A first-rate documentary [unfortunately just in Russian] on the Sept. 1999 apartment bombings in Russia. Twenty-one years later, there is a lot of uncertainty over what happened, and conspiracy theories about alleged involvement by the FSB and even Putin personally.
@pivo_varov's conclusion is that in all likelihood the bombings were carried out by the Chechen terrorists, not the FSB, which doesn't preclude a botched cover-up operation in relation to the unexploded apartment in Ryazan. An honest conclusion, which I'd endorse.
@pivo_varov is spot on in arguing that the deep underlying problem is the FSB's unwillingness to come into the open, which only (rightly) breeds conspiracy theories and undermines public trust in the State.Many skeletons locked away in those closets. Some will fall out with time.
Many never will.

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More from @DrRadchenko

21 Nov
Oh, didn't know that: apparently when the North Koreans and the South Koreans published their 4 July 1972 Joint Declaration (an epochal document for dialogue on the Korean Peninsula), the North Koreans didn't even bother to inform their ally, the USSR.
Check out Brezhnev and Kosygin complaining that they literally heard this on the radio. (Apparently, Kosygin tuned in to the BBC - what, he listened to the BBC?): Image
Brezhnev speculates that the South Koreans probably warned the Americans (this was true). But you have to feel for the Soviets who had such a useless ally as North Korea.
Read 4 tweets
21 Nov
Brezhnev & Kosygin here seen complaining about the fact that the Vietnamese would not supply samples of downed US equipment to the Soviets. "They say 'yes, yes, yes'. They promise all the time." But "we have not received anything from them."
Curiously, the Soviets had much better luck with their non-Communist allies in Egypt who would actually provide them with the captured Israeli (often US-supplied) military equipment.
On the scale of 1 to 10 (1=least reliable; 10=most reliable), the Vietnamese were never above 2 or 3 for the USSR. A real pain! (I guess it got worse, e.g. Albania and Romania).
Read 4 tweets
19 Nov
smh.com.au/world/asia/if-…. An interesting article. You can see where the Chinese govt is coming from in escalating this. They are thinking that Australia needs China more than China needs Australia; therefore China could strike preemptively, "kill the chicken to scare the monkey."
You can see the logic in this comment, by a nameless Chinese official. Image
In this case, any losses for China are seen as more than compensated by the "lessons" for the rest of the world, and by gains for China's credibility. The downside is that such "lessons" will backfire on China if the chickens adopt a common approach to dealing with the threat.
Read 6 tweets
15 Nov
Okay, I'll do a proper thread on Khrushchev and Robert Frost. What a combination! First of all, although a great admirer of Frost's poetry, I never read his biography, so I don't know what he was doing in Gagra in 1962.
Gagra is a lovely little resort town just south of the Russian border in today's Abkhazia. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged in the civil war in the early 1990s (many of the formerly glorious palaces still stand abandoned, and overgrown with lush vegetation).
In the Soviet timies, Gagra was a summer destination for vacationers who would pack its many sanatoriums and the long beach. Khrushchev's villa was in Pitsunda, just south. He'd spent his vacations there and in fact was overthrown two years later while he was at Pitsunda.
Read 17 tweets
14 Nov
A champion among bad takes on Russia, which starts out by setting Putin up as an "existential threat" to the West. I am glad the author does not propose to nuke Russia outright. On the contrary, there's some sensible noise here about arms control talks. foreignpolicy.com/2020/11/13/bid….
The problem with these rubbish takes is a) they overstate the extent to which Europeans share a view of Russia as an existential threat, and b) they understate shared challenges, including nuclear proliferation, climate change, disease, poverty, corruption etc.
The upside for Putin, of course, is that viewing him as an existential threat to the West feeds into his legitimacy narrative. The downside is that the failure to approach Russia pragmatically will only feed the spiral of confrontation and enable bad policy on both sides.
Read 4 tweets
13 Nov
From the annals of Soviet decision-making on Afghanistan, 1979. Many people know that the Soviets were in fact remarkably reluctant to intervene in Afghanistan. We had long known that they refused to intervene in March 1979, despite being pressed to do so by the Afghans.
This here comes from September 1979. In case Taraki (who met with Brezhnev) raised the question, Brezhnev was to say that he could not intervene as it would only help "our common enemies" and have "extremely negative consequences" for Afghanistan and the international situation.
Of course, a few days after this conversation Taraki was arrested and strangled in prison as Amin consolidated power. Exactly two months later (in early December 1979), the Soviets decided to intervene after all, killing Amin and staying for 10 years at tremendous cost.
Read 5 tweets

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