‘Tank Tales’ by Kurt Volker

A Review of Kurt Volker’s “Tank Tales” by Gordon M. Hahn (Summertime Fun)

A new children’s book is out written by the Trump administration’s special envoy to Ukraine and former US ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker. His magical collection of fairy tales, titled “Tank Tales,” makes wonderful bed-time reading not just for children but also for parents, especially those with a keen sense of humor and employment in the defense industry, journalism, or the think tank milieu. Mr. Volker introduced his new volume during his trip to Ukraine last week, as he also called for the US to deploy “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine as is being proposed by Mr. Volker’s ‘publisher’ and ‘literary agent’ – the US Departments of Defense and State, respectively.

One of the volume’s most imaginative short tales is “Edgeland and the Seven Thousand Fire-Horses of Magog” (originally published by NATO in Ukrainian and translatable as “Seven Thousand Russian Tanks Inside Ukraine”). The Edgeland-Magog story is enchanting and comes with a moral. The tale begins with two very different lands that are neighbors: the evil empire of Magog, dark, cold and dank all year long, and the beautiful frontier country of Edgeland, with its golden plains, eternally blue skies, and river waters that taste like wine.

But after centuries of living together in relative peace, these two lands began to fall into war because of evil Magog’s ‘bad behavior’. A good wizard from a land called Usa — oddly named after the author himself, Kurt Volker — claims that there are more Magogian fire-horses in Edgeland than there are on all the lands of its gigantic, if feeble-spirited friend-country, Yuropa. Fire-horses are deadly weapons that spew fire and smoke from a long thin cannon while galloping at speeds of 30mph or more.

With this news, alarm spreads throughout all the lands: Yuropa, Edgeland and especially their friends and allies, Usa and Otan. The good wizard Volker pleads with the highly successful god of Usa and Otan, Dlanod, and his several hundred lesser gods, known collectively as Deesee, to give Edgeland the magic needed to protect itself against evil Magog. Dlanod, who knows the best things, says the best words, and always wins against liars and evil-doers, then waves his very big magic hand, and miraculously fire-horse-killing machines and other lethal gifts rain down on Edgeland like one of Dlanod’s golden showers.

Edgeland rejoices in Usa’s and Otan’s sacred gifts, and Dlanod gets another land far away from the Heartland of Yuropa, Edgeland and Magog – Usa’s neighbor Ocixem – to pay for them and a special wall Dlanod promised the Usaians he would get built so they would make him king instead of a scary evil witch who so very much wanted to be the Usaians’ god (not ‘godess’, she incessantly insisted, that’s sexist, but rather ‘first godess’).

Meanwhile bad wizards began to spread mean lies on a ‘worldwide web’ that there are 7,000 tanks in Yuropa. (If one were to count the 2,499 and 2,445 fire-horses on god Otan’s nearby lands of Edgeland and Ottomania, the nasty researcher….I mean, wizard, that would make 12,000!). Such researcher….I mean, bad wizards added that aggressive and more importantly bankrupt Magog could not put 7,000, no less 12,000 fire-horses in Edgeland even if it wanted to. But good wizards retorted Magog surely must want to and can, because it is evil. Some wonderthat since no one wants to live in Magog and it doesn’t make anything, how could it send 7,000 fire horses to…….but I digress.

Soon everyone realizes that Magog’s evil sexist leader PutStal can accomplish any feat. Even though everyone wants to leave his terrible backward land, the number of people there keeps growing. An overwhelming majority of Magogians love PutStal, even though he is killing them all. So, of course, wizard Volker conjures, PutStal’s Magog has sent 7-12,000 fire-horses into Edgeland, because when it comes to dastardly PutStal’s Magog, even if 7,000 fire-horses are never seen — despite Usa’s and Otan’s all-seeing ‘space eyes’ — all should rest assured that there are at least 7,000 of PutStal’s Magog’s fire-horses in Edgeland. All Usians, Yuropeans, and Edgelanders must fall into line and Otan must be made all-powerful; otherwise, PutStal’s Magog will seize not just Edgeland but Yuropa and Usa.

Dlanod, Usa, and Otan continue to send more and more magical deadly gifts to Edgeland. But in this fairy tale, all is not black or white. Edgeland is badly divided between those who like Dlanod’s shiny Usa and Otan and those who like bad PutStal’s Magog. Odd as it may seem, some who like Dlanod, Usa and Otan also like the very dark forces of Edgelander history, when some in that bright sunny land helped a terrible god Adolph kill millions of defenseless men, women and children because they were different just like the white men and white male wizards in Usa want to do — except for Volker and those designated like him. These Edgelanders now begin to hate Magogians more than they hate Yuropians and Usians and so cross into Magog’s territory. A few try to kill PutStal or some other important Magogian and a calamity falls on all. Here, Volker’s tale gets confusing, but it seems a universal war breaks out. The tale ends without an ending, leaving it up to readers to write their own.

Although Volker’s tales are magical and believable, the collection would have benefited from a more attractive visual design and presentation. His Pentagon publisher’s photo company or the Bellingcat photo archive could have been tapped to include color illustrations of, say, the thousands of Magogian fire-horses or a creative map of Volker’s “flourishing” Edgeland. Even though this is a children’s book, there is no need to leave everything to the imagination, but for some reason the publishers did not see fit to fill in any gaps whatsoever. At any rate, the publication is worth the purchase price and is highly recommended for children ages six to twelve.

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On the number of ‘fire-horses’ in ‘Yuropa’, see http://www.globalfirepower.com/armor-tanks-total.asp

For Volker’s claim that ‘Edgeland’ is flourishing, see the Edgeland site, for example, https://en.lb.ua/news/2017/07/24/4178_us_envoy_calls_donbas_conflict_war.html.

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About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California, www.cetisresearch.org; an expert analyst at Corr Analytics, www.canalyt.com; a member of the Executive Advisory Board at the American Institute of Geostrategy (AIGEO) (Los Angeles), www.aigeo.org; and an analyst at Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation (Chicago), www.geostrategicforecasting.com.

Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book from McFarland Publishers Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the ‘New Cold War. Previously, and three well-received published books: Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002);  Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007); and The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media and has served as a consultant and provided expert testimony to the U.S. government.

Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. He has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Kennan Institute in Washington DC as well as the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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About Gordon M. Hahn