I wanted to write about it, and then I thought that nobody cares about Russia anymore and I kept hesitating…
No matter how many years I have lived in the United States, I had never really cut the umbilical chord with the people and the country where I lived for 40 years.
Strangely, even events that happened after Boeing 747 with me and my family had landed in JFK in July of 1991, still resonate with me as if I never left Russia…
I am old enough to see how the world is intertwined, and how a political hiccup in one obscure country reverberates through the world, and yes, I see the connection of what happens in Russia to our lives here in the US.
But it is not the reason I write about it. I would, probably, write even if there were no connection, no resonance… I know that thousands may say there is no connection to the world and we are US, and the world is whatever it is, and as long as we do not interfere in the affairs of others, nobody would do us any harm.
This popular or, better say, populist view did not die even on September 11. People are not looking at facts to form the opinion, but rather look for facts to support the opinion they have. Hence, what’s the problem not noticing September 11 if it does not fit a convenient idea of the nice world singing in unity “I love you… You love me… We are happy family…”
August 12, 2000 Kursk exploded and sunk. All 118 men perished. Watch this answer that Putin gave to Larry King:
“It sank”… Look at his smile. He holds the pause with a smile…
“K-141 Kursk was an Oscar-II class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine of the Russian Navy, lost with all hands when it sank in the Barents Sea on 12 August 2000.” (SeeWikipedia article)
Things happen. Ships and submarines may sink, we know it. This is not what is important here. What important is how we react, what is done to save, to help… What important is finding out what and why had happened...
They were left to die with no help. There was a familiar chain of unbelievable incompetence of the higher brass, engineers, workers, everyone involved. And it was an act of unbelievable political incompetence by Vladimir Putin who cared about his image more than about any of the dead men…
23 sailors in the surviving section of the boat were knocking on the metal for 8 long days, but the superiors did not even acknowledge that there was a problem for 12 hours and proved to be incompetent and unable to save the survivors. And did not allow British and Norwegians to save them.
What important is that the investigation was riddled with lies and intimidation. It was the first major disaster for Vladimir Putin, and he showed no sympathy for anyone, and made a political decision not to persecute anyone. And this is what started the era of lies and intimidation.
But it was still far from the glorious “back to the USSR” of today, and people still were saying things including those offending Puttin, and he felt very uncomfortable, and later made sure that nobody would be able to put him on the spot.
I only recently read about one episode, which stunned me. Widows of submariners were very critical of the government, of their doing little too late… for their refusal to allow British and Norwegians to help those dying.. Critical of Putin.
At one point Putin saw them on TV, so he called the journalist Sergey Dorenko and said that TV Channel One hired whores so that they discredit Putin. Dorenko responded that they were not whores, that they were widows of the submariners, but Putin immediately called Dorenko back and said “You hire these whores on purpose. You gave them $10 to discredit me” (See the article, butit is in Russian)
Putin, of course, knew who they were, but the only thing that was bothering him was that they dared to criticize him.
He worked hard and now few criticize him. His approval rating is 87%. Interestingly, 87% of Russians begged the government not to destroy the “sanctioned food”, but the very same people believe that he is doing a great job.
As for something like Kursk today would be impossible. Not because military are better organized, or the submarines are built any better, but because recently they enacted the law declaring that releasing information about military losses at times of peace is high treason. So now, if a boat sinks, nobody would not even know that anyone died.
As, according to Russian authorities, nobody dies in the Eastern Ukraine.