During the Cold War, popular culture portrayed the Soviets in two ways, often at the same time. There was the ruthless ideologue, efficiently going about his business as an implacable enemy of freedom. The other type of Soviet character was the morally conflicted guy, whose honor compelled him to serve his country, but he also understood that communism was immoral. As far as villains go, both types of Soviet were given a lot of respect, mostly because liberals in Hollywood were sympathetic to Bolshevism.
Today, Hollywood never uses Russians as bad guys, but our political class sees them as the epicenter of evil in the modern world. Steve Sailer noted the other day that the pundit class has rewritten recent history to fit this narrative. The neocons are celebrating the tenth anniversary of something that never really happened, at least not in the way they currently tell it. In addition to the former neocon puppet Mikheil Saakashvili, we have Robert Kagan and here is Condoleezza Rice repeating the same whopper.
The funny thing about this myth-making is that it is unnecessary. The number of people in the political class who could locate South Ossetia is a very small number. Most normal Americans would be puzzled to learn that there is a country named after the peach state. As a public relations item, this ten year old non-event is useless. There’s also the fact that the actual events are easily accessible on-line. It looms large for the neocons, though, so they can’t stop thinking about it. In fact, they seem to be haunted by it.
The neocons have been mucking about in that part of the world for a long time. Some would say their interests go back to the pale of settlement days. That’s an amusing theory, but probably not very accurate. Still, there’s pretty good evidence that the American foreign policy establishment has been meddling in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The Boston Marathon bomber was probably recruited by US intelligence at some point. His uncle seems to know a lot of people in the CIA.
The thing that no one has yet to explain is why has the American ruling elite become fixated on Russia. Even if the reason for the neocon obsession is ancient hatreds, why is the America Left nuts about the Russians? It could simply be convenience, but there are better villains in the world for them to hate, at least in practical terms. China, for example, makes for a much better villain, given their economic and military status. Iran or Saudi Arabia work much better with the Left’s current deep dive into matriarchy.
Even if you want to believe that the Left has been infected by the ancient hatred that allegedly animates the neocons, the tenor of the Left’s hatred of the Russians is completely different. The neocons see Russia as a problem to be controlled so it does not revert back to its imperial habits. The Left now sees Russia as the manifestation of all that opposed the great Progressive project. Russia is not a problem to be managed. The very existence of Russia is seen as an affront to the neo-liberal world order.
This visceral hatred has some similarities to the Progressive loathing of the imperial governments of Europe prior to the Great War. Wilson and his people despised the old order, which is why they were so aggressively vengeful toward the Austrians and Germans after the war. American Progressives seem to have developed the same view of Russia and to a lesser degree the Visegrad counties. Their resistance to the neo-liberal order is viewed as an ideological challenge and that can never be tolerated.
The difference is that a century ago, Wilsonian democracy was ascendant, while the monarchical order was in decline. America and American leaders were the new kids on the world stage, pushing aside the old guard. Today, the neo-liberal order is in a defensive crouch, under assault from biological reality and populist revolts. Meanwhile, Russia and Eastern Europe are pretty much just normal countries. Perhaps part of the hatred for Russia is the need to find something to blame for the current troubles in the West.
Of course, it is a reminder of the absolute intolerance of secular religions. When people assign the natural order to divine forces, they can be indifferent to alternative forms of worship, as a part of the great mystery of life. When the natural order is a man made creation and the moral code is created and maintained by man, any deviation must be viewed as a challenge to the creator’s legitimacy. The stubborn existence of European countries practicing the old ways is an insult to the neo-liberal creators.
There also may be the issue of reach. Russia is poor and relatively weak compared to the West, but it remains out of reach culturally and politically. It’s ability to thrive outside the new world order suggests the new world order cannot include the whole world. Central to the liberal impulse, going back to Wilson, has been the notion that it must conquer the globe. Russia is like a stain that they cannot get out of the fabric of global society. Putin is a new Tsar, the return of that same stubborn problem they cannot resolve.