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25 February 2016

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oofda

Checked in Russian and other media- nothing. All stories on this go back to the Jerusalem Post and an Arabic-language source, Anhar al-Sham. Some stories report fifteen killed of which four were officers. Questionable if there were even four Russian generals in Syria in one place.

And where the heck did Breedlove come from? Is his call-sign "Jack D Ripper"?

Old Microbiologist

I laughed so much I couldn't breathe. I actually just watched the movie again last night on Netflix (now that it is available nearly everywhere except Crimea and North Korea) but in many ways you are correct in the similarities. Life copies art.

LondonBob

The MacKinder heartland thesis, I thought it was nonsense when I was taught it at university and I certainly don't hold it in any higher regard now.

I remember going around the HQ of a Chinese supermarket conglomerate outside Peking whose parent owner was essentially the PLA. Their big presentation, that was also very popular with visiting PLA dignitaries, was regarding resource scarcity. For Europe and the West to be actively involved in alienating the one nation in Europe that has abundance of resources the rest lack is absolutely daft.

https://www.sbstatesman.com/2016/02/23/political-science-professor-forecasts-trump-as-general-election-winner/

I expect the Russians are counting down till the next President now anyway. I see Robert Kagan has endorsed HRC.

Old Microbiologist

Nice and succinctly put. I have believed since the early days of Wolfawitz and later the alliance with Kagan that the goals remain the same and more or less on track. It was by their design that they have orchestrated all the turmoil we have seen since at least 1992 and certainly since 2001. It doesn't appear to matter what administration is in power which I always find baffling. It seems to me that we have either two distinctly different governments which operate independently, or the concept of the Shadow Government is actually real which I find terrifying.

I mind play with what would have happened should Putin have just accepted American hegemony rather than resist. The costs have been extremely high and perhaps in the end Russia would have been far better off without defying the Empire. I also wonder what the world would actually be like should that have happened or if the US actually wins this long drawn out war for world dominance.

turcopolier

OMB

"or the concept of the Shadow Government is actually real which I find terrifying" I suppose I will be thought a member of the aluminum foil hat brigade, but I noticed many, many years ago that the neocons had systematically infiltrated both parties so that they are always well represented in each department of government as well as in the congress. This process reached its logical conclusion in the first Bush 43 term when a dimwitted and lazy president let them take over completely. Now the sane fight rear-guard battles and blog. pl

turcopolier

LondonB

I remember hearing the Mackinder thingy discussed by a couple of undergraduates when I was about 20 and, like you, thought it was nonsense. pl

David Habakkuk

C. Webb,

On the question of the influence – or rather lack of it – of Dugin on Putin you might care to read a piece entitled 'Putin Myths and Putin Ideology' published by Dr Gordon M. Hahn in January last year.

(See http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2015/01/putin-myths-and-putin-ideology.html .)

The piece also provides valuable correctives to the highly tendentious readings provided by many Western 'experts' of the three writers on Putin's 'reading list' for regional governors – Nikolai Berdyaev, Vladimir Solovyov, and Ivan Ilyin.

As Hahn notes, the suggestion that these 'romanticize the necessity of obedience to a strong ruler' is somewhat oversimplified. In fact, Berdyaev was one of the contributors to the 1909 'Vekhi' symposium, which reflected a realisation in sections of the Russian intelligentsia that, in Russian conditions, simply getting rid of a 'strong ruler' would create anarchy.

In 1917, Berdyaev would write a short piece, entitled 'The Ruin of Russian Illusions', in which he started by pointing out that the fears of the 'Vekhi' writers had been vindicated. Perhaps had Obama, Cameron, Hollande and their advisors studied it, they might have grasped that the likely result of getting rid of a 'strong ruler' in today's Iraq and Syria was no more likely to be liberal democracy than it was in Russia a century ago.

(See http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1917_280.html .)

On Ivan Ilyin and related matters, a good source is the blog of the Ottawa University academic and former British Army Intelligence officer Paul Robinson.

(See https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/tag/ivan-ilyin/ .)

As to land power and sea power. Some momentous developments have been under way. On these, 'SmoothieX12' may have more to say, but I would recommend a discussion just posted on a new blog set up by the former long-serving Canadian government analyst of Soviet and then Russian affairs, Dr Patrick Armstrong.

Given the importance of the developments, the opening of the most recent of the series of 'Sitreps' he has produced at intervals for many years seems worth quoting at length:

'FIRST GUARDS TANK ARMY. I attended many meetings with the Russian military. Always – always – we were told that the Russian army was being re-structured into brigade group formations: all-arms formations of 5-6 thousand men. Such formations are suitable for fighting in places like Chechnya and, indeed, the first two were formed about 20 years ago in the south. At the same time there were no serious forces deployed along the tradition western invasion route. The old Soviet divisions – pretty well empty of soldiers at this time – were gradually eliminated. It was clear then – the 1990s and early 2000s – that Moscow was not expecting an attack from the west and neither did it expect to attack west: it was planning for smaller operations, mostly counter-terrorist. The old Soviet structure of divisions-armies-fronts which was applicable to really big wars against first-class enemies was no longer necessary; the smaller, nimbler brigade group structure was more appropriate. But, at the same time they warned that NATO's relentless expansion, ever closer, was a danger(опасность), although they stopped short of calling it, as they did terrorism, a threat (угроза); ''dangers'' require attention; ''threats'' a response. NATO of course didn't listen, arrogantly assuming NATO expansion was doing Russia a favour and was an entitlement of the ''exceptional nation'' and its allies. Well, we have reached another stage on the road. The 1st Guards Tank Army is being re-created. It will likely have two or three tank divisions, plus some motorised rifle divisions, plus enormous artillery and engineering support, plus helicopters and all else. This is a formation to fight a really big war against a first class enemy; designed to deliver the decisive counter-attack (see Stalingrad, Kursk). It will be stationed in the Western Military District to defend Russia against NATO (yes defend! otherwise why didn't they have it all along?).'

(See http://patrickarmstrong.ca/2016/02/25/russian-federation-sitrep-25-february-2016/ .)

The symbolism is important, as well as the concrete military power. The 1st Tank Army was raised within the Stalingrad Front in July 1942, and shortly afterwards encircled and partially destroyed. Reformed at the start of the following year, it defended the southern shoulder of the Kursk salient, and was awarded the 'Guards' title in April 1944.

The St. George's Ribbon was incidentally, a Tsarist decoration revived during the Second World War for units awarded the 'Guards' designation, and then used as the victory medal awarded to all, civilian or military, who aided the war effort. It is striped red and black.

(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribbon_of_Saint_George .)

Anyone who thinks that Putin needed Alexander Dugin to cause him to support the secession of Crimea, in my view, lacks a 'brain'. I tried to explain to Nicholas Gvosdev, now a Professor at the Naval War College, that attempting to incorporate Ukraine in NATO would split the country back in July 2008.

(See http://washingtonrealist.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/musings-for-merkel-and-searching-for.html .)

It was to no avail. One might have thought that someone with some grasp of naval strategy could have seen that there was absolutely no way in which any Russian government would willingly take the risk of Sevastopol becoming a NATO naval base – but apparently not.

Again, however, emotion and symbolism are important. In the March 2014 address when he submitted the legal documents for the reincorporation of Crimea in Russia, Putin said, among other things, that for Russians it was 'Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge.

(See http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/20603 .)

Of these Sapun Ridge was the last defensive line held by the Soviet forces defending Sevastopol, which fell after a fortnight of desperate fighting in June 1942, heralding the end of a seven-months defence of the city which had, however, tied up Erich von Manstein and his Eleventh Army for seven crucial months. It was retaken by the Red Army on 7 May 1944.

(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Sapun .)

On 24 June 1941 – two days after the German attack on the Soviet Union – Senator Harry S. Truman was quoted in the 'New York Times' remarking that:

'If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances.'

(See https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Harry_S._Truman .)

I am not a Russianist – don't speak the language, have never lived there. But I think it is not entirely unfair to say that in the Soviet period this quotation was rather, one might put it, rammed down people's throats.

And I also think it may be fair to say that a great deal of goodwill towards Americans deriving from the 'Grand Alliance', and in particular the way that Roosevelt conducted things, survived.

On 2 May 2014, as anti-Maidan protestors were burned alive in the Trade Union building in Odessa, the symbolism of the 'St. George's Ribbon' took centre stage. To quote a 'New York Times' report from two days later:

'The conflict is hardening hearts on both sides. As the building burned, Ukrainian activists sang the Ukrainian national anthem, witnesses on both sides said. They also hurled a new taunt: ''Colorado'' for the Colorado potato beetle, striped red and black like the pro-Russian ribbons. Those outside chanted ''burn Colorado, burn,'' witnesses said. Swastikalike symbols were spray painted on the building, along with graffiti reading ''Galician SS,'' though it was unclear when it had appeared, or who had painted it.

(See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/05/world/europe/kievs-reins-weaken-as-chaos-spreads.html .)

You might also look at the Wikipedia entry on the 'Azov Batallion' which is described as a 'National Guard of Ukraine regiment'. Unfortunately, there is a good deal of woffle in the entry, intended to mute the impact of the fact that its logo contains light transformations of the 'Wolfsangel', the symbol of the Waffen-SS Division, 'Das Reich', and the 'Black Sun' symbol.

This was set into the floor of the Obergruppenführer hall" in the castle of Wewelsburg, which, to quote the relevant Wikipedia entry, became the 'representative and the ideological center of the order of the SS.'

Shortly before the invasion of the Soviet Union, Himmler told high-ranking SS officers gathered there that its purpose was – according to a 2010 Bloomberg report entitled 'Himmler's Eerie Castle Explores Warped SS Ideology, Nazi Crimes' – to 'decimate the Slavic race by 30 million.'

(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azov_Battalion ; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sun_(occult_symbol) ; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2010-04-13/himmler-s-eerie-castle-explores-warped-ss-ideology-nazi-crimes. )

As you say, people 'tell stories to make sense of the world'. A common story in Russia at the end of the Cold War, when the bankruptcy of Marxism-Leninism was all too apparent, was that of the conflict as a kind of gratuitous 'own goal', when a West, and in particular a United States, which could have been friendly were gratuitously alienated.

It seems that we have been doing our level best to persuade Russians that, however many lies Soviet propagandists told, on the question of the true intentions of the West, they told the truth.

SmoothieX12

SU-24 was just Russian media fairy tale. There was no "shutting down" Donald Cook's radar. Russia does have a very impressive ECM (ECCM) capabilities but that wasn't the case with Cook.

SmoothieX12

Russia is the only nation (with China emerging only in 1990s) which can resist militarily US (and NATO). This fact remains in the foundation of continuous and, sometimes, virulent Russophobia of US "elites'.

ex-PFC Chuck

Yes! That's a good book, well worth the time to read it. Se also "The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World," by Stephen Kinzer, the same guy who wrote the op ed in the Boston Globe a few days back that generated quite a few comments in a thread here. He exposes the tag team approach they used to wrestle control of foreign and national security policy from others in the Eisenhower administration and impose their Manichean views, which set the stage for much of what has happened since.

SmoothieX12

"Nobody -- no country, no party, no person -- "won" the cold war. It was a long and costly political rivalry, fueled on both sides by unreal and exaggerated estimates of the intentions and strength of the other party. It greatly overstrained the economic resources of both countries, leaving both, by the end of the 1980's, confronted with heavy financial, social and, in the case of the Russians, political problems that neither had anticipated and for which neither was fully prepared."(c)
George F.Kennan "The G.O.P. Won the Cold War? Ridiculous."

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/28/opinion/the-gop-won-the-cold-war-ridiculous.html

Babak Makkinejad

I think US & NATO won the Cold War since the other side, USSR and Warsaw pact, no longer exist.

johnf

I think the Russians won the Cold War because when they "lost" it in 1990 they then had to sit down and fundamentally rethink their society and their governance and their place in the world, whereas The West, having "won" it, hasn't reformed one damned thing, is lazy and complacent in its thought and its solutions, and is rapidly falling to pieces.

And I was saying that in the early 90's.

Laguerre

"I think US & NATO won the Cold War since the other side, USSR and Warsaw pact, no longer exist."

That's not really the point. The Soviet Union was a colonial empire which decolonialised voluntarily, though a bit brutally, much as the British Empire did. The departure of the British empire was not called a defeat.

Babak Makkinejad

You are quibbling.

In the ancient day, when too armies fought, the one which was still standing on the field of battle at sundown claimed victory. I am just using that ancient criterion.

USSR was not a colonial empire, the central planners poured vast sums of money into Central Asia from the productive parts of the Soviet Union - those areas inhabited by the vastly more productive Slavic people - in order to upgrade, in all respect, that regions.

The central planners, I have heard, artificially raised the standard of living in the 3 Baltic states as well to purchase political stability - in effect, appeasing the Balts.

British Empire was a colonial empire, it was a money extraction regime, I agree with that.

SmoothieX12

As a man who not only lived but participated in the whole process of Soviet Union's collapse, I tend to agree with George F. Kennan's definition. This position is also shared by esteemed Ambassador Matlock, who is a living legend of US diplomacy, the art long ago forgotten. USSR collapsed under the weight of own problems which were accumulating for a long time. Arms race was only part of those problems and, in fact, not even the most important one. I know a thing or two about the state of the Soviet Armed Forces in 1970s and 1980s first hand and can testify that USSR, certainly, didn't lose the arms race, despite obvious necessity to reform armed forces largely in terms of size of the ground forces, which were top heavy. So, the only time I saw US Army marching on the Red Square was on 9 May 2010 as a dear guests and allies at the 65th Victory Anniversary. The history of Cold War (a real one) is not written yet, it only now begins to be viewed through more or less objective lens. In the end, Marxism-Leninism simply ran its life-cycle and was discarded by none other than Russian (Soviet) people themselves, without any influences from the outside. But, evidently, giving Russians any agency in their own fate is not very fashionable thing in the West.

Seamus Padraig

"It seems that we have been doing our level best to persuade Russians that, however many lies Soviet propagandists told, on the question of the true intentions of the West, they told the truth."

You done spoke a parable there!

Seamus Padraig

"It was not because of lack of effort. NATO states tried just that for 5 years."

More like 35. It began with Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980. The US quietly backed Iraq then, even if it also occasionally (and illegally) sold the Iranians some surplus equipment. (See: Iran-Contra.)

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

Without specifying what it means to 'win', arguments about whether or not the West 'won' the Cold War are contentless, and are liable to be circular.

What is the case is a large body of what became 'neoconservative' opinion, which failed to anticipate the changes introduced by Gorbachev, and pretended that they were a strategy of deception when they patently were nothing of the kind, then managed to incorporate these changes into the intellectual frameworks that had failed to predict them.

As a result, 'neoconservatives' were able to persuade themselves and others that the retreat and collapse of Soviet power was essentially due to the demonstration of 'strength' and 'will' embodied in the Reagan-era military buildup.

In consequence, they have gone on applying the same nostrums to all kinds of different situations, alike in the Middle East and the post-Soviet space.

I have no wish to resurrect the 'war guilt' clause of the Treaty of Versailles. But I think the extraordinary successes alike of Bismarck's diplomacy, and Prussian armies, in 1864-71, did generate a 'hubris' in the Second Reich that proved self-destructive. While Bismarck had a keen sense of limits, his successors lacked it.

mbrenner

Thanks. I haven't attended an APSA Convention since 1981 - a year after my last appointment as a faculty member in a Political Science Department

Fred

SmoothieX12,

"Russia does not want to use these systems. "

They are the ones being provoked by US/NATO/Turkey's actions. They would rather not have NATO on their border and an anti-Russian NGO system destabilizing their government combined with a jihadist state in Syria to serve as a safe harbor for war against their people.

Fred

SmoothieX12,

"the regime was becoming dangerously remote from the concerns and hopes of the Russian people."

This can be said for the US and is the major reason for Trump's appeal to those people whose opinions are not printed in the NYT.

David Habakkuk

LondonBob,

"Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world."

It has to be one of the less prescient predictions in modern history.

Part of the problem is that Mackinder seems not to have realised that, just at the time he was writing, the rise of nationalism was making it increasingly difficult to sustain large multi-national empires.

The possibility of a 'Mackinderite consolidation' of Eurasia was however not inconceivable in the inter-war years. The kind of Russo-German alliance which Mackinder had seen as a possibility was the political project of the German Ambassador to Moscow in the period leading up to Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union, Friedrich Werner, Count von der Schulenberg.

If you adjust the Anti-Comintern Pact by including in it the power against which it was directed – the Soviet Union – you have an alliance of four states, each based upon a reasonably cohesive ethnic core, spanning Eurasia. The problems of managing minority nationalities then might become much easier. As the system can be to a substantial extent autarkic, the maritime powers can, as it were, jump in the lake.

Something close to a 'Mackinderite consolidation' is now again possible, if the Chinese have the sense to follow Schulenberg's approach. But that is largely the result of people in the West trying to play 'geopolitical' games without much grasp.

turcopolier

Seamus Padraig

As I have endlessly tried to tell you, US support for Iraq did not amount to much until the last year of the war and that did not include materiel. pl

Babak Makkinejad

I was thinking of the recent economic war which ended in stalemate, with an agreement that could have been signed 9 years earlier.

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