WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 26 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The End of Political Parties in Putin’s Russia
(2) EDITORIAL: The Mutterings of a Russian Baboon
(3) Pasko on Politkovskaya
(4) Kasparov Challenges Obama
(5) Russia and Ukraine, like Night and Day
(6) Get this Straight: Russia Humiliated Itself
(7) Answering Russia on Kaliningrad
(8) Russia’s National Queue Psychosis
NOTE: Today and in our next issue, we offer two absolutely crucial pieces of analysis on the critical stage Russia is reaching in its “develpment,” a tipping point from which there may be no return. Today, the demise of political parties. Next issue, the AIDS epidemic.
NOTE: Robert Coalson, long one of the most essential voices on the outrages of neo-Soviet Russia, has teamed with seasoned Russia correspondent Brian Whitmore to put out a new blog over at Radio Free Europe called “The Power Vertical.” It looks to be required reading.
The End of Political Parties in Putin’s Russia
Russia lost not one but three political parties last week. With none to spare, it was not a loss civil society in Russia could afford to incur. We view it as yet another sign of the apocalypse, and when combined with the Kremlin’s growing threat to bring back KGB spy Vladimir Putin as “president” for life, a truly terrifying one. We urge the leaders of the Western democracies to realize that the political situtation in Russia today has reached a tipping point, and to take immediate and drastic action before they see a fully-realized neo-Soviet monstrosity materialize once again before their gaping eyes.
The Mutterings of a Russian Baboon
When Georgian forces moved into Ossetia to quiet rebel guns that were lobbing shells into Georgia proper, Russia accused those forces of murdering 2,000 Ossetian civilians and razing the city of Tskhinvali. But it soon turned out these were brazen lies. Less than 200 civilians perished, some perhaps at the hands of Russian weapons, and Tskhinvali received only very minor flesh wounds.
Now, the Russian government is asking us to believe that shots fired at the motorcade of Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili and Polish President Lech Kaczynski as it passed near the Ossetian border did not come from the Ossetians who are now fully under Russian control.
To put it mildly, we don’t.
The grave of Russian Hero Anna Politkovskaya
Смех берет от надписей дебильных
И поэтов, сочинявших их,
Тех, что нам на камушках могильных
Пишут глупое: “Трагически погиб”.
They make you laugh, the moronic inscriptions,
And the poets who composed them
Those who for us on little gravestones
Write stupidly: “Tragically died”.
Writing on Robert Amsterdam’s blog, hero journalist Grigori Pasko remembers hero journalist and martyr Anna Politkovskaya as the Kremlin announces that the so-called trial of her so-called killers will go on behind closed doors, just as in the USSR.
On 17 November, on the day of the start of the trial of the persons accused of the murder of the famous journalist, “Novaya gazeta” observer Anna Politkovskaya, an acquaintance telephoned me and said: “Have you heard!? The trial will be open!”
I had already gotten so much accustomed to closed trials in Russia that I inadvertently said: “It can’t be so!”
Garry Kasparov, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
Even as Barack Obama faces front-page issues like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, he will still have to find the time and courage to deal with a certain nuclear-armed autocracy that controls much of the world’s oil and gas.
How should Mr. Obama deal with Russia’s official president, Dmitry Medvedev, and Russia’s real leader, Vladimir Putin? The choice is straightforward: Mr. Obama can treat them like fellow democratic leaders or like the would-be dictators that they are. His decision will tell the world a great deal about how seriously he takes his promises of change.
The Kremlin is very eager to be accepted as an equal. It apparently hopes that Mr. Obama will send the signal that democracy in Russia doesn’t matter, that the Kremlin’s crushing of the opposition and free speech is irrelevant, and that annexing pieces of neighboring Georgia is a local issue and not an international one.
In our next issue we will offer a translation of Yulia Latynina’s writing about the Ukrainian Goldomor genocide, which is commemorating its anniversary this month. For now, writing in the Moscow Times Marc Schleifer, a program officer for Eurasia, and Aleksandr Shkolnikov, a senior program officer for global programs, both at the Center for International Private Enterprise in Washington, compare Ukraine and Russia on coverage of the financial crisis and find that one is acting like a civilized democracy and one like a barbaric banana republic. Care to guess which is which?
Television shows in Russia and Ukraine are worlds apart when it comes to covering the financial crisis. Watching Russian television over the past month, it might be easy to miss that the country is mired in the same twin crises gripping the world — the ongoing credit crunch and the emerging downturn in the real economy. Instead, television news usually focuses on the financial woes in the United States and the U.S. responsibility for the global crisis. Stressing Russia’s emergence as the world’s new economic superpower is high on the agenda for the state-run media. For the average viewer just tuning in, the outlook might seem rosy in Russia, especially compared to other countries.
One can also frequently find reports of new credit being extended to troubled banks and Kremlin-friendly corporations, as well as segments on economic directives being issued down the political chain of command. Coverage of Russia’s collapsing stock exchanges, which have fallen much more than their counterparts in other countries, has been scant.
One would have to dig much deeper to find other worrisome stories, like when some Russian banks refused to give out cash to depositors wishing to make early withdrawals on their fixed-term savings accounts. These issues are not mentioned in the mainstream media, but they are on peoples’ lips. Moreover, there is hardly any debate about the structure of the planned bailout, which some are now calling the reversal of the loans-for-shares scheme of the mid-1990s.
It is interesting to compare this picture to the one in Ukraine.
Cathy Young, a contributing editor for Reason magazine, and the author of Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood, writing in the New York Times:
SHORTLY before the presidential election, at a discussion about Russian-American relations I attended in Cambridge, Mass., speakers from both countries voiced the hope that the election of Barack Obama would signal the renewal of a beautiful friendship. These hopes were chilled the day after Mr. Obama won. In an address to the Russian Parliament, President Dmitri Medvedev welcomed President-elect Obama with a threat to deploy Russian missiles on the Polish border if the United States put anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe. While some conciliatory signals followed, it seems clear that the Kremlin intends to keep the “new cold war” going.
Just three days before Mr. Medvedev’s speech, the state-subsidized youth movement Nashi staged a Halloween-themed rally in front of the American Embassy in Moscow. Nearly 20,000 young people held pumpkins marked with the names of “America’s victims,” among them the casualties in South Ossetia. In an amateur film shown at the rally, an actor portraying a drunken George W. Bush bragged that the United States had engineered both world wars and the rise of Hitler to expand its power.
Ariel Cohen, a Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security at the Shelby and Catherine Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation, writing on the Heritage Foundation website:
The day after Barack Obama won the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced the first real test for the U.S. President-elect. In his State of the Federation speech, Medvedev threatened to station Iskander short-range nuclear-capable missiles in the Kaliningrad exclave if the U.S. proceeds with deploying anti-missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Medvedev softened his rhetoric following discussions with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, instead offering to hold off on the missile deployment in exchange for U.S. participation in a European security conference and if, as Sarkozy put it, there is “no more talk of anti-missile protection systems” until the conference.
Sarkozy later revised his statement, admitting that Poland and the Czech Republic have a sovereign right to pursue missile defense. On November 17, however, NATO, of which France is a member, reiterated its support for a planned U.S. missile shield in Europe–after Sarkozy had said it would bring no extra security to the Continent. A NATO spokeswoman said the alliance’s position–formulated at the Bucharest Summit in April 2008–had not changed. It was at the Bucharest Summit that NATO leaders, including Sarkozy, endorsed U.S. plans to deploy the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The Obama Administration should not give in to Russian threats. If it does, it will signal that the new U.S. President-elect can be pressured on other issues. Even if Obama were open to the idea of delaying or canceling the deployment, to do so following Russian missile threats would be an unmistakable sign of weakness.
Paul Goble reports:
Standing in line, which Soviet citizens did from three to eight hours every day, formed “not only the worldview but the behavioral strategy” of Soviet citizens, and that socializing experience continues to shape the attitudes of post-Soviet Russians and thus make the emergence of a civil society there far more difficult.
In a remarkable article in this week’s New Times magazine, Vladimir Nikolayev examines an activity which he argues had such “a powerful socializing impact” on the Russian people that it continues to affect how they think and act even at a time when lines have become a less prominent feature in their lives. Lines, the Moscow sociologist says, were where people “formed their ideas about the society in which they lived.” It was in them that “an individual understood what his compatriots though about themselves and how he (or she) played a role in this system.” And lines communicated to those in them just what kind of a struggle for existence they faced. And perhaps especially important with regards to its continuing impact on the lives of Russians now, he continues, “standing in line was an activity whose outcome was unclear: the Soviet customer could not be certain than when his turn came there would be something left for him.”