Proud To Be Un-American
George Szamuely
New York Press


Russia's seizure of Pristina airport was its first armed confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. History will record this as the act that signaled the start of the Second Cold War. During the First Cold War, I was staunchly on the side of the West. This time around I will be just as staunchly on the side of Russia. For today it is Russia that is upholding civilized norms, the sanctity of international law and the sovereignty of nations – the ostensible "values" of our side in the Cold War. Now it is the West, led by an increasingly demented United States and animated by a shallow materialist ideology, that contemptuously disregards laws, treaties and conventions and seems unable to live peacefully with the rest of the world.

As of this writing, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania are denying the Russians access to their air space, which prevents them from reinforcing their troops in Pristina. They do this in flagrant disregard of the requirements of the June 10 UN Security Council Resolution and the June 3 G-8 Agreement. The two documents state quite explicitly that the "international civil and security presence…in Kosovo" would be "under United Nations auspices" and that the Russian contingent "will not be under NATO command."

NATO, of course, had no intention of abiding by any of its commitments. Even before the passage of the UN Resolution, the United States was working fiercely behind the scenes to make sure that Russia was prevented from playing any role in Kosovo. Washington leaned on Russia's former military allies and, without hesitation, they responded with the dishonor that is such an integral part of their national character.

Back in August 1968, ignoring previous pledges of noninterference in the internal affairs of their neighbors, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria marched into Czechoslovakia alongside the Red Army. (Significantly, Yugoslavia was the only country in the region that condemned the Soviet invasion.) Now these countries have a new master, but their conduct is the same: craven and devoid of decency. Their action tells the Russians that they made a big mistake in granting them freedom. Confronted by a United States determined to establish a series of satellites on their borders, the Russians realize that restoration of their old sphere of influence is a matter of life and death for them. I write as someone who was born in Budapest and who can still recall the pockmarked buildings that were the scenes of the heaviest fighting in 1956 between the Red Army and the Hungarian freedom fighters.

The First Cold War was caused by the Soviet Union's inability to combine a sense of national security with respect for other people's – or indeed its own people's-right to self-determination. America won, but instead of savoring their triumph, they desperately looked around for new enemies to fight. Unable to believe that the world they were living in was by and large a peaceful one, by late 1989 the demented search for enemies was well under way. Japan was the first candidate. But the collapse of the Nikkei index soon ended that scare. Then it was the turn of reunited Germany (remember?).

Then came a variety of old favorites. Islamic fundamentalism. The China scare also made a comeback, but too many Americans make too much money in China to permit the foreign policy elite to start a pointless fight. Drug trafficking became an obsession for a while. But it is hard to blame foreigners for our own addictions. Noriega, Saddam and, of course, Milosevic all had their turn. Shrill little intellectual magazines like The Weekly Standard and The New Republic regularly print venomous screeds against dangerous targets like Switzerland, France (apparently still governed from Vichy), in fact almost everyone in the world with the exception of Israel and Turkey.

Alas, the search for enemies invariably produces them. Today, for the first time in its history, the United States confronts a world that by and large wishes it ill. China hates and mistrusts the United States. Japan is sick of listening to American strictures about their economic system and about their supposed lack of contrition for the "rape of Nanking." Latin Americans are tired of being judged only by their "efforts to combat drug trafficking." Brazilians can't bear hearing again about the destruction of the "rainforest."

As for the Russians, they gave up their empire without firing a shot. They made it clear that all they wanted was to be left in peace to address their innumerable problems. Rather naively, they assumed that other powers would not take advantage of their weakness. After repeated humiliations, the Russians have had enough.

The Second Cold War will be fought over the same issues as the first one: freedom and self-determination for nations. Arrayed on one side will be the United States promoting its ideology of "market democracy," supported by its small, weak but noisy pup, Great Britain. Arrayed on the other side will be Russia, China, India and much of Asia and Latin America. As in the First Cold War, Europe is up for grabs. Doubtless, the neoconservative magazines, The New York Times and the various half-mad foreign policy intellectuals who pop up on CNN will soon be trying to whip us into line.

We will be told that the new Cold War is all about "American" values. We will hear chilling tales of Russian nationalists, crazy generals, xenophobes, anti-Semites, former Communists and religious fanatics. We will hear hoary tales of Chinese-sponsored terrorism. As before, anyone opposing the Second Cold War will be smeared.

Today's America is waging war against the values yesterday's America fought for. I will be proud to be called "anti-American."

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