Daily Archives: May 24, 2007

Thank You, Valiant Fighting Men and Women of America! Happy Memorial Day!

In our traditional show of respect to America’s brave fighting men and women, who are honored on Monday with the Memorial Day holiday, La Russophobe will not post new content after today’s (following, see a remarkable new installment from columnist Dave Essel on neo-Soviet ecnomics) until Tuesday, May 29th.

We invite readers to post news items they think are of interest in the comments section of today’s contents post, including hyperlinks to source material if possible. You’ll have your own mini-blog! We also encourage readers to poke around our archives in the sidebar for things they may have missed and visit the blogs and websites listed there — especially our new translations library. You can go to the “Index of Recent Posts” area at the bottom of the side bar and click a topic of interest to read posts on that subject (we especially suggest the “Essel” tag, where you can read an archive of fascinating essays and translations by Dave Essel which are original to this blog), or you can open a month in the “archive” area at the bottom of the sidebar and browse the posts for that month, going all the way back to April 2006.

We also invite you to show your support for this blog by creating a Technorati account (easy, fast, free, anonymous) and using it to favorite this blog and/or the translation library blog. It’s something easy and effective that you can do to register your dissatisfaction with Russia’s current course and to call for change, to say nothing of supporting the efforts of all those who work hard, for free, to generate this blog’s content.

Let’s pause a moment to honor the spirit of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and democracy in the world:

The Battle Hymn of the Republic

by Julia Ward Howe

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, we will die to make them free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.


U.S. Marine Corps Anthem

The oldest current American miltary song
Author Unknown

From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We will fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land and sea;
First to fight — for right and freedom and
To keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marines.

Our flag’s unfurled in every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in ev’ry clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job–
The United States Marines.

Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.

Essel on Neo-Soviet "Economics"

In this Soviet propaganda poster, the slogan claims that the
huge demand for Soviet-made shoes is a hallmark of their quality.
In fact, of course, it was merely demonstration that there were
no alternatives and the regime was totally unable to match
demand with production even given the goods’ infamously poor quality.
What Goes Around Comes Around

by Dave Essel

“I had one fundamental question about economics:
Why do some places prosper and thrive while others just suck?”

– P. J. O’Rourke

Kommmersant in an article headlined “The Return of the State Prices Committee,” reports on Russian plans to reintroduce pricing structures set by the state:

“The Economic Policy Committee of the State Duma for the first time in 15 years is drafting a law on principles for the administrative regulation of prices within the country’s economy entitled On Pricing Policy in the Russian Federation. Although the proposed law has already drawn a fierce protest from Herman Gref, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, United Russia MPs propose to put the law before the State Duma by December 2007. The aim is to enshrine in law principles by which price restrictions can be imposed administratively in individual markets even absent state monopolies.”

So the Russian State Duma can think of nothing better that the reintroduction of the USSR’s Gosplan and its pricing committee which managed the Soviet Union’s economy into the ground? Bravissimo! I begin to wonder if the Soviet Union did in fact manage to create the genetically modified Homo Sovieticus it so wanted.

The poor Duma certainly can’t be online. Or perhaps the real government of Russia has deliberately denied them a connection – an ignorant Duma will create less noise, even if it doesn’t have any real power anyway. Because simply Googling the words “price controls” leads one in 0.11 seconds to reams of information on economics that describe the result of price controls. Interestingly, this search for completely neutral words does not produce any results which have anything to say in favour of price controls.

Here is an excerpt from Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt (1894 -1993, journalist, literary critic, economist, philosopher 1894-1993)

Chapter XVII, “Government Price-Fixing”

…now we cannot hold the price of any commodity below its market level without in time bringing about two consequences.

The first is to increase the demand for that commodity. Because the commodity is cheaper, people are both tempted to buy, and can afford to buy, more of it.

The second consequence is to reduce the supply of that commodity. Because people buy more, the accumulated supply is more quickly taken from the shelves of merchants. But in addition to this, production of that commodity is discouraged. Profit margins are reduced or wiped out. The marginal producers are driven out of business. Even the most efficient producers may be called upon to turn out their product at a loss. This happened in World War II when slaughter houses were required by the Office of Price Administration to slaughter and process meat for less than the cost to them of cattle on the hoof and the labor of slaughter and processing.

If we did nothing else, therefore, the consequence of fixing a maximum price for a particular commodity would be to bring about a shortage of that commodity. …

Or we can refer to Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995, made major contributions to economics, history, political philosophy, and legal theory):

Bad and discredited ideas, it seems, never die. Neither do they fade away. Instead, they keep turning up, like bad pennies or Godzilla in the old Japanese movies.

Price controls, that is, the fixing of prices below the market level, have been tried since ancient Rome; in the French Revolution, in its notorious “Law of the Maximum” that was responsible for most of the victims of the guillotine; in the Soviet Union, ruthlessly trying to suppress black markets. In every age, in every culture, price controls have never worked. They have always been a disaster.

Why did Chiang-kai-Shek “lose” China? The main reason is never mentioned. Because he engaged in runaway inflation, and then tried to suppress the results through price controls. To enforce them, he wound up shooting merchants in the public squares of Shanghai to make an example of them. He thereby lost his last shreds of support to the insurgent Communist forces. A similar fate awaited the South Vietnamese regime, which began shooting merchants in the public squares of Saigon to enforce its price decrees.

Price controls didn’t work in World War I, when they began as “selective”; they didn’t work in World War II, when they were comprehensive and the Office of Price Administration tried to enforce them with hundreds of thousands of enforcers. They didn’t work when President Nixon imposed a wage-price freeze and variants of such a freeze from the summer of 1971 until the spring of 1973 or when President Carter tried to enforce a more selective version.

And for a proper historical round-up and sad evidence that very few people ever wish to learn from the lessons of history:

Four Thousand Years of Price Control

by Thomas DiLorenzo (born 1954, American economics professor at Loyola College in Maryland)

The case against price controls is not merely an academic exercise, restricted to economics textbooks. There is a four-thousand-year historical record of economic catastrophe after catastrophe caused by price controls. This record is partly documented in an excellent book entitled Forty Centuries of Wage and Price Controls by Robert Schuettinger and Eamon Butler, first published in 1979.

The authors begin by quoting Jean-Philippe Levy, author of The Economic Life of the Ancient World,as noting that in Egypt during the Third Century B.C. “there was a real omnipresence of the state” in regulating grain production and distribution. “All prices were fixed by fiat at all levels.” This “control took on frightening proportions. There was a whole army of inspectors.”

Egyptian farmers became so infuriated with the price control inspectors that many of them simply left their farms. By the end of the century the “Egyptian economy collapsed as did her political stability.”

In Babylon some 4,000 years ago the Code of Hammurabi was a maze of price control regulations. “If a man hire a field-labourer, he shall give him eight gur of corn per annum”; “If a man hire a herdsman, he shall give him six gur of corn per annum”; “If a man hire a sixty-ton boat, he shall give a sixth part of a shekel of silver per diem for her hire.” And on and on and on. Such laws “smothered economic progress in the empire for many centuries,” as the historical record describes. Once these laws were laid down “there was a remarkable change in the fortunes of the people.”

Ancient Greece also imposed price controls on grain and established “an army of grain inspectors appointed for the purpose of setting the price of grain at a level the Athenian government thought to be just.” Greek price controls inevitably led to grain shortages, but ancient entrepreneurs saved thousands from starvation by evading these unjust laws. Despite the imposition of the death penalty for evading Greek price control laws, the laws “were almost impossible to enforce.” The shortages created by the price control laws created black market profit opportunities, to the great benefit of the public.

In 284 A.D. the Roman emperor Diocletian created inflation by placing too much money in circulation, and then “fixed the maximum prices at which beef, grain, eggs, clothing and other articles could be sold, and prescribed the penalty of death for anyone who disposed of his wares at a higher figure.” The results, as Schuettinger and Butler explain, quoting an ancient historian, were that “the people brought provisions no more to markets, since they could not get a reasonable price for them and this increased the dearth so much, that at last after many had died by it, the law itself was set aside.”

Moving closer to modern times, George Washington’s revolutionary army nearly starved to death in the field thanks to price controls on food that were imposed by Pennsylvania and other colonial governments. Pennsylvania specifically imposed price controls on “those commodities needed for use by the army,” creating disastrous shortages of everything needed by the army. The Continental Congress wisely adopted an anti-price-control resolution on June 4, 1778 that read: “Whereas it hath been found by experience that limitations upon the prices of commodities are not only ineffectual for the purpose proposed, but likewise productive of very evil consequences–resolved, that it be recommended to the several states to repeal or suspend all laws limiting, regulating or restraining the Price of any Article.” And, write Schuettinger and Butler, “By the fall of 1778 the army was fairly well provided for as a direct result of this change in policy.”

French politicians repeated the same mistakes after their revolution, putting into place the “Law of the Maximum” in 1793, which first imposed price controls on grain, and then on a long list of other items. Predictably, “in some [French] towns, the people were so badly fed that they were collapsing in the streets from lack of nourishment.” A delegation from various provinces wrote to the government in Paris that before the new price control law, “our markets were supplied, but as soon as we fixed the price of wheat and rye we saw no more of those grains. The other kinds not subject to the maximum were the only ones brought in.” The French government was forced to abolish its evil price control law after it had literally killed thousands. When Robespierre was being carried through the streets of Paris on the way to his execution the crowds shouted, “There goes the dirty Maximum!” If only this were a lesson learned by contemporary politicians.

At the end of World War II American central planners were even more totalitarian when it came to economic policy than were the former Nazis. During the post-war occupation of Germany, American “planners” rather liked the Nazi economic controls, including price controls, that were in fact preventing economic recovery. The notorious Nazi Hermann Goering even lectured the American war correspondent Henry Taylor about it! As recounted by Schuettinger and Butler, Goering said:

“Your America is doing many things in the economic field which we found out caused us so much trouble. You are trying to control peoples’ wages and prices — peoples’ work. If you do that you must control peoples’ lives. And no country can do that part way. I tried and it failed. Nor can any country do it all the way either. I tried that too and it failed. You are no better planners than we. I should think your economists would read what happened here.

Price controls were finally ended in Germany by Economic Minister Ludwig Erhard in 1948, on a Sunday, when the American occupation authorities would be out of their offices and unable to stop him. This spawned the “German economic miracle.”

Price controls were the cause of the “energy crisis” of the 1970s and of the California energy crisis of the 1990s (only the wholesale price of electricity was deregulated there; controls were placed on retail prices). For more than four thousand years, dictators, despots, and politicians of all stripes have viewed price controls as the ultimate “something for nothing” promise to the public. [my emphasis]

With the wave of a hand, or the flash of a legislative pen, they promise to make everything cheaper. And for more than four thousand years the results have been exactly the same: shortages, sometimes of catastrophic consequence; deterioration of product quality; the proliferation of black markets on which prices are actually higher and bribery is rampant; destruction of a nation’s productive capacity in the industries where prices are controlled; gross distortions of markets; the creation of oppressive and tyrannical price control bureaucracies; and a dangerous concentration of political power in the hands of the price controllers.

The trouble with subsidies and state-controlled prices is that the distortions they introduce have a domino effect, the consequences of which are impossible to predict and often go much further than anyone intended or expected.

Now maybe the members of the Duma are irreconcilable Russophiles and have an ingrained dislike of looking at foreign sources of knowledge. However, they must have a collective memory of the Soviet Union and what Gosplan did to their then country. My favourite example, which I frequently use in conversation with Russians about economic matters, is the rhetorical question “How would one set about destroying a country’s aviation industry with a single price control?”. The answer: “Have Gosplan price fuel at 10 kopecks a litre”.

When engineers set about designing something, they first draw up design parameters for all aspects of the design, balancing technical requirements of the final product against available technology, industrial capabilities, availability of raw materials, consumable requirements and so on. Naturally, a prioritisation is also effected. With fuel at 10 kopecks a litre and to all intents and purposes free in unlimited quantities to the military, when it came to designing aircraft civilian or military, fuel consumption of the future engines came way down on the list. Thus competent engineers came to design an incompetent product, and Russian aircraft were very fuel hungry compared to their Western counterparts. Compound this with a totally crazy manufacturing scheme of airframes made in Uzbekistan and engines in Russia, possible because underpriced fuel made transport costs immaterial and and it was thought a good idea to bind the USSR’s disparate republics in a web of interdependencies [ organisational planning that added to the nightmare of the collapse of the USSR].

And so Russia has no civil aviation industry to speak of; the national flag carrier operates foreign aircraft on all its major foreign (prestige) routes; and the new aircraft it says it is buying for its fleethas a French Snecma power plant .

The Soviet Union’s economic management was as risible as its behaviour in other spheres was horrible. But economics bite back and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It happened then and it will happen again: wait for the bite. So there’s no point in the Duma thinking that a new Russian school of economics, different from horrid Western economics invented by horrid foreigners (perhaps specially to spite Russia), will solve all the country’s problems.

Another quote from Hazlitt makes the best close I can think of:

The whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

What a shame that the Great Russian uniqueness complex means that all this is p*ssing into the wind as far that country is concerned (an ignored minority excepted). For my part, I feel at touch of shameful pleasure as I anticipate that usual Western response “We told you so!”

Mighty Britain Gets up in the Kremlin’s Face! Jolly Good Show!

Britain has announced it will prosecute former KGB spy Andrei Lugovoi (above left) for complicity in the murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko (above right), and Russia has responded by refusing to extradite the accused. Can you imagine what Russia would say if an American former CIA agent entered Russia, killed a leading critic of the United States, and then Russia wanted to indict him but the U.S. would not extradite? Chris Bryant on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog calls for Britain to go all the way:

The news that Sir Ken MacDonald, the director of public prosecutions, wants to charge the former FSB Russian agent Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning is set to ignite a major diplomatic row with Russia – and not before time.

Already the bonfire of Russian expostulation has begun, with Lugovoi protesting his innocence, secure in the knowledge that the amended Russian constitution forbids his extradition. He will also be comforted by the fact that under another new law Russian secret agents cannot be tried for actions they have committed abroad. A cynic might suggest that it looks very much as if Russian law has been designed expressly to allow secret agents to act as they wish without fear of ever facing trial.

Kremlin politicians will put up a splendid smokescreen. They will complain that several Russian oligarchs are exiled here, conveniently forgetting that British judges have consistently condemned Russian attempts at their extradition for being motivated by politics rather than justice and asserted that they could never face a fair trial in Russia.

It is vital that Britain stands firm, not just because a British resident has been murdered but because Russia has to learn that it cannot act with impunity.

We need to make our condemnation of Russia’s appalling human rights record clear. We need to press Putin on the fact that 13 Russian journalists have been murdered in his time as president, without a single person being charged. We need to remind him that the journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed seven months ago – and still the police investigation has only been rudimentary. We need to complain vigorously about the Nashi harassment of the British ambassador in Moscow and the mayor of Moscow’s banning of this weekend’s gay pride march. We should follow up on Amnesty International’s report last November which highlighted the systematic use of torture by the Russian police with ‘beatings with fists, plastic bottles full of water, books, truncheons and poles” as well as “suffocation, the use of electroshocks and of organised rape”.

Of course we should recognise the difficulties Russia has faced changing from a communist state to a democracy but the truth is that Putin’s Russia seems to be moving in the wrong direction. Russia craves international respectability and we should make it clear that respectability has to be earned. So when Russia bullies her neighbours – Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia – we should make it clear that we do not believe these are the actions of a nation that truly respects democracy.

It is vital we get this relationship right. Russia has a critical role in many international issues, not least the Middle East, climate change, Iraq and Afghanistan. What is more, every projection suggests that Russian energy reserves will become more important to us in Europe, not less. Yet there is so little confidence in the Russian Federation’s present policy that foreign companies are reluctant to finance the major investments Russia needs if it is to keep the gas and the oil flowing.

So Russia needs to know that Britain wants friendly relations, but not at any price. Respect for the rule of law and human rights must underpin Russia’s future and we should not be afraid of ruffling Putin’s feathers.

In another devasting blow to Russia, another humiliating example of the utter failure of the neo-Soviet Kremlin’s foreign policy, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has added a film by a close associate of Litvinenko about his murder:

In a surprise move, the Cannes film festival on Wednesday announced it would screen a Russian documentary about the poisoning death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko. “Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case”, which will be shown at special screenings Saturday, on the eve of the close of the 12-day filmfest, was shot by Andrei Nekrasov and Olga Konskaya. Nekrasov was close to Litvinenko, who died in London on November 23 last year. The documentary film-maker, who spent two years working on the movie, shot footage right up until Litvinenko’s last days in hospital. The widow of the dead agent, Marina Litvinenko, is flying into Cannes for the special screenings, said the distributors of the film, Rezo. The almost two-hour long movie contains interviews with former KGB agents and is highly critical of the Russian authorities, a Rezo official told AFP. A fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Litvinenko was poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium 210 early last November in London and died within three weeks. He accused Moscow of being behind his poisoning in a letter released after his death. The ex-agent, who had been granted political asylum in Britain and formally became a British citizen last year, was administered large doses of polonium 210. Britain has asked Russia to extradite ex-KGB man Andrei Lugovoi to charge him with murder in the case. Cannes festival art director Thierry Fremaux said the documentary will be released officially late Saturday with screenings earlier for the media.

Mighty Britain Gets up in the Kremlin’s Face! Jolly Good Show!

Britain has announced it will prosecute former KGB spy Andrei Lugovoi (above left) for complicity in the murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko (above right), and Russia has responded by refusing to extradite the accused. Can you imagine what Russia would say if an American former CIA agent entered Russia, killed a leading critic of the United States, and then Russia wanted to indict him but the U.S. would not extradite? Chris Bryant on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog calls for Britain to go all the way:

The news that Sir Ken MacDonald, the director of public prosecutions, wants to charge the former FSB Russian agent Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning is set to ignite a major diplomatic row with Russia – and not before time.

Already the bonfire of Russian expostulation has begun, with Lugovoi protesting his innocence, secure in the knowledge that the amended Russian constitution forbids his extradition. He will also be comforted by the fact that under another new law Russian secret agents cannot be tried for actions they have committed abroad. A cynic might suggest that it looks very much as if Russian law has been designed expressly to allow secret agents to act as they wish without fear of ever facing trial.

Kremlin politicians will put up a splendid smokescreen. They will complain that several Russian oligarchs are exiled here, conveniently forgetting that British judges have consistently condemned Russian attempts at their extradition for being motivated by politics rather than justice and asserted that they could never face a fair trial in Russia.

It is vital that Britain stands firm, not just because a British resident has been murdered but because Russia has to learn that it cannot act with impunity.

We need to make our condemnation of Russia’s appalling human rights record clear. We need to press Putin on the fact that 13 Russian journalists have been murdered in his time as president, without a single person being charged. We need to remind him that the journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed seven months ago – and still the police investigation has only been rudimentary. We need to complain vigorously about the Nashi harassment of the British ambassador in Moscow and the mayor of Moscow’s banning of this weekend’s gay pride march. We should follow up on Amnesty International’s report last November which highlighted the systematic use of torture by the Russian police with ‘beatings with fists, plastic bottles full of water, books, truncheons and poles” as well as “suffocation, the use of electroshocks and of organised rape”.

Of course we should recognise the difficulties Russia has faced changing from a communist state to a democracy but the truth is that Putin’s Russia seems to be moving in the wrong direction. Russia craves international respectability and we should make it clear that respectability has to be earned. So when Russia bullies her neighbours – Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia – we should make it clear that we do not believe these are the actions of a nation that truly respects democracy.

It is vital we get this relationship right. Russia has a critical role in many international issues, not least the Middle East, climate change, Iraq and Afghanistan. What is more, every projection suggests that Russian energy reserves will become more important to us in Europe, not less. Yet there is so little confidence in the Russian Federation’s present policy that foreign companies are reluctant to finance the major investments Russia needs if it is to keep the gas and the oil flowing.

So Russia needs to know that Britain wants friendly relations, but not at any price. Respect for the rule of law and human rights must underpin Russia’s future and we should not be afraid of ruffling Putin’s feathers.

In another devasting blow to Russia, another humiliating example of the utter failure of the neo-Soviet Kremlin’s foreign policy, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has added a film by a close associate of Litvinenko about his murder:

In a surprise move, the Cannes film festival on Wednesday announced it would screen a Russian documentary about the poisoning death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko. “Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case”, which will be shown at special screenings Saturday, on the eve of the close of the 12-day filmfest, was shot by Andrei Nekrasov and Olga Konskaya. Nekrasov was close to Litvinenko, who died in London on November 23 last year. The documentary film-maker, who spent two years working on the movie, shot footage right up until Litvinenko’s last days in hospital. The widow of the dead agent, Marina Litvinenko, is flying into Cannes for the special screenings, said the distributors of the film, Rezo. The almost two-hour long movie contains interviews with former KGB agents and is highly critical of the Russian authorities, a Rezo official told AFP. A fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Litvinenko was poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium 210 early last November in London and died within three weeks. He accused Moscow of being behind his poisoning in a letter released after his death. The ex-agent, who had been granted political asylum in Britain and formally became a British citizen last year, was administered large doses of polonium 210. Britain has asked Russia to extradite ex-KGB man Andrei Lugovoi to charge him with murder in the case. Cannes festival art director Thierry Fremaux said the documentary will be released officially late Saturday with screenings earlier for the media.

Mighty Britain Gets up in the Kremlin’s Face! Jolly Good Show!

Britain has announced it will prosecute former KGB spy Andrei Lugovoi (above left) for complicity in the murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko (above right), and Russia has responded by refusing to extradite the accused. Can you imagine what Russia would say if an American former CIA agent entered Russia, killed a leading critic of the United States, and then Russia wanted to indict him but the U.S. would not extradite? Chris Bryant on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog calls for Britain to go all the way:

The news that Sir Ken MacDonald, the director of public prosecutions, wants to charge the former FSB Russian agent Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning is set to ignite a major diplomatic row with Russia – and not before time.

Already the bonfire of Russian expostulation has begun, with Lugovoi protesting his innocence, secure in the knowledge that the amended Russian constitution forbids his extradition. He will also be comforted by the fact that under another new law Russian secret agents cannot be tried for actions they have committed abroad. A cynic might suggest that it looks very much as if Russian law has been designed expressly to allow secret agents to act as they wish without fear of ever facing trial.

Kremlin politicians will put up a splendid smokescreen. They will complain that several Russian oligarchs are exiled here, conveniently forgetting that British judges have consistently condemned Russian attempts at their extradition for being motivated by politics rather than justice and asserted that they could never face a fair trial in Russia.

It is vital that Britain stands firm, not just because a British resident has been murdered but because Russia has to learn that it cannot act with impunity.

We need to make our condemnation of Russia’s appalling human rights record clear. We need to press Putin on the fact that 13 Russian journalists have been murdered in his time as president, without a single person being charged. We need to remind him that the journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed seven months ago – and still the police investigation has only been rudimentary. We need to complain vigorously about the Nashi harassment of the British ambassador in Moscow and the mayor of Moscow’s banning of this weekend’s gay pride march. We should follow up on Amnesty International’s report last November which highlighted the systematic use of torture by the Russian police with ‘beatings with fists, plastic bottles full of water, books, truncheons and poles” as well as “suffocation, the use of electroshocks and of organised rape”.

Of course we should recognise the difficulties Russia has faced changing from a communist state to a democracy but the truth is that Putin’s Russia seems to be moving in the wrong direction. Russia craves international respectability and we should make it clear that respectability has to be earned. So when Russia bullies her neighbours – Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia – we should make it clear that we do not believe these are the actions of a nation that truly respects democracy.

It is vital we get this relationship right. Russia has a critical role in many international issues, not least the Middle East, climate change, Iraq and Afghanistan. What is more, every projection suggests that Russian energy reserves will become more important to us in Europe, not less. Yet there is so little confidence in the Russian Federation’s present policy that foreign companies are reluctant to finance the major investments Russia needs if it is to keep the gas and the oil flowing.

So Russia needs to know that Britain wants friendly relations, but not at any price. Respect for the rule of law and human rights must underpin Russia’s future and we should not be afraid of ruffling Putin’s feathers.

In another devasting blow to Russia, another humiliating example of the utter failure of the neo-Soviet Kremlin’s foreign policy, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has added a film by a close associate of Litvinenko about his murder:

In a surprise move, the Cannes film festival on Wednesday announced it would screen a Russian documentary about the poisoning death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko. “Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case”, which will be shown at special screenings Saturday, on the eve of the close of the 12-day filmfest, was shot by Andrei Nekrasov and Olga Konskaya. Nekrasov was close to Litvinenko, who died in London on November 23 last year. The documentary film-maker, who spent two years working on the movie, shot footage right up until Litvinenko’s last days in hospital. The widow of the dead agent, Marina Litvinenko, is flying into Cannes for the special screenings, said the distributors of the film, Rezo. The almost two-hour long movie contains interviews with former KGB agents and is highly critical of the Russian authorities, a Rezo official told AFP. A fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Litvinenko was poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium 210 early last November in London and died within three weeks. He accused Moscow of being behind his poisoning in a letter released after his death. The ex-agent, who had been granted political asylum in Britain and formally became a British citizen last year, was administered large doses of polonium 210. Britain has asked Russia to extradite ex-KGB man Andrei Lugovoi to charge him with murder in the case. Cannes festival art director Thierry Fremaux said the documentary will be released officially late Saturday with screenings earlier for the media.

Mighty Britain Gets up in the Kremlin’s Face! Jolly Good Show!

Britain has announced it will prosecute former KGB spy Andrei Lugovoi (above left) for complicity in the murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko (above right), and Russia has responded by refusing to extradite the accused. Can you imagine what Russia would say if an American former CIA agent entered Russia, killed a leading critic of the United States, and then Russia wanted to indict him but the U.S. would not extradite? Chris Bryant on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog calls for Britain to go all the way:

The news that Sir Ken MacDonald, the director of public prosecutions, wants to charge the former FSB Russian agent Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning is set to ignite a major diplomatic row with Russia – and not before time.

Already the bonfire of Russian expostulation has begun, with Lugovoi protesting his innocence, secure in the knowledge that the amended Russian constitution forbids his extradition. He will also be comforted by the fact that under another new law Russian secret agents cannot be tried for actions they have committed abroad. A cynic might suggest that it looks very much as if Russian law has been designed expressly to allow secret agents to act as they wish without fear of ever facing trial.

Kremlin politicians will put up a splendid smokescreen. They will complain that several Russian oligarchs are exiled here, conveniently forgetting that British judges have consistently condemned Russian attempts at their extradition for being motivated by politics rather than justice and asserted that they could never face a fair trial in Russia.

It is vital that Britain stands firm, not just because a British resident has been murdered but because Russia has to learn that it cannot act with impunity.

We need to make our condemnation of Russia’s appalling human rights record clear. We need to press Putin on the fact that 13 Russian journalists have been murdered in his time as president, without a single person being charged. We need to remind him that the journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed seven months ago – and still the police investigation has only been rudimentary. We need to complain vigorously about the Nashi harassment of the British ambassador in Moscow and the mayor of Moscow’s banning of this weekend’s gay pride march. We should follow up on Amnesty International’s report last November which highlighted the systematic use of torture by the Russian police with ‘beatings with fists, plastic bottles full of water, books, truncheons and poles” as well as “suffocation, the use of electroshocks and of organised rape”.

Of course we should recognise the difficulties Russia has faced changing from a communist state to a democracy but the truth is that Putin’s Russia seems to be moving in the wrong direction. Russia craves international respectability and we should make it clear that respectability has to be earned. So when Russia bullies her neighbours – Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia – we should make it clear that we do not believe these are the actions of a nation that truly respects democracy.

It is vital we get this relationship right. Russia has a critical role in many international issues, not least the Middle East, climate change, Iraq and Afghanistan. What is more, every projection suggests that Russian energy reserves will become more important to us in Europe, not less. Yet there is so little confidence in the Russian Federation’s present policy that foreign companies are reluctant to finance the major investments Russia needs if it is to keep the gas and the oil flowing.

So Russia needs to know that Britain wants friendly relations, but not at any price. Respect for the rule of law and human rights must underpin Russia’s future and we should not be afraid of ruffling Putin’s feathers.

In another devasting blow to Russia, another humiliating example of the utter failure of the neo-Soviet Kremlin’s foreign policy, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has added a film by a close associate of Litvinenko about his murder:

In a surprise move, the Cannes film festival on Wednesday announced it would screen a Russian documentary about the poisoning death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko. “Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case”, which will be shown at special screenings Saturday, on the eve of the close of the 12-day filmfest, was shot by Andrei Nekrasov and Olga Konskaya. Nekrasov was close to Litvinenko, who died in London on November 23 last year. The documentary film-maker, who spent two years working on the movie, shot footage right up until Litvinenko’s last days in hospital. The widow of the dead agent, Marina Litvinenko, is flying into Cannes for the special screenings, said the distributors of the film, Rezo. The almost two-hour long movie contains interviews with former KGB agents and is highly critical of the Russian authorities, a Rezo official told AFP. A fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Litvinenko was poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium 210 early last November in London and died within three weeks. He accused Moscow of being behind his poisoning in a letter released after his death. The ex-agent, who had been granted political asylum in Britain and formally became a British citizen last year, was administered large doses of polonium 210. Britain has asked Russia to extradite ex-KGB man Andrei Lugovoi to charge him with murder in the case. Cannes festival art director Thierry Fremaux said the documentary will be released officially late Saturday with screenings earlier for the media.

Mighty Britain Gets up in the Kremlin’s Face! Jolly Good Show!

Britain has announced it will prosecute former KGB spy Andrei Lugovoi (above left) for complicity in the murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko (above right), and Russia has responded by refusing to extradite the accused. Can you imagine what Russia would say if an American former CIA agent entered Russia, killed a leading critic of the United States, and then Russia wanted to indict him but the U.S. would not extradite? Chris Bryant on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog calls for Britain to go all the way:

The news that Sir Ken MacDonald, the director of public prosecutions, wants to charge the former FSB Russian agent Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning is set to ignite a major diplomatic row with Russia – and not before time.

Already the bonfire of Russian expostulation has begun, with Lugovoi protesting his innocence, secure in the knowledge that the amended Russian constitution forbids his extradition. He will also be comforted by the fact that under another new law Russian secret agents cannot be tried for actions they have committed abroad. A cynic might suggest that it looks very much as if Russian law has been designed expressly to allow secret agents to act as they wish without fear of ever facing trial.

Kremlin politicians will put up a splendid smokescreen. They will complain that several Russian oligarchs are exiled here, conveniently forgetting that British judges have consistently condemned Russian attempts at their extradition for being motivated by politics rather than justice and asserted that they could never face a fair trial in Russia.

It is vital that Britain stands firm, not just because a British resident has been murdered but because Russia has to learn that it cannot act with impunity.

We need to make our condemnation of Russia’s appalling human rights record clear. We need to press Putin on the fact that 13 Russian journalists have been murdered in his time as president, without a single person being charged. We need to remind him that the journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed seven months ago – and still the police investigation has only been rudimentary. We need to complain vigorously about the Nashi harassment of the British ambassador in Moscow and the mayor of Moscow’s banning of this weekend’s gay pride march. We should follow up on Amnesty International’s report last November which highlighted the systematic use of torture by the Russian police with ‘beatings with fists, plastic bottles full of water, books, truncheons and poles” as well as “suffocation, the use of electroshocks and of organised rape”.

Of course we should recognise the difficulties Russia has faced changing from a communist state to a democracy but the truth is that Putin’s Russia seems to be moving in the wrong direction. Russia craves international respectability and we should make it clear that respectability has to be earned. So when Russia bullies her neighbours – Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia – we should make it clear that we do not believe these are the actions of a nation that truly respects democracy.

It is vital we get this relationship right. Russia has a critical role in many international issues, not least the Middle East, climate change, Iraq and Afghanistan. What is more, every projection suggests that Russian energy reserves will become more important to us in Europe, not less. Yet there is so little confidence in the Russian Federation’s present policy that foreign companies are reluctant to finance the major investments Russia needs if it is to keep the gas and the oil flowing.

So Russia needs to know that Britain wants friendly relations, but not at any price. Respect for the rule of law and human rights must underpin Russia’s future and we should not be afraid of ruffling Putin’s feathers.

In another devasting blow to Russia, another humiliating example of the utter failure of the neo-Soviet Kremlin’s foreign policy, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has added a film by a close associate of Litvinenko about his murder:

In a surprise move, the Cannes film festival on Wednesday announced it would screen a Russian documentary about the poisoning death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko. “Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case”, which will be shown at special screenings Saturday, on the eve of the close of the 12-day filmfest, was shot by Andrei Nekrasov and Olga Konskaya. Nekrasov was close to Litvinenko, who died in London on November 23 last year. The documentary film-maker, who spent two years working on the movie, shot footage right up until Litvinenko’s last days in hospital. The widow of the dead agent, Marina Litvinenko, is flying into Cannes for the special screenings, said the distributors of the film, Rezo. The almost two-hour long movie contains interviews with former KGB agents and is highly critical of the Russian authorities, a Rezo official told AFP. A fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Litvinenko was poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium 210 early last November in London and died within three weeks. He accused Moscow of being behind his poisoning in a letter released after his death. The ex-agent, who had been granted political asylum in Britain and formally became a British citizen last year, was administered large doses of polonium 210. Britain has asked Russia to extradite ex-KGB man Andrei Lugovoi to charge him with murder in the case. Cannes festival art director Thierry Fremaux said the documentary will be released officially late Saturday with screenings earlier for the media.

Edward Lucas Lets Putin Have it with Both Barrels

Writing in the UK’s Daily Mail, the brilliant Russia pundit (and ace blogger) Edward Lucas lets the neo-Soviet Kremlin have it with both barrels:

Murder on our streets. Blackmail over oil supplies. Cyber-terrorism. Putin’s Russia poses a grave threat to our way of life.

So now it’s official: the nuclear terrorist attack on the streets of London that killed Alexander Litvinenko and contaminated 17 others was not by ‘person or persons unknown’. The British authorities have publicly named the man many have long seen as the prime suspect: Andrei Lugovoy, a multi-millionaire ex-KGB agent with close ties to the Kremlin. His trail leads through London and Hamburg, marked by traces of Polonium-210, the lethal radioactive isotope that condemned the Russian defector to a grisly death.

Many mysteries remain.

Mr Lugovoy vehemently protests his innocence. Was he set up by the real assassins? Or was he a bungler? Professional KGB killers would never have left so many clues. Maybe the Kremlin wanted to send a powerful message, condemning a man they saw as a traitor to a slow, agonising and public death? And how serious was Mr Litvinenko, with his increasingly wild allegations of paedophilia in the Kremlin and Russian support for Al-Qaeda?

In spy novels, such puzzles are neatly unravelled by the end of the story. But this real-life thriller has only just begun, and there are few answers to any of the terrifying problems that it poses. The truth is that Russia, under Vladimir Putin, has become a nation that matches the resources and ambition of a superpower with the ruthlessness and ingenuity of gangsters and terrorists. As even the most sentimental and feeble-minded westerners are beginning to realise, Russia poses a profound threat to our way of life, and one that we are still pitifully ill- equipped to counter.

The first and most blatant weapon in its armoury is murder. As Paul Joyal, a prominent American expert on intelligence and Kremlin dirty tricks – and a friend of Mr Litvinenko’s – said on an American television programme: “A message has been communicated to anyone who wants to speak out against the Kremlin: ‘If you do, no matter who you are, where you are, we will find you and we will silence you – in the most horrible way possible.’ ”

A week after that interview was broadcast, Mr Joyal was gunned down outside his home near Washington DC. Initial reports said it was just a sinister coincidence. Mr Joyal himself, his internal organs torn to pieces by the attacker’s bullet, was in a drug-induced coma for nearly a month. Since then he has said little. But when I spoke to him, he said that the behaviour of the attackers and the fact that they left his wallet, briefcase, computer and car (as well as other objects that must stay confidential for now) mean it is virtually impossible that it was mere street crime. That suspicion might also be shared by America’s FBI, which – highly unusually – is assisting the local county police in their investigation.

Kremlin death squads have killed others.

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, an exiled Chechen leader, was blown up in February 2004 in the Qatari capital, Doha, along with two bodyguards and his young son. The perpetrators – officers in Russia’s elite GRU military intelligence service – were caught, tried and imprisoned. As part of a deal with Russia, they were returned home, supposedly to serve out the rest of their sentences. Instead, they received a heroes’ welcome and were released.

So much for legality in Russia, a country that has passed a law authorising the murder of its enemies abroad. The definition of enemies, incidentally, includes “extremist” – a word that Russian officials use to describe anyone who disagrees with them. Russia shows a similarly cavalier attitude to its business dealings with the outside world. Tearing up contracts without the slightest hesitation, it uses blackmail against its neighbours in a way that would have been unimaginable even in the depths of the Cold War.

Lithuania and Estonia, two brave Baltic nations that cast off the shackles of communist tyranny in 1991, are in the front line of Russian energy sanctions. A vital oil pipeline to Lithuania’s Mazeikiai oil refinery – the mainstay of that country’s economy – has been cut off, supposedly for urgent maintenance. But the repair works have been going on for nearly a year and are set to continue indefinitely.

When Lithuanian officials protested, a senior Russian visitor told them: “Sorry, you should have sold the refinery to us” (Lithuania had sold it to the main oil company in friendly, neighbouring Poland). Among other sanctions on Estonia, Russian officials have crippled trade by closing that country’s main road bridge from Russia, again claiming that it needs “urgent repairs”. Given Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, that is already alarming. But it is another kind of onslaught unleashed against plucky Estonia that has set deafening alarm bells ringing in Brussels and Washington. Last month, Estonia’s government decided to move a Soviet war memorial in the centre of the capital, Tallinn, to a nearby military cemetery. That prompted demonstrations by local Russians, egged on by the Kremlin’s spies and provocateurs, which soon turned into riots and looting.

In the chocolate-box streets of medieval Tallinn, familiar to many British holidaymakers as one of the friendliest and most charming capitals of Europe, drunken Russian hooligans emptied shops and burnt cars, chanting “It’s all ours” and “Soviet Union for ever”. In Moscow, thugs blockaded and attacked the Estonian embassy – a flagrant breach of the Vienna convention. When the Swedish ambassador visited, they tried to turn over his car. But that was only a taste of the havoc to be wreaked in cyberspace. Estonia’s most vital computers experienced a cyber-attack on a scale and ferocity unknown in the history of the internet. Techniques normally employed by cyber-criminals, such as huge remote-controlled networks of hijacked computers, were used to cripple vital public services, paralyse the banking system and cut off the government’s websites from the outside world. By cutting Estonia off from the world, the Kremlin’s propagandists could freely peddle their poisonous lies about a “fascist revival” in this peaceful, prosperous and democratic country.

Luckily for us, Russia’s goons and spooks have overplayed their hand. Outrage in Germany about the way Vladimir Putin’s thuggish regime crushes opposition and bullies its neighbours makes it easier for the steely Chancellor, Angela Merkel, herself a former inmate of the grim Communist prison camp of East Germany, to show her own distaste. The European Union’s summit with Russia in Samara last week was a frosty affair – a welcome change from days of Silvio Berlusconi, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroder, infamous for their sleazy backslapping with Russia’s leaders.

But we in Britain have yet to catch up – thanks, paradoxically, to our open, globalised economy. Russia’s energyfuelled wealth has given it a vital bridgehead, creating a powerful lobby of banks and business partners that overlooks any crimes in the hope of profit. BP’s imminent loss of its most prized investment in Russia, the $6 billion Kovykta gas field, is a punishment for the British authorities’ temerity in charging Mr Lugovoy. That shows how high the stakes are.

Even now, the Kremlin’s slimy spin-doctors are trying to downplay the Litvinenko murder: he was a “provocative” figure, one of them murmured to me. But since when has being “provocative” attracted a death sentence, meted out without judge or jury on the streets of London? The dismal truth is this: during the Cold War, capitalists and freedom-fighters were on the same side. Now that Russia has adopted capitalism – albeit its own barbarous version – a fifth column has marched straight into the heart of the British establishment.

What will it take to counteract it?

OUTRAGE!!! Georgy Bovt Gets the Kremlin Axe

The Moscow Times reports that the brilliant Russian pundit Georgy Bovt, often published on La Russophobe, has been fired in a Kremlin-prompted political attack.

Georgy Bovt has been dismissed from his posts of editor of both the Profil and BusinessWeek magazines in what he said Tuesday was a Kremlin-backed move. “This was initially Sergei Rodionov’s idea, which was supported by the Kremlin,” Bovt said, without elaborating. The two magazines are owned by the Rodionov publishing house. Profil is published in cooperation with Germany’s Der Spiegel, while BusinessWeek is under license from the U.S. magazine of the same name. Rodionov could not be immediately reached for comment. Bovt, who writes a column for The Moscow Times and formerly served as Izvestia’s editor, said he had faced perpetual difficulties with Rodionov over political reporting and payments to journalists. Bovt was replaced at Profil by Mikhail Leontyev, a nationalist television journalist. Leontyev told Ekho Moskvy radio on Tuesday that Rodionov had made him a generous offer that he could not refuse. He declined to elaborate. Bovt said the new editor of BusinessWeek would be Olga Romanova, who left Ren-TV in late 2005 after accusing the channel’s management of censoring her news program. Meanwhile, the Rodionov publishing house’s president, Alexei Volin, said Tuesday that he had resigned but then accepted the post of board chairman. Bovt explained the move as internal politics.

Amnesty International Condemns Russia Once Again

The Associated Press reports:

Russian authorities have intensified pressure on civil society and the independent media and are turning a blind eye to the growing number of hate crimes targeting foreigners, immigrants and sexual minorities, an international rights group said in a report released Wednesday.

Amnesty International’s criticism is the latest in a growing chorus from human rights groups and Western nations about Russian society under President Vladimir Putin.

In its 2007 global report, Amnesty said Russian authorities “deliberately fomented fear to erode human rights,” restricting freedom of expression.

“The authoritarian drift in Russia has been devastating for journalists and human rights defenders,” the report said, noting the assassination of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and new laws clamping down on rights organizations.

Authorities have also ignored the abduction of civilians in war-wracked Chechnya, which it called a “forgotten” conflict, the London-based organization said.

The chairwoman of Russia’s government-appointed human rights council said that authorities should consider the report, but disagreed with some aspects, including on rights abuses in Chechnya.

“I respect their viewpoint and unbiased work, but the situation in Chechnya has improved dramatically,” said Ella Pamfilova, the council’s chairwoman.

Russian civil and non-governmental groups are “left vulnerable” to new government regulations and Russia’s leaders are failing to confront “racism, xenophobia and ideologies that promote hate crimes,” the Amnesty report said.

Kasparov Fires another Wicked Broadside: At last, he’s out of his Shell! Hooray!!

The EU Observer reports that dissident leader Garry Kasparov has lauched another furious verbal barrage at the Kremlin, continuing his much more aggressive rhetorial stance begun after his detention prior to the Samara “Other Russia” action. Way to go, Garik! Keep it up! We’re right there with you all the way!

Russian chess master turned dissident Gary Kasparov warned Europe that its giant eastern neighbour is heading for a “political crisis” by the end of the year, while urging the EU and G7 states not to give Putin propaganda ammunition.

“The gap between rich and poor is growing…political instability is growing, as the Russian elite doesn’t know who will take power in 2008. These developments are pointing to a serious political crisis at the end of this year,” Mr Kasparov said. His remarks, made at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (23 May), depict Putin’s Russia as an ideology-free “corporation” with policies designed only to enrich the nomenklatura, no matter what the cost to ordinary Russians or international relations.

The Russian president in state-owned media portrays himself as having 70 percent popularity, rebuilding post-Soviet Russia as a petro-based superpower and playing a positive, counter-balancing role to “unipolar” US imperialism in areas like the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Mr Kasparov says Russian oligarch capital is fleeing west amid fears of a redistribution of wealth after Russia’s March 2008 presidential elections; popular disenchantment is growing and Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran are fueling Middle East conflicts.

“If the US administration exercised the same [media] control, Bush would have 70 percent also,” he explained. “The regime needs high oil prices, instability in the Middle East is keeping oil prices high.”

“In 1989 there were a few hundred people on the streets. In 1990, a few thousand. In 1991 [when the Soviet Union collapsed] there were hundreds of thousands,” Mr Kasparov recalled. “On the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg [in April] we had a few thousand.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the Kasparov line, denying that it sells sensitive arms technology to rogue states. It has also highlighted the fact Mr Kasparov’s opposition rallies attract far-right and far-left groups, and questioned the chess genius’ political nous.

“He’s a better chess player than he is a politician,” the Russian envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, once told EUobserver.

But the Kasparov picture is also matched by other reports: BBC journalists talk of mansions being built outside Moscow while basic social welfare services lapse. The International Energy Agency says under-investment in infrastructure could see massive gas shortages hit around 2010.

The book “Putin’s Russia” by murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya also paints a sad picture of the Russian army: drunk colonels shooting civilians in Chechnya with impunity; nuclear submarine captains unable to feed their families due to unpaid wages.

“Russia is run on the basis of ‘output legitimacy’ – Putin is not interested in democracy, but he has promised energy rents will bring social benefits,” UK-based European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Nicu Popescu said. “If after 2010 there is no output legitimacy and no democratic legitimacy there could be a crisis.”

“It’s difficult to predict when this will happen, but economic and political trends are pointing in this direction. It might not be this year, it might be three or four years from now,” he added.

The G8 circus

Mr Kasparov – in Strasbourg at the personal invitation of European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering – noted the EU has hardened its criticism of Russia in recent months, with harsh words from EU leaders at the Samara summit last week.

“Those were not words spoken from abroad, those were words criticising Putin spoken in Russia, and that made them very valuable,” he said. “The EU must stand for democracy and human rights and not apply double standards.”

But with the G8 summit on 6 June in Germany fast-approaching, he also recalled the positive publicity given to Putin at last year’s G8 summit in St Petersburg – an event remembered for a flashy reception at a Czarist-era palace and empty promises on energy security.

“Kremlin propaganda tries to portray Putin as part of the global democratic environment,” Mr Kasparov said. “Ordinary Russians were puzzled to see him side-by-side with world leaders and at the same time hearing from us, that Putin violates basic democratic principles.”

Kasparov Fires another Wicked Broadside: At last, he’s out of his Shell! Hooray!!

The EU Observer reports that dissident leader Garry Kasparov has lauched another furious verbal barrage at the Kremlin, continuing his much more aggressive rhetorial stance begun after his detention prior to the Samara “Other Russia” action. Way to go, Garik! Keep it up! We’re right there with you all the way!

Russian chess master turned dissident Gary Kasparov warned Europe that its giant eastern neighbour is heading for a “political crisis” by the end of the year, while urging the EU and G7 states not to give Putin propaganda ammunition.

“The gap between rich and poor is growing…political instability is growing, as the Russian elite doesn’t know who will take power in 2008. These developments are pointing to a serious political crisis at the end of this year,” Mr Kasparov said. His remarks, made at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (23 May), depict Putin’s Russia as an ideology-free “corporation” with policies designed only to enrich the nomenklatura, no matter what the cost to ordinary Russians or international relations.

The Russian president in state-owned media portrays himself as having 70 percent popularity, rebuilding post-Soviet Russia as a petro-based superpower and playing a positive, counter-balancing role to “unipolar” US imperialism in areas like the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Mr Kasparov says Russian oligarch capital is fleeing west amid fears of a redistribution of wealth after Russia’s March 2008 presidential elections; popular disenchantment is growing and Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran are fueling Middle East conflicts.

“If the US administration exercised the same [media] control, Bush would have 70 percent also,” he explained. “The regime needs high oil prices, instability in the Middle East is keeping oil prices high.”

“In 1989 there were a few hundred people on the streets. In 1990, a few thousand. In 1991 [when the Soviet Union collapsed] there were hundreds of thousands,” Mr Kasparov recalled. “On the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg [in April] we had a few thousand.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the Kasparov line, denying that it sells sensitive arms technology to rogue states. It has also highlighted the fact Mr Kasparov’s opposition rallies attract far-right and far-left groups, and questioned the chess genius’ political nous.

“He’s a better chess player than he is a politician,” the Russian envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, once told EUobserver.

But the Kasparov picture is also matched by other reports: BBC journalists talk of mansions being built outside Moscow while basic social welfare services lapse. The International Energy Agency says under-investment in infrastructure could see massive gas shortages hit around 2010.

The book “Putin’s Russia” by murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya also paints a sad picture of the Russian army: drunk colonels shooting civilians in Chechnya with impunity; nuclear submarine captains unable to feed their families due to unpaid wages.

“Russia is run on the basis of ‘output legitimacy’ – Putin is not interested in democracy, but he has promised energy rents will bring social benefits,” UK-based European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Nicu Popescu said. “If after 2010 there is no output legitimacy and no democratic legitimacy there could be a crisis.”

“It’s difficult to predict when this will happen, but economic and political trends are pointing in this direction. It might not be this year, it might be three or four years from now,” he added.

The G8 circus

Mr Kasparov – in Strasbourg at the personal invitation of European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering – noted the EU has hardened its criticism of Russia in recent months, with harsh words from EU leaders at the Samara summit last week.

“Those were not words spoken from abroad, those were words criticising Putin spoken in Russia, and that made them very valuable,” he said. “The EU must stand for democracy and human rights and not apply double standards.”

But with the G8 summit on 6 June in Germany fast-approaching, he also recalled the positive publicity given to Putin at last year’s G8 summit in St Petersburg – an event remembered for a flashy reception at a Czarist-era palace and empty promises on energy security.

“Kremlin propaganda tries to portray Putin as part of the global democratic environment,” Mr Kasparov said. “Ordinary Russians were puzzled to see him side-by-side with world leaders and at the same time hearing from us, that Putin violates basic democratic principles.”

Kasparov Fires another Wicked Broadside: At last, he’s out of his Shell! Hooray!!

The EU Observer reports that dissident leader Garry Kasparov has lauched another furious verbal barrage at the Kremlin, continuing his much more aggressive rhetorial stance begun after his detention prior to the Samara “Other Russia” action. Way to go, Garik! Keep it up! We’re right there with you all the way!

Russian chess master turned dissident Gary Kasparov warned Europe that its giant eastern neighbour is heading for a “political crisis” by the end of the year, while urging the EU and G7 states not to give Putin propaganda ammunition.

“The gap between rich and poor is growing…political instability is growing, as the Russian elite doesn’t know who will take power in 2008. These developments are pointing to a serious political crisis at the end of this year,” Mr Kasparov said. His remarks, made at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (23 May), depict Putin’s Russia as an ideology-free “corporation” with policies designed only to enrich the nomenklatura, no matter what the cost to ordinary Russians or international relations.

The Russian president in state-owned media portrays himself as having 70 percent popularity, rebuilding post-Soviet Russia as a petro-based superpower and playing a positive, counter-balancing role to “unipolar” US imperialism in areas like the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Mr Kasparov says Russian oligarch capital is fleeing west amid fears of a redistribution of wealth after Russia’s March 2008 presidential elections; popular disenchantment is growing and Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran are fueling Middle East conflicts.

“If the US administration exercised the same [media] control, Bush would have 70 percent also,” he explained. “The regime needs high oil prices, instability in the Middle East is keeping oil prices high.”

“In 1989 there were a few hundred people on the streets. In 1990, a few thousand. In 1991 [when the Soviet Union collapsed] there were hundreds of thousands,” Mr Kasparov recalled. “On the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg [in April] we had a few thousand.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the Kasparov line, denying that it sells sensitive arms technology to rogue states. It has also highlighted the fact Mr Kasparov’s opposition rallies attract far-right and far-left groups, and questioned the chess genius’ political nous.

“He’s a better chess player than he is a politician,” the Russian envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, once told EUobserver.

But the Kasparov picture is also matched by other reports: BBC journalists talk of mansions being built outside Moscow while basic social welfare services lapse. The International Energy Agency says under-investment in infrastructure could see massive gas shortages hit around 2010.

The book “Putin’s Russia” by murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya also paints a sad picture of the Russian army: drunk colonels shooting civilians in Chechnya with impunity; nuclear submarine captains unable to feed their families due to unpaid wages.

“Russia is run on the basis of ‘output legitimacy’ – Putin is not interested in democracy, but he has promised energy rents will bring social benefits,” UK-based European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Nicu Popescu said. “If after 2010 there is no output legitimacy and no democratic legitimacy there could be a crisis.”

“It’s difficult to predict when this will happen, but economic and political trends are pointing in this direction. It might not be this year, it might be three or four years from now,” he added.

The G8 circus

Mr Kasparov – in Strasbourg at the personal invitation of European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering – noted the EU has hardened its criticism of Russia in recent months, with harsh words from EU leaders at the Samara summit last week.

“Those were not words spoken from abroad, those were words criticising Putin spoken in Russia, and that made them very valuable,” he said. “The EU must stand for democracy and human rights and not apply double standards.”

But with the G8 summit on 6 June in Germany fast-approaching, he also recalled the positive publicity given to Putin at last year’s G8 summit in St Petersburg – an event remembered for a flashy reception at a Czarist-era palace and empty promises on energy security.

“Kremlin propaganda tries to portray Putin as part of the global democratic environment,” Mr Kasparov said. “Ordinary Russians were puzzled to see him side-by-side with world leaders and at the same time hearing from us, that Putin violates basic democratic principles.”

Kasparov Fires another Wicked Broadside: At last, he’s out of his Shell! Hooray!!

The EU Observer reports that dissident leader Garry Kasparov has lauched another furious verbal barrage at the Kremlin, continuing his much more aggressive rhetorial stance begun after his detention prior to the Samara “Other Russia” action. Way to go, Garik! Keep it up! We’re right there with you all the way!

Russian chess master turned dissident Gary Kasparov warned Europe that its giant eastern neighbour is heading for a “political crisis” by the end of the year, while urging the EU and G7 states not to give Putin propaganda ammunition.

“The gap between rich and poor is growing…political instability is growing, as the Russian elite doesn’t know who will take power in 2008. These developments are pointing to a serious political crisis at the end of this year,” Mr Kasparov said. His remarks, made at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (23 May), depict Putin’s Russia as an ideology-free “corporation” with policies designed only to enrich the nomenklatura, no matter what the cost to ordinary Russians or international relations.

The Russian president in state-owned media portrays himself as having 70 percent popularity, rebuilding post-Soviet Russia as a petro-based superpower and playing a positive, counter-balancing role to “unipolar” US imperialism in areas like the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Mr Kasparov says Russian oligarch capital is fleeing west amid fears of a redistribution of wealth after Russia’s March 2008 presidential elections; popular disenchantment is growing and Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran are fueling Middle East conflicts.

“If the US administration exercised the same [media] control, Bush would have 70 percent also,” he explained. “The regime needs high oil prices, instability in the Middle East is keeping oil prices high.”

“In 1989 there were a few hundred people on the streets. In 1990, a few thousand. In 1991 [when the Soviet Union collapsed] there were hundreds of thousands,” Mr Kasparov recalled. “On the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg [in April] we had a few thousand.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the Kasparov line, denying that it sells sensitive arms technology to rogue states. It has also highlighted the fact Mr Kasparov’s opposition rallies attract far-right and far-left groups, and questioned the chess genius’ political nous.

“He’s a better chess player than he is a politician,” the Russian envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, once told EUobserver.

But the Kasparov picture is also matched by other reports: BBC journalists talk of mansions being built outside Moscow while basic social welfare services lapse. The International Energy Agency says under-investment in infrastructure could see massive gas shortages hit around 2010.

The book “Putin’s Russia” by murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya also paints a sad picture of the Russian army: drunk colonels shooting civilians in Chechnya with impunity; nuclear submarine captains unable to feed their families due to unpaid wages.

“Russia is run on the basis of ‘output legitimacy’ – Putin is not interested in democracy, but he has promised energy rents will bring social benefits,” UK-based European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Nicu Popescu said. “If after 2010 there is no output legitimacy and no democratic legitimacy there could be a crisis.”

“It’s difficult to predict when this will happen, but economic and political trends are pointing in this direction. It might not be this year, it might be three or four years from now,” he added.

The G8 circus

Mr Kasparov – in Strasbourg at the personal invitation of European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering – noted the EU has hardened its criticism of Russia in recent months, with harsh words from EU leaders at the Samara summit last week.

“Those were not words spoken from abroad, those were words criticising Putin spoken in Russia, and that made them very valuable,” he said. “The EU must stand for democracy and human rights and not apply double standards.”

But with the G8 summit on 6 June in Germany fast-approaching, he also recalled the positive publicity given to Putin at last year’s G8 summit in St Petersburg – an event remembered for a flashy reception at a Czarist-era palace and empty promises on energy security.

“Kremlin propaganda tries to portray Putin as part of the global democratic environment,” Mr Kasparov said. “Ordinary Russians were puzzled to see him side-by-side with world leaders and at the same time hearing from us, that Putin violates basic democratic principles.”

Kasparov Fires another Wicked Broadside: At last, he’s out of his Shell! Hooray!!

The EU Observer reports that dissident leader Garry Kasparov has lauched another furious verbal barrage at the Kremlin, continuing his much more aggressive rhetorial stance begun after his detention prior to the Samara “Other Russia” action. Way to go, Garik! Keep it up! We’re right there with you all the way!

Russian chess master turned dissident Gary Kasparov warned Europe that its giant eastern neighbour is heading for a “political crisis” by the end of the year, while urging the EU and G7 states not to give Putin propaganda ammunition.

“The gap between rich and poor is growing…political instability is growing, as the Russian elite doesn’t know who will take power in 2008. These developments are pointing to a serious political crisis at the end of this year,” Mr Kasparov said. His remarks, made at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (23 May), depict Putin’s Russia as an ideology-free “corporation” with policies designed only to enrich the nomenklatura, no matter what the cost to ordinary Russians or international relations.

The Russian president in state-owned media portrays himself as having 70 percent popularity, rebuilding post-Soviet Russia as a petro-based superpower and playing a positive, counter-balancing role to “unipolar” US imperialism in areas like the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Mr Kasparov says Russian oligarch capital is fleeing west amid fears of a redistribution of wealth after Russia’s March 2008 presidential elections; popular disenchantment is growing and Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran are fueling Middle East conflicts.

“If the US administration exercised the same [media] control, Bush would have 70 percent also,” he explained. “The regime needs high oil prices, instability in the Middle East is keeping oil prices high.”

“In 1989 there were a few hundred people on the streets. In 1990, a few thousand. In 1991 [when the Soviet Union collapsed] there were hundreds of thousands,” Mr Kasparov recalled. “On the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg [in April] we had a few thousand.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the Kasparov line, denying that it sells sensitive arms technology to rogue states. It has also highlighted the fact Mr Kasparov’s opposition rallies attract far-right and far-left groups, and questioned the chess genius’ political nous.

“He’s a better chess player than he is a politician,” the Russian envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, once told EUobserver.

But the Kasparov picture is also matched by other reports: BBC journalists talk of mansions being built outside Moscow while basic social welfare services lapse. The International Energy Agency says under-investment in infrastructure could see massive gas shortages hit around 2010.

The book “Putin’s Russia” by murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya also paints a sad picture of the Russian army: drunk colonels shooting civilians in Chechnya with impunity; nuclear submarine captains unable to feed their families due to unpaid wages.

“Russia is run on the basis of ‘output legitimacy’ – Putin is not interested in democracy, but he has promised energy rents will bring social benefits,” UK-based European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Nicu Popescu said. “If after 2010 there is no output legitimacy and no democratic legitimacy there could be a crisis.”

“It’s difficult to predict when this will happen, but economic and political trends are pointing in this direction. It might not be this year, it might be three or four years from now,” he added.

The G8 circus

Mr Kasparov – in Strasbourg at the personal invitation of European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering – noted the EU has hardened its criticism of Russia in recent months, with harsh words from EU leaders at the Samara summit last week.

“Those were not words spoken from abroad, those were words criticising Putin spoken in Russia, and that made them very valuable,” he said. “The EU must stand for democracy and human rights and not apply double standards.”

But with the G8 summit on 6 June in Germany fast-approaching, he also recalled the positive publicity given to Putin at last year’s G8 summit in St Petersburg – an event remembered for a flashy reception at a Czarist-era palace and empty promises on energy security.

“Kremlin propaganda tries to portray Putin as part of the global democratic environment,” Mr Kasparov said. “Ordinary Russians were puzzled to see him side-by-side with world leaders and at the same time hearing from us, that Putin violates basic democratic principles.”

Annals of "Just When you Think it Can’t get Any Worse, it Does": Now, Believe it or Not, They’re Actually Shrinking

The Moscow Times reports: Russians aren’t quite measuring up. The average Russian is 1.5 centimeters shorter today than just a decade ago, a senior health expert announced on Tuesday at a conference in Moscow. “Today, Russia is becoming one of the shortest nations,” said Alexander Baranov, senior specialist with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Interfax reported. In addition to being shorter, teenagers have grown weaker and more sickly, Baranov said. Boys have 18 percent less muscle mass than 10 years ago, while girls have lost 21 percent of their muscle mass. The lung capacity of both boys and girls has shrunk by about 20 percent, and up to 20 percent of all children are underweight, Baranov said.

So THAT explains it. We THOUGHT Putin looked rather short . . .

Annals of "Just When you Think it Can’t get Any Worse, it Does": Now, Believe it or Not, They’re Actually Shrinking

The Moscow Times reports: Russians aren’t quite measuring up. The average Russian is 1.5 centimeters shorter today than just a decade ago, a senior health expert announced on Tuesday at a conference in Moscow. “Today, Russia is becoming one of the shortest nations,” said Alexander Baranov, senior specialist with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Interfax reported. In addition to being shorter, teenagers have grown weaker and more sickly, Baranov said. Boys have 18 percent less muscle mass than 10 years ago, while girls have lost 21 percent of their muscle mass. The lung capacity of both boys and girls has shrunk by about 20 percent, and up to 20 percent of all children are underweight, Baranov said.

So THAT explains it. We THOUGHT Putin looked rather short . . .

Annals of "Just When you Think it Can’t get Any Worse, it Does": Now, Believe it or Not, They’re Actually Shrinking

The Moscow Times reports: Russians aren’t quite measuring up. The average Russian is 1.5 centimeters shorter today than just a decade ago, a senior health expert announced on Tuesday at a conference in Moscow. “Today, Russia is becoming one of the shortest nations,” said Alexander Baranov, senior specialist with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Interfax reported. In addition to being shorter, teenagers have grown weaker and more sickly, Baranov said. Boys have 18 percent less muscle mass than 10 years ago, while girls have lost 21 percent of their muscle mass. The lung capacity of both boys and girls has shrunk by about 20 percent, and up to 20 percent of all children are underweight, Baranov said.

So THAT explains it. We THOUGHT Putin looked rather short . . .

Annals of "Just When you Think it Can’t get Any Worse, it Does": Now, Believe it or Not, They’re Actually Shrinking

The Moscow Times reports: Russians aren’t quite measuring up. The average Russian is 1.5 centimeters shorter today than just a decade ago, a senior health expert announced on Tuesday at a conference in Moscow. “Today, Russia is becoming one of the shortest nations,” said Alexander Baranov, senior specialist with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Interfax reported. In addition to being shorter, teenagers have grown weaker and more sickly, Baranov said. Boys have 18 percent less muscle mass than 10 years ago, while girls have lost 21 percent of their muscle mass. The lung capacity of both boys and girls has shrunk by about 20 percent, and up to 20 percent of all children are underweight, Baranov said.

So THAT explains it. We THOUGHT Putin looked rather short . . .

Annals of "Just When you Think it Can’t get Any Worse, it Does": Now, Believe it or Not, They’re Actually Shrinking

The Moscow Times reports: Russians aren’t quite measuring up. The average Russian is 1.5 centimeters shorter today than just a decade ago, a senior health expert announced on Tuesday at a conference in Moscow. “Today, Russia is becoming one of the shortest nations,” said Alexander Baranov, senior specialist with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Interfax reported. In addition to being shorter, teenagers have grown weaker and more sickly, Baranov said. Boys have 18 percent less muscle mass than 10 years ago, while girls have lost 21 percent of their muscle mass. The lung capacity of both boys and girls has shrunk by about 20 percent, and up to 20 percent of all children are underweight, Baranov said.

So THAT explains it. We THOUGHT Putin looked rather short . . .

EDITORIAL: Edward Lozansky, Neo-Soviet Bagman

Writing in the Washington Times, functionary of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, Russophile sociopath Edward Lozansky (that’s him, standing proudly under a Russian flag on his website, you probably don’t want to know what he’s, Napoleon-like, reaching for with that right hand) spews forth a line of propaganda that might just as well have been written by the Kremlin. And you know what? Maybe it was.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got it exactly right when she recently described the U.S.-Russian connection as “a big, complicated relationship.” Americans’ recent disappointments should not obscure the fact that the relationship is in transition. We have seen heightened rhetoric and missteps by both sides in recent months. The result is a “cold peace,” as Rep. Alcee Hastings, chairman of the Helsinki Commission, recently told the World Russian Forum. But if we keep our perspective — a potentially difficult challenge as presidential campaigns get under way in both countries — the bond can grow better still by building on what is right instead of obsessing over what is wrong.

LR: Edward Lozansky is president of “American University” in Moscow. He has a vested personal interest in America not disengaging in Russia, but rather in plonking down money in the country and employing the graduates of his “university,” a vested interest he doesn’t declare to the reader. Part of such money goes right into his pocket. Russia is providing massive quantities of weapons to arch American foe Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, nuclear technology to arch American foe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, financial support and diplomatic cover to anti-American terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and seeking to undermine America’s strategic alliance with Europe. Notice how this despicable propagandist doesn’t mention any of those facts in this sickening, self-serving diatribe?

As seen through American eyes, Russia is falling short on the promise of democracy. But, for the people of Russia, the degree of openness and opportunity they enjoy today is without precedent. As a Russian by birth and an American by choice, my heart is pulled toward both views. I shared the euphoria of both countries when the Soviet flag came down nearly 16 years ago, and I understand why some have been disheartened over perceived setbacks since then. But I know that both countries have reaped significant fruits from Russia’s evolution in the post-Soviet era. And I am convinced that greater benefits lie ahead if Americans can replace the rose-colored glasses of 1991 with the clear lenses of reality and build on the elements that bind the two countries together.

LR: Ask Anna Politkovskaya how “open” and full of “opportunity” Russia is. Ask Alexander Litvinenko. Ask Galina Starovoitova, or Sergei Yushenkov, or Yuri Shchekochikhin, or Mikhail Trepashkin, or Mikhail Khodorokovsky, or Nikolai Girenko, or Paul Klebnikov, or Viktor Yushchenko, or Andrei Kozlov. If you can’t, because they’ve been murdered or locked away in a neo-Soviet gulag, just ask La Russophobe. What do you think the 1 million people lost from Russia’s population last year due to murder, fire, disease, poverty and a host of other social ills would say about how “open” and full of “opportunity” their society is? You’ll have to ask them, because “University President” Lozansky sure won’t do it for you. That’s because he’s the scum of the earth.

2007 marks the bicentennial of diplomatic relations between the two countries — a tie cemented when future president John Quincy Adams arrived in St. Petersburg to present his credentials to the czar’s Imperial Court. Through wars, hot and cold, and even frightening moments of nuclear brinksmanship, diplomacy has been a consistent and positive force. Even during this period of “cold peace,” U.S. government agencies continue to work closely with the Russians on nuclear proliferation issues, counterterrorism, narcotics and money laundering. A recent State Department report cited U.S.-Russian cooperation against terrorism as “one of the pillars of the bilateral relationship.”

LR: Do you notice how this lying, villainous sack of garbage doesn’t mention the numerous State Department reports, documented on La Russophobe, which condemn profligate Russian human rights abuses, especially in Chechnya, right along with every other major international human rights organization under the sun? Do you notice how he doesn’t give one single specific example of how Russia has reduced America’s risk of terrorism by destroying some of its enemies? Do you notice how he fails to mention that Russia is itself accused of perpetrating a war of cyber-terrorism against tiny Estonia and spreading nuclear contamination through London — to say nothing of blowing up apartment buildings in Moscow in order to whip up hysteria in support of war in Chechnya?

Commercial ties are older still, dating to 18th-century fur trading between Russians and Americans in the Pacific Northwest. The economic connections have grown exponentially in the past decade-and-a-half as a reborn Russia embraced the power of the marketplace after seven decades of communist failure.

LR: And now he tries to change the subject. He wants you to forget all about Russia’s abuse of its own population and its threats to American national security in exchange for a bribe. He thinks that’s just how shallow, stupid and greedy the average American is, and like a typical neo-Soviet Russophile stooge he wants to play you for a fool. You should be outraged at this insult to both your character and your intelligence, if you’re an American.

Consider:

• Foreign investment in Russia, including $11 billion by American companies, nearly doubled in 2006 to $28.4 billion.
• U.S. exports to Russia climbed by 20 percent last year to $4.7 billion. Russian exports to the United States totaled $19 billion in 2006, a 30 percent increase from the year before.
• American business of every sort — from candy to cars — now operate in Russia. Among the pioneering companies: Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Boeing, Proctor & Gamble, Ford, and General Motors. Some business alliances even extend to outer space.
• American businesses in Russia are making money at an astonishing pace. Two-thirds of U.S. companies in Russia are meeting current sales targets and 97 percent expect continued sales growth during the next three years.

LR: $11 billion? That’s $36 per American and $18 per Russian. Do you notice how he makes no attempt to place this figure in context with American investment in other countries? Gee, LR dares to wonder why. Could it be because that would make this $11 billion figure look like the meaningless drop in the bucket that it is — since, just for example, the U.S. invests $300 billion in Mexico and $100 billion in Japan (Mexico has 1/3 fewer people than Russia, so it’s getting 40 times more investment from the U.S. per capita than Russia is)? Do you notice that he doesn’t care to mention Russia’s eviction of the U.S. from Russia’s energy market, which it has nationalized, most recently the Shtokoman gas fields, or its arrest of pro-US businessmen like Mikhail Khodorkovsky? Since when is “meeting current sales targets” indicative of “making money at an astonishing pace”? Notice how he doesn’t care to discuss profits and losses in dollar or percentage terms? Guess why. Notice how he doesn’t care to mention that study after international study has shown the Russian economy to be fundamentally corrupt and unreliable, among the worst performing industrial economies in the world when judged by any yardstick of civilization.

Profits by themselves do not guarantee good relations. As important is the ability of commerce to promote friendship, spread ideas, including democracy, and advance openness in society. Historians, former government officials and students of culture generally agree that commercial ties helped push communism out of Eastern Europe in the 1990s by introducing American concepts of competition and freedom. Today, surveys show that by a margin of 75 percent to 47 percent, Russians employed by U.S. businesses have a more favorable view of the United States than those who work for Russian firms. It appears that as Russians get to know America better they feel better about it.

LR: Is it just La Russophobe, or do 75% and 47% add up to 123%? Do you notice how he doesn’t care to define the term “more favorable”? Maybe it means that these Russians favor killing Americans quickly and mercifully, whilst the others want to do it slowly and painfully. When was the last time you heard about a group of America-employed Russians demonstrating against the Kremlin sending AK-47s and attack aircraft to anti-American lunatic Hugo Chavez?

Does Russia’s 16-year-old democracy match America’s? Of course not — and how could it given that the United States has been at it for more than 400 years since the first colonists set foot in the New World? Have there been occasional setbacks or missteps? Of course. Like any teenager, a 16-year-old democracy will get some things wrong. But, as someone who lived and suffered under a communist dictatorship and who spends these days a good portion of the year in Russia, I assure you that this country is far freer than at any time in its history. I see freedoms today that were unthinkable in Soviet times: freedom to travel, start a business, join a political party of your choice and practice one’s faith.

LR: Please correct La Russophobe if she is wrong, but hasn’t Russia been trying to develop its nation far longer than 400 years? Did America, at any time in its history, elect a proud CIA field operative who abolished local elections and was accused of ordering a litany of political murders to prop up his regime? Wasn’t Russia “far freer than at any time in its history” just after Lenin came to power, having abolished the Tsar? Wasn’t it “far freer than at any time in its history” right after it abolished slavery? Notice how Lozansky doesn’t care to remind you want happened right after that?

In 2008, both countries will choose new presidents. Candidates in each nation will be tempted to prove “toughness” by focusing on disappointments and division in U.S.-Russian relations. But the candidates with the clearest vision will see that deeper ties and closer engagement is the best way to strengthen democracy and common prosperity for the benefit of both Russians and Americans.

LR: That’s just great. By this logic, we would have given Hitler and Stalin a chance to recover from their own “disappointments” (come to think of it, listening to folks like Neville Chamberlain, that’s exactly what we did do). But let’s take this nutjob on his own terms. OK, fine. Now let’s see Lozansky publish an article in a Russian paper with a circulation equal to that of the Washington Times and castigate Russians who criticize Americans, calling on them to stop giving assistance to American enemies, stop attacking Americans, and start cooperating with us. Let’s see him give lots of “data” about how well America is doing and how much Russia has to gain from good relations with the United States, and how any Russian leader to fails to recognize this is lacking in “clear vision.” Think he plans to lecture Russians on the fact that Americans provide one third of their foreign investment and should be treated like the valuable customers they are? Don’t hold your breath waiting, dear reader, don’t hold your breath.

To read more about Lozansky’s manifold perfidies, check out this article on Johnson’s Russia List from last year. Apparently, the “American University” which he claims in his credential is not the same as the “American University” in Washington, D.C. (LR can find no such indication on the latter’s website), yet Lozansky makes no effort to avoid confusion (and the nefarious Times makes no effort, either — a shameful display to be sure, but then the Reverend Moon is not known for his high standards of journalism). Moreover, La Russophobe can find no record of Lozansky’s institution having been accredited by any American authority of any kind. If it has none, then it’s name would be fraudulently misleading. Further information from readers on this topic would be appreciated.

Not hard to understand why Russians would take a dim view of Americans if they base their attitudes on a wacko like this one right here.