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COL (ret) Tarasov on the Sidorenko Gift

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Following is a letter of thanks from Belorussian Colonel Andrei Tarasov to USMLM Association members who raised money for former SMLM Driver, Sergei Sidorenko, to get a new motorized wheelchair.  Received February 2017 and translated by COL (ret) Larry Kelley (USMLM 1983-1986)

Dear General Ryan and members of the USMLM Association,

This is COL (Ret) Andrei Tarasov, Belarusian Army, writing to you from Brest, Republic of Belarus.

It is the obligation of soldiers of every country to defend their native land against probable enemies and to perform such actions as further the interests of their state. It will come as no surprise to you, if I say that for a very protracted period – during the Cold War, which witnessed the confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact – we soldiers of the Warsaw Pact countries considered NATO our probable enemy. However, that confrontation has receded into the past, and life itself has put things into perspective. I must tell you that the very unexpected but timely and essential aid that you provided to Sergei Sidorenko in the form of a modern motorized wheelchair resembles a Christmas story, believe me.

I am ashamed to admit that I did not know that Sergei had become an invalid as the result of a leg amputation and had found himself in such a serious situation.

Sergei was a member of SMLM-Frankfurt, i.e. he was part of the direct confrontation that you and your colleagues faced during the Cold War. Thus, the story of the assistance that you provided to him appears all the more incredible. It was with astonishment and even a certain degree of pride that I read the notice on your website indicating that USMLM and BRIXMIS Association veterans had rendered him such unquestionably necessary aid in December 2016. 

I am struck to the depth of my being by such a response and by the unexpected and truly noble actions of the USMLM and BRIXMIS veterans. It would seem that for a long time we were almost enemies – at least, we were long taught that the USA and UK were our probable enemies. In continuous political indoctrination and information sessions our zampolits force-fed us numerous clichés such as “American militarism,” “West-German revanchism,” “Israeli Zionism,” “South African racism” etc. etc. But I must tell you that you are human beings in the true sense of the word – People with a capital “P” who refused to leave their former enemy – even if he is no longer one – in a lurch!

I must admit to you that, at the same time, I am quite ashamed of our Belarusian officials, who could not or simply did not want to help Sergei at all, although they could have – it was likely within their power to do so. God will judge them!

In conclusion, a few words about myself. I am a professional soldier – a graduate of the Suvorov Military School in Minsk and the Higher Military Combined Arms Commissioning School named for the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR in Moscow (the so-called “Kremlin Cadets”). I served from 1984-90 as a platoon and company commander in a motor rifle regiment in Krampnitz, GDR, just a mile north of Neufahrland – right near USMLM.

Later, in 1998 I graduated from the General Staff Academy of the German Bundeswehr in Hamburg (FüAkBw/LGAI-98), having prepared for that course by taking a year of German at a special language school near Cologne (BSprA). Later yet, in 2001 and in 2005, I also studied at the NATO School (SHAPE) in Oberammergau (Courses C-18-B-01 and M5-61-A-05). And in 2003, I studied at the Bundeswehr’s Military Intelligence School (Schule für Strategische Aufklärung) in Bad Ems.

For a long time I served as an inspector for various arms control treaties at the National Agency for Verification and Inspection (NAKI) in Minsk, Belarus. (How could anyone fail to recall the famous saying “Trust, but verify,” quoted in December 1987 by then-US President Ronald Reagan at the signing of the treaty that called for the destruction of two entire classes of nuclear weapons – intermediate- and shorter-range missiles.)

Many times, both at the Academy and later, while serving as an inspector, I interacted with officers and NCOs from a number of countries in the NATO Alliance. On no occasion did a situation develop that involved reproaches, grievances, or contempt expressed by either of the sides. All of us were professionals who had dedicated our lives and destinies to serving the interests of our native lands. Pompous and grandiloquent though that might sound, it was the case.  

My active 30-years military career (which included 15 years in the Soviet Army and 15 years in the Belarusian Army) now lies in the past. I have been retired for the last ten years.

I wish you and your families all the best and much prosperity. God bless all of you!

Respectfully yours,

Andrei Tarasov, COL (Ret) Belarusian Army

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