Russia and China: Who is more worthy of respect?
In 1985, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union elected a noble-minded leader named Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev promised to make the Soviet Union more humane and democratic. His reforms - glasnost (political openness) and perestroika (economic reconstruction) - became world-known. He signed a nuclear disarmament agreement with Ronald Reagan and allowed the satellite countries in Eastern Europe to secede from the Communist Bloc. In 1991, the communist hardliners deposed Gorbachev and put him under house arrest. The people poured into the Red Square, and the hardliners sent in tanks. The military however refused the orders to shoot at the people, and the Soviet Union was no more.
In 1989, a large group of people in China poured into the Tiannamnen Square demanding democratic reforms. The hardliners sent in tanks, and the military obeyed their orders to shoot. China remained as it was and still remains as it was. And yet America, and the rest of the West, continue to treat China and the Chinese respectfully even as they continue to spit on Russia. And my question is, what signal does this send to the rest of the world?
One country's leadership and the military make a noble and rightful decision, and their country becomes the toilet of the world. Another country's leadership and military make a barbaric decision, and the country continues to grow in power and wealth. This is not only bad ethics; it also is bad politics.
Just how bad? Well let's look at Iran. In 1997, a moderate leader named Mohammad Khatami was elected the President of Iran. The Guardian Council had sucess in thwarting his reform agenda by saying that he was the Gorbachev of Iran. Iran is presently led by a madman who is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons. The hardliners in Iran came back by floating before the Iranian people the spectre of Iran going the way of the Soviet Union.
There are many in America and elsewhere who claim that they won the Cold War. They are wrong. The Soviet Union could have gone on indefinitely, as have the much smaller Cuba and North Korea. Instead the leadership and the military of the Soviet Union made rightful and noble decisions. And the reward for that rightful and noble choice has been the country being plundered and its people being treated like trash.
This is something that needs to be said in any number of circles in order to put matters into perspective. To reward noble and rightful choices with plunder and ugly behavior creates a perverse set of incentives in which any villain can stay in power by referring to people what happened when the Soviet leadership went on a rightful course. Russia, China and places such as Iran, will continue to exist. What matters is the form in which they exist and what it means for their people as much as what it means for America and its allies. The policy regarding these places must be reworked to incentivize noble and righteous behavior and disincentivize barbarism. One can start by recognizing the goodwill and righteousness that had been shown by Russian leadership and its military and treating Russia and Russian people with respect.