Tuesday, March 5, 2024

What did Putin mean by “Wolf’s Tail”?

It caught my attention when Vladimir Putin mentioned “wolf’s tail” in case the European Union goes ahead with a cap on Russia’s energy exports now that West’s sanctions have had little effect. 

Well, this particular folktale “Sister Fox and Brother Wolf” is a delightful one where the Wolf cunningly breaks to pieces the Fox’s sledge and eats up the bull also. The Fox has its revenge: First it collects a large amount of fish and when the Wolf asks for a similar bounty, the Fox asks the Wolf to let his tail rotate back and forth in an ice hole and say “’come and be caught, fish, big and small”. The Wolf did likewise while the Fox chanted “Freeze, freeze Wolf’s tail.” And thus the Wolf’s tail was frozen to the ice and the Fox called out the villagers who came running with pokers, prongs and axes and killed the Wolf. 

So, the antagonists in this children’s tale are Fox and Wolf and in our present geopolitical context, it’s Russia and West (US/Europe/Germany—take your pick, it’s the same thing).

It was Germany which at the US’ persuasion blocked the Nord Stream 2 which needed just a “push of button” to turn it functional. 

Now Russia has stopped the energy supply of Nord Stream 1 for repairs —a pipelines which stretches 1,200km under the Baltic Sea and carries energy supply from St. Petersburg to north-eastern Germany. At its optimum, it supplies 170m cubic metres of gas per day from Russia to Germany. 

The threat of a price cap on Russian energy exports—which the EU deliberates on Friday—has met with a blunt response from Putin: “we won’t be supplying anything if it runs counter to our interests.”

Readers, you could say: How the West is wolf here? At best it’s tit for tat from the two arch enemies. 

Well, there is something more which Putin said and which never reached us because of the heavily censored Russian content by the Western media outlets and the Social Media giants such as Facebook, Twitter. YouTube, Instagram etc since the Ukraine Conflict broke out in February. 

Putin, while addressing the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), said on Wednesday that the West had indulged in “another outrageous deceit” in connection with the “grain deal” which allowed Ukraine’s grain to be exported at the initiative of Turkey and Russia on United Nation’s request. 

Putin alleged that all the agricultural products shipped from Ukraine went to EU countries whereas Russia and the poorest economies were “merely ditched.”

Thus, it hasn’t helped the global food prices, growing all the time because of sanctions on Russia’s exports. Ironically, those sanctioning are the very nations which are benefitting from the largesse of Russia on the matter. 

“It is a cunningly drawn-up, sophisticated design when no sanctions appear to be in place, but there are restrictions related to logistics, vessel chartering, funding, and insurance,” Putin said.

Further, “it is obvious that with this approach the scale of problems with food products in the world will only grow, unfortunately, to our great regret, which is capable of leading to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.”

So it is this deceit and chicanery which has led to Putin relating it to “wolf’s tail.” 

There is an interesting background to the mention of wolf which is of interest. 

In the 19th century Russia, humans often came across wolves and lost lives on its mammoth wilderness. It left an imprint on Russian culture which lasts to this day. 

Indeed, the way humans interpreted the gaze of this deadly beast of prey became a marker of what it meant to be a Russian. Importantly, it represented a sense of “otherness” in relation to Western Europe. The likes of Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov in 1880), Tolstoy (Nikolai Rostov’s wolf hunt in War and Peace), Chekov etc all have had space for this predator in their literary efforts. 

In passing, when three of Tolstoy’s son posed with the carcasses of nine wolves they had shot dead in the winter of 1900-1901, it was an assertion of their domination over a large pack of wolves. 

The German association with Wolves is also important for our understanding. Not many know that during the reign of Catherine the Great, herself of German origin, a fair number of Germans emigrated to Russia in 1764. Thousands of Germans were encourage to have autonomous colonies in barely populated districts north of the Black Sea, near Volga River. 

It all changed in 1870s when a program of Russianization was undertaken to break the cultural exclusiveness of the German colonies and thus integrate them into the Russian society. It led to more than a lakh Russian Germans emigrating to the United States where they primarily settled in the Great Plains region. 

Now a lot of these folktales of German-Russians revolves around wolves. They have international themes and motifs, more so in happy stories on wolves. However, the tragic wolf tales are exclusively a part of Russian literature and folktales—and they are not part of international folklore. 

But now Putin has brought the reference on a geopolitical forum. It tells us how much we need to know about Russia and we can’t with the “pipeline of information” being turned off by the Western Media and Social Media giants (Faceebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc) by an official EU diktat!

The Russia Today (RT) in France went to EU’s Court of Justice against the EU’s sanctions, stating it has “no legal basis and violate the principle of free expression.” But the Court dismissed their plea, ruling “there has been no infringement of RT France’s right to be heard.”

And so this is our “free world” bereft of any “censorship” or any suppression of “freedom of expression” which injects us with the righteousness we claim in relation to the East! 

We weren’t wiser by the episode of Julian Assange nor we would be by last few months of one-sided narrative. As the drumbeats of World War III get louder, and closer, the citizens ought to demand free information too, alongside lesser energy bills as part of their protest marches across European capitals. 

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