A recent study by UBS shows that, among the member nations of the Group of Eight, residents of Los Angeles need to work by far the shortest time — less than 10 hours — to pay for an eight-gigabyte iPod nano (which UBS calls an “ideal example of a globally uniform product”). Montreal comes next, 10 percent longer than L.A., followed by London (15 percent longer), Tokyo (25 percent longer), Berlin (50 percent longer), Paris (60 percent longer), and Rome (twice as long).
Bringing up the rear in its usual fashion is the G8 interloper, Russia. Muscovites in Russia’s capital city must work more than three times longer than Angelinos (a whopping 36 hours) to afford an iPod — and this grossly understates the Russian burden. Moscow, unlike virtually any other major city on the planet, usurps the national wealth to an obscene extent.
Its vastly disproportional wealth means that the picture is far more dismal elsewhere in the country, where people face double-digit unemployment and consumer price inflation and work for pennies per hour, just like in the most dismal third-world state. Recent studies show tuberculosis is running rampant in Russia, as is alcoholism and a wide variety of other social ills. As a result, while the other G8 members are world leaders in adult lifespan, Russia does not even rank in the top 130 nations of the world in that category.
Yet despite this manifest American leadership — and indeed, dominance over Russia — U.S. President Barack Obama will not lead. Instead, of all things, he plans to follow Russia.
A month ago, the heroic leaders of Eastern Europe got down on their knees and begged Obama not to renege on George W. Bush’s promise to give them a missile defense system and not to give in to Russian threats and remonstrations, which were obviously designed to keep the former Soviet slave states within Russia’s imperial reach. Having seen Russian tanks rolling into Georgia, who can doubt that the Putin regime has long-term goals of reacquiring the “sphere of influence” that brought so much terror and loss of life to Eastern Europe just a few decades ago?
Barack Obama, that’s who. Obama gave the back of his hand to Eastern Europe’s pleas a month ago, and now Polish sources are reporting he has already sold them out to the Russians. They quote Riki Ellison, chairman of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a Washington-based lobby group, who “took part last week in an industry conference on missile defense where the Pentagon talked about its plans to defense industry executives.” He learned about American plans to install interceptor missiles on ships rather than on land, and, perhaps, on Turkish bases.
They quote an anonymous but “credible” source in Congress as stating: “The administration has been sounding out for a couple of weeks now how the Congress will react when the plans for building the missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic are dumped.”
Why? Ellison thinks that “Obama’s people believe that many global problems will be more easily solved together with Moscow.” In particular, nuclear disarmament. Ellison says that Obama will “sacrifice a lot” to get it. You know, the way Czechoslovakia was “sacrificed” to a certain mustachioed German house painter several decades ago.
Is Barack Obama going to become America’s Chamberlain? Is he going to ignore the horrific spate of obviously political murders the Kremlin has been committing ever since Putin arrived? The invasion of Georgia? The relentless anti-American rhetoric? The nuclear bombers buzzing Alaska with metronomic regularity?
Is he going to eliminate nuclear deterrence in Europe and leave its eastern regions helplessly vulnerable to Russian tanks, just as Georgia was left vulnerable?
It seems so. As blindly as Chamberlain, Obama appears to believe that our foes can be appeased into becoming friends and that we can rightly sacrifice smaller nations to our noble vision.
There was a time, before the original Cold War began raging and tormenting generations with its horrors, that the Russian economy was also backwards and vulnerable. Then as now, Democratic leaders (at the infamous Yalta Conference) allowed the Kremlin to consolidate and rebuild, rather than inducing them to reform and defang. For decades, we paid the price for that misguided leadership. Do we remember history, or are we doomed to repeat it?