Time and Power

A reading of  Christopher Clarke’s “Time and Power”

Frederick_the_Great_and_his_staff_at_the_Battle_of_Leuthen_by_Hugo_Ungewitter

 

From the late thirteenth century to 1947, in this relatively short period of German and European history, Brandenburg, that became the kingdom of Prussia, and was finally dissolved, as political entity, in the soon to be born DDR, evolved from a poor, marginal territory, built on sand and short of access to the sea, into one of the power houses of Europe and the kernel of the new German Reich (1871). Christopher Clarke, Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947, The Sleepwalkers – How Europe went to War in 1914, was for certain well placed, from the vantage point of a German-speaking historian in the Cambridge tradition, to describe the Prussian trajectory through an original, sometime provocative, analysis of its leaders’ perception of time: the Great Elector Fredrick William, Frederick II and Otto von Bismarck. A fourth and final essay in Time and Power – Visions of History in German Politics, from the Thirty Years’ War to the Third Reich, attempts to analyse the cataclysmic disaster of the NS period through its historicity.

In December 1640, when Frederick William acceded to the throne, Brandenburg  was still under foreign occupation. A two-year truce  was agreed with the Swedes in July 1641, but the looting, burning, and general misbehaviour continued. In a letter of spring 1641, the Elector’s viceroy, Margrave Ernest, who carried the responsibility for administering the ruined Mark, offered a grim synopsis:

The country is in such a miserable state and impoverished condition that mere words can scarcely  convey the sympathy one feels with the innocent inhabitants. In general, we think that the cart has been driven so deep in the muck, as they say, that it cannot be extricated without the special help of the Almighty.

For thirty years, from 1618 to the complicated negotiations leading to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the German lands from the Rhein to the eastern Marks bordering the Polish kingdom, had been the playground of the diverse armies of the then established monarchies: Austria, Sweden, Spain, France, Denmark and Poland. The generalised religious war, a consequence of the Reformations and the chaos that followed in the old feudal order, was the opportunity for the many mercenary armies and outlaw bands, to plunder, rape, massacre the peasants and those unfortunate inhabitants of towns and cities they could conquer. From the crucible of the thirty-year war  a new order would emerge, and modern Europe would form. The horrors of the war would only recede in the German psyche after the disasters of the twentieth century.

Frederick William, deeply influenced by the culture and calvinist ethos of the Dutch Republic, married in 1646 to Louise Henriette, daughter of the Stadholder Frederick Henry of Orange, aimed to rebuild the country, its administration, its army. His time perspective, historicity Clarke would say, was a continuous struggle to extract the country from the dark-age limitations and obstacles that had led, in his view, to the country’s ruin. In this he was opposed by the local land-owning nobility, his class, the Estates. Once the war was over, the Estates wanted simply to restore their privileges, and the old system whereby they ruled the land to their benefit, and the Elector returned to the function of their largely powerless representative to the Diet in Vienna. This conflict reflected a profound antagonism of historicity: one, the Estates’, grounded in the past, seen as the source of law and the natural order, and the other, the Elector’s, certainly not “revolutionary” in the later sense, after all the Elector was himself one of the larger land-owners, but transformational and looking at the future for solutions to the present predicament.

The estates inhabited a mental world of mixed and overlapping sovereignties. The Estates of Kleve maintained a diplomatic representative in The Hague and looked to the Dutch Republic, the imperial Diet (the assembly of the Holy Roman Empire), and on occasions even to Vienna for support against illicit interventions from Berlin. They envisaged establishing their own system of taxation and forming a corporate “hereditary union” with the nearby territories of Mark, Jülich and Berg and frequently conferred with the Estates of these lands on how best to respond (and resist) demands from Berlin. The estates of Ducal Prussia, for their part, were still subjects of the Polish Crown; they saw neighbouring Poland as the guarantor of their ancient privileges. As one senior Electoral official irritably remarked, the leaders of the Prussian Estates were “true neighbours of the Poles” and “indifferent to the defence of their own country.”

Through a mixture of protracted negotiations, mediation and the convergence of interests, Frederick William, through his 46-year reign, eventually succeeded in establishing his authority.

When in 1740, his great-grandson, Fredrick II of Prussia, leads its armies  out of Brandenburg to conquer Silesia from the Habsburg, his vision is wholly different. The historian King is a deeply traditional, even though enlightened, monarch, an aristocrat among the aristocrats who send their sons to his armies. Prussia is a kingdom, respected by his neighbours, the Marks’ borders are not threatened by anyone. His father, the Soldier-King, has left his son one of the best, possibly the best, trained army in Europe. Fredrick is thus convinced that the present is the best outcome of history, a steady-state that his conquest are not aimed at altering, merely refining. The pillars of Frederickan society are the King himself, his army and the local nobility, in perfect harmony.

Frederick’s reign was rich in large and perilous events. The Seven Year’s War brought Prussia to the brink of collapse and might well have resulted in the partition and destruction of the the state inherited from the Great Elector. The First Partition of Poland, though les dangerous in the short term from Berlin’s perspective, was a momentous event whose consequences would reverberate into the twentieth century. Yet the shuddering, fearful vibration of great events is strangely absent form Frederick’s reasoning about past, present, future. Contingency was crowded by will; decisions were a function of ‘systems’ resistant to short-term shocks and disruptions.

The Napoleonic era would bring the end of the Holy Roman Empire, to Prussia, in quick succession, defeats and triumph, through the Liberation War and its alliance with Russia against the French. After the Revolutions of 1848-49, nothing remains the same but, in the eyes of Otto von Bismarck, the primacy of the monarchical state. Bismarck, the boatman on the river of time, accepts that the clocks cannot be turned back and knows that he himself has benefited from the political and social turbulences issued from the revolutions: without them a relatively low-rank junker could not have acceded to the highest levels of the Monarchy’s government. His role is to serve, to preserve, if necessary by force of arms, the integrity of the monarchical state, the Machtstaat. His achievement is the unification of the Reich, culminating in the crowning of the King of Prussia, now Kaiser, in Versailles, once the seat of the French Ancien Régime.

After the fall of Bismarck and the advent of the new Kaiser, time seems to contract. 1918 is the watershed, as military defeat, failed revolution and the decomposition of society, destroy the Monarchy. From the horrors of the war and the collapse of statehood a hiatus develops, aggravated by the ruin of the economy and the criminal ineptitude of the Versailles Treaty. In its interstices the NS ideology would take roots. Never consistent or clearly formulated, it is a negation of the German state’s historicity and of history itself. Future generations would admire, in awe, the ruins of the colossal buildings of the Third Reich – in a thousand years. There no longer is a time horizon, an evolution: only total victory through absolute war and the annihilation of its enemies, or cataclysmic self-destrution, the NS state is alien to the historical visions of German statehood, of Bismarck, Fredrick the Great or the Great Elector. Indeed Hitler hated Berlin, the resisting capital grabbed from the Communists after years of vicious street fights, murders and unaccounted victims of torture in the KZ. The city will be destroyed, its Nemesis the old ally of Prussia.

Time and Power is a powerful reflection on history, leadership and fate. While the first three essays are in the tradition of Iron Kingdom, and based on Clarke’s incomparable research on Prussia’s history, the fourth essay, Time of the Nazis, rich in new material and original analyses, could be read as the blueprint for a much larger study.

Image: Frederick the Great and his staff at the Battle of Leuthen by Hugo Ungewitter. Source

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The Faces of Shiva (1)

Shiva: help us!

Sun in Gemini

(Montage image by the author. See base of post for source of Shiva element)

Brahma creates the world. Vishnu sustains it so that it might achieve its potential. Shiva destroys it when its positive energy has been exhausted. The ‘world’ might be everything, or, for the initiate of old, it might just as well apply to anything created by the mind – large or small. In other words a system.

It should make us think…

The ancient Hindu triumvirate describes a deep and recurring motif in spirituality: that there must be a threefold process, which necessarily involves the sweeping away of that which has served its purpose; has ceased to support the structures it built to achieve its purposes; has ceased to draw upon the positive (expansive) energies that sustained its coming-into-maturity.

We could be forgiven for thinking that this ancient myth accurately describes what we are experiencing in…

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Supremacy, and delusion

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In his 2006 seminal opus, titled “The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present“, Christopher Layne, Professor of International Affairs and Robert M Gates chair in National Security at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, exposes the fallacies of a US foreign policy continued through all administrations since before the onset of WWII. “Does the United States need to pursue hegemony to gain security (offensive realism), or should it be an offshore balancer (defensive realism)?” asks Layne in the first chapter of the book. 205 pages later the reader is clear for the reasons, the logic, and the illusions. The successive US administrations have sought to maintain hegemony, especially through military supremacy, in order to maintain the “Open Doors” dogmatic strategy, the right to influence, exploit, preserve the US worldview, its corporate interests, the influence of its culture, and above all, prevent its isolation. Wayne concludes: ” Unless it undergoes a Damascene-like intellectual conversion, as long as the present foreign policy elite remains in power the United States will remain wedded to a hegemonic grand strategy. It probably will take a major domestic political realignment – perhaps triggered by setbacks abroad or a severe economic crisis at home – to bring about a change in American grand strategy.”

We now know that this change could not be brought about, neither by the 2008 financial crisis, nor by the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. In the meantime, NATO’s enlargement to the former Warsaw Pact’s countries and encirclement of the Russian Federation, backed by relentless economic sanctions, have brought Europe and the world to the brink of war. As observed by John Helmer, in a post reviewing Tariq Ali’s book on “Lenin’s Dilemmas“, the  military situation now is analogous to that of 1922, when western armies encircled the young Soviet Union. But this is a different Russia, and the Soviet Union is no more.

The perspective presented by Andrei Martyanov‘s “Losing Military Supremacy: the Myopia of American Strategic Planning“, in many ways confirms Layne’s analysis, and draws the conclusion further. According to Martyanov, the American elites and their allies are about to experience a brutal awakening. Whereas, in the West, there is no shortage of literature about the Soviet, and now, Russian “threat” and agression (inclusive of “Russian military deception“), Martyanov explains that in the last decades, in parallel with the financialisation of western, particularly anglo-saxon, economies, real expertise in Russian real power has disappeared. In the present circumstances, and since WWII, the reference line is on military power. Martyanov blames the decay of the US education system, undermined by the fictitious, as opposed to real, economy, the disappearance of diplomacy in the classical sense, for delusions going back to a Hollywood interpretation of the victory over Nazi Germany in WWII by Pattonesque generals and politicians, as well as the so-called “victory” in the Cold War. He quotes distinguished US officers in the Navy and Intelligence who anticipated and deplored these developments: deluded elites relying on pseudo expertise by unqualified individuals without the prerequisite knowledge and understanding. As a result, political miscalculations – the Kiev putsch, the destruction of Libya, terrorism in Iraq and Syria, Iran sanctions etc. –  are a real threat to peace. The Russian economy is underestimated – for if GDP has been historically a measure of real power, its value in de-industrialised economies based on (particularly financial) services are of no relevance to a comparison of military power. Yet, policy decisions continue to be made in Washington, and elsewhere, based on a gross underestimate of Russian real military power. The evidence is there to be seen, beyond the veil of fake news and increasingly absurd claims, in the Ukraine, in the Middle-East, in the Pacific. Martyanov identifies long range and hypersonic missile technology, electronic countermeasures, submarine warfare and air-defences, among others, where it is claimed, Russia has now a lead over the US.

Some observers have for some time concluded that Russia, and China, are now preparing for war. On the day when more war-mongers have just been elected to the US Congress, I, for one, cannot blame them.

ULUS-KERT: An Airborne Company’s Last Stand

Source

Note by the Saker: as the Russian Airborne Forces are celebrating their 85th anniversary I decided to publish here an article written in the July-August edition of Military Review which describes this tragic but very important event.

by Sergeant Michael D. Wilmoth, US Army Reserve, and Lieutenant Colonel Peter G. Tsouras, US Army Reserve, Retired

In four days of desperate fighting, from 29 February to 3 March 2000, a large force of Chechen fighters wiped out a Russian paratroop company in the harsh defiles and ridges of the Argun Gorge in the mountains of southern Chechnya. Although the battle was a catastrophic tactical defeat for the Russian airborne force, the company’s stubborn defense to the last man and the concentration of Russian relief forces inflicted a strategic setback on the Chechens. The Russians stumbled into this catastrophe through poor unit leadership, but Russian blood and valor transformed it into victory.

Hatred to the Bone

In Fall 1999, the Second Chechen War began. The Russian Army sought to reimpose the Russian Federation’s authority in lawless, breakaway Chechnya. The Russians and Chechens’ shared 200-year history had been punctuated by convulsions of blood and cruelty. The First Chechen War, from 1994 to 1996, had ended in the Russian Army’s humiliation and left Russia with its highest loss of resources and professionalism since the Soviet Union’s demise. The loss of basic combat skills also had been horrific. This second round was the Russian Army’s opportunity to show that it had recovered something of its former ability.

Nothing expressed the depth of Russian-Chechen animosity more than the battle cries hurled back and forth across the firing lines during the siege of Groznyy. To the Chechen shouts of “Allah Akhbar!” the Russians would respond, “Christ is Risen!”

After Groznyy fell, Chechen forces regrouped in the rough, mountainous areas of southern Chechnya. By late February, a large Chechen force of from 1,600 and 2,500 fighters had concentrated in the town of Ulus-Kert, where the Abazolgul and Sharoargun rivers join.1 The area was one in which the Russians had not dared enter during the First Chechen War. This time, they did not hesitate to follow.

A Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) tactical group attacked Chechen forces at Ulus-Kert, forcing them southeast. One of the VDV tactical group’s regimental task forces, based on the 104th Guards Parachute Regiment (GPR) of the 76th Guards Airborne Division (GAD), was to block the gorge while the VDV tactical group encircled the Chechens.

Area of Operations

The small town of Ulus-Kert is surrounded by extremely steep, mountainous terrain. Approximately 6 kilometers south of the town and extending far to the southeast are the Dargenduk Mountains. A road leading generally south out of Ulus-Kert and up the northeastern edge of the Dargenduks crosses over a 1,410-meter hill, referred to as Hill 1410. Approximately 1.5 kilometers directly southeast of Ulus-Kert is Hill 705.6. Just about one-half kilometer south of Hill 705.6 is a narrow opening to a small gorge. Three and one-half kil-ometers southeast of Ulus-Kert, on the gorge’s easternmost side, is Hill 776. Hill 787 is only 1 kilometer farther south.

A road leading southeast from Ulus-Kert over Hill 705.6 turns south into the gorge. Another road intersects the first then leads to the western edge of the saddle between hills 776 and 787 where it divides into mountain paths crossing the saddle. Hill 787 is approximately 4.3 kilometers north of Hill 1410. At the time of the operation, the weather was foggy and cold, with snow on the ground.

The Chechens planned to escape advancing Russian forces by using the advantage of the mountainous terrain southeast of Ulus-Kert. After slipping through the passes, the fighters could seize the strategic population centers of Makhkety, Elistanzhi, Zaduli, Kirov-Yurt and Vedeno, which provided a west-to-east corridor in relatively low, flat terrain through which remaining Chechen forces could withdraw to Dagestan.2 From Dagestan, they could renew the struggle on more favorable terms.

The VDV tactical group’s mission was to counter the Chechen force’s objectives by blocking its escape through the mountains then encircling it so artillery and combat air support could be used. Engaging infantry soldiers in direct combat was to be kept to a minimum. The plan to encircle Chechen forces—a common Russian tactic—reflects the Russians’ desire to minimize casualties.

The First Chechen War had not been popular with the Russian populace because of the high death rate. Tension was also rife in the Russian command arrangement. Airborne forces felt they were being used as cannon fodder to reduce casualties among motorized infantry troops. Underlying this tension was the old rivalry between Russian airborne forces and ground forces. Historically, the VDV had been a separate service. Briefly in the late 1990s, it had been subordinated to ground forces. Newly appointed commander of Russian airborne forces Colonel General Georgiy Shpak had obtained a reversal of this decision and zealously guarded the VDV’s independence.

Shpak streamlined the organization and obtained new missions for it, primarily in peacekeeping operations. By the time operations around Ulus-Kert were under way, the grouping of airborne forces had been subordinated to Colonel General Gennadiy N. Troshev, Commander of the Eastern Grouping of Federal Forces, who reported directly to General of the Army Viktor Kazantsev, who commanded the Operations Group, Joint Grouping of Federal Forces, in the North Caucasus. The arrangement was not a happy one; airborne forces felt they were not being properly supported.3

The Battle Begins

The VDV tactical group was a task force based on divisional parachute regiments augmented with VDV command-level assets, such as reconnaissance subunits. The 104th GPR task force was assigned the mission of blocking Chechen escape routes east through the mountains. 104th GPR, like most Soviet/Russian parachute regiments, had three airborne battalions, an artillery battalion equipped with two S9, 120-millimeter, self-propelled guns and various support assets. Each airborne battalion had three airborne companies numbered sequentially one through nine, with the first, second and third companies composing the 1st Airborne Battalion and so on. Each 104th GPR company was augmented with reconnaissance and/or SPETSNAZ subunits from the VDV command to form company tactical groups.4

Hills 705.6, 776, 787 and 1410 were the main features of the net 104th GPR used to encircle the Chechen force. The VDV tactical group’s main body crossed the Sharoargun and Abazolgul rivers, pushing the Chechen force out of Ulus-Kert toward the southeast. 104th GPR’s 1st Company, 1st Airborne Battalion, still had not crossed either the Abazolgul or the Sharoargun. An unidentified 104th GPR company was on or near Hill 705.6. 4th Company and an unidentified 104th GPR airborne company, two VDV SPETS-NAZ groups and an elite Federal Security Service (FSB)—successor to the KGB—SPETSNAZ group, known as Vympel, were on Hill 1410. Present at 2d Airborne Battalion Headquarters on Hill 776 were Commander, 2d Airborne Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Niko-layevich Yevtyukhin, and Captain Viktor Romanov, the commander of an artillery battery of the regimental artillery battalion who was heading a forward observer team. 6th Company, commanded by Major Sergey Molodov, was en route to the saddle between Hills 776 and 787. 104th GPR was engaged in positioning companies to block escape routes over the mountains.

The Chechen force, retreating to the southeast of Ulus-Kert along a road leading over Hill 705.6 away from the main advancing body of the VDV tactical group, was looking for the first unguarded or weakly held way over the mountains. The 1,600 to 2,500 fighters wore winter camouflage and were well equipped with various small arms, grenade launchers and mortars. They were supported by a logistics train of hundreds of pack animals.

Day 1, 29 February 2000

Early on 29 February, a 104th GPR airborne company encountered a significant Chechen force on the road leading southeast out of Ulus-Kert. Russian paratroopers engaged the Chechen fighters for control of Hill 705.6. The Russian company, significantly stressed during the fight, gained control of the hill and pushed the Chechen force southeast into the small gorge below. The company was most likely heavily supported by artillery and helicopters, as was the usual Russian operation in this war.

The 104th GPR commander ordered 2d Airborne Battalion elements to block the saddle between hills 776 and 787, which was the next possible path over the mountains for the Chechens. The 2d Airborne Battalion headquarters was already in place on Hill 776. The 2d Airborne Battalion element was to be in place by 1400. In the early morning, 6th Company, including the third platoon, 4th Company, and two reconnaissance groups, probably from the regimental reconnaissance platoon, started on foot toward the saddle.5

6th Company, with the other elements, minus the company’s third platoon, arrived by late morning, ahead of schedule. The company commander established a linear defense in the saddle between the hills, fronted by a minefield facing west toward the gorge. The defense focused on the Chechen forces’ expected direction of escape. No access routes through the minefield were prepared nor were platoon positions sited to be mutually supportive.6 After establishing company positions, troops began their afternoon meal, leaving their positions and congregating in the open.7

The Chechen force clearly had a better grasp of the situation. The fighters had been listening to 104th GPR communications and used this advantage and good ground reconnaissance to locate 104th GPR subunits and to set ambushes. At 1230, a 6th Company reconnaissance patrol encountered approximately 20 fighters just outside company defensive positions. That the Chechens could approach that close without detection shows that the Russians had conducted no deep reconnaissance of the approaches to the saddle.

The Chechens, armed with automatic weapons, grenade launchers and mortars, reacted quickly, seizing the initiative. The small force was probably followed by a combat element, which would have been consistent with Soviet-style reconnaissance doctrine that places great value on immediately seizing the initiative in any engagement by having a strong combat element close behind the advance reconnaissance element.8 Chechen reconnaissance elements also worked their way around the Russian position in the saddle and attacked from the rear where there were no defenses.9 With Chechens in the rear and no escape routes through their own minefield, 6th Company pulled back and dug in on Hill 776. Their retreat was so precipitous that they abandoned mess kits still full of food.10

Chechen fighters, laying down constant fire on 6th Company, received reinforcements as the main body arrived. The force encircled 6th Company and sent waves of fighters into the attack.11 By the end of the first day, 6th Company had suffered 31 dead—a 33 percent killed in action (KIA) rate.12 6th Company had barely survived three basic errors: failure to establish an all-around defense; failure to aggressively conduct reconnaisance of the enemy’s expected approach route, especially given the Chechen reputation for tactical skill, reconnaisance and working around the flanks; and failure to heed warnings about the Chechen force’s approach.13

For some reason, 6th Company did not anticipate with sufficient seriousness and energy the danger it had been assigned to forestall. It seems likely that weak command at the company level was compounded by a lack of timely supervision by the adjacent battalion headquarters.

Day 2, 1 March 2000

Early in the morning on Hill 1410, a reinforcement group of two VDV SPETSNAZ platoons, one Vympel SPETSNAZ group and two airborne companies departed on foot for the saddle. The group encountered several ambushes while traversing terrain as steep as 70 degrees. At approximately 0330, one VDV SPETSNAZ platoon broke through to Hill 787 but was forced to dig in because of stiff Chechen opposition.

The 1st Company was also sent to reinforce 6th Company. While attempting to cross the Abazolgul River northeast of Ulus-Kert, the unit encountered a Chechen ambush force of up to 60 men. Despite repeated attempts to fight through the Chechen ambush, the 1st Company was forced to dig in on the river’s bank. At 0300, during a brief lull, 2d Airborne Battalion deputy commander Major Aleksandr Dostovalov, with 4th Company’s third platoon, broke through to the encircled company. While relief forces were being held back by ambushes, waves of Chechen fighters continued to assault 6th Company on Hill 776.14 When Romanov’s legs were blown off by a mortar round, the battalion commander took over.

While some reports question the lack of artillery and combat air support, others indicate that both where present throughout the four-day engagement. In his report to defense minister Igor Sergeyev, Shpak states that 2d Airborne Battalion “was supported by a self-propelled artillery battalion of the 104th Parachute Regiment and by army aviation.”15 The presence of an artillery forward team with 6th Company, which included a battery commander, indicates that artillery support was at least adequate. While Shpak’s statement and other reports make it certain that VDV artillery was employed throughout the engagement, it is unclear how effective it was at reducing Chechen numbers. Also unanswered is whether additional artillery assets were employed to support 6th Company.

Press reports also cite use of “Grads”—122-millimeter BM-21 multiple-rocket launchers that VDV units do not have.16 Accounts of other engagements in the southern mountains show that the Russians employed available artillery from a number of units in coordination with army aviation helicopters. These accounts stress that artillery continued to fire when helicopters disappeared with daylight. Only one Russian helicopter in the Chechen theater had night capability. This supports Shpak’s statement that 6th Company received no aviation support at night. Helicopter support was further limited by foggy conditions during the fighting.17

The Chechens continued heavy attacks on Hill 776 from all directions throughout the early morning. Paratrooper officers showed an unhesitating willingness to sacrifice themselves, a trait the Germans had frequently noted in the grandfathers of the men on the hill. Dostovalov, already wounded, attacked a group of Chechens trying to carry off a wounded soldier and dispatched them with a grenade. Junior soldiers were equally valiant. After Private Aleksandr Lebedev ran out of ammunition, he threw himself and his last live grenade into a group of Chechens who had wanted him to surrender.

At approximately 0500, the Chechens breached 6th Company defenses. Cumulative casualties and odds of at least 10 to one were too much for the dwindling Russian force. As Chechens overran Hill 776, fighting became hand-to-hand, and Chechens began shooting wounded Russians. The already wounded battalion commander took over the radio from the wounded Romanov and called in artillery fire on his own position, shouting into the radio, “I call artillery on myself!”18 The Chechens suffered grievously from the artillery, and at 0610, communications with the battalion commander were lost.

As the second day of fighting closed, 6th Company counted another 26 paratroopers killed and many wounded. Counting the 31 men who had fallen the day before, 6th Company had suffered a KIA rate of almost two-thirds—57 out of 90 men.19 Chechen casualties also continued to mount. Repeated human-wave attacks are costly, especially when the defenders are supported by artillery and aviation.

The Chechens had been throwing themselves at Hill 776 to keep open a path for the rest of their force. This movement was interrupted by the arrival of the relief force from Hill 1410. Major Andrey Lobanov, commanding a 45th VDV Reconnaisance Regiment SPETSNAZ group, was with this force. He noted that hundreds of pack animals had already passed by. The Russians moved into the saddle and found 6th Company’s abandoned positions and soon encountered a large Chechen group. The Russians retreated to Hill 787 from which they could cover the saddle.

The Russians intercepted the Chechen commander’s desperate orders: “Do not engage in battle. Force your way forward.”20 With the remnants of 6th Company still holding out on Hill 776 and new Russian forces on neighboring Hill 787, the Chechen escape route was dangerously constricted. The Russians sent a reconnaissance platoon into the saddle to find a better position. Instead, it found an ambush by Arab volunteers, covering an attempt by the main Chechen convoy to escape. Having suffered five wounded, the Russians committed another company, hoping to stop the Chechen escape attempt.21

Day 3, 2 March 2000

Late in the morning, the 1st Company broke through Chechen forces and reached the battle area. However, it could not relieve 6th Company, which was still under close attack. One officer and 32 men were still alive. Deputy company commander Captain Roman Sokolov had arrived in Chechnya barely 13 days before. Wounded in the hand, he organized the survivors’ final defense. He placed the six most junior soldiers in the care of Sergeant Andrey Proshev and ordered them to escape. Then, as the Chechens pressed the attack, Sokolov called artillery fire down on his position as a desperate attempt to fend off the enemy. Another 16 paratroopers on Hill 776 were killed in the continuing fighting.22

Day 4, 3 March 2000

The struggle for control of Hills 776 and 787 ended on the fourth day of the fighting. The last 11 paratroopers on Hill 776 were killed.23 The relief force found Proshev’s small band of survivors.24 The surviving Chechens, who had not been able to escape over the saddle before the relief’s arrival, slipped back down into the gorge pursued by paratroopers and hunted by helicopters. The Russian pursuit took them about 5 kilometers east to the village of Selmentausen where a number of escaping Chechens had concentrated.

Mopping Up

The Chechens won a Pyrrhic victory. Tarrying to bludgeon through 6th Company allowed VDV forces to fight through difficult terrain and Chechen ambushes to close off the main body’s escape. Most surviving Chechens were ultimately forced back into the gorge, where troops from 104th GPR took a number of prisoners.

While no 6th Company personnel surrendered or were taken prisoner, the four-day struggle resulted in the death of at least 84 VDV soldiers, including 13 officers. Even after losing its senior officers, 6th Company held its final positions against a much larger force.

Chechen casualties included approximately 400 dead. According to Krasnaya Zvezda, the official newspaper of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD), this figure was based on radio-intercept data, intelligence reports, eyewitnesses, local residents and captured Chechens.25

The Arab volunteers fighting with the Chechens appeared, in particular, to have suffered severely. Heavy Arab casualties would not be unusual among particularly fanatical units, nor would it be unusual for the Chechens to have pushed the Arabs first into harm’s way. Lobanov counted 200 enemy dead on Hill 776 alone, along with 75 Russian paratroopers. Survivor Viktor Sokirko stated, “I took a notebook from the pocket of one of the gunmen with a roster of 100 people; the bullet had hit him right in his heart; it had gone through his Koran.”26

The bodies of the 84 fallen VDV troops were evacuated on foot, with combat aviation providing support. It was shaping up to be a bloody month for the Russian Army; it had a total of 156 dead—a higher KIA rate than during the grimmest comparable period in the storming of Groznyy.27

6th Company accomplished its mission. The Chechen force was blocked from escaping the encirclement. More important, Chechen commanders realized that they could not seize strategic population centers in the low terrain and would be forced to stay in the mountains. In the next few days, a number of Chechen fighters surrendered to the Russians. The day after the battle ended, a Chechen field commander surrendered with 73 men, including 30 wounded—the largest surrender to that date. Made up largely of Chechen teenagers, this band had actually escaped over the saddle before the relief arrived on 2 March. It surrendered on the outskirts of Selmentausen. The young men had had enough of war.28

Recriminations

The loss of 6th Company provoked an interservice exchange of recriminations. At a news conference, Shpak bluntly blamed the disaster on the Eastern Grouping of Forces’ commander, to whom the airborne troops had been subordinated. Shpak’s subordinates added their fire: “It all began back in Dagestan, when Kazantsev sent the airborne troops to their death and protected his own infantry.”29 They claimed airborne forces had been stretched too thin and “in isolation from the main forces. . . . [T]he grouping command treats the airborne troops as cannon fodder.”30

By the middle of March, cumulative airborne casualties gave ammunition for their charges. Shpak reported that 181 airborne soldiers had been killed and 395 wounded in Chechnya out of a force of about 5,100 men. The total Russian force in Chechnya had averaged about 100,000 and had lost 1,291 Defense Ministry troops and 617 Interior Ministry troops for a total of 1,908, suffering 3,190 and 2,107 wounded. Airborne forces had numbered five percent of the force and suffered 10 percent of the deaths.31

Shpak had a point. While the operational concept of blocking and trapping the Chechens was sound, the net was too weak. 104th GPR was forced to commit individual companies, which could not be easily reinforced, to oppose the breakthrough attempt of a lethal brigade-size unit. The airborne net should have been backed up with larger motorized rifle formations. Shpak’s complaints carried enough weight to have the Grouping of Airborne Forces transferred from Troshev’s command to the Joint Grouping of Federal Forces—the overall headquarters for operations in Chechnya.

Reconnaissance and Security

Kazantsev, former commander of the Grouping of Airborne Troops in Chechnya, accurately described the situation: “Such heavy losses could have been avoided. Reconnaissance must be carried out more carefully.”32 After walking over the battlefield, Lobanov, who fought forward with the relief, also said pointedly, “There is a continual question in my head: Why was there no information that such a horde of gunmen was breaking through?”33 Compounding this failure was the lackadaisical attitude toward the company’s security. 6th Company had blinded itself, allowing Chechens the priceless element of surprise. Had 6th Company been properly alerted and ready in proper defenses, it might have been able to hold off the Chechens successfully until relief arrived. One elemental failure cascaded into another, which might explain why the battalion commander suddenly emerged as the defense’s motivating force once the disaster unfolded.

However much the Russian official line emphasizes the heroism of 6th Company paratroopers, the results of the official inquiry ordered by President Vladmir Putin was professionally blunt. The force was accused of “slovenliness, laxity and unprofessionalism.”34 The force showed a glaring loss of basic tactical skills at the company level during the encounters. Such basic tactical considerations should have been uppermost in the company officers’ minds. Whether this was a local aberration or indicates pervasive problems throughout Russian Army elite forces, the VDV’s failure poses important questions about Russian capabilities. While the VDV performed credibly and often with distinction in the Second Chechen War, there have been enough blatant exceptions to conclude that even the VDV’s skills are no longer of a uniform high standard, despite Shpak’s reforms.

Pride of Corps

On the positive side, 6th Company recovered and fought well against enormous odds once it moved to Hill 776 under the effective leadership of the battalion commander and his deputy. Other Russian airborne and SPETSNAZ forces in the area, responding to reinforce 6th Company, fought their way into the area and eventually stopped the Chechen breakout. All this occurred in enormously difficult terrain and weather conditions and against tenacious Chechen resistance. Because the Chechens are notoriously atrocity-****e, especially toward members of the more elite Russian military organizations, fighting to the death makes a necessity.

 

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Lt-Col Mark Nikolayevich Yevtyukhin, Hero of Russia, called an artillery strike on his own position on Hill 776

Media reports consistently indicate that no 6th Company soldiers were taken prisoner. They refused to give up their position, even while knowing they would be overrun and killed. The VDV is known as an elite force composed of soldiers with high morale, discipline and a sense of purpose. Their actions make it clear that this characterization held true. Despite glaring tactical mistakes in security and reconnaissance, the Russian airborne spirit successfully imbued its men with the morale and courage that come with pride of corps.

Despite the bad publicity surrounding the casualty figures in this battle, the Russian Army achieved an important victory. By holding Hill 776 long enough for additional VDV troops to fill the area, 6th Company defeated the Chechen strategy to break out of the mountains and regain the initiative. Chechen fighters, seeing they could not break through Russian lines, were forced to scale back their objectives. Instead of employing relatively large groups against vulnerable population centers, Chechen leaders realized they had to break up into smaller formations to wage war at a much lower level.

But, this was an expensive Russian victory. Russian blood and valor had to make up for the deficit in basic combat skills, an issue larger than one small-unit leadership failure. The entire Russian force has suffered too many similar catastrophies for the fate of 6th Company to be just a tragic exception. Still, there was significant improvement in battlefield performance between the First and Second Chechen Wars, although performance levels still remained low, which reflected how bad things had become. The failure of an elite force such as the Russian airborne shows how fragile and perishable such skills are.

The Aftermath

The battle of Ulus-Kert was quickly enshrined in heroic myth, its theme loudly echoed by Russian media, the Ministry of Defense and the airborne forces themselves. This reflects popular support for the war and the military and a renewal of Russian nationalism. It also served to distract public attention from manifest failures the catstrophe revealed. Certainly the results of the official inquiry commissioned by Putin will never be made public. Nonetheless, he issued a decree decorating all of the fallen paratroopers, with all 13 officers and nine enlisted men receiving Russia’s highest medal—Hero of the Russian Federation.35

A memorial service was held on 14 March at the Novopasskiy Monastery in Moscow. The service was conducted by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alekisy II of Moscow and all Russia, and was attended by Putin, Chief of the Russian General Staff General Anatoliy Kvashnin and national and military leaders. It was an enormous statement of resolve. Likewise, the funeral of most of the Russian dead at their home garrison in Pskov was a heartfelt demonstration of this sentiment. Most of the dead were buried in Pskov where the funeral service was held in the ancient Trinity Cathedral.

Speaking at the funeral, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev stated, “This battle for a nameless height was the turning point of the entire Chechen campaign. It was a do-or-die crisis for the fallen, and they chose to follow the paths of their ancestors in similar desperate straits. Just such decisions were made by Russian servicemen on Kulikovo Field, on Lake Chud, at Borodino and at Sevastopol. In the winter of 1941 Panfilov’s legendary heroes defended the last line with their lives on the approaches of Moscow. Nowadays the Argun Gorge has been just such a line for the Guards’ paratroopers.”36

Sergeant Michael D. Wilmoth, US Army Reserve, is an intelligence analyst at the Office of Naval Intelligence. He received an A.S. from Northern Virginia Community College and is continuing his education at the American Military University. He has served in Korea and Bosnia.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter G. Tsouras, US Army Reserve, Retired, is Division Senior Analyst, National Ground Intelligence Center. He received a B.A. from the University of Utah and is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College. He has served in the Continental United States and Germany. He is the author of several books on military history.

Notes:

1.Interfax (10 March 2000), Moscow; Oleg Odnokolenko and Tatyana Shchipanova, “Such an Untimely Death: Authorities Cover Up Death of 86 Airborne Troops,” Segodnya (10 March 2000), Moscow.
2.Sergey Prokopenko, “To the Death,” Krasnaya Zvezda (11 March 2000), Moscow; Viktor Sokirko, “Airborne Troops Commander Georgiy Shpak: `These Guys Performed a Feat,’” Moskovskiy Komsomolets (14 March 2000), Moscow; Sergey Dyupin and Valerriy Tsygankov, “Airborne Troops Called Fire Upon Themselves,” Komersant (7 May 2000), Moscow.
3.Ilya Bulavinov, “Cannon Fodder Consists of People as Well: Paratrooper Shpak Attacks General Troshev,” Komemersant (17 March 2000), Moscow.
4.Airborne company designations refer to company tactical groups.
5.Interfax (0940 GMT, 10 March 2000) Moscow.
6.Moskovskiy Komsomolets (14 March 2000), Moscow.
7.Yuliya Kalinina, “Terrible Losses,” [Unknown] (10 March 2000).
8.The Chechens have shown a remarkable ability to maintain and employ the basic military skills they acquired while in service with the former Soviet Army. Ironically, they maintained these skills better than did the Russian Army.
9.TV RTV (1000 GMT, 14 March 2000), Moscow; Sokirko, “Airborne Troops.”
10.Sokirko, “A Toast to Russian Soldiers,” Moskovskiy Komsomolets (14 March 2000), Moscow.
11.Prokopenko, “To the Death.”
12.Odnokolenko and Shchipanova; Interfax (9 March 2000), Moscow, is an interview with General Nikolai Staskov, deputy commander of the Russian Airborne Forces. Initial comments of Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) personnel indicated that only 31 members of 6th Company had been killed in the entire battle. Although Russia media speculate that MOD was intentionally trying to cover up casualties, they likely received more accurate casualty figures sooner than did the MOD public affairs office. This figure accurately represents the first day of fighting. Also, Russian casualty accounting policies require the actual presence of casualties before they can be reported.
13.Bulavinov.
14.Prokopenko, “To the Death.”
15.Prokopenko, “Eighty-Four Airborne Troops Die Holding Back Onslaught of 2.5 Thousand Rebels,” Krasnaya Zvezda (11 March 2000), Moscow.
16.Odnokolenko and Shchipanova.
17.Aleksandr Kondrashov, “Military Industrial Complex Has Bled the Country Dry and There is Nothing Left to Fight With,” Argumenty i Fakty (4 April 2000), Moscow; Daniel Williams, “Russian Admits to Heavy Casualties in Chechnya, Washington Post (11 March 2000).
18.Oleg Falichev, “They Strode Into Immortality,” Krasnaya Zevzda (16 March 2000), Moscow.
19.Interfax (0940 GMT, 10 March 2000), Moscow.
20.Sokirko, “A Toast.”
21.Ibid.
22.Interfax (0940 GMT, 10 March 2000), Moscow.
23.Michael Wines, “Russian City Buries a Hero, Firm in its Faith in the War,” New York Times (15 March 2000); Interfax (0940 GMT, 10 March 2000), Moscow.
24.Interfax (0940 GMT, 10 March 2000), Moscow.
25.ITAR TASS (1510 GMT, 9 March 2000), Moscow.
26.Sokirko, “A Toast.”
27.Williams; Andrei Marychev, ITAR-TASS (16 March 2000), Moscow; Sergey Ostanin, ITAR-TASS (24 March 2000), Moscow.
28.Vyacheslav Grunskiy, NTV (1600 GMT, 5 March 2000), Moscow; Sarah Karush, “Funeral Captures Mood of New War, Moscow Times (7 March 2000).
29.Bulavinov.
30.Ibid.
31.Marychev; Ostanin.
32.Sergey Bychkov, “Stolen Victory,” Moskovskiy Komsomolets (18 March 2000), Moscow. General Viktor Kazantsev was the deputy commander of the VDV before he was assigned to command airborne forces in Chechnya. He was injured in a helicopter crash in late January and replaced in command on 1 February 2000.
33.Sokirko, “A Toast.”
34.Nezavisimaya Gazeta (13 March 2000), Moscow.
35.Prokopenko, “To the Death.”
36.Falichev.

Mueller’s History of Cover-Ups

The unfathomable depths of the neocons’ blackest hole…

Dig Within

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been in the news lately due to his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. After a 12-year stint leading the Bureau, the longest ever since J. Edgar Hoover, Mueller is now seen by many as an honest man serving the interest of the American public. However, that perception cannot be defended once one knows about Mueller’s past.

What some people don’t know about Mueller is that he has a long history of leading government investigations that were diversions or cover-ups. These include the investigation into the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the investigation into the terrorist financing Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the FBI investigations into the crimes of September 11th, 2001. Today the public is beginning to realize that Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign is a similar diversion.

Mueller’s…

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Warum Deutschland, das Deutsche Reich und das deutsche Volk vernichtet werden muß -3-

“Seit Gründung des Deutschen Reiches im Jahre 1871 stieg das Land unaufhörlich wirtschaftlich auf. Der Lebensstandard im Deutschen Reich war weit höher, als in den anderen europäischen Ländern. Man investierte nicht sehr viel in den Aufbau von Armee, deren Technik und Flotte, sondern verwendete die sprudelnden Gelder für zivile Projekte.”

Morbus ignorantia - Krankheit Unwissen

Geheimrede von Winston S. Churchill im März 1936 im Unterhaus

“Vierhundert Jahre hindurch hat die auswärtige Politik Englands darin bestanden, der stärksten, aggressivsten und am meisten beherrschenden Macht auf dem Kontinent sich entgegenzustellen. Angesichts Philipps II. von Spanien, gegen Ludwig XIV., unter Wilhelm III. und Marlborough, gegen Napoleon, gegen Wilhelm II. von Deutschland, würde es leicht und muß es zweifellos eine große Versuchung gewesen sein, sich mit dem Starken zu verbünden und die Frucht seiner Eroberungen zu teilen. Jedoch schlugen wir immer den anderen Kurs ein, verbündeten uns mit den weniger starken Mächten, schufen eine Zusammenfassung unter ihnen und beseitigten und vereitelten den kontinentalen Tyrannen, wer es auch immer war und welcher Nation er auch immer angehörte. So bewahrten wir die Freiheit in Europa Bitte beachten Sie, daß die Politik Englands keinerlei Rücksicht darauf nimmt, welche Nation gerade die Herrschaft über Europa erstrebt. Es kommt nicht darauf an, ob…

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Warum Deutschland, das Deutsche Reich und das deutsche Volk vernichtet werden muß -2-

“Im August 1895 begann in der britischen Wochenzeitung The Saturday Review eine Artikelfolge, die zur Vernichtung Deutschlands aufrief und deren unheilvolle Gier nach deutscher Beute noch bis heute ausstrahlt.”

Morbus ignorantia - Krankheit Unwissen

Wie und wodurch man heute Länder erpressen und in den Krieg treibt und treiben kann, sehen wir aktuell am Geschehen rund um die Nah Ost Länder. Syrien will man bereits seit mehr als 5 Jahren von der Erdoberfläche tilgen. Doch der Kampf der syrischen Bevölkerung, dank starker Unterstützung, ist Heldenhaft und zeigt uns, wie man dem Establishment die Stirn bietet. Doch wir dürfen das perfide Spiel des Westens nicht mißverstehen, denn deren Pläne wurden bereits mehrfach in der Öffentlichkeit vorgestellt. Syrien ist nur der Bonus für Israel und einem judenfreundlichen Kurdistan, in Wahrheit geht es um Rußland. Stets werden vom Westen die Kriege gegen Staaten oder Nationen geführt, die entweder sich für das (westliche) Ausland geschlossen haben, oder durch völkische Strebsamkeit die Industrie des Westens überflügeln. Geschlossene Staaten sind heute jene, die ausländischen Unternehmen untersagen, die Bodenschätze im Land zu fördern und auf eigene Rechnung veräußern. Rußland hat vor ca…

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Warum Deutschland, das Deutsche Reich und das deutsche Volk vernichtet werden muß -1-

“Was haben wir – das deutsche Volk – seit dem Verlust des Krieges bis heute erlebt?”

Morbus ignorantia - Krankheit Unwissen

Hat die Überschrift etwas mit der Realität zu tun? Müssen wir Deutschen wirklich vernichtet werden, oder will man uns nur umerziehen? Ist die derzeitige Migrationspolitik eine Waffe und befinden wir uns im Krieg? Warum haben die Deutschen den Haß des Westens auf sich gezogen? Liegt unser Schicksal in der Vergangenheit und der Westen wird diesen Wahn nicht los? Diese und einige Fragen mehr, sollen mit diesem Aufsatz erklärt werden.

Vielleicht wäre es einfach zu erklären und zu verstehen, warum die Politik heute so ist, wie sie ist. Doch das wäre eine Lüge und entspräche der heute offiziellen Geschichtsschreibung. Es ist nicht einfach zu erklären, warum Deutsche so extrem vom Westen gehaßt werden und daß bereits über Jahrhunderte! Laßt uns einen kurzen Exkurs in die vergangenen 100 oder 150 Jahre machen. Diese Zeitspanne ist vollkommen ausreichend, um zu verstehen, warum alles so ist, wie es ist. Natürlich hat besonders der Verlust…

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The End of International Law?

Voltairenet-org_-_1-237-46146

 

by Thierry Meyssan

The war against the Greater Middle East should end with the withdrawal of US troops within the next six months. And yet nothing proves that peace will settle in each of the countries that were invaded. Today we are witnessing what seems to be a tentative to get rid of international law. Will this consolidate a division of the world into two parts, or will it open to a generalised conflict?

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Thierry Meyssan: Political consultant, President-founder of the Réseau Voltaire (Voltaire Network). Latest work in French – Sous nos Yeux. Du 11-Septembre à Donald Trump (Right Before our Eyes. From 9/11 to Donald Trump).

Magical Associations and Mythology of the Rainbow

Happy Easter!

Peedeel's Blog

A rainbow

Simply because of the power and universally shared perception of colour, the rainbow becomes an alphabet of the range of human emotions. These associations of colours easily translate into magical and perceptual technology applied to everything from psychotherapy to candle spells.

Used all together, the rainbow then translates into an open road for That Which is Possible for human beings. Appearing after a storm as it does, the rainbow offers promise, hope and healing, as Noah and his wife saw it after the Flood.

Iris is perhaps the most personable mythic deities to represent the rainbow. She is given as the daughter of the oceanic Elektra (not the Electra of Trojan myth or the Pleidean star sister) and Thaumus. She often appears in the same capacity, and even in the company, as fellow messenger god Mercury, and she shares with him the depiction of winged head and feet. Her duty…

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