Turkey, NATO and Russia


Let's have a discussion of what is going to happen with regard to Turkey in light of:

1.  The S-400 sale

2.  The F-35 sale

3.  Pom-pom and the 'stache.

4.  Putin's amused trouble-making

5.  Trumps unpredictability

6.  Erdo's recent defeat in the Istanbul municipal election.

7.  Neo-Ottoman irredentism

Whatever …   pl

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88 Responses to Turkey, NATO and Russia

  1. plantman says:

    What is most interesting to me, is that the Russian air force is actually pounding Turkey’s militant allies on the ground in Idlib, but both men (Erdogan and Putin) are still strengthening their ties thru Turkstream, Russian tourism and building of a nuclear power plant. Diplomacy seems to have surpassed conditions on the ground in Syria.
    Also, Iran’s leaders feel slightly betrayed by Putin’s deference to Erdogan. They must believe (as I do) that Putin has agreed to allow Turkey to occupy parts of Syria following the war.
    Turkey has been very consistent on this issue from the very beginning…and it has plans to resettle parts of N Syria with the nearly 3 million refugees it is housing in S Turkey.
    Many critics will blame Putin for betraying Assad, but I think he is merely showing that he is a master negotiator who recognizes the importance of ‘good’ relations with Turkey, and knows he will not get everything he wants in Syria. Compromise with Turkey opens up a path to ending the war and for pressuring US-Turkey relations which continue to worsen as Washington continues to support a de facto Kurdistan in E Syria.

  2. Sbin says:

    Buying S400 and losing F35 is a win win.
    Letting a committee design an aicraft instead of aerospace engineers is a bad idea.Pentagon should cut their loss much like with the Zumwalt program.

  3. Barbara Ann says:

    M K Bhadrakumar is a great source for following the frenetic pace of developments in Eurasian geopolitics and he covered this very topic yesterday (see link).
    His view of where the Trump administration currently sees Turkey is essentially as a lever in relation to Iran. He suspects Erdo & Trump have a deal since the G20 whereby S-400 sanctions may be held in abeyance, in return for Turkey’s acquiescence to, or even assistance with the maximum pressure campaign.
    Whilst S-400 delivery is contrary to US/NATO wishes/policy, it makes sense to me that it gets treated as a second order issue in this context. Turkey also wants Iran out of Syria, but if pushed even further into a corner Turkey could make life difficult for the US on Iran and therefore even potentially endanger Trump’s re-election chances.
    Erdogan is still in the regime-changers’ sights, under siege in all areas and consequently in a very weak position. I think those forecasting a full-scale defection into Russia’s orbit misunderstand the realities of the maximum pressure campaign on Turkey itself and much further it can be pushed if need be. IMO it is more likely NATO will eventually welcome the reluctant black sheep back into the fold.
    The slippery Sultan has pushed it to the limit, but the anti-Iran coalition now needs him – at least in the short term. My guess is he gets to keep his shiny new AD system. Where Turkey chooses to put it is a very interesting question; facing its ancient enemy in the West, or perhaps sited to cover the Cyprus EEZ and its oil?

  4. JJackson says:

    Re. 2 and possibly 5.
    Does anyone understand the F35 deal between the participating partner nations.
    Wikipedia say Turkey is a level 3 partner which cost it $4.3 billion and that sales are handled via the Pentagon. Who decides if a partner in the project can be denied the right to buy their product? What I did not see is what F35 components were produced in Turkey and if they stopped exports what redundancy their was in the system.
    Can Turkey say fine I will take my $4.3 billion back as the Russians and Chinese have both made me very attractive offers?

  5. Eugene Owens says:

    Regarding #1 and #2: S-400 is already in Algeria. And it will be in India by next year. Reuters claims that Trump’s good buddy King Salman signed a deal with Russia to buy S-400s. Reuters also reported that Qatar was considering an S-400 purchase. So why is Pom-Pom only jumping on Turkey’s back and not castigating the Saudis, Qataris, Algeriens, and Indians about the S-400? Keeping F-35 stealth capability from snooping by S-400s is the stated reason we don’t want Turkey to have the S-400. But when carrier based F35s are flying in the eastern Med, that stealth capability could be snooped on by the Algerien systems (or by Russian “field service reps” in Algeria with those systems). Ditto for the F35s in Italy. Could Israeli F35 stealth already be jeopardized by Russian system at Khmeimim AB in Syria?
    #3 Idiots. But they are being used by Trump. He puts them up to it, so that he can pull back at the last minute and be Mr World Peace.
    #4: State owned Rossiya TV lampooned Trump’s Fourth of July celebration. Called it фигня (pronounced as ‘fignya’ and translates as bullshit). They mocked the tanks on display, said “the paint on these vehicles is peeling off. They have no cannons, and the optics were pasted on with adhesive tape”. Host Yevgeny Popov called the President “our Donald Trump”. Co-host Olga Skabeeva calls the parade “Putin’s America”.
    #5: See #3
    #6 & 7: I was hoping #6 would stall #7, but I have serious doubts.

  6. Walrus says:

    Regarding the F35 and the S400, the obvious thing to do is to let them have both and swap information. We get S400 info and Russia gets F35 data…….except erdo will try and screw both of us.

  7. I believe Putin’s goal is to transform Turkey from a NATO state into an integral part of Russia’s near abroad to eventually secure a guaranteed access to the Mediterranean and beyond and have a reliable buffer between Russia and Middle East. It’s ensuring peace of mind, not rebuilding an empire.

  8. JamesT says:

    Is the S-400 in Algeria already? I have found reports that it was scheduled to be delivered in 2015 – but I can’t find any reports on it actually being delivered. I don’t think the Russians would have sold it to anyone other than Belarus and China until they had the S-500 ready to go.

  9. JamesT says:

    I think Putin’s goal is more about forming a partnership with Turkey to build an energy corridor through Turkey to Europe. Control of this corridor, or at least membership in the alliance that controls this corridor, is a big deal from a geopolitical standpoint. Thus Russia and Turkey can form something along the lines of an “OPEC on steroids” – Turkey can control who gets to pipe hydrocarbons to Europe and Russia can provide protection to those who wish to join their alliance (as they have already done for Syria).
    Any energy corridor that goes from the Persian Gulf to Europe has to pass through Turkey and also has to pass through either Syria or Iraq. The fact that Syria and Iraq are now effectively in Russia’s sphere of influence makes a Turkish-Russian alliance make all the more sense.
    What Turkey has to gain from such an arrangement is not only transit fees for the hydrocarbons, but also a chance to develop their economy – if Turkey is at the head of the line for receipt of hydrocarbons to Europe, they are at the head of the line for building industry and businesses which use those hydrocarbons as inputs (eg refineries, plastics, aluminum, chemical production).

  10. JamesT says:

    Turkey is going to get their $4.3 billion dollars back at about the same time that Iran gets all of its money back, and Venezuela gets its gold back from the Bank of England – that is to say, never. As soon as Turkey asks for its money back, the US govt will impose sanctions on Turkey and that will be that.

  11. CK says:

    Access to the Med is already guaranteed by treaty just as is access to the Black Sea. Access beyond the Med is controlled at the Suez and the pillars of Hercules.

  12. John Minehan says:

    The two overlap in the Russian mind.

  13. Lars says:

    Until you fix the problem with, according to a poll, 56% of American parents not wanting Arabic numerals taught to their children. I suspect that an equal number would not be able to find any of the mentioned places on a map.
    Where those with crystal balls find certainty, I find something much less. We do know that containment polices can work very well, but any involvement in the world’s longest contested area is not worth the cost, nor the risk. The US has already spent a fortune, with very little to show for it.
    Maybe it is all about learning?

  14. Ghost Ship says:

    Does Erdogan want to be left to look after all those murderous pissed-off foreign jihadists after the Syrian government wins? Nah, Erdogan is quite happy for Putin to kill them all and get rid of Erdogan’s problem.
    After quite a bit of fighting, the SAA is still only operating the meat grinders in Latakia and Hama. Is this to keep Washington quiet? Might it be better for the jihadists if they conducted a strategic withdrawal from Latakia and Hama so that the SAA would be drawn into Idlib which might require a response from Washington

  15. VietnamVet says:

    Erdogan unexpectedly fired the Central Bank Governor. Turkey is the canary in the mine for Europe. The shaking apart of the nation state is due the Muslim Holy War next door from his attempt to build a new Ottoman Empire plus using debt to grow the economy until it stops and collapses. Iran, Hezbollah and Russia saved the Syrian government. The Levant’s radical Sunnis have been corralled into Idlib Province. A Shiite government controls Iraq.
    USA, Saudi Arabia and Israel unleased the hounds of war and they have run wild. Turkey is in the back flash. The adverse effects of the wars for profit and the burgeoning debt has been hidden here by the Dollar’s status as the world currency. Still inequality exploded. Homelessness, a dying middle class, tribalism, and lower life expectancy is impacting both the USA and UK. Boarding a Panamanian oil tanker in Gibraltar Strait bound for Syria by UK forces at America’s request is playing with fire. The ethnic chaos intentional ignited decades ago in the Middle East is spreading West.

  16. BabelFish says:

    The proper way to frame the F-35 program is that it is 3 nearly separate aircraft, with perhaps 20% commonality, mostly around the cockpit. Hard to believe that any one in Congress was fooled into thinking it was just different service markings on each model. That being said, it was still accquisition malpractice.
    There will be about 500 in service by the end of 2019. Way too late to shut the barn door. I am going to wait to hear the pilot community speak before I render a thumbs up or down.

  17. If I was Putin, I would not be comfortable with the prospect of the US potentially blocking or impeding Russian use of the Dardanelles with a NATO compliant Turkey, treaty or not. Remember, we are currently not agreement capable.

  18. None of that is incompatible with a Russian goal of bringing Turkey into the near abroad. It is not a formal treaty organization. It does not rely on conquest or intimidation. Although Russia is capable of yielding a powerful stick against Turkey, she prefers to offer carrots to reach this goal.

  19. Fred says:

    “The US has already spent a fortune, with very little to show for it.”
    We could always get rid of the Departmet of Education. We got along much better without it.

  20. Mark Logan says:

    Reports from several months ago indicate the S-400 was cheaper than the Patriot, more mobile, and Russia was willing to share the technology and the US wasn’t. Could be the S-400 being a better deal value factored in there somewhere. Putin? He’s a businessman too.
    Yosemite Sam Bolton is probably being told to go out there and do his thing, and suffering from whip-lash when Trump yanks the carpet out from under them without apology. The poor dear must be like…

  21. Eugene Owens says:

    James –
    Wiki says yes but their references to it are speculative.
    Besides those there is a Business Insider article, German Edition, which claims Algeria has the S-400. It was dated last November.
    Plus there is a report on Sputnik re S-400 in Algeria. But that is based on a MENAdefense.net article, which has photos (irrefutable they claim??) of several S-400 launchers in Algeria. Plus BAZ-64022 truck-tractors which are used with the S-400 and NOT the S-300. So maybe they do and are trying to hide the fact in order to avoid sanctions? Or maybe they have upgraded their S-300 PMU-2s to the PMU-3, which is a close match to the S-400. Or perhaps it is all propaganda?

  22. Eugene Owens says:

    CK –
    Guaranteed during peacetime. During any hostilities you can throw that treaty out the window.
    Which is why TTG is correct that Putin’s goal is to get Turkey out of NATO. And he may doublecross Assad by blessing Turkey’s permanent occupation (or annexation) of those four districts of northern Aleppo Province (i.e. Afrin, Azaz, al-Bab, & Jarabulus). As payment for getting out of NATO.

  23. Eugene Owens says:

    JJackson –
    I thought Turkey had so far only invested one billion plus to manufacture F-35 components. Plus whatever they had to pay for the four, or is it two, F-35’s they already received (per Wiki).
    The lawsuit they are threatening is in regard to that claimed one billion $ plus investment for manufacturing components. Which components they are manufacturing I have no clue.

  24. ancientarcher says:

    Those ‘arabic’ numerals are actually Indian. The numerals including the decimal point and zero were invented in India and used for a few hundred, possibly a few thousand years before the Arabs got it and transferred it to Europe during the middle ages. Maybe the Americans who don’t like it can rename it to Hindu numerals that it was originally named ss by the Italians.

  25. harry says:

    Oil comes out of iran via Kurdistan. Is there evidence this flow is impaired?

  26. Elsi says:

    As I see it everything, I will make a summary by saying that the US acts and the rest of the world reacts, and then this reactions are misinterpreted in the US as “empire building” ambitions.
    I do not think Erdogan is seaking to rebuilt the Ottoman Empire.
    Of course, everybody wants to expand its sphere of influemce, the more in its neighborhood, but mainly for security reasons due the volatility of the world´s current situation, especially in the ME. But who created such volatility?
    I see the reason for Turkey´s interests in buying the S-400 in the last coup d´etat orchestrated from the US by the gülenists and executed mainly by Turskish Air Forces. We must recall that at certain point it was said that Erdogan was being kept on a flight in the verge of the bombing of his presdiential palace, and that he most probably saved himself by a Russian tip…. On the other hand, although it is said that most of the coupists were purged, may well be the case that Erdogan does not want to award his air forces with state-of-the-art F-35…just in case there are remnant traitors there…
    Thus, we have here that Turkey simply reacts to US unreliabilityv. Another point where Turkey reacts to US unreliability is in response of the intend of creation of a “Kurdish state” by the US just the other side its borders with Syria in the NE.
    In this scenario, does not seem hard to imagine that other nations seeking security on their borders has somewhat aligned with Turkey, in spite of isolated inicidents like that of the Russian jet downed by the Turks.
    Simply, al these people, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Hezbollah, have seen their borders menaced by the “jihadist invent”, and thus have realized it is in their interests to conform a “coalition of the willing” in order to prevail as free sovereign states.

  27. turcopolier says:

    Unless that is a VPN IP you are the goofy Spanish dame returned yet again.

  28. nero says:

    > They must believe (as I do) that Putin has agreed to allow Turkey to occupy parts of Syria following the war.
    This is absolute non-sense as Russia cannot ‘allow Turkey to occupy parts of Syria’ as they are not the Syrian government. They have been very consistent, that the Syrian government should be in control of the entirety of Syria.
    Look at the entire outcome, not small bits of dialogue and attention-baiting headlines. Syrian government now controls most of Syria, they control all of the key population points and they are on their way to a solution in Idlib, be it a militaristic one of diplomatic.
    What people should understand, is that the jihadi’s have nowhere left to go. Rushing into Idlib and fighting in the cities is only helpful to the jihadi’s. Taking them out in open fields whilst they try to counter-attack to regain their losses is ultimately a better long-term solution.
    In the midst of all of this, we have recently gotten confirmation from the man himself, Patruchev, who is probably the 2nd or 3rd most important person in Russia and, most importantly, rarely ever speaks out or leaves Russia, that the Iranians are their allies. This statement, quite frankly, is historic and very important.
    What is required now, after a long and costly war of attrition in Syria (which is already won by the Syrian government) is time and restraint. Russia, Syria, China and Iran have all the time they would ever need, they would not benefit from a conflict. That is why Western countries are trying their hardest to re-start conflicts all over (Iran, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela)

  29. Lars says:

    Thanks for that information. I used the term “Arabic”, since that is what the poll used. The problem still is that what a majority thinks about it and I still suspect that the same crowd may not be able to find India on a map either.

  30. Poul says:

    I agree on the questionable value of the F-35 but the problem is the longer-term consequences. At some point the Turkish Air Force will need new planes and how can they be sure the US or other NATO members will sell them any? Ditto with other weapon systems.
    A classic way for the US to bind an ally is making them dependent on US weaponry.
    Turkey could end up in a position where they would have to back down and get rid of the S-400 or buy new aircraft from Russia or China which would burn some bridges to NATO. Maybe permanently.

  31. CK says:

    Every deep water port that Russia has is bottlenecked, and can be blockaded at will. I suspect that if I know this, the strategists in Russia also know this. Being a punctilious nation, the Russians live up to whatever treaties they are signatories of. That other nations are less “reliable” is just another fact of life and is part of any strategic assessment.
    OBOR does make it possible for Russia to reduce any dependency on the Dardanelles, and on any good will from Turkey,

  32. CK says:

    All treaties are as enforceable as the signers find it profitable to enforce them.
    It is my suspicion that Putin and his strategic advisors have vision that extends beyond the current middle east situation, Turkey is just not that relevant, it is nice that Turkey will be buying Russian AA but if that deal gets scupppered another deal will eventuate. Who has Putin or Russia double-crossed and why do you think he would start now? It is probably not a good idea to rely on American infotainment as a source for realistic assessment of anything.

  33. edding says:

    It is not so much the loss of the right to purchase the F-35, it’s the loss of participation as a F-35 parts supplier that is a negative for Turkey and its defense industry (esp. with its economy in distress).

  34. edding says:

    Excellent points.

  35. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Yes! Maintaining and enhancing the security of its access into the Mediterranean Sea is Russia’s most basic strategic imperative in this area.

  36. aleksandar says:

    I disagree about Putin seeking Turkey to leave NATO.
    It’s far more interesting to have good relations with Turkey remaining inside NATO.

  37. JJackson says:

    They (TIA) are manufacturing fuselage components under contract with Northrop but I have not been able to find anything on the terms of the partnership agreement other than it falls under the terms of 22 USC 2767. Nor could I find anything on the the UK MOD procurement site.

  38. Eugene Owens says:

    CK – Thanks for the response.
    I’m sure you are right that the middle east and Turkey in particular is just one tiny piece of Russia’s strategic vision. And Turkey buying the S-400 may or may NOT get Turkey out of NATO.
    As far as a doublecross, there were accusations of that back in late 2016-early 2017 by some Syrians who were loyal to Assad. That was during the Battle of al-Bab when Russia let the Turkish AF bomb Syria at will without firing a shot back at them. And there were more accusations when the same thing happened again in 2018 when Putin gave Erdogan a greenlight to invade Afrin with both jihadis and with Turkish armor, arty, and air support. And sure, I realize many of those came from Kurds and Syriac Christians. But many others came from Syrian backers of the Assad government and from Iran.
    Iran also lashed out at Russia back in 2010, ‘saying it had “sold out” Iran to the United States by cancelling a deal to supply S-300 ground-to-air missiles.’ Sounds a bit like a doublecross, even though they eventually got them in 2016 due to the lifting of sanctions by JCPOA.
    None of that came from US infotainment sources. I prefer the golf channel and classic movies.

  39. Eugene Owens says:

    Aleksandar –
    That would be interesting. But hasn’t it already happened? And can the good relations remain if once Idlib is liberated that Russia starts bombing Turkish proxy jihadis in the northern Aleppo occupied zones?

  40. Eugene Owens says:

    JJ –
    Not just TIA, at least six other Turkish companies are involved:
    I don’t know the cost. Where did you get that $4.3B figure. AFAIK the Turkish government has only claimed $1B+ in damages if they are cancelled.
    Is Russia offring them the same participation-in-manufacturing deal? I suspect not. AFAIK the S-440 is produced entirely by Russian state-owned aerospace company.

  41. Ingolf Eide says:

    Yes, a crucial point CK. Russia under Putin has been carefully building a reputation for reliability and forthrightness. My guess is nothing short of an existential emergency would lead them to jeopardise that brand.

  42. Tidewater says:

    “Every deep water port that Russia has…can be blockaded at will.” I think that is no longer the case. Russia has begun building a new naval base at Matua island in the Kuril Islands. During WWII Matua was a heavily fortified Japanese island with a large garrison, an underground fortress/city and naval guns. I had never even heard of it till a year or so ago. Matua island has a reputation as being a very strange place. Interesting story.
    The island is in the central part of the archipelago and there is a deep strait nearby, good for subs. Russia is rebuilding the whole Japanese infrastructure there and putting in a new airfield capable of handing among other things TU-22M3 bombers, which carry hypersonic missiles. The combat radius of the Tupolev plus the range of the Kinzhal missile looks like it adds up to a reported 1864 miles. I don’t see a blockade as being likely. The United States doesn’t have anything now or in the near future that can challenge or stop the hypersonic Kinzhal in the event war starts. Any blockading ships would simply be destroyed. Hard to believe. But it’s the reality we now face.
    Submarines leaving or entering Vladivostok used to have to use the strait on the north end of Hokkaido where they were at risk of being observed and tracked by anti-submarine planes like the P-3 Orion and by shore-based sensors, technology and weapons. The base at Matua changes that. The base is going to be chock-a-block loaded. Future plans include the stationing there of a lot of antisub helos, AWACS A-50U, corvettes, unmanned underwater craft, icebreakers, floating workshops, several coast guard squadrons and MIG-31 interceptors which I assume are capable of carrying Kinzhals. It is going to become a great Pacific fortress. I think it is going to become very dangerous for any American submarine that tries to operate in the sea of Okhotsk.
    The base is also a very real threat to any American bases in Japan. Even to Kadena, Okinawa. But it will take three or four years to get it up and running, I would guess, and climate catastrophe –that other reality that noone has the heart to acknowledge– is happening at terrifying speed and it will soon change a lot of the nations’ strategic thinking and focus.
    There is also the question of Kotelny island in the Arctic. I think Russia now controls the Arctic.

  43. Eugene Owens says:

    Tidewater –
    I wonder if they will also rebuild the many IJN and IJA bases and airfields on Paramushiro in the northern Kuriles. Or Shumushu and Uruppu?
    I believe they already have done that on Etorofu, which now has SU-35s and SAM units.

  44. JJackson says:

    I think you are right. Russia has seen the US as agreement incapable and is aware many other states also view it a fickle ally. Russia has been working assiduously to show it self as steadfast which seems a excellent strategy for swaying both those looking for a powerful patron and those who wish to remain as independent as possible.

  45. JamesT says:

    I think we are fully in agreement. By the way, I have started reading The Cuckoo’s Egg on your recommendation and I am *really* enjoing it. Thank you. (If you have any other suggestions I am all ears.)

  46. JamesT says:

    Turkish leader says purchase of S-400 defence system is complete, adding Ankara will jointly produce S-500s with Moscow:

  47. JJackson says:

    Lars what would they like used instead? Roman numerals are not much fun to do calculations with and I am having trouble thinking of a good alternative. Just rename them al la French fries to Freedom fries as ancientarcher suggest.

  48. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Colonel, SST;
    Ali Babacan resigned from AKP (https://www.ft.com/content/14806d84-a179-11e9-974c-ad1c6ab5efd1 ). Today is probably the first day his excellency, the would-be-caliph, woke up, looked in the mirror, and saw a goat.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  49. JJackson says:

    I was wrong about the 4.3 billion.
    From the Wikipedia F35 page
    “While the United States is the primary customer and financial backer, along with the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway, and Denmark have agreed to contribute US$4.375 billion towards development costs.[295]”
    which is not very clear but when I followed the link, [295], you get
    “Eight countries agreed to invest a total of $4.375 billion over 10 years in the $25 billion Joint Strike Fighter program. Britain pledged $2 billion, and is the only “Level I” partner in the program. Italy has pledged $1 billion as a Level II partner, and the Netherlands has also pledged to invest $800 million, also becoming a “Level II” partner. The “Level III” partners include Canada [which pledged $150 million], Denmark [$125 million], Norway [pledged to invest $125 million], and Turkey [pledging $175 million].”
    so Turkey’s contribution to the development budget is only 175 million.

  50. CK says:

    You have added to my knowledge and I thank you. I think that the world is entering a period of global cooling, my thoughts on this do not impact any nation’s policies; it does appear that Putin does not believe in global warming, So you place your bets and you pray for your preferred outcome. I would enjoy global warming, so much more waterfront real estate, so much more arable and productive farm land, so much less a/c cost.

  51. CK says:

    Classic movies meh
    Golf channel only if El Tigre is featured.

  52. CK says:

    Once upon a time, the USA supposedly had a president who was thought to play four dimensional chess. The Russians have such a leader. I am quite happy that he is a patriot for his own nation, and a honourable man.
    It is a sadness that Russia, which was one of the few nations that supported the rebellious nation of 1776 and the only nation to support the Union from `1860 – 1864, was so evilly traduced by Theodore in 1904 and has been so evilly treated by the American Trotskyites (neocons).

  53. Eugene Owens says:

    CK –
    Theodore got the blame from both the Russians AND the Japanese. His peace treaty caused riots in Tokyo and the collapse of the government. I’m not sure why Russia cared about losing the southern half of Sakhalin, they only used it for a Czarist penal colony. But neither side wanted to compromise. Serves us right for trying to be peacemakers.
    I’m a fan of Russia, the people, literature, music, and their defeat of Napoleon and Hitler (both Wellington and Churchill are overrated IMHO). But whether or not Putin is honorable has nothing to do with his intentions in Turkey and Syria.
    I understood Russia was a neutral during the American Revolution. The Tsarina was too busy with Pugachev and keeping an eye on the Turks. As far as support to the Union, it was rhetorical only and probably in reaction to the British support for the Confederacy. Alexander II had a long memory for British aggression in the Crimea.

  54. Tidewater says:

    I once read about Sakhalin that in Tsarist times prisons were established here because once the political prisoner served his time it would take a long, long time, sometimes years, to get back to St. Petersburg or wherever. There were a lot of revolutionaries who stayed on Sakhalin knowing they couldn’t handle the hard journey back. After the revolution the Bolsheviks realized they were going to need to establish a large prison system of their own. So they used the Sakhalin model to get the Gulag up and running. It was the one they knew best.
    I wonder if that is true?
    Chekhov visited Sakhalin and wrote about the prison system and the place quite brilliantly, I have heard. There may have been a medical connection to this.
    It’s a mysterious place to me, particularly the Kurils. Thanks for the comment.

  55. Tidewater says:

    Well, if sea level rises twenty-five feet, does that make more waterfront property, or less? Wouldn’t that make less waterfront property in Florida?

  56. PRC90 says:

    That shiny new AD system would have been sold to the Sultan with the expectation that he will be negotiating the price of a US tech exploitation team to inspect the equipment as soon as it arrives on Turkish soil.
    Also I suspect that the software capabilities may be restricted to prevent it’s ambitious use against anyone with whom Russia has or seeks productive relationships.
    The package won’t be the game-changer that everyone touts it to be.

  57. CK says:

    History is often a slippery thing, the English requested troops from Russia and a formal alliance against the colonies. Catherine refused. ( It would make a fine mil fiction/alternative history: Suvorov in the colonies! ) Then there was her League of Armed Neutrality. Elizabeth’s Russia might not have been a formal ally, but her actions toward the young states garnered Russia a lot of good will.
    As for the Civil war, a lot of oratory, a visit or two by Russian fleets, a completed telegraph line from Seattle and then the Alaskan purchase. Granted not the same as boots on the ground but still much more positive toward the union than either GB or France.

  58. CK says:

    I think you might have misplaced a decimal. .25 feet by the end of this century is more likely.

  59. Eugene Owens says:

    CK –
    How would your alternative history of ‘Suvorov in the Colonies’ handle Pulaski, Kosciusko, Sandusky, and the many other Poles and Lithuanians who fought for American freedom? I expect we would have lost more than we gained. Plus Catherine would never have let him go. I am grateful to Catherine for her neutrality at that time, and also for her great-grandson’s in the 1860s. Although I understand she was playing chess with the British and not signing up for a Russian Declaration of Independence for the serfs.
    Speaking of her great-grandson, some say Lincoln got the impetus for emancipation from him, but others say it was vice versa? For myself I think the kernel of the idea in Russia came from Poland, the Lithuania, and probably the other Baltics as well.

  60. Jane says:

    Erdogan has been chafing over the stalwart banking principles of his Central Bank heads because they have refused to manipulate interest rates. Erdogan has long complained about the international “interest lobby” that harms Turkey’s economy that he and his son-in-law have been messing up all by themselves. [Many in Turkey understand this term “interest lobby” to be a thinly disguised characterization of Jewish financiers.] The lira has also dropped two points in recent days. Economist Ali Babacan, one of the early AKP figures and responsible for the major successes in the early years has complained loudly about the mess. Rumor has it that Babacan is contemplating the launch of a new party.

  61. CK says:

    “How would your alternative history of ‘Suvorov in the Colonies’ handle Pulaski…”. That is a beautiful question.
    George 3 requested troops from Russia.
    So: Had Catherine acquiesced to that request it would have been Suvorov the greatest western general of all times against Washington. Suvorov was 63-0 in his career. Washington was not quite that good at war. So, if Catherine agrees with George 3, the colonies enjoy The Reconstruction 90 years early. The nooses from lampposts party would have had to import Russian hemp ropes.
    But: Catherine did not acquiesce. So she could have sent Suvorov to fight along side the Rebels, the USA would have taken all of Canada, the English colonies in the Caribbean, and British Guinea.
    Either way it would have been a rip-roaring good entertainment for those well away from the fighting.

  62. CK says:

    How to handle the Polish and Lithuanian and French mercenaries in the Revolutionary war? With the same disdain that we treat the German mercenaries in that war or the American mercenaries in the Spanish Civil War, or John Paul Jones who went on to a command in the Russian Navy.

  63. turcopolier says:

    That is a lot of nonsense. People who serve in other countries’ armed forces are NOT necessarily doing it for the money.

  64. CK says:

    I understand that Rahm Emanuel served in the Israeli army not in the army of his birth country. ( as have so many other dual nationals )
    I understand that George Orwell served on one side and Ernest Hemingway on the other in the Spanish civil war. ( and received lucrative book deals from their service ).
    I understand that if one has a criminal record one can “find a new home” in the French Foreign Legion.
    I understand that some find the exhilaration of the lead bees singing their lullaby to be an unshakable addiction. ( https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/through-a-glass-darkly-4/ )
    I know that there is always a convenient rational to involve yourself in other people’s fights.
    And yet the call of the wild geese is always lubricated with coin.

  65. CK says:

    My apologies, I used an abbreviated version of Patton’s poem.
    This is the full version: https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2016/05/through-a-glass-darkly-george-patton.html

  66. Eugene Owens says:

    CK –
    Now you are just trying to yank my chain. I’ve never been a fan of the alternative-history genre. But Suvorov would never have gotten past the Royal Navy. And as it turned out the only help we needed in the end was de Grasse and Rochambeau. And neither of those were mercenaries, they were fighting for France against England on one of many fronts.
    Pulaski and the Hungarian born Kovats fought as part of the Continental Army and are considered the Fathers of the US Cavalry. They were both KIA wearing American uniforms. And Koskiuzko is the Father of our Corps of Engineers.
    In the Spanish Civil War it seems you consider the Lincoln Battalion as mercenaries. Does that extend to all volunteers in the International Brigade, which was organized by the Russians? Or do you just regard the anti-Franco Americans as mercs? What of the many Soviet Army, AF, Navy, and KGB officers there? Do you consider the half a billion dollars in Spanish gold reserves pilfered by Stalin to be payment for mercenary services?
    Do you hold the same disdain for the Wagner Group mercs (or should I say PMCs) as you do for the Europeans who fought for General Washington? I understand many of the Wagner PMCs are now in Madagascar enjoying the mining profits given to them for their services there.

  67. Barbara Ann says:

    Patton’s line “[I have] Fought for belly, shame, or country” itself refutes your argument. Sure the list is not exclusive and of course should include money, but if you really think Orwell’s motivation was to secure funds for the future Homage to Catalonia you are delusional.

  68. CK says:

    I had no way of knowing you disliked the genre.
    If they were not Spaniards fighting for their own country, why were they there? For the joy of battle testing new machines? I am fairly sure Franco did not invite the Russians, win or lose the mercenary wants his pay.
    I think that what I disdain is the rationalizations offered after the fact for wanting to go off to far away lands and kill people.
    Had the Crown won instead of the rebels, Lafayette and all those others who fought for the rebels would have been executed and their names would be forgotten by history.
    The Wagner Group reads very impressive as mercenaries for hire or as a deniable SOW group for Russia or as another Bellingcat fantasy.

  69. CK,
    Coming, belatedly, into this argument.
    You appear to think that nationalism is the only thing for which people can fight, except self-interest.
    In relation to Spain, I can perhaps refer you to two poems by Rupert John Cornford, a British volunteer for the International Brigades, who died in August 1936. As it happens, both my late father, and an old lady who I got to know in my days as a Cambridge (UK) student, knew him quite well.
    (See https://thestringer.com.au/poetry-from-the-front-john-cornford-and-the-spanish-civil-war-5044 )
    She once said I reminded her of him. But both of them, from very different perspectives, were fundamentally opposed to his – communist – politics.
    And yet, the first of the two poems reproduced on the site to which I have linked is I think one of the most beautiful love lyrics written in English in the last century.
    As to the second, the phrases ‘the dialectic’s point of change’, and ‘We are the future. The last fight let us face’ sum up everything which, tutored by my father and the old lady who knew Cornford, I have thought nonsense throughout my adult life. Nonsense, moreover, which was in no sense harmless, but which it was absolutely necessary to fight.
    With time, I have come to think that the ‘Fukuyamist’ version of this nonsense is actually materially worse than the Trotskyite or Stalinist.
    But one needs to understand the complexity of reasons for which people will fight for causes, even those one thinks are very bad ones.

  70. Eugene Owens says:

    CK –
    ” For the joy of battle testing new machines?” Right!!! The International Brigades had mostly 1891 Mosin-Nagant rifles, but also a collection of old Arisakas, Mausers, Winchesters, Berthiers, Ross’s, Springfields, Lee Enfields, Lebels, & Steyr/Mannlichers. Then some Hotchkiss 1909 LMGs and 1914 Mediums. The Russian T-26s provided to the Spanish Republican Army had been battle tested in China, plus the Republicans had some old WW1 Vickers tanks. The ones battle testing new machines in Spain were Franco’s buddies Hitler and Mussolini.
    “I am fairly sure Franco did not invite the Russians” The legal Republican government of Spain invited the Russians. That was after Franco’s second coup attempt when he invited in Hitler, who was glad to battle test his Panzers and Stukas. Franco also begged support from Mussolini, who provided him with tanks, planes, artillery, thousands of MGs, plus 50,000 troops. Il Duce’s air force also provided transport planes to bring 60,000 Moroccan infantry to Spain to help Franco overthrow the government.

  71. Eugene Owens says:

    David H –
    Thanks for the poetry link.
    It says Cornford first went to Spain as a journalist. Was he a communist at that time, or did that come after he joined the resistance against Franco?

  72. Barbara Ann says:

    Not forgetting the Condor Legion testing its machines & new tactics – the ones that inspired a rather famous painting.

  73. Eugene Owens says:

    Barbara –
    I believe Il Duce’s Aviazione Legionaria worked together with the Condor Legion on that.
    We, the UK and US, did worse in Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo. But von Richthofen showed us the way.

  74. Tidewater says:

    Thank you for this mention of John Cornford. I knew that there were a lot of his contemporaries who were saddened, even a bit rocked at his death. I didn’t realize,though, that he had published as much as he seems to have, nor had I read this poem. I had an odd thought reading it that the poem reminded me of Ezra Pound’s (translation of Li Po) ‘The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter.’
    While I am aware that it might be a bit of a stretch … Maybe you could simply say that both poems have the quiet voice of someone who is deeply affectionate towards, more than affectionate, really, deeply loves the one who is being addressed. And there is a journey involved. To a distant place the speaker, or the one spoken to, scarcely know. There is danger to each traveler, much more so in one case, but fear is there for both. There is aloneness, solitude, in each. Both voices have a very gentle, dignity. It’s just someone quietly talking to someone else… Maybe that’s a great rule for a love poem/love letter…
    The River Merchant’s wife: A Letter. By Ezra Pound. After Li Po.

  75. Fred says:

    Von Richtoven was a fighter pilot and did not command a strategic bombing force targeting cities.

  76. Tidewater says:

    There’s something here by the daughter of the girl he wrote the poem to!
    The barren hills of Aragon. https://adathecadre.blog/tag/heart-of-the-heartless-world

  77. CK says:

    I have fought for both. Mayhap I project my sensibilities. But I will not attempt to kill you because you cross yourself from right to left and I from left to right. Causes and isms such transient ephemeral garments to cover the delight of killing.

  78. Barbara Ann says:

    This guy was the cousin of the better know fighter ace Manfred. See his wiki on his involvement in Guernica:

  79. CK says:

    As I asked: Why were they there?
    Much as George 3, the legal ruler of the colonies, had requested Russian troops from Catherine and she demurred; the legal ruler of Spain requested troops from Stalin and he did not demur.
    So the German’s and the Russians both got to test new weapons and new tactics on the Spanish troops and the Spanish people. The mercenaries on both sides got paid.

  80. Tidewater says:

    Tidewater to Tidewater. I will try to get it right.
    ‘The River Merchant’s wife: A Letter.’ By Ezra Pound. After Li Po.

  81. Eugene Owens says:

    Tidewater George Orwell was wounded close by the Estrecho Quinto trenches mentioned in your link. There is a road named aftr him there:
    Like Cornford, Orwell also fought with the Marxist POUM militia against the fascists. The supression and attack on POUM by the Communists is said to have led to his later authorship of Animal Farm and 1984.

  82. Eugene Owens says:

    Wolfram NOT Manfred. He was a cavalry officer until late in WW1 when he joined his cousin’s as a fighter pilot. He flew on the same mission when the Red Baron was shot down.

  83. Eugene Owens says:

    CK –
    Much as George III used General von Knyphausen’s Hessians and other Germans up to and during the War for American Independence. This was a major resentment even before the war. In the Declaration of Independence it was Grievance #25 against George III: “He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.”
    Nobody in the International Brigade was paid other than beans and a blanket. It wasn’t just Americans. It was mostly French but also included the Canadian McKenzie/Papineau Battalion, the British Battalion, the Polish Mickiewicz Battalion, the Italian Garibaldi Battalion, many Irish Republicans, and others from perhaps every country in Europe and Latin America.
    It was a complex war and the curtain-raiser or opening act of WW2. I suggest you read historian Anthony Beevor’s excellent account ‘The Battle for Spain’ instead of trying to reduce it to talking points:

  84. Eugene Owens, Tidewater, CK.
    On Cornford. The biography attached to the poems is misleading. He went to Spain to fight, and had already been a deeply committed communist at his ‘public school’ Stowe, a good while before he arrived at Cambridge in 1933.
    What one might call ‘aristocratic communism’ – for want of a better word, is an interesting phenomenon.
    A great-grandson of Charles Darwin, Cornford was the son of a Cambridge professor of ancient philosophy, and his actual first name, Rupert, came from the poet Rupert Brooke, a family friend, who had died on active service in the Aegean shortly before he was born, in 1915, actually of an infected mosquito bite.
    Among many other ‘aristocratic communists’, a particularly interesting example is the Polonised Lithuanian noble Felix Dzerzhinsky.
    If anyone believes that ‘metadata’ using that figure’s name establishes that ‘Guccifer 2.0’ was part of a Russian ‘information operation’ practised by the GRU, they are either completely stupid, or utterly ignorant of the complexities of Soviet/Russian history. (‘Round up the usual suspects: Steele, Hannigan, Dearlove, Strzok, Brennan, Jonathan Winer.’)
    As my late father was an exact student contemporary at Cambridge of Cornford, although from a completely different social and intellectual background, I have some sense of the way in which the climate at the time was overshadowed, not only be impact of the war, but by the onset of the Depression and the rise of Hitler.
    The – very fine – grammar school in the port town of Barry in South Wales of which my father was a product was the creation of Major Edgar Jones, a great Welsh educationalist. As a young woman, his wife, Annie Gwen Jones, had gone out to Ukraine to tutor the grandchildren of John Hughes, the Welsh engineer who created the Donbass.
    A delayed result was that their son Gareth, who had graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, some time before Cornford, did the only serious on-the-ground reporting of what is now called the Holodomor. Ironically, he would be killed by bandits in Manchukuo in 1935 – whether at the instigation of the NKVD or not I am unclear.
    His reporting from the time has now all been posted by his relatives on the net, see https://www.garethjones.org .
    Reading it has been interesting for me, because it is a central part of my own family history.
    Shortly before my late father followed Gareth Jones to Cambridge, the latter addressed the chapel my grandparents attended and described what he had seen in Ukraine – gives his own people a condensed version of the materials now available on the website.
    Particularly as my grandfather was also a former pupil of Edgar Jones, and as the education officer at the local council a close colleague and friend, my father had rather more confidence in what he was told at that meeting than in the dismissals of the reporting by Jones by his very powerful and influential critics, prominent among whom was Walter Duranty of the ‘New York Times.’
    It may partly have been as a result of this that, addressing the student historical society in Cambridge in 1935, my father delivered a pisstake of Marxism-Leninism, suggesting that rather than the eternal conflict between classes, history could be seen as an eternal struggle between the old and the young. He was told by Cornford that no prediction of the creed either had been, or could be, proven wrong.
    As it happens, the Spanish Civil War is one of the many instances where I think the actual conflicts involved were incredibly complicated – far too much so for someone who has not studied the subject to have a clear view – and the only thing of which I am reasonably confident is that then as now, all too many people preferred projecting simplistic ideologies onto messy situations.
    Interestingly, a couple of years ago a distinguished British historian of modern Spain, Paul Preston, accused George Orwell of doing just this in his immensely influential ‘Homage to Catalonia’. A first point he makes is that the Republicans were forced into seeking arms and support from the Soviet Union – for which they paid – because they could not get these from the British and French.
    (A short version of Preston’s argument is at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/06/george-orwell-homage-to-catalonia-account-spanish-civil-war-wrong ; a longer version, which might disabuse anyone who thinks that the British in the ‘International Brigades’ who went to fight for the Republic were simply there for the money, or because they liked risking their lives to kill people, is at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/85333/ .)
    To have any hope of surviving against the Franco’s professional forces, Preston points out, the defenders of the Republic had to attempt to create a professional army, and build as much of a ‘Popular Front’ as they could.
    What they needed like a hole in the head was the kind of revolutionary upheavals championed by the POUM, with which Orwell identified, and Trotskyists more generally – and indeed it was his friends, and the anarchists, who were responsible for a very large share of the atrocities which did the Republican cause immense damage.
    According to Preston, the notion that Stalin’s obsession with destroying Trotskyists was responsible for the defeat of the Republic is simply false: indeed close to the reverse of the truth. A central priority of his policy at the time was to maintain France as a central element in a strategy of ‘containment’ of National Socialist Germany, and a central fear that if Spain went France would follow, laying the Soviet Union open to German attack.
    There is, here, yet another irony. The study ‘The Revolution Betrayed’ which Trotsky published in 1937 was read carefully in the German Embassy in Moscow. It was quoted at length in a speech drafted by his young subordinate Hans (‘Johnnie’) von Herwarth for his ambassador, Werner von der Schulenberg, to deliver to the General Staff Academy in Berlin in November of that year.
    Reading the 1981 memoir ‘Against Two Evils’ which Herwarth wrote in collaboration with the American scholar S. Frederick Starr some years back, I was struck by the ironic parallels between the – actual – view of the German Moscow Embassy diplomats, and the close of ‘Animal Farm.’
    At the risk of caricature, the argument made by Herwarth and Schulenberg to Hitler – and he saw no reason to revise it in the intervening decades – might be summarised as follows:
    What is the point of risking Germany’s future in a great ‘crusade’ against ‘international Bolshevism’, when the ‘national Bolshevik’ Stalin is busily liquidating all those ‘internationalist’, Bolsheviks from the ‘borderlands’ he can lay his hands on?
    Again, if – rightly or wrongly, and Herwarth has interesting things to say about this – Stalin is so afraid of ‘Bonapartism’ that he liquidates the most intellectually sophisticated command group of any country anywhere in the ‘Thirties, and replaces them with unthreatening incompetents like Voroshilov and Budyonny, then that greatly reduces the dangers from Soviet military power.
    At the same time, Herwarth and his colleagues tried to warn Hitler that it was unwise to think that the Soviets were so weak that, as the figure they tried unavailingly to persuade put it before he made his crucial disastrous gamble, ‘We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.’
    What Hitler was attempting to do would vindicate ‘national Bolshevism’: German armies would then find themselves fighting not on metalled roads in Poland, where there relative strengths were greatest, but on the banks of the Volga in midwinter – where everything favoured the other side.
    In relation to the politics of the ‘Thirties, there were rather complicated, and still partly unresolved, questions about who was fooling whom, and who was fooling themselves, by believing what they wanted to believe, and getting lost in their own rhetorics. (It becomes interesting to think what Herwarth’s candid view, alike of Cornford and Orwell, might have been),
    ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’

  85. Eugene Owens says:

    David H –
    I’ve put Herwarth’s ‘Against Two Evils’ on my reading list. A bit pricey though but maybe I can find a used copy. Plus I’m grateful for the other links. I thought that Felix was an ethnic Pole but then I’m sure the bloodlines were mixed during the Union. Even the great Pilsudski had a Polish/Lithuanian identity. I have mongrel ancestry myself, although one of my great, great grandfathers immigrated from South Wales. Perhaps even from the Barry you mention?
    Your closing quote is indisputable. Unfortunately we all soon forget that which went on before. As always I am gobsmacked by your erudition. Except perhaps for the ‘pisstake’ comment. 🙂 Is that in use at Cambridge?

  86. Eugene Owens says:

    I spoke to fast in calling General Pilsudski ‘great’. I know he had a very dark side. I was thinking of his kicking Stalin’s and Tukhachevsky’s butt in the Battle of Warsaw. I realize he has a darker side.

  87. CK says:

    Thank you for the suggestion, Beever’s book has been added to my amazon purchase list.

  88. Eugene Owens,
    I am very fond of http://www.bookfinder.com. It searches through all available sites, and often comes up with surprising bargains. A year ago, I wanted to look again at the Herwarth book, and found a decent ex-library copy for £2.49, including postage. Apparently, a good copy can be obtained on your side of the Atlantic for $3.99.
    A bit of background to my own interest. Reading the memoirs of George Kennan, a long time ago now, I was struck by a passing reference to the German Moscow Embassy of the ‘Thirties as ‘at all times excellent.’
    When I followed this up, I discovered that it was either ignored by Western historians, or incorporated in a ‘narrative’ about the sinister Germans corrupting innocent Americans.
    In fact, two memoirs by former officials of the Embassy have been available in English for years.
    The first, ‘Incompatible Allies’, written by the long-serving Embassy ‘Legionsrat’ Gustav Hilger in collaboration with a young Jewish refugee, Alfred Gustav Meyer, who had learned Russian courtesy of the U.S. Army, was published as long ago as 1953. It is now available at
    The memoir by Herwarth was not published until 1981. The ‘backstory’ is interesting. A Junker with a Jewish grandmother, as well as serving as diplomat in Moscow from 1931-9, and then in the Wehrmact on the Eastern Front, he was involved from early on with the circles in the Foreign Ministry and General Staff where opposition to Hitler was concentrated.
    As a result, he realised, as Schulenberg and Hilger did not, that in the wake of the kind of agreement with the Soviet Union which all three of them had been energetically promoting, Germany would get involved in a war with the Western powers. This produced a dramatic ‘volte face.’
    In the memoirs of Kennan’s fellow Soviet expert Charles ‘Chip’ Bohlen – a superior analyst in my view – published in 1973, there is a description of how Herwarth warned him of the negotiations leading up to the pact, as he did also with other Western diplomats in Moscow, in a desperate attempt to make them realise that they had to make terms with Stalin before Hitler did.
    Then, in 1976, in ‘A Man Called Intrepid’, his wildly inaccurate account of the British Security Co-ordination operation in the United States in the Second World War, William Stevenson gave a distorted account of Herwarth’s role in supplying intelligence to the then commercial attaché in the American Berlin Embassy, Sam Edison Woods, in 1940 on the plans for ‘Operation Barbarossa.’
    This included the false – and obviously embarassing – suggestion that Herwarth had been an American spy since 1936.
    Actually, this part of the history in one area of the memoirs where I think that Herwarth was a great deal less than candid: I am profoundly sceptical about his claim not to have known that Woods was working for American intelligence, which in this case meant, it appears, being used as a private intelligence gatherer by Roosevelt. A lot about those connections has not I suspect been revealed.
    Both Herwarth and Alfred Gustav Meyer thought that Hilger’s long history of close contact with the Soviets – he had been born in Moscow – made his experience invaluable, and that is indeed a good reason for reading his book. Equally however, they both thought him too naive to be a reliable observer.
    On the other hand, I think Herwarth was just a terribly good analyst, and also a very brave man.
    The history of the connections between the veterans of the American Moscow Embassy of the ‘Thirties and their erstwhile German colleagues is of considerable importance in making sense of the early Cold War.
    Unfortunately, a lot of writing on this suffers from a failure to understand the complexities involved.
    So, on the one hand, we have John Lewis Gaddis’s 2011 authorised biography of Kennan, which contains three brief references to Herwarth, and apparently none to Hilger.
    That it is simply inexcusable to avoid looking seriously at Hilger’s role is evident from materials available on something called the ‘Gustav Hilger Research Library’, which has been started by a research associate at the Hoover Institution, Matt Ellison.
    (See https://www.mattellison.org/hilger/ .)
    However, the title of a piece he wrote last April – ‘The German Strategic Mastermind Behind America’s Post-War Order’ is I think over way over the top.
    To make any sense of these matters, it is necessary to make some attempt to understand how appalling can be the choices that people have to face.
    The record of George N. Shuster’s 13 August 1945 conversation with Hilger provides, in essence, a summary of the account given in the book. The German Moscow Embassy view had long been that Stalin was – and would remain – far too fearful of Germany deliberately to initiate, or indeed risk, general war. However, they also thought that if Germany initiated such a war, it would lose.
    Once however Hitler had gambled on war, the same logic led to the conclusion that the only way to avoid a cataclysmic defeat had to be to repeat the strategy which Germany had practised to great effect in the First World War – to make maximum use of the internal tensions of the adversary. The 8 November 1946 memorandum about Vlasov does indeed summarise the only strategy by which the Germans could have avoided defeat.
    Given that Ribbentrop had been opposed to the attack on the Soviet Union – he wanted to collaborate with it against Britain – it was hardly surprising that Hilger went on desperately trying to use him to influence Hitler.
    To make sense of the Hilger-Kennan relationship, I think, one needs to go back to a central point which Herwarth makes, which is also fundamental to the analyses Kennan produced at the end of the war, which are reproduced at the end of the first volume of the memoirs.
    It is actually brought up by your very apt comparison of Dzerzhinsky and Pilsudski. As it happens, a play about these two characters, which, according to a report in the ‘Baltic Times’, was ‘written in the genre of tragic farce’, was put on in Vilnius in 2011. The following year saw the publication of the study ‘The Bolsheviks and the Russian Empire’, by an American scholar teaching at Edinburgh, Liliana Riga – its conclusions are summarised in a 2008 paper.
    (See https://m.baltictimes.com/article/jcms/id/129506/ ; https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/12594418/The_Ethnic_Roots_of_Class_Universalism.pdf .)
    The key point is that Bolshevism was only very partly a movement of Russian proletarians – it was also one route which could be taken by non-Russian intellectuals in the ‘borderlands’ who were unhappy with ‘nationalist’ alternatives.
    A conclusion which Kennan drew was that Stalin’s attempt to bring under his control not just parts of the ‘borderlands’ which had been part of the Romanov’s empire, but also parts which had been under the Hapsburgs and Ottomans, was liable to create an ultimately unsustainable strategic position. On the one hand, they would run into the same kinds of problems as their Tsarist predecessors, in spades; on the other, if one gave in to ‘nationalists’ outside the Soviet Union, this might precipitate a process of disintegration carrying forward uncontrollably into the Soviet Union.
    In a 2010 discussion, a contemporary Russian scholar, Vladimir Pechatnov, noted that this analysis was prescient.
    (See http://jhss-khazar.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/01.pdf .)
    However, Kennan’s conviction that the Soviet system could be pushed into collapse also meant that he took over a latent tension which had been present both with the strategy the Germans had successfully pursued in the First World War and that which Hilger and his colleagues wanted to pursue in its successor. Of necessity, this involved finessing the conflicts between non-Russians who were both anti-communist and anti-Russian, and Russians who were anti-communist.
    As regards the latter group, I think there is some reason to suspect that in documents like the discussion of Vlasov, Hilger was in part telling Kennan what he wanted to hear.
    This bears rather directly upon contemporary dilemmas. It was one thing to support anti-Russian nationalists when there was still a Soviet Communist ‘superpower.’
    To continue to do so, when what is at issue is a project to exploit the heirs of some of those groups with whom the Germans collaborated in the war and people in London and Washington collaborated after it to wrest the whole of Ukraine, including Crimea and in particular Sevastopol, into an anti-Russian Western ‘bloc’, is to take large risks. An important one is that of convincing once pro-Western Russians that they were fooled.
    A related point comes into sharper focus if one brings into the picture the fact that Pechatnov comes out of the Institute of the USA and Canada, which was one of the ‘nodes’ from which the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking’ spread. What Kennan actually anticipated from the subversion of the Soviet system he believed would result from the successful reconstruction of the West was not a happy ‘transition’ to democracy: it was chaos ‘beyond description.’
    As Pechatnov notes, an attentive reader of Kennan would have chosen the path taken by Deng rather than that taken by Gorbachev. That however brings me to a final irony involved in the history of the German Moscow Embassy. The political project of Schulenberg became, in essence, to create an invulnerable ‘continental bloc’ by incorporating in the Anti-Comintern Pact the power against which it had been directed.
    A Russia which has lost faith alike in Western intentions and Western political models can be an invaluable asset to the Chinese, in creating a new version of such a world. And an obvious goal would be, over time, to persuade Germans to look again at Schulenberg’s vision.

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