Tag Archives: Russia

gas! gas! gas! a note on gas

2014 is the year of WW1 and what else comes to mind when I think about the events at the beginning of  twentieth century? Gas.

you cannot see very well in a gas mask

Gas was used for the first time. Much to some people’s disappointment it is still in use. But then war is immoral and it is a tough, brutal world out there.

The take over of Crimea changed the prospects of modern world gas warfare. The South Stream pipeline that is due for completion in 2018 was first initiated by Russia in 2008, to provide gas for southern Europe and further establish itself as a major european gas supplier. The construction started two years ago with Gasprom chasing for 50% and Italians, French and Swiss jumping on board as well. Number of countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia) signed a deal with Putin and then Medvedev… and then Putin.

However, there was (as not is) a problem – Ukraine. The building of Nord Stream and South Stream would cut off Ukraine form venturing on transit of the blue gold to Central and Western Europe. In case of the South Stream the pipeline was supposed to go through Ukraine’s shelf/territorial waters.

There is always an option. The plan B is to just draw a line through Turkey’s waters, but Turkey is also planning on a thing of its own – the Nabucco Project – transiting gas form Azerbaijan and Central Asia to Europe. But as in any other business – who needs an extra agent in the chain? Who would put all the pipelines in one basket?

For now the South Stream project is in the air. So is Nabucco. Both projects’ future is at mercy of Russia’s european partners. Looking at sanctions taken agains Europe’s leading gas supplier South Stream has some prospects.

The biggest problem with using gas is wind change.


Some say…

Ukraine has become the ground for imaginative counterfactualist’s battles. It is such an attractive exercise, a chance given to as by history that the number of possible scenarios appearing in the press is fascinating me and demand to have a go as well. 

All sorts of pundits, diplomats, ex-diplomats, theoreticians, journalists, ex and serving officers, experts felt like they have a duty to inform the public on how, when and why Russia will invade Ukraine, and what the outcome will be. But the thing is, all these people are having it half way. There’s so may ifs and buts in the equation that it makes their stories lacking the plot, the detail and most importantly the horrors of war. Scenarios are lacking fiction, drama and realism. 

In order to fulfil the crave for predicting the future I’m going to draw attention to a book written by Gleb Bobrov – a well known russian journalist, writer, editor. Gleb was born and still lives in Ukraine. In 2007 he’s written a book called “Epoch of stillborn“. Back then he got it much better than many of contemporary ‘experts’. 

Here’s what the book is about:

After the revolution and followed breakup of the country, Ukraine is divided into Republic of Galicia (western Ukraine), Central Ukrainian Republic (Ukraine proper), Republic of Crimea and Eastern Confederation.

Obviously there’s a war going on were the Central Ukraine tries to retake the eastern territories. 

In the book the baddies are central Ukrainians backed by the NATO (with polish troops and equipment on the ground) and volunteers form Galicia. The Eastern Confederation is backed by the Russians – the goodies. Although Russians limit themselves only to providing air-defence, hence the Eastern Confederation can actually do some fighting and not being thrashed in the first few days of the war. 

The main hero is an ex-government official from the Eastern Confederation. After the coup that overthrew the local oligarchy/mafia bosses (hello Yanukovitch) the hero sends his family to Russia and takes on fighting. He’s commanding a platoon of confederate forces and goes through a few successful battles until being captured. 

The book actually starts  with hero’s interrogation before deportation to Nuremberg tribunal for war criminals. The book ends indecisively with the fighting still going on. Probably the author’s point is: solution resolving to violence is not a solution.

So here’s a scenario that is actually not too far away from what some pundits see coming with the current situation in Ukraine. However, what they are not talking about (and the book does) is horrors of war: lies, death, marauding, rape, lies, plunder, torture, lies, lost hopes and lies…

…the hero was actually captured by the russians. Nothing personal, just politics.



So the list of people who have been sanctioned was announced.

A question raises about the relevance of sanctioning officers of the Russian Black Fleet, who just carried out their orders.

Or, what was the point of sanctioning the traitors: Berezovsky (ex-comander of Ukranian Fleet), Medvedchyuk (Chief of Staff) who should be trailed?… poor souls

However, among the people on the list we have shady characters who are quite well known – Surkov (minister of truth) and Rogozin (deputy-prime minister for anti-NATO patriotism) – there is now person standing out.

Please welcome Nikolay Ivanovich Ryzkov. A soviet monster, a supermen who suffered a hart attack when kicked out by Gorbachev form the post of prime minister, an apparatchik form Donetsk. For considerable amount of time Ryzhkov worked in Urals heavy industry. If one reads his numerous biographies on the internet he can get enough mind boggling material to write a novel where the main character shakes hands with Andropov, drinks with Gorbachev, fights gangs in russian old city of Tver, gets into banking business (the bank, by the way, is still around, which is fantastic!) ships raw material abroad and makes millions out of it, stands for presidential elections, forms political parties, becomes a PM in a small Russian southern city,  advises Putin on national and CIS politics, becomes a member of Federal Council and gets on the list of people banned from travelling and assets freeze by the EU.

A man of many interests. A well rounded individual. By the way in the Russian upper house Nikolay Ivanovich heads a commission on local governance and the Russian North.

One can spot parallels between Ryzhkov and Aksyonov, both were involved in organised crime in early 90’s. But the thing is that Aksyonov biography doesn’t stretch beyond Crimea. Ryzhkov lived several life. I’m beginning to think what might be his real name.

The point is that the real lives and real past of russian politicians (i.e. one KGB colonel) is a curved mirror image of russian politics. With no knowledge of who the people are, what their motives are, the situation make look absurd and so does the list, which many have called a joke.

Unfortunately, there are way too many speculative suggestions on reasoning of actors and people involved in the current conflict in Crimea that the picture of reality becomes bleak with more pastel colourings and shadows. I think that Mr. Ryzhkov and Mr. Putin tried hard for it to be so.

Putin’s free spirit


Russian president keeps his silence as more troops arrive in Ukraine’s southern Republic of Crimea.

The pretext for the enlargement of russian military personnel in the region is explained by the unrest in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, although some reinterpret the actions as russian takeover of Crimea (that became Ukraine in 1954). 

There is a lot of speculation of what russia’s intentions are and what steps it is prepared to take and consequences to face.

Dr Galeotti in his blog argues that there is an important caveat to Putin’s decision making  – rationality of his actions.

However, the situation among the two countries is essentially one of war. You can call it an intervention, peacekeeping operation or else. But, the military blockade of garrisons and Yatsenyuk’s acknowledgement of the state of war speak for themselves. There are military men on the peninsular confronting each other’s actions and intensions.

And in war calculus is not paramount. Action is.

It appears that Putin, as CinC, is acting with support of his generals and no consultation with his diplomats, as Ъ investigation of decision-making process on Ukraine suggests.

The pendulum is still in motion and the only thing we can do is observe and record.

Parade of Russia’s Greatest

The Order of St Andrew is the highest order in Russia that was established by Peter the Great in 1698 and reintroduced by President Yeltsin in 1998.

Since then fifteen people became members for promoting prosperity, grandeur and glory of Russia.
Ordinary russians know only eight of them. 

Here are the chevaliers of Russian Federation:

Parade Attention!

Gorbachev Michael Sergeevich – President of USSR
Nazarbaev Nursultan Abishevich- President of Kazakhstan
Aliev Geidar Alirza ogly- President of Azerbaijan

Ridiger Alexey Mikhailovich – Patriarch of Moscow

Kalashnikov Michael Timofeevich – weapons designer

Shumakov Valery Ivanovich – doctor
Petrovsky Boris Vasilevich – doctor

Lihachev Dmitry Sergeevich – writer
Gamzatov Rasul Gamzatovich – writer
Alieva Fazu Gamzatovna – writer

Zykina Ludmila Georgievna – musician
Arhipova Irina Konstaninovna – musician
Mihalkov Sergey Vladimirovich – musician
Granin Daniil Alexandrovich – musician

Solzhenitsyn Aleksandr Isaevich – writer (refused the award)

Parade Rest!

Stand At Ease!

Does Putin Read International Relations Theory?

In cooperative action, even where all agree on the goal and have an equal interest in the project, one cannot rely on others. (Waltz, 1959)
The Russian President Vladimir Putin is well known for his piercing speeches that some times leave a loud effect in the international relations media, drawing attention to the figure of the president and his world power intentions. In this paper I want to analyse two of Putin’s speeches: Munich 2007 and Valdai 2013.
What is striking about these two “speech acts” is the transformation of the discourse that in the first speech resembles the realist approach to international relations and the latter invokes to cultural, deconstructivist ideas.
By the time of Munich Conference on Security Policy Putin was portrayed as a man of war: piloting fighter gets, leading the war in Chechnya and building authoritative army-like structure of power exempt from morality.
Putin was the personification of the new Russian might that was coming to emerge on the international scene. And for Putin image of might and force was a resource “… of achieving the external ends of states because there exists no consistent, reliable process of reconciling the conflicts of interests that inevitably arise among similar units in a condition of anarchy. A foreign policy based on this image of international relations is neither moral nor immoral, but embodies merely a reasoned response to the world about us”. (Waltz, 1959)
In his Munich speech V.V. Putin quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt, saying “security for one is security for all”. However his speech was more about security of oneself against the security (or rather insecurity) of the one. He was talking about the vices of the hegemon (i.e. USA, coupled with the NATO’s eastward expansion) and what it represents: “… one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making”.
For the Russian President the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. The world the Putin envisages is a Waltzian (Hobbesian if you wish) world: “…no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this — no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race”.
However, Russian president provides a solution – the UN. Although many see the UN Security Council as a dead end, especially because of Russian veto practices that stall any intentions to improve a conflict situation.
In his final remarks the President touched on Russia’s history as being an independent foreign policy actor and that Russia is not going to change that thousand years old tradition.
More on traditions, identities and culture was said by the President on 12 August 2013 at the Valdai Conference.
At Valdai the narrative of hegemony was still there, however the question of morals, values and tradition was reinvigorated.
History and ‘us’ were Valdai’s main keywords. It was from history that Putin wanted to find an inspiration for new policies and ideas: “our entire, uncensored history must be a part of Russian identity. Without recognizing this it is impossible to establish mutual trust and allow society to move forward”.
Hegemony was given a new spin. It is not only unacceptable and unfeasible, it is also against God: “… a unipolar, standardized world does not require sovereign states; it requires vassals. In a historical sense this amounts to a rejection of one’s own identity, of the God-given diversity of the world”.
This time, unlike five years ago Putin appeals not to the UN but to his own country, or rather country he wants to construct. For him “it was evident that it is impossible to move forward without spiritual, cultural and national self-determination”.
At this point Putin was entering the realm of vague ideal and mythical world not of Waltz, but of Wendt, Lebow, Lapid and Chakrabarti. According to the latter “political communities are essentially mythological, we know how these myths have very real expression in social life. The success of historical arguments for unity/identity lies in appropriate use of cultural symbols and imagery that come to (1) serve as referents for that unity and identity and (2) symbolically represent that ‘community’. (Chakrabarti, 1997)
Putin acknowledges that “… identity and a national idea cannot be imposed from above, cannot be established on an ideological monopoly”.
We hear a very interesting message, something of a great value for the IR theory. Putin talks about “historical creativity” and “synthesis of the best national practices and ideas, an understanding of our cultural, spiritual and political traditions form different points of view” that ultimately will have to result in policy. In years to come policy will have an effect on political reality and discourse (historical as well) on that reality, hence reproducing ideological constructs and completing the full cycle of history-idea-policy-history.
Finally, “the year 2014 has been declared the Year of Culture in Russia. It is intended to be a year of enlightenment, emphasis on our cultural roots, patriotism, values and ethics”. We’ll see what the future and the presidential administration bring.
Apart form creation of myths and synthesis of ideas one remains hopeful to the presidential word of Valdai 2013: “we must treasure every individual”.
London 2013

“Living life too fast y’all need to slow down”. – Jokhar Tsarnaev

“I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you… stranger”. – The Joker.
No one has taken responsibility for the recent bombings in the Russian southern city of Vladikavkaz. The police and the media have steadfastly labeled the violent attacks on citizens as an act of terrorism. However, the stranger who organized executed and ultimately accountable for the violence is a “no one”, “anonymous”, “lone wolf” passing by us every day. Even if the people or person behind what has happened will be caught, we better get used to a terrorist among us.
Terrorism. We’ve hard of it many times, we’ve seen it on TV and youtube, we’ve read about it in newspapers and journal articles. High street bookshops are full of reading material from fiction to fact on terrorism. Hollywood producers and reporters, World Wide Web and simple rumors made us aware and to extent comfortable with terrorism. And terrorism – terrorists themselves – in a desire to change the world, actually follows the laws of the time and genre. As we learn about terrorism so do the terrorists themselves. They have to. In order to bring the way of life they envisage, religiously violent saboteurs need to know what they are fighting against, and in the process some of them go native. But some of them are native, are us.
I would like to take a closer look at younger Tsarnaev – the Boston marathon terrorist – life and our perceived image of him as of a person and the unexpected action against the society in which he lived and belonged to.
On April 15, 2012 Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan set two homemade bombs during the annual Boston Marathon, killing 3 and injuring 264 people.
For many runners that day was a sporting celebration of physical and psychological achievement. They deserved it, because it takes time to prepare for the marathon. If you’re an armature runner or have just taken up running you’d better spend 4 to 6 months on your training and conditioning. It is a serious challenge that requires not only physical but also mental tenacity and determination. It’s almost like setting up a terrorist act but much harder.
On the hospital bed Dzholhar said that it was Tamerlan who masterminded the bombings. The older brother represented the terrorist we are well familiar with and whose motives we’ve heard of many times: Islamist beliefs, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan… Although the two were not affiliated with any of the big names in terrorism – such as Al Qaida or Al Shebab. Tsarnaevs took to the Internet to learn how to build explosive devices and plan their actions.
What they have done wasn’t much different to what we expect from a terrorist to do. What was shocking is the way they lived their lives, especially the younger brother, before the terrorist act. That was out of constructed picture of a certain type of terrorist, which for the last couple of decades was overshadowed by the figure of Bin Laden and his ‘terroristic’ cult of personality – a politically correct archetype of a modern day villain.  
So, there’s a new kid on the block – terrorist form University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a qualified lifeguard. An easy-going, marijuana-smoking guy who’s into hip-hop and stay away from politics. If he cared about anything it was money and career. He was one of us.
A terrorist is no longer a powerful, authoritarian, bearded male – be it a German “dark lord” taking over a multistory building to fight Bruce Willis or a freedom-fighter-part-time-terrorist-gun-for-hire personality of Basaev. We have witnessed a transition from the hardcore mountainous bush craft guerillas to laid back terrorists, who don’t only become martyrs but get the swag too.

What puts Tsarnaev apart from others is an opportunity to tell the story. He is certainly not a monster… he’s just ahead of the curve. 

London 2013