The value of Boris and Natasha

By Brian Low

Where’s the Soviet Union when you need it? I’m not talking about the impotent Russian state run by a sickly old alcoholic named Boris. I’m talking about the “Evil Empire” that struck fear in the hearts of our parents’ generation. I want to know what happened to the “We will bury you” Soviet Union. Now that was a state you could count on.

When the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was still around, you could depend on a number of constants stemming from the Cold War: the world could be blown to the cosmos at any time; the spy movies were full of antagonists named Boris or Natasha; and low-level conflicts would never get out of hand. Sometimes I really miss the Cold War.

While the fear of nuclear annihilation and spy movies are both very interesting, it’s low-level military conflicts that I would like to address. During the Cold War, you could depend on some Superpower or other to put an end to any violence it did not intentionally orchestrate. This was the case because it either wanted to thwart the growth of factions among its allies or because it wanted to win proselytes to its ideological cause. The Superpowers were kind of like Mafia gangsters who made sure that they were the only ones in the quarter bustin’ heads. That just isn’t the case anymore.

Take what’s going on in the former Yugoslavia. Peace talks in Paris have been extended another week, but both sides admit any solution is still a long way off. Ethnic Albanians continue to be forced from their homes and villages in Kosovo, and Serbian military forces have capriciously executed many civilians. The violence is not one-sided, either. Claiming a right to independence, the Kosovo Liberation Army fomented a rebellion and led deadly attacks against Serb forces and installations. Almost every week we read about either casualties suffered or atrocities committed in the area.

This is the kind of stuff I’m talking about. If the Serbs and Albanians had tried to pull this kind of stunt 10 or 15 years ago, there’s no way it could have flown. The USSR would have rolled in its tanks, deployed its troops, and then asked who still wanted to flight. If they hadn’t done that, then the United States would surely have helped one side or the other win a quick and easy victory in return for allegiance. In any event, the fighting wouldn’t have lasted long, and it would never have been this dirty.

I say it’s high time another major power with an opposing ideology started up a nuclear arms race with the United States. Unfortunately, the USSR seems bent on the idea of trying democracy, China keeps making concessions in order to garner trade from the West, and North Korea won’t even admit it has the bomb. Even India and Pakistan are making conciliatory gestures in attempts to win western goodwill. We’re not going to see another Cold War any time soon. In some ways, it’s too bad. I kind of miss those movies starring Boris and Natasha. I’ll bet everyone in Kosovo misses them too.

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