Tag Archives: War

A contrarian’s view on anti-German hysteria

DISCLAIMER: This article is SATIRICAL, though some of the arguments you find within have actually been made both in the past and by apologists of the Third Reich to this day. 

By Dr. William Percival Thomas IV

June 1939

It seems not a day goes by that we don’t see alarmist headlines telling us that Germany plans to invade Poland, or that Germany is supposedly acting “aggressive” toward its neighbor, Czechoslovakia. Typically these pieces are written by talentless hacks who have no background knowledge of Germany and its history, and as such it is easy for them to demonize Germany and its leader, Adolf Hitler. Unlike such journalists, I have actually spent significant time in Germany, and have studied German history for the better part of my adult life. It is for this reason that I cannot go along with the bandwagon that is currently crying “wolf” over so-called “German aggression.”

First let us be realistic for a moment. Germany has indeed annexed some territory in recent years, but we might do well to remember that so far, the only territory Germany has been “annexing” is territory it used to control. First let us look at the Rhineland, where Germany allegedly flouted the Treaty of Versailles and acted “aggressively” by re-militarizing the territory in 1936. Sure, if we are to stick to the very letter of the Versailles treaty,  the Germans were certainly in violation. But this was, for all intents and purposes, Germany territory, and how logical is it to demand that a nation not station troops on a part of its own, sovereign territory? How can we condemn Hitler’s demands toward his neighbors while simultaneously making demands on Germany?

Then of course there is the matter of the Anschluss, another example of Germany being tarred as aggressive for “invading” what is arguably ethnic German territory. Once again, a little historical context is in order. The mostly German Austrian republic made an attempt to join Germany in 1918, yet was forbidden to do so by the treaties of St. Germain and that pesky Versailles treaty. Another fact that journalists tend to ignore due to their utter lack of German historical knowledge is that there was something of a German union that included Austria in the past- the German Confederation which was dissolved after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. And even if we ignore that, let us not forget that Germany held a plebiscite to determine the will of the German and Austrian people, who supported the unification by 99.7% of the voters. A more democratic expression of a people’s self-determination is hard to come by these days, but the mainstream press apparently thinks that self-determination is something for Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks, but not Germans.

Then of course there is the matter of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia, the latter recently having been “annexed” by Germany. The matter of the Sudetenland has long been settled- this was German land, populated by a majority of Germans. As for the rest of Czechoslovakia, Germany has been far more generous than it needed to be. With Austria having been unified in a Greater Germany, Berlin has a rightful claim to all former Hapsburg territory. Yet in the case of Czechoslovakia, one of the many artificial creations conjured into existence by the hated Treaty of Versailles, Germany absorbed only Bohemia and Moravia as a protectorate, granting the right of self-determination and independence to Slovakia. Funny how the mainstream press ignores this inconvenient fact while implicitly demanding that Ukrainians, Croats, Slovenes, and other nationalities remain within the borders of superstates where they lack ample representation in governments controlled by other nationalities.

Once again our Western press is beating the war drums, this time over Poland. Once again we might do well to bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of the Free City of Danzig is German, and they resent being separated from their German brethren by the absurd “Polish corridor.” We might also ask why the press does not speak of “Polish aggression” when that country annexed parts of the supposedly inviolable Czechoslovakia, or why they do not speak of “Polish fascism” when it is well known that the Polish government is not only quite reactionary, but oppresses its own national minorities such as the Ukrainians and Jews.

Ultimately what we have here is a lack of understanding toward the German people. Few Englishmen or Americans ever travel to Germany and thus they are not only ignorant of German history, but they also lack any knowledge of the average German’s point of view. If we look from a historical perspective, we see that Germany has suffered a myriad of wars and invasions going back to Roman times. Indeed, the Romans themselves conquered much of Germany. But we need not go back so far into history to see why Germany is so driven toward militarism, as its critics claim. Geography suffices to explain German behavior.

Germany’s location in the center of Europe, surrounded on all sides by enemies, naturally makes defense a priority in the German mentality. Again we need not delve into the depths of ancient history for an example; we need only look to the recent memory of the Great War and Germany’s Schlieffen Plan to see how the need to fight on two fronts has become embedded in the German mindset; it is simply something the German cannot reasonably ignore. And when we consider how Germany lost that war and the humiliation it has suffered at the hands of the victors and their Versailles treaty, the average German’s resentment toward Western Europe is totally understandable.

Western hypocrites as of late love to criticize Germany’s so-called “rampant anti-Semitism,” but once again if they had bothered to actually go to Germany and speak with the men on the street, they might benefit from getting the German point of view. For one thing, the Germans see the Jews as the cause of their misfortunes following the Great War. To us, the anti-Jewish rhetoric may sound like demagogic scapegoating, but ask any German in a beer hall what the Jews have done to him and he will tell you the same thing- that the Communists are controlled by Jews, that “Red Jewish treachery” stabbed the German army in the back, leading to Germany’s defeat in the war and the humiliating Versailles treaty which followed. We might dispute such claims with numbers of Jewish citizens who loyally fought in the ranks of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies or by pointing out that the majority of Communist and Social Democrat party members are in fact non-Jewish, but we might take pause to ask what right we have to tell another nation its history. Germans, with the humiliation of the defeat so fresh in living memory, have a valid point of view as well.

bolshevism

The average German sees only a choice between his Nazi leaders and Soviet Bolshevism. Who are we to tell them otherwise, when we in the West have never seriously faced the threat of revolution?

Others criticize Germany’s supposedly racist, chauvinist policies, as well as German leader Adolf Hitler’s well known intentions to create an ethnically pure Lebensraum or “living space.” To those who call such a policy imperialist I would first ask whether they are prepared to demand that Great Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, or Japan give up their colonial empires. Germany was stripped of its empire at the end of the last war. Do we have a right to demand any people space in which to live and grow? Meanwhile, those who balk at the idea of a contiguous, ethnically pure German empire in Europe ought to keep in mind that it was not Germany’s National Socialists who pioneered the practice of eugenics or race laws. Indeed, Germany has taken its inspiration from that self-proclaimed bastion of freedom and democracy, the United States. Clearly any American critic of Germany must remove the mote from their eye before pointing out the speck in Germany’s.

Having taken into consideration the German point of view in politics and foreign policy, we can now return to the present crisis between Poland and Germany, where we initially began. For one thing, we rarely if ever see our mainstream media accurately represent Germany’s claims on supposedly Polish territory. We are constantly told about German sabre-rattling, yet we never hear anything in our press about the repeated outrages committed by Poles against ethnic Germans, left defenseless in what became to them a foreign country overnight. We are told that Germany is an aggressive country, while the fact that Germany is surrounded by expansionist enemies is completely ignored. To the West, Germany faces a hostile France and Britain. France, I remind the reader, has formal military treaties with Poland and the Soviet Union, but of course we never hear about aggressive French, Polish, or Soviet expansion.

map

A map shows the enormity of forces arrayed against Germany. Who exactly is being militaristic and aggressive?

If the reader is still in doubt as to the severity of the situation facing Germany, I would remind them that Germany was recently forced to counter a Bolshevik threat in Spain. Indeed, where were the condemnations for the Soviet Union when it sent thousands of men, tanks, planes, and tons of ammunition to prop up what some claimed to be the legitimately elected government? Certainly the Franco regime did not see things that way. And since Great Britain, France, and the United States were all more than willing to impose a non-intervention regime effectively embargoing the Republican, Communist-dominated government, with the United State going so far as to grant Franco’s forces oil on credit during the war, we clearly see that there are key questions of foreign policy in which the Western powers can find common ground with Germany and its allies. If we could come to an agreement then, and indeed if we could achieve an even greater understanding in Munich last year, who’s to say that we cannot do the same by seeking a compromise with Hitler and granting his rather reasonable, modest demands toward the obstinate Polish government. Is it not better to have Germany, standing there as a bastion against Asiatic Bolshevism, rather than a weak divided Poland which could not hope to withstand a Russian onslaught for more than a few weeks at best? I’d argue that Prime Minister Chamberlain certainly thinks so.

Indeed it was Chamberlain himself who brought us, as he called it, “peace in our time” at Munich. Now the warmongerers wish to tear up that document and plunge us into another bloody conflict, one which will almost inevitably involve as many nations as the last if not more. A kind of Second World War, if you will. If such a prospect does not sound too dire to those currently calling for a tougher stance against Hitler (who might be embarrassed to find Soviet dictator Josef Stalin on their side), I have been to countless German military parades and I can testify that Germany’s military might has truly exceeded that which it wielded in 1914. In 1916-1918 the German Reich scrambled to find an antidote to the British tank; now the German armies field entire divisions consisting of tanks of every sort. The German Luftwaffe possesses squadrons of modern aeroplanes which proved their effectiveness against Bolshevik flyers in the recent civil war in Spain. The German soldier is motivated, trained to a high degree, and prepared to defend his home soil to the last man. Is this a nation we truly want to provoke, and all for the sake of Poland, no less?

It is clear to any reasonable and educated man that we must come to an understanding with Mr. Hitler if we wish to avoid a Second World War. Germany has legitimate, security-related grievances which many Westerners are unable to perceive due to the lack of experience with foreign invasions and bloody attempted revolutions. It is time for our leaders to stop being stubborn, stop listening to hysterical war mongers, and instead show their willingness to compromise with Germany by granting them their modest demands in regards to Poland. They should seek counsel not from the Germanophobes but rather from those who truly understand Germany and its leaders, or Hitlerversteher as they are known in Germany.  Such people are aware that even if we concede the point that Germany has been behaving aggressively as of late, we cannot deny that since 1919 we have pushed them in that direction. A compromise that involves giving Germany lands it once controlled for centuries will show Mr. Hitler that we are indeed reasonable people and reliable partners.

Dr. William Percival Thomas IV is a professor of Germanic History at Cambridge University who has spent considerable time in Germany both before and after the Great War. 

Russia’s Best and Brightest

Recently I’ve been reading the fascinating book The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam by James William Gibson. Technowar, far from being a type of all-out DJ battle, is how the author describes the concept of war which evolved in the minds of America’s military and political elite at the beginning of the Cold War, and in particular shaped America’s strategy in Vietnam. When it came to understanding the US defeat in Vietnam, in the past I read books such as A Bright Shining Lie* by Neil Sheehan, along with biographies of Vo Nguyen Giap and some of that illustrious general’s own works. While the so-called “liberal” explanation of defeat, that America’s leaders held a number of incorrect assumptions and mistaken ideas which led to a big misunderstanding that killed well over a million people, has always been closer to the truth than the conservative tale of self-imposed restraints and a stab-in-the-back myth in regards to the home front, Gibson set out to expose both explanations as mythology, fairy tales that different segments of America told themselves.

Gibson digs deeper, past basic political misconceptions and the idea that the US military simply didn’t know how to fight a proper counter-insurgency campaign. No, according to the dominant beliefs among the generals and political elites of the time, they knew exactly what they were doing. They weren’t perplexed by the intricacies of winning hearts and minds or fighting against guerrilla tactics. They had a strategy, which Gibson dubs Technowar, and not only did they know it would succeed, but the very idea that it could possibly fail was simply unthinkable. The US war machine was far more technologically advanced than that of the National Liberation Front, AKA the Viet Cong, and the North Vietnamese military. American industry was far more developed than that of Vietnam, and even the Chinese and Soviets who were supplying them. This would turn into a battle of attrition, but unlike WWI where the idea was to effect a breakthrough and capture territory, Vietnam strategy boiled down to two words- body counts. The idea was to kill enough VC and NVA until both the NLF and North Vietnam were convinced that they could not win their war. To see how this strategy played out on the ground, as well as its nuts and bolts, you’ll just have to read the book.

It would be nice if that were the last time America’s leaders succumbed to a delusion disconnected from military reality. Members of the Bush administration found a unique way of dealing with counter-insurgency in the modern world- just pretend it won’t be an issue. They picked a conventional opponent, knocked it out using America’s insurmountable advantage in conventional warfare, and then expected the troops to be showered with roses by a grateful population, just before the latter buzzed off to design a Western-style liberal democracy wherein entrepreneurship and the free market decide everything. To some extent, the US and its allies showed that they had learned from past mistakes in Vietnam. At least they seemed to have stopped measuring success in body counts, more body counts, and nothing but body counts. Holding territory and at least attempting to build functioning governments and institutions in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to have played a more central role. Still in the run up to the Iraq invasion Bush and his advisers constructed an echo chamber for themselves and thus fell victim to a delusion just like the “best and brightest” who got the country into Vietnam.

One cannot help but to find parallels with Putin’s post-2014 imperial adventure. In fact, in many ways the delusion is even more destructive than it was for the US in Vietnam. A fundamental pillar of Technowar was the irrefutable fact that America’s military-industrial complex was superior to that of the Vietnamese and their insurgent organization in the South. As the US was getting increasingly involved in Vietnam (something its leaders did quite deliberately for the most part), it was simultaneously experiencing its biggest economic boom. That the US could produce more helicopters, more small arms ammunition, more shells, more rockets, more bombs, etc. was not up for debate, and given the accomplishments of US industry during WWII and the period thereafter, you can almost forgive some of the country’s leaders for succumbing to the delusion that this ability would convince the Communist Vietnamese that they couldn’t win.

Putin, of course, has embarked upon a branching warpath with nothing like the kind of economy the US had prior to 9/11, let alone that of 1950’s-1960’s America. Worse still, while Putin did at least start a massive military overhaul prior to his superpower play, it’s difficult to determine the extent to which the Kremlin gets its money’s worth. When it comes to contractor corruption and questionable budget items, the Pentagon is by no means a virgin. But in Russia corruption permeates every level of society, including the military. Who can say for sure what the Ministry of Defense actually gets for the money it’s spending?

Besides this we can see that the Kremlin, itself not particularly known for waging terribly successful counter-insurgency warfare (paying tribute to a Chechen ex-rebel is hardly victory), has obviously succumbed to a number of Technowar-like delusions in its wars.

In Ukraine there’s  lot of evidence suggesting that the Russian government intended to take a much larger swath of land in the East; at the very least we know they wanted the whole of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. There’s also a very good possibility that in the beginning, they believed they could effect this without much costs, just as they did in the Crimea. It’s also quite possible that they merely let their proxies think this would be the case, letting them take the walk through the minefield. However, one must remember that prior to the mobilization of 2014, Ukraine had at best a token military, one which had disarmed quite a bit with the help of the United States, incidentally. As such, the idea of a two-day drive to Kyiv might not have seemed to far fetched to anyone familiar with the military capabilities of Ukraine and Russia.

Yet despite a government plagued with infighting and corruption, the new Ukrainian army has managed to hold the line in the East. Perhaps showing slightly more regard for reality than the Bush administration or those of the Vietnam War era, the Kremlin radically revised its line toward the “rebellion” in the East, from giving up any plans for taking cities like Kharkiv and Dnepropetrovsk to scrapping the whole “Novorossiya” project and declaring what’s left of the rebel territories to be part of Ukraine.

Syria, has turned out to be another matter, and another possible source of delusion. It began with the idea that Russia would pretend to lead a crusade against ISIS, and in the process, Western nations would have to work with Moscow to obtain a resolution in Syria. It is highly likely that the “destroy ISIS” pretext was never seriously believed by the Russian Ministry of Defense, but it’s hard to tell because the system here isn’t known for brooking dissent. If Putin says destroying ISIS is the goal, then that’s the goal, even as you’re bombing almost everyone but ISIS in the beginning.

Of course Putin and company were mistaken on other aspects of Syria. The West didn’t exactly jump at the chance to effect reconciliation with Russia, as Putin had apparently hoped when he inaccurately likened the struggle to that of the Grand Alliance of WWII. The sanctions are still in place and there’s no real sign that this will change anytime soon. It is very possible that Western leaders have finally started to understand the interests behind Putin’s sabre-rattling, and if so they might have figured out that any concession they make will not be appreciated, nor will their be reciprocity. Western countries can afford to play the long game in this case.

The Kremlin got a bucket of ice water over the head last November, when one of their fighter-bombers in Syria was easily shot down by Turkish F16’s. This of course was followed by all manner of economic threats against Turkey, but Ankara doesn’t seem to show signs of folding. Erdogan, like Putin, is also an authoritarian steeped in delusions, and he won’t back down in his own backyard. Yet in spite of this, the recent “simulated attack” on the USS Donald Cook (Yes, again) shows that the Russian government hasn’t learned its lesson about what actually happens when they go toe to toe with NATO forces.

There is also, of course, the overarching problem of having no direction or easily-defined objectives, both in Ukraine and Syria. In Ukraine it’s fairly clear that the goal was propaganda aimed at preserving the regime in Moscow. Conditions in Ukraine must ever be worse than those in Russia, so that millions of viewers can always say “At least this isn’t as bad as Ukraine!” It’s also dangerous to have so many Russian-speaking people, and indeed the Kremlin’s propagandists and even Putin himself all insist that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, creating a fully-functioning democratic society that can hold its leaders accountable. If they don’t need a “strong” hand to keep them in line in Sumy or Kharkiv, why do they need it in Kursk, Voronezh, or Moscow?

Of course the problem here is that “troll Ukraine” isn’t really a goal. It costs tons of money and has done nothing but hurt Russia’s image while proving to be a major boon for NATO and the Western military-industrial complex. When it comes to strengthening NATO and getting the US back into Europe, Lucas and Applebaum are amateurs compared to Vladimir Putin. This, incidentally, is probably one of the arguments you’ll hear from conspiracy theorists after the fall of Putin’s regime, when he is inevitably labeled an agent of the State Department (Because fuck the CIA, apparently).

In Syria it would appear there’s more of a concrete goal- defeat ISIS. Whether Assad stays or goes, kicking ISIS back across the border is a coherent, achievable goal. The problem is that it’s clear that more and more of the fighting is falling on the shoulders of Iranians, Russians, and Hizbollah. Russia has the most military resources out of these groups, which means it would be very easy for them to get drawn further in and end up shouldering more of the burden. But let’s say for the sake of argument that they kick ISIS out of Syria- what do they get for this? Sure they’ll gain some propaganda points, perhaps justifiably so this time, but they’ll most likely get stuck with the task of keeping Assad afloat, and there’s always the remaining threat of other rebel groups plus possible ISIS stay-behind forces who could go over to unconventional warfare. You know, that warfare that Russia is really bad at?

When we read the Russian state and pro-Kremlin press on Syria, we don’t really see much discussion about possible failure. In fact, one writer for Russia Insider published a piece that criticized Putin’s move, quite reasonably pointing out that it could put Russia in a difficult lose-lose scenario. The response from other Russia Insider Putin fanboys was harsh. The very idea that Putin’s plans in Syria could possibly fail is “anti-Russian.”

The delusions of the Kremlin regime don’t stop in the realm of military adventures. We see it in their so-called “information war” as well, particularly every time they release another laughably phony video or story. It’s not that Russia doesn’t have plenty of past mistakes to learn from; it’s just that unlike the US, Germany, Japan, or the UK, the powers that be basically nullified those mistakes, and in more recent times they have sought to make their official narrative the only one. All past shocks in Russian society are simply attributed to spies and foreign agents, and thus preventing the next one is simply a matter of finding and stopping the spies and foreign agents. It’s almost like those body counts in Vietnam.

Reality is a harsh mistress. Regimes can ignore her only for a limited time until she kicks in the door and stabs you repeatedly in the gut with a steak knife. It’s clear that the delusions of the Kremlin aren’t quite identical to the meticulously constructed pseudo-science of Gibson’s Technowar, but parallels do exist, and in fact the Kremlin has actually fallen further from reality in some respects. Far from despising force, Putin and his cronies looked with awe and envy at America’s military interventions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. If only they could send troops and planes around the world to violate other nations’ sovereignty! Now, at the expense of millions of Russian citizens they believe they have achieved this capability, one which is by no means a sign of true national greatness. Believing themselves to have achieved parity, the Kremlin appears to have devoted zero attention to understanding the foundations of US military might, and they certainly never considered the staggering costs America has paid thanks to the delusions of the original neocons (really good point on that from ex-ambassador McFaul).

Indeed it is ironic that the regime has spent so much on propaganda that gloats over the decline of the American empire when it is traveling down that same road in a much worse condition. Just up that road, slightly off to the side, there’s someone hiding in the brush clutching a Kalashnikov and waiting to spring an ambush. But it’s no Victor Charlie. It’s Lady Reality.

*A Bright Shining Lie is an extremely thick book, but if you don’t have the time or just want to get the gist first, it was made into an HBO original movie back in the 90’s and the whole thing can be found in four part here on Youtube. It’s definitely worth watching.

Stolen Shame

Yesterday evening I noticed a young man heading down the escalator of my metro station dressed in modern military gear and sporting a Novorossiya patch on his arm. Today in a nearby supermarket, I saw another man in typical Donbas military dress, wearing a cossack papakha. Even on my way back from the supermarket I saw a guy wearing what looked like super-modern(i.e. Western-designed) military clothing with a Russian flag patch.

Now to be sure, all three of these people could be airsoft enthusiasts.But what are the chances they could be volunteers returning from the Donbas? Pretty slim, I’d say. For one thing, Russia has a problem with fake veterans just like in the US, if not maybe worse. After all, military-worship in Russia exceeded that of America years ago. In spite of this, there is a much wider gap between the military and the civilian population. Many males spend a great deal of money so as to have nothing to do with the military, while females typically have no interest in it whatsoever. This, plus a strong disdain toward dissent, creates a perfect environment for fraudsters.  How perfect? Well Russia actually has its share of phony WWII vets. Yeah. WWII.

King Michael I of Romania is the only man who can wear a Soviet Order of Victory, and you're not him, buddy.

King Michael I of Romania is the only man who can wear a Soviet Order of Victory, and you’re not him, buddy.

Given the unqualified worship towards “veterans” in contemporary Russia, and the staggering lack of critical thinking skills, this is prime time for young Russian men to pose as Donbas volunteers. Due to the secretive, irregular nature of the conflict, calling them out would be hard even for Russian army veterans. “Oh that’s not how you did things in the Russian army? Well I was in a volunteer unit. We did things differently. Who are you do question me?”

Oh yes, cowardly scumbags everywhere can take advantage of this cowardly, immoral war in Ukraine to bask in attention, con people out of money, and of course, score all kinds of tail in discotheques and courtyards all across Russia. In this climate, you’re unlikely to see anyone calling them out the way they do in the States. There they call it stolen valor. With this war, it’s stolen shame.

What ought to happen.

A Smoking Gun?

Recently, Interpreter mag released a translation of a document published in Novaya Gazeta, which was supposedly leaked to them by a source in the Kremlin. The document was drafted prior to the flight of Yanukovych on 22 February 2014, and supposedly shows how the Kremlin planned the dismemberment of Ukraine  before that so-called “coup d’etat” took place.

It has been theorized before that Russia had a contingency plan for the annexation of the Crimea. It has even been suggested that Yanukovych may have been threatened with this to change his mind about signing the European Union association agreement. It is clear, however, that something went seriously wrong with the plans for the Donbass.

It should also be noted that the authenticity of the documents has not been established. If Novaya Gazeta gets subjected to some pretty serious raids in the next few weeks, that might be a clue as to their authenticity. It’s been argued that the document seems to be describing the actual events that played out, with only minor variations. This is a good point but it must be taken with a grain of salt. Like Biblical prophesy written after the events, it could have been written much later than it was purported to be, with the “plans” written to fit the outcome.

That being said, there are some details in this document which make it seem authentic. For example, it says that protesters were under the control of Polish and British intelligence, not the CIA or US State Department. That seems oddly specific; someone trying to frame the Kremlin would have undoubtedly used their narrative, which always implicates the US. The document also makes no reference to specific nationalist groups or neo-Nazis. It seems a fake document would include some specific instruction to “portray all Maidan forces as neo-Nazis and fascists.” The fact that this isn’t brought up suggests that it was written by a person with a specific, limited brief, who knew that questions of propaganda would be left up to others.

Another interesting aspect that appears in the commentary, is the lack of any mention for concepts like Novorossiya or concern over the safety of Russian speakers. Again, this looks like the person writing this was dealing with very practical matters within their sphere of work. I’m sure there are people in Putin’s inner circle who do personally believe in this geopolitical, revived Russian empire bullshit, but whoever wrote this was all business. A hoaxer might not have been able to resist the urge to use Russian propaganda memes in the document, as a way of “debunking” those that appeared on TV screens and the internet since the flight of Yanukovych.

The commentary after the document also mentions the cynicism of the writer. Maidan is portrayed as European “intrigue,” then the writer recommends getting involved in that “intrigue.” This fits the kind of 19th century imperial mentality that seems to dominate Russian politics.

When it comes to authenticity, one must consider what the purpose of the document is. Could it have been fabricated simply to lead one of Russia’s few remaining independent media outlets on a wild goose chase, or possibly discredit them later? Or, as it seems to put heavy blame on people like Borodai, Strelkov, Dugin and Malofeyev, could this leaked document be the first move in a campaign to pin all responsibility for Ukraine on those individuals? Strelkov already took huge responsibility on himself in an interview in Russia. He’s also had people suggest that he might make a good replacement for Putin in the future, which is a great way to get someone arrested or killed. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that none of these people were present for, or even associated with, 21 February’s anti-Maidan march. One would think these people would be lauded as heroes at such a march, yet they were curiously absent. Also absent was another Russian political figure associated with Novorossiya, Sergey Kurginyan.

Unfortunately the Byzantine nature of Russian politics forces everyone to play these guessing games. All conclusions here ought to be taken with a grain of salt, and people should keep this document in mind as events play out in the next few months.

 

 

Another news roundup

Today I have three articles to recommend, though only two of them deal with Russia and Ukraine.

The first is on Open Democracy and is called “Bikinis and babas: the gender subtext of clichés about Ukraine” by Heather McRobie. I am really glad to see this issue getting more and more attention. Off the top of my head I can think of two examples of these demeaning stereotypes which made big news in the last few years.

The older story dates back to the beginning of the Libyan uprising, which suddenly put Gaddafi in the spotlight after more than a decade of near-irrelevance. Apparently one of Gaddafi’s private nurses was Ukrainian. So naturally it was assumed by some media sources that the woman must be a mistress. It’s simply not possible for a Ukrainian woman to work for someone important and not be his personal courtesan.

The other story is more recent, and if I remember correctly it was first reported by the BBC. The story was about how prostitutes in Murmansk were raising their prices due to the falling value of the ruble. Of course thanks to the fall of the ruble, lots of retailers and services were raising their prices. Many importers of high-end brands like Apple, BMW, and Land Rover temporarily suspended their sales and deliveries so as to revise their prices. The latest iPhone, for example, went from something like 35,000RUB to almost 60,000. I remember how one restaurant, lacking the time to print new menus, simply taped over the prices and scribbled new ones. In short, there were many examples of rising prices and people expressing concern about this, but because this is Russia, there had to be a story about prostitutes, even if it meant going to an out-of-the-way place like Murmansk.

Think it stops in Ukraine, Russia, and the former Soviet Union? Think again. Just look at Poland’s entry to Eurovision last year:

Fucking POLAND! One Slavic country that actually achieved some success on its own. One country that managed to avoid an association with sex tourism. And they go and put this shit on display in Europe. Luckily this video shouldn’t have too much impact on Poland’s reputation when it comes to sex tourism, because as we all already know, Eurovision is only watched by women, gay men, and Russians.

This is why I downplay my Slavic, Polako-Ukrainian heritage when I travel abroad to some countries. You mention Ukraine or Russia and the first thing out of some men’s mouths is “beautiful girls,” the “compliment” that is really an insult. That’s all one can associate with Russia and Ukraine. It’s not like anything important happened in these parts in the past two hundred years or so. I might also add that for decades the girls were no less beautiful, but this suddenly became noticeable to many foreign men only after a massive economic catastrophe which forced many women into prostitution or quasi-prostitution to survive. The women trafficking and mail-order bride industry drove the stereotype home. In short, Slavic beauty in the eyes of many men has nothing to do with aesthetics. It’s about accessibility and dominance. Women who easily reject them and feel no compulsion to settle for someone out of economic need or political repression become “stuck-up, Westernized bitches” in the minds of many men.

So kudos to McRobie for bringing this issue of gendered stereotypes in Eastern Europe out into the open and explaining it in such terms. On with the next article.

As we all know, there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. As it turns out, the Donbass region just happens to have a historical community of hard-fighting, military-aged Chechens, Ingushetians, Yakuts, and Buryats- it was practically a mini-Soviet Union all this time! But for those of you Russophobes who believe whatever the Western media tells you, there’s this article about Russian conscripts complaining about being compelled to sign contracts and being sent to Ukraine the Rostov region, where some have been injured or even killed in mysterious training accidents for which nobody has been held responsible.

Of course this article is nothing but propaganda- The U.S. State Department must be going around and paying these women to lie about their sons, if they ever had sons. This is a tried and true technique of the CIA to overthrow governments!

Lastly we have an article that has nothing to do with Russia or Ukraine, but rather ISIS. The article provides some interesting insight on ISIS, but as is typical it glosses over a couple points which go much further toward explaining the terrorist phenomenon than any analysis of Islamic theology does. Take a look:

Where it holds power, the state collects taxes, regulates prices, operates courts, and administers services ranging from health care and education to telecommunications.

Choudary said Sharia has been misunderstood because of its incomplete application by regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which does behead murderers and cut off thieves’ hands. “The problem,” he explained, “is that when places like Saudi Arabia just implement the penal code, and don’t provide the social and economic justice of the Sharia—the whole package—they simply engender hatred toward the Sharia.” That whole package, he said, would include free housing, food, and clothing for all, though of course anyone who wished to enrich himself with work could do so.

The last one really makes you think. What is it that really attracts people to movements like ISIS? Are they really into the religious self-denial, restrictions, and self-denial? Or is part of it coming from a desire to free themselves from our market-dominated society, wherein they work most of their life, for little reward, often simply to stave off starvation? Perhaps if Western governments better addressed these needs, and supported regimes which did the same, it would severely hamper the recruitment efforts of groups like ISIS.

Naaaaah…Let’s just label them crazy fanatics and keeping bombing them. That can’t possibly fail!

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.