Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Launch piece from The Times

From
February 5, 2008

Why kowtow to brutal, cynical Russia?

We have a new Cold War and we're losing it. The West must stand up to the Kremlin now

Sixty years ago the Berlin Airlift highlighted the menace of Stalin's Kremlin. Forty years ago Soviet tanks crushed both the Prague Spring and any remaining illusions about the Kremlin's grip on the captive nations. Twenty years ago we began dropping our guard, as totalitarianism withered under Mikhail Gorbachev. Now it is time to acknowledge the inconvenient truth. Russia is back: rich, powerful and hostile. Partnership is giving way to rivalry, with increasingly threatening overtones. The new Cold War has begun - but just as in the 1940s, we are alarmingly slow to notice it.

The loudest alarm signal is Russia's predictable yet mystifying presidential election on March 2. Predictable because everyone knows who will win: Dmitri Medvedev, Vladimir Putin's polite, lawyerly sidekick; mystifying because the meaning of that victory is so unclear. Will Mr Medvedev be a mere figurehead? Will he stand down and allow Mr Putin to return? What does his stint running Russia's energy giant, Gazprom, one of the world's most corrupt, incompetent and sinister companies, tell us about his plans for the future? What does his rise mean for the clans of crooks and spooks whose murky feuds have increased so sharply in past months? Once a dead art, Kremlinology is now a lively and useful discipline.

Politics in Russia is a matter of life and death. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, is on prison hunger strike in protest against the ill-treatment of his aide Vasily Aleksanyan. Mr Aleksanyan is confined in a filthy mould-infested cell because he refuses to sign a bogus confession incriminating Mr Khodorkovsky. His judicial torture, including denial of medical care, which has blinded him, has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights. It reads like something from Dostoyevsky, not a factual account of prison conditions in supposedly one of the world's top eight industrialised democracies.

That doesn't bother most Russians. Mr Putin is wildly popular; so is Mr Medvedev. Mr Khodorkovsky and other former “oligarchs” are seen as despicable emblems of the 1990s, a decade in which Russians feel they were swindled at home and humiliated abroad. Mr Putin has brought both stability and pride. For now, democracy has failed: most Russians say they agree that the media should be controlled and that the opposition should not be allowed to contend for power.

Those feelings are complex. They are partly the result of the state-controlled media's propaganda. They also truly represent tragic misunderstandings and missed opportunities in the Yeltsin years, when oil prices were low and Russian governments struggled with crippling foreign debts. Mr Putin has been lucky - with oil at nearly $100 a barrel, Russia is bound to prosper. Yet he too is a product of the 1990s, an unemployed ex-spy who became a top official in the Yeltsin Kremlin. His denunciations of that era neglect to mention its strengths: press freedom, and also economic reforms such as privatisation and price liberalisation from which Russia has hugely benefited.

Communism has gone, but in its place has come “sovereign democracy”, a potent cocktail of self-righteousness, nationalism and xenophobia that fuels the Kremlin's power grab abroad. In the “swing states” of Eastern Europe - Bulgaria, Latvia and Moldova - we are already losing the new Cold War. We have avoided catastrophe in Serbia by a hair's breadth. The great engines of EU and Nato expansion, which brought half a continent into our orbit after the collapse of communism, have stalled.

But it is not just “faraway countries of which we know nothing” that are at stake. Russia plays divide and rule with the West, ruthlessly using our democratic politics and open economies to undermine us. It has brazenly hired Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor, to promote its biggest energy project, Nord Stream. This is a hugely expensive and strategically vital gas pipeline on the Baltic seabed that will bypass Poland and deliver gas straight to Germany. Like a rich and powerful man who becomes pathetically dependent on heroin, Germany is mainlining on Russian energy. The new pipeline hooks up addict and pusher directly. Instead of urgently diversifying away from gas and to other suppliers, the Netherlands, Italy and Austria are following the same path.

Russia has cowed and muzzled the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, supposedly the Continent's main democracy-promoting and election-monitoring body. It has nobbled the Council of Europe, a talking shop that is supposed to be the custodian of human rights. The British Conservatives, in bizarre alliance with Mr Putin's United Russia party, came within a whisker of electing a former KGB man and Kremlin propagandist, Mikhail Margelov, to the presidency. At its summit in Bucharest in April, Nato's European members are all set to kowtow to Kremlin pressure and give a cold shoulder to Georgia's bid to move towards membership. The EU can not even summon the willpower to liberalise its internal energy markets, let alone counter the Kremlin's ruthless use of cheap energy deals and lucrative pipelines.

Our biggest weakness is money. During the old Cold War, doing business with the Soviet Union was a rare and highly suspicious activity. Now bankers, lawyers, consultants and spin-doctors (and even, it is whispered, politicians) flock to take 30 silver roubles for services rendered, even when they are privately disgusted by the source. Until that changes, we have little chance of resisting the Kremlin - and even less of persuading ordinary Russians that their corrupt, cynical, brutal and incompetent rulers are harbingers of disaster, not triumph.

Edward Lucas is author of The New Cold War: how the Kremlin menaces both Russia and the West

48 comments:

Otto said...

Mr. Lucas,

I think you should devote less effort to describing symptoms and more to proposing specific countermeasures.

karLos said...

otto,
until there is more unity and recognition of these issues in western europe, countermeasures are overly academic.

TErr said...

My first intention was to express in details my disagreement with the article. For it is fool of logical gaps, twisted, unprooved and manipulated facts. But after I read it again I realised that this is nothing more than histerical exclamations not worthy of serious a discussion. So you, Ed, and people like you can go ahead and exersize yourselves in the art of Russia critisism, chasing cats in dark rooms, crying "wolf", trying to raise the Cold war ghosts, and throwing dirt. And our country, yes, will be getting stronger and reacher, the economy will grow and finally come to a balanced status, politically we will establish ourselves the way we should - a worldscale geopolitically deciding respectable state. There is an eastern proverb: "Dog barks, but the caravan goes on" - we are the caravan, we will go on, and you'll stay...

Anton said...

Paranoia Mr.Lucas, nothing more.
I wonder who, and how much paid you to write this book, I mean it is obvious, the prime goal of it is to discredit Russia and resurrect the ghost of Cold War.

Russia fell with its face in the mud in the 90´s, the West really enjoyed that, the country was humiliated and taken advantage of.
Now the very same country is getting up on its feet again, it is finally moving forward. And you say that this crippled nation is interested in another Cold War?? Nonsense.

The things I am going to say now, you might once again call them ´whataboutism´ but I am going to give you some facts.

Now after the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO promised that it wouldn´t expand eastwards, there were agreements restricting military, nuclear presence of NATO in newly independent states. Fact.

What happened in 2004, was that despite those formal agreements 7 East European nations joined NATO.
NATO lied, agreements were broken.
Aggressive? perhaps, definetly provocative.

Now 2007 US announces that it wants to install PRO defence system in Eastern Europe, as a defence measurement against Iran.
Once again, the agreement, and the promise were ignored. It is obvious that it is aimed against Russia.


The point I am trying to make is that it is really nice sitting there mumbling about how Russia is country run by KGB, totalitarian bastards who detest democracy, but the fact is that the WEST- NATO, has been just as provocative, just as aggressive as Russia, if not more. None of that whataboutism, just trying to be realistic here.
Russia is recovoring, and the West is doing its best to stop that.

The readers probably enjoy this coldwar rant, but if you´ve ever been to Dagestan, Kamchatka or any city down the Volga river, you would realise that the Russian government has concerns much greater and more important that this fictional Cold War you are screaming about. Be realistic for God´s sake, put your personal convictions and hatred aside, and be rational for a moment.

stalker said...

"Our biggest weakness is money. During the old Cold War, doing business with the Soviet Union was a rare and highly suspicious activity. Now bankers, lawyers, consultants and spin-doctors (and even, it is whispered, politicians) flock to take 30 silver roubles for services rendered, even when they are privately disgusted by the source."

Every Cold War needs its McCarthy, and you've delivered. Congratulations, Ed!

Konrad von Swalwagner said...
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AT said...

Anton, I'm apalled by your using "whataboutism", a propaganda tool invented by an undercover former KGB officer who worked in Judea around 33 ad. He used to say to his opponents, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" Immoral indeed. Mr. Lucas prohibits us to use this method of questioning our opponents' moral authority to lecture us. Fortunately, the book where this quote comes from sells better than Mr. Lucas' opus magnum.

Kristopher said...

Whenever I encounter such generalizations about countries, I am reminded of those computer strategy games like Civilization, where some of the civilizations are warlike and expansionistic due to a built-in algorithm. You don't want to let the Zulus, for example, get hold of the Wheel, as they will proliferate and swarm everywhere.

I think there is good reason, on the basis of history, to classify the Russians tentatively as brutal and expansionistic.

That's not demonization on the part of Mr. Lucas or anyone. It's "once bitten, twice shy".

As I'm fond of saying, I'm certified moral relativist liberal scum who will gladly stay up with you to debate conditions in US supermax prisons and the parts of Cuba not contolled by Castro.

But here I think one point is that even if Russia has been desperately misunderstood and trod-upon (which I somehow doubt) the battle for global resources IS a zero-sum game, and a resurgent Russia would thus pose a threat to others, even if it were the most enlightened and advanced country on the block.

andyk said...

But here I think one point is that even if Russia has been desperately misunderstood and trod-upon (which I somehow doubt) the battle for global resources IS a zero-sum game, and a resurgent Russia would thus pose a threat to others, even if it were the most enlightened and advanced country on the block.

So you're saying there is a chance Russia may invade Poland for its oil?

TErr said...

Kristopher, what history basics made you think that we are "brutal and expansionistic"? For at least the las hundred years we were mainly loosing territory. Currently Russia has no overseas colonies, protectorates or other places under it's jurisdiction. Most of the natural resources outside of the exUSSR are exploited by non-russian companies.
Historically we did not behave like Switzerland or Andorra, but whatever happened does not make us worse then the US, China, France, Spain or Gr. Br.
We only want to be left alone with our problems. But the current tendencies show that we are getting less and less secure.

Kristopher said...

what history basics made you think that we are "brutal and expansionistic"?

Historical tendency to ruled by leaders who seem to be so.

Expansionism isn't measured in colonies and protectorates today, anyway. Even Iraq didn't suffer a change in sovereignty. Absence of overseas holdings also describes Germany, I believe.

The world is more sophisticated today. Easements can be rented rather than territory annexed. Better yet, if there's no one to bribe, not rent an easement at all but run a pipe through the Baltic.

But I like your idea that Russia could look to Andorra for foreign policy doctrines. But I'm afraid as long as it has oil that we desperately need, there will be critics of Russia.

As serious and sinister as these stories coming out of Russia have been, the only real alternative is to break our own addiction that has lined Russia's pockets with "dirty" money. But I suppose it is just as utopian as to expect people to stop buying Chinese goods.

TErr said...

Tendency in leadership? What is so expansionistic and brutal in Putin? What different does he do than any other major world leader?

Economic expansionism? As I mentioned, Russia's presense in the world economy is relatively small. Our companies are still in the minor league of the globalized economy players.

You mean something about gaz and the Nord Stream projects. We always respected our contracts and never used it as a pressure mecanizm. The only reason why we cut gaz supply is when a consumer stops paying and starts stealing gaz. Yes, we are like a gaz utility company, but we treat our clients fairly.

Now we are building a pipe directly to one of the major consumers. The reasons why we by- pass Poland and Co. is obvious and understandable - we dont want it to go through the land of the countries which policy towards us varies from neutral to unfriendly, paying them the rent.

Oil? Yeah it's definitely Russia you have to have a headacke about. It's certainly OK to be dependant upon democratic Saudi's, Kuwait or UAE.

Giustino said...

Now we are building a pipe directly to one of the major consumers. The reasons why we by- pass Poland and Co. is obvious and understandable - we dont want it to go through the land of the countries which policy towards us varies from neutral to unfriendly, paying them the rent.

What makes you so sure that Germany will remain friendly towards you?

Gerhard Schroeder isn't going to live forever, and the younger generation of politicians in Europe are not cut from the same cloth as the Cold War-era social democratic parties.

If I recall, Russia has fought several wars against Germany, two of them in the last century. But Russian military conflicts between Poland? I don't think there's been any kind of military conflict between a Russian and Polish government since the 18th century.

Yet Germany is your best friend, and Poland is unfriendly?

I think that in the absence of the US, some kind of conflict -- not necessarily violent -- is inevitable between the European Union and the Russian Federation. You have to major powers pushing right up against one another.

NATO, in a way, delays this inevitable. Instead of worrying about the competition from the EU, the Russians are furious over their former vassal states entering into a collective defense pact with Germany, the UK, and the US so that Georgians can go fight in southern Afghanistan.

TErr said...

Yeah, we fought them a cupple times, so what? We shouldn' hold on the past. Besides that, we didnt fight german people, but the nazi regime. Since the end of the war we had excellent relations with Germany, it have been one of our major trade partners. It have always demonstrated pragmatic and relatively independent policy. We don't, and I think, we will not have any conflictive interests with them. While "our former vassals", including Poland, became the US vassals, and their policy towards Russia is governed by the new masters. For the last 17 years polish policy was generally russophobic, anti-russian and pro-US. Why should we sponsor that?

What inevitable conflict with the EU, what powers pushing? It's from the sphere of fantasies.

Furious over former vassal states? We dont give a sh... about them and whose vassals they want to be now. It's up to them to select a new sexual partner and a position to be f...d in - that's what freedom and independence is for. We are furious about the expansion of NATO towards our borders, missiles, radars and other crap. The fact, who is joining the block - vassals or not - is of no importance and seconary. If Georgians want to clean toilets in Afganistan or guard the barracks while the big boys are out - fine!

sarv said...

What conflict between the EU and Russia? EU consumers have the money to pay for energy, and Russia wiill continue to laugh all the way to the bank.

It's not like EU has to spend money on children. Anyway, the weather is getting warmer fast.

It's also naive to claim that Khordorkovsky (or Litvinenko) were squeaky clean. You don't amass such wealth in this world by being a Boy Scout.

If pushed far enough, anyone will play dirty. In Putin's case, he has a fetish for cloak-and-dagger assassinations and baroque persecutions. I'm sure he collects radioactive isotopes, toad toxins and curare vials like some people collect firearms, and takes cadmium supplements every morning. But this is just one man.

Anton said...
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Anton said...

´What makes you so sure that Germany will remain friendly towards you?´

As long as they need the oil, they´ll remain friendly towards ´us´.

Events of the first half of 20th century have nothing to do with EU-Russian relationship, Britain fought against Germany and today, their relationship has never been better.

I believe that the reason why Poland has been unfriendly and Germany hasn´t, is the fact that Germany has followed an independent, pragmatic agenda, the country would do better to co-operate with Russia...while on the other hand Polish political behavious has been determined from the white house, talking about the Kachinsky brothers.

Giustino said...

It have always demonstrated pragmatic and relatively independent policy. We don't, and I think, we will not have any conflictive interests with them. While "our former vassals", including Poland, became the US vassals, and their policy towards Russia is governed by the new masters.

This I don’t understand. Germany is just as much a part of NATO as Poland is. Yet Germany has an “independent” foreign policy and Poland doesn’t? Don’t these “US vassals” both have troops serving in Afghanistan?

For the last 17 years polish policy was generally russophobic, anti-russian and pro-US. Why should we sponsor that?

Soviet murder and mayhem pushed the families of Zbigniew Brzezinski (born in Warsaw) and Madeline Albright (born in Prague) to the US. Why wouldn’t Polish policies be pro-Washington and cooler towards Moscow, especially after the Cold War period?

And speaking of russophobia, perhaps Russia has a reciprocal case of polonophobia?

What inevitable conflict with the EU, what powers pushing? It's from the sphere of fantasies.

The Litvinenko and British Council scandals are unfortunately shades of things to come. Europeans might like cheap gas, but they don’t like getting radiation poisoning at the local cafe.

You can try and isolate these scandals by explaining it’s just those darn fascist Estonians or imperialist Britons, but if Russia continues to be run the way it is being run now, sooner or later it will wind up in Berlin and Paris,
and then it will be a “European” problem instead of a matter for bilateral relations.

Look at the UK. The next prime minister could be either David Miliband or David Cameron. Do you expect either to have a non-“russophobic” foreign policy?

Events of the first half of 20th century have nothing to do with EU-Russian relationship, Britain fought against Germany and today, their relationship has never been better.

The EU exists because of the events of the first half of the 20th century, as does the Russian Federation.

As long as they need the oil, they´ll remain friendly towards ´us´.

You mean as long as you have the oil.

Anton said...

This I don’t understand. Germany is just as much a part of NATO as Poland is. Yet Germany has an “independent” foreign policy and Poland doesn’t? Don’t these “US vassals” both have troops serving in Afghanistan?
----------
Germany is anything but an American Vassal. 3rd economy in the World, most populus nation in the EU and the driving force of Europe. If Germany has troops in Afghan, it doesn´t mean that it is not carrying out independent decissions, it doesn´t make it a vassal, it is called coalition of the willing for a reason... afterall Germany has refused and criticised the War in Iraq. Most importantly Germany has relatively good relations with Russia, in terms of economy and politics.


The EU exists because of the events of the first half of the 20th century, as does the Russian Federation
-----

Obviously, however someone started discussing the fact that Germany invaded Russia and Poland has never done so, as a factor determining present and future relations of those countries, which frankly makes no sense.


As long as they need the oil, they´ll remain friendly towards ´us´.

You mean as long as you have the oil.
-----
Well, no, I mean as long as Germany need the Russian oil, because Russia may have the oil but if Germany finds an alternative energy source, there may no longer be a need for such a friendship.

TErr said...

2 Giustino

It's sad that you don't understand it... I'll add a bit to Antons post.

NATO is a military block, directed mainly to mutual defence and security in the region, and that's it.

I'll repeat in simple words. Germany's foreign policy is mainly pragmatic and independent, and we always did find together. Poland's - directed by the US and russophobic, mainly conflictive with us. You can discuss the reasons, why it is so, but it will not change the current reality, which we make decisions upon.

As for polonophobia. There is no thing like that. Like I said before, we don't give a sh.. about Poland and Co. The elephant is walking, the little dog is barking, so what? This country has never been an issue in our media and in our society in general except for specific conflictive cases. Don't think that russians are dreaming about getting Poland back.

As for EU-Rus. conflict what you wrote is like Tom Clancey's fantasies. All those episodes with G.B. will remain as eposodes and cool down. We never been close friends with brits and things like that took place throughout the history. I think that in several years both countries will pretend it never happened.

Russians in Berlin ot Paris, cossacks? I hope that living in Estonia doesn't make one an anti-russian paranoid.

Anton said...

TErr,
Agree.
Good teamwork.

Giustino said...

Obviously, however someone started discussing the fact that Germany invaded Russia and Poland has never done so, as a factor determining present and future relations of those countries, which frankly makes no sense.

Now who is deluding themselves. You are basing the future on Russian relations with a unified Germany since 1989 and trying to just shrug off about one thousand years of Germanic and Russian interests conflicting.

I am just saying that Germany, historically, has been a rival of Russia's, you know Alexander Nevski and all of that.

I am not saying that German tanks will once again encircle St. Petersburg. I am arguing that the interests of both countries will not always coincide, and seeing as they are two powers located next to each other, it is inevitable that they will quarrel.

Poland and the US bogeyman make a convenient buffer zone, I suppose. Now you can worry about the arch-villain US, instead of seeing who is the real power in your neighborhood.

The Kaiser wanted to turn the Baltic into an "inland sea of the Reich." Trotsky imagined a "sea of socialist revolution." I guess the Kaiser won.

Russians in Berlin ot Paris, cossacks? I hope that living in Estonia doesn't make one an anti-russian paranoid.

Pretty close to my house is an apartment building where 250 Estonian prisoners -- men and women -- were executed in 1941 by the NKVD and dumped in the prison well.

This is the same NKVD to which Putin raises his glass. The murderers of a good number of relatives of people in this city. Why would I feel any other way about a Russia that toasts the Cheka?

Anton said...

Of course it is a possibility in the next thousand years, history repeats itself. Nevertheless I very much doubth there is a possibility of conflict between the two, particularly because of the fact that Europeans love living it large, and wouldn´t like a war to spoil their fun. On the other hand I agree with you that their interest will evntually collide, if you look at the bigger picture, very long- term in other words.



But don´t forget that GB, France and Germany have traditionaly been rival powers in Europe and the World, and look at the picture now, they´re living together pretty well. Would you then say that taking the historical rivaliry in to account, these nations will in the future will also have a quirrel of some sort?

I believe that this Cold War II people seem to be discussing here, is utter nonsense. What I also belive is that in the near future the West and Russia will overcome their differences to face China and the Islamic World. My personal opinion is that the West should rather have a strong Russia, rather than a weak Russia with the Muslim world and China on its boarder. Or you could get away with the thing the West did in WW II, just let Germany and Russia beat the crap out of each other and then basically come and pick up the pieces.

---------------

Why would I feel any other way about a Russia that toasts the Cheka?

By that you mean the government of Putin or the 145 mln of ordinary Russians?

Giustino said...

By that you mean the government of Putin or the 145 mln of ordinary Russians?

Russians do not bear collective guilt for the crimes of the NKVD. It would be comforting if their leadership recognized those crimes.

But don´t forget that GB, France and Germany have traditionaly been rival powers in Europe and the World, and look at the picture now, they´re living together pretty well.

These are formerly multi-national empires that have consolidated into 'nation states' (though still quite diverse).

Is that what Russia is becoming?

TErr said...

2 Giustino

Man, that sounds ridiculous - Alexander Nevsky and stuff... Though, may be that's the reason why we and germans do fine, for they finally learned a lesson - don't mess with Russia, be friends with us. It's better to trade with russians, fighting will always end the same way - our troops in enemy's capital.

How many storys (floors) does that building has? It should be like of 60 apartments, did they build that huge residential complexes in 1941? Yeah, the estonians can go ahead and keep mumbling about how bad russians were to them, forgetting that the same NKVD executed millions of russians to. Whom do they mumble about - Putin, his father, or me and my grandpa?
Russia now is the generation of completely different people, with different goals and mentality. You accept that or not, we dont really care, we do our own busyness. We dodn't mumble about germans or french, we leave by the present, but not by the ghosts of 60 years old past.

TErr said...

What do you mean by recognize - appologize, admit the guilt or recognize the unhuman nature of crimes? The last thing we did many times. But no nation or group desereves some special recognition - russians suffered equally as others!

Giustino said...

Yeah, the estonians can go ahead and keep mumbling about how bad russians were to them, forgetting that the same NKVD executed millions of russians to. Whom do they mumble about - Putin, his father, or me and my grandpa?

I think a central issue is that there has not been any justice, nor will there be any justice for these crimes. There will be no compensation to families destroyed, there will be few trials (only in the Baltics perhaps) of those who perpetrated the crimes. And so there will never be any closure or answer.

It's not like there's a "Simon Wiesenthal Center" hunting down veterans of the NKVD and putting them on trial. The criminals in this case probably receive a pension somewhere.

We dodn't mumble about germans or french, we leave by the present, but not by the ghosts of 60 years old past.

Travel to the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, or Poland. You'll find similar cases of 'germanophobia.' When you are smaller, and your future survival depends on the sanity of larger neighbors given to insanity, you develop such instincts.

As Peteris Cedrins recently put it:

Baltic "Russophobia" might be persistent, but it is neither abnormal nor irrational -- it is, in short, not a phobia but a rational wariness that is sometimes suffused with fear and can often include irrational elements, as simply as a little girl left alone with known serial rapists might sometimes get the willies.

Being neighbors, we can't avoid Russia, and Lucas makes it quite clear in this book that our willies are misunderstood. We live next to a country that tortured us and does not recognize that fact.

TErr said...

You're right, there WERE no justice at THAT time. But what you mean is that we are bad for not whipping ourselves, for not starting a witchhunt? That thus we do not recognize the crimes of Stalin? That's absurd!

What you say has neither legal, nor moral basis and technically impossible.

Hunting down like S.Wiez. only for serving in NKVD? Excuse me, they have substantial evidence, exact names and internationally approved legal basis. It's way different from Stalin and e.t.c.

Besides that your Estonia has an F-2 rating http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/s/content.asp?c=fwLYKnN8LzH&b=253162&ct=3761331

"...wariness (irrational in fact)that is sometimes suffused with fear and can often include irrational elements" - thats paranoya.

Giustino said...

Hunting down like S.Wiez. only for serving in NKVD? Excuse me, they have substantial evidence, exact names and internationally approved legal basis.

They are being treated as crimes against humanity, which they are. Unfortunately, even if you put old men on trial it doesn't really provide any justice. So maybe the Wiesenthal Center comparison is a poor one.

Sometimes I look at old photographs and wonder, what it is these people did to deserve to be arrested by foreign troops and sent to a GULAG camp to watch their friends and relatives worked until they died.

This was the 1940s. They had cars and radios and airplanes and "civilization". But no notions of being civilized could protect them from that brutality. And there will be no justice for the crimes committed against them.

It does not enrich ones positive feelings about the future of the world.

Besides that your Estonia has an F-2 rating

Do you really think that major Nazi collaborators would have managed to survive for 50 years undetected under a Soviet totalitarian government that put people in jail for owning farms?

And here we are talking about the Nazis again. That's the Third Reich's gift to the world. An irreversible lobotomy.

TErr said...

"Sometimes I look at old photographs and wonder, what it is these people did to deserve to be arrested by foreign troops and sent to a GULAG camp to watch their friends and relatives worked until they died..."

And so do I, though people I am talking about were arrested by those who by law were supposed to protect them. So who is going to recognize what before whom - a beaten one before another beaten one, if you see my point? It is senseless and stupid to go further in this discussion as well as looking on current Russia through the prism of that sad events and identify us with Stalin's regime and system.

Giustino said...

It is senseless and stupid to go further in this discussion as well as looking on current Russia through the prism of that sad events and identify us with Stalin's regime and system.

It is also 'senseless and stupid' for some countries to fear future German aggression. But, at some levels, they do, even in Britain where a football victory over Germany might earn the headline "blitzkrieg".

In Asian too they are paranoid about Japan. Why? You know very well why they have those fears.

Neal said...

Do you really think that major Nazi collaborators would have managed to survive for 50 years undetected under a Soviet totalitarian government that put people in jail for owning farms?

This is the point at a reception where I mutter something and hastily excuse myself. Indeed it is a bit of a weak spot.

But speaking frankly, Nazi-hunting is not without the use of bluff tactics. You have to come out firing with both barrels (for example, accusing Estonia of complete failure and F at prosecuting criminals).

Back when we were investigating war criminals who had escaped to the West, we collaborated quite closely with the KGB in order to get witness testimony.

We often had to pressure Soviet officials -- who were more interested only in having certain members of the emigre community extradited back to the USSR -- to produce witness testimony, often under deadlines.

Not all of it was reliable evidence, some of it was probably fabricated, but in the end, along with help from such institutions as Wiesenthal, we did prosecute a number of real war criminals among the political emigres. I would not say that the Soviets were that interested in bringing Nazis to justice.

Anton said...

´´These are formerly multi-national empires that have consolidated into 'nation states' (though still quite diverse).´´

Doesn´t mean that their interest will not collide in the future.

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´´It would be comforting if their leadership recognized those crimes.´´

As far as I am aware, the first dennounciation of the Purges took place during the Kruschev Era 1954, and since then nearly every Soviet and Russian administration has done so. Activities of the NKVD during the 40´s have been recognised by Yeltsin and Putin as immoral.

Or do you expect the Russian government to appologise every year??

23 of my distant relatives died during WWII, most of them were killed by the Germans, a number of them were sent to the Gulag having survived the War. Several of my relatives were killed by the NKVD. I´m Russian and I don´t expect an appology either from the German goverment, nor from Mr.Putin, because these people have nothing to do with those events. They have no moral or legal obligations, and yet both Governments have recognized the events as crime. The only man behind this, is Stalin and he has been dead for 55 years.

Baltic Russophobia. You know what the other side of Baltic Russophobia is??

Being held accountable for things you have nothing to do with. Because a lot of Estonians have been treating Russians like shit.
They hate us in that country, with a passion. They´ll treat you bad in a shop, they will occasionally make fun of you in the streets and when you call for an ambulance, it will come 30 minutes late, just because you have a slight Russian accent. Well, and on the faithful night of april 23rd, you´d get the shit kicked out of you, and get locked up in a terminal, just for walking by, or speaking Russian too loud. You turn the TV on and occasionally you´ll hear that the Russians are responsible for the occasional problem in this country.

And you get all of this, because 60 years ago, Stalin ordered to occupy the Baltics. That is the other side of Russophobia in the region.

It is not whataboutism, it is reality, something that a number of you haven´t got a clue about, or simply don´t mention.

Well, and if you call this whataboutism, you simply have nothing else to say.

Giustino said...

But speaking frankly, Nazi-hunting is not without the use of bluff tactics. You have to come out firing with both barrels (for example, accusing Estonia of complete failure and F at prosecuting criminals).

What am I supposed to say here? The Wiesenthal Center accused one individual of taking part in crimes against humanity during the German occupation.

The Estonian State Prosecutors Office opened an investigation and could not corroborate the Wiesenthal Center's accusations.

I personally cannot find any documentation on the Internet that describes the charges in detail.

All I have are press releases from the Wiesenthal Center. So I have nothing more to say, because I am forced to plead ignorance.

I am not a "Nazi hunter" nor a "NKVD hunter". I am just engaged in a dialog about collective guilt. Someone mentioned Russophobia -- I tried to explain that there are reasons why certain countries retain a fear of Russia. That's all.

I´m Russian and I don´t expect an appology either from the German goverment, nor from Mr.Putin, because these people have nothing to do with those events.

Not an apology: a recognition. A recognition that event X happened. So whatever year your foreign minister comes to Tallinn, if he ever does, he can bring some wreaths. He can bring the presidential regalia as well. There are a lot of graves to visit.

This would be positive for bilateral relations. The more Russian officials ignore, deny, or shrug it off, the longer Estonian right-wing forces stay in power. They benefit from your government's lack of empathy.

Anton said...

This would be positive for bilateral relations. The more Russian officials ignore, deny, or shrug it off, the longer Estonian right-wing forces stay in power. They benefit from your government's lack of empathy.


Agree. That would really do good for their bileteral relations. However on the other hand, I don´t understand how more of a recognition does Estonia need, as I said earlier that the presidential administrations of Russian Federation have recognised the events, publicly, formaly.


Personaly, I would like the Estonia-Russian relationship to move forward, however that will not happen until the two move those historical arguments aside.
And Estonia asking for that recognition every half a year doesn´t help much.

Anton said...

Until that changes, we have little chance of resisting the Kremlin - and even less of persuading ordinary Russians that their corrupt, cynical, brutal and incompetent rulers are harbingers of disaster, not triumph
--------------------

Here we go again, someone, who hardly knows Russia, tells the ordinary Russian how to live.

Giustino said...

Personaly, I would like the Estonia-Russian relationship to move forward, however that will not happen until the two move those historical arguments aside.

Something tells me that Estonia won't be moving any other monuments anytime soon. And, oh look, a new Russian-language college has just been established in Tallinn.

Anton said...

Ansip and Co. are still there, while the transit isn´t.

Susan said...

Although Russia has partly bowed to international pressure and released Aleksanyan to a hospital, it then ran true to form and refused to inform his family or lawyers of his location. They literally had to go from hospital to hospital to track him down. Now that they have, there has been no confirmation (after five days) that Aleksanyan is receiving the treatment he so desperately needs. All of this is in direct contravention of the European Court of Human Rights but Russia appears not to care.

Anton said...

The Estonians are at it again!!
Another soviet memorial removed, in Narva this time. Thats gonna do good for the bileteral relations...

Giustino said...

Narva City Council voted to remove that piece of proletarian art. The chairman is Mihhail Stalnuhhin.

And, oh look, the monument was to ethnic Estonian communists. It must be part of a huge ethnic division in society, I mean Estonians get weird looks in shops in Narva when they try to speak their native language.

I apologize for the sarcasm, but I hope you see how ridiculous the whole thing is. In Russia too they moved monuments last year -- to make way for shopping centers and highways.

Anton said...

Mate, the monument was in the memory of the short lived communist commune of Narva, during its occupation by the red army. Great work on the sarcasm there but get your facts right first.My remark was appropriate, because someone suggested that estonia was not planning to move any monuments....well and this one was moved after some 600 Narvans asked for it to be moved...

Agree, in Russia they did move monuments, and that is something I don't support at all, however in Russia no party has built its election campagin on removing the memorial...if a recall the issue in Estonia was debated for several months before the election

Giustino said...

Mate, the monument was in the memory of the short lived communist commune of Narva, during its occupation by the red army. Great work on the sarcasm there but get your facts right first.

... and the commune was led by Jaan Anvelt and Viktor Kingissepp, both Estonians. I am so glad we are here on Edward Lucas' blog discussing obscure Estonian history.

Giustino said...

because someone suggested that estonia was not planning to move any monuments....well and this one was moved after some 600 Narvans asked for it to be moved...

Forgive me. I don't expect Estonia to remove any controversial monuments. The two big controversial monuments -- the Lihula soldier and the Bronze Soldier -- are now in less conspicuous places.

Why do Russians even care? You could built a giant, inflatable phallus in homage to Mick Jagger in Kazan, and I might notice it on the evening news, but I wouldn't care. That's your business.

Anton said...

I do happen to be a citizen of Estonia, so I do care a bit.

Controversial monuments, the inflatable phallus is controversial, a memorial monument is hardly controversial..

But let´s not discuss this, really tired of talking about the monuments by now.


I´m suprised our ranting about Estonia hasn´t yet been deleted as SPAM..lol

Giustino said...

The reason I don't worry that much about Ansip & Co., is because I have faith in the back-biting nature of the Estonian people to sort the matter out over time.

That being said, I don't envy the position Ansip was in. He had to win an election, he had fiery Estonian nationalists pledging to blow Aljosha to smithereens, he had the old farts from Intermovement parading around in arm bands, adolescent Putinjugend raging against 'fascism', and a Russian government that kept daring him not to do it, even while the resurrect Soviet symbols at home.

I would not have liked to have been in his position.

Anton said...

I won´t disagree, however Ansip and Co are simply, very stupid and ignorant, and they still have several years of power to go. That however bothers me very little, I fortunately no longer live in Estonia.

Ansip´s position is indeed very worrying, I wouln´t want to be in his shoes, however he brought everything upon himslef, he is a victim of his own actions. I don´t sympathise the man, however as long as he has a grip on the Media, he will remain in a relatively good position. Because the newspapers do brainwash the nation with pure bullshit, combination of bias and distraction from actual problems.
There are a lot of difficulties ahead, especially if the Government keeps on refusing to aknowledge the fact that, there are serious economic problems.

Giustino said...

I won´t disagree, however Ansip and Co are simply, very stupid and ignorant, and they still have several years of power to go.

They've made their bed. Let them sleep in it.

That however bothers me very little, I fortunately no longer live in Estonia.

Like any place else doesn't have its own problems. Where do they not have riots? Paris, Copenhagen, Berlin? Everywhere in Europe it's the same. Young people take out their frustration by burning cars.

There are a lot of difficulties ahead, especially if the Government keeps on refusing to aknowledge the fact that, there are serious economic problems.

Every economist will tell you that, and I am sure those economic problems will help give birth to the next government. But that's the beauty of democracy -- the system does work, even if some people get screwed along the way.