Essel on Russia and its Frontiers

Russia and its Frontiers

by Dave Essel

Back in commie days, I frequently shepherded Soviet officials around London on commercial business. We had found that one good way of ensuring that contracts went smoothly was to make sure that our contracts provided for an inspection visit during the course of the work. The cost to us was of course built in to our prices so it was actually only a matter of finding time for the shepherding. The inspections/acceptances never amounted to more than a quick walk through followed by signing off the appropriate document. [Message to you present-day businessmen: wasn’t bribery cheap in those days?!?!?]

However, one could not fill the rest of the time with just restaurants and drinking. One thing I liked to do was to suggest taking such visitors to see the Ленинские места Лондона (places connected with Lenin in London) as it was always such a laugh watching how they tried to wriggle out of so boring an exercise in favour of going shopping or being offered mindless entertainment. (BTW, my Lenin places that they all wriggled out of would have included a pub in Holborn with more than decent beer where Lenin really did drink, so they missed out on more than they knew.)

Playing the jovial capitalist had its fun moments, though. For a while, there was a touristy multimedia show in Leicester square that showed London during the Blitz. I took many a set of visitors to it, on the grounds that it would be educational. Indeed it was, since most came out fairly stunned than anyone except the Soviet Union had done anything during the war. My favourite throw-away remark for after this show was to mention that this had happened in 1940, before the USSR had come into the war and wasn’t it an unfortunate quirk of history that these German planes were flying on Soviet fuel. Gulps, glances at the KGB minder, and quick change of subject.

I also liked to mention that the only country to come out of WWII with more territory than when it started was – who else, LR readers? – the USSR. The arch “anti-imperialist” hypocrite was ever so…

… and remains so today – after that brief moment of hope following the collapse of the evil empire. Anyway, we are today back full circle, just facing a feebler 3rd world with nukes. It seems to me self-evident that it will try to compensate for that feebleness with greater spiteful evil.

And that is what we are seeing in Georgia and elsewhere.

However, the big issue is that Russia has put itself beyond the pale by behaving in the 21st century like its Nazi cousins in the 20th, while the West has behaved for the most part in what it conceives to be 21st-century style – that is to call for talks. As has been noted elsewhere, the UN is powerless when it comes to taking any real action with respect to a veto-holding security council member and the EU is only good at talking and calling for negotiations. NATO’s time may come – if it hasn’t been subverted by EU mentality (and let’s pray that is not so.)

Basically I think the West is a near write-off, hamstrung by its concern for political correctness and its appeasement-at-any-cost attitudes. (Although, it must be admitted that it has not acquitted itself totally abysmally over Georgia.)

Fortunately, the world is ever changing and the most sensible things I have heard and the most sensible actions I have seen taken have been by the New West, those wonderful countries that recently regained their ancient freedoms. Their experience of the Russian/Soviet mentality is more real than ours, their memories more vivid, their understanding of the real dangers more profound. Viz. Anatoliy Gritsenko’s analysis in the Ukrainian Zerkalo Nedeli and Poland’s decision about siting the anti-missile defence base.

Old Europe is too fat and rich and sluggish to see the dangers and even if it does, it can’t be bothered to get off its backside to do something – please just leave us to our summer holidays, can’t we talk about this in the autumn?

For example, note that Russia has not really been slung out of the NATO-Russia Council.   The actual statement, quoted in,  was:  “the allies meeting in Brussels said they would not convene any more meetings of the NATO-Russia Council until Russian troops withdraw from Georgia, they bowed to concerns from Europe – which depends heavily on Russia for energy – to forgo, for now, specific long-term sanctions. There can be no business as usual with Russia under present circumstances,” Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said after the meeting. ‘We are not abandoning the NATO-Russia Council, but as long as Russian forces are occupying large parts of Georgia, I cannot see the NATO-Russia Council meeting,’ he told reporters.”

Avoiding World War III

The current bee in my bonnet is what can our slugs be made to do about these 21st-century Nazis before we have to have a world war for the 21st century?

And I think the people of the new Europe will be far better and more active than the old at actually doing something.

One of the most important issues here is the sanctity of frontiers. Many of them, to the human eye with its inclination for symmetry and line, appear pretty obvious and naturally just. For instance, here is a is a place with a frontier:

And the eye determines at a glance where the frontier should run – and that’s where it actually does, as may be seen below. This, by the way, is a picture of the Pyrenees. There is a Basque enclave in Spain and and a smaller one in France, but those two countries haven’t been transgressing each other’s frontiers or getting uptight about North and South Basqueland. It’s a righteous frontier.

And here is a picture of Georgia

One can see the same logical frontier that one would expect (except for the dogleg just before Sochi). Even Stalin left that frontier where it belonged!

So, talking of frontiers and of my feeling more confident in the awareness and principledness of the countries newly returned to the European fold makes me think of an interesting little frontier game that, unlike the Russians invasion of Georgia, would be completely correct and legal.

Let them Go by  Ferry

Königsberg/Kaliningrad is an exclave of the Russian Federation gifted to the USSR by the signatories at Potsdam. Leaving aside whether is was right or wrong to do such a thing to that ancient Hanseatic town, it would seem to me that at this time it would be entirely right and proper for neighbouring Poland and Lithuania to take dim view of overflights of their territories by Russian airlines and that they might consider banning them for security reasons. At the same time, it might be appropriate to review the special consideration (easy visas) given to land traffic transiting the territories of democratic, EU & NATO countries, in particular since the place is a den of criminality*, in much the same way as Transnistria and South Ossetia are. The laws of the sea will provide for a sea corridor for ferries to and from Russia.

Recent headlines from include: “Another Sentence for Drug Dealer”, “Taxman Locates 280 Illegal One-Armed Bandits”, “Public Prosecutor Finds Massive Number of Contraventions of Fostering Regulations” (leading to child abuse); “Lithuania Considers the Arming of Russian Baltic Fleet with Nuclear Weapons to be Unacceptable”; “Lithuania Wants Diplomatic Sanctions Against Russia”.


Japan is clearly not happy with Russia’s behaviour in Georgia and a Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release states, inter alia, that “Japan expects this agreement to be implemented on the ground without fail. Japan also considers it important that the territorial integrity of Georgia will be respected, and will continue to pay close attention to the situation there.”

Japan has reason to feel sympathy since it too has suffered from Russia’s weird attitude to the territorial integrity of any country except Russia. The Kurile Islands issue is an insult to natural justice that is well covered elsewhere. The best descriptions I have found are here and here. People seem to be remarkably careless when drafting treaties and much depends on them including precise definition of e.g. “buffer zones” or “Kurile Islands”. Drafters did things better long ago. The islands seem to have been properly defined only in the Russo-Japanese Treaty for the Exchange of Sakhalin for the Kurile Islands (1875) which states:

In exchange for the cession to Russia of the rights on the island of Karafuto (Sakhalin) stipulated in the first article, His Majesty the Emperor of All the Russias, for Himself and for His descendants, cedes to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan the group of the islands, called Kurile which He possesses at present, together with all the rights of sovereignty appertaining to this possession, so that henceforth all the Kurile Islands shall belong to the Empire of Japan and the boundary between the Empires of Japan and Russia in these areas shall pass through the Strait between Cape Lopatka of the Peninsula of Kamchatka and the island of Shumushu. The Kurile Islands comprises the following eighteen islands: 1) Shumushu, 2) Araido, 3) Paramushiru, 4) Makanrushi, 5) Onekotan, 6) Harimukotan, 7) Ekaruma, 8 ) Shasukotan, 9) Mushiru, 10) Raikoke, 11) Matsua, 12) Rasutsua, 13) the islets of Suredonewa and Ushishiru, 14) Ketoi, 15) Shimushiru, 16) Buroton, 17) the islets of Cherupoi and Brat Cherupoefu and 18) Uruppu.

It is interesting to note that when the Soviet Army invaded the Kuriles in 1945, they were clearly aware of this, since they proceeded as follows (from the Trade & Environment Database mentioned above):

After Japan’s defeat, all of its territories were occupied by the Allied forces. The Allied Powers agreed that Japan proper would be under American occupation; Taiwan would fall under Chinese occupation; and that Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands would be occupied by the Soviet forces. Soviet forces occupied Shimushu Island in the Kuriles on August 18, and on August 27, moved as far south as Urup Island, which is the southernmost point of the Kurile Islands, and then retreated. However, after assuring themselves that American forces were absent, by September 3, Soviet troops dared to occupy Etorofu, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai islands.

Following Yeltsin’s 1993 visit, there at last came something reasonably promising towards a fair peace treaty – the Tokyo Declaration – which talks, inter alia, of:  “…solving territorial claims basing on historical facts and legal documents… as well as on the principles of law and justice.”

Of course, now neo-nazi Russia is now running away from the idea even though Japan actually wants rather less.

Given Russia’s current acts of bare-faced imperialism in recent days and the threat it poses to the world order, I would like to think that the world will enter a period of getting tough on Russia on all unresolved fronts simultaneously. Keep the bastards busy and on the run.

7 responses to “Essel on Russia and its Frontiers

  1. Today, August 26, 2008, we hear the words of Medvedev: “We are not affraid of a new cold war!” So….here we go again! Russia as the bully and a threat to free men everywhere, instead of the peaceful, prosperous, freedom loving country which the rest of the world THOUGHT it was becoming….the Russia which we wanted. Too bad for the Russian people, and too bad for the rest of the world.

  2. Whatever. Just dont elect John McCain – guy is gonna ruin US economy. God bless Obama!

  3. about the “natural border” and the pyrenean example

    1:the natural borders theory was first made during french revolution(Danton, rhine border), when after military victory it turned imperialist: to see an englishman pretending that napoleonic madness is “natural” is priceless .(btw, the idea of the modern border itself comes from this period) the idea of a natural border is fully totalitarian
    2: the pyrenean example is very bad, as of course armies crossed it often, as both catalans and basques are partly in the north…if the author knew he’s talking about (i mean continental europe) he could know that the langage limits NEVER FOLLOW water divide: coz when populations settled, round 1000 AD, mountains were uniting while rivers where dividing: no bridges, no chariots, only mules!
    3: so stalin the son of Gori draw georgian borders according to such theory (the french one, the one that loves the author of the post)

    4 (joke)
    for a bigger ossetia till turkish border!

    5: map: what i said?

  4. laurent, clarify this for me.

    Are you saying that tyranny knows no boundries, or are you trying to say that the Georgians should toss off the shackles of slavery for their best interest.

    This natural border BS is really not a solution. You may think that you are educated in foreign diplomacy, but as I see it you are trying to defy the natual border argument by allowing russia to bear a spearhead aimed at the capital of Georgia.

    South Ossetia, as insignificent as it may seam, is a focal point for any future engagements. Is not a mountain range a natural border.

    Georgia would not be secure if russia already had control of their highlands.

    However, If Russia did have to retreat in a hurry, and the roads were compromised they would either have to fight on an equal level or flee through the wilderness.

  5. During those bleak Russian winters(hint), and those trials that test mens souls(hint).

  6. “One can see the same logical frontier that one would expect (except for the dogleg just before Sochi). Even Stalin left that frontier where it belonged!

    frontiers are made by history, they hardly follow water divide, rivers or even langage limits, so they are no “natural” borders, at all, and btw the present georgian ones are stalin made, which says all (for me, may be you like stalin)?

  7. Your justification of the invasion of a sovereign country is accusing an opponent of being “like stalin”.

    Your posts seems to resemble something that was written by an addict to painkillers, or someone who was eating the wrong mushrooms, or at the very least a socialist pillowbiter.

    In order to justify traditional borders as they lay, you are considered a stalinist.

    Didn’t stalin come from your country? I’ll bet you’re very proud.

    Isn’t it more likely that stalin had created these borders out of paranoia and putin is attempting to reenact his own conclusion to the cold war.

    Normally, I’m used to being called a nazi, this is the first time I’ve been called a stalinist. Is that a bad thing in your country?

    Of course I am neither, but if you have ever heard of Godwins Law, you will understand.

    Just to paraphrase, Godwins law states that whoever calls their opponent a nazi automatically loses the argument. You can add stalin to that as well.

    “If you don’t have anything intellegent to say, don’t say anything at all.”

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