Sunday, May 26, 2013

This photo is from;

showing the Samarkand plaza. 

Belgium has graciously submitted this post concerning some history of Russian politics.   You can't imagine our relief.  There is a part 2 that will go up with the next post.   Lots of maps and explanations.   

Thanks Belgium aka SAS

The New Great Game in the Old Russian Empire -

Why the Russian Empire is Different From Other Historical Empires

All empires have existed for economic gain by the dominant country over the subjected countries. Sure, they said that their purpose in killing people until those left decided to give up, was to bring God to the heathens or to educate these poor unfortunates to our own high standards. Well, that was in there too, once the ones who were left over, knew who the bosses were and the resource rights had been secured. In fact, once the dominant country had such a tight hold on their economy that they could trash it from one moment to the next and trade agreements were in place to secure the mineral and other export rights, there was no reason not to give the countries back and let the subjected countries have the illusion of ruling themselves. This is what mainly happened in countries that had conquered by sea invasion, Britain; Portugal; Spain etc. France, being France, tended to be a bit more possessive about these things. With land based expansions like Rome or the Ottomans, for example, the centre stagnated whilst the vanguard was moving forward to a point where the middle ground could no longer be held.

What was so different about the Russian empire? What if they do loose a few economic trading partners, there is still enough of it left for themselves. You only have to look where their empire was for the answer. This may seem strange but Russia's sheer size is its vulnerability not its strength. Russia is mainly steppe crossed north to south by four major rivers, the Volga; the Ob; the Yenesei and the Lena together with the impenetrable mountain range of the Urals. These would represent a fall back position if anyone really took a fancy to the frozen swamplands of Siberia or God forbid, actually captured Moscow. During WWll, Stalin relocated some major manufacturing facilities into the Urals – just in case. None of these rivers and mountains protect Russia from invasion from the periphery, nor is there any natural barriers or defences of any kind to its heartland. Their empire was a buffer zone which contained many natural defences to be worn around the heartland like a girdle. Compare this to the United States. There are two great oceans, one to the east and the other to the west. To the north there is a friendly country which is mainly densely forested which then gives out onto an Arctic wasteland. No one would attack America from this direction. America's southern border is the Rio Grande, not that much of a river, I will grant you but one non the less and it is now complimented by a rabbit proof fence. Russia's empire was primarily and fore-mostly its defence. All economic considerations were secondary to this.
Although this is an ethnic map, the outline of the Russian heartland can clearly be seen in red and how other national groupings formed a barrier around this. For all of Russia's size, the yellow areas are virtually uninhabited. Not shown is Finland. Russia maintains a no-mans-land of between 3km – 10km between itself and Finland. The three Baltic states can be seen top left in brown coming around to Poland (not shown) and Belarus to protect itself from attack from Germany and the rest of Europe. Ukraine's southern border is the Black Sea. Its northern border is formed by the barrier of the Carpathian Mountains which also extend across Moldavia and into Romania. The Caucasus define the land bridge between the Black and Caspian Seas. The blue swathe is the great steppe of Kazakhstan. Before anyone could get into Kazakhstan, they would have to cross the high mountain plateaus of Uzbekistan; Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, collectively known as the Tien Shan. Together with Turkmenistan these formed part of the old Russian empire and it is definitely in Russia's interest to keep friendly relations with these. Finally to the east we get around to Mongolia with its great Gobi desert and then its border with China itself.

When communism fell in 1989 Russia lost control of all fourteen of these buffer states. The new Great Game revolves around Russia trying win back its influence in these states and the USA trying not to let it.

We are now going to have a look at the current situation in Central Asia and briefly at what is going on in Europe.

The Kyrgyzstan Revolution

Kyrgyzstan (Dark blue, lower central) at first sight, does not appear to be much of a prize for anyone. It has no economy, no resources and it relies on its neighbours to feed its people. It does have one thing that is unique, its geographical position. To understand why, we must first discuss the Ferghana Valley. As we have already seen the Tien Shan Mountains divide Northern Asia from Southern Asia and prevent an attack on Russia via the Kazakhstan steppe. Russia lost this protection in 1989. Kyrgyzstan; Uzbekistan and Tajikistan all meet in the fertile valley of Ferghana which naturally is the home of the majority of peoples from this mountainous region. To stop any one country having overall control of this important region, the former CIS divided it up between the three states. Uzbekistan owns the valley floor. Tajikistan owns the entrance to the valley and Kyrgyzstan owns the surrounding mountains which protect it.

For years in Kyrgyzstan, there had been smouldering unrest against the then government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Within 24 hours on a day in April 2010, discontent escalated into full blown revolution and a new government installed which immediately had the approval of Moscow. Of course Russia was using the techniques of the Arab Spring. There is nothing like
backing a winner when you pick the players and offer a tad of friendly assistance. The success of this has given Russia back one of its natural defence barriers earlier lost. Kyrgyzstan does not benefit economically from the Ferghana valley but it does benefit from encircling it. Control of Kyrgyzstan equals control of the valley and hence control of Asia's core. Kyrgyzstan (read Russia) now has the ability to monitor Chinese moves in the region. Its highlands overlook China's Tarim Basin which is part of the contentious Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
With the exception of the North European Plain, Russia’s expansion strategy focuses on the importance of mountains — the Carpathians, the Caucasus and Tien Shan — as geographic barriers. Holding the land up to these definable barriers is part of Russia’s greater strategy, without which Russia is vulnerable and weak. One part is now complete. Russia is on a time scale. It knows it must act quickly whilst the USA is preoccupied in Afghanistan and with the Muslim world. It will not always be like this and as much as possible must be gained before the USA's gaze returns to containing Russia and troops are redeployed.

Whilst Russia is in Disarray, the USA Will Play

The Soviet disintegration did not guarantee, of course, that Russia would not re-emerge in another form. The West, and the United States in particular, thus saw the end of the Cold War as an opportunity to ensure that Russia would never re-emerge as the great Eurasian hegemon. To do this, the United States began poaching among the states between Russia and its geographic barriers, taking them out of the Russian sphere in a process that ultimately would see Russian influence contained inside the borders of Russia proper. To this end, Washington sought to expand its influence in the countries surrounding Russia. This began with the expansion of the U.S. military club, NATO, into the Baltic states in 2004. This literally put the West on Russia’s doorstep at one of Russia’s weakest points on the North European Plain. At their nearest point, the Baltics are less than 100 miles from St. Petersburg.
Before the USA had its attention diverted towards the Middle East in 2003, it had already put plans into operation for the so called colour revolutions which bore fruition in Georgia 2003, Ukraine 2004 and Kyrgyzstan 2005, thus taking out Russia's main defensive barriers. Then one of those rare things happened, America blinked, or rather it averted its gaze towards the Muslim world. Realising that the USA was militarily stretched, Russia wasted no time in trying to restore the previous status quo. It has done this country by country using whatever techniques were appropriate for that particular situation. In January 2010, Moscow signed a customs union agreement to economically reintegrate Russia with Kazakhstan and Belarus. Also in January 2010, a pro-Russian government was elected in Ukraine. And now, a pro-Russian government has taken power in Kyrgyzstan.

As it seeks to roll back Western influence, Russia has tested a handful of tools in each of the former Soviet republics. These have included political pressure, social instability, economic weight, energy connections, security services and direct military intervention. Thus far, the pressure brought on by its energy connections, or disconnections, as seen in Ukraine and Lithuania, has proved most useful. Russia has used the cut-offs of supplies to hurt the countries and garner a reaction from Europe against these states. The use of direct military intervention, as seen in Georgia, has also proved successful, with Russia now holding a third of that country’s land. Political pressure in Belarus and Kazakhstan has pushed the countries into signing the aforementioned customs union. And now with Kyrgyzstan, Russia has proved willing to take a page from the U.S. play-book and spark a revolution along the lines of the pro-Western colour revolutions. Russian strategy has been tailor-made for each country, taking into account their differences to put them into Moscow’s pocket, or at least make them more pragmatic toward Russia.

Thus far, Russia has nearly returned to its mountain anchors on each side, though it has yet to sew up the North European Plain. And this leaves a much stronger Russia for the United States to contend with when Washington does return its gaze to Eurasia.

Next time the Caucasus. With four major players, three minor players and sixteen independent autonomous regions all with their own agenda, this is akin to playing three dimensional chess.

Looking for Trouble by Lauren Goodrich Reprinted from STRATFOR
The Joshua Project

Friday, May 10, 2013


Part of the fire damage

From Murph

For those that are not aware of it, we had a devastating fire over a week ago at our place.   I would compare the mental state similar to not being home and someone coming in and stealing all of the stuff that is valuable to your life and never recovering it.   The fire destroyed the garage/shop, greenhouse and 4 other out buildings including an uninsured 20 ft travel trailer.  Every single one of my power tools burned up and a whole lot of other stuff also, a stash of tools collected over 50 years.   The house came close to burning down too.   All the animals didn’t have a problem.   It could have been much worse I suppose.  

I have been involved in a fire once before back in the 80’s when I then lost a whole bunch of custom made tools and equipment.   If you haven’t had a major fire in your life or a loved one hasn’t either, it is difficult to comprehend the physical and emotional loss.   For us, because of our chosen life style, it is huge.   Plus, we were underinsured to begin with.   We know that, at least eventually, we will make a decision about what we will do in the future.    For right now, we are devastated and somewhat out of equilibrium and we find it difficult to make decisions.    

Because of the insurance companies loses due to arson fires to collect insurance, it is not easy to get reimbursed by the companies.   Everything is now dragged out for what seems an excessive length of time while the company dithers about and does not make a decision.   They want to make damned sure that it wasn’t set deliberately to collect from them.   So cleanup keeps getting delayed.   Hopefully, it will be resolved this week.  

Nina, had a neat post up on the 19th of April about life’s tests:  
I reckon we got ours big time.  Due to our age and what that entails, starting over seems to be a monumental and impossible problem.   Enough so that we have decided not to do a food garden this year.   Just too much on our plate to deal with it.   I do not currently have a place to put anything salvageable or purchased to get it out of the weather and I can’t do anything about it until the cleanup is done.   Neighbors, friends and organizations we belong to have offered help in the cleanup and maybe some of building if there is enough money from the insurance to do so.   Our paying forward in the community for the last 8 years does have some dividends. 

Here is a link of video after the fire

OK, enough on that subject.

It has been a while since I have done any opinion writing on this blog.   It seems that we are continually bombarded with information much of which can be legitimately questioned, principally, information from the government concerning economics and demographics.   I know that there will be strong disagreement with some of my more generalized statements on such subjects, but I still think there is strong arguments made for concepts like; world overpopulation, rapidly decreasing inexpensive resources, overt and extreme contamination of the environment, poisoning of the food sources, damaging extremism in every quarter, a general decrease in living standards in the western countries, lying to their populations by all governments, the financialization of everything, (I wonder when there will be a tax on breathing), climate change and the list goes on and on.  I make an attempt to keep up on the counter arguments for all of this.  Because I am not an insider on anything going on in the list, all I can do is take in the information that different folks present on these kinds of subjects.  Because I find the “expert information (opinions)” is often highly suspect I cannot depend on them for accuracy.  It appears to me that the best we can do is take in as much information as we have time for and then reach tentative conclusions, and I emphasize the term TENTATIVE.   I say this, because over time we may find that our conclusions were wrong by the evidence of events that actually take place, and that depends on how accurate the reporting is of those events because we aren’t there in person observing it.  

For instance, the major events in the last 10 years or so starting with 9-11 indicate to me that we are experiencing major big time government false flag manipulated events designed to keep the majority of the population fearful and insecure.   These show up in what appears as an escalation of absolutely crazy types of behavior that are very destructive on life and property.   Folks on the scene or folks that bother to do in depth research into such events are casting extreme doubt on the official explanations of what actually happened.   And, of course, their information can be highly suspect also.   Sandy Hook and Boston bombing are two such examples.   It has turned out that photographs and videos are no longer proof of much of anything anymore, too easy to doctor or outright falsify them or make incorrect assumptions on what they show by selective release of them.   

We also need to throw into these observations the personal bias that each of us has.   This controls to a large extent how we view contradictory information and what we choose to believe is true.   For me, it is the distrust of authorities and questioning anything they do or say.   My life experiences have not been particularly positive concerning authorities control (or attempts at control) over my life.  

Another concept that can be thrown into the mix is the vast increase in the complexity of our lives.   Voluntary compliance with all the complexity is nearly a full time job now days.   It didn’t used to be that way.    I’m a grumpy old fart and I have a strong tendency to resent and push back on all of this complexity.    I want my life to be fairly simple and the push to make it complex I find immensely irritating.   This is one reason that we don’t use social media, cell phones, and an overwhelming amount of other supposed “conveniences”.  To me, they have far over reached a point of diminishing returns wherein I would spend way more time dealing with these “conveniences” than getting done what I need and want to get done.    This applies to gathering information, principally from the web.   I do not want pop up news bites when I go on the web similar to the news bites on the popular TV news sites.    The selectivity and headlines are much more propaganda than real news for me to ponder.    So to simplify my information gathering, I have selected sites (biases) that I frequent that seem to me to be reliable and informative without the propaganda, and I realize that there is the possibility of inaccurate information, invalid opinions and status quo shills writing what I read or producing the videos that I take the time to view.   In other words, I take with some grains of salt what I come across or what is sent to me.    All to frequently, cross checking of information for validity is way too time consuming and/or impossible to validate.  

I consider the financial reports as falling into these kinds of categories.   The government consistently puts out data on all kinds of stuff that directly has internal contradictions and interpretations that appear contradictory to real life observations.   The employment figures are a prime example.   So is the reliance on stock market indicators as an indication of the health of the economy.    Frankly, I think that we have been lied to so much that none of it can be taken at face value.   None of this is new.   It was also going on during the last great depression.   Historically, it has been going on in every government since we have records of it.   In essence, those in power and have great wealth have bull shitted us for our whole lives and their mixture of facts and fiction leave us confused as to the actual situation.   On a personal basis, our hassles with the insurance company over this fire is another example.   We have conflicting goals.   The company wants to pay out as little as possible and we want max payout to us.   The consequence is that they are stonewalling us and hope we will get desperate and take a cash-out as settlement.   Sigh.  

I’m sure most of our readers have similar stories.