Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky, once dubbed “a hero of almost legendary proportion among the Soviet dissident movement” by the New York Times, died of cardiac arrest in Addenbrookes Hospital, in Cambridge, England at 9:46 PM Greenwich Time on 27 October, 2019. He was 76. His health had been poor in recent years.
A gifted writer, Bukovsky was revered for his ability to document both the daily insults and grand oppression of Soviet prison life, and to convey with detail the soul-crushing effects of torture on both prisoner and jailer.
In 1971, between prison sentences, Bukovsky helped smuggle to the West the psychiatric hospital records of six well-known dissidents – exposing a Soviet practice of declaring dissidents mentally ill in order to detain and discredit them, rather than have them labelled as political prisoners.
Then in 1976 Bukovsky was expelled to the West, in exchange for the imprisoned Chilean Communist Party leader Luis Corvalán. He settled in Cambridge in the UK.
ANKARA, Turkey, and MOSCOW — A number of Turkey’s NATO allies have suspended arms sales to the country in condemnation of its military incursion into Syria, but analysts and officials are shrugging off the embargo, saying it will have a minimal impact on the military’s operational capabilities.
Several countries, including France, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain and Germany, imposed arms embargoes against the Turkish government after its troops entered Syria to attack the Kurdish militia, which Turkey views as a terrorist group. Turkey said its military operation, launched Oct. 9, will help create a safe zone in northeastern Syria.
The official presentations of peace have become surreal.
Most understand that with the repression of democracy, especially through the jailing of journalists and the shuttering of publications, Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan has all but denounced democracy for a turn “east” toward dictatorship.
America’s President Trump has agreed to the program but with one difference, i.e., claiming credit for peace in the region. He has nonetheless praised the Turkish leader, essentially hollowing out the meaning of “NATO” and the related Western ideals, principles, and values that were to be defended before the “Phantoms of the Soviet”, i.e., the forces of feudalism and associated criminals, political criminals, and tyrants.
Turkish news channels ran a countdown clock at the top of their screens to let the country know when the ceasefire in northern Syria would end. Military and political commentators tried to outdo each other’s prognostications about what would come out of the meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the city of Sochi. In the end, the presidents spent six hours discussing their path forward in northern Syria.
BackChannels expects the powerful mainstream media (Fake News!) to take note of the discrepancies illustrated here by juxtaposition.
It appears some wealthy — way “up there” in wealth born of thuggery — have in some states displaced democratic processes, evolving liberalism, rule of law and become powers unto themselves acting in their own feudal and wholly narcissistic and malign interests.
Yesterday’s morning began with live videos of . . . nothing. “Live from Turkey-Syria border as ceasefire ends” said the Ruptly header. It turns out that while the phlegmatic American Congress had been inquiring about the changed state of affairs between Turkey and the West, Russia and Turkey together had been “taking care of” the Kurds . . . .
Now, the whole rationale Trump put forward for the retreat — to get American troops out of the Mideast and “endless wars” — is in doubt.
Rather than leaving the region, the withdrawing troops will deploy in neighboring Iraq to fight the Islamic State group, which could get new life from the Syrian turmoil. Some U.S. forces are still in eastern Syria, helping Kurdish fighters protect oilfields. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday he was discussing keeping them there.
Trump surprised even his own military on the ground when he agreed to remove U.S. soldiers working with Kurdish-led forces near the border in an Oct. 6 phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Three days later, Turkey launched its offensive with heavy bombardment along the border.
Erdoğan says his demand for a safe zone in Syria is rooted in Turkey’s war against terrorism. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Erdoğan says, is as much a threat as the Islamic State. That is of course nonsense . . . .
While those both enamored and fearful of power have always played “both sides of the street”, Turkey’s drift from a freely speaking, open, and vibrant democracy to one far from NATO ethics, interests, and values should be clear to the free world. Through the power of President Erdogan’s feudal imagination and thuggery, Turkey has been transformed into a politically absolute polity driven by the narcissism of its leader
Worse for the Turks and even his fans: President Erdogan’s toadying before Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Erdogan may appear strong standing up to the west, which today cannot levy enough sanctions on his project (probably hurting the Turks more than the Turkish President), but how may he appear doing Putin’s bidding while his equally enamored — or captive to Moscow — neighbor, Bashar al-Assad AKA “Bashar the Butcher”, continues destroying and strangling Syria — in Turkey’s direction too — under cover of destroying Sunni Islamists?
When Turkish air power rightly downed two Russian MIGs overflying Turkey’s airspace while refusing communications with Turkish air defense, Erdogan refused apology. And what for? He and his military had done everything right for the purposes of Turkish Defense.
The Su-24 shootdown took place on November 24, 2015.
Eight months later, widely reported on June 27, 2016, Erdogan apologized to Putin.
That has turned out a fair demonstration of Russian “realpolitik” and maddening absolute power.
For those watching — and those who knew the facts — “Sultan Erdogan” may just as well have knelt before “Emperor Putin”.
Perhaps President Erdogan has had some household bills yet to pay, and, beside, has needed a certain supply of energy to heat the house.
I hope the excerpts and videos that follow prove helpful as windows into the love fest developed between Ankara and Moscow.
The first direct gas pipeline between Russia and Turkey was the Blue Stream, commissioned in 2005. In 2009, Putin proposed a Blue Stream II line parallel to Blue Stream under the Black Sea. The Blue Stream II project did not carry through and the South Stream project took the lead, until it was abandoned in 2014. The TurkStream (then named Turkish Stream) project was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 December 2014, during his state visit to Turkey.
The Russia Defence Ministry denied the aircraft ever left Syrian airspace, counter-claiming that their satellite data showed that the Sukhoi was about 1,000 metres (1,100 yd) inside Syrian airspace when it was shot down. The U.S. State Department said that the U.S. independently confirmed that the aircraft’s flight path violated Turkish territory, and that the Turks gave multiple warnings to the pilot, to which they received no response and released audio recordings of the warnings they had broadcast.
MOSCOW — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized Monday for the downing of a Russian warplane in November and called for Russia and Turkey to mend a bilateral relationship that has become openly hostile over the incident.
Gazprom has started to fill the first branch of the offshore section of the Turkish Stream pipeline with natural gas. This is the final stage of testing the pipeline before putting it into operation later this year . . . .
. . . The first line is intended for the supply of Russian gas to Turkish consumers, the second – for gas supply to the countries of southern and southeast Europe.
Erdoğan says his demand for a safe zone in Syria is rooted in Turkey’s war against terrorism. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Erdoğan says, is as much a threat as the Islamic State. That is of course nonsense: The SDF formed to fight Al Qaeda affiliates and the Islamic State at a time when Turkey was passively if not actively supporting them. Nor can Turkish officials credibly point to terrorist attacks from Kurdish-governed portions of Syria. Groups that evolved from the PKK are not monoliths: The SDF is progressive and moderate; any visit to the region makes clear that the group does not embrace the PKK’s Cold War-era Marxism. The PKK itself has long sought peace and does not attack civilians. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) splinter group continues to engage in terrorism, but they are based nowhere near Syria nor do they have any links to the SDF.
In a recent article in Foreign Policy, my colleague Steven A. Cook argued that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was playing Washington like a fiddle. With a combination of bluffs, threats, and bluster, Erdogan managed to convince the United States to come up with an arrangement in northeastern Syria to prevent a Turkish invasion—an arrangement that comes at the expense of the Kurds, who have carried the brunt of the fighting against the Islamic State. Whatever one thinks of the Kurds, their determination and sacrifice should be treated as an international public good; they have stopped and destroyed one of the most dangerous and homicidal groups the modern world has known. The Turks by contrast have contributed nothing to this endeavor.
If Erdogan has succeeded in manipulating Washington, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in turn, has played him to the hilt.
She said the U.S. and other countries privately acknowledged that Kurdistan has legitimate aspirations and some of them even agreed that Baghdad had pushed the region into a corner leading effectively to a point where it needed to have a referendum. But they also advised the regional Kurdistan government that it was not the right time for independence.
“But when we asked them, ‘well when is the right time?’, there wasn’t an answer.”
There’s a lot of meaning packed into the three primary pictures and the cropped detail of “Old Simon” (officially, “Private Soldier Monument”) — and meaning for the greater world if it cares to adopt and defend the humanist best of western concepts and ideals that would win both restatement and setting forth as national purpose in the founding documents of the United States. The national narrative — from the ratifying of the Constitution through to the Civil War and about one-hundred years later our massive Civil Rights Movement and to this day’s extraordinary political and social evolution — has been wholly coherent and remarkably progressive and most human and good.
We keep old photographs for memories and reminders – and old cemeteries, memorials, and historic battlefields and parks for the same purpose.
We’ve had such a good spell of peace here in the U.S. that we’re rather cavalier in our lifestyles and opinions. That is what freedom allows and does and is supposed to do (for everyone). However, we may take our condition as a developing and vibrant national culture for granted. It may be helpful — and especially online — to revisit now and then the basics and historical touchstones of the American political dream and the experience of it.