There are only three power blocks in the world – Russia.

Between long bouts of silence and mulling over a cogent response, I’m actually a good listener. It’s the only way to learn anything. It often leads to interminable conversations to which my minimal contribution is nothing more than the customary nodding until I feel the onset of logic chip meltdown and suddenly remember my perm appointment at the local salon. I can’t think of a single topic of conversation other than Russia where my natural escape and evade instincts kick in so strongly.

I’ve more than once sat at the feet of a Russia specialist and listened to the pearls of deep wisdom – known only to a blessed few at the inner centre of the cognoscenti – being imparted to me and thought afterwards I should get a single sheet of paper and list down on it what I’d learnt that was supposedly useful and accurate. Then fold it in two, then fold it again, and just for luck, fold it twice more until it could fit comfortably in the palm of my hand. That way I could simply scrunch it up and throw it in a litter bin on my way to the pub.

If you want to gain any real insight into Russia, you’ve only to study the people because they have their own temperament and are the hardy products of an arduous history that through sheer cruelty and brutality weeded out the stupid and fainthearted. Leaving aside the various costume dramas showing the aristocracy frolicking around and people like the much-revered Tolstoy the arch hypocrite scribbling away virtuously, the average Russian is neither some Slavic brute lusting after your lands and wimmin and neither is he some brainless oaf daydreaming of the day he can escape tyranny to become a capitalist serf. Sorry to rain on your parade, but the latter is especially true.

They’re relatively happy with their country these days. It’s big enough to drop America into twice and still have some spare acreage remaining you could probably squeeze Belgium into. The biggest mistake you could make there is asking a Russian for directions to the next town. They’ll put you on the right road alright and tell you it’s not too far. In Russia, the notion of far is distinctly provincial. It’s probably 400-500 kilometers distant and you might end up stranded in some village until the weekly petrol tanker run arrives.

They’re stoic, careful and above all practical in working their way through the adverse conditions of both their history and their climate. It recall reading of an army mechanic charged with keeping all his vehicles in top shape during NATO maneuvers way up in the arctic circle. “How can I keep the fucking things going when the anti-freeze I put in them freezes?”

It reminded me of Alistair Cooke, of “Letters from America” fame, who did a week of specials from Moscow. He remarked he loved early mornings there when everything was still and silent, except for the occasional punctuation of a car exploding somewhere in the city. Russians in the depths of winter place a slow burning oil heater on the ground under the sump of their cars to keep the oil fluid. Sometimes they got it wrong, hence iron rather than tin sumps on their cars. I still miss his easy prose, his eye for telling detail and his understated but perceptive journalism.

They don’t get sold on the fancy and innovative things on the bleeding edge of technology and there are numerous examples of that. In the Great Patriotic War, their T34 tank with its 76 mm gun, sloped armour and torsion bar suspension gave the invading Wehrmacht the shock of its life. It could even keep moving for more than 10 kilometers before breaking down and needing a specialist team of mechanics to make the next 10. One of the Russian crew with some mechanical aptitude and a lump hammer could usually fix it. Hard lesson learnt, the Germans modelled their Panther tank on the T34.

At the height of the Cold War, a soviet pilot defected via Japan flying their latest fighter bomber. It was totally disassembled and the initial judgement of its technical merits wasn’t too complimentary. “For Christ’s sake, it’s still using valves”. It took someone of a more practical turn of mind to point out that valves were immune to EMF pulses. ie This thing could fly through a nuclear shitstorm unaffected while allied planes with their state of the art solid-state electronics would be dropping out of the sky with all their integrated circuitry thoroughly fried.

I’ve a good friend who grew up in Belgrade. As a kid he took an interest in electronics and scraped together the tools, accessories and components to pursue that hobby but what he desperately needed was that indispensable tool – a multimeter. He decided to scrimp and save until he could afford a Russian one, because everybody told him they were the best. It basically measures electricity flows nine ways to Sunday, but there’s a lot of knowledge required to swap leads in and out of it and set a vernier appropriate to whatever you were trying to measure. He got it catastrophically wrong one time, sending a massive burst of electricity through the delicate instrument that would have melted anything else into a mess of plastic and wires.

The needle flew so fast across the scale, it broke the tip off against the stop bar. Knowing he’d almost certainly ruined his precious multimeter, he gingerly tried a small test to see, and against all expectations, it still worked! “And do you know something Pointy, it had the price in Rubles molded into the plastic casing”. If you ever wondered how Soviet style communism managed to last so long and yet fell so quickly, it’s all in that story.

Okay, so how does that rag taggle of stories connect to Russia still being a power block? In two words – Vladimir Putin.

Grab hold of your bonnet Dorothy, you’re about to leave Kansas. The Russians absolutely love him to bits. He’s precisely the fire and forget leader any country wants because they know he’s a scrapper who’ll always fight for them and the Rodina. Despite the still continuing propaganda about Russia and Putin, which works to his advantage by the way, he’s seen as their champ who’s defeated all comers. Name it, he’s humiliated them when they thought they could push Russia around. Obama, the EU, China, the Muslim Brotherhood, Western liberals with their name and shame tactics, the UN and even Greenpeace which he chased out of the article circle.

He stabilised the rotting hulk he inherited after the fall and the previous decay of the Brezhnev years, he’s physically small but an expert at a pecularly Russian martial art called sambo which you’ll never have heard of, only joined the communist party when he had to at university, rose to lieutenant colonel in the KGB counter-intelligence section despite that, speaks German fluently, comes from the all too common background of his extended family having been slaughtered by the Germans, play wrestles bears stripped to the waist and rides the occasional Siberian tiger which he’s been instrumental in saving from extinction.

After seventy years of Soviet propaganda, the average Russian is impervious to the various tsunamis of spin and are only interested in what’s essentially functional. Americans are just now finding out how it feels to be on the receiving end of a 24/7 wall of propaganda. Ignore all the bogeyman fairy tales produced by fake news about him and them. As far as they’re concerned, he’s worked out remarkably well for them. When it comes to judging character, the Russians have had to become remarkably astute in knowing who’s actually on their side or not. After all, they have two words for friend. The usual one is Tovarich, which is just somebody you happen to know. A Droog is a friend you’re pretty sure you can trust not to denounce you to the secret police, or the FBI in America’s case.

Like China, he knew the only way of getting the country back on its feet was to unleash the dogs of capitalism but unlike the CCP, he was canny enough to realise they were beginning to think they should be running the country instead of him. He should be replaced by some pliable puppet, like for instance a thoroughly corrupt and senile old man whose name I won’t mention. By that stage, the ordinary Ruski knew they were being legged over big time by what had become the oligarchs and resented them.

Cue the night of the big stick wielded by their little Vladdi – never the diminuitive Vovo or Volodya by the way – and the oligarchs were in short order either in prison of fled into exile and screw any niceties of law. The very country was at risk from them.  All their fronts were either seized by the state or slammed shut with all assets frozen. People like George Soros not only lost all controlling interest and consequent meddling in the affairs of state, but there’s also a criminal warrant out for him. He daren’t set foot in Russia or any of its protectorates. What was left were good little capitalists who knew their place in the larger scheme of things.

Unlike China, Russia avoided becoming a puppet state of the oligarchs. If you’ve ever wondered why criminals like Biden et all were sniffing around the perimeter of Mother Russia for bribes in out of the way countries like the Ukraine you knew little about, it’s because they knew Putin’s Russia was not open to their kind of state subversion. Try it on my turf and you’ll end up in prison. Real prison. The kind with bars, locked doors and warders, and where your only chance of surviving lay with being the obliging bitch of various tattooed thugs. You’ll just have to wet your beak amongst the tiddlers.

When Trump and Putin first met in person, fake news made great play of the certain knowing smile they exchanged. Trump was obviously a Russian asset went the spin, but I saw it differently. Putin was thinking do you really know what you’re going up against? Trump was letting him know he was perfectly aware who the real enemy was. By all accounts, the two alpha males for their respective countries understand each other perfectly, hence their uneventful relationship over the last four years and Putin staying well away from any comment on the Big Steal.


Related articles by Pointman:

A Berlin story : Elfi’s birthday.

Click here for all articles in the Power Blocks series.

Click here for a list of all articles in the Stop the Steal series.

Click for a list of other articles.

5 Responses to “There are only three power blocks in the world – Russia.”
  1. Margaret Smith says:

    Putin will be standing down due to illness so what will happen then?


  2. Marzouk says:

    Read once that because they weren’t allowed access to transistor technology theirs valves are the best! Like having best iron lungs. Audiophiles with valve amplifiers use Russian valves.


  3. Dolf (a.k.a. Anders Ericsson) says:

    In 1981, a Russian submarine, U137, stranded on a rock inside the military restricted area of the archipelago outside of sweden’s main naval base Karlskrona (name literally meaning Chrown of Karl, once upon a time centuries back, sweden’s biggest city). As the submarine belonged to the Whiskey class … yeah, the joke was as certain as a cinch … Whiskey on the Rocks.
    My cousin was in the coast guard, I do not think he himself was involved in the handling of the incident or aboard the submarine, but he told about how chocked the swedish military personal were over the standards on the submarine. They cooked their food on an open brick stove fired with wood. On a submarine!!! Obviously not when submerged, but they went up to the surface and opened all vents when they had to do any cooking.
    It sounds like a yarn, and I cannot really guarantee it’s truth, but as I got it from my coast guard cousin, I think it’s rather credible.


  4. Dolf (a.k.a. Anders Ericsson) says:

    … and talking about distances in Russia, I once heard a Russian in a speech he gave, mentioning that he came from a city “nearby Moscow, only 48 hours away with train”, and being somewhat surprised at the laughter from the audience.


    • Margaret Smith says:

      I agree about distances in Russia. A few years ago I was on a flight, after dark, from St Petersburg south to Sochi on the Black Sea. After the beautiful sight of the city lit up there was just darkness below for hours. You could spot a very few towns or villages here and there but so isolated.
      That certainly gave me the idea of the vastness of Russia especially as this was only a ‘small’ part of the country.


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