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Flirting with the Devil

Israel, Ma'ariv

By Erel Segal

Any attempt to analyze the Russian conduct with ethical tools or alternatively, realpolitik, is doomed to failure because the Russian behavior is taken from the field of mental health.


Translated by Viktoria Lymar

Edited by Steven Stenzler


3 September 2013




Putin wants to return to superpower hegemony against the U.S. and is playing Russian roulette. However, the Iranian bomb won’t be more merciful to the Russians than to the Jews.

Apparently, it is unnecessary to issue another article condemning or praising President Obama’s hesitancy. “When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber,”1 said Churchill a chap we need so much now. There’s no dispute that the Americans find it difficult to produce a coherent policy capable of coping with the Middle East chaos.

Looks like the comparisons to history’s dark days are correct as never before. The British Parliament chose a moral disgrace and proved how deep Churchill’s legacy has been pushed to the attic. Iran is scornfully watching from the side and advancing with measured steps toward the bomb. As of this moment, there’s no one to stop it.

And the Russians like Russians, like then, in the gloomy days of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, are once again flirting with the devil. As a nation, not always did the Russians follow the accepted Western logic or standards of cultured persons. They care for human rights like for last year’s borscht  the most dangerous place for gays in Europe is Moscow.

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia,” Churchill clarified at the time. “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”1 And what is the interest leading Putin’s cynical policy? Not oil  Russia is not dependent on the Middle East. Not merely economic interests, either.

Any attempt to analyze the Russian conduct with ethical tools or alternatively, realpolitik, is doomed to failure because the Russian behavior is taken from the field of mental health. A motivation fed by the megalomaniacal fuel of a world power that has collapsed and is being rebuilt. By past insults. The desire to return to superpower hegemony vis-a-vis the U.S. the historical nemesis that had dismantled the Soviet Union at the end of a bloody contest supersedes any logical moral consideration. So currently, the Russians are playing the dangerous folk game. Russian roulette.

The earliest use of the term ‘Russian roulette’ appears in a 1937 short story by the French author Georges Surdez. The plot brings the narrative of the French Foreign Legion soldiers and, among other things, the  World War I experiences of a Russian sergeant in the Legion. That Russian served in the Czar’s army in the Romania region.

The year was 1917, and reality was getting shaken by the minute due to the outbreak of the Revolution in Mother Russia. For the Tsarist army officers, the future seemed hopeless. Those officers felt like they were not just losing their families, their professional prestige and their financial future, but rather were mainly being dishonored before their colleagues of the Allied armies. Russian officers would suddenly pull out their revolvers at any place in the dining room, at the table in a cafe, at a drinking gathering with friends  remove a cartridge from the cylinder of the revolver, spin the cylinder, snap it back in place, put it to the temple, and pull the trigger. There were five chances to one that the hammer would set off a live cartridge and decorate the room with their brains. Sometimes it happened, sometimes not  the Russian sergeant sums up his story.2

Another game of Russian officers of the same period was called the “cuckoo” game. Several officers got together in the room, turned off the lights, hid behind couches and chairs, armed with one bullet in the revolver, and then, when someone yelled “cuckoo,” they would get up and fire indiscriminately in different directions.


The price in Russian roulette is known. The odds on the table are 1 to 5. A Shiite Iranian bomb on the way to the Mahdi’s rule will spare the Russian Orthodox no more than Jews or Protestant Anglo-Saxons. One can only hope that history would conform to the harsh critic of the Russians, comrade Karl Marx, and return as a farce rather than, God forbid, as a rerun of a tragedy known in advance.3



Original Hebrew article:  


Photo credit: ISNA; YouTube - DrJamesDobson1's channel