Tuesday, March 31, 2009

North Korea Could Have Nuclear Warheads for Missiles


The subject title is referring to the shorter ranged rockets capable of hitting Japan. Think of Japan in the position of Israel. Maybe North Korea hasn’t sworn to destroy Japan, but I would be surprised if a lot of Japanese aren’t just a little bit more worried about their future.

One of the most interesting passages in the article was the following:

“News reports from Japan indicate that Iranian missile experts arrived in North Korea early this month to help prepare the launch, Agence France-Presse reported Sunday. In a letter carried by the 15-person team, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emphasized his support for space technology collaboration between the two nations (Agence France-Presse/Australian, March 30).”

Why would Iran, being in such good relations with Russia help North Korea with their launch. And what kind of help could they be? Further down we read our answer. If the North Korean long-range missile works, Iran wants to buy some: "The sale of this system to Iran probably means hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of North Korea," said analyst Bruce Bechtol. "This is all about proliferation" (Evan Ramstad, Wall Street Journal, March 31)."

South Korea isn’t as happy about North Korea’s missiles as Iran is: "If North Korea did not have a desire of acquiring nuclear weapons, then I think North Korea’s stated intention of launching a space launch vehicle would cause no qualms but the truth of the matter is North Korea does have a desire to develop nuclear weapons so this does precisely make it a very serious concern for them to acquire the technology to deliver nuclear weapons," South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told the Financial Times."

. . .

"South Korea has indicated that it might formally join the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, which seeks to interdict illicit WMD shipments on the high seas, if its neighbor goes ahead with a missile launch (see GSN, March 16).

"Pyongyang yesterday warned Seoul against such a move, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

"If the South takes part in the multilateral operations, called the Proliferation Security Initiative, over our plan to launch a rocket, we will immediately take a stern countermeasure," according to the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.

"It added that South Korean involvement in the program would be a "violent challenge to our dignity and autonomous rights and an unpardonable crime to lead the whole nation into a nuclear war.”

North Korea appears to be holding a couple of American journalists hostage, to prevent America from taking any action against the upcoming launch. NK claims the two journalists are spies. They are “Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters working for Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/30/AR2009033002689.html?hpid=moreheadlines Hey you dumb North Koreans, don’t you know who your buddies are?

BBC interview of Russian President Medvedev


The above interview (by BBC’s Andrew Marr of President Medvedev) was sent to me as a matter of possible interest, and indeed I found it so. Of course no competent diplomat or politician is going to divulge more than is safe for him to do unless he is tricked into doing so, and Marr is no trickster. He seems to admire Medvedev; which is okay since he asks him the important questions.

On the issue of Iran, Medvedev is maintaining the Russian position that Iran is developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes only. Medvedev says he would not like it if any new nations strove to be added to the nuclear club.

Medvedev’s answer regarding the division of powers between Putin and himself was not terribly helpful. He says “I am leading the country, I am the head of state, and the division of power is based on this. Mr. Putin is the prime minister of the Cabinet that implies very complicated and comprehensive work. But it is clear hat the President is taking major decisions on behalf of the State.” Does that mean that Putin is something like a Secretary of State in an American President’s cabinet? The title “Prime Minister” is usually applied to the leader of a country. The British Prime Minister is equal to the American President; so what really are Putin’s duties as Prime Minister of the Cabinet?

And is this the Medvedev version of Sovereign Democracy: “I would like Russia to be an efficient and powerful country where people live well in accordance with appropriate and civilized standards with ensured adequate quality of live [sic]. I would also like to see Russia among democracies within unified Europe, as a country that speaks to its partners on equal footing and with respect, and addresses the most challenging tasks. I would like Russia to be well-educated with preserved deeply rooted traditions of the Russian culture. Here are comprehensive, global goals, but I believe that they can be achieved.”


Both Marr and Medvedev assume that Medvedev will be able to get along better with Obama than Putin did with Bush, and I hope that turns out to be the case. During a time of threat such as the times leading up to the Second World War, Britain made serious mistakes in appeasing Germany. But these present times are not like that, at least not like that with Russia. Russia doesn’t have an aggressive leader bent upon lebensraum. In fact I would say that Russia has a full agenda just trying to bring Russia up to the standards of its EU neighbor – or perhaps it would be better to say up to the standards of the leading nations in the EU. Which means that Obama can make concessions to Russia, if concessions are called for, without fear – except for possible offense to Poland and the Czech Republic.

As to Iran, putting the best light on leaving Iran alone, perhaps if it did go ahead and develop nuclear weapons, the effect could be daunting. Yes, it would have a nuclear weapon, but it is the declared enemy of two nations, the US and Israel, which have a lot more, and better, nuclear weapons. Will it then get the respect it seeks, or will it fear the massive retaliation, or even worse a preemptive massive retaliation (so to speak)? Having a weapon that gives it a sort of power, but also makes it a bigger target, may have such a sobering effect on Iran that it begins to seek better relations with the Great Satan and his little brother. I am not predicting that will happen. I am just searching for a plausible positive outcome if Iran does develop nuclear weapons.

And given my hypothetical scenario, would Russia, who has “full-fledged relations with this state,” feel betrayed if Iran developed nuclear weapons? And if Iran did develop them, would Russia do anything about it? I suspect that they wouldn’t. They would feel less threatened by Iran than by some other Islamic nations on both sides of their border. They have enough to worry about with those and wouldn’t have a strong reason to physically chastise Iran for lying to them.

I can’t imagine the Obama or Medvedev administrations using military force against Iran (assuming Iran does develop nuclear weapons), but Israel might. Russia has a big country. What would Iran’s target be if they decided to bomb Russia? As for the US, it is too far away. But one nuclear bomb would pretty much obliterate Israel. Russia and the US can afford not to worry about direct attack, but Israel is much more in harm’s way and may not be willing to tolerate the threat. Which means that if Obama and Medvedev really want to play it safe, they will find means to make sure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hitler saved Russian Orthodox Church

How do modern-day Russian Orthodox Church members reconcile the treatment given their religion by the Soviets with their love of Stalin?

Consider the following from page 376 of Davies No Simple Victory:

“In the USSR, the German invasion of 1941 saved the Russian Orthodox Church from total extinction. Only a handful of churches were still operating on Soviet territory after two decades of persecution. But Stalin was forced to relent. Church leaders emerged from the catacombs, and in regions occupied by the Germans a remarkable revival took place both of the Orthodox and of the Ukrainian Churches. In 1943 Stalin restored the Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow.”

The CIA Factbook provides the following as the current situation of religion in Russia: “Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2% (2006 est.) note: estimates are of practicing worshipers; Russia has large populations of non-practicing believers and non-believers, a legacy of over seven decades of Soviet rule.”


Here in the US we have many points of view. We are clearly not all the same, and yet most of us are Christian. For the US the CIA Factbook shows the following: “Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)

So if a modern-day Russian member of the Russian Orthodox Church were to speak of Russia as a Christian nation and of the West (including the US) as non-Christian, I should want quite a bit more detail before I could consider such an opinion at all rational. And I would also like to know how he reconciles his love of Stalin with his love of his Church.

An Orange Revolution in Russia is impossible


The above is an article by Paul Goble entitled, “An ‘Orange’ Revolution in Russia is Impossible by Definition, Writer Says”

Dimitry Savvin seems to be working from the same body of data that Samuel P. Huntington worked from. He uses some, but not all, of the same terms. While Huntington uses the term “Core State,” Savvin uses the term “Center of Civilization,” and means something different as we shall see.

Savvin differs with Huntington in not seeing much of a problem in regard to Eastern Europe, Russia’s “Near Abroad” switching sides from the Orthodox Center of Civilization to the Western Center of Civilization. They can do that because they are not “centers of civilization,” but Russia cannot do that, not even if it became very small.

“According to Savvin, ‘for some peoples it is natural to be great and for others just the reverse. Even “a small” Russia in the world will play an immeasurably greater role than “greater Albania” or “greater Latvia,’” not in the sense of superiority of the one compared to the other, but rather because of the role some nations have played as centers of a civilization.

“’All nations are representatives of one or another civilization,” he continues, but not all nations are centers of civilizations. There are a few of those and around them are satellites, and the differences between the former and the latter with respect to the possibility of an orange-style revolution are enormous and impassible.
For peoples who are “centers of civilization, nationalism is always based on their own tradition and the essence of that involves the idea of their own development as a center of independent value. For those peoples are satellites, the situation is difference because they follow one center but can shift to another under certain conditions.

“Russia is a center of civilization based on Orthodox Christianity, Savvin argues, while Western civilization is centered on Western Europe, an area that consisted of all the members of NATO as of 1990 minus Turkey. And what has happened since is that the satellites of one cultural center have shifted to be satellites of the other cultural center.”


Here, Huntington’s “Core State” parts company with Savvin’s “Center of Civilization.” The US meets Huntington’s definition of a Core State. It is powerful enough to settle problems in its on “Civilization” or represent its civilization in conflicts or agreements with other civilizations. So I agree with Huntington, but I also agree with Savvin’s definition. The US is not the center of a Civilization, at least not any I would lay claim to. In an earlier note suggesting that Britain might still be a Superpower, I might better have used Savvin’s term and said that Britain was a “Center of Civilization” at least as far as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are concerned.

Savvin leaves the definition of the Western “Center of Civilization” rather hazy. Given Savvin’s concerns it might be better to call them “Centers of Civilization.” Perhaps we can say that Italy, France, Spain, Holland, and the Britain all became “centers” in some way, but is there a sense in which they form a composite “center.” I don’t see it. But if we set that aside and look at Savvin’s concern, i.e., that Russia can never become part of the EU, we might with equal certainty assert that France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain could never submerged their “centers of civilization” such that they are a “satellite” of some greater center – or could they. Isn’t that what Brussels would like, one great super-civilization called the EU? .

I doubt that Savvin is too concerned about the creation of a principle that would apply to all civilizations. He is seeing the former USSR fall away piece by piece and he is worried. Perhaps all the pieces will fall away and nothing shall be left. But no, he reassures himself. That is impossible. Russia is a center of civilization. It can never fade away. Still he worries and hopes that Russia shall recover “what some fear it could lose.” I am not sure what this means. Three possibilities occur to me: 1) that it shall recover the commitment of certain satellite countries that are wanting to break away, 2) recover satellite nations that have already broken away, or 3) Recover the confidence that made Russia great in the past. Given the tenor of Savvin’s article, I suspect he has the latter in mind.

Katyn: "Exhuming Secrets" says Stalin said do it


The authors Gregory and Siekierski, in this Hoover Digest article entitled “Exhuming Secrets” provide an interesting discussion not only of the latest evidence but of the arguments of the Katyn deniers. A photo is shown of Beria’s memo asking to shoot the Polish Officers and of Stalin writing his approval on the memo and signing his name.

What hope do the Katyn deniers have in the face of such evidence? None but to say it is forged. The authors discuss some of the Katyn deniers’ issues, but they clearly think the evidence is overwhelming that Beria ordered the Katyn shootings and that Stalin approved them.

Are not Russians reasonable, logical people? Cannot they see that Soviet Russia had been sending Poles along with the others who might one day dream of opposing Stalin to their deaths in GULags throughout the 30s and that the Katyn shootings are consistent with that Soviet activity? Yes, Katyn is also consistent with what the Nazis were doing, but it is at least consistent with what Soviets were doing as well; so why the Mukhin-type arguments which present Stalin and the Soviets as naïve innocents being taken advantage of by evil Poles? What is the need of that? Why not let the evidence speak for itself rather than produce such slanted rant against the Poles in an article intended to prove that the Soviets were innocent of killing them. You claim the Nazis did it, Mukhin, but in your article you provide a motive for the Soviets to have done it. Your denial is weakened by such rant against the Poles.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Katyn: Radzinsky thinks Stalin ordered it

Edvard Radzinsky has a different idea on who killed the Polish officers than Yuri Mukhin. I notice that Edvard Radzinsky on pages 498-499 of Stalin, the First In-Depth Biography based on explosive new documents from Russia’s Secret Archives, published in 1996, makes assertions somewhat in the same manner as Mukhin, including assertions about motives. But he isn’t quite as bad because he lists his archival sources (pages 585-594); however he doesn’t provide footnotes to show which comment is based upon which source. Here is what he has to say about Katyn:

“The monstrous Katyn affair caused complications. After the collapse of Poland more than twenty thousand captured Polish officers had been quartered in prison camps near the Soviet frontier. When Stalin was getting ready to attack Germany, the thought of keeping so many potential enemies within the Soviet Union alarmed him. He remembered the mutiny of the Czechoslovak prisoners of war in 1918. As usual, he found a quick and drastic solution: the prisoners were ‘liquidated.’ When General Anders began forming the Polish army in the West, Stalin released some two thousand Poles from the camps. But Poles abroad asked where so many thousands of officers had disappeared to. The answer given was that they had run away from the camps at the beginning of the war. The Polish government in exile was not satisfied, and persisted in asking about the missing officers.

“A little play-acting was called for. In the presence of the Polish representative Stalin telephoned Molotov and Beria to ask whether all Poles had been released from Soviet jails. They both said yes. But when the Germans occupied Smolensk they had found in the nearby Katyn forest a gruesome burial ground containing row upon row of corpses with bullet holes in the backs of the neck, the remains of the Polish offices. Stalin of course accursed Hitler of a grotesque provocation. He changed his story: the Poles had not run away, but had been transferred to the Smolensk area to work on building sites. There the Germans had captured them, shot them, and blamed the USSR for it. A special Soviet commission was set up, with the Boss’s own writers, academics, and clergy as members. The commission, of course, confirmed his story. Roosevelt and Churchill had to take their ally’s word. The monstrous scale of the tragedy has only recently become known. A. Krayushkin, head of one of the directorates of the Federal Security Service (as the former KGB is now called) , at a press conference in Smolensek in April 1995, informed the Russians and Polish journalists present that the number of Polish prisoners killed in various camps was 21,857.

“The documents concerning those shot were destroyed, with Khrushchev’s consent, in 1959. What remains is a letter from A. Shelepin, then head of the KBG, informing Khrushchev that ‘in all, 21,857 people were shot on orders from the KBG, including 4,421 in the Katyn forest, 6,311 in the Ostashkovo camp (Kaliningrad oblast), and 3,820 in the Starobel camp near Kharkov.’

“Shelepin’s letter than asks Khrushchev for permission to destroy the records of those shot, since they have ‘neither operational nor historical importance.’

Katyn: who killed the Polish Officers?


I was asked to read the above. It is a summary of a book written by Yuri Mukhin in 1995 which claims to “prove” that it was the Germans and not the NKVD that killed the 25,000 Polish Officers at Katyn. Frankly I was not impressed with Mukhin’s “proof.” What Mukhin has written in the above article doesn’t qualify as “proof.” It is a series of assertions. Now an assertion may or may not be true, but it isn’t proof. If one wants to prove something, there must be evidence and the article doesn’t offer any.

On the other hand if someone were to believe all of Mukhin’s assertions about the Katyn massacre, then he would be convinced that the Germans did it. Unfortunately my 39 years working in Engineering in Aerospace, during which I was asked to review technical documents to determine their meaning, has corrupted me such that I have a visceral reaction when I am offered an assertion and asked to believe it as though it were a fact.

After reading the above I did Googled “Mukhin” and “Katyn” and found the following: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=15270 This fellow was obviously more convinced by Mukhin than I was:

“There is a book that claims to prove the documents "discovered" under Gorbachov, and published under Yeltsin, "proving" the Soviets were responsible for the Katyn massacres of Polish officers, are forgeries. The book is Katynskii Detektiv, by Yuri Mukhin.

“Personally, I don't claim that this is the most important question. Mukhin doesn't, either, and he (and others) have written much other stuff since, on other topics. But it is a topic! The book has got wide publicity, made the Russian and Polish government upset.

“On top of it all, it's very, very well done! That doesn't mean it's conclusive. But I've read it - twice - and have changed my opinion from "the Soviets did it", to "the question is not settled."

“Anyway, in the case of this book, there is a summary, in English, on the web. At least you can get an idea of what the book is about, and of the argument. It's at http://www.geocities.com/redcomrades/katyn.html

Here are some quotes that indicate why I find it more difficult than the randi.org writer above to take Mukhin seriously:

“In the West the conclusion of this investigation [by the Nazis and an international commission] was welcomed as yet another proof of the brutality of the USSR and the evils of communism.” [The “was welcomed” was Mukhin’s opinion and is not proved]

“By the 1950s, the Nazi evidence on Katyn reemerged in the west as slanderous propaganda to throw against the USSR.” [For this statement to be true, the west would have to know that the Nazi and international committee evidence was false; which is not proved by Mukhin. Note also the slanted “slanderous propaganda” Slanting is a device used in rhetoric to sway a reader without proof.]

“They base their argument on the words of the likes of Gorbachev and Yakovlev, and openly admit that Katyn was the responsibility of the Soviets.” [“likes of” is more Slanting. It invites the reader to assume that Gorbachev and Yakovlev are too disreputable to be believed – without proof.]

In Mukhin’s section on “The Polish Officers Corps” he interestingly describes this Corps as being worthy of being shot. Mukhin asserts that it is thoroughly evil and deserving of execution. Since Mukhin uses words to show he is sympathetic with the Communist cause and was perhaps a Communist himself, this is a strange approach to take in the process of asserting that the Soviets did not execute this Officer Corps.

“The new Polish ruling elite was arrogant and opportunistic. As part of the all out imperialist assault against Soviet Russia, the newly created Polish state launched and unprovoked invasion into its neighboring countries in 1920.” [How does an entire Officer Corps become “arrogant and opportunistic.” It can’t. Some officers, perhaps the leaders, could be arrogant and opportunistic, but not an entire Corps. Also, Mukhin is rather free with the word “imperialist.” He uses it throughout to describe the West and “the Polish Elite.”]

“However, the discovery of the actual decision of the Special Commission of the NKVD, has proved beyond a doubt that the USSR was not lying.” [This is quite a remarkable statement. In other places he asks us to assume that Gorbachev was lying, but here he asks us to believe that the NKVD would not lie. So any reported NKVD decision must be the truth and that should prove to the reader “beyond doubt” that the USSR was not lying.]

“. . . “these ‘historians” and the Gorbachev’s gang, resorted to forgeries and lies on the decision of the NKVD . . .” [Again, an ad hominem insult, i.e. that Gorbachev ran a gang, is provided to urge the reader not to be so naïve as to believe anything Gorbachev or his “gang” might say. Note also that he puts “historian” in quotes. He does that throughout inviting us to understand that these people aren’t true historians else they would understand “truth” and “proof” as Mukhin does.]

“Never again would Stalin trust the Polish government in exile, and proved once more their treacherous and cowardly nature.” [This had to do with why General Anders led his Army out of Russia and decided to fight with the British. Reports I’ve read indicate that these forces were not all “treacherous and cowardly” when they fought with the British; so the reader might suspect that there is more to this story than Mukhin gives us with his pejorative language.]

When Mukhin leaves off the silly insults and ad hominem attacks and discusses the Katyn evidence he because plausible. By that I mean, if the assertions he makes are true, then one should go even further than the Randi.org fellow and believe that it was really the Germans and not the NKVD who killed the Polish Officers. However, plausibility does not comprise proof, and Mukhin does not offer proof. Perhaps he has in his book but he hasn’t in this article.

“So Tokarev, being smarter than these revisionists, told them exactly what they wanted to hear . . .” [The implication here is that Tokarev was afraid of Gorbachev, telling him what he wanted to hear. But in other places, people were not afraid of Stalin, Beria or the NKVD and only tell them the truth.]

I’ll provide Mukhin’s conclusion in full:

“What conclusion can be drawn from the evidence, counter-evidence, documents, forgeries and heaps of propaganda on Katyn? For 60 years the anti-communist forces of the world have told us Katyn was a Soviet responsibility. The Nazis proclaimed this as a crime of the Jewish communists. They used it as one of the many pretexts for placing into concentration camps and slaughtering tens of millions of Soviet citizens and Jews. The western imperialists used the Nazi pretext in the 1950s, to place on trial communists. They used it to launch a crusade against communism, to protect their empires and colonies, slaughtering more millions. The anti-communists and scoundrels ruling the USSR in the 80s and 90s used Katyn as a pretext for destroying the USSR and throwing the Soviet people into the brutal exploitation of capitalist and Mafiosi gangsters. Millions more died. Today, the modern revisionist "historians" would like to exult the Nazis of any responsibility. Today they use Katyn as yet another pretext to show how the Soviets "fabricated" the Holocaust and how they "fabricated" Auschwitz and all the other unimaginable crimes of the Nazis. Katyn has always been used as a weapon of the fascists and imperialists for justifying their murderous campaigns. The truth on Katyn however is far from what these Nazi sympathizers and scoundrels would like us to believe. Katyn was the work of the Nazis. It is they who killed the Polish officers after capturing them from Soviet camps. The conclusion one should draw simply from the heaps of lies, propaganda and forgeries the imperialists and Nazi-sympathizers, is that Katyn is their responsibility. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for the Nazis to conduct their "international" investigation as they did and for the Gorbachevite revisionists to create fake documents. But beyond their lies and forgeries, one should look at the truth on Katyn. The truth stands that the Polish officers were sentenced to terms of prison for their various war crimes. To tell the truth, no one should feel sorry for these Polish officers. They were traitors and cowards in the face of their country and people. However, they did not deserve a German bullet in the back of their head. Only a Polish bullet would have sufficed for their crimes against the Polish people.”

Anyone who has read many “historians” on these matters is going to find Mukhin’s “conclusion” extremely difficult to swallow. He provides us with rant rather than argument. Perhaps it is useful to those who want to know what the “Katyn denier” party line is, but none of this qualifies as proof. But Mukhin is interesting. If one has the stomach to wade through his insults and innuendo, one will find some of the major assertions used by the “Nazis did it” camp in Russia. And then when one reads through more serious works, one can recall his assertions for reconsideration.

As a contrast to Mukhin, one might consider the following site: http://wapedia.mobi/en/Katyn_Massacre . Note especially the bibliography in section 10.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tough Times in Eutopia

"Tough Times in Eutopia," subtitled "The continent's politicians think the undemocratic character of the European Union is a virtue. They have miscalculated," is an article written by Andrew Stuttaford which appears in the March 30, 2009 issue of The Weekly Standard. Unfortunately it does not appear to be available to nonsubscribers.

Stuttaford's expertise is in International Finance and his comments on Finance and the EU economic concerns are better developed than his comments on the EU's lack of democracy. I'll quote a few sections and then comment:

" . . . it is worth pausing to consider how the introduction of the euro has left the EU marooned on a circle of economic hell all of its own making. Imposed on most of the European heartland by a characteristic combination of bullying, bribery, conclave, and legerdemain, the single currency was put in place with as little regard for the real world as for the ballot box. To squeeze a wide range of vastly divergent economies (and to do so with few safety nets) into one monetary system made little sense except when understood as a matter of politics, not economics. But economics has a nasty habit of biting back.

"Up until the eruption of the present crisis, the European Central Bank's interest rate policy primarily reflected the needs of France and Germany, Euroland's largest economies. This left rates "too" low for naturally faster growing countries like Ireland and Spain, which in turn inflated unsustainable housing bubbles. These have now burst-in Ireland's case taking much of the banking system down with it. On some forecasts Irish GDP may shrink by 10 percent between 2008 and 2010, a dismal number that could eventually prove too optimistic. Gloomsters joke bleakly that the difference between Ireland and Iceland is six months and one consonant. Spain meanwhile now boasts an official (in other words, understated) unemployment rate of 14 percent. Over 600,000 migrant workers have been laid off. This is not a recipe for social peace."

"These worries are made even more pressing by concern over the impact of Eastern Europe's spiraling economic woes on the already shattered finances of the western half of the continent. Contrary to some of the more excitable headlines, not all the countries of formerly Warsaw Pact Europe are, yet, in deep trouble, but the problems of those that are (notably Hungary, Ukraine, Romania, and Latvia) threaten to wreck confidence in those that are not. And those problems will not be confined safely behind the Oder-Neisse line: Two of Sweden's largest banks, for instance, are frighteningly overexposed to the faltering Baltic States, while their counterparts in Austria, seemingly lost in nostalgic Habsburg reverie, have reportedly lent out the equivalent of 70 percent of their country's GDP to once kaiserlich und königlich territories and parts nearby."

. . .

"So money will be thrown around, the imperiled brethren of both East and West will, after much shoving, screaming, and hesitation, be bailed out. Some protectionist measures (directed against those outside the EU) will be brought in and all fingers will be crossed. It won't be pretty, but with luck, it might be enough to stave off catastrophe. Pushing their luck, some glass-is-half-full Europhiles believe that the fact that no country can easily work its way through these tribulations alone will conclusively make the case for still closer European integration to some of the EU's more reluctant federalists. You can be sure that this is a rationalization that Brussels will look to exploit: Rahm Emanuel is not the only politician unwilling to waste a crisis. The EU's policy response to the slump is likely to have two objectives: the reconstruction of member-states' economies and the destruction of what's left of their autonomy. Going for the latter could well drive even more disaffected voters into the extremist fringe, though Brussels is arrogant enough to persist. There are already indications that the eurocrats may be pushing at an open door. In a startling example of mistaking the Titanic for the lifeboat, Poland has become just one of several nations speeding up plans to sign up for the euro-and the safe haven it is meant to represent"


As of March 26th 2009, Poland was still on the Zloty per http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123802887719243221.html so perhaps Poland will weather the storm without falling into the trap of switching to the Euro with all the attended troubles Stuttaford describes.

I have been critical of Socialistic governments for "experimenting." The Communist forms of Socialism know all about how to do a revolution, but nothing of how to make a nation be successful economically, politically, or socially. Once a Communist revolution is over then it turns into a dictatorship with the "Great Leader" engaging in all sorts of experimentation that has without exception failed. Failure here is judged in terms of the Utopia the Revolutionists promised and the results they actually achieved.

To some degree the EU was another Socialist Revolution and now it is busy experimenting. In Europe they have been inching into the Socialist water, first one foot and then the other. I have criticized other aspects of the EU project, but Stutteford's take on the economic status, or perhaps it is better to say "financial status" is interesting. The individual nations haven't given up everything so far, just one foot and half of another, but they have given up a large degree of economic independence and those nations that have adopted the Euro, many of them, are seeing that the EU has gotten them into more trouble than it has helped them with. Stutteford reports that "Hungary, Ukraine, Romania, and Latvia" are in "deep trouble."

Indeed, on March 26th http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123797363098836183.html Romania accepted a 20 billion Euro rescue package. . . . Serbian officials said the country reached a deal with the IMF on a €3 billion loan to bolster foreign-exchange reserves and prevent the national currency, the dinar, from falling further."

On the other hand, the same article reports, "the IMF is offering flexible credit lines to economies with sounder fundamentals. Poland and the Czech Republic are potential candidates for such an arrangement."

I continue to be critical of the EU; however Stuttaford hasn't convinced me that the EU is doing bad things during this economic crisis. He may be right in saying that the weaker economies such as those mentioned in the previous two paragraphs are worse off, economically, than if they had not been in the EU, but the EU can't entirely be blamed for that. Some of the blame must reside with the earlier Communist experimentation. These economies were weak before they EU ever became involved with them. And where is the economy today that is not in some sort of trouble?

Re: The Shrinking Russian population.


Michael Kuznetsov has left a new comment on your post "Re: The Shrinking Russian population":


What sounds vague to you is clear to me. The author of the rabid anti-Russian comment is without any doubt a representative of Galicia.

By the way, Lawrence, did you receive my two responses to your e-mails?



Yes I got your responses to my emails, at least I think I know what you are referring to:  the emails to make sure American internet censors weren't cancelling you as spam?  I can assure you that they don't cancel any spam.  I get it all.  It does go into a special "Spam" folder, but I always look at email titles in that folder before deleting anything.  Your test emails (3 of them) went into my inbox not into the spam folder.


Now as to Galicia.  That is interesting, I wonder how you know that.  I do get some "analytics" about blog traffic.  It shows which countries are posting and I don't have any "hits" from Poland.  I do have a few from the Ukraine, however, so perhaps that is where he is.  I also get information on which cities "looked" at which blog notes, but it seems to be a day late.  If tomorrow we have a "hit" from Ukraine, then I shall suspect the poster might be from there.  If not, then the only city to have looked at the subject note as of the last "analytic" report was Moscow.  Do Galicians ever make it to Moscow?


Lawrence Helm




Re: The Shrinking Russian population

Someone who didn’t leave his name left the following comment in response to "The Shrinking Russian population":

God is with the followers, not with your satanic country. Like Byzantine perished due its betrayal to the God, Russia will face the same painful death because it was always an empire built on blood. For centuries they were oppressing orthodox christian nations and never was a real orthodox country, rather paganic. Russians are not an european stock but rather a mixture of european-turkic-finnish-mongol-caucasian stocks.

Lawrence responds

I’m so used to America being called “satanic” by Islamists that I jumped to the conclusion that the above author had the US in mind, but the rest of the note expresses a good deal of hostility toward Russia; so I’m guessing that Russia rather than the US is his target. Whoever wrote this note is obviously not one of the ant-like 100% Russians that Kuznetzov admires.

Calling a nation “satanic” is one of the Islamist slogans, but I haven’t heard the term “the followers” as an intransitive expression before. Followers of what, of whom?

Reference to Byzantium also brings to mind the fall of Byzantium and the Islamic victory, but the writer goes on to complain about the suppression of “orthodox Christian nations” which leads me to believe he is from one of those orthodox Christian nations, a nation that considers itself more orthodox and more 100% something than Russia itself.

If the writer of the above note should read this, I would ask that he provide some evidence for his assertions. The religion most practiced in Russia today is the Orthodox. Church membership isn’t very high, perhaps because of the suppression of religion during the Communist period, but I’m sure more Russians are orthodox than are atheist or Islamic.

And as to the pagan background of Russia, we all have that if you go back far enough. We who are Christians, whether Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant can all trace (if we have the genealogical tools and information) our ancestors back to a time when they were pagan.

As to the Russian empire being built upon “blood,” I think the same thing could be said about any empire. If you want to single out a particular Tsar and say he was more bloodthirsty than any other emperor ever, that would be a hard thing to prove.

I do like, whenever possible, to move away from mere assertions and unsupported statements that are vaguely insulting.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

RE: New comment on Sergeants in the Russian Army.

Michael Kuznetsov has left a new comment on your post "Sergeants in the Russian Army":

Have you seen the "Full Metal Jacket" movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick?
The American Army hazing shown there is really hellish.
No comparison to the Russian "dedovschina" of which I personally have known much better than all the sources you mention.

And don't be too ready to believe in everything which is written in Wikipedia.

Lawrence responds:

Hollywood movies about the military are much much much less trustworthy about the American military than Wikipedia (and I don't mean this as praise of Wikipedia). The three greatest anti-American forces in America today are 1) the mainline media, 2) Academia, and 3) Hollywood and not necessarily in that order.

I saw the movie several years ago. One of the recruits goes bonkers and kills his drill instructor? Do drill instructors ever get killed by recruits? I've never heard of it, even in the army.

Abusing recruits in the Russian Army and the USMC

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Sergeants in the Russian Army":

Here's an example of 'dedovshchina' which helps distinguish the Russian system from what you experienced in the USMC.

And, Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Sergeants in the Russian Army":

And here's the Russian language blog of the poor fellow who experienced it. He got some inspiration from watching the American movie 'Born on the 4th of July.'

Lawrence replies. If a military organization punishes an act then I don’t think we can call it typical. But if we assume that it was normal in the Russian army to do all those things but just not as much and certainly not to the point where a recruit loses legs and other things, we are still looking at a lot of abuse. I would agree that it abuse if there is no end object in mind. But even if there is an object, as there was and is in the Marine Corps, there need to be limits. I understand that Marine Corps Drill instructors are now carefully screened, but some sadists may slip through the crack. I know they do in the French Foreign Legion.

In boot camp Marine Recruits endured a lot of abuse. We were told we had to have all that civilian stuff knocked out of us so that we could be rebuilt in the image of Chesty Puller. And those who went through boot camp at Paris Island always looked down on those of us who went through boot camp at San Diego. They called us “Hollywood Marines.” Here is one of Paris Island’s more infamous incidents: Platoon 71 at Ribbon Creek in 1956. I went through “Hollywood” boot camp in 1952 and our Drill Instructors tried to be just as hard on us. It was just that our drill instructors had no swamp in which to drown us: http://www.leatherneck.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-28512.html

And here is an article on the abuse of recruits (but no worse abuse than I endured in 1952) at Parris Island by Sergeant Glass: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1926591/posts Note that Glass was punished, but note also that the Sergeant’s father says, “Marine officials have their heads in the sand if they don't think this is happening every day.” I’m sure they do know. They went through boot camp themselves. They would be in a “damage control” mode.”

Read some of the comments people sent in, e.g. the following 3 separate comments about the article:

“They used to promote guys like this. We are in a downward spiral.”

“By today's standards, my DI's would have received 6 life sentences...!”

“San Diego Marines” Personally I don’t like to joke about how California attitudes seep into Marine Boot camp just because of geographical location but......This trial has left coast/left wing pansies written all over it.”

Lawrence Helm, former Sgt, USMC:and not a left wing pansy!

Michael, on major surgical operations


Comments come to me the instant they are posted; so even though you superseded your first note to delete the passage "I have to respond to your comment here on this page again, because I cannot find any blog form for my new comment on your latest post," I saw it anyway. I only mention that to say that if you liked, you could send me your email address and then I could delete it from my blog as soon as I saw it (you would want to make sure I was at my computer before doing that), or you could delete as soon as you posted it, if you have that capability, and then no one else would see it. Then I would send you my email and you could send your notes directly to me and I could post them for you; although this present system seems to be working well enough as far as I can tell.

You introduce what is essentially a new topic, hence your desire to make a fresh blog posting::

You are a man of age, Lawrence, and you must have been some time in hospital, and perhaps you might have even undergone a major surgical operation.
Have you ever?
If so, could you provide me with a brief account of your time spent in a hospital, please?
The matter is that recently (in January) I spent more than a month's time in hospital after a heavy surgery, and I would like to compare my own experience with that of yours.
Please, Lawrence!
It might be interesting to compare.
What I have in mind is not the details of the very surgery as such, but my relations with the people -- Russian people -- when in the hospital.
And it is your relations with the people in hospital, both the doctors, nurses, and other patients.
The latter is the most interesting point for me to compare.
You will see why.

Lawrence responds,

While I will admit to being a man of age (74) I have not had a "major surgical operation" since I was 4 years old and had my appendix out. The closest I came to what you describe were cataract operations. Which isn't to say I consider myself to be in perfect health. Since I was young I've had a back problem that cause a lot of headaches; so I must exercise regularly and do a lot of walking if I do not want to cripple myself up and have to drive stiff-necked to a chiropractor. You may have encountered some notes on this blog about dogs. I do love dogs, but also I feel I need them to "force" me to walk them, even when I'd rather sit in front of my computer or in my easy chair with a book.

So, headaches, back aches, neck aches, and then stomach aches when I take too much aspirin, but that's about it.

My wife has had some major operations and has been treated very well through almost all of them. She had a problem with one eccentric specialist once, but the nurses said everyone had problems with him.

Sergeants in the Russian Army


The above article was written by Paul Goble and entitled, "In Russia Just now, No Time for Sergeants."

I was in the Marine Corps long enough to make the lowest grade of Sergeant, called "Buck Sergeant" back in those days. I learned to appreciate how important Sergeants were in the Marine Corps and I think that must be true of any "effective" modern military force." Thus, this article, presumably based upon gzt.ru/politics/2009/03/25/223011.html surprises me a little.

Goble writes, "Less than two months after announcing a program for training professional sergeants, the Russian defense ministry has postponed this effort, reportedly because of "the extremely low quality" of those who had applied to a program intended to upgrade the military and rein in the hazing of recruits, a Moscow newspaper reports today.

Nevertheless, the apparently did find an adequate number eligible to become sergeant and ". . . the selection process had gone "successfully" but that "the beginning of instruction" for the new sergeants "had been pushed back to September 1 as a result of orders from above." As to why that had happened, the Ryazan officer said, "we have no idea."

I must pause at this point to observe that even here America, and not just the Marines use merit to determine who is to become a sergeant. After I got back from Korea, I was corporal and a rifle instructor at Camp Pendleton. I was very good at that, that is, I managed to get more of my "shooters" qualified than anyone else; so the senior Sergeants approved of my work. One of the recommended that I take the test for Sergeant. After I successfully completed the test, my Senior Sergeants recommended to the Officer in charge of our activity that I be promoted to Sergeant, and so I was. It sounds from the above that individuals are being selected from among new recruits to be sergeant, but I suppose it could mean that individuals below the rank of sergeant are applying to the Sergeants Program.

Then too, I don't understand how this "hazing" is permitted. Unless it refers to the normal treatment of new recruits. In Marine Corps Boot Camp we were treated probably more brutally than the term "hazing" would seem to fit, but we expected this sort of treatment; so if it is that being referred to in the Russian Army, then surely rough treatment is appropriate to producing good-quality soldiers, but if it is something on the order of mistreatment for no good training purpose, then I wouldn't understand why corporals couldn't deal with that as well as sergeants.

Goble continues: "Officials in the ministry said that the situation was also acceptable although they noted that the military's training command had decided that there must be "an immediate review of the methods of selecting candidates for training as professional sergeants and also to revisit the definition of the level of demands for those who would be enrolling" in such programs.

"These officials said that the ministry's internal review is now slated to be completed by August 1 and that after that time, the 10-month training program for sergeants will take place in the ten higher military training schools that had been supposed to start this educational effort in February.

"In many ways, this announcement could not have come at a worse time. First of all, the spring draft begins on April 1. Resistance is growing not only because the military will be seeking to take in more than twice as many young men as a year ago but also because reports of hazing are leading ever more Russians and their parents to explore ways of avoiding service."

Ah, Michael, I think at this point, how un-ant-like of those Russian parents to explore ways to permit their sons to avoid the draft. I don't suppose you have the equivalent to escaping to Canada over there. During the Vietnam War many who didn't want to fight that war, escaped to Canada which happened to disagree with what we were doing in Vietnam and readily accepted our draft-dodgers.

Goble goes on: "The professional sergeant program was one of the efforts the authorities had announced in an effort to suggest that they were getting hazing of "dedovshchina" under control, and the announcement that this program has been put off is certain to lead many, including activists in the Soldiers' Mothers Committees, to step up their campaigns against compulsory service."

I didn't know what Dedovshchina meant, so I looked it up in Wikipedia. Dedovshchina . . . is the name given to the informal system of subjugation of new junior conscripts for the Russian armed forces, Interior Ministry, and (to a much lesser extent) FSB border guards to brutalization by the conscripts of the last year of service as well as NCOs and officers.

"Dedovshchina involves a spectrum of subordinating activities performed by the junior ranks: from carrying out chores of the senior ranks to violent and sometimes lethal physical and Psychological abuse, being not unlike an extremely vicious form of bullying or even torture. It is often cited as a major source of poor morale in the ranks."

My first question after having been called a lady bug by Michael is to wonder whether he thinks Dedovschchina is proper behavior for Russian ants. If so then he must surely object to the current plans to do away with it. If not, then it goes against the conception he has presented of an anti-like-Russian ethnic utopia. We Lady Bugs don't treat each other that way . . . except in bad neighborhoods . . . and Marine Corps Boot Camp.

The following is not quite on the subject of good ants and bad lady bugs, but it is interesting in other regards. Goble writes,

". . . this delay in introducing one of the Russian government's highest profile efforts at military reform not only will energize others who question that program, possibly leading to more demonstrations like the one in the Transbaikal earlier this month, but also raising questions about whether Moscow can pay for the "professional" army it wants.

"One military analyst has posted a calculation of just how much such a "professional" military would cost, showing that it would be a budget-buster compared to the draft military that Russia has now. And his estimates, while not beyond dispute, are certain to prompt a new round of such projections (rusanalit.livejournal.com/653542.html).

"And third, this delay, which may ultimately prove to be fatal to this program, not only means that the Russian armed forces are not yet ready or able to make the transition from a Warsaw Pact-style military to a modern force but also calls into question the ability of the government to reform those who are its last line of defense at a time of crisis."


I looked for an article about the "demonstrations . . . in Transbaikal" in Goble's archives, but couldn't find one. I'm guessing that some in the Russian Army like the way it is – that is, want to leave Dedovschchina alone. I recall hearing stories about the softening up of Marine Corps boot camp and disapproved. After all, I had been through it, and anyone who wants to call himself a Marine should go through it as well. Maybe the Russian Army is thinking thoughts like those. However once a Marine completes boot camp, he is treated with a bit more respect. He won't be abused unless he screws up.

Russian ants and American lady bugs

Michael Kuznetsov left a new comment in response to "Ethnic Nationalism leading to madness":


You could have understood me, if you would comprehend quite a simple idea that we are different. Which fact I have been trying to explain to you. But you don't trust me.

We Russians are like bees or ants, while you Westerners are like ladybirds or cockchafers.

Now I know why you don't believe me.

Some years ago I myself could not understand the Westerners.
When for the first time -- some ten years ago -- I found in a Western publication an explanation of the Liberal Democratic ideas, I could not take them for serious. I could not realize that some people could have been thinking that bizarre (for us) way.

The ideas was similar to what you would always express in our discussions, namely:

"Liberal Democracy allows individuals to do whatever they like. It is a laissez faire free form society. People in Liberal Democracies enjoy freedom. They don't want a centralized government. They want the government to be as small and 'invisible' as possible."

For us Russians such ideas sound absolutely wild. The bees cannot survive without their hive.

I know that you would hardly believe me, similarly as I could not believe that Americans wanted their government to be as small as possible.

It took me quite a long spell of time to come -- at long last -- to a conclusion that Americans INDEED are different from us.
After having read a great lot of Western mass media articles, blogs, and various publications I did finally understand that your desire to be individuals separated from the others is not a bad joke.

I can speak English, while you cannot speak Russian. And this fact prevents you from finding publications in proof of my assertions. Because I am the only source for you who express the "hive" idea.
No wonder, you cannot trust in this sole source.
At the same time all the other thousands of sources in the Russian language remain inaccessible for you.
This given, I am afraid that you would hardly ever trust me.

Alas, it is not only your personal problem, but that of the West in general . . .

You ask if I am a fanatic.
Well, if you tend to call the ants and bees fanatics, then I am one, too.

Lawrence responds,


First of all, I don’t believe we have any cockchafers over here. Those bugs are all over there where you live. Also, we Americans are very had workers which more accords with the ant; which you have appropriated to yourself. We work much harder than Europeans, for example. There have been studies about hours worked and production per person; so you must restrict the “lady bug” analogy to what Americans do in their spare time and in their thoughts.

The more meritocratic a society, and perhaps America is the most meritocratic, the more productive economically. We say the best workers will be paid the most. The worst workers will be laid off. In the Welfare states of Europe they take care of everyone; so the worst worker isn’t inspired to do better. Hence the relatively poor European showing in statistics that gage an individual worker’s productiveness. I thought that European nations weren’t going to be able to survive with their lackadaisical Socialistic treatment of “deadwood” (which is what we call unproductive workers), but they are managing – thanks to technology, no doubt. All nations can do more with less individual productiveness thanks to the machine.

Now, as to not reading Russian, that is true, but I do read translations. I often refer to Paul Goble who makes it his business to translate interesting Russian articles into English. I commented on one in the note prior to this one. Also, there are other sites that translate current writings into English. I’ve quoted recently from the “Russia in Global Affairs” site. Also, I subscribe to several publications that include articles (in English) written by Russians. Probably more documents are being translated into English (by the world at large) than into any other language. And while I read quite a lot, I cannot keep up with the present quantity; so I’ll just have to content myself with what I can know.

And once again, it isn’t a matter of not trusting you. I trust you, but if you say that you can read the minds of 141,000,000 Russians, I shall think you delusional. You may believe that you can, and if you say you can, I’ll believe that you think you can, but unless you are an alien with more capability than any human, you are not going to be able to do that. In many of the discussions I have been in over the years I have learned to be careful about saying America is this way or that, that Americans think this or that, because as soon as I do, someone is going to pop up and say they aren’t that way or they don’t think that way. Now if you at this point say, “ah ha, that is because you are all lady bugs. You pop up and disagree with each other, going different ways. But we Russians don’t pop up and disagree with each other.”

Well if you don’t disagree with each other, and the proof of this is in publications not translated into English, my first thought is that Stalinism was more effective than I would have thought, affecting those unto the third and the fourth generation. Then too, whenever I read a Russian novel (although I haven’t read one recently and probably not a modern Russian novel) they were filled with people disagreeing with each other. Dostoevsky is probably my favorite novelist and in his novels everyone seems to disagree with everyone else. It is human nature. We are individuals and do not easily submerge our egos for a “common good,” unless we are really ants. You didn’t mean that, did you? I just had an image of Jeff Goldblum from the movie The Fly flit before my eyes.

One of my favorite musical pieces is Modeste Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition – just the right music for a lady bug like me.

Turmoil in Russia's Post-Soviet States


The above article by Paul Goble is entitled “CIS Intelligence Agencies Warn Economic Crisis is Growing into a Social and Political One”

I recall in one of Krastev’s article the suggestion that Putin thought the American Financial Crisis was a sign that America’s “Hegemon” was on the downslope. The only thing I would say about “downslopes” is that perhaps the American economic crisis sent the world’s economy on a downslope. I don’t know if that’s true, but it seems possible, an now no nation seems to be immune from these current financial troubles. However as we who were exposed to Marxist theory know, it is all going to snap back again, probably sooner rather than later thanks to Keenesian theory and so many nations taking actions to keep the economic valley from going any deeper.

But in the meantime, some of those “post Soviet states” that were developing the forms of nationalism Leokadia Drobizheva described, have more than the normal reasons for being unhappy with Russia. Perhaps some of them will be thinking “enough is enough” which wouldn’t take a whole lot of thought if they are already inclining toward nationalism.

Goble writes, “. . . the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center yesterday warned that “the economic crisis is growing into a social one” and that “extraordinary anti-crisis measures” are needed to prevent explosions. . . States, Russian Col.Gen. Andrey Novikov, who heads that organization’s common anti-terrorist group, said that the situation is at least potentially very dangerous in many or all of the post-Soviet countries. . . “In all the [CIS] states,” he said, “currencies have been devalued, industrial sites have contracted or even stopped work, unemployment has grown, and serious threats of an increase in crime of all kinds are emerging,” creating a situation to which the governments are now being forced to come up with a response.”

Times are hard so migrant workers are losing their jobs. Novikov mentions the CIS states, but he is worrying about what is happening in the non-Russian federation states as well, as he evidences by mentioning Rostov Oblast. Here in the US, our economy is affecting migrant workers. They are losing their jobs and returning to Mexico. However Mexico is not part of an American Federation. It is already an independent nation. The same cannot be said about what is going on in Russia right now.

Goble continues to quote Novikov: “In the near term . . the situation is likely to deteriorate in Central Asia, “to which labor migrants are returning from Russia after the quota for foreign workers has been cut by the powers that be of the Russian Federation as a result of the crisis.” And consequently, this makes “cooperation in warding off terrorism and extremism today especially important.”

Ah yes, “Terrorism.” That wasn’t quite the concern of Drobizheva, and I know it’s not the concern of Krastev, but there could easily be some terrorist-like activities. How best can you further a nation’s nationalism if not by terrorism? At least that is how Islamists think, and some have argued that those influenced by Islamist-thinking are most likely to engage in terrorist acts when the economy is poor.

Goble continues:
“Novikov and other speakers at yesterday’s session said that they expected that “terrorist and extremist organizations will begin to seek means for their existence through thefts” – a form of “self-financing,” they said -- from banks and other agencies, as has already happened in Rostov oblast.

And “Agentura.ru noted that ‘it is characteristic that in addition to terrorist organizations, the Anti-Terrorist Center of the CIS is concerned about extremist ones, which are usually considered as groups involved in ‘anti-government’ propaganda.’

“. . .it is . . . possible that the counter-terrorist centers in the Russian Federation and the other CIS countries plan a more sweeping crackdown against anyone they suspect of disloyalty of any kind to the existing regimes.
But there is at least the possibility that Novikov’s speech represents something else as well: an effort to increase the chances that governments in the region will not cut back their financing of such [crackdowns], even as these regimes are forced by the economic crisis to reduce government spending on almost everything else.”


Russia will be first of all concerned about those nations within the Russian Federation even though most of what Novikov has to say pertains to non-Russian states in the CIS. It is interesting that Novikov implies that Russia isn’t going to help the other CIS nations with its “terrorist” problems. They are going to have to crack down on them themselves. Maybe in Russia today that goes without saying, but it is still refreshing to see in these Post-Soviet days that Russia does not intend exercise a Soviet-type fist and crack down on non-Russian CIS terrorists itself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ethnic Nationalism leading to madness


The above article is entitled “Is ‘Constructive Nationalism’ Possible?’ It was written by Professor Leokadia Drobizheva, chief researcher at the Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Drobizheva seems to be concerned about the sorts of nationalism being embodied in the former SSRs that have broken away or the republics that are breaking away from Russia, but In discussing the types of nationalism possible, Drobizheva mentions one that reminds me of Kuznetsov’s description of present-day Russia. Drobizheva writes, “Ethnic, or ethnocultural, nationalism is considered to be irrational as it appeals to the ‘call of the blood’ and ‘shared history,’ and is based on loyalty to the people who have a certain cultural base. This model is called ‘German’ and it is the closest to the Russian ideas of nation and nationalism.”

Later Drobizheva referred to Hans Kohn who described this sort of nationalism as a “constant degeneration of rationality into madness, which manifested itself most vividly in National Socialism, with its wars, violence and messianic authoritarianism.”

Drobizheva doesn’t have the same concern as Krastev but he hints that ethnic nationalism could take a very dark turn. We saw the turn it took in Nazi Germany. Drobizheva doesn’t have Russia in mind in his consideration of the various types of nationalism. He is concerned about the breakup of the former Soviet Union and the sorts of nationalism that may be embodied in the nations that may break away from the Russian Federation, but Krastev is concerned about the sort of Nationalism Putin and Russia is embracing at the present time. He calls it “Sovereign Democracy,” and he credits three people for providing the philosophical grounding of this form of nationalism. One of these philosophers is Carl Schmitt.

If we look up Carl Schmitt (July 11, 1888April 7, 1985), for example on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Schmitt We learn that he had he had a “Nazi Period”:

“Schmitt, who became a professor at the University of Berlin in 1933 (a position he held until the end of World War II) joined the NSDAP on May 1, 1933; he quickly was appointed "Preußischer Staatsrat" by Hermann Göring and became the president of the "Vereinigung nationalsozialistischer Juristen" ("Union of National-Socialist Jurists") in November. He thought of his theories as an ideological foundation of the Nazi dictatorship, and a justification of the "Führer" state with regard to legal philosophy, in particular through the concept of auctoritas.

“Half a year later, in June 1934, Schmitt became editor in chief for the professional newspaper "Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung" ("German Jurists' Newspaper"); in July 1934, he justified the political murders of the Night of the Long Knives as the "highest form of administrative law" ("höchste Form administrativer Justiz").[citation needed] Schmitt presented himself as a radical anti-semite and also was the chairman of a law teachers' convention in Berlin in October 1936, where he demanded that German law be cleansed of the "Jewish spirit" ("jüdischem Geist"), going so far as to demand that all publications by Jewish scientists should henceforth be marked with a small symbol.

“Nevertheless, in December 1936, the SS publication Das schwarze Korps accused Schmitt of being an opportunist, a Hegelian state thinker and basically a Catholic, and called his anti-semitism a mere pretense, citing earlier statements in which he criticised the Nazis' racial theories. After this, Schmitt lost most of his prominent offices, and retreated from his position as a leading Nazi jurist, although he retained his post as a professor in Berlin thanks to Göring.”

Okay, but did he have something constructive to say about Nationalism, something that present day Russia might adopt? Very likely. Here is a brief description of Schmitt’s political philosophy:

“This was followed by another essay in 1922, titled "Politische Theologie" ("Political Theology"); in it, Schmitt, who at the time was working as a professor at the University of Bonn, gave further substance to his authoritarian theories, effectively denying free will based on a Catholic world view. The book begins with Schmitt's famous, or notorious, definition: "Sovereign is he who decides on the exception." By "exception," Schmitt means the appropriate moment for stepping outside the rule of law in the public interest. (See discussion of "On Dictatorship," above.) . . .”

“The book's title derives from Schmitt's assertion (in chapter 3) that "all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts" —in other words, that political theory addresses the state (and sovereignty) in much the same manner as theology does God.

“A year later, Schmitt supported the emergence of totalitarian power structures in his paper "Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage des heutigen Parlamentarismus" (roughly: "The Intellectual-Historical Situation of Today's Parliamentarianism", translated as The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy by Ellen Kennedy). Schmitt criticized the institutional practices of liberal politics, arguing that they are justified by a faith in rational discussion and openness that is at odds with actual parliamentary party politics, in which outcomes are hammered out in smoke-filled rooms by party leaders. Schmitt also posits an essential division between the liberal doctrine of separation of powers and what he holds to be the nature of democracy itself, the identity of the rulers and the ruled. . . .”


If Russian leaders are really toying with this sort of thing, the effect could be far more deadly than Bush’s toying with Neoconservatism, if he really did. Neoconservatism took Fukuyama’s rather passive philosophy, which argued that Historical Necessity would cause all nations to become Liberal Democracies, and turned it into an active political philosophy. No time limit was put on how long it would take all nations to become Liberal Democracies, and Fukuyama didn’t advocate that any action be taken to hasten the process, but the Neocons wanted to “do something.” If that philosophy provided some of the impetus for changing the regime in Iraq, and it may not have, that experiment is over. But if it did, it may actually have partially succeeded. Iraq is becoming a Democracy – not a “Liberal” Democracy, but a Democracy. But even if the experiment did succeed, we are not going to try it again. Neoconservatism is dead.

But in regard to the Russian experiment with “Sovereign Democracy,” if it is truly embracing that philosophy to some degree, there is danger of embracing it with religious zeal. That happened in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. And elements of it were present in the Stalinist period of Russia. Stalin was the “great man,” who made decisions on behalf of the people. He fulfilled what Schmitt advocated.

And it wouldn’t be accurate to assume that “Communism” and “Fascism” were polar opposites. Communism and Fascism have quite a lot in common. Liberal Democracy is the polar opposite of both ideologies. Why? Because it allows individuals to do whatever they like. It is a laissez faire free form society that works surprisingly well. People in Liberal Democracies, who appreciate being there, enjoy this sort of freedom. They don’t want a centralized government dictating major decisions for them. They don’t want a centralized leader controlling their lives. George Orwell’s 1984 was written about Communist Russia, but it could as well have been written about any authoritarian society.

And one will recall what the Longshoreman-Philosopher, Eric Hoffer wrote in his The True Believer, that there was movement back and forth between Communism and Fascism in the 30s. If one had a personality that embraced the requisite fanaticism then he could potentially be converted from one sort of fanaticism to another. It would be much harder to convert him to the opposite of fanaticism, to Liberal Democracy, which can be described as the absence of fanaticism. If you are living in a Liberal Democratic society, you may appreciate the benefits that society provides, but you aren’t going to be fanatical about them. If you lived in Nazi German, Fascist Italy or Communist Russia, you would, if you were really in tune with what was going on, be a fanatic.

If I read Krastev correctly, present day Russia is not a nation that inspires fanaticism. Even Michael Kuznetsov who seems to have embraced ethnic nationalism doesn’t sound fanatical. . . unless he is holding out on me. Are you a fanatic, Michael?