Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Sept. 4, 2000 / 3 Elul, 5760

George Will

George Will
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Back in the U.S.S.R. -- AS THE TRAGEDY of the Russian submarine Kursk unfolded, Vladimir Putin's government responded with mendacity, lying about many things and suggesting that some other nation's submarine had collided with the Kursk. Which is to say, the government behaved like what it is, a cabal run by a third-generation apparatchik. Putin, whose grandfather was in Lenin's and then Stalin's personal security details, and whose father was a Communist Party functionary, was a KGB careerist before converting--if you think as the Clinton-Gore administration evidently does--to democracy.

The nature of Putin's government is pertinent to America's presidential choice. Al Gore, much more than George W. Bush, adheres to the anachronistic idea that Russia must be treated as a great power--witness Gore's quest for Russia's permission for the United States to defend itself against ballistic missiles, and his passion to preserve the 28-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Gore should read in the National Interest quarterly Zbigniew Brzezinski's essay "Living With Russia," which argues that "there is no solid foundation" for Russia's claim to global status.

Russia's domestic conditions are "bordering on social catastrophe"--ruined agriculture, collapsing infrastructure and steady deindustrialization of the imploding economy. In 1999 direct foreign investment in China was $43 billion, in Poland $8 billion, in Russia $2 billion to $3 billion. Sixty percent of recent births are not fully healthy; 20 percent of first-graders are diagnosed with some mental retardation. Since 1990 male life expectancy has declined five years, to around 60.

Russia's demographic crisis--its population dropped from 151 million to 146 million in the 1990s--exacerbates its geographic crisis. To the east are 1.2 billion Chinese with an economy that is four times larger than Russia's and is lengthening its lead. To the west are 375 million Europeans with a surging economy 10 times the size of Russia's. To the south are nine Muslim states with combined populations of about 295 million Muslims (not counting Turkey's 65 million) seething about Russian brutality against Chechnya. By 2025 the population of the nine may be 450 million (plus Turkey's 85 million).

Nevertheless, Brzezinski's basis for "longer-term optimism"--very longer term--is that Russia's dilemmas are so dire that it has no realistic choice but to join a "Vancouver to Vladivostok" West. But for the foreseeable future, Russia's government justifies pessimism.

Unlike in the formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe, there are, Brzezinski says, no former dissidents in Russia's government. It consists, "with no exception," of the sort of people--"former apparatchiki, criminalized oligarchs, and the KGB and military leadership"--who could be governing the Soviet Union if it still existed. Unlike Germany and Japan after losing a war, Russia after losing the Cold War was not occupied and reformed. And even though Putin's office has a portrait of westernizing Peter the Great, Russia's "renunciation of the Soviet past has been perfunctory"--the corpse of Lenin, founder of the gulag, is still honored in central Moscow.

Brzezinski contrasts Russia's stagnation today with Turkey's rapid modernization after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The slow decline of that inefficiently repressive empire allowed the development of a cadre of intellectuals and military officers--the Young Turks--eager to westernize. Turkey quickly adopted the Swiss civil code, the Italian penal code and the German commercial code. Russia's progress, says Brzezinski, will be delayed until "Russia's past imperial and global status will have become a distant memory rather than an entitlement."

Putin's talk of a Russia "which commands respect" as "a great, powerful and mighty state" is delusional. Alexander Lebed, a former general and current politician (who, granted, has an ax to grind), claims there are fewer than 10,000 combat-ready troops. Last year the Associated Press reported that fuel is so scare that pilots average 25 hours flying a year, compared with the Western air forces' minimum of about 200 hours. The Los Angeles Times reports that Putin says the submarine fleet may be cut to 10 and that last summer "the Baltic Fleet owed so much money to the Kaliningrad bread factory that the plant refused to supply any more bread." An indicative indignity occurred in 1995 when a submarine was stripped of its missiles and used to transport potatoes to Siberia.

The submarine Kursk was named for the city that had been supplying it with food and other supplies. That city's name also is attached to the great 1943 battle--history's largest tank battle--that guaranteed the survival, for a while, of the Soviet regime. The Putin government's response to the Kursk submarine's tragedy demonstrates how long and arduous is the crawl up from communism. inequities.

Comment on JWR contributor George Will's column by clicking here.


08/31/00: Stonewalling School Reform
08/28/00: Uphill for a California Republican
08/24/00: Sauerkraut Ice Cream
08/21/00: The Partial-Birth Censors
08/18/00: A Party to Prosperity
08/14/00: The National Scold on the Stump
08/10/00: The Thinking Person's Choice
08/07/00: The GOP of Powell And Rice
08/03/00: Panic in the Gore Camp
07/27/00: . . . Both Radical and Reassuring
07/06/00: Harry Potter: A Wizard's Return
07/03/00: Recalling the Revolution
06/29/00: An Act of Judicial Infamy
06/26/00: Life, Liberty and ... the Pursuit of Foxes
06/21/00: Fumble on Prayer
06/19/00: The unified field theory of culture
06/15/00: Schools Beset by Lawyers And Shrinks
06/12/00: Missile Defense Charade
06/07/00: The Grandparent Dissent
06/05/00: Liberal Condescension
06/01/00: Great Awakenings
05/30/00: Suddenly Social Security
05/25/00: Forget Values, Let's Talk Virtues
05/22/00: AlGore the Hysteric
05/15/00: Majestic Avenue
05/11/00: Just How Irrational Is the Exuberance?
05/08/00: Home-Run Glut
05/04/00: A Lesson Plan for Gore
05/01/00: The Hijacking of the Primaries
04/28/00: The Raid in Little Havana
04/24/00: Tinkering Again
04/17/00: A Judgment Against Hate
04/13/00: Tech- Stock Joy Ride
04/10/00: What the bobos are buying
04/06/00: A must-read horror book
04/03/00: 'Improving' the Bill of Rights
03/30/00: Sleaze, The Sequel
03/27/00: How new 'rights' will destroy freedom
03/23/00: Death and the Liveliest Writing
03/20/00: Powell is Dubyah's best bet
03/16/00: Free to Be Politically Intense
03/13/00: Runnin', Gunnin' and Gambling
03/09/00: And Now Back to Republican Business
03/06/00: As the Clock Runs Out on Bradley
03/02/00: Island of Equal Protection
02/28/00: . . . The Right Response
02/24/00: Federal Swelling
02/22/00: Greenspan Tweaks
02/17/00: Crucial Carolina (and Montana and . . .)
02/10/00: McCain's Distortions
02/10/00: The Disciplining of Austria
02/07/00: Free to Speak, Free to Give
02/02/00: Conservatives in a Changing Market
01/31/00: America's true unity day
01/27/00: For the Voter Who Can't Be Bothered
01/25/00: The FBI and the golden age of child pornography
01/20/00: Scruples and Science
01/18/00: Bradley: Better for What Ails Us
01/13/00: O'Brian Rules the Waves
01/10/00: Patron of the boom
01/06/00: In Cactus Jack's Footsteps
01/03/00: The long year
12/31/99: A Stark Perspective On a Radical Century
12/20/99: Soldiers' Snapshots of the Hell They Created
12/16/99: Star-Crossed Banner
12/13/99: Hubert Humphrey Wannabe
12/09/99: Stupidity in Seattle
12/06/99: Bradley's most important vote
12/03/99: Boys will be boys --- or you can always drug 'em
12/01/99: Confidence in the Gore Camp
11/29/99: Busing's End
11/22/99: When We Enjoyed Politics
11/18/99: Ever the Global Gloomster
11/15/99: The Politics of Sanctimony
11/10/99: Risks of Restraining
11/08/99: Willie Brown Besieged
11/04/99: One-House Town
11/01/99: Crack and Cant
10/28/99: Tax Break for the Yachting Class
10/25/99: Ready for The Big Leagues?
10/21/99: Where honor and responsibility still exist
10/18/99: Is Free Speech Only for the Media?
10/14/99: A Beguiling Amateur
10/11/99: Money in Politics: Where's the Problem?
10/08/99: Soft Thinking On Soft Money

© 2000, Washington Post Writer's Group