Polish NATO Jets Buzz Russian Defense Minister’s Plane

I don’t know if you heard about this bit of news earlier this week—I think it was Wednesday—but two NATO F-16 fighter jets buzzed some Russian planes, one of which just happened to have Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on board.

I first saw the story in the American media. Here’s a link to USA Today’s take on it.

A NATO fighter jet buzzed the plane of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu before being chased off by a Russian jet in what would be the latest aerial confrontation between the West and Russia and its allies, Russian media reported Wednesday.

The Russian plane was flying over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea en route to the western Russian city of Kaliningrad when a NATO F-16 “attempted to make an approach” to Shoigu’s plane, RIA Novosti reported, citing its journalist on Shoigu’s plane. A Russian Su-27 fighter escorting the minister “displayed its weapons” and the F-16 flew off, the media outlet said.

Pretty usual, to be honest. Keep in mind this comes in the wake of a Russian fighter plane buzzing one of our jets recently. Allegedly the Russian plane came within five feet of the American plane! So yes, I do recognize this has been a recurring problem from the Russians. And in this case, the Russian planes were over neutral waters, but allegedly didn’t identify themselves when asked.

However, this incident I’m blogging about was a little bit different. You see, the Russian defense minister was on board. He was en route to Kaliningrad. It strikes me as more than a little coincidental that he was buzzed—I wonder if his schedule was known ahead of time. It seems like this was meant to send a specific signal to Russia. Not only that, but the Russians reported their take on the issue—and have a hilarious video as well. Here’s a video from TV Zvezda, the official media outlet of the Ministry of Defense.

The first plane we see is the NATO jet. Then a Russian Su-27 comes up, does a little wing tilt in the air to show off its weapons, and that’s that. Nothing bad happened, fortunately.

Until yesterday, I thought that was that, but then I saw a new development in the story. It has come out that the NATO jets belonged to Poland. Yes, Poland.

A pair of Polish F-16 supersonic multirole jets were on a NATO patrol mission when they were informed of Russian planes near the borders of countries whose airspace they were guarding, the broadcaster said.

According to RMF FM, they intercepted Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu’s Tu-154 plane and its two armed Su-27 jet escorts. According to Russian authorities, Shoigu was en-route to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, northeast of Poland, RMF FM reported.

The whole thing kind of ticks me off, to be honest, because it seems like Poland, who hates Russia, is basically playing chicken with a major nuclear power without regard for the consequences. And they can do it with impunity because if anything does happen, they’ve got NATO. This basically means Poland could drag the United States into a war with Russia over something stupid just because of NATO’s Article 5. Let me also remind you who pays the bulk of NATO’s costs. Hint: it’s not Poland. Scroll down to the section called “Direct funding of NATO” and you can see that the United States pays for 22% of the budget. Poland pays a measly 2%. Hey Poland, if you want to engage with Russian jets over neutral waters, how about coughing up a bit more money for this organization, huh?

Sigh. NATO should have been disbanded long ago. I’ve thought that for years and I still think that. It served its purpose during the Cold War. Now that’s over, NATO should be done with, too.

Putin the Patriot

Since I can’t embed the video, here’s a picture of Putin from his English Wikipedia page.

My mom sent me this video over the weekend. It’s an unedited (which I assume means unaired?) clip from Megyn Kelly’s recent interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. For some reason, the embed code will not work properly, so unfortunately you’re going to have to click through to the link above to see it. The video does have subtitles, so don’t worry if you don’t speak Russian. You’ll still be able to know what Putin says. (Though no doubt Putin himself would say that you ought to have started learning Russian yesterday, comrade!)

Leaving aside whether the interview was good or bad, whether Kelly’s questions were good or bad, and whether she should have conducted the interview in the first place, I want to focus on Putin’s answer to her question. I was really impressed at the depth of feeling in it. That, my dear readers, is what a true patriot looks like. That is a man who loves his country.

This isn’t meant to be a pro-Putin post. Unlike many people in the West, I don’t mind admitting that I like some of the things Putin has done over the years and sometimes agree with him. Other times, of course, I don’t see eye to eye with him, to put it lightly. But I cannot help but respect his patriotism evident in that interview. I find it quite… inspiring.

The Rehabilitation of Nicholas II By Natalia Poklonskaya

I’ve been a fervent anti-Communist ever since I was old enough to know what Communism is. This fact surprises some people, especially when they find out that I put years and years of effort into learning to speak Russian. I suppose they think that a love of the Soviet Union led me to study Russian. Even though it’s been gone for twenty-five years, it still looms large in many people’s imaginations.

The thing is, though, the Soviet Union was never what led me to Russian. It was imperial Russia—specifically, the imperial Russian family of the doomed last tsar, Nicholas II, and his wife and five children. They were what initially sparked my interest in the Russian language. (I feel like there’s a certain irony in that the form of Russian I learned is slightly different than what they spoke. After the Bolsheviks seized power, they enacted a wholesale orthographic reform of the Russian language. Certain letters were removed from the alphabet and the spellings of words were changed. Even some grammar was changed. As a result, I can read the pre-Revolutionary Russian, but couldn’t reliably produce it myself since I have never learned the spelling rules that were used at the beginning of the twentieth century.)
Continue reading “The Rehabilitation of Nicholas II By Natalia Poklonskaya”

7 Reads on the Radar

My friend J.T. has a fabulous new blog concerning books on Russia, which is one of my favorite topics. This is the latest post on said blog, concerning upcoming books on Russia. They all sound so interesting that I couldn’t help but reblog it!

Russia Reviewed

One of the “benefits” of Russia’s resurgence as a global power is that there is no shortage of new Russia book releases. Here are seven books scheduled for publication this year that I can’t wait to peruse.

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Review: Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia

Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia
Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia by Marshall I. Goldman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, this was a REALLY good book. I appreciated how fair and balanced it was towards Russia. Usually, books written by Westerners are so anti-Russian that they ignore facts. (See: Edward Lucas’ work and Masha Gessen’s work, among others.) This book was overall very fair and balanced.

In particular, I wish I could force every Russia-watcher to read Chapter 5, titled “Putin Takes Over: The Return of the Czar.” Specifically, the section starting at “The Attack on Yukos” is very, very informative and important. This section makes some important points, namely: 1) Pretty much everyone who got rich in Russia in the 1990s did so illegally, so in this sense Putin’s prosecution of Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky was unfair, and 2) Khodorkovsky certainly was not the angel he’s been portrayed as in Western literature. He stole people’s money in the 1990s when his Menatep Bank folded (I’ve had Russia watchers tell me this never happened, but it did. The author of this book, who is definitely not pro-Putin, agrees with me and cites actual sources.) He was probably involved in some contract killings—if not directly, then by turning a blind eye to his subordinates who perpetrated them.

The author also dis-spells the myth that Khodorkovsky wanted to reform Russian business and make it transparent and “normal,” for lack of a better term, as it is in the United States. Westerners think this means he was a good businessman, crusading against corruption. Not so, according to the author. Instead, he says Khodorkovsky embraced rule of law so that no one could do to his business empire what he did to acquire it (i.e. steal it). For reference, this passage is at location 2136 in my Kindle edition of the book. I don’t have actual page numbers, unfortunately. In a somewhat delicious irony, this didn’t help, and Khodorkovsky was arrested and his business broken up and sold.

Anyway, that’s just one example of many from this book that’s so fascinating. The author really does a good job of keeping balanced. To continue the Yukos example, he criticizes the Russian government for jailing Yukos lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina, which I don’t fully agree with either.

The only criticism I could mount is the author’s position about the 1999 apartment bombings that let to a re-ignition of the Chechen War. He gives more credence to the theory that the FSB planted the bombs in order to blame them on the Chechens than is warranted. I am familiar with the theory and think it’s completely wrong. I suppose the author and I would have to agree to disagree on this. It is because of this that I downgraded the book by one star—otherwise, I probably would have given it five stars.

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Russian Politician Suggests Burying Lenin’s Body

I kept forgetting to blog about this excellent news I saw at the end of last year, so here it is, a bit late. (But better late than never, right?) The Royal Russia blog (one of my favorite sources for all things Imperial Russia-related) has a story about a Russian politician who has suggested burying Vladimir Lenin’s body. Right now, Lenin’s embalmed corpse lies in a mausoleum on Red Square. Yes, it’s just as disgusting and gruesome as it sounds.

Russian State Duma Deputy Ivan Konstantin Sukharev – a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) – has introduced to the State Duma, a bill urging his colleagues to resume the debate on the burial of Vladimir Lenin and the transfer of his body to one of Moscow’s cemeteries. His bill also calls for the elimination of the cemetery where prominent Bolshevik and Soviet officials are buried near the Kremlin wall in Moscow.

According to Sukharev, the purpose of drafting the bill is necessary – “for the creation and promotion of the new symbols of Russia, reflecting the historical stage of unity, awareness of national identity of Russians building a democratic state, free from the domination of ideology – whose symbol remains Lenin’s mausoleum.”

“Russia cannot be considered a modern civilized state as long as a corpse remains in Red Square – the main square of the nation – the existence of Lenin’s mausoleum is simply unacceptable. Further, the misery and deprivation which Lenin’s actions and policies brought down upon his people and the state are incalculable,” – said Ivan Sukharev.

He also notes: “In my view, Lenin in the history of Russia is quite unique. We know that during the 22-year reign of Nicholas II, that Russia’s population increased by 60 million people. After Lenin seized power the nation experienced revolution and a Civil War, the population decreased by at least 30 million – clearly a very negative statistic in the history of our nation. ”

The bill also notes that many descendants of immigrants who wish to return to our country, are so far unable to do so, identifying the mausoleum of the Bolshevik regime leader that had brought so much suffering to their families.

“The proposal to bury the remains of Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) has long been supported by the hierarchs of the Church. Further, the existence of Lenin’s mausoleum is incompatible with the religious traditions and Russian society’s growing desire for Christian values” – is also stated in the draft law.

I for one fully support burying Lenin once and for all. Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen, though. This isn’t the first time politicians have talked about it.

Who Killed Alexander Litvinenko?

Alexander Litvinenko, date unknown.
Alexander Litvinenko, date unknown.

I read this fascinating article earlier this year (in the end of January), sent it to my mom in an email with extensive commentary, then very foolishly forgot to post it here on my blog. The article, which appeared in Newsweek—that’s a mainstream publication, mind you—is called Who Killed Litvinenko? Perhaps Not Russia After All.

(If you’re not familiar with the Litvinenko case, consider reading this Wikipedia article. It’s quite comprehensive, if a bit biased in certain places.)

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the Newsweek article. If you haven’t read it, you probably should or this post won’t make sense. 🙂

This is the only article I’ve ever read in the mainstream Western media that at least considers the possibility that the Russian state wasn’t involved in this. And the inconsistencies of the case are certainly interesting.
Continue reading “Who Killed Alexander Litvinenko?”