Once again, it seems to us the only “realistic” response to autocracies spreading in the world is the foundation of an assertive and relentless (so a kantian) Community of Democracy/ies:
Russian ships no longer carry the names of heroic comrades but rather of figures from imperial history. As I write this column, the nuclear cruiser Peter the Great is sailing toward Latin America heading a flotilla of four imposing vessels. Some ships from the Venezuelan Navy will meet up with them to conduct joint maneuvers. Moscow wants to send a bill to Washington for the latter’s support of Georgia, as well as for the independence of Kosovo.
The Peter the Great is the largest cruiser in the world. It is a platform for launching missiles. It carries 32 of them, and some can do away with a medium-size town. The story of the ship’s name is akin to the convulsed Russia of our day. Mikhail Gorbachev ordered its construction in 1986, naming it the Yuri Andropov, to honor his mentor, the former head of the KGB, and prime minister who had died a few years before. However, it was finished during the time of Boris Yeltsin in 1996, and with time it came to be known as Peter I, the Great.
For Vladimir Putin — who is really the one in charge in Russia — it is a good thing to have the Russian flag defiantly waving around the Americas aboard a ship that carries the name of one of the people he admires most. Putin has a picture of Emperor Peter the Great in his office, and he is probably one of his most important sources of inspiration. After all, this absolutist monarch decided to defeat the West by imitating it.
Sarah Palin’s neighbor
Peter learned to build ships from the Dutch and reorganized his army following the German model to face the Swedes, Poles, and Turks. He then set out to fashion Russia into a European power — even into the Americas — and was able to achieve it, because following his orders the Russian Navy, commanded by Vitus Bering, touched upon the land of Sarah Palin, starting the slow and eventful Russian occupation of the enormous Alaskan land, which Russia ended up selling to the government of Andrew Johnson in 1867 for the same reason that Napoleon sold Louisiana to Jefferson — to ensure that the British would not take over all this territory.
Putin wants to follow Peter the Great. And, whoever wins the U.S. presidency, as well as those that periodically head up the European Union, need to face up to this great threat: Russia is intent on being a focus of power, having elected, like Peter the Great, to model itself after the West, but to confront the West, not to work with it. And an even more uncomfortable element is added to the mix: Although the strategic objectives are those of the brutal czar, its tactics and modus operandi are those developed by the Kremlin throughout the 20th century, whose starting point was the Comintern created by Lenin in 1919 with the goal of recruiting Marxist sympathizers throughout the world to orchestrate an all-fronts international battle.
Enter Hugo Chávez, whose political project (designed with the help of a dying Fidel Castro) is also, essentially, anti-West. He believes he has found in Moscow the perfect ally to guard his back, while he and his satellites — Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega and Rafael Correa — build their socialism of the 21st century. They have allied themselves with whatever government shares their anti-Western obsession, be it an Islamic theocracy such as Iran, or the Marxist-Leninist crazy house of North Korea. It is not ideological coherence that unites them but rather their hate for a common enemy.
It would be a dangerous irresponsibility for the United States and the European Union not to enter into a serious dialogue regarding this new threat. World War III was never closer to exploding than during the October Missile Crisis of 1962. It is still possible for a new Cold War to emerge with Moscow, but first the West has to understand the danger that is starting to develop in order to come up with a common defense. Chávez could have been a small-time grotesque character, but provided with billions of petrodollars and at the bow of a Russian nuclear cruiser, he becomes very dangerous. To ignore these facts is to play with national security.
©2008 Firmas Press