Dec 4, 2008

Russia Is Back In Business

By Elwood McQuaid

When Communism crumbled in the 1980s and the USSR was no more, the impoverished leaders of what remained were happy to receive aid and comfort from the West. As a result, many Americans believed Russia’s installation of McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and other arches of Western ways heralded Russian democracy. Then came Vladimir Putin, a cold-eyed product of the former Soviet Union’s KGB secret police. He turned back the clock and reorganized the imperialistic, expansionist entity long the scourge of people wanting no more than peace and a decent way of life.

When Russian tanks rolled into the hapless Georgian republic last summer and Putin demanded Georgia’s pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili, resign, more was at stake than a bully’s chance to beat up on an inferior opponent. It was a message that the bear is back, and offending the Kremlin will again be viewed as a capital offense. Actually, it was an announcement of the Cold War’s resurgence, with the U.S. and Europe on one side and Russia on the other.

For Israel and some of its neighbors, Russia’s incursion was a morbid reminder of the days when Kremlin commissars funded, trained, and supplied a ring of belligerent Arab regimes bent on annihilating the Jewish state. Russia’s close ties with Iran’s despotic, militantly anti-Semitic mullahs reveal all that need be said. It’s the old story unfolding once again.

With Putin’s invasion, a dark specter has settled over the region, reminding us of the years when Jewish families in the old Soviet Union ran for their lives—when they could do so—or were entrapped by the State.

Defying the bombs and columns of Russian troops, an Israeli El Al plane landed in August at the Tbilisi airport to pick up some 600 Jews and implement their escape to Israel. Others took to the roads in an attempt to get out of Georgia before things got worse. Upon arriving in Tel Aviv, one of those rescued declared, “It’s great to be back home.” His words were significant because they reaffirmed that Israel is, above all, a safe haven for the Jewish people.

Dr. Michael Widlanski, author and professor of political communication and comparative politics at the Rothberg School of the Hebrew University, put his finger on the essence of the conflict that will continue to plague Israel, America, and the West. In an August 18 article for The Jerusalem Post titled “Neo-Coms Are the Threat,” he wrote the following:

Huge Communist dictatorships, like deadly viruses, have mutated, not died. Russia and China wear the trappings of capitalism when it suits them, but they are willing to bludgeon “naughty” neighbors and “delinquent” dissidents at will.

Unfortunately, this drive toward perpetual, imperialist supremacy is too often greeted by leaders more eager to appease than fight the threat to their own existence. When a despot tests their mettle to see what he can get away with, he rarely meets resistance. At heart is their conviction that mankind is basically good and that, given enough “carrots,” will choose the right path. If this fallacy was not laid bare in Europe more than half a century ago, it is unlikely to be understood now or in the future. Yet those who fail to learn from history are certainly destined to repeat it.

Ignoring evil will never satisfy tyrants. A worthy example is found in China’s suppression of Christians, which often takes a violent turn. Russia’s paranoia over a defensive missile shield for Poland bears this out. Widlanski made a cogent point by saying, “Nations do not mistrust each other because they are armed; they are armed because they mistrust each other.”

All of this to say once more that Israel must have the means at its disposal to ensure its survival. Misguided benevolence and concessions in exchange for paper promises are not in the game. Let’s have no more terrified Jewish people fleeing for their lives or beleaguered Christians in Arab or Communist lands exiting en masse. Safety comes only with strength and the support of democratic societies, including vast numbers of Christian Zionists willing to say no to impending aggression—and meaning it.