Archive for December, 2013


December 9, 2013

Fox News on December 8, 2013 published an AP report on angry anti-government protesters toppling a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in the center of Kiev and blocking key government buildings amid huge street protests, raising the stakes in an escalating standoff with President Viktor Yanukovych. Excerpts below:

It was the biggest protest in the former Soviet republic since Ukraine’s pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004…

The West pressed for a peaceful settlement.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flooded the center of Kiev, the capital, to demand Yanukovych’s ouster after he ditched ties with the EU in favor of Russia and sent police to break up an earlier protest in the nearly three-week standoff.

“Ukraine is tired of Yanukovych. We need new rules. We need to completely change those in power,” said protester Kostyantyn Meselyuk, 42. “Europe can help us.”

Packing Independence Square as far as the eye could see, Ukrainians waving European Union flags sang the national anthem and shouted “Resignation!” and “Down the with Gang!” in a reference to Yanukovych’s regime.

“I am convinced that after these events, dictatorship will never survive in our country,” world boxing champion and top opposition leader Vitali Klitschko told reporters. “People will not tolerate when they are beaten, when their mouths are shut, when their principles and values are ignored.”

As darkness fell, the conflict escalated further with protesters blockading key government buildings in Kiev with cars, barricades and tents.
The protests have had an anti-Russian component because Russia had worked aggressively to derail the EU deal with threats of trade retaliation against Ukraine.

About a kilometer (0.6 miles) from the main square, one group of anti-government protesters toppled the city’s landmark statue of Lenin and decapitated it Sunday evening.

Protesters then took turns beating on the torso of the fallen statue, while others lined up to collect a piece of the stone. The crowd chanted “Glory to Ukraine!”

“Goodbye, Communist legacy,” Andriy Shevchenko, an opposition lawmaker, wrote on Twitter.

The demonstrations erupted last month after Yanukovych shelved a long-planned treaty with the 28-nation European Union to focus on ties with Russia. They were also galvanized by police violence and fears that Yanukovych was on the verge of bringing his country into a Russian-led economic alliance, which critics say could end Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“It’s not just a simple revolution,” Oleh Tyahnybok, an opposition leader with the national Svoboda party, told the crowd in a fiery speech from a giant stage. “It’s a revolution of dignity.”

Yet a solution to the crisis appeared elusive, with the government making no concessions and the opposition issuing contradictory statements on how to proceed.

Heeding the opposition’s calls, thousands of protesters blocked the approach to key government buildings in Kiev by erecting barricades, setting up tents and parking vehicles, including a giant dump truck.

“We are extending our demonstration. We are going to fight until victory. We will fight for what we believe in,” opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told protesters on Independence Square, which was drowning in a sea of flags.

The West, meanwhile, scrambled to avoid violence and urged dialogue.

In a phone conversation with Yanukovych, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso stressed “the need for a political” solution and dispatched EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to Kiev next week to mediate a solution. Yanukovych also discussed the crisis with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The protest Sunday in sub-zero December temperatures took place on Independence Square, known as the Maidan, in an echo of the Orange Revolution. Those protests annulled Yanukovych’s fraud-tainted presidential victory in 2004, and ushered his pro-Western opponents into power. Yanukovych returned to the presidency in the 2010 vote.

During a huge demonstration a week ago, several hundred radical protesters hurled stones and attacked police as they tried to storm the presidential office. That prompted a violent breakup by the authorities in which dozens were beaten and injured, including peaceful protesters, passers-by and journalists.


December 8, 2013

The West – The Role of Barbarian Migration and Invasion

The notes presented here are mainly based on A. Bell-Fialkoff’s work The Role of Migration in the History of the Eurasian Steppe, 2000.

Musset (a French scholar) placed their Urheimat (the Germanic peoples, my note) in southern Scandinavia
in the late Bronze Age, an area where no pre-Germanic linguistic substratum had been found (p. 4). From there some Germanic tribes spread along the Baltic coast, toward the Oder. Others followed the coast of the North Sea, toward the Weser. By 1000 BC, according to Musset, German habitat stretched from the Ems to central Pomerania (Demougeot dated their appearance in Pomerania much later, from 400 BC [Demougeot, 1969, 45]. If we follow Musset, by 800 BC Germans reached Westphalia in the West and Vistula in the East. And 300 years later they could be found on the lower Rhine, in Thuringia and Lower Silesia (Musset, I).

Both Lucien Musset, Les invasions: les vagues germanique (1965) and Emilienne Demougeot, Le formation de L’Europe et les invasions barbares (1969-1974) are important in this context.

Origin of the Goths

One of the great controversies in barbarian history is the question of the origin of the Goths. Bell-Fialkoff argues:

It does confirm the existence of the Gotho-Gepidian culture in Pomerania and lower Vistula at this time (the so-called Wielbark culture) and links it to seven specific elements. Only one of these can be archaelogically traced to Scandinavia. Even more significant is the fact that the Wielbark culture had already acquired its distinctiveness by the time of the putative Gothic migration from Scandinavia. These considerations make some scholars doubt the veracity of the Gothic tradition.

And yet, there are several factors that support the traditional version. First, East Germanic languages (of which Gothic was one) were closer to North Germanic (i.e. Scandinavian) tongues than to West Germanic ones.

Such affinity implies a close relationship, if not direct derivation. The toponymics of the island of Gotland,
as well as the modern Swedish provinces of Öster-and Västergötland, where the Goths had supposedly
originated, also show linguistic affinity. Secondly Count Oxenstierna excavated incineration burials in Öster-
and Västergötland that, numerous in the second and first centuries B.C. suddenly became rare after about
50 B.C. This would suggest a disappearance of a significant portion of the previous population.

Of interest here are Carlo Alberto Mastrelli in Volker Bierbauer et al, I Goti, (1994) and Graf E.C. Oxenstierna, Die Urheimat der Goten. Leipzig, Mannus-Buecherei 73, 1945 (later printed in 1948).

The Barbarian Exodus

There have been many variations to explain the reason for the Gothic exodus. No doubt there was no pressure from non-Germanic groups.

An outright famine due to deteriorating climatic conditions is presented in this work as the most likely reason, and I must say I concur. Heather writes that in his view there was a limited migration of a few aristocratic clans. They might then in turn have organized the local poulation in given their name to it. But the disappearance of incineration burials, so Bell-Fialkoff, makes it more probable that all population strata were effected in Götaland. The local provenance of the Wielbark culture may be caused by rapid assimilation of the Goths (compare Normandy and Rus in the case of the Vikings).

Why did the Goths migrate to the southern coast of the Baltic? One possible reason presented by Bell-Fialkoff is that the migrators followed the traditional Amber Way, the old trade route linking southern Scandinavia with the eastern
Mediterranean as early as 1800 BC (see Demougeot, p. 20, referred to earlier).

As others before him Bell-Fialkoff also point to the fact that Sweden historically “looked” east and south, not west (which was the way Norwegians “looked”, for instance). The other side of the Baltic was the traditional area of interest. The natural thing, which is so obvious that it is not mentioned by the editor, is that if you want to go southeast from Götaland you end up in the Vistula delta and the surrounding area. The ethnogenesis occurred between the rivers Oder and Vistula.

Bell-Fialkoff concludes in his work

They were equally effective on the sea. They had probably learned their maritime skills on the Baltic for it would be impossible for a land-borne people to adapt to maritime warfare so fast.” (p.124)

A short chronology of the Goths and the Eruli 253 – 277 AD

253 AD

The Goths became masters of the Crimea, having captured the Bosporan fleet and the capital of the Bosporan kingdom, Panticapaeum, although the kingdom is said to have lasted until 343 AD.

255-57 AD

Major sea-raids in the Black Sea area.

256 AD

The Goths push into Greece. Their confederates, the Eruli, sack Athens in 267 AD.

268 AD A huge sea-borne expedition of the Goths and their allies spilled into the Aegean. They were robbing
and looting at will.

271 AD
A Gothic defeat by the Romans.

276-77 AD

Raids reach as far as Galatia and Cilicia in spite of defeat.

Two appendixes in the work by Bell-Fialkoff work are A. Climate and Migration and B. Some controversies. If further developed these matters could prove to be important.


The East Asia – Period of Five Barbarian Peoples and Sixteen Kingdoms

In China at around the same time as in the West northern barbarian peoples were conquered by the Chinese. The Hsiung Nu, the Chieh, the Hsien Pei, the Ti and the Chiang proved not so easily subdued.

These peoples were known as the “Five Barbarian Peoples” and had been allowed to settle in the northern border areas. They now took advantage of internal trouble in China and took the capital city of Loyang. The Tsin emperor was even captured. Emperor Yuan Ti had to give up control of large areas.

The entire Huang Ho valley now became a vast battlefield for the barbarian tribes. Sixteen kingdoms were founded and they fought each other. This period of Chinese history is called the Period of Five Barbarian Peoples and Sixteen Kingdoms. The barbarian invasion ended in 439 AD with the founding of the Wei dynasty.


December 8, 2013

The Washington Times on December 8, 2013, published an AP report on Japan’s defense minister calling on the international community Sunday to oppose China’s recently declared maritime air defense zone over the East China Sea and possibly over the disputed South China Sea. Excerpts below:

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera discussed Japan’s concern over China’s action separately with Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop. Onodera and Bishop separately visited central Tacloban city, which was ruined by Typhoon Haiyan last month.

“If any country would establish a similar air zone in the South China Sea, that would bring up tension in the region and I mentioned that should be stopped,” he told reporters in Tacloban, where he visited a school serving as a shelter for villagers who lost their homes in the Nov. 8 typhoon.

He said that the issue should be resolved by dialogue.

The United States, Australia, South Korea and other countries have also expressed alarm over China’s new air identification zone. Beijing says all aircraft entering the vast area must identify themselves and follow Chinese instructions.

Onodera said that China’s unilateral action violates the spirit of the International Civil Aviation Organization treaty.


December 7, 2013

The Washington Post on December 4, 2013, reported on China’s imposition of the contested air defense zone over the East China Sea has not halted U.S. military surveillance flights, including regular flights by EP-3 high-tech spying aircraft, defense officials said. Excerpts below:

The flights are carried out from bases in Japan and other parts of the region…

The aircraft gather valuable signals intelligence on Chinese military and civilian communications as far inland as Beijing and other large cities, and especially among eastern regional military groups.

China imposed the zone Nov. 23 without warning or consultation and is now demanding that all such flights be logged in advance with Chinese authorities.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the air zone is destabilizing the region because China failed to consult other nations before setting it up.

The Pentagon has said it does not recognize the zone that officials said is an attempt by Beijing to upset the fragile status quo in the region.

To make its point, when Pacific Command ordered the two B-52 bombers based at Guam to fly through the zone recently, it took the Chinese air force by surprise because no interceptors were sent up to follow the aircraft — a sign that the Chinese military is ill-prepared to enforce its new air zone.

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, confirmed that U.S. military flights are continuing.
“I am glad to see that China’s blatantly aggressive actions aren’t affecting how the U.S. military conducts operations in the region, and I’m pleased to hear that U.S. military flight operations are continuing as planned,” Mr. McKeon said.


December 6, 2013

Fox News on December 5, 2013, reported that North Korea is pushing ahead with plans to expand its infamous labor camps for political prisoners, according to a report released by Amnesty International. Excerpts below:

The human rights group released satellite images reportedly showing continued expansion at two of the country’s largest political prison camps, including new housing blocks, production facilities, and reinforced perimeter security.

“The gruesome reality of North Korea’s continued investment in this vast network of repression has been exposed. We urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those prisoners of conscience held in political prison camps and close the camps immediately,” said Rajiv Narayan, Amnesty International’s East Asia Researcher.

The satellite images, taken in May 2013, indicate a slight increase in population at Camp 16, the largest political prison camp in North Korea, with new housing blocks visible. In 2011, an estimated 20,000 people were believed be imprisoned at the camp, Amnesty said.

The report also details testimony from a former security guard at Camp 16, identified only as Mr. Lee, who has never spoken publicly before about conditions in the facility.

Lee said detainees were forced to dig their own graves and were then killed with hammer strikes to their necks. He told Amnesty in an interview that he witnessed prison officers strangling detainees and then beating them to death with wooden sticks.
According to Lee, women were killed after being raped. “After a night of ‘servicing’ the officials, the women had to die because the secret could not get out. This happens at most of the political prison camps,” he was quoted as saying.

Kim Young-soon, a former detainee in Camp 15 from 1980 and 1989, recalled a public execution she witnessed of two detainees who were caught trying to escape.

According to Amnesty, the satellite images show significant industrial activity at Camps 16 and 15, including mining and logging. The group has not been able to verify the prison population at Camp 15, located in central North Korea about 75 miles from Pyongyang.

A report released by the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea in September said thousands of prisoners may have died following the 2011 closure of Camp 22 in North Hamyong province.

The group, citing an account from a North Korean defector, said the notorious camp once held an estimated 30,000 inmates…


December 4, 2013

The Washington Times on December 3, 2013, reported on a Chinese delegation visiting Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that might be the first to ever raise spying fears over its desire to obtain documents that were publicly available.

In September, Maj. Gen. Chen Dongdeng, the PLA’s director of “military engagement,” began aggressively asking his U.S. counterparts for open-source documents pertaining to U.S. military doctrine. His odd behavior prompted the Army to launch an internal review of it administrative practices,journal Foreign Policy reported. Excerpts below:

“What we’re looking into is the process of foreign delegations coming to military posts,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Don Peters told Foreign Policy. “We’re looking for internal administrative procedures on how to better to do this, how we can do things better.”

A Congressional Research Service report from November sums up the dilemma for policy makers: “Skeptics and proponents of military exchanges with the PRC have debated whether the contacts achieve results in U.S. objectives and whether the contacts contribute to the PLA’s warfighting capability that might harm U.S. and allied security interests. Some have argued about whether the value that U.S. officials place on the contacts overly extends leverage to the PLA.”


December 1, 2013

The Wall Street Journal on November 28, 2013, reported that China responded to growing international defiance of its new air-defense zone in the East China Sea both by sending advanced fighter jets to the area and trying to play down any threat of military retaliation—underlining the confusion and escalated tension over territorial disputes in East Asia. Excerpts below:

The announcement by China’s air force that it had sent fighters and an early warning aircraft to patrol the zone came just a few hours after Japan and South Korea, following the U.S. lead, said their military aircraft had flown into the zone without notifying Beijing over the past few days, and would continue to do so.

The U.S. challenged the zone’s credibility by sending in two B-52 bombers without informing Chinese authorities, who had warned when they declared the zone on Saturday that such incursions would be met with unspecified “defensive emergency measures.”

China’s apparent easing of its original warning suggests its fighters will monitor and escort rather than repel U.S., Japanese and South Korean aircraft that violate the rules of the zone, which covers islands claimed by Beijing and Tokyo, said Chinese and foreign analysts.

But to maintain its credibility internationally and domestically, it is likely to increase such escorts, a move that in such a tense political climate greatly increases the risk of an aerial incident that could spiral into a military clash, analysts and diplomats said.

Col. Yang Yujun, a defense ministry spokesman, told a monthly news conference that the ADIZ wasn’t a no-fly zone or an extension of China’s airspace.