Peter Davies, author of the BNN series on why we’re not winning the War against terror spent time in Russia during June and has some thoughts. 

What country is 86% bigger than the USA – and almost the same size as the USA and Canada combined?  Russia is the largest country on earth; it spans 11 time zones, and occupies vast stretches of both Europe and Asia.

Here in the West, we tend to think that Vladimir Putin is busy dragging his country back into the dark old days of communism, with major Western Oil companies being forced to sell their Russian gas developments to the state owned Gazprom for a fraction of their value, Russian media coming under the control of the central government, objecting to new US missile sites on Russian borders, and so on…
Winston Churchill, speaking during a radio broadcast in October 1939 – shortly after the outbreak of World War 2 – said, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”  What perception from this great man!  And I believe it holds good today – especially the part about Russian national interest, which President Putin represents better than any recent Russian leader.  He’s massively popular with the Russian people – that much I learned on my recent ten day tour of one small (I travelled just over 800 miles of waterways) but quintessential part of modern Russia.

I flew into St Petersburg (the city that enjoys “white nights” at this time of the year because the sun sets shortly before midnight and rises soon after) and travelled north by boat up the Neva River to Lake Onega, the largest lake in Europe, less than 400 miles south of the Artic Circle.  From there our boat took us east and south through more rivers (including the Volga), lakes and canals with many stops along the way to Moscow.

The overriding impression I came away with was of a country that is beginning to recover from the long, frigid darkness of communism and the stark, cold dawn of socialist failure, followed by its near disastrous experience of unbridled and unprincipled capitalism.

The people are revelling in their new-found freedoms and, while being wholly aware of the evils of the Soviet Union, they are proud of their country – its history and its future potential.  Russians speak freely about politics, and their own personal aspirations.  They credit President Vladimir Putin with this new awakening of Russia – this is a leader who puts his country and its interests before all others – and the Russians know it.  I wish our own Western leaders were as focussed…

Since being elected, President Putin dealt with his country’s terrorist problems with ruthless efficiency – especially in Chechnya, Russia’s own backyard war against Islamic terrorists. .  That is the way to deal with terrorism: the Russian people supported his hard-line – only media and so called ‘intellectuals’ disapproved.  After all, the Soviet Union (and China) trained and armed the terrorists I fought all those years ago in Africa – so neither the Russians (nor the Chinese) will allow themselves to become victims of terror.  (See my article Why we’re not winning the war against terror, part 2 for solutions that are similar to those adopted by Russia against their terrorist enemy in Chechnya.)

And Putin’s busy getting the Russian economy right too.  Moscow – a city of some 11 million people – reminded me of Los Angeles with its hectic traffic and bustling, cosmopolitan centre.  The place is like one huge construction site – new buildings and soviet era infrastructure being repaired or replaced.

About the Author:
Peter Davies was a territorial soldier in Rhodesia from 1963 to 1975.  Davies’ novel, Scatterlings of Africa, is based on his experience in the war, and personal observations of how terrorist activities impacted Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and its people.  See http://www.peterdaviesbooks.com.

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