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To Russia With Loathing

It’s time to take on Russia

Liel Leibovitz
January 03, 2013

Writing about Russia today, Lee Smith gets it exactly right:

“What survived World War II, Stalin’s purges, the Cold War, and the dissolution of the Soviet empire was the brutal moral and political vision that Putin now embodies.”

In other words, Smith argues, it is Russia’s culture, poisoned by centuries of oppression and persecution, that is irredeemably corrupt.

If you think this statement is too radical, and aren’t much moved by Putin’s outrageous support of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime–support that hampered international engagement and cost at least 60,000 Syrians their lives–you might want to read Sharon Dilworth’s piece as well. Dilworth had adopted two Russian orphans, and her description of the conditions in the St. Petersburg orphanage where her and her husband first met their son is harrowing:

On our limited tour of the orphanage, we saw two rooms where the children sat on the floor. There were no toys, no games, no music–nothing for the kids to do. They looked up at us but did not engage. They did not play with each other. These were children who had learned early that crying got them nothing, so they didn’t waste the energy. They were docile and obviously bored. On his first car ride our son stared at the trees outside the window, apparently fascinated because they appeared to be moving.

There’s no better example of the culture Smith was talking about than a wealthy nation that condemns its children to such unconscionable conditions and then uses them as political bargaining chips in a despicable turn of diplomatic bullying. There are no excuses for such measures, no justifications. When confronted with such behavior, it is our moral duty to howl and resist with whatever means at our disposal. Smith proposes a good first step in calling on the White House to recognize that Russia is our potent foe and treat it accordingly. But there’s much more to be done. The American Jewish community had bested this benighted nation once before; as Russia condemns its own children to a life of misery, we should treat these unfortunates as we had once treated our own brothers and sisters, and again march and speak and write until this evil, too, is vanquished.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.