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Monday, June 25, 2007

EDITORIAL: Finding Out Who Your Friends Are


Finding Out Who Your Friends Are

Who is the more illiterate and barbaric -- the man with newspapers but not the ability to read them, or the one who can read but has no newsprint within his reach? Neither one, of course, is reading.

Who truly hates the people of Russia -- those who criticize their faults without mercy until they disappear or those who minimize their faults, attacking the critics as spies as was done in Soviet times? One cannot, of course, correct a fault unless one knows it exists. If I truly hate a person and I see he has a tragic flaw, I may ignore it, or even compliment him, so that he will not reform and will destroy himself.

A story
in last Friday's edition of the St. Petersurg Times reminds readers of events La Russophobe has previously reported concerning the Educated Media Foundation and its director Manana Aslamazian (pictured, above left). Ask a Slavic Russian to judge her by name or face and they will never credit her with the Russian citizenship she holds; indeed, many Russians might be inclined to violently attack her on sight in the subway. But Ms. Aslamazian is yet another heroic, courageous Russian woman standing up to rising dictatorship in Russia, and for doing so she meets the same fate as all those who are true Russian patriots: persecution by the cowardly Kremlin whilst the craven Russian population looks the other way. By seeking to destroy the EMF, Russians could not more clearly show their own illiterate, barbaric nature. They give absolute power to a malignant little troll in the Kremlin who does not have as much patriotism in his whole body as someone like Ms. Aslamazian has in any given fingernail, and they cut themselves off from any real knowledge of what is going on in their own government, much less in the outside world, in exactly the same way they did in the Soviet era. Given the fact that it was this very illiteracy and ignorance that doomed the USSR, the prospects for Russia are utterly bleak.

As the Times summarizes her story
"on Jan. 21, Manana Aslamazian walked through customs at Sheremetyevo Airport with a little more undeclared cash than is allowed. Five months later, she faces a decade or more in prison, and the nongovernmental organization she heads — the Educated Media Foundation -- is in tatters." The EMF is a U.S.-funded NGO that trains journalists, including those from state-connected media such as NTV television. Now that the insane prosecution (her lawyer calls it "absolute rubbish, a joke, politically motivated") has been announced, Ms. Aslamazian cannot return to Russia, and EMF is all but doomed to oblivion -- as are the hopes for the flow of information and knowledge in neo-Soviet Russia.

The Times reports that "Aslamazian has acknowledged her guilt from day one, calling her airport transgression a 'stupid oversight.' After stepping off a flight from Paris, she failed to declare the 9,550 euros -- which she said were a debt collected from a friend in France -- in her bag. Any amount worth more than $10,000 must be declared. In Aslamazian’s case, that was around $2,400 too much. Aslamazian’s money and documents were confiscated at the airport. Three months later, about 20 officers from the Interior Ministry’s economic crime department arrived at the NGO’s offices in central Moscow with orders to search the premises and seize all documents and computers.
More than 2,000 media professionals recently signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin that complains authorities view the foundation as a threat to Kremlin-friendly reportage." In a country whose economy revolves around cash payment of salaries, where credit cards are virtually unknown and corruption is rampant, the idea that Ms. Aslamazian should face anything more than a minor fine is clear and convincing proof of how far gone neo-Soviet Russia really is.

For obvious reasons, the Russian authorities won't discuss the matter. The Times reports: "The Golovinsky District Court handed the case to the Savyolovsky District Court because it was closer to the foundation’s offices and therefore within its jurisdiction. After a delay to the case in May, it was inexplicably sent back to the Golovinsky District Court. A spokesman at the Prosecutor General’s Office, which is to examine the computers and documents for evidence of money laundering and illegal business activity, referred all questions to the Interior Ministry. Pavel Klimovsky, a ministry spokesman, first said he knew nothing of the case and later declined immediate comment."

No thinking human being can dispute that in these events we see the Neo-Soviet Union fully realized. Only at the most superficial level of dates and names is there any difference whatsoever been the treatment of regime critics in Russia in 2007 and their treatment in 1987, and the clock is rapidly ticking backward. Indeed, Ms. Aslamazian can consider herself lucky that she merely faces exile and the ruin of her life's work. Anna Politikovskaya and Galina Starovoitova were shot dead, and Mikhail Khodorkhovsky is languishing in a Siberian prison cell. Indeed, it's hard to recall a person of Politkovskaya's significance being shot down in Gorbachev's Russia, so in some ways the neo-Soviet Union may even be worse than the USSR.

As outrageous as the actions of the Russian people and their government are in this case, La Russophobe's ire is most intently focused elsewhere today, on those treacherous vermin among us who whispered in our ear when the USSR collapsed and elections became the norm in Russia that the country could "never go back" to its malignant Soviet ways. There was no need, these charlatans advised us, to take aggressive action to prevent the creation of a neo-Soviet state, since Russians had learned their lesson. Whether out of simple ignorance or an active desire to facilitate dictatorship in Russia, these vermin caused us to lower our guard and mostly leave Russia to its own devices. Now, we pay the awful consequences of listening to them.

Not nearly enough has been done to call these traitors to the cause of democracy (to say nothing of Western security) to account for their outrageous and harmful acts. Has even one of them stepped forward to apologize for his/her misleading analysis? To some extent, we ourselves are guilty of digging our own grave if we won't do what is necessary to punish those who mislead us, rooting out misinformation and disinformation where we find it. Had the Clinton administration been more aggressive in challenging Russia when the opportunity was there, we might well not now be facing the horror of a neo-Soviet Union -- and George Bush Jr. certainly didn't do us any good by looking into the eyes of Putin, either. How history will howl and heap scorn upon us when it sees that the amazing victory over the Evil Empire won by Ronald Reagan was so quickly and mindlessly squandered by twin two hayseed presidents, dooming us to generations more cold war with a barbaric country that is now out of control. And at the same time, have we adequately praised and rewarded those who warned us that the horror of dictatorship and imperialism had not yet ended in Russia with the rise of Boris Yeltsin? Surely we have not.

But let's be clear about this: Russia is a pathetic excuse for a country with a pathetic excuse for an economy and a pathetic excuse for a military. In the end, it's no real threat to the United States, much less to the NATO alliance, which can grind Russia into fine powder both economically and militarily and blow it into the wind as long as it makes a determined effort to do so. Whether we'll step up to the plate and do what is necessary to protect ourselves, this time, from the Russian menace is an open question, but it's entirely within our power.

Those who will suffer most at the hands of those venal scum who said Russia could "never go back" are the Russian people. Those who urged a "hands off" attitude towards Russia, who urged us to trust the Russian people, are the true "russophobes" of the world. They have condemned the people of Russia to the dustbin of history, to a lingering demise as Russia is humiliated before the world as "Zaire with permafrost," a nation which can no longer be considered civilized and will no longer be taken seriously by the community of advanced nations. They have condemned the people of Russia to literal extermination, as their population dwindles by up to a million every year until they cease to exist.

But in the end, the Russian people have nobody to blame except themselves. They're not innocent victims, but willing accomplices in their own destruction. A society that can't tell its friends from its enemies, that repeats the same mistake over and over, that exiles, jails and kills those who should rule and hands power to those who should be in prison, is not long for this world.


Anonymous said...

Ms. Aslamzian says: “I am going to work in America, Asia, Africa and Europe, pay my taxes in Russia, and wait until the court finally figures out why my personal mistake, for which I am ready to accept a fair and appropriate penalty, became the excuse for suspending the work of a large organization (EMF) that brought a lot of benefit to the country,”

The Educated Media Foundation is a U.S.-funded NGO that trains journalists...

Smart lady. She will wait for court decision. The Law must be the same for everybody. Even for The Educated Media Foundation Chiefs. It is fair. If she violated the Law- this is up to the court system to decide what penalty if any she deserved.
10 years is a theoretical sentence.
In the USA one can get 10 years for obstruction of justice, if does not report during some investigation, let say, such a minor and irrelevant thing like having extramarital sex.
But judges rarely give that much.
I do not think Ms. Aslamzian is going to get any prison term at all. So let us do not panic like La Russophobe, and wait for the court decision.

As about EMF, my question is why there are NGOs in Russia funded by the USA? Is Russia funding any organization in the USA to improve critisizm of the government in media there? I remember a few American journalists got fired for their criticism of the USA policy whem the war in Iraq began. (Phill Donahue, CNN's veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett). And all the USA media sang in one voice about how right it was to go after Saddam. Who was "the director" helping them to sing in one voice?
And if Russia provided funds for the USA NGOs to teach critical journalism there how would the American citizen love it?
Does Russia really need that NGOs funded by foreign powers? Russia has her own good school and traditions in journalism. The linked article in "The St.Peterburg Times" about Ms.Aslamzian case is the example.

La Russophobe said...


The St. Petersburg Times, like the Moscow Times, is entirely funded by foreigners.

Russia has a tradition of not being able to make any significant changes on its own. Both Lenin and Peter I were heavily influenced (and funded) by foreigners).

Russian newspapers are state-controlled and tell Russians nothing about what the government is doing except what the government wants them to know. That's why you have to ask LR what the Russian government is doing.

Are you aware that the Russian government is sending attack planes and huge quantities of AK-47 assault rifles to Venezuela, one of America's most hated enemies. It's exactly the same thing as if America had sent planes and rifles to Shamil Basayev. Apparently, you think that's just fine, but object if America tries to teach Russians about journalism. Frankly, we think your hypocrisy (and igorance) is disgusting.

Did Putin prosecute all the oligarchs who are guilty of "crimes" like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, or only the ones that opposed Putin? Do you really think Khodorkovsky's sentence, in Siberia far from his family, is a fair one for tax issues? Do you really think he got a fair trial? Have you read the legal anlaysis of what happened there? Do you think his retrial on the same charges is fair?

Many international organizations have said that Russia's court system is among the most corrupt and unreliable in the industrialized world. The fact that you think it can be relied upon without question to hand a fair sentence to this Kremlin critic shows that you are utterly naive, a patsy of neo-Soviet propaganda. Shame on you!

You know, lots of people thought all the folks Stalin sent to the GULAG were guilty and being fairly treated too. Why? Cause Grampa Stalin said so! Dude! Wake up and get at least half a freakin' clue!

Anonymous said...

Yes, the courts are not good. Agree. But if the case gets publicity the trial may be fair enough.

Khodorkovsky's case is like Kosovo case. It does not make a precedent.

In 1996 before the presidential elecyions in Russia Yeltsyn's approval rating dropped to 6%
There were 2 candidates for presidency: Yeltsyn and Zyuganov.
So, B. Berezovskiy gathered the Russian oligarchs for a meeting about what needed to be done. They together invested more than 3 bln. dollars in Yeltsyn election campaign. They brought the best imagemakers and PR-consultants from the USA, they paid huge amounts, they hired a bunch of Russian TV journalists like TV "killer" Dorenko, the master of "dirty journalism".
In the result Yeltsyn won the election.
After that B. Berzovskiy said: "We invested our money to make this victory possible, therefore we are the ones to make the rules now".

Was that good for Russia to have oligarchy? Was that the way how democracy are supposed to work?

Khodorkovskiy tried the same play. That is why he is where he is. And Berezovskiy is in London.
They made their fortunes "from the air", by committing things that were listed in the Criminal Code. With such backgrounds they should be smarter and think before starting messing up with Putin.

As about the other oligarchs they seem to have learned the lesson.
But if you are not happy with Khodorkovskiy serving his term alone, and you know some other Russian oligarchs who commited crimes, you can report to the Russian Chief Prosecutor Y. Chaika.

Though Khodorkovsky's arrest did not have bad ramifications for Russian economy, going after many Russian oligarchs may drop the Russian companies' stocks and would threaten the foreign investments.
So, good thing are good when done by little.