Whether or not Russia hackers influenced the presidential election, I, a mere layman in geopolitical terms, will venture out on a limb and assert my genuine doubts that Russia poses a dire threat to American liberty or geopolitical security.
Russia is a basket case, a shell of its former self. And that speaks volumes about the current state of the Russian Federation because even in its earlier guise as the Soviet Union and the seat of global socialist revolution it was little more than “painted rust,” to borrow a phrase from the Cold War movie classic “The Good Shepherd.” With 35-year hindsight, the late West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s characterization of the old Soviet Union as “Upper Volta with missles” was really spot on. Uruguay with computer hacks is arguably an apt description of 21st century Russia.
Russia arguably doesn’t even match the old Soviet Union in its soft-power capacity, ranking below tiny Finland in at least one international survey. Appealing to a universal egalitarian ideology, the Soviet Union at least posed a serious threat to the United States and the West within much of the developing world. The present hidebound, counterrevolutionary doctrine of Putin’s Russia has little, if any, appeal outside its borders.
Russia possesses a GDP smaller than that of New York State, but its population is in a deep downward spiral. Demographers predict a further steep population decline from the present 144 million to 120 million by mid-century.
To complicate matters, in a few more decades, ethnic Russians will be outnumbered by other ethnic groups. Moreover, Russia already is dealing with a serious illegal immigration problem from China. Some 2 million Chinese currently reside illegally in Russia, mostly in the vastly underpopulated region of Siberia. Some geopolitical experts have even speculated that China, which already deeply invested economically in Siberia, ultimately may attempt to annex large swaths of the region, to which it has maintained longstanding territorial claims.
Under the circumstances, there’s every reason to speculate that the Russia Federation will implode much as its Soviet predecessor did in 1991.
Aside from its nuclear arsenal, Russia’s antiquated military sector poses little threat to the United States. Indeed, in geopolitical terms, the United States holds virtually all the cards. In the event of an international showdown, we have to the capacity to inflict all manner of misery on this beleaguered country, including seizing the assets of Putin and his cronies, interdicting Russia’s trade – roughly 40 percent of its food supply is imported – and wreaking havoc within its communications sector.
With Putin, we are dealing with a desperate man whose only hope is to hold a fraying,if not terminally ill, society together by struggling to maintain the illusion among his people that Russia remains a significant global power.
Yes, there is some evidence, albeit still speculative at this stage, that Russia hacking influenced the 2016 presidential election. And if this is true, the United States has every right to retaliate through economic sanctions and other measured responses.
I wonder, though: Given Russia’s desperate condition, is it possible that this 21st century paper tiger deliberately being inflated into something bigger, actually much bigger than it really is? Is it possible that sick, pathetic Russia is serving, however unwittingly, as the basis for a new form of McCathyism, one cooked up as an act of desperation by U.S. elites who perceive an even bigger threat to their vital interests: a Donald Trump presidency?
Perhaps all will be revealed over time – but then, perhaps not.