Daily Archives: December 12, 2007

December 12, 2007 — Contents

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 12 CONTENTS

(1) EDITORIAL: Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

(2) Golts on the “Farce” of Russia’s Cold War Bluster

(3) Kommersant on the Belarus Union

(4) Yury Chervochkin, RIP

NOTE: The Other Russia website is sporting a stylish new makeover. Click through and check it out! They report, for example, on the most recent of the Kremlin’s malignant cyber attacks against Russia’s vestigial opposition press.

EDITORIAL: Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

EDITORIAL

Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

News broke on Monday that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had named his childlike sycophant and Black Sabbath fan Dmitri Medevedev (whose last name means “bear”), chief of the state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom (a position for which he has zero credentials) as the candidate-of-choice to replace Putin next year as Russia’s third “president.” Medvedev was educated in the same way as Putin, in the USSR when St. Petersburg was Leningrad, studying “law” in a country that didn’t even know the meaning of the word. No sooner had Putin made his endorsement than Medvedev announced he wanted Putin to become the nation’s next prime minister.

Surprise, surprise.

We do not ordinarily approve of referring to the goings on in Russia, as Alexander Golts does below when analyzing Russia’s pathetic efforts to contest a new cold war, with the term “farce” because that implies some level of jocularity, and millions of lives are at stake. Yet, it’s hard to find any other word in this case to describe what has occurred in Russia over the past fortnight.

The idea that anyone in Russia is strong enough to serve independently as “president” while Vladimir Putin sits “below” him as prime minister, giving orders to Putin when necessary and dismissing him if the nation’s interest called for it, is so ludicrous that the mere suggestion of it offends the intelligence of a turnip. The idea that Medvedev, Putin’s #1 ass-licker with absolutely no power base of his own, could serve such a role is so wildly insane that only a neo-Soviet Russian could suggest it with a straight face. On top of that laughable outrage, Putin obviously thinks he can market Medvedev to the West as a so-called “liberal” even after purging the Russian parliament of every single “liberal” member. In other words, he takes the West for subhuman idiots who can be duped with absurd ease, exactly what the leaders of the USSR always thought.

The Moscow Times reported: “Valery Musin, Medvedev’s former academic adviser at Leningrad State University, had this to say to Moscow Times reporter Nabi Abdullaev in a profile of Medvedev published last month: “Medvedev’s personality was shaped under Putin’s strong influence, and he worships Putin like a father figure, or at least like an older brother.” Stanislav Belkovsky, a former Putin spin doctor who heads the Institute of National Strategy, a think tank, to old the MT that “Medvedev is very soft and psychologically dependent on Putin. This is extremely important for Putin. He needs to feel comfortable with his subordinates. Putin is the real master of Gazprom, and Medvedev is just his envoy.” Viktor Ilyukhin, a senior Communist official, told the MT: “Medvedev is insecure, weak. Putin can have full control of him.”

In the space of two weeks, Vladimir Putin has destroyed both Russia’s parliament and its presidency. It never had a real court system, and now Putin can truly cackle with glee: “L’etat, c’est moi!” Now, only the prime ministry matters, and Putin can call the shots without even needing to take any blame for what goes wrong — the figurehead “president” is a perfect scapegoat in that event. He can initiate a bold new round of crackdowns on civil rights and liberties while holding up Medvedev as a cover to the West. Should things go “too far” he can always “step in” and “take the reigns back” to “calm things down.” Or, he can simply order Medvedev to start a “draft Putin” movement to bring him back to power formally and forever. As opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov told the MT: “The strategy is as follows: Medvedev is a compromise choice because he will allow Putin to keep a free hand. If Putin wants to gradually leave power, Medvedev guarantees him comfort and security and will continue to listen him,” Ryzhkov said on Ekho Moskvy radio. “If Putin wants to return in two, three years, Medvedev will be the person who will without a doubt give up the path for him.”

Russians would rankle with contempt towards any foreigner who would dare treat them this way, yet they blithely accept such patronizing outrage from their own government. They stood and fought Hitler, but they allowed Stalin to inflict far more devastating injuries upon them without lifting a finger to stop him.

They are, as Lilia Shevtova recently wrote, committing suicide. It’s a truly horrible thing to behold.

EDITORIAL: Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

EDITORIAL

Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

News broke on Monday that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had named his childlike sycophant and Black Sabbath fan Dmitri Medevedev (whose last name means “bear”), chief of the state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom (a position for which he has zero credentials) as the candidate-of-choice to replace Putin next year as Russia’s third “president.” Medvedev was educated in the same way as Putin, in the USSR when St. Petersburg was Leningrad, studying “law” in a country that didn’t even know the meaning of the word. No sooner had Putin made his endorsement than Medvedev announced he wanted Putin to become the nation’s next prime minister.

Surprise, surprise.

We do not ordinarily approve of referring to the goings on in Russia, as Alexander Golts does below when analyzing Russia’s pathetic efforts to contest a new cold war, with the term “farce” because that implies some level of jocularity, and millions of lives are at stake. Yet, it’s hard to find any other word in this case to describe what has occurred in Russia over the past fortnight.

The idea that anyone in Russia is strong enough to serve independently as “president” while Vladimir Putin sits “below” him as prime minister, giving orders to Putin when necessary and dismissing him if the nation’s interest called for it, is so ludicrous that the mere suggestion of it offends the intelligence of a turnip. The idea that Medvedev, Putin’s #1 ass-licker with absolutely no power base of his own, could serve such a role is so wildly insane that only a neo-Soviet Russian could suggest it with a straight face. On top of that laughable outrage, Putin obviously thinks he can market Medvedev to the West as a so-called “liberal” even after purging the Russian parliament of every single “liberal” member. In other words, he takes the West for subhuman idiots who can be duped with absurd ease, exactly what the leaders of the USSR always thought.

The Moscow Times reported: “Valery Musin, Medvedev’s former academic adviser at Leningrad State University, had this to say to Moscow Times reporter Nabi Abdullaev in a profile of Medvedev published last month: “Medvedev’s personality was shaped under Putin’s strong influence, and he worships Putin like a father figure, or at least like an older brother.” Stanislav Belkovsky, a former Putin spin doctor who heads the Institute of National Strategy, a think tank, to old the MT that “Medvedev is very soft and psychologically dependent on Putin. This is extremely important for Putin. He needs to feel comfortable with his subordinates. Putin is the real master of Gazprom, and Medvedev is just his envoy.” Viktor Ilyukhin, a senior Communist official, told the MT: “Medvedev is insecure, weak. Putin can have full control of him.”

In the space of two weeks, Vladimir Putin has destroyed both Russia’s parliament and its presidency. It never had a real court system, and now Putin can truly cackle with glee: “L’etat, c’est moi!” Now, only the prime ministry matters, and Putin can call the shots without even needing to take any blame for what goes wrong — the figurehead “president” is a perfect scapegoat in that event. He can initiate a bold new round of crackdowns on civil rights and liberties while holding up Medvedev as a cover to the West. Should things go “too far” he can always “step in” and “take the reigns back” to “calm things down.” Or, he can simply order Medvedev to start a “draft Putin” movement to bring him back to power formally and forever. As opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov told the MT: “The strategy is as follows: Medvedev is a compromise choice because he will allow Putin to keep a free hand. If Putin wants to gradually leave power, Medvedev guarantees him comfort and security and will continue to listen him,” Ryzhkov said on Ekho Moskvy radio. “If Putin wants to return in two, three years, Medvedev will be the person who will without a doubt give up the path for him.”

Russians would rankle with contempt towards any foreigner who would dare treat them this way, yet they blithely accept such patronizing outrage from their own government. They stood and fought Hitler, but they allowed Stalin to inflict far more devastating injuries upon them without lifting a finger to stop him.

They are, as Lilia Shevtova recently wrote, committing suicide. It’s a truly horrible thing to behold.

EDITORIAL: Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

EDITORIAL

Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

News broke on Monday that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had named his childlike sycophant and Black Sabbath fan Dmitri Medevedev (whose last name means “bear”), chief of the state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom (a position for which he has zero credentials) as the candidate-of-choice to replace Putin next year as Russia’s third “president.” Medvedev was educated in the same way as Putin, in the USSR when St. Petersburg was Leningrad, studying “law” in a country that didn’t even know the meaning of the word. No sooner had Putin made his endorsement than Medvedev announced he wanted Putin to become the nation’s next prime minister.

Surprise, surprise.

We do not ordinarily approve of referring to the goings on in Russia, as Alexander Golts does below when analyzing Russia’s pathetic efforts to contest a new cold war, with the term “farce” because that implies some level of jocularity, and millions of lives are at stake. Yet, it’s hard to find any other word in this case to describe what has occurred in Russia over the past fortnight.

The idea that anyone in Russia is strong enough to serve independently as “president” while Vladimir Putin sits “below” him as prime minister, giving orders to Putin when necessary and dismissing him if the nation’s interest called for it, is so ludicrous that the mere suggestion of it offends the intelligence of a turnip. The idea that Medvedev, Putin’s #1 ass-licker with absolutely no power base of his own, could serve such a role is so wildly insane that only a neo-Soviet Russian could suggest it with a straight face. On top of that laughable outrage, Putin obviously thinks he can market Medvedev to the West as a so-called “liberal” even after purging the Russian parliament of every single “liberal” member. In other words, he takes the West for subhuman idiots who can be duped with absurd ease, exactly what the leaders of the USSR always thought.

The Moscow Times reported: “Valery Musin, Medvedev’s former academic adviser at Leningrad State University, had this to say to Moscow Times reporter Nabi Abdullaev in a profile of Medvedev published last month: “Medvedev’s personality was shaped under Putin’s strong influence, and he worships Putin like a father figure, or at least like an older brother.” Stanislav Belkovsky, a former Putin spin doctor who heads the Institute of National Strategy, a think tank, to old the MT that “Medvedev is very soft and psychologically dependent on Putin. This is extremely important for Putin. He needs to feel comfortable with his subordinates. Putin is the real master of Gazprom, and Medvedev is just his envoy.” Viktor Ilyukhin, a senior Communist official, told the MT: “Medvedev is insecure, weak. Putin can have full control of him.”

In the space of two weeks, Vladimir Putin has destroyed both Russia’s parliament and its presidency. It never had a real court system, and now Putin can truly cackle with glee: “L’etat, c’est moi!” Now, only the prime ministry matters, and Putin can call the shots without even needing to take any blame for what goes wrong — the figurehead “president” is a perfect scapegoat in that event. He can initiate a bold new round of crackdowns on civil rights and liberties while holding up Medvedev as a cover to the West. Should things go “too far” he can always “step in” and “take the reigns back” to “calm things down.” Or, he can simply order Medvedev to start a “draft Putin” movement to bring him back to power formally and forever. As opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov told the MT: “The strategy is as follows: Medvedev is a compromise choice because he will allow Putin to keep a free hand. If Putin wants to gradually leave power, Medvedev guarantees him comfort and security and will continue to listen him,” Ryzhkov said on Ekho Moskvy radio. “If Putin wants to return in two, three years, Medvedev will be the person who will without a doubt give up the path for him.”

Russians would rankle with contempt towards any foreigner who would dare treat them this way, yet they blithely accept such patronizing outrage from their own government. They stood and fought Hitler, but they allowed Stalin to inflict far more devastating injuries upon them without lifting a finger to stop him.

They are, as Lilia Shevtova recently wrote, committing suicide. It’s a truly horrible thing to behold.

EDITORIAL: Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

EDITORIAL

Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

News broke on Monday that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had named his childlike sycophant and Black Sabbath fan Dmitri Medevedev (whose last name means “bear”), chief of the state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom (a position for which he has zero credentials) as the candidate-of-choice to replace Putin next year as Russia’s third “president.” Medvedev was educated in the same way as Putin, in the USSR when St. Petersburg was Leningrad, studying “law” in a country that didn’t even know the meaning of the word. No sooner had Putin made his endorsement than Medvedev announced he wanted Putin to become the nation’s next prime minister.

Surprise, surprise.

We do not ordinarily approve of referring to the goings on in Russia, as Alexander Golts does below when analyzing Russia’s pathetic efforts to contest a new cold war, with the term “farce” because that implies some level of jocularity, and millions of lives are at stake. Yet, it’s hard to find any other word in this case to describe what has occurred in Russia over the past fortnight.

The idea that anyone in Russia is strong enough to serve independently as “president” while Vladimir Putin sits “below” him as prime minister, giving orders to Putin when necessary and dismissing him if the nation’s interest called for it, is so ludicrous that the mere suggestion of it offends the intelligence of a turnip. The idea that Medvedev, Putin’s #1 ass-licker with absolutely no power base of his own, could serve such a role is so wildly insane that only a neo-Soviet Russian could suggest it with a straight face. On top of that laughable outrage, Putin obviously thinks he can market Medvedev to the West as a so-called “liberal” even after purging the Russian parliament of every single “liberal” member. In other words, he takes the West for subhuman idiots who can be duped with absurd ease, exactly what the leaders of the USSR always thought.

The Moscow Times reported: “Valery Musin, Medvedev’s former academic adviser at Leningrad State University, had this to say to Moscow Times reporter Nabi Abdullaev in a profile of Medvedev published last month: “Medvedev’s personality was shaped under Putin’s strong influence, and he worships Putin like a father figure, or at least like an older brother.” Stanislav Belkovsky, a former Putin spin doctor who heads the Institute of National Strategy, a think tank, to old the MT that “Medvedev is very soft and psychologically dependent on Putin. This is extremely important for Putin. He needs to feel comfortable with his subordinates. Putin is the real master of Gazprom, and Medvedev is just his envoy.” Viktor Ilyukhin, a senior Communist official, told the MT: “Medvedev is insecure, weak. Putin can have full control of him.”

In the space of two weeks, Vladimir Putin has destroyed both Russia’s parliament and its presidency. It never had a real court system, and now Putin can truly cackle with glee: “L’etat, c’est moi!” Now, only the prime ministry matters, and Putin can call the shots without even needing to take any blame for what goes wrong — the figurehead “president” is a perfect scapegoat in that event. He can initiate a bold new round of crackdowns on civil rights and liberties while holding up Medvedev as a cover to the West. Should things go “too far” he can always “step in” and “take the reigns back” to “calm things down.” Or, he can simply order Medvedev to start a “draft Putin” movement to bring him back to power formally and forever. As opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov told the MT: “The strategy is as follows: Medvedev is a compromise choice because he will allow Putin to keep a free hand. If Putin wants to gradually leave power, Medvedev guarantees him comfort and security and will continue to listen him,” Ryzhkov said on Ekho Moskvy radio. “If Putin wants to return in two, three years, Medvedev will be the person who will without a doubt give up the path for him.”

Russians would rankle with contempt towards any foreigner who would dare treat them this way, yet they blithely accept such patronizing outrage from their own government. They stood and fought Hitler, but they allowed Stalin to inflict far more devastating injuries upon them without lifting a finger to stop him.

They are, as Lilia Shevtova recently wrote, committing suicide. It’s a truly horrible thing to behold.

EDITORIAL: Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

EDITORIAL

Oh Look, it’s the Little Bear

News broke on Monday that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had named his childlike sycophant and Black Sabbath fan Dmitri Medevedev (whose last name means “bear”), chief of the state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom (a position for which he has zero credentials) as the candidate-of-choice to replace Putin next year as Russia’s third “president.” Medvedev was educated in the same way as Putin, in the USSR when St. Petersburg was Leningrad, studying “law” in a country that didn’t even know the meaning of the word. No sooner had Putin made his endorsement than Medvedev announced he wanted Putin to become the nation’s next prime minister.

Surprise, surprise.

We do not ordinarily approve of referring to the goings on in Russia, as Alexander Golts does below when analyzing Russia’s pathetic efforts to contest a new cold war, with the term “farce” because that implies some level of jocularity, and millions of lives are at stake. Yet, it’s hard to find any other word in this case to describe what has occurred in Russia over the past fortnight.

The idea that anyone in Russia is strong enough to serve independently as “president” while Vladimir Putin sits “below” him as prime minister, giving orders to Putin when necessary and dismissing him if the nation’s interest called for it, is so ludicrous that the mere suggestion of it offends the intelligence of a turnip. The idea that Medvedev, Putin’s #1 ass-licker with absolutely no power base of his own, could serve such a role is so wildly insane that only a neo-Soviet Russian could suggest it with a straight face. On top of that laughable outrage, Putin obviously thinks he can market Medvedev to the West as a so-called “liberal” even after purging the Russian parliament of every single “liberal” member. In other words, he takes the West for subhuman idiots who can be duped with absurd ease, exactly what the leaders of the USSR always thought.

The Moscow Times reported: “Valery Musin, Medvedev’s former academic adviser at Leningrad State University, had this to say to Moscow Times reporter Nabi Abdullaev in a profile of Medvedev published last month: “Medvedev’s personality was shaped under Putin’s strong influence, and he worships Putin like a father figure, or at least like an older brother.” Stanislav Belkovsky, a former Putin spin doctor who heads the Institute of National Strategy, a think tank, to old the MT that “Medvedev is very soft and psychologically dependent on Putin. This is extremely important for Putin. He needs to feel comfortable with his subordinates. Putin is the real master of Gazprom, and Medvedev is just his envoy.” Viktor Ilyukhin, a senior Communist official, told the MT: “Medvedev is insecure, weak. Putin can have full control of him.”

In the space of two weeks, Vladimir Putin has destroyed both Russia’s parliament and its presidency. It never had a real court system, and now Putin can truly cackle with glee: “L’etat, c’est moi!” Now, only the prime ministry matters, and Putin can call the shots without even needing to take any blame for what goes wrong — the figurehead “president” is a perfect scapegoat in that event. He can initiate a bold new round of crackdowns on civil rights and liberties while holding up Medvedev as a cover to the West. Should things go “too far” he can always “step in” and “take the reigns back” to “calm things down.” Or, he can simply order Medvedev to start a “draft Putin” movement to bring him back to power formally and forever. As opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov told the MT: “The strategy is as follows: Medvedev is a compromise choice because he will allow Putin to keep a free hand. If Putin wants to gradually leave power, Medvedev guarantees him comfort and security and will continue to listen him,” Ryzhkov said on Ekho Moskvy radio. “If Putin wants to return in two, three years, Medvedev will be the person who will without a doubt give up the path for him.”

Russians would rankle with contempt towards any foreigner who would dare treat them this way, yet they blithely accept such patronizing outrage from their own government. They stood and fought Hitler, but they allowed Stalin to inflict far more devastating injuries upon them without lifting a finger to stop him.

They are, as Lilia Shevtova recently wrote, committing suicide. It’s a truly horrible thing to behold.

Golts on Russia’s Farcical Attempt to Wage Cold War

Writing in the Moscow Times, defense policy expert Alexander Golts ridicules impotent Russia’s efforts to restart the Cold War:

Marx has often been attributed with the famous quote that history repeats itself first as a tragedy and second as a farce. I’m not sure if the 40-year Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States can be called a historical tragedy, but the games Russia’s leaders are playing now definitely resemble a farcical repetition of the Cold War.

At first glance, however, the increasingly aggressive rhetoric appears very serious. A few days before the State Duma elections, President Vladimir Putin asserted that Russia needed powerful armed forces to make sure nobody pokes “their snotty noses” into our internal affairs. This type of language creates the ideological basis for a confrontation at a time when the country is slipping further into authoritarianism.

Russia recently demanded that NATO countries ratify the adapted version of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe that sets country-based rather than bloc-based limits on weaponry. But just some days ago, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was necessary to adapt further the already-adapted treaty by putting some limits on weaponry used exclusively by NATO member countries. In this way, Moscow is trying to divide Europe and Russia once again into military blocs. It would seem that Russia is trying to function single-handedly as a its own military alliance, and it is seeking the legal foundation to increase its level of conventional forces that will allow it to achieve this new status.

The Russian armed forces are ready and eager to demonstrate their growing capabilities to potential adversaries. Major General Pavel Androsov, commander of the 37th Air Force, told reporters of the results of Russia’s recently resumed training flights by strategic bombers. During their long flights over the neutral waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans, the bombers, equipped with test versions of cruise missiles, carried out 270 training missions. Jets from NATO countries accompanied the Russian bombers on 70 of the flights. In addition, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov reported to Putin that ships of Russia’s Northern and Black Sea fleets were cruising the Mediterranean Sea in order to “resume the country’s naval presence in the world’s oceans.”

Thus, on the surface, it would seem that Russia is preparing for a serious military confrontation with the West. But there are no resources for maintaining a new Cold War since Russia’s military budget is one-twentieth that of the United States. Moscow’s defense expenditures equal just 2.7 percent of gross national product, while researchers suggest that, during the Soviet era, they totaled from 40 percent to 80 percent of GNP.

With regard to the promise First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov made last year to deliver a squadron of strategic bombers to the Air Force, Androsov could only say that “defense orders are being fulfilled according to schedule.” Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that the single new Tu-160 bomber produced has yet to leave its hanger in Kazan for over two years now.

The situation in the navy is quite similar. Last summer, then-commander of the Northern Fleet, Vladimir Vysotsky, said it was previously customary to send out naval squadrons of 10 ships on maneuvers in the Atlantic Ocean. Now, we learn, the squadrons consist of only four ships. What’s more, after every such tour, the heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov must undergo six months of repairs.

Those problems won’t be solved in one year’s time. A true Cold War won’t start until the West perceives an actual threat to its security, and there is no such threat at present. Moreover, while official propaganda for the domestic consumption boasts the motherland’s readiness to oppose the enemy, military leaders simultaneously take steps to preserve cooperation with those same so-called adversary countries. At this moment, the joint U.S.-Russian Torgau-2007 training exercises are underway in Germany, based on the idea of building a joint brigade during peacekeeping operations. Also in recent days, the chief of Russia’s General Staff signed a U.S.-Russian memorandum on military cooperation in Washington. The details of that document have not been disclosed — not so much to protect state secrets, but because it would look strange for Moscow to be strengthening cooperation with the same country that it calls a “treacherous enemy.”

Considering the circumstances, it seems that Moscow is winking at the United States, sending a cryptic signal to Washington that the label of “enemy” is meant only for domestic consumption.

Golts on Russia’s Farcical Attempt to Wage Cold War

Writing in the Moscow Times, defense policy expert Alexander Golts ridicules impotent Russia’s efforts to restart the Cold War:

Marx has often been attributed with the famous quote that history repeats itself first as a tragedy and second as a farce. I’m not sure if the 40-year Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States can be called a historical tragedy, but the games Russia’s leaders are playing now definitely resemble a farcical repetition of the Cold War.

At first glance, however, the increasingly aggressive rhetoric appears very serious. A few days before the State Duma elections, President Vladimir Putin asserted that Russia needed powerful armed forces to make sure nobody pokes “their snotty noses” into our internal affairs. This type of language creates the ideological basis for a confrontation at a time when the country is slipping further into authoritarianism.

Russia recently demanded that NATO countries ratify the adapted version of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe that sets country-based rather than bloc-based limits on weaponry. But just some days ago, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was necessary to adapt further the already-adapted treaty by putting some limits on weaponry used exclusively by NATO member countries. In this way, Moscow is trying to divide Europe and Russia once again into military blocs. It would seem that Russia is trying to function single-handedly as a its own military alliance, and it is seeking the legal foundation to increase its level of conventional forces that will allow it to achieve this new status.

The Russian armed forces are ready and eager to demonstrate their growing capabilities to potential adversaries. Major General Pavel Androsov, commander of the 37th Air Force, told reporters of the results of Russia’s recently resumed training flights by strategic bombers. During their long flights over the neutral waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans, the bombers, equipped with test versions of cruise missiles, carried out 270 training missions. Jets from NATO countries accompanied the Russian bombers on 70 of the flights. In addition, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov reported to Putin that ships of Russia’s Northern and Black Sea fleets were cruising the Mediterranean Sea in order to “resume the country’s naval presence in the world’s oceans.”

Thus, on the surface, it would seem that Russia is preparing for a serious military confrontation with the West. But there are no resources for maintaining a new Cold War since Russia’s military budget is one-twentieth that of the United States. Moscow’s defense expenditures equal just 2.7 percent of gross national product, while researchers suggest that, during the Soviet era, they totaled from 40 percent to 80 percent of GNP.

With regard to the promise First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov made last year to deliver a squadron of strategic bombers to the Air Force, Androsov could only say that “defense orders are being fulfilled according to schedule.” Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that the single new Tu-160 bomber produced has yet to leave its hanger in Kazan for over two years now.

The situation in the navy is quite similar. Last summer, then-commander of the Northern Fleet, Vladimir Vysotsky, said it was previously customary to send out naval squadrons of 10 ships on maneuvers in the Atlantic Ocean. Now, we learn, the squadrons consist of only four ships. What’s more, after every such tour, the heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov must undergo six months of repairs.

Those problems won’t be solved in one year’s time. A true Cold War won’t start until the West perceives an actual threat to its security, and there is no such threat at present. Moreover, while official propaganda for the domestic consumption boasts the motherland’s readiness to oppose the enemy, military leaders simultaneously take steps to preserve cooperation with those same so-called adversary countries. At this moment, the joint U.S.-Russian Torgau-2007 training exercises are underway in Germany, based on the idea of building a joint brigade during peacekeeping operations. Also in recent days, the chief of Russia’s General Staff signed a U.S.-Russian memorandum on military cooperation in Washington. The details of that document have not been disclosed — not so much to protect state secrets, but because it would look strange for Moscow to be strengthening cooperation with the same country that it calls a “treacherous enemy.”

Considering the circumstances, it seems that Moscow is winking at the United States, sending a cryptic signal to Washington that the label of “enemy” is meant only for domestic consumption.

Golts on Russia’s Farcical Attempt to Wage Cold War

Writing in the Moscow Times, defense policy expert Alexander Golts ridicules impotent Russia’s efforts to restart the Cold War:

Marx has often been attributed with the famous quote that history repeats itself first as a tragedy and second as a farce. I’m not sure if the 40-year Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States can be called a historical tragedy, but the games Russia’s leaders are playing now definitely resemble a farcical repetition of the Cold War.

At first glance, however, the increasingly aggressive rhetoric appears very serious. A few days before the State Duma elections, President Vladimir Putin asserted that Russia needed powerful armed forces to make sure nobody pokes “their snotty noses” into our internal affairs. This type of language creates the ideological basis for a confrontation at a time when the country is slipping further into authoritarianism.

Russia recently demanded that NATO countries ratify the adapted version of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe that sets country-based rather than bloc-based limits on weaponry. But just some days ago, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was necessary to adapt further the already-adapted treaty by putting some limits on weaponry used exclusively by NATO member countries. In this way, Moscow is trying to divide Europe and Russia once again into military blocs. It would seem that Russia is trying to function single-handedly as a its own military alliance, and it is seeking the legal foundation to increase its level of conventional forces that will allow it to achieve this new status.

The Russian armed forces are ready and eager to demonstrate their growing capabilities to potential adversaries. Major General Pavel Androsov, commander of the 37th Air Force, told reporters of the results of Russia’s recently resumed training flights by strategic bombers. During their long flights over the neutral waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans, the bombers, equipped with test versions of cruise missiles, carried out 270 training missions. Jets from NATO countries accompanied the Russian bombers on 70 of the flights. In addition, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov reported to Putin that ships of Russia’s Northern and Black Sea fleets were cruising the Mediterranean Sea in order to “resume the country’s naval presence in the world’s oceans.”

Thus, on the surface, it would seem that Russia is preparing for a serious military confrontation with the West. But there are no resources for maintaining a new Cold War since Russia’s military budget is one-twentieth that of the United States. Moscow’s defense expenditures equal just 2.7 percent of gross national product, while researchers suggest that, during the Soviet era, they totaled from 40 percent to 80 percent of GNP.

With regard to the promise First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov made last year to deliver a squadron of strategic bombers to the Air Force, Androsov could only say that “defense orders are being fulfilled according to schedule.” Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that the single new Tu-160 bomber produced has yet to leave its hanger in Kazan for over two years now.

The situation in the navy is quite similar. Last summer, then-commander of the Northern Fleet, Vladimir Vysotsky, said it was previously customary to send out naval squadrons of 10 ships on maneuvers in the Atlantic Ocean. Now, we learn, the squadrons consist of only four ships. What’s more, after every such tour, the heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov must undergo six months of repairs.

Those problems won’t be solved in one year’s time. A true Cold War won’t start until the West perceives an actual threat to its security, and there is no such threat at present. Moreover, while official propaganda for the domestic consumption boasts the motherland’s readiness to oppose the enemy, military leaders simultaneously take steps to preserve cooperation with those same so-called adversary countries. At this moment, the joint U.S.-Russian Torgau-2007 training exercises are underway in Germany, based on the idea of building a joint brigade during peacekeeping operations. Also in recent days, the chief of Russia’s General Staff signed a U.S.-Russian memorandum on military cooperation in Washington. The details of that document have not been disclosed — not so much to protect state secrets, but because it would look strange for Moscow to be strengthening cooperation with the same country that it calls a “treacherous enemy.”

Considering the circumstances, it seems that Moscow is winking at the United States, sending a cryptic signal to Washington that the label of “enemy” is meant only for domestic consumption.

Golts on Russia’s Farcical Attempt to Wage Cold War

Writing in the Moscow Times, defense policy expert Alexander Golts ridicules impotent Russia’s efforts to restart the Cold War:

Marx has often been attributed with the famous quote that history repeats itself first as a tragedy and second as a farce. I’m not sure if the 40-year Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States can be called a historical tragedy, but the games Russia’s leaders are playing now definitely resemble a farcical repetition of the Cold War.

At first glance, however, the increasingly aggressive rhetoric appears very serious. A few days before the State Duma elections, President Vladimir Putin asserted that Russia needed powerful armed forces to make sure nobody pokes “their snotty noses” into our internal affairs. This type of language creates the ideological basis for a confrontation at a time when the country is slipping further into authoritarianism.

Russia recently demanded that NATO countries ratify the adapted version of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe that sets country-based rather than bloc-based limits on weaponry. But just some days ago, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was necessary to adapt further the already-adapted treaty by putting some limits on weaponry used exclusively by NATO member countries. In this way, Moscow is trying to divide Europe and Russia once again into military blocs. It would seem that Russia is trying to function single-handedly as a its own military alliance, and it is seeking the legal foundation to increase its level of conventional forces that will allow it to achieve this new status.

The Russian armed forces are ready and eager to demonstrate their growing capabilities to potential adversaries. Major General Pavel Androsov, commander of the 37th Air Force, told reporters of the results of Russia’s recently resumed training flights by strategic bombers. During their long flights over the neutral waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans, the bombers, equipped with test versions of cruise missiles, carried out 270 training missions. Jets from NATO countries accompanied the Russian bombers on 70 of the flights. In addition, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov reported to Putin that ships of Russia’s Northern and Black Sea fleets were cruising the Mediterranean Sea in order to “resume the country’s naval presence in the world’s oceans.”

Thus, on the surface, it would seem that Russia is preparing for a serious military confrontation with the West. But there are no resources for maintaining a new Cold War since Russia’s military budget is one-twentieth that of the United States. Moscow’s defense expenditures equal just 2.7 percent of gross national product, while researchers suggest that, during the Soviet era, they totaled from 40 percent to 80 percent of GNP.

With regard to the promise First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov made last year to deliver a squadron of strategic bombers to the Air Force, Androsov could only say that “defense orders are being fulfilled according to schedule.” Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that the single new Tu-160 bomber produced has yet to leave its hanger in Kazan for over two years now.

The situation in the navy is quite similar. Last summer, then-commander of the Northern Fleet, Vladimir Vysotsky, said it was previously customary to send out naval squadrons of 10 ships on maneuvers in the Atlantic Ocean. Now, we learn, the squadrons consist of only four ships. What’s more, after every such tour, the heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov must undergo six months of repairs.

Those problems won’t be solved in one year’s time. A true Cold War won’t start until the West perceives an actual threat to its security, and there is no such threat at present. Moreover, while official propaganda for the domestic consumption boasts the motherland’s readiness to oppose the enemy, military leaders simultaneously take steps to preserve cooperation with those same so-called adversary countries. At this moment, the joint U.S.-Russian Torgau-2007 training exercises are underway in Germany, based on the idea of building a joint brigade during peacekeeping operations. Also in recent days, the chief of Russia’s General Staff signed a U.S.-Russian memorandum on military cooperation in Washington. The details of that document have not been disclosed — not so much to protect state secrets, but because it would look strange for Moscow to be strengthening cooperation with the same country that it calls a “treacherous enemy.”

Considering the circumstances, it seems that Moscow is winking at the United States, sending a cryptic signal to Washington that the label of “enemy” is meant only for domestic consumption.

Golts on Russia’s Farcical Attempt to Wage Cold War

Writing in the Moscow Times, defense policy expert Alexander Golts ridicules impotent Russia’s efforts to restart the Cold War:

Marx has often been attributed with the famous quote that history repeats itself first as a tragedy and second as a farce. I’m not sure if the 40-year Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States can be called a historical tragedy, but the games Russia’s leaders are playing now definitely resemble a farcical repetition of the Cold War.

At first glance, however, the increasingly aggressive rhetoric appears very serious. A few days before the State Duma elections, President Vladimir Putin asserted that Russia needed powerful armed forces to make sure nobody pokes “their snotty noses” into our internal affairs. This type of language creates the ideological basis for a confrontation at a time when the country is slipping further into authoritarianism.

Russia recently demanded that NATO countries ratify the adapted version of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe that sets country-based rather than bloc-based limits on weaponry. But just some days ago, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was necessary to adapt further the already-adapted treaty by putting some limits on weaponry used exclusively by NATO member countries. In this way, Moscow is trying to divide Europe and Russia once again into military blocs. It would seem that Russia is trying to function single-handedly as a its own military alliance, and it is seeking the legal foundation to increase its level of conventional forces that will allow it to achieve this new status.

The Russian armed forces are ready and eager to demonstrate their growing capabilities to potential adversaries. Major General Pavel Androsov, commander of the 37th Air Force, told reporters of the results of Russia’s recently resumed training flights by strategic bombers. During their long flights over the neutral waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans, the bombers, equipped with test versions of cruise missiles, carried out 270 training missions. Jets from NATO countries accompanied the Russian bombers on 70 of the flights. In addition, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov reported to Putin that ships of Russia’s Northern and Black Sea fleets were cruising the Mediterranean Sea in order to “resume the country’s naval presence in the world’s oceans.”

Thus, on the surface, it would seem that Russia is preparing for a serious military confrontation with the West. But there are no resources for maintaining a new Cold War since Russia’s military budget is one-twentieth that of the United States. Moscow’s defense expenditures equal just 2.7 percent of gross national product, while researchers suggest that, during the Soviet era, they totaled from 40 percent to 80 percent of GNP.

With regard to the promise First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov made last year to deliver a squadron of strategic bombers to the Air Force, Androsov could only say that “defense orders are being fulfilled according to schedule.” Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that the single new Tu-160 bomber produced has yet to leave its hanger in Kazan for over two years now.

The situation in the navy is quite similar. Last summer, then-commander of the Northern Fleet, Vladimir Vysotsky, said it was previously customary to send out naval squadrons of 10 ships on maneuvers in the Atlantic Ocean. Now, we learn, the squadrons consist of only four ships. What’s more, after every such tour, the heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov must undergo six months of repairs.

Those problems won’t be solved in one year’s time. A true Cold War won’t start until the West perceives an actual threat to its security, and there is no such threat at present. Moreover, while official propaganda for the domestic consumption boasts the motherland’s readiness to oppose the enemy, military leaders simultaneously take steps to preserve cooperation with those same so-called adversary countries. At this moment, the joint U.S.-Russian Torgau-2007 training exercises are underway in Germany, based on the idea of building a joint brigade during peacekeeping operations. Also in recent days, the chief of Russia’s General Staff signed a U.S.-Russian memorandum on military cooperation in Washington. The details of that document have not been disclosed — not so much to protect state secrets, but because it would look strange for Moscow to be strengthening cooperation with the same country that it calls a “treacherous enemy.”

Considering the circumstances, it seems that Moscow is winking at the United States, sending a cryptic signal to Washington that the label of “enemy” is meant only for domestic consumption.

Kommersant on Union with Belarus

Long it has been speculated that upon the expiration of his second term in office Vladimir Putin would establish a union with Belarus and take the position of leader of the new state, allowing him to continue on with even greater power and indefinitely. Now, Kommersant reports that plans are being considered to do just that, and Putin is holding preliminary talks with his Belarussian counterpart:

More than One Option

Minsk hopes Vladimir Putin will bring good news

Russian President
Vladimir Putin is to meet State Secretary of Russia and Belarus Pavel Borodin on Tuesday to discuss the agenda for the upcoming session of the Supreme Council of the Union of Russia and Belarus in Minsk on December 14. The Secretary’s administration sees three scenarios of the unification of the two countries. One of them would have one president for the two nations.

Three for One

The administration of State Secretary of the United State of Russia and Belarus Pavel Borodin are finishing preparations for the session of the Supreme State Council of the allies in Minsk, the main event of the year for Russian-Belarusian relations. The session is scheduled for Friday. Mr. Borodin is meeting the Russian president to discuss details to the upcoming summit, the state secretary’s aide Ivan Makushok told Kommersant. Last week the press service of the Belarusian president said that the Minsk meeting would be held to adopt the budget for the united state for the next year and the two presidents would consider a draft Constitution. The latter is the main intrigue of the Friday summit. If the leaders agree on Constitution for the two countries, the united state of Russia and Belarus can finally be created in real terms.

There are currently three Constitution drafts each of which describes the political structure and distribution of powers, Pavel Borodin told Kommersant on Monday. “This document has been discussed for the past seven years,” he said. “It is crucial now just because Russian-Belarusian relations need the legal base. Finally we will have a common parliament and legislation.”

The State Secretary handed to Kommersant three drafts of the would-be Constitution. All of them describe areas that would be under the jurisdiction of the united state. Among them are defense policy, military cooperation, international activities of the Union and admission of new members to it, border, budget, trade, customs, monetary, credit, currency and tax policies. All of the drafts would see constituencies of the united state handing common property such as transport, fuel and energy system and communications over to interstate agencies.

Pavel Borodin said that the future union would be a confederation with a common parliament and council of ministers. As for the leader, two drafts of the Constitution call him a president and the other one the head of the Supreme State Council. The first draft says that the union will be headed by the Russian president with the Belarusian leader as vice-president. The second document sees the president elected by Russians and Belarusians in a popular vote with leaders of Russia and Belarus occupying positions of two vice-presidents. The third draft suggests that the Supreme Council become the main power body. The council would feature heads of the states, governments and parliaments of Russia and Belarus. They all are going to be accountable to the chairperson of the Supreme Council who will be elected in a popular vote.

All about One Thing

Russia media reported late last week the common constitution could finally be adopted. The Ekho Moskvy radio was the first to report that the union of Russia and Belarus would become a reality on December 14. The station quoted sources close to Alexander Lukashenko last Friday saying that a constitutional act would be signed in Minsk during the session to proclaim the United State.

According to Ekho Moskvy’s source, Vladimir Putin will then become the president of the new state and Alexander Lukashenko will take the helm at the common parliament. The report was refuted later in the Kremlin and in the press service of the Belarusian president. Both parties said that the information was only “speculative fantasies of media” and “utter nonsense”.

Pavel Borodin gave his comment in an interview with Kommersant. “I don’t like what journalists have been doing recently,” he said. “They think that laws and the Constitution are drafted to suit the leader of the nation. This is ridiculous.” He said there was no talk about adopting the Constitution for President Putin or his Belarusian counterpart. Their meeting in Minsk can bring only a political decision on the issue. “The presidents can make a decision at their meeting or at the session of the State Council,” he told Kommersant. “They will then ask an ad-hoc commission to prepare the documents. Then the issue will be up for a debate at the parliament assembly of the United State, then at parliaments in Russia and Belarus and finally it will put on a vote in the referendum. The main thing is to attach an adequate timing to it. You know we love and respect each other – and that can be declared for dozens of years to come. But, according to Mr. Borodin, Vladimir Putin may as well run for the leader of the united state after Russians showed confidence to him in the recent parliamentary election.

Ivan Makushok, aide to Mr. Borodin, said that forces opposing the real integration of the two countries may be behind the leakage to the media before the session of the Supreme State Council. “The information may have been dumped to force the two presidents to drop plans for what the two countries have been preparing to do for many years,” Mr. Makushok told Kommersant.

One to One

In any case, Vladimir Putin’s visit to Minsk is a landmark event. Analysts have been saying recently that relations between Russia and Belarus are far from being perfect. They soured after the first Russian president Boris Yeltsin picked Mr. Putin as his successor. “I can say that there are no relations, or even if there are relations, they are very bad,” Leonid Zaiko, head of Belarusian analytical center Strategia, said in an interview with Kommersant. “Lukashenko was negotiating with Yeltsin the creation of the United State with the condition that he would be at the head of it some day. Putin has snatched it from under his nose. So Alexander Grigoryevich [Lukashenko] has no reasons to like Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin]. Putin to him is the man who disrupted his plans of going up to the Kremlin throne.”

But recently, Russian-Belarusian relations have seen some warming. Russian Ambassador to Minsk Alexander Surikov promised last month that Russia would be selling its gas to Belarus at about $125 per 1,000 cu. meters in 2008. The figure was cut to $119 after a hint from Belarusian counterparts. The Russian president’s visit to Belarus also proves that the parties are looking for compromises as Vladimir Putin is arriving in Minsk on Thursday to spend one day with Alexander Lukashenko.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has prepared two agendas for the upcoming session, according to Kommersant sources. One of them features the discussion of the Constitution draft and the common currency for Russia and Belarus. The other one was apparently drawn up in case Mr. Lushenko proves to be difficult as it features common foreign policy, industrial and social programs only.

Meanwhile, some people in the Kremlin are quite skeptical about the drafts of Mr. Borodin. “If the Kremlin was serious about the prospects of the Constitution being enforced, they would not have entrusted it to Borodin no matter all their respect to him,” a source close to the Russian president’s administration told Kommersant. “This is solely a prerogative of the presidential administration. Plans like this are discussed directly with the Alexander Lukashenko administration. A new legislation can’t be drafted quickly. They’ve been trying to find a compromise on it with Minsk but failed. It all comes down to the fundamental problem which is Lukashenko’s reluctance to relinquish any power.”

Yuri Chervochkin, RIP

The Moscow Times tells the sad news that Yuri Chervochkin, about whom we reported earlier this week, has succumbed to the injuries he sustained at the hands of Vladimir Putin’s thugs:

Yury Chervochkin, an activist with the Other Russia opposition coalition, died in a hospital on Monday of injuries his colleagues say he sustained when attacked by police. Chervochkin, 22, was beaten by four assailants on Nov. 22 in the town of Serpukhov, about 100 kilometers south of Moscow, said Alexander Averin, a spokesman for the coalition. He was found later that evening unconscious outside his apartment building in Serpukhov, Averin said. Chervochkin never regained consciousness and died of head injuries in the Burdenko Research Institute’s medical center on Monday, he added. Averin said Chervochkin was involved in promoting the Nov. 24 Dissenters’ March in central Moscow around the time of the attack. Chervochkin made a phone call to news editors of the Kasparov.ru web site about half an hour before the attack, saying he was being followed by four people whom he recognized as being linked to police officers who specialize in fighting organized crime, said Sergei Baranov, a fellow Other Russia activist. Baranov said that he was arrested by the organized crime police on Dec. 3 — after the attack and opposition rally and while Chervochkin was still alive — and was told while in custody that if “you don’t calm down, we will come after you, too.” Baranov said, “The police never scared me and I will continue working against the regime in honor of Yury.” Telephone calls to the Moscow branch of the Interior Ministry’s organized crime and terrorism department went unanswered late Tuesday.

December 11, 2007 — Contents

TUESDAY DECEMBER 11 CONTENTS

(1) EDITORIAL: Nikolai Petro, Kremlin Stooge

(2) Lilia Shevtsova: Russia is Committing Suicide

(3) BBC Under Neo-Soviet Siege in Moscow

(4) Trepashkin Speaks

(5) McEnroe Fears the Russian Mob

NOTE: “President” Putin has announced that if anyone is going to succeed him, he’d like it to be his longtime slavish sycophant Dimitri Medvedev, someone with no independent power base (some characterize him as basically a member of Putin’s family) and who is crazy about the rock group Black Sabbath. Medvedev has been mindlessly doing Putin’s bidding as the head of Gazprom, apparently a dry run to see if, in a pinch, he can be relied upon to do the same as head of the whole country. Seems like Putin is favorably impressed that he can. Perhaps the news might somehow be more bleak for Russia these days, but just now we can’t imagine how.

NOTE: A third bus in six weeks has been destroyed by a terrorist bomb in southern Russia, the backyard of the proposed 2014 Olympics. Publius Pundit has the details.