This post is about (as you might have guessed), Russia. The title "Crazy Ivan" is from a maneuver that Russian submarines would use to clear their baffles with a hard turn, and abruptly place themselves in a position to attack anyone who was following them. It'll be pretty apparent why I'm using that particular title shortly, but I wanted to quickly clear any confusion.
I've had several questions in recent days about the Russians and their actions as of late, and most of the questions have boiled down to, "Are we at war with Russia? Should I be scared?" The reason these questions have arisen is because a few publications started publishing "TENSIONS ARE RISING!" articles. Particularly a couple that stated that Putin had given an order for all Russians to come home that had extra-panicky tones. Daily Mail was the beast that started that particular pearl-clutching event, and they cited this article at Znak (which is in Russian, so, sorry) titled "HOME!" and while it DOES say that there was an informal order to bring home Russians studying abroad, it had nothing to do with rising tensions with the west, and more to do with perception of Russians being taught abroad, and a Russian feeling that it was bad PR for RUSSIAN schools for that to be done. Daily Mail took it, twisted it, and freaked the f*ck out. And here we are, following along and giving them clicks for it. Which drives me nuts. So just to be clear, the big thing that most people are panicking about is, as usual, clickbait from the jerk media AGAIN. You know how I feel about that.
Now, does that mean I don't think there's a war of sorts going on with Russia? Well, no. It doesn't. It just means that I've been looking at askance for Russia for the past several years, and am smirking that the news finally caught on to it. Just the wrong way. Russia has been upping the tensions through the last 8 or so years, by doing things like flyovers on our ships, going all freaking Top Gun with unsafe flight maneuvers over our jets, and in general just sort of biting their thumb in our direction more and more. Let alone the allegations (I'll leave the veracity of this up to you, but you know where there's smoke there's fire) by President Obama of Russians hacking us. So yes, I've been worried and keeping an eye on Russia for quite a while. But before we all go panic and clear the grocery stores of bread and milk and put our gas masks on, let's think for a moment about Russian culture.
Here in America, it's easy to think of Russia as a sort of Russian-speaking, fur hat wearing, colder weather version of America. As far as strength goes, we are both world powers. And our human nature allows us to assume that most people are generally like us, particular in the Western World where we are groomed to look past (and in many cases, ignore) differences. But if you really think about the Russian culture, it's fairly vastly different from our own. Whereas here in the good ol' USA, there's a push towards acceptance and moderation in many discussions, in Russia, most weight is put on strength. Masculinity and power are still very large drivers of the culture there. So when you hear stories about Putin hunting bears, or riding horses with no shirt on, or fist-fighting with Hercules, it's not just him being a weirdo: it's a calculated cultural move for his people. Particularly after the fall of the USSR, there was a large identity crisis in Russia. In response to that internal wishy-washiness, Putin stepped in and took charge by relying on the mystique of the Russian male as something to cling to. To remind his people of who they are and where they came from, he went the route of RUSSIA THE GREAT, and so he tries his best to embody that image.
There's been quite a bit of internal strife in Russia in recent years. The post-USSR identity crisis, the struggle for power between the Russian government and organized crime, and things like in recent years the drop of the value of oil (one of Russia's main sources of income), have all made for tough times. There's a good amount of government corruption in Russia, and the people know it. So what's rule one for a company that has lots of personal strife and has a hard time finding its direction? Find an enemy outside to distract the populace from the enemies within. So that's what's happening. If Russia makes its people think we are the big enemy, they forget to look at the enemies within their gates. If the US is having to focus on Russia being a problem, it also makes Russia look stronger. So that's a win-win. Increased flyovers and political standoffishness validate Russian standing as a world power, and they also remind the Russian populace that there is a true, real, Russian MALE in charge, just like the tsars were. So they think, eh maybe it's not so bad. That's the idea, anyway, although of course the Russian people see through plenty of it.
Another reason Russia has been in the news lately where it concerns the US is rising tensions in Aleppo (since the large-scale bombing runs recently) and Syria in general, and the quagmire that has developed there. Again, this has been happening for years, and it IS a mess. So yes, there are definitely rising tensions between the United States and Russia, but they aren't to the point where I'm freaking out about a nuclear war. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but if it looks as though all of a sudden this came out of nowhere, here's two things to keep in mind:
1. It hasn't. It's been building.
2. It looks like it came out of nowhere because the media has been under-reporting, decided to catch up, and then mis-reported things to get us to click on their links and make the dirty pigs richer. Again, we are all pawns of the media, and I think THAT is the biggest worry. Because of that, there has been MORE tension than their should be, and honestly I'm sure both the US governments and the Russian governments are upset. This is all a dance, and the Daily Mail decided to do a bit of freestyle break dancing, threw down the cardboard, and broke up the careful (but tense) waltz between Lady Liberty and Ivan.
So what should you do? Well, as always, we never know what's coming. So please do what I always say: Have a go bag in your car, have a kit in your house, and have an emergency plan. But I ALWAYS say that, because you always should. Beyond that, don't worry too much. There are plenty of people out there working to make sure the tensions don't rise to dangerous levels, and if the media would quit click baiting, we would be much better off.