through every part of the Tsar’s dominion.” Such were the words of James William Buel in his 1882 book Russian Nihilism and Exile Life in Siberia. A journalist by trade, Buel was one of the first Americans to set the tone for how Americans would imagine Russia over the next century. In Russia, which he visited in the summer of 1882, Buel was captivated by the beauty of the cathedrals and salivated at the “delicious” music of the church choir. He was also disturbed by the Orthodox Church’s “ignorance and superstition,” which he saw as the main culprit of Russia’s backwardness. The mysterious allure of Russia gave him hope that the Slavic nation would eventually evolve into a “free and fully enlightened government.”
Buel’s optimism for Russia’s free future, however, was not without its road blocks. For many Americans of both Russophobic and Russophilic ilk Russia was a starkly binary place. Its people were both bearers of progressive light as they were of barbarous “Asiatic” darkness. Russia’s system of governance was both a creation of its history and traditions as it was also an alien entity that imposed tyranny over its subjects. Whether that tyranny came in Tsarist, Soviet, or Parliamentary forms mattered little. Most of all, from around the 1880s to the present, Russia was an object that required liberation. And as Buel’s quote reminds us, for many American politicians, missionaries, and intellectuals, liberation would only come via the Bible or the bayonet.
David Foglesong’s main thesis in The American Mission and the “Evil Empire” is not so much about Americans’ desire to “free” Russia as it is about what that meant for American self-identity. For as Forglesong argues, the desire to “free” Russia made the Slavic nation the United States’ “dark double” or “imaginary twin.” The phenomenon of Russia as a mirror for America needs to be considered throughout Foglesong’s text. For the book is not really about Russia at all. His book is really about the United States and how through its strange mission to “free Russia” defined itself.
Why would the United States need a “dark double” to enhance its own national narcissism? As Foglesong argues, America’s desire to liberate those enshrouded in darkness, whether they be inhabitants residing in its “near abroad”—Cubans, Mexicans, Nicaraguans, Haitians, Dominicans—, in its far off geopolitical domains—Koreans, Vietnamese, Japanese, Philippine, Bosnians, Kosovars, Afghanis, or Iraqis, or of its own domestic others—African-Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants of all colors and shapes—always made the “persistent problems that sapped the vitality and belied the United States’ idealistic promise” far more palatable. According to Foglesong, Russia too played a role America’s constant need for self-assurance. “Treating Russia as both a whipping boy and a potential beneficiary of American philanthropy” he writes, “fostered in many Americans a heady sense of their country’s unique blessings, and reaffirmed their special role in the world.”
Before going on to why Russia was a deemed a potential recipient of the United States’ “unique blessings,” it’s important to ask why America has this need to displace its problems onto the Other in the first place? Why does this tendency translate into the belief that its system is not just universal, but that America has a right and duty to realize its universality? Unfortunately, Foglesong doesn’t provide an adequate answer except to say that it did. True, the origins of American democracy’s universal tendencies are difficult to place and surely can occupy a whole study in and of itself. But considering that he (and myself for that matter) both occupy a discipline that was created out of the very discourses that inform the desire to “free Russia,” these questions are not too far a field from his study. Perhaps this is where Foglesong might have consulted some of the voluminous literature on how the “idea of Europe” and its cultural and political demarcation from “Asia” relied on Orientialism. Here the ideas of Edward Said, though not cited, but certainly no stranger to Foglesong, might have been utilized as a way to think about America’s strange fascination with Russia.
That said Foglesong cannot be faulted for not splashing Said’s name across the page or devoting the proper number of footnotes to him. Academic name dropping is not necessary for a good book. My desire to know what Foglesong thinks of Said is because American Mission and the “Evil Empire” suggests that there is an interesting conversation to be had between the two. Still, something approaching an answer to the above questions seems in order. Perhaps the universalism of the American system is found within America’s own self-imposed uniqueness. Or maybe it’s rooted in American religiosity which suggests that the United States is a new temple on the mount; a divinely given tablua rasa where first “old” Europe’s dejected, persecuted and poor, and then the world’s sought refuge and a bright future. Ironically, and perhaps most importantly, American’s self image as unique did not allay its desire to use its very mantra of freedom as a means of imperial control. This last point is hardly new in world history. Europe’s great powers own imperial impulses were always “forked,” as Homi Bhabha once wrote. American imperialism was and is no different in this regard. American soft power always accompanied hard power. The ambivalence at the heart of the “liberate-subjugate dyad” has proved and continues to prove an effective means of domination.
Luckily for both countries (and perhaps the world), Americans’ fascination with a “free” Russia involved far more soft power than hard power. Throughout the history of American-Russia relations, the two never formerly met on the battlefield (except for President Woodrow Wilson’s dispatching 13,000 troops to Northern and Siberian Russia in 1918). Americans, beginning with fin de siècle Russophilic and Russophobic figures like Buel, Wendell Phillips, George Kennan, William Walling, Ernest Poole, and Arthur Bullard to Cold Warriors like George F. Kennan, Richard Pipes, Zbigniew Brzezinski, James Burnham and many others, tended to emphasize the virtues of Protestantism, free markets, and democracy as the main weapon against Russian despotism and darkness. If the sword was ever to be an instrument of liberation, it would be wielded by Russians themselves against their own oppressors. This fetishism with revolution in Russia was best seen in Americans like Wendell Phillips’ justifications of the nihilist use of “dynamite and the dagger” to cast of Tsarism’s yoke.
American’s early fascination with a “free” Russia from 1880 to 1917 is perhaps the most interesting contribution Foglesong makes. It was in this period that American ideas of freedom, capitalism, and Protestantism led the charge for a free Russia. Foglesong points to two contexts for this political convergence of God, money, and freedom. First, was the fact that many advocates of a free Russia were either Protestant ministers or grew up in heady Protestant homes. Some, and perhaps this is the most interesting convergence, were former abolitionists or sons of abolitionists. In fact one of the first “free” Russia organizations, the Society of American Friends of Russian Freedom (SAFRF) grew out of the abolition movement. As Edmund Noble, secretary of SAFRF and editor of its paper Free Russia noted in 1894, “There has always seemed a true and close analogy between the agitation which aimed at the abolition of slavery in the United States and the movement that now seeks to bring the blessing of free institutions to the political serfs of Russia.”
The easy transformation of the abolitionist into a “free” Russia crusader is one example of how Russia functioned as a “dark double.” Abolitionists’ embrace of liberation in Russia was an effective, even if unconscious, displacement of the realization that a racially equitable America was an utter failure. The increasing comparisons between the United States and Russia allowed many Americans de-emphasize the fact Jim Crow ruled the South, the lynching of blacks was at its peek, and “liberated” blacks were “re-enslaved” into sharecroppers. Pointing to Russian Tsarist despotism allowed Free Russia to declare that Americans should “be thankful” that “we don’t live in Russia.”
The second context for the emergence of a desire to “free” Russia was the fact that this period was also America’s first foray into imperialism. Foglesong is correct to note that the “free” Russia movement emerged precisely at the time when the Bible and bayonet marched lockstep into the Philippines and Cuba and American Protestant missionaries made their first penetrations into East Asia, Latin America, and Russia. The development of evangelical and Baptist sects in Russia is a story that has already been told in Heather Coleman’s Russian Baptists and Spiritual Revolution, 1905-1929 and in Segei Zhuk’s Russia’s Lost Reformation: Peasants, Millennialism, and Radical Sects in Southern Russia and Ukraine, 1830-1917. What Foglesong adds is how American missionaries saw their work in Orthodox Russia.
Indeed, Protestant missionaries play a major role throughout Foglesong’s story. Like their European competitors proselytizing in India, Africa, and Asia, American missionaries saw conversion as a means to “civilization.” This push to convert those shrouded in “darkness,” therefore, was not just about religiosity. It was about politics. Missionaries assumed that conversion to Protestantism would facilitate Russian’s political transformation into Americans.
Interestingly, the mission to free Russia also tantalized the desires of America’s “gentlemen socialists.” Inspired by the 1905 Revolution, American socialists like Ernest Poole, William Walling, and Arthur Bullard sought Russia’s salvation in the mythical democracy of the peasant commune. If only the peasant’s democratic seed was cultivated with Enlightenment, argued Russophile Walling, could a “United States of Russia” bloom.
Throughout the 20th century, American hopes and disillusionment that a “free” Russia was on the horizon oscillated as the United States and Russia designated each other friend or foe. The February Revolution was a new dawn. The Bolshevik takeover eight months later cast a new shroud of darkness. Light appeared to peak through in the 1920s, until the Bolsheviks engaged in a full fledged crackdown on missionaries and sectarians. The 1930s until the outbreak of WWII was the darkest period of Russian “freedom.” Surprisingly, “free” Russia advocates had glimmers of hope during late Stalinism. Outright “freedom” was all but abandoned for “liberalization” in the Khrushchev and Brezhnev periods. For your average Cold Warrior, Soviet containment was paramount. If Russia was to change, the aforiegn advisors of Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson reasoned, it was going to do so internally. All America could do was employ the technologies of “psychological warfare” to help that process along.
By 1970, Cold War détente served as low point for the “free” Russia movement. The realpolitik of the Ford Administration, led by Henry Kissinger’s desire (in private Foglesong says that Kissinger “repeatedly expressed utter disdain” for promoting human rights and saw their provisions in treaties with the Soviets as a “joke.”) to get actual results from negotiating with the Soviets coupled with America’s defeat in Vietnam, made the desire to “free” Russia appear more utopian than ever before. However, as Foglesong shows, two events led to the movement’s revival: the rise of the new American conservativism and the Carter Administration’s adoption of the language of human rights.
The emergence of both American conservativism and the doctrine human rights were both a response to the realism of the Nixon-Ford administrations. For Nixon and Ford, the Soviet Union could be dealt with and pressuring them on human rights was seen as counterproductive. All of this changed with the arrival of Solzhenitsyn in the summer of 1975. But it wasn’t the “bearded prophet’s” appearance that spurred a “free” Russia revival. It was the political mileage the Democratic opposition got out of using Solzhenitsyn to bash White House Republicans. Gerald Ford ‘s utter snubbing of Solzhenitsyn upon his arrival to the US proved to a major political mistake. In a meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko in 1975, Kissinger told him that “If the Soviet system toppled today, . . . I am not sure the successor government wouldn’t be more of a problem. The government Solzhenitsyn would establish would be more aggressive.” When Ford rejected meeting Solzhenitsyn before the Helsinki summit, he called the Soviet dissident “a goddamn horse’s ass.”
All of this provided fodder for first Ronald Reagan’s Republican nomination bid and Carter presidential challenge in 1976. Solzhenitsyn became a cause celeb in both politicians attempt to charge Ford with a loss in “faith” in America’s special historic mission.
As President, Carter and Reagan would return this “faith” in their own way. For Carter’s foreign policy gurus, most notably Zbigniew Brzezinski, adopting human rights as a means to pressure the Soviets coincided well with the belief that America’s defeat in Vietnam sapped the American people of their tolerance for crusading in the name of “freedom. Carter saw human rights as the cure that could “arouse the spirit of our people” and Brzezinski argued that it would “overcome a spreading pessimism” and “infuse greater historical optimism into our outlook on the world.” Like the late 19th century, Americans would be lifted out of their own domestic doldrums via the demonization of the “barbarous” Russian other.
The “free” Russia movement would only return to its roots of God, capitalism, and freedom with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. Foglesong paints Reagan as a sincere, albeit naïve, crusader who believed that freedom would come to Soviet Russia through a combination of Jesus and sending Sears Roebuck catalogs to commodity starved Russians. After all, it was Reagan who called the Soviets the “evil empire.” But Reagan, more than anything, represented the epitome of the American “free” Russia tradition. Like Carter, he hoped that direct confrontation with the Soviet Union would facilitate “an American recovery from the self-doubt and polarization caused by the Vietnam War.” Luckily for Reagan, the appearance of Gorbachev allowed him to dismiss the hardliners in his Administration who questioned the Soviet reformer’s sincerity.
While Foglesong devotes a lengthy discussion of Reagan’s ability to make the crusade American policy, the reader can’t ignore the place of religion in the President’s efforts. Reagan is famous for placing the Cold War within a religious discourse. If the Soviets represented the “evil empire” then the United States played the role of God’s angel charged with the task to vanquish that evil. This binaried view of Russia gelled well with American sentiments. As George F. Kennan wrote, “A large segment of the American population has the need to cultivate the idea of American innocence and virtue—which requires an opposite pole of evil.” True enough, and this fact should not surprise us that good/evil continues to play well into logic of the War on Terror.
The fact that Reagan saw Russia through a religious lens cannot be reduced to rhetoric alone. In private conversations, he tended to preach to Gorbachev that “there is a God” urging the reformer to allow “church bells to ring out again” in Russia. He even believed that Gorbachev “might [have been] a closet Christian.” And like “free” Russia crusaders from the 19th century, Protestant missionaries weren’t too far behind. Billy Graham, a “free” Russia crusader since 1959 and Reagan’s spiritual advisor visited the Soviet Union in 1982 and 1984 where he went on a twelve day preaching tour from Leningrad to Novosibirsk. Graham believed that there was a “quite religious revival going on throughout the Soviet Union”—a view that came not so much from his permission to preach, but a perception that Russians “must be born again” (emphasis mine). If the yoke of Soviet “totalitarianism” was ever to be cast out of the Russian consciousness, tracts from King James’ Bible would serve as that exorcism’s script.
Gorbachev’s opening the religious door had a profound effect on Reagan. While many of his advisors (and presumably Reagan himself) saw glasnost and perestroika as Soviet trickery, it was Gorbachev’s evoking God at a summit in Geneva in 1985 that touched Reagan’s heart and proved the Soviet leader’s sincerity. It “stuck in my mind,” said Reagan, “and stays a nagging question that won’t go away.”
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the “free” Russian crusaders got their wish. Interestingly, the Bible’s revolutionary force lost power in Russia’s “transition” to democracy. Perhaps it was because the Clinton administration adopted the religion of globalization and “TINA” rather the universalism of God. “Shock therapy” displaced the Bible, revealing that capital was perhaps the real mantra of the “free” Russianists. Foglesong never really explains why this change in discourse occurred. It’s likely that such an explanation requires a study all on its own.
As a whole, Foglesong study reminds us of how deep Americans’ vision of Russia as either “tyranny” or “freedom” runs. It also gives us food for thought when we read proclamations like like John Edwards and Jack Kemps’ Russia’s Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do. The idea that the United States can and should do something about Russia’s “democratic backsliding” is hardly novel. In fact, it is merely a recycling of a mentality that has longstanding historical roots; roots that are never too far from the United States own understanding of itself.Post Views: 934