Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Truce or Consequences

The "truce" continues to hold while everyone pretends to work out a permanent solution and the EU considers backing off some sanctions because Russia is acting as a responsible peacemaker.  Which is to say, terrorist attacks have been focused mainly around Donetsk airport and Ukraine says no troops will pull back unless the terrorists pull back.  But there is less shooting and fewer deaths.  A third white convoy of "aid" from Moscow was suddenly rerouted to Donetsk instead of Lughansk and reports claim it delivered military supplies while other reports claim it was empty and would take back military factory equipment.  Either way, neither Ukraine nor ICRC ever got a look at it though of course Russia "says" they were invited.

The ball will reopen most likely sooner than later with attacks on the Donetsk airport, possession of which will allow (unmarked) Russian military aircraft to be used in support of the terrorists.  The second attack will be on the port of Mariupol to allow Russia easier transportation of military equipment by sea and more important as the next step in creation of a land route to Crimea.  It is cheaper and faster to militarily create a land access than to bridge the Kerch Strait which may not even be technically possible.  The Germans apparently bridged it during WWII but ice washed it out over winter, according to one report.

The occupation of Crimea is rapidly becoming a major problem for Russia.  There is only enough fresh water left for 15 months (with NO irrigation). Rough seas threaten to cut off the Kerch ferry which is the only easy way to bring food to Crimea.  Winter storms on the Black Sea make it difficult to supply Crimea even by sea-going vessels. The peninsula is connected to Ukraine by a very narrow neck of land and depends on Ukraine for electricity, gas and water, and prior to Russian occupation on Ukraine for food supplies and markets for agricultural production. A bit of history on how Crimea found itself (and sensibly so, given the above dependency on Ukraine) as part of Ukraine SSR in 1954 can be found on two of my older blogs here and here.

Russia has been massing troops and hardware on the narrow border with Kherson. Russia, operating on the assumption that the West will do nothing anyhow, could launch an up-front full scale invasion to open a land route from the south, linking up with continued invasion from the east.  This is not likely to happen until AFTER the G20 in Australia in November as Putin is still on the invitee list and it is likely he is anxious to attend and rub people's noses in it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fall is Burning Time

Fall is traditionally clean up time in Ukrainian yards and gardens and there are fires going everywhere as folks try to get everything burned before the October rains start. It has been one of the driest summers on record around here.  Grass and weeds are tinder dry.  So is the marsh/river to the east of us.  Someone must have started a grass fire to the NE on the other side of the marsh from us.  The wind was strong enough to take it into the marsh where the tall reeds were dry enough to burn vigorously.  So Volk and I went to have a look.

Looking west, back across the marsh towards our home

Possibly close to where the fire started, looking SW

And where it spread towards the marsh, looking SW

Back on our side of the marsh, looking north east, towards the burned off area

Looking SE towards the road we initially were on

Loaded with rose hips, a sure sign of fall
We "took a shortcut" on a plank bridge across the marsh
Even Volk wasn't keen on crossing the rotten structure.
The sections only got worse from here

Tanya's roses still blooming like it was summer

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Background on Russia's war on Ukraine

Some of this has been covered before.

1. The Russian empire/USSR was land based unlike for example the British Empire.  It was not greedy for territory, only wanting what was next to its borders at any given time.  Access to year-round salt water ports was limited to the Baltic and Black Seas and the Far East.  The Baltic and Black Seas are bottlenecks and the Far East is just that - far.

2. Russia has always suffered from xenophobia, especially where the West was concerned.  When Constantinople was taken by the Ottomans, the intellectuals fled to Italy, helping spark the Renaissance, which the churchmen fled to Orthodox Russia taking with them a (well-earned) distrust of Western Europe.  There were times in Russian Tsarist history when even thinking about traveling abroad was considered treason.  This anti-Western-ism manifest itself again in Soviet times and is being pushed to new levels of hysteria under Putin.

3. Putin, certainly, and Russia in general, never accepted the breakup of the USSR into 15 new independent countries of which Russia was simply the largest.  Rather the 14 new independent states are viewed as breakaway provinces, much as China views Taiwan. Putin seems intent on recreating the empire as it was in the early 20th century.

4. There seems to be some kind of Russian mindset that people are unable to think or organize politically for themselves.  Everything is a conspiracy.  The CIA organized the Orange Revolution and EuroMaidan.  Yatsenyuk is PM because Victoria Nuland wanted him to be. (Actually it is because we wanted him to be - Tanya and I said several days before Nuland did that he would be a better PM than Klitschko.)

5. Anyone who thinks differently, does not agree with, or opposes Putin in any way is branded as a fifth columnist, traitor or foreign agent under the control of the CIA etc. This black/white, we/they view of the world is not unique to Putin but is a characteristic of other populist leaders who border on authoritarianism eg Erdogan in Turkey "WE are Turkish; who are you?"

6. Putin's vision for Russia has been called "Eurasianism" (see 1984 for irony).  Russia, (with Putin at the helm for life), is the heart of conservative Christian values fighting against the decadence of the liberal democratic West.  America and the EU are his sworn enemies because they stand in his way of establishing Russian hegemony "from Lisbon to Vladivostok".

7. Russia accuses everyone else of being fascists and neo-Nazis, however ultra-nationalism is dangerously on the rise in Russia and is condoned if not encouraged by the Kremlin.  You can also draw your own conclusions about how the country is governed.  Putin actively supports extreme right wing parties in the EU eg France, Hungary, Britain, Greece, Austria etc because they hate the EU and strengthening them weakens the EU.

8. While the Kremlin has been harassing the Baltic states since their independence, Putin has begun preparing a Ukrainian type intervention by claiming that Russians in the three countries are being deprived of their rights, requiring Moscow to step in.  Please read these two articles here and here. They are important to convince people that Ukraine, regardless of what happens here, is not the end of it. Keep in mind that everything Russia falsely accuses others of doing, it is actually doing itself.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bobik 13/01/2008 - 04/09/2014

Bobik died accidentally a few days before I got home. He tried to jump and climb over the side fence in the dog's yard, fell back, caught his collar and broke his neck.  Andrei buried him under a tree in the abandoned yard next door.

Even Bobik couldn't climb over that
Bobik was too smart for his own good.  Once he learned how to climb over the front gate there was no keeping him inside until I rigged a meter-high mesh on top of it two years ago.  That held him but didn't look too fancy.  We replaced the front gate this summer.

We always figured he could climb the side fence if he took a notion but he never did as all activity was in the front.  Until this fall when a stray female came along outside the side fence.  Over Bobik went.  It was one or two nights later when he tried it again that he didn't quite make it.
New front gate and side fence

He'd had the best summer of his life.  Tanya's niece, Sveta, who looked after our place while we were away, loved to walk and took the dogs on two and three hour walks every day.  In hot weather she took them to the river to swim.

Volk, of course, is heart broken.  He stopped eating and just lay there.  Tanya bought him liver sausage and cooked porridge for him and he ate a little of that.  Yesterday I went to see him and he wagged his tail a little but didn't move otherwise.  I picked him up and sat and held him.  He just lay there limply in my arms.  I set him down and he lay against my leg and went to sleep.

Last night I could hear him crying for about five minutes.  Short howls full of sadness and loneliness. I cried for Volk.  The two of them were never apart unless one escaped and the other didn't.  I had to smile when I was holding Volk as I noticed a huge partially healed gash on his front leg from the last time they tried to kill each other.  Brothers!

Today when I picked up his leash to take him for a walk he actually bounced a little and wagged his tail happily.  We went for a good 45 minute walk (all I could handle) and he walked beside me quite well behaved.  He will make it.

Tanya is talking about getting a 6 mo old spayed female to keep him company but we'll see how he does.

Tanya didn't tell me until I got home as she didn't want to spoil the last few days of my time in Canada.  She did right, I suppose.  But it reminded me of the Ronnie Corbett monologue describing how on holidays he got a letter from his friend to tell him his cat died.  He was devastated and wrote his friend chewing him out for not breaking the news to him gently.   "You could have written that my cat was up on the roof.  Then the next day write and tell me it had fallen off the roof. The third day write and tell me it was injured and the fourth day tell me it had died.  That way I would have time to get used to the idea".  The next year he was on holidays and got a letter from his friend that started "Your mother was up on the roof".

Bobik my good dog, Volk and I will miss you. As Mark Twain said, if you didn't go to heaven, I want to go where you went.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Headed Home Monday

Monday at 3:30 pm I get on a plane to go home to my wife and to share whatever fate awaits my country.  My 90 days of exile have been completed and I should be able to reenter the country as a Canadian tourist without a visa.  However one should never underestimate the intelligence of immigration officials of any country.  If all goes well I will be at the house by Tuesday at 11:00 pm Ukraine time or 2:00 pm Saskatchewan time.

I have one hour between planes in Amsterdam so everything better go according to schedule, including my bag transfer.  Worked for Tanya but my luck hasn't been that good this trip. Murphy may not have organized it but certainly has a hand in implementation.

Tanya and I enjoyed visits with so many people while she was here with me and I was fortunate enough to visit many more after.  Our sincere thanks to all who fed and watered us or provided a bed.  Our home is your home should you come to visit us.  At least it is our home until Putin takes it...

I started to read the news of Ukraine today and it was just too sad, so I quit. There is one link that is worth reading -

Ukraine: The left turn right through the looking glass

It explains how members of the left are so anti-American that they can excuse the same or worse imperialistic conduct on the part of Russia and China simply because "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".  The extreme right (including some Americans) supporting Russia I can understand but the left?  Leaves me very disillusioned. And everyone who repeats the Kremlin lies strengthens totalitarianism and weakens liberal democracy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Things have gone to Hell in Ukraine

Reading the news from Ukraine before going to bed is not a recipe for a good night's sleep if you care about the future of the country. From August 25th Russia has invaded in force to prevent the defeat of the terrorist crowd in Donetsk/Luhansk and the Ukrainian army has been driven back. Proroshenko is now forced to negotiate with whomever Putin says.
Ukraine has implemented conscription and many young men from Zhovti Vody have been called up, according to Tanya this morning.

The war in Ukraine - from The Economist
Putin's Trap Why Ukraine Should Withdraw from Russian-Held Donbas - from Foreign Affairs

Read the last one if nothing else.