March 8, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 172

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: What the heck is going on in Syria these days? Who is Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka and which wing of Hungarian politics does he come from? People: Bill and Nate. Produced: March 6th, 2017.

Episode 172 (52 min):
AFD 172


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Music by friend of the show @StuntBirdArmy.

Nate’s Reading Corner:

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A separation of one’s own creation

Estonia has — quite vindictively — done an extremely poor job integrating the older generations of its large Russian-speaking population, which has unfortunately left them closely oriented toward Russia.

For example, Estonia could have provided extensive homegrown Russian-language television programming and instead limited it to 15 minutes per day, which left Russian state television across the border to fill the void, enthusiastically, with anti-Estonian propaganda. Younger Russian Estonians, born shortly before or some time after the Soviet breakup, are somewhat better integrated but only by virtue of cultural assimilation out of necessity, which fosters its own kind of resentments.

These failures, not small military strengths, is what has left the Baltic States vulnerable to Russian intimidation and threats.

In related news (pictured above and below), about two weeks ago, the United States rolled a large military convoy with great deliberation 1,100 miles across Poland and 5 other countries, in a show of support to NATO members or a show of force against Russia. NYT:

By the time it is finished, Operation Dragoon Ride, which began a week ago in the Baltics and is due to conclude later this week, will be the longest such movement the United States Army has made across Europe since Gen. George S. Patton diverted his Third Army to relieve Bastogne, Belgium, in 1944.


Operation Dragoon Ride, Eastern/Central Europe, Day 4. (Credit: US Army)

Operation Dragoon Ride, Eastern/Central Europe, Day 4. (Credit: US Army)

Also from Arsenal For Democracy on this topic

“Lithuania reactivates interwar paramilitary”
“Poland readies itself to go deep, if necessary”

Despite the war, Ukraine is digging itself out

Alexei Bayer for The Globalist (and the Kyiv Post) on the state of Putin’s war in Ukraine:

After [the capture of Crimea], the war has not been going especially well. On the contrary, all of Putin’s plans have failed. After the flight of buffoonish Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainians have been able to elect a legitimate government and to build a stronger, battle-hardened military.

Ukraine’s economy is struggling, but it has not collapsed and bankruptcy is now unlikely, given the $17.5 billion aid package approved by the International Monetary Fund earlier this month. Slowly but surely, the Ukrainian economic system is undergoing the necessary reforms that have been delayed by a quarter of a century.

Meanwhile, Putin’s Novorossiya project, had envisioned annexing eastern and southern portions of Ukraine to connect by land to Crimea and to link with the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova. The project has failed miserably, shrinking to the size of two small, lawless and starving “People’s Republics.”

Russia might win individual battles, but the goals of seizing territory permanently and fundamentally destabilizing the Ukrainian governmental system for years to come are not coming easily or quickly…and might not come at all.

Arsenal For Democracy Background Reports on This Topic:

Putin’s Novorossiya Project
Get to Know a Geopolitical Flashpoint: Transdniestria
Ukraine: In defense of a “total war” in the east
Rebel offensive targets corridor to Crimea

Novorossiya/New Russia in the Russian Empire in 1897. (Credit: Dim Grits - Wikimedia)

Novorossiya/New Russia in the Russian Empire in 1897. (Credit: Dim Grits – Wikimedia)

Lithuania reactivates interwar paramilitary

Following Poland’s recent lead with re-mobilizing the Home Army, Lithuania has reinvigorated its interwar paramilitary from club status to a more quasi-official force, in a bid to be prepared if Russia begins a stealth invasion to “protect” ethnically Russian residents as it did in Ukraine:

Lithuania revived its pre-WWII Riflemen’s Union to help deter the threat of both conventional and hybrid warfare. The citizens’ militia boasts over 8,000 members in the nation of three million people, a number almost on par with its 8,000 military personnel and 4,500 reservists.

Technically, at least according to Wikipedia, the latter-day Riflemen’s Union has been around since Lithuania’s departure from Soviet control, but — as with similar forces in Poland — it had been a small, informal organization until its recent elevation.

Not mentioned in the article quoted above, however, is the note from the Wikipedia page that most of the members under the club version were teenagers or “youth” members. That means they would essentially be child soldiers if actually deployed to resist a Russian intervention.

The group has been hoping to recruit more (adult) members since last summer, in light of recent events. Estonia’s paramilitary recruitment reportedly swelled significantly in the aftermath of the Crimea annexation.

The Baltic states, now part of the European Union and NATO, are particularly worried about the prospects of a secret Russian invasion. They were the last to be annexed to the Soviet Union and the first to try to leave it after the Berlin Wall fell, and (like Ukraine) they still retain large Russian minorities. Plus, they have already faced electronic attacks from Russia in the past.

While a full-scale invasion is improbable now, hybrid meddling and destabilisation tactics designed to test NATO’s commitment to collective defence are not.

Putin’s brand of hybrid warfare also relies on “misinformation, bribery, economic pressure”, which are designed to “undermine the nation”, according to Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis.

One has to wonder, though, whether the climate of fear being created — even the semi-regularization of somewhat questionable paramilitary forces — is already undermining these nations without a single shot being fired or paratrooper being landed.

Flag of the Lithuanian Riflemen's Union (via Wikipedia)

Flag of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union (via Wikipedia)


January 21, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 114


Topics: Republican State Attorneys General, the NYPD mutiny, US-Russian relations. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: January 19th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– How are Republican Attorneys General helping corporations fight common sense regulation?
– Is the NYPD beyond the control of the people of New York City and Mayor De Blasio?
– The end of nuclear partnership: When should the US view Russian actions as threatening versus posturing?

Episode 114 (52 min)
AFD 114

Related links
Segment 1

AFD, by Sasha: State Attorneys General are ruining the Earth. Literally.
NYT: Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General

Segment 2

AFD: NYC: Overwhelming opposition to the NYPD mutiny
The Globalist, by Bill: New York: De Blasio Vs. a Renegade Police Department
AFD: The NYPD: America’s Secret Police
AFD, by De Ana: #BlackLivesMatter means just that, not that police lives don’t
Reuters: Off duty, black cops in New York feel threat from fellow police

Segment 3

Boston Globe: Russia ends US nuclear security alliance
The Globalist: Kaliningrad: Achilles’ Heel for the West


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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Poland readies itself to go deep, if necessary

When your country has been arbitrarily partitioned by its rival neighbors and purported allies at least seven times in the last 250 years, it’s hard not to be pessimistic that it might happen again — and to want to prepare for the worst. According to The Economist, that’s exactly what’s happening in Poland again, in light of Russia’s unexpected invasion and partial annexation of Ukraine:

Now Mr Waszczuk wants to draw on Poland’s history of guerrilla warfare to cope with the challenges of an increasingly unpredictable Russia. “We are the continuation of the Home Army,” he says. The goal is to form light infantry units scattered around the country able to continue the fight “if there is an invasion and the Polish military is destroyed”.
In early December, Poland’s defence ministry approved an upgraded national defence plan that includes an effort to co-ordinate better between the regular military and informal paramilitary outfits. Strzelec counts about 5,000 members; several hundred thousand other Polish civilians, including military re-enactment enthusiasts, are thought to be keen on the programme. The military already aids paramilitary groups with surplus uniforms and training sessions.
“We supposedly had a strong alliance in 1939, and no one came to help us,” says Mr Waszczuk. “Now we’re hearing that Germany is in no shape to help us and that NATO is unclear about sending troops here. In the end, the best defence is to rely on yourself.”

From September 1939 to January 1945, Poland’s armed forces demobilized and reconstituted themselves to exist as the underground, insurgent “Home Army” — Europe’s largest resistance force during World War II until the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia — whose primary directive was to maintain the secret authority of the Polish government-in-exile and continue the functions of the Polish state in daily life (including education) under occupation. They eventually surrendered to the Soviets to avoid a civil war with the communists after the ejection of the Germans.

Flag of Poland's Home Army during World War II. (Credit: Bastianow - Wikimedia)

Flag of Poland’s Home Army during World War II. (Credit: Bastianow – Wikimedia)

Ukraine ultra-billionaire steps in against separatists

Akhmetov_Rinat_LeonidovichWhoomp, there it is. Donetsk’s Man-Who-Owns-Everything, Rinat Akhmetov, finally got off the fence and told some of the separatists to go kick rocks. He ejected them from the government buildings they were “occupying” in the oblast’s second-largest city, Mariupol, and sent his own private workers to start cleaning up so local public functions could resume.

The steel-and-coal magnate is #92 on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, with a net worth of $12.2 billion. (The next-richest person in Ukraine is #548 and “only” has a net worth of $3.1 billion.)

It remains to be seen if he will take similar action against separatists in other cities of the Donetsk Oblast, such as the city of Donetsk itself. (There are allegations that some of the country’s other oligarchs may now be funding private pro-unity militias against the separatists.) The port city of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov coast (see map below), was relatively removed from the center of the clashes between separatists and troops sent by Kiev.

However, in a video statement, Akhmetov took a very firm stance against independence or annexation to Russia, while backing greater regional autonomy:

Until now, Akhmetov had been notable for his noncommittal stance during the turbulence that has for more than a month gripped the region that is home to his most lucrative industrial assets.

A video statement by the 47-year-old industrialist on Thursday made it clear that his loyalties are not so much with the Kiev government but with his native Donbass – territory that encompasses the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. He called for major constitutional reforms, while preserving a united Ukraine.

“This is when power goes from Kiev to the regions. This is when authorities are not appointed but elected. And this is when local authorities take responsibility for people’s real future,” he said.

Independence or absorption into Russia would spell economic catastrophe for the region, he added.

On a related note, the Russian Federation government is, in the words of English-language Russian state media outlet Russia Today, “in no rush to respond to Donetsk People’s Republic plea for accession.” They are moving far more slowly and cautiously in response to the controversial referendum this past week than they did with the one in Crimea, where they wrapped up the seceding region right into the Federation within days. Unlike in Crimea, Russia withdrew support for the eastern referenda before they took place.

Eastern Ukraine highlighting Donetsk Oblast. Adapted from Arsenal For Democracy's complete 2014 Ukraine crisis map.

Eastern Ukraine highlighting Donetsk Oblast. Adapted from Arsenal For Democracy’s complete 2014 Ukraine crisis map.