Tag Archives: Ukraine

Russia vetoes probe into Malaysian airliner crash

So far as admissions of guilt are concerned, this one ranks with the best of them: Russia, one of the five permanent members of the United Nations’ Security Council, vetoed the idea of creating an investigative tribunal to probe the Malaysian airline flight MH17 catastrophe.

The aircraft was shot down while flying at about 11,000 kilometres above the Donbass region of Ukraine. Most of the evidence available thus far points to Russia’s involvement.

The incident cost the lives of 298 people. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Security Council representative, was the only person present to reject the tribunal plan out of hand. He didn’t have to explain anything. Neither do China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States have to explain why they veto any so-called “substantive” Security Council resolution, and the decision which resolution is substantive and which isn’t is theirs, too.

Here are the rules: the permanent members can abstain (not vote, that is), or make themselves scarce while a vote is underway (thus, not vote, again), but these moves haven’t got the effect of a veto. Only a majority vote against it or a veto can stop a Security Council resolution in its tracks.

And only the five permanent members, as established at the creation of the United Nations in 1945, have the right of veto.

Well, nobody has ever said that the United Nations is a democratic body, after all.

Here are the basic facts: 11 of the 15 Security Council members voted for the resolution submitted jointly by Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands and Ukraine. China, Angola and Venezuela abstained. Russia had been saying all along that the resolution would not pass. Now, it made sure of it.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte went so far as to telephone Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, to ask him to reconsider. To no avail.

Why, oh why?

Russia’s official reaction is simple: the tribunal would develop into an instrument of anti-Russian propaganda, and besides, you’d have to find the guilty party (parties) first, and judge them only after you’ve found them.

This has been known for decades as the Andrei Yanuarevich Vyshinsky theory of jurisprudence: once you’re brought before a court, it means you’re guilty.

Presumption of innocence? HUH? The accuser has to prove the accused’s guilt? HUH? The accused is innocent until proven guilty? What the heck are you talking about?

Vyshinsky’s approach worked splendidly during Josef Vissarionovich Stalin’s trials. True, some would later claim the trials were only based on occasional errors but, otherwise, Stalin was right, and so was, by extension, Vyshinsky.

Of course, what Russia’s behaviour caused is known as the boomerang effect. Thus Malaysia’s transportation minister, Liow Tiong Lai: “(This) sends a dangerous message about the impunity perpetrators of this heinous crime can enjoy.”

U.S. Security Council Ambassador, Samantha Power, said Russian veto will only bring more pain to victims’ families. Left unspoken: they would logically link their pain to Russia’s unwillingness to help find the perpetrators.

Russia’s Churkin said establishing a tribunal would have been premature. He said his country has always been prepared to cooperate in a full, independent and objective investigation.

Investigators who had been probing the crash since it happened have looked at the latter statement askance. What they have encountered so far has been anything but Russia’s cooperation.

Basic debate

The Malaysian airliner, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, came crashing down in the area of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists last July.

Experts say the plane was brought down by a ground-to-air missile launched in a Russian separatist-controlled area. They said it was a weapon nobody else but the Russian army had in its arsenal at the time.

Russia revealed recently a digital video recording that, it says, proves the plane was shot down using an air-to-air missile, launched from a Ukrainian fighter jet.

One minor mistake of major proportions: experts analyzed the digital video file and found conclusive evidence that it was fake.

Another Russian theory: Ukrainian army launched the ground-to-air missile.

Another minor oversight: the Ukrainians had no access to this kind of weaponry.

And, of course, a recently revealed video that shows the pro-Russian separatists inspecting the debris, exclaiming, oh, but we didn’t know this was a civilian plane, and similar words to that effect, isn’t helping the official Russian cause, either.

Ukrainian authorities, aware that the Russians would not accept any evidence they would present, gave up their right of investigation and transferred it to the Dutch. So, the office for airline safety of the Netherlands has received all of the debris, and has been trying to find the reasons for the crash. Its job is not to find the perpetrators. The Dutch attorney general’s office has been trying to find those guilty. It put together a commission that includes experts from Ukraine and the countries whose citizens had been among the victims.

There are no Russians on this body, and this makes Moscow even more paranoid.

Considering Russia has for centuries acted on the premise “it’s us against them,” and “everybody’s against us, and we know it,” no wonder its government is openly suspicious.

It remains to be seen what the Kremlin is going to think, say and do if Ukraine’s government decides to propose the formation of a similar tribunal at its earliest convenience at the United Nations’ General Assembly. To win, they would require just two-thirds of the vote, and Russia would be able to vote in any shape or form, but without the right of a veto.

The only problem: none of this is going to bring the 298 victims back.

Western mainstream media play into the hands of Russian police cover-up

The sheer and unadulterated naïveté of western mainstream media borders on – and now we have two options. It’s either a frightful lack of education, or an even more frightful stupidity.

Here’s the case: the most important (and knowledgeable) Russian opposition politician, Boris Nemtsov, is murdered just as he is on his way to a meeting at which he plans to reveal a few of the dirtiest secrets of the current Russian administration. That administration is led by a former high-ranking officer of the former Soviet secret service and espionage agency, the KGB. The agency, by the way, is still well, even though a couple of decades has passed since the official end of communism in the country. It exists under a few different names, but it still keeps the same offices, and its bosses are the same guys who used to work there under the one-party system. These people are all faithful to their country’s president: he’s one of them, always has been, too, after all, and it’s been at his pleasure that they had been allowed them to keep their jobs.

In any crime, investigators ask one simple question first. In Latin it sounds like this: cui bono? English translation (verbatim): to whose benefit?

In the Boris Nemtsov murder, the answer simple and straightforward: Vladimir Putin benefits. Judging by what Boris Nemtsov had already revealed, his forthcoming revelations were expected to mention unmentionable atrocities committed by the current regime. The worst part about it for Putin and his gang: Boris Nemtsov’s accusations have always been perfectly documented. One could not expect it to be otherwise in the current situation.

Whether we’ll ever find out (in general or in any detail) what Boris Nemtsov planned to say remains to be seen. The only thing we know for a fact is that it was explosive enough for someone to risk killing him.

Suspicions turned towards the Kremlin within seconds. But Russian police investigators – all of them in the service of their government and knowing that it is their duty to defend it at all cost – began forwarding all kinds of theories within minutes.

Such as: Boris Nemtsov upset a number of Ukrainian politicians because of his critical views of the developments in that country. They omitted to say, of course, that Nemtsov was against the Russian separatists whom he compared to Konrad Henlein’s Sudeten Germans. That was the group that had helped dismantle the former Czechoslovakia before the Second World War. They also, somehow, forgot that Nemtsov went so far as to compare Putin’s rhetoric to that Adolf Hitler when he defended the Sudeten Germans’ rights.

As soon as someone realized that these omissions weren’t helpful, the theory changed. Muslim terrorists has become the theory du jour. Doesn’t matter whence, and doesn’t matter why, either. Everybody is scared of the Islamists (and rightfully so), why not add some fuel to these flames?

Now, Russian police reports say, they’ve got some people from Chechnya in their hands, and the explanation is obvious: the Chechens hate Putin and they wanted to give him a black eye by murdering his opponent and having the world blame Putin.

How perfectly elegant!

The Chechens, of course, do hate everything that is Russian and everyone who is Russian. And why not? The methods the Russian military use to install Pax Ruthenia, or peace as the Russians prefer it to be, give ruthlessness a brand new meaning. The Islamic State murderers could take their correspondence courses from the Russians in Chechnya.

It is quite possible that the Chechens now in Russian custody will admit to cunningly planning and executing the plan to kill Boris Nemtsov. Russian police do not have to put up with nosy journalists who would expose their torture methods. Most of those who’d dare are either dead, killed in inexplicable circumstances, or silent, or in hiding.

In any case, the Islamist theory doesn’t hold water: this is not their modus operandi. This is not the way they do business. Beheading Vladimir Putin in front of Al-Jazeera television cameras would be the way they would get back at Vladimir Putin. Not murdering his opponent to give him a black eye.

All of this is pretty obvious to anyone with a modicum of knowledge and experience in ways how the Russians do business.

Not the Western mainstream media.

The arrested Chechen guy’s sister says – for the record, too – that all the signs point to the Kremlin. Judging by what she’s saying and how she’s saying it, she seems to know a thing or two about what she’s talking about.

Most Western mainstream media ignore her altogether. Those mainstream media that do not ignore her treat her statement as a biased opinion. We’re all entitled to our opinions, no matter how biased or stupid, right? So, this is the way they dismiss her.

What gets the major play? The Russian police statement.

There’s a world of difference between how the police see themselves in, say, Canada, and what role they have in Russia. In Russia, it is their duty to do their government’s bidding. In Canada, it is their duty to uphold the law, not the government of the day.

Same holds for the U.S.

Is the sheer and unadulterated naïveté of western mainstream media a sign of a frightful lack of education or an even more frightful stupidity?

It seems that it’s the combination of both.

Heavens forbid!

KHL loses three teams, finds three replacements elsewhere

One day you’re up, fighting for cup victory in game seven, and the next day you’re gone.

Well, to be less dramatic: it took a few weeks for Lev Praha of the Russian KHL to start gasping for life. First, they lost to Mike Keenan-led Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Gagarin Cup finals. Now comes the news its shareholder owners Yevgeni Myshkovskii and Petr Speychal haven’t got enough in the kitty to continue. The club’s budget last season said the club needed $40 million (Canadian) to operate.

According to news out of Prague, no such money is forthcoming, and the club will have to fold.

The owners issued a statement forthwith, denying they are quitting. They are dealing with the situation, they said, and next Monday would be the deadline for a definitive answer. Until then, the owners added in an official statement, all news about the club’s demise are pure speculation.

As (wrongly) attributed to Mark Twain, and paraphrased, news of their death was greatly exaggerated. Except, the reports come from a region known for yet another pearl of wisdom: don’t believe any rumours until they’ve been officially denied.

Just to make matters more involved for the KHL, the venerable Spartak Moscow is headed to the poorhouse, too. In addition, Donbass Donetsk won’t be able to play because of the tense political (and military) situation in Ukraine. Donetsk, after all, is one of the neuralgic points in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Here’s the main issue: for whatever reason, Russian oil and natural gas giant Gazprom has decided to cut its epenses on professional hockey in half. Gazprom just happens to be KHL’s main sponsor. To what degree sponsoring the KHL made any economic sense to Gazprom in the first place is hard to fathom. After all, Team Russia’s main sponsor at international events is another Russian company. One that exports weapons. So says its logo on Team Russia’s official jerseys.

Of course, says the KHL, no need to worry: we have Finland’s Jokerit Helsinki joining as of next season, and a team from Sochi, and another one from Togliatti. The former club, HC Sochi, a.k.a. Sochi Leopards, has former NHL player Vyacheslav (Slava) Butsayev as its coach. The latter, known as Lada, used to be Torpedo. It was kicked out of the KHL in 2011 because it didn’t have a good enough arena. It was renamed Lada because the Soviets used to build their version of the Italian car, Fiat, under the nickname of Lada, in a local car factory.

So far as Lev Praha is concerned, the first signs of trouble emerged earlier this spring. According to early June quotes from Rashid Khabibulin, the team’s sports manager, there were issues when the club tried to negotiate a new lease deal with Prague’s O2 Arena. He didn’t specify what issues then, but now, say some Czech insiders, it is becoming obvious what they were. Lev wanted to pay less than what the arena owners had been asking for.

Several Lev players, approached by the media, tried to put brave faces on: it’s not official yet, they would all say, and they hope the owners will find a way.

Only the owners’ bankers know whether this optimism is justified or not.

And they’re not telling.

Will Russia honour its former criminal leaders?

Who cares that Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin have committed crimes against humanity?

Vladimir Putin, their successor in the Kremlin, certainly doesn’t.

Talking to a Soviet war veteran during D-Day commemorations in Normandy, Putin said it would be a good idea to have a referendum to decide whether to rename Volgograd to its original historic name of Stalingrad. That it used to be Tsaritsyn before it would become Stalingrad never seemed to have crossed his mind.

The communists in St. Petersburg (or Petrograd in Russian) happily jumped on board. Vladimir Dmitriyev, their leader at St. Petersburg city hall, said it would be a splendid idea to rename his city, too. It would become Leningrad once again. Russia’s communit leader Gennadii Zyuganov agreed wholeheartedly.

The movement to name those cities after two of the three greatest war criminals (Adolf Hitler was the third one) of the 20th century has begun gaining strength. The forthcoming celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, coming next year, have given the plan yet another impetus.

“Two hero-cities, Leningrad and Stalingrad, aren’t on the maps of the world,” said Dmitriyev, the communist fraction chief in the St. Petersburg city hall. “It is necessary to renew the historical justice.”

Putin’s office would try to soften the impact Putin’s words had. His spokesman, Dmitriy Peskov, said Putin never said it was his wish to have those two cities renamed. This contradicted his chief’s outspoken statement to the effect that it would be worth the country’s while to put the question to the citizenry in a referendum. The backpedalling was understandable. Several influential parliamentarins in the Russian Duma expressed outrage over the idea. Except: some of the local politicians have already announced they were planning to use the “historic” names on some occasions, especially those that are linked to the war in one way or another.

It was Peter the Great, Russia’s Tsar at the time, who founded St. Petersburg in 1703. The name was translated into its Russian version (Petrograd) in 1914, and in 1924, following communist leader Vladimir Lenin’s passing, it became Leningrad. When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, the authorities of the day brought the original name back.

It would take several years for Stalingrad to become Volgograd. Then-Soviet leader, Nikita Khruschev, revealed that Stalin was a mass murderer in a then-secret speech at the communist party congress in 1956. Stalingrad, the place that saw one of the major battles waged during the World War II, became Volgograd only in 1961.

Why is this an important issue?

Vladimir Lenin brought the criminal ideology of Marxism to Russia and led the overthrow of a democratically elected government in October of 1917.

Some people believe to this day that he was a relatively benign ruler, that it was Stalin who turned the Soviet Union into one great death camp.

Not so.

It was Lenin who instituted state-sponsored terror in his country. In fact, Lenin said publicly he would do it. And he did. The so-called Extraordinary Commission to Fight the Counter-revolution was his invention. It was the infamous Cheka, that would develop into GPU (Glavnoie politicheskoie upravlenie – Main political administration), then NKVD (Narodnyi kommissariat vnutrennikh del – National commissariat of internal affairs), through the ministry of state security (MGB) all the way to the still-feared KGB (Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti – Committee for state security).

It was Lenin who personally ordered that his new government start building concentration camps all over the country. Under Lenin’s specific orders, they were supposed to deal with those who had the gall to look askance at the new rule and rulers. In fact, Lenin coined the name, too.

It was Lenin who personally ordered the massacre of the last Tsar’s entire family in what used to be Ekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk under the Soviet rule, and Ekaterinburg now again.

Stalin, Lenin’s successor, would oversee the deaths of more than 20 million people, most of them perfectly innocent of any crime.

Stalin was the guy who ordered that, in order to subdue Ukraine, the country be exposed to a famine that would kill millions.

The list of crimes against humanity perpetrated by these two would take volumes of historical data to describe. Suffice it to say that calling them criminals is the nicest thing one can say about them.

And yet, here come efforts to rehabilitate them, to make them look like great leaders whose lives’ deeds have put the world on the path to progress.

Progress, indeed.

The strangest thing about it all is that not many people elsewhere in the world would murmur a single word in protest. That is, if they even ever registered the strange goings on in Russia.

Just imagine the uproar if someone suggested that Braunau am Inn, a small Austrian town that had the misfortune of being Hitler’s birthplace, be renamed into, say, Hitlerstadt.

Putin’s Russia re-defines chutzpah

So far as gall is concerned, Russian government seems to have perfectly unlimited reserves of it, and then some.

The latest example: Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s minister of foreign affairs, demands “legal guarantees” (whatever THAT means) that Ukraine will remain neutral and will not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

As a reminder: NATO is a military alliance, formed in 1949. Canada is one of its founding members.

Growing potential for Soviet post-Second World War expansionism, seen as a major threat by the West, was the original idea behind the treaty. The Soviets, having promised their wartime Allies they would permit free elections in countries they had “liberated” would end up holding elections that were anything but free. Thus, they created a group of countries, called originally “people’s democracies,” only to become a network of communist dictatorships. Since the Soviets were giving all kinds of signs it was not their intention to stop there, the West acted to instill a bit of fear in them and, at least, slow down (if not stop) the Soviet expansionist plans.

The Soviets hated NATO with a vengeance that would have deserved better things.

Now, NATO has committed an unpardonable act: considering Ukraine a candidate for membership, it told the Russians to stay within their borders and stop violating Ukraine’s borders.

On and off

What has happened is this: Ukraine became a NATO membership candidate in 2008. The pro-Russian government of president Viktor Yanukovych, elected in 2010, said it would rather that Ukraine remained non-aligned. Yanukovych’s party changed the country’s policy in an internal document dealing with its political orientation, but it never officially withdrew Ukraine from NATO.

The important thing to remember here: Yanukovych is the guy deposed from his presidency following his about-face when it came to the European Union (EU), and he is, at the same time, the guy who claims he’s Ukraine’s president still, making these pronouncements from the safety of Russian government’s security installations.

Russian government has been acting in the traditional way, maintaining what have been in fact Tsarist imperial policies. These have included hostility toward the West, in general, and the overwhelming wish to have secure buffer zones between the West and Russia proper, in particular.

These policies have existed under the Tsars, they flourished under the communists, and they are alive and well under Vladimir Putin. The fact that they are somewhat outmoded, indeed, stupid, even, now, doesn’t matter. What matters is Mama Rossia (Mother Russia), overseeing her holdings and making sure they are safe (and she is safe doing so).

That one needs to twist historical facts from time to time in order to do so? So what? That the claim that, for example, Crimea has been always Russian and today’s government is only restoring it to its rightful owner is a bloody lie? Who cares? We stole it in the 18th century from its previous owners, and that makes it ours. And if you don’t like it, tough.

But now NATO has mentioned that there is this Article 5 of the treaty. It says the Alliance will help any of its members in case they suffer an attack from the outside. The article makes no difference between full and candidate memberships. And NATO told Russia it is perfectly prepared to meet its obligations.

Whether it will, or would, now, that’s a different question. It could lead to a nuclear exchange. Who would win?

Neither Russia, nor the West, is the answer.

And who would lose?

Here, the answer is less clear, and you can make cases for at least three scenarios (one side loses, the other side loses, they both lose).

That humankind in general would lose, that seems to be nobody’s concern.

NATO and EU: different animals

Russia, in any case, sees that NATO is not as wishy-washy a body like the European Union. That group, formed originally as a body to support the good old continent’s economy, has become a centralized and bureaucratized fossil, run by aging Maoists, Trotskyites and other such political nobodies, with imperial ambitions of their own.

So, NATO – without any sign of diplomatic delicacy – is picking up the stick known as Article 5. That is giving Russia pause. But not much of it, obviously. If Ukraine says it wants no help from NATO, their goes the stick.

But how to achieve that?

Yanukovich seems like a spent force as a Ukrainian president.

But nothing beats using insurgents who say the West has devilish plans with and for Ukraine, stoking up all kinds of more-or-less traditional phobias and paranoias. These guys then attack legitimate Ukrainian government offices, proclaiming this or that region of the country independent and concluding their declarations with calls for help from Mother Russia. We have seen this kind of scenario played somewhere before: oh, yes, Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring of 1968.

In any case, who is going to prove the insurgents were not, in fact, working for Russia’s intelligence forces? The West can refuse to recognize the referendum results in Crimea that said most of its citizens wanted to be Russian. The West can refuse to recognize Crimea’s brand new constitution that says the place has always been and will always remain Russian.

What else can the West do?

In theory, a lot, coming close to military confrontation but not crossing that fateful line.

In real life? Not much. It has lost its willingness and, as a consequence, ability to stand up and be counted. Whether it’s because the West’s hands aren’t too clean, either, that’s another question. It is true, for example, that the West has compromised a huge chunk of its integrity when it only tried to whisper that the atrocities the Russians had been committing in Chechnya were beyond unacceptable. Putin told the West’s leaders, in no uncertain words, too, that he is saving the world from what he termed was “green danger,” meaning Islam. To the extent that, indeed, all kinds of Islamic fundamentalist groups have been using the war in Chechnya as training grounds to prepare their men for sundry methods of combat.

Silence that deafens

What did Western leaders do? To their credit, they didn’t say, oh, ah, if that’s the case, then, pray proceed. To their discredit, they didn’t say anything else, either. Their silence confirmed what Putin had been saying (in Russian tradition) all along: the end justifies the means.

Not that the West hadn’t known this saying before, and from other sources, too. After all, it has been attributed to Niccolo Machiavelli. And he himself stole it from ancient Greek playwright Sophocles. In his play, Electra, Sophocles said (in verbatim translation): “The end excuses any evil.”

But Russian president Putin has taken his administration’s gall to new levels. He’s come close to chutzpah, which is gall to end all galls.

Putin wrote a threatening letter to EU leaders, telling them to mind their own bloody business, and he can turn off deliveries of Russian oil and natural gas to Ukraine any time he pleases, and then, where are you?

He said that Ukraine owes Russia money for some of the stuff that had been already delivered, and it would be only legitimate on Russia’s part to stop delivery until all accounts are settled.

Russian ITAR-TASS news agency published the full text of the letter Thursday, and, on that same day, a U.S. State Department spokesthingie announced that Putin’s threat bordered on blackmail.

Technically, it didn’t. You’ve got to pay your bills, or your phone company or energy suppliers are within their rights to deny you service.

Logically, it did: Putin’s timing defined it.

But, and that was the funniest thing, upon hearing about the U.S. reaction, Putin told all and sundry that nice people don’t read mail that isn’t addressed to them.

And this from a former Soviet KGB spy whose job it had been to do just that!

Combined with his foreign minister open interference in another country’s policies, this goes to show the West should have told Russia to behave or else long ago.

It’s getting too late now.

Russia quite open about its Ukrainian “final solution”

 

Nothing beats giving away things that aren’t yours in the first place.

The Polish government has received a letter the other day. It came from Russian Duma (lower house of Russian parliament). It offered Poland five western Ukrainian regions: dear brothers, you’re free to go and get them.

To be precise: Russian Duma’s Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii has offered that Poland might as well annex the five western-most regions of Ukraine.

Not that such sentiment was unexpected: Zhirinovskii has been talking about the idea since the beginning of March.

But that he would send such a blatant invitation to the Polish government, on his office letterhead, to boot, to make sure the Poles treat it as an official offer, that’s what shocked the Poles no end.

Tomasz Nałęcz, advisor to Polish president Bronisław Komorowski, told the web site gazeta.pl his boss thought this must have come from a particularly sick mind.

Polish foreign affairs ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski confirmed to the TVP network that, indeed, the letter had been received.

“It’s so weird nobody is taking it seriously,” Wojciechowski added.

Asked what reply might Zhirinovskii expect from the Poles, Wojciechowski told TVP that it would be a polite receipt that wouldn’t mention the topic at all.

Something like this:

Dear Sir,

Yours of … (fill in the date) at hand.

Thanks for your communication.

Sincerely, etc.

Here are the regions that Zhirinovskii describes as “non-Ukrainian”: Volyn, Lviv, Ternpyl, Ivano-Frankivsk, Rivno. All of them in Western Ukraine, all of them bound to other countries throughout their history.

A joke about these parts used to make rounds. Here’s how it went: there was a census going on, and officials knocked on an old guy’s door. Where were you born? Austro-Hungarian Empire. Where did you go to school? Czechoslovakia. Where did you get your apprenticeship papers? Poland. Which pension are you receiving now? Soviet. Man, said one of the census officials, you must have been moving all over the place, right? Me? asked the old guy. Not at all, I’ve never left Mukachevo in my life!

Call to vote

But, to get back to Zhirinovskii: in his letter, he suggested that Polish citizens ought to have a referendum to decide whether they want to annex those five regions. Not one word about asking the people who actually live there.

Democracy in action, so to speak.

According to Russian sources, Zhirinovskii didn’t stop there. He offered two other parts of Ukraine to Romania (Chernovtsy) and Hungary (Transcarpathian Mountains).

That would leave eastern Ukraine that would be annexed by Russia, and a basic rump that Zhirinovskii called “central Ukraine.”

Presidential advisor Nałęcz said Zhirinovskii’s letter is cause enough to have him thoroughly checked by a psychiatrist.

Of course, Poland is rather sensitive about any talk about annexations and redistributions. Her history is rich with such occurrences. The last one came courtesy Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. When Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, had the gall to mention this in the presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin, he was in for a surprise: Putin went ballistic. He yelled, and publicly, too, that the Poles should keep their mouths shut, that they tore a piece of Czechoslovakia off on the day the Nazis invaded it. He bullied Tusk like nobody’s business.

So, it seems, the Russians are quite sensitive about this point, too, except, they take a dim view of anyone who reminds them of their past sins.

All of this follows, of course, on the heels of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The official explanation, one that resembled Adolf Hitler’s explanations about his annexation of the so-called Sudetenland areas of former Czechoslovakia, said Russia just wanted to keep the poor Russians who live in Crimea safe.

The funniest part?

Crimea , if the Russians want to pull rank based on their view of history, hasn’t been Russian in the first place. It was annexed in the 18th by Russian Tsars.

An excursion into history

For all we know, Crimea used to be known as Tauric Khersonese (Peninsula) and it used to be part of Greece. Note, for example, that even today many of its local names remind all and sundry of their Greek origins: Sevastopol, Simferopol, for instance.

It became a multicultural paradise by the Middle Ages: its population consisted of Scythians (Scytho-Cimmerians, Tauri), Greeks, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Kipchaks and Khazars.

Following these happy times, Crimea fell to Kievan Rus and partly, to a remarkable degree, to Byzantium. It became victim to the Mongol invasions afterwards (remember the Golden Horde, anyone?).

The Venetians and the Genovese would enter the picture in the 13th century, only to be replaced by the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire in the 15th to 18th centuries.

Have you detected any Russian presence yet?

It would come only with the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Empire in 1783.

Uneasy locals

People in these areas remember their history as if it was happening today. So, no wonder Crimean Tatars want a referendum about their future in the region. After all, one of the new Crimean government’s first steps was to ask the Tatars to move from some of the areas they had traditionally considered theirs.

Considering the Tatars had been living in Crimea long before any Russians even heard of the peninsula, no wonder.

No wonder, either, that the Tatars recalled what Josif Stalin did to them, deporting them to some of the harshest parts of the Soviet Union (in the deserts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan). Stalin suspected some of them might have collaborated with the Nazis when the Germans got to Crimea during the Second World War.

Proof? Who needs proof? The Vozhdj (Leader) said so. Proof enough.

So, even less wonder, then, that the Tatars want some reassurances. President Putin’s recent admission that what Stalin had done to them wasn’t really cricket does not sound like reassurance enough.

A photograph has been making rounds on the web in recent days. It shows Russia’s Putin and U.S. president Barack Hussein Obama in conversation. Obama asks his Russian counterpart: “So, what are your plans now that you have annexed Crimea?” And Putin replies: “Well, come to think of it, Alaska used to be Russian, too.”

Scared yet?

And does that Zhirinovskii letter still come as a shock out of clear blue sky?

Donetsk would rather move across the English Channel

Once British, always British. And that is why Donetsk, a major Ukrainian city, should secede from Ukraine and join Great Britain forthwith.

HUH?

Indeed. Thus a group of young Donetsk citizens. And they DO have a case.

A British entrepreneur named John Hughes founded the city in 1869.

Hughes hailed from Wales, and the place he considered best to expand to in Ukraine was right in the middle of a huge and rich coal mining region, with steel foundries all over the place.

Pronounce the founder’s last name. Got it? Now, read the original name of Donetsk: Yuzovka. Sound similar? That’s because it was meant to be.

And that is why the Donetsk youngsters took to VKontakte (http://vk.com/), a European version of Facebook, to declare their intentions and start a petition for a binding referendum.

VKontakte says it is the largest European social network with more than a 100 million active users. It runs in three language versions: English, Russian and Ukrainian. Your pick.

Anyhow, organizers wrote (verbatim translation from the Russian version): “Donetskists! English brothers! This is the deciding moment!

“ONLY YOU WILL DECIDE WHERE YOUR CHILDREN WILL LIVE AND WHICH LANGUAGE THEY WILL BE SPEAKING!

“As is well known, Yuzovka (Donetsk) is truly an English town, founded by the great English entrepreneur John Hughes. The Russians have been lying to us for more than 100 years that this was originally a Russian town, while the Ukrainians have kept saying it was Ukrainian.

“We demand a referendum to decide that Yuzovka returns to her mother country, Great Britain.

“Hail John Hughes and his city! God save the Queen!”

Here’s the original version of their declaration, as published on a regional news site, Donbass.ua:

Дончане! Братья-англичане! Наступил решающий момент!

ТОЛЬКО ТЕБЕ РЕШАТЬ, ГДЕ БУДУТ ЖИТЬ ТВОИ ДЕТИ И НА КАКОМ ЯЗЫКЕ ОНИ БУДУТ ГОВОРИТЬ!

Как известно, Юзовка (“Донецк”) исконно английский город, основанный великим промышленником-англичанином – Джоном Юзом. На протяжении более сотни лет русские обманывали нас, что это исконно-русский город, а украинцы – что украинский!

Мы требуем референдума по возвращению Юзовки в своё исконное лоно – в состав Великой Британии!

Слава Джону Юзу и его городу! Боже, храни Королеву!”

Within a day of the referendum demand, some seven thousand Donetsk citizens cast their votes, with more than 60 per cent saying they were all for joining Great Britain, and about 16 per cent saying they would like to become something of an autonomous region under British mandate, with English as its official language.

Donbass.ua is of the view the entire matter has been meant as a satirical spoof on what’s been going on in and around Donetsk in recent weeks and months.

And there’s been a lot going on. According to the Russian news site, newsru.com, there have been demonstrations staged by some Russian nationalists. They want the southeastern Ukrainian region to join Russia, just like Crimea had. The pro Russian crowd clashed with the defenders of what they describe as “unified Ukraine” about two weeks ago. According to the latest accounts, there was at least one casualty, but nobody’s sure: news coverage is based on which side the particular journalist is reporting for.

According to newsru.com, the eastern  part of Ukraine has supported the recently deposed president Victor Yanukovich. In fact, the site reports, the Donetsk regional parliament has formed a working group to prepare a referendum about joining Russia.

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s office claims his government has no plans to invade and swallow eastern Ukraine. Nobody believes THAT statement. Everybody has grown up knowing they must not believe any rumours until those rumours have been officially denied.

Thus the movement to join Great Britain, instead. Funny, ridiculous, even, as it may sound to the uninitiated, there is a serious note behind the whole thing.

People of Donetsk remember their history, too. They are aware that Donetsk, now a two-million-citizen city, lost its original name (Yuzovka) in 1922, to honour Josif Vissarionovich Stalin: it was renamed Stalino. It got its current name in 1961, because Stalin’s name became anathema following revelations of his crimes against humanity in general and the peoples of what used to be the Soviet Union in particular.

People of Donetsk also know that their raw material resources and industrial base make their region a tidbit the Russians would be more than happy to welcome into their empire.

Russian KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) Vladimir Shalayev announced the other day that the Donetsk hockey team will not be playing its playoffs home games at home but, rather, in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. He cited unrest in the region. Players’, referees’ and audiences’ safety and security were of paramount concern, he said.

Consider the source: Shalayev used to be a high-ranking Soviet state security (KGB) officer. So was his country’s president, Putin. And if there is anyone Putin trusts implicitly and explicitly, it’s his former KGB colleagues.

So, little wonder some people of Donetsk would go to any lengths to avoid becoming part of the all-mighty Mother Russia.

Alas, no word yet from either the Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street. If they still believe the whole thing about Donetsk joining Great Britain is a joke, they should start thinking of beginning to think again.

KHL drops playoffs games in Ukraine

Political tensions in Ukraine have dragged professional hockey in Russia’s KHL into the mix.

Lev Praha is to play Donbass Donetsk in KHL’s quarterfinals. But KHL management has decided it would not be safe for either the teams or their fans if the games took place anywhere in Ukraine.

“It’s obvious we won’t play in Ukraine,” KHL vice-president Vladimir Shalayev told the R-Sport.ru website Tuesday.

“We’re now debating where to play. We want to hear what Donbass has to say, they have the right to choose.”

Sources say that it seems at the moment that Slovan Bratislava’s arena will be the venue.

Bratislava is the capital of the Republic of Slovakia.

Lev Praha’s spokesman Jan Rachota told Czech website iDNES.cz it looked as if the series would be played in Donetsk, but “negotiations between Donbass management and the KHL are ongoing. We await their decision.”

It doesn’t matter where they will be playing, Czech club’s players said.

“No change, so far as we are concerned,” Lev’s forward Petr Vrana told the team’s website. “We’re playing two games at home and then we’re going on the road, no matter where that’s going to be.”

After all, “We all know what’s going on in Ukraine,” Vrana said, “so I understand they made the call because of security concerns. Of course,” he added, “if we’re going to play in Bratislava, it’s better for us because we won’t have to fly anywhere, we’ll just bus it.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the Slovnaft Arena would become a home-away-from-home for Donetsk: it was the site for their seventh and deciding game against Riga.

Donetsk coach Andrei Nazarov has been philosophical: “I like Bratislava. I don’t want to talk about how it all ends right now. If there’s no change, we’re going to play our next two home games in Bratislava. But it’s going to be the league management’s decision.”

Slovak players on Donetsk’s roster were pleased with the last game, the decider against Riga, that they played in Bratislava: “I wouldn’t have dreamt that I would play the series final and deciding game at home,” observed Donetsk’s defenceman Peter  Podhradský. He happens to be a Bratislava native.

Still, Podhradský said, Donetsk fans would have deserved that their club faced off against Lev in their real home arena, Druzhba.

Donetsk goalie Ján Laco, another Slovak, said he didn’t know what the fuss was all about: “When we drove to the airport, the city was calm. Nothing catastrophic.”

Yes, he conceded, “There was something going on in the area of Donetsk’s main square downtown, but nothing serious,” Laco told Slovakian website, cas.sk.

“But,” Laco added, “ it’s not our decision.”

R-Sport.ru sees things differently.

Donetsk, in the mainly Russian-speaking east of Ukraine, is being rocked by violent clashes between pro-Russian protesters who want closer ties with Russia and pro-Ukrainian activists who do not, the website said.

Who’s failed Ukraine and the Ukrainians?

The West has nobody else to blame but itself for what’s going on in Ukraine. And lest anybody thinks that Russia’s takeover of Crimea is the final step, let them think again.

Russia has been used to enjoying her superpower standing. That dates back to the Tsarist times, this is not just her relatively recent communist past. But it was her communist past that brought Mother Russia firmly down on her knees. Communism does that to national economies.

The accepted wisdom has it that Tsarist Russia was a dirt-poor country that was going nowhere fast.Thus, the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917.

An old joke comes to mind: the country’s most momentous event is called October Revolution, but they celebrate it in November. And that’s how everything works over there.

Poor? Yes, absolutely. Going nowhere fast? A perfect lie. After all, Russia was quite capable of feeding herself, something that can’t be mentioned in polite society about Russia under communism.

But even with her trousers filled with holes, Russia (the Soviet Union, that is) could always claim she was a superpower that made her adversaries shake in their boots.

A few steps down the memory lane

Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky led the so-called February Revolution of 1917. The plan was to overthrow Tsarism and install at least a semblance of democracy in Russia.

Debates rage even today whether the idea of democracy in Russia was premature, and the fact remains that all of this was happening while the First World War was still going on.

German Imperial Staff, facing their country’s looming defeat, would come up with a plan some call brilliant. How to get Russia, one of Germany’s enemies, out of the equation? Simply: hire Vladimir Iliych Ulianov-Lenin and the group of his fanatical followers, most of whom were living in the safety of neutral Switzerland, finance them, and bring them over to Russia. The aim was to overthrow Kerensky, all the while introducing Lenin’s brand of Marxism, and putting the country in such a disarray it would beg Germany for forgiveness and plead for peace.

This move did NOT prevent Germany’s loss, but it did bring Russia to her knees.

Lenin introduced drastic measures to secure his victory. He was the guy who introduced Russia to the concept of concentration camps, mass executions of hostages and prisoners and other similar steps to convince the populace that it would obey or else.

Lenin died in 1924.

His replacement, Josif Vissarionovich Stalin, an organizer if there ever was one, developed Lenin’s form of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” close to perfection. Except, not even the ruthless system could feed the nation. Especially considering that Lenin has created what would become the Soviet Union, making Mother Russia a centre of an empire at a time when she could not afford it.

Stalin would continue with Lenin’s imperialism.

After the Soviet Union became part of the victorious allies who defeated Germany’s Adolf Hitler and his Nazis, the Soviets would become honoured guests at the tables of the mighty. They would even win the right of veto at the newly established United Nations’ Security Council.

Soviet citizenry in general – and its Russian segment, in particular – were proud: theirs was a superpower rubbing shoulders with the rest of the world’s powers, and whenever the Soviets said something, it carried considerable weight.

Skipping a few eras ahead, eras that would only confirm that communism really wasn’t the best idea to ever emerge and be imposed on a nation (or a group of nations), we get directly to Mikhail Sergeievich Gorbachev. This typical “apparatchik” whom only the naïve western elites could consider a Second Coming knew one thing: his country was on the brink of a total collapse. What he did not realize was that once just a bit of the bitter truth spreads around, it would be the death of communism. He unleashed “glasnost,” and the rest, as the cliché has it, is history.

Boris Nikolaievich Yeltsin, Gorbachev’s successor, just bowed to the inevitable, dismantling the Soviet Union (and letting the so-called union republics decide which way they wanted to go).

That was the end of Russia as an empire.

And then along came Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, a former high-ranking secret police (KGB) official, a guy brought up in making sure his country would remain an empire forever.

Which brings us full circle back to today’s realities.

So, what’s going on, anyway?

When Stalin’s successor, Nikita Sergeievich Khruschev, donated Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, he couldn’t have imagined that the Soviet Union would once cease to exist. For him, the transfer was largely symbolic: it would be Moscow, for all he cared, issuing the marching orders, so what?

But when Ukraine became an independent country, that would change the map right then and there. How? Simply: Crimea, with its closeness to the Black Sea where the Soviets kept a major part of their navy, as well as with its closeness to sundry natural resources, became a part of a country that was, at least on paper, independent of Russia.

Meanwhile, the West, in its endless arrogance, would be rubbing the loss of superpower influence in Russia’s face again and again.

Remember the former Yugoslavia? Russia, a natural ally with the Serbs (they have some common history), would object to the West’s handling of that country. No matter how strenuous Russia’s protests, the West would simply shrug them off, telling the Russians to keep their mouths shut. It was an adult game, minors aren’t allowed in.

Whether the West’s handling of the former Yugoslavia made any sense, now, that’s another question for another day.

What is important here is the fact that Russia felt slighted, fearing her imperial ambitions were being trumpled upon yet again.

And the Russians are nothing if not proud. Especially if they’ve been taught since their early childhoods that theirs is a world superpower. Part of their education tells them, too, that the West is a decadent, decaying society with no future whatsoever.

And the West, by the way, goes out of its way to prove the Russians right. Just look at the European Union (EU) for the closest example at hand.

Putin used exactly that in 2008. The Republic of Georgia, Stalin’s birth place, too, thought of applying for EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership. Putin came up with a reason how to show the Georgians who the boss is. Hitler would have been proud: proclaiming he was only saving the endangered lives of Russians, Putin ordered his military to invade Ossetia, a part of Georgia. That was in 2008. All the West did was an indignant”tut-tut,” without even telling Putin his move wasn’t cricket and that this is not how to really play the game.

What did it tell Putin? Not much more than what he had already known for quite some time (he used to be a Soviet spy, after all): the West is a decadent, decaying society with no future whatsoever. Did the West offer Georgia guarantees? Yes, why, it did. Did the West act on them?

And the main message: ladies and gentlemen, Russia’s back on the pitch, and it’s paying the referees’ wages, to boot.

What is it all about?

Russia bases its international relationships on the so-called zero-sum game. She has been doing so throughout most of her history, Russian politicians say. Really, she does. Since she has become a superpower centuries ago, to say the least.

Yes, she does. Whenever she’s forced to. Otherwise, whatever there is for grabs, that’s what she takes. Wherever a Russian cossack’s horse stops, it becomes Mother Russia.

Fairness? What the heck’s that?

And what is this zero-sum game, pray tell?

Here’s what it is: the theory of games holds that a zero-sum game represents mathematically a situation in which a participant’s gain (or loss) is balanced precisely by the losses (or gains) of the other participant(s). If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, the result will be zero.

And the theory of games has got it right.

President Putin is keenly aware of Russia’s history: nothing beats having a buffer zone around your borders. That’s the entire issue of his handling of Ukraine in one sentence.

Superpowers don’t become superpowers by listening to popularity opinion polls within the international community and the public at large.

Look at EU’s behaviour: does that group behave like a superpower?

Look at the U.S. administration: does it represent its country like a superpower?

All that talk about democracy and human rights, so far as Putin is concerned, is pure drivel, to put it politely.

Putin has been saying all along he doesn’t like Ukraine’s turn toward the West.

After all, relationships with the West have been a sore point within Russia’s political life for centuries. Even if a group that favours westernization wins, it’s a Pyrrhic victory. Usually, they lose on the first occasion that comes along. The forces that say Russia can go it all alone return to power. Their motto: who needs the West anyway, we’re so much better, besides, we own the Russian soul, too, and who else can claim that?

Ochi chornye, and another sto gramm vodki, eh?

Economically speaking, if Russia becomes master of all she surveys, she’s got enough resources to remain an autarky (self-sufficient, that is) – provided she knows how to run her own business.

To be able to do so, Russia is of the view she needs nobody poking their nose into matters that are none of their business.

And that includes handling its buffer zones.

West’s sheer and abject failure

Self-conditioned to absolute stupidity by all that politically correct nonsense, the West has never realized, neither acknowledged, that the new Ukrainian government isn’t much to write home about. Not knowing these issues, the West was in absolutely no position to do anything about them, either.

And Russia’s act of showing her military prowess had to come as a shock.

Russia’s leaders remember well the historical ties that bind their country to Ukraine proper. They also know that the West’s ties to Ukraine are much weaker. Yes, Ukraine can serve as Europe’s breadbasket, as she has done so many times. Yes, the oil and gas pipelines that move these resources to Europe go mostly through Ukraine.

Where Russia’s leadership is mindful of Ukraine’s importance to their country’s strategical priorities, both in political and economic sense, the West is bellyaching. Sacré bleu! How can you be doing this to us? We’ve been so nice to you, have we not?

No, you haven’t, is Russia’s reply. Ukraine as part of the West is something we have every reason to hate. And if you have problems with THAT, congratulations, you’ve got something we haven’t.

Considering the West may wish that Ukraine become its part but isn’t willing to put their wallets where their mouths are (perhaps excepting financing the militants at Kiev’s Maidan), Putin can safely shrug them off. He knows that there is no power in the West that would be able to get Ukraine out from Russia’s bearhug. Not only that. He knows, too, that even if there were such a power, it wouldn’t have the wherewithal to try.

To top it all: it was the two strongest EU countries, Germany and France, that vetoed Ukraine’s application for NATO membership.

What does it mean? Nothing more that it’s a signal for Putin: Russians value Ukraine much more than we do, and we can hardly care less.

The West has shown it’s all wet. Since Russia is only willing to negotiate when the other side shows her a fist of iron, that does not bode well for the West.

The last two Western politicians to successfully negotiate with the then-Soviet Union were U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Neither of them would blink or budge. And where’s the Soviet Union now?

Why should Canadians care?

Lost in all that hoopla is the continuing struggle over who actually owns the area around the North Pole (and the place itself).

The fact that Santa’s address is listed in Canada Post’s books as North Pole, Canada, H0H 0H0 is a laughable aside that does not matter.

What does matter is that both countries have similar interests and both of their mainlands are in close proximity to the imaginary point.

Geologists and other such scientists claim the ocean floor is filled with natural resources, some of which come under the heading of “strategic.” Oil, for example. Natural gas, for example.

You can rest assured that – once Russian president Vladimir Putin considers the question of Ukraine settled – he’s going to turn his attention to other areas he considers vital.

The Arctic happens to be one of them. And not only because of its untapped richness. One look at the map (or globe) reveals that there’s no buffer zone between Canada and Russia in that area. Come to think of it, there is no buffer zone between Alaska and Russia, either, excepting the relatively narrow Bering Strait.

Recalling that Putin has been of the view that gifting Crimea to Ukraine was illegal, what’s going to stop him if he decides to describe the sale of Alaska by Tsarist Russia to the U.S. highway robbery and declares it illegal, too?

Canada’s government is one of the very few administrations that have been consistently trying to stand up to Putin’s shenanigans. Hats off. Whether travel bans on top Russian officials do the trick and scare Putin beyond belief is another matter altogether.

Putin has also quite openly expressed his views of U.S. president Barack Hussein Obama: the current White House occupant is nothing but an untrustworthy, unreliable weakling whose basic education deserves much better, too.

The West has excluded military reply as an option. Logically, too. At least, so far as this logic ignores the plight of ordinary living people. Nobody’s asking them.

Putin would be perfectly correct if he expands his apt description of U.S. president Obama as an untrustworthy, unreliable weakling whose basic education deserves much better to most of the West’s political leaders. In fact, come to think of it, the word leader should not apply to them, and neither should their description as politicians. They are politicking, and that doesn’t impress a Putin (or any similar dictator) one iota.

What’s Putin’s next step? Any of the Baltic republics, perhaps? That would be interesting: they are all both EU and NATO members. Expanding his might west of Ukraine, too?

There’s but one thing we know for sure: facing a dictator, Western democracies have failed yet again.

It’s a bloody shame.

The world takes Putin’s actions on the chin – and does nothing about it

Many, many years ago, in the first half of the previous century, a Dutch sea captain of Czech origin, Jan Van Toch, anchored his ship by a small island somewhere in the Pacific. His company ordered him to find areas where they could get some original pearls. These jewels were coming back into fashion, you see. And Van Toch’s Rotterdam bosses wanted to ride the wave, enhancing their own bank accounts in the process.

The good Captain found, to his genuine surprise, animals whom the natives feared and called black devils. They were intelligent newts. Captain Van Toch befriended them, gave them all kinds of equipment, including underwater guns so they could defend themselves against the local shark population, and convinced a captain of Czech economy who, accidentally, had been born in the same little town as Jan Van Toch, that this could become a business venture.

It did. Thus Czech author Karel Čapek. That, by the way, is the guy who gave the world the word “robot.” But that’s another story for another day.

Čapek wrote and published (in 1936) War with the Newts (Válka s mloky in the original Czech). It was also translated as War with the Salamanders.

This satirical science-fiction novel describes how modern industrialists first enslaved and exploited the newts, until the creatures acquired human knowledge and rebelled. They needed more shores for themselves. So, they started destroying the continents, enlarging the world’s oceans and thus creating more space in which they could live.

If it resembles Adolf Hitler’s demand for “Lebensraum” (space to live in) for the German nation by any chance, it is no accident.

The conflict between the humans and the newts led to a global war for supremacy.

As the war progressed, the author introduced an anonymous voice, known as Mr. X, who told humankind it was perfectly insane to continue developing and delivering all kinds of weapons and sundry equipment to the newts who were, all along, continuing with their operation to destroy that same humankind. Mr. X called on people to stop this. His call was met with derision: economists, politicians, labour union leaders, they all said humankind had never had it better, employment figures were reaching 100 per cent, in fact, people would need more workers to meet all the orders coming from under-the-sea level, and who was this Mr. X anyway to try to stop progress.

If you want to know how it all ended, run to your local library or a bookstore.

Cut to the chase

We are in the twenty-first century now, and the world keeps supplying another Hitler, one who goes under the name of Vladimir Putin, and is also known as the president of Russia. Putin’s Russia is getting all kinds of sophisticated weaponry, and the European Union goes on without stopping but once to think how suicidal this is.

Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas, writing for an Estonian web publication, ICDS (the abbreviation stands for International Centre for Defence Studies), of Tallin, that country’s capital, have exposed the world’s dark secret.

Before we proceed, a tip of the hat is due to Jan Maisler for a competent translation, and to Jiří Wagner, editor of the Czech news site, Neviditelny pes, for preparing this information jewel for publication.

If you don’t speak Czech, learn to. You would be able to read the story quoted from below in its fullness. And if knowing the language of the people who gave the world such beers as Pilsner Urquell and the original Budweiser (not the weak imitations as provided by Anheuser-Busch) is not important to you, where are your values, for crying out loud?

Back to the topic

The European Union (EU, for short, and it doesn’t deserve anything more, anyhow), says it’s upset about the Russian aggression in Ukraine and it’s going to impose sanctions.

Oh yeah? That’s the question posed by Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas.

How about weapons exports to Russia? And – more importantly, perhaps – how about the close co-operation between some EU countries and Russia, developing new weapon systems and transferring military technologies and expertise to Russia?

Strangely enough, most mainstream media all over the world keep their mouths shut when it comes to this topic.

But why?

Is it because speaking out would equal washing dirty linen in public? Is it because putting a stop to this shameful behaviour would (let’s go back to Čapek) slow down or, Heaven forbid, stop the flow of income that happens to turn into profit at a later stage? Is it because mainstream media never got a press release detailing these shenanigans?

Realizing that modern-day reporters seem to have never heard that what makes a reporter is curiosity, this could be as valid a reason as any.

Or is it hypocrisy, pure and simple?

A few years ago, Russia invaded Georgia. The reason, Putin said on the occasion, was to defend the poor, defenceless Russians in Ossetia (sounds familiar, does it not?). Shortly after that, Russia signed a deal with France. It would buy from the French amphibious vehicles of the Mistral class (a.k.a. “projection and command” vehicles). The Baltic republics, all of whom had known Soviet occupation, objected. The EU called their reaction “hysterical” and worse.

That, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas write, was a clear signal: who cares about Russia’s aggressive behaviour, so long as France’s military economy prospers? It may even fill French government’s coffers with new taxes. So, what’s the big deal?

Everybody’s happy: Russia has got new killer toys to use in its future aggressions, France gets richer. What’s there to complain about?

Remember the Iraqi nuclear facility, Osirak? It used to be called by many “Ochirac,” after then-French president Jacques Chirac who allowed the transfer of his country’s sophisticated nuclear knowledge (and the training of Iraqi scientists in his country) despite clear warnings that something dirty was going on. In a daring air attack, the Israelis would obliterate the place, thus earning eternal hatred from France.

So, what’s new? Nothing much, really.

As Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas inform us, the Franco-Russian military co-operation now includes the development of a new generation of vehicles for the transport of Russia’s infantry, the development of a production line for building thermovision, equipment that would allow the Russian military to operate in the middle of the night, as well as a number of other similar projects. Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas also quote Dmitrii Rogozin, Russia’s vice-premier responsible for defence (read: military) industries, as saying that the two countries have launched a “new era of intensive Franco-Russian co-operation that includes intensive exchange of confidential information.”

God knows where all that is going to end. And if She knows, She’s not telling: it’s confidential information, after all.

Deutschland, Deutschland über alles

Since the EU includes two major weapons exporters (France and Germany), it was to be expected that the Germans would not be far behind their French brethren.

Germany’s Federal Security Council (Bundessicherheitsrat in German) is chaired by the country’s Chancellor herself (her office is equal to Canada’s Prime Minister, with the President serving as a figure-head, just as the Governor-General does in Canada). It has been issuing export licences for weapon sales like nobody’s business. Russia has been quickly making its way to the top of the list of countries that deserve getting Germany’s military technology.

One of the most alarming recent German sales to Russia: modern equipment to train units up to the size of a brigade. That, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas document, happens to be first-class equipment to run an operations command post. Thus far, it has been available only to the most developed countries. Whether Russia is one of the most-developed countries remains to be seen, but it now has this equipment.

In fact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has developed a doctrine that basically gives her country’s military industry a free hand. Thus Merkel: “I am convinced that it is in our interest to enable our partners to effectively participate in keeping or renewing security and peace in their regions.”

Which means that if Putin says that Russians in Ossetia or Ukraine (or anywhere else, for that matter) are in danger and he only wants is to ensure their safety and security, his word is gospel.

Konrad Henlein used this refrain in the Sudetenland regions of former Czechoslovakia, with Adolf Hitler’s enthusiastic support. It ended in a deal (the so-called Munich Agreement) signed by British Prime Minister Sir Neville Chamberlain, French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier, Italy’s Duce (Leader) Benito Mussolini and Germany’s Reichskanzler (Chancellor) Adolf Hitler.

Sir Neville Chamberlain returned to London, telling all and sundry he had secured “peace in our time.”

Indeed. We all know how it ended.

Lying through their teeth

The EU politicians claim that if they co-operate with Russia, they would have a say in what that country is doing.

A bald-faced lie if there ever was one, and they know it.

Vladimir Putin is much more realistic. He knows that, beside some tut-tutting that followed his incursion into Georgia, nothing happened and everything was business as usual even before the dust settled. So, he figures, and quite correctly, too, that if he annexes the entire country of Ukraine, not just Crimea, he’ll pass jail and will be free to buy, say, Pennsylvania Station, to use the language of the game of Monopoly.

Why Pennsylvania Station? Just a play on words: Putin received a phone call from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., the other day. The U.S. president himself, Barack Obama was on the line. They chatted for about an hour after which Putin told Obama he had other, more pressing, commitments to attend to and bid good-bye.

Would Putin change anything, pray tell, after this conversation? Are you kidding? Why should he? What can a president whom he considers a perfect weakling do to him? And besides, all of his military’s supply needs are met, courtesy France and Germany, so, who cares about the U.S., anyway?

So, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas pose a legitimate question: who’s influencing whom, come to think of it? It’s obvious the EU (and the rest of the Western world) have practically no impact on Putin’s thinking and actions with whatever rhetoric they dare mouth. And not that the EU overextends itself in its condemnations of Russia’s aggressions, either. In fact, it seems that Canada is the only country willing to take at least some action, symbolic as it is. Expelling Russian military personnel and limiting Russian officials’ right of entry is nice, but if Putin had feathers, none of them would be ruffled.

What can be done?

Not much, really, if we decide to subscribe to what today’s Western politicians (and those of the EU in particular) call realpolitik.

Impose sanctions? To be effective, they would have to include all matters military, including an immediate stop to all military sales and knowledge transfers.

Is this going to happen? A rhetorical question.

EU politicians would tell you they haven’t got enough money to maintain their military and, besides, NATO isn’t that rich of an uncle as it used to be any longer, either. Pray tell, they would demand, where else are we going to get the finances to maintain our own defence? We’re taxing our own citizens beyond acceptable levels as it is.

Here’s a logical follow-up question: maintaining your defence means that you’re defending your sovereignty. Except, it seems everything the EU stands for is dismantling individual (and sovereign) European countries. So, how can you explain that contradiction?

Here’s the answer you’d get: silence. Overwhelmingly deafening silence.

The crux of the matter is that to maintain their military, EU countries are supporting someone who’s getting more and more aggressive. Putin relies on the shortsightedness of EU politicians because he knows he can.

To sum up: EU politicians are undermining their own security while helping a new Hitler along the way. In addition, some of the countries that have common borders with Russia (including some EU members) will lose their faith in EU’s ability to defend them against somebody who’s got that same military hardware (and software) as EU has. Where they will go to get their own weaponry is anybody’s guess. China? Korea? South Africa? Israel?

And where’s the U.S. on this list? you may ask. Nowhere is the answer. The Europeans mostly seem to share Putin’s assessment of America’s current administration. That’s one of the very few things they share with him.

Meanwhile, Putin will continue to test EU’s policy of appeasement and profit. It’s going to be his gain and, eventually, his trump card.

If you start digging a hole, you should stop digging once you’re inside, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas say.

The question is: do the French and the Germans realize they’ve dug a hole that now has not only them, but their alleged EU allies inside, too?

Where is Karel Čapek’s Mr. X now when we need him?

And would we wake up and start listening to him?