Friday, April 29, 2016

German public opinion on Russia

The Program for the Future of Europe and the Polish Institute of Public Affairs has released a new survey of the state of relations between Germany and the rest of Europe , with a focus on Russia.  Given the understandable geographic obsession of Poles over the Germany-Russia relationship, it behooves reading.  I've extracted a few graphics below, but there are many more in the report:

My take-away from this study is that Germans seem to have decreased their feelings for Russia as a country, while at the same time gaining kinship on a personal basis with Russians as a people.  However, the title of the report "Frayed Partnership" seems to be inaccurate since there was no such thing to start with.  That would of course be the Polish nightmare come true, but still just a national paranoia rather than any kind of reality.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Unmarried births are becoming the norm in Western Europe, share falling in Eastern Europe

Unmarried births are becoming the norm in Western Europe, share falling in Eastern Europe

(  The significance of marriage slowly started to decline as early as in 1970, a process linked to the advance of secularization in many countries and gains made in the economic independence of women in many places. Northern Europe is the forerunner of this development: By 1990, the share of unmarried births had already increased fourfold, whereas in Western and Central Europe it had started to grow significantly as late as in 1980 and in Southern and Eastern Europe only after 1990.

In Northern Europe, the increase already seems to have reached its peak. In Western Europe, by contrast, the share of non-marital births has continued to rise in recent years. In many parts of Northern and Western Europe, there are already more births out of wedlock than births within marriage (cf. Fig. 2). In these countries, the suburban belts around large cities seem to be the last strongholds of the traditional family, as Klüsener has shown by the example of Denmark. People who favor alternative lifestyles often are prevalent in the inner-city areas, but the suburban belts with its access to well-paid jobs in the city and low housing prices seem to attract families that have more traditional ideas.

Eastern Europe, a region comprising non-EU countries on former Soviet Union territory, is an interesting deviation from the general trend. In 1960, this part of Europe had the highest proportion of births outside marriage. Today it has the lowest. Eastern Europe currently is also the only European region where the trend is declining. Klüsener comes up with several possible reasons: The economic situation has improved significantly compared to the 1990s, possibly leading to reduced marriage postponement. Eastern Europe is also one of the few regions of Europe where religion is gaining in importance and old traditions are returning. These traditions seem to have disappeared under the strong influence of the Soviet state.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Russian Hybrid Warfare and Other Dark Arts

(War on the Rocks Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, hybrid warfare has become conversational short form in the West for describing Moscow’s sneaky ways of fighting war. If there’s one thing you’ve learned over the past two years about Russia, it’s that it uses hybrid warfare, a dangerous Kremlin innovation the West must learn to grapple with. In two short years, the word has mutated from describing how Moscow was fighting its war in Ukraine to incorporating all the various elements of Russian influence and national power. The term continues to evolve, spawning iterations like “multi-vector hybrid warfare” in Europe. Hybrid warfare has become the Frankenstein of the field of Russia military analysis; it has taken on a life of its own and there is no obvious way to contain it.
Today’s conversation on Russia’s use of hybrid warfare has become a discourse on something more arcane, resembling black magic. Generalizations about “Russian hybrid warfare” are not only unhelpful, but are becoming a cliché. Arthur C. Clarke once told us that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” yet Russian hybrid warfare hardly seems befitting such a description. Many, to include Frank Hoffman himself, have pointed out that hybrid approaches are not new, but perhaps as old as warfare itself. If that is so, then what makes Russia’s hybrid warfare so noteworthy? If it’s not inventive or innovative, then why the hype?
Frederick the Great said centuries ago that “he who defends everything defends nothing.” We spend too much time chasing hybrid ghosts, confusing ourselves, and diffusing lines of effort. In Washington, Russian hybrid warfare has come to embody Frederick’s warning on defending everything; while in Europe they seek to defend against Moscow everywhere. If the West is to come up with a political and military strategy that deals with Russia, it must start by killing bad narratives and malformed analysis: Russian hybrid warfare should be the first on that list.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Refugee crisis shakes political allegiances of ‘Russia-Germans’

(Financial Times)  For years, they mostly backed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, often out of respect for former chancellor Helmut Kohl, who opened Germany’s doors to ethnic Germans from eastern Europe following the cold war. They mostly worked hard, secured jobs and sought to integrate; some saw themselves as even more German than the Germans.

But the refugee crisis has shaken certainties around the 2.5m so-called “Russia-Germans” — descendants of farmers who moved east centuries ago but kept their culture. In last month’s regional elections, many gravitated towards the immigration-sceptic Alternative for Germany party that scored big gains in the polls opposing Ms Merkel’s open-door policy.
Russia-Germans are descended from settlers recruited in the 18th century by Catherine the Great who came to live along the Volga river, giving rise to their original name, Volga Germans. During the second world war, Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union leader, saw them as potential collaborators and transported them to Siberia and central Asia, where many died. Yet despite persecution, many retained their German language and culture.

Back in the present day, the success of the AfD in Pforzheim raises the prospects of further electoral gains among Russia-Germans, adding to the complexity of Germany’s fragmenting political landscape. Security experts also warn the radicalisation of some Russia-Germans increases the chances of Moscow using them as a political weapon as it seeks to undermine German and EU stability.
The newcomers’ lack of integration barely registered politically until the Ukraine crisis exploded in late 2013. Taking their news from Russian TV, many Russia-Germans developed quite different views from those who followed events via German media. That was the moment “everything caught fire”, according to Waldemar Eisenbraun, Russia-German Association president.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Erdogan's Satanic Verses

After hearing Jan Boehmermann's satirical poem about Erdogan that got him (and Merkel) in so much trouble (and which has been systematically eliminated from the internet but can still be found here), I had the sense I had heard it before.  At first I thought of Shakespeare who wrote some jabbing insults, but then it came to me.  This is a modern day version of the Zaporozhian "Letter to the Sultan":   

Jan Boehmermann's satirical poem about Erdogan

Ballsgoofy, cowardly and jammed is Erdogan the president!
His balls are stinking bad from doener even a pigfart smells nicer.
He is the man that kicks the girls while wearing rubbermasks.
He prefers to fuck a goat while suppressing minorities .
Kurds occur , Christians slapping while looking childporn
and even in the evening instead of sleeping, felazio with hundred sheeps.
Yes Erdogan is fully a President with a small tail .
Every Turk hear flutes, the stupid Pig has shrunken balls.
From Ankara to Istanbul everyone knows this man is gay.
Pervers, lousy and zoophile Recep Fritzl Priklopil .
His Head is empty as his balls , the star of every gangbang party,
until his dick burns when he piss which is Recep Erdogan President of Turkey!

Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan

O sultan, Turkish devil and damned devil's kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can't slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil excretes, and your army eats. You will not, you son of a bitch, make subjects of Christian sons; we've no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck your mother.
You Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, pig of Armenia, Podolian thief, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig's snout, mare's arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw your own mother!
So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. You won't even be herding pigs for the Christians. Now we'll conclude, for we don't know the date and don't own a calendar; the moon's in the sky, the year with the Lord, the day's the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!

If anything, Boehmermann should be tried for plagerism.  Not only is the language similar, even the length is almost identical.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Russia 'more dangerous than IS' says Poland foreign minister

Bratislava (AFP) - Russia is more dangerous than the Islamic State group, Poland's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told reporters Friday during a visit to Slovakia.

"By all evidence, Russia's activity is a sort of existential threat because this activity can destroy countries," said Waszczykowski, who was speaking in a debate on the future of NATO at the annual Globsec security forum in Bratislava.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

I haven't had time to watch Putin's yearly call-in show, but saw this quote in the Washington Post that made me chuckle, because it perfectly embodies a dark but also remarkably perceptive Russian humor:

When a 12-year-old girl asked Putin if he would save Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko if they were drowning and who would he will save first, Putin responded wryly that “if someone decided to get drowned, it’s impossible to save him.”

I found a YouTube video of the question and attached it.  The response is actually a great deal more nuanced what the Washington Post quoted, but that is what one expects from the rabidly Russophobic WP.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Trouble in Panama

The Panama Papers showed both Putin and Poroshenko, as well as other world leaders, in a bad light.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Russia eyes boost in foreign arms sales

From the International Business Times:

Russia’s military involvement in Syria since the end of September has paid off for the country’s defense industry with increased interest that could result in new sales estimated at approximately $6 billion.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Hidden Story of Crimea’s Economic Success

by Jon Hellevig

"Recently Crimea celebrated the 2nd anniversary of its reunification with Russia, marked on the day of the referendum that ended the Ukrainian occupation. Much has been written about the political and geopolitical aspects of the reunification as well as the social sentiments of the people, but little has been said about the economy. I want to lift the lid on that because the results of the economic transition are in fact quite impressive, especially considering the arduous hurdles that had to be overcome in the process."

  • Price inflation of 70% over two years of adapting from the Ukrainian to the Russian economy
  • Salaries rose 112% over the same period - workers have a net incease of 40% over two years
  • Unemployment is down
  • Major increase in tourism revenue
 In conclusion:

"The infrastructure projects reported above come with an approximate cost of 700 bn rubles, or approximately $10 bn. On top of that Russia has supported the regional budget of Crimea by a couple of billion dollars in 2014 and about one in 2015, approximately the same level could be expected for this year.

"But, the interesting fact is that all these investments have already been paid back in one year in 2015. Proceeding from the economic logic of the opponents of reunification, I compare the savings of Russia on outbound tourism on the investments in Crimea. As three million more Russians tourists travelled to Crimea instead of going abroad, the national economy saved about $10 billion in 2015 and probably 12 to 15 billion in 2016. Thus the savings from 2015 covered the whole infrastructure investment program up to 2020 as well as the budget transfers, the 2016 savings will then cover the next 10 years of budget transfers, if any will be needed. And each coming year after that the whole amount of savings translates into a profit for the national economy.

"By the way, this is not fantasy, but economic facts confirmed by the balance of payment statistics of the Central Bank. The statistics show that expenditure on outbound tourism was down in 2015 over the previous year by some $25 billion. Luckily, there are enough savings over to feed Sochi, other Krasnodar resorts, and many other beautiful parts of Russia.

"Crimeans will hardly pine for the bad old Ukrainian days when the central government invested annually about $120 million in the economy, as reported by the ousted former prime minister Nikolay Azarov."
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