The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union by Serhii Plokhy, review: ‘fascinating and readable’
A masterful account of the collapse of the Soviet Union
Some Russian officials blame the United States for everything. Earlier this year Vladimir Putin, stung by online criticism of his policies, said the whole internet was an ongoing CIA project. His underlings see US money behind any criticism they face from Russian non-government organisations, and as the driver behind revolutions that reduced their influence in Ukraine and Georgia.
US officials are partly to blame for this instinctive buck-passing. President George Bush (the first) boasted in early 1992 that: “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War,” essentially denying the role played by reformers in the Soviet republics. This narrative – in which the US drove communism from Eastern Europe, and has kept Russia muzzled ever since – was one that suited ambitious Americans keen to take the credit as much as it suited incompetent Russians keen to avoid the blame.
Thanks to Serhii Plokhy’s The Last Empire [see here], a fascinating and readable deep dive into the final half-year of the Soviet Union, we can now see whether it is true that the US engineered the Kremlin’s humiliation. And the answer is: no. While nationalists in Ukraine, the Baltics and the Caucasus allied with democrats in Moscow to free themselves from the party’s grip, Bush’s White House did all it could to keep the USSR together [emphasis added].
The cast is terrific. At its centre are two alpha males. The challenger is Boris Yeltsin, a boorish, mercurial drunkard stung by his expulsion from government and desperate to return. The incumbent is Mikhail Gorbachev, the idealistic but limited master of the USSR, whom Yeltsin yearned to defeat even at the cost of destroying the whole country…
let’s look at the Bureau:
C.I.A. Officers and F.B.I. Agents, Meet Your New Partner: The Analyst
Call it the revenge of the nerds, Washington-style. The gun-toting F.B.I. agent and the swashbuckling C.I.A. undercover officer are being increasingly called upon to share their clout, their budgets and even their Hollywood glamour with the humble, deskbound intelligence analyst.
As the two agencies confront an evolving terrorist threat, cyberattacks and other challenges, both are reorganizing in ways intended to empower analysts. That involves the delicate job of meshing the very different cultures of the streetwise agent and the brainy analyst, who reads secret dispatches, pores over intercepted communications, absorbs news media accounts and digests it all.While bureau officials have long extolled the importance of intelligence analysts, the report, by the F.B.I. 9/11 Review Commission, found that the bureau “still does not sufficiently recognize them as a professionalized work force with distinct requirements for investment in training and education.” The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, acknowledged the problem and said that empowering analysts was one of his main goals [CIA is then discussed in the article]…
Sure is taking a long time. Related:
our Fort Pearson people apparently have these views:
‘Best weapon’ against ISIL is ‘political solution,’ Foreign Affairs says
Canadian diplomats have quietly warned members of Parliament that the “best weapon” for fighting the Islamic State is diplomacy and finding a “political solution”…
a memo provided to opposition MPs by the Department of Foreign Affairs during a closed-door briefing Wednesday says “the best weapon against ISIL is good governance and inclusiveness.” The memo adds that a “political solution is critical to degrading ISIL and stabilizing the Iraqi state.”
“Military operations are a key component in defeating ISIL, but ultimately only political reconciliation and government inclusiveness will determine Iraq’s stability and Iraq’s future,” says the memo, which was obtained by the Citizen.
“Further, a lasting resolution to the crisis requires a supportive regional environment, where Iraq’s neighbours support these goals of reconciliation and inclusiveness.”..
Well, if you’re from Venus. Then there’s this diplomatic advice at Ceasefire.ca:
…Canada also needs to adopt a specific comprehensive policy in regard to the Middle East [what, pray tell, does “specific comprehensive” mean? sounds rather contradictory to me]…
“Our increasingly heteropolar world is riven by a host of wicked [such as ISIS?], complex, transnational issues, including climate change, environmental collapse, diminishing biodiversity and resource scarcity.”..
Go tell it to the Houthis, Saudis, Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, Islamists et al. and see how far it gets you. If you still have a head or living body.
The vacuous policy prescription, even ignoring that “heteropolar”: inclusive unto the death of many others, if not yet ourselves, it would seem. Why do we not just recognize that without the West’s making another major military effort on the ground (that we are no longer willing to make), and then ruling thereafter for some long time, the locals will sort their own bloody mess out most bloodily? No will, no way. Eh?
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds
The Harper government has built a military that it cannot afford and will be forced to make tough choices about in the future, if it sticks with the current funding envelope, the country’s budget watchdog said Thursday [March 26].
The new assessment by the parliamentary budget office came as debate kicked off in the House of Commons about an expanded and extended war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, a conflict that opposition MPs were warned this week will last more than a year.
Jean-Denis Frechette, the parliamentary budget officer, says the federal government will need to either pour more money into its defence budget, scale back its ambitions, or do a mixture of both in order to put Canada’s military on a sustainable footing.
The Harper government currently spends $21.5 billion on defence — or 1.1 per cent of the gross domestic product.
In order to sustain the existing number of troops, bases, tanks, planes and ships, the budget office says the Conservatives will have to spend about 1.6 per cent of GDP, which would be an increase of at least $3 billion annually ….
This from the PBO (23 pg PDF) ….
This report examines sustainability of the national defence program by providing two estimates: a ‘source of funds’ forecast, meaning a forecast of future defence budgets; and a ‘use of funds’ estimate, meaning the cost of delivering a national defence program.
The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) estimates that the current force structure of the Department of National Defence (DND) is unsustainable at current funding levels. To achieve sustainability, it will be necessary to change the force structure, increase the amount of funding allocated to DND, or implement a combination of the two.
In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, DND expenditures totalled $21.5 billion, accounting for 1.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Of that amount, roughly half went toward personnel costs and roughly one-third was used for operations and infrastructure; the balance went toward the acquisition and replacement of capital equipment.
The government’s Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) promised to raise the nominal (non-inflation adjusted) annual increase in defence expenditure to 2 per cent starting in fiscal year 2011-2012, investing a total of $490 billion over a 20-year horizon, in an effort to provide the military with reliable funding.
However, PBO’s long-term defence program affordability estimate (the ‘should-cost’ estimate) indicates that defence costs will become unsustainable over the next 10 years. Our modelling shows that until 2014, there were sufficient funds to maintain the program. The cost to maintain Canada’s national defence force structure increased at roughly 1.5 per cent per year in real terms (adjusted for inflation) from 1995 to 2014; over the same period, defence spending increased 1.9 per cent per year in real terms.
In Summary Figure 1-1 (attached below), PBO estimates that the annual, inflation-adjusted rate of growth in the cost of maintaining the force structure from 2015 onwards will be 2.5 per cent per year.
PBO calibrated the model to the 1995 force structure, to ensure that the slope of the expenditure line to 2012 and beyond was reasonable. Because the model is driven by force structure, notably the size of the regular force and associated equipment and support costs, calibrating to a different year will produce a different outcome. The report should be read with that in mind ….
PBO-GDP-def-costs.jpg (271.83 kB, 1934×851)
Very relevant, note links at end:
Things are truly getting out of hand; where it will all end knows only Allah:
Saudi Arabia launches air strikes in Yemen [with other Arabs; US providing “logistical and intelligence support”]
Iran demands immediate halt to military actions in Yemen
Egypt FM: Cairo to send ground forces to Yemen if needed
Meanwhile in Iraq the US-Iran odd coupling continues:
Opening New Iraq Front, U.S. Strikes ISIS in Tikrit
That 30 Years War. Scary.
The four planes based at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories are 44 blinking years old
yet the air force plans to refurbish them and keep them flying. This further article at Canadian American Strategic Review sensibly suggests that new-build ones be acquired instead at a roughly comparable cost:
Twin Option for the Twin Otters: Simple Solutions are often the Best
After all the Vietnamese Navy, for one, in flying new ones:
Viking Air’s New Twotter Success Story
An amphibious DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 400 aircraft. Photo: Pham Quang [great paint scheme]…
More on Viking Air’s venture at Flightglobal:
ANALYSIS: How Viking Air’s Twin Otter gamble paid off
About as far west as you can go from the aerospace corridor around Montreal and Toronto and the Twin Otter’s original manufacturing site, Canada’s other original equipment manufacturer is proving its gamble to bring the type back to life is more than paying off. Viking Air – based on Vancouver Island on the country’s Pacific coast – has notched up more than 110 orders for the former de Havilland Canada high-winged, twin engine turbine powered aircraft since launching the Series 400 programme in 2007, and has delivered almost 70…
With 99% of sales exported, Southeast Asia, followed by South America, Europe and Africa are its biggest markets. “We are active in developing nations where infrastructure is not good,” says McCorry. “The Twin Otter can land on anything.”
From its facility at Victoria airport, Viking will build 24 aircraft this year – one every 10 working days – although McCorry says this can be raised to 60 a year “if the market demands”. The first Series 400 was delivered in 2010 and the backlog is 15 months, but there are some earlier production slots for those willing to pay a premium…
Pity the RCAF is not in the queue.
How low the discourse has sunk about the ISIL mission
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair receives applause after asking a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESSAs this week’s weird unfoldings in the House of Commons [see “Canadian Government’s Motion to Expand Anti-ISIS RCAF Campaign to Syria…“] should at last make plain to even the most casual observer of the global struggle against theocratic fascism, Canada’s part in it has come down to this: Even the notoriously “right-wing” Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are making a more objectively “progressive,” classically liberal and genuinely militant contribution to the fight than the opposition Liberals and the New Democratic Party put together. That’s how low we’ve sunk.
To understand just how this strange state of affairs has arisen, it’s useful to unburden oneself of some of the great weight of pretty lies that Canadians are routinely told in order to disguise the disgrace of this country’s elites in their overall indifference to the suffering victims of Islamist terror. The first lie that would need to go is that Afghanistan is a quagmire, that we expended all that blood and treasure for nothing [see “Afghanistan: Obama Slows Troop Drawdown But Most Still Out by End 2016“–remember that the Horrible Warmonger Harper bugged Canada out of fighting in 2011; cut and ran from that].
…the death toll of 158 Canadian soldiers during more than a decade of hard-won gains in Afghanistan [see “Afghanistan Was “Worth It”…But” and “Afghanistan and Fact-Challenged Canadian Media“] is only slightly greater than the number of dead Muslims – 137 innocents at last count – butchered in a single jihadist suicide bombing last week at a mosque in Yemen. Some further proportion: the contribution Harper is making to the half-baked U.S.-led coalition is only another year’s modest commitment of a mere half-dozen Canadian fighter jets, a couple of Aurora patrol planes and a Polaris transport plane, a ground crew and a few dozen Special Operations Regiment advisers and trainers up in Kurdistan.
You’d think we were invading Russia.
…since Canada’s contribution was first debated in the House last October, all we’ve been getting from the NDP caucus is conspiracy theory and giggling on cue every time NDP leader Thomas Mulcair or his foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar find some clever excuse to repeat that childish jingle of theirs, the one that makes “mission creep” rhyme with the “mission leap.”
Given that Justin Trudeau’s many clumsy fouettés and glissades last October caused such acute embarrassment to Liberal party elders, it was amusing to speculate what he’d say this time round. But really, was there any reason to seriously imagine he’d show up to Tuesday’s [March 24] proceedings with proper shoes on?
It’s one thing to act the dashing ballerino on behalf of perhaps a handful of women from some schismatic Muslim sect who may or may not prefer to remain shrouded for the brief duration of a Canadian citizenship oath-swearing ceremony. It’s obviously quite another thing for the Canadian Forces to come to the aid of millions of Muslim women who face the rather more bleak prospect of being enslaved and raped by gangs of ISIL psychopaths. For the dauphin, that would be taking chivalry a bit too far.
For his part, Mulcair heaped incoherence upon ineptitude on top of conspiracy theory.
The NDP objects to the ISIL engagement because NATO isn’t leading it and the UN Security Council hasn’t authorized it, Mulcair says.
Never mind for a moment that the UN [Security Council] authorized Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan, and NATO led it, but Mulcair’s predecessor, Jack Layton demanded that we stick knives into the backs of Afghanistan’s feminists, secularists and civil society reformists, withdraw all Canadian troops from the country and parlay peace with the Taliban [emphasis added–“Taliban Jack”, what?]…
What could one possibly comment?
My goodness but POTUS almost seems to delight in disdainful diplomacy. Further to this post,
Obama Snubs NATO Chief as Crisis Rages
President Barack Obama has yet to meet with the new head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and won’t see Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg this week, even though he is in Washington for three days. Stoltenberg’s office requested a meeting with Obama well in advance of the visit, but never heard anything from the White House, two sources close to the NATO chief told me.
The leaders of almost all the other 28 NATO member countries have made time for Stoltenberg since he took over the world’s largest military alliance in October. Stoltenberg, twice the prime minister of Norway, met Monday [March 23] with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa to discuss the threat of the Islamic State and the crisis in Ukraine, two issues near the top of Obama’s agenda.
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, declined to say why Obama didn’t respond to Stoltenberg’s request. “We don’t have any meetings to announce at this time,” she told me in a statement. Sources told me that Stoltenberg was able to arrange a last-minute meeting with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
According to White House press releases, Obama didn’t exactly have a packed schedule. On Tuesday, he held important meetings and a press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House [see “Afghanistan: Obama Slows Troop Drawdown But Most Still Out by End 2016“] (Ghani will meet with Stoltenberg while they are both in town). But the only event on Obama’s public schedule for Wednesday is a short speech to kick off a meeting related to the Affordable Care Act. On Thursday, he will head to Alabama to give a speech about the economy…
Sweet. And now for the White House’s never never land. Further to this post and “Comments”,
we encounter this true lunacy:
Believe Josh Earnest or your lying eyes
Reuters reports, “Houthi militia forces in Yemen backed by allied army units seized an air base on Wednesday [March 25] and appeared poised to capture the southern port of Aden from defenders loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, local residents said. After taking al-Anad air base, the Houthis and their military allies, supported by heavy armor, advanced to within 20 km (12 miles) of Aden, where Hadi has been holed up since fleeing the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa last month.” This is another instance in which Iranian-backed forces have destabilized a government reasonably friendly to the West. Just a few months ago President Obama held Yemen up as a success story.
Naturally the White House press corps wanted the press secretary to acknowledge things had not gone as planned. But no. Josh Earnest had his talking point and was sticking with it (just like the talking point that Obama meant what he said when he called the shooting of innocents in a French kosher market “random”). For over three minutes Earnest refused to acknowledge their model was not a mess. Pressed again, he insisted this is still a “template that has succeeded.” An incredulous Jonathan Karl of ABC News continued to press him, but Earnest refused to admit the obvious, namely that the administration had failed in its leading from behind, light footprint.
It was embarrassing and unbelievable. But it was also instructive…
What planet, solar system, galaxy, universe, whatever…?
At Tom Ricks’ The Best Defense blog:
When people remember Enoch Powell today, if at all, it is as an anti-immigration Tory politician in Britain.
He surely was that. But behind that stands an extraordinary life. He became a full professor of classical studies at age 25, the youngest such in the British Empire. He enlisted in the British Army in World War II and rose to brigadier, and was briefly the youngest brigadier in the British Army.
… when he was a brigadier, he was surprised that his Indian counterpart was refused entry to the Byculla Club in Poona [India], where he was staying. So Powell moved out of the club and into the place where the Indian brigadier was staying.
Well, well. More about Mr Powell here.
Canada’s automotive trade deficit topped $10-billion last year and threatens to deepen as more assembly plant closings loom and free-trade agreements with the European Union and South Korea take effect.
A surplus of $15-billion with the United States was wiped out by a deficit of more than $25-billion with the rest of the world, which led to the eighth successive overall auto trade deficit that contrasts sharply with trade surpluses in the automotive sector every year between 1982 and 2006, says a new report from the Automotive Policy Research Centre [at McMaster University, Hamilton].
The worsening trade numbers are another sign that Canada’s position among the world’s auto-making countries is deteriorating.
“Canada’s automotive trade deficit is only likely to deepen unless Canada is able to recapture a larger proportion of North American vehicle production by attracting investment into new assembly capacity,” the report said. “Recent developments do not augur well.”
Those developments include billions of dollars of new investment flooding into Mexico in recent years as auto makers take advantage of that country’s low wages, free-trade agreements with 45 countries and location in the middle of the Western Hemisphere with easy access to the United States and countries in South America where growth is expected to resume.
One key threat, the report noted, is the doubt about the future of two General Motors Co. assembly plants in Oshawa, Ont. One plant is scheduled to close next year, while production of Chevrolet Camaro vehicles made at the other Oshawa plant will be shifted to Lansing, Mich., later this year and no new vehicles have been allocated to replace the Camaro or other vehicles made at what is called the flex plant.
General Motors of Canada Ltd. president Stephen Carlisle acknowledged in January that there are no products currently in the pipeline for Oshawa, but there is a two-year window to reach agreements with governments and the company’s union, Unifor, to make Oshawa more competitive so it can attract new business…
Poor Oshawa and poor union members. Dare the provincial and federal governments provide sufficient bribes, er, subsidies? A post in July, 2013 via the same author: