Good or Bad for the Jews

"Good or Bad for the Jews"

Many years ago, and for many years, I would travel to Morocco to visit uncles, cousins, and my paternal grandmother. Some lived in Tangiers;...

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Russia Factor

Some time back, perhaps 2002 or 2003, maybe a bit earlier, I attended an international security conference in Singapore. Several countries had representatives there, including Russia and China. One speaker, a senior Singapore official--I think Tony Tan, but could be wrong as my memory for names is not great any more--said in blunt terms, the norm for Singaporean officials (Singapore's founder, Lee Kwan Yu, is one of the great and blunt statesmen of the 20th century) that he was proud of Singapore's alliance with the United States; very glad to live in a world in which the United States was the sole superpower; and, above all, to live in one in which the United States and its allies had won the Cold War. He stared at and spoke directly to the fidgeting Russian officials, saying that had the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact won the Cold War, the world would be far poorer, less free, and all around worse off. I had to restrain my impulse to cheer and stomp, but found heartening this rare, clear, unambiguous, no "moral equivalence" statement by a foreign representative.

I mention this bit of "ancient" history as I see on comment boards, including on this humble blog, certain people again trying to draw a moral equivalence between Russia and the United States, between Russia and the West. If the United States can have bases in many parts of the world, and can intervene in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, then why shouldn't Russia be able to take the Crimea or have military bases in Latin America? If Britain had an empire, why can't Russia have one? It, furthermore, is not just obscure commentators on obscure blogs; I have heard college profs and students say this, and most of you probably have heard more than one "progressive" and even a prominent libertarian (and here) come pretty close to justifying Russia's actions in Crimea, and deriding the idea of any US response--even Obama's absurdly tepid one.

Let's go back to the point raised in Singapore. Imagine that the Soviet bloc had won the Cold War. By "won" I mean that major Western countries had collapsed, economically and militarily, and undergone massive political upheavals that left them almost unable to act on the world scene. What kind of a world would we have? Would the USSR have shown tolerance and understanding as it stood on the borders of Western Europe and not sought to take advantage militarily, economically, and politically of the situation? What sort of societies would we have in Western Europe? Thriving and prosperous "liberal" democracies? Doubt it. At best, we would have a bunch of Vichy-like regimes, ever aware of the alpha wolf just outside their doors. The global economy would be a bleak shambles, with poverty and misery at historically high levels. Not only democracy, but liberty would have been in peril of being extinguished. It would have been the most dystopian of imaginable futures. Whatever grievances, including some real ones, Russia might have about how it was treated by the victorious West after the collapse of the USSR, they pale into insignificance with what we would have seen had the roles of victor and vanquished been reversed.

I don't want to go into a full-blown discussion of Russia and the West through the ages, but would say that Russia almost always, if not always, has been on the edge of Western consciousness. Before anybody gets offended, there is no doubt about the greatness of Russia's contributions to the hard sciences, literature, theater, and music. Russia for numerous reasons, however, never has been fully a part of Western civilization. Starting with Peter the Great, Russia's Tsars made on-and-off, and usually half-hearted efforts to become part of the West. Those rulers were attracted to the wealth, power, and technological advancement of the West, but had little to no interest in adopting Western ideas of democracy and, especially, liberty which made that wealth, power, and technology possible. There seemed always a dark, conspiratorial, even piratical tone to Russia's relations with the West: we seeing Russia, not unreasonably, as a crude, obscurantist, dangerous bogeyman, and Russia viewing the West, not always inaccurately, as looking down on Russia and intent on preventing it from finding its rightful "place in the sun." Russia's attempts to find this "place in the sun," of course, ran into notable obstacles such as Japan's own quest for that sunny spot which generated a massive defeat for Tsarist efforts to become a major force in Asia and the Pacific, and, lest we forget, World War I which ended the Tsars and served as midwife for the even more horrid Bolshevik rule.

Things did not change for the better during the Communist Interregnum. The seventy years of Communism proved a profound political, economic, and humanitarian disaster for Russians and the other people of the Bloc. Soviet Communism murdered tens-of-millions of persons, and proved incapable of producing a modern economy. Communism, however, did give Russia the illusion of owning the future: Soviet Communism, the Premier declared to the UN while banging his shoe on the podium, would "bury" the capitalist world. Moscow would become the new Rome; no longer just a backwater, it would speak for the world's workers, peasants, and intellectuals; it would show how Marxist Revolutionary thought could be harnessed and turn Russia into the world's foremost power. While the USSR built an impressive military apparatus, including the world's largest nuclear arsenal, the respect sought didn't happen. Except for "highly educated and extremely smart" Western and Third World university intellectuals, most people saw through Moscow's preening. Russia, in essence, remained the Congo with rockets. Reagan and Thatcher laughed off Communism's pretensions, put their faith in the West's ability to create wealth and generate overwhelming military power by the unshackling of individuals, and the Bloc fell apart in a way few if any empires have done before: quickly, almost bloodlessly (pace Ceaușescu), and with a whimper not a bang--and live on television. Again, no "place in the sun" for Russia.

The return of non-Soviet rule to Russia did not prove altogether happy. It was marked by extreme corruption and gangsterism, and the development of a semi-authoritarian political system. The once formidable Soviet military went into near-total collapse and Russia's foreign policy was characterized by confusion and a stunning lack of funds. A little anecdote: I was assigned to La Paz, Bolivia, 1992-95. A senior military attache at the Russian Embassy had a major heart attack. He told me the doctors said he had to leave La Paz and its 11,000 ft altitude or face serious risk of death. The Russian Embassy had no funds to send him anywhere. The poor man had to struggle on. Another Russian staff member had a seriously ill wife, who, too, could not leave La Paz. The Russian Embassy was forced to sell furniture, cars, and other items to buy food, and pay electric and water bills; it also had to move employees out of leased houses and onto Embassy grounds. The Diplowife reminds me that many of us took to inviting Russians to our events just to feed them. Defeat has consequences.

Did the West deal properly with Russia in the wake of the Soviet collapse? Perhaps not. In retrospect, we probably could find missed opportunities to help Russia make a dignified transition. In general terms, the greatest failing--Whom do we blame? I don't know--was Russia's failure to incorporate into the Western world. Unlike China, Russia never became a key player in the world's economy. It never developed an openness to outside investment, and the emphasis on an export-driven manufacturing economy. Yes, it had gas and oil, but that seemed more for use as a weapon against the West than a means by which Russia would become a full participant in the global economy. Certainly the incompetent, though amiable, Yeltsin did not help matters, and his apparently docile stance re the West fed rising Russian nationalist anger that would result in the Putin Restoration.

We can debate all this endlessly, but for now anyhow, we have Putin and his old fashion Russian nationalism in charge of an angry and revanchist Russia. We, the mighty victors of the Cold War, now have President Obama, a man determined to throw away that victory. This attitude of self-inflicted defeat, unfortunately, is not unique to the USA. Throughout the West, with a few exceptions noted before, to wit, Harper, Abbott, Netanyahu, we have elected inept leadership who fail to understand that history did not end with the collapse of the USSR, and that the West's freedoms and prosperity require constant effort to maintain in the face of domestic stupidity and foreign challengers such as Putin and the Jihadis.

Dealing with Russia will require resolve and determination. With the right policies, however, it should prove considerably less difficult than dealing with the once more powerful USSR. Russia is a much smaller nation, and one in serious demographic decline. It has not resolved its economic problems and has a shaky political system that is not certain to survive the departure--whenever that is--of Putin. What Putin has is Putin. He understands the multiplier effect of determined leadership and how that can make up for many orders of military inferiority.

I have discussed before how to deal with Russia's ambitions, and won't repeat. Let's go back, again, to the opening theme of this now too-long post: equivalence. Simply put, I do not want to live in a world of Russian predominance or one in which Russia, at least the Russia of yesterday and today, is a major player around the world, especially in our neighborhood. Western influence is a far superior product to what Russia peddles. Whatever flaws might have existed, for example, in British society in 1914, Britain was a far superior place to live than Tsarist Russia. A subject of the British Empire had vastly more freedom and opportunity than did one of the Russian Empire. Whatever flaws exist in Britain today, it still remains a far, far better place to live and raise children than does Russia. During the Second World War and the Cold War, the USA had serious domestic issues, not the least of which was racial discrimination. Despite our flaws and failures to live up to our own lofty ideals, America was a far superior place to live than Soviet Russia, and, despite Obama, still remains that way when compared to Putin's Russia. Overseas, Panamanians, for example, might not have liked the overwhelming US military and economic presence in their country, but they merely had to compare Panama's standard of living with that of Cuba's to understand that if you have to make a choice between coming under US or Russian influence, well, it wasn't much of a debate.

Russia is not a force for good, freedom, or prosperity. Whatever the flaws of the West, and they are many, the West is better than Russia; if you don't believe me, ask the many Russian immigrants who live around me. There is a difference between having Russian influence and having Western influence. Seems odd even to have to make this point, and that says something about the period of intellectual and moral decay in which we now live.  


  1. Jane Jacobs's famous paradigm, of "Guardian Syndrome" and "Commercial Syndrome," would show us that Russia is Guardian dominant, was before the Communists, during, of course, and remains so. In the aftermath of our victory in Iraq, I saw an article in the English-language edition of Pravda, which claimed that the US bought off Saddam's generals. Now, an American would say, "If that happened, how clever!" The Russians, of course, saw it as ignoble, that the only proper victory would be earned in blood. I keep telling y'all read "Systems of Survival." It's not camp craft.It is a theory that ties together the observations we have made over decades of life with our eyes open.

  2. Dip, nice summary. Some of the very best Americans I have ever met are ex Russians as well as escapees from the Eastern Bloc. Likewise, in my younger years, some of the best Americans I ever met were escaped Cubans during the early Castro days. V.V. Putin seems to have a problem of "what if the dog chases the car and catches it". With a bit of backbone on the part of the West, this former shadow of the USSR can bring itself to a crashing end by its own hand.

  3. My issue in this situation is that it occurs in the shadow of - perhaps, arguably, because of - the epically inept and destructive Obama, pretend leader of the West who is more of a hazard to working U.S. citizens than anything he feigns to disapprove of outside the US borders. It has been scarcely a year or so since those on the right were ridiculed for clinging to their Cold War beliefs; now, in the "1984" world that is the progressive left, "We have always been at war with Eurasia." Is Putin bad? I have no reason to doubt this is so and am not taking the side of Putin's Russia in this event. But opposition to an arguably bad entity does not make its rival good. I have grave doubts that the United States under Obama and any far-left presidential regime that may follow in his wake is a force for good, or one that has any interest in driving classic Western ideals of liberty and prosperity for all. There's no winner. What to do?

  4. Sir, Reagan acted quickly in Grenada and sent a clear message, but where the choice should have been clear throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean, the American political left consistently and for decades chose the side of communist-aligned factions. We're facing a more dangerous far-reaching collapse of American influence, because the Bush democracy project, while having lofty goals, did not deal with the real nature of Islam, which we know is a totalitarian political ideology that masquerades as a religion. Between that and Obama's insane backing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, turning Libya into the next Somalia and creating power vacuums with abandon we have lost our credibility as a force for good in the world. In Ukraine, we're thrust between choosing from a host of bad characters and frankly, I don't have a clue which would be in America's interests to aid or prop up. From a traditional geopolitical view, Putin's moves made logical sense - he went to secure a chunk of land where his warm water port sits, with the support of a substantial aiding ethnic Russian population there. A lot of us are sitting here, admiring Putin's gutsy moves and wishing we had some gutsy leadership on our side and all we've got is this clueless crowd in Washington. Resurrecting the Cold War mentality won't solve our dilemma, but acting like a competent player on the world stage would sure help. Russia played the West - leaking phone calls, while we've got idiots talking openly and indiscreetly on unsecured phones - he divided the West by sowing distrust amongst them and revealing our less than diplomatic effort at instigating regime change in Ukraine.

    We need to get our own house in order - economically, militarily, diplomatically, but most of all strategically - we don't even have a coherent national security strategy that makes sense or strategists who can clearly articulate our national interests. They have Putin using his hydrocarbons as potent chips and we've got a President working to destroy the coal industry and he can't bring himself to sign the Keystone pipeline deal. I think we should keep our nuclear arsenal upgraded and potent and pour in money to R&D of new weapons systems too, because nothing is as provocative as weakness. Without competent leadership though, we're adrift and I don't know if it's better to hope Obama grows a spine and acts or pray he doesn't........

    1. It is almost like Obama is determined to lose what was won. His effectively losing Iraq after it was won seemed more a necessary therapeutic to the damaged psyche of the Left. That war HAD to be lost because all the "right people" in DC proclaimed it lost in the darkest days. Then Bush found his general and won. Afghanistan will follow suit. When the Cold War ended, the global Left was in disarray and rudderless. They took some comfort in the arrival of the Clintons but that was not enough. Now they have the soulless Obama. Academia and the Lefty think tanks will have their day.

      I don't know who might prove to be more dangerous, the Throwback Putin or the Guilt laden Obama.

    2. Hello again, my dear Mr. Wall.

      What is this pussy-footing "almost" you are peddling about the place?

    3. I don't think Obama feels ANY guilt about ANYTHING. He simply is incapable of this emotion. Analyze Obama within the framework of his upbringing. Illegitimate offspring of uncertain male parentage and immoral mother. Islamic/communist infused influences through his formative years. Indolent pre-teen and teenager stages followed by an uncertain/unknown early adulthood. 20 years soaking up the racial hatred of the ‘reverend’ Jeremiah Wright at ‘Trinity United Church of Christ’ and listening to racist thug frauds like Sharpton, Jackson and Farrakhan. All this while establishing an empty-shell of an existence for which all records are sealed. The empty-suit that is Obama is the most disturbing stigma ever inflicted on the Constitutional Republic that is the United States of America. A clueless, deluded, narcissistic shell of a human. I sense a warped mind relative to what constitutes normative American values and thinking.

    4. And what was that bit about a nuclear situation in Manhattan?

    5. a6z and Anon x2....sorry for the reserved tone I used. I owe it to spending many hours today on British web sites regarding Russia and Ukraine. Most of these scholarly writers use the time honored English reserve when writing and with me, it rubs off. I used "guilt" as in winner's guilt or survivors guilt. Obama, as a miscreant product of the Left, doesn't view America as exceptional any more than V.V. Putin does. The two have a bond of sorts...Putin the Alpha male and Obama the beta.

  5. Sanctions Spanktions

    "Since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet, NASA has depended on the Russians to hitch a ride to the space station, paying nearly $71 million per seat.

    Despite the frosty relationship on Earth between the U.S. and Russia over the annexation of Crimea, politics has not affected the co-operation in space."

    Frankly, I find myself of the general opinion we should wait until after the elections of '16 (though I full well realize ... nah I don't wanna think about it)

    anyway, I think we need wait for somebody besides our current Bungler-In-Chief gets elected.

    Meanwhile frack and frack some more.


  6. Hopefully, we'll have a little more flexibility in our responses after the 2016 elections.

  7. I'm currently sitting in a café in Mariupol (Маріюпіль) sipping a nice Lvivske Porter (Львівське Портер) — produced in Lviv if you're interested (so probably not going to be available here much longer). I do miss visiting Dips for the sense it illustrates is, if not prevalent, at least still extant in some (my access is limited as internet and phones are being rather assiduously 'monitored' by 'certain parties', if you weren't aware - did I say Mariupol? I meant, Kherson, silly me).

    I've been roped into 'pottering about' in Crimea and 'the East' and have been having such an 'interesting' time (gulp!).

    On topic. Has it not been observed, on the subject of the British Empires alleged 'many sins', that, for example, 'had India been ruled by Russia, Ghandi would have been nothing more than a footnote in India's history, having been imprisoned, tortured or simply shot as soon as he appeared a problem'? Isn't Pax America similar? It may have made many mistakes, but any alternative 'rulers' would have been much, much worse (well except for us Brits of course). Equivalence be damned!

    As an illustration of just how 'obvious' this is, especially to those who are now under Mr. P's personal protection, I've had contact with, and am friendly with, many Ukrainians, including many Russophile and Russophone ones, in Crimea. Many, many, many of them are either attempting, or making plans, to leave for 'more Western' parts — many of 'the ladies' in less than opportune circumstances have been joining online 'Dating' sites in droves, in the hope of being 'rescued', lacking any other resources. That and most of Europe is going to get an influx of Au Pairs and nannies.

    Illustrative, no?

    P.S. Hi Michael. I Aiten't Dead ..... at least not yet.
    У Своїй допомоги. Я сподіваюся!

    JK, you watching Moldova?

    1. Hey there Able!

      Yeah, that and some few other "interesting things."

      Take care not to get a lok en kop!

      And Able? You'll not be putting anything into my inbox from over there will ye? I'm spending a lot of time at the office.

      Arkie (JK)

  8. "Unlike China, Russia never became a key player in the world's economy. It never developed an openness to outside investment, and the emphasis on an export-driven manufacturing economy. "

    I think the Keynesian policies of Jeffery Sachs can be safely indicted.

    "Sachs became known for his role as an adviser to Eastern European and developing country governments during the transition from communism to a market system or during periods of economic crisis. Subsequently he has been known for his work on the challenges of economic development, environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, debt cancellation, and globalization."

    What else can he mess up ? I assume we will learn.

  9. Dip, I generally agree with what you say about Russia. I also think I know where your Singaporean interlocutor is coming from. But I'm also of a mind that things don't have to be the way they are now with Russia and the West.

    Now, as an Evangelical Christian, I know that many others expect me to be crying, "See? The Russian Behemoth is on the march and the scenes described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 are surely going to come to pass within the next 20 years!" Well, hate to disappoint folks, but I hold to a more pre-19th century view of things.

    Yes, Russia is "other" to the West. Indeed, the basis of our distinction "East and West" lies in the division of medieval Christendom between the West, centered on a Roman Papacy, and an East in which the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople was the primus inter pares among the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and such Vanya-come-latelies as the Serbs, Bulgarians, and Russians. Sure, as a Protestant, i have no great admiration for the Popes, but I freely admit that the issues between the Latin West and Helleno-, Slavo-, and Syrophone East is where we get that fundamental notion of East and West. Add to this the savagely anti-Byzantine prejudice exhibited in the historical writings of people like Gibbon and Voltaire, who were determined to make the East Roman Empire look bad at all costs, and we can't but find Orthodox Russia (or even Uniate Ukraine) somewhat "other".

    But after 30 years of marriage, two sons, a couple of tragedies, and a granddaughter with a wonderful lady from Taiwan, I'm not so sure that inter-civilizational communication and cooperation is impossible--at least if you have two languages in common.

    Further, Mr. Amselem, since you've let it out that you're a Sephardi, you too probably have emotional and cultural toeholds in more than one of the world's several civilizations.

    Today, Russia is probably not a force for good. Granted. Putin is clearly nostalgic for Russia as the center of a Cold War Empire; clearly feels that his patriotism demands bringing in those borderlands that grew too close to those perfidious Poles (especially when the patron saints of the church to which he has returned were baptized in Kiev)--regardless of what their populations feel. Yet even the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, while conceding that a post-Soviet world would see the millennium-old connection between Ukraine and Great Russia broken, nonetheless also noted that parts of the former Ukrainian SSR were ethnically and spiritually closer to Moscow than to Kiev and might justly be detached.

    Further, what bothers me most is that we in the USA are now being governed by people who are actually nostalgic for the Communist movement--even when Putin, if his reconciliation with the Orthodox Church is sincere, has clearly renounced an important piece of the Communist tradition. Our current leaders also are busy waging a Kulturkampf against the Christian traditions of a large section of the American people--including the heirs of people like John Witherspoon, the "Black Legion" of the War for Independence, and the movers and shakers of the abolition movement. I've come to the very unwelcome, hope-I'm-wrong conclusion that they are indeed trying to destroy the American family (via radical feminism and the LGBT movement) so they can destroy every non-state connection among our people. And, when I see the bullying of Uganda and some other Subsaharan African states (as if we are against their attempts to protect themselves from becoming playgrounds of Western pervs), I really wonder if we are still the force for good we once were.

    1. Kepha, " I've come to the very unwelcome, hope-I'm-wrong conclusion that they are indeed trying to destroy the American family (via radical feminism and the LGBT movement) so they can destroy every non-state connection among our people". That is the operative mission of the secular Left. All institutions, including the family have to be broken.

    2. "... trying to destroy the American family ... so they can destroy every non-state connection among our people ..."

      Thanks, these are the words I've been trying to find for a long while.

      With divorce commonplace and even encouraged, I suppose it shouldn't be a huge surprise that others will exploit such weakness.

      Cynical humor about marriage/divorce seems to be amongst the most popular out there: "you know.. maybe you broke your family and did massive damage to your children in order to have a good time on that business trip, but boy isn't it funny to make jokes about 'the ex'? now you can do that joke all the time! Aren't you awesome.."

      I also sympathize with the concept of zeropeans and hippy american backpackers telling us that third world countries are "better off living liek they are", when those same people spend large amounts of time abusing their western currency in ... you guessed it... third world countries..

      - reader #1482
      PS: hubby of an ABC from Taiwanese parents, also with two boys.

  10. Mr. Mad,
    I'm going to take a beating for this, but I'm going to disagree somewhat. This disclaimer first; I have a gold plated CWM. I lived through it, even to see Nikita bang the shoes and the "Kitchen debate". I also have no love for Vlad, but I can't help getting this feeling the West is reading this crisis wrong. And for that matter I think the West is reading Russia wrong. I can't provide any concrete proof, but something just doesn't ring right. I shall now hide while I can.
    James the Lesser

    1. James 1st, interesting to find you here tonight. You express some of the difficulty I am having with this crisis. My CWM occupies a place of pride in my bookcase. I have a long and lingering dislike and distrust of most things Russian, well official Russian that is. I did a long post on that a few days ago here. Putin seems to want to accomplish a great deal with very little to do it with for little gain.

    2. James, no need to hide. I would like to hear more. You might well be onto something which I am misreading.

    3. From 2009

      "The Western View of Russia is republished with permission of Stratfor."

    4. I'd heartedly recommend after reading the post, the following 11 comments.

    5. Mr Mad,
      Like I said not much proof on this feeling, though the above link to Stratfor speaks to some of what I'm thinking. In essence the adage "never forget the past, but don't live there" applies. When I get a coherent set of thoughts together I'll air them. until then suffice to say there is alot going on in the Ukraine that is not being reported here.

    6. Appears what Able mentioned above "many of 'the ladies' in less than opportune circumstances have been joining online 'Dating' sites in droves" looks to be true.


      The post above permalinked is current - presently

    7. "Mitt Romney has said that ‘Russia is the US’ principal geopolitical foe’. I wonder if it isn’t the EU that is the US’ principle geopolitical foe – they are the ones who rang the door-bell, and who are now hiding behind Obama’s skirts."

  11. Putin might have enough reason to hate us just for sending Jeffery Sachs over there to "help" Yeltsin. The corruption might have been inevitable but, if I were Putin, I would be suspicious about sending Sachs. It sort of ranks with the Germans sending Lenin in 1917.

    1. Did "we" send him, or did he go on his own initiative in order to improve (as he sees it, through his fun-house glasses) the result?

  12. Uggg... I just can't bear to hear it... this guy just can't keep his mouth shut, even if it means blabbing about how the US "just isn't strong enough to take military action any more!" How do people defend this guy? How would this even SLIGHTLY keep Russia out of Moldova and Poland or even Iran out Luxembourg? He's basically going on record as saying "we have no interest int the world worth deploying military resources, even when I draw my red lines.... which weren't really red. they were more of a washed out pink... because... well..."
    Is there any reason we should be telling our enemies this? Even if we think it's true?
    I just have no idea what's going on with Obama.

    "It is, I think, a false notion that somehow we were in a position to, through a few selective strikes, prevent the kind of hardship we've seen in Syria," Obama told broadcaster CBS in Rome.

    "It's not that it's not worth it," he added. "It's that after a decade of war, the United States has limits."

    1. I'm not arguing in this comment here that we should or shouldn't have done something about Syria. I'm not sure I know enough, and I rarely would second guess any administration on such matters.
      But what I think it inestimably stupid, is Obama going out and proclaiming to the world that he's managed to defeat the USA... that we no longer have the stomach for any kind of conflict.

      - reader #1482

    2. Dear 14,

      What difference, at this point, does it make?

    3. I suppose.. but it still pisses me off every time he pulls this crap... go somewhere overseas, then talk smack about his own country... the one that ELECTED him.

  13. "Russia, in essence, remained the Congo with rockets."

    Yep. I can't remember who it was that said Russia was a third world country, with a second world military, and a first world intelligence apparatus.

    Michael Adams,

    Yes! For all its flaws (the symposium format is a complete turn-off), Systems of Survival is an under-appreciated jewel.

  14. In my above comment I said " suffice to say there is alot going on in the Ukraine that is not being reported here.", I should have been clearer with the "here". I meant reporting by the western press and western government statements, certainly not this blog.
    James the Lesser

  15. Since it's obvious the Russians now possess detailed information on our intel capabilities, thanks to the traitor, Edward Snowden, and use what they've learned, the missing gaps in the western press reports center on the sequence of events. I keep trying to think, "how would I interpret these actions or these conversations by my adversaries?" if I were on the other side. The leaked phone calls indicate to me that the Russians believed the West was funding and instigating a coup in Ukraine, right on their door-step. Nuland, the worst diplomat imaginable, seems to be the source of much of our troubles. Were we spending $5 million a month to fuel these Ukraine protests or was it just the few loaves of bread she carted to Maidan Square for a photo op ( Was she in charge of setting up a new puppet government in Ukraine? Our press reports the crisis from the Cold War, good vs evil paradigm and sadly, I don't think we've got clean hands in this one. I think back to Egypt and keep trying to fathom how that situation was read by both our friends and foes - we threw Israel's security framework out the window of the bus, without even discussing it with them and we literally threw Mubarak under the bus - all to back unknown street protestors, whom this administration assured us were "freedom-fighters". Then they picked the wrong horse to ride - the Muslim Brotherhood. I'm mob adverse and when screaming hordes take to the streets - I don't want to fund them or support them. I want to find out how many nutjob groups comprise the mob. Why are we placing so much faith in backing mob actions around the world?

  16. I would hope my 2 cents will be taken with a grain of salt.
    That being said let me dive into deep waters:
    First I am an American with all its freedom, liberty and pursuit of happiness ingrinded in my soul and guiding me ever since I was a little girl.
    there are couple of things (murder and lying) that upset me more than disrespecting American Anthem and American Flag
    well, ever since I have learned who "baobawho' is back in 2007, listening very intently to his campaign speeches and various gibberings, making my head spin so fast I thought I lost my neck bearings now I can see who he is...
    ..not much...
    ..a person who without teletubby can not utter two sentences making sense to a 5 year old.
    ok...where was I?
    ahh Ukraine and Putin...
    I would hope by now everyone is well aware of the painefully obvious fact.
    Now Putin:
    he is a though one.
    Without any reserve I would say he is very intelligent, student of history, brilliant in his stance, knowing his political and economical foes to a tee.
    Putin reminds me of President Reagan: brute with good humor, knowing exactly how to play his game and bringing his enemies kneeling before they knew what has happened.
    (Putin did not say this but it is commonly known as : Putin said: playing chess with obama is like playing chess with a pegeon: knocks the figures down, craps on the board and parades around like he won the game)
    This little joke above pretty much describes obama since the faithfull January of 2009.
    Anyway Putin is not some sick emperor ready to invade Europe and return to pre WWI Russian Empire.
    He is way too smart about it...if you don't believe me just look at your kids, grandkids, would they accept a lifestyle you grew up with?
    No, hell no!!!
    who is to blame?
    it is just the way WORLD turns, and every next generation lives off the work
    their parents did and did without so the children will have better easier life...
    Putin knows that, he loves Russia, just as we love UNITED STATES of AMERICA
    he wants his country to do well and be a partner at the poker table...
    Yes, no doubt the standard of living in Russia is at level no poverty stricken American can imagine, but please:
    no one is to tell Russians what the standard of living should be, what cost of living they shall request, what morality, ethics, religion, and nationalistic-country -loving ideas they should declare!
    Why are we so upset for Putin and Russian citizens being proud of their country
    and yelling:

    Aren't we the nation to believe for rights for every man given by God ?
    not man.....

    1. Cześć Joanna

      Putin may be all you say, but before all he is a politician, so … follow the money. Putin 'may' be making the decisions, but it's Gazprom who decide what options he can decide amongst.

      You think he would give a рубль for the benefit or 'protection' of the 'Russian people' (at home or abroad)? You really think he felt that in any circumstances (right-wing government in Kiev, closer Ukrainian ties to the EU, … space aliens landing) that direct Russian control of either the transit pipelines, Sevastopol (or the Crimea for that matter) or Севморверф would weaken? I hate to say but he didn't and doesn't, no more than he 'fears' the West enough to need a buffer zone.

      No, the crucial thing is the singular (almost a monopoly) dominance Gazprom (and thus Russia) has over European energy supplies, and the attendant 'power' that imparts. (precisely why the EU and, yes, the US have been ... 'involved' — and not even close to how much some seem to be speculating).

      With the Nord-Stream and Blue-Stream on line and the South-Stream Pipeline almost complete Russia, and Putin, can dictate any policy they/he wishes to not only Ukraine, but all of Europe (do as we say or we'll turn off your gas)..

      So why? Care to check the date that Shell/Chevron/etc. Signed agreements about developing Ukrainian shale gas deposits? Chevrons little deal, purely coincidentally I'm sure, just happens to be both off Crimea and would, if not allow energy independence from Russia, alleviate their massive debts caused by ... Russian energy charges — no? Gazprom 'REALLY' doesn't like any competition, just look at how well TNK-BP did in the Kovykta field in Siberia. It's main fields are all declining (some precipitously) and until Yamal is fully developed they are open to ... 'challenges'.

      Personally I 'hope' he isn't as smart as he thinks he is, counting on Europes politicians (and populace) to knuckle-under rather than find alternatives (our own shale gas would be nice if the eco-loonies don't keep getting in the way). If they don't? Putin, Gazprom and maybe Russia are in for a difficult time (only Chinas demand could sustain them). That and the vulnerability of the infrastructure he is relying on. I recently(ish) went to both Ukhta and Punga (dire ****holes that make Middlesborough or Detroit look good), if those hubs were 'damaged' ......

      Just Sayin'

      Utrzymać suchy proszek ;-)

    2. Witam Able,
      "Personally I 'hope' he isn't as smart as he thinks he is, counting on Europes politicians (and populace) to knuckle-under rather than find alternatives (our own shale gas would be nice if the eco-loonies don't keep getting in the way). If they don't? Putin, Gazprom and maybe Russia are in for a difficult time "
      You must know Putin has already EU smart politician with all grrenies and muslims by the neck!
      It is not my opinion, it a fact!
      That's why Czech Republic first followed by Hungary and now Germany refused sanctions on Russia.
      Of course the money is a to start trail of any problem being marriage or international politics.
      I think somewhere here previously I was saying that Ms Merkel was forced to close 20 nuclear plants over 20 years only because some greendimwits forrseen tsunami reaching Munich!...
      Well, Putin is based in reality, calculating option dude, not some wishful thinking, unicorns riding rainbow loony, making sure that he has some leverage.
      My above rant was more from a political point of view, and of course everything what falls into a basket could be dicussed until Christmas.
      There is no doubt Ukraine is rich in many aspects, but also a powder keg now ignited curtesy of USA/EU stirring the pot.
      As you noticed Neo-nazis causing a lot of problems not for Putin but for Ukrainian (illegally set by EU government)...
      used up as warmongers now refuse to go away...
      Ukraine right now have 5 governmental positions taken by Svoboda Party affiliates.
      For me the give away red flag was timing (Sochi), and few days later Nulland conversation, that she did not deniad, only apologized for her not suitable language, we also know for a fact that soros "humanity serving org" was in Ukraine doing its "work" since 2003(I can't remember exact time), we have 5 billion dollars "invested" in Ukraine in the last 5-6 years (for what exactly?....)
      we have international inspectors from western Europe being witness that not of the accumulation of power is happening is not true,
      we have treaties signed by President Reagan (with Russia) broken by various presidents ever since
      and yes, lets talk about the money...
      USA/EU/IMF deal was taking Ukraine to a slaughter house, that's why Yunakovych backed away from, it was a steak with a nuss attached to it.
      (same for Belorus for that matter)
      Lets face it:
      EU is so desperate for money and so dependant on energy they were/are looking for a new milk cow.
      And of course we can not forget about the geopolits of it all....
      Muslim problem, speaking of islam...I would be surprised if sudden explosion of the religion of pieces would not appear in Putins lap...
      ...where was I on the money trail...
      Russia's alliance with China and India plus some sand holes going away from petrodollars?...
      it is not far fetched, I am hearing for years thats what they do in the "under the table" dealings
      Russia's, China's backed up by gold they were buying like there was no tomorrow, while our ...
      whatever it is called squatting in the White House,
      was playing golf and flying to a fun

      We also must take into consideration all treaties, policies and agreements signed between Russia and Ukraine that no one is talking about.
      I feel the deepest sorrow for all the people of Ukraine that fell for the meisterstick of brighter tomorrow via EU.
      The austerity measures signed by Kiev's illegal government will put the people into 1930 time.

      Trzymaj proszek suchy!!! (Keep your powder dry)

    3. He 'currently' has all of Europe by the 'short and curlies', certainly, but for how long, and at what cost?

      All those treaties? He just negated all of them – remember that one about protecting the sovereignty of the Ukraine? Other countries, and businesses, let alone the Ukraine, will look askance at any treaty or agreement Russia makes, or has made, for the foreseeable future and take steps accordingly.

      He has effectively, whilst temporarily holding all the energy cards, forged the possible beginnings of an alliance, and certainly national movements, against this Russian hegemony. It won't bode well for them. You think there will be any more conciliatory business deals, agreements to not place AEGIS, etc. from now on?

      I'm afraid we shall have to agree to disagree on Yanukovych, he was simply following instructions from his boss is all. The EU (and to an extent the US) were simply doing what capitalists do, trying to buy from someone else cheaper. Gazprom, I mean Putin simply likes the monopoly/power too much to allow it though.

      Personally I am grateful to him, and the O's ineptitude, for opening Europes eyes. Wishful thinking I know, but maybe some common sense will prevail on energy, politics and military capabilities from now on (look stop giggling, it might!).

      The funny thing is that in annexing Crimea Putin has ensured that they will never have any power in the rest of the Ukraine (similar to what would happen if Scotland became independent from the UK and Labour). He's effectively changed a neighbouring country from a (perhaps sometimes lukewarm) supporter of Russia, to an implacable enemy.

      Smart politics?

      Oh, and if he decides to 'take' the rest too? I suspect his vulnerable infrastructure wouldn't fair too well – at which point all bets are off.

      P.S I did say my Polish was 'ordering an alcoholic beverage' and 'which way to the naughty ladies' level, didn't I.

      Czy wyjdziesz za mnie - did I get 'that' right xx

    4. Hah. Struggling with a discussion? Some resort to bluster or insults, not me, I just propose and they run screaming, leaving me undefeated. Works every time lol

    5. "Oh, and if he decides to 'take' the rest too? I suspect his vulnerable infrastructure wouldn't fair too well – at which point all bets are off". That has been my question all along. The struggling Russian economy can't tolerate too many struggling parasites and that is what Putin has absorbed so far.

    6. Witam Able,
      "Hah. Struggling with a discussion? Some resort to bluster or insults, not me, I just propose and they run screaming, leaving me undefeated. Works every time lol"
      Not a chance you might have hope for!
      but I do work plus substituting for others plus little business, so many days are 20 hours long.

      I do not dispute any of what you said, or your ideas.
      That being said I am expressing what is in my innerds...trying to look for as much puzzles to form a picture for me.
      One of the puzzle pieces is Putin's orthodox church religion displayed.
      Is he really religious? maybe ..
      It is not important, what is important he keeps his country bound to church, to Christian faith, therefore less influenced by Islam that is at his very steps (Chechnya as an example).
      Right now he is threatened by Muslims to wreak a havoc within Russian Federation.

      There is couple of points I was making previously (maybe at diferent articles) that USA should not be engaged in all this mess
      (DiploMad article about Monroe Doctrine), there is no place on this earth we wouldn't dominate...
      yeah, I guess I am happy United States is so powerful, but at the same time bothers me that the world is forced to do what we say not what we do...
      Gosh...memory is really failing me...
      who said that United States interest shall be limited to the continent and our power shall be enforced through commerce and ingenuity to force the might of it upon others?...
      ...and what we have?...
      USA decides how freedom and democracy should be working in distant lands our ambassadors never heard of and are singing praises to someone who thinks Austrian is a language...I mean talk about going to school for recess time...
      As I was stating before, where-ever is a problem, the root of it is money.
      Of course Putin is measuring everything to his benefit, we are doing the same thing, so does EU...
      with all what I have said, the bottom line is:
      I really do not care about Ukraine, Chechnya,Belorus..they just need to figure it out on their own...
      what I care about is USA on a fast track to hell.

      I would go out on a limb and say:
      US gov is able to track my car, my car key, my phone and are not able to find a jumbo jet?
      So, I do not speculate, at this point I really do not there are powers at work that will do what they are set to do for decades.

      Going back to Russia; please understand I have no sentiments toward Putin, but I guess I can sympatize with him trying to keep his country as relevant, as important as anybody else....
      it sounds a bit hypocritical to me when I hear the horrors of Russia placing its bases in South America, here and there...
      It does not make my sleep worry-less, but at the same token aren't we (as USA) having bases all over the world ?
      why we blame Putin trying to keep NATO away from his doorsteps?
      we wouldn't like Russian forces in Tijuana, would we...


    7. cont...

      In all I worry about the States...what a mess..and yes, it is hard to escape any of the international issues because one way or another we have our paws in it...
      ...imagine Russia, China and India dumping US dollar as a treading currency, this very possibility is not as far fetched as many think it is...
      we are loading billions of dollars for SA oil while sitting on the greatest reserves in the world...
      ...ahhh does the word "sabotage" comes to mind?
      BP spill...does anyone care to explain to me how the greatest minds on planet Earth couldn't close that guss for weeks?...
      I can:
      if there is a problem?
      look for a money/political advantage trail and you will find the truth...

      like with Ukraine...
      ...USA/EU is set to rub them at high noon of their resources like they did many times over (ask Hungary, Czech Republic, Greece, Spain)...
      so now they are bad-mouthing Island, because Island actually had the guts and told EU: xx xxx xxxx xxxx xxxx ...and yes, Island has experienced some hard times but is coming out as a champion.
      ...One of the places I am considering to retire ;)
      I am sorry for the rant...
      obama and his "brackets" take the best of me :)

    8. Whitewall

      A point I hadn't really considered, I was (mil) target-fixated on how vulnerable to attack such infrastructure is. The truth is I suspect however many struggling poor and 'parasites' they have is an irrelevance to Putin. They, like the millions of destitute poor already in Russia (you get a very, very bad idea of the average Russians life from visiting Moscow, St. Petersburg or even Novosibirsk try one of countless rural towns and villages to see that. Even depression era rural Americans had it better in so many ways. It 'is' a Third world country in the main).

      My point? I suspect however many poor and needy suffer matters not a jot to him in comparison to whatever he thinks he can gain, power, resources. Billionaire oligarchs in Moscow and starving millions elsewhere, why would a few more make any difference? The poor don't get any help, so it isn't them causing economic difficulties, its military spending and billions in corruption that's doing that, no?

    9. "The poor don't get any help, so it isn't them causing economic difficulties, its military spending and billions in corruption that's doing that, no?" Exactly true. The very thing that helped the USSR collapse. Russia still has its Potemkin Villages for show but the rest of the country is as you describe. In addition, many in Russia now have access to the outside world they never had before. It seems there may be several Russias within Russia like several Chinas within China.

    10. Joanna

      I suspect, as someone has already intimated, that there is a 'forced' nature to many Russians new-found religious fervour. Personally, as I've said, I suspect the fascistic nature of current Russian Nationalism has prompted this 'harking back to an imaginary pre-revolutionary utopia', part of which includes the Orthodox Church. Putin? So he's gone from an ardent atheist to a fervent Christian (well all we know is he attends on major religious holidays), all I suspect to play a role (what his actual beliefs are I cannot even guess). His 'macho' race-car driving, jet-flying, martial-arts, bare-chest hunting is all, like his religion, a big act for the media, nothing more. (Is he gay? It's all a bit 'homo-erotic' and 'he doth protest o'er much' to me).

      As I said to Dips original comment, I'd rather it was America that defined democracy, and enforced free-trade rather than 'any' of the alternatives.

      (Are you sure Austrian 'isn't' a language? I'm sure it is, after all 'didgeridoo', 'boomerang' and 'she'll be apples' certainly doesn't sound like any other language ;-) )

      On 'tracking' and losing jets' - “never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence” especially when dealing with governments and bureaucrats.

      “Trying to keep his country as relevant, as important as anybody else”?

      Why? Would it be acceptable if we Brits suddenly invaded Ireland or India again just so we could pretend to be 'relevant'? (I think we could take Ireland, best of three, two falls or a knockout, but suspect we'd end up curried if we tried India, but why would we want to? We'd just end up with more Irish on the dole and getting treated by the NHS and we already have the recipe for Chicken Korma ;-) ).

      Er, I suspect you'll find the largest reserves are in Siberia (shale anyway). That and 'robbing' is a bit harsh, they sold resources (at a profit), Greece, Spain and the rest lived high on the hog off money they borrowed without the ability to ever pay it back (to fund two hour siestas, 30 hour weeks, and retiring at fifty on gold-plated pensions, and never, ever remembering to pay any tax). Oh, and Ireland was an economic basket-case that 'had' to join Europe and was subsidised and financed by them (that means Germany and us) and now they are expected to contribute (and balance their books) rather than holding their hands out they want to take their ball home in the huff? Not exactly reasonable? (You 'want' to retire to one of the few places where it actually rains 'more' than England – OK not quite as bad a s Scotland but … remember your wellies!).

      Feel free to rant all you want – and when you're finished answer my question (my back hurts from being down on one knee this long).

    11. @whitewall,
      Able said what I was about to say.
      I only want to add, Russians love Putin!
      They also are very resourceful to survive in a way no American yet experienced or imagine possible...I know...I grew up in hard times after the war and since I am taking care of my Mother, various medical surprises and estate upkeep left me with 10 zlotych for a week for food (about $3.30)..guess what? we were not hungry, little more work and time, that's all...
      I guess what I want to say Putin is not going to suffer any backlash of prime ribs not avialable in stores...
      Russians are very tough and can do something out of nothing...
      they will be fine no matter what...
      will the EU ??...

    12. Joanna, no doubt Russians are a tough lot. Their sad history made it necessary. So far, the exploits of VV Putin seem to be repeating the formula of failure that claimed the USSR.

      The EUssr? God knows. Power hungry bureaucrats with little more than policing capability when it comes to military strength, except for Britain. I noticed that more than a few demonstrators showed up in Moscow to protest the actions against Crimea. In the past it would have been a handful, which did happen after Prague 1968. A hopeful sign today. One of the demonstrators held a sign that summed it up back then and always I think: За Вашу и Нашу Свободу

    13. Able,
      You are right, I am not going to dispute any of what you say.
      In POland there is a saying:
      punkt widzenia zalezy od punktu siedzenia
      loosely tranlated:
      one views are influenced from their seating place.

      As for your question I did not answered by now, I am sorry..must be my OAS or my 116 hour work week...
      please remind me.

    14. Whitehall,
      'for your and our fredom'

      right or wrong, I really don't know.
      I only can express my own opinion, that he is not the under the bed monster the whole west is painitng him to be...

      I just want States to stop making a fool of themselves obama leading the pack ...
      For the first time in my life I am ashamed of United States presidential office representative!

  17. Long-time reader; first time commenter. I love this blog - thank you for posting. I did want to chime in to disagree with what I believe is the under-emphasis on the current Kremlin structures' Soviet past. Czarism was not parallel to Soviet structures; Czarism was effectively exterminated, however romanticized the pre-Soviet past might be in some of the minds of the brutalized Soviet and post-Soviet citizens. I have some experience with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, and I have lived this romance, which is also coextensive with a kind of born-again Slavic Orthodox fervor, including red corners with pictures of Nicholas II and all the rest.

    The problem is that it all felt a little forced, and had not a little to do with the typical problems of immigrants who find refuge but some difficulty assimilating in the USA. Their actual conversation was redolent of refugees from a dark kingdom, rather than liberated souls. They were conspiratorial, xenophobic to the point that it took me over a year of *singing in the church choir* with my then-girlfriend to be accepted - and I saw the same occur with a couple new boyfriends thereafter. "FDR was a Communist," "the Democrats are Communists," etc., were typical conversational themes.

    My point is Russia today is self-evidently run by "ex" KGB, the hard core of the Soviet phenomenon. Whether Putin, his advisors, the various "oligarchs" and their enterprises - almost all of them simply renamed former Soviet ministries of various commodities & etc. - the "mayors" of the large cities, and - it is rumored - the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy, all of them ex-KGB, or creatures thereof. Look at Prokhorov just the other day transferring ownership of the New Jersey Nets to some kind of entity domiciled in Russia in order to heed, he said himself, Putin's rule that no Russian official should hold significant assets abroad. What sort of official status did he have that he would fall under this rule, and what sort of prospect did he reasonably have to fall under Western sanctions? The New Jersey Nets? What, they wouldn't be allowed to play the Cleveland Cavs next week, or the proceeds of jersey sales would be diverted to a sequestered account in the US Treasury?

    The Soviet Union dissolved less than 30 years ago, and yet the public is constantly directed to the Hitler example, nearly 80 years old, or the Czarism meme, nearly a century. Why? Putin himself was formal KGB well into his adulthood, far past the point of personality development; even supposedly liberal, massively-widow-peaked Medvedev was Komsomol. Why is there so little public interest in the actual Soviet Union, even in conservative outlets? I have to go to sites for current reasonable information that are clearly populated by people who think Jesus is going to return this summer and obvious clinical schizophrenics. The Left's influence aside, why should this be? It seems a very curious state of affairs, don't you think?

    1. Astutely observed. I agree completely, but even a cursory examination of the 'die-hard communists' of yore shows they were gangsters and thugs rather than 'true believers' (the true-believers really never last very long with the likes of Stalin after power, for example).

      As you say, following the break-up of the USSR the self-same thugs simply changed their hats and took control yet again. Whilst it is some time, and age takes its toll even on old thugs, but you might want to examine just how many of those younger 'oligarchs' and 'entrepreneurs' just happen to have had parents high in 'the party' too. Nepotism and 'dynasties' have always been the way there too, no?

      So what has changed, Putin was a ruthless thug who rose to power using the communist system. Now he's a ruthless thug (I never said he wasn't either smart or good at it, note) who maintains power in a pseudo-capitalist (in reality a fascist) state.

      As to why nobody mentions it, they do, just not in the MSM. As to why 'that' may be, well, personally I still think most of the 'useful idiots' of 'the press' still hanker for their bygone days of 5th column and protesting in support of communism. You don't really expect them to tell the truth , do you? (and mentioning the communist atrocities would be …. Racist? Nationalist? Right-wing? Homophobic? …. or some such).

      Oh, and neither of me is schizophrenic and Jesus returning this summer? Poppycock! He's due in the autumn at the earliest.

    2. One quibble with your agreement, which I appreciate. Isn't the go-to "fascism" an impulse engendered by Soviet propaganda itself? The Bolsheviks are the inventors of totalitarianism. Within a month of the October Revolution Lenin had created the KGB; the Red Terror went immediately into effect. By 1922, when Mussolini had declared the first "fascist" state, Lenin & Co. had already subdued internal opposition and were transitioning from War Communism to the New Economic Policy and formally declaring the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; Mussolini himself had been such a senior member of the Italian Socialist Party that he was for many years editor of Avanti who was only kicked out of the Party when he advocated Italian intervention in WW1. It was not until 1933 that Hitler triumphed. As I understand it, the NKVD and SS/Abwehr had contacts for many years; it was the Soviets who permitted Germany to re-arm during the '20s and early '30s; Hitler was briefly a soldier in the Communist armies of the German Revolution of 1918 (although I suppose he may have been an informer for the German military authority).

      So isn't the proper impulse, in many senses, to shout "Communist!" rather than "Fascist"?

    3. 'My' reference to fascism was based more on some of those minuscule, pedantic variations between communism and fascism, by that I mean:

      A political system in which communism claimed no leader as such (not that they ever actually had this), whilst fascism always went for one charismatic supreme leader with absolute power.

      Communism rejected/banned all religion whilst in fascism both 'the state is the religion' and religions tied to national/historical identity are supported (and almost required).

      But mainly it was due to the communist economic model of 'all means of production are owned by the state' negating the concept of 'private property (well, except when you're a high party member with your private dasha of course), whilst with fascism 'private' enterprise may exist (at least on paper) it is directly controlled by the state (usually by only allowing select party favourites to own these ostensibly private enterprises – with help from the state treasuries of course). Government central planning verses 'people' can own businesses but the government does all the planning - tomayto tomahto?

      So even with those pencil sketch differences, which is Russia currently?

      (and that's completely ignoring those fascist tenets, differing markedly from the communist, of a strict class structure, traditional gender roles upheld and even enforced, blaming society’s problems on other races, social groups or countries, 'The state must gain glory through constant conquest, aka war. Belief that the past was glorious, and that the State can be renewed' and as ultra-nationalist they see no reason to respect the rights or sovereignty of other nations.)

      Maybe those references are closer than you'd think, if it looks like National-Socialism and sounds like National-Socialism …...

      Just a thought is all.

    4. Able,
      I disagree with you on the MSM's reasons for coverage or non-coverage, perhaps not that much though. I think they are so ideologically wedded to this Administration and the protection of Obama that they no longer pursue their profession as they should. In their minds why should they, after all they get the truth from the Administration all else must be false. If Obama disagrees with whatever Putin does regardless of it's merits then he's on the wrong side of history, living in another century, etc. For the MSM, Obama, and policy makers in cabinet posts to cleave to this so called self evident reality for analyses and policy execution is dangerous to the extreme. It definitely makes them easy targets for the likes of Putin etal. I trust that will be as confusing to read as it was to write.

    5. It makes a difference because there are no fascists, but there certainly are communists - communists who might be named but for the fascist diversion. Since fascism was the most thoroughly defeated political phenomenon since the Mongols destroyed the Abbasids, I think the distinction is important. It furthers the apparent conspiracy, or at least bad habit, of not - for example - looking at the Soviet Union for clues to why or what Colonel Putin formerly of the 5th Chief Directorate might be doing massing Spetznas among the polities of Eastern Ukraine and the Soviet Army - same Red Star insignia - on its own western borders.

    6. Able?

      Arkie here on this site. D&N, LB et etc

      My "desk" enjoyed an undergo the 23rd. Just getting that out of the way.

      I would ask your opinion Able

      for fellow Diplomad readers

      is Anna Raccoon a worthy read?

      Just for opinion's sake not that I care what follows.

      I did Able "enjoy" a problem started on the 23rd. Solar flare I reckoned. Over now so far as I'm aware.

      I can access now but it'll be a thruput.



    7. Arkie

      I used to, when at home, read Anna's blog regularly for her insight and opinion on matters which she had, often personal/professional (as a barrister I believe), knowledge. Her honesty, integrity, logic and opinions on such matters seemed unimpeachable.

      Here, whilst her opinion is as valid as anyone else’s, I wonder though.

      She lists Ukraines many and sundry failings, corruptions and atrocities but, to an extent, without context. The animosity between ethnic Poles and Ukrainians is centuries old, and atrocities have been committed by both sides (and no mention of Holodmor as a rationale for some 'slight' anti-Russian feelings). The KP was a disgusting stain on Ukraine that …. occurred under Soviet rule and 'laws' and was repeated throughout other regions of what is now the Russian Federation and even in Moscow itself, just not so openly known in the west (and as some have pointed out repeated in certain areas of 'the west' too at the time). Where do you think all those children abused in brothels by the UN in Kosovo came from, the majority won't have been kidnapped, they will have been sold by their parents in poor rural Russia and its satellites.

      The main issue is the, legitimate, discussion of the historic and ongoing corruption of the politicians in Ukraine. I hate to point out the obvious but, as with Russia and all the rest of the Federation, the current politicians are 'all', as mentioned before, Soviet era hangovers (or inheritors). The corruption is no more than we see, but don't discuss as openly, in the rest of 'the east' (and arguably the west too, how many UK and US career 'public servant' politicians seem to end up multi-millionaires whilst ostensibly living on their 'meagre' salaries?).

      Then there is her 'fixation' with a 'right-wing' takeover (a hat tip to anon above). Are there right-wingers involved? Certainly, but have you seen how many political parties Ukraine has? The right-wingers are a pitiful minority – well at least if you define right-wing as someone who is a fascist as opposed to someone to the right of the average Guardian/NY Times reader.

      My main 'issue', if I have one, is the assumption that 'it's the EU/US's fault' whilst 'Russia was acting altruisticly and in it's own 'legitimate' self-interest'.

      I'm so far (and always was) outside any decision loops I'd need the Hubble just to see the under-secretaries secretaries tea lady, but from reading between the lines I 'assume' if the EU/US had 'an agenda' (other than the gas/energy issue I still think is the crux of all) it was to use Ukraines 'closer ties' to eventually bring a free-market Russia closer (one suggested 'aim' was a block of countries as part of the 'common market' but not union, like Switzerland, and hopefully a Britain withdrawing somewhat. So a Russo-Brit lobby to counter the centralised aims of the Franco-German lobby - pipe-dreams!).

      So, I can only feel there is a little bias in Annas interpretation, and anti-EU/US bent that has allowed a 'skewed' interpretation. (Russian nationalism/corruption good - Ukraine nationalism/corruption bad).

      The 'amusing' bit? She rails against the western press failing to cover western actions, but from my (slightly closer) viewpoint (I'll ignore the Russian press since it is simply continuing its Pravdaesque leanings as usual) I'm just wondering who in the western press will be this decades Duranty and get a Pulitzer.

      (I wonder how she will interpret the 'gossip/rumour' that Putin 'wants to take Finland back too' now?)

    8. Anon

      No fascists but many communists?

      I think I just agreed with you above.

    9. James

      I actually understood (and to an extent agree) exactly what you meant on first reading, although on consideration, and re-reading ... do I need to seek professional help because of that?

    10. Polish-Ukrainian enmity notwithstanding, it was Poles who tried to send a trainload of grain into Ukraine during the Stalin famine.I do believe that comity, if not amity, is possible there. What you describe as the essential weaknesses in Russia sound about right to me.

      Fracking in America (including Canada) surely has the potential to bankrupt Russia, and Araby, as well. Ironically, once the price of oil drops, absent the speculative pressure on prices, fracking might become unprofitable again. The next President might even propose to subsidize fracking, to prevent the rise of another petroligarchy. I would. The next generation could stop, eventually. We don't even subsidize mohair production any more, having me all the needs of the WWI army by 1990.

      Professional help? The last season of Sherlock provided some insights into Watson's character, seeking dangerous situations Watch it and think. (Heh!) Really, stay safe. We'd all miss you.

    11. Michael

      As an outsider the Ukrainian/Polish thing is 'interesting'. I've spent time in both countries (I can't remember if I mentioned my time jumping/falling/being kicked out of a plane with some fine Polish gentlemen - what I can remember of it post the copious amounts of vodka they 'forced' me to drink afterwards - Alzheimers, you think?).

      To me both nationalities are (old Brit complement) 'the salt of the earth'. I'd take either nationality over almost all the rest of Europe (and Polish paras at my back any day).

      The thing is they're also (to outsiders) almost indistinguishable (please don't hit me, Joanna). It's almost like the English/Irish thing, constantly at war, arguing, expressing 'dislike' ... and yet effectively identical apart from minor details (it's OK, I'm allowed to say that because I may be English but I was born in Wales of English parents with Scots and Irish grandparents).

      As to Polish concern/generosity, failed as it did, it was never actually needed. The food Stalin ordered collected (stolen) was never shipped anywhere. It sat by train-sidings (grain and potatoes piled in mountains) rotting and smouldering whilst millions starved (and 'most' western press ignored it and continued in their sycophantic lauding of 'the great Stalin').

      Fracking, Nuclear. We need to increase our military budget, you need to maintain it. You run for President, I'll go for Prime-Minister (I call dibs on Dip to head the FO and the Mogambo Guru for Chancellor - what do you mean their both Yanks? So what, I called dibs).

      The help question was rhetorical, we both know I'm beyond it.

  18. Just a note. Russia after the abolition of serfdom in 1861 was on the right track. It was the tragedy of WW1 that made the revolution possible and detailed everything. I don't think Russia can ever recover. Bolshevik rule over 70 years destroyed too many lives and institutions.

  19. I'm going to push an idea here, to follow-up on your account of Tony Tan, if it was indeed him.

    Like a good many others in Asia, Tony Tan probably figured out that the USA wasn't really in Asia to replace Britain, France, and the Netherlands; that it wasn't really a colonizing power. And, given that Lee KuanYew and his acolytes cut their teeth in local Straits Chinese colonial politics fighting a well-organized and entrenched Communist movement, I'm sure Tan or whoever felt very grateful that America's resistance to the Communists paid off. I remember when I was teaching in Taiwan, schools there all had their complement of "Qiao Shen"--Overseas Chinese students--whose parents down in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, etc., wanted them to get a Chinese education free from any Communist taint.

    I further think we showed our non-imperial hand in the immediate aftermath to the end of the Cold War. Viet Nam was shocked that we refused their offer to re-use Cam Ranh Bay when the Soviets couldn't afford it any longer. We nodded benignly as ASEAN took in the whole region. We also figured that everything was settled in the southern Changwat of Thailand when the remnants of Chin Peng's Communists laid down their arms; Thailand adopted as conciliatory a policy as possible with its Muslim minority, while Malaysia made nice with the very small Thai-speaking Torawadi Buddhist minorities in places like Kelantan.

    But I also think that our generala disinterest in the world and our officialdom following the journalists' lead also led us to squander an opportunity. I recall a conversation I had in Guangzhou with a Malaysian consular officer who had studied in the States, was known to have shared an attitude similar to the one you ascribe to Tan about the Cold War coalitions, who said anxiously to me, "Now that fundamentalism is America's new enemy, does that mean I am now the enemy because I pray five times, abstain from pork and alchohol, and plan to make the Haj before I die?" His picture of 'fundamentalism' came from experience on a Midwestern campus, where 'fundamentalists' were serious Christians--a tribe for which he seemed to have a surprising sympathy, provided they stayed among his country's Chinese, Indian, and tribal minorities. Maybe, in view of later events, I was hearing the Dar-ul-Islam saying, "OK, now that the common enemy's down, let's get back to where were when Sobieski chased us away from Vienna." but I'm not absolutely sure that was the case. Indeed, in 1979, before my foreign Service career, I got the uncomfortable sense that our media coined the term "Islamic fundamentalism" to make American Evangelical Christians look like a menace when they were abandoning the party of their grandparents in Jimmy Carter's hour of need--especially when about the same time someone near and dear who should've known me a lot better asked me for insights into the mind of Khomeini, since, after all, I was also a "fundamentalist".

    I also suspect that a little more care and adroitness might've prevented Russia from turning adversarial again.

    But, alas, that's only Monday morning quarterbacking at this point.

    1. Yes, more attention to Russia might have helped. It was a desperately serious time for the US after 9/11, and unfortunately, some balls were dropped, certainly domestically, and perhaps also in the case of Russia.

  20. Fantastic news from the Ukraine! After a frank discussion between Lavrov and Kerry Putin has gone from having 40% of what he wanted to 80%. Administration has high hopes that after intense consultation with the Ukraine government Kerry will be able to provide the missing 20% as easily as Obama did the original 80.
    James the Lessor