sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Your Wednesday Soviet

(update based on an e-mail) "Soviet” is derived from a Russian word signifying  advice, among other meanings, ultimately deriving from the Proto-Slavic verbal stem of *větiti "to talk, speak". The word "sovietnik" means councillor. Thus a "Wednesday Soviet" essentially means "a discussion on Wednesday". I chose the title of this blog post based on that meaning.

In a teleconference on 12 January, Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergey Shoygu outlined a significant expansion of Russian forces in 2016, according to Interfax. Let's review what he said point-by-point.
“- Three new divisions will be formed in the "western sector" in 2016, which Shoygu described as a "task of utmost importance". It is necessary both to form these divisions and equip their permanent bases.” 
“- Five more ICBM regiments "armed with modern missile systems" will be deployed on combat alert duty in 2016 in the Strategic Missile Troops (RVSN), as part of the effort to ‘reinforce the potential of the strategic nuclear forces and implement defense-related space programs.’ The infrastructure to support the strategic nuclear forces, such as strategic missile submarine and Long-Range Aviation bases, will also have to be continuously improved.”

“- Russia's strategic forces have been bolstered across the board over 2015. Two ballistic-missile strategic submarines, the Aleksandr Nevskiy and the Vladimir Monomakh, were commissioned into the Russian Navy. Six ICBM regiments equipped with both silo-based and road-mobile Yars missile systems were brought into service in the RVSN. And a new armed service, the Aerospace Forces, was formed on the basis of the Air Force and the Aerospace Defense Troops.”

“- Snap drills in the Armed Forces will continue in 2016, with a focus on practice to "redeploy troops over long distances", ‘form groups of forces in sectors under threat’ and air defense drills involving aircraft.”

“- The aim of Caucasus 2016 (Kavkaz-2016), this year's strategic command-post exercise, will be to ‘demonstrate the capability of Russia's Armed Forces to defend its southwestern strategic sector.’ The focus will be on operations in the mountains, ‘given the rise of terrorist threats in the region.’

“- The share of brand new weapons in the Russian Armed Forces is expected to reach 51 per cent this year, up from 47 per cent now. The share of serviceable hardware is expected to rise from 89 per cent to 92 per cent. The general-purpose forces have attained a qualitatively new level, as the minister put it. Eight new brigades were formed in 2015. The social protection of service personnel remained a priority, with the ‘issue of personnel's provision with service accommodation virtually closed.’”

“- And with regard to the Arctic and the Russian Far East, the Defense Ministry plans to complete the development of military facilities in Arctic islands and infrastructure in the Kurils in 2016.”
The new National Security Strategy that President Putin signed on 31 December provides us with a context for the initiatives that Shoygu listed. It stipulates that NATO’s militarization and arms build-up in eastern Europe member states pose a national security threat to Russia that requires an appropriate response. Shoygu’s list is the 2016 part of that appropriate response.

The list is a mix of recent and planned activations, but all of Russia’s recent military developments and operations are treated.

The creation of new divisions in the western region is a direct response to Ukraine crisis and to NATO actions to strengthen defenses in NATO’s eastern and Baltic members. Last year Ukraine proclaimed the end of its nonalignment policy and announced its alignment with NATO and the West. It identified Russia as a national security threat. Russia has decided to validate that threat assessment in a way Ukraine probably never intended.
Russia encountered significant challenges during the Ukrainian crisis because a significant portion of the Russian forces deployed “for training” opposite eastern Ukraine came from military districts in central Russia. Three divisions in the west would simplify and reduce the costs of deployments and sustainment. 
Mention of long distance deployments on short notice is a reference to the Russian expeditionary forces in Syria. Russia also continues to focus on the Arctic to defend its claims to sea and seabed resources as climate changes continue to open up the region to exploration. 

This fits in the pattern of upgrading Russia’s defensive capabilities along the borders that abut NATO, the US and its Allies, and the Middle East. The upgrade in perimeter defensive capabilities does not include Russia’s borders with the central Asian states or China.
The focus on strategic nuclear forces and on space merit careful attention because they seem to imply a dark vision of security threats in 2016 and out to 2020, the time horizon of the National Security Strategy. Whatever and wherever they emerge, Russia intends to be prepared.
President Putin and the Russian military strategists foresee a need and a use for more and more modern nuclear forces and delivery systems. They intend to expand Russian strategic nuclear forces as one of the most important tasks for the Defense Ministry.  So much for the vaunted SECSTATE Hillary Clinton reset button...

Russian leaders, especially Foreign Minister Lavrov, have indicated that they thought NATO and the US cheated in Ukraine by ignoring a duly elected pro-Russian government and supporting a right-wing coup d’état. One of the more important implications of Shoygu’s list is that Russia does not intend to be bullied or outmaneuvered by the US and NATO again. 

The array of military improvements also conveys a longstanding Russian/Soviet belief that the West only respects and responds to military strength. Russia might not achieve all its military goals for 2016, especially if the price of oil continues to plunge. Nevertheless, its way ahead is very clear.



a fictional short

LaShawnda Jackson twitched her big head, swishing those dreads, snapped her fingers, and sent shivers of anguish through the ranks of Public School 14 (PS 14) 1:00 pm Remedial Composition Class. Her teaching methods were unorthodox, and her students learned a lot more about how her three children's daddies were crack dealers and whore chasers than they did about sophomore English. But be that as it may, they behaved in the classroom. The fat, angry teacher had been stabbed, tazed, clubbed and even shot once (the bullet grazed around her ribcage, missing vital organs due to the use of sub-standard ammunition made in Korea). Her command presence, earned with scars, scalding and scissors thrust through her bicep, was absolute. Her commitment to the teacher's union that allowed her to cling to tenure was iron clad.

"Shawn Jackson, my daddy, wasn't no trumped up reverend, chasing after white women and shaking down Wall Street. He wasn't no Jehovah Witness fucking his own children so they would sing songs for tips. He drove a truck."

LaShawnda wasn't certain what her father did for a living. Her mother told her that he drove a truck between Detroit and Kansas City, but he'd skee-dattled before she burst from the grand dam's womb.  She was relatively certain that she wasn't kin to Reverend Jessie, or the Michael/LaToya/Janet clan. Or if she was they'd held out on her when it came to sharing royalties.

"I ain't no famous Jackson, I'm here to tell y'all what to write and how to write it." An accusing finger tipped like an arrow with a nail two inches long nearly skewered a skinny Puerto Rican named Milo Sanchez in the front row. "Did you do yo home-work, Milo?"

Milo slipped the handwritten page out of his thin notebook and handed it to Ms. Jackson. The other students did likewise by rote, handing them forward. The students on the front row handed them right until they ended up at Milo Sanchez's desk. Milo, acting by rote, stood, went to the stapler, put one metal staple through the stack in the upper left corner, put the homework into the 'in-box' and returned to his seat.

LaShawnda, red of tooth and claw with an oversized bosom, ass, and ego, had not dated recently and privately wondered why. So it was that when she passed in the night due to a heart attack, there was no significant other except for her mother, who watched her three children every day anyway, to claim the body and arrange the service.

While selecting popular arrangements to be played by the funeral home D. J., Cleo Jackson, LaShawnda's mother had been approached by an odd man who wanted to buy her daughter's body. He explained that one out of every twenty-five million or so of the recently deceased was selected by Southwest Positronics, a high tech firm located (underground) near Itasca, Texas, to be frozen until technology arrived that would allow their illness to be reversed and then they could be cured and thawed. Or thawed and then cured, however best to manage the resurrection.

Cleo looked upon this arrangement with a great deal of skepticism until the skeletal fixer peeled off five hundred dollars from a pimp roll in his pocket.

Southwest Positronics did not want to store LaShawnda Jackson's frozen corpse for decades or even millennia, but they were under court mandate to offer equal opportunity to minority teachers. Thus LaShawnda's large body made its way to Itasca, Texas where it underwent proprietary preparation procedures, was frozen to 0 Kelvin and locked in its own vault. She joined a number of notables including Bruce Jenner, Elvis Presley, Hulk Hogan and former Congressman and song bird, Sonny Bono.

Time passed.

Truth be told, a lot of time.

Jesus took the good people to heaven with him in the rapture (which did nothing to eliminate the rush hour traffic in Los Angeles, New York, London, Athens or Shanghai), then there were two nuclear wars, the inevitable zombie apocalypse, an ice age (finally defeated by global warming), another ice age, and a return of something akin to the age of dinosaurs. This time the dinosaurs were no larger than sparrows. Through all of this, LaShawnda Jackson's body remained in its cocoon deep under Itasca Texas, in the Southwest Positronics facility, powered by a nuclear cell that kept the bodies intact.

She awoke slowly as if coming off a really bad hangover, laying on a huge leaf inside a translucent green pod of sorts. She closed her eyes tightly "Did I drop acid?" LaShawnda gave voice to her concerns. A straw was gently inserted between her lips and she drew in a sweet nectar. Slowly she opened her eyes again.

A large brown insect, even larger than she was, attended her. It wore bits and pieces of metallic equipment attached to its carapace. "You are awake! We did not know if we could save you. How do you feel?"

"I feel that I need to go back to sleep and stop smoking they Sherms wit that motherfucking angel dust."

"Be of good cheer. We have revived you." The insect elevated the leaf such that she slid to the floor  gently, feet first, and stood up.

A wall of the pod opened up and the sun warmed her face for the first time in thirty-thousand years.

"Say what?"

The green medical pod was one of hundreds of pods of various sizes, arrayed on gently rolling hills. An excavation had taken place and the storage facility had been exhumed. The instructions to wake the dead were portrayed in a cartoon format as was the tutorial that instructed whomever in the English language.

LaShawnda walked slowly out of the pod on her large, thick feet, and she looked around. There were no buildings, none of the vestiges of man's conquest of the planet. (She didn't know that she was in Itasca, Texas, home of the once popular Karen's world-class brisket burritos and little more. There were never many vestiges of human mastery of the planet in Itasca.)

"I am sorry that we were only able to revive two of you, but lucky for us you represent Earth's best. We desire to learn of your culture, of the history of your planet, of your civilization. We desire that you and the other, a male, mate to replenish your civilization."

"You wan me ta fuck somebody?"

The large insect, now joined by other large insects translated her question and touched antennae.

"Yes. You were Earth's greatest teacher. Your new mate was a statesman of great renown, a man of singular talent. Unfortunately he did not recover from his long sleep quite as well as you did. All he can say to us is, 'I got you, babe'."