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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Jonathan Steele: Russophile Liar

Here is what British journalist Jonathan Steele had to say in a recent op-ed in the Guardian entitled "The West's New Russophobia is hypocritical -- and wrong." The article is chock full of laughably inaccurate Russophile distortions as exposed in the running redface commentary by La Russophobe. Can you imagine an article from the early 1930s from a Briton entitled "The West's New Hitlerphobia is hypocritical -- and wrong" from one Neville Chamberlain?

With two weeks to go before Vladimir Putin hosts the G8's first summit in Russia, criticisms are pouring in from western thinktanks and politicians. Some are legitimate, but many are wildly prejudiced. Russophobia is back. In the latter category was a speech by the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, in Lithuania. His denunciation of Russia's lack of democracy was the harshest US attack since the fall of communism, though it turned out to be a lesson in double standards. Cheney went on to Kazakhstan and praised its president, whose elections are more flawed than Putin's.

Cheney never said one word about Putin's elections. Shamefully, the whole world has been utterly silent about the obvious and blatant electoral fraud by which Putin perpetuates his power. Steele is apparently unaware of Kazakhstan's many recent efforts to forge closer cooperation with the United States, efforts which easily justify a different attitude towards Kazakhstan on the U.S. side. Mr. Steele may not know it (he seems to know quite little, actually), but Kazakhstan doesn't have a massive arsenal of ICBMs pointed at the United States, nor is it engaged in a bloodthirsty war in Chechnya, nor is it providing aid and comfort to arch American foes like Iraq, Iran and Hamas.

Cheney's speech was designed to be provocative, a warning to Moscow not to take good relations with the Bush administration for granted. Two conservative senators, the Republican John McCain and the Democrat Joe Lieberman, have even urged Bush not to attend the summit unless Putin cleans up his act.

Actually, a number of elected officials from both sides of the partisan aisle have supported getting tough with Russia, and these stories can be easily retrieved from La Russophobe's archives. Most recently, La Russophobe documented Charles Grassley fretting about Putin's Neo-Soviet state of mind. Mr. Steele should try to read a bit more.

Three factors lie behind the new negativism on Russia: Putin's creeping autocracy; Moscow's international independence; and its growing role as a gas and oil supplier.

Not its war in Chechnya? Not its aid to Iran and Iraq and Hamas? Not its attempt to cozy up to China, just as Stalin did with Hitler? Not its starvation wages or its universal conscription? Not its disappearing population and demographic crisis? Not pandemic race violence? Not attempts to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia? Do tell, Mr. Steele, do tell.

Putin's weakening of democracy is undeniable, as the Foreign Policy Centre points out in "Russia and the G8: a summit scorecard". He has tightened controls on the media; made it harder for new political parties to be registered; and raised the threshold to enter parliament from 5% of the vote to 7%. By abolishing constituency contests in favour of party lists he has made it virtually impossible for independents to run. Deplorable though these moves are, they continue the trend towards recentralisation of power in the Kremlin that began over a decade ago under Boris Yeltsin. They do not justify a sudden change in western attitudes, especially as western governments approved Yeltsin's use of tanks against the Russian parliament in 1993 and his biased control of TV coverage in the 1996 elections. Without some self-criticism, western politicians who today attack Russia's faltering democracy carry little conviction.

Steele totally ignores Putin's abolition of local government by fiat and his revival of the Soviet national anthem, two actions which would have made Yeltsin vomit. One must wonder what Mr. Steele, obviously one of the world's great cowards, means by the term "deplorable." La Russophobe always understood that if something was deplorable, it meant you were supposed to deplore it. Yet, when we try here in the West, we are dismissed by Mr. Steele as hypocrites (because we too are abolishing local government by fiat?). Apparently, Mr. Steele is quite insane.

Russia's independence in foreign policy is a new factor - and may be the real reason Washington is uncomfortable with Putin. His reaction to the Cheney tirade was significant. Unruffled, he made only three mentions of the US in his state of the nation address a few days later. One was a flattering reference to Roosevelt's new deal as a partial model for Russia. The second was a coded attack, without naming names, on US global ambitions and unilateralism: "We see what's going on in the world. The wolf knows who to eat, as the proverb goes. It knows who to eat and is not about to listen to anyone, it seems". Finally, he mentioned the US as just one in a list of several countries and regional groupings that Russia should consider important, including China, India, Latin America and the Asian Pacific. By contrast, he described the EU as Russia's "biggest partner".

So, Mr. Steele is saying that Putin is wisely provoking a second Cold War with the United States, and feels that Europe will side with Russia in that conflict. Wouldn't you just love to get hold of whatever it is that Mr. Steele has been smoking?

This is an important shift. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union left the US as the world's only imperial power, some western policy-makers view Moscow in condescending terms - as though Moscow needs the west more than vice versa. Flush with oil and gas money thanks to soaring world prices, Putin is signalling that this is wrong. A strong supporter of "multipolarity", he no longer feels Russian relations with Washington have primacy. And he obviously enjoys having the Bush administration plead for his help over Iran.

The U.S. is an empire? Please, Mr. Steele, would you be so kind as to name its colonies? And, if the U.S. is an empire, then aren't you, Mr. Steele, an "Ameriphobe," and isn't it "wrong" and "hypocritical" to be one?

Energy exports are Russia's new strength, but it does not follow that Russia is bound to use them irresponsibly. The Russophobes seized on Moscow's sudden cut in gas to Ukraine this winter as a red alert. They talked of Russia using energy as a lever, a weapon or, in Cheney's words, "a tool of intimidation and blackmail". The gas cut was a clumsy move in a negotiation over price. It was not directly linked to politics. But the blow to Russia's image was done, and the cut was quickly reversed.

In other words, Mr. Steele, Russophobia worked just like a charm, now didn't it? (Does this man even read what he writes?).

For energy to be sold it has to be bought. As a major supplier, Russia is as concerned about monopsony as western consumers are about monopoly. It makes commercial sense for Russia to look for new customers in China, Japan and India, as well as to seek to buy shares "downstream" in energy distribution companies in Britain and other European states. None of this is sinister. A single mistake during the Ukrainian dispute should not outweigh Moscow's long-standing reputation as a reliable energy supplier, even during the high-tension early-Reagan period of the cold war.

Now, that is strange. As far as
La Russophobe knew, Russia has only existed as a country supplying energy to the outside world for 15 years. Maybe that's "long-standing" in Mr. Steele's eyes (how old is this guy, anyway), but anyone who had ever read Russian history knows full well that if there is one thing Russians have never, ever been over time it is reliable. Oh and, did he really say "monopsony"?

Some suggest Europe should create a kind of "energy Nato", under which the west would minimise purchases from Russia and create an expensive new system of pipelines within the EU so that any country cut off by Russia could receive emergency supplies from its neighbours. This is nonsense. Far better for the EU to develop long-term contracts with Russia at all points along the energy stream and create a network of integrated delivery and mutual benefit that no one would wish to disrupt.

Yeah, just like no one would wish to build gulags and murder millions of Russian dissidents, right Mr. Steele? Coz people never, ever do irrational things. Especially not Russians.

Margot Light, a specialist on Russia, recently pointed out: "Russia has discovered soft power." Other countries have long used economic, cultural and diplomatic strength to gain political advantage abroad, but Russia's predecessor, the Soviet Union, hastily resorted to the hard power of military force in the absence of other levers.

She's a "specialist" on Russia with an "intermediate" command of writing the language. She doesn't give one single example of any actual "powerful" thing Russia has done. If Russia is now only interested in "soft" power, presumably it will be dismantling all those nuclear weapons, right Professor Light? And, presumably, when you get punched in the face with "soft" power, it just kind of tickles. Clearly, this woman is deranged (or perhaps Steele is just misquoting her).

Now that Russia is adapting, the change should be welcomed rather than seen as a new "Russian threat". As Putin put it in a Moscow speech this week: "The principle of 'I'm allowed to do it but don't you try' is completely unacceptable." There are tensions between Russia and several former Soviet republics, but these are natural. Relations between a one-time metropolis and its newly independent ex-colonies usually take decades to stabilise. Based on their own recent record, western European states should not demand unrealistic speed. They ought not to provoke or entice countries into an anti-Russian camp.

Yes, if only Hitler had been left to his own devices for a longer period to work out his troubles on his own, respectfully, you know, in a mature manner, then none of that nasty World War II business ever need have occurred.

Those who want Russia expelled from the G8 misunderstand the group. It was not set up in the cold war to spread democracy, but as a group of countries concerned about low growth, inflation and trade disputes. With the awareness that carbon emissions and climate change pose big dangers, it should be widened to include India, Brazil and the big non-democracy, China. Instead of picking on Russia, let's turn the G8 into the club of leading polluters, and try to get some behavioural change all round.

Actually, wasn't the G-8 was set up by the group of the world's wealthiest and most economically powerful countries to coordinate their power among like-minded goals? Mr. Steele offers not one shred of evidence that either establishes that Russia is rich (its $300/month wage scale is Third-World poor) or that it shares any of the goals of the current G-8 members who got in because they are rich and like-minded. Netherlands isn't in the G-8, but its economy is larger than Russia's. So it should be in too. In fact, let's bring the whole world into the G-8. And let's make Iran the Leader for Life. And while we're at it, it's obvious that America should be a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States and have a seat or two (at least!) in the Russian Duma, isn't it?

So to recap: There are evil people who hate Russia too much, and they are to be called "russophobes." But there are no evil people who love Russia too much, so they don't need any kind of name. Vladimir Putin is just a "normal" transitional figure, Mr. Steele promises, really he does, and if he turns out to be an abnormal freak of nature who makes Stalin look like Howdy Doodie and turns Russia into Zaire with Permafrost, well, Mr. Steele sure is sorry about that, and he knows you'll forgive him, because, after all, you were happy to be a guinea pig in the Great Steele Experiment, weren't you Russians?

Got it?


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

haha... Russophobic Stalinist removed someone's post because she did not agree with it:-)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I wonder what was said?

For an alleged expert on the Rise and Fall of Neo-Soviet Union, LR is pretty close minded... Just like an old commie...

La Russophobe said...

It was removed because it was full of pornography.

And a Stalinist would have eliminated the trace post too, you idiot.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, your claim that LR is censoring comment is so ignorant that it doesn't deserve notice and itself should be censored. Say what you like about LR, this blog is FULL of critical comments about it. The comment policy is quite free and open compared to most other blogs, and you are a shameless liar for claiming the contrary.

Anonymous said...

LR, are you from albany, NY?

La Russophobe said...

ANONYMOUS: are you the same anonymous as every other anonymous who posts on this blog? wouldn't you agree that they are all the same person? :) Because obviously there is only one person in the whole world who doesn't like today's Russia, right?

La Russophobe said...

ANONYMOUS: why do you hide your identity?