“We swung over the hills and over the town and back again, and I saw how a man can be master of a craft, and how a craft can be master of an element. I saw the alchemy of perspective reduce my world, and all my other life, to grains in a cup. I learned to watch, to put my trust in other hands than mine. And I learned to wander. I learned what every dreaming child needs to know – that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it.”
Beryl Markham, from “West with the Night”
“Well I can bend, but I won’t break;
‘Cause you ain’t got what I can’t take…”
Bryan Adams/Bonnie Raitt, from “Rock Steady”
Everyone still wants to talk about Navalny; the western press is full of blather and botheration about noble Navalny struggling against the monolithic and remorseless state; you would think nothing else was going on in the world. He’s not really very important, because – try as his western backers might to make a Robin Hood of him – most voting-age Russians regard him with disgust and boredom, and he likely could not get elected lifeguard in a car wash even if he could run for office, which he can’t because he is a convicted criminal. A convicted criminal who is likely to get a couple more convictions added on in the weeks to come, if you take my meaning. The Great Patriotic War, or what most of us know as the Second World War remains a seminal event in the minds of Russians who were alive when what is now the Russian Federation was the Soviet Union. As well it might – Soviet losses against Nazi Germany were more than 20 million people, far more than any other nation. Surviving veterans of that war are iconic even in a country which affords respect to military service in general, and considers it critical in such an unfriendly world. Navalny’s record of contempt for a Great Patriotic War veteran may have been his western-backed attempt to jolt Russians out of their reverence for the nation’s hard-won existence, and deprive them of a vital touchstone which welds the public into common sorrow and resolve on Victory Day. If so, it was a decisive failure, and Navalny’s rudeness and posturing have earned him widespread loathing in his own country; he is about as likely to get elected to any public office which requires the candidate to be voted in as he is to discover the secret of spinning straw into gold, like Rumpelstiltskin.
Yes, he is a jerk, my, my. But the thing about Navalny I wanted to mention – he and his portly roving operations manager, Leonid “Two-Tummies” Volkov – is their immediate reaction to Navalny’s arrest, which was foretold with about the same reliability as the sun rising in the east. Their “beam me up, Uncle Sam” cry for help was “more sanctions!!” Yes, let Navalny go, immediately and unconditionally, or the US-led west will impose further sanctions.
We’ve asked this question before – how’s that working out, do you think? Are western sanctions any closer to bringing Russia to its knees? Have they had any success – any success at all – at changing Russian behavior, in any way, to behavior the west regards with approval and a sense of accomplishment? Feel free to disagree with me, but I would have to say no. Is there anything to justify, do you think, the west’s faith in the potential of further sanctions to arrest or modify behaviors the west does not like? Again, I would have to say no. Why, then, does the west keep doing the same thing, and threatening more? I am at a loss to explain. If you were driving half-inch stakes into the ground for fence palings with a hammer, and every time you swung it you hit yourself in the balls with it, how many times would you try it before you gave it up? Until you were a eunuch?
Anyway, that’s enough of Navalny and his anarchic followers – suffice it to say that when Nadia Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot writes a fan song about your brave stand against the state, you have strayed far enough from statesmanship that you probably could not find your way back with a GPS. No, it was more the sanctions element I wanted to talk about than Navalny.
What Russia has learned from having sanctions leveled against it, and rolled over every six months like clockwork, is that it cannot depend on the west for any kind of commercial relationship. Europe continues to buy gas from Russia, and the USA stands on the sidelines and wrings its hands with anxiety but does not quite dare to forbid Europe’s purchase of Russian gas, because no other supplier has both the capacity and the infrastructure. But every other commercial commodity is carefully parsed for the degree to which Russia is dependent upon it, weighed against how much Europe would lose if it stopped selling it. Pretty much every time Europe has lost, as Uncle Sam squeezes it to cut off trade with Russia. The lesson, then, is that (a) Europe is spineless as a squid, and incapable of resisting American pressure, and (b) the USA is determined to push Russia off the map altogether, and will never relent so long as it has the power to continue trying. These two elements convince Russia that no agreement with the west is worth committing to paper, and that whatever Russia wants, it must make for itself or trade with alternative markets to purchase.Continue reading “No Horizon So Far: the Future of Sino-Russian Commercial Aviation”