Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mikhail Kalashnikov, Creator of AK-47, Dies at 94

By C. J. CHIVERS
Source: The New York Times

Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, the arms designer credited by the Soviet Union with creating the AK-47, the first in a series of rifles and machine guns that would indelibly associate his name with modern war and become the most abundant firearms ever made, died on Monday in Izhevsk, the capital of the Russian republic of Udmurtia, where he lived. He was 94.

Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic’s president, confirmed the death, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Born a peasant on the southern Siberian steppe, General Kalashnikov had little formal education and claimed to be a self-taught tinkerer who combined innate mechanical skills with the study of weapons to conceive of a rifle that achieved battlefield ubiquity.

His role in the rifle’s creation, and the attention showered on him by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine, carried him from conscription in the Red Army to senior positions in the Soviet arms-manufacturing bureaucracy and ultimately to six terms on the Supreme Soviet, the Soviet Union’s legislative body.

Tens of millions of Kalashnikov rifles have been manufactured. Their short barrels, steep front-sight posts and curved magazines made them a marker of conflict that has endured for decades. The weapons also became both Soviet and revolutionary symbols and widespread instruments of terrorism, child-soldiering and crime.

The general, who sometimes lamented the weapons’ unchecked distribution but took pride in having invented them and in their reputation for reliability, weathered the collapse of the Soviet Union to assume a public role as a folk hero and unequivocal Russian patriot.

A Soviet nostalgist, he also served as the unofficial arms ambassador of the revived Russian state. He used public appearances to try to cast the AK-47’s checkered legacy in a positive way and to complain that knockoffs were being manufactured illegally by former Soviet allies and cutting into Russian sales.

The weapon, he said, was designed to protect his motherland, not to be used by terrorists or thugs. “This is a weapon of defense,” he said. “It is not a weapon for offense.”

General Kalashnikov’s public life resulted from a secret competition to develop the Soviet infantry rifle for the Cold War. The result was the AK-47 — an abbreviation for “the automatic by Kalashnikov” followed by the year the competition ended.

General Kalashnikov, a senior sergeant at the time who had been injured in battle against German tanks, was credited with leading the design bureau that produced the AK-47 prototype. The Soviet Union began issuing a mass-produced version in 1949.

The true AK-47 was short-lived. It was followed in the 1950s by a modernized version, the A.K.M., which retained its predecessor’s underlying design while reducing its weight and manufacturing time.

 

Shorter than traditional infantry rifles and firing a cartridge midway between the power of a pistol and the standard rifle cartridges of the day, the Kalashnikov line was initially dismissed by American ordnance experts as a weapon of small consequence. It was not particularly accurate or well made, they said, and it lacked range and stopping power.

It cemented its place in martial history in the 1960s in Vietnam. There, a new American rifle, the M-16, experienced problems with corrosion and jamming in the jungles, while Kalashnikovs, carried by Vietcong guerrillas and North Vietnamese soldiers, worked almost flawlessly.

By this time, in an effort to standardize infantry weapons among potential allies, the Soviet Union had exported the rifle’s specifications and its manufacturing technology to China, Egypt, North Korea and Warsaw Pact nations. Communist engineers would eventually share the manufacturing technology with other countries, including Iraq.

The design was incorporated into arms manufactured in Finland, Israel, South Africa and other nations. The result was a long line of derivatives and copies.

Because Kalashnikov rifles were principally made by secretive governments and often changed hands in nontransparent transfers, it is not known how many have been manufactured. Common estimates put production at 70 million to 100 million; either number would dwarf the production of any other gun.

The rifles eventually filled armories throughout Eastern Europe and Asia and spread from war to war, passing to Soviet allies and proxies, and to terrorists and criminals, aided by intelligence agencies and gray- and black-market sales. The United States became an active purchaser, arming anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s and indigenous Afghan and Iraqi forces in recent years.

General Kalashnikov’s bureau also used the A.K.M. design to develop machine guns for infantry squads, helicopter crews and vehicles. By the 1970s, the rifle’s design had become the basis for a new Soviet rifle, known as the AK-74, that fired a smaller and faster cartridge similar to that of the M-16. That rifle remains the standard weapon of the Russian Army.

The general often claimed that he never realized any profit from his work. But in his last years he urged interviewers not to portray him as poor, noting that he had a sizable apartment, a good car and a comfortable dacha on a lake near the factory where he had worked for decades.

Work and loyalty to country, he often suggested, were their own rewards. “I am told sometimes, ‘If you had lived in the West you would have been a multimillionaire long ago,’ ” he said. “There are other values.”

 

How essential the general was to creation of the Kalashnikov line has been subject to dispute. A post-Soviet account in the newspaper Pravda challenged his central role, asserting that two supervisors modified his weapon during field trials.

An amiable personality with a biography ideal for proletarian fable, he was given credit for their work, the newspaper claimed. The general disputed suggestions that the design was guided by others, but also said the rifle was the result of the collective that labored beside him.

The Kremlin embraced his version, although a careful reading of the official histories and General Kalashnikov’s many statements and memoirs shows that his accounts of his life, combat service and work repeatedly changed, raising questions about the veracity of the conventional accounts.

Mikhail Timofeyovich Kalashnikov was born in Kurya on Nov. 10, 1919. He was married twice, the second time to Ekaterina Kalashnikova, a technician in his design bureau. He is survived by a son from his first marriage, Viktor Kalashnikov, who is also an arms designer; a daughter from his second marriage, Elena Krasnovskaya; a stepdaughter, Nelya; and several grandchildren.

Later in life, he disapproved of anyone who he thought had hastened the Soviet Union’s downfall, or who had been unable to control the political and economic turbulence that followed. In memoirs and interviews, he was harshly critical of Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Boris N. Yeltsin.

To the end he was loyal to what he called Socialist ideals and the leaders who gave them shape, and seemed untroubled by the hardships endured by his family during the early years of Soviet rule. His family’s land and home had been seized during collectivization, and when he was a child the family was deported into the Siberian wilderness. His father died during their first Siberian winter, and one of his brothers labored for seven years as a prisoner digging the White Sea canal.

Still, General Kalashnikov spoke of his great respect for Lenin and Stalin alike. “I never knew him personally,” he said of Stalin, “and I regret this.”

 

 

 

December Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

On 17 December 2013, H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, delivered a statement at the Security Council’s Debate on the situation in Afghanistan.

 

The Special Representative of the Secretary General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), Mr. Jan Kubiš, opened the debate. In his statement, Mr. Kubiš noted that despite challenges, progress is on track in Afghanistan. He stressed the need for the international community to work together in order to ensure a sustainable and sovereign Afghanistan free from terrorism, organized crime, narcotics and violence.

 

Highlighting President Karzai’s recent regional engagement, Kubiš stressed the importance of regional cooperation to the stability and sustainability of both Afghanistan and its neighbors. The political transition following the 2014 Presidential and Provincial council elections will mark a history democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan, he added. Moreover, he assured Council members that as the security transition in Afghanistan proceeds as planned, UNAMA will continue to support the rule of law and judicial sectors in Afghanistan.

 

Kubiš concluded that the United Nations in Afghanistan remains a vital long-term partner in the country’s future, supporting Afghan institutions and priorities to ensure a “stable, inclusive, and sustainable state.”

 

Following Special Representative Kubiš, Ambassador Tanin recalled the environment in Afghanistan when leaders of Afghanistan’s political parties signed the Bonn Agreement.  This December Council, he said, “evokes the hopeful atmosphere of Bonn that winter of 2001, when unity was in sight, when an emergence from the shadow of violence and fanaticism seemed possible, and when the vision of an Afghanistan as a home for all, a home for tolerance and moderation, was taking shape.” The Ambassador noted the progress made since then, highlighting the achievements of the past 12 years.

 

In his statement, Ambassador Tanin noted upcoming milestones in Afghanistan in 2014 and beyond, including the renewal of strategic partnerships with many international partners. After 15 months of comprehensive negotiations on, and the subsequent completion of, the text of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), he said, 2500 Afghan representatives endorsed the agreement in a consultative Loya Jirga.  The Jirga, he noted, reaffirmed that the BSA should ensure Afghanistan’s peace, security and development, and should be accompanied by visible steps taken in the lead up to the signing of the agreement including assurances for measures to end the military raids on Afghan homes, and the launching of negotiations between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban.

 

Ambassador Tanin also discussed ongoing developments related to the Presidential and Provincial Council elections, the peace and reconciliation process with the Taliban, and strengthening regional understanding and cooperation. “In recent months,” he said, “we have ramped up efforts to increase contact with neighbors and countries in the region… Leaders agree that they have a strategic stake in Afghanistan, and that peace and stability in the country is essential to the peace and stability in the region.”  Additionally, Ambassador Tanin pointed out that Afghanistan’s progress depends on preserving the rights of all Afghans, particularly women and girls, upholding the rule of law, and furthering economic transition. He noted that continuing partnership with the international community is critical to success in these areas.

 

At the end of his remarks, Ambassador Tanin again recalled the spirit of Bonn.  “So as we arrive at 2014, we ground our progress firmly in the constitutional foundations established 12 years ago, in the spirit of hope and optimism that was alive in Bonn, and with commitment to build upon and maintain the great achievements of the last decade,” he concluded.

 

After Ambassador Tanin delivered his statement, members of the Security Council, including Australia, Rwanda, China, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Russian Federation, United States, Pakistan, Togo, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Argentina, the Republic of Korea, Morocco, and France took the floor.  Representatives from India, Japan, the European Union, Canada, Turkey, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Germany also gave statements on behalf of their governments.  Countries emphasized their support for Afghanistan’s transition, and expressed sentiments of hope for peace and security in the country. Common themes included the importance of women’s participation in the upcoming elections, strengthening systems to prevent narcotics production and trafficking, protecting children from violence and conflict, and international commitments to assisting Afghanistan during the transition process.

 

 

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

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Thank you, Mr. President.  I would like to thank you for your leadership of the Council for the month of December.  I take this moment also to welcome the report of the Secretary General on the Situation in Afghanistan, and to thank our dear friend Special Representative Kubiš for his presence today, and his able leadership of UNAMA.

 

Mr. President,

 

Our gathering here in December – 12 years to the month since leaders of Afghanistan’s political parties signed the Bonn Agreement – is a lucid reminder of progress in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime.  December evokes the hopeful atmosphere of Bonn that winter of 2001, when unity was in sight, when an emergence from the shadow of violence and fanaticism seemed possible, and when the vision of an Afghanistan as a home for all, a home for tolerance and moderation, was taking shape.

 

Mr. President,

 

We have made significant progress since those days, and have seen many of our objectives come to fruition. Over 6 million Afghan refugees have returned to the country after being forced to live outside their homes for years due to war and conflict; our state is now based on a democratic constitution; millions of Afghans have access to education and healthcare; and the Afghan people enjoy more freedom and rights than they have for decades. Although we face challenges, and although we continue to engage those who seek to reverse our progress, we are advancing apace to stand independently, take command of our future, and realize a peaceful and secure Afghanistan.

 

This year, in particular, has been pivotal to the advancement of our goals and the solidification of our achievements.  2013 marks the culmination of Transition, paving the way for Afghanistan to embark on the Transformation decade. Since June of this year, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have assumed full security responsibility nationwide, proving themselves evermore capable of defending the country, and doing so with confidence and determination.

 

As 2013 comes to a close, Afghans look ahead to the Transformation Decade.  This milestone signifies Afghanistan’s progress towards sustainable peace, and also marks the start of a new phase of cooperation with the international community. In the past year, we renewed our international partnerships, signing a number of strategic partnership agreements with several countries, including the United States. In May of last year, President Karzai and President Obama signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement.  This was followed by 15 months of comprehensive negotiations on, and then the completion of, the text of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).  Last month in Kabul, 2500 Afghan representatives endorsed the BSA in a consultative Loya Jirga. The resolution adopted at the end of the Jirga reaffirmed that the agreement should ensure Afghanistan’s peace, security and development, and should be accompanied by visible steps taken on specific issues in the lead up to the signing of the agreement. These entail, as reiterated by the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, assurances for measures to end the military raids on Afghan homes, and the launching of negotiations between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban.

 

We are certain that the BSA will be signed in a timely manner.  As a next step, Afghanistan is ready to begin formal negotiations on a Status of Forces Agreement for the post-2014 NATO presence in Afghanistan, which will continue our enduring security and defense partnership with NATO.

 

Mr. President,

 

We are preparing for our next milestone: Presidential and Provincial Council elections. The timely holding of transparent, free and fair elections is a reflection of strong national consensus about the future direction of Afghanistan and its status as a democratic, peaceful and prosperous nation. To this end, technical and logistical preparations are proceeding with momentum. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has announced the final list of eleven presidential candidates and their running mates. Over three million new voters have registered for elections, of which one third are women, and this number is expected to increase in the lead-up to elections. As we move towards the final stage of preparations, Afghan national security institutions have put a comprehensive strategy in place to ensure security on Election Day.

 

Mr. President,

 

Afghanistan’s peaceful future requires a political solution to the conflict. Reaching out to the armed opposition, building confidence, and engaging in peace talks remains central to our efforts towards peace and stability.  In spite of some setbacks, we are working to renew momentum in the peace process.  In this regard, the government has been continually involved at a regional level, launching a new phase of dialogue between Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s leadership through bilateral and trilateral meetings in London, Kabul and Islamabad.  We are fully committed to the success of reconciliation, and we are conscious that further progress relies not only on the dedicated efforts of all stakeholders but also on the opposition’s united voice for peace.

 

Alongside security and political transition, and in light of the withdrawal of international forces at the end of 2014, we are strengthening regional understanding and cooperation to ensure the success of Afghanistan’s Transition. In recent months, we have ramped up efforts to increase contact with neighbors and countries in the region. President Karzai engaged with regional leaders to enhance development and security cooperation, focusing on Transition and beyond, in New Delhi, Islamabad, Beijing, Dushanbe, and Tehran and at the Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Bishkek. These leaders agree that they have a strategic stake in Afghanistan, and that peace and stability in the country is essential to the peace and stability in the region.  As we move forward, we will benefit from all forms of cooperation, particularly the Istanbul Process.

 

 

Mr. President,

 

As we proceed steadily towards the Transformation decade, it is essential that the successes of the past twelve years be maintained.  Progress depends on preserving the rights of all Afghans, particularly women and girls, upholding the rule of law, and furthering economic transition.  Our continuing partnership with the international community is critical to success in these areas, as reflected in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF).  We are determined to meet our related commitments, and hope the international community will be similarly steadfast in its promises to Afghanistan.

 

Mr. President,

 

Speaking today at this December council, mindful of our recent and future milestones, and of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, I again recall the spirit of Bonn. We knew in that month of December, 12 years ago, that the challenges in front of us were great.  But we were also aware of the tremendous potential for change, for the establishment of a stable, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. So as we arrive at 2014, we ground our progress firmly in the constitutional foundations established 12 years ago, in the spirit of hope and optimism that was alive in Bonn, and with commitment to build upon and maintain the great achievements of the last decade.

 

I thank you.