This month I am publishing one poem from my book, "The Wake-Up Blast" (2008), "Red Squares" (Moscow, May 1, 1992), that I wrote after my May 1992 visit to Moscow, plus Patriarch’s Ponds that I wrote in 2005 and updated after I spoke in a panel discussion at the American University in Moscow.

When I led a second study trip to Moscow in the first year of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency in May 1992, after my first trip in May 1991, the last year of Mikhael Gorbachev’s rule, it was very clear that there a spirit of revanche in the air—but it was still a minority phenomenon. I saw Vladimir Zhirinovsky (VZ), leader of the so-called Liberal Democratic Party, preaching to a small crowd in Red Square.

At the time, VZ was considered by many as a fascist buffoon with no political weight —a “Son of Fuehrer II” as I depicted him in my poem Red Squares. Now, after the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it is clear that his revanchist ideology gained a significant elite following in Russia over the past 30 years. In August 2014, VZ argued in support of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, foreshadowing Putin’s 2022 decision:

Nothing threatens America, it’s far away. But Eastern Europe countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation. Only they themselves will be to blame. Because we cannot allow missiles and planes to be aimed at Russia from their territories. We have to destroy them half an hour before they launch. And then we have to do carpet bombing so that not a single launch pad remains or even one plane. So — no Baltics, no Poland. Let NATO immediately ask for negotiations with our Foreign Ministry. Then we’ll stop. Otherwise well have to teach them the lessons of May 1945.

When he died in April 2022, VZ must have been a very happy man after Vladimir Putin initiated his “special military operation” into Ukraine in February. The danger is that such an “special operation” could soon become a direct NATO-Russia confrontation much as VZ advocated in his crapulous bombast.

U.S. liberal democracy vs VZ’s liberal democracy

With the liberal democratic “End of History” mindset that existed among many American elites at the time (an ideology that Zhirinovsky sought to mock by naming his Liberal Democratic party as such), the general belief was that Russia would continue to “democratize” after Gorbachev, and that Yeltsin was the natural outgrowth of that democratization process. At the same time, to guarantee the process, NATO expansion would seek to stabilize those fledgling “democratic” countries that would become members—as if NATO has any real control or influence over domestic policies, populations, and their leaders.

Few wanted to believe at the time that such a revanchist movement could come to power in Moscow, yet the question nevertheless began to be posed. The American Congress debated: If Russian revanchists could come to power in Russia, would it not be better to expand NATO membership as fast as possible, all the way to the Baltic states and Ukraine, just in case? Or would the very process of expanding NATO provide the justification for such a revanchist movement to come to power, in a self-fulfilled prophecy?

Ironically the American liberal democrats aligned with American neo-conservatives to push for NATO enlargement, thereby providing VZ and other revanchist Russian birds of a feather an opportunity to propagandize and build up their “liberal democratic” coalition against Yeltsin 1. In effect, a virtually unknown Vladimir Putin represented the relatively “less” extreme bird who could appeal to “moderates” as well as extremists and who would take up the flame after Yeltsin had failed to curtail NATO’s military expansion and its intervention in Russia’s historical spheres of influence. In addition to opposition to Yeltsin’s decentralization and free market neo-liberalism, Yeltsin was seen by such revanchists as a weak leader who could not effectively prosecute the war in Chechnya (seen by Moscow as backed by U.S. Turkish and Arab allies, if not by Washington itself). And even more crucially, Yeltsin could not stop NATO’s 1999 war “over” Kosovo against Russia’s historical Serb ally.

Russian revanche

True, an unreformed NATO was not the only cause of the Russian backlash, but NATO expansion as a collective defense organization was definitely the primary political cause that unified Russian revanchists of all forms…

On the Russian side, both Gorbachev and Yeltsin warned that NATO enlargement would provoke a revanchist backlash… On the American side, the two founders of containment against Soviet Union, China, and world communism, George Kennan and Paul Nitze (who could hardly be considered soft on Moscow) likewise warned that NATO enlargement would provoke a dangerous backlash.

My poem “Patriarch’s Ponds” (2005) was written after the groundskeeper of the park, made famous by Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, came out of his tool shed and yelled at us for apparently no reason except for the fact that we were evidently foreigners, most likely American… (I was walking by with a Canadian acquaintance who understood Russian):

You will see! We will rise again!
Yes! We will rise again!

The NATO enlargement debate

There were two sides to the NATO enlargement debate. Those against NATO enlargement argued that NATO would back the Russian bear into a cage eventually resulting in a backlash. What NATO and the Europeans needed to do instead was to boost the Partnership for Peace that included Russia as a member. NATO, along with the European Union, would then remain in the background, to provide security assurances for eastern European states in forging a new system of Euro-Atlantic security in which Moscow played a positive role.

On the other side, those who supported NATO enlargement—as a traditional collective defense organization into eastern Europe—argued that Moscow would eventually seek to regain its “lost” territory no matter what. And even if Moscow did not to seek to expand once again into eastern Europe, it was better to enlarge NATO to protect fledgling eastern European “democracies” just in case.

Yet there was another dimension of the anti-NATO enlargement argument that has been generally overlooked in this debate: That NATO could provide better military protection for eastern Europe in the background if it did not expand right up to Russian borders, while Moscow could play games with the border states, much as VZ threatened. This perspective also argued that not only would NATO enlargement eventually provoke a Russian backlash, but the expansion process itself—by adding too many members—would weaken and undermine NATO political-military unity.

An enlarged NATO would thus open up more political military divisions than those that previously existed… more cracks in NATO’s armour would appear as NATO sought to defend its growing number of flanks, with political divisions already apparent between Turkey and Greece, France and Germany… and with new members of eastern Europe generally opposing the old guard in western Europe 2.

And now that the threat of NATO enlargement has helped provoke the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and possibly a global war as advocated VZ, among other Russian revanchists, and as reflected in the daily dose of propaganda in prime Russian TV and media, the question remains: Will NATO remain unified as the confrontation with a revanchist Double-Headed Russian Eagle/Bear builds in intensity and as Moscow ups the ante by engaging in a major offensive in Ukraine and new forms of hybrid warfare?

A Eurasian axis?

No one in power in Washington listened to the evident warnings (or else was very willing to take the risks of provoking Moscow)… and now the world is witnessing the actions of a revanchist Double-Headed Eagle/Bear like Chimera (see my novel Year of the Earth Serpent Changing Colors Edition Noema 2023)…

It is a Russian version of fascism that mocks the hypocrisy of “liberal democracy” and that cries out that it is the Liberal Democrats and U.S. allies who are the real “fascists” and not Russian revanchists as they seek to literally annihilate their Ukrainian cousins…

As I argued in my previous Meer post, A Plea for Peace, if Moscow and Kyiv cannot negotiate a peace settlement soon, there is a real danger that this war will intensify and widen—and even more so as China supplies Moscow with dual-use civilian military equipment, as the Sino-Russian-Belarusian-Iranian-North Korean Eurasian Axis tightens, and as the Pentagon is ordered to shoot down Chinese Zeppelins suspected of spying over U.S. airspace!

If such a “Eurasian Axis” can eventually be forged, the possibilities of global war will mount. Only engaged U.S. and EU diplomacy can prevent such a scenario.

Red Squares (Moscow, May 1, 1992)


Fortress walls of the Kremlin thunder once again. Loudspeakers drone out the laughter of orphans dancing. Folkdancers, clowns posing for photos, bears dancing the Lambada, and Russian army jazz musicians: All fold up their tents.

Red flags wave beside the bus-barricaded Revolution Square. The thousands march, chanting 'down with Yeltsin'. Red banners embroidered in gold. Chests proudly port Five and Dime store medallions-relics scrapped in the ash heap of Party annals.

Goo-goo eyed, sub-urban children now snap photos of St. Basil's Cathedral, then coo at the high and long step rhythm of the changing of the guard-“Juri, where are you?” Searching for their guide, Innocents Abroad brush aside Old Believers.

Lenin should be buried along with the rest of you," Juri scowls. Looking for a fist fight, he regrets not being there the day the Soviet empire popped like a zeppelin. His friends---defiant---stood up upon a tank, their photo immortalized. ("You're lucky to be on the winning side," I tell him, "After Tiananmen, satellite images still tell a thousand words.")

A moment of silence. "Lenin! Lenin! Lenin!" the Old Believers shout.

But there is no transmigration of souls: The embalmed one declines the invitation of the Spanish tourist board to visit the Canary Islands. His sarcophagus winces in grief: Upon the facade of the old Dumas he so detested, black letters in Russian and English blare in Newsspeak, "Freedom Works!"

The ceremony comes to a close. Old Believers file from the square, cursing Innocents Abroad. Knives darting from their eyeballs slash public publicity desecrating such hallowed turf.

Before the former Karl Marx Metro stop, clarinets sway from out of the roaring twenties. Son of Fuehrer II clichés in stereophonic. Autograph hunters supplicate before the gaze of a celluloid star. I buy his newspaper but foreswear his signature, my guilty palms now smudged with his radioactive ink.


I talk to the one man in the crowd who will respond in English. Tall, aristocrat of the street, long white coat, a high school English teacher, he tells me in perfect English, his eyes never look directly at me. He just loves to talk to foreigners, he says (for a few dollars, it is understood)—and has corresponded with "delightful" lady in Holland for many years.

We discuss the collapse of the empire in front of the Bolshoi while sub-urban children collect Red Army souvenirs (one young soldier was willing to sell his pants for a few greenbacks), and haggle for scalped-tickets (at five to twenty dollars) to port their new-found khaki fashion to Swan Lake. (He too, by the way, has caviar and army uniforms to sell.)

Then, as he stares vacant into the clouds, he tells me that his son just happens to be a fighter pilot in the Far East and has much to tell me-but he's not permitted to speak to foreigners, he adds.

Needless to say, I decline the invitation.

Patriarch’s Ponds

(Homage to Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita)

In the icy park
across from Patriarch’s Ponds
Berlioz and Bezdomny debate
the atheistic aesthetics
of a Jee-Zus! Poem
when from out of the bowels
of a tool shed steps forward
Woland dressed
as the park superintendent...
Sitting on a nearby bench
and offering to share
“Our Brand” cigarettes
he interrupts their dispute
with his critique of Kant’s proof
of God’s existence
in lecturing with the air
of a neophyte Prof…
But alas! He can’t convince
these two skeptical souls
that Jee-Zus! actually existed
despite all his desperate efforts
to detail the dastardly deeds
of Pontius Pilate against
the prisoner crucified
for wanting to tear down
the walls of temples…
For if he could prove
that Jee-Zus! really existed
then these two Café Intellos
with no imagination
whatsoever would know
that the Devil did too!
Dismayed that the two eggheads
now think he’s a lunatic, if not a spy,
Woland turns and stares
at two Cowboys who just happen
to strut across the park
sporting white ten-gallon hats…
Their Colt six-shooters with pearl handles
glisten triumphally in the silvery light…
“You will see!” Woland cries out,
clenching his fist in rage:
“You will see! We will rise again!”
Yes! We will rise again!”


1 See my discussion of Zhirinovsky and other revanchists in the footnote on the last page of Hall Gardner, Surviving the Millennium (Praeger, 1994).
2 See Hall Gardner, Dangerous Crossroads (Praeger, 1997).