“Who are we planning to invade?” Nikita Khrushchev asked his defense minister Rodion Malinovsky after inspecting a military base outside of Moscow in September 1964. “Nobody,” the Soviet leader answered his own question, “Yet we have all these weapons, and because of the military exuberant cost people are losing their pants.”
The following month, on October 13, Khrushchev lost his own pants. Losing support from the army generals, he was ousted from the Kremlin. In Russia military industrial complex always rules–19th century czar Alexander III once warned that “Russia has no other friends but the Army and the Navy.”
Learning from Khrushchev’s fate and following czar Alexander’s maxim, Vladimir Putin knows who to side with in order to stay in power, and who to fight with to keep the stong-man image alive. And Russia loves him for it, creating the whole neo-Greek heroic allegory for his October 7 birthday.
Fifty years after Khrushchev’s ousting we continue to excel in the rhetoric of war, and not just the Cold War. All these Khrushchev’s “We will bury you” and some such are now a joke in comparison with Putin’s harking back to the1940s Nazi invasion and Russian patriotic struggle against the menacing West.
These posters from 1943 read “We will save our lads from the Germans!” and “Soldier of the Red Army, save us!”
And these are all over Moscow now: soldier, aka little green man, protecting the family (seriously, from who!? Should have been from Putin, really; certainly in Ukraine); and same soldier with the Crimea-like landscape as background.
It has been half a century since Khrushchev’s ousting, and Russia still has not learnt the better way.