In Crimea, Russia Backs Traditional Islam – Part I

Dear Readers:

Today’s post pulls from four related posts in PolitNavigator, all of them written by sociologist Elena Ostryakova, from Moscow.  The four links are this, this, this, and this.

Ostryakova’s research concerns Crimean Tatars and how well they are re-integrating back into the political canvas of the Russian Federation, after Crimea’s reunion with Russia in 2014.

Cuman statue, 12th century Luhansk

First some backstory:  The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic-based ethnic group who hail back at least as far as 10th-century steppe-dwelling tribes from Central Asia.  These tribes, which blended various ethnic groups including Cumans, mastered the horse and became highly mobile nomads.  Cuman/Tatar warriors were able to travel great distances and conquer much territory.  As early as the 12th or 13th centuries they were all over Crimea and reached as far as what is now Western Ukraine.  The famous Russian medieval poem, “The Story of Igor’s Regiment” deals with the ensuing clash of cultures:  Turkic tribes vs Slavs.  The military clashes often resulted in inter-marriage, the prime example being Prince Igor’s son Volodimir marrying the Cuman Princess Konchakovna.  The military and cultural clashes also induced both sides to engage in state-building.  Because only a strong centralized state which collects taxes, is capable of building an army professional enough to compete in the ensuing realities of medieval life.

At some point the Turkic tribes, now called Tatars, converted to Islam.  The Crimean Khanate became a vassal state to the Ottoman Empire between the 15th to 18th centuries.  During the same period of time, those Eastern Slavic tribes who later became known as “Russians” were building their own statehood, with the capital in Moscow and the state religion Byzantine Orthodox Christianity.

As these two competing civilizations developed side by side, the differences between them were not just religious philosophies, but also the class system.  The medieval Russian economy was based on serfdom; whereas the Crimean Tatars enjoyed a slave-based economy.  Quoting wiki:

Until the beginning of the 18th century, Crimean Tatars were known for frequent, at some periods almost annual, devastating raids into Ukraine and Russia.  For a long time, until the late 18th century, the Crimean Khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East which was the most important basis of its economy.  One of the most important trading ports and slave markets was Kefe.  Slaves and freedmen formed approximately 75% of the Crimean population.

There is a lot of complicated history here, including the formation of the Cossack regiments and a series of bloody wars, the rise and fall of various Tsars, the decline of the Ottoman Empire, yada yada, which I have neither the time nor the expertise to go into.  Suffice it to say that eventually, over a long period of time, Russia was able to eke out a strategic long-term victory over Turkey and the Turkic tribes.

Tatar family in Kazan, 1885

Russia’s decisive victory was the annexing of the Crimean peninsula in 1783.  Wiki describes the various stages of ethnic cleansings which followed, resulting in a smaller Tatar population in Crimea itself; and a much larger Tatar diaspora.  The fact is, that no Russian ruler, be it Catherine the Great or Joseph Stalin, ever fully trusted the Tatar people as such (not to accuse all individual Tatars, to be sure), to be loyal to Russia.  And not to defend ethnic cleansing, yet Russian distrust of  the Tatar people was often borne out.  Because some Tatar political leaders truly did subvert the system and support any invader who might come barging into Russia, be it Tom, Dick, Harry, Napoleon or Hitler.

Soviet government expels Tatars from Crimea

Stalin’s deportation of the Tatars from the strategic Crimean peninsula to Uzbekistan in 1944 he justified based on known facts of Tatar sabotage and support for the Nazi invaders, for example the Tatar Legion in the Nazi Army.  But there were other Tatars who provided counter-examples by fighting bravely on the side of the Red Army.  In his secret speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1956),  Party Chairman Nikita Khrushchev argued that it was wrong to punish an entire ethnic group for the crimes of a few:

Comrades, let us reach for some other facts. The Soviet Union justly is considered a model multinational state because we have assured in practice the equality and friendship of all [of the] peoples living in our great Fatherland.
All the more monstrous are those acts whose initiator was Stalin and which were rude violations of the basic Leninist principles [behind our] Soviet state’s nationalities policies. We refer to the mass deportations of entire nations from their places of origin, together with all Communists and Komsomols without any exception. This deportation was not dictated by any military considerations.
Thus, at the end of 1943, when there already had been a permanent change of fortune at the front in favor of the Soviet Union, a decision concerning the deportation of all the Karachai from the lands on which they lived was taken and executed.
In the same period, at the end of December, 1943, the same lot befell the [Kalmyks] of the Kalmyk Autonomous Republic. In March, 1944, all the Chechens and Ingushi were deported and the ChechenIngush Autonomous Republic was liquidated. In April, 1944, all Balkars were deported from the territory of the Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous Republic to faraway places and their Republic itself was renamed the Autonomous Kabardian Republic.

Nikita Khrushchev

Khrushchev, himself an ethnic Ukrainian, went on to crack a joke, the point being that if people are to be punished for the acts of their leaders, then Ukrainians should have been first in line for deportation:

Ukrainians avoided meeting this fate only because there were too many of them and there was no place to which to deport them. Otherwise, [Stalin] would have deported them also.

(Laughter and animation in the hall.)

The joke about deporting the Ukrainians sounds even funnier today, since the Ukrainian Nationalist government currently in power, which traces its own pedigree back to Nazi collaborators, are the ones who cry the most crocodile tears about the Tatar deportations.  And it is no secret that Ukrainian Nationalists and Tatar collaborationists shared a common friend — Nazi Germany; and a common enemy:  Russia.

Empress Catherine the Great stands tall in Simferopol, Crimea.

Without getting into any further details of the long and difficult history of this misbegotten relationship between Tatars and Russians; and skipping over all the “he said – she said”, it is possible to make just a quick summary:  That this forced joining of Slavs and Tatars, living together in a single statehood, has proved to be a tough and complicated marriage, filled with bitter tears and reproaches.  Not to mention squabbles over property and who gets to keep the dog.  And yet divorce is not really an option.  In which case, what is to be done?

Well, apparently the situation is not hopeless, from the Russian point of view.  As we shall see, the current Russian government, has implemented wise and enlightened policies in regards to the Crimean Tatars.  And I say that without an ounce of sarcasm.  Since the Reunification of 2014, the Russian government has bent over backwards to reassure Tatars that they will not be a persecuted minority.  The policies have brought good results, as sociological surveys show, which we will discuss in the next installment of this post.  Also, in the religious sphere, the Russian authorities have adopted a cunning strategy of supporting traditional Islam over the wacky and violent sects which are promoted by Ukrainian and Western interests.

[to be continued]

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Can Ukraine Offer The World Hobbyist Military Technology? – Part III

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (I Corinthians 13:11)

Finishing reading this essay by Nikita Volchenko, today we switch from hobbyist armor technology and amateur tanks, to the theme of cyber warfare.

Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska solved the sphere-packing problem in 8 dimensions.

As with Engineering, the Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union a very strong legacy and infrastructure in Mathematics and the physical sciences.  And not all of that legacy has been squandered in the past 25 years:  Ukraine still boasts a substantial cadre of Information Technology (I.T.) specialists; and still produces meaningful product in this arena.

Some of these cadres and products have been recruited by the Ukrainian army.  For example, at the Noosphere Engineering School  in Dnipropetrovsk, cadres are working on systems of automated control of artillery fire, to assist the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against Donbass.  The Ukrainian armed forces have staked much on the “artillery solution” to the Separatist problem.  In a war waged with unmanned reconnaissance and real-time maneuvering, success depends on the speed and accuracy of the artillery strikes; and also the ability to fall back quickly from the ensuing artillery counter-barrage.  Using a new Operating System called ArtOS, the Ukrainians have managed to shorten the time between the acquiring of the target and the opening salvo.  The automated, computerized artillery helps to exclude human error, which is important in these conditions where many artillery officers are poorly trained reserves.

Despite these real assets,  the Ukrainian I.T. segment is experiencing the very same problems as is the entire country, under the leadership of the EuroMaidan political victors.  Manufacturing companies are under enormous pressure from the Ukrainian Security forces and Internal Affairs (=the Secret Police), who use the pretext of “the war against Terrorism” and “the war against Separatism” to squeeze these companies dry on behalf of the oligarchs.  As a consequence, entire teams of talented Start-Ups are bailing out and heading for greener pastures in Poland, the Czech Republic, and the United States.  In the last two years 9,000 I.T. professionals have emigrated from the Ukraine, creating a significant Brain Drain.

Drone Technology

One area of technological success, however, is in the development of Flying Drone technology.  This technology is developing at a rapid pace all over the world.   [In the U.S., for example, one can walk into a convenience store and buy a drone for around $50 bucks to show off at parties:  The device can fly overhead, take photos, upload them to Facebook, and can even perform aerial stunts to amuse your guests.]

The Ukrainian company Drone.ua  is manufacturing drones for use in agriculture, geodesics and cartography.  Their product is good enough to export.  At a price of only $2,400 per piece, towards the end of 2016 the company sold around a thousand of these models.  According to Forbes, this company is one of the top 20 innovationist enterprises in the Ukraine.

Ukrainian drone “Spektator”

And while Drone.ua has primarily agricultural applications, the Ukrainian military was not slow to grasp the importance of military applications as well.  The “Spektator” drone was developed by the company “Meridian”, in partnership with the Kiev Polytechnic Institute.  This drone can carry out military assignments such as reconnaissance, it can fly up to a height of 2 kilometers and reach a speed of 120 km/hour.  It can fly for 2 hours without recharging and receive a signal from up to 30 km away.

Still other brands of Ukrainian drones, for example, “Furia” and “Leleka-100” are being tested by the Ukrainian military.  The “Furia” is produced by the Scientific-Industrial (Научно-производственное предприятие НПП) Aerospace Company “Atlon Avia” based in Kiev.  Judging by the imagery on their Facebook, Atlon traces its lineage back, not to the successes of Soviet aviation against Nazi Germany, but to the American victory against Japan in 1945.

Caption: “Iwo Jima 1945 – Chernigov 2016”

Evil tongues claim that the “Furia”, in any case, is just a cheap rip-off of an American drone called RVJet, manufactured by the company RangeVideo, and assembled in China!  Which might explain the Iwo Jima imagery.  Well-known Ukrainian software developer Yury Kasyanov (here is a link to his youtube channel) claims that the purchase of drones by the Ukrainian military is just another corruptionist scheme to line the pockets of certain individuals:  “It’s a good day when the manufacturing company receives $50,000 from each sale.  I’m talking about embezzlement and kickbacks.  Yes, they made some improvements; yes, the drone technology got more expensive, but not 15 times more!  The purchases take place in the context of corruption, because when the apparatus costs $5,000 to make, and the army purchases it as $35,000, then it is clear to everyone that a portion of the profits go into the pockets of the bureaucrats.”

Yury Kasyanov

Kasyanov is no dissident or Sep-symp:  He was a EuroMaidan activist who went on to contribute quite a lot to the Ukrainian war effort.  As a member of the volunteer team “Armiya SOS”, he built systems of unmanned surveillance which collected valuable information on Separatist positions.  After some conflicts within his team (Kasyanov appears to be one of those cranky types who can’t get along with other people), he started up a new project to build drones, which he dubbed “The Matrix”.  With start-up money from an investor, he is building a heavy-duty drone called “Commandore” which he says will be able to carry weapons.  When listening to Kasyanov’s opinions, one should take into account that his projects compete for funds with other projects such as the “Furia”; and that Kasyanov counts himself as one of the small-shop “Davids” up against the military-industrial “Goliaths” such as Atlon Avia.

Separatists show off shot-down Ukrainian drone.

Kasyanov again, speaking with bitterness:  “Hobbyist, home-made drones are being used extensively at the front, along with those manufactured by small shops.  These devices are being used for reconnaissance and also firing weapons from the sky.  For two years now, the government refuses to notice the efforts of enthuasiasts and volunteers.  When it does notice, then it immediate tries to coopt and formalize these elements, it bureacratizes them, forces them into the usual mold of filching the state budget.  Unmanned aviation long ago became a private club.  Membership is closed to those who are not close to the in-crowd, and who do not wish to pay for an entry ticket.”

Still, Kasyanov is under no illusion that hobbyist technology can compete in the modern world:  “It is no secret that many volunteers and entire volunteer organizations have long ago been converted into commercial firms which successfully combine volunteerism with business…. (….)  It is evident that volunteerism per se as the foundation for producing high-tech products — is a dead end.  Because complicated things require a lot of time and means to produce.  And to produce them on an assembly-line basis using volunteers who work for free and sacrifice their time —  is not realistic.”

Ukrainian schoolchildren: Always eager to learn.

In the final two paragraphs of his essay, Volchenko agrees with Kasyanov’s conclusions and adds this point:  The upsurge in military-technical creativity seen in the post-Maidan Ukraine has produced several interesting products, but in the final analysis these amateur efforts cannot establish an alternative to a normal system of government procurement and a military-industrial complex.

Also taking into account Ukraine’s de-volution as a state, and the rapidly tanking levels of math and science education of the population, there may not even be any future wave of scientific and technological creativity.  Volchenko believes that the Maidan government itself is determined to lower the educational level of the population, as it prepares to convert the Ukraine from an industrial to an agrarian economy.

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Can Ukraine Offer The World Hobbyist Military Technology? – Part II

Dear Readers:

Continuing to read this piece in VZGLIAD, written by Nikita Volchenko.  We are discussing the strange phenomenon of “hobbyist military technology”, as popularized by Ukrainian nationalists.  One recalls these nationalist volunteers on the Maidan of 2013-2014 wielding improvised weapons (such as baseball bats studded with nails) against the police and National Guard.  People watching the news on TV got used to the sight of grown men and women wearing bicycle helmets while tossing Molotov cocktails at the National Guard and Berkut.  More sinisterly, one recalls the events of May 2, 2014, in which neo-Nazi auxiliary formations, including teenaged girls, cooked up home-made incendiary devices on the streets of Odessa, the purpose being to burn dozens of “pro-Russian” demonstrators alive inside the Trade Union Building.

Maidan weapons: Rocks and Molotov cocktails

Because the Maidanites won and were able to seize the government, they might have gotten it into their heads, and other people might have the impression as well, that a rabble with improvised weapons and armor are militarily able to defeat a regular army and regular police  I call this line of thinking the “Ewok myth”.

This is not what actually happened in Kiev.  The Ukrainian regular forces and Berkut could have dispersed this rabble definitively in a single hour, if they had been ordered to do so.  Instead, they were ordered to stand down, and take whatever was dished out against them.  The Maidan game was rigged — by the European Union, the United States, the lack of will of the Yanukovych government.  Maidan was a political, not a military, defeat, for Yanukovych.  He lost in the halls of Brussels, not on the streets of Kiev.  And yet the images of Maidan “rebels” with their hobbyist weapons and armor was political catnip for Westie audiences, who are trained to think in a certain way about “good guys” vs “bad guys”.  Brave yet disorganized INDIVIDUALIST rebels vs mindless Stormtroopers of the Evil Empire, blah blah blah.

Can Ewok catapult technology defeat the Death Star?

At the same time, it is not prudent to scoff at every new thing that happens in the world.  One wonders, is there anything at all in this hyped phenomenon of “hobbyist” military technology which serious military analysts should take note of?   Are there any real lessons that can be learned, any tips in these antics of children that be absorbed by the adults?  Or should it all just be dismissed as hype and Westie propaganda?  Lord knows that the Westies themselves rely on professional armies, trained and equipped with the very latest technology.  One doesn’t see NATO soldiers marching around wearing colanders on their heads.

But, as Volchenko notes, the various conflicts raging in the post-Soviet space never garnered as much popular participation as did the Ukrainian civil war.  Normally these conflicts are confined to small groups of people bearing particular political grudges.  In the case of the Ukraine, however, literally hundreds of volunteer groups sprang up overnight from within the population.

Further:  After their side won the revolution and seized the government, these volunteer formations did not disband and just go home.  On the contrary, the hobbyist mob now became a hobbyist army.  As the real army disintegrated and disbanded.  The new army was supported by volunteer donations.  And not just bake sales:  These volunteers purchased uniforms, wove camouflage nets, set up workshops to repair vehicles, and engaged in every type of provisioning activity.  Basically performing all the support and supply-chain functions which are usually performed by the regular military of an actual army.

Ukrainian tank made out of dumpsters

To compare with a “normal” country like Russia or the United States:  New military technologies are constantly being developed, but the customer is the government itself, while the producer is the military-industrial complex.  Very little “local initiative” takes place in this type of system, and “volunteer projects” are almost unheard of.  The Russian people, like the American people, are content to leave their defense in the hands of the experts.  I am not so sure about the American case, but the Russian science and industry appear to work quite well in carrying out the government’s requisitions.  This is why Russia still has a space program and continues to innovate in the sphere of military technology.  In the Ukraine, on the other hand, the regular army barely exists; and military/technical innovation is in the hands of small groups of volunteers.  Engineers working out of small shops are eager to send the fruits of their ingenuity to the front lines of the Anti-Terrorist Operation.  To test their products against reality, in the heat of actual war.

Innovations in Armor

If anything in this effort is successful at all, the success can be ascribed to the traditionally high level of education and literacy of the Ukrainian population.  Ukrainians inherited from the Soviet Union a legacy of science, technology, and especially engineering.  Ukraine was at the heart of the Soviet military-industrial complex.  This legacy still exists, but is already fading rapidly, as the Ukraine de-industrializes, her economy in free fall; and her once great education system degenerating before our very eyes.

Despite all of this, there are Ukrainians who, fueled by a passionate nationalist ideology, are determined to make their country great again, via personal achievements in innovation.  Volchenko goes on to discuss the situation of armored technology in the Ukrainian war on the Eastern front.  Emphasis is on the repair and refitting of old Soviet tanks; and on the armoring of civilian vehicles.  Ukrainian nationalists have boasted new innovator products such as the “Azovets”, a tank created for urban warfare.

Russian “Platform M” robotic tank

Another product which raised eyebrows in Russian military circles was the so-called “First People’s Tank”, an ambitious robotic device designed to compete against its Russian counterpart “Platform M”.  The Ukrainian device is designed to be small and carry a variety of weapons.  Ukrainian volunteers attempted to build their own version from donated funds.  They estimated they needed 270,000 hryvnas (approx $10,000 U.S. dollars), but were only able to raise 73% of the money needed.  Meanwhile, the lead engineer on the team, Valery Prud, a native of Nikolaev, has evolved politically since those days, and now is busy organizing meetings in his home town to protest against the rise of prices for public services.

Valery Prud led the team which tried to build the tank.

Ukrainian volunteers also devoted their resourcefulness to the creation of the so-called “Holy Nicholas”.  This was basically an armored ambulance, designed to carry the wounded from the front lines.  The Nicholas was developed at the old Soviet Nikolaevsk tank factory, now dubbed the “Mad Max Tank Factory” where neo-Nazi craftsmen from the Azov Battalation attempted to work over everything from old tanks to garbage trucks.  Readers, please to scroll through the photos in the piece I just linked.  These pictures tell the entire story of what has happened to the Ukraine in the past 25 years.  The reporter quotes factory foreman and Azov leader Bogdan Zvarych:

“We use a lot of the equipment that was left behind. During the Soviet Union they made these machines to work 50 years,” he says. “They’re still very good and very accurate. In the USSR, everything was like that. A very simple car should run. It runs shitty, it looks ugly, but it runs. And it will run for 50 years.”

Soviet BTR-70 armored personnel carrier

Ukrainian nationalists were apparently born without a sense of irony.  Since it never seems to occur to men like Zvarych that the “bloody Communist” system which they hate so much, created technology to run for 50 years; whereas all that the “new men” like Zvarych are capable of, is scavenging used parts from a past which they deride.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world where the scavenging Hyenas spit on the Lion, the King of the Beasts, while helping themselves to his leftovers.

Needless to say, the “Holy Nicholas” which was patched together, like a Frankenstein monster, from old Soviet BTR-70 tanks; and which was celebrated publicly by the victors of the Maidan, President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenuk, as they cracked a champagne bottle and sent the monster out to the front lines — needless to say, this misgotten creature failed in the most epic manner under actual conditions of actual reality.  This engineering marvel could barely move and kept breaking down.  Basically, it was not able to keep running in real time for even 50 minutes, let alone 50 years.  As Star Trek’s Helmsman Geordi La Forge might have rebuked Zvarych:  “You’re not very smart.  You can’t make it go.”

And so much for “innovations” in the world of armor.  But what about the vaunted Ukrainian expertise in the world of cyber warfare?

[to be continued]

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Can Ukraine Offer The World Hobbyist Military Technology? – Part I

Dear Readers:

I saw this very interesting piece in VZGLIAD, written by Nikita Volchenko.  One of the (perhaps unintended) consequences of the Maidan putsch of 2014 was the explosive growth of military hobby-ism and amateur creativity among Ukrainian volunteers.  Even as Ukraine sheds its vast industrial base and military-industrial complex inherited from the Soviet Union, garage-enthuasiasts are constantly developing new prototypes – everything from home-built tanks to drones.  The stated purpose of these hobbyists and their bread-boarded creations is to defeat the mighty Russian army, which is supposedly invading Ukraine every minute of the day.  But, political backstory aside, Volchenko wonders if there is any future in the notion of creating an amateur military-industrial complex?  Is this something that Russia should take note of, perhaps even try to emulate?

Fantasies about little people defeating a giant military machine, go back at least as far as the David and Goliath myth, and probably farther.  This type of myth is particular catnip to Millenial Youth raised on movies like “Star Wars”.  Where fuzzy forest creatures defeat rocket ships full of Imperial Stormtroopers using only pointed sticks or, say, improvised catapults made of logs.

On the one hand, it is ludicrous to believe that, say, a dogsled plated with sheets of hand-soldered steel can stand up to a modern Russian tank.  On the other hand, amateur creations, throughout time, have proved to be militarily useful; and hobbyists have always played a role in war.  One need only think of Ham Radio enthusiasts and their contributions in World War II.

Hedy Lamarr as Delilah

Think too of  Hollywood superstar Hedy Lamarr, who practically invented the military application of wireless communications.  Interestingly enough, the Austrian-born glam-doll portrayed sexy Delilah in the Hollywood film based on the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah.  A story which also riffs on the myth of the lone individual (=Samson) crafting various ingenious methods of bringing down a big army, in this case the Philistines.  While Samson was not necessarily known for his skills with the slingshot, he did invent a nifty anti-Philistine-farmer device known as “Firefox” technology.  To wit (Judges 15:4,5):

So Samson went out, caught 300 foxes, grabbed some torches, tied the foxes together in pairs at their tails, and fastened a torch between each pair of tails.

When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves.

Early Firefox technology

Several foxes were harmed in this process, it goes without saying.

While Samson possessed enough genocidal cunning to make both philistines and animal-lovers cringe, Hedy Lamarr, the more intellectual of the two individualists, developed a radio guidance system which helped the Allies win the war against Nazi Germany.  A descendant of this technology is known today as “Bluetooth”, and is used in virtually every modern device carried by every modern teenager!  But leaving Bible Studies behind, and returning to our Ukrainian story:

Volchenko writes that the crisis of statehood which has torn the Ukraine apart, has led to the following scenario:  A dying economy has forced many Ukrainians to leave their country in search of work.  Others remain and endure in silence, gritting their teeth and trying to survive.  Still others enthusiastically support the Nationalist government and assist the so-called “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against the Separatist areas of the Donbass.  This last impulse initially expressed itself as a movement of volunteers.  Enthuastically joining up with the “volunteer” Right Sektor militias and heading East with guns and rockets in hand, to suppress the rebellion.

Still other Ukrainians express their support for the Nationalist cause by sitting in their workshops and using their creative know-how to develop technologies for the anti-Separatist  militias.

[to be continued]

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American Army Revives Hitlerite Coalition Against Russia – Part IV

Dear Readers:

Today we finish this piece by reporters Marina Baltacheva and Mikhail Moshkin.  The thrust of much of the commentary was a lamenting for olden times, when the United States and Soviet Russia were allies against Nazi Germany.

In my contrarian manner, I pointed out that this temporary, conjunctory alliance during World War II did not make for a permanent alliance, let alone any kind of friendship.  But at least America was factually an ally during the War, however fleeting and two-faced.  Which cannot be said at all about the European nations which went on to form the European Union.  They were mostly enemies then, and remain enemies now, of Russia.  Hence, it is futile posturing, in my opinion, for Russia to attempt to win them over by appeals to a fictitious anti-Nazi past.  On the other hand, it is completely proper and necessary for Russian spokespersons, such as Maria Zakharova, to shame these nations with their own hypocrisy.  The fact remains, that the European countries, in their official Origins Stories, claim to have been anti-fascist resistors.  (Except for Germany, of course, which is officially penitent.)  They were nothing of the sort, but it is still a valid point to at least try to shame them with the openly neo-Nazi antics of their Baltic members.

Dmitry Linter

The VZGLIAD reporters interview Dmitri Linter, an Estonian human rights activist who participates in “pro-Russian” causes and opposes NATO’s provocative anti-Russia moves.  I linked Dmitri’s wiki page, which was clearly written by somebody who is hostile to him.  “For a long time now,” Linter says, “American troops under the aegis of NATO, have been conducting military exercises, in which neo-Nazi formations participate as well.”  According to Linter, these exercises rehearse a scenario, in which NATO troops, assisted by local neo-Nazi militias, attack Russia.  Most likely, an air-assisted ground invasion, preceded by a complete jamming of Russian radar.  As an example, Linter cites the annual war games called “Erna”, in which a minimum of 5 or 6, and even up to 20 countries participate.  These are mainly NATO countries, but one year, even China was invited.  This patriotic role-playing war game is named after the Nazi diversionary group called “Erna“.  Per wiki:

The Erna long-range reconnaissance group (Estonian: Erna luuregrupp) was a Finnish Army formation, of Estonian volunteers, that fulfilled reconnaissance duties in Estonia behind the Red Army lines during World War II. The unit was formed by Finnish military intelligence with the assistance of German military intelligence for reconnaissance operations.

Wiki goes on to recount how, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, in 1941, Finland entered the war on the German side.  Estonian emigres who had fled to Finland from the Soviet Union, were recruited into the Erna formation.  After the Soviets won the war, remnants of Erna scattered, but some joined the Estonian guerrilla movement known as the Forest Brothers, which continued partisan activities against the Soviet government.

Erna Reconnaissance group

The Estonian people bore a relatively light yoke under German occupation, which explains their current tolerance for neo-Nazi organizations and ideology.  As this Encyclopedia entry points out:  “The reasons for the relatively relaxed occupation regime in Estonia, compared with, for example, Latvia, include the fierce anti-Soviet sentiments of the Estonians, their higher standing in the German ‘race table’, the closeness of Finland, the civil and military double power, and the fact that Estonia was a strategically important rear area, a purveyor of agricultural products, and the producer of oil shale. Oil shale became increasingly important as Germany’s fuel deposits fell into the hands of the enemy.”

Linter points out that the neo-Nazi formations such as “Erna” and “Eesti Kaitseliit” (“Estonian Defense League“) are not just nostalgic role-playing organizations (like, say, American Civil War Reenactors).  These formations and para-militaries are components of the Estonian armed forces, and are constructed on the “ideological principle”.  The ideology itself appeals to the times of the Third Reich.  “I read Estonian and Latvian newspapers,” Linter says, “and to be sure, they technically have removed the Third Reich rhetoric.  But one of their press secretaries, who openly called to destroy their opponents specifically on the national, racial principle, was promoted a few years back.  Their ideology is very simple:  Russians are the enemies, and any Russians who live abroad [for example, in Estonia] are Putin’s Fifth Column.”

Hjalmar Mäe was the leader of Estonia during the German occupation.

Linter goes on to say that NATO is utilizing Estonians ever more effectively in their military reconnaissance and counter-espionage against Russia.  While all of this is going on, Estonian and NATO media hypes the idea that Russia is about to attack the Baltic nations.  The ensuing hysteria creates an atmosphere conducive to NATO troops settling in and making themselves at home for the long haul.  The end result:  NATO is occupying the same ecological niche in the region as formerly did the military forces of the Third Reich.  And playing the same game:  Recruiting local militias as volunteer units directed against Russia.

NATO Must Spend More Money

American citizens, in turn, are being told that their army selflessly “supports its allies” in the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe.  Recently American General Ben Hodges was in the region offering advice to the locals, how best to spend their defense dollars.  Lithunia and Poland have been particularly eager to raise their defense budgets in response to American demands.

At the beginning of February, just a few days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Lithuania signed an agreement with the U.S. to deploy more American troops on Lithuanian soil.

Is it all preordained to happen again, as before?

Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser declared last week that additional NATO troops are needed in the Baltics in order to “contain” the Russian threat.  With American tanks participating in recent Polish war games as well, this completes the picture of America settling into these countries and making itself at home.  Russia protests that it is no threat to its neighbors, but Russia’s arguments fall on deaf ears.

Anybody with eyes in their head can see that, if the current projectory is followed through to the end, these deployments will eventually lead to a NATO invasion of Russia, followed by a massive ground war.  It has happened before, and, unless somebody does something to prevent it, it seems bound to happen again.  There is not much that Russia can do at this conjuncture in history, except to prepare for war.  Meanwhile, America’s Baltic allies are like puppy-dog Rambos whining to their NATO superiors:  “Sir, do we get to win this time?”

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American Army Revives Hitlerite Coalition Against Russia – Part III

Dear Readers:

“Немало времени прошло с тех пор…”

Today we continue working through this piece in VZGLIAD  by co-authors Marina Baltacheva and Mikhail Moshkin.

The theme of today’s segment is “The Futility of Crying”.  Crying about a lost past; about a lost “friendship” which never actually existed; about a lost alliance which was false and deceptive from the beginning.  Crying about bridges which were supposedly built, and then torn down.

We mentioned how Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova wept the tears of Yaroslavna about the provocative actions of U.S. soldiers stationed in Poland and Estonia.  The soldiers were seen participating in local political events which are designed specifically to taunt Russia, as well as to put into question the entire post-World War II system of international law, and to redefine the roles of victors and vanquished in that war.

Zakharova argued that such activities do not shine a good light on American troops.  She calls upon them, instead of marching with local nationalists in the nations where they are stationed, instead to honor the memory of those who fell in the common endeavour to rid Europe of the “brown plague” of fascism.

President Eisenhower signs “Captive Nations” bill, as the Cold War rages.

This is all highly naive, of course, and I am sure that Zakharova knows that as well, and is just going through the motions of formal diplomatic language.  Perhaps intending to trap the Americans in a web of their own lies and contradictions.  Everybody knows the history:  Most of Europe did not particularly wither under Nazi occupation.  Many Europeans welcomed the Nazis and supported the local fascist political parties.  Resistance movements were mostly non-existent, and the ones which did exist, were, on the main, run by Communists.  It is true that Poland, as an exception, enjoyed a national-indigenous bourgeois anti-Nazi Resistance movement; but even they regarded the Germans as the lesser of two evils, compared to the Soviet Russians.

“Remembrance Day” of the Latvian Waffen SS Legionnaires

During the fighting part of the war, there was a military alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union.  That part is true.  But once Germany was defeated, the United States quickly turned on its former ally and launched the Cold War against the Soviet Union.  Americans smuggled Nazis out of Europe and supported fascist movements in Europe and all over the world.  The rewriting of history began on the very day the war ended!

Zakharova knows all of this history, she knows that Americans are just doing what Americans do:  Support any group of people who have a bone to pick with Russia.

But What About Europe?

It isn’t just Americans, of course.  The European Union actually started, and is deep into, the lateest round of this game:  Taunting Russia by waving brown shirts, as Russian Parliamentary Deputy Leonid Kalashnikov points out:

Leonid Kalashnikov

“The EU has long been playing footsie with these anti-Russian elements, not just applauding the parades of nationalists, but even the SS Legionnaire marches [in Latvia].  And now the Americans have started doing this too, but in conjunction with certain other events; namely, bringing troops in and introducing new technology and hardware for, as they put it, the future rotation.”  Kalashnikov continues his complaint:  “Currently, the U.S. is playing to these nationalist tendencies which, 25 years ago, carved for themselves an already well-trodden path in the Baltic countries.  It will be a real pity of this tendency continues.  Even sadder is the fact that the Soviet Union and the United States were allies during World War II, along with a series of European countries which, judging by what we see today, have forgotten all about that.”

Again, Kalashnikov is being naive.  Or perhaps disingenuous.  He is a smart man, and it is unlikely that he actually believes that the U.S. and Europe were sincere allies of the Soviet Union against Hitler.  More like conjunctural, or temporary, allies!  And that’s just the U.S.  Most of Europe was allied with Nazi Germany during the war, and probably half the population of each nation was quite happy to be under the fascist boot.  Hence, it’s not like they have actually “forgotten” about this past.  More like, waiting for the opportunity to show their true colors and celebrate this past.

“Russia needs to express its protest,” Kalashnikov concluded.  “What else can we do?  They need to be held accountable.”

Vladimir Lukin

Another commentator, Vladimir Lukin, expressed similar sentiments, combining historical naivete with nostalgia for past alliances.  Lukin is a Russian Liberal politician who served as Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. during the height of the Yeltsin administration (1992-1994).  As a founder of the Liberal Yabloko Party, Lukin is well known for his pro-West views.  He regards the West as a pinnacle of democracy, and a civilization for Russia to emulate.  That’s okay.  Lukin is more or less a Russian patriot, he wants what is good for Russia, and he is entitled to his political views.  Like Kalashnikov, Lukin recalls nostalgically the “bridges” which were built between the two nations (Russia and the United States) during World War II.  Through rose-colored glasses he remembers a past in which Americans and Russians fought side by side against the plague of Nazism.  “And now to blow up those bridges,” he laments, ” is an empty and unnecessary thing to do.  Impediments and barriers, [past] tragedies should remain in the past, and we should be concentrating on finding ways to peace and cooperation.  Therefore I am opposed to this situation, in which people are blowing up the bridges forged during the Second World War.”

[to be continued]

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American Army Revives Hitlerite Coalition Against Russia – Part II

Dear Readers:

Continuing this piece in VZGLIAD  from a couple of days ago, the co-authors being Marina Baltacheva and Mikhail Moshkin.

Recall that Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is harshly critical of the participation of American soldiers in the recent Polish torchlight march honoring the so-called “Cursed Soldiers” of the Polish Home Army in World War II.  The Soviet/Russian narrative is completely different from the standard Polish narrative when it comes to these historical events.  It’s almost like two different realities.  Zakharova feels that it is incorrect for the American government to adopt the Polish narrative on these events, especially since, technically, the U.S. was allied with Soviet Russia during World War II and signed on to the postwar world order that ensued, following Allied victory.

Russians and Swedes fight over Narva.

Zakharova goes on to criticize analogous American provocations in Narva.  Narva is the third largest city in Estonia.  Located on a historical trade route dating back as far as human settlements go, multi-ethnic Narva has been under every possible jurisdiction:  the Hanseatic League, the Livonians, the Swedes, the Russians.  Peter the Great conquered Narva in 1704, and it formed a part of the Saint Petersburg Governate.  Narva remained under Russian jurisdiction until July 1917, this was in between the two Russian Revolutions, and Narvans voted in a referendum to split from Russia and join the new autonomous Republic of Estonia.  At this point in time, Narva was divided equally into two ethnic groups:  Russians, who are Slavs; and Estonians, who are Finno-Ugrics, closely related to Finns.

Nazis create a loyal Estonian Legion.

During World War II, Estonia formed part of the German Reich.  All accounts seem to indicate that ethnic Estonians were very contented living under German jurisdiction, and that the Germans didn’t harm them in any way.  But the war did not leave them untouched.  Heavy fighting between German and Soviet troops completely destroyed the city of Narva.  In the end, the Soviets won the war, drove the Germans out, and incorporated Estonia as a Union Republic.  During the Soviet period, with all the rebuilding, the economic development and industrialization, the ethnic composition of Narva changed in favor of the Slavs.  The Russian language became the dominant lingua franca, even among non-Russians.  After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Estonia became an independent state in 1991.  In 1999 it joined the NATO alliance, now becoming an American protectorate.  Under “independence”, as in the other Baltic states, the titular ethnic population continues to decrease, to the point where there is barely enough population to sustain a titular state.  The root cause is the capitalist shock therapy and de-industrialization.   But that’s a whole n’other story.  Returning to Narva:

According to wiki, as of 2013, Narva’s population was 62,078 souls.  Of these, 93.85% speak Russian as their preferred language; and 82% are actual ethnic Russians.  In other words, Narva is a Russian city, and has been so for many decades.

There is still this little matter of a border dispute between Russia and Estonia.  The story is too long to go into here, but the Reader’s Digest version:

When Estonia regained its independence in 1991, the new capitalist government decided to trace its legitimacy back to the interwar bourgeois government (1920-1939).  That government based its territorial claims on the Treaty of Tartu (1920), under which the border between Russia and Estonia runs a certain way.  However, the Russian Federation, which is the successor state to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, likewise regards Estonia as the successor state to the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.  Under which the border between Russia and Estonia runs a certain way.  Based on which way one draws the border, there is a slice of Narva which is either Estonian or Russian property.

Teutonic Knights: “All these Baltics are belong to me!”

The border between the two countries is mostly the Narva River itself.  On the Russian side of the river stands the medieval Ivangorod (=”Ivan-City”) Fortress, built by Russian Grand Prince Ivan III (who was the grandpapa of Ivan the Awesome) in 1492.  That was the same year in which Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue!  Ivan’s purpose in building the fortress was to send a message to the Teutonic Order of Knights that Russia has a right to access to the Baltic Sea!  The Teutonic Knights did not necessarily agree with that philosophy, and they were known for wearing crazy-ass helmets  to display their disapproval.

Ivangorod Fortress on the Narva River

Technically, modern Estonia does not dispute the Russian version of where the border lies, but when time came (in 2005) to sign a once-and-for-all border treaty between these two ancient foes, the Estonians threw in a poison pill about admitting “Soviet occupation” of Estonia.  As a result, Russia could not ratify the treaty.  Since doing so would be seen as a legal admission that Russia was at fault, and forced to pay reparations to Estonia for the 50-year Soviet “occupation”.  This could have also had a domino effect, leading to the eventual rebuttal of the Soviet victory during World War II and even brought into question the Nuremberg Trials and the entire post-war system of international law based on the definitions of Victors and Vanquished.

Since Russia could not ratify the border treaty, there remains, technically, a “dispute” about the border.  Estonians nationalists like to use this fact to taunt the Russians.  Zakharova complained about this in her remarks:

“And from the same series:  This crusade on foot towards the East – to Narva.  A crusade which ended with the demonstrative photographing of Estonian and American soldiers on the background of the Ivangorod Fortress.  A Fortress which happens to be on our side of the border!”

This is the photo which upset Maria so much:  It depicts American soldiers posing just yards from Russia’s Ivangorod Fortress.  The message sent could not be more clear if it was laminated in plastic:  America and NATO regard this territory as their own, and are willing to go to war to claim it.

 

[to be continued]

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