historical perspectives, latest, Russia
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The Russian minority in the Baltics live under ‘apartheid’ states

Max Parry

An ‘Immortal Regiment’ march celebrating Victory Day in Riga, Latvia.

It has been nearly three decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Despite Russia’s reemergence on the world stage as a respected power after market-oriented ‘reforms’ destroyed its economy for the duration of the nineties, the breakup of the USSR is an event regarded by an increasing amount of Russians as a catastrophic tragedy rather than a triumph of ‘freedom and democracy.’

In recent years, there have been numerous polls showing that more than half of Russians not only regret the collapse of the Soviet Union but would even prefer for its return. However, the nostalgia only comes as a surprise to those who have forgotten that not long before the failed August Coup that led to its demise, the first and only referendum in its history was held in March of 1991 which polled citizens if they wished to preserve the Soviet system.

The results were more than three quarters of the population in the entire socialist federation (including Russia) voting a resounding yes with a turnout of 80% in the participating republics. In Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan the outcome was more than 90% voting for renewal. Even the country with the lowest amount of support, the Ukraine, was still 70% in favor. While the measure was officially banned in six republics— Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and the three Baltic states— despite being unrecognized by their local governments the vote was still organized and the outcomes were all over 90%.

Ironically, the union dissolved five months later under the pretext of establishing ‘democracy’ in Eastern Europe just as it ignored the very wishes of Soviet citizens. After more than 25 years of suffering at the hands of economic and trade liberalization, gutting of state subsidies and mass privatization of the former state-run industry, is it any wonder that Russians are yearning for a return to socialism?

The consequences of the disintegration are still felt in the relations with the United States today. It planted the seeds for the carefully arranged revival of the Cold War that was hiding in plain sight until it surfaced with ‘color revolutions’, proxy wars and dubious spy poisonings. One source of the strained relations between the West and Russia has been the Baltic states, which burgeoned following their integration into the European Union and enrollment in NATO membership in 2004 during its enlargement. NATO continues its provocations with massive war games bordering Kaliningrad, while Moscow is painted as the aggressor even though the U.S. defense spending increase this year alone surpasses Russia’s entire military budget.

The antagonism between Latvia, Estonia and(to a lesser degree) Lithuania with Moscow stems partly from from the cessation of the USSR itself. The conclusion of the Cold War resulted in more than 25 million Russians instantly discovering themselves living abroad in foreign countries. For seventy years, fifteen nations had been fully integrated while Russians migrated and lived within the other republics. The Soviet collapse immediately reignited national conflicts, from the Caucasus to the Baltics. While the majority of the ethnic Russian diaspora live in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, nearly 1 million reside in the post-Soviet Baltics and since 1991 they have been subjected to a campaign of forced assimilation, discrimination and exclusion.

The Baltic republics made nationalism their official state policy while moving away from Russia’s sphere of influence into a closer relationship with the West. Boris Yeltsin’s subservience to Washington eclipsed any concern for the fate of captive Russians as the Soviet Bloc was herded into the EU, but his administration did quarrel with the new Baltic authorities and accused them of creating an anti-Russian ‘apartheid.’

As geopolitical tensions have increased under his successor, Vladimir V. Putin, who has embarrassed Western imperialism in the international arena, so has Moscow’s disapproval of the treatment of its minority held hostage in the Baltic Rim. Is a comparison to South Africa warranted? Even if the similarities are only partial, the three states show evidence of deep ethnocracy.

While less than 10% of Lithuania is ethnically Russian, in Latvia and Estonia the number is much higher at a quarter of their entire populations. The three governments have passed laws promoting their official languages and restored citizenship requirements that existed up until 1940, demanding that their Russian minorities apply or risk losing basic rights and guarantees. Russia has interpreted these measures as a form of slow-motion ethnic cleansing intended to coerce Russians to immigrate elsewhere.

When the three states first became independent, in an act of systematic discrimination they distributed non-citizen ‘alien’ passports to ethnic Russians and excluded them from obtaining citizenship automatically, even if they had lived and worked in a Baltic state for their entire life. In fact, citizenship was not immediately granted to anyone whose ancestry arrived after 1940, a policy that specifically targeted ethnic Russians who without naturalization are left stateless.

For example, when Estonia first declared its independence more than 30% of its population (or every third person) did not have citizenship of the country of residence. This inscribed ethnic division into their society and although many Russians have become naturalized over the last two decades, there are still more than 80,000 in Estonia without determined status who are mostly former Soviet citizens and their descendants. In Latvia, segregation runs even deeper where more than 250,000 Russians (15% of the population) remain stateless. Even when they do become citizens, the parliaments have attempted to pass laws banning non-EU immigrants (predominantly Russians) from possessing voting rights on several occasions. Polls also show the prejudice within their societies, with many Balts indicating they would prefer their Russian-speaking neighbors to repatriate.

Meanwhile, the Russian population has expressed concern about the reemergence of neo-Nazism. The authorities have nurtured holocaust denial, such as the Latvian government objecting to an UNESCO Holocaust exhibition of the Salaspils concentration camp on the basis it would ‘tarnish the country’s image.’ No kidding.

Children held in Salaspils concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Latvia during WWII.

One criteria for the naturalization exams is based on language where in order to become citizens Russians must become fluent in Latvian and Estonian, even though they are such a large minority that in larger cities they often constitute 50% of the population and Russian may be the most spoken language. Simultaneously, any attempt to make Russian a second official language have been struck down. It is a deliberate effort to assimilate the Russian-speaking minority and erase remnants of Soviet culture.

In order to obtain basic entitlements, Russians have to pass the tough naturalization tests which many fail several times (especially the elderly), facing fines and risking losing their employment in the process. The tests are notoriously difficult as Latvian and Estonian languages bear little resemblance to Slavic Russian and are much closer to Finnish.

Apart from ethnicity, 40% of Latvia as a whole identifies as Russian-speaking and have been accustomed to schooling in their native tongue where they already have low career prospects and income rates. Rather than inclusion, they have been mandated to adopt the Baltic languages. Beginning in 2019, the Russian language education options in Latvia will be discontinued altogether in higher education at colleges and universities as well as many secondary schools, which has sparked demonstrations in protest.

Russian-speakers protesting Latvia’s language reform laws

It should be made clear that what ethnic Russians experience in the Baltics has its own particularities that make it significantly different from the institutionalized racism and violently enforced segregation that existed in South Africa (or what many believe is applicable to the Palestinians under Israeli occupation). The word apartheid itself originates from the Afrikaans word for ‘separateness’ (or apart-hood), but an exact comparison is not the real issue. There are many overlapping characteristics that make an analogy arguable.

For instance, the use of an ID system denoting ethnicity and alien status with the inability of Russians to participate in the democratic process or politics. Their reduced standing contributes to a society where ethnic groups often do not intermingle and are concentrated in particular areas with Russians mostly residing in urban cities. Yet even Israel recognized Arabic as a second official language (until 2018), while none of three Baltic states do so for Russian. When referendums have been held on whether to adopt Russian as a second language, the non-citizen communities are excluded from voting, ensuring its inability to pass.

The exams also coerce Russians to accept a nationalist and historically revisionist account of the last century where the Soviet Union is said to have “occupied” the Baltics. A history lesson is needed to understand how this is untrue and based on pure Nazi mythology. During the Romanov dynasty, the Baltic states had been part of the Russian Empire but became independent for the first time in centuries following the February Revolution in 1917.

Along with Belarus and Finland, the Bolsheviks were unable to regain the three republics during the Russian Civil War. During the 1930s, the three nations were officially sovereign states but under their own brutal nationalist regimes. The Soviet liberation of the Baltics can hardly be seen as a ‘forceful incorporation’ considering what they replaced were not democracies themselves and they were absorbed in order to block Hitlerite expansionism.

Since the restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe, the Baltic states have waged a campaign of diminishing and obscuring the Holocaust into a ‘double genocide’ of equal proportions , conflating the Nazis and the Soviets as twin evils. Western ‘democracies’ have helped obfuscate the truth about the widely misunderstood Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the treaty of non-belligerence between Germany and the USSR. The 1939 non-aggression pact has been painted as a ‘secret alliance’ between the Nazis and the Soviets, disregarding that France and Great Britain had done the same with the Germans the previous year with the Munich Agreement.

Only the Soviets are said to have ‘conspired’ with Hitler, just as when the West fought the Germans it was for ‘liberal values’ but when the USSR did so it was for competing ‘dominion’ over Europe. In order to mask their own fascist sympathies, the West has falsified the historical reasons for the accord. In reality, there were measures incorporating the Baltic states into the USSR as part of a mutual defense and assistance against German imperialism and their ‘master plan’ for the East.

The truth is that the ruling class in the West feared the spread of communism much more than fascism, and actually viewed the rise of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe as an opportunity to crush the Soviet Union. Leading up to WWII, not only was it Western capital investment which financed the rapid buildup of Germany’s armed forces, but the U.S., Britain and France did everything within their power to encourage Hitler’s aggression toward the USSR. More than once they collectively refused to sign any mutual security alliance with Moscow while appeasing Hitler’s expansionism in Czechoslovakia, with the British in particular guilty of sabotaging negotiations to isolate the Soviets and pit them into a war against Germany.

Stalin was well aware the Nazis planned to expand the Lebensraum further East, but the Soviets were in the midst of a rapid industrialization process that accomplished in a single decade what took the British more than a century. They needed time to guarantee they could defeat an offensive by the Wehrmacht, the most powerful and developed military force in the world at the time. It provided an additional year and ten months of further buildup of Soviet armaments — if not for this move, it is possible the Germans would never have been stopped twenty kilometers short of Moscow and turned the outcome of the war in their favor. The real reason the pact infuriated the West was because it obligated them into having to fight the Germans, something the imperial powers had hoped to avoid altogether.

More disturbingly, the Baltic governments have drawn from the traditions of the far right by whitewashing the local nationalists that sided with Germany during their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 which broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The Nazi collaborators have been restored and normalized as ‘freedom fighters’ who fought solely for Baltic independence.

The Estonian parliament has even adopted resolutions honoring the Estonian Legion and 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) without any such equivalent measure for the more than 30,000 Estonians who courageously fought in the Red Army.

To most Russians, it is an absolute insult to the 27 million Soviets who died defeating the Nazis, including the Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians who did so as well. Today, if they wish to become citizens they must swear an oath of allegiance to this rewriting of history which has been made a precondition for obtaining citizenship. The three states also do not recognize the May 9th Victory Day as a holiday, forcing the Russian minority to celebrate it informally.

20th Estonian SS Division

The rehabilitation of the local nationalists who fought alongside the Germans has been done under the false premise that the collaboration was a purely strategic alliance. The Soviets are portrayed as equal to or worse than Nazi Germany, a false equivalency between fascism and communism that is a ubiquitous trait among ultra-rightists today. Tens of thousands of Latvians and Estonians volunteered and were conscripted into legions of the SS which participated in the Holocaust, as did Lithuanians in the Nazi-created Territorial Defense Force and their Security Police.

They did not simply coordinate on the battlefield with the Germans, but directly participated in the methodical slaughter of Jews, Roma and others because they shared their racism. In Lithuania, for example, quislings welcomed the Wehrmacht as liberators and for the next three years under Nazi occupation helped murder 200,000 Jews, nearly 95% of the country’s Jewish population, a total which exceeded every other European country in terms of percentage of extermination. It is certain that the only thing that prevented Lithuania’s Jews from extinction was the heroism and sacrifice of the Red Army.

Latvians greeting the Red Army after the liberation of Riga

During the Cold War, the US and NATO sought to whitewash certain Nazi war criminals when it suited its strategic interests against the Soviets. This went beyond the Germans themselves, whether it was recruiting their spies for espionage, atomic scientists in Operation Paperclip, or making Hans Speidel the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Central Europe.

The Nuremberg Trials had ruled the entire Waffen SS as an organization to be guilty of war crimes during the holocaust, but the US chose to make a distinction between the 15th and 19th SS divisions in Latvia (Latvian Legion) and 20th division in Estonia from the German divisions of the SS. In 1950, the US Displaced Persons Commission determined:

The Baltic Waffen SS Units are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended.”

While the displaced persons laws let Jewish refugees into the United States, it also provided cover for the reserved spaces for thousands of Nazi collaborators in an open-door policy providing them safe harbor. Following the end of WWII, many of the former members of the Baltic SS units became anti-Soviet partisans known as the Forest Brothers who carried on a guerilla campaign against the Soviets with the assistance of the CIA and MI6 until it was defeated in mid-50s. Unfortunately, Nikita Khruschev then made one of a series of colossal mistakes by permitting the exiled Baltic nationals to return as part of the de-Stalinisation thaw.

Latvian Legion

The idea that regiments of the Schutzstaffel were fighting purely for Estonian and Latvian independence is a horrifying fabrication in defiance of the overwhelming evidence documented by holocaust historians. The West has exploited this sanitizing of history that reappeared following the reinstatement of free enterprise in eastern Europe which has proliferated the far right in the EU as a whole. Why? It serves their cynical immediate interests in undermining Moscow. The same manipulations are occurring in the Cold War’s sequel. Last year, NATO even produced a short film and a-historical reenactment entitled Forest Brothers: Fight for the Baltics, glorifying the anti-Soviet partisans as part of its propaganda effort against Russia.

Any crimes that were committed by the Soviet NKVD during the war are dwarfed by the tens of thousands of Jews and Roma which were exterminated on an industrial level by the Nazis and their co-conspirators using the race theory — there is no comparison. Not to mention that the reintroduction of the free market to Eastern Europe killed more people than any period in Soviet history, reducing life expectancy by a decade and undoing seventy years worth of progress. We only ever hear of the faults of socialism and the inflated numbers of losses of life attributed to its failure, never the daily crimes of capitalism or the tens of millions lost in the wars it produces.

he Soviet brand of socialism was far from perfect, but nevertheless a model for what humanity can achieve in the face of tremendous adversity without being shackled by the contradictions of capitalism — an industrial society with relative equality in education, wealth, employment and basic necessities. Now that Western capitalism is once again collapsing, it is making friends with nationalists to revise its ugly history and the Russian minority in the Baltics are suffering the consequence. It will continue to apportion blame on the up-and-coming power in Moscow, no longer the quasi-colony of the Yeltsin era, for its soon-to-be expiration. Let us hope it does not start another World War in the midst of it — for all our sake.

Max Parry is an independent journalist and geopolitical analyst. His work has appeared in publications such as The Greanville Post, Global Research, CounterPunch and more. Read him on Medium. Max may be reached at maxrparry@live.com

53 Comments

  1. Anthony says

    Way to go Baltic states!

    1st. Latvian is not similar to Finish at all. The writer needs to do some research!

    2nd. It turns out I need fo start learning russian in my country cos I cannot do shopping anymore. Cashiers, salesmen etc. don’t understand national language and I am mocked I don’t speak russian! Well hello people, try going to Western Europe or many other countries. No national language, no simple medium class job! (Cleaning, building and other similar jobs – yes)

    3rd. So dramatic! If you want german citizenship – exams, other countries-the same, why should it be different in the Baltic states? Russians have lived 50 and more years in these countries and yet cannot speak their language.I think it’s time for them to integrate or leave. Polish have tried to go to parlament, make the polish language second national in Ireland.. Hold your horses! You come here for better life, you shouldn’t impose with your rules and start creating your country there..

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    • Francis Lee says

      ”Way to go Baltic states”

      You’re right, go west! Here with an accurate description of your little Baltic Shangri La.

      Second-tier” EU States are Barely Holding On Ther

      Recent studies conducted by Baltic sociologists are confirming that a Europe of “two speeds” is not merely a fantasy of some journalists. A few days ago, Lithuanian research center Spinter Tyrimai published a rather disturbing report indicating that every sixth Lithuanian studies English in order to emigrate to another European country that can be found the list of “first speed” ones. It’s also been noted by the people that took part in the above mentioned poll that the absolute majority of the Lithuanian population regards their home state as a “launch pad” for a search of a better life in more prosperous Western European states.

      This notion is confirmed by statistics showing that in some sparsely populated areas of Lithuania there are only two to five inhabitants per square kilometer, a population rate that can be found in some deserts. The latest Eurostat report on the situation in Lithuania shows that up to 29% of the inhabitants are living on the verge of poverty, with the situation remaining unchanged for eight consecutive years. At the same time, Lithuania is among the top five states of the EU where people are being employed for meager salaries.The sad reality of this trend is evident in historical records showing an unprecedented drop in the population of this Baltic country, falling from 3.7 million back in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2016 – a 25% decline. Income inequality and the striking poverty of some Lithuanian residents is only getting worse over time, putting Lithuania on the list of the poorest EU states. A typical resident would pay a third of his monthly salary in a bid to get access to healthcare services.

      It’s not surprising that for many years Lithuania has had the largest number of suicide cases in the EU. Therefore, it is quite understandable why Lithuania remains a country that consumes more alcohol than any other, as it’s been stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).A similar situation can be seen in other Eastern European countries, that are being described, according to Der Spiegel, as so-called “second speed EU states.”For instance, after obtaining independence from the Soviet bloc in 1991, the population of yet another Baltic country – Latvia has been diminishing annually with the rate of 23,000 people a year. These frightening figures were unveiled last March by a professor of the University of Latvia, demographer Peteris Zvidriņš who would note that the sad reality is that Latvia loses a small town every two weeks. In raw figures, that is 55 people a day, or 1,650 people a month. Another Latvian demographer, who heads a local office of the International Organization for Migration of the United Nations, Ilmar Mezhs, has recently told Skaties.lv that most of those who are leaving Latvia are not planning to go back. Referring to the forecasts of Eurostat, Mezhs suggested that in sixty years in the place of 2.7 million people who had previously resided in Latvia, one would find less than a million people still dwelling in this country. According to preliminary reports, the country’s population has already been reduced to 1.946 million people. Latvia has been plagued by high mortality rates along with the massive exodus of its people since 1991. According to LTV7, a local media station, the situation in maternity wards across Latvia is critical: low salaries often go hand-in-hand with a shortage of medical personnel, especially young professionals. If the situation is not addressed urgently, as various Latvian media sources report, there will be no qualified doctors left in hospitals.

      The problem is that large numbers of people have been living below the poverty line for years with no sign of improvement. This statement was made by the Commissioner for Human Rights in Latvia, Juris Jansons during an address he made in front of the local parliament last March. It’s no wonder then that according to the official records a total of 115,000 people a year in Latvia are suffering from clinical depression, which amounts to every fourteenth resident of the country, and these people need treatment, notes the Latvian information agency LETA.
      Latvia has overtaken Estonia in the number of people newly infected with HIV in 2016, thus becoming a leading EU state in this area. This data was presented by the BNS agency along with the Baltic HIV Association with a special reference to the data provided by the epidemiological surveillance authorities.

      The terrible conditions that people live in in this Baltic country include the fact that out of all migrants who arrived in Latvia in accordance with the European refugee transfer program, only five people decided to stay in that country, with the remaining refugees fleeing Latvia immediately upon their arrival. Among those who remained there was one family of three people and two more refugees, one of whom would still leave Latvia eventually.

      The long list of domestic social problems in the Baltic states has been largely ignored by media engaged in a massive Russophobia campaign promoted by Washington. Yet, local governments are diverting funds from social programs in order to keep buying weapons from “first-tier” EU countries. As for the funds allocated by the so-called Western allies, the most Lithuanian armed forces can do with this kind of money is to purchase outdated M-14 rifles for the light motorized infantry brigade Aukštaitija, as it’s been noted by NATO Commander Lieutenant-General Vytautas Jonas Žukas in April.

      According to Latvian media, Latvia can also afford the purchase of second-hand howitzers from Austria, paying 6 million euros up front, according to a deal signed by the Latvian Defense Minister Raymond Bergmanis.
      It is unlikely that such used weapons can really be useful for the Baltic states since they’re not going to improve the social situation in these “second-tier” in any way.

      Meanwhile, more than a half of Latvian bridges need urgent repairs, but funds are nowhere to be found. According to local authorities, the evaluation of the condition of more than 970 bridges conducted back in 2016 reveals the condition of 35% as bad, 13.1% as very bad, and 16 bridges bearing signs limiting the maximum mass of vehicles. In total, 467 similar engineering structures require urgent attention now.

      Rolandas Paksas, the former president of Lithuania and now the European Parliament deputy, summed up the results of the post-Soviet period in the history of the republic in March. In his opinion, nothing has been done in the past twenty-seven years of independence nor has anything been built. Therefore, as Paksas points out, every year there are fewer and fewer people in Lithuania, and the life of those who remain is only becoming more difficult.
      Prosperity of the countries of the “second-tier” is now publicly linked by local politicians to the attitude that the United States has towards them. At least, the chairman of the Latvian Sejm Inara Murniece wasn’t ashamed to openly declare as much last April during a meeting with the speaker of the House of Representatives of the US Congress Paul Ryan in Washington.

      However, these countries should not forget that the new administration of the White House has repeatedly stated that it does not intend to spend money on the support of its allied states, while bearing in mind these “second-tier” European states are barely clinging to life. So it’s about time for the local government of these states to start paying closer attention to the problems at hand, spending funds to address the most pressing social problems of the populations that elected them in the first place.

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      • Anthony says

        So you’re just sharing some info about our economical situation. That’s fine. What does it have to do with this article and Russians? Please note, we have Ukrainian immigrants in Lithuania, which work there, try to intergrate and learn the language.. And obviously this is all done cos life is better in Lithuania than back there.. And they don’t moan about it. So it doesn’t make us the worst post sovietic countries, I suppose. P. S. you think that life in Russia is ‘rosy’ ? Belarus as well? You should go and see what life looks like over there. Everything’s the same as during USSR.

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        • Francis Lee says

          ”So you’re just sharing some info about our economical situation.”

          It’s not just an economic situation, it’s a demographic catastrophe. All the able, talented, young and determined members of the population are stampeding to get out headed west. In 50 years time will anyone be left in Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia? Want some more, here are the stats

          Eastern Europe population declines 2006-2017

          Lithuania 12%
          Latvia 12%
          Ukraine 9%
          Hungary 8.5%
          Romania 7%
          Bulgaria 6%
          Estonia 1.5%
          Poland 0.5% ?
          Slovakia, Czech Republic, Russia + positive population growth.

          Will the last Latvian/Luthuanian/Estonian please turn out the lights when he exits the door.

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          • Anthony says

            I agree, situation is not nice. So you’re offering us to join Russia again? Get rid of our language, culture etc?
            This article = prorussian propaganda. Full stop.

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            • bevin says

              The way to preserve your culture is not by banning Russian or disenfranchising old people who have never learned your language. Your English is not perfect, you know, but that does not mean that you should not have every right to comment or vote for your representatives.
              The reason why there is discrimination against Russian in the Baltic countries and Ukraine has nothing to do with protecting dying languages and everything to do with protecting a ruling class which robs everyone blind but whispers sweet nationalisms into the ears of its gulls.

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  2. 0use4msm says

    The time is ripe for a Lasnamäe People’s Republic.

  3. mikael says

    Good by Off Gardian, for an little while you shined like an star, now, with this you will go under, again, revisionism, the latest hit from the elite, witch obviously you are familiary with, since you cut of half of history, regarding the BalTicks and ww2.

    Its anyway an good day, now I know what YOU are, and that makes this to another western dump, like even more rotten Saker, an nasty lying saxk of shait.
    Good speed to the bottom of the pit.

    peace

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  4. Jen says

    Alexander Gaponenko’s 2014 film “Aliens” on the Russian community in Latvia at the link below:

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  5. Jen says

    A film “Aliens” by Alexander Gaponenko in 2014 on the Russian-speaking community in Latvia can be viewed at the link below:

    Among various harassments they suffer from the Latvian government, the Russians have difficulties in learning Latvian, partly because at the same time they are required to know Latvian to a level that most Latvians themselves are not familiar with, to be able to undertake the examination which (if they pass) will qualify them for Latvian citizenship, Latvian authorities themselves make learning Latvian hard by not providing the Russian-language community with the facilities and teachers they need.

    Latvians as well as Russians living in Latvia are interviewed. Several Latvians are of the opinion that the Russians in their country should be allowed citizenship if only because Latvia is losing large numbers of people every year.

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  6. Thomas Prentice says

    I did not know about the vote in 1991. Thank you for exposing yet another example of US meddling in elections, i.e. not recognizing the results and essentially forcing a coup via Yeltsin. The war crimes of the US and Israel are beyond comprehension.

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  7. Francis Lee says

    Yes, the Baltics, like the western Ukraine, rolled out the red carpet to the German invaders in 1941. The Nazi genocide was outsourced from Waffen SS and Einsatzgruppen to Baltic Nazis since the numbers involved were too big to handle for the Germans alone.

    The Arajs Kommando death squad (also: Sonderkommando Arajs), was led by local SS and collaborators Viktors Arājs, Franz Stahlecker and Robert Stieglitz and a unit of Latvian Auxiliary Police (Lettische Hilfspolizei) which was subordinated to the German Sicherheitsdienst (a special security branch of the German SS). It was a notorious killing unit during the Holocaust. Stahlecker instructed Arajs to set up a commando unit that obtained an official name Latvian Auxiliary Security Police or Arājs Kommando.

    The following day on July 2 1941 Arajs learned from Stahlecker during a conference that the Arajs commando had to unleash a pogrom that looked spontaneous and these pogrom-like disorders were to break out before German occupation authorities had been properly established. The Einsatzkommando a sub-group of the SS death squads, belonging to the larger Einsatzgruppen) influenced mobs of former members of Pērkonkrusts (Latvian ultra-nationalists and other extreme right-wing groups) began mass arrests, pillaging and murders of Jews in Riga, which led to death of between 300 to 400 Jews.

    Killings continued under the supervision of SS Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker and ended when more 2,700 Jews had been murdered. The activities of the Einsatzkommando were constrained after the full establishment of the German occupation authority, after which the SS made use of select units of native recruits. German General Wilhelm Ullersperger and Voldemar Weiss, a well known, Latvian nationalist, appealed to the population via a radio address to attack “internal enemies”.

    During the next few months, activities of the Latvian Auxiliary Security Police was primarily focused on killing Jews, Communists and Red Army stragglers in Latvia as well as in neighbouring Belorussia. The group alone murdered almost half of Latvia’s Jewish population, about 26,000 Jews, mainly in November and December 1941. The creation of the Arajs Kommando was “one of the most significant inventions of the early Holocaust”, that marked a transition from German organised pogroms to systematic killing of Jews by local volunteers (former army officers, policemen, students, Aizargi).

    This helped resolve a chronic problem with German personnel shortages, and provided the Germans with relief from the psychological stress of routinely murdering civilians. By the autumn of 1941, the SS deployed Latvian ‘Police Battalions’ to Leningrad, where they were consolidated as Latvian Second SS Volunteer Brigade.

    In 1943, this brigade, which would later become the Latvian Nineteenth SS Volunteer Division, was consolidated with the Latvian Fifteen SS Volunteer Division to become the Latvian Legion. Although formally the Latvian Legion (Schutzmannschaft or Schuma) was a volunteer Waffen-SS military formation; it was voluntary only by name, because approximately 80-85% of personnel were conscripted into the legion.

    Yes lovely people these Batlics. They are now among the poorest countries in Europe and are suffering massive demographic problems as anyone who can, leaves. As my old mother used to say. ”God pays debts without money..

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  8. mark says

    People of Russian heritage are denied passports, the right to vote, and any official employment, amongst other forms of discrimination and persecution.
    These are sh***y little Nazi countries, with their big annual SS parades. They desecrate war memorials and the graves of Russian soldiers who died liberating the Baltic countries in the war. Many Baltic politicians are US dual citizens, neocons parachuted in after 1991 by the State Department. They are ideologically driven and lose no opportunity to vent their spleen against Russia. They are constantly foolishly provocative towards a neighbour that could be a valuable economic partner. We see the same pattern in Ukraine. The US pulled off a stunt where 10,000 US troops in 1,000 tanks and vehicles drove up and down the Latvian border just a few yards from Russian territory, through communities of predominantly Russian heritage.
    Part of this hostility to Russia is probably contrived by the political class to cover up their abject failures since independence. Their economies were looted and hollowed out by western finance capital over the past few decades. They were previously highly developed parts of the Soviet Union with industries like machinery, vehicles and shipbuilding. That is now ancient history. The economy has collapsed, and 25% of the population of Latvia has emigrated, scratching a living doing menial jobs or working as prostitutes in the EU, the only future those countries have. Riga was a natural transit hub for Russia, but faced with official visceral hatred from that quarter, the Russians expanded and developed their own port facilities in the Baltic. Riga has been left as a ghost town. That is why Nordstream has been developed, to replace unreliable partners in neighbouring countries who are always ready to cut off their noses to spite their face and please their US neocon masters. Their loss – they could have made billions from energy transit fees. It’s the same story with sanctions, for which the Baltic states were enthusiastic cheerleaders. Russia’s counter sanctions against agricultural imports have hit them hard. In the course of events, these countries and Russia would be economic partners for their mutual benefit.
    As NATO members, these countries believe they can be as foolishly provocative and offensive to Russia as they wish, like the obnoxious kid in the school playground who spits in somebody’s face and runs and hides behind his big brother. Small countries like this can cause a disaster, like Serbia and WW1. They are now failed states, like Ukraine. They are just pawns in a neocon game against Russia. They have no future.

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    • Minutoamezzanotte says

      Mark, good comment apart from this little sentence “blockquote” Small countries like this can cause a disaster, like Serbia and WW1.”blockquote”
      What are you trying to say? Please brush up your history knowledge about who started the WW1 and why? Here is a little warm up article for you: http://grayfalcon.blogspot.com/2013/01/on-great-war-again.html
      Also, on a side note, the Serbs in Croatia (another former and present Nazi playground) constituted 12.2% of the population before the biggest ethnic cleansing exercise post WW2 Europe tool place on August 4, 1995:
      http://grayfalcon.blogspot.com/2018/08/americas-junkyard-dogs-operation-storm.html#more
      I have no doubt that if it wasn’t for Vladimir Putin and revived Russia, the Russians in the Baltic States would have suffered exactly the same fate.

  9. kevin morris says

    ‘The Baltic republics made nationalism their official state policy while moving away from Russia’s sphere of influence into a closer relationship with the West.’

    I strongly supported the Soviet Union and likewise I support the CIS, but this article, frankly, is so partial that it misrepresents the reasons why the Baltic States behaved as they did following the Nazi invasion of 1941 and following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

    There is no mention of Staln’s takeover of the Baltic States in 1940. It is clear that Stalin needed those states as a buffer against Germany, but that said, it is fully understandable that many Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians would see the Nazis as liberators and would resent their countries’ reabsorption into the Soviet Union in 1944, followed by settlement by Russian nationals including members of the Soviet state apparatus including the KGB. Of course, we may all deplore collaboration with Nazi race policies, especially in Lithuania, but to ignore factors such as Russia’s takeover of the Baltic states ignores a major factor at the heart of those countries’ treatment of Russians to this day.

    The author explains Stalin’s wish to forestall the inevitable war with Nazism because the Soviet Union was involved in industrialisation. This is true, but the article ignores the purges that had led to the Red Army being so ineffectual in its war with Finland that Hitler believed that Barbarossa would be a pushover. When one considers that when the Baltic States became part of the Soviet Union, this will have included the apparatus of state terror that Stalin had been visiting upon the rest of the Soviet Union for several years. Contrary to the above whitewashed view of history, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians had strong grounds for resenting the presence of Russians in their erstwhile independent nations.

    I deplore the Baltic States’ treatment of ethnic Russians since they gained their independence in September 1991, but ignoring the follies of their Soviet past will do nothing to alleviate their plight.

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    • I appreciate the historical background, but the treatment of Ukrainians, Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians by Stalin might explain their actions in WWII; doesn’t excuse them, sorry.

      • Constantine says

        The Ukrainians that might have resentment towards Stalin were Soviet citizens. Those who collaborated with the Nazis were Galicians, whose murderous, racist views and actions had more to do with German propaganda, since the region wasn’t Russian/Soviet until late 1939.

        And while we’re at it, the modern Lithuanian borders are the ones Stalin expanded. Pre-war Lithuania did NOT include Vilnius in its territory.

        But the most critical argument that the modern Balts should have in mind is that if the Germans had won the war, the Baltic nations would follow the path of the Old Prussians who were forcefully Germanized by the Teutonic knights. In short, whatever grievances they may have, the Soviet victory is the reason these nations exist today.

        • Justin says

          I think you should read some Lithuanian history. Vilnius was occupied by Poland for around 20 yrs (cannot recall exactly) Always been a part of Lithuania and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. We don’t have to say thank you to Stalin, thanks a lot!

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          • The Grand Duchy existed a thousand years ago. Constantine is correct: your nations “exist today” thanks to the Russian victory, and, it should also be said, their decline is due to their being subsumed into the Atlanticist EU/NATO axis!

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            • Justin says

              You should go back to school or read some history 🙂 It wasn’t thousand years ago.
              Anyway, it’s pointless to argue with you all people!

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              • I stand corrected: from 1253 it’s eight centuries ago, not a thousand years. Enough nationalistic nitpicking though, how does that gainsay my comment about the Russian victory or your countries being subsumed into NATO?

              • Jen says

                “… Vilnius was occupied by Poland for around 20 yrs (cannot recall exactly) Always been a part of Lithuania and Grand Duchy of Lithuania …”

                Yes Vilnius was indeed once part of Lithuania and then the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which was later subsumed into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (with the Poles as the senior partners to the much more junior Lithuanians). The Lithuanian royal family that created the original Polish-Lithuanian kingdom in 1386 died out by the 1570s, by which time the entire Lithuanian nobility had become Polish-speaking and Vilnius itself was well on the way to becoming a city where Polish, German and Yiddish were the major spoken languages.

                Vilnius only gained (or regained) its majority Lithuanian-speaking population after 1945.

                Yes I have read some history.

    • bevin says

      “erstwhile independent nations.”
      To be clear these former provinces-highly favoured provinces- in the Russian Empire had been ‘independent’ since 1921.And thanks in part too to the Bolshevik doctrine that the Czarist Empire was a ‘prison house of peoples.’
      No doubt many in the Baltic states resented the invasion of the Red Army but it was only a small minority which celebrated by killing Jews and enrolling in the siege of Leningrad.
      In more modern terms there is no reason why these three states, and Ukraine, could not thrive independently without setting themselves up as bases for provocations against Russia and convenient locations for US torture chambers.
      The people of Ireland suffered far more under the British Empire than the Balts did under St Petersburg but that did not lead to more than a handful of Irishmen, if that many, in the Second World War joining the SS.

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      • Quite a lot of Irishmen did, however, join the IRA and splinter groups thereof and wage terrorist war against Britain for half a century after WWII.

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        • Constantine says

          Had Northern IRELAND been allowed to join the rest of the Republic in a n island called Ireland – the clue is in the name – this situation would have been prevented. And while a good number of IRA actions can be described as terroristic, so can many crimes committed by the British forces and their paramilitaries. It was an insurgency more than anything else and adopting a predominantly British imperial approach on the subject doesn’t help.

          • Likewise, the Indian ‘Mutiny’ of 1857 and the great Arab ‘Revolt’ of Palestine 1933-1939 are examples of imperial colonial language too 🙂

  10. Big B says

    This article takes no account of the threat posed to our allies in NATO, Eastern Europe, and to the security of the world due to the rising tensions of recent years. Now, more than ever, in the wake of Salisbury attack, we need to stress to our European counterparts in the governments of the Baltic States, that we wish to work with them to maximise the power of collective sanctions against violations of international law – whether by Russia or anyone else. I think we should make clear that our UK commitment to such collective action will not be diminished by Brexit. Similarly, now more than ever, it is vital that the UK and all other NATO members make it clear to all our allies in the Baltic States, and elsewhere, that we want to protect peace and security on the borders, without ramping up tensions unnecessarily, and that such a commitment is not conditional on their levels of defence spending.

    Tory defence spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk.. I think the next Labour government should commit to boost our military obligations, above the benchmark of 2% GDP, in line with the last Labour government’s commitment to NATO.

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      • vexarb says

        This is the second parody posted by BigB. A parody so skilful, such inane stringing together of non-sequiturs to an insane c,nclusion, it might have come from the very lips of blessed Theresa of Westminster.

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        • Big B says

          Very close, Vex: St Jeremy of Islington North. Most of it is verbatim, with some reworded conjunctions. The source text is from Hansard 26/03/18. The last para is a reword taken from quote in John Pilger’s excellent article about Labour’s non-existent foreign policy …which would likely be imperialistic. Or the vague platitude of a return to ‘Robin Cook ethical diplomacy’ of starting three wars in two years and selling Hawk aircraft to Mugabe.

          https://consortiumnews.com/2017/10/06/the-rise-of-britains-new-politics/

          It struck me recently when I point out the actual words that JC says, I take the flak. To prove a point (if only to myself) I posted his own (disguised) words to see how people would react. The source text for yesterday was his reply to Treason May, when she announced the two counterfeit suspects for the fabricated Novijoke crime against the intelligence.

          It is my supposition that very few know the full context of what is said, relying on media soundbites instead. The media pick a single phrase – such as only saying “evidence points strongly” – and contrast with Bojo’s “weaselly words” to construct an entirely inauthentic narrative. It is a pseudo-oppressor/oppressed narrative that creates a false sense of pity and invokes an invented victim mentality (we all know how Brit’s love an underdog!).

          Anyway, I surmised his words were weaselly, though not in the context of the received culture machine narrative …but in themselves, taken in their given context (in Parliament and later in Hansard). They amount to a servile connivance with power (a power that provides the testimony and meaning to the hollow phonemes).

          I could have just said that, but I decided to post the slightly disguised text to make a point. Point made.

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        • JudyJ says

          Karen Pierce’s utterances could come across as masterful parody but unfortunately she’s deadly (literally and metaphorically) serious.

      • Big B says

        Both! And I get a double for replying to replies! 😀

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    • I think UK and US would suffer rather badly from ‘collective sanctions against breaches of international law’.

      But Hitler never thought he deserved sanctions, did he?

      Swivel-eyed loons always to the fore in international diplomacy….

  11. curri says

    Soviet “Communism” was de facto never more than a branch of Anglo-American bourgeois progressivism. A geopolitical rivalry developed between the two factions after the defeat of Germany. Note that Western capitalists built the Soviet industrial base in the 1920s and 1930s, so it was obvious they were not seen as a threat then:
    http://www.thebirdman.org/Index/Others/Others-Doc-ConspiracyTheory&NWO/+Doc-ConspiracyTheory-FalseEnemies/TheWestFinancedSoviets.htm
    (…)
    American technical leadership began to replace German leadership in rebuilding the Soviet Union.

    “Of the agreements in force in mid-1929, 27 were with German companies, 15 were with United States firms and the remaining ones were primarily with British and French firms. In the last six months of 1929, the number of technical agreements with U.S. firms jumped to more than 40.” (Sutton, Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development, 1917-1930, pp. 346-347).
    The new program was announced, however, only “after a sequence of construction and technical-assistance contracts with Western companies had been let. The Freyn-Gipromez technical agreement for design and construction of giant metallurgical plants is economically and technically the most important.” (Ibid., p. 347).

    EXTENT OF AID “ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE”
    During the early thirties, the amount and type of “aid and comfort” to the Soviet Union was almost unbelievable. In 1930 the Ford Motor Company established the Russian motor car industry by constructing a factory “capable of turning out 140,000 cars a year.” By the end of the decade the factory, at Gorki, was one of the largest in the world. Ford also provided training for the Russians in assembling automobiles “plus patent licenses, technical assistance, and advice,” and “an inventory of spare parts.” (Keller, East Minus West Equals Zero, pp. 208-209, 215-216). Americans also built, in the Soviet Union, the largest iron and steel works in the world; patterned after the city of Gary, Indiana. The huge steel complex, built at Maginitogorsk, was constructed by a Cleveland firm. (Ibid., pp. 209-210).

    LARGEST TRACTOR FACTORY IN THE WORLD
    The largest tractor factory in the world was another American contribution to Soviet technology.

    “Tractors were a necessity to modernize Soviet agriculture. A Detroit engineer designed and constructed a tractor factory without parallel in any other country. The assembly works were 2,000 feet long and 650 feet wide, covering an area of thirty acres. Twenty-one American football fields would fit into just one building, with locker rooms for the players. The tractors produced were copies of the American Caterpillar Company, but there were no arrangements made for payment for use of the patent. Russia merely bought one sample and copied it. The factory was so designed that production could be adopted almost overnight to the production of another less innocuous commodity – tanks.” (Ibid., p. 213).
    (…)

    Russia today is clearly not seen as a partner of Western neoliberalism/progressivism. Therefore, Putin (along with Trump) has become the new Hitler.

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    • vexarb says

      Curri, thank you for presenting that healthy corrective to my previous one-sided view; up till now I had read only of US aid to Nazi Germany.

    • bevin says

      To put these observations into context it must be understood that the Soviet government-obsessed with a crude mechanistic theory of economic development and desperately trying to reproduce all of the ‘stages’ of economic progress into a succession of Five Year Plans- bled the peasantry and working class dry in order to pay for what Curri calls a partnership. The industrialists, largely Anglo Saxon, who jump started Russian industry after the catastrophes of war and civil war extorted a heavy price, in hard currency, for their ‘aid.’
      The notion that the Soviet Union, even under Stalin, was accepted as a partner by the west is historically illiterate. The record is clear. And clarified further by the continuity in Foreign Policy which was (and is) the Cold War.

      • vexarb says

        @bevin, I’ll buy that as well: the “aid” though massive was not disinterested; follow the money.

      • Big B says

        I gave up posting links to Antony Sutton ages ago: but the record is crystal clear – there was an elite transference of US technology to the Soviet Union …such that it could indeed be claimed that the Soviet Union had no inherent technology that was not transferred (Sutton claimed 95% as the proportion of transference from West to East). So on a capital and technological level: there was an unholy partnership …or what else would you call it?

        But you are right to point out that it did not extend to the peoples: West or East. As Sutton exhorted: the GAZ and ZIL vehicles on the Ho Chi Minh trail were built with American technology, to American design, at Gorki and the Kama River plant, both built by American capital. These trucks ferried the men and materiel of the NVR from North to South Vietnam …to kill US GI ‘grunts’. People do not count where capital can sniff the bloodtrail to profit: and war is profit …so why not back both sides?

        So if not a true economic partnership: perhaps a dialectic of amoral profitable exploitation? If the Nomenklatura of the FSU were ideologically pure, surely they would have been ideologically as opposed to Western capital and Western technology transfers as they were to immoral Western society and culture? Or was that just for public consumption?

        Profit they did: thought it would be impossible to say exactly from what – oil sales, corruption, bribery, etc. But large amounts of ‘Soviet’ dollars were transferred to the secrecy jurisdiction that became known as ‘Londongrad’. The shady Eurodollar market was founded (in the 1950s) largely on illicit Soviet dollars [for instance: see Nick Shaxson’s “Treasure Islands” for reference]. So much for property is theft? Or ideological purity?

        The most damning indication of an elite transnational exploitation (with zero regard for humanity) was the transfer of MIRV technology by (Rockefeller) Kissinger. This was no mere technology transfer: but a deliberate transfer of the strategic nuclear advantage from West to East. This led to the nuclear brinkmanship of Reagan and his Mini-Me Thatcher: establishing the nuclear frontier ever Eastward …until it was eyeball to eyeball across the Fulda Gap and the North German Plain. Eventually, after a reckless decade, this led to the SALT process …but not before taking the world to the edge of Armageddon, and ended figuratively staring into the abyss of non-existence …but there was a tidy profit there for the psychopathogenic Few.

        So, there is fair bit going on here that seems to be missing from your historical analysis, Bevin. Yet you are content to bandy around the term “historically illiterate”? In the strictest terms, no, there was not a full economic, social, and cultural partnership of the West and the FSU. But at the elite level, the East-West distinctions and borders were blurred. Stalin needed to rapidly industrialise and he needed Wall St capital to do it …a marriage made in hell? It does not explain the continued technology transfer: including nuclear technology. Quite how the Soviets got not one, but two copies of designs for the atom bomb is not so easily explained as ‘espionage’. Neglect would seem more apposite to a Manhattan Project that was so secret, even Truman did not know about. But Beria did?

        Call it what you will, (connivance springs to mind): but if not ‘partners’ – there was an elite level ‘connivance’ that muddies the West-East dialectic of the Cold War. Ideologically, it is not clear why (other than that the supra-ideology is non-ideologically aligned. Ideology and politics are to keep the masses entertained and confused?): but it is not hard to deduce a profit motive at humanities expense? In which case, nothing has changed, and nothing is any the clearer by the ‘new’ Cold War …same as the old Cold War for the transnational capitalist superclass Few?

  12. 200,000 Jews in Lithuania alone! And they give all this fuss over Corbyns reluctance to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.
    I knew there was prejudice in these northern Baltic states but this piece has shocked me. I now understand the self deprecating remarks made to me recently by a supermarket cashier over her being a Russian speaking Lithuanian. Next time I see her I will make a point of offering her my solidarity.
    I meet many of these northerners in my work. Now I have some of this background I can ask pertinent questions.

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  13. bevin says

    It would be a mistake to discover the cause for this discrimination in popular prejudice. The actual reason lies in the determination of the ruling class to maintain fascist-collaborationist successor politicians in power.
    These politicians, many of whom had origins in expatriate communities in the west, after fleeing their homelands in the baggage of the Wehrmacht and SS, have been finding it very difficult to survive after leading their countries into economic disaster mitigated only by the welcome boost that NATO bases bring to countries in which unemployment rates are at levels not seen since the 1930s.
    Like their predecessors they have turned to racism and fascism to prop themselves up.
    What is true of the Baltic states is even truer of Ukraine, where Russian speakers constitute a persecuted majority, and where the Speaker of the Rada is on record, this past week, as being inspired by the Fuhrer who he sees as the greatest democrat of the C20th.
    As racism and fascism spread westwards into Austria, Germany and elsewhere the complacence of western ‘liberals’ in cosseting and subsidising the sources of infection is largely to blame. It is of course history repeating itself: the fascism of eastern europe in the 1930s was also sponsored and armed by the ‘democracies’ of the west. And for the same reason: to keep Russia at bay.

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