"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up."

Arthur Koestler 

Entries in Russia (72)


Summer Fun In Russia


War In Ukraine? 

Petro Porosenko has a problem. He wants to be reelected as president of Ukraine, but he is coming in at third place, behind a comedian. He needs an issue. You need a little history and geography to understand what is going on.

In 2014 the US orchestrated a coup and removed the elected president from office. Don't believe me? Here is where Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine plotting the post-coup government. 

This tape has a tendency to be removed from You Tube, so if this is read later you might need to search for it.

Naturally since Russia's warm water ports were in Ukraine, Crimea in particular, and the ports were only leased, this was a cause for concern to them. The plan, as NATO has been gradually encroaching on Russia, that the leases would not be renewed and leased to NATO.

Ukraine is rather evenly split into Ukrainian and Russian speaking citizens. Since many former Soviet Republics mistreat their Russian minorities this was a cause for concern. It did not help that after the coup, a bill was introduced in the Ukrainian parliament to make the Russian Language not usable in official business. In the other Republics this was the first step in the persecution of Russian minorities. It also did not help when a former president, Yulia Tymoshenko, jailed for corruption, proposed killing those Russians she did not like. 

Note that Yulia Tymoshenko is leading the polls to be elected president of Ukraine, far ahead of Porosenko.

Naturally this lead to discontent and revolt. The Russian Federation supported the rebels, especially in Crimea. Later there was a democratic vote in Crimea where 85% of those voting wanted to become a part of Russia. They are now a part of Russia, although this is not internationally recognized. Rebellion continues in eastern Ukraine. 

Now for the geography lesson, here is a map of Crimea. 

With the recent construction of a bridge to connect Russia with Crimea, the sea of Azov is now cut off from the Black Sea. The bridge is in the lower right of the map and is 11 miles long. Since the Ukrainian government was not supplying anything through the land bridge between Ukraine and Crimea, this was an obvious necessity. In the past, when transit was desired, the Ukrainian government officially requested it. While the Ukrainian government claims they did so this time, this is obviously untrue. If they had, the passage would have been granted.  

While is this such an issue for Russia? 

There have been threats and suggestions that the bridge be destroyed. Here is an American proposal in an Oo Ed for the Washington Examiner:

Fortunately Ukraine has the means to launch air strikes against the bridge in a manner that would render it at least temporarily unusable. Because of its significant length, the Ukrainian air force could strike the bridge while mitigating the risk of casualties by those traversing it.

The bridge was suggested as a target by a Ukrainian member of parliament. For some reason this threat was not well publicized in the West. I found this quote on an obscure website

“The Kerch Bridge is an enemy’s infrastructure. It connects the occupied territory with the mainland of the aggressor country, that is why it is an enemy’s infrastructure,” Mosiychuk said on air of 112 Ukraine channel.

So Ukrainian boats approach the area without notice, naturally this had a response and the ships were detained. For a full description of the incident you can go to the blog Moon Of Alabama.

What do you need to know? 

Crimea contains important ports that Russia will not allow to fall into NATO hands. Crimea has been a part of Russia since 1783. The vast majority of Crimea's people want to be in Russia. Russia will go to war rather than lose Crimea. Russia will use nuclear weapons rather than lose a war over Crimea if there was a widescale war. 

So the president of Ukraine will risk nuclear annihilation because he is low in the polls and probably won't be reelected. This is the US ally that the US is suppling with weapons. 

Trump is an idiot. 


Why No Peace in Ukraine? 

I have heard a few talking heads say that the reason there is no peace in Ukraine is "Russia, Russia, Russia." If you want to know why there is no peace in Ukraine, watch this short video. 

This next clip is Russian news, and needs to have the same skepticism that you would direct toward any news, even US news. Since the news is reporting that what Ukraine President Poroshenko promised in the first clip is happening, I think this is accurate. These are the people to whom Trump is sending lethal arms and is training. 

BTW, today is the Russian Christmas, and civilians in Eastern Ukraine are huddling in basements in fear. 


Trump Verses Putin

I thought a comparison between Trump's New Year's message and Putin's might tell us a lot about their character. 

Here is Trump's:

 Here is Putin's: 

To be fair, New Years is a much bigger deal in Russia than it is in America. Both messages are heavily produced, but only the Trump message is about Trump, and nothing else. I found it embarrassing. Be sure to listen to the music at the end of Putin's message, the music is very traditional Russian. 


Rinat Akhmetshin: Not a Russian or a Spy

First a little background: there was a meeting June 2016 where a Russian "government" lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya met with Donald Trump, Jr. to provide information about a supposed Clinton scandal. There was no information. Instead it was an attempt to influence Trump, Jr., and hopefully his father, on behalf on a Russian Oligarch against the Magnitsky Act which put up sanctions against her client. The meeting was a total bust. The reason I used quotation marks around government is that this is technically true, but misleading. Yes, she worked for the prosecutors office in Moscow, just as a promising attorney in the US might work for the Office of the New York prosecutors office. Would you describe this person as a government lawyer years after she went into private practice? You would not. I leave it to your imagination why the words "government lawyer" are being used on the various networks. If you think they would have the decency to use the word "former," you would be wrong. Veselnitskaya was not representing Russia, she was representing her client. 

But the talking heads and the politico class have a problem, there is no there there. So they had to expand their blathering. Besides the translator, there was a fifth person present, Rinat Akhmetshin. Here is how the New York Times talks about him:

While not, he insisted, an expert in the technical aspects of hacking nor, a spy, Mr. Akhmetshin talked openly about how he had worked with a counterintelligence unit while serving with the Red Army after its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and how easy it was to find tech-savvy professionals ready and able to plunder just about any email account.

I quoted this because it can show how to lie through your teeth but saying nothing false. Rinat Akhmetshin, like every other Soviet young man, was drafted into the army for his two year hitch. So at about age 18 to 20 he served in the army from 1988 to 1990. Imagine the jobs he would have been given. Assuming he is telling the truth about where he was assigned, he would have been emptying the trash, and cleaning the toilets. Assuming that he is telling the truth about his departure rank of sergeant, he would not have had a job that might be described as an "intelligence" job; that would be quite a stretch. (There is no reason to conclude that Rinat is lying.) 

Note also the phrase, "the Red Army after its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan." Every Soviet young man would have served in the Red Army after 1979, if they were drafted after 1979! Why try to connect Akhmetshin with the Afghanistan invasion? 

I think that for years Akhmetshin might have said things that are technically true but misleading in order to benefit his consulting business. Or maybe he allowed others to draw conclusions and did not correct them. He is not a former spy or even a former intelligence officer. He was a GI Ivan who was drafted. 

What do I mean when I say that Rinat Akhmetshin is not Russian? He is not ethnically Russian. His first name tells us that. It is not clear exactly what his ethnic background is. Russian minorities tend to be concentrated in their traditional homelands. Rinat is either a Kazakh, a Kazakh Tartar, a Tartar born just north of Kazakhstan, or interesting enough in a Tatar born in Crimea. 

You might think, as an American, that such ethnic issues do not matter. You are being naive, even about America. In Russia it matters, it matters a lot. 

Here is what government sponsored Radio Free Europe said about him:

Barely registering in U.S. lobbying records, the 48-year-old Akhmetshin has been tied to efforts to bolster opponents of Kazakhstan's ruling regime, discredit a fugitive former member of Russia's parliament, and undermine a Russian-owned mining firm involved in a billion-dollar lawsuit with company information allegedly stolen by hackers.

Rather than being pro-Russian, his career seems to be centered on anti-Russian activities and lobbying as "Kazakhstan's ruling regime" is pro-Putin

Rinat Akhmetshin does not represent the Russian government, nor is he a former intelligence officer. When you hear otherwise, you are being played.