Archives for posts with tag: Syria

At the beginning of Part I there’s a list of what we’ve accomplished during this century.
I’m going to remind you now some of the mistakes we’ve made.
Genocide, atomic bomb, global warming, widespread pollution… basically, we’ve turned the tables upon ourselves.

I had the first inkling of what’s going on when I started to compare what’s currently going on in Syria with the Spanish Civil War.
NB, even the name we use for this kind of conflict is an absolute aberration. War is, by definition, the opposite of civility. Why on Earth any of us might consider that war waged between co-nationals can be expected to be more ‘civil’ that the ‘regular brand’…

Spain and Syria have evolved in eerily similar manners. Multiple ethnic groups of multiple religious convictions have been forced by geography to coexist and to evolve together. Each of them had passed through very similar stages, albeit following different time-tables. The whole thing culminated with both of them passing, during the last century, through ‘revolutionary’ episodes. There are two small differences though.
Spain’s ‘revolution’ had taken place at the end of a turbulent period and had produced a dictatorship – Franco’s, while the Syrian one is the consequence of a dictatorship and has not yet yielded a clear result.

And why is any of this of any interest when analyzing the entire century? Except, maybe, that the two atrocious episodes have marked the start and the beginning of the said century?

Well, it’s how the rest of the world have chosen to react in each instance which I find extremely interesting.

First of all, let me remind you the broad picture in both cases.

Spain’s took place shortly after the end of WWI and immediately after the Great Depression. The most important ‘disruptive ferment’ was militant marxism and although not all of those fighting on the side of the revolutionaries adhered to this ideology the presence of the marxists had decisively shaped the reaction of the democratically elected governments of the world. They had chosen to basically stay out of it. Despite the fact that Franco was leading a rebellion and that the Republican Government had been dully elected to office.
At the beginning, France’s first socialist PM, Leon Blum, had assisted the Republicans but recanted shortly afterwards, “under pressure from Stanley Baldwin and Anthony Eden in Britain, and more right-wing members of his own cabinet”. Which, in a way, made some sense. Western Europe was frightened that communism might spread westwards and many of the Spanish Republicans were of communist persuasion. “Baldwin and Blum now called for all countries in Europe not to intervene in the Spanish Civil War. A Non-Intervention Agreement was drawn-up and was eventually signed by 27 countries including the Soviet Union, Germany and Italy. However, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini openly ignored the agreement and sent a large amount of military aid, including troops, to General Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces.” Stalin also ignored the agreement and send some help to the Republicans but got bored and by 1938 he practically forgot about the whole thing.
In the end, the conflict had been won by the side supported by those seeking revenge for being defeated during WWI – and for the harsh conditions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.
That had been the ‘institutional’ reaction.
On the popular side, despite the ‘hang-over’ produced by the WWI and the Great Depression, some 60.000 volunteers from all over the world had joined the ‘fight for freedom’. The fact that they were organized by the Comintern didn’t help in the end, on the contrary, but the population at large looked at them with sympathy. Proven by the success enjoyed by the literature and art produced by some of the volunteers/sympathizers.





Hardly a day passes by without Putin, Russia’s current ruler, being present at the top of every major news channel.

While sometime ago he was lionized on the cover of many glossy magazines nowadays he is the star of a lot gloomier articles.

Happier days (last month). Photographer: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Image

What’s going on there?

About a week ago a prominent Russian journalist addressed an open letterto President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, where he discusses his case and the significance its abandonment has for Russia as a nation,

Oleg Kashin, the author of the open letter, which can be read here in English, had been beaten to a pulp some 5 years ago and Last month, on September 7, 2015, after a surprisingly exhaustive investigation by Russian police, Kashin revealed the names of his alleged attackers. The men appear to be linked to Andrey Turchak, the powerful governor of Pskov, and ex-employees of the security department of “Zaslon,” a company owned by Turchak’s family that designs and produces aircraft electronics and weapons-targeting systems. Though the evidence against Turchak and his entourage has mounted in the press, he remains free and in office. He hasn’t even been questioned.”

Well, Kashin’s case is the perfect illustration for what Adam Michnik has mentioned last August: “Russia non è uno Stato totalitario, ma è un sistema autoritario”  (Russia is not a totalitarian state but an authoritarian system).

This observation solves perfectly an apparent paradox. How come the Russian police discovers, after five years, who had beaten – following orders given by one’s of Putin’s own protegees – a political dissenter?!?
Simply because there is an important difference between an ‘authoritarian system’ and a totalitarian state.

The authoritarian leader cannot act, not yet at least, like a totalitarian one. He is not in full control of everything under the sun in his country.

This apparently small thing is of paramount importance. Sooner or later more and more Russians will figure out for themselves that Putin is bad for them. Bad for Russia’s long term future.
Meanwhile the rest of the world has to thread this situation very carefully. Every time one of us wants to say anything about what’s going on in Ukraine or in Syria we must use “Putin” instead of “Russia”. It wasn’t Russia – but Putin – that annexed Crimea, encourages the Ukrainian separatists and supports the Syrian dictator by bombarding the Syrian moderate opposition.

By mentioning them separately – Putin distinct from Russia – we send a very powerful signal to the Russian people. That we understand they are not personally responsible for Putin’s acts and that we know they are not yet able to change anything.

If we fail to do so we’ll fall into Putin’s trap.

Our failure to understand, and insist upon, the simple fact that Putin is not Russia is the only thing that enables him to portray the rest of the world as nothing but a bunch of callous people who are devilishly conniving against Mother Russia – and himself as the only possible savior of the Russian People.

Adam Michnik, La sfida di Mosca al mondo e sempre piu imprevediblie, La Reppublica,
Adam Michnik, While we Praise Ukrainian Restraint, Putin Builds His Neo-Soviet Empire, New Republic,
Oleg Kashin, A letter to the Rulers of Russia, Global Voices, Champion, Why Russian Jets are Buzzing Turkey, Bloomberg View,,
Better Failling, BBC dropped Clarkson. How much longer till Russia drops Putin?, Nicichiarasa,
Michael Shaw, Reading the Pictures: Putin &Sochi: Let the FU’s Begin, Huffington Post,

What might have Spain in common with Syria except for the first and last letters of their names?

Quite a lot and there are many more countries that belong to the same group: Portugal, Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, South Korea, almost the entire Latin America and the list is far from being complete.

They all traversed a period of dictatorship during which a sizable portion of the population had left the poverty zone, entered the middle class and started to demand ‘political rights’. In some of those countries the political establishment of that day understood that it was in their own (personal) best interest to give up some of their political power and personal clout – and by doing so vastly increased the chances of long term stability in their respective countries – while in other instances the rulers clung jealously to power unwilling to cede even an iota of it.

And this is exactly why Chile, Portugal, Spain and South Korea are in a completely different situation than Syria while in Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine things are in full process of being sorted out, one way or another.

OK, so Putin made a ‘surprising’ move about Assad’s chemical weapons.
The explanation is apparently simple: he just saw a too good to pass opportunity and grabbed it.
But what if he just had to make this move? Imagine what would happen if Obama got together with the new Iranian president and they both came up with a solution…

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