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Baltic States are no longer ex-Soviet

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In the early days of the current year, the ambassadors of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to Germany collectively wrote a petition asking German media to stop referring to the above-mentioned nations as “former Soviet countries”. The issue had been prompted by the Soviet Legacy column on the German news portal Die Zeit.

The Facebook page of Latvia`s embassy in Germany posted an image of the letter co-signed by the Latvian ambassador Elita Kuzma along with her counterparts from Estonia and Lithuania.

In the letter to the German portal, the ambassadors noted that their countries were independent from 1918 until 1940 and did not join the Soviet Union voluntarily but were occupied and annexed, while the majority of Western democracies, including Germany, never recognized the Soviet occupation of the Baltics.

The letter also claims that the Baltic states did not create themselves from nowhere in the early 1990s after the downfall of the USSR but restored their independence that had been severed by the Soviet rule, thus declaring continuity of their statehood. The Baltic states are not successors to the Soviet Union`s statehood and rights and therefore cannot be politically defined as former Soviet republics.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry also touched upon the issue by stating that the portal responded to the remark, pledging to stop using the concept inaccurate in terms of international law.

Interestingly, the article from “The Legacy of the Soviet Union”series, to which the ambassadors draw the attention was actually written by Sergejs Potapkins, an opposition member of the Latvian parliament.

According to an Estonian news site, the misnomer, frequent in the German-speaking countries, is regularly used to describe any territory that used to be part of the Soviet Union.

In order to demonstrate the absurdity of referring to the Baltic states as “former Soviet”, a Latvian media agency made fun of different countries by, too, recalling their past: “…The letter [of the ambassadors] was sent in the former Prussian capital, Berlin…News outlets in the former Roman and Norman colony of Great Britain, the former Carolingian territories of the Holy Roman Empire and former Grand Monarchy of France, and the former British and French colonies in North America have also been known to do the same thing.Curiously the tendency is less prevalent in the former Warsaw Pact countries and even in the former Tsarist Empire and former dominions of the Golden Horde to the east of Latvia…”

That was not the first attempt of the Baltic trio to get rid of their Soviet history and legacy that might somehow be extending up to now.

Immediately upon restoring their independence, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania decided to abandon the Russian sphere of influence and drift towards the West. As a logical result of the relevant processes, all the three countries took part in the 2004 enlargement of NATO and the European Union by becoming full member of both organizations. The EU accession process ran in parallel with that to the NATO. Although the two were not officially linked, one apparently gave additional impetus to the other. For the Baltic states, NATO membership might be even more attractive and vital. Security was justifiably their priority since their entire recent history had been marked by an absence of security. The EU was perceived to be primarily a Single Market and lacking in a security dimension. This was partly because joining the EU appeared to be an eventuality, whereas the Baltics’ NATO membership was not a foregone conclusion since there was strong opposition to it mainly by the Kremlin.

In 2011, Estonia switched to euro. So did Latvia in 2014 and Lithuania in 2015, having completed the Baltics` entering into Eurozone.

Today the three countries are liberal democracies, a fact which indeed pushes them further away from their Soviet heritage and other ex-Soviet countries.

In a parallel process, the three countries strive to build a Nordic identity. This tendency is especially strong in Estonia, which refers to its cultural and historical ties with Sweden, Denmark and Finland; with the titular people of the latter, the Estonians belong to the same language group. In December 1999, then Estonian foreign minister, who would later ascend into presidency, Toomas Hendrik Ilves delivered a speech entitled “Estonia as a Nordic Country” to the Swedish Institute for International Affairs. According to another Estonian politician, Marko Mihkelson, head of Riigikogu`s foreign affairs committee, his country`s belonging to Northern Europe “make(s) perfect sense in geographic and geopolitical terms.”

It is therefore no surprise that the Estonian society has even debated over a change of the flag: from the post-Soviet tricolor to a Scandinavian-style cross design with the same colors. According to the supporters of the proposed version, it would symbolize the country`s links with Nordic countries.

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In order to further develop a Nordic brand, Estonian diplomat Eerik-Niiles Kross even suggested modifying the country`s official name in English and several other foreign languages from Estonia to Estland (which is the country`s name in Danish, Dutch, German, Swedish, Norwegian and many other Germanic languages).

Indeed, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been receiving the strongest support from their northern neighbors even prior to their independence. The Nordic countries were the first to open their borders, introducing visa-free regimes with the Baltic countries, facilitated their smooth integration into European and transatlantic institutions. A regional cooperation platform called Nordic Baltic Eight plays an important role in deepening the relationship between the two regions.

While Euroskepticism may today prevail in some EU member-states and the European Union itself has been recently shattered by a wide of range of issues from the Greek crisis to the flood of refugees to the Brexit, leading some pundits to forecast ultimate disintegration of the Union, the Baltic three seem to be ardent supporters of the concept of a united continent. In the light of Donald Trump`s statements on diminishing the American influence in the eastern part of Europe, the Baltic nations that constantly feel the breath of the Russian bear on their necks are haunted by the ghost of the Soviet Union. Especially in this complicated period, when both Russian officials and experts call on reviving the borders of the USSR and, sometimes going even further, of the Russian Empire. Fears were especially intensified after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine just like it incorporated the Baltic countries during the WWII and backs the ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking population in the eastern Ukraine nowadays. Accommodating a big portion of Russian minorities, which are accepted as an anachronistic relic of the Soviet past, the Baltic nations, especially Latvia and Estonia have serious reasons to worry.

According to Leonid Bershidsky, the anti-Soviet arguments by the Baltic countries, however, make little sense. Willingly or not, they were part of the USSR. They were subject to its economic planning and migration policies, a history that is far more recent than the colonial past of the U.S. or almost any former part of the British Empire. The Baltic nations` large, often disenfranchised, Russian minorities are a lasting legacy of the Soviet past, with Concord, the party representing the Russian-speaking population in Latvia, winning a plurality of the vote in the last parliamentary election. “Post-Soviet” is not an insult but a statement of fact.Going back even further, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia spent most of the last two centuries as part of the Russian Empire. Russian military might forced them to gravitate east rather than north, adds L.Bershidsky.

The officials in Russia, the recognized successor-state of the USSR, have, in their turn, repeatedly denied the occupation calling it a voluntary incorporation. According to the Russian viewpoint, no military force was used for the incorporation and it was made by the decrees of the legitimate governments in Baltic states in accordance with international law. Moreover, Russia’s main diplomat, Sergey Lavrov stated in one of his interviews that the USSR had modernized economy and industry in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and made more investment per capita in the Baltic countries than in the other constituent republics of the former Union. It was a response to the claims of Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn to the reimbursement of “the Soviet occupational damage”. Only the compensation to Latvia was first estimated by the Latvians at 185 billion euro, later having been raised to 300 billion euro.

Despite the efforts of the Baltic states, it seems to be tough to get rid of their red past as the Soviet heritage is in the living memory and still continues to exert profound effects on the current situation in the region. However may the Baltic people hate to confess it, both Soviet and post-Soviet thoughts are still influential in their countries. Perhaps when this mindset is finally gone, others may then stop referring to them as former Soviet states.

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Eastern Europe

Stephen Cohen’s Misrepresentations about the 2014 Coup in Ukraine

Eric Zuesse

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The restoration of the Cold War now, between Russia and the United States, is based on frauds by the United States, as will be documented here; and one of the biggest responsibilities that historians have, is to state this publicly — to acknowledge it publicly and clearly — so that the necessary public pressure can finally come to be brought upon the U.S. Government, to acknowledge that it has been wrong about this matter, which is a matter increasingly threatening the entire planet with World War III, a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, the war that would end the world.

Most historians fail this fundamental professional obligation to truthfulness especially about important matters such as this, and don’t even acknowledge publicly that the overthrow in February 2014 of Ukraine’s democratically elected President was a “coup” instead of a ‘revolution’ (which the U.S. Government and its foreign allies call it), but even most of the historians who do call it a “coup” do not say that it was perpetrated by the U.S. Government upon, and greatly harmed, the people of Ukraine; and, so, their admission fails to apply any pressure at all upon the U.S. Government, to stop its constant lying about this.

Wars do not result merely from force of arms, but even more fundamentlly, they result from force of lies. In the present matter, those lies can have a world-ending consequence; so, at least the biggest of these lies need to be addressed in public, by historians.

Dr. Stephen C. Cohen, the prominent Russia-specialist now retired from Princeton and NYU, has said on at least two occasions, that the February 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a “coup.” Cohen has never said, like the founder and head of the ‘private CIA’ firm Stratfor, Dr. George Friedman, once admitted, that it was “the most blatant coup in history”, but he did call it some kind of “coup”; and yet he has persistently refused to call it a coup that started in and was perpetrated by the U.S. Government — started in the Obama Administration, long before the coup’s culmination-period, 20-26 February 2014, when the EU finally became shocked on February 26th to discover that it had been a coup. I don’t understand why Dr. Cohen constantly presents it in that false way — as something it wasn’t. The following note is therefore intended specifically to correct Dr. Cohen’s false account that it had started elsewhere than inside the Obama Administration:

On May 9th, at an event co-sponsored by Columbia University’s Harriman Institute and New York University’s Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, Cohen stated (at 28:45 in the video) that it was “a coup, an unusual coup, it originated in the streets.”

It did not  originate in the streets. It originated in offices, specifically in U.S. Government offices, and assisted by other entities, including private entities, which worked closely with the U.S. Government, in order to plan it, and to carry it out.

I thus asked him, on May 17th, via email,

You think it originated in the streets, in November 2013 — really, it didn’t originate on 1 March 2013 when the U.S. Embassy started its CIA-run training-sessions for organizing the Maidan demonstrations? It didn’t originate in, or at least by, June 2011, when Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, in order to deceive him into revealing the tricks he’d use to organize such a mass-movement (the public cover behind which the coup would be perpetrated) — fooled him into thinking that they were on his side, the pro-democracy side — certainly not on the side of coups and other “regime-change” operations? As I pointed out in that just-linked-to article, “Only in retrospect did Assange come to recognize that, as he headlined in October 2014, “Google Is Not What It Seems”. That’s when he noted, “Jared Cohen could be wryly named Google’s ‘director of regime change’.” He recognized too late, that they were manipulating him, using him, to help in overthrowing both Assad and Yanukovych — to help in their and Obama’s fascism.

Dr. Cohen replied,

“Obama’s fascism”? Do you even know what it is?

I answered,

Ask these people what “Obama’s fascism” is. They experienced it, through his agents — the people he installed to run their country (and Obama never criticized those stooges for doing his dirty-work, not even for doing it in such a blatantly “fascist” way).

Cohen didn’t reply, though perhaps he will, some day. If he will, then I shall welcome his response, because, if I am wrong, then I want to know in what way I am wrong; and if I am right, then not only is Dr. Cohen wrong, but our entire U.S. foreign-policy Establishment is wrong and has been lying pervasively about how the “restored Cold War” happened. Did Putin seize Crimea? Or, instead, did Obama seize Ukraine (via this coup)?

Like I, Professor Cohen — according to his own testimony, and mine — voted for Obama, both in 2008 and in 2012. I would do it again, against Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and against Mitt Romney, because those opponents of his, were even more fascist than Obama turned out to be; but this is the type of electoral choice that remains to the people, in today’s American ‘democracy’. That’s what it is: choices between ‘public’ representatives such as that.

Until the United States Government, and American academics such as Professor Cohen, publicly acknowledge the reality, that Obama lies, and that Trump lies, to allege that Russia ‘seized’ Crimea and that America didn’t seize Ukraine in a prior coup, a coup which has even been publicly admitted by some of the coup’s own actual participants — a coup that shortly thereafter was followed by an ethnic-cleansing campaign to get rid of enough people who had voted for the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom Obama overthrew, an ethnic-cleansing so as to stave off a subsequent electoral victory in Ukraine for restoration of a neutralist Ukrainian Government similar to the Government that was overthrown — as long as they instead hide the fact, that this was an American coup, against Ukraine, in order to grab Ukraine on Russia’s very doorstep, so as to make it a NATO member — there can be no constructive settlement of the ‘new Cold War’, because the fact is: it’s a war that the U.S. has been secretly waging against Russia, ever since at least 24 February 1990.

The termination of this war between the U.S. and Russia cannot be achieved by continuing the lies about what is behind it. This has been a decades-long war to eliminate Russia’s friends and allies, to turn the European ones into NATO members, to surround Russia with our missiles and nukes being positioned just five minutes’ striking-time from Moscow, and then to issue an ultimatum for Russia’s surrender, so as to achieve the world’s first global and all-encompassing Empire.

Continued lies just cannot do the job that the entire world needs to be done: the U.S. (the most dangerous country in the world) must terminate its obsession to expand its empire to an all-encompassing scope, and must cease-and-desist its continuing war against the sovereign nation of Russia, and against all other nations that have continued to resist America’s all-grasping aristocracy’s reach for the ultimate Empire.

The Big Lie today is that “Putin stole Crimea” not “Obama stole Ukraine.” The Big Truth today is that Obama stole Ukraine, not Putin stole Crimea.

If Dr. Cohen has any objections to the factuality of any of the allegations that I have made here, or to any of the documentation that I have linked to as the sources for these allegations, then I publicly welcome him to state what those objections are. Otherwise, I shall continue to take strong exception to Dr. Cohen’s account of these matters.

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Hard way to Westphalia: Ukraine on the brink of new Thirty-Year War?

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Does Petro Poroshenko see the red line drawn 370 years ago in Westphalia and will the leaders of the democratic world remind him of it again?

The President of Ukraine has declared his intention to unite several largest Ukrainian Orthodox confessions into one Church. Wow… Even the first sentence was too much for me. It’s hard for a modern European to imagine it. It’s too strange. It’s too unbelievable. Nevertheless, it clearly depicts the complicated religious situation in Ukraine.

Let me do it this way: The President of Ukraine has declared his intention to unite several largest Ukrainian Orthodox confessions into one Church to defend against the hybrid aggression from Russia and to provide an ideological independence of the state. Yes, this is how the Ukrainian authorities justify their involvement in Church affairs. This is a matter of national security, preserving the unity of the state and nation.

Of course, the process is also aimed at boosting the president’s popularity. Next year, Ukraine is to witness presidential elections. The role of religion in Ukrainian society is highly important, polls show. The Ukrainian authorities may have preferred the nation to be less religious: being a dimension of the social life, faith introduces additional divisions and nuances that not always comply with the economic and political ones. This makes ruling the country more complicated.

The Ukrainian Orthodox communities (the UOC MP (Moscow Patriarchate), the UOC KP (Kyiv Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC)) are divided by the issue of the Moscow Patriarchate’s jurisdiction. After the beginning of war in Donbas in 2014, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate compromised itself by its pro-Russian position. Tolerating it means supporting the aggressor. President Poroshenko was elected as a European democratic leader and peacemaker who promised to end the war in two weeks after his inauguration. That’s why the Ukrainian authorities are eager to get rid of the Moscow Patriarchate by forming a new national Church based in Kyiv and securing for it an independent status (autocephaly) bestowed by the Constantinople Patriarchate, to which the Orthodox Ukraine had been subject to until the 17th century.

No one asks for the Moscow Patriarchate’s opinion: the new Church will be formed of the UOC KP and UAOC. However, without the UOC MP, the goal of Poroshenko’s church project cannot be reached. Which means it will be forced to join the new religious organization. The Primate of the competing confession, UOC KP, Patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine Filaret stated at one of European Parliament events that “there is only one Church in Ukraine”, the UOC MP will lose its status and name and that the biggest monastery of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine will be handed over to the new Ukrainian Church, that is the one created by Poroshenko.

The UOC MP’s rivals claim that this process won’t be difficult as, according to polls, it is not popular among the faithful. Maybe the numbers are objective but once even Protestants seemed to be minority in Europe. If there are no faithful, who then maintains each of 12,000 UOC MP parishes in Ukraine? Putin and Russian oligarchs? According to the national statistics, it’s more than all largest Ukrainian Churches have altogether! For comparison, the Kyiv Patriarchate controls just 3640 congregations, and others even less.

According to the Ministry of Culture, only 70 UOC MP communities joined the Kyiv Patriarchate since 2014. But these conversions often caused the restraint of those who opposed them.

The Moscow Patriarchate’s faithful quickly and smartly get organized to act together, as shown by numerous religious marches and protests in recent years. Ukrainian experts admit that no political power in Ukraine can immediately take so many people out to the streets. Among UOC MP members are also those who can make resistance, and maybe even radicals.

However, the Administration of the President of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada and government keep acting like they’ve not seen it and are not aware of it. It’s unclear why the authorities are so blind and what they count on in the upcoming conflict, which can be provoked by the new Single Local Church. The Greek Catholics have declared their neutrality. The only way the balance of powers can be affected is the involvement of law enforcers and radical nationalists acting under their cover. But what will be the consequences then?

The nationalists’ leader Oleg Tyahnybok urges the authorities to act instead of waiting for the autocephaly from Constantinople: “We believe the Ukrainian authorities can do a lot more without Constantinople. For instance, to seize the relics captured by the Moscow Patriarchate, which in fact belong to the Ukrainian people. We shouldn’t ask for Bartholomew’s permission. Hand over Kiev Pachersk Lavra, Pochayiv Lavra to the Ukrainian Church. Any problems?”

Indeed, there is only one problem – the start of the election race. Petro Poroshenko seems to be blind to other issues. The question is whether Washington and Brussels see them.

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Eastern Europe

Who makes Expenses Plan for the Baltic States?

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The Baltic states today are no more a clean sheet of paper waiting for somebody to write something on. During almost 30 years of independence from the USSR the authorities have been cleaning the countries from the Soviet-era’s hangover and are writing new history by themselves. And the results of their activity are various and often disputable.

On the one hand the idea of gaining independence which was in the air for long time had been realized. But unfortunately this is the only great thing that happened to the Baltic states.

The first years of independent existence were marked by national enthusiasm. It seemed as if there were no unrealizable goals for strong in spirit Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians. The three peoples were ready to move mountains. Almost thirty years have passed. And only now it becomes clear, that those who were given the power to decide for the whole nations did not always make right political and economic decisions. And they continue to be in error.

People’s interests are no longer in the list of priorities. The authorities very often forget that they were chosen by people, they are not Lords but they are servants for people’s good.

This fact is proved by the increasing immigration rate. The reality is that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are losing people. According to U.N. statistics, “in 2000 Latvia’s population stood at 2.38 million. At the start of this year, it was only 1.95 million. No other country has had a more precipitous fall in population — 18.2 percent. Only Latvia’s similarly fast-shriveling neighbor, Lithuania, is with a 17.5 percent decrease.” The officials’ explanation of such catastrophic statistics arouses surprise and even resentment. Do they really think that young people leave because “borders are open, information about life in other prosperous EU states is available and they just go to see the world.” NO! They do not just want to see the world, they just want to live in prosperous countries, because Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are poor! Young generation even does not see any perspective at home. No enthusiasm is left, no more trust to the authorities exists. Who is to blame?

But now it is not so important to find those who are guilty, the question “what to do to stop loosing people” is on the agenda.

The scenario of a fairy tale when a hero comes and saves the country does not work in reality. It is time to stop choosing such heroes. Russia, US, NATO or the EU are not those who can make the Baltic states prosperous. It is enough to rely on their decisions and advice. What have the Baltic states achieved since gaining independence? They became a place for possible war conflict. Paradoxically, they took over this status of their own free will. First of all they permitted foreign troops deploying in their territories which irritates neighboring Russia and locals. The authorities allowed to build military warehouses, these steps aren’t also attractive for local population. The matter is foreign military activity is to some extend occupation even if it is conducted for the important purpose. Do the Baltic states really need foreign troops? They need foreign investments, foreign tourists, foreign goods, but not troops and old military vehicles that pollute their soil, air and water. The worst thing is the countries loose self-sufficiency and can’t exist without the so called “donors.” These “generous” countries feel free not only to advice, but to decide for the Baltic states.

One of such examples is the assessment of the Baltic states railways condition made by Modern War Institute at West Point in April 2018. According to the report, “currently, the Baltic states operate Russian-gauge railroad tracks, while other European NATO members utilize a standard European gauge. Such differences impose a big problem for NATO’s Logistics in Northeastern Europe. This incompatibility means that trains “carrying military equipment and supplies from larger NATO bases in Germany or Poland would have to transfer their cargo to Russian-gauge trains or proceed via ground convoys to their destinations. Not only are both options time-consuming, they require trained personnel and significant military resources (e.g., heavy equipment transporter systems, military police and security elements), as well as proficiency and familiarity in conducting such operations.” The documents of such type “advice” to rebuild Baltic rail infrastructure. By the way this will demand huge amount of money. Who will pay for new railway? Most likely the NATO problem once again will become the Baltic states’ problem. As well as the decommissioning of Lithuania’s Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant has become purely Lithuanian problem. Thus strengthening its Western flank NATO automatically makes the Baltic states poorer and weaker.

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