The Washington Post can always be counted on to provide all the necessary calories in a balanced Russophobe's diet; nothing coming from this paper concerning Russia (or Serbia, for that matter, which WaPo sees as "Russia Lite") should come as a surprise by now.
Life is full of surprises, though. Consider today's op-ed by one Eugene Rumer, "senior fellow at National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies." It is a most curious essay. Rumer argues that the very signs of Russia's power and strength are in fact proof it's heading for a collapse!
Sure, the West needs Russia to "feed our oil addiction, to help us cut a deal with Iran and to go on buying our currency to keep its value from sliding further." He himself claims that "Moscow may have more billionaires than other European capitals," while its GDP has "increased from $200 billion in 1999 to $1.2 trillion in 2007. Moscow has more money from oil and gas exports than it knows what to do with." But then he turns around and says that none of this is relevant, because the Soviet Union looked powerful in 1979, and now it's no more.
"...who is to say that Russia's victory in Georgia will not lead to another disaster in a few years?" he asks.
Allow me. As Rumer himself points out, Russia has more money than ever. He doesn't say that it's got almost no government debt (unlike the U.S., which is choking on hundreds of trillions, and showing no sign of stopping). Russian economy is not only far different from its Soviet days, it's also more free than those of Europe or the U.S. (see John Laughland's income tax rate comparison for just one example). The life expectancy of Russians, bad as it is now, is already increasing as medical care ruined by Communism and Yeltsin-era pillaging improves. And while the demographic decline of the Russian nation is regrettable, is that really worse than the demographic trend in the West of displacement by Third World immigration?
So, let's leave Rumer's fantasies of a world in which "North Caucasus break[s] out of Moscow's grip" and "the Far East turn[s] into a Chinese colony" to hack writers of chauvinist technoporn where they rightfully belong. If Rumer thinks Russia is in trouble, what should he say about a country that is worse than broke, short of oil and gas, has already outsourced its industry, its only growth is government, and it can't defeat any enemies, even as it exponentially generates them around the globe?
Both he and WaPo ought to be concerned with America's hard landing. But projecting one's own fears and prejudice onto a manufactured enemy is much more fun. While it lasts.