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Monday, June 09, 2008

EDITORIAL: The Collaborators Among Us


The Collaborators Among Us

Below, we publish a column from last Friday's edition of the Moscow Times by pundit Georgy Bovt, no stranger to regular readers of this blog. In it, Bovt highlights the total lack of morality that pervades Russian government today, and ridicules that Dimitri Medvedev is qualified, much less inclined, to do anything about it. As for Vladimir Putin, he's a proud KGB spy.

The column was buried by the MT editors under its shockingly boring new format, and might easily have been missed by many readers. It stood in stark contrast to the column the MT editors chose to highlight, from one Bruce Bean (pictured, left), identified as a lawyer who lived in Moscow from 1995 to 2003 and now teaches at Michigan State University Law School.

It looks for all the world as if the Moscow Times is slowly selling out to Kremlin pressure. It didn't report on Oleg Kozlovsky's recent two-week stint in prison, a preemptive arrest that was manifestly illegal -- nor did it republish Kozlovsky's op-ed in the Washington Post which came out while he was in prison. Instead, it published a ridiculous screed from Kremlin apologist Edward Lozansky, who in turn was publishing a Kremlin propaganda festival he was hosting in Washington DC. It's still publishing some Kremlin-critical coverage, but it's staying away from the hot button issues and it's trying to minimize the impact of what it does publish. And while we've written its editor three letters challenging these practiced, none of them has been published.

Professor Bean, yet one more person who'd like to get rich selling out Western values to the malignant little troll who prowls the Kremlin's parapets, trots out the same ridiculous screed of lies and misdirections that we've seen emanating from the USSR and from neo-Soviet Russia for time out of mind, in the most predictable and embarrassingly lame manner possible. It really is as if the stooges in the Kremlin wrote this column themselves as part of a giant do-over of the USSR's collapse, as if it was all due to nothing more than a freak incidence of bad luck. He mocks the idea that Putin's KGB past (and present, he has filled the halls of government with spies) could be remotely relevant to understanding his governance.

In May, Russia experienced the worst uptick in consumer price inflation in more than five years. Prices skyrocketed from a 14.3% annualized rate in April to a shocking 15.1% in May, an increase of 5.6% in just one month. Food prices rose at an annualized 22.1% rate. Vladimir Putin's only response to this nightmare (earning $4/hour on average, ordinary Russians can ill afford any inflation, much less this kind of apocalypse) has been a promise to raise wages -- the same thing as throwing gasoline on a grease fire in your kitchen. What the country needs is more production, not more money, and even a kindergartener should be able to understand that. Russia's KGB leadership, however, doesn't.

All they understand is propaganda, just like their Soviet forbears. Sweep the problem under the carpet, and hope people don't notice the mountain of debris already sitting there. This kind of "thinking" made the the USSR the laughing stock of the world and laid it low. Russia under Medvedev is following exactly the same course.

Bean writes that "after President Dmitry Medvedev's inauguration on May 7, Russia has successfully concluded its first "normal" presidential succession cycle, in which a healthy outgoing president voluntarily turned over power to a new popularly elected one. " He ignores the conclusive evidence that the election results were rigged. If Vladimir Putin were writing this propaganda tract, we dare you to explain how his remarks would have been any different.

Bean writes of Putin that "it was precisely this treacherous spook who abided by the 15-year Constitution and left office -- something he promised to do for many years leading up to the election." He claims that it simply means nothing that Putin sat in the presidential chair, one the nation has grown accustomed to associating with the seat of power, and asks us to ignore it because Russia isn't the USSR and is no longer mysterious. Apparently, he's saying that if Putin really were going to secretly retain the reins of power, he'd simply tell us openly. Only a true Kremlin stooge can make statements as outrageous as that.

And then top it. Bean writes: "Whether he deserved better or not, during his 100 months in office, Putin never had more than a few weeks of fair treatment from the international media. The reforms of the first years of Putin's administration introduced a 13 percent personal income tax, low corporate taxes, new labor and land laws, and, most significant, major reforms of the judiciary. Boris Yeltsin was unable to persuade the State Duma to enact any of these." Apparently, he's suggesting that if only the "international media" had been fairer to Putin, he wouldn't have wiped out the domestic media, local government and opposition political parties. The truth is that the international media weren't nearly tough enough on Putin, allowing him to wipe out civil society and achieve a permanent dictatorship without raising a finger to stop it.

Bean writes: "Many complain about Russia's corruption and lack of judicial independence. The progress the country's judicial system has achieved under Putin is not familiar outside Russia, since it has been consistently ignored in favor of stories that are more sensational." Then he doesn't give one single example to back up this ludicrously false statement, and claims that since Medvedev is law professor like him, the rule of law is safe in Russia. He claims that because recently a corrupt judge was exposed and another complained about lobbying from the Kremlin, this proves Medvedev is committed to the rule of law. But Medvedev hasn't said a single word about these events, much less did he instigate them, and they are meaningless drops in the bucket of corruption that has been documented repeatedly by international surveys. As the Moscow Times states in an editorial:
Prosecutors have shown no interest in looking into the allegations. Three weeks after [the judge's] statements, there have been no reports of an investigation. In answer to written questions, the Investigative Committee under the Prosecutor General's Office advised The Moscow Times to contact the Prosecutor General's Office itself. Written questions to the Prosecutor General's Office went unanswered. If the rule of law that Medvedev has been talking about is to have a chance at taking root, then allegations like those made in court against Boyev will have to be pursued to the end. As the prosecutor general reports directly to the president, Medvedev should be able to get the investigators moving.
Professor Bean simply chooses to ignore these facts (or else he doesn't even read the paper he's writing in), and doesn't call upon Medvedev to take any specific action. Martin Luther King always said he had much more fear of pseudo-liberals than he did of the KKK. How right he was!

Let's be clear: What Professor Bean is doing now is exactly what many did when Putin came to power, the exact opposite of what he claims occurred. When Yeltsin named Putin, instead of immediately opposing him the world listened to those like Professor Bean who said that Putin was a new kind of leader for Russia, that as soon as he got a grip on Russia's economic problems he would move to protect civil society. Khodorkovsky's arrest was justified on this basis, as were all of Putin's toxic moves towards dictatorship. We were induced by traitors like Professor Bean (whether they are motivated by mere ignorance, cowardliness or complicity makes no difference) to drop our guard and let Putin consolidate his power -- exactly what happened with Stalin and Hitler as well. And how they're doing it all over again, this time in regard to Medvedev. They want us to wait until he's firmly entrenched before we even consider recognizing the threat we face.

It means nothing to Professor Bean that Medvedev participated in an election where (a) all the viable opponents were liquidated and (b) the ballot box was horrifically stuffed, to the point where he won with over 90% of the vote in some regions. In exactly the same way, it meant nothing to the collaborators that Vladimir Putin was a proud KGB spy, and still doesn't. As they would have it, once given power some magical transformation occurs and these individuals suddenly become stalwart defenders of the rule of law. That's neo-Soviet propaganda, pure and simple. It's what destroyed the USSR, preventing it from implementing real reform (or even calling for it) and it will do the same thing to Russia.

To say nothing of the contents of this blog, just read through out current issue today. If you can do that and then read Professor Bean's revolting nonsense with losing your lunch, you may have what it takes to report for duty at Vladimir Putin's Kremlin. It's a well paying position, as long as you don't count the collateral damage to your soul.

There is an easy way of testing whether a nasty little troll like Professor Bean is speaking in good faith or not. He says we needn't fear Putin based on his current record. OK, fine. But what would Putin have to do to make Professor Bean believe that the time had come to fear him. If he tells us, he lays down a benchmark he can be held to later, and we should respect his opinion. If he doesn't, the no matter what Putin ever does Professor Bean can always move the goalposts, just as Chamberlain did with Hitler.

Read his column for yourself, and see whether he offers any benchmarks of any kind. Then treat his views accordingly.

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