Streetwise Professor

February 15, 2011

Animal Stories

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:26 pm

Sergei “The Tarantula” Lavrov recently ripped the Japanese for their “undiplomatic” response to various Russian actions in the disputed Kurile Islands off the coasts of Siberia and Japan.  This is rich–even for Lavrov–given that Russian actions and words regarding the Kuriles have been in-your-face and deliberately provocative, far outside of any recognized diplomatic norm.

When this spiral of insults began some months ago, I wrote that the Russians smell Japanese weakness, and can’t help but try to exploit it.  It seems almost natural.

And I’m sure that getting back for that 1904-1905 thing only adds to the excitement.

This piece by Chatham House’s James Sherr suggests that this jackal-like instinct to attack those that the Russians sense are in decline, and against whom they harbor historic grudges, is not limited to Japan (h/t Robert Amsterdam).  Sherr argues that Russian truculence towards Britain has similar causes:

The Russian Federation, like the Soviet Union, has based its relationship with the West on two pillars: Washington and Berlin. As Moscow sees it, the UK seeks an influence out of proportion to its post-imperial importance; worse, it sometimes gets it. The UK is an Atlanticist power at the top table of the EU; Moscow wants a superpower relationship with Washington over the heads of Europe and a ‘Europe for Europeans’. This makes the UK an irritant by definition.

The tenacity of this zero-sum perspective has frustrated the desire of successive British governments to shift the focus onto new ground: trade, investment and cooperation against common threats. Far from viewing British military and intelligence services as partners in the struggle against terrorism and organised crime, Moscow views them as mainstays of British influence in NATO and adjuncts of US ‘hegemonic’ policy. Moscow would like to transform British business into Russia’s lobby and UK investment in Russia (15 per cent of the foreign total) into a security of ‘good relations’ as Moscow defines them. Issues deemed important to British business confidence – human rights and rule of law – are regarded by Moscow as ‘vulgar’ intrusions into domestic affairs.

These are differences of purpose and outlook, not obstacles to ‘normality’. To many inside Russia, Britain is cast in a hypocritical, even devious light. It is not Russia, it is argued, but the UK that has halted anti-terrorist cooperation thanks to the Alexander Litvinenko affair; the UK has given asylum to 30 individuals who Russia wanted extradited for terrorism and organised crime; the UK-hosted Nordic-Baltic summit is not about ‘economic growth, enterprise and job creation’, but another anti-Russian project.

By these remorselessly geopolitical standards, Britain’s influence is shrinking, not growing. The Deepwater Horizon and Lockerbie affairs have damaged the special relationship with the US. The UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review has gutted the capabilities that monitor Russia’s expanding naval and air activity in Britain’s northern waters. And, the savaging of the BBC Russian and Ukrainian services has further diminished Britain’s profile. Russians are acutely aware of their economic deficiencies relative to the UK. But they are increasingly less impressed by the UK’s ability to convert economic strength into political influence.

The irony, of course, is that Russia’s power–and most notably its military power–is contracting.  Outside of nuclear weapons, whatever influence it wields is disproportionately dependent on energy directly (as a means of blackmail or reward) or indirectly (to finance its military).  As the financial crisis demonstrated, reliance on a single lever of power like energy is as much of a source of vulnerability as of strength.  Moreover, its demographic problems, the associated manpower problems in the military, and the pathetic stabs at “reforming” its armed forces mean that Russia hardly has the ability to venture abroad to find new dragons to slay.  Preying on the declining may seem like enjoyable sport, but if you’re declining yourself–and indeed are fundamentally weaker and with a bleaker future than those you are trying to exploit–such adventurism is likely to culminate in disaster.

Recent Wikileaks disclosures reveal the disdain in which NATO military observers hold Russian capabilities.  Recent US military strategy appraisals almost completely ignore the Russians, dismissing them with a mere two sentences.  Given the quite obvious weaknesses, a more rational, considered policy would focus on addressing more pressing needs, and not on chasing imperialist fantasies in attempts to recapture past–and almost wholly imagined–glories.  But that would require the leopard to change its spots.

Russian history often seems like a succession of self-inflicted disasters.  It is on its way to adding to the list.

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  1. Fifty comments to this one…no surprise, the Professor always seems to come down on the side of the Sons of Dai Nippon instead of America’s WWII Ally. Or at least, pointlessly pissing off Russia and the Chinese, some of whom still remember Japanese occupation. And has Andrew joined the haj yet?

    Remember Pearl Harbor!

    Comment by The Other Ivan — February 19, 2011 @ 2:43 am

  2. So? wrote: “To write so much in one’s spare time takes tremendous talent.”

    Sure. But the fact that Andrew can write so much while at work takes even more talent, albeit an usual one. Think about it: Andrew spends his entire workday (seemingly without toilet or lunch breaks) posting to the Internet. And his boss doesn’t even care! Can you imagine how much social talent it takes to make your boss keep you employed even though you do NO WORK at all? None! Andrew must be a kiss-up genius. Unless, of course, it is his job to post propaganda, but I doubt that any of the American agencies or even Saakashvili would pay a salary to a stupid man to flood the La Russophobe blog. I don’t think Andrew provides much use to Saakashvili or anybody else by his posts to LR. Not even to LR, because his verbal floods make the LR comment space unreadable.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 19, 2011 @ 3:27 am

  3. @ Charles: FYI, here is a quote from Wiki:

    The Department of Defense’s FY 2011 $137.5 billion procurement and $77.2 billion RDT&E budget requests included several programs with more than $1.5 billion.

    This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons research, maintenance, cleanup, and production, which is in the Department of Energy budget, Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Department’s payments in pensions to military retirees and widows and their families, interest on debt incurred in past wars, or State Department financing of foreign arms sales and militarily-related development assistance. Neither does it include defense spending that is not military in nature, such as the Department of Homeland Security, counter-terrorism spending by the FBI, and intelligence-gathering spending by NASA.

    Budget Breakdown for 2011

    DOD spending $721.3 billion
    FBI counter-terrorism $2.7 billion
    International Affairs $10.1–$54.2 billion
    Energy Department, defense-related $20.9 billion
    Veterans Affairs $66.2 billion
    Homeland Security $54.7 billion
    NASA, satellites $3.4–$8.5 billion
    Veterans pensions $58.4 billion
    Other defense-related mandatory spending $7.5 billion
    Interest on debt incurred in past wars $114.8–$454.2 billion

    Total Spending $1.060–$1.449 trillion


    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 19, 2011 @ 3:32 am

  4. LOL Ostkapo, I actually do a lot more work than you it seems, now kapo you seem to spend your entire life posting to dozens of websites your continual torrent of drivel, red holocaust denial, defence of dictatorship and Russian imperialism, so tell me, how do your bosses feel about that?

    If anyone is paid to post propaganda Ostkapo, it would be you. Pity you are so bad at it.

    Comment by Andrew — February 19, 2011 @ 6:09 am

  5. I had no idea that Andrew posts anywhere else in his spare time. He’s even more talented that I thought!

    Comment by So? — February 19, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  6. @So:

    Andrew’s work here is only 1% of all his work. For the remaining 99%, you should look through the archives of La Russophobe. He owns that blog. He follows-up to almost every post made by anybody else. Whenever I post my comment, he replies to it within 10 minutes. I really don’t think he sleeps or eats lunches. And he certainly never works.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 19, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

  7. @Andrew: Do you REALLY think that I am the only person in the world with the pen name of “Ostap Bender”? LOL

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 20, 2011 @ 1:10 am

  8. No Gostapo, but considering that 99% of the Ostap the Bender posts on websites ranging from SWP to the Guardian have the same demented style of writing as yours, and the same lack of factual basis, the same denial of Russian crimes against humanity, and the same poor writing style, one can only deduce that you are responsible.

    And Ostap/Voice of Reason/Michael Tal/Phobophobe/Arthur/RTR, you post far more than I do, the problem is your posts are usually poorly thought out gibberish, or insane pro chekist drivel. Of course we should expect that from a disciple of Yhezov like yourself.

    Comment by Andrew — February 20, 2011 @ 3:04 am

  9. Andrew,

    I am kinda flattered that you consider me omnipresent, but I assure you that you are driven by pure paranoia. For example, I don’t recall posting anything to the Guardian pages. Sure, I may have read some article some time ago and commented on it, but I doubt if that happened more than twice in my entire life. Please refresh my memory as to how many times I posted there, and what I wrote. Do you have links?

    If you think that one or two short comments to the Guardian in my entire life equals your posting 20 to 40 voluminous (you must ingest a lot of fiber and/or anti-constipation medicines!) comments per day to LR for the last couple of years with almost no days off – your math abilities are even worse than I thought.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 20, 2011 @ 3:50 am

  10. This piece by Chatham House’s James Sherr suggests that this jackal-like instinct to attack those that the Russians sense are in decline, and against whom they harbor historic grudges, is not limited to Japan.

    That is very lame, Craig. Russia no longer “harbors historic grudges” against Japan. Not since 1945. It whipped Japan’s ass with extreme ease both in 1939 and 1945 and even took some Japanese territory as a reward, if you may remember. You should realize that it is Japan that “harbors historic grudges”. Russia has no grudges against Japan whatsoever and is happy with the status quo. Capice?

    And why is Japan “in decline”?

    Sherr argues that Russian truculence towards Britain has similar causes

    Sherr is also stupid. Russia doesn’t “harbor historic grudges” against Britain. The only time the two countries were not allies in a European war, was in the Crimean War almost 160 years ago, when UK sided with the Turks, and Russia defeated the Turks many times after that.

    Do you know when normal people can become “truculent”?When some truculent jerk provokes them. It was Britain (both its government and its press) that has been hysterical towards Russia. Even in the 1990s. So, eventually Russia got fed up, and after the Brits raised high stink about Russia’s refusal to break its law and extradite its citizen – Lugovoi – to Britain, Russians concluded that Britain is a little insane lapdog of USA. But that’s not truculence. That’s disdain. Please quote anything that Medvedev or Putin said or did that you consider “truculent” towards UK. Nor is the Russian press “truculent” towards UK. UK is not viewed in Russia as a player. The players are USA, Germany, France, China. UK is nothing more than an ass-wipe to USA. The amount of anti-Russian hysteria in the British press is 100 times greater than the anti-British “truculence” in the Russian press. The relationship there is exactly like between the proverbial krylovian the Elephant and the Pug. One side barks hysterically, the other side just keeps walking its way.

    As the financial crisis demonstrated, reliance on a single lever of power like energy is as much of a source of vulnerability as of strength.

    Why? The oil prices have weathered the financial crisis (caused by the greedy and myopic American bastards on Wall Street, btw) very well, haven’t they? The price is about $90 per barrel. I still remember the time (until a few years ago) when $30 per barrel seemed outrageously high. The long-term trend is up-up-and-away!

    Preying on the declining may seem like enjoyable sport, but if you’re declining yourself–and indeed are fundamentally weaker and with a bleaker future than those you are trying to exploit–such adventurism is likely to culminate in disaster.

    How is Russia “preying” on Japan an UK? By continuing to do exactly what it’s done for the last 65 years: claim Kurils as its territory? I personally would consider giving the Kurils back to Japan in exchange for a fat economic package, but I see no “preying” here.

    BTW, why wouldn’t USA consider returning the territories it stole from Spain and Mexico? Why not? Is USA “preying on the declining”?

    It would be fun to see Arizonan politicians wiggle if and when Arizona is given to Mexico… For example, it would be priceless to see the Arizona police stop people on the suspicion that they are illegal immigrants from USA. 🙂

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 20, 2011 @ 4:48 am

  11. IMO the reason the Japs are holding a grudge against Russia is whilst they put up a good fight against the US and can claim to have done the best they could, they were sort of rolled by the SU. Different sort of war, Japan already weakened, etc., etc., but doesn’t change the fact of Samurai pride butthurt.

    Comment by So? — February 20, 2011 @ 5:13 am

  12. The Japanese are certainly much more preoccupied with the loss of these two tiny and useless northern islands than Germany is with losing the Konigsberg/Kaliningrad and Silesia, Dantsig/Gdansk regions. Probably because unlike the Germans, the Japanese don’t see that they had done anything bad in WWII and thus don’t deserve punishment. “So, we killed a few millions of racially inferior “continental” Asians here and there. What’s the big deal, eh?!

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 20, 2011 @ 7:10 am

  13. @So? Japs? Really?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 20, 2011 @ 8:46 am

  14. LOL Gostapo, I don’t post 40 times a day to LR or anywhere else.

    As for Russia not having any historical grudge against Japan, try the crushing defeat handed to Russia in 1905, where the Japanese minced the Russian army and sank pretty much the entire Russian Navy, including the fleet that sailed from European Russia, which was smashed in one of the most complete defeats suffered by any navy in history.

    Russians at the time and today refuse to admit they were beaten by a race shown in Tsarist propaganda as monkeys in uniform.

    As for why the USSR “crushed” the Japanese, well the cream of their army was in Burma and the Pacific, with the troops in China tending to be second or even 3rd rate. In addition, the Japanese were extremely deficient in armored forces, not so much of a problem in the jungles of the pacific or Burma, but a big problem on the plains of China.

    Soviet Union:
    1,685,500 men,[3]
    26,137 artillery,
    1,852 sup. artillery,
    5,556 tanks and self-propelled artillery
    5,368 aircraft

    1,217,000 men,
    5,360 artillery,
    1,155 tanks,
    1,800 aircraft,
    1,215 vehicles

    A little bit of a manpower, and massive support advantage, on the open plains of Manchuria, enough said, if the US had been fighting in the same place they would have gone through the Japanese even faster.

    And let us not forget how the Russian troops treated the Chinese population they were “liberating” (pretty much how they treated the Poles one might add)

    700,000 Soviet troops occupied Manchuria, in China, and looted the entire region of valuable materials and industrial equipment. Soviet Russian Red Army troops looted and terrorized the people of Mukden in Manchuria, China. A foreigner witnessed Soviet Russian troops, formerly stationed in Berlin, who were allowed by the Soviet military to go at the city “for three days of rape and pillage”. Most of Mukden was gone. Then convict soldiers were then used to replace them, it was testified that they “stole everything in sight, broke up bathtubs and toilets with hammers, pulled electric light wiring out of the plaster, built fires on the floor and either burned down the house or at least a big hole in the floor, and in general behaved completely like savages”.[14]
    The Soviets made it a policy to loot and rape civilians in Manchuria. The same Russian troops from Germany had been sent to Manchuria and looted, killed, raped. In Harbin Chinese posted slogans such as “Down with Red Imperialism!”. Soviet forces ignored protests from Chinese communist party leaders on their mass rape and loot policy

    Comment by Andrew — February 20, 2011 @ 10:01 am

  15. So, Andrew, what’s the story with the Guardian? What did I post there, when and how many times? Or did you invent your story again?

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 20, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  16. > stole everything in sight, broke up bathtubs and toilets with hammers

    A major cultural shift here, BTW. While invading Georgia in 2008, Russians usually stole the toilets rather than just breaking them up.

    Comment by Ivan — February 20, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

  17. An unnamed foreigner said… That’s all the proof we need.

    Comment by So? — February 20, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  18. Since foreigners are racially superior to Russians, everything that a foreigner says about Russia can and is being used by the Western mass media as the Truth.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 20, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

  19. @SO:

    According to Hannah Pakula, the wife of the famous Hollywood director Alan Pakula and the woman who describes her qualifications as “wife, mother, book reviewer for newspapers in cities where I was living, author of articles on blue jeans and shopping bags” [14], 700,000 Soviet troops occupied Manchuria, in China, and looted the entire region of valuable materials and industrial equipment. Soviet Russian Red Army troops looted and terrorized the people of Mukden in Manchuria, China. Some unknown foreigner witnessed the Soviet Russian troops move from Berlin, Germany to Mukden, China, who were allowed by the Soviet military to go at the city “for three days of rape and pillage”. [15]

    See? This foreigner followed the Russian troops all the way from Berlin to China! I wonder what he was doing in Nazi Berlin when it was occupied by the Red Army. Was he a Nazi official or an average German businessman?

    And can an self-taught expert on blue jeans and shopping bags be wrong?

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 20, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

  20. Six months after the Russians entered Mukden, industrial metropolis of Manchuria, U.S. correspondents were allowed to enter. Reported TIME Correspondent William Gray:
    The main street of Mukden’s former modern Japanese area is now “Stalin Prospect.” The Yamato Hotel is “Hotel of the Intourist Travel Agency of Moscow, U.S.S.R.” Near Mukden’s railway station is a granite-mounted Red Army tank, a memorial to Russian soldiers. Russian and Chinese flags fly together everywhere, but there is little doubt which flag dominates.
    The atmosphere of Mukden is charged with a degree and kind of fear that Americans should never experience, and find hard to believe until it infects them also. We toured this depressing city one cold bright morning in a Chinese Army truck. In one street we came upon ten blackening Chinese or Japanese corpses, a fortnight old and partly gnawed by dogs. Grisly as this sight was, it was more easily forgotten than the sight of Mukden’s ravished factories.
    This week Russia was still picking through the bare bones for industrial loot. When Red Army men carted off machinery from the Mukden ice plant, the city’s new Chinese mayor, Tung Wen-chi, protested to the Russian garrison commander, Major General Andrei Kovtun-Stankevich. A man of remarkable statements (see INTERNATIONAL), the Soviet officer blandly replied: “The Red Army is very powerful. I cannot stop them.”
    Dismantled Factories. The gaunt facts of Mukden’s sacking are there for anybody to see, but it is a rare man indeed who will tell what he knows about the days last fall when looting was at its height. By chance we met a young Japanese engineer who had witnessed the dismantling of the Japanese-built Anshan Steel Works, about 60 miles from Mukden, and Manchuria’s biggest industry.
    The Russians, he said, took 70% to 80% of Anshan’s equipment, including foundry tools, machine shop, steel rolling and milling machines, chemical equipment, trucks, locomotives. The booty was sent by rail to Dairen and to Russian-occupied Korea, for shipment to Russia.
    As we talked to the Japanese, a Chinese official burst into the room and warned: “The Chinese manager of the British Tobacco Company who talked to American correspondents here last week was shot and wounded by a Chinese gunman the following day.” Our informant said he was not worried; he could take care of him self. Nevertheless he was removed to a place where there was some assurance of his safety.
    Planned Chaos. These are the dominant facts about Manchuria today:
    After six months of Russian occupation, Manchuria’s industry is destroyed; it was apparently the Soviet Union’s dual desire to rebuild Russia’s own factories with Manchurian equipment, and to weaken China on her Asiatic flank. Mukden has been reduced from a great industrial city into a tragic, crowded way station on the Russian-controlled railroad to Dairen. A strong China is not Russia’s aim.
    China’s Central Government has a fairly stable grip only on the short southwest leg of Manchuria bordering the railroad from Shanhaikwan to Mukden; its hold on the cities of Changchun and Mukden is only nominal and by charity of the Russians. Fifteen thousand National troops in the western outskirts of Mukden are confined to their barracks by their commanders to avoid the chance of “incidents” with the Russians, who one night this week concluded tank maneuvers in front of the Chinese 25th Division barracks by firing a volley over the barracks, and then departing. Soviet planes have fired on U.S. planes patrolling in the Port Arthur-Dairen area, and Moscow has informed Washington that no U.S. plane may come within twelve miles of the coast without permission.
    The Chinese Central Government and the Chinese Communists are still warring in Manchuria. Confusion and local control are the order of the day. The National Army commander says flatly that the Russians are aiding the Communists. The Russians contend that they cannot tell one Chinese force from another; there could be some honest confusion, but the Russians are smart enough not to be confused if they want to know the truth.
    The Russians have taken what Japanese they wanted as a labor force. They have made efforts to befriend and propagandize Japanese technicians. Finally they will be content to leave a Japanese residue in Manchuria as a confusing and weakening factor for China to cope with. The Russians are not just leaving China with an empty house in Manchuria; they appear to want to leave it full of termites, too.,9171,776693-1,00.html

    Comment by Andrew — February 21, 2011 @ 12:03 am

  21. And mentions of the (all too usual) rapes by Russian soldiers in Manchuria, after all they raped Poles, Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and all the peoples of eastern Europe during their “liberation” of territories occupied by the Nazi’s, why would they behave any differently in Manchuria?

    Comment by Andrew — February 21, 2011 @ 12:17 am

  22. Another Time article dealing with the Russian looting of infrastructure in Manchuria

    Comment by Andrew — February 21, 2011 @ 12:40 am

  23. The SU had no desire for a strong Kuomintang China. The industry was Japanese anyway. War spoils.

    Comment by So? — February 21, 2011 @ 2:52 am

  24. So, Andrew, what’s the story with the Guardian? What did I post there, when and how many times? Or did you invent your story again?

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 21, 2011 @ 5:01 am

  25. Oh, and the Time piece on the Soviet takeover of the Japanese colonialist property in Manchuria seems quite possibly true. So what? The Japanese colonization of Korea, China and other countries was a crime against humanity, with millions of victims.

    Did the Americans or the other allies behave any differently towards the German industry after they won WWI?

    1919 The Treaty of Versailles Crushes Germany

    In addition to stripping the German empire of its colonies and large portions of its contiguous European land, Germany was singled out by the Treaty of Versailles as having to accept and admit full responsibility for causing the war and was forced to pay reparations. The initial amount to be paid in Gold was roughly equivalent to one half trillion current (2009) US dollars although it was subsequently reduced in 1921 by about 20%. In addition to the loss of much of its productive land and being saddled with this burden of debt reparations in the form of resources i.e. coal and steel were also demanded as were rights to intellectual property. Some examples of what was ceded include Aspirin and Heroin.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 21, 2011 @ 5:18 am

  26. And the Marshall Plan was put in place *after* stripping West Germany of its industry and scientists.

    Comment by So? — February 21, 2011 @ 5:56 am

  27. Ostap, they should have left it for the Chinese, not nicked it themselves, after all it was the Chinese who had been suffering at the hands of the Japanese, not Russians.

    Russians, including Yagoda types such as your relatives, were responsible for mass rapes of Koreans, Chinese, and various other peoples they were supposed to be liberating. Try and deny it if you like, but the documentary evidence is overwhelming

    And Ostap, how about you tell me where you found a post from me saying I stalked a club in Tbilisi and then beat up the blonde person I assumed to be Russian?

    Ostap, you are constantly fabricating and lying, so look in the mirror before you accuse others of doing so?

    Comment by Andrew — February 21, 2011 @ 6:40 am

  28. If only Georgian soldiers were as zealous as Andrew.

    Comment by So? — February 21, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  29. So, Andrew, what’s the story with the Guardian? What did I post there, when, and how many times? Or did you invent your story again?

    And why are you ignoring this question? This is the third or fourth time I am asking it.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 22, 2011 @ 1:27 am

  30. Oh, Andrew, who are “Yagoda types” and what exactly have my relatives done to deserve this title? Which of my relatives did your web search found to be like Yagoda? And why Yagoda and not, say, somebody more evil like Stalin, Beria or Yezhov?

    Comment by Ostap Bender — February 22, 2011 @ 2:15 am

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