Standing up to Russia
We noted last week in an editorial on the Stalinification of Russia that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had caved in to Russian pressure and refused to eject the Russian delegation from its ranks even though Russia’s military action against Georgia violated its most fundamental precepts and rendered Russian membership a sham.
But that wasn’t the whole story, disappointing though it was. There were in fact some courageous leaders who stepped forward and demanded justice. Swiss delegate Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, for example, declared angrily: “Putin is trying to return his country to the USSR. He is challenging the entire world community and he will continue to do so as long as everyone tolerates it, until someone says, ‘Enough!’” Olga Gerasimyuk, the delegate from the Our Ukraine faction, roared: “The tanks passed through Tbilisi and came here to Strasbourg. Now the aggressor is sitting at the table with us and contending for the role of host. Soon we will hear from the Russian delegation here that the Russian army is coming to defend Crimean children. Then there will be more children waiting their turn!”
Streetwise Professor reports:
Konrad Adenauer once quipped that Prussians were just Belgians with megalomania. After following Russia closely for several years now, I am convinced that Adenauer’s mordant observation is easily adapted to Russians: Vast numbers of Russians are just Poles with megalomania. Or maybe, they are Poles with narcissism.
This thought has come to mind frequently in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War, Russian rationalizations thereof, and especially in the often heard lament of the humiliations that Russia endured in the 1990s, and how these humiliations justify Russian pugnacity and revanchism.
The humiliation narrative has two main strands–the collapse of the Russian economy in the 1990s, and the loss of the Soviet empire. Most Russians have a tendency to blame the West–and Americans in particular–for each. But the first was almost exclusively homemade, and the second presumes that Russia has some God given right to rule over others.
With respect to economics, the Soviet Union collapsed because its economy collapsed. Its economy collapsed because one of its main props–the price of oil collapsed; because it could not feed itself (and could no longer pay for food imports because its oil export revenues had collapsed; because it was suffering from a huge repressed inflation; because military expenditures were out of control; because it was technologically backwards; and because socialism and central planning were inherently dysfunctional.
The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Correspondent Fred Weir had a verbal invitation from South Ossetian government officials, who had helped set up interviews for him. But that wasn’t enough to get him into the territory now occupied by Russian troops. “I arrived at the border crossing (on Saturday, Sept. 20) from Russia into South Ossetia, near the Roki Tunnel, in the company of the vice speaker of North Ossetia’s parliament,” says Fred. “He tried to intercede on my behalf. But I was turned back by Russian border guards, who said I required special permission from Moscow.”
“In 22 years of reporting here, nothing like that has ever happened to me,” says Fred. “My journalist accreditation and multiple-entry Russian visa normally entitle me to leave the country from any border crossing, at any time. “ There has been no official explanation for the apparent ban on foreign journalists entering South Ossetia, says Fred. Some academics and Russian reporters speculate that it’s because the Kremlin is furious at the Western coverage of the war and its aftermath. But Fred was traveling with a Russian assistant, Olga Podolskaya, and they were allowing Russian citizens through. Olga was able to enter South Ossetia and gather the interviews and observations for today’s story about who started the Georgia-Russia war in August.
On Wednesday, European Union monitors apparently faced a similar blockade – on the other end of South Ossetia – where it was reported that Russians also man the border posts. The UN monitors are to be allowed into the four-mile buffer zone, which lies entirely in Georgian territory. But Moscow has announced that they will not be granted access to South Ossetia itself.
A report by Weir in the October 2nd issue of CSM shows exactly what the Kremlin is afraid of.
Writing on Pajamas Media Hans A. von Spakovsky, a visiting scholar at the Heritage Foundation and formerly a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice bemoans the world’s cowardice when faced with the ramaging Russian bear:
The Russian invasion of Georgia came up in the first presidential debate and both candidates expressed their support for Georgia. Obama said we must “affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region” and give them money to “rebuild” their economy, while McCain said that “we need to bolster our friends and allies.” Both of them mentioned Georgian membership in NATO, but neither Barack Obama nor John McCain made any serious proposals to punish the Russians now through economic and diplomatic sanctions — like expelling them from the G8 — or by providing active military support to the Georgians.
The Russian dictatorship is destroying and occupying a country that had established a budding democracy. Yet we are doing almost nothing to stop it — other than sending humanitarian and economic aid — and the presidential debate shows that is not likely to change.
Writing in the Boston Globe former US ambassadors to Georgia William Courtney and Kenneth Yalowitz warn that the West must be more aggressive in confronting Russian imperialism in Georgia, since it is a crucial part of Russia’s effort to weaponize energy resources in the new cold war:
RUSSIA’S INVASION of Georgia in August inflicted a potentially severe blow to global energy security by threatening export routes for Caspian energy. Russian President Medvedev’s declaration on Aug. 31 that Moscow has “privileged interests” – read, a sphere of influence – in bordering countries underscores that Moscow’s aims stretch beyond Georgia. Among the targets are the major producers of Caspian energy – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.
Russia seeks a de facto veto over Caspian energy. This is important because the Caspian Basin holds some of the largest reserves of conventional oil and gas in the world after the Persian Gulf and Siberia. Moreover, Georgia is a pivot of the “new Silk Road,” a vital link to world export markets avoiding Russia’s control.
This Friday, October 10th, is a big day for human rights in Russia, for two different reasons. First, it is the day on which Russia has promised to withdraw all of its military forces from Georgia proper. And second, it is the day the world will learn whether Lidia Yusupova (pictured above), one of almost 200 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize 2008, has been awarded it. Last year, in a ridiculous affront to those like Yusupova who daily risk their lives struggling for human rights, the award was given to former U.S. vice president Al Gore — who has never risked his life for any cause at any time, much less human rights – for his work on climate change. By giving the award to Yusupova, the Nobel Committee can do justice not only for the thousands of victims of Russian atrocities in Chechnya, which are repeatedly documented before the European Court for Human Rights, but also for Anna Politkovskaya, who championed the same cause as Yusupova and was murdered because of her courage. Yusupova has received the same kind of threats as Politkovskaya did, and it is well past time that the world began to take steps in honor of her memory.
A stock market in ruins
The Russian stock markets stand in utter ruins. The RTS index closed Monday down over 19%, finishing at a truly jolting 866 — down 64% from its May high. The Oil & Gas Index closed down over 22%. Gazprom, Russia’s leading business entity, was down nearly 25%. Norilsk Nickle, another leading industrial enterprise, was down nearly 40% in just one day of trading. Sberbank, the leading bank (state owned), was down 16%. The market broke through not only the 1,000 point psychological barrier, but 900 as well. The Kremlin panicked once again, and shut down the market so further carnage could not occur. It reopened them for just 25 minutes, saw more horrific bloodshed, and then shut them down again permanently. Very similar to the way the USSR made bad news go away by burning newspapers.
And now a bubble burst, and now a world!
Once again, the Russian stock market has crashed, and once again it has (at 2 pm Moscow time) been shut down. With oil dropping below $90/barrel, it has plunged terrifyingly through the 1,000 point psychological barrier on the RTSI, which as of 3 pm Moscow time is down a shocking 14% at 917. The MICEX dollar index is down even more, nearly 17%, and was also shut down (a half hour before the RTS went dark). The RTS Oil & Gas index is down 15%, Gazprom is down 16% and cash-settled futures on the RTSI are down 20%. The RTSI is down over 60% from its peak in May of this year.
So much for the Kremlin’s brilliant “intervention.” The market has gone right back to doing what it was doing before the first market shutdown three weeks ago (see it represented by that stunningly long horizontal line starting September 17th). The ultimate failure of the crackpot Putin regime is laid utterly bare.
By the end of the week, if left to its own devices, the value of the RTSI could be zero.