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  • Archive for the 'Russia' Category

    On Russia and Ukraine

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th November 2014 (All posts by )

    For many years I’ve studied the Russian front during WW2, where the Germans and their allies battled the Russians (and their empire) in some of the largest and deadliest battles on earth. The war went far beyond the battlefield, with the Russians taking over the ancient German capital of Prussia, evicting / killing all the (remaining) citizens, and turning it into today’s Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. This is fair desserts; the Germans planned to turn Moscow into a reservoir. That war was about annihilation, a complete extermination and permanent subjugation of their foes.

    In recent years I’ve tried to turn away from this focus, since I didn’t think that this conflict, ancient by modern standards, had much to teach us anymore, and just following along a well-worn narrative was teaching me nothing. And I did move on, reading about more modern conflicts, and today’s volunteer and high-tech military as opposed to the “old world” of conscripts, artillery, heavy armor, utter destruction of cities and the civilians trapped inside them, and political control superseding military objectives.

    The Russian armed forces also seemed to be gliding towards irrelevance, other than their ubiquitous nuclear weapons. Their performance in Chechnya was poor until they basically razed (their own) cities into ruin with heavy artillery fire; to this day I don’t understand why this wasn’t called out as a giant atrocity. In Georgia they were able to beat a tiny, poorly armed adversary, but their motorized divisions seemed to be driving by compass and they did not cover themselves in military glory. Their military transitions from conscript forces with older weapons and tactics also seemed to be foundering in the face of objections from old-line military-industrial complexes.

    When Ukraine slipped out of Russia’s orbit and the vast presidential compound of the ex-president was paraded on TV worldwide, Putin obviously viewed this as a direct threat to his authority. The Russians historically had been at odds with the Ukrainians over natural gas prices and on other topics, but it wasn’t obvious that this was going to move into a warlike situation. Ukraine is rich with agricultural resources but these resources aren’t prized by the Kremlin; they need easily extractable resources like oil, natural gas and various iron ores that they can pull out of the ground and sell for hard cash overseas. John McCain’s recurring joke that Russia isn’t much more than a gas station with nuclear weapons in fact has a lot of merit. Other than around Moscow, parts of St Petersburg, and in “showplace” locations like Sochi and Vladivostok Russia in fact was falling into ruin and shambles.

    But something was happening; the Russian forces that invaded the Crimea (even though they were never formally identified as Russians) appeared to be well organized and well armed. It was not the “Keystone Cops” group that I might have expected. They handled themselves with relative distinction, fulfilling their objectives with limited civilian casualties and using discretion against the Ukrainian military forces they encountered. This was the complete opposite of the blundering incursions into Chechnya.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Economics & Finance, Military Affairs, Russia | 59 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 25th November 2014 (All posts by )

    A special Russia-focused issue of National Geographic, in 1914

    Does automation make people dumb?

    Strategies for dealing with randomness in business

    Labor market fluidity in the US seems to be declining

    There are very different reactions to the waving of an Isis flag and the waving of an Israeli flag at Berkeley

    Strategies for dealing with toxic people

    Czars as political officers

    Two princes:  Machievelli’s Il Principe and Antoine de St-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince

    “Speaking Truth to Power.”  A great post by Sarah Hoyt on the way this expression is being used:

    One of the most fascinating conceits of our ruling powerful elites — be they in entertainment, politics, governance, jurisprudence or news reporting — is the often repeated assertion of being some kind of underdog “speaking truth to power.” This comes with the concomitant illusion that anyone opposing them is paid by powerful interests.

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Business, History, Human Behavior, Management, Politics, Russia, Tech | 13 Comments »

    Theme: Totalitarianism and the Fully Politicized Society

    Posted by David Foster on 20th November 2014 (All posts by )

    As Jonathan pointed out here, one problem with the blog format is that worthwhile posts tend to fade into the background over time, even when they might be of continuing value.  One approach I’d like to try is Theme roundups, in which I’ll select a number of previous posts on a common topic or set of related topics, and link them with brief introductory sentences or paragraphs.  At least initially, I’ll focus on my own posts.

    The posts in this first “theme”  roundup focus on the nature of the politically-dominated society, ranging from the effects of extreme political correctness in America and Europe today to the nature of life under absolutist totalitarianism.

    Stasiland.  Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, author Anna Funder traveled to the previous East Germany to interview both those who had lived under Communist oppression and the perpetrators of that oppression.

    The Nature of Dictatorships.  Thoughts from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, maker of the excellent film The Lives of Others, which is set in Communist East Germany.

    Prefiguring the Hacker…and the American Surveillance Society. A 1953 science fiction story, Sam Hall.

    Eric Hoffer on the destruction of individualism. “Even in the freest society power is charged with the impulse to turn men into precise, predictable automata. When watching men of power in action it must be always kept in mind that, whether they know it or not, their main purpose is the elimination or neutralization of the independent individual – the independent voter, consumer, worker, owner, thinker – and that every device they employ aims at turning man into a manipulatable ‘animated instrument,’ which is Aristotle’s definition of a slave.”

    Bitter Waters.  A Stalin-era Soviet factory manager writes about his experiences.  Describing the chaos into which the Russian lumber industry had been thrown by Soviet central planning:  “Such is the immutable law. The forceful subordination of life’s variety into a single mold will be avenged by that variety’s becoming nothing but chaos and disorder.”

    Rose Wilder Lane.  The author and political thinker describes a debate she had with a Russian village leader, back in 1919 when she was still a Communist, about the centrally planned society.   “It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.”

    The mentality of the totalitarian revolutionary.  Thoughts from the Russian writer of Dr Zhivago, Boris Pasternak.

    Life in the fully politicized society.  Michelle Obama explains what Barack Obama wants to make you do, Sebastian Haffner writes about those 1920s and 1930s Germans who needed to have “the entire content of their lives…all the raw material for their deeper emotions”  delivered gratis by the public sphere, and Ayn Rand paints a vivid picture (based on personal experience) of the dreariness of living in a society in which everything is political.

    Life in the fully politicized society, continued.  Even Maureen Dowd may be finding limits as to how much politicization of art she wants to see.

    The bitter wastes of politicized America.  “The best way to hold a large group of people together is to make them feel as if everyone else is out to get them.  The most effective political adhesives are distilled from hatred and distrust.  People who disagree with your agenda are “attacking” you or “robbing” you…When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension.  It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends.  They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on.  That’s not a good thing.”

    “But would you want your daughter to marry one?”  Americans increasingly say they would be displeased if their son or daughter were to marry a supporter of the opposing political party.

    Deconstructing a Nazi death sentence.  The text of the justification for the sentence passed on three members of the White Rose resistance group provides useful insight into the totalitarian mind.  (The link to the transcript in the post doesn’t work anymore; use this instead)

    Defying Hitler. This important and well-written (but mis-titled) memoir deals mainly with the social environment in Germany prior to the Nazi takeover, but the latter part of the book demonstrates what life was like under a new totalitarianism that was rapidly tightening its grip. The section about the author’s father–who was given the choice of either endorsing political opinions he did not share or losing his pension and being reduced to destitution, along with his family–is painful to read and is unpleasantly reminiscent of certain recent events in America today.

    The party of paranoia, racial obsession, and totalitarian thinking. Link to a post by Daniel Greenfield, aka Sultan Knish, in which he explains the nature of today’s Democratic Party.

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Europe, Germany, History, Leftism, Politics, Russia, Society, USA | 15 Comments »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed From a Soviet Launch Facility

    Posted by David Foster on 19th October 2014 (All posts by )

    (rerun)

    This month marks the 52nd anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    A couple of years ago,  I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I’m still hoping to get around to reviewing one of these days.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

    Chertok, who at this point was apparently viewing the Cuban affair as a flash in the pan that would be resolved short of war, was concerned that moving the Mars rocket would cause them to miss their October 29 launch date, and suggested that the swap of the rockets be delayed for a few hours. Kirillov told him that this was impossible, and that he should go to the “Marshal’s cottage,” where some of his associates wanted to see him. Chertok’s response:

    Yes, sir! You’re in charge! But, Anatoliy Semyonovich! Just between you and me—do you have the courage to give the ‘Launch!’ command, knowing full well that this means not just the death of hundreds of thousands from that specific thermonuclear warhead, but perhaps the beginning of the end for everyone? You commanded a battery at the front, and when you shouted ‘Fire!’ that was quite another matter.

    Kirillov:

    There’s no need to torment me. I am a soldier now; I carry out an order just as I did at the front. A missile officer just like me, not a Kirillov, but some Jones or other, is standing at a periscope and waiting for the order to give the ‘Launch!’ command against Moscow or our firing range. Therefore, I advise you to hurry over to the cottage.

    At the cottage, four men were seated at a table playing cards while a fifth was trying to glean the latest news from a radio and Lena, the housekeeper, was in the kitchen drying wine glasses. It was suggested that since Chertok didn’t like playing cards, he should help Lena fix the drinks. This involved a watermelon and lots of cognac.

    I took the enormous watermelon and two bottles of cognac out of the fridge. When everything was ready, we heard a report that U.N. Secretary General U Thant had sent personal messages to Khrushchev and Kennedy. Once again, Voskresenskiy took the initiative and proposed the first toast: “To the health of U Thant, and may God grant that this not be our last drink!” This time we all drank down our toast in silence and very solemnly, realizing how close we now were to a situation in which this cognac and this watermelon could be our last.

    Still hoping to avoid the cancellation of the Mars mission, Chertok went to another cottage and, with considerable difficulty, made a forbidden call to S P Korolev, overall head of the Soviet rocket program, who was then in Moscow. Korolev told him that things were being taken care of and not to worry.

    It was already dark when I returned to the Marshal’s cottage. On the road, a Gazik came to an abrupt halt. Kirillov jumped out of it, saw me, swept me up in a hug, and practically screamed: “All clear!” We burst into the cottage and demanded that they pour “not our last drink,” but alas! The bottles were empty. While everyone excitedly discussed the historic significance of the “All clear” command, Lena brought out a bottle of “three star” cognac from some secret stash. Once again the Mars rockets were waiting for us at the launch site and in the MIK.

    Reflecting on the crisis many years later, Chertok wrote:

    Few had been aware of the actual threat of a potential nuclear missile war at that time. In any event, one did not see the usual lines for salt, matches, and kerosene that form during the threat of war. Life continued with its usual day-to-day joys, woes, and cares. When the world really was on the verge of a nuclear catastrophe, only a very small number of people in the USSR and the United States realized it. Khrushchev and Kennedy exercised restraint and did not give in to their emotions. Moreover, the military leaders of both sides did not display any independent initiative nor did they deviate at all from the orders of their respective heads of state. Very likely, Khrushchev wasn’t just guided by the pursuit of peace “at any cost.” He knew that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was many times greater than ours. The Cubans did not know this and viewed Moscow’s order to call off missile preparation and dismantle the launch sites as a betrayal of Cuba’s interests. President Kennedy had no doubt as to the United States’ nuclear supremacy. The possibility of a single nuclear warhead striking New York kept him from starting a nuclear war. Indeed, this could have been the warhead on the R-7A missile that they didn’t roll out of the MIK to the pad at Site No. 1.

    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Russia, Space, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    The ghost at all our feasts: three lectures by Adam Tooze

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 11th September 2014 (All posts by )

    One of Zenpundit’s most influential book recommendations for me was The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam ToozeWages of Destruction made most other books on the Nazi complicated run German economy of 1920-1945 look infantile. I read Tooze’s newest book The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order 1916-1931 over July. A review is in the works. While you stay up nights waiting for that, Tooze gave three lectures at Stanford University’s Europe Center worth absorbing based on The Deluge:

    1. Making Peace in Europe 1917-1919: Brest-Litovsk and Versailles
    2. Hegemony: Europe, America and the problem of financial reconstruction, 1916-1933
    3. Unsettled Lands: the interwar crisis of agrarian Europe

    The rise of the American empire 1849-1922 is the great question of our time.

    [Cross-posted on Zenpundit]

    Posted in Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, History, Russia, Tradeoffs | 6 Comments »

    Ukraine as an arms exporter

    Posted by onparkstreet on 2nd September 2014 (All posts by )

    From a comment I wrote at SWJ. The part about Churchill is not directed at anyone here, or toward any of the recent posts. It occurs in my comment because of the heated rhetoric used about Ukraine by some:

    “Ukraine a top small arms exporter?

    Ah, yes, I remember well Churchill’s fiery speeches on Ukrainian small arms exports….

    It’s almost like the majority of western foreign policy commentators, think tank analysts, the NYT, the Washington Post, every “fearful of being ostracized by the in-crowd” crony for the DC consensus, are completely and utterly full of it. (Well, not everybody, naturally):

    Ukraine, unlike many other successor states of the Soviet Union, inherited a large and sophisticated defense industry when the USSR fell apart. It exports $1.3 billion worth of arms annually and according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute was the ninth largest arms exporter in the world between 2008 and 2012.
    BREAK
    The military in Ukraine has suffered from the same neglect and mismanagement as the rest of the country. Ukrainian military personnel have taken part in coalition operations in the Balkans and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ukrainian officers have attended professional military educational institutions in the United States and other NATO countries. Over the years, in meetings with Ukrainian officers, I have seen the beneficial impact on them from this experience. But the fact remains that the military, like many other Ukrainian institutions, has suffered at the hands of a crony capitalist state dominated by a corrupt elite with little interest in state- or nation-building, but plenty of interest in enriching itself.
    .
    Ukraine needs help, but the kind of help it needs cannot be reduced to shipments of military hardware. It needs to reform its armed forces and its law enforcement. The conflict with Russia remains a threat, but the bigger and immediate threat is the proliferation of militias, gangs and separatists in eastern Ukraine, where effective action by a competent police force loyal to the state and the nation could have prevented the tragedy that is unfolding there now. Many law enforcement personnel were cashiered en masse following the revolution. That has created a security vacuum and, one suspects, provided plenty of able recruits to help fill the separatists’ ranks.

    Link

    Bremer II and the disbanded Iraqi Army.

    The US/NATO and EU make a play for Ukraine–which has been going on for twenty years in a mixed up way with genuine desire to help the state–and has only enabled this process, hasn’t it? Just as in Afghanistan, so too in Ukraine.

    Perhaps official DC is simply embarrassed by its serial failures since the end of the Cold War and wanted a “win” at any cost? That the Russians were more realistic about their proxies doesn’t mean that the answer is now for the US to shovel more aid toward our proxies. The poor Ukrainian people, but, then again, this is what happens when corrupt elites (and well meaning internal and external modernizers) are encouraged by outsiders with fantasies of using the Ukrainian state for its own power plays and expansionism.

    In a multifactorial world, why can’t we talk about the multiple factors in Russia, Ukraine, and the US/EU/NATO that have all led toward this point? I suppose propagandizers can’t use real understanding to grandstand, so they simplify.”

    Posted in International Affairs, Military Affairs, Russia, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Rhetoric Versus Reality

    Posted by onparkstreet on 28th August 2014 (All posts by )

    ZAPORIZHIA, UKRAINE — Deep into a conflict that has sundered decades-old ties between Ukraine and Russia, Ukraine is still selling military gear over the border to its neighbor, Ukrainian defense industry officials say.

    Ukraine’s new leaders have vowed to stop the flow of these defense products, which include key parts for ship engines, advanced targeting technology for tanks and upkeep for Russia’s heaviest nuclear missiles. New laws passed this week bolster their powers to do so. Kiev says helping to arm Russia is tantamount to equipping an enemy during wartime when Moscow is sending support to separatist rebels, a charge the Kremlin has denied.

    Those factories have employees and employers, and, as in any country, might have different interests regarding neighbors compared to the west of the country.

    Link

    Raytheon, MSPO 2013
    June 30/14: Finalists. Poland’s MON announces the Wisla program’s finalists: Raytheon’s ‘PATRIOT with options’ offer, and EuroSAM’s SAMP/T Mamba system that uses the Aster-30.
    Poland won’t become part of the MEADS program, nor will it buy Israel’s David’s Sling. The 2-stage technical dialogue led Poland to conclude that they required an operational system that is deployed by NATO countries.

    NATO expansion insures that certain military suppliers will not only gain contracts, but that those contracts are more likely to go to certain countries given the nature of the political situation.

    Link

    Poland’s agriculture minister went on television to announce the country was taking action against Russia’s new import ban. “We believe Russia has broken international law in both its embargo against Poland and its embargo against the EU,” Marek Sawicki said.

    Greece also hard-hit

    Although about 70 percent of the Russian population approve of its sanctions, Pickett said the odds are good that the complex WTO mechanism will uphold Poland’s complaint.
    “In my view, war-like conditions must either prevail or be imminent. Russia argues that this is a matter of food safety. I doubt that will be legally sufficient.”

    Lithuania, Germany and Greece also benefit from trade with Russia: Last year, Germany exported agricultural products worth almost 600 million euros, while Lithuania sold more than 900 million euros of food to Russia. Greek farmers export large quantities of peaches and fish, especially during the summer months.

    According to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” daily, if the WTO mechanisms do not work, or do not take effect quickly enough, this could mean a loss of 178 million euros for Greek vegetable and fruit farmers. Athens has therefore already begun to hold bilateral negotiations with Moscow.

    Russia is a threat, but apparently a threat with coffers to be filled by the very states asking for protection. Perhaps the world is more complicated than white hats versus black hats and requires a more careful understanding.

    PS: I have tried to change the formatting. I think the problem is copy and paste but when I go back and try and change it, it still doesn’t work. The main problem is lack of time, really. Sorry, Jonathan. I know you like to run a clean and tidy ship :)

    [Jonathan adds: No worries :)) ]

    Link

    Posted in Current Events, Russia, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    The Calendar is Still Not Omnipotent

    Posted by David Foster on 25th August 2014 (All posts by )

    Barack Obama responded to the murder by ISIS/ISIL of James Foley by stating, among other things, that “a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.”

    Which paralleled his lecture about Vlad Putin’s actions, earlier this year:  “…because you’re bigger and stronger taking a piece of the country – that is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century.”  Hey, what are you going to believe–Obama’s theories, or your lying eyes?

    My response here to Obama’s comments concerning Putin are equally applicable to his more recent statement concerning ISIS/ISIL, aka the Islamic State…

    The idea that the mere passage of time has some automatic magical effect on national behavior…on human behavior…is simplistic, and more than a little odd.  I don’t know how much history Obama and Kerry actually studied during their college years, but 100 years ago..in early 1914…there were many, many people convinced that a major war could not happen…because we were now in the twentieth century, with international trade and with railroads and steamships and telegraph networks and electric lights and all. And just 25 years after that, quite a few people refused to believe that concentration camps devoted to systematic murder could exist in the advanced mid-20th century, in the heart of Europe.

    Especially simplistic is the idea that, because there had been no military territory-grabs by first-rank powers for a long time, that the era of such territory-grabs was over. George Eliot neatly disposed of this idea many years ago, in a passage in her novel Silas Marner:

    The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent.

    Or, as Mark Steyn put it much more recently:

    ‘Stability’ is a surface illusion, like a frozen river: underneath, the currents are moving, and to the casual observer the ice looks equally ‘stable’ whether there’s a foot of it or just two inches. There is no status quo in world affairs: ‘stability’ is a fancy term to dignify laziness and complacency as sophistication.

    Obama also frequently refers to the Cold War, and argues that it is in the past. But the pursuit of force-based territorial gain by nations long predates the Cold War, and it has not always had much to do with economic rationality. The medieval baron with designs on his neighbor’s land didn’t necessarily care about improving his own standard of living, let alone that of his peasants–what he was after, in many cases, was mainly the ego charge of being top dog.

    Human nature was not repealed by the existence of steam engines and electricity in 1914…nor even by the broad Western acceptance of Christianity in that year…nor is it repealed in 2014 by computers and the Internet or by sermons about “multiculturalism” and bumper stickers calling for “coexistence.”

    American Digest just linked a very interesting analysis of the famous “long telegram” sent by George Kennan in 1947: George Kennan, Vladimir Putin, and the Appetites of Men. In this document, Kennan argued that Soviet behavior must be understood not only through the prism of Communist ideology, but also in terms of the desire of leaders to establish and maintain personal power.

    Regarding the current Russian/Crimean situation, the author of the linked article (Tod Worner) says:

    In the current crisis, many will quibble about the historical, geopolitical complexities surrounding the relationship between Russia, Ukraine and Crimea. They will debate whether Crimea’s former inclusion in the Russian Empire or Crimea’s restive Russian population justifies secession especially with a strong Russian hand involved. Papers will be written. Conferences will be convened. Experts will be consulted. Perhaps these are all prudent and thoughtful notions to consider and actions to undertake. Perhaps.

    But perhaps we should, like George Kennan, return to the same questions we have been asking about human nature since the beginning of time. Maybe we are, at times, overthinking things. Perhaps we would do well to step back and consider something more fundamental, something more base, something more reliable than the calculus of geopolitics and ideology…Perhaps we ignore the simple math that is often before our very eyes. May we open our eyes to the appetites of men.

    Posted in Holidays, Human Behavior, Leftism, Middle East, Obama, Russia, Terrorism, War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    Don’t Buy Any of It….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 3rd August 2014 (All posts by )

    From a comment I left at SWJ:

    “Thank you for writing a piece that is thoughtful, rational and calm. How difficult it has been to find a calm voice.
     
    The hysteria surrounding this tragic incident and the rush to politicize the incident by various stakeholders on all sides-Russian, Ukrainian, American, various militaries and NATO–is dishonest and dangerous.
     
    I met someone who was on the Lockerbie flight, if only briefly. A favorite novelist of mine once wrote that a character who had just lost a child was “living the curious aftermath of a life.” What pain for the families, what they must be suffering.
     
    Some days ago, I posted an article from June discussing the poor equipping and training of the Ukrainian border forces and how material was crossing the border. I had asked, “if this is a crisis of sovereignty, why is everyone so silent about this and discussing everything else?” And now I find this article:
     
    From May 7:

    The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine used Pentagon money to go shopping in Kiev for supplies, including concertina wire for Ukraine’s ill-equipped border guards, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
    The Defense Department funds also bought fuel pumps, car batteries, spare parts, binoculars and communications gear for the guards, who would be the first line of defense if the 40,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders invaded.
     
    Embassy personnel bought the goods locally in Kiev, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.
     
    Warren did not have an initial cost estimate for the supplies, but Evelyn Farkas, a deputy assistant defense secretary, told Congress that the Defense Department has given Ukraine’s military and border guards a total of $18 million in non-lethal aid to date.
     
    In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Farkas said that Ukraine’s requests for additional aid “vastly outstrips our abilities to meet them.”

     
    Link
     
    We spent how many BILLIONS on”democracy promotion” in Ukraine already? And now Americans struggling with a flat economy and uncertain economic prospects have to scrape together nickels and dimes for more when Ukraine is awash with wealthy oligarchs and Europe has a collective GDP that parallels the US?
     
    So this is the great crisis that requires a new Cold War? I don’t buy any of it.
     
    1. I don’t believe NATO – a bureaucracy fishing for funds and increased prominence after the Afghanistan drawdown.
    2. I don’t believe hawkish Senators that are grandstanding for votes or who have emotional problems with buckling down and doing the nation’s work and prefer strange pseudo-ideologic crusades.
    3. I don’t believe a President that is looking for a foreign policy win.
    4. I don’t believe a Pentagon–or an Army–still looking to milk the American people for their own needs. Missiles in Poland! Oh, please.
    5. I don’t believe ‘independent’ analysts–or their contractor and arms selling friends–bought and paid for.
    6. I don’t buy the Michael McFaul, retired military Cold Warriors that look at the world through ideological lenses and think the world is a playground for regime change and democracy promotion.
    7. I don’t buy the Special Forces hype that see everything as an unconventional war to be countered by training troops, regardless of the strategic wisdom of doing so.
    8. I don’t buy the British Chatham House crew, the Polish right, the American transatlanticists and the NATOists that are only concerned with harnessing American power for their own personal or national or ideological or money-making reasons.
    9. I don’t buy the middle aged nostalgics for the Cold War and the armchair warriors that view war as a game, an entertainment for boring everyday lives.
    10. I don’t buy the neoconservatives who are trying to derail an Iran deal with the Ukraine crisis.
    11. I don’t buy the State Department line. State has never gotten over the Cold War and thus its attitudes toward Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and Eastern European nations that it hasn’t helped on any level because they are still so dependent on outside funds.
     
    Elements within Russia, the US, Ukraine, the EU/NATO “axis” are all grandstanding and maneuvering for their own selfish interests.
     
    If anyone in the vaunted West really cared, the borders would have been the first thing worked on decades ago. And I don’t buy that it’s all just lack of funding. Oligarchs have money. They also like to bring in outside money from Russia and the West and pocket a bit of it and some people might not mind porous borders, if you get my drift. Which no one will because no one really cares.
     
    I don’t trust people that talk about unconventional warfare and can’t even be bothered to vet the experts they cite, experts like Michael McFaul or Anne Applebaum. I don’t know if people are stupid, dishonest, ideologues, unwilling to think new thoughts, or what. But I don’t have to buy any of it.
     
    Don’t start World War III, Washington Consensus, NATO, Russian hawks, and the rest of you. How will you be able to spend all those ill-gotten gains if you aren’t around for it to be spent?

    Posted in Current Events, National Security, Russia, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    A crisis of Sovereignty

    Posted by onparkstreet on 30th July 2014 (All posts by )

    A comment I made elsewhere:

    If Ukraine is a crisis of sovereignty, then how did the conversation switch to Putin-as-devil? Taking land is the worst of it, arms from outside the second worst of it, but early on, did our advice help or hurt the Ukrainians in asserting their sovereignty and creating a healthy state?
     
    In the Council, a commenter from Estonia I believe, said something along the lines of, “we told them to control the borders and grab Russian passports.”
     
    Ukrainian border patrol asked for help early on. Did they get it? The oligarchs that are in control raided the state and isn’t that partly why the border control doesn’t have the resources it needs? How did this issue of border control–and including ethnic Russians into the larger state order–become all about the US/NATO/EU and its battles with Russia?
     
    I worry about the Ukrainians–look what internationalizing the issue did to the Kashmiris. Just because outsiders want to help, doesn’t mean that their help will actually work.
     
    And how much of the NATO stuff is various constituencies using the crisis to get particular things, increasing budgets, directing the course of the EU. Some Eastern European nations are going to get big subsidies. What does this do to sovereignty and the ability to resist outside interference?

    I’ve been looking up articles on Border control and its hard because after a certain time period it’s all either US/NATO/EU propaganda, Russian propaganda, or Ukrainian propaganda fed to journalists that seem to dutifully pass it on….

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Russia | 2 Comments »

    How do You Say “Iran Air 655″ in Russian? — Try “Malaysia Air Flight MH17″

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 17th July 2014 (All posts by )

    It appears that the downing of Malaysia Air flight MH17 is Russian Federation President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s version of Iran Air 655. The accidental downing of a civilian airliner blundering into a combat situation and got knocked down by a surface to air missile. However, instead of the Aegis Cruiser USS Vincennes (CG-49), in a Persian Gulf firefight with Iranian Revolutionary Guards small boats, we have “Russian Seperatists” equipped with Russian Federation supplied NATO Reporting name SA-11 “Gadfly” medium range surface to air missiles in the Ukraine.

    See this CBS Report:

    Malaysian Boeing 777 passenger airliner carrying 295

    See also this AP report that placed an SA-11 launcher, the likely murder instrument and know locally as “Buk,” in the area of the shoot down —

    A launcher similar to the Buk missile system was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.
    .
    On Wednesday evening, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile was forced to bail after his jet was shot down.
    .
    Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely
    .
    Moscow denies Western charges that it is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbor. The Russian Defense Ministry couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday about the Ukrainian jet and Russia’s foreign ministry didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

    The Debris field is seven miles (11.2 KM) long, consistant with a airliner at 33,000 feet being destroyed by a medium range radar guided surface to air missile (SAM).

    The West dropped a new round of sanctions on “Czar Putin De Santa Anna” (in honor of Putin’s continuing destruction of the Russian economy through foreign agression a’la General Lopez Santa Anna of Mexico) yesterday.

    Russian leaders acting agressive after a new round of Western economic sanctions are an old Cold War theme that Putin loves to indulges in. That is what makes a “USS Vincennes scenario” type shoot down the most likely cause of this disaster…and it also helps that CNN’s Barbara Starr is reporting that the Pentagon believes Russian side also fired a Buk type missile that took out separate Ukrainian cargo plane on Monday.

    It appears things are going to be getting much worse in the Ukraine.

    Posted in Europe, History, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Russia | 17 Comments »

    Have we lost and is this why ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 30th May 2014 (All posts by )

    A new book by a retired army general explains that we lost the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Why ?

    I have had reservations about Iraq for years, at least since 2008.

    When President Bush convened a meeting of his National Security Council on May 22, 2003, his special envoy in Iraq made a statement that caught many of the participants by surprise. In a video presentation from Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III informed the president and his aides that he was about to issue an order formally dissolving Iraq’s Army.

    I think that decision probably lost the post-invasion war. The other puzzle that was not explained until the recent book, Days of Fire explained it, was why Bremer was put in place of Jay Garner, who had done well with the Kurds.

    Garner began reconstruction efforts in March 2003 with plans aiming for Iraqis to hold elections within 90 days and for the U.S. to quickly pull troops out of the cities to a desert base. Talabani, a member of Jay Garner’s staff in Kuwait before the war, was consulted on several occasions to help the U.S. select a liberal Iraqi government; this would be the first liberal Government to exist in Iraq. In an interview with Time magazine, Garner stated that “as in any totalitarian regime, there were many people who needed to join the Baath Party in order to get ahead in their careers. We don’t have a problem with most of them. But we do have a problem with those who were part of the thug mechanism under Saddam. Once the U.S. identifies those in the second group, we will get rid of them.

    Had Garner continued with that policy, we might have been out of the cities in a few months instead of years, as was the case with Bremer.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Book Notes, History, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama, Russia | 70 Comments »

    An Unmentioned Fact on the Crimea Situation

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th May 2014 (All posts by )

    As someone who has studied WW2 history for over 40 years (on an amateur basis), as soon as the Crimean situation occurred I went over to my bookshelf and pulled out my favorite book that covered the Crimean campaign – “Stopped at Stalingrad” by Hayward. The book is highly recommended and covers air / ground coordination in that era and has an excellent overview of the ground campaign in the crucial 1942-3 time period.

    The scale of today’s troop movements and activities is so small relative to that era. Only a few thousand troops can decide an entire campaign. The days of millions of soldiers on all sides of the wire have been relegated to the past.

    While this volume focuses on the military aspects of the campaign in WW2, many other books talk about ideological motivations and logistics, notably the horrifying “The Wages of Destruction” by Tooze.

    The contrast between today’s situation and the “total warfare” that existed really from the end of WW1 and through the civil war in Russia as well as the horrors in the Ukraine in the 1930’s and then on both the German advance and Russian re-capturing of the various regions is very instructive on one key dimension – as Putin takes over Crimea, he actually intends to FEED the population.

    It is important to realize how poorly civilians have always been treated in these Eastern campaigns by all sides. To say that people were viewed as an afterthought is a giant understatement. Civilians were second to territory, resources (oil), or ideological objectives.

    Today by most accounts Putin realizes that he needs to actually administer the region and needs to take steps to build up morale, keep the economy functioning (on some level), and that this will be a financial burden on Russia. The days of just stripping off assets, turning locals into slave labor, and siphoning off any agricultural products (I am not just talking about “surplus”, I am talking about everything) are apparently past us. I am no fan of Putin and in no way want to appear to be in favor of his activities, but feel that this is a fact worth mentioning.

    By the abysmally low standards of twentieth century Eastern warfare, the Crimea incident likely had the least impact on civilians.

    Unfortunately the situation in Western Ukraine has the potential to be closer to a “typical” historical Eastern event with mass bloodshed, significant disruption to the economy and population, with civilians caught in the middle and having their needs ignored.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Russia | 28 Comments »

    Life in the Fully Politicized Society

    Posted by David Foster on 7th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Many will remember Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, in which she said:

    Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed….You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eight years from now, you will have to be engaged.

    Victor Davis Hanson notes that she also said:

    We are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.

    …which is, of course, entirely consistent with the assertion made by Barack Obama himself, shortly before his first inauguration:  “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    It should be clear by now that all aspects of American life and society are rapidly becoming politicized. Obama has greatly accelerated this movement, but he didn’t initiate it.  The “progressive” political movement, which now controls the Democratic Party, has for a long time been driving the politicization of anything and everything.  The assertion “the personal is political” originated in the late 1960s…and, if the personal is political, then everything is political.

    Some people, of course, like the politicization of everything–for some individuals, indeed, their lives would be meaningless without it. In his important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffner noted divergent reactions from people when the political and economic situation stabilized (temporarily, as we now know) during the Stresemann chancellorship:

    The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

    But this return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

    and

    To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

    I’m afraid we have quite a few people in America today who like having “the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions.”  But for most people, especially for creative and emotionally-healthy people, the politicization of everything leads to a dreary and airless existence.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Germany, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, Russia, USA | 23 Comments »

    Letter to the Editor from 2008 (Monday, May 12, The Washington Post)

    Posted by onparkstreet on 21st April 2014 (All posts by )


    I didn’t find Robert Kagan persuasive when he said that what Vladimir Putin, now Russian’s prime minister, has to fear from NATO expansion into Ukraine and Georgia is only democracy, not a military threat [“Ideology’s Rude Return,” op-ed, May 2]. Mr. Kagan echoed President Bush on the subject in writing, “NATO is less provocative and threatening toward Moscow today than it was in [Mikhail] Gorbachev’s time.”
     
    Both columnist and president are wrong. Mr. Putin sees the world around his immediate frontiers in a strategic sense of military options. NATO forces are in his face from Murmansk to the Baltic states, Romania and Turkey. Kyrgyzstan, while not in NATO, is certainly an American client with its large U.S. military airfield and staging area at Manas, near the capital. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have pledged to the U.S. various forms of direct military cooperation.
     
    Think about Mr. Putin’s reduced military options in backing up Russian policy if Ukraine and Georgia join NATO. Mr. Putin could not be clearer on this point: Russia will not tolerate further NATO expansion eastward. He has stated that to any media outlet that will listen. He has shown his seriousness on this point with stepped-up Cold War-style flights by his Tu-95 Bear bombers over our ships at sea and near Alaska and Great Britain.
     
    We risk a major confrontation by disregarding Mr. Putin’s “red line” on this subject.

    – Jack Broadbent

    I’ve been digging through Congressional testimony, op-eds, letters to the editors and so on from the ’90s to the present. The number of warnings is amazing. Everyone from Phyllis Schafly to the late Senator Wellstone.

    Note, recognizing the complicated multifactorial nature of the current Ukraine crisis is not the same as being an apologist. We have a form of unconventional warfare being practiced on the Ukraine by Russia; and we have a complicated form of political warfare being practiced in the Ukraine by the US, UK, EU and so on. The whole-of-it matters for understanding.

    Posted in International Affairs, Russia | 3 Comments »

    The Calendar is Not Omnipotent

    Posted by David Foster on 30th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Barack Obama and John Kerry have been ceaselessly lecturing Vlad Putin to the effect that: grabbing territory from other countries just isn’t the sort of thing one does in this twenty-first century, old boy.

    For example, here’s Obama: “…because you’re bigger and stronger taking a piece of the country – that is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century.”

    And John Kerry:  “It’s really 19th century behavior in the twenty-first century. You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.”

    The idea that the mere passage of time has some automatic magical effect on national behavior…on human behavior…is simplistic, and more than a little odd.  I don’t know how much history Obama and Kerry actually studied during their college years, but 100 years ago..in early 1914…there were many, many people convinced that a major war could not happen…because we were now in the twentieth century, with international trade and with railroads and steamships and telegraph networks and electric lights and all. And just 25 years after that, quite a few people refused to believe that concentration camps devoted to systematic murder could exist in the advanced mid-20th century, in the heart of Europe.

    Especially simplistic is the idea that, because there had been no military territory-grabs by first-rank powers for a long time, that the era of such territory-grabs was over. George Eliot neatly disposed of this idea many years ago, in a passage in her novel Silas Marner:

    The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent.

    Or, as Mark Steyn put it much more recently:

    ‘Stability’ is a surface illusion, like a frozen river: underneath, the currents are moving, and to the casual observer the ice looks equally ‘stable’ whether there’s a foot of it or just two inches. There is no status quo in world affairs: ‘stability’ is a fancy term to dignify laziness and complacency as sophistication.

    Obama also frequently refers to the Cold War, and argues that it is in the past. But the pursuit of force-based territorial gain by nations long predates the Cold War, and it has not always had much to do with economic rationality. The medieval baron with designs on his neighbor’s land didn’t necessarily care about improving his own standard of living, let alone that of his peasants–what he was after, in many cases, was mainly the ego charge of being top dog.

    Human nature was not repealed by the existence of steam engines and electricity in 1914…nor even by the broad Western acceptance of Christianity in that year…nor is it repealed in 2014 by computers and the Internet or by sermons about “multiculturalism” and bumper stickers calling for “coexistence.”

    American Digest just linked a very interesting analysis of the famous “long telegram” sent by George Kennan in 1947: George Kennan, Vladimir Putin, and the Appetites of Men. In this document, Kennan argued that Soviet behavior must be understood not only through the prism of Communist ideology, but also in terms of the desire of leaders to establish and maintain personal power.

    Regarding the current Russian/Crimean situation, the author of the linked article (Tod Worner) says:

    In the current crisis, many will quibble about the historical, geopolitical complexities surrounding the relationship between Russia, Ukraine and Crimea. They will debate whether Crimea’s former inclusion in the Russian Empire or Crimea’s restive Russian population justifies secession especially with a strong Russian hand involved. Papers will be written. Conferences will be convened. Experts will be consulted. Perhaps these are all prudent and thoughtful notions to consider and actions to undertake. Perhaps.

    But perhaps we should, like George Kennan, return to the same questions we have been asking about human nature since the beginning of time. Maybe we are, at times, overthinking things. Perhaps we would do well to step back and consider something more fundamental, something more base, something more reliable than the calculus of geopolitics and ideology…Perhaps we ignore the simple math that is often before our very eyes. May we open our eyes to the appetites of men.

    Posted in History, Human Behavior, Leftism, Obama, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 23 Comments »

    “The Russian Strategy of Empire”

    Posted by T. Greer on 20th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Originally posted at The Scholar’s Stage on 20 March 2013.

    The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9  [1]


    Over the last few weeks the sections of the blogosphere which I frequent have been filled with predictions, advice, summaries of, and idle chatter about the situation in Ukraine and Crimea.  I have refrained from commenting on these events for a fairly simple reason: I am no expert in Russian or Eastern European affairs. Any expertise that my personal experiences or formal studies allows me to claim is on the opposite side of Eurasia. Thus I am generally content to let those who, in John Schindler’s words, “actually know something” take the lead in picking apart statements from the Kiev or the Kremlin. [2] My knowledge of the peoples and regions involved is limited to broad historical strokes.

    But sometimes broad historical strokes breed their own special sort of insights.

    I have before suggested that one of the benefits of studying history is that it allows a unique opportunity to understand reality from the “Long View.” From this perspective the daily headlines do not simply record the decisions of a day, the instant reactions of one statesmen to crises caused by another, but the outcome of hundreds of choices accumulated over centuries. It allows you to rip your gaze away from the eddies swirling on the top of the water to focus on the seismic changes happening deep below.

    To keep the Long View in mind, I often stop and ask myself a simple question as I read the news:  “What will a historian say about this event in 60 years? How will it fit into the narrative that the historians of the future will share?”

    With these questions are considered contemporary events take on an entirely new significance.

    Expansion of Russia, 1533-1894.
    Credit: Wikimedia.

    As I have watched affairs in Crimea from afar, my thoughts turn to one such ‘Long View’ narrative written by historian S.C.M. Paine. In Dr. Paine’s peerless The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949 she spares a few paragraphs to explain the broad historical context in which Soviet statesmen made their decisions. She calls this traditional course of Russian statecraft the Russian “strategy for empire”:

    The Communists not only held together all of the tsarist empire but greatly expanded it in World War II. They did so in part by relying on Russia’s traditional and highly successful strategy for empire, which sought security through creeping buffer zones combined with astutely coordinated diplomacy and military operations against weak neighbors to ingest their territory at opportune moments. Russia surrounded itself with buffer zones and failing states. During the tsarist period, the former were called governor-generalships, jurisdictions under military authority for a period of initial colonization and stabilization. Such areas generally contained non-Russian populations and bordered on foreign lands.

    Russia repeatedly applied the Polish model to its neighbors. Under Catherine the Great, Russia had partitioned Poland three times in the late eighteenth century, crating a country ever less capable of administering its affairs as Russia in combination with Prussia and Austria gradually ate it alive. Great and even middling power on the borders were dangerous. So they must be divided, a fate shared by Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Persia, China, and post World War II, Germany and Korea. It is no coincidence that so many divided states border on Russia. Nor is it coincidence that so many unstable states sit on its periphery” (emphasis added). [3]


    It is difficult to read this description and not see parallels with what is happening in Ukraine now (or what happened in Georgia in 2008). Dr. Paine’s description of Russian foreign policy stretches from the 18th century to the middle of the 20th. Perhaps historians writing 60 years hence will use this same narrative–but extend it well into the 21st.

    ————————————————————


    [1] Authorized Version.
    [2] John Schindler. “Nobody Knows Anything.” XX Committee. 16 March 2014. 
    [3] S.C.M. Paine. The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 83-84.

    Posted in Book Notes, Europe, History, International Affairs, Russia | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Michael Rubin in Commentary:

    What self-described realists misunderstand when they pursue their cost-benefit analysis without emotion or regard for principle is that friendship and trust have value. In one chapter of Dancing with the Devil, I explore the history of intelligence politicization. Iraq may now be the marquee example upon which many progressives seize, but intelligence politicization occurred under every president dating back at least to Lyndon Johnson, if not before (the scope of my book was just the past half-century or so). Iraq intelligence was flawed, but the world will get over it, especially since it was consistent with the intelligence gathered by almost every other country and the United Nations. The betrayal of allies, however, is a permanent wound on America’s reputation that will not be easy to overcome.

    This is a chronic problem. We were able to get away with being a fickle ally when we acted like a superpower. Our allies had no choice but to deal with us; our adversaries had to be cautious lest they provoke us. We betrayed Kurds, Iraqi Shiites and other groups without paying much of a long-term price. It was easy to be casual about our alliances. We could afford to see one-dimensional cynical calculations of national interest as realism.

    But now that we behave like just another country we are beginning to pay more of a cost for our unreliability. Our design margin, in Wretchard’s phrase, has eroded. It is increasingly difficult for us to protect our remaining interests. The Obama foreign policy is an inverse force-multiplier.

    Our geopolitical situation is going to deteriorate faster than most Americans expect.

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Quotations, Russia, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    New Op-ed at War on the Rocks

    Posted by Zenpundit on 4th March 2014 (All posts by )

    I have a new op-ed on the Crimean crisis up at the military and national security site, War on the Rocks.

    Let’s Slow Roll Any Move Toward Crimean War II:

    One of the more curious implicit assumptions about the crisis in Ukraine is that the subsequent occupation of the Crimea by Russia represents some kind of triumph for President Vladimir Putin and a defeat for the United States. It is a weird, strategic myopia that comes from an unrealistic belief that the United States should be expected to have a granular level of political control over and responsibility for events on the entire planet. We don’t and never can but this kind of political megalomania leads first to poor analysis and then worse policies.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 38 Comments »

    (insert Prime Minister of Ukraine’s name here)

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 1st March 2014 (All posts by )

    Over and over President Zero bungles things that are to me, supposed to be slam dunks. I have blogged about this before but it is now getting to the point where it is driving me crazy.

    Yesterday on the way home from work, Bloomberg radio broke in on this hastily arranged presser:

    Lets just step outside of the fact that I am sure that Putin and the other principals of the situation are laughing (or cringing, as the case may be), knowing that our administration literally has no clue what to do right now.

    My main point is that if you are arranging a presser on a matter of importance, I imagine you may want to understand who the major players are in the scenario. At the 2.21 mark, Obama boots the name of the Ukrainian prime minister. As I was sitting in my car I wondered aloud if he was reading off of a teleprompter, or was going off the cuff. I am glad I found the video above, but it doesn’t really answer my question completely.

    Фотоаксессуары для любых фотоаппаратов в Украине.

    After looking at it a few times, I am not sure if he was unable to pronounce the name, or if it wasn’t on the cue cards he was reading off of. Either way, he looks like a dunce, and once again, America looks to be a laughingstock to the rest of the world.

    With my sooper seekrit ciphering abilities, I was able to find the name and figure out how to pronounce it.

    Whether or not Obama’s handlers didn’t have the name on the card or he was unable to pronounce it (at least make a stab at it, Barack!) isn’t really that important in the big picture. What is more important to me is the following.

    Are Obama’s handlers this dumb, or is he just blowing them off, or a combination of both? These things like state dinners, quick pressers, and the like that Obama constantly bungles should be no-brainers, and the work should be 100% correct each and every time. No excuses.

    Posted in Current Events, Obama, Russia | 17 Comments »

    The Ukraine Crisis — Some Background and Thoughts

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 28th February 2014 (All posts by )

    The ongoing Ukraine crisis and the poor reporting of same have pretty much killed this week’s History Friday column for me, so I will yield to my muse and go with it in providing this background information to the Ukraine Crisis.

    1. President Viktor Yanukovych was a tyrant in the pocket of President Putin of Russia. His election in 2010 saw Ukraine turn increasingly into a police state with on-going death squad actions against protestors. Political opponents like Yulia Tymoshenko have been imprisoned and beaten. American National Public Radio has reported for some months on the activities of these Yanukovych aligned death squads going into Ukrainian hospitals to “disappear” wounded protestors getting medical treatment. Tortured bodies of some of them are found days or weeks later. President Viktor Yanukovych utterly honked off the entire non-Russian speaking Ukrainian population through these actions.

    2. The Euromaidan movement is not just a grass roots movement. It is a political coalition that is in part a tool of Ukrainian oligarchs that don’t want to go extinct like the Russian oligarchs did under Putin. This means they play rough. And by rough I mean they are forming road blocks and threatening anyone with high end autos on the theory they are Yanukovych supporters.

    See:

    http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2014/02/22/ukraine-the-other-side-of-the-story-lawless-bands-of-ukrainian-opposition-with-occupy-similarities/#more-77318

    Likely a good part of the reason that Ukraine police melted away from Yanukovych involved threats to police families and property. There were not enough Eastern and Crimean Ukrainians in the Kiev police units supporting the Berkut to keep it all from melting away

    3. The timing of this Euromaidan takeover was no accident. The key development in this crisis was the Ukrainian Military refusing to come out of its barracks to shoot protestors with heavy weapons a la Tiananmen Square. Without the ultimate force sanction of military heavy weapons, President Viktor Yanukovych could not win a forceful confrontation without outside Russian military action. He had to hold on through the Olympics to get it, but he and his inner circle of supporters suffered a classic case of elite collapse of will. Euromaidan and its outside supporters knew that from the get-go. Which brings us to…

    4. Euromaidan had outside European help. That help was Polish. See this text and the link below it for the full article:

    The Polish government has been funding civil society projects in ex-Soviet countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova, with much of the aid channeled through a fund controlled by Mr Sikorski’s ministry.
     
    Recipients of Polish government money include opposition television stations operating in exile from Belarus, giving Poland influence in a country that, after Ukraine, could be the scene of the next confrontation between Russia and the West.
     
    Such Polish activism arouses suspicion in Moscow, where centuries of rivalry between the two big Slavic powers, Roman Catholic Poland in the West and Orthodox Russia in the East, were marked by repeated wars and invasions in either direction.
     
    http://www.theage.com.au/world/in-ukraine-poland-comes-of-age-as-a-european-power-broker-20140225-hvdnm.html

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Europe, Military Affairs, National Security, Russia, United Nations, War and Peace | 28 Comments »

    Why the Grand Inquisitor Sentenced Jesus Christ to be Burned at the Stake

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd February 2014 (All posts by )

    It seems that Jesus Christ returned to earth, sometime during the sixteenth century…at least, this is the premise of the parable that Ivan relates to Alyosha, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov.  The city to which Christ came was  Seville,  where on the previous day before almost a hundred heretics had been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, “in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville. He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him.”

    But the Grand Inquisitor observes the way in which people are being irresistibly drawn to Jesus, and causes him to be arrested and taken away.

    The crowd instantly bows down to the earth, like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on. The guards lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted prison- in the ancient palace of the Holy  Inquisition and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, ‘breathless’ night of Seville. The air is ‘fragrant with laurel and lemon.’ In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.

    “‘Is it Thou? Thou?’ but receiving no answer, he adds at once. ‘Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us?

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, Religion, Russia | 9 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st January 2014 (All posts by )

    Caroline Glick, Khodorkovsky and the freedom agenda:

    Both the Iranian democracy activists then and the Ukrainian protesters today demonstrated through their actions that they do not seek the mere overthrow of unrepresentative, repressive governments. They seek freedom, and are willing to work for it. All the Iranians needed then, and all the Ukrainians ask for today, is assistance from foreign powers, just as George Washington’s Continental Army required French assistance to defeat the British Empire.
     
    While those are easy cases to understand, the lesson of Putin’s Russia and of post-Saddam Iraq is that freedom doesn’t sprout from thin air. The only way to plant democracy in nations unfamiliar with the habits of liberty is to cultivate them, relentlessly and unapologetically, over time.

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Iraq, Management, Political Philosophy, Quotations, Russia | 4 Comments »

    The Olympics Are In Bed With the Devil

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th November 2013 (All posts by )

    A recent documentary on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is titled “Putin’s Games” and is summarized here. The movie has not been released yet but I intend to see it as soon as it becomes available. According to the web, the movie discusses the 1) bribes that Russia paid to win the games 2) the vast corruption occurring during construction 3) other ill effects of citing siting the games in a sub-tropical climate.

    The documentary interviews a billionaire Russian who fled to the UK after refusing to pay immense bribes during construction:

    “We received explicit threats: ‘You’ll be soaked with blood; drowned in blood,'” he said. “It was very straightforward. We know the history. Russia generally does not care much for human life.”

    As far as bribing Olympic officials to beat Austria in order to get the games originally…

    The money thrown around by the Kremlin to ensure that Russia was awarded the games is also revealed in the film. Karl Schranz, a former Austrian Olympic skiing champion and personal adviser to Mr Putin on bringing the Olympics to Sochi, talks about the big-money lobbying that went into the games – cash that Leonid Tyagetschev, the former head of Russia’s Olympic Committee, said was “practically unlimited.” The money was used to lobby for Sochi and against Salzburg, which was also in the running before, in 2007, the International Olympic Committee to give the games to Russia.

    The Olympic Committees are against the release of this documentary and per the article:

    Such was the displeasure of the International Olympic Committee when it heard of it that it refused to allow the use of the word “Olympic” in the title, or the use of any archived Olympic footage. They also wrote accusing the producers of making a “politically motivated” hatchet-job.

    After rewarding the games to serial human rights violators in China and Russia, how can the Olympics even pretend to have a shred of credibility? It is astounding that they would call a documentary filmmaker who explains how Putin’s Russia is a hotbed of corruption a “hatchet-job”. What did they think would happen when you chose Russia for the winter Olympics? They need to read the biography of Putin by Judah, since this fiasco was all preordained.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Russia, Sports | 9 Comments »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed From a Soviet Launch Facility

    Posted by David Foster on 19th October 2013 (All posts by )

    (This is a rerun, with minor edits, of a post from 2012)

    This month marks the 51st anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    Last year I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I’m still hoping to get around to reviewing one of these days.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Russia, Space, USA, War and Peace | 13 Comments »