Soviet Days Of August

There is a cluster of days, starting with today, in 1991 and before which were fateful for the Soviet Union.

August 23, 1939: Foreign Ministers Vyacheslav Molotov (Soviet Union) and Joachim von Ribbentrop (Germany) signed an agreement not to go to war against each other. It included a secret protocol in which the two countries divided up the territories between them: Finland, Poland, the Baltic States, Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Germany invaded Poland in September, and the Soviet Union invaded Finland in November. That was the start of World War II. The Soviet Union took the Baltic states in June 1940, but a year later, Germany invaded them. In 1944, the Soviets returned to drive the Germans out.

August 23, 1989: People in the Baltic states, now republics of the Soviet Union, formed a chain, holding hands from Tallinn to Vilnius to protest the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. At that time, the Soviet Union refused to recognize that the secret protocol to the pact existed. Although the Baltic states were under Soviet rule, most other nations did not recognize this and dealt with Baltic governments in exile. This is the situation now with the Russian occupation of Crimea. Mikhail Gorbachev was First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and there was unrest across the Soviet Union and its satellites. In October, Gorbachev gave the satellite countries (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and East Germany) autonomy from Soviet Communist rule.

August 19, 1991: Soviet military personnel stage a coup against Gorbachev. Lithuania had declared independence in March 1990, and several other Soviet republics were moving toward independence. Gorbachev was considering liberalizing the Soviet constitution to allow more freedom to the republics. The coup plotters felt that Gorbachev was betraying the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was weakened, and Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian Republic, strengthened himself politically by standing against the plotters. The coup failed, but it assured the end of the Soviet Union. Over the next several days, Latvia, Estonia, and most of the other republics declared independence. (New York Times, BBC, Association for Diplomatic Studies) Through the next months, other republics declared independence, and finally, on December 25, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved.

 

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice.

 

 

Links – August 4, 2018

Two Trumps in Helsinki: Russia’s Approach to the U.S. President. By the director of the analytical department of the Center of Political Technologies in Moscow. Did the US really exploit Russia’s weakness in the 1990s?

Analysis of the Trump administration’s demands on Iran.

It is beyond absurd that administration officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in particular, keep claiming that North Korea agreed to unilaterally disarm.

Our summer of fear: A conversation with Chicago philosopher Martha Nussbaum. Fear is an important part of what Donald Trump is inflicting on the nation and world. It gives him power.

It’s hard to keep up with events these days – as I save links to share, they become outdated. So the photo at top is of desert four o’clocks that are now blooming a second time after our monsoon rains.

 

Links – May 8, 2018

What Russia wants most – derzhavnost means both being a great power and being recognized as such by others. It explains a lot.

What North Korea needs to give up for peace with South Korea. This seems analogous to the Soviet Union’s foreign policy before 1989. This is what would be necessary to monitor a deal with North Korea – much more complex than Iran’s agreement, which Trump is now savaging. Top photo from hereA nuclear inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iran in 2014. CreditKazem Ghane/European Pressphoto Agency

Probably the best piece around on Benjamin Netanyahu’s spectacle on the Iran deal.

The OPCW concluded that the chemical agent used on the Skripals in Salisbury, England was “concluded that the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions.”

How they do it – open source intelligence at Middlebury’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Links – April 27, 2018

Photo from Al Jazeera’s timeline of the Korean Summit. Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in shaking hands across the border.

Trump needs to pare back his goals for his meeting with Kim Jong UnSuspicious factory underscores challenge of verifying North Korea’s nuclear promises. Nothing that Trump has said indicates that he has any concept of verification. What to do if the talks with North Korea succeed: Develop a program like the Nunn-Lugar program for Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since Siegfried Hecker was instrumental in the program with Russia, I’ve always thought that North Korea’s invitation to him to visit in 2004 was an attempt at building such a program. From 2017, on how to deter North Korea. Read More

Paul Manafort in Ukraine’s 2010 Election

Back in 2010, a couple of things seemed strange to me about the Ukrainian election. Yulia Tymoshenko came across as much more corrupt and autocratic than I had recalled. At the same time, Victor Yanukovych had greatly upgraded his image from unimaginative apparatchik.

I don’t follow Ukraine as closely as I do the Baltic states, so I figured that I had missed some things about Tymoshenko and that maybe Yanukovych was transcending his origins. This week I learned that those impressions were a result of Paul Manafort’s work with Yanukovych’s campaign. Read More

Links – March 30, 2018

Three similar op-eds about the unified expulsions of Russian diplomats, from Kadri Liik, Shashank Joshi, and Mark Galeotti. Bottom line: In the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Vladimir Putin has supplied the last straw so that other world leaders will not tolerate his attempts at deniability, which are no longer plausible.

One of the reasons that this broad rebuke has a good chance to influence Russia is that Putin would like to rebrand Russia as a great power, but he’s having difficulty doing so. Read More

Links – March 23, 2018

How Trump has split with his administration on Russian meddling. And now he’s congratulated Vladimir Putin on his electoral “win,” against the advice of his national security staff. Apparently now he is planning to meet Putin, but it’s always hard to know for sure.

The secret Russian military labs that deal with nerve agents. I am seeing a number of contradictory articles with interviews of former Soviet scientists said to have worked on the Novichok agents. The articles contradict each other to some degree. I won’t post them until I can figure out more about which (if any) to believe. Frequently asked questions about the Salisbury poisoning. An article from an expert I feel is reliable.

Long article on Ivan Ilyin, whom Putin likes to quote.

Nice takedown of a fear-mongering New York Times article on hacking and the power grid. I think part of the reason for clickbait articles like that is that too many reporters turn off their brains when confronted with anything that looks like it might involve math.

Why not start the North Korean talks by dealing with nuclear safety?  Jon Wolfsthal suggests that planning for negotiations develop some goals and expectations. This would be an obvious thing that did not need to be said in an alternate universe. The dirty secret of nuclear arms in Korea in the early 1960s. There were over half as many nuclear weapons in South Korea as the US has deployed overall today.

Very cool schematic of the SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. An August 2016 article about SCL and CA. And an article from December 2015.

The Security and Exchange Commission has charged Elizabeth Holmes with massive fraud in Theranos Corporation. Here are her seven biggest lies.

It looks like Israel is trumpeting its 2007 bombing of a nuclear reactor site in Syria to encourage those who would like to believe that the many hardened sites in Iran and North Korea, locations unknown, could be as easily taken out. That’s not true, but look for this to be used as an example by people like John Bolton and Mark Dubowitz. Top photo is of the reactor building before the bombing and after the bombing and site clearing of the debris.

The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. This week is the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. This NIE was part of its justification.

 

Kazakhstan Moves To Latin Alphabet

Kazakhstan will now officially use the Latin alphabet rather than Cyrillic. They have been moving toward the change for some time. I can recall quite a few signs in the Latin alphabet from the early 2000s.

Part of the reason is to establish Kazakhstan more firmly as independent from Russia. When Vladimir Putin grabbed Crimea from Ukraine and started a war in the Donbas, Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev took notice. There is a significant Russian ethnic population in northern Kazakhstan.

Nazarbayev ruled Kazakhstan as a part of the Soviet Union. He is inclined to dictatorial ways, but he has helped Kazakhstan develop as an independent country and is an acute policitician.

As Estonia Passes 100, Tallinn has Successfully Integrated Nearly 90 Percent of Its Ethnic Russians, Experts Say

Russia has gotten a lot of mileage out of claims about ethnic Russians in the Baltic States. Those claims become less true with every passing year. Paul Goble reports that most ethnic Russians in Estonia are now loyal to Estonia, even if they speak only Russian.

That’s consistent with what I saw in the early 2000s. Many ethnic Russians who were uninterested in Estonian citizenship were older people who wanted to stay where they had always lived and did not care about voting or a passport to travel. They are dying off now, and more and more ethnic Russians have grown up in a free Estonia, part of the European Union.