Where the USA is — there is sorrow and death.

Russia, Ukraine

“Where the USA–there is sorrow and death.” Don’t shoot the messenger, but just as the message is disturbing, it is also accurate.

Just as unsettling is where the message originated: a prominent Ukrainian website that has long partnered with the West for democratic change in Eastern Europe. It is a turn in attitude which may well represent a sad reality settling in for Ukrainians who had hoped that the West/USA would stand with them in time of trouble.

Top line: “Where the USA–there is sorrow and death.” Sad, but as one who has been all over the world, there has never been a truer statement about my country. We used to be a beacon of hope to the world, but for at least a couple of decades we’ve been running on fumes from the past. We are not a beacon of hope today, and have not been for quite some time. Unfortunately, we still have the power to stir up trouble.

There are five columns, top to bottom, three rows. Column one is Moldova. The USA actively championed Moldova to turn West after the collapse of the USSR, and Moldova did, with a lot of encouragement from the CIA–only to be abandoned by the USA when a larger neighbor (Russia) decided to stop that progress. Those scenes in column one are real.

Column two is Chechnya. When the USSR collapsed, they wanted to be independent again, just like so many other former Soviet republics. They have oil, so of course the USA/CIA got into the mix. Two wars later, several hundred thousand civilians had died and today this Islamic republic is tightly controlled by Moscow. The USA switched sides after “9-11” as we thought that it was in our interest to partner with Putin to fight terrorists. Those scenes are real.

Column three is Dagestan. You likely know Dagestan from the Boston Marathon bombing, as that is where the Tsarnaev brothers were from. Dagestan is another Russian republic that wanted to regain independence from the Soviet demise. The USA quietly encouraged and aided, right up to the 1999 war with Russia. We then just as quietly exited, leaving the Dagestan people to fend for themselves against a vastly superior army. Those scenes are what really happened.

Column four is the country of Georgia. They did manage to leave the USSR, and the USA has been very active in Georgian politics ever since. When Russia decided to teach them a lesson in 2008, we pounded on the table and screamed from the mountaintops–and Georgia is a very mountainous country–but we did nothing when Russia invaded. Yes, those scenes are accurate.

Column five is Ukraine. The current administration, as stupid and useless as previous administrations, sent lots of “help” from the CIA to a parade of US Senators and cabinet officials. McCain and Nuland, damn you both, and please retire and stop running your mouths while pretending to know things that you really don’t. We tapped in to the desire of the Ukrainian people to be free. Apparently we thought that turning Ukraine over to the EU would be a cakewalk. Oops, epic fail.

Both the previous and current administrations pursued the so-called “domino theory” in which we could assist in triggering pro-democracy “spring” movements, and then step back to let the locals succeed in changing things. That doesn’t work too well when locals are left with little more than baseball bats to challenge tanks.

Both the previous and current administrations were/are dominated by naive and largely ignorant wonks, with no idea of what they started. The only difference between the former and the present is the increased effort to aid Islamic movements. Islam at the core is totally non-democratic, and any hope that we can pull such societies out of the 7th century and into modern life, is either grossly naive, or worse, purposeful.

Just like we abandoned the Czechs in 1956 and again in 1968, we rarely finish what we’ve started: Bay of Pigs or Vietnam, anyone? The question that many in the world ask today is: Why bother to stir up and start something that you don’t have the stomach to finish? In case we’ve ruffled a few feathers with this post, please don’t be offended when reminded that given our track record, the world has the right to question our motives…and our resolve.

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Tetyana Chornovol Joins Azov Battalion

Ukraine war

In recent weeks we have written about fellow-journalist Tetyana Chornovol, and the death of her husband, Nikolai Berezovoi, who was a commander with the Ukrainian Azov battalion. The Azov unit is a highly dedicated group of skilled volunteers who deeply love their country and are willing to defend Ukraine at all costs.

Tetyana has joined the battalion that her late beloved husband led and she is stationed in Mariupol, where the Azov unit is ready to defend the city in case the cease-fire is violated. We are concerned that the war is not over; and so are asking for well-wishes, thoughts, and prayers for her safety, and the safety of her fellow soldiers.

This war is so senseless and so unnecessary and we also ask our readers to offer the same thoughts and prayers for the young Russian men who are sent to fight (and if you doubt–yes, active Russian troops have been in Ukraine for some time, and are still there).

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Husband of Journalist Tetyana Chornovol Killed Fighting Donetsk Rebels

Ukraine

Sometimes war hits just a little too close to the heart. Nikolai Berezovoi, husband of journalist Tetyana Chornovol, was killed during fighting against the separatists rebels in Donetsk yesterday. He loved God, his family and his country. A leader to those around him in the Ukrainian Army, he was a man of courage. He was killed while trying to pull a wounded brother soldier to safety under heavy fire.

Ukraine

Berezovi, 37, was fighting with the “Azov” battalion, acording to Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. The Azov battalion is a volunteer group working for the Interior Ministry. Berezovy was killed by a sniper’s bullet as his unit was battling pro-Russian rebels in teh Ukrainian town of Ilovaisk, approximately 30 miles southeast of Donetsk.

Berezovi, formerly led the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) party. He was a close ally to Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv (Kiev).

His young widow is one of the bravest and most daring journalists in the eastern European theatre. She was badly beaten and left for dead in the freezing snow by her attackers this past December, during the massive Kyiv demonstations. Her crime: writing the truth about a corrupt president and government.

Today, she is a widow, and their two young children have lost a loving father. May God grant comfort to Tetyana and the children, and may God have mercy on the soul of His servant Nikolai. Grant him rest, peace, pardon from sin, and may his memory be eternal, O Lord.

New Ambassador to Russia will be John Tefft

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s senior foreign policy advisor, Yuri Ushakov, has signaled to Washington that Moscow will agree to the appointment of John Tefft as the next Ambassador to Russia. Although cautious, Ushakov in an interview with the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS called Tefft a “professional diplomat” with previous experience in Moscow.

New Ambassador to Russia will be John Tefft

Still ahead are the US Senate hearings once the Obama administration makes the formal nomination. Confirmation shouldn’t be a problem as Tefft is no stranger on Capitol Hill, with foreign service experience dating back to 1972. Most recently Mr. Tefft was the US Ambassador to Ukraine from 2009 to 2013 and he has served previously in the Moscow Embassy under deputy roles. From 2000 to 2003 he was the US Ambassador to Lithuania and the US Ambassador to Georgia during 2005 to 2009.

The nomination of Tefft , who speaks Russian and Ukrainian, is likely to be well received in the Senate after the debacle with the inexperienced Michael McFaul in the position. The Russians say that the Obama administration made the initial request regarding Tefft in June and their announcement of acceptance came while Russian President Putin was in Cuba as part of his diplomatic tour to Latin America.

The annexation of Crimea and the continued fighting in Eastern Ukraine have left relations in tatters between Russia and the United States, some going so far to call the chill a new “Cold War.” Adding to the tension is the suspicion that Tefft’s appointment is due to his experience with so-called “color revolutions.” He served in Ukraine at a time of regime change and he was the US Ambassador to Georgia during the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Pravda wrote this week that Russia could not afford to trust Tefft regardless of his prior experience in Russia. Andrei Kortunov, of the Moscow based New Eurasia Foundation, was quoted in Pravda saying that the Tefft appointment would not automatically signal a renewal of open dialogue with Russia. Kortunov pointed to the failures of the McFaul ambassadorship and current tensions regarding Crimea and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Both countries must approve Ambassadorial appointments and foreign diplomats are received when the incoming Ambassador formally presents diplomatic credentials to the host nation. Traditionally foreign ambassadors present their credentials to Russia’s president and foreign minister during ceremonies held in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s the Alexander Hall.

June 2014 reception of new Ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
June 2014 reception of new Ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace.

Of interest to some is that Tefft’s wife will join him in Moscow. Many Russians didn’t understand why previous Ambassador Michael McFaul chose to leave his family in California while trying to make the 9,000 kilometer weekly commute fit his Embassy schedule.

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Summer preparations for winter: firewood

When you have very cold winter temperatures, unless your home is in a city with central steam heat boilers every few blocks to pipe in some warmth, one needs a very large firewood supply.

Firewood stacks.

Scenes like these are common in the countryside as farms and villagers stock up wood which will be needed in the coming winter months for heating and cooking.

Orthodox nuns stacking firewood.

Monasteries and Convents often provide their own winter heat fuel by gathering and cutting wood from nearby forests.