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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
May 13, 2016

Publication: Windows on Eurasia
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Strategy and Tactics Give Moscow ‘the Edge’ over NATO, Moscow Analyst Says
Staunton, VA, May 13, 2016 -  The Russian way of war is very different from the American way, Yevgeny Krutikov says. In the past, the weaknesses of one side were balanced by those of the other. But now, as even some in the West acknowledge, the Russian model at the tactical level “threatens the US” because the Western model is based on aviation support of ground troops.

In a frightening article in May 13's Vzglyad (because it is so calmly expressed), the longtime Russian military commentator says that the West has become accustomed over the last three decades to relatively easy victories over secondary powers based on airpower and thus has not developed its military strategy to cope with a major one.

But now there is a growing realization among Western commanders, Krutikov says, that “the lack of correspondence between Russian and NATO’s military strategy for land forces” is not only large but does not guarantee the quick and easy kind of Western victories many expected or make NATO’s moves around Russia’s periphery entirely sensible.

What makes this article so disturbing is that it suggests that some in the Russian capital are now thinking about a real war with the West, not at the level of the bombastic propaganda of the political leadership and the media but rather in terms of the specific moves that could give Russian forces the advantage or even a victory.

Because Krutikov points to Russian victories in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 and to its successful projection of force and re-orientation of Damascus’ military strategy and tactics in Syria, his words suggest that there are at least some in the Russian high command who think they could win against NATO, thus making a Russian challenge to it more likely.

But what matters most about this article is not whether it is true – and parts seem overstated – but rather whether those in and near the Kremlin believe its claims and thus are prepared to act on them in the Baltic countries, Georgia or elsewhere.

Krutikov begins his article by noting that since the cold war, computer-assisted games have been the basis in the West for testing tactical and strategic ideas and coming up with doctrine. But “the main problem” with such an approach is that both the red and the blue teams are “people with a similar approach and style of thinking.”

Recently, he continues, NATO officials were surprised, even shocked by the fact that American officers who were assigned to play the “red” or Russian side behaved far differently than was expected.  These people conducted themselves “extremely aggressively, especially in offensive actions.”

At the same time, those officers assigned to the “blue” or NATO team “acted slowly and cautiously.”  And thus while “the reds” advanced quickly without paying too much attention to their losses, “the blues” focused on how to avoid those and did less well in terms of achieving their objectives.

But what is “the most interesting thing” about these new games is that “the losses of the attacking ‘reds’ turned out to be significantly smaller than the losses of the careful ‘blues’ who sought to avoid excessive casualties.”  In short, Krutikov says, “the ‘reds’ began to win. Always. [And] often very quickly.”

Some analysts in response to this began talking about the mysteries of the Russian soul, but more thoughtful commentators focused on three major aspects of Russian tactical doctrine that has evolved over the last several decades.  They are:

· “First, Russians clearly acknowledge that in war people are killed and there is no practical sense of slowing down an attack operation because of each tank put out of commission. Vacillation in the final analysis leads to defeat and as a result to still larger losses.”

· “Second, support and reinforcement should be given to those units and those directions which achieve success” instead of the Western practice of reinforcing those which are in trouble.

· “Third, the Russian side devotes enormous important to massed support of the attack by artillery” and recognizes that “for the foreseeable future,” Moscow may not be fighting in places where it has air superiority.”

“The basic error of Atlanticist doctrines was and remains arrogance,” Krutikov argues, and the assumption that airpower can always be called in to defeat any land operation.  But Russia’s successes in Georgia and the Donbass, both promoted by these principles, show that confidence is unwarranted because Russian anti-aircraft weaponry eliminated this advantage.

"Russian military doctrine (not in its written politicized variant but in practice) over the last 15 years has evolved significantly,” Krutikov says, “while American (and NATO as a whole) remain in the framework they had in the 1980s and 1990s.” And that gives Russia an advantage in any conflict as recent events in Syria demonstrate.

American military thinks still focus on their accustomed “short air war against countries of the third world” and assume that putting a few tanks in Georgia or some personnel in the Baltic countries will be enough to trigger a Western air response against any Russian moves against NATO -- without thinking about what would happen if Russian forces eliminated the West’s air superiority at the start of any such conflict.

“No one is saying that we expect such a clash, but  no one has cancelled the general state of readiness. The war games which are taking place in the Pentagon confirm this,” the military analyst concludes, noting that “in Russia [such games] are also being conducted. Only the goals are entirely different.”
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Putin Government Now Behaves Like ‘Any Other Occupation Regime,’ Roshchin Says
Staunton, VA, May 13, 2016 -  With its plans to reintroduce the Soviet tax on parasites and to restrict travel abroad, the Putin regime is “conducting itself like an ordinary occupying power which has seized a country, established its garrisons and now has decided how to extract as much money from the aborigines it controls, Aleksey Roshchin says.

“But the aborigines are evil” in the eyes of the occupiers, the Moscow commentator continues; and for some reason, “they don’t want to share with the Reich” what little the occupiers have hitherto left to them.

Moscow has foolishly taken up the idea of imposing a tax on parasites from Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s Belarus without stopping to think what this measure meant in the past or how it worked against the survival of the USSR, a place that turned out to be “a fake state, bankrupted itself and fell apart.”

In the rubble left behind, Roshchin continues, there were attempts to create something new but then a crisis came and “the semi-fake countries of the post-USSR could come up with nothing better than to try ‘to become just like the main failure,’” that is like the Soviet Union which is no more.

In many ways, he writes, this exactly like the case of “the son of an alcoholic who ends his days in a psychiatric hospital, clutching ever more tightly his bottle and in drunken form ever more frequently recalling and reproducing someone ‘just like dad’” whose sad end his drunkenness has kept him from remembering.

But even more, this latest Moscow action recalls the works of Orwell and Kafka. In most countries of the world, the government seeks to help those who have no jobs with unemployment compensation or other assistance. But in Russia, the government has decided that this is precisely the category of people from whom it can extract money, without anyone complaining.

Roshchin says he would call the logic of the Putin regime classical occupation” logic in which those in power try to extract all they can from those least able to defend themselves. But the fact that Putin et al are doing this should not really come as any surprise because after all “the occupation model of administration is the Soviet model.”

Some people thought they could escape this model but now, Roshchin laments, “we are returning to it” in what can only be described as “an eternal return."
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 31
Staunton, VA, May 13, 2016 - The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

Consequently, Windows on Eurasia presents a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 31st such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, once again, one could have put out such a listing every day -- but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1. Moscow TV Says Crimean Tatar Deportation was ‘Search for a Better Life.’ In the increasingly Orwellian world of Russian official media, nothing should surprise or shock, but this does: in its coverage of the Eurovision competition, a Moscow television station described the 1944 deportation of the Crimean Tatars as “a search for a better life” by those involved. It did so because the Ukrainian participant in the competition had sung a song about that act of genocide.

2. Under Stalin, Putin Would Have Been Shot Early On. A commentator for Radio Liberty suggests that Vladimir Putin who increasingly boosts the regime of Joseph Stalin should reflect on the fact that the Soviet dictator would have had him executed early in his career given his failings as an intelligence operative and economic manager in St. Petersburg. But Putin’s problems are hardly limited to that: a picture of a Russian general pulling off the handle of the Kremlin leader’s car when he was trying to open it, hardly an advertisement for the quality of Russian goods or maintenance has gone viral on the Internet.

3. Russian Holidays Costing the Country Two Percent of GDP. Russian holidays long like the just completed May Day through Victory Day one are currently costing the country two percent of GDP, an enormous figure and one likely to increase as the Kremlin seems ready to offer still more days off to Russians.

4. Siberians Angered by Moscow’s Offer to Help Canada with Its Fires When It Won’t Help Them. Siberians are upset that Moscow has very publicly offered to help Canada with the horrific fires in northern Alberta but has refused to do much of anything to help them with massive fires that if anything are larger and even worse than those in North America.

5. Russian Oilmen Urged Not to Drink Vodka with Northern Peoples. The government of the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District has come up with a code of conduct for those who have entered the territory in order to develop the petroleum industry. Among other things, the document urges Russians not to drink vodka with peoples of the North.

6. A True Sign of the Times in Russia: The Road Ends HERE. Automobile enthusiasts have come up with a new sign for drivers in Mari El. It tells them to “Turn Around. The Road Ends Here,” yet another indication of how poorly served most of Russia is by its road network.

7. Owe Money? The Russian Authorities Can Seize Your Pet. “To give the debtor an incentive for early repayment” of a debt, officials in Perm Region have “arrested” his cat. Presumably when he pays up, his pet will be returned.

8. Dagestani Islamists Piggybacking on Anti-Corruption Drive. The Russian government’s anti-corruption drive has given an opening to Islamists in Dagestan, the most Muslim republic in Russia. The Islamists are winning support there because they point out that they have been the most consistent opponents of widespread corruption.

9. Aeroflot Helps Officials Hide the Fact They’re Still Flying Business Class. In yet another demonstration that in Russia, all animals are equal but some are more equal than others, the state airline is helping officials hide the fact that they continue to fly business class even though the government in a cost-cutting move has said they shouldn’t. The officials get tickets showing they are flying in the back of the plane when in fact they aren’t.

10. Shoygu Flaunts His Christianity as Atheists Organize. Reflecting the increasing importance of being a member of the Orthodox church if you want to have a political career in Moscow, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu who converted from Buddhism – he is a Buryat – to Christianity went out of his wave over the Easter holiday to flaunt his new faith. Meanwhile and in response to the increasing influence of religion in Russia, the country’s atheists are forming their own organization, something that has already been criticized as a first step toward the revival of the League of the Militant Godless.

11. Duma Decides Not to Prohibit Relatives of Deputies from Working in Business.In a move that will ensure that corruption continues unabated, the Duma has decided not to ban employment in private business by the husbands or wives of deputies. In all too many cases, such “employment” is how the deputies have hidden payments to themselves.

12. ‘March of Empty Buckets’ and Other Forms of Political Protest Emerge. Russians are coming up with creative way to protest the policies of their government, including most recently staging a “march of empty buckets” to highlight the failure of the authorities to deliver on their promises.

13. Intourist Guides Told to Protect Foreign Tourists from Russian Hostility. In a story that appears to have been taken down since it appeared, Intourist guides reportedly have been told to get between foreign tourists and Russians hostile to them lest the tourists go home with a bad image of Russia.

And six more stories from countries neighboring Russia:

14. Karakalpak Teachers Now Being Paid in Chickens Rather than Money. The authorities in Karakalpakistan in the western portion of Uzbekistan have run out of money to pay teachers and are now giving them chickens in lieu of real pay.

15. Minsk Concerned about Power of Bloggers. In an indication that even in authoritarian Belarus, the Internet is playing an ever larger role, one commentator says that bloggers because of their ability to provide alternative sources of information are an increasing problem for Alyaksandr Lukshenka and his regime.

16. Uzbek School Children to Be Blocked from Attending Mosques This Summer. In the latest government move to prevent the spread of Islamist ideas, Tashkent is banning pupils from attending mosques during their summer break. Apparently, officials are concerned that if they spend too much time there, they will be radicalized.

17. Rising Prices May Put Haj Beyond the Reach of Tajiks. Prices for making the haj to Mecca are slated to rise by almost 25 percent this year for Tajikistan residents, an increase that will put the required Muslim pilgrimage beyond the means of ever more of them.

18. 30 Percent of Kazakhstan’s Males Said Suffering from Infertility. Doctors in the Central Asian republic say that nearly a third of all men in Kazakhstan now suffer from infertility, a figure dramatically higher than those reported elsewhere around the world.

19. Kazakhstan Said on Brink of Maidan and Radio Liberty is to Blame. Ever more Russian commentators are suggesting that Kazakhstan faces a Ukrainian scenario in the near future, for which some in the region hold Radio Liberty’s broadcasts responsible.