Hero journalist Pavel Felgenhauer, writing for the Jamestown Foundation:
Russia has been hit by a number of manmade disasters. The worst is the sinking on July 10, of an old Bulgaria riverboat on the Volga River in Tatarstan. The Bulgaria was built in Czechoslovakia in 1955 and was rundown by age and neglect with one of its two main engines out of order during its last voyage as it took families on a one-night stopover weekend tour from the Tatar capital Kazan down the Volga River to the countryside. Tickets were cheap and the Bulgaria was returning to Kazan on July 10 overloaded with some 208 people on board. The official capacity of the Bulgaria was 140, there were 148 registered passengers, 25 unregistered and 35 crew: 99 women, 66 men and 43 children. The boat sunk in broad daylight, suddenly going down in three minutes without warning. Only 79 survived: 29 women, 39 men and 11 children. Divers had by July 14 recovered 105 bodies from the Bulgaria that is on the riverbed 18 meters deep – trapped in the hull, since there was no time for any orderly evacuation. The captain of the Bulgaria, Alexander Ostrovsky, went down with the ship (RIA Novosti, July 13).
A Scary Postcard from the Front Lines
of the New Cold War with Russia
Two events last week, viewed in juxtaposition, are extremely disturbing.
First, Russian “president” Dima Medvedev ominously called upon Russia’s wealthy to “pay off moral debts” they owe to the state. He stated: “Nowhere in the world perhaps has the development of entrepreneurship in recent times happened as quickly as in our country. People simply have been getting very rich in a very short time. Now it is time pay off debts, moral debts because the crisis is a test of maturity.”
How we ask you, dear reader, is Medvedev’s rhetoric any different from that heard at the time of the Bolshevik revolution? What does he plan to do with those recalcitrant folks who don’t want to simply hand over their wealth voluntarily to the state? Will they be “asked” to pay in the way that Mikhail Khodorkovsky is paying, Mr. Medvedev.
But pathetic hapless fools like Gary Hart were not listening.
Vasko Kohlmayer, writing on Frontpagemag.com:
On November 5th – less than 24 hours after the victory of Barack Obama in the US presidential race – Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced that his country would install short-range semiballistic missiles in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.
The deployment is part of Russia’s bid to halt the construction of the Ballistic Missile Defense Shield in Europe, a project virulently opposed by the Kremlin. Medvedev’s statement is a clear indication that after months of threats and intimidation, the Russian leadership has finally settled on a definitive course of action. The sheer audacity of their plan will become obvious once we take a closer look at the details of the proposed move.
Kaliningrad Oblast, the region that will host the missiles, is one of Russia’s most strategically important pieces of real estate. Roughly the size of Connecticut and not territorially contiguous with Russia proper, Kaliningrad is located some 350 kilometers west of Russia’s border. Situated on the coast of the Baltic Sea, it is bounded by Lithuania to the north and Poland to the south.
Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:
At the World Policy Conference in Evian, France, President Dmitry Medvedev laid out his vision for overcoming the global financial crisis. The president called on Europe to create a new world order in which the role of the United States would be reduced to a minimum.
While Russian analysts were commenting on how skillfully Medvedev was driving a wedge between Europe and the United States, an interesting little incident occurred. At precisely 7 a.m. in Washington, the U.S. Federal Reserve and all European central banks simultaneously lowered their bank discount rate. Russia learned about this coordinated action from the daily news.
At about the same time, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, “Faith in the United States as the leader of the free world and the market economy and faith in Wall Street as the center of that trust has been undermined forever.”
Following this statement — as if to spite Putin — the dollar immediately gained sharply against the ruble. This clearly shows that, although Russians trust Putin much more than they do U.S. President George W. Bush, they — and the rest of the world — still have much more faith in the dollar than in the ruble.
Edward Lucas, writing in the Financial Times:
When I first published The New Cold War last February, many contested my title. But what once seemed eccentric now looks mainstream. Relations between the west and Russia have entered a period of extraordinary mistrust and mutual disdain. Indeed, after the conflict in Georgia, the description “cold war” risks looking like an understatement. Russia has shown that it is prepared to use military force against another country; the west has shown that it will not fight and will merely respond with a token protest. Some in the European Union, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, may see the Kremlin-dictated truce that stopped the fighting (though not the ethnic cleansing, which continues apace) as a triumph. From Russia’s point of view, the lesson of the Georgian adventure is simple: we got away with it.
News last week that a Russian nuclear bomber simulated an attack on a city in northern England, combined with the biggest military manoeuvres since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the dispatch of a Russian naval squadron to the Caribbean, raise two pressing questions: what is Russia up to and what should we do in response?
Writing on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, the always brilliant Pavel Felgenhauer describes Medvedev’s participation in Russia’s provocation of a new cold war with NATO, and a new arms race:
At the end of August President Dmitry Medvedev announced five foreign policy priorities. The first and third points are benign: Russia will “recognize the fundamental principles of international law” and “does not want confrontation with any other country” nor does it intend to isolate itself. The other three state, first, that Russia does not accept the current world order, which Medvedev calls “single-pole,” as it is “unstable and threatened by conflict.” Medvedev declared, “The world must be multi-polar.” Second, Russia claimed the right as an “unquestionable priority” to “protect the lives and dignity of our citizens” as well as its interests “wherever they may be.” Finally, Medvedev claimed, “there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests,” an apparent reference to a geographically unspecified sphere of interests, that obviously includes Georgia, Ukraine, and other neighboring nations in Europe and Asia (www.kremlin.ru, August 31).
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!”