So read the headline in the story that was making news all over Russia yesterday. Married man meets woman, woman leads him to a steamy sauna... man wakes up sans cell phone, tablet, some money... and two once valuable parts of his anatomy. But my interest in this MWN-like story has less to do with the story and more with the analogy... Russia, a nation that one day woke up to find its balls missing.
I remember when Boris Yeltsin sat atop the tanks and declared the independence of the Russian Federation. The USSR crumbled in an unmourned heap of ashes, and at least a dream of western-style freedom washed over a nation tired of being drab, isolated, paranoid. And we rejoiced with them, because the world's 75-year nightmare was at an end. Involved in all this was a Yeltsin protege named Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov went on to become a mayor of a major city, and later, an arch nemesis of Yeltsin's successor, Vladimir Putin.
Today, on the eve of a major protest against the government's policy in the Ukraine- a protest which had already found its other main leader in "protective" police custody- Nemtsov was gunned down on a public street, right in front of the Kremlin. Russia of course called the act "provocative" and promised to fully investigate, which I'm sure they will. And show of hands those who believe Putin will quickly bag a "killer or killers" which will not only show that Russia will bring the bad guys to justice... but as an article suggested, will find a way to suggest it's Nemtsov's own "dirty dealings" that led to the murder. From Sputnik News:
Committee representative Vladimir Markin confirmed that the investigation is focusing on two charges: illegal transfer of arms and murder.
Set 'em up, knock 'em down. The old familiar Russian game from the old familiar KGB hand. Not surprising that Putin had earlier described Nemtsov- as he did many of his powerful foes- as an embezzler, a plutocrat, an "Al Capone." And wow, look everyone, he was an ARMS DEALER on the side.
And more sanctions will come, the winter will get worse. The Russian people will look at the bounty they so recently had, and the mean spirited westerners jerking them away. They will fall back into a drab, isolated, paranoid existence. And they will see their choices one way or another boiling down to one man. You know who.
Another article I read speculated on the events of the last year... that the plan was to seize Crimea, and Ukraine would collapse into an ungovernable, untenable heap which would then be accepted into Putin's Novorussia. But Ukraine fought back, and now Putin is trapped in a web of sanctions pulling ever tighter, making him ever more desperate as he faces his last days.
Nice article, if you were talking about a western nation. But this is Russia. Keep in mind, Russia didn't have democracy RESTORED with Yeltsin. They never once had democracy- and when you boil it down to the man in the field, their wasn't much difference in being in the KGB's gulags and the Tsar's gulags, other than it got a bit more crowded under Stalin. If the article's author doesn't grasp Russian history, Putin sure does. And in the end, Putin is not a "Stalin", as Nemtsov named him. He is a Peter the Great, an Ivan the Terrible, a Nicholas II- sure of the twin towers of Russia through the ages- the rightness of the ruler, and the serf's need to be ruled. The Russian people have downtrodden serfdom in their blood, the rule of an autocrat in their veins. All they needed was a little drabness, isolation, and paranoia to remind them.
And up steps the US of A and the European Union. For Putin, problem solved.
But, Chris, the Ukraine is still fighting! He's not getting EVERYTHING he wants.
Yeah, really? The natural gas Ukraine uses to heat their homes and fuel their industry comes still through Russia. (See, the EU didn't want to help with that back when we were all buddies, because it might piss off Putin, remember?) And by next week, Russia is threatening to cut that source off... again. Just like they do every time the Ukraine gets a little rambunctious.
Leonid Bershidsky over on Bloomberg concluded his very telling article, The Russia That Died With Boris Nemtsov, with these words:
I seriously doubt that Nemtsov's death will invigorate the anti-Putin protest movement. It is too weak to present a threat. Convincing others of the regime's criminality is a weapon that's too heavy for Russian liberals to heft these days. Still, I cannot help but wonder now what my country would have been like had Yeltsin made a different choice back in 1999.
Under President Boris Nemtsov, Russia could have been a country where I could have kept living and working. With his death, that unrealized future has died, too.
That unrealized future is Russia's man that woke up to find his balls cut off. Because freedom has to be a waking thing- and America's on the verge of learning the price of being more than half asleep.
Mikhail Khodorksky, former tycoon opponent of Putin, thinks Putin is a "naked king," that "Russia will have to stand long in agony by the bed of the sick emperor. It will be painful for the population and dangerous for the West." His opinion is not shared by all. Mikhail Gorbachev, for one, thinks that American opposition to Russia in the Crimea and the Ukraine has pulled us all into a new Cold War, one that could become hot:
"If our country gets involved [in the fighting], it could spark a fire so strong the whole world won't be able to put it out." Gorbachev said.
And the truth of it? We may never know. It may be like the end to the Moscow man's story...
The LifeNews video showed a doctor saying that the operation had been carried out by a professional — "by a veterinary doctor at the very least."
Despite the precision of the surgery, the victim ended up in intensive care two days after the chance encounter.
The victim's wife was shown in LifeNews footage crying and saying her husband had told her he was going into hospital for a planned operation, but didn't tell her which hospital.
"Interestingly, the wife of the victim is still convinced that her husband was hospitalized as the result of an operation on his sex organs necessitated by a serious illness," LifeNews observed.