As we decipher what went wrong with the US policy on Russia and analyze the conditions that led up to where we are at present, there are some things we must think about before we can draw some intelligent conclusions.
From the time the Soviet Union fell until now, Russia has transformed itself from a communist to a fascist regime. Think about it. In just nineteen short years, Russia has almost completely reversed its traditional position on the political spectrum. Two ideologies that once felt very threatened by each other have occupied space in the Kremlin, in my adult lifetime. And in the interim, there was a brief feeble attempt at operating a democratic republic. But it has failed.
To get the full appreciation of this concept, just imagine a chemical converting itself from an acid to a base. Both compounds are caustic, both can be harmful in their extreme forms. Both can potentially be very dangerous, if not handled correctly. (Feel free to read or reread an earlier post I called The Political PH Scale for more.)
Communism and fascism are terms that are generally accepted as economic in nature, but in some instances they are applied to the political sciences. In some areas they compare, others they contrast.
Under communism as we have known it in our lifetimes, economic theory was based on state control. Prices were set by the government under the doctrine known as "central planning". Converting to a free market economy was a difficult task for Russia, since only socialism was permitted to be taught in schools for seventy years. Economists had trouble grasping the simplest of concepts, like price setting.
The political system under Soviet style communism was rigidly controlled, there were no free elections, and in essence was a dictatorship (sometimes monarchical, sometimes oligarchical). It relied heavily on the KGB to squash opposition and keep the people under the heavy hand of the leadership.
Under fascism, private ownership was allowed. Private companies were allowed to exist but only with a watchful eye from above. Governmental approval was still an important component and nothing could be done without it. The businesses were highly taxed for uses deemed to be in the best interests of the state.
Likewise, there were no free elections, life was rigidly controlled, and sported a dictatorship. Hitler used the Gestapo to protect his rule. Mussolini used OVRA. All totalitarians, be they individual or by committee, rely on a secret police component to protect the regime with many bordering on the edge of paranoia as a driving force.
With today's Russia raking in billions in energy revenues, arms sales, and other high profit commodity ventures, they have successfully turned the "central planning" philosophy into quite a successful venture, a corporate state (which is a central theme in most forms of fascism the world has seen in the times of its existence). With Putin serving as supreme potentate, this fulfills the dictatorship requirement despite the fact there was an attempt to put on a show of an election.
With this knowledge and understanding, the case can be made the real enemy here is not the wallet or purse strings, but authoritarianism.
Sure, the case can always be made against socialist economic policies. They are logically flawed and have been proven to stall healthy growth. But in many socialist nations, there are free elections and the people actually elect leaders that echo the will of the people. And in these cases, their desire is usually for more dependency on government.
There is no real freedom in any component of fascism. Sure, they may allow private enterprise to exist in name, but behind the scenes that's about as far as it goes. In other words, under fascism, the government owns it but let's you keep it in your own name. Many person has lost his/her business under Hitler and Putin, by not doing what the government wanted them to do.
But at some time along the way, both systems seek out an imperialist path which is guided by expansive self-interest. Hitler sought to restore Germany to it's former boundaries. Now, Putin seeks to do the same. Both have used nationalism as the central theme for their expansion projects. Both ideologies have a strong nationalist component.
But let's get back to how we got to this point. We can look at this and that, we can point fingers at each other all day long. The fact of the matter remains simple.
What has happened has happened and cannot be changed now.
What is imperative to guide us to a solution is just as simple.
We need to understand what has transpired in Russia and use it to effect a sensible solution. Nothing will ever be solved until people gain these two understandings. So once this educational benchmark can be attained, this is when a real comprehension of what we are dealing with can truly be realized.
The fact remains, this is what real hegemony looks like. This is what a real war for oil looks like. America did invade Iraq and arguments can be made all day long about the prudence of such an undertaking. But that's where it ends.
We did not invade a democracy. We overthrew a brutal blood-thirsty dictator. We did not install our own government, we allowed the Iraqi people determine who would lead them. And now, they are determining their own destiny and we are not actively working to replace them, when we disagree with their self-determined policies.
The same cannot be said for Putin's Russia and his incursion into the Republic of Georgia.