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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year in Russia Means Out with the New, in with the Old

The Russian foreign ministry has spoken out in opposition to the Iraqi government's liquidation of crazed dictator Saddam Hussein. RIA Novosti reports:

The execution of the former Iraqi president has led to escalation of violence in the mid-East country, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday. Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging early Saturday. He was sentenced to death November 5 for the 1982 reprisal slayings of 148 Shiite Muslims from a town where assassins allegedly tried to kill the former Iraqi leader. "Instead of so much needed national reconciliation and concord, the Iraqi people are facing a new wave of fratricide and numerous casualties," Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement. The Russian diplomat said this fact should be recognized "by all those who have sent troops to Iraq and whose 'coalition liberation mission' resulted in an execution of the former notorious dictator." Kamynin said that these [coalition] forces are responsible for the current crisis and bloodshed in Iraq. "A hasty and cruel execution, which its external supporters were not ashamed to broadcast to the whole world, will certainly widen the split in the Iraqi society," he said.

Interestingly, one news outlet (in India) has translated Kamynin's remarks differently: Instead of the "resulted in the execution" it stated "resulted in the murder." Whether the translation is accurate or not, it does seem to reflect the general attitude in Moscow. Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky certainly took the latter view, organizing a protest of the killing at the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow. A Duma leader merely referred to the killing as "illogical" since he predicted it would lead to an increase of tensions rather than a decrease. No such views were expressed by Russians, of course, when Shamil Basayev met his end in Chechnya.

Russian opposition to the demise of Hussein, one of the world's most brutal and genocidal dictators, shows the utter absence from Russian foreign policy not merely of morality but of rationality. Blinded by knee-jerk hatred of all things Western just as in Soviet times, Russia simply does not care, just as the USSR did not, whether it utterly alienates itself in the eyes of the world and seems to enjoy barrelling down the road of hypocrisy and failure that can only lead to its destruction. As if to confirm this, Russia also announced that, no matter what the world thinks, it is going to make friends with North Korea:

Russia is determined to strengthen its ties with North Korea despite the reclusive Asian dictatorship's illegal nuclear program.

"Our goal is to develop and deepen these (Russian-North Korean) relations, despite the current situation," Valery Sukhinin, Russia's newly appointed ambassador to North Korea, said Friday according to a report carried by the RIA Novosti news agency.

RIA Novosti described Sukhinin as an expert on North Korea who had already spent 17 years there, including time studying at Pyongyang University.

According to the agency, Sukhinin said Russia and North Korea had historically been friends. He said "the resolution of the Korean Peninsula's nuclear crisis remains a common task for all participants of the six-party talks, which comprise Russia, China, Japan, the two Koreas and the United States."

In September 2005, North Korea agreed to scrap its nuclear program in return for international aid and security guarantees. However, it has continued to develop ballistic missiles and in October carried out its first underground nuclear test.

"We believe that this problem should be resolved on the basis of the September 2005 joint statement, and we are focusing our efforts in that direction," Sukhinin said.

RIA Novosti said Sukhinin intends to start his tour as ambassador in January.

Sukhinin believes that economic relations between Russia and North Korea should be improved once North Korea pays back to Russia the $8 billion debt it borrowed from the former Soviet Union, the Russian news agency said.


ChinaLawBlog said...

Can we take comfort in the fact that NK is utterly incapable of paying back that $8 billion?

La Russophobe said...

It's a very astute question. On the one hand, we can be comforted that in the mid term Russia's actions are self-destructive and confirmation that the country is once again on the path to catastrophe and failure.

On the other, the short and long term scenarios are not very rosy. Russia's assistance will only serve to further embolden NK's dictator, and if Russia is willing to transfer nuclear technology to Iran then perhaps NK will also receive some largesse (of course, Russia's doing so belies its alleged economic boom, since if it were really booming it wouldn't need revenues from such illicit sources). So in the short term it makes NK more dangerous. And in the long term, after Russia's inevitable collapse we will face a crisis of poverty that will make Africa look like a 4-H project.