Saturday, September 27, 2008

Religious People More Rational, New Survey Results

Ukraine is one of the most religious nations in Europe, according to a Pew Trusts survey from several years ago.

If this new survey's results are to be believed, then this means that Ukrainians are actually less likely to be irrational and as such more likely to succeed in the future. There's something to it, because Russia, in contrast, is one of the least religious nations in Europe, and there's widespread superstition and pseudo-science there.

More on the survey in the Wall Street Journal article below.

'"What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.'

SEPTEMBER 19, 2008

Look Who's Irrational Now


"You can't be a rational person six days of the week and put on a suit and make rational decisions and go to work and, on one day of the week, go to a building and think you're drinking the blood of a 2,000-year-old space god," comedian and atheist Bill Maher said earlier this year on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."

On the "Saturday Night Live" season debut last week, homeschooling families were portrayed as fundamentalists with bad haircuts who fear biology. Actor Matt Damon recently disparaged Sarah Palin by referring to a transparently fake email that claimed she believed that dinosaurs were Satan's lizards. And according to prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins, traditional religious belief is "dangerously irrational." From Hollywood to the academy, nonbelievers are convinced that a decline in traditional religious belief would lead to a smarter, more scientifically literate and even more civilized populace.

The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that's not a conclusion to take on faith -- it's what the empirical data tell us.

"What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?

The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.

Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama's former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin's former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.

This is not a new finding. In his 1983 book "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener," skeptic and science writer Martin Gardner cited the decline of traditional religious belief among the better educated as one of the causes for an increase in pseudoscience, cults and superstition. He referenced a 1980 study published in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer that showed irreligious college students to be by far the most likely to embrace paranormal beliefs, while born-again Christian college students were the least likely.

Surprisingly, while increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn't. Two years ago two professors published another study in Skeptical Inquirer showing that, while less than one-quarter of college freshmen surveyed expressed a general belief in such superstitions as ghosts, psychic healing, haunted houses, demonic possession, clairvoyance and witches, the figure jumped to 31% of college seniors and 34% of graduate students.

We can't even count on self-described atheists to be strict rationalists. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's monumental "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey" that was issued in June, 21% of self-proclaimed atheists believe in either a personal God or an impersonal force. Ten percent of atheists pray at least weekly and 12% believe in heaven.

On Oct. 3, Mr. Maher debuts "Religulous," his documentary that attacks religious belief. He talks to Hasidic scholars, Jews for Jesus, Muslims, polygamists, Satanists, creationists, and even Rael -- prophet of the Raelians -- before telling viewers: "The plain fact is religion must die for man to live."

But it turns out that the late-night comic is no icon of rationality himself. In fact, he is a fervent advocate of pseudoscience. The night before his performance on Conan O'Brien, Mr. Maher told David Letterman -- a quintuple bypass survivor -- to stop taking the pills that his doctor had prescribed for him. He proudly stated that he didn't accept Western medicine. On his HBO show in 2005, Mr. Maher said: "I don't believe in vaccination. . . . Another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur [germ] theory." He has told CNN's Larry King that he won't take aspirin because he believes it is lethal and that he doesn't even believe the Salk vaccine eradicated polio.

Anti-religionists such as Mr. Maher bring to mind the assertion of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown character that all atheists, secularists, humanists and rationalists are susceptible to superstition: "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can't see things as they are."

Ms. Hemingway is a writer in Washington.

Remembering Holodomor - Ukrainian Genocide

A few items in memory of one of the worst genocides in history:

There is an excellent analysis by Yevhen Zakharov of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, showing that the Holodomor is genocide under all applicable international laws:

Ukraine's experience in the Russian empire has been anything but positive for Ukrainians. All you have to do is look at the population figures. When Ukraine was taken over by Muscovy, as it was called at the time, its population was greater than the population of Muscovy. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Ukrainian population was about half of Russia's population. And at the end of the 20th century, Ukraine's population was less than third of Russia's population. Many Ukrainians died in Russian imperial wars, helping to build Russia's empire. The last Ukrainian Cossacks died as slaves, building St. Petersburg from the marshes. But by far the worst crime against the Ukrainian nation was the Holodomor perpetrated in 1932-33 and other famines visited upon Ukraine during the Soviet period of the Russian Empire.

For reference:
Representatives of the most numerous nations in the territory of the USSR according to the 1926, 1937 censuses.

A short film about the Holodomor, produced by

Another short film by

"HOLODOMOR; Ukraine's Genocide of 1932-33" SHORT FILM

Holodomor Resolution passes U.S. House of Representatives

On the 75 Anniversary of one of the greatest genocides known to humanity, the US House of Representatives has voted to recognize Holodomor as an act of Genocide and condemned the Soviet government for perpetrating it. The resolution was based on the conclusions of a special Congressional committee that was ordered in 1985 to investigate the events of Holodomor and report to Congress. While it shouldn't have taken this long to recognize the obvious genocide of 25-30% of the Ukrainian nation, this is still an important victory for historical justice.

Here are some excerpts from the Resolution:

"Whereas in 1932 and 1933, an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainian people perished at the will of the totalitarian Stalinist government of the former Soviet Union, which perpetrated a premeditated famine in Ukraine in an effort to break the nation's resistance to collectivization and communist occupation;

Whereas the Soviet Government deliberately confiscated grain harvests and starved millions of Ukrainian men, women, and children by a policy of forced collectivization that sought to destroy the nationally conscious movement for independence;

Whereas Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered the borders of Ukraine sealed to prevent anyone from escaping the man-made starvation and preventing any international food aid that would provide relief to the starving;

Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) solemnly remembers the 75th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor) of 1932-1933 and extends its deepest sympathies to the victims, survivors, and families of this tragedy;

(2) condemns the systematic violations of human rights, including the freedom of self-determination and freedom of speech, of the Ukrainian people by the Soviet Government;

(3) encourages dissemination of information regarding the Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor) in order to expand the world`s knowledge of this man-made tragedy; and

(4) supports the continuing efforts of Ukraine to work toward ensuring democratic principles, a free-market economy, and full respect for human rights, in order to enable Ukraine to achieve its potential as an important strategic partner of the United States in that region of the world.

The full text of the resolution that passed the US House of Representative is available here, as well as a transcripts of all the proceedings in Congress while passing the Resolution

At the same time, the UN has failed to recognize the Holodomor as genocide as the Russian representatives continued to block the discussion of Holodomor in the proceedings of the UN General Assembly. And the Russians are proud of it!

A pig raises tiger cubs in Ukraine

A pig has been rearing three tiger cubs on a farm in southern Ukraine after they were abandoned by their mother.

Video on BBC:

A Crucial Choice for Ukraine

It looks like McCain has been seriously interested in Ukraine for quite a while. As I was doing my research, I found this interesting article that McCain wrote for the Washington Post in 2004 expressing concern for the previous government's crackdown on the democratic opposition, two months before the Orange Revolution made Ukraine famous worldwide. In other words, he knew and cared about Ukraine and its concerns when most people didn't.

A few excerpts:

"I believe that, if offered the choice, most Ukrainians would choose a future tied to the West. But many Ukrainians believe that they have been denied this very choice. ... As Zbigniew Brzezinski wisely remarked, with Ukraine subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire. ... The people of Ukraine are free individuals whose democratic rights are under attack. In his most famous work, the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko wrote of his desire for Ukrainian independence, hoping that one day his countrymen would join "the family of the free." The people of Ukraine have achieved this dream, and they have grasped their democratic rights. The question now is whether this love of freedom and democracy is limited to the Ukrainian people, or whether their rulers embrace it as well."

Full article:

Washington Post

A Crucial Choice for Ukraine

By John McCain

Tuesday, October 19, 2004; Page A23

One election this year will determine the political destiny of a vitally important country, define its international orientation and test its democratic credentials. I do not refer to the recent free elections in Afghanistan, or the elections next year in Iraq or even our own presidential race. All these are critical in their own right, but so is Ukraine's historic step on Oct. 31. When the Ukrainian people line up that day to select a new president, the world will be watching.

The importance of this election lies not so much in the candidate selected but rather in its indication of whether Ukraine will continue down a democratic path. So far the prospects appear dim. President Leonid Kuchma is retiring, and the two front-runners in the race to replace him are Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. The Ukrainian government has used its tax laws to target Yushchenko and other opposition candidates, denied the opposition equal access to the media, disrupted campaign events, and intimidated candidates and their supporters. Most recently, Yushchenko survived a suspected poisoning that left his face partially paralyzed.

In August I traveled to Ukraine to talk to government officials and opposition candidates. What I found was a sense that Ukraine was moving backward, not forward, on the road to democracy. Not only were the reports of intimidation against the opposition widespread, but there was also a pervasive expectation that the October election -- and the second-round runoff three weeks later -- will be rigged by the government. Already a local election in western Ukraine has been stolen, and there have been balloting irregularities in other local elections.

These developments are disturbing not just because they abridge the political rights of the Ukrainian people but because they cast a shadow over the country's international orientation. Should the government continue this crackdown on the opposition and rig the presidential election, Ukraine's relations with the United States and Europe will inevitably suffer. And if our relations deteriorate, we risk Ukraine slipping further into the Russian orbit.

I believe that, if offered the choice, most Ukrainians would choose a future tied to the West. But many Ukrainians believe that they have been denied this very choice: While the West's door seems closed -- neither NATO nor the European Union has offered Ukraine much hope of joining their organizations anytime soon -- Russia's is always open. It would not be surprising if Ukrainian leaders increasingly aligned their country's ambitions with those of their Russian neighbors. As Zbigniew Brzezinski wisely remarked, with Ukraine subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.

So it is incumbent upon both the Western democracies and the government of Ukraine to reassess where things stand today. The Ukrainian government must end its siege of democracy and make the courageous choice to hold free, fair elections. If it does so, the United States and Europe should pursue an enhanced relationship with Ukraine, looking hard at its eventual membership in NATO and the European Union, expanding our bilateral relations, and determining ways to enhance the trading relationship.

Ukrainian officials must understand that more than their country's future is at stake in this election. Their reputations and their ability to conduct business are also at risk. If the oppression continues and this presidential election is stolen, the United States and Europe should institute visa bans against those responsible. These would not merely limit the ability of these officials to go skiing abroad; the visa bans would handicap their ability to conduct business in Europe and the United States. The Western democracies should also consider implementing other targeted penalties. If Ukraine's leaders wish to take their country further in the direction of Belarus, then they will be increasingly treated by the world like the leader of Belarus -- an international pariah.

This outcome is entirely avoidable, but we should be prepared to move in that direction if necessary. The people of Ukraine are free individuals whose democratic rights are under attack. In his most famous work, the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko wrote of his desire for Ukrainian independence, hoping that one day his countrymen would join "the family of the free." The people of Ukraine have achieved this dream, and they have grasped their democratic rights. The question now is whether this love of freedom and democracy is limited to the Ukrainian people, or whether their rulers embrace it as well.

The writer is a Republican senator from Arizona.

Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain vs. Obama on Ukraine

I think both McCain and Obama did pretty well in today's first presidential debate, but not when it comes to Ukrainian issues.

McCain had an entire paragraph on Ukraine in his speech:

"It's not accidental that the presidents of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine flew to Georgia, flew to Tbilisi, where I have spent significant amount of time with a great young president, Misha Saakashvili. And they showed solidarity with them, but, also, they are very concerned about the Russian threats to regain their status of the old Russian empire. Now, I think the Russians ought to understand that we will support -- we, the United States -- will support the inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine in the natural process, inclusion into NATO. We also ought to make it very clear that the Russians are in violation of their cease-fire agreement. ... It was very clear, the Russian intentions towards Georgia. They were just waiting to seize the opportunity. So, this is a very difficult situation. We want to work with the Russians. But we also have every right to expect the Russians to behave in a fashion and keeping with a country who respects international boundaries and the norms of international behavior.

And watch Ukraine. This whole thing has got a lot to do with Ukraine, Crimea, the base of the Russian fleet in Sevastopol. And the breakdown of the political process in Ukraine between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko is a very serious problem. So watch Ukraine, and let's make sure that we -- that the Ukrainians understand that we are their friend and ally."

And Obama is going to irritate a lot of Ukrainians because he called Ukraine "the Ukraine" the only time he mentioned Ukraine:

"And we also have to affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region, you know, the Estonians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Poles, the Czechs, that we are, in fact, going to be supportive and in solidarity with them in their efforts. They are members of NATO. And to countries like Georgia and the Ukraine ... "

Full transcript of today's debate:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Russian-Georgian Conflict Shifts Energy Supplies from the Caspian Region

One important consequence of Russia's war in Georgia was the suspension of Kazakhstan's and Azerbajan's energy exports through Georgia and their increased reliance on Russia. In the short term Russia has won by increasing transportation of Central Asian and Caspian energy through its territory, as well as by decreasing the reputation of the Russia-free Caucausus energy transportation network by destabilizing it. Russia's energy monopoly has been increased and strengthened.

Since the trend before the war was for Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to actively expand new energy transportation routes bypassing Russia, this is a significant reversal. This is bad for Ukraine as well, because the Caspian oil that was supposed to be filling the Odesa-Brody pipeline in Ukraine is not going to be forthcoming anytime soon in large enough volumes to fill the pipeline. So, the pipeline will likely continue to run in reverse, delivering Russian oil to tankers in Odesa, which is exactly what Russians want. This is also bad for Europe as a whole, because it has further increased European dependence on Russian and Russian-controlled energy supplies.

Russia has also achieved a significant level of pressure against Azerbaijan, because the Azeris really don't want Russians to destabilize their own frozen conflict zone in Nagorno-Karabakh and have become much more cooperative and compliant with Russia's government after the war.

New Documentary: The Soviet Story

There's a new European Union-sponsored documentary out about Soviet history. I just saw it and highly recommend it.

This is the official film site:

This is a trailer for the film:

You can see it for free here.

Part 1:

Part 2:

The film features newly discovered evidence from the archives on the close Soviet-Nazi cooperation before the German attack on the Soviet Union. Molotov even made a major speech in the Kremlin in 1939 or in 1940 which he said it would be "a crime for the Western nations to fight against Hitler"! The page with the speech was then removed from newspapers in all the Soviet libraries, after the Soviet Union started portraying itself as an eternal enemy of fascism.

The German naval attack on Norway was also made from the Soviet port of Murmansk! In addition to that, the SS actually visited the Soviet concentration camps to learn how to build them, because the Soviets already had 20 years of experience. And Soviet engineers went to Germany to help them build it. They even have footage in there of Soviet officers greeting the German officers with a Nazi salute! They have also found documented evidence that Stalin had transferred a number of Soviet Jews to the Germans, who promptly put them into concentration camps, where most of them perished.

No wonder this movie was prohibited and castigated in today's Russia...

Russian imperial ambitions predate the Soviet period by hundreds of years (and Russia's military might is largely a function of the price of oil, which seems to constantly increase). Ukraine spent over 300 years under Russian domination, and there was plenty of ideological basis for Moscow to justify its domination and control well before Lenin's revolution, along with the brutal suppression of Ukrainian language and culture within the Russian Empire. The Soviet Union was actually in a way kinder to Ukrainian culture than the Russian Empire was, because at least the Communists preserved and supported the languages of the Soviet minorities, despite the general Russification of education and government.

The post-Soviet nostalgia in the post-Soviet Republics is largely an ethnic Russian phenomenon, and is actually a post-imperial nostalgia. Many Russians want to be part of a great and dominant Russian nation again and think that the partial disassembly of the Russian empire in 1990 was the biggest accident of 20th century history, a sentiment voiced by Putin early in his presidential career. (I was surprised to learn a while back that despite the fact that over 80% of Belarusians want Belarus to remain independent, it is part of the Russia-Belarus Union. In Ukraine, only 2/3rds actually want Ukraine to remain independent, but it is much more independent politically. I think part of the reason for the numbers is that Ukraine has a much larger Russian minority. But the reason for Ukraine's independence vis-a-vis Belarus is a function of the democratic nature of its politics.)

How do you explain the fact that Stalin is seen as the Greatest Russian in History in recent public opinion surveys in Russia? Serious Russian historians have said that this is due to the fact that people in Russia are no longer taught about Soviet crimes, but Stalin is glorified in the textbooks for making Russia a great and respected nation.

Having read "The Rape of Nanking", I agreed with the author that unlike in Germany, there was no national repentance in Japan for the crimes committed by its imperial regime. I woud have to say that the same is true of today's Russia. Soviet crimes are white-washed and presented as necessary by the current government. As a results of this, the history of Japanese atrocities is still largely seen as Chinese and Korean propaganda in Japan, just like this movie is seen as Western provocation in today's Russia and serious criticism of the Soviet Union in general is seen as criticism of Russia. There is no willingless to learn from history. And we all know what happens to those who don't learn from it.

Movies In Ukraine Now Shown In Ukrainian Language

Until this year, the film distributors in Ukraine, most of whom are either Russian or English-speaking, were being lazy and simply showed the movies that were prepared for the Russian market in Ukraine without changing anything. All the American movies were dubbed in Russian. A few years ago close to 100% of all the movies were in Russian. So, what wasn't happening through the market, happened by court decree. Since most theater goers are teenagers, in Ukraine just like in the States, and they are already educated in schools in Ukrainian, this does not present any major problems for the market. And according to public opinion surveys only 3% of Ukrainians were against the change.

Later in the year, the Ukrainian government chose to ease the requirements somewhat. Movies can be shown in a foreign language as long as they have Ukrainian subtitles.

By the way, Ukraine is now going through a huge boom in construction of movie theaters, because it is one of the few global movie markets that is still growing, and because there aren't nearly enough theaters in Ukraine to meet the demand. I remember reading about a Jessica Simpson flick a couple years ago that flopped in the American market, but was saved by the strong demand in Ukraine.

Monday, September 22, 2008

100% of movies are in Ukrainian

According to 5 Kanal, the Ukrainian government has taken the percentage of foreign movies shown in Ukraine in Ukrainian language in three years from 20% to 50% to 70% and now to 100%.

More here (video - 63,4 MB - in Ukrainian):

Friday, September 19, 2008

Belarus president urges West to accept election

There is no evil without some good in it. After Russia's bullying of Belarus over energy prices and a forced takeover of its pipelines by Gazprom, Lukashenka is warming up to the West, releasing political prisoners and promising free and fair elections.

It will be interesting to see how far the liberalization of "the last dictatorship in Europe" goes...


Belarus president urges West to accept election

Yesterday, 20:22 (Wire reports)

MINSK, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, in newspaper interviews on Thursday, urged the West to recognize his country's parliamentary election later this month and work to improve relations.

Lukashenko, in power for 14 years, is accused by the United States and the European Union of rigging elections, jailing opponents and closing down free media. No election held in the former Soviet republic since the mid-1990s has been deemed free or fair.

But he has sought improved ties in the past year after quarrelling with Russia over energy prices. Western countries say the election will be a test of his commitment to democracy.

"We want you to accept us, to endorse and recognise our election," Lukashenko told the Financial Times and Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in comments released by Belarussian news agencies before publication.

"We do not want to talk to you across the Iron Curtain which you have erected on the borders of Belarus."

The United States and the EU have imposed travel banks and financial sanctions on Belarus.

But since Belarussian courts last month released the last of detainees deemed political prisoners, Washington and the EU have said ties could be much improved provided the Sept. 28 election is conducted freely and fairly.

Election officials have registered far more opposition candidates for the vote than in previous elections and hundreds of observers have been invited to attend.

But opposition groups are still demanding greater representation on commissions that oversee the vote count.

"As soon as you said that the parliamentary election was important to you, we opened the country to you," Lukashenko was quoted as telling the two newspapers.

Riot police on Tuesday dispersed an unauthorised protest by several dozen opposition activists in Minsk's main square.

Lukashenko has said before that he would like to see opposition members, shut out of parliament since a 2004 election, win seats if only to temper Western criticism. (Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Purpose of the Famine is to Kill Ukrainians

This is a quote from a communist leader speaking in the Kharkiv region in 1934:

"Famine in Ukraine was brought on to decrease the number of Ukrainians, replace the dead with people from other parts of the USSR, and thereby to kill the slightest thought of any Ukrainian independence."

Original Ukrainian:

'"Голод на Україні був викликаний для того, щоб зменшити кількість українців, переселити на їхнє місце людей з іншої частини СРСР і цим убити будь-яку думку про самостійність." Комуніст Прокопенко, уповноважений Сахновщинського районного виконавчого комітету (Харківської області) проговорився про голод перед групою колгоспників і 12 травня 1934 р.'

- V. Danilov et al., Sovetskaia derevnia glazami OGPU_NKVD. T. 3, kn. 2. Moscow 2004. P. 572

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Russia Would Be Insane to Attack Ukraine

Americans were quite worried in 1996 about the fact that Ukraine was the world's third largest nuclear power and it was right next to Russia. The American government decided that they would rather deal with one major nuclear nation than with two major nuclear nations. And they were also afraid of a future nuclear war between Ukraine and Russia.

Condoleeza Rice was the main person who was sent by Bush I to "encourage" Ukrainians to give up the nukes in exchange for security promises. (Her PhD thesis was in Soviet military history.) If United States really will defend Ukraine in the event of invasion, then it was probably a good deal for Ukraine.

Ukraine was the closest to the West, so it was the most armed area of the Soviet Union. At the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Ukraine actually had more tanks than Russia. And it still has a significant defense advantage compared with other nations its size.

Ukraine was also a major part of the Soviet defense industry. Ukraine still makes most of the engines for Russian military helicopters and missiles and provides many jet engines. The largest missile factory in the world is located in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. It can make lots of missiles really fast.

Another interesting comparison is that Georgia had about 6 jet planes and 6 military helicopters. Ukraine has at least 600 fighter jets and I am not even sure how many military helicopters, along with one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world. (Ukrainian-designed Kolchugas can shoot down even stealth airplanes.) Any conflict between Ukraine and Russia would result in huge losses on both sides, both in human casualties and in expenditures on war.

That's another reason why it would be insane for Russia to invade Ukraine. They could loose the war, even without Americans entering the fight. In any case, their military would at least be badly damaged. What they are more likely to do is try to destabilize the situation in Ukraine from the inside, by supporting and financing various anti-Ukrainian groups inside Ukraine.

If you are Russia's neighbor, you better be strong (or have strong allies), because otherwise you are not going to be a nation for very long. That's the sad history of all of Russia's neighbors.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

US says it will support Ukraine if threatened

If Russia attacks Ukraine in the future, the United States may enter the conflict on Ukraine's side.

That would be insanity on the part of Moscow "leaders", but you never know with those guys.

When Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons in 1996 (as the world's third largest nuclear power) and transferred the weapons to Russia at the American insistence, both the United States and the Russian Federation gave Ukraine "security assurances". If Russia breaks its promises, the US would be morally obliged to defend Ukraine.


US says it will support Ukraine if threatened

The Associated Press
Friday, September 12, 2008; 3:51 PM

KIEV, Ukraine -- A senior U.S. diplomat said Friday the United States would back Ukraine in case of a territorial dispute but Ukraine's defense minister said his country's role as the main natural gas conduit to Europe makes a conflict with Russia unlikely.

The recent Russia-Georgia war has aroused concerns in Europe and ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine about Moscow's regional ambitions. The Kremlin has watched warily in recent years as Ukraine and other former republics have sought closer Western ties, and Moscow vehemently objects to their joining NATO.

Although Russian leaders insist they recognize Ukraine's borders, some nationalist politicians have suggested that Russia should regain control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, a jewel of the Russian empire and home to a key Russian naval base.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried pledged Friday that the United States would back Ukraine in a territorial dispute.

"The United States, and I daresay Europe as well, support Ukraine's independence, its freedom, its democracy, its right to chose its own future," Fried told reporters after a meeting with his Ukrainian vounterpart.

"Our support for Ukraine has only increased as the result of pressure and will only increase if there is pressure from other places," Fried said. "I hope that no one puts Ukraine's territorial integrity into question."

Fried's remarks echo comments made last week by Vice President Dick Cheney. During a visit to the ex-Soviet Republic, Cheney said the U.S. has "a deep and abiding interest" in the country's "well-being and security."

However, Ukraine's defense minister said during a visit to Denmark Friday that a war with Moscow was unlikely because Ukraine is such an important link in Europe's energy supply.

Asked about a potential military conflict with Russia, Yuri Yekhanurov said he didn't "believe something like this might happen in the future."

A conflict would "have an influence on not only Ukraine but the whole world," Yekhanurov said, noting that 80 percent of the natural gas exported to Europe passes through Ukraine.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Political Hotspots Map from Eurasia Group

An interesting new tool from Eurasia Group in cooperation with PriceWaterhouseCoopers - a global political hotspots map. It appears incomplete as only a few nations are being rated, but is an interesting beginning. Ratings for Ukraine and Russia are available.

Map available at this link:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

To Imperialist Russia Everything Is A Weapon

I don't think Russians want an autarky. They don't really want to close themselves off from the rest of the world. But they don't necessarily want free trade either. For them trade, just like energy, is just another weapon to use to bend other nations to their will.

What I am noticing is that to the Russians everything is a potential weapon. They love war and conflict too much. Throughout history Moscow has gained most of what it has through aggression and deception.

For example, both Russia and Ukraine have record harvests this year (Ukrainian exports of grain will even be higher than the Russian ones - 5 times what Ukraine exported last year). But when you read the Russian press they are already talking in anticipation of the harvest about using grain exports as a new strategic Russian weapon against the West.

Russians are quite good at traditional weapons of war: conventional military power, nuclear power, intelligence gathering, secret services, sabotage, psy-ops and propaganda.

But they also see pretty much everything else as a weapon to use against their enemies - all those who will not bend to the Kremlin's will. So, this is how the Kremlin sees it:

Energy is a weapon - complete state control inside of the nation and pipelines outside of it and turning off gas and oil supplies at will and manipulating prices to reward and punish other nations.

Trade is a weapon - creating various obstacles (tariffs or bans) for products from nations it wants to punish, almost always under the guys of "sanitary concerns", constant trade wars with other nations, complete blocking of trade in some cases, like Georgia for the past two years.

International law is a weapon - they will claim international law priviledge whenever it suits their purposes and strengthens their case, but will break it at will if it's within their interests to do so.

Investments are a weapon - they use foreign investments by state-owned companies to gain control of foreign gas and oil infrastructure, including pipelines, refining companies, energy trading companies, gas station networks, etc. For example, about 5 years ago, Russian companies bought up most of Ukraine's refineries and when Yulia Tymoshenko was putting pressure on them, they all simply stopped refining oil for a few days, citing "routine maintenance", and caused shortages in the Ukrainian energy market. Belarus fares even worse. Last year, the Belarusian government was forced to give up the ownership of all of the country's gas pipelines to Russian state-owned company Gazprom.

History is a weapon - the Kremlin writes and re-writes history as it sees fit, a past friendly nation can easily become an enemy in history books, almost overnight, and a past enemy can easily be portrayed as a friend, if the need arises, and all of the history is written to glorify and justify the Russian Empire and its expansion.

The media is a weapon - they believe TV is the most effective form of media and thus the Putin government has come to own or control pretty much the entire TV industry within the Russian Federation, which is very useful for pushing government propaganda whenever they want to, glorify the President, or create and castigate enemies - foreign or domestic - in the public's eye.

Non-profit organizations are a weapon - the Russian government has cut off foreign funding from non-profit organizations in Russia and is now using non-profit organizations as a political tool. For example, recently a Russian government-funded Jewish organization was trying to portray Ukraine as an anti-semitic nation, even though the level of anti-Semitic violence is significantly higher in Russia.

The church is a weapon - it is no secret that most of the top leadership of the Russian Orthodox Chruch are KGB agents and closely work with the government on a whole range of issues, thus putting the church at the use of the state.

You can just go on and on down the list. Like I said, for the Russian Empire, everything is a potential or actual weapon, quite literally everything.

Dynamo (Kyiv) - Spartak (Moscow) 4:1

Dynamo Kyiv completely trounced Moscow's Spartak in Moscow

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Ukrainian Ingrates or Victims of Russian Imperialism

My friend Owen, at, had lived for 3 years in Russia, and while there had noticed something interesting about how Russians view Ukrainians, along with other post-Soviet Republics.

There is an idea in Russia that other nations are ingrates to whom Russia gave "everything". It is a recurring theme of Russian propaganda. Or even deeper. A foundational Russian myth - that Russia is a generous nation, always giving to others, always protecting others, and so many nations and peoples simply do not appreciate Russia's great kindness.

The latest example of this came out in the speech of the Russian defense minister a couple days ago, who said that Poland, by pursuing its own national interest in allying with US, is being deeply ungrateful to Russia for freeing it from the German fascists. Never mind the fact that Russia and Poland have been bitter enemies throughout their common history, and that only half of the Soviet army was actually of Russian ethnicity. It's a powerful myth and I keep hearing it again and again in reference to all kinds of nations.

For example, this latest war was heavily portrayed in Russia as benevolent and noble Russians coming to the aid of a small and weak nation, which requested the Russian aid in defending it from an evil, imperialist, and atrocious regime of Georgia. If the Russians succeed in absorbing South Ossetia into their empire, but in the future the Ossetians decide they want an independent nation (which is quite likely - in the 1990 North Ossetia went as far as declaring independence from Russia), you will see all kinds of commentary in Russia how the Ossetians are deeply ungrateful for the great sacrifices in blood and treasure that the great brotherly Russian people made for them.

There are also similar commentaries in the Russian press and TV about Georgia today. They are claiming that Georgians are ungrateful for the Russian protection of Georgians against the Turks over two centuries ago. Never mind that the ancient Christian nation of Georgia was absorbed into the Russian Empire against their will. Actually, in the same way as Ukraine was absorbed. First comes a military alliance, and then through all kinds of means, the nation allied with Moscow finds that it has gradually lost all independence and has been completely absorbed into the Russian empire. The history of the Russian Empire is a fascinating subject.

And of course, Russia is never seen as ungrateful and greedy, regardless of what Russia has actually done in regards to all these nations. In most cases, Russia took more than it gave. It consumed the natural and human resources of the nations is controlled to build its empire. When Muscovy took over Ukraine, Ukraine actually had greater population than Muscovy's territory. So, the Ukrainian conscripts actually bore the brunt of all the wars of expansion of the Russian Empire in the last 300 years. Even as late as the war with Japan, much of the force that was used in the fighting was from Ukraine. God only knowns how much bigger the population of Ukraine would be if it wasn't for its "brotherly relationship" with Russia. How many died in Russia's wars, how many died from Stalin's famine (actually a third of Ukraine's population at the time).

Another obvious process is the brain drain that occurs whenever Russia takes over any nation. The best and the brightest leave for Moscow or St. Petersburg and the nation becomes a culturally and intellectually mediocre place as a result, or a complete back-water if this goes on long enough. (Frequently, talented local intelligencia were also purged, even prior to Soviet times, compounding the process.) A modern example is that a number of Russian politicians were actually born and raised in Ukraine and went to Moscow during Soviet times. For example, Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, a long-time Soviet and Russian politician and the leader of Russia's democratic opposition, was actually born and raised in Lviv, Ukraine, and had living parents there as late as the 1990s. People like him could have contributed significant political talent to Ukraine, but by virtue of their assimilation and careers in Russia during Soviet times, they have stayed in Russia and are contributing to its development.

The final point about "ingraditude" is that most of the nations controlled by Russia could have been far more advanced in all respects if they hadn't been controlled by the Russian empire. For example, in the early 1940s, the standard of living in Estonia was higher than in Finland! But by having been absorbed into the Russian empire, they were set back by several decades in development. In essence, they contributed way more to the Soviet Union than they ever received from it.

Here's to hoping that Ukraine will find the strength to resist renewed Russian Imperialism and that the rest of the world, and especially the rest of Europe, will not simply ignore the plight of the Ukrainian people and come to their aid in an hour of need.