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Topic: Russia-- Europe (Read 17432 times)
Gas pipeline project to Bulgaria halted
Reply #100 on:
July 01, 2014, 09:35:33 AM »
Pressure builds on France to not proceed with warships sale to Russia
Reply #101 on:
July 25, 2014, 12:32:53 PM »
Check out the picture of one of the ships.
I'm calling BS on the parity of our sales to Egypt.
Stratfor: Pilsudki's Europe
Reply #102 on:
August 09, 2014, 01:06:06 PM »
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 03:22 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
Russia's geopolitical threat to Central and Eastern Europe should have everyone's mind rushing in the direction of a protean Polish revolutionary, statesman and military leader, Jozef Pilsudski, and his concept of the Intermarium -- Latin for "between the seas;" Miedzymorze in Polish. This was a belt of independent states from the Baltic to the Black seas that would work in unison against Russian tyranny from the east and German tyranny from the west. While geopolitics may be about the impersonal influence of geography upon international relations, human agency still applies, so that the idea of an individual Pole from the early 20th century could provide a means for defending freedom in our own era.
Pilsudski dominated Polish affairs from the middle of World War I until his death in 1935. In the words of the late British-educated academic Alexandros Petersen, Pilsudski was from a "staunchly Polonized" family of "disestablished nobility" that had held lands in present-day Lithuania and originally owed its position to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the great powers of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. The destruction of that colossal geopolitical force at the hands of invaders from both east and west provided the motivation behind Pilsudski's vision of a belt of small states to hold in check both Russia and Germany. It was not an altogether new idea. The British geographer Halford Mackinder had proposed something similar a few years earlier in 1919. But whereas Mackinder was only a well-known scholar writing in a book, Pilsudski was a dynamic political leader.
Pilsudski's vision was a product not only of his family history but also of his own bloody experience. He had saved Poland from invading Soviet forces in 1920 in the midst of a number of border wars and went on to become the primary founder of the Second Polish Republic in 1926. Pilsudski's belief in a multicultural Poland to encompass his own Lithuanian background played well with his expansive vision of this anti-Russian belt of states that was, in turn, a spiritual and territorial descendant of that vast tract of territory that had constituted the late medieval and early modern Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which stretched at its zenith from the shivering flatlands of northeastern Europe to the confines of the Ottoman Empire -- in present-day Ukraine.
Pilsudski's realization that the independence of the Baltic states, the Balkans and Ukraine was central to Poland's own security lives on today in the country's post-Cold War foreign policy. To wit, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has been publicly tireless and ever-present in pushing NATO and the European Union toward a tougher stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea. Of course, the European Union's expansion to include Poland, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, together with their incorporation into NATO, has represented the partial institutionalization of Pilsudski's idea -- even if Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the countries of the Caucasus lie stranded in the neither-nor geopolitical landscape of the European Union's Eastern Partnership, which offers insufficient protection against the designs of Russia.
But while danger lurks in the east, the west is less worrisome. For Germany has emerged as a benevolent giant, satisfied with its borders and providing the engine for the European economy. Thus, despite Putin's Revanchism, the European security environment still contains more possibilities than at any time since some of those comparatively dull 19th century decades following the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna. Of course, the relative peace of the 19th century had lulled Europeans into the false sense of security common to all people who have lost their sense of the tragic. And because a sense of the tragic is necessary to avoid tragedy, the result was World War I.
Poland and Romania are two pivotal countries that need no lessons in cultivating the sense of the tragic, for both have long been borderlands between stronger states and imperial forces coming from the east and west. And it is Poland and Romania, the two largest NATO states in northeastern and southeastern Europe respectively, that are crucial to the emergence of an effective Intermarium to counter Russia. Together they practically link the Baltic with the Black Sea.
Though they appear distinctly separated on the current map (even as both countries can claim whole or partial membership in Mitteleuropa), the shadow of Poland has in the course of history crept well into Romanian lands. While a traveler must cross the winding Carpathians twice to get from one country's capital to the other, Poland and Romania have at times been closer than you might think. For example, in the Romanian town of Targu Neamt, I craned my neck up at the citadel that had been conquered by Polish forces under King John III Sobieski in 1691. Lionized by English poet John Milton and praised by military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, Sobieski waged war against the Moslem Turks far away to the south from his native Poland and Ukraine in epic campaigns that helped save the Austrian Habsburgs and thus the Christian West. Sobieski's distant forays southward toward the shadowlands of the Black Sea were certainly part of Pilsudski's mental map -- a map that is still critical to Europe's future as a liberal Western dynamo.
Indeed, during a recent visit to Romania, the president, the president's national security adviser and the prime minister all told me in separate meetings that Poland and Turkey were critical countries for Romania in light of the Ukrainian crisis. Throughout my stay in Bucharest, calls for closer relations with Warsaw and Ankara as part of an anti-Russian alliance were made explicit. While Pilsudski's vision of an Intermarium extended from Finland to Bulgaria, an expanded version fitted to 21st century geopolitical realities would naturally include Turkey and the Caucasus. Turkey is the geographical organizing principle for half of the Black Sea and Azerbaijan's vast hydrocarbon wealth gives it the financial and political leverage to keep Russia from wholly dominating the Caucasus, now that Armenia hosts thousands of Russian troops and Georgia is under threat.
The new Intermarium is still far from crystalizing. Turkey is compromised by its appetite for Russian natural gas via the Blue Stream pipeline. Bulgarian and Serbian politics are heavily influenced by Russian money, criminal networks and -- like Turkey -- the need for Russian natural gas. Romania looks south to Bulgaria and rather than see an ally, sees a weak, at times chaotic state trying to steer a middle path between Russia and the European Union. And while Romania sees Poland as a more powerful, more economically vibrant and strongly institutionalized version of itself -- one that cuts a larger profile in the world media -- Poland looks south to Romania and sees merely a burdensome, weaker and more corrupt state than itself.
Nevertheless, a trend is discernible. High-level meetings between the Intermarium countries have intensified, as the Pentagon and State Department act as hubs for all these countries' militaries, intelligence services and diplomatic corps to interact. Stronger U.S. support to Eastern and Central Europe must be matched by stronger bilateral ties between the countries themselves -- to say nothing of increased defense expenditures in the region. This is all a function of geography that Mackinder and especially Pilsudski were the first to address. Pilsudski knew from his own experience that geography is only destiny if you don't turn it to your advantage. The real balance of power should not be a cynical formulation of the status quo between America and Russia, but a bulwark of democracies blocking the path of tyranny.
Read more: Pilsudski's Europe | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
Three things to do right now
Reply #103 on:
September 03, 2014, 09:40:07 AM »
About fg time! What about the other one? What about CANCELLING both?!?
Reply #104 on:
September 03, 2014, 11:13:08 PM »
France will halt its delivery of the first of two Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia in response to Russia's involvement in the crisis in Ukraine, a Sept. 3 statement from French President Francois Hollande said, Reuters reported. France had been reluctant to halt the sale of the ships because the contract with Russia was worth $1.58 billion.
How fg feeble-- looks like French are still looking for a way to make the sale
Reply #105 on:
September 04, 2014, 06:10:47 AM »
France Threatens to Suspend Warship Delivery to Russia, Citing Ukraine
Under Pressure from Western Allies, Hollande Shifts Rhetoric on Moscow Defense Deal
By Inti Landauro in Paris and
Stacy Meichtry in Newport, Wales
Updated Sept. 3, 2014 8:14 p.m. ET
The Vladivostok, the first of two Mistral-class warships ordered for the Russian navy, awaits delivery in the French shipyard of Saint-Nazaire. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
France backed off from plans to deliver a controversial warship to Russia next month, saying that the Kremlin's support of breakaway forces in eastern Ukraine endangered Europe.
The threat to suspend the delivery marks a shift in rhetoric from Paris, which had insisted on moving ahead with a €1.2 billion ($1.58 billion) contract to supply two ships to the Russian navy despite pressure from Western allies to cancel the deal.
Despite talks over a possible cease-fire in Ukraine, "the conditions that would allow France to authorize the delivery of the first Mistral-class ship aren't met as of now," President François Hollande's office said.
Moscow shrugged off France's decision. "The Defense Ministry doesn't see a particular tragedy in this," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told the official Tass news agency. "But it is, of course, unpleasant and puts a certain tension in the interactions with our French partners."
France issued the warning a day ahead of a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Welsh town of Newport, during which members of the military alliance are expected to discuss how to contain Russia.
The carefully worded statement, though, left open the possibility that France could complete the delivery on schedule if Russia pulls back from its intervention in Ukraine and moves to calm the crisis.
As the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatists has escalated in recent months—and despite objections by the U.S. and other allies—the French government had insisted the program was on track.
In July, days after the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine—Mr. Hollande floated the possibility that he might cancel the delivery of the second vessel, scheduled for 2015, but said Paris was forging ahead with plans to supply the first ship in October.
In possibly delaying the first delivery, French officials said they aimed to shore up the country's credibility with allies heading into this week's NATO summit, where members of the alliance are gathering in a show of unity.
Paris, for months, had defended its plans to deliver the ships as merely the fulfillment of an international contract, arguing that its possible cancellation would force France to reimburse Moscow for the costly ships and place more than a thousand French jobs at risk.
But Russia's decision to send troops and supplies into eastern Ukraine to fight alongside separatists, French officials say, raised the stakes.
While Moscow has denied sending any support to the rebels, French officials said they had proof of a Russian incursion, which they declined to disclose.
Mr. Hollande would have faced a dilemma of "coherence," one French official said, if he moved forward with the warship delivery as NATO allies were gathering to discuss ways to rein in Moscow and defend European borders.
On Tuesday, French officials called Washington and other allied capitals to notify them of the potential suspension and provide reassurances ahead of the summit, the official said. "We do think that was a wise decision," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of France's threat to stop the warship delivery. "We certainly support their decision."
While France is weighing options, a group of about 400 Russian seamen continues training on board the first Mistral, named Vladivostok, off the French port city of Saint-Nazaire, a person familiar with the matter said.
Earlier this week, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen refrained from exercising direct pressure on Paris but said he expected shows of solidarity from members of the alliance.
"It is not for NATO as an alliance to interfere with such national decisions," Mr. Rasmussen said Monday. "Having said that, I am confident that each and every allied government will take such decisions mindful of the overall security situation and concerns expressed by fellow allies."
The two Mistral-class carriers ordered by Moscow are capable of launching helicopter, tank and missile attacks from the sea and would boost the military might of the Russian forces.
The contract is important for the French shipyard located in Saint-Nazaire on the French Atlantic Coast, which has counted on the Russian order to help stay afloat.
Re: Russia-- Europe
Reply #106 on:
September 05, 2014, 11:17:18 AM »
George Will very persuasively asserts that Putin represents a greater threat than ISIS. (I would arguess that both represent grave threats.)
Vladimir Putin’s Hitlerian Mind
The Russian president’s fascist revival in Eastern Europe poses a unique threat to the West.
By George Will
The Islamic State is a nasty problem that can be remedied if its neighbors, assisted by the United States, decide to do so. Vladimir Putin’s fascist revival is a crisis that tests the West’s capacity to decide.
Putin’s serial amputations of portions of Ukraine, which began with his fait accompli in Crimea, will proceed, and succeed, until his appetite is satiated. Then the real danger will begin.
Suppose Ukraine is merely his overture for the destruction of NATO, the nemesis of his Soviet memory. Then what might be his version of the Gleiwitz radio-station episode 75 years ago?
On the evening of August 31, 1939, Nazi SS personnel pretending to be Polish partisans seized the station, which was about four miles inside Germany (Gliwice is now in Poland), proclaiming that Poland was invading Germany to achieve “our just [territorial] claims,” and shot a German prisoner dressed in a stolen Polish uniform, giving Hitler his pretext for declaring war the next day.
Putin has discarded the minor inhibitions of what NATO calls his “hybrid war” — giving slightly surreptitious aid to Russian separatists; brazenly infiltrating Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms. Russia has invaded Ukraine, although the Obama administration likes the semantic anesthesia of calling it an “incursion.” Putin does not pretend that it will be, like President Nixon’s 1970 “incursion” into Cambodia, temporary.
So, suppose Putin, reprising his Ukrainian success, orchestrates unrest among the Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia. Then, recycling Hitler’s words that his country “could not remain inactive,” Putin invades one of these NATO members. Either NATO invokes Article 5 — an attack on any member is an attack on all — or NATO disappears and the Soviet Union, NATO’s original raison d’être, is avenged.
Although no one more thoroughly detested Hitler’s regime that General Erwin Rommel served, Winston Churchill acknowledged in January 1942 in the House of Commons the talent of Britain’s enemy: “We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general.” Putin is, the West should similarly acknowledge, more talented and dangerous than either Nikita Khrushchev or Leonid Brezhnev. Their truculence was not fueled by fury. Putin’s essence is anger. It is a smoldering amalgam of resentment (of Russia’s diminishment because of the Soviet Union’s collapse), revanchist ambitions (regarding formerly Soviet territories and spheres of influence), cultural loathing (for the pluralism of open societies), and ethnic chauvinism that presages “ethnic cleansing” of non-Russians from portions of Putin’s expanding Russia.
This is more than merely the fascist mind; its ethnic-cum-racial component makes it Hitlerian. Hence Putin is “unpredictable” only to those unfamiliar with the 1930s. Regarding the roles of resentment and vengeance, remember where Hitler insisted that France formally capitulate in 1940 — in the railroad carriage near the town of Compiègne, where Germany signed the 1918 armistice.
Since its emancipation by the Soviet Union’s demise, Ukraine has been ravaged by corruption that frays national sentiment, which even before this was a tenuous phenomenon. In The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century, David Reynolds of Cambridge University cites a British diplomat’s 1918 analysis:
Were one to ask the average peasant in the Ukraine his nationality, he would answer that he is Greek Orthodox; if pressed to say whether he is a Great Russian, a Pole, or an Ukrainian he would probably reply that he is a peasant; and if one insisted on knowing what language he spoke, he would say that he talked “the local tongue.”
Ukraine may be an ethnic casserole susceptible to diminishment by Putin’s ladle. But the Baltic States, by virtue of their NATO membership, are, regardless of their histories or sociologies, decisively different. And given Putin’s animus, nourished by his negligibly resisted success in Ukraine, he is more dangerous than the Islamic State.
This group is perhaps 20,000 fighters possessing some artillery and armor but no air force. It is an island of tenuously occupied territory in a sea of hostile regimes — those of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Iraq’s Kurdish region, which has its own regime. These command approximately 2 million troops who, with ample air power, can pulverize the Islamic State whenever the regimes summon the will to do so.
U.S. participation in this should be conditional on the regional powers’ putting their militaries where their mouths (sometimes) are in the fight against radical Islamists. U.S. participation in defense of the Baltic States is unconditional.
— George Will is a Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist.
ISIS threatens to 'liberate' Chechnya and Caucasus
Reply #107 on:
September 05, 2014, 11:43:28 AM »
News from a couple of days ago:
ISIS threatens to 'liberate' Chechnya and Caucasus
Interesting that our two greatest enemies will soon be at war with each other.
One might take from this that a post-Putin Russia could very easily or at least logically become a strategic ally of the United States.
Stratfor: NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares
Reply #108 on:
October 17, 2014, 07:21:02 AM »
Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares
October 16, 2014 | 0415 Print Text Size
Members of the U.S. Army 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, unload Stryker Armored Vehicles at the railway station near the Rukla military base in Lithuania, on Oct. 4, 2014. (PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Oct. 15 that she would push to limit Russian television broadcasts inside the country. The statement came only two days after Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Jonas Vytautas Zukas announced plans to form a new rapid reaction force in Lithuania. These moves highlight Lithuania's mounting concerns over the threat Russia poses to the small but strategic country, particularly in light of Moscow's recent actions in Ukraine.
The Lithuanian president's plan to limit Russian media follows similar trends emerging in other Baltic states. The creation of the rapid reaction force, however, represents a new strategy. Zukas said that Lithuania must be ready for "unconventional attacks by unmarked combatants" -- a thinly veiled reference to Russia's actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Vilnius' plan will not be sufficient to counter potential Russian moves against Lithuania. It is instead an initial response to an evolving security environment in which the conventional Russian military threat to the Baltic states is overshadowed by that of hybrid warfare, which includes the use of proxies, special forces and information campaigns.
In his statement, Zukas said Lithuania's rapid reaction forces would consist of 2,500 troops from Lithuania's 7,000-person military. These troops would be placed on high alert beginning in November and would have the capacity to mobilize within two to 24 hours. Their mission would be to counter unconventional security threats such as attacks by unofficial armed groups, illegal border crossings and the foreign manipulation of national minorities.
Lithuania formulated this rapid reaction plan within the context of the ongoing standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine -- a conflict that has spread throughout the former Soviet periphery. The Baltic states are on the front lines of this broader conflict and are particularly concerned about Russian encroachment into their territory because of their small size and close proximity to the Russian heartland. This is especially concerning because the Baltic states, particularly Lithuania, have been strong supporters of Ukraine's efforts to integrate with the West, putting them squarely in Moscow's sights.
There has already been a great deal of Russian activity inside the Baltic states and the area surrounding them. Russia has built up its forces near St. Petersburg and in the exclave of Kaliningrad, both of which border Baltic states. Moscow has also increased the scale of its military exercises in both areas, while the Russian minorities in several Baltic states have held pro-Russia demonstrations. The rallies are of particular concern because of the size of the Russian minority populations: 24.8 percent of the population in Estonia, 26.9 percent in Latvia, and 5.8 percent in Lithuania. Cross-border incidents between the Baltic states and Russia have also been on the rise in recent months. The Russian coast guard detained a Lithuanian fishing boat, and Russian officials held an Estonian official in custody for allegedly crossing the border on a spying mission, a charge Estonia denied.
The Baltic states see these recent actions in the context of the events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where Moscow's support for demonstrations eventually led to the deployment of Russian military and unofficial militant forces. This has given way to concerns that the Baltics could be the next target for hybrid warfare. As NATO members protected by the Article 5 collective defense clause, the Baltics are somewhat insulated from a Russian conventional military threat. The classification of a threat as subject to Article 5, however, requires a unanimous NATO council vote. This leaves effective defense of the Baltics subject to Western Europe's political will to intervene. A rapid NATO response would be even more doubtful in the case of hybrid or asymmetrical warfare. The Baltic states have called for a permanent NATO military presence within their territory. Instead, NATO and the United States have only stepped up troop rotations for joint exercises and military training to a semi-permanent basis.
Lithuania's decision to organize its own rapid reaction force is an effort to build the capacity to preemptively counter or contain Russian actions and reassure the public that the government is taking concrete action. Given Russia's larger security forces and broader financial resources, however, Lithuania's new force is unlikely to fully neutralize the threat. Maintaining more than a third of Lithuania's forces at that level of readiness will require substantial resources, raising questions about the initiative's long-term sustainability. At best, the plan supplements NATO's efforts, which include launching the bloc's own rapid reaction forces that can be deployed to the Baltics, Poland or Romania. Lithuania will continue to call for a greater U.S. and NATO commitment to regional security.
For its part, Russia will likely continue to use the same methods of hybrid warfare it implemented in Ukraine to project power regionally. Lithuania's creation of a rapid reaction force is simply an acknowledgement of this reality and the need to confront it in a more flexible and creative manner.
Read more: Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares | Stratfor
Russia/west relationship IS reset
Reply #109 on:
November 06, 2014, 11:23:57 AM »
Stratfor: What the Fall of the Wall did NOT change
Reply #110 on:
November 12, 2014, 12:47:28 PM »
What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
Twenty-five years ago, a crowd filled with an uneasy mixture of joy and rage tore down the Berlin Wall. There was joy for the end of Germany's partition and the end of tyranny. There was rage against generations of fear. One fear was of communist oppression. The other fear was of the threat of a war, which had loomed over Europe and Germany since 1945. One fear was moral and ideological, while the other was prudential and geopolitical. As in all defining political moments, fear and rage, ideology and geopolitics, blended together in an intoxicating mix.
Twenty-five years later, we take for granted the moral bankruptcy of Soviet communism, along with its geopolitical weakness. It is difficult for us to remember how seductive Marxism was, and how frightening Soviet power was. For my generation, at the better universities, Marxism was not an exotic form of oriental despotism but a persuasive explanation of the world and how it worked, as well as a moral imperative that a stunning number of students and faculty were committed to. The vast majority of Marxists in what was called the New Left adopted it as fashion more than passion. A small segment of the New Left, particularly in Europe and supported by Soviet intelligence, took direct action and took risks, killing, wounding, kidnapping and blowing things up in the pursuit of political aims. The latter had courage; the former were shallow and cynical. There is no doubt that the shallow and cynical were more praiseworthy.
Still, ideologically, Marxism in its several varieties had a persuasive power that is difficult for even those of us who lived through it to recall. Its pull had little to do with industrial democracy, although songs from the labor movement were sung regularly. It was far less about the proletariat and more a revolt against what was seen as the shallow one-dimensionality of affluence. It was never clear to me what Marxists had against affluence, as I was relatively poor, but the venom against the previous generation's capitulation to ordinary life was intense.
Marxism had become the ideology of the young, who celebrated its moral superiority. This should not be dismissed. The young have driven European revolutions since 1789, and they have always been driven by a deep sense of moral superiority. The passion of the young Karl Marx, writing amid the risings of 1848, led directly to Lenin and then Stalin. The self-righteous young have consequence, something no one attending a major Euro-American university in the decades before the collapse of the Soviet empire could ignore. Bitterness against those over 30 (then considered old) was a greater driver than class struggle. That the young feel superior to the old is built into the Enlightenment. We believe in progress, and the young have more of a future than the old.
In looking at pictures of the celebrants at the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it was the young who had risen up. I was not in Berlin in those days, but I had been to Berlin before, and Berlin was a dynamo of Marxism. I am morally and statistically certain that many of those celebrating the collapse of the wall were Marxists.
When the wall came down, it for the most part destroyed Marxism. The so-called New Left believed Soviet Communism was a betrayal of communism. Since Marxism argued that history was in some sense deterministic, how Marxism could have failed from a Marxist point of view was never clear to me. But in the end, the Marxism of my generation had more to do with the fact that their parents, shaped in the Great Depression and World War II, were content with a house and a car, a spouse and some savings. The young always have greater aspirations than to simply live, but they grow out of it.
The fate of Marxism in Europe and the United States differed greatly from its fate in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Marxism died in the Soviet Union with Stalin. With Mao, Stalin was the last great Communist. It was not just that he believed, but that he acted on that belief. At the heart of communism was the class struggle, and that didn't end when the Communist Party had won. The Party and the people had to be purged, shaped and forged into something unprecedented. It was to be an agonizing process, and Stalin was prepared to impose the agony. Stalin is the finest argument there is against sincerity. He sincerely believed not only in the possibility of creating a new society, but in the brutal actions needed to achieve it.
Stalin killed communism. He was right that creating a new society required agony. He didn't realize, or perhaps in the end didn't care, that the agony required made the new society pointless, corrupt before it was born. Nikita Khrushchev tried to build a communist state without Stalinism. But when Leonid Brezhnev, Alexei Kosygin and Nikolai Podgorny overthrew Khrushchev in 1964, it was the revolution of the exhausted. Their lives were built on a single triumph: They had survived Stalin. Their goal was to continue surviving. Brezhnev destroyed communism by trying to hold absolute power and do as little with it as possible. He sank into corruption and weakness, as did his regime. The empire didn't revolt. It simply took advantage of the fact that the Soviet Union was too corrupt and self-indulgent to hold onto them. It was less a revolution than the fact that the jailhouse door had been left unlocked.
Marxism destroyed itself because it took power, and putting Marxism on display in power ultimately cost it its credibility. Had it never been in power, more than the tiny handful who are still Marxists might take it seriously.
Marxism was repudiated as an ideology, even as it had repudiated ideology in general. It was the culmination of the Enlightenment, not only because Marxism had the most extreme notion of equality imaginable but also because it was ruthlessly consistent. It had views not only on politics and economics, but also on art, the proper raising of children, proper methods of plowing and the role of sports in society. It had views on everything, and with the power of the state at its disposal, nothing was outside its purview. In the end, Marxism discredited the Enlightenment. It was the reductio ad absurdum of systematic reason. Marxism shattered the Enlightenment into an infinite number of prisms, each free to live the one life Marxism could not tolerate: a life of contradictions. We are heir to the incoherence it left.
But the truth was that Marxism not only failed to create the society it wished, it also did not effectively motivate the New Left. Marxism never succeeded in escaping the primordial reality of the human condition. I don't mean this as not escaping self-interest or corruption. What it failed to do was escape the reality of community as the foundation of human existence, more important than the individual, and certainly more important than class.
From the beginning to the end, the Soviet Union was an empire. It had a center in Moscow and an apparatus that controlled other, lesser vassal states. It could claim that the Soviet Man was being created, but the truth was that the Russian was a Russian, the Kazakh a Kazakh, and the Armenian an Armenian. Stalin never crushed this reality as much as he tried. And when he died, and as the Soviet state grew weaker and more corrupt, these national differences became even more important.
But even more than this, the Soviet Union acted in the world as an empire. On taking power, Lenin made a deal with Germany, exchanging land for peace. Indeed, Lenin came to power essentially as a German operative, delivered to St. Petersburg in a sealed train and funded to overthrow the government and make peace with Germany on Berlin's terms. Lenin made this deal in order to take power. When Germany was defeated, he regained the lost lands and the rest of the empire in a civil war that reclaimed Peter the Great's empire for himself. When we look back, the class struggle was merely the preface. The reality was what Marx called Oriental Despotism, coupled with a capitulation to geopolitical reality.
Stalin later spent the 1930s preparing for war with Germany, purging the military, starving peasants in order to buy steel factories, and building weapons. That he miscalculated the beginning does not change the end. Stalin waged a ruthless war for the motherland and pushed the Soviet empire west to the center of Germany and into the Carpathians. The Soviet Union anchored itself in the center of Europe waging a war with the United States for the former European empires cast free by the collapse of European power. It is one of the great ironies of history that the greatest imperial conflict was waged by the two great anti-imperial powers, the United States and the Soviet Union.
We all now know that the Soviet Union was doomed. It was not nearly so clear to the United States as it fought to a stalemate in Korea and lost in Vietnam. It was not clear during the Cuban Missile Crisis or during the Berlin blockade. Above all, it was not clear in 1980, when the United States had lost in Vietnam and was reeling economically. Iran had expelled American power, and the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. Tito was dead in Yugoslavia, and the Soviets were fishing in muddy waters. Greek society was torn apart, and the Soviets were funding all sides of an incipient civil war in Turkey. The American strategy of containment was solid in Europe and had added China to the frontier, but it appeared to be rupturing on a line from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan.
In retrospect, we can see that the Soviet Union had long since lost its will to power. It could not have taken risks even if it wanted to. By 1980, it could poke at the United States and its allies, but a full-blooded thrust was something that haunted only American minds. Still, the Soviets played the geopolitical game. Surrounded, they sought openings, and failing to find those, they tried to drive the Americans off-balance throughout the world. They were everywhere. But in the end, their economy was weak, their satrapies were restless and the leaders wanted to enjoy their dachas and their pleasures. It was partly that they had lost all belief, but it was also, in retrospect, that they knew they were weak.
Marx argued that the revolution would come in an advanced industrial country, like Germany. Instead, it came in a place that violated his theory and where building communism was impossible. It arrived in the vast European Mainland, not on the European Peninsula. It came in an impoverished, landlocked country with terrible transportation and a dispersed population, not on the maritime peninsula, with excellent transportation and a concentrated population. This meant that their thrust in Germany and Eastern Europe left them with a region that now shared Russian poverty, and which had to be occupied and defended. The American solution was simple: to wait. There was really no other solution, as an invasion of the mainland had destroyed Napoleon and Hitler. Geopolitics imposed a strategy of waiting on both sides, and the Soviets had less time than the Americans and their allies.
And so the wall came down. The most fantastic dreams of the Enlightenment were shattered. The young Marxists of Berlin, confused by a history that could not conform to their contradictory dreams, got jobs at Siemens or Deutsche Bank or perhaps in Brussels. The Americans claimed a victory that is somewhat reasonable, if the strategy of doing nothing is allowed into the rules of geopolitics. And the empire shattered into small pieces that cannot be rebuilt, in spite of a leader who would like to think of himself as Stalin, but is really a better-dressed Brezhnev.
The most important thing that happened on that day, and which must not be forgotten, is that Germany became once more reunited. From 1871 onward, a united Germany has posed a problem for Europe. It is too productive to compete with and too insecure to live with. This is not a matter of ideology; it is a matter of geography and culture. The young men and women at the wall now emphatically support austerity in Europe, not accepting responsibility for the rest of Europe's fecklessness. Why should they?
The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago served as an exclamation point in history ending an ideology and an empire. It did not end history, but rather it renewed the puzzle that has dogged Europe since 1871. What will Germany do next and what will the outside world do with Germany? This once slightly unsettling question has become a moderately unsettling one. In Europe, history sometimes throws a party and then presents an unpleasant surprise. But then, Europe is always a surprise, or at least pretends to be.
Read more: What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change | Stratfor
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