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The Russian and the Grapes

Filed under: Russia

Aesop_Fox%26Grape.jpgTwelve Nobel prizes have been awarded this year in six categories: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Peace and Economics. Six of the twelve awards went to Americans -- including three for Economics, two for Medicine and one for Peace.

Zero awards went to Russia.

It's a pretty big jolt for a country that, because of incessant Kremlin propaganda fueled by latent Russian xenophobia and arrogance, believes America is a nation of morons while Russia has cornered the market on scientific expertise -- and believes, too, that Russia leads a coalition of America-haters soon to take over the planet. A pathetically bitter Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs and well expressing the frenzied Russian nationalist viewpoint, writes in the Moscow Times with enough sour grapes to choke Ernest and Julio: "The Nobel prize committee has repeatedly been the subject of international criticism for its bias and political intrigues, but it is a fairly accurate measure of the state of affairs in international relations. Committee members vote for candidates they believe to be promoting worthy causes."

Gosh. Wonder if he would have said the same thing if half the prizes had gone to Russians.

To be sure, this blog has expressed its fair share of skepticism as to the significance of the Nobel's substantive acumen. But even Lukyanov confirms (though he doesn't seem to notice he's done so) that the Nobel committee's judgment is, at the very least, an unquestionable confirmation of American power and prestige in the world. Yet, that's not what the Kremlin is telling the people of Russia, nor is it consistent with Russia's relentless provocation of the United States by providing aid and comfort to arch American foes like Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah. It's a very dramatic illustration of how far detached from reality the neo-Soviet state is rapidly becoming, a dangerous situation indeed. All throughout the Soviet period Russians, cut off from the news of the world, told themselves American achievements were all illusory and meaningless -- while their own were earth-shaking and dominant. Then, quite suddenly, the USSR ceased to exist.

Indeed, the next thing you know Lukyanov is exclaiming that "the war in Iraq has turned the triumph of the 'world according to Uncle Sam' into a failure, and the 'new world order,' to which former U.S. President George Bush referred in 1988, has yet to arrive. The United States' failure to achieve primacy in international relations has been analyzed by just about everyone, including the Americans themselves." But six out of twelve seems pretty much like primacy, and so does having an economy twelve times larger than Russia's and larger than the five major nations of Europe combined.

Even though America's power vastly exceeds Russia's, there are many in the U.S. who routinely ask what America is doing to avoid alienating Russia, and whether it could do more. The problem is, nobody who matters (and certainly not Mr. Lukyanov) is asking the reverse in Russia -- just as was the case in Soviet times. Russians, like cave men, take American self-analysis as a sign of weakness -- the same claim made by the defunct Soviets -- when it's actually the exact opposite.

And so it goes in Russia.

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