Today, as it happens, is Christmas Day in the Orthodox calendar, and so, instead of carrying on with the holiday marathon of Manlio Orobello’s Lays of Sicilian Life, I thought I would pause and take stock. A new year has just wafted in, after all, to whispers of the first snowfall in Palermo since 1956, although the proprietor of the bar down the road avers that with his own eyes he saw snowflakes as big as orange blossoms in the winter of 1982. But that was before my time here, so I wouldn’t know.

All I can wish civilization in 2015 is that it continue on the slippery slope to enslavement at roughly the same speed as last year and the year before, without accelerating the pace or tumbling down precipitously. In the bleak light of current events, in Russia as elsewhere, it would be perverse to hope and unrealistic to wish for anything more radical or radiant.

This month, production begins in the Urals of a new heavy tank, codenamed the Armata – technologically some 20 years ahead of the most advanced American battle tanks – which may well prove decisive in the ongoing Finlandization of Europe. An armada of 2,300 of these supertanks is set to be built over the next five years. As of this writing, Britain has 227 obsolescent tanks at the disposal of its armed forces – fewer than Switzerland’s 380 equally obsolescent machines, despite the fact that for the last century and a half Switzerland has not been involved in a military conflict. Needless to add, Russia’s reserves of comparably obsolescent armor exceed these numbers tenfold, as do those of the faraway United States.

2015 marks 30 years of my association with Chronicles, and readers who remember my first columns in the magazine’s pages will vouchsafe that my view of Russia’s ruling junta, its intentions, and its likely role in the destiny of Europe has not changed since 1985 – for the rational reason that the origin, composition, and modus operandi of the junta have likewise remained constant.  Just the other day I stumbled upon an interview I recorded for a radio program hosted by J. R. Nyquist, a true American patriot whose website deserves as much attention today as it did a decade ago, when Jeffrey ran me to ground in my Sicilian bolthole. And, for my part, I found that I can still subscribe under every word that came out of my mouth during our discussion.

Yet another link I recently came across shows that in actual fact Jeffrey Nyquist was onto me not 10, but nearly 25 years ago, after Roger Scruton at his Claridge Press in London had published a little book of mine entitled The Coming Order: Reflections on Sovietology and the Media. At the time, in 1992, this was reviewed in Chronicles by the late Arnold Beichman with princely condescension alternating with housewifely suspiciousness, but again I find that in 2015 I can subscribe under every word of my vituperative broadside.

If people like Jeffrey did not exist, I suspect I would have gone off my rocker a long time ago. They make the kind of stock taking in which – compliments of the season – I’m now indulging, possible and even to some extent decorous. Without their sustained interest, a cry in the wilderness would be all but indistinguishable from an earful of philistine twaddle.

So here’s to Jeffrey. My balloon at the festive table is charged with a suitably named Hine, “Rare & Delicate.”