Общественно-политический журнал


Bullies don’t play chicken

Я написал пост для америнского читателя. Именно американского, потому что простого знания английского при жизни в РФ недостаточно.

The following is a post for Americans since you need to know some teenagers' games in the MidWest to properly understand it. But here it is anyway.

I am over quarter of a century in the U.S. but have not forgotten the lessons from my Gulag life. It was a much harsher life than we have in America, but in one sense ALL lives are existentially the same: they all end in death. Mature people come to understand it; libraries of great books are all about this difficult, but unassailable truth. Alas, for the immature such books mean something else or nothing at all. In the Gulag the KGB’s ultimate goal was to destroy resistance down to the very moral fabric of resisters. Only those mature enough to be mercilessly clear-eyed survived the pressure. They knew without putting their lives on the line, there was no chance for freedom.

The foundation of U.S. Cold War policy towards Russia was the clear-eyed realization: all life in America and elsewhere was on the line. Today the talk is about “hybrid” war; some call it a “new Cold War.” In fact, it is the same Cold War with the same opponent. The new labels are an excuse for the absence of American resolve to win. Because nobody is prepared to accept our very existence is once again on the line. We, as Americans, are not as mature and clear-eyed as during the Cold War. In this – and only this! – sense the situation is more dangerous than when we faced the Soviet Union.

In comparison to the USSR Putin’s Russia is literally nothing: stalled economy with GDP less than Californian; dwindling, rapidly aging population; sweeping incompetence encompassing all but the few elite military; an “ideology” of nothing but propaganda instilling hatred for democracy; and a dream of greatness long since gone. But most importantly, the Evil Empire of the previous century was systemic, while Putin’s Russia is an ad hoc arrangement centered on nothing but the greedy thievery of his clique.

Vladimir Putin is a bully. He is bluffing. Bullies won’t play chicken. Call his bluff, challenge him and he will, humiliated in the eyes of his supporters, loose power. He will not start a nuclear war. If for no other reason, because it would incinerate his billions. Pussyfooting around bullies makes them look taller. It is a much safer choice to challenge Mr. Putin. Because the longer we let him linger, the greater the chance of the big war by accident.


Mikhail Kazachkov
Soviet Union’s last political prisoner, board member of Human and Civil Rights Organizations of America.
March 2018