- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Regnery Publishing (September 16, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1621571572
- ISBN-13: 978-1621571575
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
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Implosion: The End of Russia and What It Means for America Hardcover – September 16, 2013
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All the cold war hawks and post-Soviet vultures are lined up behind Berman's hopeful apocalypse, from the preface by Newt Gingrich to the jacket blurbs by Reaganite triumphalists. The book's spin reflects their collective longing for the final collapse of Russia as a political and economic entity. Berman's own angst may be understandable: as the son of Soviet Jewish refuseniks his family and others like it were on the bad end of the Muscovite stick. Russia's "implosion" would seem, to them, a fitting judgment as well as a cost-effective way of deconstructing a major nuclear power. But the analysis is one-sided, and more in danger of implosion than its subject.
That "other Russia" of potential democracy in a "normal country" may have been killed off, in Gingrich's words, by apparatchiki turned crony capitalists, KGBists, and generals; but it was a murder begun in the Yeltsin years, not in Putin's, with the shelling of the Russian Parliament and "500 Days" shock therapy, cheered on without reservation by Western economic and political advisors. It was Yeltsin who appointed Putin as his successor. Putin has been squaring that circle ever since, but he did not begin its roll. As a figure from Russian history, Putin resembles Alexander Kolchak, the White Russian Admiral who overthrew the rearguard democracy of Siberia and tried to make himself Supreme Leader of Russia during the civil war. That Kolchak's biography became the most expensive picture made under Putin is revealing; and ironic, in that Kolchak's dictatorship received the full backing of the West.
The derzharnost - statism -of which Berman writes was the passion of pro-Westerners like Paul Milyukov, Pyotr Stolypin, and Peter the Great, as well as Stalin. It was the engine to uplift Russia from poverty to "modernization," however defined: a threat, perhaps, to those who'd rather this Eurasian land mass remain a submissive appendage of outside powers and interests. One cannot expect its native rulers to agree. While Russia has many problems, they are no more so than the crises gripping the EU in its near-meltdown, or for that matter the malaise in the US or Israel. Berman's projections apply so equally to his own readership it reads like a conscious parody.
The Muslim menace in Russia, of rising militancy, alienation, and illegal immigration is a mirror to the US' own problems with its Mexican border, and Israel's Palestinian dilemma. I expect to see Israel implode from its own failure to deal with the Muslims in and around it before Russia; and to see Western Europe gripped by xenophobic violence as vicious as Russia's. Berman's howler on p. 33 - that "the United States largely assimilates its immigrants" - must surely be news to conservatives whose greatest fear is an "open border" and linguistic conquest. Russia is not the only home, to judge from American polls, "of a citizenry that has given up on their government as a steward of their needs and protector of their rights and freedoms" (p. 25).
And on it goes. The Russian Orthodox Church's illiberalism is seen as proof of Russian social decay; yet the same resurgent forces in the US are signs of "cultural strength." The Russian Church has returned to its roots of "Autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Motherland," as Solzhenitsyn and other anti-Soviets always yearned, but even here there's been outside help. The gay-bashing legislation pushed by the Church owed much of its inspiration to American religious conservatives, who vetted the Russian Patriarch on his US visits on how to strengthen Russia's Christian core. Russia's clerical medievalism is a mirror image of what the US will look like if these same forces have their way in deconstructing America's "secular humanism." Like American economic advice of the 1990s, perhaps such counsel was offered with the hope of "proving" after the fact that Russia is too decadent for equal treatment among nations.
If corruption and maladministration of funds were enough to bankrupt a nation, the US would be in smoking ruins by now. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been lost in Washington as well as Moscow that could have been invested in healthcare, education and infrastructure (p. 72.) This loss was consumed not only by a financial "mafia" on Wall Street, but an endless ongoing war against the "Islamic threat." (To say nothing of the conscious gutting of "entitlements.") Russia's dire straits, as outlined by Berman, puts the Federation in good company on the road to global ruin.
Moscow's "misunderstanding" of Islam (chapter 7) is a charge coming with ill grace from a country embroiled in a counter-jihad with much of the Islamic world, now sliding into its second decade with no forseeable end in view. Moscow has its enemies and friends in the Muslim "Bloc", as does every other outside power. All of these "understand" Islam according to their own interests - rarely in the interests of Muslim countries or peoples themselves. Here also Russia stands in good company: and at least it has not sent assassination squads or drones half way across the world to whack those perceived to be hostile to said interests. Nor has Russia funded Israel's regional jihad, to add gratuitous enmity onto itself. It's not Russia that so many Muslims perceive as their Number One global enemy. The hedging conclusion of his final chapter - that "decades hence" Russia might evolve into "the world's first majority-Muslim nuclear superpower with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (p. 124) - is too patently absurd. The only way for "the Muslims" to "take over" as described would be through such a complete meltdown as to leave no Russia left for the taking. The US is as likely to become a Spanish-speaking state (more likely, some would opine) with Cinco de Mayo an official Federal holiday. I fear Mr. Berman has put all his eggs of radical Islam and a resurgent Evil Empire in Moscow in one basket of horror that is "not assured" (p. 124) but patently implausible.
Cataloguing Russia's new hostility to the West only begs his question. Why does Russia have to be either a "true [sic] partner of the West or a mortal danger to it?" (p. 120.) Why does every independent policy, by Russia or anyone, from the Western economic-military nexus always have to be ramped into an existential threat? The Russian state has "imploded" before, first in 1917, then under external conquest after 1941, and came close to it again after 1991. Always it re-emerged, even if in somewhat altered form. I do not foresee the dire Russian future Berman seems to relish; but even if much nastiness lies around the corner, one can't assume it will be that last, yearned-for grand finale after all else that's transpired. In fact, Russia is not the same primitive society of 1917, nor even 1945. There are tens of millions of university-educated citizens, hence a real middle class, with too much to lose from the kind of apocalypse he and his assistants have scraped together and interpolated here in a white-hot rush.
To sum it up, he hasn't made his case. Even the current Ukrainian crisis - which seems at first blush to confirm the theory of Putin's "necessary" pan-Slavic imperialism - wouldn't be occurring if not for Western help to the Maidan insurgents, in overthrowing the Ukraine's delicate non-alignment. Russia has its problems, but they seem no greater (and much less than) many other places whose meltdowns would cause more immediate concern to America: Israel, Mexico, or Egypt, to name a few. Read this book as a guide to how the neo-cons are trying to inflame a new East-West cold war; but keep your eyes between the lines.
Vladimir Putin, unfortunately, is a man who looks back at Russia's past, not its future. He desperately wants to regain Russia's onetime empire, retaking at least part of the Soviet Union back, if not all of it. The three other countries he has his eyes on are Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, where large Russian population still dwell. However, he fails to look inside Russia itself, and the conditions of its own downfall are increasing exponentially, in spite of the fact that they have regained Crimea.
In brief, here are the factors. First of all, Russia's slavic population is greatly decreasing, due to lowering birthrates and the increase in the Muslim population. As the Muslim population grows and overtakes the slavs, they are going to rise up and demand independence in places like Chechnya (again), Dagestan, Ingushita, Tartarstan, and other provinces across the Caucausis region, following in the footsteps of the Central Asia republics, and they are going to have backing from the Muslim world. The inhabitants of Siberia are leaving in droves, now that they are free to move about, and China is eyeing that area of oil, gas, and other natural resources, and are starting to move in. This may result in China absorbing more and more of Russian land, with Russia too weak to do anything about it.
Yes, Russia is weak, despite the fact that they still have nuclear weapons, and Putin, with his grip on the Russia people, the provinces, and businesses, is making it weaker. Many prominent Russia businessmen are leaving Russia and taking their wealth with them, to deposit them in European and American banks. When asked if they would ever return to Russia, their response was, "hell no!" This is because of Putin's grip. Many provinces once elected their own governors, but Putin abolished that system and decided to appoint the governors himself. This has scared off a lot of people.
In foreign policy, Putin does win over allies against the U.S., for a while. When these countries, especially in the Muslim world, see that Russia supports the Shi'ites over the Sunnis, in a world that is 15% Shi'ite and 85% Sunni, Putin starts to alienate the Muslim world, especially when he oppresses the Muslims in his own country. The Muslims are not long for tolerating it.
This book is short, but includes two Appendices on their policies in the Arctic and the Military. I read the book in one day, and it is easy reading, but it says a lot, and the author is up to date on his materials.
Russia is deteriorating from within, in every segment of Russian society. The government is corrupt (as are all governments), Putin is not as popular as the press makes him out to be, and Russia cannot take care of its own people, as Crimea will soon find out after a while. They do have their strong points, and these are covered in the book, but Putin has maintained too strong of a grip of the Russian people, and they are going to slip right through his fingers. With their low population, and increasing Muslim population, the Muslims will rebel again. Many rich tycoons are leaving the country and taking their wealth with them, and other parts of the world will see Russia for what it really is. They are starting to do so already.
This book is not prophecy, and it isn't intended to be. It simply covers Russia in the present, with it's faults, and the direction where it is headed.