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Samizdata quote of the day

Does anyone have noticed that when a Kremlin supporter talks about Eastern Europe the first thing he/she does is to erase the Eastern Europe countries from discussion, presenting the case as US/EU vs Russia?

This is a typical debate framing.

For [the Kremlin apologists] of this world Ukraine, Poland, the Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia don’t have any right to an opinion. Erased with it is a history of occupation under Soviets. For them only Russia has a right to be paranoid. The others once occupied by them for 50 years don’t.

– Samizdata commenter LuckLucky

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33 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly so.

  • Jacob

    Here I’ll act as the devil’s advocate.
    There seems to be a real, justified problem, not just Putin’s greed and expansionist dreams and nuttiness in general.

    In all those countries there are big Russian minorities. In the east regions of Ukraine, the Russians are the majority of the population. Under principles of self-determination their wish to join Russia rather than live under Ukrainian rule might be justified.
    In other countries, such as Latvia, ethnic Russians, who have been living there for more than a generation, form maybe a third of the population, and many don’t receive Latvian citizenship (and the rights it entails) under the pretext that they don’t speak the Latvian language. Russian minorities are persecuted in these countries – it may be argued that for good historical reasons, but still, they aren’t treated fairly.

    It would be unnatural and unreasonable to expect a big country and a big power like Russia, to contemplate it’s ethnic brothers mistreated in adjacent, small countries, without protesting and doing what it can to help them.
    Putin’s demand that Russians in East Ukraine be given some form of self rule or autonomy, and have their rights protected isn’t unreasonable.
    Besides – there have been special economic ties between Russia and Ukraine. For example: the Ukrainians have been receiving Russian gas at prices well below market, but haven’t ever been capable of paying, so they owe Russia. You can’t eat the cake and have it too – get free gas from Russia and ignore Russia’s economic interests.

    So, the compromise that Putin seems to be seeking in Ukraine doesn’t seem so unreasonable. His methods, though, are – how shall I say it ? – a little unconventional or not politically correct.

  • As I mentioned in another thread, the Soviets deliberated imprted Rusians into these countries to foment discord. The last Estonian interwar census was something like 900k Estonians and 100k Russians; the last Soviet census was something like 900k Estonians and 400k Russians.

  • Jacob

    “As I mentioned in another thread, the Soviets deliberated imported Russians into these countries to foment discord.”

    That is probably true. So what? Should the Estonians, now, drive out the children (second or third generation) of those “imported” Russians? Or should they persecute them? Does one wrong justify another one? Anyway, if you have a big bear as a neighbor you need to treat it’s relatives kindly.

  • Decolonisation is a perfectly reasonable response to the legacy of armed colonialism that occurred within living memory, Jacob.

    The Russian colonists were imported in the Baltics specifically to make it harder for the indigenous population to resist Russian domination, any commentary that does not face that squarely is either wilfully blind or disingenuous.

    So it seems clear there are two ways to achieve decolonisation. (1) shoot or deport the colonial population or force them into some ghetto-like enclave (2) require them to assimilate so that they are no longer a colonial population and no longer serving their original purpose of enabling a foreign power to dictate local politics.

    Option 2 is what Estonia has been doing. They are requiring ethnic Russians to learn Estonian or be regarded as a potential Fifth Columnist (not phrased quite like that but the subtext is pretty clear). So yes, they are ‘persecuting’ Russians who are not working to Estonian-ise themselves. Perfectly sensible. And quite a few Russians are indeed Estonian-ising themselves. Also perfectly sensible. Which is why Russia hates it.

    That said, Estonian ‘persecution’ of Russians in Estonia does not include, for example, suddenly appropriating their land for no other reason than it is owned by ethnic Russians, so as persecutions go, it seems rather measured and restrained.

    It is a very short and inexpensive journey for any Russians in Estonia who prefer exclusively Russian ways and felt the need to keep a Russian passport.

  • Jacob

    “So it seems clear there are two ways to achieve decolonisation. (1) shoot or deport the colonial population or force them into some ghetto-like enclave (2) require them to assimilate so that they are no longer a colonial population and no longer serving their original purpose of enabling a foreign power to dictate local politics.”

    Very reasonable methods… unless you are a weak, little, powerless country (or nation) surrounded by a big bear. In such circumstances it might be better to act more prudently and delicately. You need to be practical.

  • Jacob

    As to Estonia – I know little about it, but it seems that ethnic Russians, though not suffering expropriations (expropriation of what? there was no private property in Soviet Russia) – they were thrown out and closed out from “good” jobs, in Government and Academia.

  • Very reasonable methods… unless you are a weak, little, powerless country (or nation) surrounded by a big bear. In such circumstances it might be better to act more prudently and delicately. You need to be practical.

    Which is a another way of saying either surrender and accept client state status or join NATO and decolonialise. They chose option 2 and as much as Russia huffs and puffs, it is not going to war with NATO.

    (expropriation of what? there was no private property in Soviet Russia)

    So? Private property is now the norm in Estonia, which is in fact held by some to be the 11th freest place in the world economically, one higher than the USA in fact, with an essentially perfect score for property rights. Many people own their own homes.

    they were thrown out and closed out from “good” jobs, in Government and Academia.

    Exactly. Precisely the sorts of jobs you do not want a legacy colonial population, with questionable loyalties who are open to influence by a foreign power, occupying.

  • James Waterton

    In the east regions of Ukraine, the Russians are the majority of the population.

    This is not actually true. According to the CIA Factbook, just over 17% of the Ukrainian population is ethnic Russian. And a big chunk of them are in Crimea, which is genuinely majority Russian. Most easterners are ethnic Ukrainian, but for historical reasons, they’re Russian Orthodox. The west is more Latinised and people there are either Ukrainian Orthodox or Catholic – these territories were under the control of the Polish empire for centuries. I believe the population split between east and west is 55-45, with the population in the west being a small majority.

    There is a real and enduring cultural schism between the east and the west, and it isn’t because the east is full of Russians. Most eastern Ukrainians – ethnic Ukrainians – genuinely do feel more cultural affiliation with Russia than with Europe. Ethnic Ukrainians in the west tend to have a much less benign view of Russia, and have a stronger sense of Ukrainian identity.

    I can’t see how Ukraine could ever be a viable nation-state, given its current borders.

  • Jacob

    “it is not going to war with NATO.”

    You meant “NATO is not going to war with Russia” – right? This is more credible.

  • Mr Ed

    The ‘Russian’ speakers in the former USSR outside of Russia are the Sudeten Germans and Volksdeutsche of the 21st Century, with more of a Mussolini behind them than a ‘you know who’.

  • You have VASTLY inflated notion of Russia’s military and economic capabilities, Jacob. Would NATO go to war for Estonia? Yes it absolutely would and fortunately I suspect Putin is far more realistic on that score than you think. Russia looses Kaliningrad forever on day one. They loose Transnistria in a week or two and soon find themselves fighting Poland somewhere near Minsk. And the Germans will most certainly fight to support Poland.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    English has ambiguities. Do you mean going to war ‘allied with’ NATO, or do you mean ‘against’ NATO? Which meaning of ‘with’ is it? (As a kid, I sometimes wondered why, if we British were fighting with the Germans, we said such nasty things about them.)

  • Rich Rostrom

    Perry de Havilland (London) @ September 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm:
    Would NATO go to war for Estonia? Yes it absolutely would…

    I’m not sure of that, and neither are some knowledgeable observers. Russia has a nuclear arsenal. Suppose Russian troops seized part of Estonia, or perhaps the whole country, in a coup de main. (As decayed as Russia’s military is, it could probably still do that – Estonia is a very small place.) Then suppose NATO attempts a counterattack – and the Russians use a tactical nuke “in defense of Russian territory”. Which NATO countries would want to keep fighting? If Russia merely threatened to use nukes, which NATO countries would risk it?

    This is not the NATO of Reagan and Thatcher anymore.

  • In all those countries there are big Russian minorities.

    Sorry, but no. Not in Lithuania, not in Poland.

  • Sorry Perry, but what Rich said. And nukes wouldn’t even need to come into it. Of course Russian military is nothing to write home about compared to that of the West. But one only needs a strong and well-equipped military when one faces an opponent who is willing to fight. With the current “leadership” in DC, London and Paris, I don’t see any such willingness. (Would Merkel be willing to face Putin alone? Maybe, I don’t know). I do very much see such willingness on the Russian side.

  • I would say the notion Russia would use tactical nukes against NATO after taking Estonia is somewhere between highly unlikely to preposterous. Putin has said “we could be in Kiev in two weeks if I wanted”. At the VERY LEAST, at the absolute minimum, he would have to make good on that and run the low to moderate risk of confrontation with NATO over an attack on a non-NATO nation for it to be in ANYWAY plausible that he is that crazy.

    Moreover Putin was not actually threatening an all out attack on the Ukraine, stating he intending to sweep through to Kiev. Actually I believe he was actually saying what he said to indicate what a great guy he is, and why people need to chill and just let him nibble this bit and that from Ukraine, because if this was really the precursor to the end of the Ukraine and a Russian blitzkrieg (hehe), well that is silly, as “I could just take it in two weeks because I really am that mighty!”… so calm down. We are actually suppose to see it as a statement of magnanimous restraint.

    I actually read it as really meaning “I am a very brittle opportunist who is going to finesse a piece of the Ukraine because the opportunity has presented itself, and I can do this at low risk as there is no way in hell this is going to result in war with NATO.”

    My guess if Russia really did use a tactical nuke against NATO anywhere is we have a strategic nuclear war within days, perhaps even hours. Not going to happen. Any mention of nukes is sabre rattling, using them to terrify, which has worked with you guys it seems.

  • Trofim

    I see my post of 20 minutes ago was deleted. It contained material that might not have appealed to Samizdata readers. Lesson: libertarians are not committed to free speech. Samizdata exists in order that its readers can find solace in agreement with each other, and at the same time disagree in subtle ways, thus giving an impression of open-minded discussion. Libertarians, it appears are, like their opposite number – socialists, people of narrowly circumscribed opinion, prickly, defensive and intolerant of opposing views. Just like socialists, only the other end of the spectrum.

  • Lesson: libertarians are not committed to free speech.

    Category error. I refer you to this post. Your post was deleted because it was moronic.

  • The problem of Russians ignoring the opinions of E. Europe as if they are inconsequential could be solved in a week. Give to Poland and Romania an extension of the nuclear sharing policy. Even better if the UK does it instead of the US. For those unfamiliar, Turkey has a military base with US controlled and maintained nuclear bombs on it. If Turkey goes to war, Turkey gets the nukes. No war plan against Turkey can proceed except on the theory that they are a nuclear power. Were Poland and Romania similarly equipped, Russia would face a profoundly different security situation on its western border.

    The costs of the nuclear sharing program in Turkey are relatively trivial and have likely kept Turkey out of the business of building its own nuclear weapons. So which do we prefer, a nuclear armed Poland with its own homegrown nukes or one where the nukes are lent in case of war but the human and material infrastructure to build resides far to the west?

  • Rich Rostrom

    Perry de Havilland (London) @ October 1, 2014 at 8:43 am: My guess if Russia really did use a tactical nuke against NATO anywhere is we have a strategic nuclear war within days, perhaps even hours.

    How does that happen? What Western nuclear power is going to risk its own general destruction by escalating – on behalf a small country, far away, about which they know almost nothing?

    And relying on the rational self-restraint of Putin and his gang seems imprudent. He is a ruthless thug and a bully, riding on a tide of ethno-nationalist fever, who sees his adversaries as feckless gits. Very much like Japan in 1941, now that I think about it. As with Japan, the object is not world conquest – it’s to inflict a brutal shock on “outside” powers, so they will go away and leave Russia in charge of “it’s” part of the world.

    I’m not saying anything like this is probable – but I think it is distinctly possible.

  • Trofim

    Lord Richards of Herstmonceux says we not only need to co-operate with Syria, but Russia in a grand alliance against ISIS. But what would he know? Former Chief of Defence Staff? So what?

    Vlad “The Antichrist” Putin has completely mismanaged his “Better Together” campaign, but I can’t help thinking that perceptions of him might be slightly different if his mum and dad had had the foresight to call him Richard.

  • Lord Richards of Herstmonceux says we not only need to co-operate with Syria, but Russia in a grand alliance against ISIS. But what would he know? Former Chief of Defence Staff? So what?

    So what indeed. Proof positive that political decision are vastly too important to leave to soldiers. Lets look at who caused this situation in the Middle East to happen and then at who has enabled it (two different things).

    Decades of brutal repressive Ba’athist Socialism is what caused the Islamic State (and indeed the Peshmerga, the YPG, the FSA etc.). They came about in opposition to Ba’athism in Syria and Iraq.

    And who enabled the Ba’athists by arming them and supplying them? Well there is a great deal of blame to go around there, but primarily it was the Kremlin.

    And now who enabled IS (enabled, not created)? Primarily that would be Turkey, by giving weapons indiscriminatingly to pretty much anyone who was (1) willing to shoot at the Assad regime (2) not Kurdish. So the FSA and what became IS were the main beneficiaries. Turkey was no doubt aghast at how that ended up but too late now. And secondarily, and later, it was the collapse of Iraq and the half the US equipped Iraqi Army essentially handing their gear and stockpiles over. Lots of blame to go around on that side then.

    But the ‘root cause’ of IS is not the CIA or Mossad or even Sykes-Picot, it is Ba’athist Socialism. And Ba’athist Socialism was and still is an essentially Soviet creation, that post-Soviet Russia continues to support by arming the Assad family and its remaining army.

    So no, the Kremlin is and has always been part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  • lucklucky

    I think Perry is putting too much emphasis in scenarios credibility and logic.

    As the great Mark Twain once said “The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.”

    Who would have thought in 2013 that in 2014 there was something called Islamic State that conquers big parts of Iraq and Syria and make everyone nervous in European and Washington, who would have thought that someone is air bombing Libya secretly in last weeks or that Muslim Brotherhood goes to Turkey starting probably a lasting conflict with Egypt, Boko Haram is carving a territory in Nigeria…that war is back in Europe, despite the best censorship practices from The Telegraph to New York Times.
    As someone said in a forum, reality is like a bad Hollywood movie, or a Tom Clancy unhinged book.

    As for the Islamic State reason of existence, it is Islam in first place. Then the failures of Arab Socialists states. Like Perry says fully supported by Soviets.

  • Jacob

    “But the ‘root cause’ of IS is not the CIA or Mossad or even Sykes-Picot, it is Ba’athist Socialism.”

    False.

    The root cause of ISIS is Islam and religious and tribal rivalries in the ME, the significance of which few Westerners understand.
    And yes, Turkey… We thought it was a sane westernized modern nation. We were mistaken…

  • Jacob

    ““The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.”

    Indeed.

  • Jacob

    Then there is the idea that Angela Merkel or Barak Obama would go to war over ANYTHING. It gave me a good laugh. If Cuba invaded Miami (the Mouse that roared) Barak Obama would go to the UN and try to impose sanctions.

    The only war they are willing to fight is against climate change, and they are losing that one too.

  • False. The root cause of ISIS is Islam

    Trite. Most of the people fighting IS are also muslims. You might as well say the root cause is stupidity then.

    …and tribal rivalries in the ME,

    IS is not tribal in the slightest, it is the very antithesis. It is an evangelical group based entirely on acceptance of their ideology. They are positively globalists in that respect 😉

    And yes, Turkey… We thought it was a sane westernized modern nation. We were mistaken…

    Who is ‘we’? I never thought that, but then I have actually been there.

  • lucklucky

    It is not trite, it is because of islam that muslims kill other muslims. They are fighting for what should be islam.

  • Except most of them are not.

    IS are fighting for what Islam should be, no doubt about that. The Badr militia and their confrères are also fighting for their Shi’ite version of the same.

    But the non-Islamists bits of the FSA are fighting to not be living in a Ba’athist police state. The YPG are fighting to create a socialist Rojava. The PKK are fighting for a Marxist Turkish Kurdistan. The Peshmerga are fighting for an independent centrist South Kurdistan. The Syrian Army are fighting to claw back the police state status quo. Surprising few of the factions actually give a flying fuck about the religion malarkey.

  • Trofim

    ISIS a reaction against Ba’athism?

    I don’t see any need to posit such a complex explanation. Muslims simply hate not being in charge. They feel that being top dog is what God has intended them to be. A significant minority of Muslims (14-17% according to the figures I’ve seen) believe that shariah is the best form of society and that ultimately that is what Europe will become. Meanwhile, the pesky kuffar are still in charge of Europe, so any experimentation here has to be on a very modest scale. Now a power vacuum in the Middle East provides the ideal location in which to lay the foundations of an Islamic state, and lots of room to practise doing it. So if you’re a British jihadi itching to get going, you’re not going to hang around in the UK, waiting until the demographic jihad brings about the necessary conditions, you’re going to make a beeline for that spanking new Caliphate.
    That’s all there is to it.

  • I don’t see any need to posit such a complex explanation

    There is nothing complex about it. Moreover it is an often seen historical dynamic. Repressive regimes often radicalise their opponents.

    The Ba’athist are profoundly repressive, and this repression was the root cause of the rebellion against the Assad family (and this is hardly the first rebellion, just the only one to have gained traction). Because the Ba’athists are *so* repressive, only very committed and deeply ideological opposition groups remained, some secular, some not. One of these groups was a salafist outfit, which splinted into the hyper-salafist Islamic State. They are the one we notice in the west, because of their predilection for internet video-blogging decapitations and ideological mass murders (as opposed to the more utilitarian based Ba’athists who prefer to stay shtum about their mass murders).