Russian aggression is mercurial — it’s getting harder to tell anymore who is being paid to push pro-Russian messages, and who has just been sadly taken in by them. For all this braggadocio (braggadocious, even!) about “building a wall” to keep supposed Mexican rapists out (although net migration has been falling with our southern neighbor for some time and is now net negative), no matter what the outcome of next Tuesday’s election, the “borders” around the internet will remain difficult — if not impossible — to police for the foreseeable future.
This all makes our breathless, behind-closed-doors hand-wringing over Soviet Communist influence over the population in the 1960s seem like child’s play. No need to train up a double agent over a lifetime and infiltrate the corridors of state power anymore — just fire up Twitter (or Medium).
The Cold War is thawing
It thus probably shouldn’t be as shocking as it has been to find the pro-Russian lovefest coming just as hard from the far-left as it has from the far-right. It stems from a good place (for the most part): a heartfelt desire for peace and the youthful misunderstanding of how difficult (read: impossible) that has been to achieve throughout history. Still, we always want to believe we’ve cracked the nut — that Mutually Assured Destruction now keeps us safe from all the power-hungry demons of the world.
Unfortunately, the Cold War is thawing. With the Russian economy reportedly in dire straits thanks to fragile over-reliance on oil and gas production combined with the precipitous drop in oil prices over the past 18 months, Putin is in a state. A state of keeping the angry ailing Russian classes distracted by the drums of war, while aiming to keep the pampered, self-absorbed American classes distracted from the drums of war. So far to great success — at least on the latter front. It’s hard to speak to the former, although all the paid trolls do seem mighty angry.
Since we can barely pull our heads out of our navels in the U.S. to remember there’s a whole other world outside of our Big Orange Terror Bubble (which is by turns understandable and deeply concerning), I wanted to record here a timeline of Russian aggression events in the lead-up to where we are today (re-purposed from this post with some additional backstory on the Green Party candidate’s Jill Stein involvement with Putin):
- 2008 — Putin invades Georgia, an event regarded as the first European war of the 21st century
- 2011 veto of UN Security-Council Resolution to end violence in Syria and institute sanctions (with China)
- 2014 annexation of Crimea and arming of an insurgency in eastern Ukraine
- Downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by Russian Buk missile transferred into rebel-held territory
- Sept. 2015: Russia begins airstrikes in Syria — supposedly against ISIS, but international observers identify other anti-Assad insurgencies and civilian facilities as the actual targets of the bombing campaign
- Nov 2015: Turkey shoots down a Russian jet after repeated airspace violations
- July 2016: Russian aircraft bomb a base of operations for British and American forces in Syria
- July 2016: Violation of Bulgarian airspace an alleged 10 times
- Aug 2016: Russia uses Iran as a base of operations for bombing Syrian targets for the first time
- Aug 2016: Attacks on civilian targets increase; Human Rights Watch posts video of the aftermath of air-dropped incendiary weapons in violation of the Geneva Convention
- Aug 2016: Alleged 4 violations of Estonian airspace
- Sept 2016: Russia provides air cover to Assad’s troops in a bid to seize Aleppo, the last urban holdout of the 2011 Arab Spring revolt
- Oct 1, 2016: Combined forces destroy Aleppo’s main hospital
- Oct 3, 2016: Moscow pulls out of plutonium disposal agreement in place since the end of the Cold War
- Oct 5, 2016: Russia suspends nuclear cooperation pacts and research agreements with the US
- Oct 8, 2016: Russia transfers nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles into the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad
- Oct 28, 2016: Russia is voted off the UN Human Rights Council, accused of war crimes in Syria
This doesn’t include any of the Russian aggression “soft” lobs like the cheeky offers to monitor our elections, or the material connections to the alt-right movement here as well as the swell of right-wing political insurgencies around the world.
Perhaps history will one day show that the deepest destruction wrought by globalization was not the disintegration of America’s manufacturing sector, nor its incentivization of capital flight, but its damage to the last pillars of an aging democratic architecture slowly corroded by neoliberal economic policies in fashion since the Reagan years.
If any history still remains.