Pavel Stroilov, writing on the Spectator blog:
“Russian democracy has been buried under the ruins of New York’s twin towers”, famous KGB rebel Alexander Litvinenko wrote in 2002. The West, he warned, was making a grave mistake of going along with Putin’s dictatorship in exchange for his cooperation in the global war on terror. He would never be an honest partner, and would try to make the Western leaders complicit in his own crimes – from political assassinations to the genocide of Chechens. As a KGB officer, Putin would see every friendly summit-meeting as a potential opportunity to recruit another agent of influence.
David Cameron, whose summit-meeting with Putin coincided with the sombre jubilee of 9/11, would be well-advised to remember these warnings. The previous generation of Western leaders – from Bush to Blair to Schroeder to Berlusconi – has discredited itself by their ‘friendship’ with Putin, and got nothing in return. As The Spectator revealed this summer, there are serious questions to be asked about Russian secret service’s alleged links to Al-Qa’eda. Hopefully, the Prime Minister may have even asked those questions in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin, on the Take
We recently published a Special Extra post which contained a translation of an item from the Russian web. In it, a Russian website interviewed a high-ranking Russian corruption investigator who revealed shocking details about his investigation of Vladimir Putin for personal corruption while Putin was serving in the government of St. Petersburg.
In an almost casual fashion, as if it were obvious to everyone, the investigator reveals that Putin had both hands in the cookie jar of budget revenues in Piter. And, of course, to any human with a brain it is obvious. How else would Putin be able to afford to sport expensive watches and live in a network of palaces that span the globe? And if Putin were not personally corrupt, how could corruption flourish so openly in Russia, so that Transparency International routinely finds Russia to be the single most corrupt major civilization on this planet?
The fact that Putin’s personal corruption is so well documented, even in Russia itself, just goes to prove that Russians approve of it, just as they approve of Putin’s brutal crackdown on democratic values, including his brazen murder of political opponents like Starovoitova, Politkovskaya, Estemirova and Markelov. Indeed, we recently reported on the fact that a new arrest in the Politkovskaya case clearly shows the involvement of high-level Russian law enforcement in her killing.
The Catastrophic Failure of Russian Aerospace
Russia’s aerospace program appears to be collapsing.
The latest series of horrifying incidents began in June with the crash of a TU-134 airliner while attempting to land near Petrozavodsk, killing all of its nearly four dozen passengers. The government was forced to order the entire model out of service.
Days later, a MiG-29 fighter jet crashed inexplicably, and the government was left with no choice but to order that model out of service too, even though Russia had just inked a larger sale of the model to India.
Then, in an epic humiliation, when Russia rolled out its version of the F-22 Stealth Raptor during its annual international air show an engine collapsed during takeoff and the plane could not get airborn.
Next, a swarm of bees attacked a Moscow-bound Boeing 757, from the inside.
And most recently, an entire Russian ice hockey team was wiped out in a horrific crash near the city of Yaroslavl on the Volga.
Meanwhile, objects even higher up began dropping out of the sky.
The Brutality of “Normal Life” in Vladimir Putin’s Russia
In our issue today we republish two stories about ordinary life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. One story involves an adventure with an elevator, the other with childbirth. They are absolutely required reading for anyone who is interested in understanding what is going on in Russia today.
Anyone who has spent any time living a real life in Putin’s Russia will instantly recognize the truth and the horror reflected in these stories. And nobody who has not lived in Russia can truly appreciate how awful it is to experience so-called “life” of this kind up close and personal. This is what it means to live in a neo-Soviet state ruled by a proud KGB spy. It sucks.
But let’s be perfectly clear: The people of Russia are not the innocent victims of this type of horror. To the contrary, their reckless and irresponsible behavior is the root cause of it.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on his blog Spotlight on Russia, remembers the end of the old Iron Curtain as the new one descends across the continent:
Just the same, no simpler
Are the tests of our times:
Can you come to the square?
Dare you come to the square?
Can you come to the square?
Dare you come to the square?
When that hour strikes?
— Alexander Galich, St. Petersburg Romance (1968)
On August 19, 1991, Muscovites awakened to the sound of tanks. In a fitting conclusion to the decades of Soviet tyranny, the tanks that once rolled on the streets of Budapest, Prague, and Vilnius, came to the heart of Russia. By mid-morning, Moscow was occupied by troops. Television channels were broadcasting Swan Lake, interrupted only by pale-faced news anchors who read out decrees by self-proclaimed “acting president” Gennady Yanayev declaring a state of emergency, suspending most constitutional rights, shutting down newspapers and radio stations, and announcing the formation of a new governing body—the “State Committee on the State of Emergency” (known by its Russian acronym, GKChP), composed of the top Communist leadership, including the vice president, the prime minister, the minister of defense, and the chairman of the KGB. Their objective: to save the rapidly crumbling Soviet dictatorship
If history was any indicator, the coup was bound to succeed.
Russian Technology Unbound
Imagine an eagle soaring proudly around the earth in orbit at supersonic speed. Suddenly, the evil Hubble Space Telescope comes into view. The eagle’s eyes glisten with sparks of bravery, it turns its back on the devilish American craft and a powerful red-white-and-blue laser beam shoots out of the eagle’s buttocks, blinding the telescope and rendering the demonic Americans helpless. Their own national symbol has laid them low!
Who in the world could be capable of putting forth such amazing technology to advance the fight against the evil empire that is the USA? Only Vladimir Putin’s Russia, that’s who!
As of the last tax year, that was the sum in Russian “president” Dima Medvedev’s bank account. It had doubled compared to the year just before he became “president” of the country, although his salary in the intervening three years remained constant and was far lower than he received as the top executive at Gazprom, Russia’s largest business entity. Medvedev’s income remained, laughably, far less than that of Russia’s “prime minister” Vladimir Putin. Two years ago Medvedev’s wife had 50% more than that in her own bank account. Now, she has nothing. When asked what happened to the money by a Russian financial newspaper, the Kremlin refused to say. In a recent survey, over 75% of Russian respondents said that Medvedev, like all Russian officials, was lying when he reported his income last year.
Russians Love them some Graft
One of the most obvious reasons why corruption rampages like a wildfire in Vladimir Putin’s Russia is that the people of the country would prefer to lap up its “benefits” than to live another way.
For instance, Russians pay far less for gasoline than they otherwise would because of political corruption. Just like in the USSR, the Russian Kremlin controls gas prices to make the privations of the failed neo-Soviet economy more palatable to clueless Russian citizens. Other prices are controlled too, like transportation and basic foodstuffs, regardless of the fact that it’s not legal.
The result of such a practice is predictable: Shortages. The USSR was infamous for them. Now, the same is happening in Russia.
Readin’ and Writin’ and Roosskie Rithmatic
One of the most hilarious features (or it would be if it were not so tragic) about the Russian psyche is the nation’s continued insistence that it is well-educated, especially compared to Americans. The actual facts tell a quite different story (not that Russians are ever over-interested in facts).
The United States spends 5.7% of its GDP on education, ranking #37 out of 132 countries surveyed by the United Nations Human Development Program.
Russia spends a woeful 3.8% of GDP, ranking a sad and sorry #88. Two-thirds of world nations spend more on education as a share of GDP than Russia does. The USA in particular spends over 65% more on education, as a share of its GDP, than Russia.
If you think about it in dollar terms, the picture is even more horrifying for Russia.
Putin in Space
Just as there are any number of ignorant Russians who, hilariously, believe their country really only leased Alaska to the United States, there are many who will insist that the Americans never landed a man on the moon (not even once, much less multiple times). Apparently Americans are not clever enough to do so — but more than clever enough to fool the rest of the world into thinking that they did!
Such ignorance, such laughable stupidity, and such mind-boggling contradictions are what emerge from decades of crazed, feverish neo-Soviet propaganda. Even watching the Soviet system destroyed was not sufficient to convince hapless Russians to reject it. So right after it fell, the rushed to put the KGB right back in power, in the person of Vladimir Putin — doing so because a man they claimed to hate, Boris Yeltsin, told them to.
The latest instance of Russian brain fever has the population believing that even though Russia, admittedly, has never even once landed a man on the moon, it will build a station and start permanently living there by 2030.
We would find Russian belief in such a notion hilarious were it not for the dire consquences it suggests for the country and its future.
A scene from the Rose Monday Carnival Parade in Dusseldorf, Germany, February 2009. Reuters. On the gun barrel is written Freedom of the Press Putin Style.
The Russian Nightmare
Alexander Andreyechkin. Vladimir Litvinenko. Alexander Surinov. Do you know these names? If you don’t, you can’t claim to have any real understanding of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Let us introduce you to them.
Andreyechkin wants to ban Hotmail, Gmail and Skype from use in Russia.
Want to see what somebody who would say something as venal as that looks like? Good luck trying to find a photo of him. Google images has never heard of him, but it’s not because he’s a nobody.
To the contrary, Andreyechkin is the head of the FSB’s department for protection of information and special communication, and Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said that Andreyechkin was voicing the FSB’s official position. The FSB is the KGB, by another name.
It’s hard to say which is more a more ominous sign for Russia: That the FSB is so brazen and heedless of its own history that it can openly call for shutting down basic communication services, or that it is so incompetent that doing so is the only response it can make to its helpless inability to deal with these evil foreign systems, which apparently are far too complicated for it to manage on its own.
Then there’s Vladimir Litvinenko.
Long Live Luke Harding
On December 1, 2010, Luke Harding, Russia correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, published a story based on leaked confidential government documents which concluded that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin approved the murder of dissident KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko.
Six weeks later, the very next time Harding tried to enter Russia, his visa was revoked and he was sent back home. More than three dozen foreign journalists have been refused entry to Russia since Vladimir Putin came to power and many others, like Paul Klebnikov of Forbes, have been murdered outright.
But it’s pretty hard to think of a single pro-Kremlin journalist who has been arrested or exiled or murdered by the Putin Kremlin, isn’t it?
Posted in editorial, iron curtain, journalism, journalists, neo-soviet crackdown, russia
Tagged Alexander Litvinenko, KGB, luke harding, moscow times, Paul Klebnikov, russia, The Guardian, vladimir putin, Walter Duranty
Russia is an Uncivilized Monstrosity
An exhibit opened last week in Berlin, Germany, whose purpose is to confront the people of Germany directly with the active support — indeed, adoration — given by their ancestors to the maniacal regime of Adolf Hitler. The New York Times reports:
As artifacts go, they are mere trinkets — an old purse, playing cards, a lantern. Even the display that caused the crowds to stop and stare is a simple embroidered tapestry, stitched by village women. The household items had Nazi logos and colors. The tapestry, a tribute to the union of church, state and party, was woven by a church congregation at the behest of their priest.
The same exact thing, of course, was true of Russians during the time of Stalin, and Stalin ended up murdering far more people than Hitler ever dreamed of doing. But instead of facing up to their hideous past as Germans are doing, Russians prefer to rewrite their past with absurd lies and misdirections, and now Russians are weaving new tapestries of exaltation to Stalin and his ilk. Indeed, they’ve even elected a proud KGB spy from the Brezhnev era as their “president.”
Russia’s security services have changed a lot since late Soviet days.
They are much worse.
That’s the view of Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, two young Russian journalists who have just published a book on the FSB, the main present-day successor to the powerful Soviet KGB.
“The KGB was a very powerful organization but at the same time it was under the strict control of the Communist Party,” Soldatov told Reuters in an interview in London on Wednesday, when he and Borogan were promoting their book at a seminar.
“… With the FSB, we have no party control and we have no parliamentary control … we have got uncontrollable secret services.”
The Lenin-Stalin-Putin Continuum
Last week, once again, Vladimir Putin’s Russia was awash in appallingly bad economic news. Inflation was roaring and consumer confidence was plummeting. The stock market was bouncing around like a yo-yo, helplessly enslaved by world raw materials prices. A Russian defector won a Nobel prize and then ruthlessly condemned the state of neo-Soviet science. Once again, Russia pathetically flailed about seeking WTO membership like a beggar, and retail giant IKEA announced it was halting investment in the the land of Putin (IKEA has spent more on Russia than the Kremlin is planning to spend on the Sokolovo “Russian Silicon Valley” project).
All this leads Russians to look elsewhere for investment opportunities, of course. Capital flight has always been a main hallmark of the despotic Putin regime. So last week, Putin revealed his “solution” to that problem: He simply won’t let Russians access foreign markets.
Who can be surprised that Putin, a proud KGB spy and a relic of the failed Soviet past, would adopt a neo-Soviet authoritarian response to the inconvenience of the marketplace? Who can expect his results to be any better than those of his Soviet ancestors?
Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan , co-founders of Agentura.ru, writing in The Moscow Times:
In December 2000, then-director of the Federal Security Service Nikolai Patrushev proudly described the FSB’s rank and file: “Our best colleagues, the honor and pride of the FSB, don’t do their work for the money,” he said in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda. “They all look different, but there is one very special characteristic that unites all these people, and it is a very important quality. It is their sense of service. They are, if you like, our new nobility.”
Patrushev hit the nail on the head. Throughout the 2000s, the FSB indeed became the country’s new elite, enjoying expanded responsibilities and immunity from public oversight or parliamentary control. Putin made the FSB the main security agency in Russia, allowing it to absorb much of the former KGB and granting it the right to operate abroad, collect information and carry out special operations.
A Russian Tail, and Dog
Suppose we told you that those three numbers represent the annual salaries of the President of Russia, the Prime Minister of Russia and the Chief of the KGB (now known as the FSB).
Western intelligence sources in the Middle East have disclosed to DEBKAfile that a special unit of the Russian Federal Security Service – FSB, commissioned by Hizballah’s special security apparatus earlier this year, was responsible for the massive discovery of alleged Israel spy rings in Lebanon in recent months with the help of super-efficient detection systems.
On Tuesday, the Russian Orthodox Church chose Metropolitan Kirill as its new pope. The Times of London reported just before the church was made:
The Russian Orthodox Church will choose [on January 27th] between three alleged former KGB agents as its next spiritual leader.
More than 700 priests, monks and lay representatives will decide who should become the new Patriarch in the first Church election since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The contest at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow pits the favourite, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, against two rivals who also rose through the heirarchy at a time when the Church was under strict Communist control.
On the Trail of Lira Tskhovrebova
Jabba the KGB Mole
On October 8th of this year an op-ed column appeared in the Christian Science Monitor with the byline Lira Tskhovrebova. The write was identified as ”the founder of the Association of South Ossetian Women for Democracy and Human Rights and has worked for more than a decade to improve relations between people of Georgian and Ossetian descent in the Caucasus.” The column began: “I survived the Georgian war. Here’s what I saw. I blame Georgia’s leaders.”
But on Monday, the Associated Press reported that Ms Tskhovrebova’s credentials were somewhat different from what CSM represented:
A woman who traveled to the U.S. as an independent activist is at the center of a high-stakes campaign between Russia and its neighbor, Georgia. Georgia says she’s a spy. The woman (Lira Tskhovrebova) says she is the victim of a smear campaign. But U.S. officials have become wary of her – questioning who paid for her Washington tour. She challenges U.S. support for Georgia. Georgia and Russia are eager to blame the other for the August war over the disputed region of South Ossestia, and to influence the incoming administration’s policy. Georgian intelligence provided The Associated Press with secret tapes of the woman with a man the Georgians say helps lead the South-Ossetian security agency still known as the KGB. The woman says she didn’t know she was under surveillance. The KGB man appeared interested in her frequent contact with the West.
See her now.
Once again, crudely ham-handed Russian propaganda is unmasked. So much for the idea that the facts of the Georgia campaign were on Russia’s side! The CSM owes its readers a massive apology.