Daily Archives: November 27, 2006

Latest on Litvinenko

The latest post on developments in the Alexander Litvinenko case is here. On Thursday there will be a full set of posts dedicated to this subject, be sure to look for it.

Russia leads World in Suicides

Russians, it seems, have settled on the best way to contend with rising neo-Soviet dictatorship and failure: suicide. A characteristically passive an fatalistic solution, this is of course a harbinger of doom for Russia given that its economy is supposed to be booming and national pride on the rise. Of course, it’s all illusion, a Potemkin village no different from those created in Soviet times. One Russian kills himself every ten minutes in Russia, a rate four times higher than in the United States.

The Moscow News reports:

Russia’s suicide rate is the second worst in the world after Lithuania, the director of a leading Russian social and psychiatric research center said Thursday. “Russia takes second place in the world for the number of suicides, after Lithuania,” the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted the researcher Tatyana Dmitriyeva as saying. “Suicides claim between 57,000 and 60,000 lives annually,” Dmitriyeva said.With Russia’s official population of 145 million, a figure of 60,000 suicides corresponds to 41 per 100,000 people. The head of the Serbsky National Research Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry said cardiac diseases are the most common cause of death in the country, followed by suicides, cancer and car accidents. She said about 90% of suicides result from psychological disorders. Boris Polozhy, a department head with the Serbsky Center, said earlier said official statistics show 36.1 cases of suicide for every 100,000 people in Russia. He said the most problematic regions in Russia were the Koryak Autonomous District (with 133.5 suicides per 100,000 people), the republic of Komi (110.3), the republic of Altai (101.9) and the Nenets Autonomous Area (95.7). Polozhny added that the situation was much better in republics of the North Caucasus, with 1.1 registered suicide cases per 100,000 people in Ingushetia, 3.2 in Daghestan, and 4.8 in North Ossetia. Moscow and St. Petersburg lose 11 and 17.8 people per 100,000 to suicides each year, respectively, according to official data.

If Russia were really a nation on the rise the Kremlin propaganda and the crazed Russophile contingent claim, would it lead the world in suicide?

Fighting Spirit Not Yet Destroyed in Russia

Despite the somber news in the post above, reader Jeremy Putley points to an AP item (reported as well in the Russian daily Ezhedevniy Zhurnal) that shows all hope for Russia is not lost:

Two protesters [pictured above] rappelled off a bridge near the Kremlin on Thursday and hung a banner criticizing President Vladimir Putin’s government for recent changes to election law.

The protesters — one of whom was the daughter of former Prime Minster Yegor Gaidar — unfurled a 50-foot (15 meter) banner reading “Return The Elections to the People, Bastards!” and hung from the Bolshoi Kamensky Bridge for more than 30 minutes before police and emergency workers hauled them up and detained them.

Organizers said the protest was in response to last week’s vote by the Russian parliament’s lower house, which gave preliminary approval to scrapping minimum turnout requirements for elections to be pronounced valid.

Critics said the legislation, which will go through a third and final vote in coming weeks, was the latest effort by the Kremlin toward tightening its grip on Russia’s political life.

Ivan Bolshakov, head of the youth wing of the liberal Yabloko party, blamed Putin’s supporters in government — many of whom are veterans or employees of Russia’s intelligence agencies. They are known sometimes as “chekists,” after the first Soviet security agency and predecessor to the KGB, the Cheka.

“An authoritarian regime has been established in the country; the chekists have come to power again,” Bolshakov told APTV. “They are in the presidential administration, on the TV channels, in major Russian companies. They control everything. … And they also control the elections, as it used to be during Soviet times.”

In recent years, Putin’s government has pushed legislation that scrapped the direct election of regional leaders, barred voters from casting ballots “against all” candidates and increased the minimum proportion of votes required for a party to gain a parliamentary seat.

Basically, it seems, as long as Vladimir Putin himself goes to the polls on election day and votes for himself, the results will be valid. That is, unless a lot more Russians start dangling off bridges and a lot more Westerners start applauding a lot more loudly when they do.

Russian Missile Deliveries to Iran Begin

The Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva reports that deliveries by Russia of dangerous missile systems designed to defend nuclear facilities from Israeli attack are being delivered to Iran. Even some russophiles claimed that Russia would never actually follow through on its deal with Iran to sell these missile systems, given the earth-shaking provocation it would cause as Europe and the U.S. struggle to rein in Iranian nukes. But, of course, Russia has done so. Will these russophiles now apologize and change their tune? We shall see.

According to Israel Aircraft Industries information the TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile system is a mobile, integrated, air defense system, designed for operation at medium-, low- and very low –altitudes, against fixed/rotary wing aircraft, UAVs, guided missiles and precision weapon. IAI reports the deal between Russia and Iran was signed and delivery began this month. The system is capable of operating in an intensive aerial jamming environment. The system is comprised of a number of missiles and a Transporter Launcher Vehicle (TLV). A Russian air defense TOR battalion consists of 3 – 5 companies, each equipped with four TLVs. Each TLV is equipped with 8 ready to launch missiles, associating radars, fire control systems and a battery command post. The combat vehicle can operate autonomously, firing from stationary positions or on the move. Set-up time is rated at 3 minutes and typical reaction time, from target detection to missile launch is 5-8 seconds. Reaction time could range from 3.4 seconds for stationary positions to 10 seconds while on the move. Each fire unit can engage and launch missiles against two separate targets. TOR M1 can detect and track up to 48 targets (minimum radar cross section of 0.1 square meter) at a maximum range of 25 km, and engage two of them simultaneously, at a speed of up to 700 m/sec, and at a distance of 1 to 12 km. The system’s high lethality (aircraft kill probability of 0.92-0.95) is maintained at altitude of 10 – 6,000 m. The vertically launched, single-stage solid rocket propelled missile is capable of maneuvering at loads up to 30gs. It is equipped with a 15kg high-explosive fragmentation warhead activated by a proximity fuse. The system is offered as fully integrated tracked combat vehicle, or as a modular combat unit (TOR-M1T) comprising a truck mounted mobile control module and launcher/antenna units, carried on a trailer. Other configurations include separated towed systems, as well as shelter-based systems, for the protection of fixed sites.The missile is also effective against precision guided weapons and cruise missiles. In tests the missile demonstrated kill probability of such targets ranging from 0.6 to 0.9.The first operator of the Tor system was the Russian Army Air-Defense, which operates 100 units of the SA-15 Gauntlet variant. The Russian navy also uses the naval version known as SA-N-9. China bought 50 systems and possibly 25 more, between 1997 and 2002. The Greek army fielded 21 Tor M-1 systems. Most recently (December 2005) Iran was reported to sign a deal worth US$ 1.0 billion covering the procurement of up to 29 TOR M-1 missile systems, modernization of air-force systems and the supply of patrol boats. The system was also proposed to several other countries. THe TOR component of the deal was reported to be US$700 million. Deliveries of the TOR systems began in November 2006 and are expected to continue through 2008.The new defense system would make attempts at an aerial assault against Iran’s nuclear facilities considerably more complicated as the international community sits by – permitting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to move ahead at a brisk pace towards nuclear independence.

An Open Letter to Sean Guillory

On Wednesday, KGB spokesmen began trying to mitigate the public relations disaster connected with the attack on Alexander Litvinenko, whose condition dramatically deterioriated, by putting out the word through state-controlled media that he was too small a fish for them to be interested in (a bad sign was that Kommersant, recently taken over by state-controlled GAZPROM, joined this fray). At the same time, British doctors confessed they were unable to precisely identify the poison that had been used in the attack. Sean Guillory, seeming to spiral out of control, used these two events as an excuse to lecture the West on judging Russia too harshly, implying that it was jumping to errant conclusions about KGB complicty without “evidence,” that he thought the Kremlin might be blameless in the attack and arguing that the West is in no position to judge Russia’s form of social organization since theirs is not objectively better. Sean even made a joke in incredibly bad taste about Litvinenko perhaps just getting some “bad sushi.” On Thursday, Litvinenko succumbed to the toxins in his body and perished. The next day, we learned that a truly diabolical radioactive toxin had been utilized, making it even more clear that the Kremlin was involved and leaving Sean with considerable egg on his face. Here’s La Russophobe‘s advice to Sean, and all of us, in the form of an open letter.

Dear Sean,

Not that I really mind watching someone who expresses so much contempt for my country make a total fool of himself, but continuing this pathetic drumbeat about Russia’s system of social organization being “not worse but simply different” is making you seem to be a childish simpleton to a degree that makes even me uncomfortable, because you’re capable of contributing value and insight to analysis of the Russia problem when you’re not completely off your nut. But it really is beginning to seem that you sometimes don’t think at all before you post, that you often have no fully formed ideas, but just spew out your raw emotions like a teenager whenever you feel like it, unable to confine yourself to discussing the range of topics you actually understand. You yourself seem to indicate you think you posted to soon about this topic, but if you think your second post is more carefully considered you are quite deluded. XYZPDQ.

First of all, Russia is a total failure as a society, at the most basic level of biology (in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s literally dying off) and the West has every right to judge it. If Russia doesn’t reform, it’ll create a global economic catastrophe and refugee crisis that will make Africa look like a 4-H project, and the West will end up holding the bag. Or maybe you’d personally like to underwrite it out of your savings account if it happens? On top of that, Russia is aggessively challenging Western security by providing support to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, to say nothing of maintaining a vast nuclear strikeforce and universal conscription. The mere possibility that Russia is reaching out to snuff out defectors on Western soil is more than enough justification by itself to respond with vehemence.

Second, your hypocrisy is just plain lame. Do you say “hey, you can’t judge America, it’s not worse it’s just different” when the Europeans criticize it over Iraq? Do you say that to Democrats when they judge Republicans? Of course not. What you’re actually saying is that it’s just fine to judge imperiously, but only when Almighty Sean Guillory says it is. That kind of hypocrisy is unworthy of respect. Moreover, at the same time that you patronize Russians, saying they’re confused little kids who haven’t learned their manners and therefore give offense without actually meaning to, you condemn the West for looking down on (or writing off) a country as uncivilized that by any metric you can name is decades or centuries behind them in development. That kind of hypocrisy is simply breathtaking and mindboggling.

And on top of all that, suggesting that the West needs to have “evidence” before it takes action to protect itself from Russia defies your own discipline. I suggest you read Santayana some day, followed by an actual volume of Russian history. If the West had been more aggressive after the Bolshevik revolution, the lives of tens of millions of Russians who perished in Stalin’s camps might have been saved. If it had been more aggressive when Bolshevism collapsed, not through any courageous action of the Russian people but simply because of its utter failure, we might not now be dealing with a country that is governed by the secret police who spent decades brainwashing themselves to hate us. If you follow this same advice in protecting your family (should you ever get one) from the local pedophile or street gang, I pity them.

In short, it’s really transparent that your thesis is based on your haughty and utterly empty academic contempt for American society rather than any true belief in Russia; were it otherwise, you’d relocate. You choose to live with the West’s benefits while proclaiming that Russia is no less legitimate, and that’s rhetoric easily as empty as the worst you can find from George Bush.

And all of that begs the actual point, which is that no evidence whatsoever, of any kind, has been produced since your first post on this topic to exonerate the KGB in the killing (how you “think” that sophisticated doctors being unable to determine the type of poison used to kill the victim makes it LESS likely that the KGB was involved boggles my mind, and you certainly don’t explain). The only way they weren’t at least indirectly responsible is if someone killed this poor guy just to make them look bad, which is like saying George Bush bombed the World Trade Towers just to have an excuse to invade Iraq. The fact that you think we should ignore the Kremlin’s record based on this possiblity indicates that you aren’t concerned first and foremost with Western security and are prepared to risk it for your own personal “ideals.” If that’s so, you ought to have the guts to say so openly. If you do, it will utterly obliterate your credibility in the West.

In the end, it turned out that what actually killed Litvinenko was far more KGB-like and terrifying that what was at first wrongly speculated about. You should have eaten your words, but you only chewed them a bit and spit them out. I expected better.

Oh, and one more thing: your comment about the West having an unreasonble belief in the “magical powers” of Stalin is grossly offensive and hideously ignorant. The man built concentration camps and murdered more people in them than Hitler did in Germany, yet unlike Hitler nobody lifted a finger to stop him. If you think that’s not terrifyingly inexplicable power equivalent to magic, it can only be because you lack the imagination necessary to understand what it would be like to be arrested by his secret police, whose direct descendants now run the country, and thrown into a gulag. If you think the West should just sit twiddlying its thumbs waiting for “evidence” you can personally approve of that the killing has started again, you scare me and don’t deserve to be taken seriously by anyone interested in living in the real world (as opposed to some Foucaltian acid trip). And as for your childishly irresponsible remark about sushi . . . if Litvinenko was your father, would you have written that? If not, you have as little regard for human life as you attribute to George Bush.

You can do better, kid. Time’s running out.

Yours sincerely,

La Russophobe