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Russia’s Maddening Patience – Why Doesn’t She Strike Back When Attacked?

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Orlov is one of our favorite essayists on Russia and all sorts of other things. He moved to the US as a child, and lives in the Boston area.

He is one of the better-known thinkers The New Yorker has dubbed ‘The Dystopians’ in an excellent 2009 profile, along with James Howard Kunstler, another regular contributor to RI (archive). These theorists believe that modern society is headed for a jarring and painful crack-up.

He is best known for his 2011 book comparing Soviet and American collapse (he thinks America’s will be worse). He is a prolific author on a wide array of subjects, and you can see his work by searching him on Amazon.

He has a large following on the web, and on Patreon, and we urge you to support him there, as Russia Insider does.

His current project is organizing the production of affordable house boats for living on. He lives on a boat himself.

If you haven’t discovered his work yet, please take a look at his archive of articles on RI. They are a real treasure, full of invaluable insight into both the US and Russia and how they are related.


A lot of commentators noticed a curious fact: during the May 9 parade in the Red Square in Moscow, Putin appeared in the presence of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. Around that same time, Israeli air force was firing rockets at Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria (lots of which the Syrian air defenses shot down) and the Syrians were firing back at Israeli positions on the Golan Heights (which are occupied Syrian territory, so it didn’t count as an attack on Israel proper).

Why didn’t Russia rise to the defense of its ally Syria? Moreover, there was talk of selling Russia’s very powerful S-300 air defense system to Syria, and that offer was subsequently withdrawn. Is this really how an ally behaves?

Or take another example: relations between Russia and the Ukraine has been in a downward spiral ever since the 2014 Kiev putsch which overthrew the constitutional government. There is a festering sore of a military standoff in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, a constant drumbeat of Ukrainian provocations against Russia, and Russia has been saddled with economic and political sanctions by the US and the EU supposedly in response to the annexation of Crimea and the unsettled conflict in the Donbass that has claimed some ten thousand lives.

And yet the Ukraine’s largest trading partner remains… Russia. Not only does Russia continue to trade with the Ukraine, but it has also absorbed an exodus of economic refugees from the collapsed Ukrainian economy which numbers in the millions. Russia has resettled these refugees, allowed them to find work, and is allowing them to send money back to their relatives in the Ukraine. Also, Russia has declined to give political recognition to the two separatist republics in eastern Ukraine.

The only real stand Russia has taken with regard to the Ukraine is in claiming Crimea as its own. But this is more or less cut and dried: Crimea was part of Russia ever since 1783, and the transfer of Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which occurred under Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, violated the constitution of the USSR that was in effect at the time.

Yet another example: the US, with the European Union acting as its obedient servant, have been imposing various kinds of sanctions on Russia ever since the Magnitsky Act in 2012 which was pushed through by the fantastically corrupt oligarch William Browder. These sanctions have been sometimes somewhat damaging, sometimes helpful (stimulating import replacement within Russia) and sometimes simply annoying. Russia is too big, too important and too powerful for anyone, even an entity as large as the US and the EU combined, to isolate it or to bend it to its will by imposing sanctions.

In some cases, there is a powerful boomerang effect that causes more pain for the sanctioners than the sanctioned. But Russia really hasn’t done much in response—other than working on import replacement and establishing trade relationships with other, friendlier nations. It could have actually hurt the US, for instance, by blocking the sale of titanium parts without which Boeing wouldn’t be able to build its planes.

Or it could prohibit the sale of rocket engines to the US, and the US would then be unable to launch satellites. But Russia hasn’t done any of that; instead, it just kept repeating that these sanctions are unproductive and unhelpful.

One more: in violation of agreements that Russia and the NATO nations have entered into, NATO has expanded all the way to the Russian border and has recently turned the tiny Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into a sort of militaristic playpen, holding military exercises right next to the Russian border, stationing thousands of troops there and training them to… attack Russia.

Russia has complained about this, but has continued to trade with all of the countries involved. In particular, it has continued to supply the Baltic states with electricity and to use Baltic ports to ship out its products.

When recently Latvia banned the use of Russian in schools (a third of Latvia’s population is Russian) and started violating the rights of Lithuanian Russians who tried fighting back against this affront, the Russians took even this blatant act of anti-Russian discrimination in stride. In Latvia, the lights are still on and the loaded Russian freight trains are still rolling in across the border.

“Why is that?” you might ask. “Why such a passive attitude against these numerous sleights, offenses and injuries?” It can’t be said that Russia is too big to hurt. The sanctions in 2012 were a piffle, but in 2014 the Russian economy did take a hit (though mostly from lower energy prices, not from sanctions). The ruble lost half its value and Russia’s poverty rate crept up. What’s going on, then?

To understand that, you have to take a step back and look at the overall context.

• Russia is the largest country in the world in size, but certainly not in population. Its borders are very well defended, but they stretch over 61 thousand kilometers.

• The Russian Federation is Russian in name, but it includes over a hundred different nations, with ethnic Russians making up just over 80%, and with six other nations that are each over a million strong.

• It borders 16 sovereign states—more than any other country—including two maritime boundaries (with Japan and the US), and two more internationally unrecognized states (Abkhazia and South Ossetia).

• It has the largest diaspora in the world, with between 20 and 40 million Russians (depending on how you count them) living outside of Russia proper. The largest Russian community overseas is in the US at around 3 million.

• Russian peacekeeping troops have served in numerous countries around Russia itself and across the world— Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Armenia, Transnistria, Tadjikistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Angola, Chad, Sierra Leone, Sudan—and remain instrumental in keeping latent conflicts from escalating to war.

• Russia’s huge landmass and enormous wealth in natural resources make it one of the main purveyors of economically essential products to the world, especially oil, gas, uranium and coal, which keep the lights on and the pipes from freezing in dozens of countries. No matter what goes wrong in international relations, it must remain a stable and reliable supplier.

In this environment, countering hostile (and mostly futile) gestures emanating from across the ocean with hostile (and mostly futile) gestures of one’s own would be counterproductive: some people would get hurt, and there is some likelihood that they would be Russian.

Thus, part of the winning approach is to just muddle through, maintaining the best relations achievable with as many countries as possible, the neighbors especially, talking to every side in every conflict and trying to defuse it and carefully balancing the disparate interests of all involved. Russia has good relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are sworn enemies, and with both Syria and Israel, who are shooting at each other.

The other part of the winning approach to confronting an increasingly hostile outside world is to move in the direction of limited autarky; not closing itself off to the world, but taking measured steps to become relatively invulnerable to its vicissitudes. Russia is already self-sufficient in energy, making strides in becoming self-sufficient in food, and the next challenge is to reach self-sufficiency in technology and finance.

Viewed in this context, Russia’s seeming failures to act forcefully turn out to be parts of a careful balancing act:

Israelis bomb Syria while Netanyahu sits at a place of honor during the parade in Moscow. Syria strikes back by bombing its own territory in the Golan Heights. Then Russia decides not to sell the S-300 system to Syria. What just happened? Well, Israel just recognized Victory Day—May 9th—as its own national holiday. A third of Israelis are in fact Russian, and a lot of them felt very proud to be Russian that day, and took part in big parades that were broadcast on Russian television. In the face of a rising wave of antisemitism in Europe and with neo-Nazis running amok in the Ukraine, Russia and Israel stand united.

Then there is the fact that Israel doesn’t like the fact that there are Iranians in Syria. It certainly has the right to feel that way, given the fact that the Iranians keep talking about how Israel should be destroyed. But Iranian presence in Syria is by invitation, so that’s not Russia’s concern. Having Israel bomb Syria isn’t helpful to Russia, but this wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last.

Syria successfully shooting down Israeli missiles and then firing on Israelis in the Golan Heights was a new development, and an escalation, and escalations are always bad. Selling the S-300 system to the Syrians would have enabled Syria to shoot down anything in the air over all of Israel, and since they had just escalated, giving them the ability to escalate even further would seem to be wrong.

The Ukraine continuously provokes Russia and violates the rights of the eight million Russians living there, and yet Russia remains the Ukraine’s largest trading partner. What gives? Well, there is the unpleasant fact that the Ukraine is currently ruled by people who are, to use a very specific Russian term, “inadequate.” It is an illegal, immensely corrupt regime that is supported by another regime that’s across the ocean, which is, by the way, also rather “inadequate”—headed by a ridiculous buffoon who is in turn being thwarted at every turn by an immensely corrupt “deep state.”

But these are temporary facts, and in no way do they override the permanent fact that the Russians and the Ukrainians are essentially the same people (with the exception of a few tribes that mainly inhabit the west of the country that was for centuries a Central European no man’s land—next door to Transylvania, where the vampires come from).

The Russians and the Ukrainians are genetically indistinguishable, and there are numerous nations within Russia that are far more culturally different from the Russians than the Ukrainians. The winning strategy in this case is to avoid hurting the Ukraine, because it is already hurting itself quite enough, and because doing so would in essence just hurt some Russians.

Instead, it makes more sense to simply be patient and wait things out. Eventually, the people in the Ukraine will have had enough and will take matters into their own hands, throw the bums out together with their overseas handlers, and the relationship will eventually become more normal.

On the Western sanctions, Russia has imposed some counter-sanctions, and they were clever ones. Russia banned various categories of food imports from the EU. This made it possible to ramp up food production within Russia and to move Russia toward self-sufficiency in food. Since within the EU farmers are politically quite powerful, this made US sanctions unpopular in Europe.

Add to this the fact that the US now wants to sanction Russian energy imports in Europe, forcing the Europeans to buy from the US, whose supplies are much more expensive and far less reliable, and you can see why the Europeans have by now had enough of Washington’s meddling. Of course, having surrendered much of their sovereignty a long time ago, the Europeans face fantastic difficulties in trying to claw it back, but at least they are starting to think about it.

This is already a win for Russia: it needs independent, sovereign nations for neighbors, not a bunch of Washington’s feckless vassals. As far as imposing countersanctions on the US itself, that would just cause some more economic damage without securing any political advantages.

On NATO encroachment on Russian borders, anti-Russian slights by the Baltic midgets and NATO troops training to “attack Russia”—well, frankly, the Russians are a little bit insulted, but they are not exactly afraid. Everybody knows that NATO is part of the American defense establishment racket. Its purpose is to steal boatloads of money, not to make weapons that work or to train armies that can fight. There is now quite a bit of NATO armor and manpower prepositioned in the Baltics, but not enough to actually invade Russia in any meaningful way.

And if they ever do, they will get lonely very quickly. You see, NATO armor doesn’t fit under most bridges and can’t move large distances over rough terrain like Russian armor can. It has to be transported to the field of battle by train or on flatbed trucks over federal highways. Or it has to be shipped in via deepwater ports.

So, all that Russia has to do is take out some bridges and some port facilities by launching rockets from pretty much anywhere, then kettle and destroy the relatively small contingent of invaders, and it will be game over. NATO knows this, and so all of this activity in the Baltics is just a way to funnel some money to the economically anemic and rapidly depopulating Baltic states.

They are suffering already; why hurt them more? As for the rights of the Russians in Latvia, one might think that they don’t really mind having them violated—or they’d be moving to Russia where there is plenty of room for them. They deserve lots of moral support, of course, but it’s really their battle, not Russia’s.

This doesn’t make the most exciting reading in the world, but so be it. People search the internet for stories about dramatic turns of events, mostly because they are bored. It often happens that the most important developments fail to thrill, but this doesn’t make them any less important. For example, Russia is reducing its defense spending, because it will soon be fully rearmed.

Can the US and NATO do the same? No! If they ever tried, the American defense establishment would get a new set of congressmen and senators voted in, and the profligate spending would resume forthwith. And so the Russians can just sit calmly, arms folded, and watch the US bankrupt itself.

That will certainly be a dramatic turn of events; you’ll just have to wait for it.

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Nadine Lott told ex-partner who later killed her not to ‘threaten’ her, court hears

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Nadine Lott told her former partner not to “threaten” her two weeks before he killed her, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

The jury in the trial of Daniel Murtagh was given transcripts on Tuesday of WhatsApp messages between the accused and his ex-girlfriend in the days and weeks leading up to her death.

In them, the accused asks her if she is “seeing someone from Dublin”. In reply, Ms Lott tells him she is not seeing anyone. Mr Murtagh asks her if there was a “Dublin lad” in her “place” and she tells him to “leave it out”.

She tells him that “nothing is ever going to happen between us again, I want to make that clear.”

In another text from December 5th the accused said: “Nadine I worry about ye, not in love, just don’t slip”.

She replied: “Don’t threaten me either”.

Evidence has previously been given that Mr Murtagh told a motorist that he had “killed my wife because she was with my friend”, just hours after he assaulted her.

John Begley testified last week that he saw a car in a ditch as he was travelling over Bookies Bridge in Laragh on the morning of December 14th and then came across the accused man standing at the side of the road.

“Daniel said to me ‘you don’t know what I’ve done”. I said what did you do. He said ‘I killed my wife’. I didn’t think anything of it. He said it a second time and said he hoped she was not dead. He said ‘she was with my friend’,” said Mr Begley.

Mr Murtagh (34), of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of his 30-year-old ex-partner Ms Lott at her apartment in St Mary’s Court, Arklow, Co Wicklow on December 17th, 2019.

The jury has heard that Ms Lott suffered “severe blunt force trauma” and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner “in a sustained and violent attack” in her Arklow home.

They have heard evidence that the injuries to Ms Lott were so serious that she never regained consciousness and died three days later in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

An intensive care nurse at the hospital has told the jury that Ms Lott was “completely unrecognisable” and that she had never seen anybody so badly injured. A paramedic who attended to Ms Lott at her home told the jury that the call will “haunt” him for the rest of his career and was one of the most “horrendous scenes” he had ever walked into. The garda who telephoned ambulance control informed them that Ms Lott had been “beaten to a pulp”.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and five women.

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Five unwritten rules that explain life in Austria

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Adjusting to life in a new country takes time – even more so when navigating unwritten rules of how to act in social and professional situations.

But learning how to live like a local in Austria will not only make it a more pleasant experience, it will also show that you fit in and respect the rules.

To help you further understand Austrian culture, here are five unwritten rules that explain life in Austria.

Always say hello – at least in the countryside

Austrians have a reputation for being direct in their communication, but politeness is also highly valued. 

A prime example is the unwritten rule of saying hello to people – even if you don’t know them.

This applies more in the countryside than in the cities but it’s worth being aware of to avoid making a social faux pas.

According to a Kurier article, failure to greet others will even have you labelled as unfriendly, arrogant or badly educated.

READ MORE: Nine things you might be surprised are actually Austrian

So, if someone is walking towards you, you walk into a bakery (for example) or you see neighbours on the street, then a greeting is expected.

It could be a simple nod of the head, but in most cases it will be “Servus”, “Griaß di” or even “Hallo”.

But don’t try it in a city like Vienna. Saying hello to strangers will just result in funny looks.

Saying hello to someone will show them that you come in peace. Photo by Tom Leishman from Pexels

Always bring food or drink to a social gathering

If invited to a barbecue or dinner party at someone’s house, always take a drink or something to contribute to the meal.

For example, if your host is cooking, offer to bring a salad or a dessert.

If they are taking care of the food then offer to bring a nice bottle of wine or a selection of beers.

If you’re going to a gathering, always bring something – especially if someone tells you it’s not necessary. Photo by Nicole Herrero on Unsplash

And if they are hosting a barbecue, always take your own meat and expect a wide selection of salads and bread that other guests will also bring and share with everyone else.

Not only is this polite, but it will stop other people from talking about you because you violated the unwritten rule.

Don’t expect polite queues at ski lift stations

While Austrian society can be polite in many ways, queueing at ski lift stations in the Alps is a different story.

In fact, it’s a free-for-all and it’s something that both tourists and international residents in Austria have experienced.

REVEALED: What do Austrians think about foreigners?

An Austrian in Tyrol, who asked to remain anonymous, summed it up when he told The Local: “Don’t be civilised and politely queue up at the ski lifts – just push in.”

So, when going skiing in Austria, leave your manners at home, be prepared for others to cut in front of you and get ready to push to the front of the queue.

For a country that loves order and predictability, Austria sure doesn’t know how to queue. Photo by Mael BALLAND on Unsplash

Lateness is not appreciated

People in Austria are generally punctual, like to be on time and expect others to do the same – just like in neighbouring countries Germany and Switzerland.

The unwritten rule applies to both work and social situations, including going out to dinner at a restaurant.

READER QUESTION: Is it legal to drink in public in Austria?

This means if you’re running late it’s polite to call the host and let them know. Likewise if you have a reservation at a restaurant.

However, there is still a limit on how much lateness can be tolerated, with 15 minutes typically the maximum delay before people become annoyed.

Always carry cash

Cash is king in Austria. 

What can I get for this many? Always carry cash in Austria. Photo by Christian Dubovan on Unsplash

It always has been and it probably always will be, with a pre-pandemic study showing that 83 per cent of Austrians preferred paying with cash.

Customers can even expect a grumpy roll of the eyes when trying to pay with cash in some places because it’s so deeply ingrained in the culture.

READ MORE: Why is cash so important to Austrians?

This attitude towards cash is perfectly reflected in the Austrian saying “Nur Bares ist Wahres” (only cash is true) and there are three reasons for this – freedom, anonymity and control. 

Austrians like to have the freedom of not relying on a bank, the anonymity to spend money on whatever they like and control over spending.

For international residents from card-favouring countries like the UK, Ireland and most of Scandinavia, the best way to deal with this is to just get used to carrying cash.



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Shocking news, Irish people may be sanest in Europe

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Ireland is running low on loopers. If we don’t watch out, we could emerge from the pandemic with our reputation for wildness completely shredded. We are in danger of being exposed as the sanest people in Europe.

Vaccines go into the arm, but also into the brain. They are a kind of probe sent into the national consciousness. In Ireland’s case, the probe has discovered exciting evidence of intelligent life.

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