The Russian Empire collapsed in 1917 only to be replaced shortly thereafter by the Soviet Union which was a Communist empire. This union was dominated by its largest entity, Russia. At the end of the Second World War the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the two great powers in the world. This was a throwback to the 19th century with its contests among several great powers, especially within Europe. Both Russia and the United States jockeyed for influence throughout the world each carving out its own sphere of particular interest. They did not want to confront each other militarily because each had the power to destroy the other. It was referred to as MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction.
The war that raged between the two superpowers was referred to as a Cold War. Eventually in the last decade of the 20th century the United States won and once again the Russian Empire collapsed with many of its components declaring independence. The Russia that emerged was weak militarily, economically, and in matters of governance. The United States, the proud winner, boasted more than a little that it was now the one great power in the world and it seemed that no other nation had the resources to challenge its status. Russia struggled to develop an effective governance structure. Its lack of experience with democratic institutions made that effort very difficult.
Meanwhile, America got fat and lazy. The easy life was good indeed. We were busy assisting the remnants of the Soviet Union in developing democratic processes and an affinity for the American way of life. Several of them wanted to join with other European countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). We were glad to have them, while Russia, in its weakness, chafed at the thought that their former enemy was encircling them. The United States went on a spending spree piling up debt at an unprecedented rate with little to show for the expenditures.
Russia, dabbled with democracy but mainly found economic institutions to build its own wealth and strength. Recent events in the tiny republic of Georgia have been a wake-up call to the Americans. Georgia has been our strongest ally in the Iraq war, and we were ready to let them into NATO. When the Georgian military began to bombard the Russian population of one of its own breakaway enclaves, the Russians said "no thank you." They moved their military, not only to defend their own people, but invaded Georgia itself. The Georgian leadership looked to their great friends, the Americans, for help.
President George Bush huffed and puffed. He snorted and pawed the ground and kicked up dust everywhere demanding that the Russians leave Georgia. The Russians smiled and continued their occupation of our beleaguered friend. In response, President Bush dispatched his Secretary of State, the stern faced Dr. Rice, to take care of the situation. She did more huffing and puffing with the same result. The Russians giggled at the suggestion that they should relinquish their quick conquest. Their response to the American efforts sends a clear message, the Russians are back.
From my perspective, America has dithered away its strength while the Russians have quietly built theirs. Now there is a new superpower on the planet and unless the United States quickly reverses course and rebuilds its financial institutions, its weakened economy, and it’s exhausted military they will leave us in the dust of history. I made a similar statement in my last commentary and one of my friends challenged me: " Where will America get the money to do all this? No politician will suggest that we raise taxes and eventually we have to quit borrowing money from the Chinese, so how are we going to rebuild American strength?"
My friend is correct. Neither one of the candidates for president would dare suggest that we raise taxes to pay for rebuilding America. That would be a political kiss of death. However, unless the American people are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reconstruct the infrastructure of America , revitalize our weakened financial structure, and rebuild our military, they will have to get used to the United States being a secondary power in the new world order. The Russians are back and we better learn to live with that fact.