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Russia and ex-Soviet Union (English)

Mind control and Cyberwarfare: 'The Russians Are Coming!'

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The media campaign attacking Russia is in high gear these days. Russia is accused of cyberwarfare, leaking poor Hillary's emails, and now, of a slick disinformation campaign to undermine poor NATO, our bastion of peace.

Then there is the traitor Edward Snowden, basking in sunny Moscow.  He blew a loud whistle from Hong Kong in 2013, revealing numerous US global surveillance programs, many run by the National Security Agency, implicating telecommunication companies and European governments.

Though he had no desire to defect to Russia (and the Russians were reluctant to take him), he was denied his US passport, marooned in Moscow, and pleaded political asylum. What was poor Russia to do?

Who planted the seed of discord?

Bush Sr and friends smiled and plied Yeltsin with vodka in the 1990s, assuring him that NATO would never dream of expanding eastward, that Russia would now be the West's best friend, that together, they would bring peace and joy to the world. They even signed a scrap of paper in 1997 solemnly avowing this.
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Russian history exposes media lies

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Russia has always fascinated me—the stern heroes who defended Muscovy against the Golden Horde, the ornate and mysterious orthodox faith, the vast spaces, the remarkable learning and philosophy, the Bolshevik Revolution against imperialism... It’s clear the West has always been jealous of a race of genius, highly deserving respect.

Today’s fearful standoff is yet another epic struggle reflecting Russia’s past glory, but unfortunately, now in a nightmarish world of drones and nuclear bombs. Far more tragic than could be easily reconstructed in tales of Boris Gudonov and the 'time of troubles', invasion by Poland and the heroic resistance that sprung up and  pushed the Poles out, leading eventually to the rise of Moscow as the centre of a new empire.

That is perhaps the underlying reason for the vindictive animosity that shrieks forth from the western media, as the American bully tries to taunt the Russian bear into doing something foolish or that at least looks foolish, as interpreted in western media. But the Russian leader stands by his principles and his fellow Slavs, and holds firm, despite the provocations. No one is going to destroy Russia nor will they succeed in breaking up the ancient slavic federacy into Wal Marts.

German-Russian common interests

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Ukraine & Egypt: A tale of two coups

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US plans for Egypt and Ukraine are falling apart and Russia is scrambling to pick up the pieces.

In the latest color revolution, it was not an army but a rump parliament that pulled the plug on the elected president on a wave of protest, pushing out Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich on 22 February. He apologized from exile in the Russian city of Rostov-on-the-Don for his weakness during the uprising, but his fate was sealed when he was disowned by his own Party of the Regions, the largest party in the fractious parliament. The rump parliament unsurprisingly ordered the release of Yanukovich’s arch rival, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison, a condition for Ukraine’s signing a European Union Association Agreement.

The collapse of authority in Ukraine led to what appears to be the breakaway of an already autonomous Crimea, now to be aligned with Russia. The frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy (the flagship of the Ukrainian Navy), on NATO maneuvers in the Gulf of Aden, refused to take orders from Kiev and raised the Russian naval flag as it returned to Simferopol. Simultaneously, Russian troops blocked three Crimean bases, demanding Ukrainian forces surrender. Residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum on 30 March to determine the fate of Crimea.

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Russian and the Middle East

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In the days of the Russian empire, Russia’s relations with the Islamic world were very different from the West’s, being defined by Russia’s own imperial expansionist logic. The Kazan khanate was already conquered by Russia by the sixteenth century. With the decline of the Safavid dynasty in Persia in the eighteenth century, Russia was able to easily move in and occupy Azerbaijan, Dagestan, the Kazakh steppe, and finally Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan). Crimea was seized from the Ottomans at that time as well. The Caucasus tribes were more resistant, and it was not till the mid-nineteenth century that they were quelled.

Afghanistan became Russia’s southern flank, and British-Russian imperial rivalry there prompted Britain to initiate two wars in attempts to subdue Afghanistan in the nineteenth century to keep Russia at bay, finally allowing the British to control Afghanistan’s foreign affairs. Just to make sure, the British signed a treaty with the Russians on the northern boundary in 1887 (no need to worry about the amir).

Under the influence of British-Russian intrigues, from the 1890s on, both Central Asia and Afghanistan modernized somewhat. Muslims were by then a significant part of the Russian empire, but were treated brutally. When the Russian revolution happened in 1917, even the atheist communists looked good in comparison. And indeed, after a few decades of repression of all religions, the fruits of socialism came to Soviet Muslims and Christians alike, with economic well-being far exceeding that of the Muslim world under the imperialist yoke.

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Review of "Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956"

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Review of Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956, USA: Doubleday, 2012.

The period following WWII in eastern Europe is considered to be a black one, best forgotten. All the pre-war governments had been quasi-fascist dictatorships which either succumbed to the Nazi onslaught (Poland) or actively cooperated with the Germans (Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria). The Soviet liberation was greeted with trepidation by many – with good reason for the many collaborators. Within a few years of liberation, eastern Europe was ruled by austere regimes headed by little Stalins.

As in France and Italy, women who consorted with the Germans were treated with contempt. There was a rash of rape as millions of Soviet soldiers filled the vacuum left before the post-war occupation structures were established.* The Soviet soldiers had been motivated by an intense hatred of the Nazis, and their revenge was worse than that of the American, British etc soldiers, almost none of whom had lost their loved ones and homes or had faced invasion of their homelands. The chaos did considerable damage to post-war relations and soured the prospect of building socialism to many who otherwise would have given the new order that was imposed on them a chance. 'Imposed' is certainly the operational word, as the Soviets gave security and policing to their local communist allies.

As in all wars, there were no winners (except those lucky soldiers who emerged unscathed with lots of booty). The east European communists had been decimated by Stalin's pre-war purges. The liberal and rightwing forces were persecuted. War does not discriminate between good and bad property. As in all upheavals, farsighted bad guys step forward, play along on the winning side, and reap their rewards.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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