Daily Archives: August 30, 2007

Annals of Russian "Patriotism"

The BBC reports on how Russians love their country, and how their country loves them right back:

Russia Plesetsk map

Pte Sergei Sinkonen was beaten by two drunken superiors, then thrown into a kennel with guard dogs, officials say. He was found in a coma the next day and underwent an emergency operation, but died of his head wounds. Bullying incidents are frequent in the Russian armed forces, sometimes resulting in the deaths of soldiers, either by killing or by suicide.

Sinkonen, 21, was a conscript from the northern city of Petrozavodsk, serving with the space troops at Plesetsk, a cosmodrome used to launch mainly military satellites.

Two weeks ago, he and another soldier were beaten by two officers who had been drinking heavily at a wedding celebration. Doctors said belt buckles had been used to inflict severe injuries on Pte Sinkonen’s head.

Dozens of deaths

Russian military prosecutors are investigating the case as one of “exceeding professional authority” – a vague Russian legal definition most often applied to torture cases, BBC Russian affairs analyst Steven Eke reports. Harsh physical discipline has historically been a feature of Russian military life, he adds, but bullying now claims the deaths of dozens of young men every year. It is the major reason why most Russian families do everything possible to help their sons avoid military service, he says.

Monsters and Critics has more on the story:

After the deadly abuse of a soldier at the Russian Plessezk space base, Defence Minister Anatoli Serdyukov has dismissed its commander, the Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday quoting military sources. According to the sources, the major general was responsible for the situation. The Russian military has repeatedly made headlines with the torture of soldiers. The 21-year-old soldier was beaten up so badly by two of his drunk superiors in mid-August that he died of his injuries. The forces at the rocket base near the city of Archangelsk are considered elite units. According to statistics by the Defence Ministry, during the first half of this year more than 260 soldiers died off duty – most of them took their own lives. Every year thousands of young recruits are injured in abuse by superiors), where many soldiers suffer lasting damage. Parents often pay substantial bribes to save their sons from conscription, media reports say. The public prosecution on Wednesday brought charges against an ensign who is believed to have beaten up the 21-year old. The second suspect, a captain, was currently being treated in a psychiatric unit, news agencies reported. Another soldier, who was also abused, survived the attacked.

Barbarism, pure and simple.

Russia’s Economic War on the West

The Financial Post of Canada reports on Vladimir Putin’s continuing neo-Soviet efforts to undermine the economies of the West. When will we meet this threat with the appropriately aggressive response? Perhaps not until Putin soul-gazer George Bush is out of power, which would explain Putin’s aggressive scrambling to take advantage now:

Frank Stronach’s deal, approved yesterday by shareholders, to sell 42% of his voting control in Magna International Inc. to 39-year-old Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska will be either a home run or go down as one of the most naive business transactions ever. Keep in mind the plan was sparked by the introduction of the two men by Barrick Gold Corp.’ s chairman, Peter Munk. His endorsement is why Barrick’s chief executive, Greg Wilkins, joined Magna’s board this month. “It’s Frank’s best deal ever,” Peter said in a recent interview. “[Russian President Vladmir] Putin wants to build an auto industry in Russia and will use oil to sell cars. He will force the Indians and Japanese to buy Russian cars in return for oil.” Well, good luck, Moscow.

That’s a worrisome strategy and not the way markets outside of Russia work. It’s also a geopolitical agenda that could be at odds with the best interests of Magna shareholders. But it will take years to find out and shareholders who don’t like the way things are going can cash out, and employees are free to leave, too. When I first heard about it, I remembered a story that Frank told me about his first transaction when he was a young boy in Austria involving a horse and some Russians. “After the war the Russians invaded us. Thousands came with tanks and horses. I was only 12 and watched two Russians fix an abandoned car by the side of the road and get it started. When the car worked, they gave me their horse. I put it in a barn,” he said. “The next day it was gone.”

Now it’s 2007, and not war-torn Europe, and Frank needed a succession plan and another market. This is a succession and marketing plan because Frank has decided to sell half of his control to a Russian with a potential upside rather than give it all to his children, Belinda and Andrew. It’s a bold, risky move. It will require all the talent that Frank Stronach and his managers possess, and then some, to essentially pull off the transformation of Russia’s auto industry. Mr. Deripaska, a relative of Boris Yeltsin’s and buddy of the current Russian President, has never done a turnaround or even run a business for very long.

His skill set is the acquisition of assets in a country without the rule of law. On the other hand, Frank is no fool, nor is Peter Munk, who has no interest in this deal but does mining business with Deripaska. “Oleg’s a friend and I’ve known him for years,” Peter said. “He’s a fabulous businessman. He’s a scientist and very brilliant. He’s part of Russia’s younger generation and has credibility and contacts which you need in Russia. He has the backing of its government.”

“Barrick is partners with him in gold mining and we’re very comfortable with him. [Deripaska] has been checked 100 different ways. He wants to keep Magna and turn it into a global champion,” he said. I think the deal represents a creeping foreign takeover by Russians of Canada’s sixth-largest corporation. So if Deripaska succeeds, the company Frank Stronach founded will be a Russian global champion, not a Canadian one.

Another One Bites the Dust: Who Will be Next?

The Moscow Times reports that an arrest warrant has issued for Mikhail Gutseriyev. When we predicted this four weeks ago, some Russophile slugs responded by saying we were over-reacting and this wouldn’t happen. Well, it has. Now the only question is: Who will be next as Russia slips down in to the neo-Soviet abyss. If you are in Russia, dear reader, it could be you. Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

A Moscow court on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant for billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev, amid speculation that the former Russneft president had fled the country to avoid what he last month called a politically motivated campaign against him. The Tverskoi District Court approved an Aug. 6 request by prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant for Gutseriyev, spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said. “When they find him, they’ll arrest him,” she said. Gutseriyev had broken a vow not to leave the city, a police spokesperson said, Interfax reported.

Gutseriyev, who stepped down last month as head of Russneft, was charged in May with “illegal entrepreneurship” for exceeding production quotas at the country’s seventh-largest oil company. He also stands accused of tax evasion. Gutseriyev wrote a scathing letter to employees upon his departure July 30, accusing tax and legal authorities of pressuring him to step down in favor of a more state-friendly leader. A source inside the company, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case, said he had not seen Gutseriyev for about two weeks. “I don’t think he’s in the country,” the source said.

Gutseriyev has been placed on an international wanted list and has fled the country, an unidentified Interior Ministry official said, Bloomberg reported. Interior ministry spokespeople declined to comment, and Interpol’s Moscow office and headquarters in France did not respond to requests for comment. The move against Russneft comes amid renewed speculation that the Kremlin is heading closer to creating a giant state-run oil holding, which would include assets from firms such as Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz and Russneft. Gutseriyev created Russneft from scratch in 2002 after leaving state-run oil firm Slavneft and subsequently buying its assets on the cheap. Forbes magazine estimates his personal fortune at $2.9 billion. “This [arrest warrant] is a different matter. It has nothing to do with Russneft,” the company source said.

The Federal Tax Service has brought a total of eight lawsuits against 11 companies that are or have been shareholders in Russneft, and some of its shares and all of its assets have been frozen. Basic Element, the holding company controlled by Kremlin-friendly oligarch Oleg Deripaska, is hoping to buy the embattled oil firm. “Our plans regarding Russneft have not changed,” Basic Element spokesman Sergei Rybak said Tuesday. Yet Irina Kashunina, a spokeswoman for the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, said Deripaska’s holding had yet to send the service a request for approval of its bid.

Gutseriyev explained the reasons behind his departure in a letter published in Russneft’s internal magazine in late July. “I was invited to leave the oil business ‘on good terms.’ I refused. Then, to make me more compliant, the company was subjected to unprecedented hounding,” Gutseriyev wrote. “I am handing control of the holding to a new owner whose appearance, I am sure, will ensure that all Russneft’s problems will be resolved in time,” he wrote. The letter was quickly removed from Russneft’s web site, however, and Gutseriyev subsequently disavowed the statements in interviews with Russian news agencies.

Yet the letter appeared to provide insight into the workings of a sector coming under increasing state control, with a boldness unseen since former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky accused the Kremlin of orchestrating his arrest to wrest the company from him. Khodorkovsky and his associate Platon Lebedev are currently serving eight-year prison terms on charges of fraud and tax evasion, while other high-ranking Yukos officials live in exile in Britain and Israel. It remains unclear when Gutseriyev was last seen. According to Kommersant, Gutseriyev attended the funeral of his son, Chingiskhan, who died after a car crash in Moscow on Aug. 22. The funeral was held Thursday in the family’s native republic of North Ossetia. The newspaper said Chingiskhan, 21, died at home of a brain hemorrhage from injuries sustained in the crash and that police and hospitals had no record of the accident. The version of events presented by tabloid newspaper Tvoi Den was similar, adding that Chingiskhan Gutseriyev called his father from home after the crash to say his Ferrari was a write-off, but that he felt well enough not to seek medical assistance. The tabloid said Gutseriyev did not attend his son’s funeral.

On July 31, Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court froze all of Russneft’s assets, blocking Gutseriyev’s ability to sell or transfer his stake of about 70 percent in the company. The city’s courts have consistently upheld multimillion-dollar lawsuits against Russneft. In late July, a Moscow court upheld a 3.4 billion ruble ($134 million) lawsuit against the firm on tax evasion charges, and earlier this month a Moscow arbitration court upheld a further 17 billion ruble ($665 million) tax evasion lawsuit. The arbitration court was due to hear a further two lawsuits Wednesday brought by the Federal Tax Service over invalid share transactions. The Energy Intelligence newsletter reported last week that the Kremlin was aiming to incorporate Russneft into a new state oil holding, which would also include the assets of state-run Rosneft and Zarubezhneft, the state-run oil company that focuses on oil projects abroad.

Annals of the Russophile Sociopath

Writing in the Moscow Times someone named Gordon M. Hahn (pictured), identified as a “senior researcher and adjunct professor” at something called the “Monterey Institute for International Studies” (whatever the hell THAT is) and author of the book Russia’s Islamic Threat spews forth the following heap of Russophile goo. Weirdly, this fellow seems to be deeply associated with the ultra-conservative Hoover Institute, to which Condi Rice also has ties. You probably know all you need to know about this sociopath if you understand that he’s part of the wacko cabal of Peter Lavelle, a Kremlin shill who churns out propaganda for Russia Today state-owned TV. It just goes to show that we conservatives have to watch our backs as well as our fronts where Russia is concerned. Shame on Hoover for being associated with this crap (it’s noteworthy he doesn’t name them in his MT bio statement). Let’s help him look foolish, shall we?

The West Lost Russia

LR: Let’s start with the title. Just reading it show that this demented loser is automatically disqualified from serious consideration. Examine the text, and you won’t find one single sentence that indicates Russia made ANY mistake in its relations with the West. It’s 100% innocent according to this moron. You will find, however, the thesis that although Russia is now making common cause with rogue nations like China and Iran, and turning into a crazed neo-Soviet dictatorship, if only we had spoken the right soft words of tender encouragement to Russia, it would have been our bosom friend and a reliable democracy. Moreover, you will find the arrogant American theory that we control the entire world, that it’s up to us to decide how Russia’s history plays out.

In contrast to the purported global warming, Russian-Western relations are undergoing a real cooling. The mounting frigidity in the relationship was symbolized in Moscow’s surprise rush to the Arctic. The aim of this expedition was to gather scientific evidence to support a legal territorial claim to the Lomonosov Ridge. But this was just one salvo in a summer flurry that underscored a new, resurgent Russia. Others include:

• A diplomatic offensive across the Middle East and Asia that included hints of forming a natural gas cartel.

• President Vladimir Putin’s moves to withdraw from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

• The resumption of long-range strategic bomber flights that will patrol areas bordering European and U.S. airspace.

• An announcement to expand the Navy’s global presence, including basing once again some of its forces in the Mediterranean Sea.

• The militarization of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as members and Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia as observers.

In short, Russia is back as a global player, and it is no longer a starry-eyed admirer of the United States.

LR: “Starry-eyed admirer of the United States”? What a completely demented statement! Never for one second in its history has Russia been any such thing. Perhaps he thinks that when Boris Yeltsin was besieging the Russia Duma, he was emulating George Washington? None of the examples he gives makes Russia anything remotely like a “global player” — except to the extent that Osama Bin Laden is one. They are nothing more than the empty posturing of a pathetic, desperate, malignant little troll who is consumed with seething hatred for the values of the West and who enjoys the overwhelming support of the Russian people.

These are the bitter fruits of the West’s — and in particular the United States’ — mistaken policies toward Russia since the end of the Cold War. Instead of treating Moscow magnanimously, as historian Richard Pipes once urged, the West declared victory. Unlike the victory in World War II over Nazi Germany, however, no Marshall Plan was forthcoming. Instead, the West promised but did not deliver timely economic assistance in the early 1990s. It also backed a disastrous and broadly unpopular privatization and economic reform program. Worst of all, it alienated the entire Russian elite by expanding NATO to include Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Baltic states. Further rounds of expansion may very well bring Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance. The NATO and European Union expansion, which did not include a substantive role for Russia, effectively locked Moscow out of a Western orbit that the Kremlin thought it was joining.

LR: He’s completely off his rocker! Germany fought in and was defeated by a hot war. Russia was not. Therefore, the analogy of the Marshall Plan is totally bogus. All Russia needed to do was to walk away from dictatorship and embrace democracy and market capitalism. It never did this. To suggest that if we had been nicer to the Russians they wouldn’t have elected a proud KGB spy and launched a new cold war is childish to the point of insanity, and arrogant to the point of being embarrassing to every American and every Russian on the face of the Earth.

Early on, U.S. President Bill Clinton wondered aloud to his top Russia hand, Undersecretary of State Strobe Talbott, about how long they could continue to shove things down Moscow’s throat. U.S. President George W. Bush followed Clinton’s lead by declaring initially that Russia was no longer a major player in global affairs or a major focus of U.S. foreign policy. Shortly thereafter, Bush announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the expansion of NATO closer to Russia’s borders. Now Moscow’s bitter disappointment with the West has taken the form of harsh anti-Americanism. It has also translated into a burning desire among the Russian elite and public to finally show the West that it would regret its policies once Russia “got up from its knees.” That time has surely come.

LR: Some scientist! Not for one second does this maniac even consider the possibility that, far from being to harsh with Russia, the West (and Clinton especially) was far too lenient. Having not tasted actual defeat, why shouldn’t Russians have thought that they could dupe the West, bide their time, and then reassert a neo-Soviet dictatorship? NATO was not expanded to include Urkaine and Georgia as it should have been, and the result is a new wave of neo-Soviet imperialism in those regions. No effort was made to control the succession of Boris Yeltsin, and we were left facing a proud KGB spy as the ruler of Russia.

Some analysts warned that this would be the inevitable result of NATO expansion and other flawed U.S. and Western policies. Only a partnership with Russia and a firm policy of drawing it into the West would prevent Moscow’s turn to the East. This also would have prevented the revival of traditional Russian suspicion — if not outright antagonism — toward the West. Finally, a closer cooperation with Russia may have prevented Moscow’s disenchantment with democracy, which it has interpreted as being no more than an insidious and cynical Western ploy to weaken Russia.

LR: Partnership with Russia? Why, that sounds just like the partnership with Hitler that Chamberlain proposed. Apparently, this dolt hasn’t heard that the idea didn’t work out too well.

The cost of NATO expansion is that Russia has been lost in the medium term — and perhaps in the long term as well — as a powerful, committed democracy and Western ally. Moreover, the West has pushed Russia closer to China and Iran. If these are the costs of NATO expansion, what are the advantages? Few, if any. The alliance received from its new member states: a few thousand additional troops that are stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, a three-jet Latvian air force and five Estonian nurses. Compare these benefits to Russia’s vast military and intelligence resources and experience — particularly in Afghanistan. Moreover, Moscow has helped to track down global jihadists, prevent the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction and reconstruct Afghanistan. As a true ally, Russia could contribute much more to the Western alliance than the small new NATO members.

LR: Committed democracy? Wow, he’s really in outer space now. This paragraph has all the earmarks of someone who’s been bribed by the Kremlin to spew their propaganda. Russia has never once held a truly contested election between rivals not associated with the Communist Party, and everyone with a pulse knows that nothing like democracy happened under Boris Yeltsin. “True ally?” Russia spurned the idea of membership in NATO from day one. Apparently, this lunatic thinks that suddenly, magically, as soon as the USSR collapsed, the people of Russia gave up their seething contempt for the West and were ready to become the West, and only failed to do so because we didn’t talk nicely enough to them. It’s exactly this kind of idiotic garbage that gives the American intellect a bad name.

All opinion polls now show that a plurality or majority of Russians regard the United States as the greatest threat to Russia and the world. Putin has repeatedly decried the U.S. impetus for a “unipolar” international structure — which is to say, global hegemony. The Russian elite’s consensus is even harsher. Alexander Solzhenitsyn recently said the United States seeks to encircle and weaken Russia. This statement is highly symbolic, coming from the esteemed writer who once took refuge in the United States as a political refugee from the Soviet state. It also underscores how cold U.S.-Russian relations have become.

LR: He’s citing Solzhenitsyn! Can you believe it? He’s saying that Solzhenitsyn says Russia can be trusted, so we should listen to him, because Solzhenitsyn has our best interests at heart! That’s his big gun! The Moscow Times editors must have been rolling on the floor convulsed in fits of laughter when he submitted this.

One hopes the next U.S. administration will not repeat Clinton and Bush’s mistakes of insulting and underestimating Moscow. Even in the best of circumstances, the next U.S. president and his or her Western allies will face the daunting task of piercing through the unfortunate and unforgiving perceptual lens through which resurgent Moscow views the West, especially Washington.

LR: Ironically, we could not agree more. The next U.S. president must directly confront Russia in a much more aggressive manner, demanding that it cease taking actions that directly undermine U.S. security or face full-scale cold war that will drive Russia into oblivion, the ashcan of history.

Annals of Russian "Sportsmanship"

The Irish Examiner reports:

The Russian Rowing Federation is the focus of an investigation after three of its members were disqualified from the World Rowing Championships. The three athletes, two from the men’s double sculls and one from the women’s eights, were not found guilty of taking an illegal substance but of using a prohibited method. An intravenous drip had been used by all three and, despite the fact the substances they infused into their body not being on the banned list, the methodology is not permitted. Drips may only be used where it is medically necessary. According to World Rowing Federation (FISA) rules, this was punishable by immediate elimination from the competition and a two-year suspension for each of the athletes.

However, the Russian federation could also face disciplinary action due to another article of the FISA statutes aimed at punishing any kind of organised drug use. An investigation was already under way since a Russian rower was also found guilty of a doping offence 12 months ago – on that occasion using a banned substance. “We have special rules to deal with systematic doping and if four or more violations are committed by athletes of one federation in a 12-month period, certain action may be taken,” explained FISA executive director Matt Smith. The question which must be cleared first of all is whether the three incidents this year and the one last year actually took place within the same 365-day period.

With an investigation still in progress, Smith was not able to confirm or deny whether that was the case, but he could reveal that the latest incident was the result of testing done before the start of the World Rowing Championships last Sunday. He said: “The test was not done here in Germany. We did extensive out-of-competition testing in June and July. “We had evidence which led us to the Russian team and so we did some extensive testing (of them).” FISA took immediate action on Tuesday night, calling the athletes before a panel and presenting them with their evidence. All the athletes admitted using the illegal methods and agreed to face the panel on Tuesday night to see if they would be able to compete on Wednesday or not. FISA had enough evidence to exclude them.

The haste of FISA’s action was in stark contrast to last year, when the Russian women’s quadruple sculls team was stripped of a gold medal as test results were delayed. “On July 23 last year, a woman athlete was tested at Russia’s training camp in Bulgaria and the example was sent to Paris for analysis,” explained Smith. “The Paris office closed down for the whole of August and, on September 20, we received the positive result. “We usually have a 10-day turnaround time, but this test was performed by WADA who did not closely follow the case and delivered the results late, forcing us to take away the gold medal. “This year, we have no cases hanging over. We did 44 tests last Thursday and Friday and all of them resulted negative.” Smith also revealed the athlete who failed the test last July 23, Olga Samulenkova, was also tested on July 22 – a test which resulted negative. The WADA returned 24 hours later to take another sample, and this came back positive. “I think this sends out a message to the athletes that, once they have been tested, it does not mean they will not be tested again,” added Smith. A FISA panel is to meet again on Wednesday evening and more details, including the possibility of further action, will be revealed.

August 29, 2007 — Contents

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 29 CONTENTS


(1) The Politkovskaya Arrests

(2) Why Does Russia Hate Children So Much?

(3) Russian, the Language of Slavery

(4) Cowardly Kremlin Attacks Voice of Beslan

(5) EDITORIAL: The Lies from Russia Blog Never Seem to End