Saturday, April 20, 2013

We Need More Russian Speakers, and More Russian Speaking Intelligence Analysts

Russia, with superimposed Russian flag.

    Just after 9-11, there was a big push in American colleges, universities and even high schools, to make Arabic classes available to students.  Our country knew that we needed to better understand people who spoke Arabic.  We also knew that an entire generation of really fluent Arabic speakers would be needed in order to better pour over the huge amount of information available in Arabic in magazines, and on the internet, which might portend future attacks and concerns for homeland security.  The newest generation of intelligence analysts needed to be started today.  As intelligence analysts we need people who understand the true nuances of a particular language, not someone who received a crash course.  Ideally, those analysts should be trained in Arabic over a period of time.
               This was an excellent idea given what had happened, and some universities also gave money to beef up the programs in Farsi  (spoken in Iran, or the former Persia)
              The problem with this, is that in order to fund these programs, Russian was cut in the high schools in which it had been taught.  Less money was appropriated on the university level for the study of Russian language. Students who had planned trips to study in Russia found their funding cut, and fewer exchange professors from Russia were slated to come here.   This was a terrible mistake, and I said so at the time.
               Russia is the largest country in the world, as calculated by land mass.    According to the 2011 census, there are at least  141,930,000 who were in urban enough areas to be counted.  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, they have taken to capitalism like the proverbial duck to water.  In fact, Moscow now has the largest number of millionaires of any city in the world.  There is an incredible potential for us to sell consumer goods to Russia.  This is why Coca-cola, Benetton, Burger King, and many other companies are already there now.  As their economy changes from state owned housing one rents according to income, to a primarily personally owned home economy, there are incredible opportunities economically for us.  Unfortunately, if none of us speak Russian, we are going to miss those opportunities.  This is without even considering the vast cultural and scientific opportunities that are possible if some of our finest minds speak Russian fluently enough to communicate well with Russia.
                 There are not a lot of Americans who speak Russian well.  You may remember Hilary Clinton's blunder during the first days of the Obama Regime when she wished to send a "Reset" button to the Russians to say that she would like to turn a new page with regard to the US relationship with them. The button said peregruzka which does not mean reset, it means overload.   Sergei Lavrov, the diplomat involved told Mrs. Clinton that they had gotten it wrong.  Perezagruzka, a different word,means reset.  Perhaps if we had a larger body of Russian speakers and translators we would be less prone to serious language errors, particularly on the highest levels of diplomacy, where it really matters.

                 When I was in Russia, I  learned that in Moscow, schoolchildren do have learning English as an option.  However, when we were in Vladivostok, Russia, 5000 miles East of Moscow, that schoolchildren have the option of learning to speak French, not English.  Consequently, when I ran out of Russian vocabulary there, I dropped into French, to be more precisely understood.  I could not expect to find those who spoke English, or Angliski as the Russians call it.
                  The bitter civil war in Chechnya, and the known connections which exist between Al Qaeda in the rest of the world, and their Muslim brothers in Chechnya mean that in the US, we need to be better monitoring the Russian and Chechen communications via phone and via internet.  Perhaps if we had more analysts who were Russian fluent, we would have had more of a heads up on the Tsarnaev brothers, the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombings.  We might not have detected these radicalized individuals, or stopped this particular bombing, but it should serve as a wake up call that we are depending upon the Russians to do their own analyses of potential world terror, and to tell us about it, rather than having our own Russian speaking analysts on staff.

These are Muslim Chechen rebels.

                   Like it or not, Russia, and its outer regions figure prominently on the world stage, and deserve our attention, if not our concern.  In Moscow, Radical Chechen Muslims took over the Dubrovka Theatre  in October, 2002  One hundred and thirty hostages died, many of them children. Seven hundred people were injured.  Eventually, all forty terrorists died also. 

                 This is America's wake up call to pay attention to Russian Muslims as a potential source of US terrorism, as well as radicalized Muslims in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Click on this:
Documentary on the Moscow Theatre Seige

                                       Bolshoe spasiba !


kymber said...

Jane - as a former intel analyst and later a communications specialist (UN certified Level III Korean Linguist) in the Canadian Forces, i can't state enough how much your post is spot on. when i first joined the CF, there were hundreds of Russian linguists, many of whom were trained dialect-specific, that were getting re-training in Arabic and Farsi, as well as Far Eastern languages such as my specialty. i joined right at the end of the cold war and these Russian linguists were redundant at the time. considering how many years have passed since 1989, you can be certain that they are now retired. speaking from experience and knowledge, you can be certain that the CF, US, UK and Aussie Russian qualified linguists have most certainly all been retired by now. Russia begged for help regarding the Chechen problem that they were experiencing many, many years ago. the West turned a blind eye. the Chechen "rebel" problem was reported in our western MSM as some riff-raff or whatever. most sheeple believed it. certainly no one in the MSM ever thought that a giant group of Muslim extremists who happened to live in Russia would ever be a problem for us.

what else to say without divulging classified intel? we are in trouble in regards to this latest Chechen threat in the US. apparently the 2 identified suspects have family in Canada. sleeper cells anyone?

excellent post Jane. and please remember that although i read all of them, i only comment when i think that i have something to add.

all of our love to you and yours always, your friend,

Gorges Smythe said...

I believe that Arab oil money is behind so much of our politics that suggestions such as yours will never be given any attention, no matter how practical.

JaneofVirginia said...

Kymber, Thank you so much for your interesting and very complete comment. In 2001-2002 when I was in Russia I was searched a couple of times while ENTERING department stores. They were very polite but I wondered why they seemed to single me out. I thought that it was after 9-11, but eventually a security officer told me why I kept getting selected. He said a Russian woman wears as tight a coat as possible, and as high a heel on her boot as she can tolerate. He said, you are wearing a loose black coat and low boots, which concerns us that you might be a Chechen ! I had noticed that women of any age there try to look very sexy. I was trying to tone that down ! When I told them I was American, they said, "Can't be ! They wear pink track suits with sneakers and curlers in their hair " LOL.

JaneofVirginia said...

It may not, but not having prepared Russian intelligence analysts could be a terrible mistake for the US that could cost lives.

Linda said...

Interesting observation, Jane.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Linda, I learned to speak Russian between 1999 and 2000, for a trip in 2001. It is an interesting and challenging language particularly with the Cyrillic lettering system. It is not easily acquired, and so I would rather that people began gradually and spent time learning it.

lotta joy said...

My goodness, Jane. You have been so many places: places I would fear to go. You have lived a life that astounds an agoraphobic person! Keep going lady. You have a ton of chapters ahead of you.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Lotta Joy,
Both my parents were world travelers, in fact my Dad was an actual explorer, so that example was set for me when I was small. I had been to England and back three times by age eleven. I think if our parents take us early, that we adapt to travel easily. However, I don't enjoy travel to the degree to which my parents did. I can only travel when there is something specific that I am going somewhere to do. Then I put up with the annoyances and inherent uncertainties of travel.
I have no plans to travel outside the US or Canada in the future. Interestingly, other than taking my daughter to England with me in 2001, my children have traveled very little. They preferred to stay on the farm or travel locally.
My mother in law was agoraphobic, and I understand a bit about that. It's funny because she was so brave across the board in every other respect, yet fearful of errands many people do every day. I think we don't get to choose where God gives us our courage for things.

lotta joy said...

Your reply gave me priceless insights into my fear of traveling - even to the grocery store! As you know, my mother had munchausen by proxy. What I neglected to mention was she always made me sick whenever my dad mentioned taking a vacation and 'going somewhere'.

Hence, HER fear transferred to me on two levels:

I knew she feared leaving the house.

I always ended up sick on in the hospital when the word "travel", "vacation" and "let's go somewhere" was said.

Gee. It's only taken a lifetime for me to buy a clue and I owe it to YOU, dear friend.

JaneofVirginia said...

It's amazing how much we learn by the example of our parents. We learn very good things sometimes, like my habit of not smoking, etc. and sometimes bad things that they may intentionally or unintentionally convey. Fond wishes,