How much progress has Russia made?

Randy Black writes: "With all due respect to Cameron Sawyer and his facts about the current economic boom in Russia, Here is my report. My real father was the deputy-Deputy Director of NORAD (North American Air Defense Command, Colorado Springs), a true cold warrior, Army Air Corp/Air Force, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam. He told me, before I mushed off to Siberia in 1993 to teach English for $21 a month, that the Soviets invented everything evil in the world… and so forth. I went anyway. My life was changed in so many good ways….

But, among the things that I discovered:

What I found there between (1993-1995) , in terms of the (former) Soviet military might were fighters and bombers sitting neck deep in weeds at the local base in Omsk, not having been flown in years, perhaps decades, soldiers begging for cigarette and vodka money at bus stops, entire brigades being hired out as mercenaries to places unknown by their commanders, to the commander’s financial benefit, other soldiers filling potholes on the main streets of cities across Russia for money to eat, soldiers willing to sell me their uniforms for pennies. In short, I do not believe to this day that their ICBMs can get out of the ground, nor their planes off the ground, and probably never could, on a reliable basis. This notwithstanding our “intelligence” on “things Soviet.” I met fighter pilots who had not flown in more than a year. Had there been a national emergency, these pilots were not even legal, if that is the term in Russia, to be a pilot in command of a plane. Currently, for $10,000, you can hire the latest, greatest MiG fighter with pilot and fuel at a base outside of Moscow, to take you for a supersonic ride to 50,000 feet. Tourists are currently paying millions to fly to the International Space Station on (Soviet) rockets, much to the chagrin of American astronauts who don’t like being responsible for those who cannot carry their weight if and when there is an emergency. Such is the economic boom’s effect in Russia, at least at the military level. That they cannot seem to secure the borders around Chechnya for more than a decade offers additional insight into the lack of military capabilities of Russia". RH: The question is how much has Russia been able to change since the fall of communism, and more precisely since 1995, when Randy left Omsk.

Glenye Cain writes: "Randy Black's picture of the Russian military from 1993-1995 prompts me to ask whether any of WAIS's Russian-based or Russian-knowledgeable correspondents feel that the military hardware (including nuclear and non-nuclear munitions) and expertise is still at risk of being sold to anyone who wants it. I have the impression that this was a substantial problem in the timeframe Black cites, and I wonder whether any economic improvement in Russia has resulted in greater security at bases; it seems from occasional media coverage since 1995 that things haven't improved. If not, are those munitions likely to be effective or useable anymore, given the general lack of care Black's account suggests? Can any WAISer shed light on whether or how the US is working with Putin on this issue?" RH: Does Cameron Sawyer have any information?

Gas prices

Randy Black writes: "Russians currently pay 14 rubles per liter for petrol for their autos. This equals about USD$2 per gallon, more or less. Pretty amazing considering the lower salaries and much, much lower production costs of petroleum production in that region of the world. Consider that Russian salaries are about one tenth (or less) of those in the USA. Thus, Russians are paying about $20 per gallon in a relative sense in Russia which is a net exporter (world’s second largest) of petroleum products. Kind of takes your breath away doesn’t it?

Gasoline prices in the Dallas area, by the way, have retreated somewhat over the past couple of weeks. I paid $1.86 per gallon for regular yesterday, down from $1.99 about two weeks ago. We are still paying a good deal less, when you adjust for inflation, than we did in the early years of the Clinton Administration. That issue cannot be blamed on Clinton, but on the Clean Air Act, which prior to 1990, did not regulate the composition of gasoline. After 1990, it did, and prices went up as the refining process became more expensive. In 1982, we paid more than $2.50 (in real dollars) for a gallon.

As oil retreats to the $25-$33 per barrel range over the remainder of the year, and we enter the fall, when demand lowers, gas will get back to “normal” if there is such a thing.

Sources, among others: "

RH: Oil problems are very complicated, but at an Atlantic City rally, John Kerry simply ranted against the villains responsible for not solving them. Meanwhile, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was holding a hearing on gasoline prices, and Senator Ron Wyden (D,Oregon) was grilling executives of the oil industry. The Democratic platform committee is carefully producing detailed statements on the party's plans. I suppose we could find a sober statement of its energy proposals in its report.

The Orthodox Church

Randy Black sends this bleak account of the attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church toward other religious groups:
"The Russian Orthodox Church’s objection to western religious operations in Russia is all about money and monopoly. Time and again, the church has used Russian courts to its personal benefits to ban western religious groups’ attempts to make inroads within Russiam and in each and every case, it had to do with the influence of the Patriarch, Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and his influence over the Mayor of Moscow, President Putin, and over the mostly, but not all elected, national representatives.

Alexy II and his henchmen have spent millions of dollars in the past decade attempting to keep even the Salvation Army out of Russia, despite their pre-Bolshevik existence in Russia. The SA in Russia operates mainly soup kitchens and other humanitarian efforts across Russia. Russian courts declared the Salvation Army’s disciples “a threat to Russian state security” at one point in 2000, closing down and confiscating millions of dollars worth of SA properties of the religious group that in about 1917, were marched into Moscow’s streets and shot for preaching the gospel.

By 2000, not much had changed. To this day, the Orthodox Church of Russia is actively attempting to chase out “competition” for the few rubles that the proletariat have left for church donations. As the SA wins in one court, the Russian Orthodox church sues in another.


The Roman Catholic Church has only two chances at opening its churches up to Russians to any significant degree: Slim and none and Slim left town". RH: Russian Orthodox hatred of the West goes back to te Great Schism. In more recent times, the Polish Catholic Church posed a threat. and the subservience to Rome of the Uniate Church was seen as subversice,

Russian Emigres in France

Christopher Jones writes: "If you start poking around the strange world of White Russian emigrés, it is impossible to ignore the fact that most of the Red operatives were Jewish. Regarding the case of General Evgenii Miller, I found the following; Miller was a Balt who commanded White forces around Archangel:

"In 1923 several monarchist emigres (General Pyotr Krasnov, Duke Georg Leuchtenberg) joined to form the "Brotherhood of Russian Truth," which intended to carry terror to the Soviet Union. They may actually have sent off agents or they may have just collected money from foolish sponsors to support their bar-bills, but branches were alleged to exist in Paris, Berlin, Belgrade, and Harbin."

"This latter controversy is particularly bitter because of the fact that in 1926, in Paris a Ukrainian Jew, Shalom Schwarzband, assassinated Petlyura, handed himself over to the police, and used his trial to provide evidence to the world of the massacres of the Jews and of Petlyura's political and personal responsibility for them. After the trial most historically minded Jews were convinced that Petlyura was a pogromist; their Ukrainian counterparts that Schwarzband was a Cheka agent. Nor was this controversy of merely historical interest. When, in 1941, the SS arrived in Western Ukraine they provided for the police formations they licensed to kill the Jews the following slogan: "Revenge for the assassination of ataman Petlyura.""

"After the death of Wrangel in 1927 General Kutepov took over as head of the ROVS, the veterans associations. In 1930 Kutepov was kidnapped--presumably by the Soviet secret police--and was never heard from again. Kutepov was succeeded as head of the ROVS by General Miller. During 1932 Miller and his colleague, Nicholas Skoblin,
organized networks of agents to penetrate the Soviet Union. This enterprise ended disastrously, both for the spy-masters "manqués" who were unable to raise the money to send off the full complement of agents and still more so for the handful of agents who were sent off with cut-rate forged passports. Skoblin was subsequently accused of
being a Soviet agent himself, but was cleared by a "court of honor." From there he went on to command the White counter-intelligence service known as the "inner line." Apparently Skoblin preferred to use this organization as a means to gather information on other emigres. Surrounded with men like this, Miller failed to command the same sort of general support among the emigres as had his two predecessors. Moreover, by those on the far right of the emigration (admittedly an expression that boggles the mind) he was regarded as too soft and too hesitant as he negotiated with Franco over Russian volunteers for the Nationalist army's revolt against the Spanish Republic. In 1937 General Miller went to a meeting arranged by General Skoblin. Like Kutepov, Miller disappeared forever in what was taken to be a Soviet secret police kidnapping. Skoblin was soon implicated in the disappearance, but succeeded in making his escape. His wife was not so fortunate: arrested and convicted of complicity in the abduction, she received a twenty year sentence in a widely publicized trial in 1938. In the wake of Miller's kidnapping, one French police official dismissed the suggestion that the disappearance originated from within
the émigré community. He described the emigres as "lacking cohesion, self-devouring, scraping by from day to day, and ethnically incapable, unless they have leaders, of conceiving and especially of executing a plot of this scope."

"One unnerving aspect of the Thirties in France was the polarization of the political system toward extremes, neither of which could really be regarded as sympathetic to the needs of the White Russian community. During the Twenties, the refugees were able to find friends in French politics on the nationalist right. Senators Gustave
Gautherot and Henry Lemery and Andre Tardieu were particularly strong supporters of the emigres. However, the Socialist deputy Marius Moutet earned the highest honors among the refugees for his constant efforts on their behalf with the government."

RH:Good Lord! Do any WAIS specialists in the Spanish Civil War have information about White Russians fighting for Franco?

We thank Randy Black for this reference to White Russians fighting for Franco: “…White Russian volunteers, almost all of whom came from the Paris emigre community and had served in the White armies of the Russian Civil War, saw the Spanish conflict as the first step in a march back to St. Petersburg.” This comes from Judith Keene. Fighting for Franco: International Volunteers in Nationalist Spain During the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39. London and New York: Leicester University Press.

Dr. Judith Keene is the Director of the European Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and a member of the Department of History. Her research and teaching interests are in twentieth century European cultural and political history, with a particular interest in inter-war Europe and in European cinema. She teaches senior and junior level courses on twentieth century European history. In the last two years she has taught courses on Fascism and Anti-Fascism; the Spanish Civil War; and European Film and History.

Ronald Hilton -