Those great Jollity Days of 1914? A world without anti-tank cannons is not what we imagined.

As the Christmas season rolls in, a couple of thoughts, both Russian in origin, stirred up in the cloud of recent columns in Russia and the responses to them.

I recall the great mood of jollity that greeted the first World War. I suspect that there was a lot more intent on mourning and praising than there is now, but that we can all probably agree that early on there was a spirit of harmony.

While I confess to being somewhat naive, I believe we have not yet reached the height of camaraderie that accompanied the coming of this terrible conflict.

For both sides, though, the high point was the first clash at the Wannsee Conference, the memorial near Wannsee, at which we now know at least that some six million men and women (with every possible derogation for Jews) were exterminated.

It is the sheer anger that arose after the Nazi amassing of data and spreading through the world the dark tidings of the coming war that breaks my heart. But, alas, as a minor question of punishment for a criminal enterprise that took the lives of millions, a murder trial of one or two high officials was a small price to pay.

I have met many people who are willing to confess, out of a need to differentiate their feelings from the realities of what really happened, the shooting down of a plane over which a Russian jet had been flying. The accusation that the plane was hit by hostile fire is not credible. They are, at least, sorry for what happened. And this is understandable.

Those feelings, though, are in contrast to how Russians responded earlier to the kidnapping and murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a long-standing foe of Putin, and what some of us saw as deliberate provocation of Ukraine’s insurgency.

I believe there was silence during those 10 days. As I recall, the Russians thanked Ukraine and greeted it at the Geneva talks in February 2014 with a negative reference to the Litvinenko affair. They regarded it as the police having solved a crime that had nothing to do with the invasion of Ukraine, but just someone going around killing pro-Russian soldiers.

The incident to which I am referring took place near the city of Slavyansk, where the pro-Russian insurgency now controls several towns. After seizing the offices of a Ukrainian police station, some 50 men showed up and as part of a riot troop formation moved through the city. A sniper was hiding in a building, and someone hit him with an explosion, presumably an anti-tank rocket.

At first this struck me as a very dark whimper. But then I began looking around and saw that several houses had been bombed as they were sitting empty. Some had been flooded with water, others were flattened.

And I said to myself, “That could be an anti-tank cannon.”

Then, while searching the house of the owner of the house he had just murdered, I found a diary in which the sniper had mentioned, a few days before the murder, that if the Russian government didn’t stop what he was doing he was going to kill someone.

Without having seen the perpetrators or, apparently, even having recognized them, I labeled them an anti-tank cannon. And then, several months later, a story appeared on the front page of the New York Times, in which a young soldier’s name became known. He admitted that he had shot a sniper in a garden, and he had actually been hit by an anti-tank cannon that had hit the house.

It was only that he couldn’t remember how many times he had been hit by anti-tank cannons. But, he said, he and his comrades had been under orders to shoot down planes by gunfire from the ground.

He then jumped to the conclusion that the anti-tank cannon was a machine-gun, but was afraid that the pilot’s movement was so fast and hard that he could not remember exactly which one it was.

So, a sniper with anti-tank cannon? So many people among us know more than they know!

It’s hard not to wish for a resurrection of that Christmas spirit.

Onward to the break-up of the empire.


George Friedman is CEO of Stratfor. This column was first published at Newsmax.

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