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09 May 2015


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Bill H

Well said. I could not agree more with you on every point you make.


TTG and SST,
Thanks for more intellectual and moral clarity than I am apparently going to see from my own government.

rOTL, U.S. Citizen


I noticed the Bessmertny Polk during RT's Russian coverage of parades around Russia. It occurred to me how I wish I would have had some place to participate, for my Great Uncle Mike Martinez (ETO, USA) who fell at the Battle of Bitche in Dec. 1944.

I too am disappointed there wasn't an American contingent at the Moscow parade.

David Habakkuk


Many thanks for this.

Two relevant texts by Putin are worth looking at. One is his account of his parents' wartime experience, and in particular during the Leningrad siege. I cannot rule out the possibility that this is embroidered, but think it unlikely.

(See http://russia-insider.com/en/history/life-such-simple-yet-cruel-thing-vladimir-putin/ri6661 .)

Another is his Victory Day speech.

(See http://thesaker.is/15865/ .)

There is a lot of interest in this short speech, including his interesting, if puzzling, reference to 'the historical meeting on the Elbe'.

Interviewed for the PBS programme 'Race for the Superbomb' back in 1999, General-Mayor Valentin Larionov recalled this meeting:

''Q: At the end of WWII, if I am properly informed, there is this famous scene of the Soviet army and the American, the Western Allies meeting in Germany and rushing across this open field and embracing. You witnessed that event.

''GL: I remember. Those were embraces without any ulterior motives, truly friendly embraces...Certainly, no one thought then about any aggravations of the situation; everyone thought that the peace had come, the peaceful times arrived, and that it would stay for a long time. It is only there in the higher circles of the state apparatus that they were already thinking about something in the future, and Stalin declared that the future war would be a war with the U.S. But on our level, on the level of an average commander, soldier, and sergeant, everything looked bright. All that was sincere. .''

(http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/filmmore/reference/interview/larionov03.html )

We interviewed Larionov at the start of 1989, for a couple of BBC Radio programmes I was making on the so-called Gorbachev-era 'new thinking.' He was a scholarly man with steel teeth. One of the first things he told us was that to understand the 'new thinking' it was necessary to back to go back to the realisation by Soviet strategists in the Seventies that it was impossible to win a nuclear war.

He went on to talk about a Soviet strategist of the Twenties called Alexander Svechin, who he said had been 'repressed' under Stalin. And he also criticised the view of Soviet strategy put forward in the 1986 study 'Game Plan' by Zbigniew Brzezinski, whom he described as 'our friend – a Pole.'

To my enduring regret, at that time I did not know of the Soviet Army Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, and a marvellous historian there called Jacob W. Kipp, who later headed its successor organisation, the Foreign Military Studies Office.

Accordingly, I was unaware that Larionov, the military figure most closely associated with the 'new thinking', had earlier compiled and co-authored the classic Soviet statement of the strategy of winning a nuclear war by pre-emption, the initial 1962 edition of the study 'Military Strategy' published under the name of Marshal Sokolovskii.

Likewise, the work of the SASO – summarised in a 2005 U.S. Army symposium 'Historical Perspectives of the Operational Art' – when I finally came across it, made me understand some of what lay behind Larionov's discussion of Svechin.

A close reader of Clausewitz, in 1914 Colonel Svechin had been deeply sceptical of the notion that offensive operations could produce a 'Napoleonic' rapid and decisive outcome to a war with Germany. The Russian Army, he had argued, should have contingency plans for a protracted war, and be prepared both for offensive and defensive operations.

(The 'Historical Perspectives' symposium is available online at http://russia-insider.com/en/russian-liberals-advice-west-dont-lecture-russia/ri6598 .)

Between September 1917 and October 1918, Svechin went from being chief of staff of the Northern Front of the Imperial Russian Army to chief of the All-Russian Main Staff of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army. In the arguments about the implications of new military technologies among Soviet theorists, Tukhachevskii argued the case that these would renew the possibility of decisive 'Napoleonic' operations – an argument which led to advocacy of the need for a 'complete militarization' of the national economy to provide the new instruments for mechanised warfare.

By contrast, Svechin restated the anticipation that a war would be likely to be one of attrition, and the need to be prepared to defend, rather than simply attack. His strategic concepts, as Kipp brought out, were the correlative of the 'New Economic Policy', with its emphasis on maintaining the alliance with the peasantry. In the event, Svechin lost out, and, ironically, both he and Tukhachevskii would perish in the apocalypse of terror unleashed by Stalin's programme to 'militarise' the Soviet economy.

This was for me an object lesson in the importance of understanding history for intelligence analysis. Once I could see what Larionov had been saying in context, I could see complex arguments had lurked behind what he had been saying, some of which I could make sense of better than others.

A critical point was that by the time Gorbachev came to power intelligent people throughout Russian society could see that the Bolshevik Revolution had led the country into a dead end. As to Larionov, his disillusion and disgust both with the Revolution and with his own previous work as a nuclear strategist is evident both in the PBS interview ('I sometimes lower my head in repentance – it was the devil's work') and a fascinating 1994 article on 'Russian Military Strategy in Historical Perspective'.

(See http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/rusmilst.htm .)

Accordingly, such people looked back at history, for paths not taken. And here, critical questions necessarily arose, about how far the threats which Russia had faced in the Soviet period were the result of the Revolution, and of Stalin's policies in particular. Disagreements about collectivisation – whether it was a necessary condition for the Soviet Union to have avoided defeat in the Second World War – ran through people, as well as between people.

Critically, should the Cold War be seen as a story of a Western world that would have been friendly, as the American soldiers had been on the Elbe, but had been gratuitously alienated by the nature of Soviet policy and by Stalin's actions? Or was ideological hostility in part a veneer, so that American policy in particular was driven by an antagonism to the very notion of an independent and powerful Russia – as with Brzezinski, or many Jewish immigrants to the United States for whom the 1903 Kishinev pogrom remained a defining feature of their identity?

This brings me to another central set of observations produced by Putin – those contained in the April 26 'Rossiya TV' documentary marking fifteen years of his leadership. Unfortunately, although a full transcript was put up on the invaluable 'Johnson's Russia List', I cannot find it on the web. However, there is a fascinating discussion by Stephen F. Cohen on an interview on the 'John Batchelor Show', a transcript of part of which is available online.

(See http://tinyurl.com/npgukvt ; http://tinyurl.com/l3ogdje .)

A central theme of the programme is in fact that of how Putin began with very much the view to which I think Larionov came, that the West had been engaged in a righteous struggle against communism in the Cold War – as he puts it, 'we all had our illusions.' And it charts the process by which he and many others moved from a euphoric conviction that were rejoining the civilised world to a belief that the West simply is not prepared to accept an independent and powerful Russia.

A fascinating element of all these Putin statements, however, is that the tone is quite moderate. Anyone who has been attempting to follow Russian debates at all seriously will be aware that there is likely to be some truth in the warnings given by Graham Allison and Dmitri Simes, in their 20 April article in the 'National Interest' entitled 'Russia and America: Stumbling to War'. In their view, 'given Russian politics today, Putin is personally responsible for the fact that Russia's revanchist policies are not more aggressive.'

(See http://nationalinterest.org/feature/russia-america-stumbling-war-12662?page=show .)

My own view, for what it is worth, is that the notion that Putin is 'revanchist' is dangerous bullshit, in that it plays into the hands of those who want to believe that because he is not prepared to see the heirs of Stefan Bandera take over the whole of Ukraine he is itching to reabsorb the Baltics and perhaps even Poland.

What is apparent – vividly so, in a piece just written by 'the Saker' – is that a whole series of Soviet-era claims about Western policy in the early Cold War and the inter-war period are being revived.

(See http://thesaker.is/todays-victory-day-celebrations-in-moscow-mark-a-turning-point-in-russian-history/ .)

Some of these have some foundation in truth, others are travesties of the truth. But it would, I think, be unwise to dismiss them as 'propaganda'. And it is not simply among stupid and ignorant people that Western policy is leading to a rehabilitation of Stalin. Somewhere down in hell, the old Georgian gangster must be laughing his head off.


Can only sadly agree with TTG.
This was to honour and remember all those who died in WW2.
Vladimir Vladimirovich in his speech also expressed his gratitude to the French, Brits and Americans for their contributions to ultimate victory.
The mark of a true statesman.
Shame on the Europeans Heads of State for trampling on the memories of those who died.

Bryn P

Note too that in his speech Putin also expressed his country's thanks for the contribution which Britain, France and the United States made to the victiry over the Nazis. His graciousness was in stark contrast to the BBC's extraordinary headline saying that Russia was going ahead with its victory display despite the absence of western leaders!

musings o'hara

Very Russian to venerate these icons. It goes all the way back to Roman times. Too bad the West was not gracious enough to participate or to thank the Russians for saving its bacon.

 Ishmael Zechariah

David Habakkuk,

Could you please comment, if you may, on what drives Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski? Is it wrong to expect him to be better educated, with a much firmer basis on "realpolitik" then Nuland/Kagan and the their coterie?

Many thanks

Ishmael Zechariah


Mr. Habakkuk,

I always wondered if Hildog Clinton was cognizant of how her comment that Putin was a new Hitler was received by a man who lost family (a brother IIRC) in the Siege of Stalingrad.


EU heads of state lack the character to be leaders .


Vote Putin 2016. I wish we had a president like that man.

The center of godless Communism is the defender of Western values and the land of free is under the yoke of cultural marxism and an omnipresent surveillance state in a generation's time. How quickly things change. Maybe Russia gonna have to save the world again.

Babak Makkinejad

The most significant part of Mr. Putin's speech, in my opinion, was this:

"The creation of a system of equal security for all states should become our common task. Such system should be an adequate match to modern threats, and it should rest on a regional and global non-block basis. Only then will we be able to ensure peace and tranquility on the planet."

This is not the view of US, UK, Germany, France, and indeed the entire Euro-Atlantic Alliance - in my opinion.

Mr. Putin is indicating a positive way forward, the Euro-Atlanticists have nothing to match that.

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, the dead, as is usual, have been politicized.

SAC Brat

I had hoped that General Martin Dempsey would have consulted his What Would George Marshall Do wristband and attended, but he may be on a short leash at the moment. Too bad small minds got in the way of big events.

It would have been a blast to see a bunch of restored Studebaker trucks in the parade to symbolize Lend-Lease.

David Habakkuk


It was the baby who would have been his elder brother, in the Leningrad siege. A third of the city's population died. His account of his parents' war, which he says is based largely on overheard conversations among adults, is well worth reading. My instinct is that it is the actual truth, although one cannot be sure.

As to Hilary Clinton and so many others comparing him to Hitler, my suspicion is that it is water off a duck's back as far as Putin is concerned. Suppose a congenital civilian like myself, who has never heard a shot fired in anger, accused you, TTG and Colonel Lang of being conspicuous cowards? Statements that are simply silly, made by people who have no credibility on the matter in question, simply provoke a shrug of the shoulders.

FB Ali


I agree that the boycotting of the Moscow ceremony was "shameful and petty".

I would like your opinion on a connected topic. I have not been able to come to any conclusion on what aim or plan underlies the policies and actions of Merkel's Germany. Or, whether there is any such underlying aim.

The other day I came across the views of the French historian and political scientist on this subject (in an article by Pepe Escobar). Others have advanced similar views. I wonder if you have an opinion. The article is at:

The article has a marvellous quote on 'Zbig' Brzezinski: "Faithful to his Polish origins, he feared a Eurasia under Russian control. He is now running the risk to go down in History as another one of these absurd Poles who, out of hatred of Russia, have insured the greatness of Germany.”

FB Ali

For one view of the answer to your question, see my comment below to TTG.

The Twisted Genius

David Habakkuk,

Thanks for your excellent, informative comments. You've laid out a course of study which should keep me busy for some time. I knew Tim Thomas from the FMSO. He did a lot of work on both Soviet/Russian and Chinese information warfare and was a joy to speak with and learn from.

The Beaver

Brig Ali,

Just to let you know that the link does not work.



It is hard for the Western audiences to realize a degree of disappointment that the Russians experience after observing the apparent lack of decency on a part of certain Western Deciders. After the collapse of the USSR, the Russians expected to find a great Western society based on the rule of law and on the respect for human rights/lives. Instead, during the last 25 years of freedom from the Soviet totalitarianism, the former Soviets observed the lying, ignorant, and unaccountable Bush&Cheney enterprise; the lying, thoroughly bought and prostituting MSM; the bullying policies of the "exceptional Christian nation," and the consistent disregard for international law (renditions, tortures, Obama drones, and so forth). Plus a spectacle of vicious treatment of the whistleblowers.
This disappointment in the trumpeted "western values" explains, in some part, the obvious and sincere patriotism of people of the Russian Federation. For the money-&-power-driven neocons at the State Dept. this patriotism may appear as naive and childish.

David Habakkuk

Ishmael Zechariah,

As to Brzezinski, I cannot claim any expertise. However, a few sighting shots.

Look first at his biography. He comes from a 'szlachta' – noble – family from Brzezany, south-east of Lviv, in what was then Poland and is now Western Ukraine. Born in 1928, the son of a diplomat who in his early childhood served both in Germany and the Soviet Union, his world was effectively destroyed by the pact between the two countries.

When the Soviets moved in, they purged the Polish elite, with the officer corps murdered en masse at Katyn, when the Germans repudiated the pact and drove the Soviets out, they continued the purge.

However, as often the truth is quite complex. A critical historical weakness first of the Russian and then of the Soviet empire was its multinational character, and its enemies have – unsurprisingly – sought to exploit this.

In the inter-war years, the head of the Second Polish Republic, Marshal Józef Piłsudski, had created the 'Promethean League', which was dedicated to exploiting the aspirations to independence of restive nationalities inside the Soviet Empire.

As is not generally understood in the West, a basic insight behind George Kennan's conception of 'containment' was that, in attempting to incorporate Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe in the Soviet Empire, Stalin had massively increased his vulnerability to precisely the kind of strategy which Piłsudski elaborated.

Essentially, he had created a situation where the new satellites were liable to be uncontrollable, and if Soviet control was destabilised in them, the disintegration might spread into the Soviet Union proper.

(On this, there is a brilliant article by a contemporary Russian historian, Vladimir Pechatnov, who has actually taken the trouble to read what Kennan wrote.

See http://dspace.khazar.org/jspui/bitstream/123456789/955/1/01.pdf .)

Although it took much longer than Kennan anticipated, the scenario he had sketched out came to pass with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, realising a good portion of the 'Promethean' agenda.

The question was – what to do then? Some of us thought -- do not push your luck, and realise that the disintegration of Russia is not actually in our interest.

As Brzezinski made clear in an address given in October 2003, however, his answer was to harness the power of the United States to continue the 'Promethean agenda' by bringing Ukraine, and then perhaps Belarus, Georgia and Armenia, into NATO.

(For the address, see http://csis.org/files/media/csis/events/031003_brzezinski.pdf .)

Not mentioned here, but also involved, was the agenda for exploiting separatism in the Caucasus. What Putin suggests in the documentary celebrating fifteen years of his leadership was that when he became president he saw Chechen separatism as an issue where the future of Russia was at stake: if it was not fought effectively, then Russia would collapse, irretrievably, into the kind of disintegration of which 'Prometheans' had dreamed.

At this point, he tells the interview, 'elsewhere in the world, many of my colleagues, presidents, prime ministers, told me later that everybody then had decided that Russia was ceasing to exist in its present form.'

From Putin's point of view, of course, the attack on the World Trade Center looked as though it might be a godsend. However, a central claim in the programme is that the Russian security services knew about contacts between North Caucasus militants and 'representatives from a US special services in Azerbaijan.'

According to his version, Putin told George W. Bush of this, who said he would 'kick their ass'. However, ten days later the leadership of the FSB:

'got a letter from their counterparts in Washington: We have maintained and will continue to maintain relations with all the opposition forces in Russia, and we think that we have the right to do it and we will continue to do it in the future.'

Of course, we cannot simply assume that Putin is telling the truth, although a good deal of circumstantial evidence 'meshes' with his account.

Moreover, if indeed American – and other Western security services – want to pursue the 'Promethean' agenda, it may be that they can make a coherent case that this is in the interests of their countries.

However, by now Brzezinski has made it crystal clear that he has no grasp of the risks involved. An article he published in the 'Financial Times' in December 2013 was entitled 'Russia, like Ukraine, will become a real democracy.'

(See http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5ac2df1e-6103-11e3-b7f1-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3ZkGVGulJ .)

In it, he revealed himself as just another simpering over-educated idiot, incapable alike of grasping the pull which emotions of hatred and revenge have on others, and blinded by a self-image of 'rationality' and 'benevolence' to an understanding of the pull such feelings have on himself.

The Twisted Genius

That's because the sentence period was included in the link. Just paste this url in your browser. It's well worth the read... a real jaw dropper. I have to think about before commenting. Thanks, Brigadier Ali.



The Victory Day Parade yesterday included troops in WWII uniforms, including cavalry and Kossaks. There were alto T-34 tanks and Su-85 self-propelled guns were also in the parade. Former Soviet states also participated as well as China and Indian troops. Agree, a shame that we didn't participate. I was at the 50th anniversary of VE Day in Moscow, when they reinstituted the parade. Interesting how czarist uniforms, flags and insignia are now being used. The orange and black striped ribbons are from the czarist Order of St. George.

William R. Cumming

An interesting post and thread. IMO how Russia treats its dominant ARCTIC OCEAN position not the Black Sea or Baltic is the key question for this Century!

David Habakkuk

F.B. Ali,

Thanks for the link.

This needs thinking about, but my initial reaction is that Emmanuel Todd is making the common mistake of finding coherence where in fact there is a great deal of confusion and chaos. My own reading of Merkel's policy had been that she got herself into a muddle which she did not really anticipate, and out of which she does not really know how to find an exit.

This is a matter on which I think the views of CP, 'b', and LeaNder might be interesting – as also Patrick Bahzad, who could give a different French perspective.

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