Russians sure do like to ‘collude’. According to the Washington Post, it’s in the blood. The following appeared in the Post a few days ago in an article by Thomas Weber of Aberdeen University entitled ‘What Russian collusion with Hitler reveals about interference in the 2016 election’:
After Adolf Hitler’s warriors had laid waste to the Soviet Union during World War II, the secret collusion of Russian nationalists with the German leader in the 1920s became an embarrassment. In the 70 years since Hitler’s defeat, Russian nationalists have done everything possible to conceal their onetime belief that he could aid them in undoing the October Revolution of 1917 and making Russia great again.
There are enough parallels here — collusion with Russia, an obsession with national greatness — to tempt people to entertain yet another ill-judged Hitler-Trump comparison.
Yet the real significance of Hitler’s secret Russian collusion does not lie in shedding light on the challenges President Trump poses to American democracy, but on the strategic challenge that Russia poses to the world. For there has been a line of continuity from the collusion of Russian nationalists with Hitler in the early 1920s, to Joseph Stalin’s secret pact with the Nazi leader in 1939, to President Vladimir Putin’s conduct in Ukraine and his interference in the elections in the United States.
In all cases, Russia has ruthlessly pursued its self-interests with few concerns about the costs to human life and geopolitical repercussions. If it’s ostensibly good for Russia, it’s full steam ahead, regardless of the consequences for everyone else.
… Russia’s many apologists in Europe and the U.S. should wake up to the common denominator visible here in Russian conduct past and present: a geopolitical pursuit of Russia’s national interests, marked by a disregard for human life and dignity.
Weber appears to be shocked that Russians would put the Russian national interest first. But that isn’t what’s most wrong about his article. As evidence of Russian ‘collusion’ with Adolf Hitler, Professor Weber produces just two facts – first, in 1923 Hitler met the wife of the exiled Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand Duchess Viktoria Feodorovna, as well as one of Kirill’s aides, Nikolai Snessarev; and second, Kirill provided money to Hitler. Quite what the connection is between the exiled Grand Duke and Joseph Stalin and the Molotov-Ribbentrop plan isn’t explained. Nor is the link between Kirill and ‘Vladimir Putin’s conduct in Ukraine and his interference in the elections in the United States.’ The link seems to consist of no more than: one time, a century ago, some obscure Russian most people have never heard of met a German who at the time wasn’t even very important; ergo Russians as a whole have a habit of ‘colluding’ with foreigners and we ought to be very afraid of them.
It’s shockingly bad logic. It’s also rather ahistorical. For sure, Grand Duke Kirill was quite pro-German. But a lot of inter-war Russian émigrés weren’t. The former White Army leader, General Pyotr Wrangel, for instance, stated that the Germans regarded Russians as fit only for dung for fertilizing the soil. He absolutely ruled out any form of co-ooperation with Germany. It is true that in the 1930s many White Russians hoped to be able to collaborate with Germany in the event that the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. But others also opposed the idea of such collaboration. There was a bitter polemic in the émigré press between ‘defeatists’, who took the first line, and ‘defencists’, who took the second line. Most prominent among the defencists was another White general, Anton Denikin, who wrote that, ‘In the event that a foreign power invades Russia, with the aim of seizing Russian territory, our participation on its side is impermissible.’ Inter-war Russians weren’t all interested in working with Hitler.
In any event, Kirill was an isolated and unpopular figure among Russian émigrés. He in no way represented émigré opinion, and so shouldn’t be used as an example of what Russians of the time thought. Far more popular among émigrés in the 1920s was the former Supreme Commander of the Russian Army, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich. Unlike Kirill, Nikolai Nikolaevich was very anti-German. British military attaché Alfred Knox recounted how in 1914, the Grand Duke ‘told me how he hated the Germans because one could never trust them. … we must crush Germany once and for all … the German empire must cease to exist and be divided up into a group of states.’
Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich provides an example which utterly contradicts Weber’s statement that Russians only ever put their own interests first without regard for those of others. The Grand Duke was a fervent Francophile, who as Supreme Commander didn’t fly a Russian flag at his headquarters but did fly a French one (see picture above). In August 1914, the German Army sent most of its forces against France, leaving only a few to defend East Prussia against Russia. Despite the fact that the Russian Army had not fully mobilized, Nikolai Nikolaevich ordered his troops to invade East Prussia in order to try to persuade the Germans to divert forces away from France. The French military attaché, General Laguiche, telegraphed his Minister of War that, ‘The Supreme Commander of the Russian Army wanted to respond to France’s desires and remain faithful to the undertakings he made to our ambassador.’ The Russian Chief of Staff, General Ianushkevich, issued an order to the commander of the Russian North West Front, General Zhilinskii, to invade East Prussia, telling him: ‘Paying attention to the fact that Germany first declared war against us, and that France, as our ally, considered its duty to immediately support, we must, because of the same allied obligations, support the French.’
The Russian invasion of East Prussia ended in disaster, with the destruction of the Russian Second Army at Tannenburg and the defeat of the Russian First Army in the Battle of the Masurian Lakes. But Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich was unrepentant, telling Laguiche: ‘We are happy to make such sacrifices for our allies.’
Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich did one thing. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich did another. It makes no sense to draw some broad-sweeping conclusions about the Russian character from either one or the other. It’s true that some Russians collaborated with Hitler and said some nice things about him. But others didn’t, while you can find plenty of people from other countries who spoke positively of Hitler at one time or another (David Lloyd George, for instance, to use an example close to Professor Weber’s home). Russians pursue their national interests. But so do other countries, and Russians can also be willing to sacrifice themselves for their friends.
Here’s the thing. You can create just about any sort of thesis if all you do is take one example and imagine that it personifies some general truth. But it’s not good history.
38 thoughts on “Colluding with Hitler”
Because we couldn’t set the bar for argumentation low enough, I guess.
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I am at a loss as to how to deal with the constant bombardment of anti-Russian propaganda. Most of it is based on nothing but supposition and innuendo but the constant repetition of claims of Russian malevolence have a negative impact. For example this BS “… Russia’s many apologists in Europe and the U.S. should wake up to the common denominator visible here in Russian conduct past and present: a geopolitical pursuit of Russia’s national interests, marked by a disregard for human life and dignity.”
Today Foreign Affairs released a new essay by Joe Biden and Michael Carpenter titled “Defending Democracy Against It’s Enemies” it’s not paywalled. Presumably, the US is “defending democracy” against those Russian tyrants.
What on earth can people of good will do to keep this from turning into a shooting war? Does any one have a suggestion?
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I’ve just started the Foreign Affairs piece – looks like a possible subject for a future blog post.
What can be done? Not a lot, sadly, as the resources available to us doing the debunking are far inferior to those available to those doing the original ‘bunking’ (if you get what I mean). But we can keep trying, and keep pointing out to all and sundry why all this stuff is wrong.
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‘What on earth can people of good will do to keep this from turning into a shooting war?’
“People of good will” have never decided anythong. “People of good will” is a silly monicker, which creates an illusion that the so-called “civil society” in the West or elsewhere has any power boyond limited lobbying for the interests of the liberal-minded urbanites and intelligentsia.
tl;dr – How many tank division do the “people of good will” have at their dispoal?
There is a university in Aberdeen? Amazing. When I visited there, all I observe was hordes of filthy drunks roaming the streets, seemingly looking for a fight.
Come to think of it, Mr Weber sounds like he could easily be one of them…
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Thank you for your concern about my drinking habits. Much appreciated but I never drink to excess. The next time you come to Aberdeen, I’d be delighted to show you around our beautiful campus which has been around since 1495.
Mr Weber is just getting paid like the rest of the Russophobia that write in the Washington Post.
It’s the acceptable racism – and many are willing to jump in to the swamp.
Mr Weber is obviously educated and readers will think he is an authority on the subject – when he is really just another Russophobe.
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Hey, let me change it to be more plausible:
“In all cases, the USA has ruthlessly pursued its self-interests with few concerns about the costs to human life and geopolitical repercussions. If it’s ostensibly good for the US, it’s full steam ahead, regardless of the consequences for everyone else.
… US’ many apologists in Europe and Russia should wake up to the common denominator visible here in the American conduct past and present: a geopolitical pursuit of US national interests, marked by a disregard for human life and dignity.
“The link seems to consist of no more than: one time, a century ago, some obscure Russian most people have never heard of met a German who at the time wasn’t even very important; ergo Russians as a whole have a habit of ‘colluding’ with foreigners and we ought to be very afraid of them.”
Collective guilt. The West applies the collective guilt on all Russians. Who must, therefore, pay and repent. Repent and pay. For all eternity. Why? Because they are Russians.
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Who applies collective guilt on all Russians? I honestly cannot think of any examples of that having happened outside the lunatic fringes of Western society
Okay, Google! Entertain me – show the results for the search “Russians must apologize/repent/confront their past”.
My-my! A proverbial crap-nado of the articles, op-eds, “balanced opinions” and “recommendations” from a cornucopia of Western newspapers, magazines, think-tank and just bright (and well-paid) “smart” individuals. Bullshit Russian Bingo (BRB) talking points everywhere! “Putin’s regime”, “western useful idiots”, “Putin apologists”, “Russian invasions past and present”, “Russia’s resurgent/hysterical nationalism”, “Russian culture is different and not only because they did not experience Enlightenment or not display a passion for Western values like personal liberty, freedom of speech, tolerance” (c)
“Russia has never confronted its Soviet past whereas Western Europe has discussed and analysed the Second World War. The Eastern Europeans have done their best, after finally having had the chance. They have even calculated the economic costs and environmental damage caused by Communism.
Sadly, the Russians never knew how to go about it. With trends like these they probably never will. For instance, this autumn final arrangements began to close Memorial, a respected Russian NGO that openly speaks of Communist crimes and is critical of the regime.
This lack of post-Soviet reconciliation and discussion of identity needs to be addressed as it is one of the very reasons why such hysterical nationalism could ever have emerged in Russia.
Besides other problems Russia continues to wrestle with, be it the economy, vast corruption or xenophobia, the trauma that Communism inflicted on Russian society during the 20th century has to be discussed openly. The Soviet regime – as all Communist regimes without an exception – was a violent one.
They murdered and imprisoned people on an industrial scale.
Well, no. Needless to say, Russia itself needs to recognize this need in order to steer clear of ultranationalist tendencies in the future. And most obviously, this regime and the siloviki will not allow it. One can rightfully ask why the Russian people should do such a thing, even if they could.
Yes, the Soviet Union was on the victors’ side. But contrary to what some may fear, no-one would dispute their efforts in defeating the Nazis. It is simply the other side of the medallion that needs some light – the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a basis for Nazi-Soviet alliance 1939-1941; the Nazi and Soviet armies marching together in Brest-Litovsk, Poland, on 22nd September 1939; the tens of millions tortured, deported and shot by Communists.
This reconciliation will have to be both an internal and external process. But until that time it is Europe who needs to acknowledge that Soviet socio-ideological identity and memory will, unless reconciled, continue to be of vital importance in the context of not only Putin’s behaviour, but also in the way Russian society continues to be manipulated under this regime or very possibly the next.
A stronger emphasis on helping Russia to reconcile its Communist past and crimes committed against its own people and others can be the only foundation of a better and profound relationship with Russia.
[Russia is on a collision course. The growing hysterical, anti-Western rhetoric and boiling nationalism indicate that a Russian Vergangenheitsbewaltigung must eventually take place.] ”
“Pay and repent”? Check. Fringe? “Paertel-Peeter Pere is a foreign affairs and defence advisor in the European Parliament.”. Not so much.
RFE/RL: Poroshenko calls on Russia to ‘repent’ for Holodomor
“Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called on Russia to recognize the famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as genocide, “or at least repent for it.””
Oh, the eternal trouble with your Western “democratic” proselytes – they gave up the game too early!
What Soviet crimes does Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, & Estonia want Russia to apologize for? Would such apologizes change your opinion on Russia and would have a more Positive opinion of Russia if it did Apologize?
As we can see – even the old “faithfuls” allow themselves the Freudian slip. Of, what – the plucky Baltic limitorophe states are not of the West?
I can go on and on, posting links and quotations, because, frankly – “Russia Watching Experts” segment of the Net consists slightly less than entirely with scathing, dissing, butthurt Russophobic rants, which boils down to one thing ultimately – the West has trouble with the fact that Russia exists at all. Once again – it was your own proselytes (well, and Zbig BerSHITsky) who gave up the game – as one Polish journalist in Moscow (Tomazh Maceichuk IIRC) said, that Poland will never feel safe vis-à-vis Russia no matter the amount of apologies and “democracy”, until Russia collapses and becomes a conglomerate of smaller states.
Mr. Web! I think that we, Russians, must totally adapt the American approach to our past – never apologize, emphasize only the good qualities, and just plow-through like a Juggernaut across the field of History not paying attention to the screams of those trampled beneath. Russia tried to live by paying and repenting in the 90s – we got for all that sweet fuck nothing. The opinions of the Butthurt Belt of Europe (or, frankly – of anyone else) should be of no concern to us. The West has no moral higher ground to stand upon and teach us how to live our lives and how to treat our past. You had an enormous soft-power positive capital in our country – and you fucked it all up since Perestroika.
Now – stop kvetching. Stop insinuating. If you can prove without doubt that there is indeed some 100% provable connection between “Three Russias” – Imperial, Soviet and the Current One – in their pursuit of relations with the Nazis because they symphasized with the Nazi ideals – go and show it. Otherwise – you are not a historian. You’re just a gossip… boy.
Dear Prof. Robinson, you are more than welcome to disagree with my op-ed. However, I have difficulties to recognize my article in your posting.
Nowhere do I say that I am shocked that Russian foreign policy makers put Russian national interests first. The point I am making pertains, as I clearly state in my article, to the fashion and the counterproductive manner in which the national interest at times has been pursued.
Yes, it would be “shockingly bad logic” to argue that “one time, a century ago, some obscure Russian most people have never heard of met a German who at the time wasn’t even very important; ergo Russians as a whole have a habit of ‘colluding’ with foreigners and we ought to be very afraid of them.”
But I do not say any such thing. Nowhere do I say that “Russians as a whole have a habit of ‘colluding’ with foreigners and we ought to be very afraid of them.”
You are right to raise the question of how significant a figure Kirill was.
Yet to describe him as “some obscure Russian” does not sound right. Yes, the House of Romanov was of course deeply divided. And, yet, genealogically he was the next in line to the Russian throne once the tsar’s family had been murdered. Rival factions in the House of Romanov of course did not accept his claim to the throne when he proclaimed himself Tsar in 1924. But that makes him hardly “some obscure Russian”. Furthermore, in the early 1990s Boris Yeltsin, by then of course Russia’s president, and Kirill’s son, who considered himself to have inherited the claim to the throne from his father (and who had sympathized with the Germans in the Second World War), started to interact. Furthermore, in 1991, Anatoly Sobchak, Putin’s mentor, invited Kirill’s son to Leningrad for the renaming ceremonies of the city into St. Petersburg. During the festivities, Kirill’s son was cheered upon by a crowd of 60,000 while standing on the balcony of the former Winter Palace. A few month later Yeltsin and Kirill’s son officially met as well. Sobchak also encouraged rumours that his daughter would marry Kirill’s great-grandson. Then, in 1995, Kirill’s own remains were brought back to Russia and officially buried at the grand ducal burial vault next to St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Moscow. Furthermore, both parts of the Russian church, the Patriarchate and ROCOR, have officially acknowledged Kirill’s granddaughter Maria Vladimirova as the head of the imperial hourse. Moreover, Putin’s United Russia has courted her in recent years as well. And here we see Putin and Kirill’s granddaughter hug each other: http://www.imperialhouse.ru/images/oldsite/image/photo-gallery/news/2012/3203/2.jpg
I was a bit surprised that you state “as evidence of Russian ‘collusion’ with Adolf Hitler, [I] produce just two facts.” But this is an op-ed article. Of course, I could only pick a limited number of examples (from my book which is 421 pages long) for an op-ed article with a tight word limit.
Where did I say that “all” interwar Russians were “interested in working with Hitler”?
I never claimed that Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevish was pro-German. Nor did I quote him as an example of a Russian with no regard for anything but Russian self-interest. Yet I am not sure if your example supports your case. His belief “we must crush Germany once and for all” and that “the German empire must cease to exist and be divided up into a group of states” seems rather to strengthen than to contradict my argument. Furthermore, his desire totally to destroy Germany was hardly driven merely by a sense of altruism towards France but was driven by Russian geopolitical considerations in the Balkans and crucially Asia Minor.
Yes, I agree with you that it makes no sense to make sweeping statements about “the Russian character”. I also fully agree with you that “you can create just about any sort of thesis if all you do is take one example and imagine that it personifies some general truth. But it’s not good history.” And as I fully agree with you on both points, I would never do such things.
With kind regards,
“Furthermore, in the early 1990s Boris Yeltsin, by then of course Russia’s president, and Kirill’s son, who considered himself to have inherited the claim to the throne from his father (and who had sympathized with the Germans in the Second World War), started to interact. Furthermore, in 1991, Anatoly Sobchak, Putin’s mentor, invited Kirill’s son to Leningrad for the renaming ceremonies of the city into St. Petersburg. During the festivities, Kirill’s son was cheered upon by a crowd of 60,000 while standing on the balcony of the former Winter Palace. A few month later Yeltsin and Kirill’s son officially met as well.”
Mr. Weber, sir! Are you an avid player of the ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’? Because your innuendo and “Coincidence? I Think Not!” approach surely hints that you are.
“And as I fully agree with you on both points, I would never do such things.”
Sure you did.
Never played ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ but thank you for drawing my attention to the game. My point was, as I think was pretty clear, that Kirill was hardly an obscure person and that Putin and United Russia choose to associate themselves with his legacy.
“Never played ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ but thank you for drawing my attention to the game. My point was, as I think was pretty clear, that Kirill was hardly an obscure person and that Putin and United Russia choose to associate themselves with his legacy.”
Really? That’s the best response you can come up with? Having any kind of interaction at all with an individual implies approval for everything THAT PERSON’S PARENTS ever believed or said? If so, it’s confession time. Through tears of shame, I admit that in my time in the military, I not only met the Emperor of Japan, but even saluted him! I will never presume to express any views on anything again, since I’ve clearly outed myself as a sympathizer with the Rape of Nanking and the crimes of torture and human medical experimentation in prisoner camps. Mea maxima culpa 😦
“My point was, as I think was pretty clear, that Kirill was hardly an obscure person and that Putin and United Russia choose to associate themselves with his legacy.”
Bullshit. It was darling of the West Yeltsin who FIRST became chummy with the Monarchist and old White Emigration circles – under watchful and approving eye of the “Democratic West”. Yeltsin did it as an ideological counterweight to the Soviet past – look back to the late 80s early 90s cultural space of the SU/Russia, and you will see the tremendous “hype” for the now memetic “Russia That We Have Lost” (culminating in Govorukhin’s movie of the same name).
Putin only inherited that. Now it is your term, Mr. Web, to prove that Yeltsin (and then Putin) chose to associate with “Kirill’s legacy” not because of his claims to be the legitimate heir to Romanov dynasty and a symbol of the Imperial Russia/White Emigration, but because both of them (yes – BOTH OF THEM) were somehow approving to what Kirill did back then. Do this – or stop insinuating.
Thanks for you civilized response. I have severe problems with your op-ed because it draws some very harsh and generalized conclusions about an entire nation based on a single example – Grand Duke Kirill and Hitler. It is indeed true that you didn’t say that all Russian emigres were interested in working with Hitler. But my point in showing that many had a very different point of view was precisely to show that Grand Duke Kirill really can’t be taken as a starting point for a generalization. And I stand by my characterization of him as obscure – he was a fairly minor member of the Russian royal family prior to 1918 and in emigration had a very, very small following. The fact that some (though it has to be said not very many) modern day Russians have embraced the Kirillovichi doesn’t alter that fact. Also, you draw a direct link from Kirill to Stalin (and later Putin). But there is no link. I don’t see what relevance Kirill has to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact let alone modern Ukraine.
Lyttenburgh’s changing of ‘Russia’ to USA in your article in his comment above seems to me to be a fair point. Russia does pursue its national interest firmly and sometimes ruthlessly, but it is hardly alone in this. The USA – and the UK – for that matter have shown themselves to be equally, if not far more, ruthless, and not particularly caring for ‘human life and dignity’. Casualties in the Russian annexation of Crimea? One, I believe. Casualties in the UK/US invasion of Iraq? Tens of thousands at a minimum, if you just count the initial invasion, though if you count those killed in the subsequent chaos, possibly hundreds of thousands. Why pick out Russia as being particularly reprehensible, when the historical record doesn’t justify such a characterization?
Also, take into account that it was not Russia which broke the international law in Ukraine. The culprits were those Western leaders and their local protegees who chased away the lawfully elected president, who, however corrupt and incompetent he was, did provide a possibility of changing the government and negotiating with the protesters. He was not only ousted, but the fears of local Russians more or less did come true with the integration of Ukrainian ultranationalist groups into the Ukrainian Army. So no, lets not compare the Ukrainian crisis to the wrongdoings of the Soviets, and lets not talk about broken laws and promises if these had been broken blatantly by the other side, and thus, have overally lost their original meaning.
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many thanks for your response. The issue I really was trying to raise was what kind of lines of continuity do exist in Russian strategic thinking and foreign policy practices. In a longer piece, I would also stress that different kind of continuities exist in Russian foreign policy making. I do, however, think that there is one line of tradition in Russian strategic conduct that ultimately is counterproductive and has a very high price not just for others but also for Russians. I was trying to draw that particular tradition to attention in my op-ed. And I would encourage Russian decision makers to feel inspired more by other Russian traditions. For instance, the role of the Czar in the process that led to the Hague conventions would be a great source for inspiration to pursue the Russian national interest within the framework of a world governed by norms.
I appreciate that your own reading of Russian conduct in Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere is likely to be different from my own. But it seems to me that in its recent conduct, the Russian leadership has chosen to feel inspired by the wrong kind of Russian traditions and my piece should be read as an invitation rather to focus on Russian traditions that will be to the benefit both of Russians and the rest of the world.
I think there is much to criticise in the U.S. and U.K. foreign affairs but I would say that the problems with British and American foreign policy making are of a different kind.
If you’d written that op-ed, I wouldn’t have a great problem. But, IMHO, that is not at all what you did write. A good op-ed along the lines you say would have laid out different currents in the history of Russian strategic thought (the Imperial, expansionist; the isolationist; the warlike; the peaceful – as you say, Hague conventions, though one could stretch it back a lot further; and so on), and if you wanted some contemporary names to liven things up, you could have thrown in the odd reference to, say, Dugin on the imperialist side, Tsymburskii on the isolationist side, etc, etc. It would then have produced some evidence that Russia was following one current rather than another and shown why that was bad. But that’s not what your op-ed does. Instead you just have Kirill (certainly not a contributor to Russian strategic thought) and Hitler, the latter surely designed to produce unpleasant associations in readers’ minds rather than because of any real relevance to today. It ends up being just argument by association: put the words Russians and Hitler in the same article, and let peoples’ imaginations do the rest.
Of course, since you are in essence talking about strategic culture, there is also the issue of whether the concept is a valid one (see debate between Colin Gray and Alistair Johnston, for instance). In my view, perhaps, but only in a very limited way and one has to be very, very cautious when making claims about it,
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I would add that, on the whole, I think it best if the words ‘Hitler’ and ‘Nazis’ were left out of discussions not actually about events in the 1930s and 1940s. They are cheap rhetorical devices which mislead far more than they inform.
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” I do, however, think that there is one line of tradition in Russian strategic conduct that ultimately is counterproductive and has a very high price not just for others but also for Russians. I was trying to draw that particular tradition to attention in my op-ed. And I would encourage Russian decision makers to feel inspired more by other Russian traditions. “
Translation: You have trouble with Russia conducting independent, sovereign foreign policy. You want to revive the times of “Mr. Yes” Kozyrev, Gorby and Yeltsin. That’s what lies in the essence. You have no trouble with the US to do whatever they fucking please – you have trouble with Russia doing the same.
Mr. Weber, you’re not being honest, either with yourself or with your readers. Your op-ed was the kind of lazy broad-brush smearing of Russia that’s sure to be published in our neo-McCarthyite times, while having the added bonus of giving you a chance to plug your book. Now, when you’re actually called to task for what you’ve said, you retreat on all the substantive points, but of course you’re happy to leave the (now substantive content-free) aura of menace hanging over Russia as a whole.
Let’s look at the claim that, “Yes, I agree with you that it makes no sense to make sweeping statements about “the Russian character”.” I’ll leave aside the sweeping statements in your own article, eg. “While Russians have sought to conceal this past, not all traces of their collusion with Hitler in the early years of his rise have been erased from history.” (Really? “Russians”, tout court, have sought to conceal this past?) or “Russia’s many apologists in Europe and the U.S. should wake up to the common denominator visible here in Russian conduct past and present” (“Russian conduct”? Are we really supposed to fail to notice that the only thread tying together exiles loyal to the Russian empire, Soviet leaders, and the leadership of the modern Russian Federation is that they’re all primarily (but not exclusively) of Russian ethnicity? I hope you kept the receipt for that dog whistle, Mr. Weber. The pitch is a few octaves too low, and everyone can hear it).
But, let’s pretend that this claim not to make sweeping statements about the Russian character is sincere. So then, Mr. Weber, what precisely are you saying? We’re looking at the actions of three regimes that differ from each other in almost every point of their policy and ideology. So is the lesson here that just by magic coincidence they all happen to have the same key characteristic that, “In all cases, Russia has ruthlessly pursued its self-interests with few concerns about the costs to human life and geopolitical repercussions.”? What accounts for this remarkable common thread? Of course, I’m being ironic, since this “common thread” doesn’t stand up to any serious analysis whatsoever. How are these “few concerns about the costs to human life and geopolitical repercussions” measured? It can’t be quantitative, since the United States has directly caused orders of magnitude more human deaths in recent decades than has Russia. As for “geopolitical repercussions”, can you point to one place in the World that suffers from instability (as a result of Russian actions) that can hold a candle to Libya or Iraq? Of course you can’t. Of course, “Russia has ruthlessly pursued its self-interests with few concerns about the costs to human life and geopolitical repercussions,” really has a very simple meaning. It means, “Russia does things that, because of my prejudices are prior sympathies, I happen not to like, but it sounds more objective if I say this using six-syllable words.”
But of course, this is all giving your silly op-ed more respect than it deserves. The logic behind it is the sort of simplistic guilt-by-association that any child can understand. “Russia” (more accurately, a few exiles whose only claim to prominence was their genes) had some contact with Hitler in the early 20’s, and “Russia” (more accurately, the small and unrepresentative clique that had captured the governing organs of the Soviet Union) collaborated with Hitler in 1939. Therefore “Russia” (which now means the current United Russia government) can be a priori assumed to be sinister and evil, and you don’t need to give any substantive argument to support your accusations against it. We should uncritically support the openly Banderite (rather delicious irony, that) clique that has captured the Ukrainian government, because their main Ukrainian opponents in the East are supported by Russia, and that automatically discredits them, because Hitler. No bothering with the pesky details of the actual situation in 2017 required. Of course, if having some people from your country having collaborated with the Nazis automatically puts you in the wrong in every one of your conflicts from then on, I suppose we’ll be seeing op-eds from you condemning NATO for largely taking the side of the Bosniaks (notorious collaborators, on a much larger scale than Russians, in WW2). While we’re at it, I’ll wait for the broad-brush dismissal of all French concerns, because Vichy, and British, because royals doing Nazi salutes. By the time we’re finished our multiple rounds of purging, most likely only Poland will be left standing. Again, somewhat poignant irony, given that the smears against modern Poland in the popular press are almost on a level with those against Russia.
“prejudices are prior sympathies” -> “prejudices and prior sympathies”
‘most likely only Poland will be left standing.’ – Of course, just two days before the Munich agreement, just when Nazi Germany seemed poised to invade Czechoslovakia, the Poles also threatened to invade, and thereby coerced the Czechs to surrender territory to Poland. So, Poland could be seen as having joined up with Nazi Germany in dividing Czechoslovakia. It would be hard to find a major European power which didn’t at some point make a deal of some sort with Hitler.
“By the time we’re finished our multiple rounds of purging, most likely only Poland will be left standing. Again, somewhat poignant irony, given that the smears against modern Poland in the popular press are almost on a level with those against Russia.”
Pland stronK! Poland can into partitioning of other countries!
Because – clearly! – the Hyena of Europe was the MOST innocent of them all!
I don’t want to derail things into a discussion of Poland (I meant my remark more tongue-in-cheek than anything), but I would point out that there’s a difference between opportunism/exploiting a situation and actually coming to an understanding with the Nazis. The Poles were certainly not innocent of the former, but they were innocent of the latter.
No, I did not retreat from anything.
Except for the current campaign — we all know to which campaign I am referring — such an op ed piece would not have been accepted for publication. It cannot be justified or defended, the author should think this through once again, and publicly say that, on second thought, he no longer supports this argument. It simply doesn’t work at all, from any possible perspective, except that of Russia bashing pure and simple.
The problem with allowing this style of argumentation to stand, and to go unchallenged, is that it drives yet another nail into the possibility of having a relationship with Russia based on at least some bare minimum of trust and rationality. If this kind of argument is held to be legit, what is to prevent some other nation from saying that, say, US industrial cooperation with Germany throughout the 1930s right up to WWII, as was practiced by some very significant US companies, including Ford and IBM, proves that one can never trust the Americans? Come to think of it, recent US behavior in Libya suggests some additional reasons for not trusting ‘the Americans.’
As hackneyed as it may seem today to say so, we have no other institution, other than academia, whose purpose it is to defend intellectual probity. One has a duty to do far better than this op ed. I am sure Mr. Weber can do better. And everyone should then meet him gladly for a beer. Not to say one shouldn’t do so now. I happen to oppose the current rage for boycotts and sanctions and ostracizing everyone — another sign of our decline into complete irrationality.
I’d be very happy to meet up with you for a beet. I am not sure where I said that Russians can never be trusted.
sorry ‘beer’ not ‘beet’
I realize you meant beer, but in the given context, the best option would probably be borscht (made with beets) plus a bottle of vodka.
Whether you used that line or not, I think the whole tenor of the piece is such as to cast aspersions on Russians as such. This impression is intensified by the failure to provide context, as others have already noted, and as did I. A piece such as this will inevitably be seized upon in the US to feed into its already unhealthy habit, more like obsession, of moralizing.
The rampant moralizing approach to Russia, which, in the Washington Post and New York Times, makes use of everything but the kitchen sink, and, more recently, has taken to throwing in the kitchen sink as well (and I am afraid I would classify your recent essay in the latter category), is very close to driving me to drink — and not in a nice English pub at that!
Dear Paul, I am genuinely glad that we seem to have found some common ground. Even if we might disagree as to whether my original op-ed is will in line with what I have written on your blog about the different traditions in Russian foreign policy-making, the important point is that we seem to agree that it is worth while discussing which of these traditions Russian foreign policy makers currently follow. I am glad that ultimately something positive has come out of this exchange.
With best wishes,
“I do, however, think that there is one line of tradition in Russian strategic conduct that ultimately is counterproductive and has a very high price not just for others but also for Russians.”
Of course, there’s another Russian foreign policy tradition, that of abject submission to Anglosphere dictate, that is most likely very much to your taste.
As to prices, that one had Russians dying off at the rate of 750,000-958,000 every single year between 1994 and 2000,, something unprecedented in Russia’s peacetime history, so please forgive Russians if they don’t adopt that one again any time soon.
And Mr Weber, as long as we are discussing foreign policy traditions, why don’t we discuss the Anglosphere’s long tradition of hostility to Russia? The British Empire came down with a case of Russophobia shortly after the Napoleonic Wars that continues to this day, with brief interruptions caused by Kaisers Wilhelm II and Adolf I. In fact, at Munich in September 1938 Neville Chamberlain tried to interest Adolf in the idea of “…Germany and England as two pillars of European peace and buttresses agains communism.”
The U S governments hostility to Russia started in the mid-1880s, and in 1900 Alfred Thayer Mahan, the U.S. sea power guru, proposed alliance between the U.S., the British Empire, the German Empire, and the Japanese empire, to contain Rusdia until it collapsed. And the Teddy Roosevelt administration could hardly contain its delight with the Imperial Japanese Navy’s sneak attack on the Russian Pacific Fleet in February 1904, a date that has not lived in infamy, since TR had previously encouraged the Japanese to establish “…a Monroe Doctrine for Asia.”
And then there was “Reform” in the 1990s, the effect of which was to impoverish Russians to create a rapacious oligarch class that the Anglosphere vituperates Putin for curbing.
Keeping all this in mind, I’m afraid you’ll have to forgive Russians for not believing that the Anglosphere has the least bit of goodwill towards them.
Tell you what? Let’s take the methodology of Mr. Web aka the linguistic terror of proving that X = Y, because X1 (if you squint your eyes juuuuuust a little bit) looks kinda sorta like Z1, X2 look similar to Z2 … Xn = Zn, and “Everybody Knows” ™ that X = Z, so X = Y – and run with it.
Grab your tinfoil hats. Throw away you haloperidol. Get your Shambalan chakra-opener ready. The Magic(k) of Conspirology 101 begins!
The world famous tank of the Wermacht “TIGER” was nothing else but a mobile altar for enacting rrracially superrrrior Aryan Hermetic Magic(k) built by the specs that came right out from Reinhard Heydrich’s telluric-energy sensitive brain! They were used as giant effigies to channel the energy of the proto-Aryan civilizations of Mu, Hyperborea and Shamabala.
Want some proof? I have it! The tank is called “TIGER” According to the basics of numerology, the name of a thing plays a huge role in its fate! The letters that make up its name have corresponding numbers in the Latin alphabet: 20, 9, 7, 5, 18. If you sum them up you will get 59, and the sum of 5 and 9 gives us 14 – two sevens! Seven metals, seven planets, seven colors of the rainbow, seven music notes, seven days of Creation, seven seals in the Book of Life, seven Angels of the Apocalypse! Two sevens – double natural perfection!
Want more? The upper front sheet of tank’s hull is tilted at an angle of 77 degrees. The lower – at an angle of 27 degrees, in the total – 9, i.e. three times three, the symbol of fractal infinity! The ammo – 92 shots, which in total will get 11 us – two Ones, two hydrogen atoms: the fundamental principles of the universe! The caliber of the gun is 88 millimeters or 8.8 centimeters, if we replace the whole numbers with the corresponding letters of the alphabet, we get C10H8, that is, the formula of naphthalene! Oh, and the bonus points – the Nazis LOOOOOVE the number 88! Coincidence? I don’t think so!
But that’s not all! The length of the barrel along with the muzzle brake is 5316 millimeters, divided by one hundred billionth of the distance from the Sun to the Earth and what we get is… the Pi number! This is the peak of ancient Aryan arithmology.
Next, look, how many skating rinks does the tank have? Twenty-four from each side – four times a dozen! Twelve is the sacral Perimeter of the classical Egyptian triangle with sides 3:4:5! 12 Olympic gods, 12 apostles, 12 tribes of Israel,
12 corners of the star of David! (the latter was, obviously suppressed in Heydrich’s time). Multiply 12 by 4, get 48, sum it all up – and you will get 12 again! 1 plus 2 equals three, the trinity of world creation, the Third Reich, the Three Axis countries… 14.4 hours are required to replace one roller from the inner row, which is one tenth of the total time of the Creation of the Universe according to the Bible – 144 hours. If, in turn, you add “1” and two “4s”, you will get “9” – a fractal infinity!..
What else proof do you need that the entire tank “TIGER” had been constructed in accordance to
KabbalahSuperior Aryan Hermetic Numerology, that dates back to the First Civilizations? Everything from the engine to the command chair and from the periscopes to the exhaust pipes! “TIGER” was the most powerful concentration of magic(k) in the history of military equipment! For example, if you multiply the weight of the balancers of the track rollers and the maximum turning radius of the tower, and then divide by it by the thickness of the frontal armor, you will get 1314 – the year of burning the Grand Master of the Templars Jacques de Molay! What more evidence do you need?
P.S. There. I want to get this treated with the equal respect as Mr. Web’s thought piece on the pages of “Pravda-on-Potomac” aka The WaPo got. Oh, and I even will agree to just 1% of his geshaft for running this “op-ed” and the potential income from his “best seller”. See? I’m not greedy.
Any piece of Russophobic crap gets a hearing in the U.S. corporate media these days. I can now see where I went wrong in life. I don’t know how to seize opportunism well enough. Weber certainly does.
Weber is yet another example — I’ve lost count of them — of the American propensity for projection. For me, it began with Reagan’s projection onto Russia as an “Evil Empire” at the very moment that he, himself was waging a secret war out of the White House basement. Just replace the world “Russia” with the word “America” in Weber’s piece and you have a pretty accurate description of the way Official Washington practices foreign relations.