Daily Archives: July 27, 2007

July 27, 2007 — Contents

FRIDAY JULY 27 CONTENTS


(1) Peaceful,Neo-Soviet Russia Escalates the Cold War Unilaterally

(2) On Russian Dementia

(3) Russia Walks Alone into the Inferno

(4) Cold-Hearted Russia Ignores those Who Suffer

Russia Escalates Cold War II Unilaterally

How is reasonable, reliable, civilized Russia trying to resolve its dispute with Britain after expelling four British diplomats in a pure act of spite? Well, according to the Moscow Times, first it is kicking out totally innocent business men, inviting Britain to do the same (followed by the US and EU):

Moscow has asked the British Embassy’s top trade and development official to leave the country in a move suggesting the ongoing diplomatic dispute between Britain and Russia could spill over into the economic sphere. Reports that the senior embassy official is responsible for liaising with Russian government officials and British investors indicate that Andrew Levi counsellor for economic and scientific affairs, is one of the four British Embassy officials who have been told to leave. Multiple sources close to Levi, who oversees trade and investment, have confirmed that he is one of the four and is due to leave the country Sunday. The sources close to Levi spoke on condition of anonymity, and a British Embassy spokesman said Wednesday that it was standard practice not to identify staff involved in tit-for-tat expulsions. Levi himself could not be contacted Wednesday. Analysts were surprised the list of officials being expelled included such a high-ranking official, although they were divided on what effect this would have on the climate for British investment in Russia. Sources familiar with Levi’s case said Wednesday that he had played a significant role in dealing with recent difficulties faced by British firms operating in Russia. They said he acted as the point man during the negotiations over the Sakhalin-2 crisis, where Shell was forced to sell a controlling stake in a $22 billion energy project in the Far East to state-controlled Gazprom.

Next, Russia is announcing that it plans to dramatically increase espionage, inviting Britain, the EU and the US to do the same. In other words, Cold War II. The Associated Press reports:

President Vladimir Putin vowed Wednesday to strengthen Russia’s military capability and intensify spying abroad in response to U.S. plans to build missile defense sites and deploy troops in Eastern Europe. “The situation in the world and internal political interests require the Foreign Intelligence Service to increase its capabilities permanently, primarily in the field of information and analytical support for the country’s leadership,” Putin said at a meeting with senior military and security officers in the Kremlin, Interfax reported. The Foreign Intelligence Service is a successor to the KGB. Putin did not identify specific targets, but officials in the United States and Britain have said recently that Moscow has intensified its spying in those countries. Putin said U.S. plans to station troops in Eastern Europe and Washington’s intention to base missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic pose security challenges for Russia. Washington says the facilities are needed to protect the United States and Europe from missiles from Iran or other rogue states. Putin has proposed that the United States use a radar base in Azerbaijan for missile defense. U.S. officials have questioned whether the facility is technically compatible with U.S. systems.

On Russian Dementia

Writing in the Moscow Times, Georgy Bovt illustrates the breadth and depth of neo-Soviet dementia:

I recently bumped into a business acquaintance. It would be wrong to call him simply an entrepreneur, since he works for the state. But he isn’t a bureaucrat either, since he “privatized” his position long ago, turning it into a thriving business. In addition, various “auxiliary” and “middleman” businesses have sprung up around his position. As a result, he has grown increasingly prosperous and joined the ranks of the middle class — the dream of so many at the dawn of Russia’s democracy.

We often heard that a middle class would appear in Russia, that it would put our lives on the right path, that a democratic civil society would develop, that it would force our leaders to answer to the people for their actions, and that we would finally begin conversing with “civilized” nations using the same civilized and democratic language.

Many people still like to discuss politics in their leisure time. It is interesting to observe how some highly educated and informed people occasionally come up with somewhat bizarre views reflecting a mixture of state propaganda and their own distorted perceptions of the world.

The bureaucrat-cum-businessman mentioned earlier unexpectedly began to explain in detail the “U.S. plot against Russia.” Russians everywhere discuss this theme nowadays. Until now, all the talk I’d heard regarding the “U.S. plot” was based on the same old examples: a desire to influence events in Georgia, Ukraine, the CIS and the Baltic states; plans to install anti-ballistic missile batteries in Europe; the ambition to weaken Russia’s economy, and so on.

But my interlocutor revealed a very original variation on the theme of U.S. subversion. “Do you know the reason behind Russians’ harmful, widespread passion for beer consumption?” he asked me.

“What is it?” I casually responded, expecting to hear the usual lecture on excessive public drinking, which I also find disgusting.

I was wrong. My acquaintance informed me that it was all part of the U.S. plot against Russia. Beer, he explained, contains a high quantity of female hormones. Russian men who get drunk on beer gradually become impotent. That is how the Americans are trying to destroy the Russians.

Rubbish, you say? Well, of course it is. But now I ask you: Aren’t the points of contention that have developed in recent months between Russia and the West also nothing but nonsense? The whole problem seems to consist of nothing more than petty arguments over limited and basically trivial questions. The issues on the table include: Polish meat; Polish and Czech installations for U.S. anti-missile batteries; Eastern Europe’s various historical grievances; Moscow’s policy of “energy blackmail” in response to accusations of authoritarianism by the West. What’s more, even global terrorism has become a nonissue.

Are there no other questions that deserve the attention of experts at the highest level? Are no other prospects envisioned for Russia’s development than feverishly resolving various micro-crises, one after another?

Matters have really gotten out of hand. Last week, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov created a minor diplomatic scandal by publicly stating his displeasure with the way Foreign Affairs, a venerable U.S. journal, had edited an article he wrote. But the journal’s editor subjected Lavrov’s piece to the same journalistic standards applied to other authors, and was “foolish” enough not to make an exception this one time. Did this require a demarche from the foreign minister of a major country?

The wrangling between London and Moscow over the Litvinenko case has come to resemble the theater of the absurd. To the Kremlin’s credit, however, at least they have stopped organizing news conferences for Andrei Lugovoi.

Moreover, Russia and the West have dug in their heels over Kosovo, as if they are deliberately emphasizing their mutual unwillingness to compromise. The Kosovo issue — and many more like it — has shown that there is no desire to listen to each other, and the tone of discussion has become increasingly ugly.

Relations between the East and West have grown dramatically more shallow, turning into some kind of propagandistic squabble. This has happened before in human history, when it seemed that international relations had become caught up with utter nonsense acquiring a definite superficiality. That condition remained in force until something major or terrible occurred, which brought everybody back to their senses restored the correct hierarchy of civilized values.

Crazed Russia, Again, Walks Alone into the Inferno

Writing in the Moscow Times, Alexander Golts exposes isolated Russia, once again on a crazed path of self-destruction:

I recently saw on the streets of Moscow a billboard with the following text: “Army and Navy — Russia’s allies.” The author of this propagandistic text probably thought he or she was quoting Tsar Alexander III, who purportedly said something of the kind. In fact, the sovereign actually declared that Russia had no allies except the King of Chernogoriya. The version referring to the army and navy was created by a “patriot” in the early 1990s. The quote was intended to relay the idea that in a world hostile to Russia, it can only rely on its military strength to survive.

Now we have billboards in Moscow that fully reflect the Kremlin’s world view. Putin has pulled Russia out of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, or CFE Treaty, alluding to “exceptional circumstances affecting Russia’s security.”

Recall that the main idea of this treaty is to limit the likelihood of military aggression by setting limits on the signatories’ armaments. The first version of the treaty established limits for the NATO and Warsaw Pact blocs. Both the Warsaw Pact and the U.S.S.R. collapsed months after the document was signed in 1990, however. It was then necessary to adapt the CFE Treaty to the new reality. The revised version of the treaty was adopted in 1999 and included limits on armaments for each country separately, and not for the two East-West blocs. The NATO countries, however, never ratified it, demanding that Russia fulfill its agreement to withdraw its forces from Transdnester and Georgia.

In reality, even though Russia continues to demand that NATO fulfills the CFE Treaty, NATO countries maintain fewer armaments than are permitted by the modified version of the treaty.

Moscow considers Washington’s plans to position troops at military bases in Bulgaria and Romania a violation of the CFE Treaty. But the Kremlin prefers to remain silent on the fact that the troops in question will number just 2,000 to 3,000. Moreover, the 1st Armored and 1st Infantry Divisions in Germany were once the United States’ primary military force in Europe. If Washington had plans to achieve a decisive military superiority over Russia, it would not have recalled those troops from Europe.

Moscow’s main complaint is that NATO, following two waves of expansion, now exceeds the military might of Russia by three times. But this objection is groundless. In fact, the NATO “newcomers” want to rid themselves as quickly as possible of the weaponry that Moscow believes gives them potential military superiority. The hundreds of Soviet-era T-55 tanks that Romania, Bulgaria, Hungry and other former Warsaw Pact countries inherited do not strengthen NATO, but weaken it. As long as that scrap metal is part of each country’s arsenal, those nations’ armies cannot meet NATO standards or achieve battle readiness.

The head of the Defense Ministry’s international treaty department, Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, declared last week that there was no chance of “adapting a previously-adapted” treaty. Moscow is demanding that NATO sharply reduce its military potential as a form of “compensation.”

Moscow has rejected the concept of the adapted version of the CFE Treaty. In essence, Moscow is returning to the original concept of the treaty between NATO and the Warsaw Pact with one exception: Russia apparently wants to play the role of the Warsaw Pact itself and stand alone against the rest of Europe.

Despite any real military threat, the Kremlin presents its dissatisfaction with the West by claiming that the West is intent on achieving military superiority over Russia. For Putin, the scandal with Britain is another example of the West’s aggression. London demonstrated that it was not willing come to terms with Moscow’s refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi. And they are also unwilling to overlook a radioactive poisoning case in their capital in the interests of maintaining good relations with Moscow.

In the eyes of the Kremlin, Britain is preparing some sort of aggression directed at Russia. Therefore, this is a good time to withdraw from the CFE Treaty.

Since Neo-Soviet Russia Ignores Stalin’s Crimes, Naturally it Ignores his Victims Too

The Moscow Times reports on a puny public display of support for Stalin’s victims and the even punier level of governmental support that lies behind it:

Several hundred people gathered at Lubyanskaya Ploshchad on Wednesday to mark a grim milestone: the 70th anniversary of the Great Purge of 1937. The crowd, which included many elderly gulag survivors, braved rain and unseasonably cold weather to lay flowers on the Solovetsky Stone, a monument to Stalin’s victims located near the former headquarters of the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police. The building now houses the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

Tamara Voronina, 74, clutched a flower as she told how her father was arrested in 1941 and how she found herself living in ramshackle wooden barracks near the Arctic mining town of Vorkuta. “In the winter, it was always freezing,” she said, recalling how her mother used to stuff rags into the cracks in the walls to keep in the heat. Although Stalin started eliminating his political rivals well before 1937, the Great Purge began in earnest on July 31 of that year, when the Politburo set region-by-region quotas for how many people were to be arrested and executed. By the time the purge ended in November 1938, more than 1.5 million people had been arrested and more than 700,000 had been shot.

Many of the elderly survivors at Wednesday’s gathering were forced to suffer for their parents’ purported crimes. They were victims of the notorious NKVD Order 00486, issued on Aug. 15, 1937, which spelled out punishments for the “socially dangerous children” of repressed parents. Those aged 15 and up were given prison sentences of five to eight years, while younger children were sent to special orphanages.

Raisa Ankhipina, 78, was put in an orphanage after her father was arrested in 1937. Her mother died shortly after her father’s arrest. In the orphanage, Ankhipina said, her parents’ fate was never discussed and children had no idea about the purges. “It’s only now that I understand they were repressed,” she said. “Back then, I didn’t know about it.” Ankhipina learned the truth in 1994. Her father, an electrician, had been arrested and shot after being denounced by a neighbor. While the past cast a long shadow over the gathering, many of those in attendance had a more present-day concern: increasing state benefits for the surviving victims of Stalin’s repressions.

“In our country today, there is an absolutely appalling mess in terms of support for these people,” said Sergei Volkov, president of the Society of Victims of Illegal Repression, which organized the gathering.

In an angry speech, Volkov denounced a controversial 2004 law that replaced benefits for socially vulnerable groups — including victims of Stalinist repression — with cash payments. Pensioners have charged that the payments fall short of the benefits they replaced, such as discounts on medicine and public transportation. Volkov complained that the 2004 law had also removed language from a 1991 law, signed by then-President Boris Yeltsin, stating that the government was morally and financially responsible for the victims of Soviet-era political repression. Benefits to Stalin’s victims are pitifully small, Volkov charged, saying the federal government paid monthly benefits of 6,300 rubles ($250) to widows of FSB agents, while the amount for gulag victims — “who lived through hell” — was only about $7.

Volkov was followed by several other speakers, including ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party. Zhirinovsky declared his support for increasing benefits to gulag survivors, but also took some potshots at his rival parties in the State Duma — United Russia, A Just Russia and the Communists — for not sending speakers to the event. “It’s a pretty word, ‘A Just Russia,'” he said. “But where’s the justice?” After Zhirinovsky’s speech, music started playing as people lined up to lay flowers on the Solovetsky Stone. Some held signs identifying where in Russia they came from, while one woman held a photograph of her repressed father. Many huddled under umbrellas.

The Solovetsky Stone has been a regular location for such events since it was placed on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad in 1992. It consists of a simple rock brought to Moscow from the Solovetsky Islands, an archipelago in the White Sea that was the gulag’s first camp, established by Lenin in 1920. On the same day as the gathering, a memorial procession organized by the Russian Orthodox Church set out from the Solovetsky Islands, Interfax reported Wednesday. After a two-week journey, the procession will deliver a cross to the Butovo shooting range south of Moscow. More than 20,000 people were executed at the range in 1937 and 1938.

As the gathering on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad dispersed, one elderly man expressed his dissatisfaction with its star speaker, Zhirinovsky. “I’ve always considered him a fascist,” said the man, who had left the gathering to seek shelter from the rain in a pedestrian underpass. The man said he had been a victim of Soviet-era political repression, but declined to share his name with a reporter. When asked why, he said, “Don’t you understand what sort of a situation we have in Russia these days?”

Since Neo-Soviet Russia Ignores Stalin’s Crimes, Naturally it Ignores his Victims Too

The Moscow Times reports on a puny public display of support for Stalin’s victims and the even punier level of governmental support that lies behind it:

Several hundred people gathered at Lubyanskaya Ploshchad on Wednesday to mark a grim milestone: the 70th anniversary of the Great Purge of 1937. The crowd, which included many elderly gulag survivors, braved rain and unseasonably cold weather to lay flowers on the Solovetsky Stone, a monument to Stalin’s victims located near the former headquarters of the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police. The building now houses the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

Tamara Voronina, 74, clutched a flower as she told how her father was arrested in 1941 and how she found herself living in ramshackle wooden barracks near the Arctic mining town of Vorkuta. “In the winter, it was always freezing,” she said, recalling how her mother used to stuff rags into the cracks in the walls to keep in the heat. Although Stalin started eliminating his political rivals well before 1937, the Great Purge began in earnest on July 31 of that year, when the Politburo set region-by-region quotas for how many people were to be arrested and executed. By the time the purge ended in November 1938, more than 1.5 million people had been arrested and more than 700,000 had been shot.

Many of the elderly survivors at Wednesday’s gathering were forced to suffer for their parents’ purported crimes. They were victims of the notorious NKVD Order 00486, issued on Aug. 15, 1937, which spelled out punishments for the “socially dangerous children” of repressed parents. Those aged 15 and up were given prison sentences of five to eight years, while younger children were sent to special orphanages.

Raisa Ankhipina, 78, was put in an orphanage after her father was arrested in 1937. Her mother died shortly after her father’s arrest. In the orphanage, Ankhipina said, her parents’ fate was never discussed and children had no idea about the purges. “It’s only now that I understand they were repressed,” she said. “Back then, I didn’t know about it.” Ankhipina learned the truth in 1994. Her father, an electrician, had been arrested and shot after being denounced by a neighbor. While the past cast a long shadow over the gathering, many of those in attendance had a more present-day concern: increasing state benefits for the surviving victims of Stalin’s repressions.

“In our country today, there is an absolutely appalling mess in terms of support for these people,” said Sergei Volkov, president of the Society of Victims of Illegal Repression, which organized the gathering.

In an angry speech, Volkov denounced a controversial 2004 law that replaced benefits for socially vulnerable groups — including victims of Stalinist repression — with cash payments. Pensioners have charged that the payments fall short of the benefits they replaced, such as discounts on medicine and public transportation. Volkov complained that the 2004 law had also removed language from a 1991 law, signed by then-President Boris Yeltsin, stating that the government was morally and financially responsible for the victims of Soviet-era political repression. Benefits to Stalin’s victims are pitifully small, Volkov charged, saying the federal government paid monthly benefits of 6,300 rubles ($250) to widows of FSB agents, while the amount for gulag victims — “who lived through hell” — was only about $7.

Volkov was followed by several other speakers, including ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party. Zhirinovsky declared his support for increasing benefits to gulag survivors, but also took some potshots at his rival parties in the State Duma — United Russia, A Just Russia and the Communists — for not sending speakers to the event. “It’s a pretty word, ‘A Just Russia,'” he said. “But where’s the justice?” After Zhirinovsky’s speech, music started playing as people lined up to lay flowers on the Solovetsky Stone. Some held signs identifying where in Russia they came from, while one woman held a photograph of her repressed father. Many huddled under umbrellas.

The Solovetsky Stone has been a regular location for such events since it was placed on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad in 1992. It consists of a simple rock brought to Moscow from the Solovetsky Islands, an archipelago in the White Sea that was the gulag’s first camp, established by Lenin in 1920. On the same day as the gathering, a memorial procession organized by the Russian Orthodox Church set out from the Solovetsky Islands, Interfax reported Wednesday. After a two-week journey, the procession will deliver a cross to the Butovo shooting range south of Moscow. More than 20,000 people were executed at the range in 1937 and 1938.

As the gathering on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad dispersed, one elderly man expressed his dissatisfaction with its star speaker, Zhirinovsky. “I’ve always considered him a fascist,” said the man, who had left the gathering to seek shelter from the rain in a pedestrian underpass. The man said he had been a victim of Soviet-era political repression, but declined to share his name with a reporter. When asked why, he said, “Don’t you understand what sort of a situation we have in Russia these days?”

Since Neo-Soviet Russia Ignores Stalin’s Crimes, Naturally it Ignores his Victims Too

The Moscow Times reports on a puny public display of support for Stalin’s victims and the even punier level of governmental support that lies behind it:

Several hundred people gathered at Lubyanskaya Ploshchad on Wednesday to mark a grim milestone: the 70th anniversary of the Great Purge of 1937. The crowd, which included many elderly gulag survivors, braved rain and unseasonably cold weather to lay flowers on the Solovetsky Stone, a monument to Stalin’s victims located near the former headquarters of the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police. The building now houses the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

Tamara Voronina, 74, clutched a flower as she told how her father was arrested in 1941 and how she found herself living in ramshackle wooden barracks near the Arctic mining town of Vorkuta. “In the winter, it was always freezing,” she said, recalling how her mother used to stuff rags into the cracks in the walls to keep in the heat. Although Stalin started eliminating his political rivals well before 1937, the Great Purge began in earnest on July 31 of that year, when the Politburo set region-by-region quotas for how many people were to be arrested and executed. By the time the purge ended in November 1938, more than 1.5 million people had been arrested and more than 700,000 had been shot.

Many of the elderly survivors at Wednesday’s gathering were forced to suffer for their parents’ purported crimes. They were victims of the notorious NKVD Order 00486, issued on Aug. 15, 1937, which spelled out punishments for the “socially dangerous children” of repressed parents. Those aged 15 and up were given prison sentences of five to eight years, while younger children were sent to special orphanages.

Raisa Ankhipina, 78, was put in an orphanage after her father was arrested in 1937. Her mother died shortly after her father’s arrest. In the orphanage, Ankhipina said, her parents’ fate was never discussed and children had no idea about the purges. “It’s only now that I understand they were repressed,” she said. “Back then, I didn’t know about it.” Ankhipina learned the truth in 1994. Her father, an electrician, had been arrested and shot after being denounced by a neighbor. While the past cast a long shadow over the gathering, many of those in attendance had a more present-day concern: increasing state benefits for the surviving victims of Stalin’s repressions.

“In our country today, there is an absolutely appalling mess in terms of support for these people,” said Sergei Volkov, president of the Society of Victims of Illegal Repression, which organized the gathering.

In an angry speech, Volkov denounced a controversial 2004 law that replaced benefits for socially vulnerable groups — including victims of Stalinist repression — with cash payments. Pensioners have charged that the payments fall short of the benefits they replaced, such as discounts on medicine and public transportation. Volkov complained that the 2004 law had also removed language from a 1991 law, signed by then-President Boris Yeltsin, stating that the government was morally and financially responsible for the victims of Soviet-era political repression. Benefits to Stalin’s victims are pitifully small, Volkov charged, saying the federal government paid monthly benefits of 6,300 rubles ($250) to widows of FSB agents, while the amount for gulag victims — “who lived through hell” — was only about $7.

Volkov was followed by several other speakers, including ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party. Zhirinovsky declared his support for increasing benefits to gulag survivors, but also took some potshots at his rival parties in the State Duma — United Russia, A Just Russia and the Communists — for not sending speakers to the event. “It’s a pretty word, ‘A Just Russia,'” he said. “But where’s the justice?” After Zhirinovsky’s speech, music started playing as people lined up to lay flowers on the Solovetsky Stone. Some held signs identifying where in Russia they came from, while one woman held a photograph of her repressed father. Many huddled under umbrellas.

The Solovetsky Stone has been a regular location for such events since it was placed on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad in 1992. It consists of a simple rock brought to Moscow from the Solovetsky Islands, an archipelago in the White Sea that was the gulag’s first camp, established by Lenin in 1920. On the same day as the gathering, a memorial procession organized by the Russian Orthodox Church set out from the Solovetsky Islands, Interfax reported Wednesday. After a two-week journey, the procession will deliver a cross to the Butovo shooting range south of Moscow. More than 20,000 people were executed at the range in 1937 and 1938.

As the gathering on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad dispersed, one elderly man expressed his dissatisfaction with its star speaker, Zhirinovsky. “I’ve always considered him a fascist,” said the man, who had left the gathering to seek shelter from the rain in a pedestrian underpass. The man said he had been a victim of Soviet-era political repression, but declined to share his name with a reporter. When asked why, he said, “Don’t you understand what sort of a situation we have in Russia these days?”