It’s sad to say, but some people — and things — just can’t get out from under the negative connotations of a past action or two. In popular parlance, we refer to this as “Having a bad rep.” Think about it. Plenty of people have pit bulls for instance, but a few of them go off the reservation, eat a toddler or two — “Chomper was always such a nice dog” — and suddenly people won’t let their Pekinese play with them at the dog park. Clowns are also victims of this “guilt by association” character assassination. All that these fright-wigged purveyors of mirth want is to make people laugh, but then a few kids are traumatized at a backyard birthday party and the next thing you know you’re making balloon animals at senior citizens’ homes while the residents gum down their creamed corn. As recent events in Lithuania demonstrate, I think the Russians find themselves burdened under the yoke of wary misunderstanding.
I speak of course of the recent admission by the Lithuanians that they barred the construction of a data center within its borders due to concerns that it could be infiltrated by Russian intelligence. Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen the old bumper sticker diagnosis stating, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you,” but can’t we cut these guys some slack? Okay, they annexed Crimea, moved their military into eastern Ukraine and, just maybe, leaked a few emails that the DNC and John Podesta wished hadn’t seen the light of day. But how long are people going to hold this over their heads? If you’re the Lithuanian government the answer is, apparently, a really, really long time.
The whole issue came to a head when Arcus Novus (AN), a Lithuanian construction firm, wanted to build a data center that could be rented out to businesses for cloud computer operations. Although the boys at AN thought this seemed harmless enough, Lithuanian security officials were a bit less sanguine about the whole thing. As we all know, Lithuania and Russia have had kind of a “troubled relationship” for the last century or so, so the guys in security felt that they should inform the higher-ups in the government, “Once the data center is connected by fiber-optic cable to Russia, it could be linked by the Russian Federal Security Service to its radio electronic reconnaissance network.” After giving this state of affairs a little consideration, government officials said “nyet” to the project. Naturally, AN is unhappy about the whole thing and are threatening to sue, and the boys in Moscow are stunned at this lack of trust. Sure, Lithuanian cyber security has found three cases of Russian spyware on their government’s computers since 2015, but it’s not like their former comrades in the USSR rolled an armored division into downtown Vilnius or anything like that. Sometimes the problem with having a bad rep is that the littlest things get blown way out of proportion.
For now, it appears that Russia and Lithuania remain divided over what defines “the free flow of information.” Some may accuse the Lithuanians of holding a grudge, but I think it’s really a perception problem. Based on some prior acts of less than socially acceptable behavior, the Russians are sort of like that guy that you wouldn’t want your sister to go out with — or anybody else’s sister for that matter. But honestly, what is the statute of limitations on prior bad acts? How bad can these guys really be? Trump seems to like them. Who can remember the Cold War anyways? I guess a reputation is just a hard thing to change, so it’s going to take quite a while, and a lot of positive PR, before anybody, and most of all the average Lithuanian, are going to come to the conclusion that these guys can work and play well with others.
I think the important thing is that the guys in Moscow need to start socializing with a better class of character. Nothing helps dissolve a bad rep faster than to stop hanging out with a bad crowd and become the type of nation-state that everyone feels comfortable being friends with. After all, you don’t see many clowns who own pit bulls do you?