Did Russia use chemical weapons in WW1?

Did Russia use chemical weapons during World War 1?

Russia was slow to adopt chemical weapons in WW1 but made extensive use of it starting in the second half of 1915.

One of the most successful uses was during the last victorious battle of the Russian Empire, Brusilov Offensive, one of the most lethal offensives in history with 2.000.000 troops lost on both sides.

According to HQ Commander of 7th Army General Nikolai Golovin, only during May 22th and 23rd, 1916 the Second Army Corps delivered 3,500 chemical munitions to Austrian positions. There is also documented use of chemical shells by the 9th Army of Infantry General Lechitsky during the Chernovtsy offensive.

Three little-known traits of President Putin

President Putin is a procrastinator, trusts his intuition more than expert advice and never touches dirty money, according to people who personally know him

Franz Sedelmayer, a German who had a business in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s and had numerous contacts with President Putin both in Russia and Germany, mentioned three things that rarely have been written about.

Procrastinator

Putin is a procrastinator. True to his habit of painstaking preparation, he long keeps the most important things on the back burner. He seemingly waits for the moment of lucidity that comes from the sheer amount of accumulated information. Only then he makes decisions, often based on an emotional response that makes it look like a snap judgment.

Trusts his intuition

Putin trusts his own experience and gut feeling much more than all his experts and tomes of research. When he needs to handle complicated matters, he seems to see the role of experts in throwing challenges at his preconception, which he often avoids to share with others. In the end, he rarely accepts what others bring to the table. This is why he hates long, complicated briefings and policy papers. Also, this is why he likes to surround himself with people who can provide several different approaches to the same issue, or even better compete with each other.

Doesn’t touch dirty money

Putin, during his work in St. Petersburg for the liberal mayor of Sobchak, was known to never take bribes. What he did was cover bribe-takers who handled the contributory part of the deals he supervised.


In the picture below (photo of TASS), Vladimir Putin is watching Sobchak’s back in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s. Putin’s claim to fame among the clan of President Yeltsin as an unfailing sidekick and trusty workhorse—which ultimately secured him the top job in the Kremlin—was to protect the fortune that Sobchak was stashing away in Paris, and later exfiltrate him out of Russia when his enemies were about to get the man.

Vladimir Putin Mayor Sobchak right hand Petersburg 1990s
Vladimir Putin in his time as Mayor Sobchak’s right hand in St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Photo: TASS

Any chances that Russia extradites Edward Snowden?

Putin will extradite Snowden only as a part of some exceptional grand deal with the US. Snowden has done so much damage to America that simple sense of fairness would stop Putin from hurting the rogue agent

Chances that Russia extradites the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden Pretty unlikely as long as Putin’s calling the shots. Putin has a very strong sense of justice, in his particular Godfather way.

Putin hates the US. Snowden did a great lot of damage to Americans. He didn’t harm Russia in any way. Why would Putin do any harm to him? And what kind of signal would it send to enemies of America and friends of Russia?

I can envision only one scenario where Putin makes a sacrifice of Snowden. Think some very high-level strategic transaction, something like Russia joining NATO, or a Russia-US Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. Pure alternative history, so far.

Most likely, everyone right now are happy with Snowden stuck where he is until he decides he’s better off facing American justice than rotting in Moscow.

Corruption is an awkward but powerful ally of President Putin

Corruption is a crucial lubricant in countries with a dysfunctional bureaucracy and unaccountable governments. Putin is better off making it to serve him than fighting it.

 Well-tuned “deep state” run by politicians accountable to their constituency is a recent invention. Before that, all great empires were run just the way Putin runs his bureaucracy: through a tightrope walk combining corruption on all levels and effective control securing that the lucrative positions mostly are occupied by people best suited for the job. Putin´s fascination with China stems partly from the brilliance with which the Chinese have managed that balance from the dawn of times.

In traditional societies, corruption is a tool of government. Corruption secures loyalty from Putin’s power base. It’s much easier to reign in people with greasy palms. In the hands of a competent ruler it gives an effective handle to control their actions in case they sometimes get the wrong kind of ideas.

Russia has never been run in a corruption-free way. For us, it´s inconceivable “to stay thirsty standing at the stream” (this is a popular Russian saying). Very few in the Russian elite know how to run a country without offending the key officers by

Above a certain level of state government, for many key officers the insistence from the immediate boss to stay clean sounds weird and even offensive. This would be very demotivating for them. Some can even interpret this as an attempt to challenge the system of tributary taxation, which may impact powerful people at the top level in Moscow.

As to the West, it’s a widespread opinion in Russia that they steal just like our rulers do. They are just better at putting a nice face on it.

Bureaucracy as a replacement for market under Real Socialism

Real Socialism requires abolition of free markets, except in some niches. Bureaucrats take over as the ultimate force of economic decision-making

Once the Communists destroyed private ownership on the means of production—just like Karl Marx envisioned it—the market disappeared, along with independent economic players. The dynamics of demand and supply ceased to exist. Something had to take their place.

Bureaucrats substitute markets

State bureaucrats took their place. They decided what, when, where and by whom things should be produced, based on the “scientific Marxist principles of economic planning”.

Bureaucrats decided what, when, where and by who things should be produced, based on “scientific Marxist principles of economic planning”. Other bureaucrats decided who and where should get these things, based on “guidelines and principles of directing the Soviet society”, formulated by the Communist party.

Lines substitute dynamic pricing

Most of the time, there was not enough of these things for everyone— much like in today’s Venezuela or Cuba. The explanations given for this were “particular errors in management”, or “deficiencies of people’s conscientiousness” (i.e. people consuming more than the system could deliver), or actions of “hostile class elements” (hoarding, stealing, speculating).

The universal solution to the deficit of nearly everything were lines. The lines were ubiquitous: if you weren’t willing to wait for things long enough, you didn’t need it as much as the others who were. The typical waiting time for a new Lada car was 5–10 years, for a larger apartment to your larger family 10–20 years.

Economy of perks

The scientific Marxist management of society required selective distribution channels for the most valuable members of society. For example, members of “nomenklatura”, or the positions that required personnel vetting by the Communist Central Committee, could purchase goods at so-called “section #200” where they had access to consumer imports and other things in limited supply.

Three reasons for Germany to attack the USSR in WW2?

In spite of what turned out a sheer unpreparedness of Nazi Germany to a war in the East, Hitler saw at least three major reasons to attack his former ally in June 1941.

Nazi Germany had three major reasons to attack the USSR exactly in June 1941 — not earlier or later.

Clear the field

After the sensational defeat of France in 1940, the Red Army remained the only major land force in Europe that could challenge Germany. It made full sense to Hitler to knock out the only remaining competitor who could pose a threat to the Wehrmacht, before the Red Army could regain shape after the Great Purge.

Vulnerability of the oil supply

To protect the oil fields in Romania. Stalin’s annexation of Northern Bukovina in 1940 was an unpleasant surprise to Hitler. He faced the real prospect of the Red Army taking over the area around Ploiești within 5–7 days.

Signs of war preparations along the border

We don’t possess the documentation that shows details of Stalin’s upcoming Great Antifascist March on Berlin (“Даешь Варшаву! Дай Берлин!”). Neither there are documents that prove Hitler knew about it.

However, the Germans were well aware of the recent military history and strategic thinking of the USSR. The annexation of Ukraine in 1919, the Polish campaign in 1920, the war in Spain of 1936-39, the Finnish campaign 1939–1940 were all fresh in the memory.

There were clear signs of ongoing mobilization in the USSR in May and June 1941. In June 1941 Stalin initiated a gigantic deportation campaign. At least 100,000 (some say up to 300,000) “anti-popular elements” were cleansed out of the zone of deployment of the First Strategic Echelon of the Red Army, in order to obscure the scale of military logistics. Despite the assurances from the USSR that nothing much happened besides a “regular summer training routine”, the Germans seemed to conclude that an onslaught of the “anti-Fascist war” in the East was imminent.

German troops 22 June 1941
German troops cross the Soviet border on June 22, 1941

Why all the wars in the west, when Russia has so much space in the east?

Russia has a vast territory. But there is not too much arable land. In order to get more of it, the Russian empire struggled to expand south and west.

Below is a map of the arable land of the former Soviet Union. As you can see, there are not many places to the north and east where you may want to live–unless you have any particular reasons to sustain climatic hardship. Such as manning military infrastructure, working oil fields, mining gold or generating power. Hence the unrelenting push westward of the Russian Empire, initiated by Peter the Great.

An ancillary reason was the obsession with strategic depth. As everyone has heard, both Napoleon’s and Nazi invasions into Russia failed primarily because of the great distances the invading force had to cover before decisive battles. Getting too far from home, their logistics collapsed, resources were drained, and it all ended as a catastrophe.

Any loss of territory in the west and south affects our food production and security much more than in the east. No wonder Russians, liberal or not, go ballistic at the mere thought of NATO troops stationed along the Ukrainian-Russian border.

arable land Russia and former soviet
Arable land on the territory of the former USSR

The crimes the Wehrmacht committed during the invasion of the Soviet Union

A very detailed description of Nazi war crimes and crimes against humanity is documented during the Nuremberg trials. Even though Wehrmacht (represented by the OKW) was not deemed a criminal organization, the German troops were found complicit in numerous crimes in the occupied part of the USSR:

Murder and cruel treatment of civilians in the occupied territories and at sea.

These crimes mainly took place as part of the anti-guerrilla operations and the scorched earth policy when retreating from the advancing Red Army. Extra-judiciary hangings and firing squads were an established punishment for civilians trespassing areas of military infrastructure or deemed as a threat to military personnel.

We in the Soviet Union have never managed to count our dead in WWII. Estimates of civil casualties vary between 8 and 35 million dead. There’s no data to verify whether the war carnage was not used to hide the numerous victims of Stalin’s terror against the Soviet population before and during the war, as well as the deceased in wartime famine and epidemics (official number of famine casualties in non-occupied territories is 3 million).2

Displacement of civilians for forced labor in Germany

A total of 5 million Soviet citizens were used as Ostarbeiter slave workers for Nazis. Many of these deportations were enforced by military troops.

Murder and cruel treatment of POWs

At least 3 million Soviet POWs died in German captivity, most of them starved to death in 1941–1942 in concentration camps handled by the Wehrmacht.

Destruction of cities and villages

Destruction of cities and villages beyond what is deemed to be the military purpose. The Soviet sources give the grand total of 1,700 cities and 70,000 villages fully or partially destroyed during the war. Some of this comes of course from the Red Army’s own scorched earth policy when retreating in 1941–1942 as well as bombardments when reclaiming these cities and villages back from the Nazis. But no one questions the primary responsibility of Germany for the carnage on almost 2 million square kilometers (770,000 sqm) of the occupied territory.

The genocide

Acts of genocide (Jews: 1,2 murdered, Gypsies: 30,000 murdered). Mostly, it was the responsibility of the SS personnel (not formally a part of Wehrmacht), but in many cases, the army troops were involved in the logistics of extermination.

All in all, the extent of atrocities committed by the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front is well-documented and irrefutable. This is a recurrent theme in the narrative of Russian nationalists as a proof of an innate Russophobia and brutality of the European elites in general and Germans in particular.

What would a war between the US and Russia look like today, after the first strike nuclear exchanges?

What would a war between the US and Russia look like today, after the first strike nuclear exchanges?

With the Mutual assured destruction capacity still present on both sides, the likelihood of all-out nuclear strike from either side is rather small. Whatever propaganda on either side is saying, there are hardly any issues between Russia and the US/NATO that can’t be sorted out in a considerably less costly way, through negotiations or conventional proxy conflicts.

But if against odds, Black Swans arrive and the nuclear option comes to the table, we’ll most likely see a carefully scaled conflict. The first shots would be delivering tactical nuclear munitions, in order to measure the public and military response from the other side.

Right now, the most likely area for such an exchange seems to be the Baltic Sea nations and Ukraine. The rationale for that might be Putin testing NATO’s resolve to invoke Article 5 in the face of an imminent threat of nuclear escalation. “Is President Trump willing to sacrifice Pittsburgh for Pärnu?” Most likely, Trump and the Germans would stand down, NATO would collapse, and the prospect of global nuclear war would blow over.

Was the Soviet Union the most powerful country in history?

The USSR was not the most powerful country in history. The US has certainly been stronger than us, in the economic, political and military terms, both when the Soviet Union existed and now.

Yet, the Soviet Union was closest of all throughout history to what we can call world domination.

Mongols and Alexander the Great were possibly more hell-bent on expansion. But they didn’t have the strategic patience, the ideological platform, and most importantly, the technology to make the entire world their realm.

We had a unique window of opportunity somewhere between the mid-1930s and June 22, 1941. The Soviet Union was militarily stronger than anyone among our neighbors, either in Asia or Europe. At the same time, the rest of the world was too consumed with their own problems and didn’t realize the magnitude of threat that a rising Communist superpower like ours could pose to them. The ascent of Fascism and Nazism made us look like torchbearers for the ideas of progress and humanity, east and west. Communist ideas were at the zenith of their popularity, whether in America or Europe.

Stalin realized that, but missed this window. Hitler hit first and robbed him of the chance to launch a crushing tank attack on Germany somewhere between July ’41 and summer ’42, starting along the entire border in Poland, with an auxiliary operation targeting the oil fields in Ploiesti.

The USSR had an overwhelming military superiority over Wehrmacht in 1941. (Twice or perhaps three times the number of both tanks and aircraft as the Germans, almost 1,000 of them T-34 and over 500 KV tanks.) Within a couple of months the Red Army would have reached the Channel to the north and a few weeks later the Spanish border and Italian Alps to the south. The USSR would be celebrated as the liberator of Europe and saviour of the Great Britain.

WWII would have ended before it really started. The continental Europe, and maybe the rest of the world outside the US-British sphere would have been speaking Russian by now. Seems like George Orwell peeked right through to this alternate reality in his “1984”.

After the A-bomb came, this fork in history disappeared for good.