Daily Archives: December 6, 2006

LR on PP

Check out La Russophobe’s latest installment on Publius Pundit, asking the question “who’s next?” in the wake of the Litvinenko murder, and postulating that it may be Mikhail Trepashkin, one of the last remaining members of the team that took on the Kremlin over the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings. Feel free to add your thoughts as to who the next target of Kremlin violence may be, and more importantly what we can do to dissuade the Kremlin and to protect those who remain alive.

Russophobes vs. Russophiles in Britain: The Battle Begins

Today we feature an exposition on the duel now being waged in Britain between the “russophobes” who, like Winston Churchill, wish to interrupt the rise of the neo-Soviet Union before it swallows Britain whole and the “russophiles” who, like Neville Chamberlain, wish to throw themselves at Russia’s mercy and hope for the best. We see the battle exemplified in this article from the Telegraph, which explains how Russia attempted to get Britain to muzzle Litvinenko’s attacks on the Kremlin before his demise, and how there are those in the government receptive to such an overture, leading to a battle royal at 10 Downing Street. As can be seen, the russophile censors failed to carry the day. The Telegraphs reports: “Dr Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘In Britain, people are still free to speak, which is a lesson that seemingly needs to be learnt in Mr Putin’s Russia. At first glance, it [the Russian protest] is an outrage. But on a deeper aspect, it is symptomatic of a state that does not understand any longer the concept of free speech.’ Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, the former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, joined the criticism, calling the Kremlin letter ‘absolute bloody cheek, frankly.’ She added: ‘The other thing I would say is that this is the playing out of Russian politics on our soil and it’s absolutely unacceptable.'”

We begin with the russophobe viewpoint, from the Independent’s Jonathan Hari:

The best sound-track to the slow-motion murder of Alexander Litvinenko – leaving a corpse so radioactive there may never be a post-mortem – comes from the Beatles: “We’re back in the USSR. Been away so long I hardly knew the place.”

To those who stopped following the news from Russia when the Cold War thawed out, the thought of a Russian Bond being despatched to London to take out a dissident in a Mayfair Hotel seems like an inexplicably retro moment. But for those who have cared to see, it has been clear for some time that under Vladimir Putin, Russia is marching back towards totalitarianism. The Russian journalist Anna Polikovskaya wrote three years ago, “The shroud of darkness from which we spent several Soviet decades trying to free ourselves is enveloping us again.” For talking this way, she was swiftly poisoned, and when that didn’t kill her, she was found last month with three bullets in her skull in a Moscow lift-shaft.

Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, Victor Yushenko – one poisoning of your enemies could be a misfortune, but three begins to look like carelessness. Or, rather, a deliberate strategy, and the list of victims goes on. But at first glance, this latest attack seems an extraordinarily inefficient way for the FSB – the successor to the KGB – to murder a dissident. They had to smuggle radioactive poison into Britain, and within 130 days administer it so carefully that they killed Litvinenko and nobody else. Wouldn’t an anonymous bullet in an alleyway have been smarter? But like the previous attacks, this is a way of saying to all critics of Putin : wherever you are, we can get you, and you will die in agony, and you will know you are dying, and you will know it was us.

In case this sounds too presumptuous – do we really know Putin is responsible for murdering a British citizen on British soil? – it is worth looking at the origins of Putin’s power, as documented by his despatched critics. In 1999, he was appointed Prime Minister by the semi-conscious President Boris Yeltsin. It was assumed he was merely the latest in a string of bland functionaries who passed through the Premiership. But then there was a slew of explosions in apartment blocks across Russia, killing more than 300 people. Putin established himself as the President-designate with response, immediately blaming Chechen fundamentalists and restarting the uniquely vicious Chechen War which has, according to some human rights organisations, killed a third of the civilian population since 1991.

But there is considerable evidence these bombs were not planted by Chechens at all. On the day of the apartment explosions, in a town called Ryazan 100 miles south of Moscow, a local engineer spotted another huge bomb, and three suspicious men nearby. They were quickly arrested by the police and revealed to be FSB agents. They claimed that, while the country was under attack, they were planting real bombs in yet another apartment block as part of a “training exercise”. A slew of highly respected journalists, from my colleague Patrick Cockburn to Channel Four’s Despatches team, have suggested that the bombings were Putin’s Reichstag fire.

Yet the British government has a vested interest in not acknowledging these bleak realities about Russia, and in doing anything they can to avoid the conclusion that Litvinenko was killed on the orders of the Kremlin. The hard geopolitical story about Russia over the past week was not the death of a dissident, but the meeting between top EU officials and Putin in Helsinki to talk gas. Put simply, Europe is addicted to Russia’s oil and gas supplies. We need them, desperately. If Russia turned off the gas – as they did earlier this year with Ukraine as part of a nasty diplomatic dispute – Europe would freeze.

Putin knows it. As the American journalist Thomas Friedman has put it, no addict stands up to his dealer. If global warming wasn’t reason enough for us urgently to develop alternatives to fossil fuels, the fact that Europe’s closest supplies are in the hands of a blackmailing gangster provides a second unanswerable case. Until then, our ability to stand up to Putin – even when he kills one of our own, here in London – will be woefully limited.

But this radioactive slap in the face for Britain should also be an opportunity to understand how Russia came to be slumping back into totalitarianism just 15 years after the fall of Soviet tyranny. A conservative-pessimist school has emerged which says that democracy was always an alien implant in Russia. Millions of Russians took to the streets to weep for Stalin when he died, even though he had slain 30 million of their countrymen. Millions cheer for Putin now. Russians will always want a stern father in the Kremlin, they argue. For them, any February revolution in Russia will always find its October.

But the reality is more complex and forces us in the West to take a large slice of the blame for Russia’s current condition. The fall of the Soviet Union was quickly presented here as a victory for the Reaganite right. This was largely myth-making: the Soviet system fell because of its own disastrous contradictions. But nonetheless, it meant the supposed victors got to set the terms of the peace. As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz puts it, “They argued for a new religion: market fundamentalism as a substitute for the old one, Marxism.” Without consulting the Russian people, the International Monetary Fund forced on Russia “shock therapy”, a form of regulation-free turbo-capitalism more extreme than anything ever tried in any democracy.

The result was a catastrophe. Russian industrial production fell by 60 per cent. GDP fell by 54 per cent. Life expectancy fell by three years – from the already dire levels of the Soviet Union. Ordinary Russians saw a handful of Yeltsin cronies become billionaires, while there was nothing in the state coffers to pay their $15 a month pensions. Thanks to the Thatcho-Reaganite IMF, Russians came to associate democracy with chaos, criminality and mass unemployment. Think of it as Weimar syndrome. That’s why, when Putin arrived with his neo-Soviet totalitarianism, it no longer seemed so repulsive.

LR: A reader has objected to Hari’s rather strident comments about Thatcher and Reagan, and LR agrees that these comments are regrettable. Those two giants need no defense from LR and nothing Hari says can harm them, but still it should perhaps be said that Hari’s comments strike LR as reflecting exactly the same kind of narrow ideological fervor that he purports to condemn in those leaders. What’s more, it should be obvious to all (it’s why LR chose Hari to put forth the russophobe position) that Putin is a very big problem that needs bipartisan cooperation to solve; Hari’s rhetoric is unlikely to promote this, and tends to dillute the important point he is making. What’s more, Hari is clearly a bit myopic here: Don’t the left-wing regimes of Clinton and Blair have at least something to do with Russia’s current predicament? And aren’t the main culprits the Russian people themselves? Hari doesn’t do nearly enough to call them to account, as he likely would neocons for their transgressions. Still, if such a strident foe of conservatism’s “Evil Empire” characterization of Russia is attacking Russia, you know things in Russia have got to be pretty bad, and that’s another good reason for using this piece.

And so we are back where we started, with a totalitarian Russia, and the few remaining dissidents being picked off one by one. “The bastards got me, but they won’t get us all,” Litvinenko said a few hours before he died. I hope so, Alexander. I hope so.

Eurasia Blog tries to take Hari to task, and the effort falls utterly flat. One gets the idea right from the beginning about how seriously this critic can be taken when he flippantly announces that Hari “talks sh*t.” Quite a powerful rejoinder indeed . . . if you’re in kindergarten. Not exactly setting an example of serious scholarship.

The blogger then claims that the statement “it has been clear for some time that under Vladimir Putin, Russia is marching back towards totalitarianism” is an “assertion so ludicrous that everything subsequent to it appears to be measured and refined.” He then gives exactly zero evidence of Russia’s moving in some other direction. You can cut this kind of hypocrisy with a knife, and we wish somebody would.

He asks for “evidence” to “show” him that Putin was responsible for Politkovskaya’s killing, as if such evidence would be accessible had Putin been to blame. He suggests, giving absolutely no evidence of his own, that if Putin had wanted to kill Politkovskaya he would have used “an anonymous bullet in any alleyway.” Truly breathtaking hypocrisy. He claims that Putin didn’t need the apartment bombings in Moscow to justify his war in Chechnya because he already had Shamil Basayev’s attack on Dagestan, yet he gives absolutely no evidence to show that Russian popular support for war changed significantly after that event. Why should it? Russians felt no pain from those events, and clearly remembered the fiasco that was Yeltsin’s original foray into the republic.

Amazingly, the blogger then goes on to admit: “I wouldn’t say with any confidence that the 1999 apartment bombings weren’t ordered by the Kremlin or designed with the intention of misleading the public” and then goes on to accuse Hari of “engaging in criminal fallacy.” So it’s Hari who’s committed the real crime? What unspeakable balderdash! He claims that since millions of Russians “vote” for Putin in elections, this proves Putin isn’t on a totalitarian path, ignoring the overwhelming support the Politburo members received in “elections” during Soviet times (indeed, several were “elected” into the first Russian Duma). Then comes this incomprehensible gibberish: “So, Hari is saying that European foreign policy is pursuant to the sustenance of an ugly regime because we badly need their gas exports. But he also appears to be saying that the fact that Russia’s regime is ugly means it is likely to use its gas exports as a diplomatic weapon. But, surely Europe tolerates Russia’s worst excesses or it doesn’t. It cannot be had both ways.” Can you figure that out? La Russophobe sure can’t.

He ends with something truly offensive, quoting someone who is just about as offensive as you can get: “The building of a functioning state was the most pressing problem confronting Russia when Putin took office and if dealing with it means living with an identifiable and temporary trend towards autocracy then so be it. As Anatol Lieven rightly pointed out ‘A semiauthoritarian present is Russia’s best hope for a liberal future.'” Anatol Lieven is as crazed and contemptible an apologist for dictatorship as you can find in the world today; quoting him discredits this blogger utterly in the eyes of La Russophobe. How would Josef Stalin’s defense of a creepy, creeping attempt to subvert democracy be any different than these repulsive words uttered by the slithering Lieven? They would not differ a bit. This statement expresses sheer patronizing contempt for Russians, as if they were apes from whom nothing but childish behavior at best can be expected. It’s exactly the way Chamberlain viewed Hitler, and it’s the belief in such absurd ideas that allowed Stalin to consolidate his grip on Russia, causing millions to forfeit their lives.

Neil Clark: Russophile Psychopath on the Rampage

Writing in the Guardian, Russophile nutjob Neil Clark has this to say about the Litvinenko killing, with La Russophobe’s running commentary:

“In Bed with the Russophobes”

As yesterday’s editorial from the Telegraph stated: “But now, even those who have struggled most fervently to cling to the idea that President Putin is a modern leader with whom the west can do business, rather than an old-fashioned Kremlin commissar who cannot be trusted, must be feeling queasy.” They might as well have been talking about Clark himself, and his need to bring in prurient metaphores about the bedroom confirms how desperate even this wacko must now be feeling. The cockroaches are scurrying from the Atomic Blast called Putin: scurry little insects, scurry!

Three weeks on, we are still no closer to knowing who was responsible for the death of the former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko. The use of polonium 210 as a murder weapon could point in entirely opposite directions. It might suggest that the killing was carried out on behalf of the Russian security service as a public warning to others who might think of betraying it. But it could also be read as an attempt by President Putin’s rich and powerful enemies to discredit the Russian government internationally. Whatever the truth, it has been seized upon across Europe and the US to fuel a growing anti-Russian campaign.

Clark reminds us that, unfortunately, while Great Britain is the land of Winston Churchill and warned us about the “Iron Curtain” descending “across the continent” when there was still time to stop it, it’s also the land of Neville Chamberlain, who enabled World War II. Clark is so maniacal that he actually tried to defend lunatic mass-murderer Slobodon Milosovic. Thankfully, Clark is now speaking for a tiny minority of maniacs and opposed by an army of titans, many of whom (writing for the Guardian) have already been documented in the pages of La Russophobe. One must wonder how many valiant Britons will have to give their lives before Clark will be fully discredited, as in the film “Remains of the Day.” Still, if this pathetic excuse for a human being is the best that the russophiles can come up with, that’s actually rather heartening.

There are certainly grounds for criticising the Russian government from a progressive perspective. Putin has introduced a flat-rate income tax, which greatly benefits the wealthy, and plans the partial marketisation of Russia’s education and health systems. He has pursued a bloody campaign of repression in Chechnya. And while some of Russia’s oligarchs have been bought to justice, others remain free to flaunt their dubiously acquired wealth, in a country where the gap between rich and poor has become chasmic.

“Grounds for criticizing from a progressive perspective”??? Russia maintains one of the most ghastly disparities of wealth of any nation on the planet, with an uncountable number of illnesses and diseases, a $300 per month average salary and a declining population. That’s “grounds for criticism”? What would merit condemnation, only a gulag archipelago? This same nutjob thinks that “far from being backward, eastern Europe, thanks to the residual effects of 40 years of socialism, still puts much of western Europe (particularly Britain) to shame when it comes to the quality of its education, public transport and healthcare.”

Even so, those on the centre-left who have joined the current wave of Putin-bashing ought to consider whose cause they are serving. Long before the deaths of Litvinenko and the campaigning journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Russophobes in the US and their allies in Britain were doing all they could to discredit Putin’s administration. These rightwing hawks are gunning for Putin not because of concern for human rights but because an independent Russia stands in the way of their plans for global hegemony. The neoconservative grand strategy was recorded in the leaked Wolfowitz memorandum, a secret 1990s Pentagon document that targeted Russia as the biggest future threat to US geostrategic ambitions and projected a US-Russian confrontation over Nato expansion.

Thank god for that! We have been doing all we can to discredit the administration of a proud KGB spy who has abolished local elections, obliterated independent television, crushed opposition political parties and presides over a nation with an average salary of $300 per month and a declining population. Three cheers for the Putin-bashers. Three cheers for the Hitler bashers, and the Stalin bashers too! Long may they bash (note that Mr. Clark doesn’t have any plans to move to Russia any time soon, now does he?). And whilst he’s bashing the neo-cons in exactly the same manner he claims they bash Russia (what a hypocrite!) does Clark pause even for a second to note the fact that it was uber-neo-con George Bush who “looked into the eyes of Putin” and saw a friend? He does not.

Even though Putin has acquiesced in the expansion of American influence in former Soviet republics, the limited steps the Russian president has taken to defend his country’s interests have proved too much for Washington’s empire builders.

It seems this fellow hates America far more than Russia. Hmmm . . . but didn’t he just loose a breathless diatribe against such hatred? Hmmm . . .

In 2003, Bruce P Jackson, the director of the Project for a New American Century, wrote that Putin’s partial renationalisation of energy companies threatened the west’s “democratic objectives” – and claimed Putin had established a “de facto cold war administration”. Jackson’s prognosis was simple: a new “soft war” against the Kremlin, a call to arms that has been enthusiastically followed in both the US and Britain. Every measure Putin has taken has been portrayed by the Russophobes as the work of a sinister totalitarian. Gazprom’s decision to start charging Ukraine the going rate for its gas last winter was presented as a threat to the future of western Europe. And while western interference in elections in Ukraine, Georgia and other ex-Soviet republics has been justified on grounds of spreading democracy, any Russian involvement in the affairs of its neighbours has been spun as an attempt to recreate the “evil empire”. As part of their strategy, Washington’s hawks have been busy promoting Chechen separatism in furtherance of their anti-Putin campaign, as well as championing some of Russia’s most notorious oligarchs.

Let’s see now: When the U.S. opposes Russian involvement in Ukraine and Georgia, that’s “empire building.” But when Russia gets involved in those countries, which it formerly enslaved, it’s merely the “affairs of its neighbors” and perfectly undestandable. Correct La Russophobe if she’s wrong, but isn’t that exactly what Chamberlian said about Hitler? If Clark is wrong and Russia recreates a chain of neo-Soviet slave states while we sit idly by at his urging, what will he say then? “Oops, sorry about that?”

In the absence of genuine evidence of Russian state involvement in the killings of Litvinenko and Politkovskaya, we should be wary about jumping on a bandwagon orchestrated by the people who bought death and destruction to the streets of Baghdad, and whose aim is to neuter any counterweight to the most powerful empire ever seen.

Notice how he makes no attempt to define “genuine evidence”? The Russophile serpent never does, so that no matter what evidence is brought forward he’s always free to shift the sands and ask for something else instead. He doesn’t even deign to commit to the identify of the fact-finder (probably only he himself would suffice), much less explain how we could ever possibly hope to get “evidence” of the actions of the secret police. Even more revolting, he doestn’t commit to a single specific action that should be taken if such evidence were produced.

Anti-Americanism and Neo-Soviet Deception Alive and Well and Living at Pravda

You often hear Russians and Russophiles complaining to high heaven about “russophobia.” But how often (ever?) do you hear them weigh in with their moral outrage against anti-Americanism? Perhaps they think it doesn’t exist? Let’s tool through the pages of Pravda and see. Did somebody say “we will bury you”? It turns out that, once again, America is on the verge of obliteration while Russia is on the verge of world domination. Remember, Russian people are basing their conclusions about both their own country and others on this kind of excrement:

As many people around the World continue in their amazement over the total moral and economic collapse of the American Nation, a possible new clue as to why this so was revealed this past week with the United States Department of Justice announcing the staggering rate in which their government has been jailing their own citizens, and which now stands at 7 million Americans. According to these reports, ‘A record 7 million people – or one in every 32 American adults – were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year’, and when these figures are added to the estimated 1 million prisoners of war held by the Untied States [sic] all around the World, the once great American Nation has now become the greatest jailer of human beings the World has ever known. More importantly about these numbers, however, is the debilitating effect they are having upon the American society as a whole due to the fact that these horrific numbers are a direct reflection of the Totalitarian Fascist Nation they have truly become. So draconian has life in the United States become, in fact, that their Nation’s internal security police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), this past week received permission to monitor all American citizens by eavesdropping on their cell phones, and which according to these reports they are able to do even if the cell phones are turned off.

A reader writes:

Staggering indeed, but not the statistics – just Pravda’s brazenness. If you are going to tell a lie make it a whopper. “They couldn’t make that up, surely?” you might ask. Well, they have done. The US Dept of Justice press release reports a different story: On December 31, 2005, a total of 1,446,269 inmates were in the custody of State and Federal prison authorities, and 747,529 were in the custody of local jail authorities. In addtion to not be able to tell the truth, it appears that Pravda staff also can’t count. So here are the real figures:

Russian prison population is 864,000; National population 142.7 million; prisoner/pop ratio 0.61%

– US prison population is 2.1936m; National population
298m; prisoner/pop ratio 0.745

It might also be argued that the Russian prison population percentage is only so low because so many people who should be behind bars in Russia are actually out and running the country. . . {LR: It might also be that Russians have spent so many years living like cattle that they no longer have the freedom of spirit necessary to open a window, much less commit a crime; in Soviet times, street crime was virtually unheard of but that didn’t mean the nation was well off — after all, it did collapse). Perhaps as Mr Putin felt so strongly about Litvinenko’s last letter that he tried to lean on the British Government to stifle it in their independent press, the US Government might take a leaf of out of his book and make a complaint to the Russian Government. After all Pravda is owned by Gazprom and therefore really is under the control of the Russian Government.

Pravda continues:

Just as devastating to the American people as the total loss of their freedoms is the economic nightmare they are now entering, and as we can read as reported by Britain’s The Guardian News Service in their article titled “Plunging dollar will set world markets reeling”, and which says: “The slowdown in the US economy, which has sent the dollar into freefall over the past fortnight, will have devastating knock-on effects in markets around the world, analysts warn. As the US slows, and consumers in the world’s biggest economy feel the buying power of the dollar in their pocket declining, global growth will be hit hard, economists say. The greenback took yet another turn for the worse on Friday, after a survey of the US manufacturing showed output declining for the first time in more than three years.” It has been well said by others, that when the American War Leader Bush announced after the September 11, 2001 that the American Nation was in danger of losing its freedoms, he was more right than many of these helpless people knew, but not to any terrorist have the American people lost their freedoms, but from the actions of their own government has this been done.

So, Pravda crows about so-called American economic failure even while reporting that it “will have devastating knock-on effects in markets around the world.” That’s cutting of your nose to spite your face, isn’t it? Or perhaps Pravda hates America so much that it really doesn’t care if Russia is destroyed, just as long as America goes down too. Heard any Russophiles complaining about this “phobia” recently? No? Neither has La Russophobe. Meanwhile, Pravda ignores (because it probably doesn’t understand) the fact that the falling dollar makes U.S. exports cheaper and causes a boom in American industry and employment. It ignores that the U.S. stock market is reaching stratospheric new heights, and that the U.S. adds far more value to people’s incomes by posting growth of 2% than Russia does by posting growth of 10% (because the U.S. economy is more than ten times larger than Russia’s). In other words, it’s classic Soviet propaganda.

In another screed, Pravda states that “USA executes its citizens every ten days” and continues:

The day of November 30, 2005 will mark the execution of the 1,000th death sentence in the USA since the moment when death penalty was reinstated in the country: murderer Robin Lovitt sentenced to death penalty in Virginia back in 1999 will die by electric chair. US-based organization Death Penalty Information Center released a survey of facts regarding the state of affairs in the field of death sentences and their execution in the USA in connection with the forthcoming significant event in the nation. The report presents pure statistics and lacks any comments, which makes the document rather an objective material for further analysis. Adversaries of death penalty made US authorities pass an adequate moratorium in 1967. Death for severe crimes was substituted with lifetime imprisonment without pardon. In 1972 the US Supreme Court abolished the laws about death penalty in several states, where they were practiced, and described them as incidental and willful. However, a sudden upsurge of severe crimes in the USA made the Supreme Court retrieve the right for authorities in 1972 to apply death penalty against inmates. For the time being, death penalty is excluded from legal systems of only 12 of USA’s 50 states: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Man, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Vermont, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wisconsin. There is no death penalty in Columbia DC, where the US capital is situated, and in US-controlled Puerto Rico. Death penalty moratorium is currently in effect in the states of Illinois and New Jersey. The USA is proud of the fact that the national legal system has been searching for humane methods of executing death penalties for 120 years already. The process was initiated on 1 January 1889, when the authorities of the state of New York passed the Electrical Execution Law. The first execution with the use of electric chair took place on 6 August 1890: electric current killed a man named as William Kemmler, who hacked his lover, Matilda Ziegler, to death with an axe.

Once again, we see that facts mean nothing to the neo-Soviet propagandist. New York state, one of the nation’s largest and most important, does not have capital punishment in force as the article states. It re-enacted capital punishment in 1995, but nobody has been executed in the state since that time (in fact, nobody has been executed since 1976) and after a court struck down the statute in 2004 the state legislature voted in 2005 not to reenact it. Only 18 capital trials have been held since 1995.

Moreover, as seen on this graph, executitions have been falling dramatically in the U.S. over the past decade, as has the overall crime rate. Russia, by contrast, has the fifth highest murder rate in the world. There were 60 executions in America in 2005, which is one every six days, not every ten. Pravda is so pathetic that it can’t even get the facts which support its case correct.