That's funny, because the accompanying article in the same Newsweek issue announces that Russia has "won" the war in Chechnya. A war that was considered unwinnable by every Western pundit and journalist...including this Newsweek article's coauthor. In 2004, Rajan Menon wrote, "Then as now, no military or political solution was in sight...The Chechen war, in short, is a stalemate, no matter the bravado of those waging it." And a few years before that, Menon wrote, in a Foreign Affairs article titled "Decline and Fall?" that "The Russian Federation may be falling apartand its war against Chechnya is showing why."
So here's the awful reality: Russia won a war it was thought impossible to win, even by Newsweek's own calculations; and America lost a war it was thought impossible to lose. What a fucking bummer.
The authors follow that up with this strange bit of evidence: "India has bought more Russian tanks since 2001 than the Russian Army." India, with a population almost 10 times that of Russia, has fought a series of major wars with neighbors China and Pakistan, with whom it has major territorial disputes. Russia's biggest threat comes from guerrilla insurgency campaigns. Why the fuck would Russia buy more tanks than India, unless it planned to do something as idiotic as America and run around invading other countries? For which tanks are eventually useless anyway... The sad truth is that, despite serious problems, Russia's military is on the ascendancy. And even Newsweek announces that on its cover: "Putin's Hollow Victory: He's Won The War in Chechnya, But At What Cost?"
Is that supposed to be a put-down? My god, what any American would give, what George Bush would give, to win a "hollow victory" in Iraq! At literally any cost! Give us a "hollow victory" any day, and let us rue the consequences. Anything but this horrible failure and defeat, please!
Pulling back, we have to ask, "Why did Newsweek publish this? Why does a story like this resonate with its readers?" The reason, again, is simple: Newsweek's middlebrow Western/American readers desperately need to believe that Russia's military is a joke, the joke that it used to be. Because, well, as it turns out, America--you know, the "hyperpower," the most powerful empire in the history of mankind? 'member?-- welp, turns out that America can't even manhandle a few restive dust monkeys. The wars America thinks it won...it actually lost. And the war that Russia should have lost....according to Newsweek, has been "won."
Nothing could gall a nation of Bible-thumping, pious militarists more than this awful picture of opposing trajectories, America's pointing downward. Yet it's fitting: America thought they'd beaten the Taliban, and now they're back; thought they'd conducted an historical invasion/occupation of Iraq, and now they're getting their asses ground down; and thought they'd defeated Russia with the Cold War, only to see Russia rejecting the US, and worst of all, acting "confident."
Then there's the economy. We hate to think that Russia has been growing against all of our advice and help, which is why we desperately want and need to believe that whatever the case about Russia's booming economy, Russia had nothing to do with it: "What happens when--not if--oil and gas prices begin to retreat?" the authors posit, sticking their tongues out at Mother Russia.
Note the glee and hope in the sentence: "when--not if." Yeah, what happens then, huh?! Hey, I'm talkin' to you! I said, what happens then?! You're gonna be REALLY poor again, Russia, that's what'll happen. And you're gonna come runnin' back to us, America, for help. But this time, we may not be there for yuh! Think about that, Russia! Cuz even if you don't think about it, we in America will.