Sometimes the least noticed things show something quite revealing.
Such is the case with a recent Times story. This story, titled “Russian Official Suggests Weapon Caused Exploration Spacecraft’s Failure,” was one of those stories which people read and then forget in a few days. It didn’t deal with an important event, it wasn’t followed up by any other stories, and it didn’t involve an issue that tugs at people’s emotions.
But the story is very interesting nonetheless, because it suggests something very insightful about the mindset of Russia’s elite. The story is basically what the title says. Russia launched a spacecraft to explore Mars, which unfortunately failed. Then Russian officials did something very curious: they blamed the failure on an American weapon. America, in this view, purposely used a weapon to destroy Russia’s probe.
The Times does note that the accusation might be more for domestic politics than anything else. Russia’s officials might not be too serious in their accusation.
Yet even if so, it reveals a lot that this accusation is perfectly acceptable within Russian domestic politics. Firstly, Russian officials have absolutely no understanding of America if they actually think this. Destroying a Russian scientific spacecraft just for the kicks is something that not even the most rabid anti-Russian neoconservative would suggest. The concept is so far out of there that it’s absurd.
Secondly, Russia is really paranoid. Putin, if reports are believed, actually thinks that the protests against him are a foreign plot. Which is ridiculous; the United States has no such power.
This is very dangerous, however. Fundamental misunderstandings like this do not lend well to international harmony.