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Make the Bear Angry Again

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"They called Hitler crazy. But Hitler was not crazy. He was stupid. You don't fight Russia and America. You get Russia and America to fight each other—and destroy each other."
Dressler, The Sum of All Fears

With the fall of communism in Europe and Russia losing its villain status, writers were stuck on how to find Russian enemies with Mnogo Nukes on hand. Because, frankly, there was no one else with cruise missile subs and carriersnote  for the US to fight except for the Chinese with Chopper Support, and if you try to set up the conflict in a work of fiction with them versus the Yanks with Tanks, suddenly you've gone and alienated one of the largest markets in the world. In terms of other Great Powers there was also the possibility of fighting the Indians with Iglas, but since India is also an electoral republic that makes potential armed conflict a bit implausible even in fiction.

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Therefore, there were two solutions for many writers: Renegade Russian, or Make the Bear Angry Again.

The latter was where Russia remained an authoritarian military "democracy" — or ditches that silly pretence of democracy altogether — and grew increasingly aggressive, possibly reabsorbing other post-Soviet states as some sort of restored Soviet Union, Eurasian Empire, or something that sounded equally threatening. Dirty Communists were sometimes involved, though it rarely involved the Russian government readopting Communist ideology — probably because the intention was to seem realistic, and a revival of Communism was seen as less realistic than the many alternative possible ways that Russian politics may have taken a more dangerous term. This allowed Russia to start attacking places again and being generally assertive. More extreme versions saw post-Soviet Russia go on the path of outright global conquest. The "Bear" is here is a metaphor stemming from National Animal Stereotypes, and probably does not involve actual bears, unless Russia decides to get serious this time. Making an actual bear angry would probably go under I Shall Taunt You or Bullying a Dragon.

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This trope was also played with in some Russian fiction. It was close to playing it straight, but not necessarily viewed as a bad thing.

Compare Post-Soviet Reunion. Compare and contrast Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell. Contrast Russia Is Western, in which Russia fully blends into the Western world. See also Russia Called; They Want Alaska Back. For the trope this one is named after, see Russian Bear. Has nothing to do with Bears Are Bad News.

No Real Life Examples, Please! The trope involves dangerous amounts of politics.


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Examples

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    Film 
  • In The Sum of All Fears, a vague cabal of European neo-fascists want to convince the US that post-Soviet Russia attacked them with nukes (and viceversa) in order to trigger a nuclear war that destroys both. The original novel, released in 1991, simply used the Soviet Union and Palestinian Marxists as the villains - but the studio thought Middle-Eastern terrorists weren't believable villains.
  • In Canadian Bacon, the executive branch of the US government tries to get Russia to fight again in an attempt to improve their approval ratings (predicting no one would take a terrorist threat seriously). The head of the Russian government smugly rejects their offer to be rivals again, so the administration settles on a smear campaign against Canada instead.
  • Red Dawn (2012) features North Koreans with Nodongs as the main enemy of the Northwest Coast protagonists, but several Russian advisors are seen from the Airborne Troops and Spetznaz. It's also implied that the Russians have attacked the entire Eastern Seaboard and that the North Korean invasion is actually a sideshow to the even more lightly implied Chinese invasion of the the rest of the West Coast.
  • In Crimson Tide, a Renegade Russian general rebels in Kamchatka, accusses the Russian president (Yeltsin at the time) of being an American stooge and failing to fight the Chechnyan War, and takes over a military base complete with nuclear missiles that can hit American soil. The main characters are sailors aboard an American submarine dispatched to nuke the bad guy if he tries to attack America before taking over the rest of Russia.
  • Jay and Silent Bob Reboot: Russia is apparently committed to destroying American pop culture conventions with terrorist attacks. Obviously Played for Laughs. Also, Shan Yu is actually a Russian spy.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-800 reveals that Skynet attacked Russia first, even though the Cold War had ended, to get them to retaliate and start a nuclear war to wipe out humanity.

    Literature 
  • Dale Brown — where Russia launches nukes at the USA.
  • The Covert One novel The Moscow Vector.
  • In the Tom Clancy book "The Bear and the Dragon", China wakes Russia up and still wins against a bear weakened by a poor economy beset by kleptomaniacs in power and The Mafiya. Thanks to bringing Russia into NATO, earlier in the book, the US then comes to Russia's aid. The predictable ensues.
  • In the backstory to the Left Behind series (first book written and published in 1995) Russia attacks Israel, due to Israel becoming something of a Last Fertile Region (or at least, much more fertile than it was before), and the Bear is just plain angry that Israel won't share the Applied Phlebotinum that made this possible. (All of this stems from the authors' interpretations of Biblical prophecies.)
  • The Eclipse series by John Shirley has a resurrected Soviet Union.
  • Apparently Humongous Mecha and Black Box technology prevented the Soviet Union from falling in Full Metal Panic!.
    • According to the background information in the light novels, development of weaponized Black Technology resulted in a pan-middle eastern conflict and a civil war in China. This changed international relationships, delaying the opening of the USSR, and during this period the coup against Gorbachev was successful, resulting in his assassination and the continuation of the Soviet Union. Of course, for those developing said weaponized Black Technology, this arrangement has proven to be satisfactory and very profitable...
  • One of the first of these works is Barrett Tillman's The Sixth Battle from 1992, where a military coup overthrows the nascent Russian democracy, gets most of the former republics back into what is re-branded the Union of Eurasian Republics and then gets its allies together to invade apartheid South Africa.
  • In Ender's Game, the Warsaw Pact is a frequently-mentioned threat, and at the end of the book they even launch a brief civil war within the IF. The original book was written before the collapse of the Soivet Union, and later novels refer to this organization as the Second Warsaw Pact, implying that the Soviet Union re-formed after its real-life collapse.
  • The Time Traders by Andre Norton, first published 1958, features a conflict between the USA and the Russians over Time Travel technology. When it was re-released after the end of the Cold War, it included a new paragraph describing the emergence of a belligerent "Greater Russia" from the ruins of the old Soviet Union.
  • Subverted in Fyodor Berezin's Incoming Cataclysm, where it is initially assumed that Russia may have gone back to its Soviet days, when an American base is destroyed by forces bearing the hammer-and-sickle red star. However, it is eventually determined that the attackers are from a parallel world where the Soviet Union is the dominant power. The rest of the novel is a major naval battle between our world's American carrier group and the other world's Soviet carrier group (the latter didn't really exist in Real Life). The parallel Soviets assume they're fighting their Americans (a pretty common occurance for them), while most of the American servicemen (except for the top brass) assume they're fighting some new unknown threat that uses Soviet symbology. Both sides use technology unknown (or seen as archaic) to the other, such as satellites and stealth ships for the Americans and ground effect planes and battleships for the Soviets. Both sides lose their supercarriers, which causes the Soviet forces to return to their native dimension (the rift was formed by the presence of active nuclear reactors).
  • Crosses over with China Takes Over the World in The Singularity Trap, where a resurgent Soviet Union joins with China and forms the Sino-Soviet Empire to counterbalance the United Earth Nations.
  • In The Second Renaissance, a "Little Cold War" with Russia and China is the defining conflict of the 2020s for the United States. It ends with another Great Politics Mess-Up, with Russia fragmenting into over a dozen smaller countries.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spooks played this straight in its seventh series.
  • Several episodes of The X-Files, notably Myth Arc two-parter "Tunguska"/"Terma" in Season Four. According to those episodes, the Russians still operate gulags and have KGB assassins infiltrating the West, as part of their own project to research/cover up alien life. The Cigarette-Smoking Man lampshades the trope, telling a colleague: "Wake the Russian bear, and it may find that we've stolen its honey."
  • Babylon 5's Expanded Universe mentions Russia having done this in the backstory, finding itself involved in a number of conflicts even after joining Earth Alliance and culminating in World War IV in 2212... By which point Earth Alliance is so much stronger politically and militarily than all its members combined it ends very quickly and for good.
  • Madam Secretary:
    • The first half of season two deals with an uptick in tensions with Russia after its president from season 1 dies and his hyper-nationalistic widow Maria Ostrova seizes power, bringing the world to within a hair of World War III over the Russian war in Ukraine. She's ultimately assassinated in the mid-season finale by a Ukrainian ultranationalist shortly after signing a treaty to settle the conflict.
    • The season 2 finale, "Article 5", has Russia attempt to overthrow the pro-NATO government of Bulgaria and invade it helped along by having made the President of France their Puppet King.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the backstory to Rifts, this was subverted. The 2067 Revolution in Russia brought the Communists back to power, but by then, there were very few alive who actually remembered the old days of Bolshevism, and the new communists were largely a benign council democracy, and while America, China and Japan had cold relations with them, they had nothing to do with the nuclear exchange that brought the Rifts. Likewise, their successors the Sovietski are pretty much Chummy Commies, allies of the New German Republic and the strongest bastion of civilization in Russia.

    Video Games 
  • As expected, this is pretty much what happens in Tom Clancy's EndWar. Awash with money and resources after a catastrophic energy crisis, the Russians decide to make themselves the world's only superpower. They even spark World War III by turning the United States and European Federation against each other.
  • World in Conflict is set in an Alternate History, where USSR launches an attack on US and Western Europe in 1989 (in Real Life, the final, milder part of the Cold War), with China later joining the party (no, not the Party)note . It should be noted that since this is an Alternate History where the Soviet Union has not yet collapsed, it can probably be said that the Bear of this universe never stopped being angry in the first place.
  • The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series mixes this with Renegade Russian. During the events of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a faction of the Russian military called the Ultranationalists, led by Imraen Zakhaev, initiate a Civil War to overthrow the government and attempt to bring Russia back to its Soviet glory days. In an attempt to prevent Western interference in the civil war, Zakhaev aids a similar group in the Middle East in overthrowing the government of an unnamed Middle Eastern country (implied to be either Saudi Arabia or Iraq), thus prompting US involvment. This leads to a Nuclear bomb detonating in a city being besieged by US forces, resulting in the death of over 30,000 soldiers. In response, a joint American and British special forces unit, kill the leader of the Middle East group (who was initially thought to be the one responsible for the Nuke) and then proceed to attack a Russian nuclear launch facility that was taken over by the Ultranationists, ultimately leading to Zakhaev's death. Despite his death, the Ultranationalists managed to win the civil war in the intervening five years leading to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. One of Zakhaev's lieutenants, Vladmir Makarov, along with those loyal to him, still not satisfied with their victory, decide to leave the Ultranationalists and form a new group, after which they begin conducting terrorist attacks around the world. (thus continuing the Renegade aspect) The bear gets angry again when a False Flag Operation conducted by Makarov leaves Russia thinking that the US sponsored a major terrorist attack that kills hundreds of Russian citizens and dozens of Police/SWAT officers who responded to said attack. Thus goading Russia into attacking and invading the US in retaliation.
    • Deconstructed in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 when it turns out the big invasion of the US in the second game was just one powerful punch from Russia, and a mere two months later they're suing for peace because of their inability to do anything after their initial onslaught. Before the war can actually be ended, Makarov manages to kidnap the Russian President on his way to the peace conference with the US and subsequently takes command of the military to launch several attacks/invasions of a couple of Western European countries, including the Capital cities, Paris and Berlin, as well as a bombing in London. The Russian President is eventually rescued at the end of the game by American and British special forces, after which he attends a new peace conference to end the war, since Russia cannot sustain their multiple invasions and presumbly are now afraid of a massive counter invasion now that they're at war with not only the US , but with Britain, France, Germany and likely the rest of NATO. Russia is nowhere near the military power it was in the Soviet days, and there is no way they could realistically win the war with the West without the allies (Puppet States) that the Soviet Union had.
  • Ultra-nationalists take over post-Soviet Russia and invade neighbor countries in an attempt to recreate the territorial mass of the Soviet Union in the first Ghost Recon game. Georgia is an example that can be considered defictionalized to a point, with what happened there for real in 2008.
  • The first Deus Ex computer game, set in the near future, subtly implies that the Soviet Union might have risen again when the player encounters some emails with the domain "sovnet."
    • In one of the Deus Ex: Invisible War's endings, the Russian-descended Omar cyborgs becomes the sole survivors of a global nuclear war.
  • The Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series never really let the Bear calm down much, but the third game takes place in a contemporary-looking world, so this trope is right at home.
  • And again with the Time Travel, Singularity never calms the Bear down either, and then has it take over the world.
  • In Shattered Union, Russia invades Alaska after Washington, D.C., is destroyed by Western Terrorists and the rest of the country splits into six factions, all vying for control. The hard-line Russian President Vladekov claims that Alaska should always have been a part of Russia and, since it's separate from the rest of the US, it has no business being a part of that country. Later on, it is revealed that the Russian president masterminded the D.C. attack. It is also revealed that the Russian people are against the invasion and the military build-up and will rise up if Vladekov is sufficiently weakened by the re-unified US.
  • Several games in the Battlefield series set in the modern era seem to go with this approach, pitting the Russians against the US. Notable examples include the Bad Company games, Battlefield Play4Free, Battlefield 3, and Battlefield 4.
    • The Project Reality mod has a few examples as well, as some maps will have the Russians fighting against factions they'd normally be on friendly terms with.
  • The Backstory of the StarFight games has Russia undergo another revolution on September 11, 2012 (Note: this is an old game, so they had no way of knowing 9/11 would become an infamous date). A year later, the Soviet States of Russia are formed, starting a new Cold War. This time, it's with the UN, which has, essentially, become a single entity. After the discovery of FTL Travel, UN forms the UNSF and uses it to annex the SSR. The remaining Soviet leadership flees Earth for Mezen Prime, an Earth-like world found and settled by SSR, reforming the SSR into the Soviet States of Mezen. Later, the UNSF and SSM fight several wars, resulting in an AI revolt which bombs Earth back into the Stone Age and turns Mezen Prime uninhabitable.
  • Vanquish has the Russians returning to a militaristic country, at odds with the rest of world, after a Military coup. This of course leads to them attacking the 51st American state; IN SPACE!!
  • In Earth 2140 and its sequels, the Eurasian Dynasty was formed after World War III has destroyed all the old nation-states in the mid-21st century. A Russian Army colonel leads his remaining men from their bunker East into what used to be Mongolia, where they encounter the Khans, a nomadic tribe. Joining with them, the colonel proceeds to start conquering what's left of civilization in Europe and Asia. He also marries into the tribe, changes his name, and forms his own dynasty, which persists for another century. By the time of the ill-fated Dynasty's war with the United Civilized States, ED now controls all of Europe, Asia, and Africa using cyborg armies and military equipment that has not changed since the last war (and if that means going up against Humongous Mecha with old-fashioned tanks, so be it). They are the least technological faction in the games, but can easily out-produce the others, preferring the We Have Reserves approach.
    • According to the Earth 2160 intro, Russia went communist again in 2008. Troop movements followed, culminating in a nuclear strike against an (presumably) American naval battle group. After a bit, Washington, D.C., is leveled by a nuke. Then it goes From Bad to Worse. There may be a Retcon here, as the manual for Earth 2150 claims that the nuclear war started in the 2040s.
  • Surprisingly averted in Civilization: Beyond Earth with the Slavic Federation.
    • Its lore explicitly states that after experiencing three revolutions in one century, four world wars, and the initial emergency authorization of using the military to deal with the violent chaos that spread through Asia in the wake of the Great Mistake, the Russian Federation emerged a very different beast, and capitalized on the collapse of the European Union to peacefully bring a substantial portion of Eastern Europenote  into joining the now rebranded Slavic Federation via both offering access to Russia's vast natural resources and appealing to shared cultural heritage, its member states enjoy considerable autonomy, and while it has "Slavic" in its name and almost certainly has a predominantly Slavic population, the various non-Slavic ethnic groups within its territory (including those who were originally post-Great Mistake refugees) similarly have the freedom to form local governments. Furthemore, the Slavic Federation is known more for engineering megaprojects than for military might (which is instead the South American faction's claim to fame), like the restoration of the Black Sea or the Volga Dam Network, and for being pioneers in space colonization within the Solar System; this is reflected in the Sponsor character trait, which revolves around improving access to oil, titanium and geothermal resources and the strategic resource costs of Orbital Units. Sure, like any faction, the player can play the Slavic Federation as he or she wishes, but its main bonus can be used for both peaceful and military purposes.
    • Its Seeding expedition is led by General Vadim Kozlov. Despite the military title, the man's backstory reveals that he's not warlike in the least and that his main obsession is space exploration. He's a thin-veiled Expy of Yuri Gagarin (he even uses Gagarin's Catchphrase at the end of a speech).
  • A Fantasy Counterpart Culture example in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War. After a period of peace efforts kickstarted by the end of a world war 15 years before where they fought on the same side, Yuktobania suddenly declares war on Osea (thinly veiled expies of the Soviet Union and the US, respectively). Later revealed to be an Invoked Trope, since the war was orchestrated by remnants of resident Nazi Germany expy Belka, the country that caused and lost the previous war, using puppet governments on both sides to cause an war that would eventually ruin both nations in revenge.
  • Alliance of Valiant Arms has the "Neo-Russian Federation"; Russia returning to a communist regime in the early 21st century and engaging in an expansionist military campaign against their European neighbors.

    Web Original 
  • The Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire timeline in AlternateHistory.com has the eponymous Real Life eccentric, nationalist politician become President of Russia and later the whole post-Soviet Union after a cascade of events including Yeltsin's assassination during the 1991 coup attempt, and remain in power until he is overthrown by a popular revolution in 2003. The Soviet Union (minus the Baltic republics) is recreated as a fascist-esque federation known as the Union of Independent States, that launches or gets involved in wars in the dissolving Yugoslavia, Romania, Estonia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan besides doing its best to discourage its member republics from breaking away.

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed by The Simpsons, where Russia reveals that end of the Cold War was a sham, and dramatically returns to its Soviet ways - including the Berlin Wall popping back up from the ground complete with in-place guards and dogs, and the corpse of Lenin arising and staggering around his tomb, moaning "Must crush capitalism..."
    American UN representative: "The Soviet Union?" I thought you guys broke up.
    Russian UN representative: Yes, Zat's vat ve vanted you to think! [Evil Laugh]

 
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World in Conflict

In an alternate Cold War scenario, the Soviet Union kickstarts World War III in order to save itself from collapsing, first by invading Europe, then by launching a surprise attack on U.S. soil.

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