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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

EDITORIAL: Nicolai N. Petro, Kremlin Stooge


Nicolai N. Petro: Kremlin Stooge

Of all the recklessly dishonest, treacherously malignant spores of Kremlin duplicity, it's quite possible that the most determinedly odious is Professor Nicolai N. Petro of the University of Rhode Island, whom we've previously exposed for the Kremlin stooge he so obviously is (including some insight on his misleading credentials) and whom many others have similarly exposed as the inherently dishonest, propagandizing rat he is. But you really don't need to know anything more about him than this: Kremlin propaganda outlets Russia Profile and Russia Blog love to publish his malignant, treacherous tracts.

Just look at him. It makes your flesh crawl, doesn't it? He's a human toadstool.

And now, believe it or not, he's plumbed a new low in the annals of neo-Soviet collaboration. Anyone associated with the University of Rhode Island should be ashamed to have someone on its faculty rationalizing the rise of a neo-Soviet state in Russia.

Writing in The National Interest, an organization run by another Russian (Dmitri Simes, himself closely associated with the only U.S. president who ever resigned from office, Richard Nixon), Petro says that Russia's liberals deserved 100% exclusion from the Russian legislature because it's obvious they can't compare to a proud KGB spy:

Consider what a middle class voter would do if faced with the following choice: to support a political movement that unites a former chess champion with links to American neocons and whose family resides overseas; a former prime minister, popularly nicknamed “Misha 2 percent” for allegedly taking that much in kickbacks while in office; and an ex-punk rocker, released from prison just a few years ago, who vows to restore the Russian empire by any means necessary. The sum total of their political agenda: “A Russia without Putin!" Or, to support the party of the current president, which has pledged to continue the policies that have already increased wages from $81 per month to $550 per month, dramatically increased social spending and reduced poverty from 27 percent to 15 percent. As any pollster will tell you, this is a “no-brainer.”

Professor Petro is, to put it mildly, a shameless liar. Both aspects of the point he's trying to make, namely (a) Putin has caused a marked increase in the standard of living of the average Russian and (b) because of this, he's overwhelmingly popular, are totally bogus.

Sir, we would like to ask him (come to think of it, we are asking him): If it's such no-brainer that the Russian people would vote for the KGB spy under your scenario, then why was it necessary for that spy to preclude Garry Kasparov and his party from standing for seats? Why arrest him, and relentlessly harass his party? Why commit so many blatant acts of electoral fraud, including banning foreign elections observers from Russia's polling places?

It doesn't really make sense, does it? But then, Professor Petro doesn't mention any of those facts in his outrageous diatribe.

Nor does he mention a few other basic facts. For instance, as we recently reported, throughout Putin's term the number of workers and the average lifespan of a citizen have fallen dramatically. As we report again today, Russia continues to experience massive, crushing, double-digit inflation resulting from the influx of oil capital unaccompanied by an increase in production. While it is true that average wages have increased somewhat under Putin, there is no evidence of any kind that Putin's policies have anything to do with this, and -- in an manner that ought to be embarrassing to the University of Rhode Island -- Petro certainly cites none. All reasonable people realize that the vast majority of the limited economic progress achieved under Putin has been due to the accident of rising world oil prices, not Putin's genius, and the people of Russia know that as well as anyone. Nobody knows the actual extent of the real increases in average wages, if any, since (a) all the data about this is supplied by the Kremlin itself, a Kremlin which has just wiped out all third-party checks on the accuracy of its data (competing political parties and independent news media), and (b) since Russia's extreme polarization of wealth (both rich-poor and Moscow-Russia) skews averages beyond any meaning, and (c) since the value of any increased is quickly wiped out by catastrophic inflation -- hence the reason the Kremlin recently had to slap on draconian Soviet-style price controls. If Russian wages were really soaring, such measures wouldn't be needed, now would they?

And beyond all that, not only does Petro fail to give any source for his "$550/month" figure, he hides from the reader the fact that for a full-time work week of 160 hours that works out to just $3.43 per hour before reducing it for double-digit overall price inflation and a dramatically higher rate of inflation on the basic staple items people need in their daily lives. That's the best-case scenario for Russia's average wage, meaning half the population or more is below that puny figure.

We challenge any reader to explain how an article written by the Kremlin itself would be different in any significant way from what Professor Petro has written in The National Interest. And if they cannot do so, we challenge them to name just one reason why Professor Petro should be trusted to teach our children at our universities. After reading an analysis of the recent elections by a true scholar such as Andrei Illarionov, there is only one conclusion that can be reached: Petro is a Kremlin shil, an embarrassing sham.

Instead of giving readers these basic facts, he goes on to argue (if you can believe it, and no, we're not joking):
Far from indicating a retreat from democracy, the Russian electorate’s decisive rejection of the current liberal opposition is a good sign that the country is progressing toward a mature democracy. Indeed, we can thank our lucky stars that the overwhelming majority of Russians have far too much common sense to vote for such extremists, even when disguised in “liberal” clothing.
Yes, that's right, he thinks it's a positive thing for Russian democracy that there is not one single member left in the legislative opposition other than a pack of card-carrying Communists. There is not one single word in his propaganda tract recognizing a single aspect of the recent "elections" which could possibly be worrying to democracy. This is exactly the kind of laughably absurd, emperor's-new-clothes type of statement we used to hear routinely coming out of Soviet Russia -- the kind of thing only a pathetic victim of Soviet totalitarianism could possibly believe.

Whilst issuing his condemnations of Russia's liberal opposition leaders like Yavlinsky and Kasparov, Petro mendaciously attempts to cloak his "analysis" in the guise of wishing to point out their flaws so the can do better next time. This implies that Petro has written critically about the forces that now occupy the Kremlin, and that he suggested avenues of attack against them that have been neglected. Such an implication is utterly baseless and indicative of truly mind-numbing propaganda tactics, fully neo-Soviet in character. Petro has never done any such thing.

Not once throughout his pathetic diatribe does Petro pause even for a second to consider the possibility that the behavior of Russia's voters may be attributable not to any fundamental weakness in the liberal candidates, nor to having been bought off by the Kremlin, but simply to the fact that they support the policies of dictatorship and confrontation that have been adopted by Dictator Putin, just as they may well have done in Soviet times. If that is the case, of course, we would need plenty of good advice as to how to meet this threat, and we would expect to see many Kremlin agents advising us to drop our guard and ignore the threat. Could "professor" Petro be such a person? One must wonder, of course, why he remains in Rhode Island when he's concluded that things are going so wonderfully well back in his native land.

We think he is such a person. We think this man is venal, contemptible scum -- exactly the kind of moronic wacko who gives America a bad name, and a mouthpiece for the Kremlin seeking to undermine our national security from within.

In another recent article, shortly after the latest "Valdai" get-together for Putin's far-flung network of "agents of influence", Petro wrote a piece in which he talked about "the tapestry God weaves for each country" and how the "thread of democracy may disappear for awhile, but never forever", something like that. Here, Petro was very much showing his Russian roots, sinking into oriental quietism to justify his cowardice when it becomes obvious he is facing something really dangerous. Presumably, he would say, Stalin too was part of "God's plan" for Russia - and that should have been some comfort to the 10 million or so Ukrainians he murdered in the Holodomor. It's about as far from scholarship as you can get, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. In an article found on his website entitled "Surkov's Vision for Russia," there's another great monument to his cravenness, one that should get him fired from any self-respecting university. In it, he applauds the "vision for Russia" of Kremlin ideologist Surkov (whom the dear reader will recall as the architect of the Nashi propaganda screeds). Reading it, it's hard indeed to avoid the conclusion that this man may be taking money from the Kremlin. No one with even half a brain could possibly think that the former GRU officer Surkov has anything intelligent or useful to say about anything, least of all a a true scholar at a significant university. In fact, even by his own breathtakingly low standards, it's pretty extreme: One might speculate he was down on his production that month, and had to make it up to his Kremlin handler by producing something really outrageous and "unique" that would prove his complete fealty to Putin.

Petro ought to go back and make a big name for himself in neo-Soviet Russia, if he thinks it so wonderful and promising there. We'll gladly pay for his plane ticket. But we don't think he'll be doing so any time soon. He's much more valuable to the Kremlin right where he is now.

If you have any connection to the University of Rhode Island as an alumni, employee, student or supporter, we ask that you consider writing Robert L. Carothers, the University's president, and asking him why his university would wish to employ a person who actively seeks to rationalize dictatorship and undermine American national security. If you find out be sure to get back to us, we'd love to know.

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