A Four-Hundred-Year-Old Grudge Meets a Line in the Sand

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Uncle Volodya says, “It is only prudent never to place complete confidence in that by which we have even once been deceived.”

And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.

William Shakespeare, from Richard III

The hysterical behavior of Poland on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz has been an archetype of clumsy redirection, enthusiastically backed by western academics – Look! they cry; Putin is trying to blame Poland for starting World War II!! When everyone knows it was the Soviets with their notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, under whose terms the filthy co-conspirators planned to carve up Poland for themselves.

It would not be an exaggeration to suggest here that if the Polish attempt to rewrite history meets with broad acceptance, the practice will become a model for countries who wish to sanitize their own history so that they appear to have been victim rather than aggressor; hapless sacrifice to a peaceful nature rather than eager collaborator.

History – well, we assume it is the real history, although you can’t be too sure these days – reflects that over 230 Soviet soldiers, including the commander of the 472nd regiment, died in combat in the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Seems a drop in the bucket compared with the Soviet Union’s losses overall in the war of extinction with Nazi Germany, but the number reflects combat losses in that operation alone; men who died when they might reasonably have been expected to live, in order that thousands of prisoners might be liberated. Poland’s recent response has been to destroy Soviet war memorials in the country, backed by an order of the nationalist Polish parliament, the Sejm. And suddenly, enough became enough as far as Russia was concerned.

It is against this backdrop of determined lunacy that I feature the first-ever guest post by Dennis Pennington, British-born resident of Russia for over 20 years, and better known to most of us here as Moscow Exile. Without further ado; Dennis, take it away!

A Four Hundred Year Grudge

On September 1, 2019, the Polish leadership did not invite Vladimir Putin to attend commemorative events to mark the outbreak of World War II in Europe, whereas practically all other world leaders had been invited. In that same year, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi extermination camp, the same thing happened: the Russian president was snubbed, no matter that it was the Red Army that had liberated the inmates of that death camp in 1944. Furthermore, the Polish authorities have ostentatiously refused to celebrate the anniversary of the liberation of Poland from Nazism. The Polish Foreign Ministry has already issued a sharp statement on the outcome of the Second World War in Europe. In its official account on Twitter, that ministry has expressed its views as regards this liberation of Poland from the Nazis:

“We respect the blood sacrifice of soldiers in the fight against Nazism, but in 1945, the Stalin regime brought terror, brutality and economic exploitation to Poland”.

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that:

“The Red Army liberated Warsaw from Nazi occupation, but that did not mean freedom for Poland!”

During the Warsaw-Poznan offensive, on January 17, 1945, Warsaw was liberated from the Nazis by Soviet troops. This year is, therefore, the 75th anniversary of this event. However, although Poland had ceased to exist more than 6 years before this date, following a swift Nazi-Germany Blitzkrieg victory against the Polish armed forces in September 1939, present day Polish politicians prefer to call the Soviet liberators of Poland “Soviet occupiers” who “oppressed” Poland until the Soviet Union in its turn ceased to exist in 1991 and Poland had become a NATO member state. Continue reading “A Four-Hundred-Year-Old Grudge Meets a Line in the Sand”

The United States of Amnesia, and Its Incredible Asbestos Pants

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Uncle Volodya says, You must remember, my dear lady, the most important rule of any successful illusion: First, the people must want to believe in it”.”

Liar, liar, pants on fire…

Chidren’s rhyme

In an era of stress and anxiety, when the present seems unstable and the future unlikely, the natural response is to retreat and withdraw from reality, taking recourse either in fantasies of the future or in modified visions of a half-imagined past.

Alan Moore, from “Watchmen”

Unless you were catatonic this past couple of weeks, dead drunk from Sunday to Saturday, suffered a debilitating brain injury or were living in Bognor Regis where the internet cannot reach, you heard about the west slapping a four-year Olympic ban on Russia. Because it could, it did. And not really for any other reason, despite the indignation and manufactured outrage. It’s a pity – now that I come to think on it – that you can’t use outrage to power a vehicle, fill a sandwich or knit into socks: because the west has a bottomless supply, and it’s just about as renewable a resource as you could envision.

As I have reiterated elsewhere and often, the United States of America is the cheatingest nation on the planet where professional sports is concerned, because winning matters to Americans like nowhere else. Successful Olympic medal-winners and iconic sports figures in the USA are feted like victorious battlefield generals, because the sports arena is just another battlefield to the United States, and there’s no it’s-not-whether-you-win-or-lose-it’s-how-you-play-the-game in wartime. Successful American sports figures foster an appreciation of American culture and lifestyle, and promote an image of America as a purposeful and powerful nation. Successful sports figures anywhere, really; not so very long ago Olympic gold medalists were merely given an appreciative parade by a grateful nation, and featured in lucrative advertising contracts if they were photogenic. More recently, some nations have simply paid athletes by the medal for winning. This includes most nations, with the notable exceptions of the UK, Norway and Sweden. So the pressure is on to win, win, win, by whatever means are necessary.

Since Russia is in second place only to Germany for all-time medal rankings in the Olympics, and since Russia eventually made it back up to Public Enemy Number One in the USA – after a brief hiatus during which it looked like a combination of Boris Yeltsyn and teams of Harvard economists were going to make a respectful pauper of it while it became a paradise for international investors – the USA spares no effort to beat Russia at everything. On occasions where it is not particularly successful, as it was not in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, it has turned to other methods – screaming that the Russians are all dopers who benefit from a state-sponsored doping scheme, and implementing bans to prevent as many Russian athletes as possible from competing.

And that’s my principal objection. In media matters in the world of sports, just as in other political venues, the USA relies on a combination of lying and relentless repetition to drive its points home. Thus it is that the English-speaking world still believes Russia was convicted of having had a state-sponsored doping plan, found guilty and justly sentenced upon the discovery of mountains of evidence, its accusers vindicated and its dissident whistleblowers heroes to a grateful world. Huzzah!!

Examples abound – here’s a random one from the BBC:

“Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme for four years across the “vast majority” of summer and winter Olympic sports, claims a new report.

It was “planned and operated” from late 2011 – including the build-up to London 2012 – and continued through the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics until August 2015.”

The BBC is Britain’s state-funded broadcaster, financed by the British government, and the British government is second only to the United States in its virulent hatred of Russia and Russians. But that was back then, when the ‘doping scheme’ was newly ‘discovered’, and all the western reporters and government figures were nearly wetting their pants with excitement. What about now?

Essentially, nothing has changed. TIME Magazine:

“It’s the latest twist in a long-running saga of investigations into widespread, state-sponsored doping by the Kremlin.”

My soul, if it isn’t the USA’s star witness, Doctor Grigory Rodchenkov, in AFP;

“Doped athletes do not work alone. There are medical doctors, coaches and managers who provided substances, advised and protected them. In Russia’s state-sponsored doping scheme, there is also a state-sponsored defense of many cheaters including state officials, witnesses and apparatchiks who are lying under oath and have falsified evidence. These individuals are clearly criminals,” he said.

More about him later; for now, suffice it to say the western media still finds him a credible and compelling witness.

The Canadian Globe & Mail:

“In 2016, independent investigations confirmed that Russian officials had run a massive state‑sponsored doping system during the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, which fed illicit performance-enhancing drugs to hundreds of athletes and took outlandish measures to pervert national drug-testing mechanisms.

The evidence was incontrovertible.”

I was going to go on, listing examples in the popular press from around the world, published since the latest ban was announced, all claiming investigation had proved the Russians had a massive state-sponsored doping scheme in place which let them cheat their way to the podium. But I think you get the picture, and that last lead-in was my cue; it was just too good to pass up.

Independent investigations confirmed. The evidence was incontrovertible. Continue reading “The United States of Amnesia, and Its Incredible Asbestos Pants”

Tell Me How It Is

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Uncle Volodya says, “It’s not a moral position if you only hold it when it applies to you.”

Maybe the time has drawn
the faces I recall;
Things in this life change very slowly
if they ever change at all

Eagles. from “Sad Cafe

“Every individual needs revolution, inner division, overthrow of the existing order, and renewal, but not by forcing them upon his neighbors under the hypocritical cloak of Christian love or the sense of social responsibility or any of the other beautiful euphemisms for unconscious urges to personal power.”

C.G. Jung

Everything bad that happens is because of Russia, and when anything good happens in Russia, it’s because they got lucky.

A recent revelation for me was the announcement that the revenue Russia realizes from agricultural exports has surpassed what it earns in arms sales. That was actually announced more than four years ago, but it came to my attention only a short time ago, because of context. I mean, it was fairly common knowledge that the sanctions Europe dutifully imposed on Russia, and the counter-sanctions against imports of European meat and produce, fostered an agricultural renaissance in Russia. But linking it as a moneymaker to exports of weapons really puts it in focus; Russia is now able to exercise more economic clout through farming than through the tools of war. And, as if any of you needed to have it pointed out to you, this peaceful surge in production occurred at a time in history when western pressure expected to make Russia more martial – not less.Hillary Clinton

Given that any positive news from Russia is immediately pissed on by the western media, you might expect reporting which suggests the Russian state merely caught a completely-undeserved lucky break. And you would not be disappointed. The booming farm economy and the profits which accrue to it, Politico will have you know, are due to…good land management, and the weather having a pro-Russian bias.

So if the Kremlin tells you it actually wants the sanctions to continue,  it’s just whistling past the graveyard, because those who say sanctions have not had a serious impact on Russia are lying. I mean, there’s the impossibility of getting good French cheese, and….and….no French cheese, and…well, okay, it’s just cheese, and widespread fakery which leads individuals who presumably were discerning cheese buyers only a couple of years ago to mistake blocks of grease for fine Camembert. Yes, the western obsession with European cheese imports, and their conviction that not being able to buy real Parmesan or Stilton is driving suffering Russians to the edge of madness refuses to die. Washington is determined to believe the sanctions against Russia are a tremendous success.

Well, they’re not. Continue reading “Tell Me How It Is”

How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth it is to Have a Thankless World

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Uncle Volodya says, “When I see an arrogant man, I see one less competitor.”

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!

William Shakespeare, from “King Lear”

How can we dance when our earth is turning;
How do we sleep when our beds are burning?

Midnight Oil, from “Beds Are Burning”

NATO is sad. Just when it seemed as if the world had been made safe for democracy, freedom and unbridled capitalism…some members of the alliance went squishy. One appeared – in the persona of its president – to have been smoking jimson weed, and taken leave of his senses. The other evidently aspires to be a pirate itself, and is little better than the ravening hordes it was admitted to the alliance to help hold at bay.

Or so Christian Leuprecht would have you believe, in an opinion piece the Munk Senior Fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute penned for the Globe & Mail, entitled, “NATO has bigger problems than Trump”. The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is described online as ‘right-leaning’, but that may not do it justice – suffice it to say it includes Stephen Blank (Canada-US relations, North American economic integration and co-operation) and Nathan Law (Canada-Hong Kong policy) on its board of Experts. As well as being a registered charity in Canada, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute is supported by ‘a variety of foundations’; its international funding is not disclosed anywhere that I could find, but it is a partner in the Atlas Network, which associates it with the American Enterprise Institute, the America’s Future Foundation, the American Conservative Union Foundation, the American Principles Project, the Ayn Rand Institute, the Cato Institute and a variety of other do-gooders who seem, for one reason or another, to have the furthering of American foreign-policy goals at their heart.

I frequently start these posts with a bold declarative statement, which I invite the readers to disprove, and I’m going to do so on this occasion, as well. And it’s this: NATO in its current iteration exists to further the achievement of Washington’s aims and aspirations around the world. Perhaps it wasn’t always that way, and I’m still enough of a romantic to believe global organizations often started up in the framework of altruism and the betterment of the human social condition, regardless of country of residence. But if that was ever true of NATO, it is true no longer. NATO is an instrument of American policy, which Washington whistles up when it wants to internationalize a national goal or ambition, and so camouflage its pursuit of the interests of the investor class. Continue reading “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth it is to Have a Thankless World”

A Tale of Two Tyrants: They’re Using Our Own Laws Against Us!!

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Uncle Volodya says, Humor is essential to a successful tactician, for the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule”.”

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary,
Out by the gas fires of the refinery;
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go…

Bruce Springsteen, from, Born in the USA

Leafing through Forbes or Fortune Magazine is like reading the operating manual of some strangely sanctimonious pirate ship.

Adam Gopnik

I have reached the conclusion – late, but better late than never, they say – that there is no pleasing the west where its ideological foes are concerned. If they do bad things, they are evil. If they do halfway-decent things, they are only pretending to be good so they can get close enough to whip out the evil. If their economy is tanking, they are incompetent. If their economy is doing well despite efforts to ruin it, they are manipulative and deceitful, and not ever to be trusted. If they break the law, they are reckless criminals – if they hew to the law and nevertheless achieve their objective, they are exploiting loopholes to bring about the downfall of all that’s good. It was kind of the latter I wanted to talk about today. Because if there’s anything that makes the west hot under the collar, it is being put in a position where it looks hypocritical and childish, and cannot avail itself of its customary lofty sanctimony. The moral high ground is sometimes hard to hold, but it’s harder if you are full of shit.

First on deck is the Hungarian Vampire suckling at the Helpless White Throat of Democracy, Victor Orban. Mr. Orban long since turned into a bad smell on the wind for western leaders, owing to some pro-Russian positions and his resistance to western portrayals of Ukraine as The Crucible Of Good Decisions – he is invariably portrayed in western accounts as a ‘strongman’ who just makes up new laws as soon as he comes up against one which inconveniences his ruthless plundering of the state. Keep that ‘strongman’ cliche in mind for a moment, because we’re going to come back to it fairly soon.

Readers will have to be satisfied with a stub as a reference, because it’s from The Economist, which wants you to subscribe – yes, I know, and for money! – to read the whole thing. I would be as likely to do that as I would be to punch the next person who asks me what time it is in the face, because its analysis is typically little better than what you might find in the National Enquirer, and accurately foretells world developments about as often as chicken soup gives you an upset stomach.

“Take Hungary, where Fidesz, the ruling party, has used its parliamentary majority to capture regulators, dominate business, control the courts, buy the media and manipulate the rules for elections. As our briefing explains, the prime minister, Viktor Orban, does not have to break the law, because he can get parliament to change it instead. He does not need secret police to take his enemies away in the night. They can be cut down to size without violence, by the tame press or the taxman. In form, Hungary is a thriving democracy; in spirit, it is a one-party state.”

The thrust of the article is that populism is strangling democracy. Let’s take a quick look at a definition of ‘populism’ – perhaps it really is bad.  Hmmmm…. according to the dictionary, it’s ” A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.” Continue reading “A Tale of Two Tyrants: They’re Using Our Own Laws Against Us!!”

If Wishes Were Horses: Nina Khrushcheva’s Regime-Change Dream.

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Uncle Volodya says, “The greater the gap between self perception and reality, the more aggression is unleashed on those who point out the discrepancy.”

is a kreakl. We use that word here a lot, and perhaps not all the readers know what it means. It is a portmanteau of “Creative Class”, but makes use of the letter ‘k’, because the letter ‘c’ in Russian has a soft ‘s’ sound, so we use the hard ‘k’. The Creative Class, or so they styled themselves, were the intelligentsia of Soviet times; the free-thinking liberals who were convinced Russia’s best course lay in accommodating the west no matter its demands, in hope that it would then bless Russia with its secrets for prosperity and all the fruits of the American Dream.

A kreakl is a Russian liberal, often the child or grandchild of Soviet-era intellectuals who believed they knew better than anyone else how the country should be run. They express their disapproval of the current government in the most contemptuous way, interpret its defense of family values as homophobia, and consider its leadership – uniformly described by the west as ‘authoritarian’ – to be stifling their freedom. My position is that their often privileged upbringing insulates them from appreciating the value of hard work, and lets them sneer at patriotism, as they often consider themselves global citizens with a worldly grasp of foreign affairs far greater that of their groveling, sweaty countrymen. Their university educations allow them to rub shoulders with other pampered scions of post-Soviet affluence, and even worse are those who are sent abroad to attend western universities, where they internalize the notion that everyone in America and the UK lives like Skip and Buffy and their other college friends.

Not everyone who attends university or college turns out a snobbish brat, of course, and in Russia, at least, not everyone who gets the benefit of a superior education comes from wealth. A significant number are on scholarships, as both my nieces were. Some western students are in university or college on scholarships as well, and there are a good many in both places who are higher-education students because it was their parents dream that they would be, and they saved all their lives to make it happen.

But many of the Russian loudmouths are those who learned at their daddy’s knee that he coulda been a contendah, if only the money-grubbing, soulless monsters in the government hadn’t kept him down – could have been wealthy if it were not for the money pit of communism, could have taken a leadership role which would have moved the country forward had the leader who usurped power not filled all the seats with his cronies and sycophants.

Now, she’s Professor of International Affairs at The New School, New York, USA, and a Senior Fellow of the World Policy Institute, New York. As you might imagine, The New School is a hotbed of liberal intellectualism; as its Wiki entry announces, “…dedicated to academic freedom and intellectual inquiry and a home for progressive thinkers”. So let’s see what a liberal and progressive thinker thinks about the current state of affairs vis-a-vis Russia and China, and their western opponents. Continue reading “If Wishes Were Horses: Nina Khrushcheva’s Regime-Change Dream.”

Book Review; Robert Kagan’s “The Jungle Grows Back”

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Uncle Volodya says, “The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

For the longest time, I was reluctant to get into book reviews. I mean, who cares what I think? Others do them from time to time; Paul Robinson, for one. But he’s an academic. JT does them regularly, specializes in reviewing Russia-related literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and her reviews are very enjoyable. But I know nothing of her background; perhaps she’s an academic, too. I am not. I didn’t finish high school, have no college or university education at all, and spent the best part of my adult life in the military.

But then, when you think about it, a book is really nothing more than a big, long article. When it’s meant to push your opinion in a certain direction – rather than simply entertain you, like in a novel – it is usually a pretty good barometer of the author’s personal opinion and way of thinking. I was looking for something to write about, I love deconstructing bullshit, and I just finished the book. So everything kind of came together at the right moment, and I decided to give it a try.

Usually when people say an author or celebrity needs no introduction, they just mean he or she is well-known in the field they chose, and intend to give them an introduction anyway. This will be no exception to that rule. Everybody who is even peripherally acquainted with American politics and foreign policy knows who Robert Kagan is. His advocacy for military intervention to imprint American-style freedom and democracy upon foreign populations, whether they want them or not, dovetails perfectly with the neoconservative agenda. But he considers himself a liberal interventionist, and the policies he advocates to constitute the ‘liberal world order’. If you read any of his books, you’re likely to see that phrase repeated many, many times. He is the husband of Victoria Nuland, currently the CEO of the Center for a New American Security, and former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State. She held the rank of Career Ambassador, the highest diplomatic rank in the United States Foreign Service. The Nuland/Kagans have moved for most of their adult lives in the corridors of political power, and a power couple more committed to American global dominance would be hard to imagine.

And now, except for cursory mention, we will part from Ms. Nuland; while I daresay she reads drafts of her husband’s books and may suggest the odd correction or improvement based on her personal opinion or knowledge, she did not write this book. So, first, the book. Its full title is “The Jungle Grows Back: America and our Imperiled World”. It was published in 2018 by Alfred A. Knopf of New York, and is dedicated to Kagan’s father, Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University. The version I read costs $29.95 in Canada, $22.95 in the USA, and is 163 pages, not including footnotes. If you’re not busy, you could easily read it in a day. I have to confess I did not buy it; it was an impulse grab from a library cart of books waiting to be reshelved. Continue reading “Book Review; Robert Kagan’s “The Jungle Grows Back””