Over the past few days, La Russophobe has reported on a series of extremely disturbing developments in Russia.
First a paranoid, classically Neo-Soviet report was circulated in the Russian Duma accusing the United States of plotting secretly to destroy Russia and calling for Cold War with the U.S.
Then came news of the Russian military's intention to declare America its enemy in an upcoming military policy document.
And finally news of an attempted coup d'etat by Russia against the pro-U.S. government in Georgia came out, followed shortly by the disclosure of a spy ring and a major diplomatic incident in which Russia gave sanctuary to a member of the ring and recalled its ambassador for consultations. This news comes only weeks after NATO announced it was entering final negotiations with Georgia to enter the NATO fold.
La Russophobe has been documenting the provocation by Russia of Cold War II for months now, but even she is surpised by the rapid escalation that these events indicate. What's next? Will Russian troops actually move into Georgia? Will this then justify American troops being used against Russian allies in Cuba and Venezuela?
How can Russians possibly imagine that they can survive a second cold war with the United States, whose economy is ten times the size of Russia's and whose population is double, when the Soviet Union couldn't survive the first round with a much larger economy, army and population? Are Russians drunk on oil revenues? Or have they simply given up rationality? Or hope, and are hell-bent on suicide?
Tis true, if she were in Russia now La Russophobe would have to think about suicide seriously. How could she not, seeing the KGB return to power by means of elections so soon after it destroyed the USSR, white-washing and demolishing hundreds of beautiful Russian churches, kiling their priests, and rounding up Russia's best and brightest for the gulags?
Is this the beginning of the end for Russia as we know it?
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Reader Jeremy Putley points us to a recent essay from the Jamestown Foundation's Vladimir Socor about the unfolding situation in Georgia:
SAAKASHVILI’S U.N. ADDRESS TRANSFORMS DISCUSSION ON POST-SOVIET CONFLICTS
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s September 22 address to the United Nations General Assembly has transformed the terms of international discussion on the post-Soviet “frozen” conflicts. After Saakashvili’s address, hardly any international actors other than Moscow’s ad-hoc supporters could any longer defend Russia’s “peacekeeping” and “mediation” or its prescriptions for political settlement of these conflicts.
Saakashvili’s address has -- for the first time in many years at this level -- clearly set down the basic parameters for dealing with these conflicts:
1. The conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are “territorial conflicts,” conducted by Russia against Georgia. Saakashvili outlined the process by which “these regions are being annexed” through military force and handover of Russian citizenship to local residents, directly violating international law. This part of Saakashvili’s speech implicitly underscores the long-ignored change in the nature of these conflicts: from local ethnic conflicts (Moscow-orchestrated in the first place) into a Russian assault on Georgia.
2. All ethnic communities suffer in the secessionist enclaves: the Georgians through ethnic cleansing and denial of native-language education, the others through rule by “sponsors of organized crime, fear, and lawlessness. Such suffering must come to an end.” Implicitly but clearly, the grounds for international humanitarian intervention are shown to exist.
3. “Proxies” underscore Russia’s primary role in the conflict. Saakashvili called attention to the heavy arming of Abkhaz and South Ossetian forces by Russia and frequently held joint exercises of secessionist and Russian forces.
4. Russia’s conduct poses a clear case of aggression: “Few examples are more blatant of a state seeking to annex the internationally recognized territory of another state.” Thus, Russia is shown to challenge the foundations of the international system as well.
5. Georgia holds the right of self-defense based on international law: Saakashvili wondered aloud “whether any members in this great hall would tolerate such intervention on their own soil.” Russia, he noted, expects the international community to accept this situation with regard to Georgia. If accepted, then “lawlessness and indifference to it [become] the new rules of the international game.” The ultimate stake transcends Georgia: “There is a vital interest to reject the unraveling of sovereign statehood.”
6. Resolution of these conflicts must be integrated with the agenda for rule of law and democracy: “The residents of our disputed territories are under a form of gangster occupation. The Rose Revolution and democracy in Georgia will remain unfinished until all citizens of Georgia have the right to participate in the life and decisions of the state.”
7. On their track record, Saakashvili noted, “The inherited peacekeeping frameworks and negotiating formats neither promote peace nor encourage any genuine negotiation.…They have served to perpetuate, rather than resolve the conflicts.” In the course of 12 years, Russia’s “peacekeepers” have failed to facilitate the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia. Russian peacekeeping operations have “abused and made a farce of the principles of neutrality, impartiality, and trust.”
8. Georgia calls for international action to “replace and transform the current frameworks for negotiation and peacekeeping in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” It seeks demilitarization of both areas and the deployment of internationally mandated police units, backed by active engagement of the UN, OSCE, and the European Union. Russia’s ‘peacekeeping’ forces “themselves, by their own choice, not by ours, have in effect annulled their own mandate.” The negotiating formats must be reconfigured to focus on “direct dialogue on the ground between Georgians and Abkhaz, Georgians and South Ossetians” as well as opening the prospect of economic rehabilitation: “Why should our citizens be reduced to such miserable economic conditions?”
9. Thus, Georgia serves notice that it intends to exercise “the sovereign right to request the removal of foreign military forces. We make no secret of our intentions to fulfill this sovereign right and solemn duty.” Saakashvili was alluding to plans by the Georgian government and parliament to issue in October an evaluation of more than a decade of Russian “peacekeeping” and, based on that track record, to demand the termination of those operations.
10. The onus for a peaceful resolution rests not only on Georgia, but on the international community as well: “Let no one ever say that Georgia was not clear as to how it would protect its democracy and its State, let no one ever say that we did not seek to do so by peaceful means alone.…All nations that share these values are willing to sacrifice for them.”
In the run-up to the Georgian parliament’s vote, some governments and international organizations that have over the years grown comfortable with the Russia-created status quo were beginning to discourage Georgia from trying to change that situation. Saakashvili’s UN address -- a consensus product of Georgia’s presidency, leading parliamentarians, and its government -- has rendered those attempts to protect the Russian-made status quo unsustainable from now on.
First Russia inks a deal to supply the crazed America-hating dictator of Venezuela with thousands of assault rifles and attack planes, and now it agrees to provide a bailout to the failing economic of dictatorial Cuba. How Neo-Soviet can you get?? The Associated Press reports:
HAVANA - Russia agreed on Thursday to grant Cuba credit worth $350 million and restructure some of its recent debt during a visit by Russia's prime minister, officials said. The two countries also signed a military cooperation agreement.
Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro, who is acting president while his elder brother Fidel recovers from intestinal surgery, gave red-carpet treatment to Mikhail Fradkov, the highest-ranking Russian official to come to Cuba since a visit by President
Vladimir Putin in 2000.
Wearing a gray suit instead of his customary military uniform, Castro escorted Fradkov through the halls of Havana's Palace of the Revolution, past rows of soldiers playing Cuba's anthem.
The two met privately and did not speak to the press about the encounter.
But Alexander Bochanov, the press liaison at the Russian Embassy in Havana, said that Russia had agreed to restructure some $166 million of debt acquired in recent years.
The $350 million line of credit will be used to buy Russian goods and services. It is a 10-year loan with annual 4-percent interest, according to Russia's RIA Novosti news agency, which reported that Fradkov said the credit would be used to help modernize Cuba's energy sector and transportation system, reconstruct water conservation facilities and railroads, and design and deliver air navigation systems.
Under an ideological and economic alliance that lasted three decades, Cuba once relied on Soviet Union subsidies for about 20 percent of its gross national product. Its economy has since become more self-sufficient, though it now benefits from strong relations with Venezuela, its current leading trading partner.
Bochanov said Raul Castro and Fradkov did not discuss Cuba's Soviet-era debts with Moscow, which Russian media reports have estimated at more than $20 billion. Havana puts the amount at closer to $11 billion.
Fradkov arrived in Havana late Wednesday as the head of a delegation looking to increase business with Cuba in the aviation, transport and energy sectors.
The group will visit Russia's pavilion at the International Transport Fair taking place in Havana through Saturday. Fradkov will also go to the island's Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, and is scheduled to meet Friday with Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon.
Relations between Russia and Cuba chilled after the Soviet Union's collapse but warmed with Putin's visit in 2000.
The Caribbean island exports sugar to Russia, as well as vaccines and other products from its advanced biotech industry.
If you are interested in the issue of anti-Americanism in Russia and the resulting cold war climate being provoked by the Kremlin, then check out La Russophobe's most recent piece on Publius Pundit regarding the issue, summarizing recent developments, and feel free to comment. Everyone's thoughts and ideas are important in this time of renewed Russo-American tensions.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Check out La Russophobe's latest on Publius Pundit regarding the ominous political situation brewing now in Georgia. Following the foiling of a Russia-sponsored coup d'etat against the country's elected, pro-West government, Georgian police uncovered a spy ring sponsored by Russia and including a number of Russian military officers as participants. It arrested a group of them, but one took refuge on one of the vestigial Russian military bases that still exists, outrageously, on Georgian soil (indeed, in the nation's capital city). He refused to come out, Georgia blockaded the building, Russia cut off travel visas to Georgians and recalled its ambassador. Russia's naked, neo-Soviet aggression in seeking to keep control of the former Soviet slaves states before they manage to break free by joining NATO is an international outrage and calls for immediate action by the NATO powers. Russian hypocrisy is truly breathtaking; it has no problem fomenting tumult in parts of Georgia that want to break away and join Russia, but if anyone seeks to assist Chechnya in breaking from Russia then Russians scream to high heaven about Russian sovereignty.
La Russophobe has posted two items recently about the attempt by Russian authorities to impose a giant fine (it could be more than one year's average Russian wages) or a jail term (it could be one year at hard labor) on Vladimir Rakhmankov for writing an article satirizing Russian "President" Vladimir Putin. Here's the full text of his article, in English and in Russia. Remember, if La Russophobe were in Russia she could be hit with a crippling fine or jailed (at hard labor!) for publishing this innocuous material. Scary, isn't it?
Why do journalists love the the press offices of government departments? Do you think it is because of their effectiveness and authenticity of their factual accounts? No! Journalists love them for their unique ability to perceive crucial turning points in Russian history.
Take, for example, one particularly life-affirming press release from City Hall in the town of Ivanovo. It is an expression of the celebration of life, the roaring of hormones, the joy of spring. It is hymn the the wonders of procreation!
Here it is, verbatim:
There has been a new addition to the family of Prezhvaslky horses in the Ivanovo zoo. These animals are endangered and rarely breed in captivity. However, this already the second foal, that has appeared at the zoo, six years after horses first arrived . The newborn is doing well and still breast feeding, as it will continue to do for nearly half a year before gradually weening itself to adult food. There are also newborns in the fox family, but vistiors will not glimpse them any time soon as they are under the watchful guard of their mothers. Other newborns eagerly antipated include a pony, Volkov lynxes, and many birds (pheasants, peacocks, exotic chickens). A pair of hawks has also settled in to lay for the first time, after residing at the zoo for three years already, and there is hope for a pair of polar owls and eagle owls to begin nesting as well.And so it came to pass that Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, also found his thoughts turning to reproductive matters, and decided that he himself should become the phallic symbol of the country. And so he issued an edict unto his minions that they propagate themselves and be multiplied, with no exceptions, and further that a clutch of petrodollars be unleashed to reward those found in compliance.
And verily, Putin is remarkably like the phallic symbol of the country - in all senses - and a perfect personification of the national drive to increase the population. Indeed, now it is possible to conceive of a mascot to signify the national effort: the presidential body with his head in the shape of a penis. A new national idea.
Naturally, all the personnages of the oligarchy rushed to thrust themselves verbally into the flow of spermotazoa, shouting "yes! yes! let there be procreation! and with no exception!" Yet there will inevitably be disappointment with the results, since both the phallus and its spermotzoa are symbolic rather than acutal.
And in any case, your average Russian broad is no fool. She knows how to get her hands on various contraceptive methods, so the national rebirth may need to wait years until all those are disposed of.
But the animals of the zoo had no such encumbrances, and they raced to respond to the call of the president without delay, whereas in prior to hearing his edict they had been reluctant to breed in capativity and even in the wild, hence becoming endangered. Lucky were they, then to fall into the clutches of Russian captivity!
The Russian text (if anyone would care to supply a better translation, La Russophobe will be happy to adopt it).
"За что журналисты любят пресс-службы казенных контор? Вы думаете, за оперативность и достоверность изложения того, что в этих конторах происходит? Нет! Журналисты их любят за талант и очень правильное понимание исторического момента! Вот вам неимоверно жизнеутверждающее сообщение пресс-службы ивановской мэрии. Это ж просто какой-то праздник жизни, буйство гормонов и ликование весны. Гимн деторождению! Итак, дословно.
"В семействе лошадей Пржевальского в ивановском зоопарке пополнение. Эти животные занесены в Красную книгу, в неволе размножаются довольно редко. Это уже второй жеребёнок, появившийся в зоопарке спустя 6 лет после того, как там поселились лошади. Новорождённый чувствует себя хорошо, пока питается только маминым молоком. Им он будет питаться около полугода, а потом постепенно перейдёт на взрослую пищу.
Совсем недавно появилось потомство у лис. Лисят пока посетители не увидят, их бережно охраняют мамы. В ближайшее время ожидается приплод у пони, рысей, волков, многих птиц (фазанов, павлинов, декоративных кур). Впервые на кладку яиц сели канюки-курганники. Пара этих птиц в зоопарке живёт уже 3 года. В этом году птицы сами свили гнездо и сделали кладку. Готовятся к размножению полярные совы, филины, неясыти".
А я то думал, что президент России Владимир Путин просто решил превратиться в фаллический символ страны, выступив с этим полубредовым посланием народу и федеральному собранию: плодитесь и размножайтесь, а то границу защищать некому, а мы вам от нефтедолларов отстегнем по четверти миллиона за каждого второго ребенка, но только не сейчас, когда я президент, а в течение лет десяти, или позже.
Вообще, Путин действительно похож на фаллический символ страны - во всех смыслах. Так отчего же ему было не закрепить этот символизм официально? В послании? Как говорится: уж послал, так послал. Сам на себя, так сказать, всю страну зациклил. Теперь можно смело фигурки соответствующие лепить и продавать - президентская голова в виде головки. Новый народный промысел.
Вся властная и околовластная сволочь, конечно, немедленно изобразила из себя поток сперматозоидов, орущих: да, да, давайте размножаться, а то границу защищать некому. От этого, разумеется, человеческая рождаемость в России не увеличилась, поскольку и фаллос, и его сперматозоиды - не более чем символ. А бабы - они не дуры. Контрацептических средств завались, так что можно и еще десять лет с возрождением нации подождать.
Но вот ивановские лошади Пржевальского, а также канюки-курганники и павлины на призыв президента откликнулись незамедлительно! Заметьте, до этого в неволе они размножаться не хотели. И вообще - в Красной книге находятся. Вот вам и окончательный символизм происходящего. Добро пожаловать в зоопарк!"
As an American who lived for many years in Europe - and has traveled through Russia and Central Asia - I have to say that most of my fellow countrymen are brainwashed fanatics when it comes to issues of "freedom" and "democracy."Guess who wrote that: It was Wally Shedd of the Accidental Russophile, in a comment on the even more extreme Russophile blog "Russian Blog." Gee, what a suprise. Wally the crazed Russophile thinks that America is a nation of "brainwashed fanatics" except for a few enlightened souls who have managed to travel in Europe and thus purify their brains.
Now, if somebody (La Russophobe for instance) said that Russia was a nation of "brainwashed fanatics," can you imagine what Wally would say? Oh, he'd scream to high heaven about how La Russophobe is a "hate monger" and an "idiot." He'd call for patience and understanding where Russia is concerned. He'd say that Russia, which has existed five times longer than America, needs time to perfect its civilization. But where American is concerned? Like all Russophiles of his ilk, labeling America a "nation of brainwashed fanatics" is his idea of scholarship and humanitarianism.
And what is dear Wally's idea of freedom and democracy? Well, perhaps the author of Russian Blog sums them up best when he writes:
What I find fascinating about American mentality – their notions of democracy and freedom are also ingrained. This is the case even with the most educated, sophisticated and intellectual. This is not the case with Europeans. While Brits or Frenchmen also believe in freedom and democracy they are not religious about it and don’t regard it with enthusiastic devotion. With my English friend I can freely discuss problems of democracy and our disputes are not just normal but they also help to discover something new, change to some extent our views or find compromise. With Americans it’s almost always a missionary talking to a heathen. To treat democracy as just another technical model of effective government organization and freedom as a personal feeling of limitations for self-realization is the same as trampling down on the bibleIn other words, Americans are a race of stupid people, who need to be told what "democracy" and "freedom" are by people who've studied and thought like humans rather than apes.
You know, the Europeans and the Russians.
Let's list their "great modern thinkers" shall we? Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Napoleon.
One by one, each of the European nations took their turns trying to enslave the world.
Twice in the last century they have caused their civilization to burst into flames, while the North American continent has remained steadfastly at peace.
America has exchanged power between rival political parties dozens of times without bloodshed under the same constitution since 1870. The governments of modern Europe date to World War II.
And Russia? It offers its people starvation wages, a shockingly short life span, pollution, degradation, corruption, violence, pandemic racism, universal conscription and extinction. This is the country America is supposed to look up to and learn from? Is it possible that in this day and age there are still folks who think so?
Yup. Just call them Russophiles.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
La Russophobe has already reported on the attempt by the slobbering maniac Valentin Falin to introduce his rabid brand of Neo-Soviet anti-Americanism into the Russian Duma. Now, Georgy Bovt of the Moscow Times explores the issue further. Now is the time to ask: Will all those crazed Russophiles who vociferously condemn "Russophobia" now come forward to condemn anti-Americanism with equal zeal? Don't hold your breath. Just like the Soviet Union, Russia is baiting American into a confrontation that Russia cannot win.
Last week, a remarkable document titled "On a Likely Scenario of Action of the United States toward Russia in 2006-2008" was circulated in the State Duma. It is undoubtedly the largest-scale and most comprehensive anti-U.S. program that post-Soviet Russia has seen.
Yes, of course, a lot has been written over the past 15 years. But the fundamental difference between this and other similar exercises is that it appears to have been approved from on high -- probably in the section of the Kremlin administration responsible for drafting ideological doctrines.
Also curious is the way in which the 35-page typewritten "scenario" appeared. First, a small leak appeared in last Thursday's Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The newspaper named the report's authors as Valentin Falin -- a former member of the Communist Party Central Committee and sometime adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev -- who served as ambassador to Germany before turning on and pillorying his former boss at every available opportunity, and former foreign intelligence chief Gennady Yevstafyev.
The following day, Friday, Moskovskiye Novosti editor Vitaly Tretyakov devoted more than two pages of the newspaper to a copy of the report "accidentally" distributed in the Duma. He promised to publish the full text in the Politichesky Klass weekly, which he also edits. Tretyakov is a former democrat who is now a fervent, almost paranoid, anti-Western patriot who does nothing without consulting the Kremlin first, so it is unlikely that he would publish such a document without receiving direct orders.
It is impossible to recount the whole scenario here. Suffice it to say that it brings together almost all of the anti-U.S. myths of the last 15 years. For example, it says that the United States cannot "come to terms with Russia's growing strength," and that Washington is preparing to "bring down" the Putin regime from within, specifically around the time of the 2008 presidential elections. The United States will, the report says, work to isolate the Russian political elite, and look for a stalking horse among liberal groups -- currently former-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov -- and, inevitably, the CIA is drafting an "Orange project" for Russia. "For the United States, it is unacceptable in principle to have sovereign democracy in Russia ... that is not built into the construction of global American leadership." The United States will also work to undermine "Russia's energy sovereignty," and simultaneously push for Georgia to be accepted into NATO.
The whole document is filled with a spirit of confrontation, a paranoid search for enemies and all sorts of U.S. conspiracies. Yet in a strange way the doctrine is rather convenient, because anyone who criticizes Russian political practice can now safely be written off as an agent of U.S. influence.
Consider the war on corruption, for example. This will also become a U.S. conspiracy because, as we have already seen, the Americans are committed to the "international legal isolation of Russia's top leadership" and will attempt to create a "tense atmosphere around the siloviki and key business representatives" and "accumulate court decisions in the West" against top Russian officials. Any anticorruption campaign in the media can simply be explained away as "incitement" by the United States.
And if, during elections in 2007 and 2008, you hear anyone talking about the authorities breaking the rules, you can rest safe in the knowledge that this is also the result of a U.S. conspiracy. The United States is provoking various Russian Kasyanovs so that they, in turn, will provoke the Russian authorities, so that the authorities will persecute them during elections. Brilliant!
Mass protests -- by drivers, cheated investors or disgruntled tenants such as those in the Moscow suburb of Butovo who were stripped of their houses and apartments with insufficient compensation -- also, rest assured, are out on the streets only at U.S. instigation. The United States will also be behind almost all of Russia's spartan opposition. And any media reports about "deceitful propaganda on Russian television," corruption among senior officials, the interests of Gazprom-esque monopolists running counter to the interests of the people, and so on.
An alternative has long been sought for the idology of sovereign democracy, but obviously little progress has been made. We have ended up with something that should long ago have been consigned to the dustbin of history. All that is left is to find out who will hoist this carcass up their flagpole. It surely won't be Falin and Yevstafyev.
Georgy Bovt is editor of Profil.
La Russophobe has already reported on a series of disastrous performances by Russia in international evaluations for competent government and civil society. The Transparancy International think tank, prestigious Foreign Policy magazine and the World Bank itself have all condemned the Kremlin for destroying democracy and the market economy inside Russia so as to preserve dictatorship, placing Russia in the same company as the third-world African nation of Niger.
Now the World Economic Forum joins the fray. It places Russia #62 out of 125 nations surveyed in terms of "economic competitiveness"-- well behind Kazakhstan and in the same company as basket cases like El Salvador and Egypt. Russia plummeted from position #53 last year, a decline of nearly 17% in just one year. Former Soviet slave states like Estonia (#25), Latvia (#36) and Lithuania (#40) are leaving Russia in their dust. If you were to remove Russia's oil revenues from this picture, Russia's score would barely register on the WEF scale.
Here's what the WEF had to say about Russia's performance:
The private sector in Russia has serious misgivings about the independence of the judiciary and the administration of justice. Legal redress in Russia is neither expeditious, transparent nor inexpensive, unlike in the world’s most competitive economies. A ranking of only 110 among 125 countries in 2006 suggests that it is time-consuming, unpredictable and a cost burden to enterprises. Partly because of this, the property rights regime is extremely poor and worsening. Russia’s ranking in this indicator during the last two years has suffered a precipitous decline, from 88 in 2004 to 114 in 2006, among the worst in the world.That's right, Russia's respect for property rights is "among the worst in the world." As Russia has gotten less poor, its respect for wealth has diminished. And these are GOOD economic times. Can you imagine how the Kremlin will deal with property rights, and other legal rights, once it's been squeezed for a while by the falling price of oil?
Scary, isn't it?
Time and again, what we see from outside appraisals of the Kremlin, from respected and diverse expert panels, is the indication of abject failure, fundamental corruption destroying even a semblance of morality, a descent back in to the darkness of totalitiarian dictatorship.
La Russophobe is put to mind of the character played by Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption. Released from prison, all he can think about is how difficult life is on the outside and what he might do to get himself arrested and put back into his comfortable prison home. Maybe, quite simply, Russians don't want to be free, don't want to shrug off the hardships of dictatorship, and don't care who they hurt in the process. How else can one explain continuing to favor "President" Putin with 70%+ approval ratings when study after study shows the disastrous consequences of his rule?
Yesterday, the RTSE index of the Russian stock market gained 2.17%, clawing back some of the horrifying 15% loss the index has sustained over the past month as oil prices have begun to recede. The total value of all shares traded on the exchange was $504,972,015.
Meanwhile, the DJIA index of the New York Stock Exchange (just one of several in America. to be listed on the NYSE a company must have at least $2.5 million in earnings and at least 1 million shares) gained 0.81%, soaring to the second-best closing value in its history. Nearly three billion shares of stock were traded. Even if each share was only worth a dollar, six times more value moved on this single American exchange than in all of Russia. If the average share price was $10, then sixty times more value moved on the NYSE than in all of Russia. If we assume the average share price was $50, then three hundred times more value moved on the NYSE alone than in all of Russia, despite the high price of oil which greatly benefits the Russian exchange while undermining that of the United States. In other words, the Russian stock market, with all its recent growth attributable to oil prices, is still microscopically small compared to that of America.
As the price of oil drops, the American market surges and the Russian market slumps. Once again, we see the direct interest Russia has to inflate the price of crude oil by doing whatever it can to foment turmoil in the Middle East. This is an issue to which Americans need to begin paying increasingly close attention.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Writing in the Moscow Times, Alexander Golts informs us that Neo-Soviet Russia is about to officially begin the Cold War, underway for some time now, by issuing a policy statement from its military junta that the United States is Russia's enemy.
Something strange is afoot this year in the Defense Ministry. Every other month or so there information is leaked about a group of high-ranking officers in the General Staff that is wrapping up work on a new military doctrine, which it will soon unveil to the country's military and political leadership. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov routinely denies the rumors, insisting that he knows nothing about a new doctrine.
It would be unfair to accuse Ivanov of knowing everything that goes on in his ministry. He recently told President Vladimir Putin that the navy's attack submarines carried nuclear weapons. If this were true, it would mean that Russia had decided to ignore the obligation it assumed in the early 1990s to place all tactical nuclear weapons in storage facilities.
In the case of the new military doctrine, Ivanov had to show some interest. Putin used his state-of-the-nation address this year to talk about necessary changes in the military doctrine to bring it up to date. There have also been reports that Ivanov will present the doctrine at a Cabinet meeting in the near future. Yet it seems increasingly clear that the Defense Ministry is not making any real progress on the doctrine.
The leaks have not simply been dreamt up by enterprising reporters, however. The people writing on this issue have obviously seen some sort of document, which they have quoted extensively. It is highly unlikely that someone in the ministry prepared a fake document just to swindle the press. More likely, the ministry drafted the new doctrine without direct orders from above.
If, as seems likely, we are dealing with an initiative coming from the military leadership, the new military doctrine points to a deterioration in the armed forces that has been going on since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
As the latest attempts to reform the military run out of steam, the top brass are beginning to demand a military doctrine from the Kremlin, arguing that they cannot build up their forces without a document that clearly identifies the country's enemies, its allies, and the sort of war we are supposed to be preparing for. In short, they're looking for the equivalent of the General Secretary's reports to the Soviet Communist Party congresses in the good old days.
The main question, of course, is who should be included in the list of Russia's potential enemies. The journalists who wrote the latest article on the new military doctrine said it singled out the United States and NATO. If the document was drafted without instructions from the Kremlin, this means that the military leadership is pushing the country into a new confrontation.
It's worth remembering that when the current military doctrine was being drawn up in 1999-2000, the General Staff argued that the United States and NATO posed a clear threat to Russian security. At the time, the Kremlin was irritated by the actions of the West in Yugoslavia, but Ivanov, who was then head of the Security Council, had the sense to remove this provocative statement from the final draft.
Now it seems the generals are riding a new wave of anti-Americanism to throw the same old arguments at the Kremlin. And not because they seriously think a military confrontation with the United States and NATO is likely. Their only interest is in preserving the current structure of the armed forces so that they can hold on to their jobs as long as possible.
At issue is the Soviet model of a mass conscription army designed exclusively to counter a global enemy. Since China does not fit the bill, only the United States and NATO are left.
If the Kremlin agrees with the anti-American provisions in the doctrine, the generals will be able to dismiss complaints about the inefficiency of the military. And the result will be an unworkable situation, since Russia's chief potential enemy will be identified as a country with a military budget more than 20 times larger than ours. Criticism could be deflected by citing the lack of funding.
In this situation, leaks to the press are a none-too-subtle way to blackmail the political leadership. If the new doctrine is not approved, the brass will argue that the Kremlin is unwilling to face the truth and to take the country's security seriously. And the Kremlin, where the tone is becoming increasingly anti-American, will find it very difficult to counter such accusations.
Alexander Golts is deputy editor of the online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal.
Bloomberg reports that yet another domino has fallen in the Kremlin's all-out Neo-Soviet nationalization of Russian energy resources:
BP Plc's Russian venture, OAO TNK-BP Holding, may lose its permit to develop the $18 billion Kovykta natural-gas field in Siberia because of license and environmental violations, Russian prosecutors said.
Valery Pak, the head of TNK-BP unit OAO Rusia Petroleum, was summoned to the Prosecutor General's Office and ``officially warned'' his company must fix the problems or face losing its license in the Irkutsk region, according to a statement today posted on the prosecutor's Web site.
"We are developing the project in accordance with the license terms,'' Alexander Shadrin, a spokesman for TNK-BP, said today by phone from Moscow. "This week, we have started construction of the first stretch of a pipeline to supply gas to the local market'' in accordance with the license terms.
TNK-BP, Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Total SA all face demands from Russia to cede some control of oil and gas fields to the state-controlled gas and oil companies, OAO Gazprom and OAO Rosneft. The foreign-led ventures have become anomalies in Russia as President Vladimir Putin increases state control over the energy industry.
Russia has previously threatened to revoke drilling licenses held by Rusia Petroleum for Kovykta, eastern Siberia's largest gas field, unless the venture comes to an agreement with Gazprom on the pace of the field's development.
Gazprom, which controls Russia's gas pipelines, opposed TNK- BP's plans to break its monopoly by supplying fuel directly to China or South Korea from the Kovykta, which holds 2 trillion cubic meters of gas, enough to power Asia for about six years. Gazprom, which produces a majority of Russia's gas, is developing a competing project to supply the fuel to the Irkutsk region.
Russia this month threatened to cancel Shell's permit to finish building pipelines and a plant to liquefy natural gas at the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project.
Rusia Petroleum must supply 9 billion cubic meters of gas to the local market starting from this year, according to the prosecutor's office statement.
The Kovykta project is in limbo because Russia's Natural Resources Ministry hasn't approved amendments TNK-BP submitted that would defer the start of full output to 2009, Anatoly Ledovskikh, the head of Russia's state agency for natural resource use, said May 31.
East Siberian Gas Co., equally owned by the Irkutsk region government and TNK-BP, planned to supply as much as 2.8 billion cubic meters of gas a year staring in 2010, East Siberian said last December.
The Associated Press added: "'I would see this as part of the pressure build on TNK-BP to consider restructuring the project to allow a greater role for one or other state companies,' said Chris Weafer, chief strategist for Alfa-Bank in Moscow. 'That's what we're headed for, these are all projects that were agreed by government before the current approach to strategic industries had been formalized.'"
If you want to gain some appreciation for just how far gone Russia really is, consider that Aljazeera is reporting the assassination of the Imam of a Russian mosque yesterday in the town of Kislovodsk, which Aljazeera reports "like many parts of southern Russia, has a strong Russian nationalist Christian community which eyes with suspicion the growth of a Muslim population arriving from the impoverished Caucasus region."
So Slavic Orthodox Russia (now in the early stages of bringing classes about Orthodoxy to Russian primary schools) has fundamental issues with Muslims, especially the dark-skinned variety. And despite this, Slavic Orthodox Russia is funneling nuclear technology to Iran which could easily be used to develop a bomb that could easily be dropped on Slavic Orthodox Russia.
How self-destructive is it possible to get?
Let's talk about the eXile, the self-proclaimed "alternative" news source for information in English within Russia.
The eXile hates the Moscow Times. In La Russophobe's opinion, whatever faults the Times may have, any single issue from its archives is worth all the eXile issues that ever have been and ever will be published. If the eXile ceased to exist tomorrow, nobody would be the less for it and nobody would care (just the same can be said for the MT's late column by the maniacal Chris Floyd). What's more, the eXile is a profit-making institution, and one of the main ways it seeks to make profit is by helping poor, lonley, pathetic guys like Mr. Ames to hook up with poor impoverished Russian women by featuring advertisements from wedding brokers like this one. In other words, with a certain amount of cynicism (say, the amount Mr. Ames has), you could say Mr. Ames is a pimp.
On the other hand, one must say two things in the eXile's defense. First, it's a quintessentially Russian institution. By that we mean that it's a huge bucket of slop, but every so often if you fish around carefully you can pull out a diamond in the rough. Second, it's being operated at Ground Zero in Russia, and the authors are risking something by publishing some of the things they do. Granted, it's the same kind of risk taken by the morons who film those Jackass movies, not a risk run by courageous patriots out of love for humanity. But after all, risk is risk. For this reason, La Russophobe has a link to the eXile's website. By no means should this link be construed as an endorsement of the site or the publication as a whole, and given what follows there is no way of telling how long she'll be able to justify it.
So, with this in mind, it's time to take the eXile to task. Let's see if they can take it as well as they dish it out (which is rather badly, so it's quite a low standard even the kiddies at eXile should be able to meet).
A new item in the eXile by editor Mark Ames (pictured above) starts like this:
Bush's America has gone from the world's bitch-slappers to the world's bitch-niggaz. That means that even resurgent Russia is causing Americans a serious case of Putin-Envy.Mr. Ames is a wonderfully educated and erudite fellow, isn't he? You can hardly help but credit every word that follows after a brilliant introduction like that. And at the same time he's so cool and hip, isn't he? Isn't it amazing how he can pull off both of them at the same time? It really makes you stop and wonder what sort of vast right-wing conspiracy is at work for such a genius to have been denied a Pulitzer Prize for so long.
Note to Mr. Ames: Not that you care, but I now think of you as maybe a racist mysogenist, and I have no doubt that many others do as well. If you don't mind leaving that out there, so be it. But maybe you'd like to reconsider and correct this impression in the future?
What proof does Mr. Ames offer his readers of America's newfound jealousy of Russia? It's the article from Newsweek magazine previously published by La Russophobe entitled "Why Russia is Really Weak." There's not a shred of truth in it, Mr. Ames says, and the only reason it appeared in Newsweek was that Americans are consumed by a frenzied jealousy of wonderful Russia and that Newsweek is the helpless pawn of the Republican party and the religious right.
Mr. Ames refers to the authors of the Newsweek article thusly: "Rajan Menon and Alexander Motyl -- a pair of academic beigeocrats with appropriate ethnic names." Beigeocrat is the term Mr. Ames uses for someone who doesn't speak in obsenities . A person who punctuates with four-letter-words like Mr. Ames is a Rainbowcrat, I guess. You know, the kind of rainbows you see when you've sniffed just a tad too much glue. A white-skinned person with a name like "Ames" might worry about sounding racist by using a phrase like "appropriate ethnic names" but luckily for Mr. Ames he is in Russia, so his main concern is probably whether he sounds racist enough.
You see, dear reader, it's like this: Mr. Ames isn't ever going to get published in Newsweek magazine. In fact, he isn't ever going to get published anywhere that matters (and even if he were he'd be instantly forgotten), and that's all that matters to him. He fancies himself a "writer" and he's just sure that he's cleverer than everybody else on the face of the earth, so it really burns him up that nobody with an actual circulation (other than Playboy) will publish him and guzzle down his wisdom like Russians guzzle vodka, but to better effect. He's not going to write the great American novel, or the great Russian novel, in fact not even the great Moldovan post card. In the end, after he found it he just couldn't cut it in America, or any decent country for that matter, he ended up in Russia -- where it's easy for him to feel superior to just about everybody, but after a while that just isn't very satisfying when you've got an ego the size of Mongolia. So then it's time to start spitting crazed poison.
Oh, and quite a lot of poison, too. 4,194 words worth of it. The article in Newsweek that he was responding to was well under 700 words (666 to be exact -- clear proof to somebody like Mr. Ames that it was written by the Devil, I guess). So in other words, Mr. Ames needed more than six words to respond to each one of Newsweek's -- and yet he criticizes Newsweek for needing to insert the word "really" in the title. You spend enough time in Russia drinking the water and listening to the television, and this is what is bound to happen to your "brain."
And you tend to gloss over silly little things like facts when you're "writing" in this state. So, for instance, Mr. Ames fails to let his readers know that Dr. Menon is Monroe J. Rathbone Professor of International relations at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He has a PhD from the University of Illinois and a resume of publications as long as your arm (click through on his name for his resume). And likewise he fails to tell his readers (if such there be) that Dr. Motyl holds a PhD from Columbia University and is Professor of Political Science, and Deputy Director of the Division of Global Affairs, and co-director of the Central and East European Studies Program at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Of course, while you're not mentioning facts like those, you also don't mention your own educational credentials -- or lack thereof. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Ames "attended the University of California." But it doesn't say he graduated, or what he studied. He then "played in a short-lived punk band" while he "'lived in poverty and spitefulness with a Czech girlfriend in a suburban California nursing home." Impressive stuff, is it not? Especially compared to the good doctors. Certainly more than enough credentials to opine on Russia's economic condition.
Knowing this, you probably wouldn't have to read through all 4,000+ words "written" by Mr. Ames (as if anyone could, or would) in order to confirm there was no need to read even one of them before concluding that the man (well, very little boy) is really quite insane.
In fact, you probably realized as soon as you saw the opening sentence of Mr. Ames' "work" that the only thing he got right in his crazed diatribe was the importance of jealousy. But not whether America was "jealous" of Russia's $300/month incomes, or its 55 year male adult lifespan, or its universal conscription (and horrific military hazing), or its ongoing war in Chechnya, or its declining population, or its pandemic race violence, or its aid to Hamas and Hezbollah. Because, of course, jealousy of those things doesn't exist. Rather, of course, we're speaking of Mr. Ames' puny, pathetic jealousy of Newsweek, and all the significant publications of the world that dared to refuse him their pages for the dissemination of his brilliance.
If you read Mr. Ames, here's a few of the "facts" you'll learn:
La Russophobe is informed that David Johnson edited Mr. Ames' piece to remove all the outrageous, childish profanity ("so it can get through spam filters"), while leaving in of course the racist-sounding statement about the professors' names, and then ran it in Johnson's Russia List (the entire boldfaced lead-in appearing at the top of this page was deleted). Sadly, La Russophobe isn't even a little bit surprised. Good old Dave apparently has plenty of time to run any defense of the Putin autocracy he can find (he's got plenty of payback obligations after all the octopus he devoured at Valdai), and meanwhile no time at all to put any coverage of racism in Russia on his website. Hopefully, at least a few readers of the JRL will find time to write Dave and object to the circulation of this pornographic slurry of excrement as part of a so-called serious attempt to "understand" Russia -- and maybe even ask a few questions about how the Valdai Experience has colored the judgment of the JRL, increasingly superfluous in the Internet Age. You know, like how it is that a person who doesn't speak Russian and has never lived in the country manages to edit such a publication. And maybe one or two will even find time to write Mr. Ames and ask how he can possibly allow his "writing" to be published on the JRL by David, one of the world's leading beigeocrats if ever there was one. Not even a little hypocritical? Doesn't Mr. Ames show himself as an Uncle Tomski among the Rainbowcrats?
- Anyone who reads the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post or the New York Times is a moron. Only those who read the eXile have intellligence.
- The fact that the Journal, the Post, the Times and Newsweek, to say nothing of not one but two PhDs, agree with each other and disagree with Mr. Ames proves how smart Mr. Ames is.
- Russia won the war in Chechnya.
- It's just fine to refer to America as "a nation of Bible-thumping, pious militarists" but if you refer to Russia as "weak" this means "it's okay to hate Russia and to despise it for being weak, because that's all the bastards deserve" (isn't it wonderful how Mr. Ames leads by example?).
- The Newsweek article by two PhDs is "pathetic" and guilty of "schoolyard-taunting" by including the word "really" in the title but Mr. Ames' article, full of devastating insights like "Fuck no, bitch!" is a work of mature genius.
On the other hand, if Ames is the best (or any) criticism of Drs. Menon & Motyl, they're surely due for a Nobel Prize. And if he's the best friend Russia's got, the poor country is even more doomed than La Russophobe dared to imagine. Maybe that was the point the JRL was trying to make by publishing this drivel. As if.
So now you, dear reader have a choice. You've got a lump of cash in your pocket, and you have to bet it. You can bet on the version of the world etched by Drs. Menon & Motyl (and by La Russophobe every day of the week), or you can bet on the finger painting by Comrade Ames. Think of it like this: You're going to be transported 100 years into the future and dropped into either Russia or the United States, to take up a position in society chosen purely at random, and live in that position for the rest of your life. Which country will you choose?
It's up to you.
In closing, it should be pointed out that La Russophobe has not shied away from making tough criticism of academic analysis of Russia, and it's certainly worthwhile to at least consider the views of someone who is at Ground Zero in Russia, so La Russophobe would be the last one to judge the eXile too harshly. Still, when La Russophobe looks back on her recent criticism of Dr. Stuart Malawer of George Mason University, she feels there is a marked contrast with the eXile's screed. First, Malawer is at least as much of a "beigeocrat" as Menon and Motyl -- yet for some reason the eXile has no problem with Malawer's pro-Russian beigeocracy. Second, La Russophobe didn't need to rely on the cheap, shoddy obscenity that permeates the eXile piece. Third, La Russophobe's analysis is no longer than that of Dr. Malawer. Fourth, her analysis is permeated with hyperlinks to source material contradicting Dr. Malawer. The eXile offers readers virtually no information of this kind, just the wild-eyed views of its author. Fifth, there is nothing in La Russophobe's analysis that disparages higher learning, for which La Russophobe has nothing but the highest respect. The eXile seems to feel that anyone who actually reads books and does research should be shipped of to a gulag.
Still, though, the eXile's tirade is so pathetic, so devoid of meaningful content and so self-indulgently puerile that it actually gives La Russophobe pause. It can't be denied that the eXile's tone was vaguely present in the Malawer piece, and the association is embarrassing. Even though La Russophobe had every right to be outraged at the gross misrepresentations contained in the Malawer piece and to express that outrage, and even though she showed remarkable restraint compared to the eXile's example, maybe she went a bit too far with the tone and not quite far enough in acknowledging Malawer's credentials. She will bear this in mind for future reference. She will not become an eXile. And if the eXile itself can't get a grip, she'll have no choice but to delist them. So it just goes to show that you can learn something even from an idiot.
Shame on you, boys. Get a grip!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
While the maniacal dictators of Venezula and Iran, Russia's allies, were attacking the United States at the U.N. last week, America's new ally Georgia was returning fire against Russia. Kommersant reports on Russia's total foreign policy failure in Georgia, driving the country right into the welcoming arms of NATO:
Saakashvili made his eyebrow-raising appearance at the Friday session of the UN General Assembly in New York. During his 20-minute expose of Russia's destructive role in the restoration of Georgian territorial integrity, he demanded that Moscow withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia immediately, since “their mission has nothing to do with maintaining peace.” Then the Georgian president criticized Kremlin policy toward Georgia. “Those regions,” he said, referring again to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, were annexed by our neighbor to the north, Russia, which supports their inclusion as part of it, intentionally mass issuance of Russian passports in violation of international law… The residents of the disputed regions live under the bandit occupation of Russia. I doubt that there is anyone in this auditorium who would tolerate that type of interference on their territory.”
Saakashvili's strong words were unprecedented. Russia had never been accused of “annexation” before, much less from the floor of the UN. Previously, Tbilisi had criticized Moscow through Georgian Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvili and the fact that such serious accusations are now coming from the head of state is an indication that Georgian-Russian relations have reached a new level of hostility. According to information obtained by Kommersant, the U.S. administration asked Saakashvili to tone down his statements. Nonetheless, such phrases as “bandit occupation” and “accomplices of the Russian peacekeepers” remained.
The Georgian president's boldness is obviously a byproduct of Tbilisi's recent diplomatic victory. Before Saakashvili's UN appearance the top foreign officials of the 28 member states of NATO decided to integrate Georgia more closely into their ranks and approved the transition to a phase of “intensive dialog” with the country.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel coined the term “intensive dialog.” The phase implies closer integration into NATO and is essentially the penultimate step toward membership in the alliance. The Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary were the first country to complete the intensive dialog phase successfully and the phase has been a mandatory step for all entrants since 1997. Thus Georgia, which has always made its desire for membership clearly known, has received the signal that its wish may become reality. Georgia is the first, and so far only, CIS country that can boast of this close relationship with NATO. NATO's step is exceptional also because one of the conditions for accession to the organization is the lack of conflicts on the territory of the candidate state. Georgia has two conflict zones, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and armed conflicts breaks out in them from time to time. It seems Brussels has decided to close its eyes to that detail.
Georgian authorities are unabashedly happy and they are certain that nothing will interfere with their speedy progress in NATO. “We are close to NATO membership,” Saakashvili said yesterday as he congratulated Georgian judoists on their victory over their Russian opponents in a world championship finals match in Paris. “The Russian judo team has created certain problems for the Georgian sportsmen, just as Russia is creating problems for Georgia on its way to NATO. But Georgia is already in the semifinal in that question, and nothing will stop it from going to the final.”
Diligent watchers of Russia may recall that some time ago the Kremlin made noise with the claim that Russia's GDP would double in 10 years. Now that this goals has proved, to put it mildly, elusive, the Kremlin has changed its approach, as is evinced from the following report by the Moscow News (pay close attention for the classic Neo-Soviet sleight of hand):
Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Sunday, Sept. 24, that in his opinion it is possible that Russian economy would be equal in strength to the financial systems of the United States of Germany. In an interview with Russia’s Channel One, Kudrin said: “We want to create a system that would be equal in strength to the economies and financial systems of the United States or Germany. I have to say that this distance can be covered in ten years in the country conducts a very skilled financial policy.” Kudrin stressed that over six years — from 2000 to 2006 — Russia has gone up eight levels in the rating system of the world’s largest ratings agency. It started out with one of the lowest ratings, which correspond to financial crisis, and worked its way up to investment-grade rating. The minister noted that it still has seven steps to go to the highest rating, which is held by the United States, France and Germany. To reach this rating is an ambitious task, but one that Russia can surely fulfill, Kudrin said. The Russian minister also stressed that a new default would be impossible in Russia. “There will be no default under any conditions,” Kudrin said. He pointed out that the country has a “serious protection from all kinds of defaults” - the Stabilization Fund, which collects windfall oil revenues. Earlier on Friday, the minister explained that Stabilization Fund will be divided into reserve part, which is going to amount to 7-10 percent of the GDP, and the fund of future generations, which will accumulate all the money above of this sum. “Today we already have a fund with a size of 6.4 percent of the GDP,” Kudrin said on Sunday. He explained that soon the 7 percent of the GDP level will be exceeded and the fund of future generations will be spun off from the Stabilization Fund. “We will put the money in securities that have proved their reliability,” the minister noted.Did you see it? Smooth, huh? So now we're no longer talking about actual economic growth, we're only talking about Russia's credit rating matching that of the West. In this way, the United States and Germany can be neatly lumped together as a single target for Russia to aim at, even though the economy of the United States is fives times larger than that of Germany.
And what, pray tell, does the government of Russia want to do with a really high credit rating (assuming it can get one -- remember, Kudrin is the man who swore Russia's admission to the WTO was a done deal at the St. Petersburg G-8 meeting, so nothing he says is, excuse the pun, creditworthy)? How will such a credit rating help it to pump oil out of the ground (it clearly has no intention of developing a consumer economy since that would empower a class of entrpreneurs, and it just got finished sending their key figurehead to Siberia)? This remains unclear.
But in any case, it's Russia's plan to have the same credit rating as the United States and Germany some time over the course of the next ten years, while its people continue to wallow in abject poverty and literally become extinct.
Quite some plan, isn't it? La Russophobe dares to wonder what's next, when that too proves beyond Russia's grasp. Maybe Russia will then move on to exceeding Germany and the United States (put together) in consumption of alcohol. But with Russia's recent disastrous failure in trying to impose new alcohol regulations in mind, that too may be a pipe dream.
Investors in the Russian stock market are being battered by tens of millions of dollars in losses.
Last Friday, the RTS Index of the Russian Stock Market fell 2%. In yesterday's trading, the RTS lost nearly 3.5% of its value, plunging from above 1500 at the start of the day's trading to 1450 by its close, as the graph below illustrates:
At the end of August, the RTS Index crested just above 1650, meaning that it has shed 250 points in one month -- over 15% of its total value -- as shown below:
The Moscow Times reported that "investment funds focused on Russia and the CIS lost $11 million in the week ending Wednesday and $18.5 million in the week ending Sept. 13, according to figures from Emerging Portfolio Fund Research."
These losses are coming as the price of oil falls, something Americans are now seeing at the gas pump. As La Russophobe has said before, Russia now has a vested fundamental interest in keeping the price of oil high, meaning that it has a strong incentive to inflate the price of oil by causing turmoil in the Middle East. Thus, it's support for terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as for rogue regimes like Iran and Syria, is not suprising. New policies to deal with this worsening horror are needed.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Last night yet another dark-skinned foreign student fell victim to race violence in St. Petersburg, supposedly Russia's most enlightened, Western-leaning city. The International Herald Tribune reports:
A group of attackers stabbed an Indian medical student to death in St. Petersburg, the city prosecutor's office said Monday. The sixth-year student from the St. Petersburg Mechnikov Medical Academy died Sunday night after he was stabbed seven times in the chest, said Yelena Ordynskaya, spokeswoman for the prosecutor. Nassor Ali, spokesman for the African Unity group, which represents foreign students in the city, said that Nitesh Kumar Singh had been attacked near the dormitory where he lived. "We are afraid the murder was committed on the grounds of national hatred. There have been similar attacks near that dormitory before, but never with such tragic consequences," Ali said, adding that Singh had been alone. At least six foreigners have been targeted in racially motivated slayings in St. Petersburg over the past year, Ali said. "Our organization wants to protest this situation, when national minorities suffer such attacks," he said. Ordynskaya said prosecutors had opened a murder investigation but had not yet determined possible motives. Russia has seen a marked rise in hate crimes in recent years, which rights groups say is fueled in part by the authorities' reluctance to crack down on hate crimes and tackle growing nationalism. Prosecutions are rare, with many hate crimes treated as hooliganism, an offense that brings only short sentences. Last year alone, 31 murders and 382 assaults were race-connected, according to the Moscow-based Sova human rights center.What do Russians think about violence of this kind? Here's what a Russian recently had to say about the issue of race violence in Russia:
"Racism and xenophobia are natural residents of the human psyche. (Xenophobia is even necessary, as is the immune system.)"
Who said this? Was it a crazed Russian skinhead? No, it was Alexei of The Russian Dilettante.
Yes, that's right, even supposedly "enlightened" Russians believe that everyone in the world is biologically programmed to be racist, it's perfectly normal. As Alexei puts it: "Blaming ethnic violence on 'latent racism' is like blaming a famine riot on the human need to eat every day." In other words, people need to hate based on race just like they need to eat. Hard to get your mind around a whole country thinking like that, isn't it? But that's what we're faced with.
The Rogers & Hammerstein musical "South Pacific" contains the famous song "You Have to Be Carefully Taught" which runs as follows:
But "South Pacific" never had a run in Russia, and Russia doesn't have songs like that. Instead, Russians are just carefully taught, just like poor Alexei, from year to year that racism is normal and unavoidable. So the "solution" Alexei proposes is: "To prevent violence, society should at least be able to openly discuss [their] grievances [against the racial minorities]." That's right, deluded little Alexei thinks that Russian race violence is the result of repressed Slavic majority members being unable to fully and publicly vent their view that dark-skinned people are biologically inferior and yet conspiring to steal food out of the mouths of their helpless Slavic victims.
You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught.
In other words, it has nothing to do with the fact that those Slavs aren't being forced to face the reality of, and take responsibility for, their own failiure. The Slavs are the true victims in Russian race violence, not the dark-skinned people. The root cause of the problem is that the dark-skinned people don't understand THEM, not that they have freely elected a proud KGB spy to rule over them.
And it has nothing to do with the fact that Russians live in a world of total isolation, deprived of real information about how other kinds of people think about things, infused with crazed propaganda from the totalitarians state they have enabled (and even voted for), to the point where they think everyone in the world thinks just like a Slavic Russian. Alexei and those like him really believe they're part of the solution, not part of the problem.
It's not enough for Russia to sell Iran nuclear technology. Now Russia is selling a missile defense system to be used in shooting down Israeli or American bombers if they try to take out an Iranian facility that is discovered to be producing nuclear weapons. The Moscow News reports:
Russia, pledging to complete the Bushehr reactor, has offered to sell a range of surface-to-air missile systems to protect Iran’s nuclear facilities, the Middle East Newsline reports.Russian diplomatic and industry sources said Moscow has been negotiating to sell Iran a range of anti-aircraft systems to protect Bushehr from Israeli or U.S. air strikes. The sources said contracts could be signed when Bushehr was ready to begin operations in a move expected to take place in late 2007.“Russia has already installed and manned SAM systems around Bushehr,” a diplomatic source said. “The current talks regard an air defense umbrella that would protect all strategic sites in Iran.”In November 2005, Russia reached agreement for the sale of 29 TOR-M1 short-range anti-aircraft systems to Iran in a deal valued at more than $700 million. The sources said Iran has also sought the strategic S-300PMU SAM system, capable of detecting and intercepting enemy aircraft at a distance of 300 and 150 kilometers, respectively.
At the same time, Russia is blocking international action to prevent Iran from using Russian nuclear technology to acquire atomic weapons. This brazen display of Cold War intentions, including nuclear brinksmanship, clearly demonstrates how far detached from reality, and therefore how dangerous, the Kremlin has become.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
To protest Vladimir Putin's actions in arresting and prosecuting a blogger who dared to satirize him as Russia's "Phallic Symbol," La Russophobe has cancelled the "Sunday Funnies" feature for today. The blogger, Vladimir Rakhmankov, publisher of Kursiv, is one of Neo-Soviet Russia's first true dissidents and a symbol both of tremendous courage and the depths to which Neo-Soviet Russia has sunk.
Vladimir Putin looks like a penis!
If La Russophobe were publishing from Russia, she'd be in jail now for writing that. Think about it. What kind of country is Russia?
Where is the public outrage over this case? Who's next? The blogger's wife and childeren?
And let's not forget that this blogger is getting off easy so far. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that 12 reporters have been murdered in contract hits since Putin took power and not a single killer has been brought to justice.
If La Russophobe were in Russia she could be dead now.
If you want to feel cold chills run up your spine, try to Google up the text of Rakhmankov's story about Putin in English. It should be child's play. La Russophobe still hasn't managed it. Can anyone help? How much do we really care about democracy and freedom of speech?
Here's an excerpt for the time being: ". . . even beasts in Russian zoos responded to his call to breed immediately. Putin looks like the country's phallic symbol, in all senses. So why not secure the symbolism officially.... We can now start producing new souvenirs with the president's head as a penis head." If you can be put in prison for saying this, nobody is safe. Welcome to the Neo-Soviet Union.
You can send e-mail letters of support to Mr. Rakhmankov at email@example.com
You can send an e-mail to "President" Penis to protest his actions against Mr. Rakhmankov by clicking here.
There's actually even more malevolence here than meets the eye. As the eXile reported, in a prior post Rakhmakov had written about "an aging, privatized water heating plant in Ivanovo that was staying afloat only due to payoffs at the highest levels of Ivanovo's bureaucratic circles." He wrote "that the heating plant artificially inflated local heating costs and accused the former governor of Ivanovo region, Vladimer Tikhonov, of getting 70 million rubles in annual payoffs. Four days after he wrote the article, he got called in for an official meeting by Parnov, the region's press secretary, to discuss 'possible future cooperation.'" He was then assaulted by a gang of goons; so the local officials were just waiting for a chance to lock him up, and killed two birds with one stone when he wrote about Putin. The eXile issued a satirical editorial in support of Rakhamkov in which it wrote about future articles such as "Putin Is A Balding Gaylord, Putin's Petite Penis Plays On, and German Gref Shocker: My Goatee Is Molded From A Cleveland Steamer Putin Laid On My Face. And this is just the tip of the iceberg." Are the eXile's editors next on Putin's hit list? Or are they too obscure and English-speaking for him to bother with until all the Russians are rounded up?
Interestingly, Mr. Rakhmankov penned an article in 2004 which caused an uproar over its alleged anti-Semetic content. But this resulted in no criminal charges. Apparently, the Kremlin has no objections to anti-Semitism, only to anti-Putinism.
On September 23rd the BBC reported that Toomas Hendrik Ilves had been elected President of Estonia. Not only doesn't Ilves speak a word of Russian, he's a former American citizen with a degree from Columbia University in New York City who gave up his citizenship to return home when Estonia obtained its independence in the mid-1990s. In other words, he's a real nightmare for Russia, a clear expression of the Estonian people's remembrance of the barbaric imperialism of Russia during the Soviet era and firm committment not to return that that time if they can help it. Already a member of the EU, Estonia will now move even more rapidly away from Russia's sphere of influence. In November, neighboring Latvia will host the NATO summit.
Once again, we see crazed Russian policy alienating the entire world, most especially its former Soviet peers.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
The Associated Press reports that Neo-Soviet paranoia has begun to blaze in full horrifying glory (the sad thing is, if this report were true it would be the best possible news for Russia; but the hope that the West will actually be wise enough to pursue such a policy is faint indeed).
Russian Experts:US To Work For Quiet Revolution In Russia
MOSCOW (AP)--Russian experts have warned legislators that the U.S. could sponsor efforts to undermine the Kremlin and help bring pro-Western forces to power in Russia, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Valentin Falin, a former top Soviet Communist Party official, and retired Lt.- Gen. Gennady Yevstafyev, a former top intelligence official, wrote in a confidential policy paper that the U.S. was likely to launch a series of moves over the next two years to weaken President Vladimir Putin's government, the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported.
Russia is due to hold parliamentary elections in late 2007 and the presidential ballot in spring 2008.
The paper said that the U.S. could encourage corruption allegations against top Russian officials and businessmen, try to freeze some Russian assets in the West by court rulings, refuse to recognize election results, increase support for the independent media and opposition and even encourage regional separatism.
The Interfax news agency said the paper was circulated in both houses of the Russian parliament.
Falin and Yevstafyev said that the U.S. hopes to encourage "a covert regrouping of forces within the top echelons of the Russian leadership as well political and business elites that would pave the way for a 'quiet' Orange Revolution, Russian style," Nezavisimaya Gazeta said.
Russia has accused the U.S. and other Western nations of sponsoring the 2004 Orange Revolution mass protests against election fraud in Ukraine that helped Western-leaning Viktor Yushchenko defeat a Moscow-backed rival. Similar mass protests also helped oust unpopular governments in two other ex-Soviet nations, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.
Pro-Kremlin analysts have repeatedly accused the U.S. of harboring plans to encourage a similar regime change in Russia.
Falin and Yevstafyev both have kept a relatively low profile and have never been considered close to the Kremlin.
Yevstafyev, a former head of department at Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, is an expert on nonproliferation of mass destruction weapons and currently works as a consultant for the Moscow-based independent think-tank PIR- Center.
Falin, 80, served as the Soviet ambassador to Germany in the 1970s and later held senior positions in the Soviet Communist Party leadership.
The Interfax news agency quoted the paper as saying that the U.S. policy was rooted in "the United States' refusal to put up with Russia's growing role on world markets as a sovereign center of force."
The allegations come amid a growing chill in Russian-U.S. relations caused by differences over global crises and U.S. concerns about the Kremlin's backtracking on democracy at home and strong-arming post-Soviet neighbors.
While Putin emphasizes that Russia wants to remain a partner of the U.S. in what Washington calls the global war on terror, he has rejected Western criticism of Kremlin's policies and vowed to strengthen Russia's military might.
The Moscow News reports that the editor of the Russian blog Kursiv (pictured) is now on trial for criminal charges as the result of writing an article referring to President Putin as his nation's Phallic Symbol. The Committee to Protect Journalists has protested the outrage. If La Russophobe were in Russia, apparently she'd be under arrest now too -- and who knows who else. Welcome to the Neo-Soviet Union!
The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by the prosecution for criminal insult of a Russian journalist who satirized President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to boost the birth rate, the group said in a statement published on its official website.
Vladimir Rakhmankov, editor-in-chief of the independent news Web site Kursiv, went on trial today in the city of Ivanovo, northeast of Moscow, charged with insulting the president in a May article titled “Putin as Russia’s phallic symbol.” The article satirized Putin’s goal, outlined in the president’s state of the nation address in May, of increasing Russia’s population.
If convicted under Article 319 of Russia’s criminal code, “Insulting a Public Official,” Rakhmankov could face up to 12 months of corrective labor. Local prosecutors brought the case without the involvement of Putin or presidential representatives, according to local press reports.
“It is outrageous that local prosecutors should bring the full force of the criminal law to bear on a journalist for writing a commentary on the public policy of an elected politician,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Prosecutors should never resort to the criminal law to shield public figures from the press. Satire is an essential and vital element of democratic discourse. We call on the authorities to halt the prosecution of Vladimir Rakhmankov immediately.”
On May 19, investigators from the Ivanovo regional prosecutor’s office raided Kursiv’s newsroom, seized computers, and searched Rakhmankov’s apartment, confiscating his personal computer. Kursiv was forced to change Internet providers after its previous provider halted service following the Putin article.
The criminal insult charge follows the publication of several articles critical of the local governor, Mikhail Men, on the Kursiv site. On March 15, Rakhmankov went to meet with the governor’s press secretary, Andrei Parnov. When he arrived, an unidentified man walked out of Parnov’s office and hit Rakhmankov several times, according to the Moscow-based press freedom group Glasnost Defense Foundation. On March 17, Rakhmankov filed a complaint with local prosecutors but they refused to take up the case, the news Web site Lenta reported.
Jeremy Putley provides the following additional information on the Bakhmina story:
President George W Bush was told in person about the case of Svetlana Bakhmina when he met with “embattled activists” in St Petersburg last July. Irina Yasina, head of the NGO Open Russia, “appealed to Bush to raise with Putin the case of Svetlana Bakhmina, 36, a former attorney at Khodorkovsky’s oil company…. Yasina called the allegations bogus.” This quote is from the Washington Post. “Bush said later that he promised the activists he would convey their concerns to Putin”, whom he called his friend. It appears that, whatever President Bush told Putin, it was not sufficient to reverse or in any way mitigate this vicious and brutal miscarriage of justice.
Because it was and remains a miscarriage of justice. The embezzlement of which Svetlana was accused did not really happen, according to a Kommersant-Vlast article. “Svetlana Bakhmina was a mid-level manager: deputy head of the legal affairs department at YUKOS. Why has she been sentenced to seven years? The court gave her two years on a charge of large-scale tax evasion, but the main charge, which increased the sentence to seven years, was conspiracy to commit major fraud in relation to the property of the Tomskneft oil company. Bakhmina was also charged with coming up with the scheme for transferring Tomskneft assets abroad. Yet the "victim" in this case – Tomskneft - hasn't filed any complaints; on the contrary, it says that all its assets are safe and well.” The victim of the alleged embezzlement says it has no loss and no complaint against Svetlana. Here is the article in full.
April 24, 2006
A VICIOUS SENTENCE
The YUKOS affair isn't over yet
Author: Mikhail Fishman
[Svetlana Bakhmina, formerly a YUKOS corporate lawyer, has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Many are surprised by the severe sentence, especially since Bakhmina has two young children. But this sentence is an object lesson: it's intended to demonstrate that the YUKOS case isn't closed.]
Like other arrested YUKOS personnel, Svetlana Bakhmina has received a harsh sentence, making her ineligible for any amnesty: seven years in prison. As in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, the court sided with the prosecution completely, ignoring all the arguments of the defense, and showing showed some token independence and humanity by disagreeing slightly with the prosecution on the severity of the sentence. Thus, it only confirmed that the prosecutor plays the leading role in Russian justice today.
Svetlana Bakhmina was a mid-level manager: deputy head of the legal affairs department at YUKOS. Why has she been sentenced to seven years? The court gave her two years on a charge of large-scale tax evasion, but the main charge, which increased the sentence to seven years, was conspiracy to commit major fraud in relation to the property of the Tomskneft oil company. Bakhmina was also charged with coming up with the scheme for transferring Tomskneft assets abroad. Yet the "victim" in this case – Tomskneft - hasn't filed any complaints; on the contrary, it says that all its assets are safe and well.
This concerns the assets of Tomskneft-VNK, taken over by YUKOS. The management of VNK resisted the takeover; it used a technique that was widespread in the late 1990s - making up a fictitious debt for the company, so that VNK appeared to owe somebody $440 million. All the same, YUKOS succeeded in acquiring the controlling interest. It refused to pay the fictitious debt, and transferred the assets of VNK enterprises to offshore zones. When the state, a minority shareholder in VNK, called on YUKOS to account for the transfer, YUKOS explained that it was a safeguard against attacks on the company by the fictitious creditors. All the enterprises in question were returned to VNK ownership almost a year before the auction at which YUKOS bought out the state's remaining stake in the company - at a fair market price, as the state later acknowledged.
Obviously, YUKOS was an aggressive player - but regardless of its intentions, no assets were stolen. Nevertheless, Tomskneft (contrary to its wishes and to common sense) has been declared a victim, the temporary transfer of assets has been defined as theft, and the lawyer who carried out the orders of the company's real owners has been identified as the mastermind of the operation. And everyone understands that Svetlana Bakhmina, an ordinary manager from Moscow , is going to jail not because she's a thief, but because she worked for YUKOS, and because things happened to turn out this way - she's simply been unlucky. Yes indeed, just unlucky, since no one has any doubts that the target of Vladimir Putin's political campaign against YUKOS was the oligarch Khodorkovsky, not rank-and-file YUKOS personnel.
If Bakhmina had been sentenced to no more than the time she has already spent in pre-trial detention, or given a suspended sentence of a few years, public opinion would surely have responded with relief - insofar as it cares about Bakhmina at all. This would have been perceived as the state being merciful. After all, people feel sympathy for Bakhmina; not everyone, but many do. A year ago, when Bakhmina had already been arrested, even some members of United Russia's right wing expressed the opinion that the authorities should stop going after rank-and-file YUKOS personnel. Neither was there any particular practical sense in convicting and jailing Bakhmina.
But the state remained adamant, and everyone understands that Bakhmina's sentence is politically motivated. It's an object lesson, precisely due to its excessive severity - intended to show that justice is unconditional, taking no notice of titles or merit. The sentence seems to assert that the YUKOS case is nothing personal, and that Khodorkovsky, with his billions, is neither a victim nor a target, but a participant in an extensive crime ring. He has been sent to prison. So has his partner, Lebedev. Alexei Kurtsin, a petty clerk at YUKOS, was given 14 years for money- laundering, even though the prosecution actually asked for a lighter sentence (an unprecedented event).
But this isn't just a matter of the state sending the message that everyone is equal before the law. These show trials aren't about legality at all. They're about public morale. Any leniency with regard to Svetlana Bakhmina would have been revealing too, of course. It would have been a signal that the YUKOS page has been turned; that's enough, we're through with all that, let's return to a peaceful existence. Not generalized words from meetings and addresses to parliament, but a specific gesture that would have made people breathe a surprised sigh of relief: believe it or not, Bakhmina is free!
But the state has chosen to send a different message. For the repressive justice mindset which has been victorious in the YUKOS affair, there is no such thing as a minor, forgivable crime. There are only crimes that haven't been investigated yet.