Friday, February 29, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Prince Harry’s Afghan Service Leads Russians to Ask: Why Aren’t Our Elite’s Offspring Serving in Hot Spots?

Paul Goble

Baku, February 29 – Reports that Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, has been serving with his unit in Afghanistan have prompted some Russians to ask why the children of the elites in their country, unlike those in Britain and the United States now and the Soviet Union in the past, are not serving their country in the same way.
When the British defense ministry confirmed media reports that Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles, heir to the throne, and the late Princess Diana, has been serving with his army unit in Afghanistan, some Russian nationalists quickly drew a comparison between what he was doing and what the children of the “new Russians” are.
In a comment posted today on the portal which he edits, Anatoly Baranov said that he would not devote much attention to this report “if it were not for one circumstance which has been missed by other media outlets” in the Russian Federation (
The prince’s desire and willingness to serve his country in this way, Baranov said, represents “a living reproach” to the current Russian “’elite’” whose “offspring not only do not serve in the Russian army but live and study chiefly abroad.” Indeed, for them, military service is not an honor but something they try with success to avoid.
That puts Russia at odds not only with Britain but with other countries “with a stable type of government.” There, “’the better families’” consider military service by their children as “the norm,” a matter of patriotic duty rather than a burden that the parents are happy to shift onto the shoulders of the children of the less well off.
“President George Bush the elder was a military flier in the Second World War. John Kennedy was seriously injured and twice decorated for valor. Bush Junior ‘avoided’ Vietnam but voluntarily served in the National Guard. [And] Republican presidential candidate McCain served in Vietnam and was a prisoner of war,” Baranov pointed out.
But this pattern is true not only in the United States but in other countries as well and was the case in the former Soviet Union, Baranov said. “Princes of Great Britain serve in the armed forces. The king of Jordan is an officer. In Turkey, there is no more honorable service than in the military. And in the Soviet Union it used to be so as well.”
“One of Stalin’s sons died in prison camp,” the editor continued. “Another was a Hero of the Soviet Union, a military airman. Khrushchev’s son was a military pilot and died in the performance of his duties. Mikoyan’s son was a flier and a Hero of the Soviet Union. [And] Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko served as well.
“But now let us pose the question,” he said, “where do the children of the current ‘elite’ ‘serve’?” “It would seem that they should be precisely the people defending the state their parents have built. Commanding a spetsnaz unit in the Caucasus,” perhaps, or in some other hot spot, just as the children of their forefathers did.
“Where are the adult sons of [Communist leader Gennady] Zyuganov?” he asked. “Why are they not in the [Russian] military? Why is it that the grandson of Boris Yeltsin has not once led a platoon into the attack? The country has been fighting without interruption since 1979. [So] where are the heroes of the ‘elite’?”
“Why on the glamorous outfits of these people is it not considered appropriate to wear military orders and medals? Is it that [this group doesn’t have] any medals? Then what, Baranov asked in a tone that suggests he may reflect the views of far more people than just himself, “does that mean” for Russia and her future?

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