Tag Archives: The Moscow Times

News Roundup 20 January

Curiously small anti-fascist rally

With all the screaming about fascism we heard from Russians since the beginning of Maidan all the way to the present, one would think last night’s anti-fascist march in Moscow would have drawn as many people as the Charlie Hebdo rallies in Paris.  One would think that, if they didn’t know Russia better. In reality, most of those who screamed themselves hoarse are only concerned with fascism in Ukraine, and of course their definition of fascism is anti-Kremlin. In Russia, they quite like fascism. They support state-imposed religion, the curtailment of human rights and values, militarism, national chauvinism, racism, “traditional” roles for men and women, essentially the whole fascist platform. The differences between them and the actual fascists in Ukraine such as the Svoboda party or Praviy Sektor are superficial at most.

This being the case, last night’s march only attracted a few hundred leftist protesters, which I have to say was pretty impressive given how dangerous it is in Russia to proclaim oneself an anti-fascist(unless you’re going to fight in Ukraine). Of course, there were counter-protesters and attempts to disrupt the march, but last time I checked nothing serious happened.

Bottom line- If you hear a Russian screaming about fascism, most often than not it’s basically the same as a Tea Partier calling Obama a socialist. The words don’t mean what they think they mean.

Collateral Damage

After some Twitter arguments yesterday I think I need to make some clarifications yet again. First of all, I do not particularly like the Ukrainian government. After much examination I accepted it as legal and I’m glad to see that the extreme right was almost entirely excluded from its composition. That said, one of the reasons why I’d support Ukraine over Russia is that no matter how bad the former’s government is, it can be changed. Russia will not have any change in its corrupt, oligarch-dominated government without a fair deal of bloodshed and early-90’s style humiliation, and after that I’m not sure there’ll be anything left to rebuild the country. At least Yeltsin and Putin could count on oil. My fear is that in the aftermath of collapse eventually the same batshit-insane reactionaries will coalesce around another group of political con-men who will assure them that the catastrophe only happened because Putin was a puppet of the Americans, the Jews, or the Illuminati reptiloids. What happens then, however, is a subject for another article.  Long story short- Ukraine’s probably got at least one more revolution in store before the demographics situation destroys the country, so let’s hope they get it right next time(HINT: Stop listening to nationalists).

That being said, I want to talk about the subject of Ukraine’s use of artillery against populated areas in the Donbas. Long-time readers know that I have condemned this in the past, and rhetorically asked why we don’t hear people in the media saying Poroshenko is “killing his own people.”

The problem is, however, that I am not detached from the world around me and I get pissed at constantly hearing Russians shedding crocodile tears over civilian casualties of artillery bombardment when they never cared about the effects of such bombardment in Syria, Libya, Grozny, etc. To me this is no different than the way US officials would always deflect criticism over civilian casualties with terms like “collateral damage” and accusations that their enemies were using “human shields.”

Look, regardless of one’s politics, can we all just be honest for once and admit that we are all aware of the fact that bombardment of populated areas frequently leads to civilian casualties, and that people from various countries are inevitably going to highlight this fact in conflicts when it suits them, while denying it in conflicts they support?

Another reason why I’ve been hesitant to speak out more against the Ukrainian prosecution of the war is because I don’t have many sources of reliable information. I don’t like the idea of playing armchair general and saying what they should do. I’d probably lean towards the ideas of H. John Poole on this matter, who considered heavy use of firepower as immoral and ineffective, and who instead advocated rigorous training in small-unit tactics and techniques like short range infiltration. I also think the Ukrainian army could learn a thing or two from Rhodesia’s Sealous Scouts when it comes to counter-guerrilla warfare. The problem is, however, that these tactics are probably not very feasible for the Ukrainian military. H. John Poole was recommending tactics to the best-funded military in the world, which has plenty of time and resources for training. I know the US Army sure as hell has the time because I spent most of my time in the army standing around in what is essentially a parking lot.

The Ukrainian armed forces, on the other hand, are probably more comparable to those of maybe Romania or Bulgaria at best. That and the fact that they have a unit called the “Cyborgs” tells you that we’re not exactly dealing with military geniuses here.  Do I personally believe this war is not being conducted in the best way, both morally and tactically, yes. Am I going to spend time writing on a blog about how they should be doing this or that? Hell no.  My information is too limited to make those kinds of calls, and there’s no reason to believe that the Ukrainian armed forces even have the capability to carry out any recommendation Armchair General Kovpak gives them.

Oh look, I’m right again.

An article in The Moscow Times highlights what I pointed out some time ago about Russia’s inability to attract people and allies. I’ve often likened Russia to one of those stereotypical “nice guys.” He tries to attract a girl with some cheap gestures(oil and gas deals in Russia’s case), and when she rejects his offers he goes online or to his friends and unloads on her with white-hot hatred. She’s just a slut who will bend over backwards for any jocular douchebag! She can’t appreciate an intelligent, classy, gentleman! Sure he’s a bit overweight and continually wears the same gaming shirt several times per week without a wash, but why does she have to be such a shallow whore?  In Russia’s case, any country that doesn’t want to submit to Moscow’s domination must be a puppet of America, the only other independent country in the world. With some small, not so powerful countries this might seem more or less correct, but in the minds of many Russians big economic players like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Belgium are also American puppets. The only way you can avoid being an American puppet is to become Moscow’s puppet.

Of course I didn’t link to this article just to talk about puppets. What I like about this article is that once again basic historical facts are brought out to shatter the fantasies of Russia’s “geopolitical experts.” The CSTO is not the equivalent of NATO. BRICS is not an anti-American alliance. The Eurasian Union is not the equivalent of the European Union. They go through the motions and make a lot of noise, but there’s no substance beneath the surface. Good reading.

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We don’t care about your sanctions! Hey, where are you going? Come back! Aren’t you AFRAID of us?

Hey everyone! Remember Pyotr Romanov? Of course you do! He’s the one who told us all kinds of fairy tales about how Russians believe in justice without laws, and how they’ll happily endure any hardship when they think they’re right, as with the annexation of the Crimea. He told us sanctions were useless, but also passive-aggressively suggested that the West remove them, because supposedly the same people who will endure any hardship don’t like “unnecessary troubles.”  Well guess what- because there never seems to be a Bolshevik firing squad around when you need one, Romanov is back with another hilarious article in The Moscow Times.  And this time, he’s upset.

A Russian friend who relocated to London a few years ago responded to a comment I made on Facebook concerning the start of the Cold War. With self-satisfied irony he wrote: “To be honest, the West does not really care much about Russia.”

How strange! Of course, it is very possible that his British neighbors and friends are too preoccupied with their house, lawn, car, children, dentist, etc. to worry about a Cold War with Russia.

Pyotr is dumbfounded at the idea that Westerners, Britons in this case, don’t care about Russia, much less a Cold War with Russia. This is because as is typical for his ilk, he imagines that Russia is this incredibly important center of global civilization. In reality, even now with Russia in the news every night, most Westerners, including Americans, simply do not care about Russia. If this weren’t true, my email and message inboxes would be jam-packed with messages, full of questions about what is going on in Russia. Guess what- they aren’t. Even close friends and family members rarely ask me anything about this country, even during international crises like the present one. There’s a reason why RT barely got any viewers back in its early days when it was actually about life in Russia. It’s the same reason why the all-time record for most views in a single day on this blog was, by far, a satirical post about Gamergate. People in the West just don’t give a shit about Russia.

They haven’t given a shit since 1991. This is because the conflict which existed between the West and Russia during the Cold War was an ideological conflict, whereas your modern Russian pseudo-intellectual wants to believe there is some kind of eternal East/West divide that drives the conflict. Or I should say it is a Russia/West divide, since these same Russians certainly don’t want to be associated with Chinese, Arabs, or any of the other dozen or so groups they harbor prejudices against. Perhaps they are reluctant to admit it was an ideological conflict because doing so would be an admission that they betrayed that ideology and were thus responsible for the state of their country today- a major no-no for your average “patriotic” Russian these days. That, however, is a topic for another article.

What the reader must understand is that Romanov’s friend, by pointing out an obvious fact, shook Romanov’s little world to its foundations. There is nothing more devastating you can say to someone like him than reminding him that the West not only isn’t afraid of Russia, but that it doesn’t even care. For Romanov and many Russians, they will indeed live in utter shit, with no rights under a government that so clearly has nothing but contempt for them, so long as they have this idea that they are either making someone else miserable, such as the Ukrainians, or that they are feared by someone, such as the Americans or Europeans. Just like an angsty teenager, any attention is good attention, and Romanov and his ilk possess minds which do not develop beyond the level of teens. The tantrum doesn’t take long to begin.

But what will happen tomorrow when the average Westerner finally realizes that his whole life — his house, children, car and even his dentist — is under threat? What thoughts will run through his head when he comes to understand that the politicians he elected behaved in such an unfriendly way toward Russia that the Russian politicians elected by the people of this country made equally unfriendly moves in response? And that everything simply went downhill from there?

Gee Pyotr, I don’t know how to answer that because all those things aren’t under threat from your basketcase, corrupt nation run by thieves, con-men, and imbeciles. Petey, sweetheart, we’ve been over this road before, remember? You continue to lie to your people as reality starts to cave in on them on all sides. Eventually people get fed up and demand change. The system collapses, people start stealing, then some slick, authoritarian figure promises he can give you stability so long as everyone is willing to give up their freedom. You make that bargain, agreeing with him that your nation’s last failure was all the West’s fault. They imposed Putin on you; he was doing the Americans’ bidding! Then your new leader, unable to deliver on his many promises because he only sought power so as to be in the best position to rob your nation blind, begins shrieking about the evil West more and more. This shrieking builds up to aggressive foreign policy designed to provoke the West, Russia gets isolated again, and the cycle begins a new. Some people just aren’t fast learners.  It might happen next year, or it could be two or three years away. How long is unimportant; a state so disconnected from reality is living on borrowed time.

Now this is a bit of an aside, but I love how he talks about these different nations, the collective “West” and Russia, electing their leaders. In the West, leaders change. In Russia, according to the government’s own claims, their country has produced just one qualified national leader in 25 years. One. There is only one person who can actually run Russia, otherwise the whole thing falls apart over night. All of Russia’s natural resources are given to America in exchange for cheeseburgers, and all Russian citizens instantly become homosexuals, thus utterly ending Russian reproduction and by extension, the Russian people as a whole.  No, Pyotr, we’re not dealing with equals here.

Anyway, terribly upset that those decadent, well-to-do Westerners aren’t shaking in their boots about Russia, Romanov turns to passive-aggressive threats, the Russian pseudo-intellectual’s weapon of choice.

Ordinary citizens remain calm because of the simple fact that they typically do not know the full picture — nor do they try to know it. It is easier to live that way. Just the same, it is time to wake up and recognize what is happening. This is no Hollywood blockbuster unfolding outside our windows, but a force majeure of international proportions. True, it is not the first that the world has experienced, but knowing what hardships previous conflicts have brought to mankind should motivate us to try to prevent any more from occurring.

First of all, Mr. Romanov, if you’re so concerned about a massive military conflict, lobby your government to end its support for armed insurgents in Ukraine, and its illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula.  Oh wait, that’s right, you can’t, at least not if you want to keep your job, stay out of jail, or not get beaten by masked thugs outside your apartment building one night.

In fact, the world began living under the real threat of nuclear war long before the Cuban Missile Crisis, although that confrontation was one of the most dangerous moments of the first Cold War. And fortunately for mankind, sensible politicians always emerged who could put a stop to the ambitions of the warmongers.

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. As is typical for this sort of Russian, he brings up nuclear weapons, as though that’s going to make a difference. The USSR had plenty of nukes, none of which saved it from destruction. Russia’s nukes won’t save it either, especially because nuclear missiles aren’t edible. Romanov, in spite of being a “historian,” doesn’t seem to be familiar with the concept of “mutually assured destruction.” If Russia launches its nuked, Russia is destroyed forever, with far less probability of survival due to its poorer infrastructure and much lower population. China might also flip a few nukes at Russia for attacking its most valuable trade partner, and to help secure whatever land it can in Siberia.  Of course, it would be difficult to tell exactly which parts of Russia got nuked and which did not, as the difference wouldn’t be clear in some areas of the country, but that is unimportant.

Pyotr, stop talking about nuclear weapons. Nobody is afraid of your country’s nukes. Nobody is afraid of your country beyond a few former Soviet republics. If your delusional president ever presses that button, everything you have will be gone. Your dacha, and all your precious jars of pickles will be reduced to radioactive ashes. RADIOACTIVE ASHES!  Seriously, shut the fuck up.

Romanov’s second idiotic article demonstrates the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t nature of trying to communicate with Russian supporters of the state. If you acknowledge that relations are bad and there’s a new Cold War, then you’re engaging in aggression against Russia. If  you don’t, they agitate and rail against the West until people start reacting, and then that just proves their original claims. One should ask, what does Romanov want when he says Westerners should care about his precious new Cold War? Should they band together and take a more resolute stance against Russia? Oh no, of course not! Russia has nukes, remember! No, what they should do, if Romanov’s previous article is any indication, is give in to Russia and let it do what it wants. To use Putin’s metaphor, leave the bear alone in the forest to eat berries, honey, and do some other assorted Winnie the Pooh-style shit.

The problem with that idea is that it implies that Russia was just minding its own business when the aggressive West came in and started slapping sanctions on Russia for no reason. Reality is quite the opposite. For years the West turned a blind eye to Putin and his cronies. Western capital flowed into Russia and Russia’s oligarchs stowed their ill-gotten wealth in Cyprus, the UK, France, and the US. Of course as the consequences of this system continued to mount, the state ramped up its anti-Western rhetoric, which usually went ignored back when times were good. Unfortunately for the Kremlin, the Western response was still too apathetic. Ukraine’s Maidan movement was an embarrassment to the Kremlin, but it brought a double opportunity- win back local support and pick a fight with the West. Nobody can deny that this new Cold War has benefited Putin, at least in the short term. It’s also the nail in the coffin for Russia, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

The moral of this story is that the best defense against Putin’s Russia is not the fear-mongering of Edward Lucas; that only pleases people like Romanov and the other Putin hacks out there. Rather it is best remaining calm and collected, always reminding people like Romanov how insignificant his country really is.  As a good friend of mine used to put it, there are people in provincial Russia who will think about America several times in one day. They know that there is a place called Kentucky. By contrast, there are millions of Americans in major cities like Chicago, LA, New York, or Boston, who go days without ever thinking about Russia. None of them know that there’s a place inside the Russian Federation called Bashkortostan, and few of them could name another Russian city besides Moscow. It’s not that they’re horribly uneducated either. It’s simply that they don’t care, and they’ve never had to care.

Romanov needs to understand that while all his home-spun delusions are really meaningful to him, in the eyes of most of the world Russia is essentially a laughing stock at worst, and at best a wacky, crazy land where up is down and cats chase dogs. It is not mysterious or enigmatic. It is simple.  More than that, people like him must be reminded that this sad state of affairs, which was by no means always the case for Russia and certainly doesn’t need to be, is in fact the fault of people like him. It’s not the Americans, the Jews, the Masons, the British, the fifth column or the sixth column. It’s people like him, with their utter lack of ethics and principles, their laziness, their immaturity, their envy, and their hatred.  People like Romanov must be reminded every day how much richer Russia would be without them.

You have had 25 years to make something of this vast, rich country. Instead you have run it into the ground. Obviously you are unable to handle the responsibility. In the words of Oliver Cromwell, “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

We don’t care about sanctions so you might as well remove them. Please.

Pyotr Romanov’s crappletastic article in The Moscow Times is one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever read. I literally don’t even know where to begin with this moronic article. Romanov manages to hit almost every meme on the Russian sanctions bingo card. Russians don’t really care about the sanctions. They don’t even think about them. They aren’t worried. The sanctions barely affect them. The sanctions are utterly useless. The sanctions aren’t working. But could you please just remove those sanctions that are totally ineffective?

Even Russians are starting to joke about how much energy and time some of their countrymen dedicate to telling anybody and everybody how little they care about Western sanctions on their country. On the Russian internet, plenty of people remind us daily of how little they care for the sanctions. Sanctions? Are those even a thing? Who could have predicted that sanctions which were mostly levied against specific individuals, banks, and companies wouldn’t have an immediate affect on Sergei Kuznetsov, a security guard at a toy store in Nizhny Novgorod? How infuriating this knowledge would be to the leaders of America and the European Union, were they even aware of his existence, let alone his personal statement of defiance!

Getting back to Romanov, I could pick his article apart almost line by line in terms historical inaccuracies, but given my limited time I decided to focus on the main idea of this unholy duck orgy of an article. Romanov explains how Western leaders, brace yourselves, don’t understand the Russian national character, and therefore their sanctions will be totally ineffective. Indeed, so ineffective and insignificant are these sanctions that the West would be better off just removing them and letting Russia do what it wants. Not that it matters if they don’t remove the sanctions, because Russians don’t care. They really don’t. Trust Mr. Romanov. Come on. Remove the sanctions. They’re useless. Nobody cares. Might as well get rid of them.

Romanov’s first mistake is assuming that Westerners don’t understand Russia’s national character. Yes, once again it’s the attack of the “we’re so special and mysterious, you couldn’t possibly understand” meme. Aside from making that typical mistake, Romanov is also making the idiotic mistake of believing that the West is somehow only concerned with economics, to the exclusion of cultural features. This is par for the course with Kremlin supporters and their foreign flacks. The strawman argument is that Russia has this “special path” because it’s just so unique, doncha know? Foolish Western eggheads think every nation is the same.

Of course this is sheer idiocy of the highest degree. Who could travel from Canada, through the US, over to Ireland, down to the shores of Great Britain, across the channel, through Germany, and all the way into Ukraine, all the while not noticing the profound cultural, political, and economic differences which exist between all the countries one would necessarily pass through on such a journey? Yes, France and Germany are both republics in the European Union. Yes they both espouse a liberal doctrine of democracy. Does that make the French and Germans the same? Absolutely not. It’s not that Russia’s powerful elite is afraid of losing Russia’s unique cultural attributes should the country establish a more democratic form of government. After all, these people have forked over billions of dollars of their country’s wealth so as to surround themselves with Western luxury and make themselves and their children into what they imagine Europeans to be. What they are afraid of is Russians having more opportunity to hold them accountable. While political participation in other nations varies significantly from country to country, in nearly all cases it far exceeds the capacity of Russian citizens in this respect. Many Europeans, Britons, the Irish, Americans, etc. do not hold to a worldview which says one should be obedient and ever-trusting of one’s own government, because it is allegedly on their side. For Russia’s ruling elite, this attitude plus a greater expansion of that oh-so-fashionable “civil society” would be an utter tragedy.

Does Romanov add anything to the usual clap-trap about Russia’s “national character?” No, he only claims that Russians will endure these economic hardships because they think they are right. Oh did I mention that Romanov is supposedly a historian? I bring that up now because while he mentions revolutions in Russia’s past, he never seems to notice that these revolutions upset his whole thesis. The two revolutions in 1917 were connected with food and fuel shortages. The fall of the Soviet Union was largely caused by a failing economy ravaged by the bone-headed policies of Perestroika. In other words, the idea that Russians will just sit tight and endure any hardship has been put to the test, and as it turns out it’s false.

Good for the Russians for not putting up with that bullshit, in fact. The main problem with Romanov’s thesis is that he treats eternal patience as though it’s this wonderful virtue when it isn’t, at least not inherently so. We admire rebels and revolutionaries because they do not simply lie down take it. On the contrary, they stand up and say, “No more!” This is the same sentiment RT loves manipulating with its endless Guy Fawkes’ mask bullshit.

Do Russians have more of a capacity for endurance than Western people? We often assume this must be the case, because Westerners are thought of as being surrounded by luxury and consumer goods. We are, supposedly, “soft.” Yet few Russians today could handle the hardships their ancestors fought in the Second World War, or something much worse- Tsarist times. Indeed, the Soviet people showed boundless endurance for the hardships of war which were forced upon them from without, but this was because the alternative was literal extermination or at best, enslavement. This was a true act of defiance.

Romanov, however, prefers that the Russians submit and obey a ruling class who treats them with utter contempt, and makes little pretense otherwise. He’s quite happy if they are fully aware of this, yet out of fear they hold their tongues and salute the flag. Let the make the sacrifice so that their tiny rich elite can stay rich. Some of them may have been sanctioned, but they can still send their children abroad to study. Meanwhile poor Ms. Ivanova has to shut up when she receives a notice that her precious, who was conscripted to the army, was killed…somewhere, somehow.

Proof of Romanov’s support of this view can be found in this quote:

In order to hold and defend Russia’s vast territory — from the Baltic region to the Pacific Ocean — Russians have needed a strong state and a strong leader, and they had to exhibit an “exceptional resilience” in their own lives. Over the centuries, those conditions for survival have shaped the Russian character.

To be sure, very small states have had very strong leaders. At the same time, the US, Canada, and China are all very large states which don’t seem to need a strong leader such as the one Russia supposedly needs now. Yes, Russia is bigger than any of those countries, but much of that land is sparsely populated and always will be. Moreover, one could argue that Russia had strong leaders when it wasn’t anywhere near the size of the Russian Federation today. When Romanov says that Russians have a national character which requires a strong national leader, he is truly saying only one thing- Russians are stupid. Let’s formalize that, shall we?

Pyotr Romanov believes Russians are stupid.

I’m sorry but there really is just no other way to explain that. Americans don’t need a “strong leader” like Putin. Obama faces daily attacks from both left and right. RT still operates an affiliate in the US. America doesn’t need to ban people from leaving the country or constantly legislate more and more restrictions on media. If anything we don’t have enough rules regarding media ownership. Obama will be gone, come January of 2017; nobody is suggesting we need him to stay so as to deal with this “new Cold War” that has arisen. As my friend often asks his students on this matter- Are Americans smarter than Russians? If they are not, why are they permitted these freedoms, which must be denied to Russians. It’s not “national character.” Romanov and his cronies think Russians are stupid. There’s really no way around it.

Romanov reaches critical moron mass with this passage:

And finally, while Westerners are accustomed to operating within the framework of clearly defined laws, Russians are more attuned to the idea of justice. That is why most Russians care little about arguments that Moscow annexed Crimea in violation of international law.

Romanov’s understanding of law and justice is seriously flawed to begin with. First of all, Romanov treats the two concepts as though they are two vastly different things. There is St. Augustine’s concept that an unjust law is not law at all, but there is nothing just about the annexation of the Crimea. Furthermore, the idea that Russians have a keen sense of justice is simply laughable to anyone who reads the daily news in this country, or who lives here and simply has functioning eyes and ears. The mothers of soldiers who mysteriously died are labeled as traitors by people who buy their sons’ way out of the army. People who live in luxury bought with stolen wealth demand that the people they stole it from tighten their belts. Is that justice?

Russian diplomats and politicians, by virtue of their job descriptions, are prepared to debate that issue, but the overwhelming majority of Russians would simply assert that the annexation restored historical justice. Like Cicero, they hold that whatever is most fair is also most right.

No, Mr. Romanov, Russian diplomats and politicians don’t really debate that issue, because they cannot. Within Russia, when they don’t want to debate something they simply label any argument to the contrary “propaganda” or a “provocation,” and then pass a law banning it. Of course they cannot use the power of the state to control foreign politicians and journalists, ergo they do not debate. What is the best argument they assert? They put forth Kosovo’s referendum on independence as a precedent which legitimizes the annexation. So do they then recognize Kosovo, as would be just? No, they do not. Did they recognize the justice of Chechnya’s decision to separate from the Russian Federation? Of course not.

There is no historical justice or fairness in the annexation of the Crimea. The Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR by the Soviet government, for good reasons. Russians today idolize the Soviet Union, cry about Ukrainians smashing Lenin monuments, and love Stalin, or at least a highly distorted version of him who never actually existed. And yet we are to believe that there is one issue you’re allowed to criticize when it comes to either of those men or the USSR in general- that is the transfer of the Crimean peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR. I’m terribly sorry, Russians, but you cannot have it both ways. I would happily prefer you to go full Tsarist on all of us. Show your true colors and stop dragging the working class’ red flag through the mud. Stop pouring shame upon the graves of over 25 million people who died defending a socialist country of not only Russians, but Ukrainians, Belorussians, Tatars, Uzbeks, Bashkirs, Kazakhs, Buryats, and so many more. If you want to go back to the near-medieval mudhole that was Tsarist Russia, go there alone without dragging others with you. Either you accept responsibility for the Soviet Union or you don’t. You do not get to steal its accomplishments while rejecting those things that you think were “unfair” to you.

Ask yourself this question- Suppose Ukrainian leaders suspected that Russia would attempt to annex the Crimea after Yanukovych left. Imagine they had communicated these fears to NATO, and in response, before Russia could react, an American-led NATO force landed in the Crimea to bolster security around Ukrainian military bases and airports. Suppose there had been a nationwide referendum on this occupation, so as to legitimize it, and the measure passed. Would Russians call that fair and just? Of course not. They’d be screaming about an invasion of the Ukraine, interference in internal affairs of sovereign nations, and violations of international law. That right there tells you about how keen their sense of justice is.

There was nothing unfair about the Crimea being a part of Ukraine either. When that was the case, it was far more accessible to Russians than it is now. My wife visited the Crimea via train and did not even so much as get a stamp on her passport. Of course there was one downside, but a downside for Russia’s criminal elite. They could not control the lucrative port facilities, often a scene of all manner of smuggling and trafficking. Prior to the annexation of the Crimea, one rarely heard Russians expressing so much enthusiasm about the Crimea. If they had been there and enjoyed it, yes, they talked about it, but Russians were more interested in vacationing in Europe, the United States, Egypt, Turkey, India, or Thailand. Even after the annexation, I’ve seen few Russians who are interested in actually going to Crimea. They don’t want to go there, but it’s important that it’s “theirs.” Of course that change in ownership is turning out to be the iceberg which will sink the Russian Titanic, which brings us back to Romanov’s ideas about economics.

What’s more, a recent survey by the Levada Center found that while in September 60 percent of Russians felt affected by the sanctions, only 47 percent felt that way by November. Interestingly, 80 percent of respondents also noted the sharp rise in prices and the worsening of Russia’s economy in recent years. Isn’t that strange? Don’t these people get it?

No, Pyotr, they don’t get it. First of all, there’s no reason for the sanctions, many of which are aimed at specific individuals, to have an immediate and profound effect on the ordinary Russians who answer that survey. If any sanction has had a serious effect that they might feel, it would be those that Putin has effectively levied against his own people, namely the foodstuffs import ban. Of course another reason why people answer that way is because they simply don’t understand economics or what is about to happen to them. This isn’t particularly unique to Russia- America is full of people who have wacky ideas about economics.

Actually, it is the West that doesn’t get it. Russians take it all in stride: “Yes, life has become more difficult,” they say, “but we will survive.” It is nothing new for Russians to have to tighten their belts and ride out the problems with a few extra bags of potatoes and an extra jar or two of pickles from their dacha gardens.

No, they do not take it in stride. When they aren’t constantly complaining about it or quietly exchanging their rubles for dollars as fast as they can, they’re treating one another like shit. This is hardly taking things in stride. Even their rants about America are nothing but a safe way to let off steam. Romanov’s ideas about pickles and potatoes from the dacha just show how out of touch he is with Russian reality. Speaking of which, not all Russians will be tightening their belts. If there’s been one direct effect of the sanctions, it’s that all Russian citizens have paid to bailout the sanctioned Rotenberg brothers. Looks like they aren’t interested in living off those extra pickles and potatoes from the vast dachas they undoubtedly own.

That, my friends, is the whole tragedy of Russia’s supposed “national character.” Russia’s oligarchical elite caused this mess, and the people are forced to pay for it. Even when Western leaders tailor their sanctions to target those responsible instead of the ordinary Russian citizen, it’s the latter that pays. There is nothing admirable in accepting this.

Also I really hate to go here, but remember when I said Romanov’s thesis has been tested and refuted? Well let’s just remember that we’re talking about a country where women in vast numbers sold their own bodies for Western consumer goods, including cosmetics, shoes, and handbags. Many Russian women still willingly go abroad to work as prostitutes, or marry men strictly for the prospects of a life outside of Russia. Did they forget about the pickles from the dacha? Please spare me your nonsense about Russians being more attuned to non-material things. Consumerism is far more rampant in Russia. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Russia is the way it is because the small elite wants to continue robbing from the nation. What do they then spend that wealth on? Western products, from cars, to clothes, to education for their children. This country suffers because of the rampant consumerism of a small minority of people. Russians can pretended to be stoic about this all they want. It isn’t admirable, it isn’t a quality. It’s submissive and humiliating. I’m actually embarrassed on their behalf. Americans would never tolerate one quarter of the bullshit the Russian government subjects its citizens to.

The coup de bullshitte in this piece comes near the end, where Romanov pulls his little “I don’t care about sanctions but please remove them” routine.

Even if sanctions succeed in weakening Russia, they will fail to achieve their primary goals. What’s more, they cause a great deal of hardship on those who impose them. I seriously doubt that European voters will want to re-elect leaders who cut them off from the lucrative Russian market and launched a new version of the Cold War.

First we must ask what goals. Romanov acts as though these sanctions are some kind of offensive against Russia, aimed at subjugating and destroying her. Nonsense. The sanctions were levied in response to Russia violating a treaty and invading and annexing part of a sovereign nation. If the West were truly out to get Russia, they could have levied sanctions against Russia during the Georgian war of 2008. They could have hit Russia with sanctions during either of the Chechen wars, when the country was much weaker. They could have sanctioned Russia over its involvement in Moldova. In Romanov’s fantasy land, Russia was just minding its own business when the West attempted to cow Russia with sanctions as though it were some kind of economic Operation Barbarossa. It is Russia who launched the new Cold War, because its exploiting class knows full well that nothing distracts people from their theft than jingoism.

Next, professor dipshit claims that the sanctions will impose hardship on those who impose them. Ah, but Pyotr, do you not know the legendary endurance of Europeans and Americans? Did you forget what the British and French endured in the trenches near the Somme and in Flanders? Did you forget about the near suicidal attacks the Italians carried out time after time on the Isonzo river? Have you never heard of Bloody Omaha Beach, or the Hurtgen forest, where Americans fought so tenaciously? Do you not know the horrors of Victorian Britain, or Depression Era America? I could go on endlessly mocking Romanov’s selective history, but it is amusing indeed that he has the audacity to threaten those countries with economic hardships when his own nation’s economy was already starting to roll over the edge months before anyone was even talking about sanctions.

Also note that he implies that it will be Europeans who elect other candidates in response to the horrible economic effects of sanctions on Russia. Why would it be them, Pyotr? Why don’t the Russians elect some other leader instead of the guy who annexed part of a foreign country and ran the economy into the ground? Pyotr knows that they can’t, though. He knows that only Europeans and Americans get that little leeway to hold their politicians accountable. Russians aren’t allowed that, because of their national character. I know exactly when and how Obama will leave office in a few years. Pyotr can’t possibly know when or how Putin will leave power. Putin is his master.

The only solution is to reach a compromise. Russians are strong-willed and full of character, but they do not want unnecessary troubles. If they have to, they can endure great difficulty, but Russians are not masochists.

Here’s where Romanov does his begging schtick. If Russians are happy to endure any hardship, why are these “unnecessary troubles” considered troubles at all? They’ve got their fresh pickles and potatoes, remember? Let the sanctions go on for another ten years if they must. They’ll endure, right?

This is precisely what I mean when I say that the Russian response to sanctions is so hilarious. They’re ineffective, they’re counterproductive, they’ll only hurt you, but WE DON’T CARE! Seriously though, remove your sanctions. Come on.
Mr. Romanov’s Fantastic Journey through Wacky Land provides a perfect example of the post-modernist world Russia’s leadership lives in. “Sanctions will only help Russia, while hurting the countries that levy them! The ruble’s falling? That will be good for the government! They’ll get more rubles when they sell things in dollars! But of course the ruble is only falling because of speculators, who may in fact be foreigners bent on destroying Russia! Is the ruble still falling? Then the Central Bank must be secretly working with the Americans! It’s always someone else’s fault! Always! Not that any of that matters, though, because the falling ruble will be good for Russia! Sanctions will only help! Who cares about the sanctions? Not me!” This is what they actually believe. They have this idea that their “national character” somehow lends some validity to their delusions, and therefore the rest of the world is bound to respect them.

Well I’ve got bad news for you, Mr. Romanov. The world doesn’t need to respect your delusions, nor matter how popular they are in Russia. Neither do Russians, or non-Russian minorities in Russia, for that matter. Whatever sacrifices the Russian people are forced to make, it will only be for the sake of their own exploiters who have nothing but the deepest contempt for them. You are right about one thing. From time to time Russians have risen up to throw off the yoke of a ruling class who neglected them. You can scream about the West all you want, but eventually the majority of people will realize that it wasn’t America or the West that robbed them blind and pissed their future away- it was their own “patriotic ruling class.” Hacks like you helped them do it with your bullshit fantasies about “national character.” Till that day comes, Pyotr, go eat your fucking pickles.

STFU

I am of that strange in-between generation which quickly embraced and adapted to the internet, yet  which still has plenty of memories of our pre-internet world. Thus while using the internet is mostly second nature for me, there are some aspects of it which I haven’t managed to fully adapt to. Twitter, for example, is a mystery to me. I cannot limit any of my thoughts to 140 characters. I can rarely limit them to 140 words. Another aspect which initially struck me as strange was the explosion of comments sections, and thereafter the transformation of some comments sections into virtual discussion forums. I still get like notifications from comments I’ve made via a Facebook-integrated comment section on an internet publication. I’m happy that so many people have liked my comments written months and in one case over year ago, but I’d rather not be reminded about it constantly. Thus far I’ve learned the only way to turn off those notifications is to actually remove the comments I made, which sounds a bit ridiculous considering how highly liked they were.

Comments sections have a reputation of being the lowest of the low when it comes to debate. Youtube and Yahoo News are probably the top two rivals for the stupidest commentators. I’m sure every reader out there can remember a time when you watched a 30-second video of a kitten playing with a ball of yarn, and then you made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments only to find such gems as:

“This video is fucking bullshit! Just another attempt by the Jews and their Illuminati henchmen to distract us White men as they destroy our society with third world immigrants! Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white!” 

“This cat is gay. The person who shot this video is a faggot.”  

“Bullshit! Everyone knows that the M16 is far more accurate than an AK-47. As long as you keep it clean it will function just fine. That kitten was cute but if Kenyan president Obummer has his way we won’t have any M16’s or AK’s.”

“My friend earned $5000 last week without leaving the house! All he had to do was stay at home and tell people who Obama is a fag. DEPORT ALL ARABS!!!”

“Come to my city and say that shit to my face! I’m an ex-Navy SEAL and I will totally fuck you up. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, DC, motherfucker.  -President Barack Obama”  

Entire videos have been made on the subject of Youtube comments, in fact.

Suffice it to say that if we see anything posted on the internet, chances are you can scroll down and you will find comments, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. Some comments sections have special platforms like Disqus, which tracks all your comments on any Disqus-based section and basically transforms comments sections into one massive discussion forum. Most sections at least provide some form of subscription so that you can track people’s replies indefinitely. Whatever the system, comments sections have become an integral part of internet media. Should they though? Is this kind of audience participation really desirable?

Should it be, though? The early twenties me, the veteran forum flame warrior, would have most likely answered in the affirmative. But that me is long gone. Now I have to say that the idea of letting everyone comment on everything is simply idiotic. For one thing, unlike a forum where you have to possess a modicum of intelligence to register and create a profile, virtually anyone can easily comment on news stories, even if they have a platform which requires some kind of profile. Usually it’s as simple as telling the program to use one of your existing accounts, such as a Gmail account.  Moreover, most people who comment don’t really plan to debate, which means that they aren’t going to be too concerned about how intelligent their argument is. Most forums exist as a sort of community. I’ve seen bitter forum grudges between users that went on for years; usually this entails the slighted user following the object of their hatred from thread to thread in order to start shit, on-topic or off.  The fact that it’s possible to scroll down to the comments of virtually any news article and simply carpet bomb them with comments makes this a far more attractive trolling prospect than a traditional discussion forum. It also means that complete idiots are better able to participate in discussions, as Yahoo News demonstrates.

In case the reader is wondering at this point why I’ve got so much to say about commenting, I just recently discovered that The Moscow Times no longer has comments on their site. Instead there is this message.

Dear reader,

Due to the increasing number of users engaging in personal attacks, spam, trolling and abusive comments, we are no longer able to host our forum as a site for constructive and intelligent debate.

It is with regret, therefore, that we have found ourselves forced to suspend the commenting function on our articles.

The Moscow Times remains committed to the principle of public debate and hopes to welcome you to a new, constructive forum in the future.

Regards,

The Moscow Times

Judging from the last time I looked at the kind of comments they get there, I’m surprised they managed to endure so long. The comments to my article alone were insane, though entirely predictable. Like many venues for discussion about Russia, MT comments sections tend to neatly divide into rigid pro-Putin “pro-Russian” and pro-Western camps.  Fail to fully support every plank of the party line and your allies may become your enemies. It’s also pretty likely that MT is plagued with paid Russian comment trolls. These trolls can be identified by their poor English, occasional attempts to pose as Americans or citizens of the UK, ridiculously exaggerated claims, and a general unwillingness to actually engage in debate. For example, if the article is about some NGO accusing Russia of having human rights issues, such a troll with a user name like UncleSam1776 will come on and write something like,“Come on! Everyone’s know that there are no human rights in America! Its most undemocratic country in the world. There is no freedom of speech at all!”  

At this point I only see one problem with what The Moscow Times has done; they say they plan to somehow reinstate the system and create a constructive forum in the future. I’m sorry but that just isn’t going to happen. Either the discussion will be severely limited, or the same trolls and binary-thinking dipshits will run wild again.  Seeing as how morons can comment as much as they like on The Moscow Times’ Facebook page, I for one would applaud them if they didn’t reinstate the comments section. If there’s some kind of revenue angle I don’t know about, I can understand. But if there isn’t, I say scrap the comments for good.

There is simply no reason why everyone should be allowed to publicly comment on everything. Even today, newspapers have a small, limited section for letters to the editor, and they tend to be quite strict and discriminating in regards to what they print. Granted, I know there are plenty of stupid letters to the editor, but I guarantee you that a lot of stuff gets filtered out. Compare that to the comments section of a news article, where the filtering is usually far less strict.  If readers want to discuss the articles they read, that’s what their co-workers, significant others, children, parents, and other relatives are for.  When you read an article, and particularly an editorial, that’s usually the work of a professional writer. If you take issue with what they wrote, there are usually channels through which you can contact them and share your grievance.  If you actually possess writing skills, you can possibly write a response to their article. If you can’t get it into their publication, you can either find one which will publish it or just publish yourself for free on a personal blog.  If you’re not capable of composing an intelligent response, that’s on you. It’s not the responsibility of that author’s publication or of the author to provide you with a platform to respond at all, much less a platform that allows you to write ignorant, uninformed opinions.

There is a rather childish, if not imbecilic notion in modern internet culture which says that anything and everything should be totally open to debate indefinitely, and any refusal to either debate or continue a debate in progress results in an automatic win for the other side. I’m terribly sorry but this is bullshit. Some arguments simply do not have merit. They do not warrant debate. There really aren’t two sides to every story.  This being the case, there is no reason why authors or publications should feel compelled to provide millions of anonymous strangers with a platform to publicly discuss their own hard work. Again, if your argument really holds weight, you should be able to produce some written work of merit and get it published somewhere. Do…the…fucking…work.

Note that I’m not saying that comments sections should end. I’m merely putting forth an opinion that it might be nice for more publications and websites to consider closing their comments sections. I’m saying we need to stop expecting every single website to solicit our opinions, because quite frankly sometimes our opinions are crap. As for Russia Without BS, I don’t have any upcoming plans to close the comments section, but that’s because thus far I have been blessed with some of the best, most rational comment writers I’ve ever seen on the internet.  How a blog about Russia could manage to somehow avoid becoming a battleground, especially over Ukraine, is beyond me.  The Moscow Times on the other hand is far too well-known and much more of a target since it is one of the few independent media sources left in Russia. As such, I’d say they really ought to consider making their closure of the comments section permanent.

Chicken Little

So a new piece by Harley Balzer on The Moscow Times asks the rhetorical question, “Is Alaska next on Russia’s list?” Let me help you out there, Harley. No. No, Alaska is not next on Russia’s “list.” Yes, Russia has a number of pseudo-intellectual jerkoffs in high positions who like to engage in masturbatory fantasies about recapturing lost territories of the Russian empire, but this deserves no more credence than someone in Iran pontificating the restoration of the Achaemenid empire. Actually I’d give Iran better chances in that endeavor than Russia has.

“But what about the Crimea?” Oh yes, you mean the Crimea that Russia threw away its future for? The annexation throughout which the government continually denied the presence of Russian military forces?  It has been theorized that the Kremlin has been planning the annexation of the Crimea for years, but it’s clear that they did not plan much further beyond that.

And what of “Novorossiya?” It’s pretty much doomed. There is violent infighting among the insurgents, there is no functioning economy, they have failed to open up a land route to the Crimea, and once again, Russia has continually denied that it has given any support to the rebels. Laughable as that claim may be, I think we can admit that any rising superpower that could truly annex part of the United States, much less threaten it, should at least be able to openly admit when it engages in military operations. You don’t see the US denying that its planes are bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. More importantly, since anyone who isn’t a complete moron knows that there was at least some Russian military involvement in the Donbass, in addition to obvious logistical and manpower support, we must conclude that in an indirect way, the Russian military was defeated by the Ukrainian military. That’s not a good record.

I really wish folks like Mr. Balzer wouldn’t take this kind of nonsense so seriously. As much as Russian “patriots” scream when the Western media portrays Russia as a threatening country or a force of destabilization, they secretly love it. They get off to it. Because they have nothing to offer their people but mindless hate, these folks love the idea that people in Europe and especially the US fear Russia. Of course most people, especially in the US, literally don’t give a fuck about Russia one way or the other, but sometimes you wouldn’t know that when you read some of the more sensationalist publications out there.

I don’t see anything wrong with highlighting the wacky beliefs of certain Russian figures, if only to show what kind of clowns are allowed, via their connections, to achieve high positions in Russian politics, but taking them seriously only gives them validation they don’t deserve. The only way Russia is going to invade any part of the US is if they make that the plot of another Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game.