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Stu Cvrk @STUinSD
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Thread: On Understanding Russia (and Putin), Part III

1. 1. The purpose of this series of threads is to put Russian motives in context from their point of view – something that is sorely lacking in (and a downright failure of) the legacy media.
2. Part I provided some background on Russian aggression and suggested measures to counter that aggression. It was provided as general information and a lead-in to this and the other threads in this series.
3. Part II examined Putin’s motivations and internal support, as well as the US/NATO strategic blunder after the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO’s eastward expansion after from 1990 to the present, and the German “Ostpolitik” question.
4. In this thread, an old IC guy examines Putin/Russia's recent adventurism and hybrid warfare in Russia’s "Near Abroad" (the countries adjacent to its current borders) against the background of the Russian historical context.
5. Pan-Slavic/Greater Russia. One of the most dangerous elements of Putinism and Russian revanchism is his vision of Pan-Russianism and Pan-Slavism.
6. During the Tsarist and Soviet eras, Russian bureaucrats, internal exiles, and economic colonists spread throughout many of the adjacent conquered nations, in large numbers in some cases.
7. A key platform in Putin's foreign policy popularly appeals to bring these lost Russian ethnic minorities in the Baltics, Ukraine, Caucasus, and Central Asia back into a Greater Russia – ….
7A. …not by having them move to Russia, but rather by Russia somehow (hybrid warfare!) reclaiming chunks of its former empire in the now-independent Former Soviet Union Republics of the Near Abroad.
8. A corollary to Putin's Pan-Slavism is to bring historically pro-Russian Slavic Orthodox entities in the Balkans (especially Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria) back into a new Russian empire, or at least securely under the Russian sphere of influence.
9. Once again, this reminds one of Hitler's mystical Pan-Germanic policies of the 1930s that ostensibly justified his hegemonic annexations of the Saar, Rhineland, Austria, Sudetenland, and ultimately of the Danzig Corridor and Upper Silesia in September 1939!
10. Crimea. The Crimea and the Sea of Azov (Primorozhye) area have been a part of Russia since they were conquered and annexed by Catherine the Great in 1783.
11. The Crimea remained ethnically heavily Russian with Great Russian colonists introduced by state policy from the time of Catherine all the way down to Soviet times.
12. Crimean Russian and Soviet naval base complexes like Sevastopol were always populated by ethnic Russians from many parts of the USSR.
13. Because the native Tatars (leftover hated Mongol and Islamic invaders of the Middle Ages, usually allied with Russia's Ottoman enemies) and some Ukrainians on the Crimea initially collaborated with the invading Germans during World War II, ….
13A. … a vengeful Stalin after 1945 ethnically cleansed most of the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians to remote areas of the Urals, Central Asia, and Siberia--leaving more room for Russians.
14. The Crimea was an integral part of the RFSR until 1954, when Ukrainian Communist Party boss & emergent successor to Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, with the stroke of a pen (& without any plebiscite) arbitrarily assigned the Crimea region to the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic.
15. It remained part of Ukraine until the 2014 hybrid warfare invasion by Putin's “Little Green Men.” Given the course of history, most of Europe appears disinterested in long enforcing sanctions against Russia for taking back the Crimea, which was historically Russian anyway.
16. The Russian ethnic majority on Crimea probably would have easily won an honest free plebiscite for returning to Russia anyway (the one they did win was rigged, of course).
17. Ukraine. Kyiv was the birthplace of the Russian Orthodox Church (and of the Cyrillic alphabet script) in the 9th century A.D., as a distinctive branch of the Byzantine Greek Orthodox Church.
18. It's interesting that in recent months for the first time in 1200 years the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is intent on divorcing the pro-Putin and very nationalistic Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy!
19. Kyiv and Ukrainian river ports were the entrepôts and the key trading routes between the Vikings and the Byzantine and Islamic empires throughout the Middle Ages.
20. They facilitated the emergence of the neo-Viking "Rus" and "Varingian" elites (ruling over masses of Slav peasants) who eventually established the duchies and principalities of Muscovy, Novgorod, and other Medieval city-states ….
20A. …that later were the foundation of the Russian state and culture in the 12th-13th centuries.
21. Ukraine was a flat invasion corridor for the Mongol Hordes and their Tatar Khanates successors against Russia till the 16th century, and later saw invasions by hegemonic Polish and Swedish kingdoms--until the defeat of the Swedes at Poltava by Peter the Great in 1706.
22. Catherine the Great decisively defeated the divided and weakened Tatar Khanates in campaigns from 1776 to 1783.
23. The Ottoman Turks were repeatedly defeated by Russian armies and rolled back from Ukraine, the Black Sea's northern shore, and parts of what is now Romania and Bulgaria throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
24. The Dnepr and Don Rivers valleys of eastern Ukraine (and the rich coal and iron industrial Donbass Basin) historically were settled by ethnic Russians in late Tsarist and Soviet eras--as labor for grain farming and large state industrial enterprises.
25. Also, the brigand Cossack tribes that were native to the steppes region of eastern Ukraine from the 13th to the 20th centuries often allied themselves as mercenaries to the Tsars and Soviets against their common traditional enemies, the Mongol Hordes and Tatar Khanates.
26. Note that in the (somewhat rigged) Ukrainian elections after independence in 1991, the ethnic Russian majority in Donetsk, Dneprovsk, Zaporozhye, and Crimea regions consistently voted for pro-Moscow candidates and presidents like Yanukovich.
27. Under Bush and Obama, the US politically and financially supported Ukraine's anti-Moscow Orange Revolution and the successful 2014 nationalist coup against the pro-Russian Yanukovich regime.
28. Hmmmmm…was the Russian takeover of Crimea and of the separatist Don/Dnepr region a pre-planned riposte to the expulsion of Yanukovich from Kyiv in Feb 2014? Inquiring minds wish to know!
29. Under @POTUS, the US has intensified support for Kyiv and for the first time provided lethal and naval (SAMs, anti-tank missiles, coast guard cutters and patrol boats) against Russian-armed separatists in the rump Russian entities in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
30. Recently, Ukraine has re-intensified NATO and bilateral military exercises with the US, as well as economic integration negotiations with the EU.
31. The Baltics: What is now Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia historically at various times were parts of Swedish, Finnish, Danish, and Polish kingdoms, and also of the Germanic Teutonic Knights Templars' duchies in the Middle Ages crusading against heathen Slavic tribes.
32. The Teutonic (German) Knights ruled vast agricultural estates over masses of Slav and Balt peasants from their formidable castles. Kaliningrad (Konigsberg) was always an integral part of East Prussia until 1945, and it remains since then a virtual Russian military colony.
33. As the Russian state (after the defeat and absorption of Novgorod by Ivan the Terrible) increasingly sought access to a sea trade window on the Baltic, it fought near-constant wars with the European kingdoms that stood in the way ….
33A. …until Peter the Great's decisive defeat of Sweden, founding of St. Petersburg, and establishment of the major naval base at Kronshtadt Island.
34. During the Tsarist and Soviet periods, ethnic Russian colonists were encouraged to settle in the Baltic territories to dilute the indigenous peoples and to cement Russian control of the areas.
35. This is why today each of the 3 Baltic states still have as much as a 30% ethnic Russian minority who are often treated by their host governments as untrustworthy second-class citizens with dangerous loyalty to Moscow & poor language skills in Latvian, Livonian, and Estonian.
36. Putin would like to return these displaced Russians to Mother Russia and also to re-establish control of the eastern Baltic as a Russian lake, rolling back NATO from this dangerous salient deep into the Russian heartlands.
37. Georgia and the Caucasus. Tsarist Russia's conquest of the Caucasus and Trans-Caucasus took from the late 18th century through the first half of the 19th century.
38. Thereafter, frequent major uprisings and independent Caucasian "republics" persisted into the 1920s. In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, Russia fought 3 bitter and costly wars against Chechen nationalist and Islamist separatists (and perhaps it ain't over yet!).
39. Putin's hardline suppression of the Chechens and other Islamist rebels (e.g., Daghestanis) has been popular with Russians, who resent the heavy casualties of the wars and of numerous brutal Chechen terrorist massacres ….
39A. …in Russian schools (Beslan), apartment blocks, theaters, and hijacked planes. Chechens in Russia also are often viewed derisively and stereotypically as the worst Mafiya hit men, drug dealers, and human traffickers.
40. Georgia emerged after independence in 1991 with a strongly independent line under Gorbachov's ally and ex-foreign minister Edvard Shevardnadze, and then under increasingly anti-Russian presidents and political parties.
41. A huge problem for Russia was US and European governments and companies intervened in the 1990s to ensure that the critical pipeline infrastructures taking oil and natural gas to markets from Azerbaijan and the Trans-Caspian would pass from Baku ….
41A. … through pro-Western Georgia to Georgian and Turkish Black Sea and Mediterranean ports--rather than up through the Russian northern Caucasus. Russia thus lost a key economic lever on Europe.
42. Commerce with the west will be expedited via the “New Transcaucasian Railway.” Oh, by the way, the Chinese are involved in it, too!
42A. Connecting the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean via Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline ended a Russian monopoly on Central Asian hydrocarbon exports and shortened the transit time required to reach European markets when it was completed in 2006
43. The project’s investors were an unsurprising assembly of Western oil giants hailing from the UK, the US, France, Italy, and Norway, plus Japan and Azerbaijan.
44. While the pipeline carries a little more than 1% of global oil flows today, the effort helped bring economic and political opportunities to a region severely lacking in them."

Read the rest here:…
45. The 2017 completion of the Western-sponsored Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway also now bypasses Russia for Trans-Caspian and Trans-Caucasus freight trade with Europe.
46. Georgia was key to all of this, and the Russian war on Georgia in 2008 was retaliatory in nature (although the Georgians made the first moves and fired the first shots).
47. Also, an ethnic map of the Caucasus region and even of smallish Georgia would reveal a complex puzzle of historically mutually-hostile Muslim and Christian tribes and nationalities.
48. Ethnic minorities within Georgia's Abkhaziya, Adzhariya, and South Ossetia regions sought and received Russian military support – driving out Georgian government forces and establishing Russian garrisons and political recognition of the regions' independence from Georgia.
49. This is a situation that persists today. Georgia's close relations with the USA and Israel (former VP Joe Biden is especially fond of Georgian lobbyists) have deflected further Russian military invasion and destabilization attempts against Tbilisi.
50. Without Russian threats, Georgia probably would have joined NATO by now – a tricky proposition, since Russia could defeat and occupy Georgia rapidly before sufficient NATO forces could come to its defense, but then further Russia-NATO escalation could ensue.
51. Moldova. Moldova was already a "wild-west" haven for smugglers, arms traffickers, and drug traffickers by the 1980s.
52. After the Soviet collapse in Dec 1991, the Soviet 14th Army headquartered in Kishinev did not disband or return to garrisons elsewhere in the Former Soviet Union.
53. It essentially did what Chiang Kai-shek's defeated armies did in Asia's Golden Triangle and went into illicit business and politics, ruling the rump Moldova republic with an iron fist.
54. The 14th Army's allegiance ultimately has continued to be to Moscow rather than to Kyiv, as Moldova is a mixed pot of many small Romanian and Slavic ethnic minority tribes, mostly at a rudimentary level of economic and political development.
55. Moldova always was and remains a mostly lawless frontier region. It is a place that should be on nobody’s bucket list to visit!
56. This ends Part III of the thread series. In the next thread, we will examine the Russia-China relationship and the threat posed by Putin’s Russia, and then finish off the series with a final summary and some conclusions. ///The end.
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