Posts Tagged ‘Boris Shaposhnikov’

Red Glaring Era

August 12, 2017

Not so very long ago, just a few years back –when Kim Jong-il was Washington’s designated Yellow Peril boogeyman– a couple of American rocketry specialists proposed a novel and intriguing thesis … which they then backed up with data and analysis in an unclassified monograph.  Long story short, they asserted that North Korea lacked the scientific, technical and industrial infrastructure (as well as the money) required to design and manufacture the relatively sophisticated missiles then soaring off the sacred soil of the DPRK.

Curiously, however, these missiles exhibited all the operating characteristics (range, payload, telemetry, engine thrust, etc.) of hardware with which the American rocketeers were already quite familiar: Russian missiles.  And when Kim Jong-il paraded his missiles through the streets of Pyongyang on major holidays, whadda ya know, they looked an awful lot like Russian missiles too.  Not top-tier stuff; second-class, older-model Russian rockets.

Golly, how can this be?  Were these Korean missiles carefully copied exact clones?  Uh … probably not, for the reasons noted above.  Instead, concluded our intrepid aeronautical engineers, it was much more likely that Kim Jong-il was sourcing his hardware inventory in off-the-shelf, plug-and-play, launchpad-ready condition from (cue the gasps of surprise and dismay) Comrade Bear.  That’s right, Bad Vlad hisseff.  Now, of course, as former employees of –and current consultants to– the United States military-industrial complex, these analysts didn’t come right out and accuse democratically elected officials of the Russian Federation of violating UN sanctions and the rules of fair play.  Such forthright candor would have been undiplomatic and downright unseemly.  But they took pains to point out that medium-range missiles are generally considered a closely-guarded defense technology and are very rarely known to cross international borders unassisted.

Then, just for fun, the analysts built a timeline of Kim Jong-il’s nuclear tests and missile launches … cross-referenced with a chronology of Russian foreign policy initiatives.  Should we be surprised that they found repeated instances in which tensions between Russia and the United States or Japan were promptly followed by bellicose posturing from Pyongyang?  This pattern suggested the possibility that North Korean weapons tests were in some cases “commissioned” by Russia, with the requisite materiel furnished on an as-needed basis.  When Comrade Bear wanted to twist the trousers of the US, South Korea or Japan, Kim Jong-il was exactly the right man for the job.

So, was this –is this– at all a credible thesis?  Those who might know ain’t talkin’ ’bout it in public.  Nobody’s even botherin’ to ridicule the possibility, fer cryin’ out loud.  What might we infer from that?

That was then, this is now

Here we are in the Year of the Fowl and it’s déjà vu all over again.  Seems that those who don’t care to know recent history are only too happy to repeat it.  Kim Jong-un suddenly starts launching missiles that (allegedly) have intercontinental capability, and Chicken Little promptly notices that the sky is falling.  How convenient.

It’s not surprising that Donald Trump has seized this marvelous opportunity for saber-rattling with both tiny hands: he desperately needs an excuse to deflect public discourse away from his amply-demonstrated ignorance, incompetence and venality.  To that end, his overheated rhetoric is furiously furnishing further fuel for the waning yin fire that still lingers from the Sheep Month.  Not to worry (too much): it’s all part of the script for Trump’s latest “reality” television series.  The plotlines were laid out over dessert at G20, and almost everyone (even you) is playing their appointed roles.  We haven’t yet seen the credits roll, but in reality TV, the screenwriter’s name never appears. How convenient.

It should be pretty obvious what the donald might hope to gain from edging to the brink of his own splendid little war, but perhaps some readers may find it less clear what Putin gets out of this artful deal.  Here ya go:

Comrade Bear benefits from 2017’s DPRK Monkey Month antics in at least 4 ways:

  • a manufactured war crisis diverts U.S. media attention away from the Mueller investigation of Russia-Trump collusion.  A helping hand extended to his fellow Gazprom shareholder?
  • payback for U.S. Senate sanctions against Russia’s siloviki kleptocracy.
  • a wedge into the joints of America’s North Asia alliances with Japan and South Korea: each nation has different interests at stake.
  • the usual suspect, China, gets all the Confucian blame for the misbehavior of Number One Son Kim Jong-un … while sly Comrade Bear basks in the sun at a lakeside dacha.  He’s not actually relaxing.

In these circumstances, what would Marshal Shaposhnikov suggest?  Perhaps a peek at the Vostochny cosmodrome might provide an answer.




April 20, 2013

The subhead:  Putin pivots East.  And up.

Eighteen months ago, in an effort to shake off the most onerous shackles of Bush-regime foreign policy, U.S. SecState Hillary Clinton published an extensive policy pronouncement in Foreign Policy Magazine under the title “America’s Pacific Century.”  Perhaps significantly, she chose October 11 rather than September 11 as publication date. Based on two relatively minor uses of the word “pivot” in the article, the tagline “Pivot to Asia” immediately became Beltway shorthand for this policy initiative.

“The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. … One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will be to [make] a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region. … [This is] a pivot to new global realities.”
“This kind of pivot is not easy, but … we are committed to seeing it through as among the most important diplomatic efforts of our time.”
“[The U.S. has developed] a coherent regional strategy that accounts for the global implications of our choices.  [This strategy includes] a sustained commitment to … “forward-deployed” diplomacy: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.”

Since then, in practice, here’s what the pivot has involved:

  • Intensified (re)engagement, trade development and bilateral cooperation with ASEAN nations — Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia — they’re seeking a counterweight to Chinese influence.
  • Assiduous reassurance to traditional military partners in East Asia  — Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand — that Uncle Sam still loves and cherishes them.
  • Getting all up in China’s business using what by American standards is the most painfully polite and correct manner possible.  That’s not exactly how the Chinese see it, but at least some CPC officials understand we’re making a greater effort than in the past to avoid bruising sensitive feelings.

Who’s feeling left out?  Comrade Bear.  Despite the fact that Russia considers itself (and is) a Pacific (Ocean) nation, none of Obama’s pivot play takes public notice of Asian terrain north of the Amur River.  Is that some kind of unspoken message?

It must certainly seem that way in Moscow and points East.  Perhaps that’s why Comrade Bear last week paid a whirlwind visit to the eastern extremities of his farflung empire.  His choice of whistlestop locations and policy themes was rather interesting.

Note the helo rotors and windsock outside the gate.

Note the helo rotors and windsock outside the gate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday visited the Ivolginsky datsan, a Buddhist monastery, the center of the Buddhist traditional faith in Buryatia. The Ivolga datsan was founded in 1945, the year marking the revival of Buddhism in the Soviet Union. He [met with] Lama Damba Ayusheyev, head of the Buddhist Sangha of Russia.

Putin promised “100-percent support” for Russian Buddhists, whose number is estimated at 700,000 to 1.5 million. The president described Buddhism as a “kind, humanist learning based on love for others and love for one’s country.”  “Buddhism plays a significant role in Russia … It has always been that way.  It is well known that the Buddhists helped during both world wars,” Putin told the lamas.


Putin twice visited the palace of Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, the 12th Pandito Khambo Lama, now buried in Ivolginsky datsan: during his tour of the datsan and prior to his departure.  Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, the hierarch of Russian Buddhism, died at the age of 75 in 1927 while meditating in the Lotus pose.  His body was exhumed in 2002, [but it had not decomposed] after 75 years in the grave. The incorruptible body of Pandito Khambo Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itiglov has become one of the most revered Buddhist holy things.

Truly, the Lenin of Buddhism!

Closer to Heaven

Russian President Vladimir Putin on his Far Eastern trip visited the Vostochny cosmodrome construction site for the Soyuz-2 launch complex … being built in the Amur Region not far from Uglegorsk. The first launch of rockets from the spaceport is scheduled for 2015; the first manned launch for 2018.

Vostochny cosmodrome

During a video [chat] session with the International Space Station, Putin proposed naming the town that will be built near the cosmodrome after Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a Russian and Soviet rocket scientist and [early 20c.] pioneer of astronautic theory.
“A research center and a town will be built here — not just a spaceport, not just a launch site — so I think that it will be proper if after consulting with the local residents we name the future town Tsiolkovsky,” Putin said, noting that not a single locality in Russia currently bears the name of the scientist.

Who’s gonna argue with that?


Tsiolkovsky (1857 – 1935) spent most of his life in a log house on the outskirts of Kaluga, about 120 miles southwest of Moscow. A recluse by nature, he appeared strange and bizarre to his fellow townsfolk.”

Rockets of Another Kind

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Friday that if an armed conflict breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, there is a risk that North Korean missiles [might accidently strike Russian territory].  “My apprehensions are not linked to the prospect of Pyongyang’s using them against Russia,” he said. “They can be meant against other countries but might suddenly turn towards us.”
“We must prevent a twist of events in this direction, because we can’t put at risk either our territory or our citizens. We have Space and Air Defense Troops for the purpose,” Rogozin added.


Meanwhile …

Marshal Shaposhnikov

 “The anti-submarine destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov has made a routine visit at the South Korean port of Busan,” announced Captain First Rank Roman Martov, spokesman for the Russian Pacific Fleet. The Marshal Shaposhnikov, tanker Irkut and rescue tugboat Alatau are en route to their base at Vladivostok following a five-month anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.  On April 16, an official Russian delegation headed by Commander of the Pacific Fleet convoy Rear Admiral Vladimir Vdovenko paid a protocol visit to the Command of the South Korean Navy.

Lunghu would have loved to be a fly on the wall at THAT drinking party!  Russians! Koreans! Sailors! Busan! Female entertainers! Certainly not a night that anyone will admit remembering the next day.

It may be worth noting that:

Marshal of the Soviet Union Boris Shaposhnikov was born in 1882 near Chelyabinsk, and later became the principal strategic thinker in the Red Army.  He was the author of Mozg Armii (The Brain of the Army), a three-volume treatise of military theory published between 1927 and 1929.  According to Shaposhnikov, “pre-mobilization” for war should consist of as many measures as could be taken to prepare for actual war mobilization, but in an atmosphere of the utmost secrecy.

What does all this mean?

It sure looks like a pivot to the East by President Putin and his supporting cast of characters.  Russia hopes to benefit from China’s discomfiture at the Asian “fullcourt press” diplomatic initiative being mounted by the United States, and thus seeks to enhance economic ties with China while improving bilateral relations in other areas as well:

  • Lunghu believes that Comrade Bear intends to use his public support of Ivolginsky datsan as an unmistakable hint to China about Russian expertise in co-opting Buddhists, lamas and religious fervor.  The subtext:  we might be able to help with your Tibet problem.  Maybe your Falun Gong problem too.  Comrade Bear is extending the friendly fraternal paw of socialist nationalism to like-minded neighbors in the southeast.  Just lookin’ to avoid Big Sha.
  • Both Russia and China intend to outflank/offset the United States’ air, sea and land initiative by vaulting into outer space in a big way.  Although ostensibly motivated by a quest for scientific exploration and mineral resources, this is really a race to the strategic high ground from which the entire planet can be commanded.
  • Russia also wants to leverage Korean uneasiness about being caught between China, the U.S., and Kim Jong-un.  Russia-ROK maritime trade is vital to the economy of Russia’s Far East, and South Korea is a prime target market for Gazprom exports.  And then there’s that whole thing with Katya Putin’s Korean boyfriend … Lunghu’s still waiting for the KBS k-drama television series.

Inveterate geopoliticians will see these efforts as the latest manifestations (version 3.0) of The Great Game between Russia and her Anglo-American competitor-adversaries. Unfortunately, that brand of 19c. thinking will doom us all to yet another cyclical repetition of history’s instructive mistakes.  The outcome of zero sum games is always zero for most of those involved.