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Monday, February 11, 2008

Lucas was Right: Reviewing The New Cold War

The Telegraph reviews Edward Lucas's brilliant new book The New Cold War (to buy the book, click on the image):

First impressions still count for something. Whenever President Vladimir Putin fires a new rhetorical broadside or sneers at the West or is pictured naked from the waist up kitted out with the sort of phallic fashion accessory Russian men drool over, whether fishing rod or automatic rifle, I think back to his debut as a public politician. On that August day in 1999, what did the new president-to-be, Boris Yeltsin's anointed successor, think of his new role? This was, all of us in Moscow knew, an unexpected change of fortune for an obscure former career spy turned bureaucrat. 'A decision has been taken,' he told his interviewer with all the enthusiasm for the job and charisma of an undertaker. 'We will carry it out.'

This wasn't a start that promised much. But, as the first but not necessarily last phase of Putin's presidency draws to a close, his record so far and the windfall from record energy prices speak for themselves. 'Never in Russian history have so many Russians lived so well and so freely,' Edward Lucas concedes in this account of the Putin regime (not that freedom or plenty ever figured large in Russia's past). But never in recent times, he argues with gusto throughout this chillingly persuasive book, has Russia posed such a threat to the West.

Lucas didn't like the look of Putin at the beginning of this decade, a lonelier position than it is today. That was an era when Tony Blair and other Western leaders fell over each other to make nicey nicey with the Kremlin's new boss. President Bush met the man for the first time and liked what he saw as well, gazing into his eyes and immediately gaining a 'sense of his soul'. But what has happened since has proved Lucas right and the groupies and the fence-sitters who preferred to wait and see, such as myself, wrong.

This is not a book about Putin the man. Nor is it a potboiling catalogue of the many sinister signs that Russia is reverting to authoritarian type. It is, instead, the best portrait to date of the mentality of Putin's ruling class, much of it a product of the KGB, the corrupted crony capitalism it has spawned and the uses, many of them hostile to the West, to which it is putting its fabulous war chest of oil and gas money.

Some might find fault with its central metaphor, that we are engaged in a conflict with Moscow best described as a 'new Cold War'. Many may not want to believe that matters have deteriorated quite so far. But then, apart from the Kremlin itself, Lucas's other main targets in the book are wishful or woolly thinking - and worse - in the West itself. In his analysis, this is a war we are already losing, not least because of the delusion about Russia many of us labour under, that its rulers want it to be a 'normal' country just like ours, and plain human greed.

At his provocative best he denounces the bankers and politicians in Germany - but not only there - 'who betray their countries (to Russia) for 30 silver roubles' by cosying up to the big Russian energy giants. Indeed, the most arresting passages in the book are his pleas for moral renewal not in Russia, dismissed as a lost cause for the foreseeable future, but in the West. 'If you believe that capitalism is a system in which money matters more than freedom, you are doomed when people who don't believe in freedom attack using money,' he tells the gnomes of Zurich, Frankfurt and the City of London. Such calls for a moral rebuff to the new enemy are not the only echoes here of the Cold War that was, that Manichean struggle between our Good and Soviet Evil. But in his determination to deal in absolutes, can Lucas always do justice to the ambiguities of our relationship with this new Russia?

Where, I asked myself more than once as I read the book, does Roman Abramovich fit into the author's scheme of things? If we are now to treat every Russian investment abroad as a 'politically loaded expression of foreign policy', as Lucas demands, where does that leave Chelsea FC? Are we and Russia's billions so intertwined that this new Great Game is up already? Russia's next president, Dmitry Medvedev, the man who will inherit the Putin system, not least the privilege of being elected without any real competition, makes only a passing appearance in this book. Perhaps he is a mere cipher for his current boss. My first impression of him, the only time we met, was that he had many of the same qualities as Putin - but a personality and leadership skills were not among them. No doubt he too will surprise us.

1 comment:

Artfldgr said...

Crony Capitalism

Crony capitalism is a pejorative term describing an allegedly capitalist economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between businessmen and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, and so forth.

Is actually another term for what you get when you mix Socialist/communism with Capitalism, you get Fascism/Corporatism/crony capitalism. Socialism declares that taxes should go to social programs, and who pays the most taxes?

Well, Exxon, one large corporation, of whom people say they don’t pay taxes, pays 30 billion a year in taxes, in effect they pay 3 billion more a year than all the people below the median combined (27 billion).

So ONE company, provides the tax revenue equivalent of all the people in the US below the mean.

In the past, the capitalist state, you had the three legs in opposition and as such they created the strong base that we are living off of now that is in decline.

The state was small, and so its power to help business through collusion was small. The people were large, and their ability to sway the state was large, and so the ability for the state and corporations to collude was small.

Come certain constitutional changes (with the warnings as to what will happen being ignored in favor of creating that while denying it), some laws, and corporations demanding larger and larger government, to which money had more control over voting. When the people started giving to parties instead of people, the last nail in the coffin was placed.

This all exists on a spectrum… ideology socialism totalitarianism is on one side… on the other side is traditional libertarianism, small government, small corporate interests, no socialism,. etc

Basically, if taxes are needed to create ‘revenue streams’ for socialist programs in which the public has no say. Since by definition these programs are to be put in place against the majority, they have free reign to put whatever they want in place. if its majority favored, it goes in, if its majority hated, it goes in under socialism claiming majority oppression.

In this way, the public has no say anymore… however since they still own property, they have a lot more say than they realize, but not enough for them to act unless really pissed off and comparing notes.

When a corporation can create laws, or has power delegated to it, both acts are actually in violation to the constitution. But if it wasn’t for modern feminists and communists claiming rights to things that arent rights, we might actually have understood the difference and stopped this. (so if your smart you can see that each group of termites only does its small share, and we let each one give a small excuse for a small act. together the bias creates a fixed end result)

Crony capitalism is fascism, which is corporatism…

In order for the US to become capitalist… it has to pass through fascism… now that we are afraid of fascism, we think that creating less of it, and smaller state with less totalitarian power, is the road to serfdom.

Except we forgot to list out what makes a serf and what makes a free man…

And the socuialist system makes us all serfs in a modern ideological, or corporate state, where we are the drought horses, and can never change our position, except through social promotion.

Over time they become more an more inept… and before long.. you have a ruling class as in russia, and a serf population in which they select resources as needed. the serfs own no property, have no privacy, control of medical (also tracks what they do), no money, no resources…

That’s the old feudal state of kings, lords, ladies, and the waste products on the bottom….

The Russians never came up with a new kind of state… all they did was take the meaningless concepts of Marxism which as a non theorem, can be applied to everything even its own negation, as an excuse to create the same old feudal system that nicholas had, but with a different set of kings (NO QUEENS – contrary to what feminists think, there are pretty much no women of power in these political systems, only the promise of power, and liberation of work for your own, and compulsive work for the state. after all, now we cant tax two women looking out after each others kids, before the state got no cut! Tricky eh. Eve sold us out before, and she is selling us out again).

In the old system, the state owned everything
In the new system, the state ownes everything (but says its in trust for the people)

In the old system, the state controlled people by controlling all resources leaving nothing to the people except whats granted by the lords at the top
In the new system, the state controls people by controlling all resources leaving nothing to the people except whats granted by the lords at the top

As nice as the article is, you can see all these things slipped in that as you accept the nice thing the article states, you are also taking in and incorporating these other things too.

So now the bad that putin does in crony capitalism, will be attributed to the US system. but the originator of that system was napoleon and musolini, not the US… Hitler made a big push into it, and so its all misapplied.

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.