Wrinkled Weasel asks:

My line of late has tended towards the very position you are critical of – the concerns of Russians about "encirclement"

Can you explain to me why the USA, which has far more form when it comes to "encirclement" than Russia has had in the last 50 years is not a source of legitimate concern to Russia? Why, when the USSR has been dismantled at the behest of the USA, that Russia does not legitimately fear a further incursion?

Just asking. I understand that what Russia says and what Russia does are two different things, that they routinely lie, that they practice state assassination and that the country is run by bandits, but I fail to see what their intentions are, beyond their old satellite countries.

What am I missing?

Where to start?

First, the USSR did not collapse at the ‘behest’ of the USA. It just collapsed.

It seized up, like a primitive motor starved of lubricants and even fuel by insane mechanics. Any hopes and plans Ronald Reagan had to ‘win’ the Cold War were overtaken by the Contradictions of Socialism which went far beyond anything we  puny Westerners imagined.

This meant that when USSR-style communism collapsed, the USSR itself also broke up, ending what had been a sprawling de facto Tsarist/Russian empire and leaving Russian power and esteem much diminished.

Second, the fact that Russia is so vast means that in fact Russia ‘encircles’ much of the world. So anything which happens across nine+ time zones somewhere near Russia which the current management experts in the Kremlin dislike can be presented by Russian paranoids as ‘anti-Russia encirclement’.

Third, we might expect that the fact that Western pressure did help liberate Russia from Communism and so allow light to be cast on the Soviet regime’s crimes against Russians themselves would be a source of eternal gratitude in Russia.

But no! Exposing Soviet crimes is all part of an endless anti-Russian plot! (Note: funny that that line of argument emits so strongly from former KGB people?)

Finally, it is all about basic attitudes.

India, China, Nigeria and other big countries do not bang on about ‘Western encirclement’. Because they know it’s nonsense.

Russians of course are entitled to be proud and tough people. They have good reason to fear that their unfeasibly large country has to go through further spasms of de-imperialisation, and must eventually disintegrate into many smaller units. Russia does not have the people to deal with the Chinese/Asian ‘colonisation’ of its eastern reaches which is slowly happening.

The current leadership attempts to deal with those deeper issues by psychological force expressed through the threat and reality of actual force – how else (it asks itself) can we keep those far-flung territories under our control? Moscow smashed (again) the Chechens (Russian citizens!) just to show everyone else not to mess with the country’s integrity.

My point is simple.

There are a lot of ‘sensitivities’. out there these days.

See Wrinkled Weasel’s own posting about a Christian B&B couple arrested for (it seems) upsetting a Muslim, and the row about the Home Office Islamic Network (sic) advice that people should not munch hamburgers in front of fasting Muslims.  

How far should the rest of us go to deal with ‘sensitivities’ of others, when what those others want/expect might be absurd and/or have the effect of limiting our own freedom and/or bear down on other people trying to mind their own business?

If a person takes on a belligerent, truculent, unpleasant snarly attitude, either deliberately as a persona or as an unconscious result of childhood trauma, everyone else has a problem.

How to deal with that person’s odious behaviour? What is the right balance between understanding his ‘sensitivities’ and ‘concerns’ (thereby reinforcing the said bad attitudes) and being firm if not forceful in response?

What about the innocent victims of that person’s bullying, who themelves have had a tough time down the years but are trying hard to live normally now? Do not they deserve more attention and protection than the bully?

It boils down to taking a basic view on what we think we are dealing with here. And then behaving cleverly.

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