If you haven’t yet noticed, I have a predilection and affinity for double entendres. It’s the beauty of being your own journalist and editor, and avoiding the authoritarian troll that is the editorial staff of most publications. I can imagine the bloody mess in the metaphorical operating room after the editors were through with my submitted articles. There would be nothing left, including the double entendres which would have been violently extracted and mutilated in fits of impotent rage. And all the pics in my posts, well, let’s just say if I wasn’t already on the editorial staff’s shit list, which I would be of course, the pics alone would put me there. This is why I take such delight in permeating my posts with pics and double entendres—it’s a way of stabbing editors everywhere through the heart for all those who’ve had to suffer at their parasitic, soul-destroying hands for too long now. See, the author of The Vineyard of the Saker blog has it all wrong; Cold N. Holefield and Catcher In The Lie stand for freedom, not Putin and Russia.
Pursuant to that, I give you some Willie Nelson (who is now a 5th-Degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul at the age of 81…so take that Putinanny) singing the title of this post from his excellent album (which I highly endorse), Stardust. Even though this is a Ray Charles song, Willie does it best. He’s overlooked as a talent. Try mimicking his cadence and you’ll know what I mean. He’s like Sinatra in that way. It doesn’t seem like much until you try to imitate it. When you do, you gain an appreciation for the nuance they’ve employed that defies replication by impostors.
But that’s not the only Georgia on my mind. Mikheil Saakashvili’s Georgia is also on my mind. You remember this Georgia, don’t you? Of course you do. Who could forget? It’s one of the chew toys Putin cut his revanchist teeth on. It was a simulation, a trial run, an audition (not the first…that was Chechnya…and what an impressive audition it was), for a part in The Greatest Show On Earth. He got it…the part. And now he’s playing it well in this contrived Ukraine crisis. My friend Saakashvili may not completely agree, but he and I are not far apart when it comes to several other overlapping observations about this conjured, unfolding Ukrainian tragedy (tragedy for those caught in the crossfire who didn’t ask for this and don’t deserve it). And I promise you, I haven’t communicated with Mikheil since this all began in earnest several months ago. What am I talking about, you ask? Alright, since you asked, I’ll tell you. I stumbled across the transcript of this Al Jazeera interview with the former Georgian President dated March 3, 2014. I came across this article in the last couple of days and was pleased to know that I’m not alone in….….some of my observations related to Operation Ukrainization. It’s an interesting interview, although the translation is crap and difficult to decipher at points. Here’s the interview per the link above:
Antonio Mora: I’m joined from Kiev via Skype by Mikheil Saakashvili, who served two terms as President of Georgia between 2004 and 2013.
I want to start with asking you: Russia went to war with your country when you were President in 2008 over two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Do you think that pattern is repeating itself again, that this time it’s over Crimea, possibly East Ukraine? And do you think Putin was in some way emboldened by what happened in Georgia six years ago?
Mikheil Saakashvili: Well, first of all, for me it’s a totally feeling of déjà vu because exactly this same thing happened eight years ago — sorry, [in] 2008 — when what happened really was that there was preparation for this whole thing. [At that time], Russia was acting through, first with proxies — there were arming them, they were doing our provocations. Then, later, they came in with the pretext of safeguarding their minorities, which is to say, both in Russia and Ukraine — in Georgia and Ukraine — they are distributing Russian passports to these people so that they could claim that they have title to Russian citizens that were under threat there. In both cases, they had mass-scale military trainings and in both cases they conducted war propaganda.
Although, I have to mention that in both cases they didn’t go only after regions, I think the goal in Georgia was to depose my government, [cause instability, for their position in the region] and I think it’s exactly the same goal in Ukraine. Putin doesn’t really want Crimea or the Eastern regions. He wants to take over or at least generate permanent chaos in Ukraine under the government in Kiev and these are openly proclaimed goals. It’s not just my guess, the Russian government is openly saying that they are there to restore the Yanukovich government to power, which is not a realistic goal, [Skype feed becomes garbled] but in [?] and in [?], deposing existing Ukrainian government in Kiev.
Mora: You’ve said that, that you think that what he wants is chaos, that he wants to balkanize Ukraine, that he wants to separate it all and the chaos will serve his goals.
Saakashvili: Yeah, absolutely, except that I think this time he totally overplayed his hand because [Ukraine is] a much bigger country, 10 times bigger entire population-wise than Georgia, and he, I think that he’s emboldened by the fact that there was not much of a punishment that followed his invasion of Georgia or, even more, I mean, there was some Western interests and some Western experts — some, I would say, “useful idiots” to use Lenin’s words, when he called people who they could use inadvertently to their own goals to Communists — but it’s the same concept for Putin’s Russia. That would say, well, ok, Russia was not clean in that, Russia really acted badly, but Georgia was also to be blamed. … Nobody can whitewash Russia, what Russia wants [is that the victim] also shares the blame.
So, actually, they are trying the same in Ukraine, there are all the people saying, well, maybe they have valid concerns, they’re quoting all kinds of different examples why they should be concerned, the Russians. Some people are starting to say, well, let’s de-escalate the conflict.
Well, it’s not about the escalation now. They occupy big chunk of a sovereign territory of an independent European country. They have it. They occupy it. It’s not about the escalation, escalation’s already there. What they need to do is de-occupy. This is a very important crisis, the gravest crisis in European history, maybe, after Second World War, and actually the further it gets, the longer it lasts, the bigger it will get. And this time, the Western powers will not be able — or some Western politicians will not be able, even if some of them would attempt so — to strike it away. It’s going. It’s right there at their doorsteps. It’s banging loud at their doors and even if they make music louder at home, they still cannot ignore it. It’s going to get into their existence. They have to deal with it, tackle it.
Mora: Well, and what happened in Georgia, there were very little consequences for Russia for what it did then and, in fact, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are still under Russian influence and really not a part of Georgia anymore. So, when we listen to President Obama warning Russia on Monday that the US is examining a series of economic and diplomatic steps that could isolate Russia and damage Russia’s economy if it fails to withdraw from Crimea, you have met with Putin many times, what effect do you think that will have on his thinking? Or, do you think it won’t have any effect, that he really doesn’t fear what the West will do?
Saakashvili: I met Vladimir Putin dozens of times and I remember at one of our last meetings he told me, “Your friends in the West promised you lots of nice things, but they never deliver. Well, I don’t. I don’t promise you nice things at all, but I always deliver.” And that’s his thinking that, you know, West is about talking and small talk and actually we are all about, he’s all about being strong. Though, having said that, I think that, you know, this, I have déjà vu because Western powers were also talking about sanctions in our case, but then after a while it was business as usual. But this time, this crisis is not going away. I think Putin did it because he’s desperate for some of the paranoid risks he sees inside his country, menacing his power. That, in general, I think would be troubling in Russia, despite that there is no obvious opposition, obviously from all the crackdown he did. So he really had to do something very dramatic. But I think, it’s not my wishful thinking, but I still think that this time he will not be able to, you know, overcome this kind of crisis which he himself generated with his own hand and he, basically, he was, it was [his own] conflict. There is no way he can carry through. Ukraine is too big, Europe and the Americans, all of these experiences, the world, in general, not only the Western powers, are not really going to tolerate this kind of behavior from the country which doesn’t have adequate resources to do this and similar things. So I think this time it will just signify the end of Putin. But it will be messy, it will be very — it will take lots of, it will take big toll — and I’m afraid it’s not going to be nice in there before [ending].
Mora: But Crimea itself is not that big and you have said that Western governments have much more leverage than they realize to move Russia. You said that they just need to apply it — what is the leverage and do you think they will apply it?
Saakashvili: Oh, yes, there are very simple things. You know, last time I was in Florida, it’s full of, you know, hints of Russian government officials, oligarchs. They have houses there, they enjoy a nice lifestyle there, they buy houses in Europe. Basically, most of them almost never go to Russia. But they are there on Putin’s money. I’m sure Putin has the biggest amount of cash that anybody has every controlled in world history. This is all black cash, but it is in Western banks. … The West doesn’t have to send tanks to Russia, basically they can send fiscal agents to their own banks. They can shut off this hints of oligarchs and their family members, or just the oligarchs themselves from their Florida houses. … I don’t think the West will go to war and hopefully, an even larger war can be avoided, but we are facing here protracted crisis, so you know, there are lots of leverages that West can use and once they use it, I’m sure at least [those] closest around Putin will start to defect from him. And he’s really standing on house of cards there. I mean, it’s not as stable as people think. One-man power in 21st century can never be stable, especially in a country where people are well-educated, well-traveled, and quite wealthy and there is a big middle class. So, his house of cards will start falling apart once West doesn’t underestimate its own power and I think West usually underestimates its power and Putin usually overestimates his power. So far he has been lucky, but in the end, I think common sense among the Western powers will prevail and they will have to do something. Even if they’re reluctant to do it for all their own, you know, local, small political interests. Connections with business lobby, connections with, all kinds of connections, but I think it’s not going to last.
Can you imagine what the anti-American pro-Russian comment brigade at Moon of Alabama and The Vineyard of the the Saker would have to say about Saakashvili’s analysis? I found it somewhat enlightening and also validating in some ways, although I don’t necessarily agree with Mikheil’s conclusions. As we see from the interview, Saakashvili believes Putin “wants to balkanize Ukraine, that he wants to separate it all and the chaos will serve his goals.” I’ve said the same thing in this succession (in memory of K-Dog) of blog posts, but it’s not just Putin and his Russian Oligarch friends…it’s his fellow Oligarchs in the West, as well. The WWON (World Wide Oligarch Network) wants to divvy Ukraine up…but not until the slate is wiped clean…meaning a messy, bloody civil war to level the old and make way for the……hmmmm…the what? That’s the question. I think the answer is, easily-controlled, off-the-books vassal statelets. Obeisant, off-the-books vassals is of utmost strategic importance because the WWON doesn’t want cadgers, they want serfs who will, without resistance, help them rob the resources of the serfs’ once sovereign nation under the tyrannical yoke of a brutish and sadistic mafia thug (and his henchmen) who serves as the leader of the vassal Narco-Statelet.
Has Saakashvili been reading Catcher In The Lie? It sure seems like it. A little further down in the quoted interview he says, “I have déjà vu because Western powers were also talking about sanctions in our case, but then after a while it was business as usual. But this time, this crisis is not going away.” Did you get that? He said Business as Usual. Yes, Mikheil, it was Business As Usual, it is Business As Usual, and always will be Business As Usual. That’s it. The Balkanizing of Ukraine after leveling it with a tragic civil war is Business As Usual and the words, the conventional propaganda narratives, are cover for it. The propaganda amplifies conflict where none existed creating tension out of thin air. It’s the paper under the logs and the special forces on the ground are the match to set it all afire. All you have to do is get the boulder positioned at the precipice of the hill and give it that nudge down the incline. Gravity (steady supply of weapons) will do the rest. My hope is that the good people of Ukraine can resist, but it will be extremely difficult if not near impossible for them to avoid getting sucked into the maelstrom and caught in, and destroyed by, the crossfire.
As I mentioned earlier, Georgia like Chechnya before it was an audition for Putin and his team. The conventional narrative that developed around it was very similar to the conventional coverage of Ukraine , although I’d say Russia didn’t have nearly as robust of an anti-American pro-Russian propaganda penetration in play. The infiltration of Western media spaces at the time of the Georgia audition was still in cultivation and therefore wasn’t nearly as prominent as the young, but mature system we see in place now. And it’s a masterful system, I must say. For example, stay away from comment systems, or at least beware of comment sections of blogs and other online publications that use the third party commenting system Disqus. If I were a betting man, I’d wage a significant sum that Disqus is a portal, under the guise of comment management software, into the administrative controls of blogs everywhere, mainstream or alternative. If my theory is correct, Western intelligence and Eastern intelligence have merged and have their respective assignments in controlling online messaging and, by consequence, the boundaries of perspective and perception about anything and everything. Independent and objective comments that don’t adhere to that contained messaging and step outside the boundaries of what’s permissible to Disqus will be censored and the author of those comments will be shunned and ostracized everywhere and anywhere.
Eastern intelligence services, and more specifically Russia since the manufacturing of the Ukrainian crisis has brought this all to light, are using the portal that is Disqus to have their way in the comment sections of most every online publication and/or blog, mainstream or alternative. And all beneath the ever-watchful all-seeing eye of the notorious and vaunted NSA of Snowden infamy. If my theory is correct, the NSA, and Western intelligence services in general, are in league with other intelligence networks around the world and have a tacit agreement and understanding that they are working toward the same goal of socially engineering “The Masses” to accept a predefined narrative. If that’s the case, intelligence services are the enemy of the people. Their allegiance isn’t to a country and its people, but rather to a small handful of extremely powerful and wealthy, but powerful first and foremost, individuals collectively referred to as the WWON (World Wide Oligarch Network) and to each other as a united Band of Brothers in service to what they consider greatness. Think of an army of House of Cards Edward Meechums and Douglas Stampers dutifully serving their master’s every whim and fancy without any expectation, but rather a zealous devotion that betrays an unflappable appreciation for the honor of being granted the opportunity to serve in the glowing presence of such fantastically shimmering lodestars.
Before I wrap up this post with some commentary about Putin’s actions in Georgia and Chechnya and how those actions relate to the messaging that he’s the self-proclaimed representative of a global, transnational, conservative revanchist movement, I want to give you a taste of how what I just mentioned in the previous two paragraphs works. Prior to the last several days it was near impossible to find someone on the far “Left” (and far “Right”) who would equally opportunely criticize Putin’s Russia as well as the West & America in this unfolding Ukraine tragedy. Heretofore, the entire blame’s been laid at the feet of America and the West as the other “side” (Putin’s Russia) in this risible binary, black versus white, paper versus plastic narrative is presented as the victim rather than the Small People of Ukraine for whom Putin is a salvific figure ready to come to the rescue if the conservative (and formerly Communistic) world speak loudly enough for his emblazoned beneficence in the spirit, honor and defense of personal liberty.
Chris Floyd in this latest blog post at his blog Empire Burlesque ripped Putin and his Russia a new one. Bully for you, Chris. Better late than never I always say. What prompted your late-to-the-game missive, Chris? Can you be honest about what unmentionable and unattributable lodestar served as the inspiration for your hard-hitting far “Left” critique of Putin as it relates to Ukraine or otherwise? I doubt it. But that’s not surprising because, as I’ve said so many times I’ve now lost count, it’s all lies.
It’s an excellent article by Floyd at that link. Unlike so many others in this field, I give credit where credit is due. And the same goes for attribution. But such behavior is an exception to the rule. Not only does Floyd not credit the source of his inspiration, he censors me when I post to his blog via—get this—his Disqus comment management software. My comment, which included a link to this blog, never made it out of moderation and it’s not because it contained a link or was too long. Per review of the linked blog post, there are comments that contain not one, but two links and there are lengthy comments. But nothing from me which tells me Floyd deep-sixed it which is a lousy thing to do and shows a lack of depth of character.
But it gets better. If you click on the “ABOUT” tab of this blog, you’ll note in the comments to that tab a comment was left by the screen name matthewrusso9. The comment wasn’t agreeable in any way, which is fine. I don’t require people be agreeable. I don’t expect it. In fact, I expect the exact opposite just as I expect people to be completely and unequivocally dishonest—and they rarely disappoint and when they do, it’s a pleasant and enjoyable surprise. As you can see from matthewrusso9’s comment, the screen name took exception with my satirical knock on Russia over at The Vineyard of the Saker blog and its treatment of animals and how it approached animal control and more specifically its pet population. Nowhere in that commentary does the screen name mention anything agreeable about what I’ve covered in this blog thus far. Still, that’s fine…except this screen name has the following to say over at Empire Burlesque blog in response to Floyd’s critique of Putin:
firstname.lastname@example.org • 19 hours ago
Chris, I’m with you, Putin’s regime has nothing progressive to offer either to the Russian people or to the world more generally. It’s no wonder the US Far Right admires Putin, openly or secretly; They share the same “family values”. This includes the continuing contemptuous treatment of Ukraine as Russia’s Mexico or Ireland, with the attempt at present to convert the Donbas, against the will of the majority there, into Russia’s version of Ulster, as an anti-Ukraine fortress of bigotry.
Here in the USA, it reminds one nothing more than of the self-appointed armed “militias” “guarding” the border with Mexico, nothing but Far Right White supremacists gunning for “dirty Mexicans”.
Let’s not forget that Putin cut his spurs on the pile of corpses that resulted from the 2nd Chechen War in the first decade of this century, producing all told the deaths of 50-70,000 people and countless internal refugees. In 2003 the United Nations called Grozny the most destroyed city on Earth. It was flattened by Putin.
Putin’s Russia today is essentially a capitalist mineral extraction rentier regime. In playing one side in an East-West inter-imperialist rivalry, the Putin regime assists the West in creating ever more adverse and repressive conditions for what concerns Marxists the most: the working class struggle.
Ignore the fake-left Pimps for Putain, may they craw back to the Red-Brown sewers of MoA, Voltairenet, ClubOrlov and VineyardSaker from whence they came.
Proof, to me at least—not that I needed any, that the far “Left” is as two-faced as the far “Right.” They’re so close in so many ways they’re almost touching and might as well be considered one as opposed to mutually exclusive. It is an excellent comment by the screen name matthewrusso9 (what’s the 9, by the way? Any guesses?), so once again I’ll give credit, and attribution, where it’s due, not that such behavior on my part will serve as any kind of example for those who lack the capacity for such nonsensical and valueless considerations.
With that example and digression aside, let’s get back to Putin and the destabilizing teething toy auditions that were Chechnya and Georgia. Let’s start with Chechnya since it was a particularly gruesome affair and highly indicative of the Conservative Revanchism that’s gaining momentum across the globe with Putin as its self-proclaimed, oneiric lodestar leader. When Russia invaded Georgia back in August of 2008 I somewhat fell for the pro-Russian version of the predefined narrative available, or pushed down our throats really, for public consumption. Since that time via dedicated research and meme updating, I’ve come to see it in a greater light versus the candle light of the conventional narrative. I know full well the appalling brutality visited upon populations the world over by the so-called Western military establishment and I have been critical of it every step of the way, but it would be irresponsible of me, and you and everyone else, to not hold anyone anywhere to the same standard and principle, and nowhere is that universal, equal opportunity criticism more appropriately exercised than Putin’s treatment of Chechnya. In researching the Georgian August War, I was compelled, indeed I had an obligation, to revisit my perspective concerning the events in Chechnya since I wasn’t paying close attention when they occurred for various reasons to include not being very interested in the flailings of a broken and feeble former empire…or so I thought. I now know differently.
In my research, I came across this excellent article from the New Statesman. I know what the detractors will say. It’s propaganda. Of course it is. But what isn’t these days including your own bilge? So do us a favor and come up with a better retort than “it’s Russophobic propaganda.” The article’s interesting because it describes Chechnya’s contemporary about face and seeming love of, and loyalty to, Putin. It doesn’t add up, considering…does it? Of course it doesn’t, as so much else doesn’t add up. Per the linked article:
Inside Chechnya: Putin’s reign of terror
A population that lives in fear of state violence, and a 99 per cent election tally that could have come from the Soviet era – welcome to Putin’s Russia.
The Naur District does not resemble the Chechnya of folklore. It has none of the steep wooded gorges where guerrilla fighters ambushed Russian soldiers in the early 2000s. Nor does it have the vertiginous peaks celebrated in the novels of Leo Tolstoy and Mikhail Lermontov. Rather, it is flat tawny grassland, like most of southern Russia. Were it not for the grand arch on the border bearing the portrait of President Ramzan Kadyrov, you wouldn’t know you had entered Chechnya at all.
In the presidential election on 4 March this year, this scrubby patch of steppe soared above not only the rest of Chechnya, but the whole of the Russian Federation. Here, Vladimir Putin achieved his single best result in the country – 99.89 per cent. Of 28,616 votes cast, Putin won 28,584. No other candidate got anything higher than single figures, and had there not been nine spoiled ballots, Putin would have breached the 99.9 per cent mark.
It was a result that went largely unnoticed. Journalists and commentators focused instead on the protests in Moscow that followed the victories by Putin and his United Russia party in the presidential and parliamentary elections last winter. The protesters accused the president of trying to destroy democracy and turn Russia back to its totalitarian past. Moscow, however, was where Putin achieved his worst result – 46.95 per cent – and the only place in Russia where he gained less than half of the votes. Observers say the capital experienced relatively little electoral fraud.
It was in the regions furthest from Moscow that the results most resembled those from a Soviet election. Putin gained 90 per cent or more in five of the 83 constituent parts of the Russian Federation, and more than 80 per cent in another three. Those tallies made an important contribution to his final national tally of 63.6 per cent. His nearest challenger, the Communist Party candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, won just 17.2 per cent. In Chechnya as a whole, Putin gained 99.76 per cent, and the Naur District outdistanced even that.
The location was appropriate, as Naur has been tied to Putin’s fate ever since the obscure ex-spy first became prime minister in August 1999. Those were the last, stuttering days of Boris Yeltsin’s rule, when the president’s erratic behaviour and drunkenness seemed to symbolise the decline of the whole country. The once-mighty Russian army’s defeat in 1996 at the hands of separatist rebels in Chechnya was the lowest point in a dreadful post-Soviet decade, during which the economy collapsed, the government defaulted on its debts and the population’s life expectancy slumped.
Under Putin, that decline has been reversed. Since the war resumed in 1999, Chechnya’s separatists have been reduced to a tiny, defeated rump hiding in the mountains. The economy has boomed, helped by high oil prices, allowing the government’s debt to be paid down. Life expectancy is creeping up towards an all-time high.
The army seized control of the Naur District from the separatists in early October 1999, just two months in to Putin’s premiership. It was the first part of Chechnya to return to Moscow’s control. That success and the campaign that followed propelled Putin from unknown bureaucrat to national hero, and swept him to the presidency in March 2000. It is no exaggeration to say that Putin’s boast to have restored Russia’s national pride began on the steppes of Naur. But the district hides a more sinister story, too: of arbitrary detention, of murder and of fear. It is Putin’s Russia in microcosm.
In July, I drove along the straight road from the border deep into Chechnya, passing scattered villages on either side before reaching the local centre of Naurskaya. Like many of the settlements here, it is of Cossack origin, but most of the ethnic Russians have left now, driven out by the war. It is an ironic consequence of Russia’s campaign to control Chechnya that it has chased out most Russians, and made the once mixed region almost mono-ethnic. The single-storey houses that line the dusty, right-angled streets are home to Chechens now.
There was no sign of anger about Putin among the first Chechens I met. On the contrary, everyone I spoke to said they loved him. “Since he came we have had stability,” said Deshi Magomadova, 57, who works in a shop selling foodstuffs and toiletries. “We are simple people and are fed up of war and change. Not one person escaped this horror and we don’t want it repeated. That means everyone at the election voted for Putin.”
Dig into that and you find a double-edged compliment, equivalent perhaps to allowing a robber to keep your house to stop him breaking in again. Does the implicit threat of violence that hangs over Chechnya amount to electoral intimidation? Some days later in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, I met Ilyas Dohtukaev, head of the Chechen government’s international co-operation department. “People understand Putin is the only real force there is,” he claimed, as we sat at an outdoor café popular with wealthy young Chechens, “and it is better to support one man and a man who is supported by Ramzan Kadyrov. Many people trust him and follow his lead.”
Kadyrov, whose portrait hangs on billboards on major buildings and along all main roads, called the protesters in Moscow this winter “enemies of Russia” and said they should be jailed. Observers argued that such comments would intimidate Chechens into voting for Putin. Dohtukaev denied this, saying Chechens overwhelmingly supported Putin of their own free will. (Turnout here was 99.61 per cent, by far the highest in Russia).
“There were no threats. I am a head of department and I can say that no one told me to vote for anyone. Maybe this happened in the early 2000s, but now there is no sign of that.”
Just down the road from the café, one human rights activist was prepared to contradict him, though not to have his name used. “There are 420 inhabited places in Chechnya and, on Putin’s orders, all 420 were bombed,” he told me. “In the 1990s, it was possible to escape and some places were spared. Under Putin, however, nowhere escaped the bombing.
“There is not one family that did not lose someone and to say that 99 point something of Chechens supported Putin is gibberish,” he continued. “Maybe some officials voted for him so as to keep their jobs, but the rest is nonsense.” The activist warned me not to take the publicly expressed opinions of Chechens too seriously.
People here have learned that it is best not to speak openly to strangers. Driving out of Naurskaya, where a high, red-painted sheet-iron fence screens the Chernokozovo prison from passing cars, you can see one of the reasons why. In the winter of 1999-2000, shortly after Putin’s troops took the Naur District, Chernokozovo became the blackest hole in the already dark Russian prison system. Its reputation was such that even Russian soldiers I accompanied on military convoys in the early 2000s would cross themselves and turn their eyes away when we drove past it.
Putin’s officials were ruthless in establishing order behind the lines in the early months of his campaign in Chechnya. Young Chechen men of military age were assumed to be guilty and sent to filtration camps. Then they came here. Among the many hundreds of people who vanished behind the high walls of Chernokozovo was Andrei Babitsky, a broadcast journalist. He had earned the government’s anger by filming the aftermath of a rocket strike on a market in Grozny. He arrived in January 2000 and described the prison as being something close to hell.
“They treated us like livestock,” he told me when I met him in his flat in Prague in 2008. “I was in a cell with 20 people, with dirty mattresses and nothing else. There was a hole in the floor for a toilet. They beat the Chechens from morning to night. There was one fighter there, but all the others were just village boys. “The fighter got beaten in the most appalling way. They would take him away, and for the first three days you could hear the sound of breaking bones all the time.”
Amnesty International released a report on Chernokozovo in April 2000 describing a 21-year-old man whose spine had been fractured after being forced to run a gauntlet of two dozen soldiers armed with blunt weapons. It also described how a 14-year-old girl came to visit her mother and was held for four days and repeatedly gang-raped. Later that year, Human Rights Watch published a parallel study with the title “Welcome to Hell”.
There was little coverage of the abuses on Russian television; most Russian reporters were keen to avoid the fate of Babitsky (although he was eventually freed, he now lives and works outside Russia) and thus they accepted Putin’s line that he was restoring “constitutional order”. One prison inmate did do her best, however, to make sure that news got out.
Russian soldiers detained Zura Bitiyeva, a resident of the village of Kalinovskaya in the Naur District, in January 2000. Bitiyeva, who had been a vocal anti-war activist, was held in Chernokozovo for a month, denied medicine for a heart condition and hospitalised for several weeks on her release. She argued that her detention had been arbitrary and her treatment inhumane, and sought justice at the European Court of Human Rights.
She never got it. In May 2003, while the ECHR was still considering whether to accept the case, armed men returned to her house. One of Bitiyeva’s sons heard them and hid behind an armchair, having had the presence of mind to cover his unmade bed with a blanket so that his room looked unoccupied.
The rest of the family was not so quick. The soldiers herded them together and bound their hands with adhesive tape. When the soldiers were gone, Bitiyeva’s son found her lying on the floor. She had been shot in the face. Her husband, brother and other son shared her fate. Memorial, a leading Russian human rights group, called the massacre a “political murder”, punishment for her appeal to Strasbourg.
The motive for the killing was never officially established. Although Putin, on coming to power, had promised a “dictatorship of the law”, there was no proper investigation into the murders. Bitiyeva’s daughter, who also survived, and who is identified in ECHR documents only as X, refused to drop the case. In 2007 the court ruled that the Russian state had murdered her mother.
“The murder of members of the Bitiyeva family was a particularly egregious incident, the European Court concluding that they had been extrajudicially executed by state agents,” says Philip Leach, a lawyer whose European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, based in London, helped bring Bitiyeva’s case to court. But “the gravest human rights violations”, according to Leach, “have become endemic (including the practice of torture and disappearances) and, with no one at all being found responsible or called to account, there is a culture of absolute impunity”. Although X now lives in Germany, she declined through her lawyers to be interviewed for this article, out of concern for the security of her family.
The Bitiyev family’s home village, Kalinovskaya, is about a half-hour drive from Chernokozovo, down yet another long straight road, bordered to the left by a railway line. Far off to the right is the River Terek and beyond that is the first range of hills that eventually swells into the Caucasus Range.
This road and those hills have been strategic assets for the Russian army during the two post-Soviet wars in Chechnya. Russian troops pushed into Chechnya this way in 1994 as they sought to crush the region’s self-declared independence. They drove back out by the same route two years later after the outgunned Chechen rebels overcame seemingly insuperable odds and defeated them.
Sympathisers and journalists from Russia and elsewhere made sure that the defeat was broadcast around the world. The victorious Chechens failed to build a viable state, however, and Chechnya collapsed into chaos. Western sympathisers left after a spate of kidnappings and killings, including the beheading of four telecoms engineers. That helped ensure there was little uproar about the war restarting under Putin. The war on terror proclaimed after 11 September 2001, and the need to keep Putin as an ally, left atrocities such as the murder of Bitiyeva little remarked on by western officials.
The turn-off to Kalinovskaya is opposite an old collective farm. It is a collection of single-storey houses, with doors facing the dusty street and windows encased in carved wooden frames painted cool blues or greens. A middle-aged woman in a headscarf answered the door at Bitiyeva’s old address. Unable or unwilling to speak Russian, she said in Chechen that the surviving family members had moved since the massacre and that she did not know where they now lived. Other people in the village, which is home to a military base, had no more information on their whereabouts, shaking their head and shrugging their shoulders in the sullen summer heat.
The road out of the village passed a graveyard with two of the long poles that mark the burial place of a Muslim who has died in a holy war.
A little further on was a picture of Kadyrov, beneath the slogan “Ramzan, thanks for Naur”. On 4 March, all 1,916 of the valid votes cast in Kalinovskaya went to Putin.
After 40 minutes’ drive, I reached a bridge over the heaving beige waters of the Terek, which drains the whole central Caucasus – and after that, the road crept in bends up the first bluff of hills, down through a valley, past an oil facility, and up again. From the next ridge, I could already see Grozny. Kadyrov has transformed the city, ripping down the shattered hulks of buildings left by the Russian bombardments of 1995-96 and 1999-2000 and replacing them with tall tower blocks visible from miles away.
The towers are on Putin Avenue, which is dotted with pictures of Kadyrov. At the end of the street stands a gigantic new mosque, named in honour of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad, who also lends his name to the avenue beyond. The towers, the mosque and the posters combine to make Grozny resemble a city in the Gulf. Local people say that the resemblance is more than just superficial.
“Chechnya is an emirate and Kadyrov is a sultan,” said a government official responsible for monitoring human rights in the north Caucasus. “I’m not scared, you understand, but don’t quote me by name. You know the situation.
I would have problems – that man has no limits.” He justified his caution with reference to how even the fame of Natalia Estemirova, a human and civil rights activist and head of the Chechen office of Memorial, had not saved her from murder. She was killed three years ago and her murderers have never been found.
“What we have in the Caucasus, the rest of Russia will have, too,” the official continued. “They are happy now – they work – but they should look at it. The problems are growing. What starts in Chechnya spreads to the rest of the country.”
He pointed out how extended detention without charge has spread beyond Chechnya under Putin, most notably in the case of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed a corruption scandal. He was arrested in 2008 and denied medicine until he died in detention the following year. The courts, which showed some signs of independence in the late 1990s, have been subordinated to the Kremlin’s will. He also reminded me of the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oil tycoon and once the richest man in Russia, who was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2005, then convicted again in December 2010.
Khodorkovsky’s oil company, Yukos, was confiscated as part of the process against him. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience, saying he was prosecuted because of his political activities, which included supporting opposition politicians and highlighting corruption. Even starker has been the trial of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot for protesting against Putin in a cathedral. Although many observers think Khodorkovsky may have been guilty of something, if not the crimes for which he was prosecuted, the two-year sentences given to Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich appear vastly disproportionate. The women were held in pre-trial detention for five months, and then tried in a process so farcical that the presiding judge repeatedly had to warn journalists visiting the court to stop laughing.
“We are freer than all those who sit opposite us on the side of the prosecutor, because we can say what we please and we do,” said Tolokonnikova, in a closing speech to the court that could have been written by a Soviet-era dissident, “and they can only say what the political censor has allowed them to say.”
In the circumstances, it is not surprising that Russians are following Bitiyeva’s lead and appealing to the ECHR in vast numbers. It is the only independent court to which they have access. About 34,800 Russian cases were pending before the Strasbourg court in June, almost a quarter of its backlog. Bitiyeva’s case is just one of more than 200 in which it has ruled that Russia has murdered one of its own citizens.
Politically, Chechnya is an extreme but exemplary case of the system that Putin has created across the whole Russian Federation. Ramzan Kadyrov is a member of the Supreme Council of the ruling United Russia, as are many of the heads of the other Russian regions. They receive a free hand at home in exchange for delivering the votes that Moscow needs in federal elections.
The evening that I arrived in Grozny, I tried to track down relatives of Bitiyeva to ask their opinion of Putin’s election result, and how Chechnya had changed since her murder in 2003. I eventually found one, but he asked me not to use his name.
“Nothing will return my relatives to me,” he told me by telephone. “They were all I had and they were killed. You never recover from the grief if you have lost people like that, never. If the murder had been for a reason, you could forgive it, but like that, no.” He said that it made no difference to him if things had improved or grown worse. “I live now in the way I have lived ever since they were killed.”
Think about the recent Crimean referendum sham considering the picture this article has painted. Everyone in that region knows what Putin is capable of and what he will do if you defy his vision…whatever that may be. This is the inspirational champion defenders of personal liberty are looking to in their effort to restore their feigned Conservatism to its rightful place. A man who bombs everyone everywhere, in every nook and cranny, into submission. Those same people who once despised and opposed him…whose family members, combatant or innocent alike, were indiscriminately and brutally tortured and murdered until they had the personal liberty knocked out of them; well, now they vote as they should, not as they’d like because they no longer have the capacity to know what they like and don’t like. Nice. Conservatives the globe over should be proud to don the St George’s Ribbon and declare “Russia Stands For Freedom.” For those who disagree, well, look into the faces of the Chechens who survived—there you will see your destiny if the Conservative Revanchists have their way.
But Chechnya was just the beginning, although Putin left quite a bloody and gruesome impression on that first chew toy. As disgusting as it is, we must preserve it as a memento of his legacy. With Georgia, we saw a more subtle, soft-gloved approach to Putin’s aggression. By this time, his propaganda machine was just getting started whereas with Chechnya he didn’t need one because he was not on the radar much to the Chechens’ chagrin. Earlier in this post we witnessed Saakashvili’s comments concerning the events in Ukraine and how it related to his own experience with Putin’s Russia during his tenure as Georgia’s President. But of course, Misha is biased and partial so we know his statements are less than objective and misleading. We must look to other sources that have studied this region…its people and history…to better understand what happened in Georgia versus the misleading narratives provided by Misha and conventional narrative propaganda from mainstream news sources and popular alternative news sources. I found this article titled The Truth About Russia In Georgia from the blog Michael J. Totten extremely informative and useful in this regard without having to sidetrack right now reading a cross-sampling of books on the topic (which I may do at a later day but it will have to get in a long line). I suggest reading the thorough and enlightening analysis at the link, but I wanted to highlight something I found rather intriguing—and telling. Here’s the quote to which I’m referring:
The Rose Revolution was a popular bloodless revolution that brought Georgia’s current president Mikheil Saakashvili to power and replaced the old man of Georgian politics Eduard Shevardnadze who basically ran the country Soviet-style.
“The first thing that Misha [Mikheil Saakashvili] did was try to poke his finger in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s eyes as many times as possible,” Worms said, “most notably by wanting to join NATO. The West, in my view, mishandled this situation. America gave the wrong signals. So did Europe.”
“Can you elaborate on that a bit?” I said.
“I will,” he said. “But basically the encouragement was given despite stronger and stronger Russian signals that a Georgian accession to NATO would not be tolerated. Fast forward to 2008, to this year, to the meeting of NATO heads of state that took place in Bucharest, Romania, where Georgia was promised eventual membership of the organization but was refused what it really wanted, which was the so-called Membership Action Plan. The Membership Action Plan is the bureaucratic tool NATO uses to prepare countries for membership. And this despite the fact that military experts will tell you that the Georgian Army, which had been reformed root and branch with American support, was now in better shape and more able to meet NATO aspirations than the armies of Albania and Macedonia which got offered membership at the same meeting.
I find that peculiar. Here you have Georgia champing at the bit to join NATO and it would put the so-called expansionist NATO that allegedly deplores Putin and Russia and wants to encircle it and tear it apart limb from limb right at Russia’s doorstep where it presumably wants to be according to all the anti-American pro-Russian commentators inundating Western media spaces with propaganda in the comment sections using, amongst other tools, Disqus comment management software. How could NATO not have seized this opportunity? How come Saakashvili hasn’t figured it out since he was burned and hung out to dry? Or has he but is unwilling to say? I’ll say it. Perhaps NATO didn’t seize the opportunity because they have no intentions of encircling Russia and poking the proverbial Bear. Perhaps this individual, Sandor Laborc, and so many obvious sleeper cells like him have served to act as a mitigatory force in checking any notions of NATO expansionism. Per this article from The Telegraph dated Feb 5, 2008:
Former KGB chief takes job with Nato
The appointment of Hungary’s KGB trained secret service chief to a top level Nato intelligence committee has alarmed diplomats amid new fears over the security of the Alliance’s military secrets.
Sandor Laborc, aged 49, who trained with the Russian secret service’s elite at Moscow’s Dzerzhinsky Academy from 1983 to 1989, is the new chairman of a special Nato Committee, tasked with analysing and sharing intelligence from across the military Alliance’s 26 member countries.
“It is hard to believe that an officer who was trained at the highest levels of the Russian secret service has completely cut his links with the past,” said one Nato diplomat.
“The presence of a senior Soviet trained official will make people think twice and could lead to a policy of withholding highly classified data in certain circumstances.”
General Laborc took the Nato post in January, and will hold it under a system of automatic rotation until the end of the year, at a time when relations between the Western Alliance and Russia are at their most tense since the end of the Cold War.
His appointment as head of Hungary’s National Security Office, in December last year, triggered a bitter domestic row over the continuing dominance of Russia in Eastern Europe and the continuing influence of former Communist nomenklatura in countries that are now in Nato and the European Union.
Nato officials, including diplomats from Britain and United States, are publicly maintaining a stony silence over Gen Laborc but some Alliance delegations have claimed they were unaware of his full Curriculum Vitae.
Gen Laborc’s official CV, available on the website of the Hungarian National Security Office, makes no mention of his time spent in Moscow.
His past only came to light when he was investigated by MPs in the Hungarian parliament. Their attempts to block his appointment were overruled by the Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, himself a former Communist.
Opposition Hungarian MPs have raised concerns that Gen Laborc is susceptible to Russian pressure because like KGB officers his former Soviet masters may hold a kompromat dossier on him, charting his vulnerabilities.
Sweet. We have Merkel in Germany who was a “former” Communist and KGB agent who spent considerable time in Moscow and no doubt informed on too many of her so-called friends and colleagues to count and now this guy—and no doubt an army of others positioned strategically, and we’re to pretend that Merkel’s reluctance to press Putin is purely diplomatic? I don’t think so. Take a look at this article from the Kavkaz Center. Per the link:
Present German chancellor Merkel also worked for the KGB, German scientists confirm
A new book detailing the early political life of Angela Merkel has accused the German chancellor of working directly for the Russian KGB as a propagandist for the East German Communist youth movement at least before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
According to a new book, “The First Life of Angela M.,” based on secret files of the dreadful East-German Communist secret police Stasi, German chancellor Merkel successfully operated as a KGB agent in several Communist organizations before reunification in 1990.
Published in Germany on Monday, the book by journalists Gunther Lachmann and Ralf Georg Reuth is unlikely to prove easy reading for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party (CDU), which is preparing for September’s general election – in which Merkel is seeking a third term in office.
According to the book, 58-year-old Merkel was an active KGB spy in various political organisations while studying for her doctorate and working as a researcher at university. The list includes the Free German Youth movement (the FDJ, the official youth wing of the “German Democratic Republic”, or “GDR”), the major workers’ union, and the Society for German-Soviet Friendship.
The revelation most likely to cause embarrassment to Merkel is her post as propaganda functionary at the FDJ. Until now, Merkel had only mentioned her duties as “culture functionary” at the youth wing.
The book also portrays Merkel as a symbol of the KGB-promoted anti-reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The woman who boasts today of an economically triumphant unified Germany, it says, would have preferred in 1989 to see the “GDR” remain an independent and Communist state.
It is worth recalling that American non-mainstream media recently reported in an article entitled “Russian Official: Obama is a Communist KGB Agent”, that Obama was also a very useful and valuable KGB agent, as well as former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi (operational nickname in the KGB/FSB – “The Teacher”).
How many more are there who haven’t been uncovered. Perhaps we should start looking at Friends of Putin from this perspective. They’ve had us believing (well, not me, but there are more than a few) that the New World Order would be coming from someplace obscure and all this time it was they, the ones who heralded its coming the longest and hardest who are helping to bring it about by providing a foil and cover for the True NWO (another one HBO—as if you even care). It’s kind of comical if you think about it. All this time while they (the New World Orderers) were looking in the wrong place, they were carrying water for The Real Thing. You have to laugh.
But don’t worry, all these former Communists aren’t Communists anymore. For example, Putin’s Not Post-Communist, He’s Post-Fascist. Per the linked article:
Some like to idealize Vladimir Putin as the ideological successor to the left-wing Soviet leaders, but that’s sheer nonsense. His speeches offer clear evidence that his points of reference originate in fascism.
In order to understand Vladimir Putin, you have to listen to him. You have to read what he wants. More importantly, though, you have to see what it is that he is seeking to prevent. Often, a politician’s fears and aversions can be more telling than his or her plans and promises.
So what is it that drives Putin? The central theme of all his speeches is the fear of encirclement — the threat represented by powers that want to keep the Russian people down because they fear its inner strength. “They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy,” he said in a March 18 speech before the Duma. In a television interview in April, he said: “There are enough forces in the world that are afraid of our strength, ‘our hugeness,’ as one of our sovereigns said. So they seek to divide us into parts.”
A Threat to the Russian Soul
There remains a tendency to view the Kremlin’s foreign policy primarily from a geopolitical perspective — namely that the country is seeking to recover some of the territory it lost when the Soviet Union dissolved. But when Putin speaks of the enemy of the Russian people, he is speaking about something deeper and more basic. The forces against which he has declared war are not only seeking to expand their influence further and further into the East — they are also going after the Russian soul. That’s what he means when he says that Russia must put up a fight against the West.
But what’s at the heart of this soul? Putin has provided some insights here as well. “It seems to me that the Russian person or, on a broader scale, a person of the Russian world, primarily thinks about his or her highest moral designation, some highest moral truths,” he said in the interview. In contrast to this is a West that is fixated on personal success and prosperity or, as Putin states, the “inner self.” In the view of its president, the battle Russia is waging is ideological in nature. It is a fight against the superficiality of materialism, against the decline in values, against the feminization and effeminacy of society — and against the dissolution of all traditional bonds that are part of that development. In short, against everything “un-Russian.”
Even today, many are having trouble recognizing the true nature of a man who is currently in the process of turning the European peace order on its head. Perhaps we don’t have the courage to make the right comparisons because they remind us of an era that we thought we had put behind us. Within Germany’s Left Party and parts of the center-left Social Democrats, Putin is still viewed as a man molded in the tradition of the Soviet party leader, who stood for an idealized version of Socialism. The old knee-jerk sense of solidarity is still there. It is based on a misunderstanding, though, because Putin isn’t post-communist. He’s post-fascist.
A search for the right historical analogy should focus on the events of Rome in 1919 rather than Sarajevo in 1914. It won’t take long for those who step inside the world of echo chambers and metaphors that color Putin’s thinking to identify traits that were also present at the birth of fascism. There’s Putin’s cult of the body, the lofty rhetoric of self-assertion, the denigration of his opponents as degenerates, his contempt for democracy and Western parliamentarianism, his exaggerated nationalism.
Enemies of freedom on the far right in Europe sensed the changing political climate early on. They immediately understood that, in Putin, someone is speaking who shares their obsessions and aversions. Putin reciprocates by acknowledging these like-minded individuals. “As for the rethinking of values in European countries, yes, I agree that we are witnessing this process,” he told his television interviewer last Thursday, pointing to Victor Orban’s victory in Hungary and the success of Marine Le Pen in France. It was the only positive thing he had to say in the entirety of a four-hour interview.
An Historic Mission for the Russian People
When they were first introduced one year ago, people also failed to recognize the true meaning of Russia’s new anti-gay laws. But today it is clear that it marked the emergence of the new Russia. What began with an anti-gay law is now continuing at another level: The logical progression of the belief that certain groups are inferior is the belief in the superiority of one’s own people.
And when Putin evokes the myth of Moscow as a “Third Rome,” it is clear he is assigning the Russian people with an historic mission. Responsibility is falling to Russia not only to stop Western decadence at its borders, but also to provide a last bastion for those who had already given up hope in this struggle. But he is also saying that Russia can never yield.
“Death is horrible, isn’t it?” Putin asked viewers at the end of his television appearance. “But no, it appears it may be beautiful if it serves the people: Death for one’s friends, one’s people or for the homeland, to use the modern word.” That’s as fascist as it gets.
What’s a bit unnerving about that is nearly half of the German public agrees. I have a difficult time wrapping my head around this. You want to say, “nah, this isn’t really happening…these people can’t be this stupid…they can’t be traveling down this path again.” But they are. The table’s being set everywhere, not just Ukraine. Ukraine’s the opening act for Europe and America. This Conservative Revanchist propaganda strategy is a hammer that will fracture every society it chooses to target, and it appears Western society is a target—and it’s working. Read this NYT article authored by Clemens Wergin from Berlin. Per the article:
Why Germans Love Russia
Like most foreign-policy experts, I was shocked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its continuing “soft invasion” of eastern Ukraine. Can such a naked land grab really be happening now, in 21st-century Europe?
But Russia’s actions were not the only surprise. If you have followed the German debate about the Ukraine crisis, you have witnessed another strange phenomenon: a parade of former politicians and public figures going on TV to make the case for Russia.
According to these august figures — including former Chancellors Gerhard Schröder and Helmut Schmidt — NATO and the European Union were the real aggressors, because they dared to expand into territory that belonged to Moscow’s legitimate sphere of interest. And it seems part of the German public agrees.
You thought that Germans were the champions of international law and a rules-based world order? Think again.
There is a blatant hypocrisy here. At times the same people who had relied on international law to attack the American invasion of Iraq are now, as newborn realists, excusing Russia’s need to infringe on the sovereignty of other nations.
In point of fact, despite its trumped-up charges against Iraq, the Bush administration had at least 16 United Nations Security Council resolutions to support its case. Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, had zero. The only common denominator of both positions seems to be an underlying anti-Americanism.
Some of this pro-Moscow sentiment is the work of Russia-sponsored propaganda: A recent investigative report by the newspaper Welt am Sonntag revealed how a shady network of Russia supporters has shaped public discourse in Germany. Even dialogue forums with Russia, co-sponsored by the German government, are full of friends of Mr. Putin, even on the German side.
But there is also a disturbing undercurrent among ordinary Germans that harks back to old and unfortunate German traditions. We have come to think of Germany as a Western European country, but that is largely a product of Cold War alliances. Before then it occupied a precarious middle between east and west.
Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, German society may well be drifting away from the West again. In a poll last month by Infratest/dimap, 49 percent of Germans said they wanted their country to take a middle position between the West and Russia in the Ukraine crisis, and only 45 percent wanted to be firmly in the Western camp.
This anti-Westernism is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. There is the part of the left that is instinctively anti-American and takes the side of whatever international actor happens to challenge the status quo and the leading Western power.
Then there is Europe’s populist right, which agrees with Russia’s propaganda that Europe has become too gay, too tolerant, too permissive in its morals and too un-Christian, and which welcomes an authoritarian leader challenging Europe’s fuzzy multilateralism.
In Germany, you can find this current best represented by the new anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland Party. They take up a conservative strain of German thinking dating back to the 19th century, which harbors a resentment toward Western civilization and romanticizes a Russia seemingly uncorrupted by Western values and free-market capitalism.
Both versions of anti-Westernism have been around for decades; until now, though, they have been confined to the political fringes. These days they are accepted by parts of the elite and sections of the political center. That, combined with the enormous investment by German companies in Russia, is placing constraints on how aggressively the government of Angela Merkel, Germany’s strongly pro-Western chancellor, can act against Russia.
What unites the apologists on the left and right is a striking disregard for the fate of the people who inhabit the lands between Germany and Russia, and a truncated notion of German history.
Some apologists will explain their sympathy as a matter of debt to Russia for German atrocities during World War II. But it is important to remember that the war started with Germany invading Poland from the West — and a few days later the Soviet Union invading Poland from the East, after both sides had secretly agreed to split Eastern Europe between them.
And so when German public figures, parroting Russian propaganda, dismiss Ukraine as “not a real country anyway,” or treat countries at the fault line between the West and Russia as second-class nations with somewhat lesser sovereignty, they are evoking memories in Eastern Europe of the bad old days, when the Nazis and Soviets turned the region into the “Bloodlands” of their respective dictatorships.
For decades Germany has tried to come to terms with its fascist past and to learn important lessons from it. And now, in another country, there comes an authoritarian leader who is trying to stabilize his regime by pursuing aggression abroad on the grounds of ethnic nationalism.
For anyone who has grappled with Germany’s Nazi past, it should have been easy to call right from wrong in this case, instead of finding excuses for Russia’s actions. It’s a test that too many of my compatriots have failed.
To be fair, in a recent poll 60 percent of Germans said that their country should stand with the West in the Ukraine crisis. So Russia’s ongoing aggression is having some effect on public opinion. But that still means that nearly half of all Germans do not feel a deep connection with the West and its values — which is precisely what Mr. Putin wants
Wergins’ article goes a long way in describing Bernhard at Moon of Alabama blog. It boggles the mind, but here we are. It’s happening. Or something’s happening. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and aren’t we fortunate to be a part of it? I know I’m grateful to have something to write about every day. In fact, there’s so much to write about, I can’t keep up—I can’t type fast enough and take care of other personal matters. For example, apparently I need to move from Windows to Linux per The Saker, author of The Vineyard of the Saker blog…you know the one…the blog that proclaims “Russia Stands For Freedom,” well, he also proclaims that Linux stands for freedom and recently he provided advice on how to set yourself up with the open source operating system. Here’s a link to the post at his blog where he offers us this Russian-style freedom—for free. Isn’t that nice? I’m telling you, this guy will give you the shirt off his back and off the Chechens’ backs as well. I’m sure Russia’s hackers haven’t figured out how to manipulate Linux open source and easily gain access to your information. Nah, they’d never do that and The Saker would never lead you into their open arms. Not a guy who would give you the shirt off his back…especially if that shirt wasn’t even his and it really wasn’t a shirt but a straight-jacket instead. Like I’ve said, you have to laugh—and I am.
If you haven’t noticed, The Saker presents a Florida mailing address at his blog as follows:
To send gift cards or cash only
No checks or money orders (sorry!)
From the USA and Canada:
PO Box 711
Edgewater, FL 32132-0711
I find this interesting and potentially telling. Some of you may not know or realize, but South Florida is a favorite destination for Russian Oligarchs who have been paying big money for spectacular digs along Florida’s southern coastline. In fact, they’ve been pouring so much money into real estate investment in South Florida, the Russian Oligarchs have helped blow another speculative real estate bubble following on the heels of the last one that burst a few years back. If you recollect, Saakashvili mentioned the Russian Oligarchs and their South Florida mansions in his quoted interview earlier in this post. As this blog has revealed, every time you pay exorbitantly at the pump, you make these piggish punks wealtheir and they in turn pour it into real estate in Florida driving the prices up and making housing unaffordable for you and your loved ones. So they get you twice, once at the pump and another time by driving up the price of homes. But they get you a third time too thanks to the Democrat Senator Bill Nelson from Florida who wants you to subsidize Russian Oligarch wealth a third time by paying for any damages to their palatial estates in case of a hurricane. How nice of Nelson. As if you haven’t contributed enough already. This is what sanctions look like. You’re the one who’s been sanctioned and you never received the courtesy of a notice. From this article by R Street:
With Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., expected any day now to reintroduce his proposal to have federal taxpayers backstop the risk of state catastrophe funds, it bears examining just who it is that would benefit from the cheaper property insurance rates his legislation promises.
Proponents of the legislation have floated a study suggesting it would save homeowners some $11.8 billion in premiums. Notably, ClimateWire today reported that one of the study’s authors claims a major hurricane could cost the federal cat fund as much as $138 billion, with little guarantee that those funds would ever be repaid. But taking the estimate for granted that shifting insurance risk onto taxpayers would save someone billions of dollars…just who might that someone be?
In Nelson’s home state of Florida, the only state with an existing catastrophe fund that would qualify for the proposed federal backstop, the answer proves to be quite interesting. Having taken some pretty serious lumps during the housing meltdown, Florida is in the midst of yet another of its periodic housing booms. But the fundamentals driving this one are quite a bit different from earlier episodes…..
Meanwhile, CNBC reports that, while Latin Americans are fueling recovery in the broader Miami market, the biggest and priciest mega-mansions are going disproportionately to rich Russian buyers, with a significant chunk of the $12 billion Russians spent on overseas real estate last year getting plunked down in South Florida.
Among the recent headline deals was the $47 million sale (the most expensive in Miami history) in August 2012 of a 30,000 square-foot home on Indian Creek Island to an anonymous Russian buyer. Roustam Tariko, the founder of Russian Standard Vodka and Russian Standard Bank, recently bought a $25 million home on Star Island, while a Ukrainian buyer recently purchased an entire floor of the St. Regis Bal Harbour hotel for $20 million….
The only other significant threat to these investors business models, of course, is the cost of property insurance, particularly if a major storm forces the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to charge assessments to make up for the big shortfalls they would otherwise face in their ability to pay claims.
Or, if Nelson has his way, they could just get taxpayers from the rest of the country to pick up the tab.
That’s all for now. Until next time. Lie and live long, my friends.