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Russia and ex-Soviet Union (English)

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 how Boris Gudonov pushed the Poles out of Moscow, leading eventually to the rise of Moscow.

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—to attack that foolish Poland, for instance. 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.

A more recent episode in Russia’s history involves the German statesman Bismarck, who recognized that the rimland powers (then Britain, now the US, which use superior naval might to dominate the world) had to neutralize Russia to keep in control of the European heartland. That the British (now Americans) had to keep Germany and Russia apart, as “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world.” (MacKinder)

Today’s ‘moralists’ find it difficult to explain that Bismarck, yes, was a cold calculator and his decisions were rarely subjected to ethical criteria—but the result of his Realpolitik was a relatively stable German state which under Bismarck’s chancellorship managed Europe’s adjustments without armed conflicts. Between 1871 and 1890, the German Empire was on the whole a stabilizing factor in Europe. During the Berlin Congress to end the Balkan crisis in 1878, Bismarck effectively presented himself as an honest broker, respected by all of Europe. However, with Bismarck’s departure in 1890, this period of the relaxation of European tensions and Germany’s stabilizing influence was over. The German chauvinists recklessly abandoned Bismarck’s plan to keep the rimlanders at bay, denying Europe peace and prosperity for the next century, but providing lots of spoils for the (rimlander) victors.

We now have more than enough proof that if Germany and Russia get along, it is a blessing for Europe; if we go to war, the whole continent lies in ruins, picked apart by rimlanders.

The current western decision to invade Ukraine is for no other reason than once again crushing the spirit of Bismarck. Weaken Germany through a pointless war with Russia, and walk into the devastation with a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a kind of NATO for the destitute masses. And then the “West” will rule forever.

As Pepe Escobar puts it, “the Empire of Chaos dream of regime change in Russia has always hinged on controlling large swathes of Eurasia. A puppet in Moscow—a carbon copy of the drunken stooge Yeltsin—would free up Russia’s immense natural resources for the West, with those from the contiguous Central Asian “stans” as a bonus.”

If on the other hand Russia maintains its influence, even indirectly, in Ukraine and on Central Asia’s oil and natural gas wealth, Moscow is capable of projecting itself again as a superpower and putting a hold on the US unipolar world.

Russia has not backed down. In a spirit of goodwill, the Soviet Union joined the landmark Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (how much proof do NATO warmongers need that Russia has always wanted peace?). By 2007, it was clear what NATO was up to in Ukraine, and Putin wisely canceled the treaty and is now protecting Crimea and testing NATO’s defenses by flying their planes into NATO’s defensive perimeter.

Ukraine and Russia have always been allies. Most Ukrainians are Russian (the few xenophobic Ukrainians that the West praises so lavishly were molded in Poland in the 1930-50s and are largely fascist.

But that doesn’t matter to western world conquerors, who encouraged Nazis in the past, whose sense of morality is zero. They thought that Ukraine would be a walk-over, lured like the Lithuanians into accepting US arms and luxuries in lieu of national integrity. But that didn’t work. This duplicity among western media means that no such media can be respected. It is more worthwhile to reflect on the fact that Ukraine’s Prince Shuysky was elected Tsar until the Russian pretender came of age 500 yrs ago. That was the age of heroic politics.





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.


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.


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.


Russia in the Middle East: Return of a superpower?

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The US "withdrawal" from Iraq last year and the planned "withdrawal" from Afghanistan in 2014 cannot help but change the face of Central Asia and the Middle East. But how does Russia fit in, asks Eric Walberg

The world is living through a veritable slow-motion earthquake. If things go according to plan, the US obsession with Afghanistan and Iraq will soon be one of those ugly historical disfigurements that -- at least for most Americans -- will disappear into the memory hole.

Like Nixon and Vietnam, US President Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who "brought the troops home". But one cannot help but notice the careful calibration of these moves to fit the US domestic political machine -- the Iraqi move to show Americans that things on the international front are improving (just don't mention Guantanamo), the Afghan move put off conveniently till President Barack Obama's second term, when he doesn't need to worry about the fallout electorally if things unravel (which they surely will).


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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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