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Friday, October 05, 2007

The WSJ Rips Putin a New One

The Wall Street Journal reports facts that LR has been predicting for more than a year now. We have become conventional wisdom.

Vladimir Putin has announced that he will remain active in Russian politics, probably as prime minister, after his second presidential term expires next year. The sorry news in this is that it surprises no one.

It has now been eight years since the world first learned of Mr. Putin, a KGB man vaulted almost overnight from municipal obscurity into the presidency by an ailing Boris Yeltsin. Mr. Putin made his political mark by initiating a second war against the breakaway province of Chechnya, using the pretext of a series of alleged terrorist bombings in Russia. According to Alexander Litvinenko, the one-time spy who became an opponent of the Putin regime before his murder last year, these bombings were orchestrated by the Russian secret services.

By January 2000, the Chechen capital of Grozny resembled Dresden in 1945. Yet Western leaders did not turn away from Mr. Putin. On the contrary, they feted him as an "flawless democrat" (Gerhard Schröeder) and a man "deeply committed [to the] best interests of his country" (President Bush). He has been helped by the tripling of oil prices, a gift in part of Alan Greenspan's easy money Federal Reserve policy.

The petrorubles have allowed Mr. Putin to service Russia's debts, build up its foreign-currency reserves, pay its miners, soldiers and civil servants, and turn Moscow and St. Petersburg into showcase cities; his job approval rating is near 70%. They have also helped obscure his policy of repression in the Caucasus, his attacks on independent media and domestic human rights organizations, and his appointment of KGB cronies to key positions of power.

More difficult for the world to overlook has been Mr. Putin's meddling in the politics of Russia's neighbors: the oil and gas pipelines turned off in the dead of winter; the effort to steal Ukraine's 2004 election; the 2006 embargo imposed on tiny Georgia; this year's cyberwar against Estonia. The murder a year ago of crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the polonium poisoning of Mr. Litvinenko were notable for the studied indifference they inspired in the Russian government. Mr. Putin eulogized Ms. Politkovskaya with the remark that her influence "was minimal."

All of this has coincided with an increasingly assertive Russian foreign policy that often seeks to undermine U.S. interests. Most notably, a Russian veto threat continues to limit U.N. sanctions designed to stop Iran's nuclear program. Mr. Bush's restraint in criticizing Mr. Putin's domestic crackdown has been partly in the service of winning the Russian's cooperation on Iran--to little effect.

Given this career arc, it comes as no surprise that Mr. Putin now seeks to hold on to power, despite his previous Julius Caesar-like avowals to the contrary, and despite a constitutional limitation on remaining president for more than two successive terms. Coming on the heels of his surprise appointment of aging apparatchik Viktor Zubkov as prime minister, it seems Mr. Putin intends either to rule Russia from his parliamentary office or, using a constitutional loophole, perhaps return to the presidency after a decent interval.

No doubt Mr. Putin will get away with this, given his control over the media and other levers of power. But he will still have to observe the formalities of a presidential election next year, and former chess champion Garry Kasparov has said he intends to lead the political opposition. The West needs to put Mr. Putin on notice that if Mr. Kasparov suffers some "accident"--if, say, he is hit by a car--the world will not look the other way.

Bill Clinton made the mistake of welcoming Mr. Putin into the G-8, and Western leaders lack the will to expel him now. But his current maneuvering to retain power should make clear beyond doubt that Mr. Putin has ransacked the hopes the world once had for post-Soviet Russian democracy. He is reviving Russian authoritarianism, and the world's democracies need to prepare for its consequences.

2 comments:

zhirinovsky's falcon said...

"Mr. Putin made his political mark by initiating a second war against the breakaway province of Chechnya, using the pretext of a series of alleged terrorist bombings in Russia."

Err.. wasn't Sergei Stepashin Prime Minister at the time? The same man who started the Second Chechen War and went on to become a Yabloko deputy?

"According to Alexander Litvinenko... these bombings were orchestrated by the Russian secret services."

Litvinenko also said that Russia was behind 9/11, that Putin was a paedophile, that the FSB orchestrated the Jyllands-Posten riots at the beginning of last year, and that the Italian Prime Minister was a paid KGB informer whose goal was to turn the EU into the new Soviet Union. Should we believe all these claims too?

"By January 2000, the Chechen capital of Grozny resembled Dresden in 1945. Yet Western leaders did not turn away from Mr. Putin."

Let's forget about the 650,000 Iraqis murdered by American troops, due to a conflict started ostensibly as part of the "War on Terror" but in reality just so that Haliburton could bump up its share prices.

"the oil and gas pipelines turned off in the dead of winter"

Ukraine was receiving a subsidy on gas five times below market value by 2006. This was then being sold on by Ukraine at market price to other European countries. Russia was being ripped off!! Putin gave Ukraine three years notice that prices would have to rise to market value. When payment wasn't forthcoming, she cut off the supply. If I don't pay my bills, my electricty supplier cuts me off too.

"the effort to steal Ukraine's 2004 election"

As opposed to say, Members of the European Parliament attending pro-Yushchenko rallies and George Soros and Boris Berezovsky bankrolling his campaign?

"the 2006 embargo imposed on tiny Georgia"

Not unlike America's blockade of Cuba.

"this year's cyberwar against Estonia"

Was the Russian Government responsible? I think you need proof before making these sorts of claims?

"The murder a year ago of crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the polonium poisoning of Mr. Litvinenko were notable for the studied indifference they inspired in the Russian government."

What did you want Putin to do? Cry? Anyway, just as many people suspect Berezovsky's involvement in these two murders. They certainly did Putin no favours but elevated Berezovsky to sainthood in the West.

"Russian foreign policy that often seeks to undermine U.S. interests"

Ahhh... so finally we get to the real point. Pro-USA = democratic, pro-Russian national interset = not democratic.

Isn't Bush the same guy who said Karimov of Uzbekistan was a democrat, and his Government the same which said that the development of a one-party state in Kazakhstan was "good for democracy"?

"Garry Kasparov has said he intends to lead the political opposition"

I can tell you that at least 97% of Russians think Kasparov is arrogant and pathetic. The West will have some job trying to build this neocon slimeball into a new Yushchenko.

"Mr. Kasparov suffers some "accident"--if, say, he is hit by a car--the world will not look the other way."

Sorry, but the world will look away. Kasparov has also made a big mistake in picking a fight with Ramzan Kadyrov. Very stupid - he'll be picking his brains up off the pavement by the end of the year.

Is this really the best you can do?

La Russophobe said...

ZHIRINOVSKY:

Err, no. Learn your facts before you speak. The second war in Chechnya began in August 1999 after Putin had been named PM, and within weeks Putin himself admitted massive civilian casualties. As outrage was growing, suddenly apartment buildings fell in Moscow and the outrage subsided.

Litvinenko isn't the only one who said Putin ordered the bombings, many others have indicated it's possible, including several other highly placed KGB defectors. Putin has never specifically denied it, and he razed the site instantly rather than doing an elaborate investigation, so the world will never know for sure. At one point, a group of KGB spies were found carrying explosives into a third apartment building, and many of the members of the commission investigating the charges have been killed or attacked. The fact that you ignore all these facts clearly shows how utterly unreliable -- indeed, meaningless -- your statements are, and you don't even try to document them with links to reported facts.

This blog has also called Putin a pedophile. We have posted pictures of him lifting a strange child's shirt in public and kissing his stomach. If you think that's normal, maybe you're a pedophile too.