Daily Archives: November 9, 2007

November 9, 2007 — Contents

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 9 CONTENTS

(1) Quit Yammering Russophile Scum . . . Elections in Georgia, of Course . . . Just like in Ukraine . . . And you’re Gonna Lose These too! Live with it!

(2) So Much for Russia’s Word: Unilateral Arms Control Repudiation

(3) Russophobes vs. Russophiles: The Asia Society Smackdown

(4) The Litvinenko of the Tennis Courts (Just When you Thought they couldn’t Possibly Get any Lower, they get so low that you Can’t Believe you thought They were Low Before)

NOTE: Check out our latest installment on Publius Pundit, where we editorialize about the goings on in Georgia and particularly the President’s heroic decision to call early elections, just as was done not so long ago in Ukraine. Feel free to leave your comments as to how the West can best deal with this outrageous pattern of imperialistic behavior by Russia.

Saakashvili, True Democrat that he is, Calls Elections

So much for the absurd Russophile propaganda that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is not a democrat. In the face of obviously Russia-sponsored subterfuge, he is confident in democracy and will hold elections. Would Putin have done the same under the same circumstances? Of course. Not. Putin doesn’t even allow an opposition to exist, because he’s a coward. Plain. And. Simple. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Seeking to defuse his country’s worst crisis since the Rose Revolution swept him into power in 2003, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili announced Thursday that Georgia would move up its presidential election to January and allow voters to decide when parliament elections should take place. By setting the new presidential election date as Jan. 5, Saakashvili acquiesced to the demands made by opposition leaders who had mounted six days of protests against his leadership. It came a day after Georgian police violently dispersed legions of demonstrators with truncheons and tear gas, prompting the president to declare a 15-day state of emergency across the nation.

“The essence of my compromise is that we give the opposition a chance to be elected by the people, if it is a force of any standing,” Saakashvili said in a televised address to the nation. “I, as the country’s leader, want to be provided with a clear mandate,” the 39-year-old leader continued, “if I am to counteract all external threats, all pressure and annexation threats.” Saakashvili appeared to be referring to Russia, which he has accused of meddling in Georgian affairs.

Saakashvili also set Jan. 5 as the date for a referendum that will ask voters when parliament elections should be held. Opposition leaders wanted parliament elections in April rather than in autumn 2008, when voters were scheduled to vote in both legislative and presidential elections. “We have our victory, and in the best possible terms,” said Tina Khidasheli, an opposition leader from Georgia’s Republican Party, who doubted Saakashvili could recover politically from the crisis. “Anyone who uses violence against the Georgian people are gone. They’re forgotten. It’s not just his political career that’s over. He’s history.”

Khidasheli said opposition leaders are discussing who they will select as their candidate to run against Saakashvili, and likely will announce that choice later this month.

Saakashvili’s decision to crack down on demonstrators Wednesday, shut down two independent television stations and later impose a nationwide state of emergency drew stiff criticism from the international community.

Georgian riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in front of the country’s parliament building for a sixth day of protests against Saakashvili’s administration. According to witness reports, police beat many of the fleeing demonstrators with truncheons.

Hundreds of demonstrators sought treatment at local hospitals. Later, Saakashvili announced a 15-day state of emergency that banned further demonstrations and barred all television and radio newscasts except for those broadcast on state-owned Georgian public television.

On Thursday, Russian television broadcast images of hundreds of Georgian troops deploying on the main thoroughfares of the nation’s capital, Tbilisi. Before the president’s announcement, opposition leaders had said they would abide by the prohibition of new demonstrations. With the situation in the country stabilizing, Saakashvili said the state of emergency likely would be lifted within days.

Especially worrisome for Saakashvili was NATO’s reaction to the Georgian government’s violent crackdown on demonstrators. Georgia is actively pursuing membership in the western military alliance, and was hoping that NATO officials would officially declare the former Soviet republic a candidate for membership when the alliance holds a summit in Bucharest next April.

“The imposition of emergency rule and the closure of media outlets in Georgia, a partner with which the alliance has an intensified dialogue, are of particular concern and not in line with Euro-Atlantic values,” said NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Saakashvili administration officials said a prime motivation for the imposition of a state of emergency was the belief that Russian intelligence agents had been collaborating with Georgian opposition leaders to stage a coup, an allegation that they said they would back up with evidence in coming days.

The Georgian government expelled three Russian diplomats from Tbilisi, a move Russia answered on Thursday by expelling three Georgian diplomats from Moscow.

Russian officials labeled Saakashvili’s allegations an “irresponsible provocation.”

“We believe Georgia is approaching a serious human rights crisis,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin. “The footage the whole world saw from Tbilisi vividly shows what Georgian-style democracy is. It is the harsh, forceful dispersal of peaceful demonstrations, the closure of free media, the beating of foreign journalists.”

So Much for Russia’s Word: Arms Control Treaty Unilaterally Repudiated by Duma

The Financial Times reports that every single one of the 400+ members of Russia’s Duma — every single one — has voted to unilaterally repudiate a major arms control treaty that the Russophile wackos said Russia was only bluffing about. What are these Russians, lemmings? Not even ONE Duma deputy had any compunctions about withdrawing unilaterally from a major international treaty of long standing? It’s a nation of robots! How can they possibly expect respect from the civilized world if they act in this manner?

Russia’s parliament voted on Wednesday to suspend Moscow’s participation in a key arms control treaty, deepening its confrontation with the west over a range of ­crucial security issues. The Duma, or lower house, unanimously approved a law allowing Russia to stop complying with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which has capped non-nuclear arms such as helicopters and tanks in Europe since its adoption in 1990. The law, if approved by Russia’s upper house and Vladimir Putin, the president, will take effect on December 12.

Moscow is demanding changes to the treaty after Nato states failed to ratify a revised 1999 text, saying the original version is outdated. Nato states say Russia has not fulfilled ­commitments to withdraw troops from several disputed territories in the former Soviet Union. However, the Russian move reflects broader frustration at what Moscow sees as the west’s failure to take account of its discontent over a series of issues. These include US plans for a missile shield in eastern Europe, the siting of Nato bases in former Soviet bloc countries and moves to ­recognise the independence of Kosovo, Serbia’s breakaway province.

It was also confirmed ­on Wednesday that Russia is backing Dmitry Rogozin, a nationalist party leader, as its next ambassador to Nato. The Duma’s international affairs committee will on Thursday discuss the candidacy of Mr Rogozin, who led the far-right Motherland party set up with Kremlin backing in 2003, before being deposed last year. Mr Rogozin was denied permission to register another nationalist party, Great Russia, for Russia’s coming parliamentary elections in December. “In foreign policy, I will try to do the same as I tried to do in domestic ­policy, to be useful to the Motherland,” Mr Rogozin told Kommersant newspaper on Wednesday. Addressing the Duma, General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, said the CFE treaty discriminated against Russia. “[The treaty] allows, practically without restrictions, realisation of the strategy of moving Nato eastwards and reconfiguring the US military presence in Europe,” Gen Baluyevsky said, adding that it allowed “constant monitoring of ­Russia’s military forces in the European zone.” Gen Baluyevsky said Russia was not planning to move forces westwards after suspending the treaty but General Alexander Kolmakov, first deputy defence minister, said Russia might reinforce troops near its western borders.

Mr Putin first threatened in April to suspend the treaty and, in July, gave ­formal 150-day notice that Russia intended to do so. Western states have urged Russia not to suspend the treaty, seen as a cornerstone of European security. Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said Russia was not trying to kill the treaty but to revive the agreement in a more workable form. Mr Kislyak denied Russian media suggestions that ­Russia was seeking to use suspension of the treaty as a bargaining chip to force ­concessions from the US on other issues – including ­recognition of its parliamentary elections on December 2 as democratic.

So Much for Russia’s Word: Arms Control Treaty Unilaterally Repudiated by Duma

The Financial Times reports that every single one of the 400+ members of Russia’s Duma — every single one — has voted to unilaterally repudiate a major arms control treaty that the Russophile wackos said Russia was only bluffing about. What are these Russians, lemmings? Not even ONE Duma deputy had any compunctions about withdrawing unilaterally from a major international treaty of long standing? It’s a nation of robots! How can they possibly expect respect from the civilized world if they act in this manner?

Russia’s parliament voted on Wednesday to suspend Moscow’s participation in a key arms control treaty, deepening its confrontation with the west over a range of ­crucial security issues. The Duma, or lower house, unanimously approved a law allowing Russia to stop complying with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which has capped non-nuclear arms such as helicopters and tanks in Europe since its adoption in 1990. The law, if approved by Russia’s upper house and Vladimir Putin, the president, will take effect on December 12.

Moscow is demanding changes to the treaty after Nato states failed to ratify a revised 1999 text, saying the original version is outdated. Nato states say Russia has not fulfilled ­commitments to withdraw troops from several disputed territories in the former Soviet Union. However, the Russian move reflects broader frustration at what Moscow sees as the west’s failure to take account of its discontent over a series of issues. These include US plans for a missile shield in eastern Europe, the siting of Nato bases in former Soviet bloc countries and moves to ­recognise the independence of Kosovo, Serbia’s breakaway province.

It was also confirmed ­on Wednesday that Russia is backing Dmitry Rogozin, a nationalist party leader, as its next ambassador to Nato. The Duma’s international affairs committee will on Thursday discuss the candidacy of Mr Rogozin, who led the far-right Motherland party set up with Kremlin backing in 2003, before being deposed last year. Mr Rogozin was denied permission to register another nationalist party, Great Russia, for Russia’s coming parliamentary elections in December. “In foreign policy, I will try to do the same as I tried to do in domestic ­policy, to be useful to the Motherland,” Mr Rogozin told Kommersant newspaper on Wednesday. Addressing the Duma, General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, said the CFE treaty discriminated against Russia. “[The treaty] allows, practically without restrictions, realisation of the strategy of moving Nato eastwards and reconfiguring the US military presence in Europe,” Gen Baluyevsky said, adding that it allowed “constant monitoring of ­Russia’s military forces in the European zone.” Gen Baluyevsky said Russia was not planning to move forces westwards after suspending the treaty but General Alexander Kolmakov, first deputy defence minister, said Russia might reinforce troops near its western borders.

Mr Putin first threatened in April to suspend the treaty and, in July, gave ­formal 150-day notice that Russia intended to do so. Western states have urged Russia not to suspend the treaty, seen as a cornerstone of European security. Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said Russia was not trying to kill the treaty but to revive the agreement in a more workable form. Mr Kislyak denied Russian media suggestions that ­Russia was seeking to use suspension of the treaty as a bargaining chip to force ­concessions from the US on other issues – including ­recognition of its parliamentary elections on December 2 as democratic.

So Much for Russia’s Word: Arms Control Treaty Unilaterally Repudiated by Duma

The Financial Times reports that every single one of the 400+ members of Russia’s Duma — every single one — has voted to unilaterally repudiate a major arms control treaty that the Russophile wackos said Russia was only bluffing about. What are these Russians, lemmings? Not even ONE Duma deputy had any compunctions about withdrawing unilaterally from a major international treaty of long standing? It’s a nation of robots! How can they possibly expect respect from the civilized world if they act in this manner?

Russia’s parliament voted on Wednesday to suspend Moscow’s participation in a key arms control treaty, deepening its confrontation with the west over a range of ­crucial security issues. The Duma, or lower house, unanimously approved a law allowing Russia to stop complying with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which has capped non-nuclear arms such as helicopters and tanks in Europe since its adoption in 1990. The law, if approved by Russia’s upper house and Vladimir Putin, the president, will take effect on December 12.

Moscow is demanding changes to the treaty after Nato states failed to ratify a revised 1999 text, saying the original version is outdated. Nato states say Russia has not fulfilled ­commitments to withdraw troops from several disputed territories in the former Soviet Union. However, the Russian move reflects broader frustration at what Moscow sees as the west’s failure to take account of its discontent over a series of issues. These include US plans for a missile shield in eastern Europe, the siting of Nato bases in former Soviet bloc countries and moves to ­recognise the independence of Kosovo, Serbia’s breakaway province.

It was also confirmed ­on Wednesday that Russia is backing Dmitry Rogozin, a nationalist party leader, as its next ambassador to Nato. The Duma’s international affairs committee will on Thursday discuss the candidacy of Mr Rogozin, who led the far-right Motherland party set up with Kremlin backing in 2003, before being deposed last year. Mr Rogozin was denied permission to register another nationalist party, Great Russia, for Russia’s coming parliamentary elections in December. “In foreign policy, I will try to do the same as I tried to do in domestic ­policy, to be useful to the Motherland,” Mr Rogozin told Kommersant newspaper on Wednesday. Addressing the Duma, General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, said the CFE treaty discriminated against Russia. “[The treaty] allows, practically without restrictions, realisation of the strategy of moving Nato eastwards and reconfiguring the US military presence in Europe,” Gen Baluyevsky said, adding that it allowed “constant monitoring of ­Russia’s military forces in the European zone.” Gen Baluyevsky said Russia was not planning to move forces westwards after suspending the treaty but General Alexander Kolmakov, first deputy defence minister, said Russia might reinforce troops near its western borders.

Mr Putin first threatened in April to suspend the treaty and, in July, gave ­formal 150-day notice that Russia intended to do so. Western states have urged Russia not to suspend the treaty, seen as a cornerstone of European security. Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said Russia was not trying to kill the treaty but to revive the agreement in a more workable form. Mr Kislyak denied Russian media suggestions that ­Russia was seeking to use suspension of the treaty as a bargaining chip to force ­concessions from the US on other issues – including ­recognition of its parliamentary elections on December 2 as democratic.

So Much for Russia’s Word: Arms Control Treaty Unilaterally Repudiated by Duma

The Financial Times reports that every single one of the 400+ members of Russia’s Duma — every single one — has voted to unilaterally repudiate a major arms control treaty that the Russophile wackos said Russia was only bluffing about. What are these Russians, lemmings? Not even ONE Duma deputy had any compunctions about withdrawing unilaterally from a major international treaty of long standing? It’s a nation of robots! How can they possibly expect respect from the civilized world if they act in this manner?

Russia’s parliament voted on Wednesday to suspend Moscow’s participation in a key arms control treaty, deepening its confrontation with the west over a range of ­crucial security issues. The Duma, or lower house, unanimously approved a law allowing Russia to stop complying with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which has capped non-nuclear arms such as helicopters and tanks in Europe since its adoption in 1990. The law, if approved by Russia’s upper house and Vladimir Putin, the president, will take effect on December 12.

Moscow is demanding changes to the treaty after Nato states failed to ratify a revised 1999 text, saying the original version is outdated. Nato states say Russia has not fulfilled ­commitments to withdraw troops from several disputed territories in the former Soviet Union. However, the Russian move reflects broader frustration at what Moscow sees as the west’s failure to take account of its discontent over a series of issues. These include US plans for a missile shield in eastern Europe, the siting of Nato bases in former Soviet bloc countries and moves to ­recognise the independence of Kosovo, Serbia’s breakaway province.

It was also confirmed ­on Wednesday that Russia is backing Dmitry Rogozin, a nationalist party leader, as its next ambassador to Nato. The Duma’s international affairs committee will on Thursday discuss the candidacy of Mr Rogozin, who led the far-right Motherland party set up with Kremlin backing in 2003, before being deposed last year. Mr Rogozin was denied permission to register another nationalist party, Great Russia, for Russia’s coming parliamentary elections in December. “In foreign policy, I will try to do the same as I tried to do in domestic ­policy, to be useful to the Motherland,” Mr Rogozin told Kommersant newspaper on Wednesday. Addressing the Duma, General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, said the CFE treaty discriminated against Russia. “[The treaty] allows, practically without restrictions, realisation of the strategy of moving Nato eastwards and reconfiguring the US military presence in Europe,” Gen Baluyevsky said, adding that it allowed “constant monitoring of ­Russia’s military forces in the European zone.” Gen Baluyevsky said Russia was not planning to move forces westwards after suspending the treaty but General Alexander Kolmakov, first deputy defence minister, said Russia might reinforce troops near its western borders.

Mr Putin first threatened in April to suspend the treaty and, in July, gave ­formal 150-day notice that Russia intended to do so. Western states have urged Russia not to suspend the treaty, seen as a cornerstone of European security. Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said Russia was not trying to kill the treaty but to revive the agreement in a more workable form. Mr Kislyak denied Russian media suggestions that ­Russia was seeking to use suspension of the treaty as a bargaining chip to force ­concessions from the US on other issues – including ­recognition of its parliamentary elections on December 2 as democratic.

So Much for Russia’s Word: Arms Control Treaty Unilaterally Repudiated by Duma

The Financial Times reports that every single one of the 400+ members of Russia’s Duma — every single one — has voted to unilaterally repudiate a major arms control treaty that the Russophile wackos said Russia was only bluffing about. What are these Russians, lemmings? Not even ONE Duma deputy had any compunctions about withdrawing unilaterally from a major international treaty of long standing? It’s a nation of robots! How can they possibly expect respect from the civilized world if they act in this manner?

Russia’s parliament voted on Wednesday to suspend Moscow’s participation in a key arms control treaty, deepening its confrontation with the west over a range of ­crucial security issues. The Duma, or lower house, unanimously approved a law allowing Russia to stop complying with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which has capped non-nuclear arms such as helicopters and tanks in Europe since its adoption in 1990. The law, if approved by Russia’s upper house and Vladimir Putin, the president, will take effect on December 12.

Moscow is demanding changes to the treaty after Nato states failed to ratify a revised 1999 text, saying the original version is outdated. Nato states say Russia has not fulfilled ­commitments to withdraw troops from several disputed territories in the former Soviet Union. However, the Russian move reflects broader frustration at what Moscow sees as the west’s failure to take account of its discontent over a series of issues. These include US plans for a missile shield in eastern Europe, the siting of Nato bases in former Soviet bloc countries and moves to ­recognise the independence of Kosovo, Serbia’s breakaway province.

It was also confirmed ­on Wednesday that Russia is backing Dmitry Rogozin, a nationalist party leader, as its next ambassador to Nato. The Duma’s international affairs committee will on Thursday discuss the candidacy of Mr Rogozin, who led the far-right Motherland party set up with Kremlin backing in 2003, before being deposed last year. Mr Rogozin was denied permission to register another nationalist party, Great Russia, for Russia’s coming parliamentary elections in December. “In foreign policy, I will try to do the same as I tried to do in domestic ­policy, to be useful to the Motherland,” Mr Rogozin told Kommersant newspaper on Wednesday. Addressing the Duma, General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, said the CFE treaty discriminated against Russia. “[The treaty] allows, practically without restrictions, realisation of the strategy of moving Nato eastwards and reconfiguring the US military presence in Europe,” Gen Baluyevsky said, adding that it allowed “constant monitoring of ­Russia’s military forces in the European zone.” Gen Baluyevsky said Russia was not planning to move forces westwards after suspending the treaty but General Alexander Kolmakov, first deputy defence minister, said Russia might reinforce troops near its western borders.

Mr Putin first threatened in April to suspend the treaty and, in July, gave ­formal 150-day notice that Russia intended to do so. Western states have urged Russia not to suspend the treaty, seen as a cornerstone of European security. Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said Russia was not trying to kill the treaty but to revive the agreement in a more workable form. Mr Kislyak denied Russian media suggestions that ­Russia was seeking to use suspension of the treaty as a bargaining chip to force ­concessions from the US on other issues – including ­recognition of its parliamentary elections on December 2 as democratic.

Russophiles vs. Russophobes: The Asia Society Smackdown

The Weekly Standard reports

TUESDAY NIGHT MARKED the eleventh Intelligence Squared U.S. debate hosted at the Asia Society and Museum on Park Avenue. Generously endowed by the conservative philanthropist Robert Rosenkranz, IQ2US underwrites a series of intellectual exchanges modeled on the full-blooded forensic style of the Oxford Union, though given that the august society has lately invited speakers like Nick Griffin, head of the fascist British National Party, and David Irving, Holocaust denier in chief, one wonders if like so many other British traditions this one has better thrived by crossing the Atlantic.

The proposition before the house on Tuesday was perhaps the most tantalizing yet: “Russia Is Becoming Our Enemy Again.” Arguing in favor of the motion were Bret Stephens, an editor at the Wall Street Journal, Claudia Rossett, journalist-in-residence at the Defense of Democracies and a WEEKLY STANDARD contributor, and J. Michael Waller, the Annenberg Chair in International Communication at the Institute for World Politics. Arguing against were Nina Khrushcheva, granddaughter of the Soviet premier and professor of International Affairs at the New School, Robert Legvold, a political science professor at Columbia University, and Mark Medish, a former Clinton administration official and now the vice president for Studies of Russia, China and Eurasia at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A nicely arrayed Sovnarkom of laurels, yet the most interesting curriculum vitae of the evening belonged to moderator Edward Lucas, who has a new book coming out titled The New Cold War: The Future of Russia and the Threat to the West.

If that language strikes you as as assured then perhaps it’s because the calendar of bilateral relations does appear to be heading back to 1962. World headlines announce Le Carré-esque tales of irradiated expatriates, gunned-down journalists, and poisoned politicians, all of whom were guilty of the unforgivable crime of opposing Moscow. The bald-faced euphemism of Eastern dictatorship has returned in the form of Russia’s post-millennial “managed democracy.” Gas and oil pipelines have been made hostage to the pro-Russian sentiments of Caucasian peoples who rely on them stay warm in winter. A Baltic state and NATO ally has been subjected to a costly cyberwar, with at least a few soldiers of the invading army residing, according to their virtual signatures, in the fortified offices of the Kremlin. And Vladimir Putin, the KGB Tsar who has presided over all these episodes of intimidation and repression–and likely plans, as prime minister, to preside over many more–happily finances a Middle Eastern theocracy’s “peaceful” wish to explore the varied uses of the atom. Yet it’s soft brinkmanship when the U.S. announces plans to construct a defensive missile shield on European soil.

American debates over Russia’s present and future have always lent themselves to witty theatrics. Rossett alone twice reminded me of the Trotskyist Max Shachtman’s devastating indictment of CPUSA chief Earl Browder in 1950: “There but for an accident of geography, stands a corpse!” First she recounted a dinner she attended in Moscow ten years ago at which one Russian held forth against a tide of Western skepticism about the positive direction in his which his country was headed. “His name was Gary Kasparov.” Next, having poured herself a cup of tea at the lectern prior to her opening remarks, Rossett brandished the photographs of the dying Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-KGB agent turned British citizen who was poisoned by Polonium 210, and a badly disfigured Victor Yushchenko, the current pro-Western reformist president of Ukraine. She invited the audience to imagine itself a Russian dissident sitting down with an envoy from the Kremlin to discuss the murder of a journalist in a foreign city. “Would you, without a second thought these days, drink that tea?”

relations does appear to be heading back to 1962. World headlines announce Le Carré-esque tales of irradiated expatriates, gunned-down journalists, and poisoned politicians, all of whom were guilty of the unforgivable crime of opposing Moscow. The bald-faced euphemism of Eastern dictatorship has returned in the form of Russia’s post-millennial “managed democracy.” Gas and oil pipelines have been made hostage to the pro-Russian sentiments of Caucasian peoples who rely on them stay warm in winter. A Baltic state and NATO ally has been subjected to a costly cyberwar, with at least a few soldiers of the invading army residing, according to their virtual signatures, in the fortified offices of the Kremlin. And Vladimir Putin, the KGB Tsar who has presided over all these episodes of intimidation and repression–and likely plans, as prime minister, to preside over many more–happily finances a Middle Eastern theocracy’s “peaceful” wish to explore the varied uses of the atom. Yet it’s soft brinkmanship when the U.S. announces plans to construct a defensive missile shield on European soil.

American debates over Russia’s present and future have always lent themselves to witty theatrics. Rossett alone twice reminded me of the Trotskyist Max Shachtman’s devastating indictment of CPUSA chief Earl Browder in 1950: “There but for an accident of geography, stands a corpse!” First she recounted a dinner she attended in Moscow ten years ago at which one Russian held forth against a tide of Western skepticism about the positive direction in his which his country was headed. “His name was Gary Kasparov.” Next, having poured herself a cup of tea at the lectern prior to her opening remarks, Rossett brandished the photographs of the dying Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-KGB agent turned British citizen who was poisoned by Polonium 210, and a badly disfigured Victor Yushchenko, the current pro-Western reformist president of Ukraine. She invited the audience to imagine itself a Russian dissident sitting down with an envoy from the Kremlin to discuss the murder of a journalist in a foreign city. “Would you, without a second thought these days, drink that tea?”

Stephens went a step further by coining a few powerful phrases to describe the Great Russian Chauvinism of Putinshchina. He referred to the Kremlin’s “pipeline warfare” against Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia, and cited the murder of Litvinenko as an act of “nuclear homicide, if not nuclear terrorism,” Scotland Yard’s investigations of which the Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed as so much of a fuss “over one man.” Meanwhile, Litvinenko’s accused and un-extradited murderer, Andrei Lugovoi, will likely be elected to the Duma next month. Stephens misspoke, however, when he claimed that the Siberian prison term of Mikhail Khordorkovsky, Putin’s oligarchic archnemesis and the CEO of Yukos convicted on sham charges, has been “prolonged.” Actually, Khordorkovsky’s parole was denied but for an unsurprisingly nominal infraction of prison rules: he didn’t keep his hands behind his back upon returning to his cell from exercise.

Stephens and his colleagues might have made more of the specifically Cold War provenance of the methods used to kill Litvinenko. The notorious “Umbrella Murder” of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in 1978 also occurred in London in broad daylight. The weapon was also a recherché component of WMD, ricin. And, according to former KGB agents Oleg Gordievsky and Oleg Kalugin, Yuri Andropov personally gave the go-ahead to the Bulgarian secret police to carry out the assassination.

J. Michael Waller provided the most thorough, insider analysis of Russian military infrastructure and its regnant political ideology. His brief rested on the strong evidence that Soviet tendencies, rather than simply reviving, never really died off. If Russia had erased or buried its Communist past the better to emerge more confident as a market democracy, then how to explain that the Foreign Intelligence Services offices, the FSB State Security Services offices, and the state prosecutor’s offices all bear the sword and shield insignia of Felix Dzerzhinsky’s Bolshevik Cheka? Waller spoke of the arrant “KGB-ization” of the state, and indeed, the most prominent form of “dissent” within the country occurs among the various factions of the siloviki–the new military and espionage class of which Putin is primus inter pares. Waller made the often-overlooked point that Russia never had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the corpse-strewn nightmare of Stalinism. To the contrary, the Kremlin has released new “ideological guidelines” for teaching social studies and history to schoolchildren.

Textbooks being studied by future Russian generations thus inform that Stalin was the “most successful leader of the U.S.S.R.,” resurrect his personality cult on behalf of Putin, and resort to a level of hostile rhetoric against the United States not heard since the grumbling days of Brezhnev. Add to this that for all of Putin’s de-escalationist posturing, he has commissioned the Yuri Dolgoruky, an advanced Borei class nuclear submarine that is currently undergoing sea trials and carrying a payload unnecessary to, say, level Grozny (again).

As for the “anti” side, their case relied heavily on the phrasing of the proposition. No one dared challenge the above-cited high crimes of the Putin regime, so the task was to show how those crimes do not an enemy make. Robert Legvold said that to characterize Russia in such a Manichean way is:

wrong because it misunderstands what Russia’s all about, and it misunderstands what motivates its foreign policy. And it’s unhelpful, maybe even harmful because it almost certainly runs the risk of bringing about the behavior and stance on Russia’s part that we fear in the first place

If we’re to read this assessment right, then Legvold is saying that Russia might become our enemy simply by our saying that Russia might become our enemy. This was by no means the most evasive or tautological that his team got. Legvold spoke of Russia as a “challenge,” a recovering nation that is motivated by three desires: a “renewed voice,” “respect of its national interests as it defines them, not the way in which we define them,” and an “end to the assigned role as either a pupil or as a junior partner.” It’s just acting out, in other words. Obstructing justice in the murder investigation of a British citizen, supplying Hamas and Hezbollah with arms, building the ayatollahs a nuclear reaction at Bushehr–what more to expect from the rebellious phase of a pubescent superpower?

Nina Khrushcheva also resorted to a neat logical troika to explain away Russia’s belligerence. She said the country couldn’t possibly be becoming our enemy because we no longer live in a “bipolar” world–the Great Game has been won, the board has been reset with a multitude of big players. Furthermore, there is no “ideological divide” between democracy and communism. And Vladimir Putin is not an emperor, although he likes to sound like one. However, he may well be driven to take up the imperial mantle by American hectoring or bullying. (The corollary–that the U.S. might be driven to become Russia’s avowed enemy by Russian behavior–was never discussed).

Khrushcheva’s strangest utterance, though, was this one: “[P]utin would argue that both Russia and the United States today are of the same ideology, that is democracy, and of the same economic system, which is capitalism.” Odd, then, that the same man told Der Spiegel during the last G-8 summit: “I am an absolutely true democrat. The tragedy is that I am alone. There are no such other democrats in the world,” and then took the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of VE-Day to compare the United States to the Third Reich. The “bipolar” Khrushcheva was alluding to might have been to the psychological disorder.

Mark Medish presented the most cogent case for the opposition, which is to say that his was the most legalistic. The motion was “wrong on its face,” he claimed, because this Russia has never before been our enemy before (the Soviet Union was), and therefore it can’t possibly become our enemy “again.” Those years in the Clinton White House certainly weren’t misspent.

Medish also warned that a “friend-foe” dichotomy had “self-fulfilling prophecy” written all over it, and he, for one, preferred to highlight shared U.S.-Russian interests–namely, stopping WMD proliferation and fighting Islamic terrorism (never mind about that facility in Bushehr and rocket-running for Hezbollah and Hamas). Medish was also very fond of downy d-words to portray a hard reality: “We may have disagreements, there may be friction, there may be deep disappointments and indeed there is great disillusionment and disenchantment in the mutual relationship today.” But I think his prize moment arrived when said that, in contradistinction to a new cold war, what the two powers are embroiled in now is a “cool peace.” Well, he brightened my mood, anyway.

Technically, the pros won the day, but the antis made an impressive come-around. The audience vote at the start of the debate was 41 percent in favor of the motion, 23 percent against, and 36 percent undecided. At the end those percentages were 47, 41, 12. How many FSB agents showed up late remains a mystery.

You can watch excerpts of the debate on YouTube over at Robert Amsterdam‘s place.

Litvinenko on the Tennis Court?


FOX Sports reports:

The International Tennis Federation is investigating allegations that Tommy Haas [pictured above in happier times] was poisoned before Germany’s Davis Cup match against Russia. Haas was forced out of his match against Mikhail Youzhny with a suspected stomach virus as Russia won both reverse singles matches on Sept. 23 to win the semifinal series 3-2 and reach the Davis Cup final. “We take this very seriously,” ITF spokeswoman Barbara Travers said Wednesday. “The investigation starts today.” German teammate Alexander Waske said he was told by a Russian who manages numerous athletes that it was poisoning, not a virus. Waske didn’t say who the manager was. “He said as an aside, that it was bitter that Tommy Haas was poisoned,” said Waske, who answered the man by saying that it was a virus. “Thereupon he said, no, they poisoned him.”

Haas said he will fly Thursday from Argentina to his home in the United States for a complete checkup. Germany team doctor Erich Rembeck had done a checkup and run blood tests while the player was sick, but said they were only for a virus. “I’m shocked that something like that appears possible,” said Haas, ranked 13th. “When I think of how bad I felt, I can imagine it. I’ve been feeling weak for weeks.” Rembeck didn’t rule out tampering with Haas’ food or drinks. He said the German staff drew up meal plans, but the kitchen staff at the hotel prepared what ended up on the players’ plates. “I was the only one ever to order dessert or a Latte macchiato after dinner,” Haas said. “If all this is true, since no one else got sick, that must have been when it happened.”

The Times of London has more:

Germany’s top tennis player, Tommy Haas, will fly to the United States today for toxicological tests on his hair after bizarre allegations that he was poisoned during his country’s Davis Cup defeat to Russia in Moscow two months ago. The International Tennis Federation is also investigating the claims from Alexander Waske, Haas’s Davis Cup teammate, who said that he had been told of the poisoning by a Russian manager.

Haas, who is ranked 13th in the world, played on the opening day of the tie on September 21 but lost in straight sets – 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 – to Igor Andreev, ranked 33. The Germans turned the contest around and went into the final day 2-1 ahead but Haas was unable to take to the court on the Sunday for his reverse singles clash with Mikhail Youzhny due to stomach pains – and his replacement Philipp Petzschner went down in four sets. Russia then clinched the decider with Andreev beating Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Waske, a doubles specialist, said that he was told “completely casually” by a Russian manager – whom he did not name, but who manages many players – that Haas had been deliberately nobbled. “He said as an aside, that it was a shame that Tommy was poisoned,” said Waske, who answered the man by saying that it was a virus. “Thereupon he said, no, they poisoned him.” When Waske expressed his scepticism at the claim his informer reportedly told him: “Believe me Alex, I know Moscow, there are people who can make these kinds of things happen.”

If Waske’s claims are proven, they will join a list of extraordinary Russian poisoning sagas, including the murder in London a year ago of the former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was fed a radioactive isotope in a cup of tea at a Mayfair hotel. Britain is demanding the extradition of another former KGB officer, Andrei Lugovoy.

The other most high-profile poisoning allegation came from the Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who almost died after ingesting dioxin while campaigning for the presidency on an anti-Moscow platform.

The International Tennis Federation, the sport’s governing body, said that it was launching an immediate investigation into the Tommy Haas allegations, to be headed by Bill Babcock, president of its David Cup committee. Haas, 29, said that he would fly today from Argentina to his home in the United States for a complete check-up. The German team doctor Erich Rembeck had run blood tests while the player was sick, but said they were only for a virus.

“I’m shocked that something like that appears possible,” said Haas, who is ranked 13th in the world. “When I think of how bad I felt, I can imagine it. I’ve been feeling weak for weeks.” He added: “I have never felt so miserable in my whole life as I did on the Saturday and Sunday nights in Moscow. Of the eight hours I should have been sleeping, I spent six of them on the toilet.”

Six weeks after the alleged incident, Haas said that he was still feeling the effects. “My stomach is still doing some strange things.” Rembeck did not rule out that someone had tampered with Haas’s food or drinks. He said the German staff drew up meal plans, but the kitchen staff at the hotel prepared what ended up on the players’ plates. “I was the only one ever to order dessert or a Latte macchiato after dinner,” Haas said. “If all this is true, since no one else got sick, that must have been when it happened.”

It goes without saying that you, dear reader, cannot say you are surprised.