Friday, August 24, 2018

Russia's Mil Games (Update)

Mark Galeotti has an article at Foreign Policy magazine regarding Russia's tank biathlon and other military games.   Galeotti was at Alabino to witness the games, or at least those that were held there, as some were held in other Russian cities or overseas in some events.   Galeotti has written several books on the Russian politics, the Russian underworld, and the Russian military.  He has written articles for Jane's Intelligence Review, for War On The Rocks, for The Moscow Times and others.   He has a blog titled In Moscow's Shadows, and is on twitter at @MarkGaleotti.

His trip was sponsored by HBO Sports.  So will HBO broadcast a special? 
A little out of their line I would think, but then the quest for ratings overrules all else no matter the network.  They have been branching out away from their traditional shows on basketball, baseball, boxing, football (both American football and soccer).  They have been doing specials on Trump-hating Scotsmen, wing-suiting, deep sea free diving by poor Austronesian fishermen, child camel jockeys some starting as young as two, crossword biathlons, etc.  So why not tank biathlons.

I don't agree with the title of Galeotti's article in FP.  He, or his FP editor calls the games "Decadent and Depraved".   Makes it sound like the the gladitorial combat in the Colosseum of the Roman Empire.   Yeah, they are a public spectacle, bread and circus for Ivan and Katyusha, but I would not call them depraved.  But the article is worth a read.  Galeotti was there and witnessed it.  He has some insights that never occurred to me in the 26 July post on the biathlon here on this blog.  But I note that Galeotti agrees that one of the key reasons for staging the Russian Mil Games is for arms sales.

The link to Galeotti's article is here:  the-international-army-games-are-decadent-and-depraved


  1. The title perplexed me, too, as it hardly fit what I had written. Turns out that it is a riff off Hunter S Thompson's piece 'The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.' As a Brit, that was a cultural reference that went over my head! And as regards HBO, they are doing what I think will be a very interesting package for their 'Real Sports' programme precisely looking at the 'sportification' of the military in Russia.


    1. Thanks Mark. Hunter Thompson's works went over the head of most Americans, myself included. I guess you had to be in that counterculture.

      Any idea when 'Real Sports' will be airing that package?

    2. It'd be interesting to contrast the evolution of war as sport in Russia with the conflation of war and sport here in the U.S. The Russians seem to be going at things more directly, but it's hard not to draw a similar line between the two when you see the over-the-top military raree shows at NFL games, or camouflage sports team outfits, or the constant flow of recruiting commercials during sporting broadcasts.

      It seems like the publics - Russian and American - are being trained to see war as sport.

      Call me alarmist, but I can't see that as a healthy attitude for any polity.

    3. The non-serving 'public' has always seen war as an our-team vs their-team. That is history.

      But what seems weird is the movement of this war-as-sport meme into the current state of non-war that we have with Russia and they with us. Unless you count as war their meddling in our elections and our meddling in the Kievan EuroMaidan.

    4. It's just a coda to the Cold War, I think. So not so very odd in context of that.

      Re: the Russian grievances, my guess would be that the greedy participation in the vultures-feast of the post-Soviet breakup looms larger than the U.S.fiddling w Ukraine or the Baltics (other than the usual pro-forma ire at anyone with the gall to stand in the way of the Greater Russia Project...). I think we in the States consistently underestimate how infuriating the casual looting of the ruins of the USSR were for many Russians, and in particular the sort of people who were important in the old regime, such as Trump's supervisor Pootie...

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Ael, I'll update the post. I plead advanced age for the lapse.

  3. "Galeotti agrees that one of the key reasons for staging the Russian Mil Games is for arms sales."

    I would agree.
    Russia's economy is, for lack of a better description, stagnant, and really, the only thing of value is that they can pump out cheap mil equipment at an alarming rate...which, for the Middle East is kind of a good thing.

    I'll have to follow Mr.Galeotti as I'm open to learning new things about our old adversary.


    1. Sheerahkahn -

      Stagnant? And yet according to the US Departmennt of Energy, "Russia contains the worlds largest natural gas reserves, second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves". And they have the world's largest pipeline company Transneft. Corruption is rampant though, as documented by Galeotti and others.

      And yes they do export a lot of cheap military equipment. But they can also design and build fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the Sukhoi SU-57. Is it comparable to the F-22? I kind of doubt it, and so does Business Insider magazine calling it a Honda Civic compared to a BMW:

      But I would love to see any analysis done by the USAF on the two SU-57 that were operating in Syria back in February. Some claim Sukhoi has cancelled production. Maybe so, but I have also seen reports that they have only delayed mass production and are continuing with a short build of a dozen or so.

    2. Stagnant is a generic term for not groeing as much as their actual potential allows.
      Technically, Russia should be seeing astronomical growth with their energy sources...and yet...

      They're not.


      Corruption at all levels of Russian political power structures.

      Hence the reason there is limited, and cautious investment in Russia.

      Anyone investing there knows that there is good chance they get screwed


    3. Sheerakahn -

      And they appear to be afflicting us with the that same level of corruption.

      Oh wait? Long before "Spankee" Donnie brought wholesale oligarchy to the White House we had already been corrupted at the presidential, congressional, state, county, and city levels.

      Our kleptocracy is just a bit more subtle about it. If you can call these things subtle: graft, bribery, lobbying, electoral fraud, gerrymandering, regulatory capture, slush funds, the misuse of public power for private benefit, corporate welfare, Goldman-Sachs, pay-to-play, prostitution of the media, cronyism, nepotism, etc, etc, etc?

      Anyone investing here knows they will NOT get screwed as long as they grease the right palms.

    4. I think it's because the US Government will use taxpayer money to bail companies out...which speaks about the robustness of American economic prowess...which Russia doesn't possess.
      Thus our CEO's can do something dumb that will crush the economy, and Taxpayers will bail them out.

      I feel sick, now.


  4. Or they subsidize corporate agribusiness with taxpayer money because the nasty (snark) Chinese targeted them with tariffs after "the-art-of-the-deal" Donnie started his "easy- to-win" trade war.

    I'm feeling sick also.

  5. Yeah, I think we're depressing each other.

  6. It's probably worth recalling that the U.S. was founded as a Rich White-guy Club. One big reason we're stuck w Mad King Tangerine is that the gimmicks the Framers built in worked as designed.

    And crony capitalism was a part of that. I know I keep harping on the New Gilded Age thing, but a huge part of the Republican Project - and it's not like the Democratic Party has been working hard to stop it, mind - is the eagerness to return to that ethos. The malefactors of great wealth want their country back, want to undo the Progressive Era and the New Deal..

    The problem I see is that the rightwing noise machine has created an indigestible lump of of Jacksonians

  7. ...who will continue to vote for corruption, plutocracy, and their own impoverishment so long as it promises them enough racism, homo- and Islamophobia, theocracy, guns, and generally owning the lib'ruls.

    The tell, for me, is going all-in for Trump instead of Sanders in '16. If our fellow citizens had really been economically anxious and worried about just this sort of kleptocratic Putinism there was the perfect solution: the old-school New Dealer.

    But he didn't offer enough red meat to get those anxious Republicans to cross party lines. And here we are.

    1. "But he didn't offer enough red meat to get those anxious Republicans to cross party lines."

      Republicans were never going to vote en masse in Democratic primaries. And Bernie never reached out to them.

      IMO when Hillary won the primary, some of the Bernie Bros decided to back Trump. He did pick up on and use some of Bernie's messages an themes during his campaign, which won MI, PA, WI and maybe OH for him.

      And then there was the Hillary Hate which had reached a peak after a quarter century of the heavily funded right wing wurlitzer. Plus her poor campaign efforts in the upper midwest which her campaign staff took for granted.

    2. I've thought about the 2016 campaign and I'm still trying to figure out the flow of it all.
      Bernie had crossovers, and liberals all a gaga...
      Trump had the rabid right losing their shit in front of cameras
      Hillary had the quiet wine soirees with intimate discussions on policy, economy, and keeping the Obama train going.

      Then Bernie lost out in the primaries...granted...the DNC did pull shenanigans, but still, the numbers were short for Bernie, and Hillary's campaign was not involved in shutting down Bernies via the DNC.

      I think...I'm going to have to go with people who refused to vote Hillary, and refused to vote for Trump went third party, and the number's show that.

      Hillary lost in Mi, Pa, Wi by narrow margins...that...if you look at how many votes the third party got...yeah.

      Granted, now, there are a lot of confessed Trump voters who are seeking redemption (I hope they can find it because really, they don't deserve!), but the Berniebros...ffs..let him go, already.

      I'm glad Bernie didn't win.
      If the Bernie who is speaking now is any indication of who President Bernie Sanders would be...oh god I'm so glad he didn't win.

      He's a little to much like Trump in taking credit for, and absconding with other peoples ideas and efforts.

      And with Obama giving that speech the other day...I had my issues with him, but they were resolvable compared to the nightmare we're in now.

      Anyway, I'm not sure if this, now, is what the Founder's had envisioned, but it definitely seems like the GOP is okay with what is happening.

    3. Sure they are okay with what is happening. He is stacking the court. And everything else he pushes is catnip for them.

    4. I am no native speaker, but as far as I know your use of the word "stacking" is inappropriate here.
      Stacking SCOTUS would require to appoint additional judges to reach the desired imbalance. That's what FDR threatened to do at some point.
      Trump is merely increasing the partisan imbalance in SCOTUS.

    5. I did not major in English, But I believe the term is appropriate to either of the two situations. Although I think FDR's plan was originally called "court packing", but that has changed over the years.

      From "stack - to arrange or select unfairly in order to force a desired result, especially to load (a jury, committee, etc.) with members having a biased viewpoint: The lawyer charged that the jury had been stacked against his client."

      That is what is so great about the English language, or at least the American version. Words are free to change and/or evolve, with no straight jackets.

  8. The Founders had an unrealistic ideal of public service related, I suspect, to their concept of the franchise as restricted to wealthy white guys. The system they created only really lasted about 60 years before producing a horrific civil war. The result of THAT lasted about another 60 years before economic collapse forced another set of massive revisions. And THAT lasted about 30 years before the unresolved issues from the first revision forced another big socioeconomic crisis. We're living through the Fourth Revision, where the people who lost in the Thirties try to un-revise the system to the pre-1932 conditions.