Wednesday, November 07, 2007

So Much For Appeasement

It's November 7th, 2007, the 90th anniversary of the communist revolution in Russia.

News of the day:

1) Russia is demanding that Latvia make Russian a state language. Anyone still admiring the Latvians' ratification of the border treaty and generally playing nice with Moscow recently? This is a particularly excellent statement to make right now, when the country's economy is suspect and the government is on unsure footing. There's definitely someone in the Kremlin looking to repeat history and arrange for Russian military assistance to help maintain the peace in an embattled Latvia (for the next however many decades).

2) Russia is unilaterally pulling out of the European common arms limitation treaty. Now, one cool trick my high school history teacher showed us was to take a look at the orders of battle before the start of WWII, and then use that data to deduce which countries were actually intending to go to war. (Hint: it wasn't France.) A particularly cute statement is the head of the Army general staff going on record saying that Moscow is worried about a build-up of arms in the Baltic states.

Given that the chance of the Baltic Batallion invading Russia is fairly negligible, I come back to my theory that the Russian authorities aren't even bothering to lie any more - you just have to listen to what they're actually saying. They're not worried that the Baltics are a threat to Russia's security, they're worried that the Baltics might have a more formidable defense than they would like.

Scared yet?


Giustino said...

Their idea of Latvia is one that is nominally independent ... a sort of special region of Russia with its own particular ethnic flavor and cute flags ...

Here's an interesting statement:

The diplomat said Latvia, where native Russian speakers account for at least 30% of the population, is the only ex-Soviet state to treat Russian as a foreign language.

Why, could he be familiar with Estonia's law on cultural autonomies, which names Russians as a national minority? Or did he just forget about Estonia?

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "the orders of battle before the start of WWII"? Rules of engagement, marching orders or what, can you give an example? What sort of time frame do you mean, months or years?

-- ipmal

space_maze said...

This, combined with Putin's recent befriending of such .. charming characters .. like Ahmadinejad, most certainly does not bode well.

I can't say I quite know what they are up to, though. I can't believe they'd be so nuts as to attack NATO members. I do hope this is just a whole lot of posturing, to boast the leadership's support by making Russia seem "strong". But I have been wrong before.

Oh well. If they attack, feel free to put up a refugee camp in my back yard. :p

antyx said...

Not to underestimate the incompetence of the Russian Foreign Ministry, but I think it's a mistranslation... the Russian text mentioned six degrees of language status, and they're pissed off that Latvia has assigned it the lowest of these degrees. Not sure what measurements they're using.

What do you mean by "the orders of battle before the start of WWII"?

Order of battle is a record of the available forces - soldiers, equipment, ammo, etc. IIRC, just before the start of WWII, the Soviet army stood at about 1,3 million active servicemen, not counting reserves. Germany had something on that order as well.

I can't believe they'd be so nuts as to attack NATO members.

They don't think in the same terms, you see. They honestly can't believe NATO would stand up for Estonia. There was an interesting little factoid right around the April riots, somebody from the Russian FM mentioned at a conference that they are most confused by the lack of a single authority within the EU that they can talk to and make deals with. It's a mentality issue, they have no understanding of independence and cooperation.

Remember, the only time in history Article 5 was invoked (just after 9/11), it was roundly ignored.

Giustino said...

They don't think in the same terms, you see. They honestly can't believe NATO would stand up for Estonia.

Russia's Europe policy won't favor that kind of engagement. They don't want to create that kind of instability that will sour their ability to cut deals with the Germans, Dutch, and Hungarians.

They are already creating the situations to apply pressure without firing a shot -- things such as pipelines, pulling out of military treaties, et cetera.

Not to mention the bag of dirty tricks (dropping missiles in fields, building tensions around monuments) to attempt and weaken governments they deem not to be in their favor.

The Russians, I think, have different policies towards Estonia and Latvia.

The Russian policy towards Estonia is the "Kekkoslovakia" policy -- Estonia will become the fiefdom of Edgar Savisaar, Estonia's Urho Kekkonen, who will paint his cheeks blue, black, and white, and give them everything they want. They honestly thought he would win in March. Maybe they still have some faith in him. I don't see them cuddling up with any other local politicians.

With Latvia I see them basically trying to flex both their political and economic power to turn Latvia into an extension of the Russian Federation. Their president will be like a local governor. Their business elite will all be oriented towards Moscow.

So yes, I am scared, to answer your question.

Jens-Olaf said...

Then Latvia is the key. Maybe Putin's Russia has succeeded with the border treaty but Latvia withstood the pressure in 1991 with the most difficult demography. And I agree with Aleks or Peteris here, the Latvians must be really threatened to get into gear or what ever expression that fits here.

space_maze said...

They don't think in the same terms, you see. They honestly can't believe NATO would stand up for Estonia.

I guess a better question then would be if NATO actually would stand up for Estonia.

I'm actually still naive enough to believe so, in spite of Estonia's history. As unimportant as Estonia might be to the grand sceme of things, NATO would have its reputation to save.

Ergo, I can't really see a Russian invasion of the Baltics lest it happens in a grander conflict. Which .. *gulp*


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