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 Russian Reaction Blog / UkraineTeasers

The basics on Denis Voronenkov: Communist MP. Bombastically patriotic. He led the way on highly needed and necessary legislation, such as a ban on Pokemon Go, and often waxed lyrical about the “patriotic” and “non-materialistic” values instilled on him by his Komsomol education.

This patriotism and lack of materialism expressed itself in the form of a $5 million apartment in the center of Moscow, a small fleet of luxury cars, a celebrity opera singer wife, and the respect of his fellow Kremlin elites. Current head of the SVR Sergey Naryshkin sang at his wedding to Untied Russia deputy Maksakova, which the Duma hailed as its “first interfactional wedding.”

He acquired his riches by selling favors to businessmen in return for promises of official access, and there’s not entirely incredible allegations that he ordered a contract killing (on a businessman who claimed that he had reneged on one of those promises).

However, at some point he crossed the wrong people, and there were rumors that an investigation would be started up when his parliamentary immunity was to run out in December 2016.

What’s a Russian communist patriot who finds himself the subject of criminal proceedings to do?

To flee to the UkSSR, of course, where he is warmly welcomed into the Maidan elites, including accelerated citizenship (in contrast, the Russian useful idiots who went to fight for the Revolution of Dignity and a future for white children have long since been thrown to the winds; many have struggled to even get a residency permit).

There, he goes from fighting Pokemon Go in Russia to calling Russia a latter-day Nazi Germany.

voronenkov-prophecy

In December 2016, soon after settling down in Kiev, he gloated: “First the downed fighter pilot. Now the Russian ambassador. Who’s next?”

Why, you:

voronenko-pays-his-mite

Who did it?

To be sure, Russian special forces are one; it’s not exactly a secret that intelligence services have a special hatred for traitors. Voronenkov was not only a politician, but had once worked in the Federal Drug Control Service, which was once a full-fledged “silovik” institution until it was dissolved and merged into the Interior Ministry in 2016. Not only was he a traitor, but he was also an outspoken one – in his last interview, published just today, he claimed that someone who understood the FSB, like himself, could simply “walk away” from them. That was essentially taunting them to get him.

That said, this was a very sloppy hit by Russian intelligence service standards.

I don’t think Poroshenko & Co. had anything to do with it. He was pretty useless – in the end, he was a lowly Duma deputy, and as such not privy to any of the real decision-making processes – but his chequered history hardly makes a great face as a democratic martyr done in by ROG.

It could also have been a banal falling out with his new “business partners” in Ukraine. Crime has risen since 2014, and the likelihood of such disputes being resolved through guns, not paperwork, is now higher.

That said, there is a good chance he was killed by genuine Ukrainian nationalists. They hate Poroshenko, and they cannot be very happy about the red carpet treatment rolled out for someone who not only supported but helped enable Crimea’s incorporation into Russia.

According to the latest reports, his killer – who has just died in hospital – was an ATO veteran and a member of the National Guard. Now yes, its possible that Russian intelligence services outsourced the assassination. But Occam’s Razor suggests that it was just a case of excessive svidomism.

In which case, just today: Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the hero.

PS. Since this story is such a succinct metaphor for everything wrong with everything – with the Russian elites, the Ukrainian elites, the Western media, and the Ukrainian nationalist yahoos who so conveniently insist on shooting their own country in the foot so regularly – that there will definitely soon be a longer post on this. First, though, a couple of minor technical issues with the blog software need to be fixed.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Assassinations, Elites, Russia, Svidomy, Ukraine 

Immigration statistics from the Ministry of Interior Affairs, 2016.

Total new citizenships: 265,319. (USA: 653,416 people in 2014, so about equal in per capita terms).

Ukraine: 100,696, up 49% from 2015. (Russians becoming Ukrainian citizens: About 2,000 per year).

It is utterly absurd that in per capita terms, there are as many Tajiks (0.27% of their population) getting RF citizenship as Ukrainians (0.24%), and three times as many Armenians (0.74% of their population). There is no humanitarian crisis in Tajikistan or in Armenia, whereas the population of just the LDNR – at war, under Ukrainian blockade – is greater than Armenia’s.

If Putin was truly the Putler of the Western imagination, Russia would be giving away RF passports like confetti in the LDNR. In reality, he is more of a Putlet.

***

TOTAL by country 265,319
Ukraine 100,696
Kazakhstan 37,837
Uzbekistan 23,216
Tajikistan 23,012
Armenia 22,264
Moldova, Republic of 17,397
PERSONS WITHOUT CITIZENSHIP 11,042
Azerbaijan 9,885
Kyrgyzstan 9,316
Belarus 3,582
Georgia 2,623
Turkmenistan 774
Turkey 500
Syrian Arab Republic 334
Afghanistan 300
Vietnam 287
Israel 170
Abkhazia 168
Lithuania 168
Germany 148
Egypt 142
Latvia 139
United States 92
Serbia 89
Bulgaria 84
Italy 71
China 66
South Ossetia 57
Bangladesh 53
Estonia 50
France 49
Greece 44
India 35
Iran, Islamic Republic of 33
Lebanon 33
Poland 31
Tunisia 31
Palestine, The State 30
Nigeria 28
Cuba 26
Morocco 24
Bosnia and Herzegovina 22
Iraq 22
Pakistan 22
Jordan 20
Algeria 17
United Kingdom (United Kingdom) 15
Cameroon 13
Montenegro 11
Australia 10
Yemen 10
Sudan 10
Belgium 9
Canada 9
Austria 8
Hungary 8
Spain 8
Colombia 8
Bolivia, a multinational state 7
Thailand 7
Brazil 6
Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of 6
Congo 6
Mongolia 6
Romania 6
Sri Lanka 6
South Africa 6
Nepal 5
Netherlands 5
Peru 5
Finland 5
Switzerland 5
Ecuador 5
The Republic of Macedonia 4
Mexico 4
Norway 4
Czech Republic 4
Sweden 4
Benin 3
Ghana 3
Guinea-Bissau 3
Denmark 3
Korea, Republic of 3
Somalia 3
Albania 2
Gambia 2
Zimbabwe 2
Indonesia 2
Cyprus 2
Libya 2
Niger 2
Slovenia 2
Croatia 2
Ethiopia 2
Japan 2
Angola 1
Argentina 1
Bermuda 1
Burundi 1
Dominican Republic 1
Zambia 1
Ireland 1
Comoros 1
North Korea (North Korea) 1
Costa Rica 1
Malawi 1
Mali 1
Myanmar 1
Nicaragua 1
New Zealand 1
United Arab Emirates 1
Portugal 1
Slovakia 1
Sierra Leone 1
Tanzania, United Republic of 1
Togo 1
Uruguay 1
Philippines 1
Chad 1
Chile 1

 

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Immigration, Russia, Ukraine 

Why is corruption so bad in Eastern Europe? And what can be done about it?

hbdchick-europe-corruption-2012-hajnal-line

First off, I don’t know to what extent it can be reduced. According to the hbdchick’s theories on the Hajnal Line, ceteris paribus, Southern and Eastern Europe will always be more corrupt than the countries of “core Europe” because they did not undergo its centuries of selection for beyond-kin altruism.

Despite decades of institutional convergence under the aegis of European integration, Italy and Greece remain considerably more corrupt than Germany, Britainn, and Sweden. Poland has improved greatly since the 1990s, but reached an asymptote at around Italy’s level; Romania, at Greece’s. From the outset, this implies that Eastern European countries should keep their ambitions realistic, regardless of the policies that they choose to pursue.

Still, political economic factors do play a large role.

The main concept that I would draw upon is Mancur Olson’s distinction between “roving bandits” and “stationary bandits.”

In unstable polities, the elites can be replaced at any time, often through unpredictable and lawless methods such as coups, or “people power” driven “color revolutions” if the new gang are more pro-Western. The elites know this. As such, they have an interest in maximizing their thievery in the here and now, with corresponding disincentives to large, capital-heavy investments that will only pay in the long-term. Most likely, they will not be around to enjoy the fruits of their labor a decade or two down the line. But a Mayfair apartment and British Virgin Islands cash stash won’t go anywhere.

This describes Ukraine, and Russia in the 1990s.

In polities where the system is more stable, “roving bandits” start to settle down – they become “stationary bandits.” There are relatively greater incentives for long-term investments – if you steal less today, your pie will be greater tomorrow. Although corruption still exists, and may even remain systemic, the more predictable nature of the tariffs levied by “stationary bandits” enables corporations to account for them in their business plans. It’s not even so much the degree of corruption that’s important as its predictability. Furthermore, the bandits at the very top have greater incentives to clamp down on their underlings, since if they get start getting too greedy it will bite into their own profit margins. This in turn can pave the way for the emergence of institutions that can upgrade the war on corruption from manual to semi-autonomous mode.

This describes countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. (China would also fall into this category).

industrialized-transition These ex-Soviet countries, ruled by “stationary bandits,” have been far more successful at economic recovery (and growth) than Ukraine. For all the “Gabon with snow” jokes, Ukraine is still an industrialized country with a well educated population and a respectable average IQ of perhaps 95, with considerable natural resources, access to the sea, and Russian gas subsidies that have totalled approximately $200 billion since independence.

So the Ukrainian economy should be doing MUCH BETTER, given the huge gap between potential and reality (perhaps the biggest gap of any country in the world). But as of 2015, its inflated-adjusted GDP was a mere 60% of the UkSSR’s in 1990 (Russia: 110%; Belarus: 180%), and is now in a neck-and-neck race with Nigeria in terms of Internet penetration.

Telling example: One of the few genuinely bright spots in the Ukrainian economy has been the IT sector. In particular its presence on the video game scene is rather impressive in relative terms – Cossacks, Stalker, Metro 2033.

Why? Because that is what you get when you combine roving bandits with a high IQ population. Few people are willing to build anything substantial like a multi-billion dollar factory. Hence, so far as heavy industry goes, it just continues to coast on the ever depreciating Soviet legacy.

How much capital do you need to launch a middle-sized video game studio? Can’t imagine it’s much more than $100,000. Most of the value is in the brains, and you get some of the best cognitive bang per dollar in the Ukraine. You can sell your game on Steam, and should instability strike, you can just bugger off to someplace warmer and more civilized, like Cyprus or Malta (like 4A games, the creators of Metro 2033, did in 2014).

Incidentally one can see the same thing (if to a significantly smaller extent) in both Russia and Belarus.

How to solve – or at least mitigate – corruption follows naturally from the above observations.

(1) The roving bandits need to be settled down. (Replacing one gang with another under the cover of a color revolution doesn’t do anything – as Ukraine has already proven, TWICE).

In Ukraine’s case, that means it needs to put an end to its never-ending internecine struggles. Broadly speaking, both Novossiya supporters and Ukrainian nationalists have the right idea, even if they are otherwise diametrically opposed. (Nadia Sevchenko represents a curious convergence of these two streams: A Ukrainian nationalist to the core, she has negotiated with LDNR authorities in contravention of official Kiev policy while suggesting that Ukraine needs a period of dictatorship to get itself sorted out).

(2) East Asia furnishes many several examples of non-Hajnal societies that have successfully solved the corruption problem. One approach is greater criminal penalties for corruption (“kill the chicken to scare the monkey,” as the Chinese proverb goes); another is to richly compensate civil servants, so as to reduce the relatice incentive for additional thievery (Singapore government ministers are paid like the CEOs of big corporations, and in tandem with harsh punishments and wealth, this has helped Singapore become one of the world’s least corrupt societies, despite traditional China’s penchant for corruption).

In practice, neither of these is practical for Eastern Europe. European human rights regulations preclude the killing of chickens; and East Europeans themselves are far too populist and demotic to tolerate elitist-technocratic policies like CEO-scale salaries for bureaucrats (with the result that said bureaucrats will unofficially continue to compensate themselves at CEO levels anyway, but with huge markups).

(3) The removal of roving bandits will enable faster economic growth, and greater tax receipts allow you to pay more to develop institutions, while greater per capita wealth leads to money floating about for the development of an indigenous civil society. It also makes e-government, which makes far less demands on face-to-face interactions between citizens and bureaucrats, with all their associated potential for corruption, far more realizable.

(4) To be sure, it can be very frustrating to live in a country that is visibly and strikingly more corrupt than the fairylands of core Europe. It is understandable that people, especially young people without much life experience, want change, and they want it quick. More often than not, the result is a cargo cult approach to combatting corruption, which results in spectacles such as Anti-Corruption Forums to which the participants show up in Mercedes and Lexuses (a most apt metaphor for Euromaidan).

From this perspective, an understanding of the deep gene-cultural underpinnings of corruption might not lead you to forgive everything, but it will at least imbue you with a sense of realism as to what is and what is not possible. A slow, steady convergence over two or three decades to Italy’s or even France’s level of corruption – entirely possible, even likely. A new Sweden overnight through the power of mass lustrations and Lenin statue topplings? Nope.

Going ahead will only set you up for eventual disappointment, but in the meanwhile, you’d have wrecked your own country.

Finally, don’t worry. In the end, corruption just isn’t that important to economic growth! Just compare Chile and China: One by far the cleanest country in South Americat; the other one is far more corrupt, but a standard deviation higher in average IQ. Which of those two is the economic steamroller, and which one has nothing to write home about? Exactly. And corruption tends to diminish with increasing wealth, as the power of institutions and civil society increases. Just don’t smother your economy with regulations and central planning, don’t allow roving bandits to pick the place clean and stymie all long-term development, and the problems should ultimately resolve by itself without any particular further effort on your part.

PS. Daniel Chieh comments: “These days, modern China has moved significantly from executions to pressuring corrupt officials to commit suicide: possibly a return to honor suicides that was the norm in Asia and perhaps part of the entire initiative for Xi’s “return of traditional Chinese virtues.” Honor suicides just doesn’t seem to be a thing in East Europe, that I know of, anyway. Human rights law in Europe in theory wouldn’t stop all methods of “killing the chicken” as there are a number of other “greater criminal punishments” that don’t include capital punishment – which is rarely used these days, to be honest. Mass social shaming, prohibitions on future job-seeking, reduced status opportunities and unfavorable associations that spread even to the family all work just as well.The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Corruption, Russia, Ukraine 

ukronationalists

On March 16, the three main political forces of Ukrainian nationalism – the political party Svoboda, Right Sector, and the National Corpus (i.e. the Azov batallion’s political wing) – signed a National Manifesto that declared the ideological unity of the three structures, and conveniently summarized the 20 key theses of Ukrainian nationalism.

Given the increasingly evident political bankruptcy of the Poroshenko government, its increasing readiness to capitulate before nationalist demands, and the even greater influence Ukrainian nationalism looks set to wield over the regime that comes next, it would be germane to give a brief translation and analysis of the main points of this National Manifesto.

***

We, Ukrainian nationalists, understanding the catastrophic state of our country and with the goal of acquiring and developing a great national state, capable of securing the prosperous existence of Ukrainians and a future for Ukrainian children, are uniting our efforts on the basis of fundamental, unambiguous, and unchanging principles and goals, and thereby offer a concrete plan of action that we can embark upon straight away for the achievement of these goals.

Not bad, though the pilfering from David Lane is a bit too obvious.

1. Define as a priority of state policy the realization of Ukraine’s national interests.

As the Russian nationalist website Sputnik i Pogrom notes, there is no division between Ukraine the state and Ukrainians the people.

This is typical for semi-fictional national projects, in which there is no people without a state.

2. New vector of Ukrainian geopolitics – orientation not to the West or the East, but the creation of a new European unity – that of the Balto-Black Sea Union.

So basically a resurrection of the Intermarium, a geopolitical vision promoted by interwar Polish leader Józef Piłsudski to unite the countries from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean.

Today, it has mainly become a Ukrainian nationalist obsession.

It also happens to be even more demented and schizophrenic than Eurasianism (which is at least theoretically realizable, even if its end result will be to turn Russia into Greater Turkestan due to demographic factors).

Ukraine, with a nominal GDP per capita below that of Nigeria, will be economically dominated by Poland in any such arrangement. Furthermore, the Poles have no love for Ukrainian nationalists; there are numerous human interest stories of Ukrainian Gastarbeiters in Poland getting beaten up by Polish skinheads for expressing their love for Bandera. Speaking of Polish nationalists, they outright want Lwow back.

As such, it is unclear how such a neo-Rzeczpospolita union would even be set up in the first place, unless the Ukrainians decide to keep it real authentic and also return to their old socio-economic status under the old union, i.e. as serfs under the Polish szlachta.

3. Recognize the Russian Federation as an aggressor state… break diplomatic relations, blockade the occupied territories, end Russian business activities in Ukraine, sanction Russian capital, goods, and services.

This is an excellent idea (to sideline the Western politicians and Kremlin “geniuses” who threw Ukraine a lifeline in the form of Minsk II, and allowed Russian businesses to continue investing in Ukraine to the tune of billions of dollars since 2014).

Some of these actions – namely, the blockade of the Donbass, and the shuttering down of Russian banks – have already been embarked on and post-facto legitimized by the state in recent weeks, which has resulted in the Kremlin’s apparent loss of interest in shoving Donbass back into Ukraine.

May they continue wracking up more and more peremogas along these lines!

4. Recognize [the LDNR] as occupied territories and develop a real plan to liberate Crimea and Donbass. Immediately embark upon economic, informational, and reconaissance-sabotage actions in furtherance of these goals.

Even better idea.

Though they should beware that the frontline can move backwards as well as forwards.

5. Return the right to recreate a nuclear weapons capability as a foundation of national security in light of the violation of the Budapest Memorandum.

Ukraine does have the technical capacity and human capital to do this.

Of course, the types of people who rule the West, such as Merkel or Juncker, will absolutely love the idea of nuclearization in a state full of groups of armed extremists roving around. By “absolutely love” I mean so shell-shocked they’d be begging Putin to put that rabid animal down.

6. Create a high-tech professional contract army, and a reserve army, based on the territorial principle.

This is very doable on a $90 billion GDP, by which I mean it’s completely bonkers (even if Ukraine does now spend 6% of that measly figure on its military).

7. Legalize the right to armed defense and gun ownership.

Good idea.

Incidentally, this right has existed in the “sovok” DNR since 2015, which has caused no end of butthurt amongst Right Sector.

8. Eliminate hostile propaganda from the Ukrainian information space. Cultivate traditional values, strengthen national consciousness. The Ukrainian language should be the only state language.

Russian culture is already aggressively marginalized – the list of banned Russian TV shows, films, and books is so long it’s hard to keep track. There are hundreds of political prisoners, almost none of them, of course, recognized by Western human rights organizations.

But if Ukrainian culture is indeed so powerful, attractive, and natural to the denizens of the western Pontic steppes, why does it need to be imposed through such repressive and illiberal methods?

9. Carry out a real lustration… strengthen criminal punishments for corruption.

So they do at least recognize that the Euromaidan has done nothing to improve corruption in the past three years, regardless of all the (invariably inconsequential) public workers that its activists shoved into rubbish bins.

Solution: Something along the lines of “Only mass shootings with save Ukraine!,” aka the convergence of UkSSR patriots with retrograde Russian Stalinists (as is oddly appropriate).

10. Introduce a workable procedure for impeaching the President and make a law about the recall of deputies of all levels and judges.

Presumably to be forgotten about as soon as Poroshenko gets removed and their own people are in power.

Because the alternative in Ukraine would be anarchy.

11. Introduce elections for judges and certain categories of local bureaucrats.

Not a bad idea, since along with (17), it will result in the effective breakup of the Ukrainian project.

12. Liquidate the oligarchic system: Return subsoil ownership to the state, as well as strategic objects and enterprises, illegally privatized after 1991; liquidate private monopolities, end capital flight to offshore havens.

This is not bad.

As in Russia, privatization in the 1990s was code word for mass looting, and the oligarchs borne of that period have since proven to be exceptionally bad stewards of their ill-gotten gains.

However, liberal economists will not approve (neither will the countries in thrall to them, i.e. the West).

So goodbye IMF funds. Enjoy the default.

13. Guarantee the labor rights of Ukrainians and create conditions for an effective labor union movement.

As is much of the rest of this program, it boils down to two options:

Either they will institute what it says on the tin, allowing real labor unions that stymie productivity and cancel out even the competitive advantages of Ukraine’s absurdly low wages; or the labor unions they have in mind would be utterly subservient to the state, as in Nazi Germany.

14. Create a new socially just tax code, which will encourage the development of small and medium businesses.

Nice sentiment – no details.

15. Encourage the development of national atomic and alternative energy as a foundation of energy independence.

Many alternative energy schemes are bondoogles even in developed Western countries.

In Poroshenko’s Ukraine, front companies were paid to import coal from South Africa as part of widely propagandized schemes to achieve energy independence from Russia, while in reality those funds were used to buy cheaper coal from Donbass. The difference went to predictable places.

This is a country which can’t even build a proper wall on the border with Russia. Nobody knows where the funds went.

Now try to imagine how Ukraine’s experiments with alternative energy will go.

16. Ban the trade of Ukrainian strategic resources, such as agricultural lands.

Okay.

17. Introduce real self-government by creating self-sufficient territorial units with a large degree of authority.

Agreed – federalization has been consistently touted even as a solid solution to Ukraine’s many… existential problems.

18. Rationalize immigration law, including effective provisions against illegal immigration and the creation of conditions for the return of Ukrainians to the motherland.

Ukraine isn’t facing an immigration problem; it is facing an emigration and brain drain problem, which will become even more catastrophic should it ever achieve the Maidan’s holy grail of bezviz (visa free travel with Europe).

Moreover, in light of the fact that migrants to the EU don’t even bother stopping over in Romania on their way to Germany and Sweden, this has a decidedly comical ring to it.

19. Restore positive dynamics in the national demographics; strengthen the traditional family, strengthen national-patriotic education, and place our bets on the young generation.

Births in all regions of Ukraine were lower in 2016 than in 2014.

Only in Crimea did they improve. What did they do right?

In conjunction with the rest of these proposals, the demographic situation will only plummet further as Ukraine falls into a new depression and perhaps finally falls apart.

20. Encourage the creation of a single local church based in Kiev.

This implies the final removal of the Russian Orthodox Church from Ukraine, including the confiscation of its remaining properties.

Considering ROC’s neutral, at best, and sometimes hostile, attitude to the Russian Spring -it has gone so far as to excommunicate priests who blessed warriors setting off for Donbass – this will perhaps be no more than what it deserves.

In the process, though, it will play a martyr’s role that will be far more useful than its groveling before Our Ukrainian Partners these past three years.

***

slava-ukraine Overall, solid program, I agree with almost all of it.

Consequently this blog will also be a leading torch-bearer of Ukrainian nationalism on the Internet, just as it is already Erdogan’s No.1 on the Internet.

Slava Ukraine!

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Nationalism, Ukraine 

On March 15, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, headed by Alexander Turchinov, a hardliner who launched the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” as the interim President after Euromaidan, signed off on the legalization of the Donbass blockade, and transmitted a request to Ukraine’s Central Bank to finalize a plan to put sanctions on Russian banks operating in the country.

In what has long been typical of Ukraine, both actions were preempted by Ukrainian nationalist radicals, and both hurt Ukraine itself far more than anyone else.

Formally, the legalization of the Donbass blockade is a response to the LDNR’s nationalization of Ukrainian (aka Akhmetov’s) enterprises on its territories. In practice, this was a forced response to the blockade itself, which was being carried out by far right militant groups – probably financed by Kolomoysky, Akhmetov’s oligarchic rival – in contravention of official Kiev’s wishes.

We know that this is the case because Kiev did half-heartedly send armed policemen to do… something, to get the blockade lifted. But the “activists” proved a tougher bunch, spraying pepper spray into the cops’ faces and forcing them to retreat with their tails between their legs. It is also worth noting that Ukraine’s European backers are shocked and distraught by the legalization of the blockade, which effectively puts an end to Minsk II. Finally, Poroshenko himself described a law currently being touted in the Rada to formally cut off the LDNR economically as something that would “cut away these territories, build a wall, and gift them to Putin.”

But whereas the resulting “Transnistriazation” of the LDNR is not in Kiev’s interests – LNR head Igor Plotnitsky has already announced the possibility of a new referendum on joining Russia – being seen as weak and not in control of its own armed batallions is even more potentially fatal, so this is probably best seen as a face-saving measure more than anything else; a facade of vindictive incompetence meant to hide the even more damning fact that it is the armed militants, not Kiev, who wield the real power in the country.

We should look at Turchinov’s second edict, the request to put sanctions on Russian banks operating in the Ukraine, in the same vein.

Remarkably for a supposed “aggressor” country – the long-suffering denizens of Donbass can only wish! – Russia has been by far the biggest investor in the Ukraine. Since 2014, its banks and corporations have invested an astounding 175 billion rubles, including $1.7 billion in 2016 alone – that’s 38% of total investment. This has happened even as many of the Euromaidan’s most ardent fans, such as Thomas C. Theiner, have long since given up on the new Ukraine as a corrupt sinkhole).

According to Central Bank vice head Jacob Smoly, the sanctions will illegalize “all operations that benefit the mother banks – such as the allocation of interbank credits, the purchase of securities, and the payment of dividends and other operations” (incidentally, why isn’t CB head Valeria Gontareva making this statement? Is she packing her bags already?).

This came on the heels of “activist” attacks on Russian state bank Sberbank buildings in Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk.

For its part, Sberbank has instituted limits on withdrawals from its Ukraine branches. Should the government take over the banks, it will still have to guarantee Ukrainians’ deposits in those banks. In the worst case, this might usher in a more general bank run. Even though that is unlikely, it still can’t be any good from the perspective of Ukraine’s creaking banking system, which has yet to fully cope with the nationalization of Kolomoyksy’s PrivatBank three months ago.

In any case, Russian pro-Donbass and nationalist websites are cheering this news, since they view it as a well-deserved strike against a “financial fifth-column” that has, in effect, subsidized Ukraine’s ATO while being too cowardly to provide services to Donbass or even Crimea.

Alexander Mercouris connects this to a power play by Yulia Tymoshenko against Poroshenko. As he noticed, these recent events come in the context of her secret visit to Washington D.C. in early February, where she allegedly had a short meeting with Trump; her longstanding alliance with Turchinov; and, more speculatively, a more recent alliance of convenience with Kolomoysky and his mercenary batallions.

ukraine-elections-2019-polling As Mercouris argues, this is but the next step in the factional struggle between Poroshenko-Groysman and Tymoshenko-Kolomoysky, with the latter becoming increasingly ascendant.

As of the past year, opinion polls have shown Tymoshenko consistently ahead of Poroshenko in a direct runoff. Since Poroshenko has presided over a depression, failed to achieve any of the Maidan’s promises, and now has an approval rating lower than Yanukovych’s lowest, this can hardly be surprising.

Outright rebellions by restive oligarchs in 2016 were checked by US intermediation, when in the course of a ten hour conversation Obama’s VP Joe Biden made it clear to Kolomoysky and Poroshenko’s reticent PM Yatsenyuk that mutiny would not be tolerated.

This time, however, the US is less likely to intervene to save Poroshenko’s bacon. Trump is a man known to bear grudges, so in all likelihood he has it out for Poroshenko and his allies, who (unsuccessfully) tried to sabotage his own election in favor of Hillary Clinton.

If this interpretation of events is more or less accurate – that Poroshenko has lost substative control of the functions of state to allies of Tymoshenko, and that Tymoshenko herself has acquired Washington D.C.’s “jarlig” authorizing her to rule the Ukraine – then the Chocolate King’s days in power are surely numbered.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Politics, Ukraine, War in Donbass 

This is in response to the blockade of coal shipments from the LDNR into Ukraine by right wing militants, who oppose absolutely anything that helps finance the republics. The resulting energy blockade threatens the stability of what appears to be a surprisingly vigorous Ukrainian economic recovery, and puts Poroshenko – with his record low ratings – in further political jeopardy.

It is also far more significant than the recognition of LDNR docs a couple of weeks ago. That was, essentially, just a humanitarian gesture by Russia. In contrast, nationalization of Ukrainian enterprises does two major things:

(1) It moves the commanding heights of the economy under the DNR legal framework, which has been – for lack of alternatives – integrating with Russia for the past couple of years. That means no more taxes to Ukraine. That means the cutting of one of the last major bonds that tie them to the Ukrainian polity and, consequently, the feasibility of any future reintegration scenario that stops short of a complete Putinsliv (total Russian abandonment).

(2) It severely undercuts the already precaurious position of Rinat Akhmetov, the Poroshenko-allied oligarch who controls most of the heavy industry in the Donbass (there are residual rumors that the reason the DNR offensive to take Mariupol was called off was to allow his enterprises to continue exporting from an internationally recognized port). More speculatively, this might also weaken the position of Alexander Khodakovsky, Akhmetov’s main protege in the DNR, who has been its main voice of compromise and supporter of reintegration with the Ukraine.

Incidentally, it is widely believed that the militias behind the blockade are financed by Kolomoysky. Since having had his challenge to Poroshenko undercut by US diplomatic intervention, and punished through the privatization of his bank Privatbank, Kolomoysky’s fortunes have been on the wane. This might be his play to restore them. First, Akhmetov is Kolomoysky’s direct rival, and Kolomoysky standards to directly benefit from his losses. Second, he has very ample reasons to want revenge against Poroshenko. Third, he has allied himself with Yulia Tymoshenko, who has re-emerged in the past year to become the highest polling politician in Ukraine, including vis-a-vis Poroshenko (not that this is a high bar to clear). The blockade gives Kolomoysky leverage, and the brewing energy/economic crisis may create the conditions to trigger new parliamentary elections that will allow him to replace Poroshenko’s PM Vladimir Groysman with his own allies.

For all the Kremlins’ convoluted efforts to reinsert the LDNR into a federalized Ukraine, all those “clever plans”/mnogokhodovki keep on getting shattered against the Scylla of uncompromising, uncontrolled Ukrainian nationalism and the Charybdis of Ukrainian clan politics. But then again, maybe that was the idea in the first place. Maybe the true mnogokhodovka succeeds through failure; maybe the intent was always to achieve peremoga through zrada.

Well, okay, probably not. Still, this is great news regardless.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Ukraine, War in Donbass 

ukraine-approval-of-nato

Gallup:

The proportion of residents of Ukraine — a potential NATO member state until a few years ago — who view NATO as a threat has increased in recent years after years of steady decline between 2008 and 2014. In 2014, after NATO sanctioned Russia after it annexed Crimea, Ukrainians for the first time were more likely to see NATO as protection (36%) than a threat (20%). However, the percentage viewing it as a threat shot back up to 35% in 2016 as the Ukrainian population has grown tired of the ongoing conflict between its military and Russian-backed separatists, as well as a poor economy and rising crime rates. Without a clear end in sight to the conflict, Ukrainians may be losing confidence in NATO’s ability to help them in this crisis.

It might be news to you that NATO was ever expected to help Ukraine with its… crisis, but for many svidomy Ukrainians it is a long-running delusion.

One way that vatniks like to make fun of svidomy is by referencing the TyaschaVDen’ meme (One Thousand Grivnas per Day), based on Poroshenko’s promise in 2014 to pay that amount to every contract soldier. Incidentally, it wasn’t fulfilled, and of course couldn’t be fulfilled; even at current exchange rates, that is $1,000 per month, whereas the Ukraine is now competing with Moldova for having Europe’s lowest average wage at around $200 per month.

That meme is noteable in that it perhaps best of all represents the cargo cultish attitudes of many svidomy Ukrainians towards the West in general. All they would have to do is sign up to the Religion of Reform, topple the Lenin statues, and proclaim their allegiance to the EU and NATO, and very soon they would all have their own TyaschaVDen’ (not to mention visa-free travel with the EU, with the ironic shorthand for that holy grail of Euromaidan, eternally just out of reach, having long become its own meme: Bezviz).

Unfortunately for the svidomy, reality isn’t biased in favor of cargo cults, so disillusionment is inevitable.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: NATO, Ukraine 

Transparency International has released the Global Corruption Barometer 2016 for Europe:

transparency-international-gcb-2016-bribery-in-europe

The map above shows the answer to the most interesting question in the survey: “Did you or any member of your household make an unofficial payment or gift when using [a public service] over the past 12 months“?

In the last survey from 2013, at the height of the kleptocratic Yanukovych regime, that figure was 37% in Ukraine.

In this survey, it was 38% – the same as in Uganda.

In other words, more than three years after the beginning of the “Revolution of Dignity,” there has been absolutely no appreciable decline in corruption in Ukraine.

This is, incidentally, confirmed by other figures (earlier I posted a poll showing the bribery rate increasing from 37% to 40% between 2014 and 2015).

But what can one expect? What Westerners don’t get is that is that Maidanist Ukraine’s commitment to transparency is one big fat cargo cult. But what else can you expect in a country where “activists” turn up to “anti-corruption forums” in Lexuses and Mercedes? Where the physical symbol of the previous regime’s corruption, a golden loaf, went missing soon after the “revolution”? In a country that overthrew one kleptocrat and replaced him with a post-Soviet oligarch and one of the godfathers of Ukrainian clan politics?

To be sure, Russia with its 34% bribery rate (equivalent to Cote d’Ivoire), the joint-third worst in Europe after Moldova and Ukraine, has nothing to write home about either. It is a disturbing indication that there have been no improvements in everyday corruption during Putin’s time in power.

But at least Russia didn’t wage a war against its own people in the name of Poroshenko’s frescoes, oops, I meant “European values.”

But anyway – commenting on the map in general, the results are very much as expected based on country stereotypes and other subjective rankings like the CPI. That said, it’s worth nothing that Greece has made significant progress – whereas in 2013, 22% of Greeks had paid bribes, this year only 10% did.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Corruption, Russia, Ukraine 

Over the years I have studiously avoided commentary on MH17 because of the banal fact that I am not an expert on plane crash forensics.

The official Dutch inquiry that has just released its findings says that it was downed by a Buk missile that came from rebel-controlled territory.

Many serious people have come to other conclusions, as well as – no surprise – Russia itself. As Patrick Armstrong points out, the Americans have yet to release the intelligence they claim to have. Malaysia had for some reason been excluded from the official investigation.

As is usually the case, which version you “believe” in depends heavily on your partisan sympathies.

That said, there are two points I’d like to bring to the discussion which would be valid even if the results of the Dutch inquiry are true.

1

This does not mean that it is was entirely the fault of the rebels and Russia.

First off, a little background on Soviet SAMs.

They are very complicated systems. It takes several people to operate them. There are several control panels, and you have to turn the right knobs and press the right buttons in the correct order to acquire and kill your target. Just locking in requires locating the target on a fire control radar while adjusting for range, elevation, and azimuth. No nice 3D graphics here; targets are interferences on 1D axis or abstract blips on 2D spaces. Then you must pick the guidance mode for your missile based on factors such as whether or not your target is flying low, its speed, and whether or not it’s jamming. Then you fire the missile, which involves its own set of procedures. If your target then experiences a sudden change in speed and altitude, it probably means you’ve scored a hit. Feel free to imagine a climatic BOOM going off in the skies above, but all you’re going to hear is the continuing drone of electronic machinery.

You can explore the fascinating life of a SAM operator for yourself by downloading the SAM Simulator, a video game developed by a Hungarian aficianado of 1960-1980 era Soviet SAM systems.

9k33-osa

Screenshot of 9K33 Osa main control panel from SAM Simulator.

Here are some (Russian language) technical guides on their various SAM systems. They can be 100-200 pages long and contain calculus.

So what’s the point of it all this? The point is that operating a SAM is learnable for the average enthusiast, conscript, or Donbass rebel – you can figure out how to knock balloon targets and maybe even big airliners traveling in straight lines after a couple of hours study. Becoming good at it is another matter entirely. The Buk is a newer and somewhat simpler system than those in the SAM Simulator, but for the amateur it remains a foreboding forest of knobs and analog screens. I only explored the SAM Simulator for a few hours back in 2014, so I can’t attest to it personally, but my impression from discussions on the game’s forums is that to “git gud” you’ll need to invest a few dozens of hours in it, and while it’s about as “hardcore” as simulator as they come, it’s still not real life.

One more possibility. Consider the following two allegations:

First, that MH17 was diverted to fly over contested airspace.

Second, that MH17 was being trailed by two Ukrainian Su-25′s. (Some conspiracy theories allege that they were actually the ones who shot it down).

An alternate possibility, however, is that the Su-25 escorts and possibly the diversions were an intentional Ukrainian policy to increase the chances of an AA missile fired by an inexperienced rebel crew bringing down a civilian airliner. After drawing out the missiles, the Ukrainian fighters would engage their counter-measures and fly off, while the missiles would autonomously home in on the target with the much bigger radar signature – that is, MH17 itself. The resulting fallout would hopefully pressure Russia into withdrawing support for the rebellion.

This theory is the only one that more or less the only one explains all aspects of the case and integrates most of the main narratives.

It explains why the Americans have no released their intelligence. If it was to show the Su-25′s were directly or almost directly below MH17 then questions would be asked.

It explain why we have not seen a consistent or credible alternate theory from Russia. Because there is none. While if it where to push this theory it would then have to admit that at the it is to some extent culpable.

And it would also explain the findings of the Dutch report. It might well be just true.

2

Nor would it in any case qualify as an act of terrorism.

It cannot qualify as an act of terrorism because as phone conversations between the rebels in the immediate aftermath prove, and as the US itself has admitted, the shooting down of MH17 if done by the rebels was based on the mistaken impression that it was a legitimate military target.

That said, in the immediate aftermath, there were hystrionic calls from certain quarters to invoke NATO’s Article 5 on behalf of the Netherlands. Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite called Russia a terrorist state.

At the very least, perhaps this should be used to step up sanctions against Russia, until it acknowledges its guilt, pays compensation, and hands over any suspects to an international tribunal.

Well, I suppose you *can*. But then for consistency’s sake you would also have to label the US and Ukraine (ironically enough) as terrorist states themselves.

In 1988, a missile fired by a US warship in Iranian territorial waters took out Iran Air Flight 655 over Iranian airspace The US tried to avoid responsibility, and never apologized to Iran, but eventually paid up some blood money.

In 2001, Ukrainian air defense shot down Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 during exercises. They initially tried to avoid taking responsibility until a Russian investigative team came up with definitive proof. Never apologized, though they did eventually pony up blood money.

If you do not support declaring the US and Ukraine to be terrorist states on this basis, with all the consequences thereof – massive sanctions, pariah status, etc. – then you have no ground to do so either for the DNR or Russia. The most that could be legitimately demanded is for Russia to pay the relatives.

However, it is hardly a secret that the Western world order operates by double standards, so I suspect that a more likely template for the future of the MH17 case is that of Pan Am Flight 103, better known as the Lockerbie bombing. At a first approximation, this would involve putting international (Western) pressure on Russia to not only pay out compensation to the victims of MH17, but to admit its guilt and to hand over any suspects to an international tribunal. It might be used as a justification for prolonging or extending sanctions, and potentially even declaring the DNR and LNR terrorist organizations.

 

Another August, another war scare. Intermittent reports of Russian military forces “staging” near Ukraine. Are the guns about to honor the title of a famous history book once again?

Almost certainly not. Or at least, not by Russia’s hand.

(1) Though you could play a drinking time for every mention of “Gleiwitz” in conjunction with the recent terrorist incidents in Crimea, no evidence has since been furnished in support of the theory that Russia set the whole thing up. As Alexander Mercouris points out, the Ukrainian counter-allegation that the shootout was the result of drunk friendly fire and that Evgeny Panov, the ringleader of the plot, had been abducted from Ukraine to play the role of scapegoat is “too fantastic for anyone to take seriously.”

(2) The Russian version of events – that there were two shootouts with Ukrainian sabotage teams, during which an FSB officer and a Russian Airborne Troops soldier were killed – remains the most self-consistent and credible one to date. Elements of the Maidanist Ukrainian elites have ample reasons to mount such an operation, including: (a) Spoiling the Crimean tourist season; (b) Disrupting the forthcoming elections in Crimea; (c) Remedying the decidedly embarassing lack of “native” Crimean resistance to the so-called “Russian occupation”; (d) Reigniting Western interest in Ukraine, which has been slacking off lately (see below).

(3) Although there has been some tough rhetoric from Russia after the incident – Putin talked of Ukraine “resorting to the practice” of terror – nothing much has since come of it apart from Russia cancelling the next round of Normandy Four talks scheduled for September in China. Otherwise, diplomatic relations with Ukraine aren’t even getting cancelled, a possibility that was mooted by Izvestia in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. All in all, this has been an extremely milquetoast response to terrorist attacks organized out of a hostile neighboring country, for which Putin has been excoriated by Russian nationalists. “The “war with the junta” has been postponed for an indefinite period,” Igor Strelkov complained, pointing out that the Kremlin now seems to be more concerned with Syria instead of the plight of the Donbass under Ukrainian bombings. “Putin saved the Syrians. And is prepared to save them further. Together with the “cursed pindosy” and “Turkish backstabbers”… that is, “dear friends.” Hard to keep track of these things. But what’s the difference, in the end? The main goal, after all, is to save Syrians.

(4) The 40,000 Russian troops – a consistently familiar figure throughout the past two years – that have been claimed to be at Ukraine’s border are not enough for a proper invasion. Stratfor estimated that Russia would need about 30,000 personnel to seize the “land corridor” to Crimea, though that was back in early 2015 when the Ukrainian Armed Forces were much weaker. The much cited recent Institute for the Study of War map purporting to display Russian military dispositions as of August 12 shows that at best only half that number is present on the requisite front.

understanding-war-map-crimea-2016-august

(5) The Saker might claim that “Ukronazi attack against Novorussia would be exceedingly unlikely to succeed” and even that “Novorussians are capable of not only stopping a Ukronazi attack, but even of an operationally deep counter-attack,” but people who are actually on the ground seem to disagree. For instance, here is what Alexander Zhuchkovsky, an NVF insider and generally reliable source, has to say about that: “I am a big patriot of the DNR and our Armed Forces, but one has to be objective. It’s clear to everyone that without Russia’s help we will not be able to last even a week against the Ukrainian Armed Forces, if they throw all their forces against the LDNR. Not because we are worse than they are (we’re better), but simply because the correlation of forces are against us.” At its core, the NVF remains a militia (opolchenie); a very well armed and trained militia, to be sure, possibly even the world’s most powerful one, but a militia nonetheless – good in defense, but not much of a factor in any truly large-scale offensive operations, and outnumbered 40,000 to 250,000.

(6) Some of the conspiracy theories have revolved around the idea that Putin is plotting a war to raise United Russia’s ratings in the forthcoming parliamentary elections: “He constantly needs a series of quasi-wars to keep the pro-Putin majority mobilized,according to an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center. Such ideas are based on a fundamental misreading of the Russian economy and society – namely, that living standards have collapsed due to the sanctions and that the Putin system is in crisis (which one can creatively tie in with recent political reshufflings, such as the replacement of Sergey Ivanov with Anton Vaino as head of the Presidential Administration). In reality, the recession has been mild, at least so far as recessions go; it has almost certainly either ended or is close to ending; and according to opinion polls, United Russia faces absolutely no challenges to its dominance (if anything, electoral law chances since the last elections cycle means that United Russia is likely to actually increase its share of the Duma’s seats this year).

russia-vs-ukraine-military-power(7) Like it or not, but outright war with Maidanist Ukraine has been ruled out from the beginning, as the more perceptive analysts like Rostislav Ischenko have long recognized. If there was a time and a place for it, it was either in April 2014, or August 2014 at the very latest. Since then, the Ukrainian Army has gotten much stronger. It has been purged of its “Russophile” elements, and even though it has lost a substantial percentage of its remnant Soviet-era military capital in the war of attrition with the LDNR, it has more than made up for it with wartime XP gain and the banal fact of a quintupling in military spending as a percentage of GDP from 1% to 5%. This translates to an effective quadrupling in absolute military spending, even when accounting for Ukraine’s post-Maidan economic collapse. Russia can still crush Ukraine in a full-scale conventional conflict, and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future, but it will no longer be the happy cruise to the Dnepr that it would have been two years earlier.

By the same token, however, now is absolutely not the worst time for the Ukrainian Maidanists themselves to heat things up.

(1) The economic collapse has stabilized, but the economic miracle that Maidanists have been promising as soon as Ukraine was to be “freed” from Russo-Soviet kleptocracy has yet to happen. The economy remains in the doldrums, and along with it, Poroshenko’s approval ratings, which are currently lower than Viktor “Vegetable” Yanukovych’s absolute minimum while he was in power.

(2) Due to nationalist pressure, Ukraine is incapable of implementing Minsk II in principle. The longer it dithers, however, the more Western politicians lose interest in it, and even begin to talk up the possibility of restoring normal relations with Russia again – the new Tory government of Theresa May and her FM Boris Johnson in the UK are the most striking example to date, though similar sentiments have been expressed by people such as Italian PM Matteo Renzi and German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Poroshenko’s failure to stem corruption is beginning to lose him the trust even of the most hardcore foreign svidomy activists. The Maidanist regime has even been unable to fulfill one of the Maidan’s most elementary demands, that of visa-free travel with the EU; they have only succeeded in making said “bezviz” an ironic meme to make fun of svidomy on Ukrainian discussion boards.

(3) And if all this isn’t enough there is also the trumpening presence of Donald Trump on the American electoral horizon – a man who has made it clear he has no quarrel with Russia, doesn’t see enabling Eastern Yuropeans to pursue their Russophobic vendettas as a good use of American resources, and recognizes the democratic choice of the Crimean people to be with Russia. Unsurprisingly, Maidanist politicians have been lining up to ritualistically denounce Trump as a “dangerous outcast” and thrice-accursed traitor to freedom/democracy/fluffy kittens/etc. A Trump victory will therefore be a huge ideological and PR blow against the Maidan regime, even if Trump’s apparent Russophilia turns out to be phantasmagorical and contents himself with leaving Obama’s realistic non-interventionist policy towards Ukraine intact.

A new war nicely takes care of all three factors.

(1) Permanent austerity can be ascribed to perpetual war, while providing a pretext for suppressing dissent from aspiring political challengers. In particular, the collapse of Poroshenko’s ratings has made Yulia Tymoshenko, a businesswoman-politician previously discredited by corruption allegations that went into the hundreds of millions of dollars, a credible political figure once again (if only because the rest of the Ukrainian elite is at least equally bankrupt in terms of legitimacy). Moreover, Tymoshenko has become the chief political patron of Nadia Savchenko, the “hero airwoman” who has lost the trust of the svidomy who had formerly adulated over her in record time by making overtures to the heads of the LDNR and calling for direct negotiations with them. This is not welcome news to the ruling Maidan elites.

(2) Limited war with Russia will make it much harder for the US to “abandon” its “ally” Ukraine, and will torpedo current trends towards normalizing relations between Russia and the West. Since Ukraine’s strategy boils down to the West “suffocating” Russia before Russia suffocates Ukraine, that would be a highly positive development that might even be worth the loss of extra territory to the LDNR. The Western media can be relied upon to blame Russia regardless of what happens, and by extension, the people they have associated with “enabling” Putinist imperialism – namely, Donald Trump (incidentally, this is why him getting rid of the competent-but-compromised Paul Manafort as head of his campaign is a regrettable but prudent strategic move).

(3) This brings us to Peter Lavelle’s notion of an “October Surprise”: Poroshenko is “Washington’s man in Kiev,” he is in a “position to offer some favors,” and considering that the Maidan regime was ultimately enabled by Hillary Clinton’s proteges at the State Department – that is, the Nuland gang – it’s not exactly a wild bet that he will deliver:

What is now needed and is probably being planned is a manufactured incident to make it look like Russia attacked and invaded Ukraine. The American public will be rallied with the usual mantra “something must be done” and the Trump campaign will be left flat footed, red faced, and denounced. Joe McCarthy will smile with glee from the grave.

At the beginning of 2016, I predicted a 30% chance that the war in Donbass will reignite sometime this year. However, this was done under the assumption that Trump only had a 40% chance of securing the Republican nomination, and before he had made his antipathy to the Pozocracy really explicit. So, unfortunately, I have to raise this to as high as 50% now.

And if that coin toss leads to renewed war, it’s a safe bet that Ukraine would be the main instigator.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Geopolitics, Ukraine, War in Donbass 

Thomas Theiner, a businessman expat who has lived in Ukraine for the past 5 years, on what “business in Ukraine is really like”:

It was not supposed to be this way. Everyone knew that Ukraine was notoriously corrupt under President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime, which demanded a share of every deal and business. The anger at this kleptocracy drove Ukrainians to the streets in 2013-2014. After the Euromaidan, Ukraine was supposed to be a modern, European country.

That hasn’t happened. By now it is clear that the corrupt and thieving government-mafia clans are still in charge.

Businessmen that had managed to survive Yanukovych’s shakedowns are throwing in the towel.

Nigel, a British citizen I know, came to Ukraine in 2004. He and a Ukrainian partner built up an engineering company with more than a hundred employees. In 2011, he won a major contract from the US government, which meant that Yanukovych’s goons went into overdrive to shake him down. In 2013-2014, Nigel supported the Euromaidan enthusiastically, only to be harassed by the new “clean” officials under Poroshenko for their share. With the currency having fallen by over 70 percent, the new authorities demanded three times the money to offset the aforementioned fall. Nigel didn’t buckle, so the authorities revoked his visa, threatened deportation, and harassed the family of his Ukrainian partner. Today, the company is closed, everyone has been fired, and Nigel works in Britain.

The European Choice:

In another story, Sven, one of Scandinavia’s biggest food traders, attempted to source raw materials and basic food products from Ukraine. He believed that the EU-Ukraine association agreement signed in 2014 would finally make sourcing food from Ukraine a viable business. He gave up on Ukraine within a few months: he could not find a single Ukrainian company that didn’t demand an envelope of cash before telling him the prices and available volumes, and then would only give him a competitive price if he agreed to split the profits.

Another example:

James, who is Australian but has been in Ukraine for sixteen years, worked for an oligarch, and speaks perfect Russian, built one of the premier real estate agencies in Ukraine. This winter, he and his Ukrainian wife went on holiday; when they returned to Kyiv, they discovered that an employee with the backing of some government people had stolen their company. The employee had all the correct documentation and everything signed off by a judge; the only thing missing was the signature of the actual owner. But this is Ukraine, so the employee bribed a judge, the judge ruled in his favor, the employee paid a registrar and a notary, and he now owns the agency.

So who is Theiner anyway?

Who is this damnable wrecker? This separatist? This Kremlin troll smearing the Ukrainian people’s European Choice?

theiner-flatten-belgorod

 

Oh. Guess not.

The government in Kyiv should announce that Ukraine will take these 6 steps within the next 72 hours:

* Destroy all gas pipelines & bomb the Belarusian gas pipeline, thus launching the boycott of Russian energy that the West has refused to undertake until now.
* Flood Ukraine with small arms by arming every patriotic citizen to unleash a massive guerrilla war when Russian forces invade.
* Provide guerrillas with Anti-tank Guided Missiles, Man Portable Air-defense Missiles, mines, explosives and everything else in Ukraine’s arsenal to ensure the guerrillas can resist effectively for years.
* Call on Ukrainians in the West to attack and kill members of the Putin regime, their associates and close relatives.
* Remove uranium from Ukraine’s nuclear reactors and prepare to disperse it in Russia by all means possible—the Budapest Memorandum depriving Ukraine of nuclear power status is clearly moot now.
* Prepare to shell Belgorod with whatever missiles and artillery Ukraine has in its arsenal to flatten that city.

So basically one of the leading paragons of svidomism is acknowledging what has been evident from the very beginning:

* Opinion polls: Ukrainians Paying MORE Bribes After the Maidan

* At best stagnation, or outright retreat, on indices of transparency and budget openness relative to the “kleptocratic” rule of Yanukovych.

* The Panama Papers, where Poroshenko was named in person

* The former Defense Minister Valery Geletey who promised a victory parade in Sevastopol… by way of the acquisiton of a $36mn estate in the UK.

* The Office of the General Prosecutor announces it is searching for whoever it was that stole the American money for its own reform.

* Lexuses and Mercedes at a summit of Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Forum.

* Poroshenko condemns NY Times article about Ukraine’s corruption as an element of Russia’s “hybrid war” against Ukraine, and the Rada demands its repudiation.

The smarter sorts of svidomy are going back on their support of Euromaidan and even repudiating their old Russophobia.

Not Thomas Theiner, though:

For the true svidomy Bolsheviks, the Revolution has a beginning but no end.

kuczynski-eternal-revolution

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Corruption, Ukraine 

rosa-luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg in her 1918 book on the Russian Revolution:

Ukrainian nationalism in Russia was something quite different from, let us say, Czechish, Polish or Finnish nationalism in that the former was a mere whim, a folly of a few dozen petty-bourgeois intellectuals without the slightest roots in the economic, political or psychological relationships of the country; it was without any historical tradition, since the Ukraine never formed a nation or government, was without any national culture, except for the reactionary-romantic poems of Shevschenko. It is exactly as if, one fine day, the people living in the Wasserkante should want to found a new Low-German (Plattdeutsche) nation and government! And this ridiculous pose of a few university professors and students was inflated into a political force by Lenin and his comrades through their doctrinaire agitation concerning the “right of self-determination including etc.”

It is actually rather remarkable how much her critiques echoes that of Russian conservative opponents of the Bolsheviks (even if from the opposite side of the ideological spectrum):

The Bolsheviks are in part responsible for the fact that the military defeat was transformed into the collapse and breakdown of Russia. Moreover, the Bolsheviks themselves have, to a great extent, sharpened the objective difficulties of this situation by a slogan which they placed in the foreground of their policies: the so-called right of self-determination of peoples, or – something which was really implicit in this slogan – the disintegration of Russia… One is immediately struck with the obstinacy and rigid consistency with which Lenin and his comrades struck to this slogan, a slogan which is in sharp contradiction to their otherwise outspoken centralism in politics as well as to the attitude they have assumed towards other democratic principles. While they showed a quite cool contempt for the Constituent Assembly, universal suffrage, freedom of press and assemblage, in short, for the whole apparatus of the basic democratic liberties of the people which, taken all together, constituted the “right of self-determination” inside Russia, they treated the right of self-determination of peoples as a jewel of democratic policy for the sake of which all practical considerations of real criticism had to be stilled.

Incidentally, Lenin himself had extensively critiqued Luxemburg on the nationalities question.

Just goes to further show that Ukrainian nationalists should be laying wreaths on the statues of the man who did more than any other to found their state instead of so ungratefully toppling them.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Communism, Ukraine 

One of the main thrusts of the Maidanist Ukrainian and Western information campaign against Russia during the Ukrainian conflict has beeen the allegation that the NAF (Novorossiyan Armed Forces) were mostly manned by Russian citizens or even the Russian military.

This is not to say that there haven’t been voices of dissent. For instance, Prof. Paul Robinson (and Russia blogger) has argued that 80-90% of NAF fighters were locals, while even The Times’ Russia/Ukraine correspondent Mark Franchetti confirmed in summer 2014 on the Shuster Show in Kiev that based on his observations Russians amongst the rebels were a decided minority – for which he was roundly booed by the Ukrainian audience.

However, thoughout the past two years, anyone making such claims in the West ran the risk of being branded as a Russian shill. Anyone making such claims in Ukraine itself ran the risk of actually being arrested and imprisoned for the crimes of “separatism” or “denying Russian aggression.”

It just so happens however that the basic truth of the arguments that Russian citizens constituted a decided minority of NAF fighters and consequently that the war in Donbass was primarily a Ukrainian civil war has recently been confirmed – and by an organization whose Ukrainian nationalist pedigree is unquestionable – the “Peacekeeper” website.

This Ukrainian government linked website’s most significant informational peremogas (victories) include publishing the personal details of anti-Maidan journalists, some of whom like Oles Buzina would soon after be murdered, and doxxing Russian airmen serving in Syria while calling for Islamic State to take care of them and their family “by the canons of sharia.” More recently, they published a list of Ukrainian and foreign journalists who had received accreditation from the DNR, naming them “scoundrels” and “collaborators” and listing their personal details (the list included such famous Kremlin propagandists as Simon Ostrovsky).

Three weeks ago, the Maidan’s telephone directory for assassins came out with its latest coup – a list of “fighters and mercenaries” recruited by the DNR during the summer of 2014.

But, hidden within this peremoga, there was an awful zrada (betrayal): As first calculated by Ivan Katchanovski, the data revealed that of the 1,572 recruits, some 78% of them were Ukrainian citizens – a good majority of whom were from Donbass. 19% were Russian citizens, 2% were citizens of other countries, and the rest had unknown citizenship. Bearing in mind the high intensity of personal and familial ties between the Donbass and the Russian Kuban inherited from Soviet days, the percentage of DNR fighters who are true “foreign adventurists” is probably closer to just 10%. This is less or even much less than in many armed conflicts that are incontrovertibly regarded as civil wars.

Of course Ukrainian coverage of this leak paid zero attention to the inconvenient question of national compositions, and Western coverage too singularly failed to latch on to it apart from a few geopolitically orientated and generally “Russophile” alt media sites and a couple of academics such as Ivan Katchanovski. These facts are however crucial to understanding the depth of local anger towards the Maidan regime in the Donbass and why the Kremlin will find it hard to “shove” it back into Ukraine even if it really wanted to.

 

In the wake of blatantly political voting during Eurovision 2016, which Ukraine’s Crimean Tatar representative Jamala won despite losing both the popular and the jury vote, to Russia and Australia respectively, the debate has been dominated by the following two positions:

Russia supporters – It was a political song, and as such inadmissable under long-standing Eurovision rules. The voting hewed to geopolitical lines – there was a remarkable correlation between the jury votes for Russia, and the levels of antipathy towards Russia amongst their respective national elites. Indeed, prior to the event, a Eurovision source told a British paper that “the feeling is that the European Broadcasting Union know how unpopular a Russia win would be and will do everything possible to help the other favourites to victory.” As soon as the conspiracy theory proved itself true, the official NATO Twitter account sent its congratulations to Jamala just to let the point sink in. One need hardly ask what relation an organization that calls itself a defensive military alliance has to a singing contest in which the main players – Russia, Ukraine, Australia – aren’t even members in it.

West/Ukraine supporters – Haha, suck it Russia! Why don’t you give back Crimea to its rightful owners and then we’ll talk? Or according to Refat Chubarov, the head of the old Mejlis and self-appointed spokesman for all Crimean Tatars: “”Inshallah, one of the beautiful days we will gather together in a free from the Russian occupiers Crimea, in the ancient and glorious Bakhchisarai! Today another important step to this day has been taken!”

Personally, I am not interested in Eurovision, and never have been. Nor am I interested in banning songs about historical events, least of all songs that have zero relevance or bearing on modern day Russia. Moreover, Russia’s representative Sergey Lazarev had gone on record in 2014 saying that for him, Crimea remains Ukrainian, so even if there was a conspiracy to cheat Russia out of a Eurovision win, it rebounded on entirely the wrong (or right, depending on your viewpoint) person.

So normally I wouldn’t be wasting column space on this – if it hadn’t raised a much more important and serious misconception: Underlying the general Western line on Eurovision is a singular lack of concern not just for the opinions of Crimeans in general (which is already well established), but of the Crimean Tatars themselves.

The unedifying reality (for Ukrainian nationalists) is that not only did the Russo-Ukrainian majority in Crimea overwhelmingly support its return to Russia but it was not even opposed by the Crimean Tatars, a minority that has been lazily assumed by many Western commentators to be uniformly and irreconcilably opposed to Putin and Russia.

In a VCIOM opinion poll asked in February 2015, one year after the referendum in which Crimeans voted to rejoin Russia, around half of Crimean Tatars said they’d support the majority decision if the referendum was to be repeated. Only a quarter said they’d vote to remain in Ukraine. To be sure, this is significantly more than in the case of Crimean Russians and Ukrainians, amongst whom Ukraine patriots constitute a fraction close to the poll’s margin of error, but they are by no means a majority or even a plurality.

vciom-poll-crimean-tatars-referendum-2014

Now to be sure one might rejoinder that VCIOM is a state-owned polling firm and as such can’t be relied upon to present an objective picture of Crimean Tatar opinon. Let us then turn to that famous Kremlin mouthpiece, The Washington Post, and its political science bloggers Gerard Toal and John O’Loughlin writing in January 2015. On the basis of surveys they conducted in Crimea in December 2014, they found that a slightly more Crimean Tatars approved of Putin than disapproved of him; for comparison, less than 10% of them liked Obama, while almost 60% of them “disliked” or “strongly disliked” him.

crimean-tatar-political-opinions

Although this question was not strictly about the status of Crimea, it is unlikely, to say the least, that a people who viewed Russia’s actions as a brutal annexation would be willing to reward the man most responsible for it with a positive net approval rating.

EDIT 2016/05/18: As it turns out, in a Reddit discussion subsequent to the publication of this post, I was alerted to the fact that the authors had followed up their Washington Post article with a post at Open Democracy in March 2015, in which they presented the responses of the major Crimean ethnic groups – Russians, Ukrainians, and Crimean Tatars – to a question about whether the decision of the Crimean authorities to join Russia was correct or not. As you can see from the graph, slightly more than half of the Crimean Tatars replied that joining Russia was “generally” or “absolutely” the right decision, which matches the 49%-in-support results of the above VCIOM poll perfectly.

poll-crimean-tatars-support-joining-russia

Incidentally, these figures are backed up by anecdotal evidence.

The Dutch Russia expert Nils van der Vegte was closely following the Crimea situation in early 2014 and around the time of the referendum informed his Twitter followers that “about 50% of the Tartars want to become part of Russia” and that they are split “20% pro-UKR, 20% pro-RU, and the rest are apolitical.” The exactitude with which subsequent polls would confirm Nils van der Vegte’s impressions is nothing short of remarkable.

But surely things could have changed in the past year to make the Crimean Tatars suddenly hate Russia. What about all the persecutions and the disbanding of the Mejlis, the main representative body of the Crimean Tatars?

Well, let’s talk about that. As part of Ukraine’s project to bind a restive Crimea to itself, the Mejlis was selectively filtered to be universally loyal to Ukraine to the point where its political inclinations came to fundamentally diverge from those of its supposed constituents. This was made most plainly evident in November 2015, when Mejlis-affiliated “activists” cut the light to 90% of the world’s Crimean Tatars for a PR stunt presented as an “energy blockade” of Crimea. This, unsurprisingly, was not all that popular amongst Crimean Tatars themselves, according to that other great Russophile propaganda organ The Kyiv Post:

Sure, one resident said, Putin may not be the best leader, but he at least kept his word – he had sent generators to the peninsula to save the day. The Ukrainian authorities, on the other hand, spent months railing against numerous human rights abuses on the peninsula … only to commit their own human rights violation in response.

It is in this context that Russia’s banning of the Mejlis has to be viewed – an organization that owes its loyalty to a foreign power and which despite having zero democratic legitimacy, and not only pretends to not only speak for every Crimean Tatar but engages in quasi-terrorist actions against Russia and ultimately its own people.

Set against that, the Crimean Tatar language has been made one of three official languages in the Republic of Crimea – a status that it never enjoyed in unitary Ukraine. This was part of a package of reforms that guaranteed and expanded their political and civil rights as an ethnic minority.

They have also been able to share in the steep improvement in living standards that all Crimeans have enjoyed since joining Russia. Western headlines such as “The Misery and Terror of Life Under Putin in Crimea” regardless, economic statistics indicate that wages have stayed well ahead of inflation; not only did Crimeans escape the vast contraction in living standards that occured in Poroshenko’s Ukraine, but the introduction of Russian-grade wages and pension payments even allowed them to bypass the (much more minor) recession taking place in Russia itself. Although this development has been very mystifying to some, such as the economist Dave Dalton and “Crimea expert” Ellie Knott both of whom have insisted that the economic statistics are falsified – as people who dislike dislike data that fails to reflect badly on Russia are wont to do – it is a reasonable and logical enough occurence for people familiar with the very considerable gap between Russia’s and Ukraine’s GDP per capita and the concept of “convergence” in economics.

All things considered, it is highly unlikely that Crimean Tatars have sharply turned against Russia in the past year, however much the neocons, the Poroshenko regime, and their pet Mejlis might wish it were otherwise.

In the spirit of tolerance and social justice that Eurovision represents, I would suggest they check their privilege and stop appropriating the voices of Crimean Tatars.

On a less hyperbolic note, I am certainly not trying to argue Crimean Tatars are very enthusiastic and happy about Crimea’s return to Russia (though that should be obvious enough from the data). But nor are they particularly aggrieved about it; that describes a very modest minority, while the majority are basically apathetic (and another small minority are volubly Russophilic). Any talk of using them as a fifth column, let alone a partisan underground, belongs to the realm of fantasy – which is irresponsible but understandable, since their emigre Mejlis politicians have nothing else to offer.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Crimean Tatars, Human Rights, Russia, Ukraine 

Well, most of them, anyway.

ukraine-is-europe

Otherwise the prospects of Ukraine’s euroassociators don’t look all that good. Out of all the more than a dozen polls on this question done since December 2015, not a single one has been in Ukraine’s favor. The average gap between the share of people supporting and opposing the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement has been 15%.

A majority of Dutch political parties have also agreed to treat the result as binding should there be higher than 30% turnout. Apathy is in fact the main hope of the Yes camp. The average expected turnout based on the polls is around 33%.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Klimkin was recently in Amsterdam to agitate for the Yes camp, along with a delegation of the country’s main religious figures.

“In the past two years not a single person has requested a bribe from me!” he introduced himself to Dutch viewers on a talk show, evidently looking to impress. “Before, the Ukraine was a deeply Orthodox country. And the latest anti-discrimination laws… about LGBT rights – you know, you couldn’t have imagined this 5-10 years ago.”

So apparently one of the main achievements of the Euromaidan as related by Klimkin to his progressive Dutch viewers has been that Ukraine has become less Orthodox. I wonder what the rest of his delegation made of that.

ukraine-delegation-to-amsterdam

Or for that even his main electoral constituents.

An LGBT festival in the Ukrainian city of Lviv had to be abandoned when the venue was surrounded by about 200 members of far-right groups shouting “Kill, kill, kill” on Saturday.

That is not very Yuropean of them either.

EDIT 2016/04/06: Via Ivan Katchanovski: “100% official vote count: 61% vote against Ukraine EU association, and 32% official turnout means valid vote. Exit Poll: 64% “No” vote in the Ukraine EU association referendum in the Netherlands. The 32% turnout in the final IPSOS exit poll reaches the 30% threshold but is close to statistical margin of error of 3%.The 29% turnout rate in the earlier IPSOS exit poll 30 minutes before the end of the vote is close to the 30% threshold and within statistical margin of error of 3%.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: LGBT, Netherlands, Trade, Ukraine 

Reverse Cargo Cult

When the sociopolitical order of Easter Island disappeared in a wave of violence and depravity after deforestation led to the collapse of its ecological basis of existence, as described in Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, the most visible symbol of its passing was the mass toppling of the moai statues that had represented the power and prestige of the old order.

But this cargo cult in reverse didn’t do anything for the Easter Islanders’ level of civilization or living standards, which regressed into outright barbarism, up to and including cannibalism. This lasted until contact with Europeans put the new culture out of its misery to be replaced with pestilence and slavery.

Just in case one was to think this can only happen in primitive societies, let us now turn to Northern Gabon – or perhaps we should now call it New Liberia, in deference to Condoleezza Rice – which has recently pulled down the largest remaining statue of Lenin in yet another ringing accomplishment for the Euromaidan.

lenin-statue

Although the svidomy ideologues behind this imagine this is supposed to liberate Ukraine, or confirm its European identity, or trigger the moskals, or whatever, the banal reality is closer to this:

room-full-of-people-who-care

Namely, nobody cares.

Nobody of any significance, at any rate. Considering that opinion polls indicate that at least as many if not more Ukrainians miss the Soviet Union as Russians, it’s a safe bet that the vast majority of people actively hurt by this are elderly Ukrainians who are going to die away in ten to twenty years anyway. In between living out their twilight years in the crushing poverty brought about a “European Choice” they didn’t ask for, their life’s legacy and values spat upon, and beaten up by Azov thugs in those rare cases when they dare protest against a regime purportedly established to guarantee basic liberties such as freedom of assembly, it’s fair to say their generation is to be the sacrificial victim upon whose bones Ukraine’s European future is to be built.

But which European future to be precise?

Increasingly, it’s not the one that even the Euromaidan’s vanguard had asked for two years ago.

***

The Education of a Svidomy Fanatic

One of the most striking individual cracks in the facade has to do with one of the most curious and remarkably political turnarounds I have ever encountered.

There was this hardcore Azov supporter, who I will abbreviate here as “E.V.”, who used to comment/troll on my posts 1-2 years back. He had all the stereotypical accoutrements of your typical Maidanist fanatic: Uncritical praise and support for the Revolution of Dignity, claims Ukrainians would now live in freedom and dignity unlike Russians under Putin’s kleptocracy, uncompromising support for the ATO, welcoming of the toppling of Lenin statues, etc.

svidomy-1

But you’d be shocked by perusing his profile in more recent months. It is now full of “vatnik” talking points condemning the current government not just for the economic collapse but for destroying Soviet monuments, rewriting history, pursuing Russophobia, and even praising the LDNR and calling for Russia and Ukraine to unite into one state.

svidomy-2

I don’t actually know that person apart from his comments on my updates during that period, but that is quite the stunning ideological reversal if there ever was one.

What makes it all the more curious is that he is still a dedicated White Nationalist who also posts in support of Trump, rails against #RefugeesWelcome, and even retains his approval of Azov (many of whom appear to share his disgruntlement with the Poroshenko regime, if presumably not his unexpected Russophilia… at least for the time being).

svidomy-3

Rather ironic how it was more than anything that ultimate gesture of “Europeanness” in the form of #RefugeesWelcome that soured this onetime devotee of Ukraine’s “European Choice” on the whole project – refugees that are now beginning to get diverted to Ukraine itself, as core Europe buckles under the strain and Merkel seeks to unload the burden anywhere she can, including the cargo cultists who rule in Kiev and are only too happy to oblige the whims of their Western superiors.

When the victims are ordinary people, at any rate. No amount of Western lectures and imprecations have done anything to stem the runaway corruption of the Maidanist regime. Here is just the latest headline that says it all: “General Prosecutor of Ukraine to investigate the theft of EU and US grants for the reform of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine.”

***

The End of the UkSSR

To be sure, a single anecdote doesn’t say all that much, but it makes sense in the context of Gallup’s December 2015 finding that Poroshenko now has a lower approval rating than Yanukovych at the time of the coup. Such turnarounds might still be a rarity, but as the legitimacy of the regime and its foreign sponsors continues to unravel, Ukrainians will be searching for another ideological and spiritual anchor.

That anchor could potentially – ironically – have been the Soviet Union itself, for it was the Soviets personified by the grim apparatchiks starting with Lenin himself whose statues have been getting toppled throughout the last 2 years who more than anyone else created what we know as Ukraine. The Soviet legacy is what holds the Ukraine together. It might be a dark force, in many respects, but it has a certain majesty and gravitas to it, whereas the parochial Banderism of the Maidanist thugs, apart from being nasty and evil, is just more pathetic than anything else.

It’s like the difference between Ghengis Khan and the neighborhood furry-obsessed creep who is discovered with half a dozen corpses in his freezer.

One of those is sustainable, at least for a few generations; the other is not.

Moreover, Banderism is an ideology that actual Europeans are not rushing to embrace, if increasingly evident European and even American fatigue on the Ukraine question and Dutch voting intentions on the forthcoming EU-Ukraine Association referendum are anything to go by. Without foreign infusions to keep it afloat, it will increasingly be running on empty, a walking corpse that has yet to realize it is dead.

But what was there before the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which is even now croaking out its final death throes?

Before the UkSSR, before Bandera, there was Novorossiya, Malorossiya, and the Taurida Guberniya, and Kiev was one of the intellectual centers of Russian nationalism.

Before you can rebuild, you have to clear away the rubble.

It is therefore ultimately for the best that Ukrainians have been the ones to take the initiative in returning to their historic roots.

And since the Ukraine has been so conveniently de-Sovietizing itself, the logical endpoint of that search now leads back to the USSR’s predecessor, the Russian Empire:

“I cannot say what kind of soul I have, Ukrainian or Russian. I know only that I would not give preference to the Ukrainian over the Russian, nor to the Russian over the Ukrainian. Both natures are too greatly gifted by God, as if by some purpose each contains within itself that which the other does not–a clear sign that they are meant to complete each other. To this end their past histories were made distinct; so that their diverse strengths of character, developing separately, might later merge together and form something more complete in human kind.” – Nikolai V. Gogol, Complete Works, volume 13, pp. 418-419.

As more and more Ukrainians “awaken,” we will soon have to start thinking about E.V.’s question on “how to achieve this deep integration” – and where to go from there.

“For what is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger!’

na-korable-polden

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Russia, Svidomy, Ukraine 

Prolific IQ researcher Richard Lynn together with two Russian collaborators have recently published arguing that multiple aspects of socio-economic development – infant mortality, fertility, stature, and literacy-as-a-proxy for intelligence were significantly intercorrelated in late Tsarist Russia.

russian-empire-literacy-rate-1897

Literate rate of the European part of the Russian Empire in 1897.

Here is the link to the paper – Regional differences in intelligence, infant mortality, stature and fertility in European Russia in the late nineteenth century

And here is a summary by James Thompson – 50 Russian oblasts.

To the right: Here’s your map, JayMan. You’re welcome.

The main potential sticking point:

There are no data for regional intelligence in the nineteenth century and we have therefore adopted rates of literacy as a proxy for intelligence. This is justified on the grounds that a high correlation between literacy rates and intelligence have been reported in a number of studies. For example, a correlation of .861 between literacy rates for Italian regions in 1880 and early twenty-first century IQs has been reported by Lynn (2010); a correlation of .83 between literacy rates for Spanish regions in the early twenty-first century has been reported by Lynn (2010); (Lynn, 2012); and a correlation of 0.56 between literacy rates and IQs for the states and union territories of India in 2011 has been reported by Lynn and Yadav (2015). There is additional support for using literacy in the nineteenth century as a proxy for intelligence in the results of a study by Grigoriev, Lapteva and Ushakov (Григорьев, Лаптева, Ушаков, 2015) showing a correlation of .58 between literacy rates of the peasant populations of the districts (uezds) of the Moscow province in 1883 and the results of the Unified State Exam and State Certification on Russian Language in the districts of the contemporary Moscow oblast.

The methodology at first struck me as being rather problematic.

I’ve read a bit about Russian state literacy programs in the 19th century (National Literacy Campaigns and Movements) and one of their main features is that they tended to spread out from the central European Russian provinces due to cost effectiveness reasons, hence the low literacy rates of e.g. Siberia in Lynn’s data set. However, there is no particular evidence that Siberian Russians are any duller than average Russians. To the contrary, some 3% of Siberian schoolchildren become “Olympians” – high performers who qualify for highly subsidized higher education. This proportion is lower than the 15% of the central region (which hosts Moscow, Russia’s main cognitive cluster with a 107 average IQ), and the 14% of the north-west region (which hosts Russia’s second cognitive cluster with a 103 average IQ Saint-Petersburg, plus the Russians there are probably slightly brighter in general on account of Finno-Ugric admixture), but is considerably higher than in any other Russian Federal District: The Urals and Volga (both about 2%), and the Far Eastern, Southern, and Caucasus (all considerably below 1%).

In other words, would such a historical literacy – modern intelligence correlation apply to Russia as it does to Italy, Spain, and to a lesser extent, India?

russia-pisa-results-2009-math-science-2

Average 2009 PISA results by Russian region.

Fortunately, we don’t have to postulate, since we do actually have PISA data for many Russian provinces that I revealed back in 2012.

This allows us to test if Lynn’s assumptions apply.

There are difficulties, to be sure. Not all Russian provinces were tested in PISA, and there is, needless to say, no data for any of the Ukrainian and Polish oblasts, or for Belarus. As such, only 20 Russian provinces could be tested in this manner (26 if you also include now independent countries excluding Russia itself).

In some cases, names have changed, typically to honor some faceless Soviet bureaucrat; in more problematic cases, borders have changed significantly (e.g. the five provinces of Estonia, Livonia, Courland, Kovno, and Vilna have become the three countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – I have tried to average the literacy figures between them in a common sense but back of the envelope way). The Moscow Governorate has been split into the City of Moscow (with its 107 average IQ) and Moscow oblast (with a modest 96 average IQ). Which of those should be attached to Moscow’s 1897 literacy rate of 40%? (As it happens, I went with just the City of Moscow instead of figuring out how to weigh the populations and adjust and so forth. I’m not trying to writea formal paper, after all).

russia-tsarist-literacy-and-current-iq

There is an exponential correlation of R=0.75 between average PISA derived IQs of Russian regions and of now independent countries, and their literacy rate according to the 1897 Census. Therefore, this bears out Lynn’s assumptions.

The two downwards outliers – more relatively intelligent than literate – are Moscow, Tatarstan, Tula, Samara, and Tambov. Moscow is easily explainable – the city itself in Tsarist times would have been more literate than the Moscow Governorate, while its average IQ was artificially boosted in Soviet times since it became not just the empire’s political but also its cognitive (artistic, scientific) capital. Getting a Moscow propiska required considerable intelligence.

The three very major upwards outliers – more relatively literate than intelligent – are the Finno-Ugric Baltic states: Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. This can’t have been a non-Orthodox/Muslim thing: Both Poland (On-The-Vistula Governorate) and Lithuania (Kovno and Vilna) lie neatly on the correlation curve. Nor was it something Finno-Ugric; Karelia (then Olonets) is not an exception either. It must have been something specific just to them and the most obvious explanation is Protestantism. There is a lot of literature on the independent literacy-raising effects of Protestantism and I see no reasons why Estonia, Latvia, and Finland should have been exceptions to that.

Another outlier, though this one is at the bottom of the IQ scale, is Moldova. To be fair I think Moldova’s PISA-derived IQ is artificially lowered by a third to half of an S.D. due to the massive brain drain it has experienced after the collapse of the Soviet Union (something like half the working age population are Gastarbeiters in the EU and Russia). We see similar drops in other countries so afflicted, such as (possibly) Puerto Rico, and (almost certainly) Ireland during most of the 20th century, when it repeatedly reported IQs in the ~90 range (and ironically one of the reasons Richard Lynn himself abandoned it to move to Northern Ireland, thus getting stuck in the most depressed region of the UK and missing out on the rise of the Celtic Tiger a few years later).

russia-tsarist-literacy-and-modern-iq-RF-only

The correlation improves further to R=0.80 when we consider only those Tsarist-era provinces which are still part of the Russian Federation. This is accomplished (more than) entirely just by removing the Protestant Baltic nations (Finland, Estonia, and Latvia) and Moldova (whose current day average IQ is depressed due to massive brain drain as per above).

As usual Lynn does his north/south IQ gradient analysis, finding it to be a real thing but diminishing to nothing once the Baltic states of Estonia, Livonia, and Courland are accounted for.

Quoting from Thompson’s summary:

The Russian provinces differed significantly by geographical location. The positive correlations with latitude (r= .33, p<.05) and the negative correlation with longitude (r=−.43, p<.01) show that the rates of literacy were higher in the northand west than in the south and east. These trends were partly determined by the rates of literacy being highest in the north-western provinces of St. Petersburg and the three Baltic states of Estland, Livland and Kourland (correspondingapproximately but not precisely to contemporary Estonia and Latvia; Livland consisted of southern part of contemporary Estonia and eastern part of contemporary Latvia). Removing these four regions makes both correlations non-significant (.21 and −.23).

pale-of-settlement-1897

The Pale of Settlement in 1897.

One additional issue worth bearing in mind: The influence of the Jews. Namely, their concentration in the Pale of Settlement, which correlates to modern day Poland, Belarus, and right-bank Ukraine (west of the Dnieper). There were more than 5.2 million Jews, and their literacy rates were very high (according to the 1926 Soviet Census, Jews over the age of 50 – i.e., who had been educated under the Empire – had a literacy rate of 63% versus 28% for ethnic Russians).

This must have “artificially” raised the literacy rates in this area – as pertains to those regions’ 21st century average IQs, anyway, since the vast majority of those Jews are no longer there due to the trifecta of the Holocaust, Jackson-Vanik, and Aliyah. The effect would probably be to reduce the “indigenous” literacy rates in Lithuania and Poland closer to those of European Russia, while pushing the already low literacy rates of strongly ethnic Malorossiyan and Belorussian provinces considerably lower still. Not a single province of modern Ukraine outside historical Novorossiya (with its strong Great Russian admixture) had a literacy rate above 20% in 1897, despite highly literate Jews helping them out with the statistics.

Unfortunately, there is a severe paucity of usable psychometric data from Ukraine – for instance, it is one of the very few European countries that doesn’t participate in PISA. So its average IQ has to be estimated through generally more indirect means. It does the converted equivalent of 9 IQ points worse than Russia on the TIMSS standardized test. Ukrainians spend less than half as much time as Russians reading, and those from the western parts at least spend a lot more time participating in torchlit processions and chanting “Putin Khuylo.” Some of those activities are considerably more g loaded than others. The low literacy rates in late Tsarist Malorossiya, coupled with the finding of a close correlation between those literacy rates and modern day average IQ across both Russian provinces and today’s independent post-Soviet states, constitutes further evidence of a modest average IQ in Ukraine. Higher than in Moldova to be sure, but probably closer to the level of the Balkans than to Poland.

Data

Sources: Grigoriev, Lapteva, and Lynn 2015; Karlin 2012 (derived from PISA 2009).

IQ Literacy in 1897
Astrakhan 94.8 15.5%
Bashkortostan 93.4 16.7%
ESTONIA 102.1 77.9%
FINLAND 106.6 75.6%
Kaluga 91.7 19.4%
Karelia 98.1 25.3%
Kursk 94.6 16.3%
LATVIA 98.0 74.3%
LITHUANIA 99.0 35.4%
MOLDOVA 84.9 15.6%
Moscow 106.6 40.2%
N. Novgorod 93.1 22.0%
Orenburg 92.7 20.4%
Perm 93.3 19.2%
POLAND 100.2 30.5%
RUSSIA 96.0 21.1%
Ryazan 94.7 20.3%
Saint-Petersburg 102.6 51.5%
Samara 99.2 22.1%
Saratov 96.0 23.8%
Tambov 95.9 16.6%
Tatarstan 98.1 17.9%
Tula 98.6 20.7%
Ulyanovsk 91.5 15.6%
Vladimir 98.9 27.0%
Vologda 95.3 19.1%
Voronezh 92.7 16.3%

Literacy and Social Development in 1890s Russia (from Grigoriev et al. 2015)

Incidentally, I am not surprised to see Yaroslavl being the top non-Baltic/non-capital Russian region by literacy rate in 1897. It struck me as by far the cleanest and most civilized provincial Russian town on the Golden Ring when I visited it in 2002 (a time when Russia was still shaking off the hangover of the Soviet collapse). Curiously enough, it also hosted one of the most vigorous insurrections against the Bolshevik regime in central Russia. Although it was not one of the regions covered by PISA, I would not be surprised if Yaroslavl oblast was to get a 100-102 score on it should it be carried out there (and as would be implied by the correlation curve).

lynn-table-imperial-russia-literacy

 

And make no doubt about it – a collapse is exactly what it is, and it afflicts way more of the country than just the war-wracked Donbass. Ukraine now vies with Moldova for the country with the lowest average wages in Europe.

Gabon with snow? Saakashvili is hopelessly optimistic. That would actually be a big improvement!

GDP is at 60% of its 1990 Level

ukraine-gdp-1990-2015

As of this year, the country with the most pro-Western revolutions is also the poorest performing post-Soviet economy bar none. This is a not unimpressive achievement considering outcomes here have tended to disappoint rather than elate. Russia itself, current GDP at about 110% of its 1990 level, has nothing to write home about (though “statist” Belarus, defying neoliberal conventional wisdom, at a very respectable 200% does have something to boast about).

Back in 2010, although by far the worst performing heavily industrialized Soviet economy, Ukraine was still performing better relative to its position in 1990 than Moldova, Tajikistan, and Georgia. In the intervening 5 years – with a 7% GDP decline in 2014 which has widened to a projected 9% in 2015 – Ukraine has managed to slip to rock bottom.

How does this look like on a more human level?

Housing Construction is Similar to That of 5 Million Population Russian Provinces

housing-construction-russia-ukraine-in-2014

With a quarter of its population, Belarus is constructing as much new accomodation as is Ukraine. 16 million strong Kazakhstan is building more. Russia – more than ten times as much, even though it has less than four times as many people.

The seaside Russian province of Krasnodar Krai, which hosted the Sochi Winter Olympics, with its 5 million inhabitants, is still constructing more than half as much housing as all of Ukraine. No wonder the Crimeans were so eager to leave.

New Vehicle Sales Collapse to 1960s Levels

 

ukraine-automobile-sales

The USSR might have famously concentrated on guns over butter, yet even so, even in terms of an item as infamously difficult to acquire as cars under socialism, Ukrainian consumers were better off during the 1970-1990 period than today. Now Ukrainians are buying as few new cars as they were doing in the catastrophic 1990s, and fewer even than during the depth of the 2009 recession.

And even so many Maidanists continue to giggle at “sovoks” and “vatniks.” Well, at least they now make up for having even less butter than before with the Azovets “innovative tank.” Armatas are quaking in fear looking at that thing.

Debt to GDP Ratio at Critical Levels

ukraine-debt-to-gdp-ratio

And this figure would have risen further to around 100% this year.

Note that 60% is usually considered to be the critical danger zone for emerging market economies. This is the approximate level at which both Russia and Argentina fell into their respective sovereign debt crises.

To be fair, the IMF has indicated it will be partial to flouting its own rules to keep Ukraine afloat, which is not too surprising since it is ultimately a tool of Western geopolitical influence. And if as projected the Ukrainian economy begins to recover this year, then there is a fair chance that crisis will ultimately be averted.

But it will be a close shave, and so long as the “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” oligarchs who rule Ukraine continue siphoning off money by the billions to their offshore accounts with impunity, nothing can be ruled out.

Resumption of Demographic Collapse

ukraine-crude-birth-rate-1988-2015

Much like the rest of the post-Soviet Slavic world, Russia had a disastrous 1990s in demographic terms, when mortality rates soared and birth rates plummeted. But like Russia – if to a lesser extent – it has since staged a modest recovery, incidentally with the help of a Russian-style “maternal capital” program. In 2008, it reached a plateau in birth rates, which was not significantly uninterrupted by the 2009 recession.

Since then, however, they have plummeted – exactly nine months after the February 2014 coup. The discreteness with which this happened together with the fact that the revolt in the Donbass took a further couple of months to get going after the coup proper implies that this fertility decline was likely a direct reaction to the Maidan and what it portended for the future.

This collapse is very noticeable even after you completely remove all traces of Crimea, Donetsk, and Lugansk oblasts which might otherwise muddy the waters (naturally, the demographic crisis in all its aspects has been much worse in the region that bore the brunt of Maidanist chiliastic fervor). Here are the Ukrstat figures for births and deaths in the first ten months of 2013, 2014, and 2015:

Births Deaths
2013 350658 441331
2014 354622 445236
2015 329308 450763

Furthermore, this period has seen a huge wave of emigration. Figures can only be guesstimated, but it is safe to say they are well over a million to both Russia and the EU.

The effects of this will continue to be felt long after any semblance of normalcy returns to Ukraine.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Crisis, Finance, Ukraine 

According to a fable often told by Russians themselves, there once lived two peasants. One of them had one cow, the other had two cows. The poorer peasant found a lamp, rubbed it, and out popped a genie, who proceeded to ask him if he wanted 5 cows. He refused and instead wished for one of his neighbor’s cows to drop dead.

This story is what comes to mind on the news that various Crimean Tatar and far right batallion “activists” blew up the transmission towers carrying electricity to Crimea, plunging the peninsula into a blackout that looks set to last weeks.

In fact, it’s something of a metaphor for today’s Ukraine in general.

(1) “Activists” blockade Crimea, putting an embargo on food products. Belatedly realizing that the whole affair will lose whatever minimal sense it might have possessed in the first place when Russia bans all Ukrainian food imports on January 1, 2016, on Ukraine’s accession to the EU Free Trade Agreement, they decide to up their game, presumably on the belief that if their water blockade failed to win Crimean hearts and minds in favor of Ukraine last summer, then deprivation of electricity as winter approaches surely will. No matter that said electricity blockade will affect not just those evil moskali and Ukrainian zradniki (traitors) who overwhelmingly voted to leave Country 404, but also 90% of the world’s Crimean Tatars whom they are ostensibly fighting for.

heroic-poses(2) Fifty armed National Guardsmen are sent to restore order. The “activists” naturally start to fight them and the efforts of the totalitarian Poroshenko regime to take away their Constitutional rights to blow up infrastructure on Ukrainian soil. In the video above, one of the masked activists, clearly suffering from a terminal case of Maidanism, says the Guardsmen are akin to separatists. Two of the Guardsmen are seriously injured: One gets a brain concussion after getting hit by a stick, while another gets a knife in his stomach.

In any normal functional country, including in any European nation that the Maidanists vaunt so much, they would at this point be getting mowed down by special forces as the terrorists they are. However, in Ukraine, they are “civic activists,” so they are left unharmed to continue to strike heroic Diogenes-in-a-pylon poses. And after a crowd of sympathizing “activists” gathers at the Presidential palace, Poroshenko quickly flip flops and promises that there would be no more attempts to storm them in a hastily arranged meeting with the (self-proclaimed) “Mejlis” leaders of the Crimean Tatars.

You must construct additional pylons!? Not so fast…

(3) Ilya Kiva, the commander of those National Guards supposedly tasked with restoring order so that repairs could be done, immediately afterwards posted the following message on Facebook (the favored communications medium of Maidanist politicians): “The troops are now at their place of permanent dislocation, and the blockade continues! No electricity to Crimea! Slava Ukraine! And now I go to bed…”

slava-ukraine-no-electricity-to-crimea(4) In the meantime, while svidomy Ukrainians digest their great peremoga (victory), the sabotage has forced two nuclear power plants in neighboring Kherson oblast to effect a dangerous emergency shutdown. There is a chance that the blackouts could spread to the neighboring Ukrainian oblasts of Kherson and Nikolaev according to the head of the Ukraine’s energy company Yury Katich.

Russia has ceased supplying coal to Ukraine in retaliation. Considering that Ukraine’s electricity network runs in significant part thanks to Russian and LDNR coal, this is not an unreasonable retaliation for the blockade of Crimea.

At this point, there can only be two explanations for this turn of events, on which in turn will depend any further developments.

a) The first variant is that Ukraine is a Country 404, a failed state powerless to prevent its “activists” from sauntering about and blowing up infrastructure at will in the hope that it kills more Russian cows even if some Ukrainian cows also get caught in the backblast.

b) The more cynical and darker possibility is that this was all planned. As Egor Kholmogorov points out in an article for Izvestia, now is a perfect window for this kind of sabotage, because the center and east of the territories controlled by Kiev have recently been connected to new power lines from the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant to the west, allowing it to minimize any fallout on Ukraine itself, while Russia is less than two months away from launching its energy bridge to Crimea. This implies that the timing of this operation was chosen by people a “great deal more informed than those of the Right Sector and the supporters of the Mejlis.”

If the latter explanation is in fact the correct one – and considering the possible casualties stemming from a sudden and prolonged loss of power, especially now that winter is coming – then this would make this sabotage something more than a tragicomic skit. As Kholmogorov argued, it would make it an an outright act of state terrorism – and if Russia has any sense of honor and consistency left, it would reply with the usual punishment meted out to sponsors of terror, including wide-ranging economic sanctions at the very least.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Crimea, Crimean Tatars, Svidomy, Terrorism, Ukraine 

Soon after calling for ISIS to murder Russian aviators and their families, the Paris Attacks sent them into a confused tizzy, and now the Maidanists are going from proposing an alliance with ISIS to condemning them as pawns of Khuylo, Тhe Darkest One, and The God of Svidomy Ukrainians… who is otherwise known to normal people as Vladimir Putin.

Essentially, Putin cockblocked the ISIS-Maidan alliance!

Yury Sergeyev (“Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations. All tweets reflect my personal vision”): In the Paris tragedy, you should “cherchez la femme” – and her name is – Russia. We await Russia’s invitation to join the struggle against terrorism.

Though for some reason he doesn’t seem to like his “personal vision” getting RTed:

So far as conspiracy theories go, the idea that the Russian intelligence services organized the Paris Attacks down to the snackbaring suicide bombers is one of the most incredible ones out there. But if you were to think this is a fringe theory limited to a rogue diplomat or two you would be wrong.

rferl-russia-behind-paris-attacks Here are some other Ukrainian politicians, journalists, academics, and major bloggers who have advanced this “theory”:

  • Radio Svoboda/RFERL - Ukrainian arm of the US foreign media organ, screenshot right (if you recall, also the department responsible for getting Russian anti-Putin journalist Andrey Babitsky fired from RFERL for being unwilling to cover up Ukrainian far right militia war crimes). Article has since been removed, probably when the more intelligent and less ideologically crazy American bosses saw what their Galician underlings were up to.
  • Andrey Teteruk – Former far right militia commander and now Rada Deputy, recently made famous for hitting a female parliamentatian on the head with a glass bottle and causing her a brain concussion: “In my opinion, behind these terrorist acts stand the cold calculations of the Kremlin creatures, who wanted to take revenge on France for the Mistral on Friday the 13th, a symbolic date for Americans.”
  • Anton Geraschenko – Ministry of the Interior advisor, who compiled a literal hit list (available online) of anti-regime figures such as the murdered journalist Oles Buzina, and who has also started adding the names of Russian aviators for the express purpose of helping ISIS take care of them “by the canons of sharia” (sic): “Not long ago I obtained reliable evidence from good sources that it is RF President Vladimir Putin who is responsible to the flood of migrants to Europe… I recommend the French intelligence services carefully track the entire chain from the perpetrators to the sponsors of these evil acts. Who knows, maybe the Russian intelligence services stand behind it all?”
  • yury-sergeyev-russia-behind-parisYury Sergeyev – See above.
  • Mychailo Wynnyckyj – Canadian-Ukrainian “academic” writing for Euromaidan Press, this author is also a well known budding (if inadvertent) scifi writer famous for having predicted a few dozen of the past zero Russian invasions of Ukraine and nuclear wars with NATO.
  • Vitaly Gaidukevich – Prominent Ukrainian TV journalist
  • Liza Bogutskaya – Prominent Ukrainian journalist.

These are far from the only examples. To the contary, the idea that Putin is behind the Paris Attacks is close to conventional wisdom on Maidanist echo chambers across the Internet – even as Russia steps up attacks on the Islamic state to an unprecedented degree.

Recall that these are the same people who were calling for an alliance with ISIS against Ukraine just a few days beforehand.

What explains such pathological schizophrenia?

Ultimately it is to do with the fact that the Maidanist ideology reduced to its roots consists of nothing but cargo cult like adoration and mechanical imitation of the Western master, coupled with a primitive village hatred of Russia, which is forever oppressin’ and keeping it down. Based as it is on faith in the final peremoga (victory) as opposed to any genuinely attractive cultural or intellectual narrative, the Maidanist project inevitably keeps on failing, time and time again. But since Maidanism is revealed religious truth, this could never happen on account of its own internal failings; some external actor MUST be responsible, and that is where the inevitable zrada (betrayal) comes in.

In this latest iteration, the zrada in question is that of the Islamic State, which, far from coming to their rescue, has turned out to be nothing but another pawn of the Dark Lord Voldemort Putler, who as God of Svidomy Ukrainians stands behind every single act of terrorism, anywhere. And through his mastery of the Dark Arts, it increasingly seems that Putler will be able to hoodwink the Western world – barring a few unusually clearsighted but (it n0w seems) tragically ignored neocons – into ignoring the manifold strands of evidence for a Raqqa-Moscow Axis.

The irony in this theory of a world conspiracy to destroy Ukraine, as promoted by the Maidanists themselves, the Ukraine itself is not an independent agent but a passive and powerless object of zrada after zrada, and the dark designs of Russia. But the paradox largely resolves itself when you start thinking of Ukraine less as a country and more as an ideological project.

 
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.