Among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised.~Machiavelli
I noticed a change in the political zeitgeist in the weeks following the Russian takeover of Crimea. Liberals in the media and all over the internet became more critical of Obama, but not merely of his response to Vladimir Putin’s adventurism. After noticing this, I recognized it for what it is: No one wants to be on the side they consider weak. The Left of course is almost always against military intervention, however the human psychology that Machiavelli pointed to centuries ago is still at work even in the minds of those that say they dislike militarism and “bravado”.
When President Obama first took office, his opponents criticized him for his Cairo speech, complaining that it showed weakness to the Muslim world and would not have the effect some hoped for. Even though I believe this is correct, the predictions were largely theoretical and difficult to prove.
The confrontations with Vladimir Putin on the world stage on the other hand provided the same stimulus to onlookers as does an athletic competition. While still open to debate, generally people had strong feelings about which leader was winning these contests, and the winner was not Obama. True or not, the perception is that Obama is weaker than Putin, and this may be fatal. The beginning of the end was the Syrian “Red Line”. Crimea sealed the deal.
So what we see happening is the subliminal rejection of weakness, even by those who always argue for the soft touch. No one likes weakness. Putin’s apparent strength is attractive not only to Russians, but even to liberals in America. While America’s initial response to the situation in Ukraine may have been tepid, I’ve argued that the recent moves by America’s president were correct, and bolder than Putin expected. But it came too late. When weakness is perceived, former supporters will begin to find all kinds of reasons to dislike their man in Cairo. Even Maureen Dowd laments:
You are the American president. And the American president should not perpetually use the word ‘eventually.’ And he should not set a tone of resignation with references to this being a relay race and say he’s willing to take ‘a quarter of a loaf or half a loaf,’ and muse that things may not come ‘to full fruition on your timetable.’
“An American president should never say, as you did to the New Yorker editor, David Remnick, about presidents through history: ‘We’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.’
“Mr. President, I am just trying to get my paragraph right. You need to think bigger…
“Especially now that we have this scary World War III vibe with the Russians, we expect the president, especially one who ran as Babe Ruth, to hit home runs.
Make no mistake, the peaceniks love to crush their enemies, and they want a champion in office. One need only look at some of the tactics of the American Left when it comes to punishing dissent and political opponents. Some may agree that these tactics are justified, but it’s difficult for me to believe they are any less nasty than the supposedly more hawkish Right. Even in the eyes of liberals, weakness is no virtue.
Look at these young men and boys! What material! I shall eradicate the thousands of years of human domestication. Brutal youth–that is what I am after…I want to see once more in the its eyes the gleam…of the beast of prey. With these I can make a new world…and create a new order! ~Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf
Vladimir Putin, like Adolph Hitler and VI Lenin, knows that the best place to start is in the beginning. If one wishes to truly change society, it’s important to begin indoctrination during the most impressionable stages, when the lessons will truly stick. Thus Putin and his administration are deeply involved in a Russian youth movement known as the Nashi (Ours). As of 2002, Nashi held over 50,000 members.
Not surprisingly, Vladislav Surkov, a Russian government official who provided large sums of money to Putin during elections, is the patron of Nashi. Surkov is a major power broker in the Russian government; he is one of 7 Russian officials sanctioned by the US government after the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Interestingly enough, and completely in line with the Russian government’s talenty for seizing upon international, academic, and media zeitgeist, Nashi creator Vasily Grigoryevich Yakemenko says the movement was created to battle “skin heads and Nazis” in Russia. Remember, this was the same language used to justify Russia’s initial intervention in Crimea. This rhetoic is intended to dissuade criticism from liberal groups, whom reflexively hate fascism. Nashi has been accused of intimidation of rival youth groups. Nashi has even established its own political party, registered with the Kremlin.
Nashi is used for political demonstrations against the West, the US in particular. This is a growing trend in Russia, fully supported and endorsed by the Kremlin.
One of the Seliger Forum’s managers and Russia’s youngest parliament member, 25-year-old Robert Schlegal, used to be a well-known anti-American activist. Three years ago, Schlegal—sometimes called Putin’s favorite protégé—led a crowd of 12,000 Nashi members to the American embassy in Moscow and played a film in which a cartoon George W. Bush claimed, “I control the world’s oil, economy, wars, culture, science, and information.” While Schlegal still refers to the United States as “the most aggressively dominating empire,” he now says Nashi’s anti-Western attacks are “the old agenda.”
The most prominent and striking feature of Nashi is that it seemingly seeks to build upon Putin’s cult of personality, its members sporting Putin tshirts and chanting songs in his praise. Putin is building his support for a possible extension of his time in power.
Supporters of Nashi say that Russia has a long history of such groups. They are correct. VI Lenin established The Young Pioneers, which survived until the late Soviet days. The American, Samantha Smith, was even accorded membership on her visit in 1983.
The Nashi are fully indoctrinated in Russian nationalism and Putin’s regime. The extant of their activies far exceeds that of comparable American organizations, such as the Scouts. The Nashi’s sole reason for existing is to build Putin’s power base, and to crush and shame opposition. Nashi is a political tool.
This is the first entry of my series, which analyzes Putin’s quest to bend all aspects of the Russian state and people to his will. Aspects of the youth groups will be analyzed in more depth, later.