RF Sitrep 20150129


RUSSIA HAS HAD ENOUGH. I agree, as I usually do, with Alexander Mercouris: here and here he argues that Putin and his team have given up trying for a diplomatic solution. Moscow used its influence to stop the rebels’ offensive last year when they believed themselves on the edge of routing the Kiev forces, forced the Minsk ceasefire, made several proposals to Kiev and… nothing. I believe that Putin stopped believing anything the West said after Libya, but I think he kept hoping Europe would not be willing to harm itself in subjugation to Washington. Or maybe he just needed time; time to strengthen links with the BRICS and especially Beijing, time to de-dollarise (Russia is buying a lot of gold), time to build up and exercise the military; time to make his case to the “not-the-world” (I love this cartoon). I’m sure he has the next move figured out and I’m equally sure Brussels, Washington and their dependants will be just as stunned by it as they were the last times.

RUSSIAN ECONOMY. Two takes on it that argue that the situation is serious but recoverable: Goldman Sachs repeats points I have mentioned; Chris Weafer says rally but not boom. Yes inflation is up, yes the Ruble is down, but there much import substitute is going on, industrial and agricultural production continue to rise and unemployment is unchanged. As for rating downgrades, China has a different opinion. Time, as they say, will tell. But I’d bet on China.

DEMOGRAPHICS. Excellent summary by Anatoly Karlin. By the way, Russia now has a higher crude birth rate than anywhere in Europe.

GAS. After welcoming the decision to stop South Stream, the Europeans are starting to realise that they had better build some infrastructure to pick up Russian gas. Nordstream too. Or do without. Or find another supplier. Or something. They’ve got about four years. Here’s the new reality.

FIGHTING. Putin made a last appeal for both sides to withdraw following the Minsk agreements but Kiev attacked. The “cyborgs” were driven out of the airport (your local media outlets took a week or so to tell you: here’s The Guardian saying the Kiev forces had re-taken the airport. They didn’t; cancel your subscription.) Another “cauldron” is forming and the neo-nazis are saying all is lost. What’s their answer: coup or götterdämmerung?

HOW TO READ THE WESTERN MEDIA. When they say Kiev forces have re-taken the airport, know that they have lost it. When they say giving up South Stream was a defeat for Putin, know it was a brilliant counter-move. When they say Russia is isolated (a stopped clock, here’s The Economist in 1999!), know that it is expanding its influence and connections every day. When they say Russians are turning against Putin, know that the opposite is true. When they speak of nation-building in the new Ukraine, know it’s degenerating into armed thuggery (see video). Know that when they speak of Kyrzbekistan, they’re not just stenographers, they’re incompetent stenographers. Take what they say, turn it upside down, and you’ll have a better take on reality.

THE MERKEL MYSTERY. I, like many, thought, when the Ukraine crisis began, that German Chancellor Merkel would prove to be key in settling it. This has not proved to be the case at all; in fact she often throws more fuel on the fire. I believe that Gilbert Doctorow may have the answer. In essence, he believes that Berlin dreams the “pre-WWI dream of Mitteleuropa” with cheap, docile workers in Poland, Ukraine and the others forever. Of course, it hasn’t worked out very well, but that, he thinks, was the plan. There was no “End of History” after all; a rebirth of history it seems.

THE WHEELS ARE COMING OFF THE BUS. A US official expressed concern that Russia and China were narrowing the military-technology gap. Threaten them and they come together; nothing is working out the way it was supposed to, is it? Do people in Washington ever wonder if they’re trying to juggle too many balls at once? And now Greece is throwing grit in the machinery.

DECLARATION OF WAR? The Ukrainian parliament just declared that Russia was an “aggressor state”. Is that a declaration of war? Can Russia now legally go in and stop the killing?

UKRAINE TODAY. Watch this video – your media outlets hide the insanity from you. But we don’t.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada Websites: ROPV, US-Russia, Russia Insider

Airbrushing Embarrassments out of History: Writing Stalin and other non-Russians out of the picture


Original 27 May 2009 at http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2009/05/airbrushing-history.html#more

I wrote this five or six years ago but I believe that it is just as appropriate now as it was then. Actually, it’s probably more appropriate because we hear such falsifications of history as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Germany in 1945 or that Auschwitz was liberated by Ukrainians.

There is a very strong interest in airbrushing history in those post Soviet countries founded on the myth that communism was imposed on them by Russians and none of their people had anything to do with it.

But they did: communism was not a Russian plot, it was truly international; communists were not only Russian, they came from all nationalities.

What follows is unchanged from what I wrote then; I have checked the hyperlinks.

Other countries could blame Russia for their lost decades; Russia, having no one to blame, couldn’t face its history” This piece of rhetorical puffery appeared about two years ago as an explanation for Russia’s alleged “de-democratization”. Not only does it ignore such things as the abortive trial of the CPSU in May 1992 and the Butovo Memorial, but it has a serious blind spot: the former communist countries have not come to terms with the fact that many of their people eagerly participated in the Bolshevik experiment and that they have a share of responsibility in the disaster. Bolshevism was not a purely “Russian” phenomenon.

A Latvian government commission has been working away to produce a monetary figure to put on the losses suffered by Latvia as a result of its incorporation into the USSR from 1940 to 1990. It has not finished its calculations yet, and may never, but the numbers that are bruited about are in the many billions. When it completes its work the final number will be as accurate or as inaccurate as such numbers will always be.

But it seems to be expected that, when the commission arrives at a number, Latvia will present a bill to the Russian Federation. But why should Russia be expected to pay? Bolshevism was not especially “Russian”. Determining ethnicity in a multi-national state like Russia is always somewhat a matter of opinion and Russian has two words to distinguish between ethnic Russians (русский “russkiy”) and citizens of the state (российский “rossiyskiy”). Thus, while all members of the Bolshevik Central Committee which plotted and executed the seizure of power in Petrograd in 1917 had been born into the Russian Empire, only two were ethnic Russians (Lenin and Bubnov); the remainder were Jews – certainly not considered “Russians” at the time – (Zinoviev, Kamenev-Rosenfeld, Sokolnikov-Brillyant, Trotskiy-Bronshteyn) and Lenin’s “miraculous Georgian”, Stalin-Jughashvili. But the true leadership can be gauged from Lenin’s famous “testament” of 24 December 1922 in which he criticises his likely successors: Stalin, Trotskiy, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Pyatakov and Bukharin – the last the only “Russian”. The leadership of the Bolshevik Party cannot be said to have been especially “Russian” and Volkogonov’s biography many times shows Lenin’s contempt for all things Russian. “Russians” alone did not make the Bolshevik Revolution; the Bolsheviks were, as they always claimed to be, “internationalists”.

Where did the Bolsheviks get the force that allowed them to seize power? The most reliable and potent military force that the Bolsheviks controlled was the Latvian Rifles: this force supplied the bayonets in the Petrograd coup and the dismissal of the Constituent Assembly. Without the power of these disciplined troops the Bolshevik coup might not have happened at all. The other force behind Bolshevik rule was the Cheka, the political police. Its first leader was the Pole Feliks Dzherzhinskiy-Dzierzynski and, when he briefly resigned after the assassination attempt on Lenin in 1918, his principal deputy, the Latvian Jekabs Peters-Peterss, served as head, ably assisted by another Latvian, Martins Latsis-Lacis.

So, given the essential role of Latvians in the coup itself and the creation of the Red Terror, perhaps Latvia should ask for compensation from itself.

The actual takeover of Latvia in 1940 was the decision of Stalin-Jughashvili (who ruled the USSR for nearly half its existence) assisted by his political police chief Lavrenti Beria (a Mingrelian or, in today’s parlance, another Georgian). This was hardly a “Russian” decision: as Donald Rayfield says in Stalin and his Hangmen (p 356): “In 1939 the whole of the USSR could be said to be controlled by Georgians and Mingrelians”.

Therefore, perhaps Latvia should apply to Georgia for compensation.

Or, perhaps, Russia should demand compensation from Latvia or Georgia. It is pointless to argue about which nationality suffered most but Russians also suffered greatly: as then-President Putin said at the Butovo memorial: “This is a particular tragedy for Russia because it took place on such a large scale. Those who were executed, sent to camps, shot and tortured number in the thousands and millions of people. Along with this, as a rule these were people with their own opinions. These were people who were not afraid to speak their mind. They were the most capable people. They are the pride of the nation.” The communists killed millions: they did not distinguish among nationalities: They were “internationalist” and their murders and their murderers were too. The fact that Beria was from Georgia did not prevent him from wiping out the Georgian intelligentsia. As Latsis said, perfectly defining the Red Terror: “The first question you must ask is: what class does he belong to, what education, upbringing, origin or profession does he have? These questions must determine the accused’s fate. This is the sense and essence of red terror”. There is nothing to suggest he excluded Latvians

Several of the post-communist states are engaged in an exercise of re-writing their history. Native communists and their involvement in Bolshevism are airbrushed out of the picture. Gone from the new picture are Latsis and Peters, Derzhinskiy and Orjonikidze; gone are Kossior and Zhdanov; Sultan-Galiyev, Narimanov and Vakhitov are airbrushed out; Vares and Snieckus are gone. In their place is erected a narrative of Russians imposing Russian-invented communism on innocent nations. Perhaps the most preposterous example of this reconstruction of reality was the proposal that the still-existing museum in Gori to its favourite son, Iosef Bissarion-dze Jughashvili, be re-named the museum of the Russian occupation of Georgia. Perhaps Russia should create a museum of the Georgian occupation of Russia: given the effect on Russian mortality of Stalin, Beria, Orjonikidze, Goglidze and Gvishiani, that would have more historical credibility. Some people in Ukraine want to paint the great famine of 1932-33 that killed so many Ukrainians as an act of Russian genocide. In fact the famine was caused by the drive to export wheat to obtain the capital to fuel Stalin’s ambitious industrialisation plans: the whole black earth zone of the USSR was targeted; people starved in the Kuban, as well as in Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It is simply otiose to say that because the Russian Federation assumed responsibility for the USSR’s debts, left-over troops, nuclear weapons and Security Council seat (to the approbation and relief of the West, be it understood), it also assumed responsibility for the doings of Stalin or Peters.

The view that Bolshevism and the USSR was “all-Russian” has persisted over some time, usually as an unstated background assumption in some piece about Moscow’s desire to re-occupy post-Soviet space. But it’s false history and false history is an impediment to reality.

As for one country claiming reparations from another, there is no one to present the bill to: those truly responsible are long dead, they were not products of their countries and all peoples of the USSR were equally ruined.

Why Should Moscow Trust Anything NATO Says?


NATO is always asking Russia to accept its word.

Concerned about missile defence establishments next door? Pshah! they’re there to deal with a “rogue state’s” as-yet-non-existent missiles, nothing to do with you. No you can’t come and look at them.

NATO walks out of the CFE Treaty, which Russia ratified but no one in NATO did; sure but Russia didn’t satisfy the extra conditions NATO tacked on to it.

NATO expansion right up to Russia’s door? Why, NATO is a force for stability – remember Tbilisi’s attack on South Ossetia in 2008? That kind of stability. Or, more recently, the stability, peace and prosperity that floods Ukraine.

NATO flights and exercises all around you? Nonsense, they’re peaceful and stabilising; it’s Russia aircraft that are the real destabilisers.

Are NATO members bombing people all over the place? Yes, but it’s for their own good.

Why don’t the Russian leaders just take NATO’s word for it? After all, NATO says it’s a trustworthy organisation and NATO is proud to tell Russia, and the rest of the world, “Our Alliance remains an essential source of stability in this unpredictable world”. So, how have we got into the position that Moscow does not accept NATO’s word of honour? The answer is very simple: experience has taught Russia that NATO’s word of honour isn’t worth anything: “empty words” indeed. Here are two examples of the evanescent character of NATO’s promises.

Moscow was promised in the Gorbachev years that NATO would not expand. How do I know that the promise was given? After all, nothing was written down. I know this because the US Ambassador of the period has said that the promise was made; I have been personally told by another NATO Ambassador of the period that the promise was made and “After speaking with many of those involved and examining previously classified British and German documents in detail, SPIEGEL has concluded that there was no doubt that the West did everything it could to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question for countries like Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia”. Here’s more evidence, from the magazine Foreign Affairs: “In the end, the United States overturned the system it promised to bring about.” So, never mind what sophists say about there being no piece of paper saying “We promise, signed, NATO”, Moscow was assured. And the promise was soon broken and broken again and broken again. At present NATO has 28 members: 12 of them – 40% – are former Warsaw Pact, Soviet allies or parts of the USSR itself. When NATO breaks a promise, it really breaks it.

And, one cynically has to ask, would it have made any difference if Gorbachev had got it in writing? NATO is perfectly capable of breaking, or severely stretching, a written agreement too. See below.

Let us move to a more recent test of NATO’s trustworthiness. A UNSC resolution authorised NATO states and others to create a no-fly zone over Libya for humanitarian reasons. In fairly short order this mutated into sustained destruction of Kaddafi’s forces and installations; then weapons were supplied to the rebels (so much for 13. “strict implementation of the arms embargo”) and special forces gave them training and directed the air attacks. In short, NATO aircraft swiftly became the rebels’ air force retaining only the hollowest pretence of the impartiality the Resolution implied. “We came. We saw. He died” as Hillary Clinton put it. Providing the rebel forces with an air force, weapons and special forces is very far from the UN Resolution that Moscow thought it was abstaining on. What was NATO’s word of honour worth in this case? And that ignores the consequences of the intervention. Not even the New York Times can pretend it’s anything other than a disaster (the days when NATO’s intervention was a “model intervention” are long gone. But thanks to the Internet’s memory, not forgotten).

So, given the Libya precedent and NATO Expansion, Moscow can be forgiven for thinking that, not only is NATO’s promise worth nothing, but, rather than bringing the stability it boasts about, it only destroys and moves on like some science fiction monster that lives to kill and kills to live.

Russia has no reason whatsoever to trust NATO’s mere assertion of intention. Here, from a Russian perception, are more examples of the worthlessness of NATO’s promises. But, really, the two examples of NATO Expansion and Libya, so important and so patent, are more than enough to show that NATO’s solemn declarations are subject to re-interpretation without warning. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” NATO has fooled them more than once.

As George Kennan said, in 1998 of NATO Expansion: “I think it is the beginning of a new cold war… I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.” Not for the first time, “Mr X” got it right.

RF Sitrep 20150108


NEW NWO. The Chinese foreign minister made it plain: “We believe that Russia has opportunities and knowledge to overcome the current problems in the economy. The Chinese-Russian relations of strategic partnership are at a high level, we are always supporting and helping our friend. If the Russian side needs it, we shall offer all possible support we may have”. Why is China doing this? Self-interest: if Washington can bring Russia down, China knows it’s next on the list. Meanwhile China is moving into Latin America. Washington and Brussels have united two powers that can crash their economies at will (at, admittedly, large – but not fatal – cost to themselves.)

TRUTH LEAKS OUT. Despite the best efforts of Western governments and their tame media, bits of truth are slowly – but not quickly enough – leaking out. The head of Stratfor described it as “the most blatant coup in history”. As to neo nazis (long pooh-poohed as a Putin fantasy – here, here and here for example), even the Washington Post admits “But now several of these units, especially those linked to oligarchs or the far right, are revealing a dark side.” Smaller publications can report more reality (Christianity Today or Salon) while the larger, like the NYT, still adhere to the Party Line. Here is a careful piece about neo-nazis and here a compendium on the subject. Read these and decide for yourself if this is a trivial phenomenon. Ignore the election result argument, these people prefer to create fear and compulsion: here, here, here, here. (What would the NYT or Economist say if there were a campaign for “real” Russian names, torchlight parades shouting “Glory to Russia” or guards at Christmas crèches to protect them from Obama?) Even the tame Western “human rights” organisations are starting to notice who’s shelling civilians. “Merkel should emphasize the need for Ukraine’s Defense Ministry to issue clear and specific orders… not to use certain explosive weapons in areas populated by civilians.” The notion that the defenders are destroying their own families’ housing is a little preposterous, isn’t it? Especially when Poroshenko thinks it desirable their children hide in basements. Everybody has a phone camera and a Web link now; hard to control the story.

MILITARY ETC. An amendment to Russia’s military doctrine states NATO expansion and its buildup on Russia’s borders is a threat: not really new, just that Moscow has stopped hinting. Meanwhile, as if to remind Washington – again – that Russia is not Libya or Afghanistan, a third SLBN was handed over to the Navy: these three boats carry 16 Bulava missiles each, each with 6 independently targetable warheads. 288 warheads in new, modern, tested systems. Then a land-based ICBM was successfully tested. We are informed that there are now 295,000 professional soldiers in the Armed Forces with the plan to add another 55,000 in 2015. Meanwhile, the heavy Angara A-5 rocket successfully launched a dummy payload. Russia kept its world-wide lead in space launches with 38.

DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT. Because we think it is important that Russia… and NATO are able to work together on important issues, like for instance, fighting terror.” Brilliant idea 15 years ago, good idea 10 years ago, OK idea 5 years ago, today, too late: you can’t call Russia an aggressor and ask for cooperation in one and the same statement.

CHECHNYA. Take ten minutes to watch this. A lot of things are happening you’re not told about.

EURASIAN ECONOMIC UNION. First suggested ten years ago by Nazarbayev, it took effect on 1 January. Comprising Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia (joined the next day) it is a free trade zone. We will see how effective it proves to be, born as it is in difficult times. Russia cheekily suggest the EU join: “You really think it is wise to put so much political energy into a free trade agreement with the United States when one has a much more natural trade partner next door right in the neighborhood? At least we don’t treat our chickens with chlorine”.

UKRAINIAN NUCLEAR POWER STATION. Something is happening at the Zaporizhia nuclear power station. There have been some shutdownsmore than one, it seems. Rebel sources say radiation levels have spiked. There may be a connection with nuclear fuel from Westinghouse; dangerous says Moscow. This could be quite serious and there is no reason to believe anything Kiev says about it.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada Websites: ROPV, US-Russia, Russia Insider