Foreign Psychology

According to president Vladimir Putin, installation of a missile defense shield in countries of the former Soviet Union is a move identical to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. This latest declaration of antagonism between the United States and Russia is reminiscent of Cold War days. Yet as famed journalist Yulia Latynina argues in the October 30th “Ezhednevniy (Daily) Magazine,” there is little actual threat behind the rhetoric. According to Latynina, the move is an example of a new strategy by the Kremlin, a toothless strategy of loud words and fear tactics that don’t have any teeth. Instead of a legitimate foreign policy, the new approach is more properly called “foreign psychology.”

The evidence lies in Russia’s recent spats with its neighbors. In response to worsening relations with Georgia and Ukraine, Russia released a porno-film about Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukranian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Among other incidences, Russian forces also “accidentally dropped” an unexploded missile near a Georgian village. In response to Estonia moving a Soviet-Era monument, Russia made a loud stink, and allowed pro-Kremlin youth to harass the Estonian embassy.

In Latynina’s words, these actions resemble spitting in your neighbor’s soup: an act that is certainly annoying, but essentially pointless and inconsequential. Such an action isn’t part of a comprehensive policy, but more of a small-minded psychological tactic, something unpleasant that won’t have real consequences. In Latynina’s opinion, this indicates that Russia’s actual power is limited. Unlike the USSR, which followed words with tanks, Russia does not have the might to follow through on its threats.

Latynina argues that Putin is in a hard spot. On the one hand, he is attempting to convince the domestic public that Russia’s strength and authority has been revived. On the other, he is praying that the West doesn’t take the rhetoric seriously, and, “God forbid, freeze the regime’s Swiss bank accounts.”