Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Offensive Lyin’

February 16, 2015

As noted previously, during the Year of the Goat the Grand Duke (Tai Sui) will be presiding over earthly affairs from his cosmic throne in the South-Southwest. He likes things quiet and peaceful (and who doesn’t, after all?), so mere mortals are well advised to avoid disturbing the serene harmony so prized by Tai Sui.

But even after several millennia of object lessons, stupid humans never learn. Here’s a quick look at who’s offending the Grand Duke these days, and why:

Saudi Arabia — Sectarian conflict in Yemen is merely the latest manifestation of blowback from the Cheney-Bush invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Sunnis and Shiites have been skirmishing for centuries in Yemen, in the mountains and on the plains, but this time it’s part of the larger proxy war between Persians and the Sauds. Yemen’s location at the south-southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula means that this noisy, un-civil war is gonna offend Tai Sui in the Year of the Goat. That’s not good news for King Salman.

Sana_Yemen

 

Russia — Don’t worry about General Winter: Comrade Bear has just a few more days to wrap up his attempted conquest of Debaltseve before all that noise and clamor in the south-southwest of Eurasia disturbs the limited patience of Tai Sui.  It’s probably too late, because the Grand Duke has undoubtedly been getting an earful from his predecessor about the terrible decline of courtesy in the neighborhood. Economic sanctions will be the least of Comrade Bear’s problems if things don’t calm down in a hurry.

Kondratyevka

 

Brazil — The party’s almost over, and I’m not talking about carnival in Rio. Through no real fault of its own, Brazil is going to suffer from the uproar to its south-southwest: Cristina Kirchner‘s intriguing media circus will catch the ear of Tai Sui and the consequences won’t be pleasant for Mercosur neighbors. Paraguay may escape unscathed (for once), but Uruguay and Brazil appear to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carnival_Masks_2015

 

Mexico — First Michoacan, then Guerrero.  President Peña-Nieto may need to follow the example of Comrade Eleven in cleaning the Augean stables of Mexican government.

Guerrero_022015

 

United States? — So far things are looking pretty good in the south-southwest: Mexican wolves are making a comeback, the clang and clamor of Eagle Ford shale oil drilling rigs is decreasing in the Permian Basin, and a measles outbreak in New Mexico, Arizona and southern California may quiet some of the noisier residents of the region.  But …

Plains All American LP will build two new crude oil pipelines in far West Texas and New Mexico to move Permian Basin production to markets. The company will extend its Avalon pipeline in Loving County 32 miles into Culberson County with a 12-inch line.  Plains All American also will build a 60-mile, 16-inch State Line pipeline to connect Culberson County output to Wink, Texas, along the Texas-New Mexico state line.

Avalon pipeline? Uh oh!  Since “moving earth” and major construction projects in the Grand Duke’s south-southwest realm are surefire ways to irritate the year’s cosmic ruler, this will definitely not turn out well. It’s clear that the U.S. petroleum industry will have to learn its feng shui protocol the hard way.  Which reinsurance provider is currently holding liability policies on Plains All American LP?  Time to double-check your risk management posture!

Eagle_Ford

 

Israel — Gaza.  Really, need I say more?  Benny Netanyahu will be getting a frigid reception in Washington from everyone except the Republicans on Sheldon Adelson‘s payroll.  In his shame and frustration, he probably won’t be able to resist (once again) turning Gaza rubble into even smaller rubble.  The man suffers from a Masada Complex compounded by chronic funnel vision.  Tai Sui is already annoyed.  It definitely won’t be good for the Jews.

Gaza_beach_2015

 

There are probably many other examples around the world where upheaval in the south-southwest during 2015 could lead to retribution from the Grand Duke.  F’rinstance, what does Switzerland mean for Germany this year?  Those listed above are just a few top-of-mind candidates that any feng shui soothsayer would love to point out.  It will be interesting to see what else develops during the Year of the Goat.  Probably a good idea to stay away from SouthbySouthwest this year.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

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Braking Vlad

September 12, 2014

Lunghu hasn’t written about Comrade Bear in a while; not since the relatively early stages of the Ukraine reconquista.  There really hasn’t been much doubt about Russia’s Intent and Capability, so what would have been the point?  But an earlier post about the possible impact of 19th c. Russian literature on Putin’s worldview created modest ripples in the placid pond of Lunghu’s mind that have finally wiggled their way to shore.  If literature –fictional representation of the human condition– can shape human behavior (or intended behavior) long after ink has dried on the page, what other dimensions of existence (real or imagined) might do likewise?

So –in the context of risk/threat assessment– it’s now perhaps appropriate to take up the task of attempting a preliminary definition for the elements of Intent. We’ve previously established that R = T + V and that T = I + C, and we’ve defined some elements of C (Capability), but the underlying formula for Intent is still very much terra incognita.

Notice that Lunghu said “take up the task” and “attempting” and “preliminary definition”.  Those weasel words should signal –nay, proclaim– that these inchoate thoughts are still very much a work in progress, if indeed progress is to be made at all.  So, to begin, let’s ground our quest in current events and work our way back from there.  It will be ‘rewind analysis’ of a somewhat different kind.

Russia’s navy announced the successful launch of a Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile from the nuclear submarine Vladimir Monomakh on Wednesday.  Addressing a Kremlin meeting on weapons modernization, Putin warned that U.S. missile defense plans and its use of the crisis in Ukraine to reinvigorate NATO have [undermined] Russia’s security.

“We have warned many times that we would have to take corresponding countermeasures to ensure our security,” Putin said.  “I would like to underline that we only take retaliatory steps.”  He and other officials have repeatedly boasted about new Russian nuclear missiles’ capability to penetrate any prospective missile shield.

Rather than focus, as so many will do, on the superficial content of Comrade Bear’s words, let’s instead briefly examine the cultural/symbolic allusions that permeate Wednesday’s missile test.  What’s a Bulava?  And who is Vladimir Monomakh?  It’s a good idea to ask.

Bulava_Kiev

Bulava

  • In the Ukrainian language, a buława or bulava is a mace or a club, in both the military and ceremonial senses.  Historically the buława was an attribute of a Hetman, an officer of the highest military rank or the military head of a Cossack state (Cossack Hetmanate).  The bulava is also an official symbol of the President of Ukraine.
  • Hetman (variants: Otaman, Ataman, Wataman, Vataman; Russian: атаман) was a title of Cossack leaders of various kinds. In the Russian Empire, the term Otaman was the official title of the supreme military commanders of the Cossack armies.  The Ukrainian “Hetman” form may derive from the German Hauptmann by way of Polish, like several other titles.  During certain historical periods, the supreme leader of Ukrainian Cossacks was called Hetman.

So:  the bulava is simultaneously a ceremonial accessory of the President of Ukraine (symbolizing his authority) and (historically) a badge of rank for the supreme military commander of the Ukrainian Cossack army under the Russian Empire.

Vladimir Monomakh

Grand Duke Vladimir Monomakh (1053 to 1125) was the last grand prince of Kiev able to unify the Ancient Rus’ within a coherent polity.

  • Kievan Rus’ was a loose federation of East Slavic tribes in Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century. The peoples of present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia all claim Kievan Rus’ as their cultural ancestors. The Kievan state prospered due to its abundant supply of furs, beeswax, honey, and slaves for export, and because it controlled three main trade routes of Eastern Europe.  Kievan Rus’ attained its greatest territorial extent under Yaroslav I (1019 to 1054); shortly after his death his sons assembled and issued its first written legal code, the Rus’ Justice.
  • The term “Kievan Rus'” (Ки́евская Русь) was coined in the 19th century by Russian historians to refer to the period when the capital was in Kiev.

Rus_trade_routes

  • Vladimir Monomakh was the son of Grand Prince Vsevolod I of Kiev’s Rurik Dynasty and Anastasia of the Byzantine Empire.  Anastasia is believed to be related to the family of the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachos, from whom Vladimir derived his surname.  Beginning in 1094, Vladimir’s chief patrimony was the southern town of Pereyaslav, although he also controlled Rostov, Suzdal, and other northern provinces.  In these lands he founded several towns, including his namesake, Vladimir, the future capital of Russia.
  • In 1107 he and his army defeated a Cuman invasion of Kievan Rus’ territory. When Grand Prince Sviatopolk II died in 1113, the Kievan populace revolted and summoned Vladimir to the capital. He entered Kiev to the great delight of the crowd and reigned there until his death in 1125. These years saw the last flowering of Ancient Rus, which was torn apart 10 years after his death.  Succeeding generations often referred to Vladimir’s reign as the golden age of Kiev.

 

Analysis/Synthesis

What might observers reasonably infer from the cultural touchstones associated with historicized symbols such as the bulava and Vladimir Monomakh?  Let’s review:

bulava

a symbol of the authority of Ukraine’s President.

an emblem of rank for the military commander of Ukranian Cossacks in the Russian Empire.

a warclub for smashing the skull of one’s enemy.

Vladimir Monomakh

defender of Kievan Rus’ from barbarian invasion.

unifier of the Rus’ nation and protector of the people.

founder of a Golden Age of peace and prosperity in Kievan Rus’

Executive authority.  Military command.  Defense against barbarism. A united people.  Fond memories of a Golden Age.  These are just some of the cultural themes evoked by two simple(!) terms.  That is to say, these are the themes evoked in Slavic minds, among people deeply familiar with Russian history and culture.

Elsewhere, in Western Europe and on the American continent, ‘bulava’ and ‘Vladimir Monomakh’ are nearly-empty nominal labels, which merely designate particular Russian weapons systems with particular capabilities. The larger cultural meaning is completely opaque to such observers. And that’s more than a pity, because it’s also a strategic Vulnerability.  When you don’t understand your adversary’s Intent, you can’t properly assess the Threat he may pose, and thus you don’t understand the Risk you’re implicitly, blindly accepting.  C – (I) = T^2 = R^3

Back at the beginning of this post, Lunghu made some broad, grandiose, sweeping claims about attempting a definition of the elements of adversary Intent. It might be better to describe the effort as one of groping toward the barest glimmer of a shadowy twilight from the depths of a pitch black cave.  John Boyd, the 20th C. military strategist perhaps best known for his use of the OODA Loop concept, made the claim that all men (and, Lunghu would add, women too) are motivated by the desire to preserve maximal freedom of action in building a better life for themselves and their kin.  In this context, the better life each seeks to build is one that each imagines for himself –or in concert with like-minded others.  Their imaginations may be shaped by literature, myth, dreams and visions, religious doctrine, or a historical narrative with particular emphases of one kind or another.  In this way, people who share a common culture construct a collective vision of their desired future by reconfiguring and redefining their collective memory of a partially imaginary and sometimes romanticized past.  What do they Intend?  They may not even know themselves.

 

Crimea nd Punishment

March 10, 2014

Lunghu has not been spending a great deal of time pondering the deep geopolitical significance of recent events in Ukraine.   Nor has he been reviewing that 19th C. English literature warhorse “The Charge of the Light Brigade” to glean any insights into the likely outcome … “cannons to the right of them, cannons to the left of them” is just about all you really have to know.   Instead, Lunghu was inspired to reflect upon the possible influence of 19th c. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky on 2014’s unfolding tragedy.

Dostoyevsky used the characters, dialogue and narrative in Crime and Punishment to articulate an argument against westernizing ideas in general.  The original title (“Преступление и наказание“) is not directly equivalent to the English “Crime and Punishment“.  “Преступление” is literally translated as a stepping across.  The [visual] image of crime as a crossing over a barrier or a boundary is [thus] lost in translation.

Raskolnikov

The novel’s principal protagonist is named Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov:

  • the root word raskol means a schism, or split;
  • raskolnik is “one who splits”;
  • the verb raskalyvat’ means “to cleave”, “to split” or “to break”.

And in case you’ve forgotten, the events of the novel are set in St. Petersburg, the ancestral home of … Comrade Bear.  It is therefore likely that Dostoyevsky’s emphasis on the importance of social cohesion, religious faith, and Slavic culture resonated strongly with the young bear cub when he first encountered this work, and perhaps remain a significant aspect of his worldview even today.  For whatever that’s worth.

To sum up:  Putin‘s imagination appears guided by Dostoyevsky, Medvedev‘s perhaps by Gogol.

gratuitous partial nudity

gratuitous partial nudity

Been Here, Done Hat

March 2, 2014

Somehow, Lunghu gets the feeling that a major focus of discussion in this weekend’s NSC Ukraine crisis cell has been whether or not to openly deploy space-based laser weapons against Russia’s munitions depots and military mobilization network nodes in the Don River basin.   Naturally, the naysayers are voicing concerns that Comrade Bear would go all-out cyber –or even partially nuclear– in response.   In addition, there are undoubtedly some longer-term thinkers in our nation’s military who are loath to disclose this particular capability prematurely: better to save it for an existential threat to the heimat itself.   What does Lungu think?  Time to party like there’s no tomorrow:  it’s carnival season.

bloco-da-lama_2013

Thousands of revelers, their bikinis and shorts invisible beneath thick, head-to-toe layers of black mud and their hair frozen into mud Mohawks, danced, drank and flung mud balls as sound trucks blasted bone-jarring rhythms at the “Bloco da Lama” Carnival street party in the Brazilian town of Paraty. The “Bloco da Lama” was founded in 1986 by two local teens who became Carnival sensations after they appeared in the city’s historic downtown covered in mud following a crab hunting expedition in a nearby mangrove swamp.

Bloco_da_Lama_201x

“You don’t need to buy anything, you don’t need to spend any money, your costume is here for the taking,” said 28-year-old actress Diana Rodrigues, as she pointed to the naturally occurring mudbanks along the Jabaquara beach in Paraty. “The whole point of Carnival is to transform into someone else for a few days to do things you would never do in real life. And being covered in mud transforms you in just that way.”

Paraty_20140301

For those of you planning next year’s excursion, Paraty is located halfway between Rio de Janiero and Sao Paulo on the western shore of Bahia da Ilha Grande.  Make mud, not war.   Now the bad news:  it’s not yet mud season in the United States … except in southern California.

Weird Al-liance

December 6, 2013

You may have heard:  Ukrainians are revolting.  No, no — Lunghu’s not referring to their cuisine or the diminished standards of cleanliness often imposed by a long, cold winter.  Here we’re talking about the current social upheaval (public protest, its attendant repression, etc.) that has resulted from Comrade Bear and Comrade Wolf’s proxy war to control the breadbasket of Europe.  But if you’re seeking a conventional analytical discourse about generational conflict, divergent social aspirations, democracy and so forth … what are you doing here?  Lunghu will almost always cede the strategically-insignificant low ground to the Beltway blitherati and their mainstream media mouthpieces: go read the Washington Post and New York Times if you must.

Protest_Lublin_20131201

Instead let’s briefly explore an obscure tangent, one of the little-noticed (perhaps deliberately ignored?) casualties of the Ukraine conflict.  Femen.  Harassed into exile, largely isolated from other political movements in the Ukraine, herded to the margins of social discourse in Europe, almost completely ignored in the world beyond.  Not so long ago, Femen’s protest actions would at least receive (modest) media coverage [irony intended] in Europe, if only because bare breasts beyond Page Three can sometimes help sell newspapers too.  But Femen’s relationship with the Fourth Estate began to head downhill after early 2013 cameo appearances in Davos, Notre Dame, and Tunis.  It’s one thing to focus political ire on the usual villainous suspects (Putin, Yanukovych, et al.) and quite another to publically challenge the patriarchs of capital, church and petro-islam.

Femen_Kiev_20131201

Editors and publishers in many media outlets began to characterize Femen demonstrations as ‘stunts’ or stopped reporting them altogether.  Perhaps it was merely that the novelty had worn off, or perhaps it was just the inexorable process of Propaganda Model journalism at work: Femen’s message probably isn’t something that broadsheet and tabloid advertisers want delivered to their target audiences.

Unfortunately, Femen hasn’t been agile enough to adapt.  Over-reliance on mass media dissemination of their message has become an organizational weakness and a strategic vulnerability.  In response, they’ve tried to double-down (or is it “up the ante”?) – card-playing tactics that sometimes reveal a gambler is substituting escalation and blind hope for careful analysis of the underlying mathematics.   In the past several months, Femen actions have become increasingly strident, scattershot (aimed at an ever-wider variety of targets), and outrageous —all in an attempt to regain media attention.  Wake up – it ain’t happenin’.  How far beyond topless can you go, anyway?  Zombie topless? Maybe once. Then what?  A music video with Weird Al Yankovic?

Here’s the latest, briefly covered only by the French press:  rather than burning in effigy, pissing on Viktor Yanukovych in the streets of Paris.  The law of diminishing returns is definitely in full effect.

Five women from the Femen feminist movement gathered in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Paris on Sunday, bared their breasts and urinated on photos of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to condemn a crackdown on protesters angry about his rejection of a key EU deal.  The EU agreement would have opened borders to trade with Europe and set the stage for an easing of travel restrictions but Yanukovych reneged at the last moment, saying his country could not afford to sacrifice relations with Russia.

Femen_Paris_20131202

This counts as a media splash? Only in the smallest possible sense of the term.  In Lunghu’s none-too-humble opinion, things at Femen have gotta change. It’s time for a new strategic plan, a new communications campaign, an improved mode of discourse.  And don’t count on Facebook and Twitter to get the job done, either.  This is an organization in crisis that urgently needs an internal coup d’etat, a revolt by the palace guard, an ideological purge … or perhaps a far more boring democratic/egalitarian reorganization.  Lunghu’s got some ideas.  Call him before you’re desperate.  He’d love to meet you in Paris.