Daily Archives: January 23, 2008

January 23, 2007 — Contents

TUESDAY JANUARY 23 CONTENTS

(1) Another Original LR Translation: Golts on Russia’s “Military”

(2) Golts on the British Council Outrage, From the Russian Press

(3) EDITORIAL: Now We’ve Seen Everything

(4) Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Journalism

(5) Chechens Flee the Horror of Putin’s Russia in Droves

(6) Shades of Stalin in Neo-Soviet Russia

NOTE: In barbaric news that should surprise nobody, the Kremlin has opened criminal case against the only viable opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov. A new low in the Kremlin’s pathetic display of cowardice.

Another Original LR Translation: Golts on Russian Miltary "Power" (by Our Original Translator)

The Federal Target Pyramid

Aleksandr Golts

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

January 16, 2008

January 1, 2008 was supposed to be the Rubicon in the life of the Russian military. That was the day that the Federal Target Program (FTP) for the partial transition of the military to a contract basis was supposed to have been completed. The FTP originally came into existence as a compromise between the Kremlin and the military leadership. On the one hand, Putin had become convinced during the Second Chechen War that an army based on mass conscription was completely ineffective for the defense of the country. “To effectively respond to terrorists we would need to assemble a force of at least 65,000 men. But of all the military land forces, only 55,000 were in battle-ready condition,” recalled Putin, referring to the level of federal forces in 2006. “The Army has 1.4 million personnel, but none of them can fight. So they sent unseasoned kids into battle.”

At the same time, Putin could not come out in contradiction to the military leadership, who were organically incapable of framing the concept of an all-volunteer army. One must admit that our military leaders were exceptionally effective at waging war against reforms. In the process they proved very adroit at using stereotypes about the military that are deeply rooted in the minds of Russian government leaders. The Kremlin quickly grasped that transforming the military from a conscription-based system would cause military service to become a profession, and stop being simply the harshest form of taxation. And this would fundamentally change the relationship between the government and the people. Because contract service assumes mutual obligations and responsibilities, whereas conscription preserves the right of the government to use people as it sees fit without having to answer to anyone. Freeing people from such a levy is completely inconsistent with the basic concept of the government created by Vladimir Putin. Consequently, while no real reform was actually undertaken, it was decided that in the event of a local conflict a few dozen units and quick-reaction forces would be assembled using contract service members. In theory, these forces could be detached to conflict areas without the need for additional mobilizations or work-ups. At the time it was announced that fulfillment of this plan was directly connected with a reduction of the required term of service for conscripts to one year.

And now the Ministry of Defense has reported that the objectives of the FTP have been met. But wouldn’t you know it, right then, in the first few days of January, representatives from the organization “Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint Petersburg” announced that in the Totskiy garrison, located in Orenburgskaya Oblast, around thirty soldiers approaching the end of their required term of service were subjected to actual torture to force them to sign contracts to extend their service. The military authorities immediately accused the mothers of slander and promised to sue them.

Actually though, the forcing of signatures from contract soldiers should hardly come as a surprise. I suspect the leadership of the military is right now making feverish efforts to prevent the collapse of a classic pyramid scheme, which is exactly what the FTP has become.

We begin by noting that in the course of carrying out the FTP the Ministry of Defense has several times gotten the Kremlin to agree to reductions in its objectives. Recall that the plan originally called for the transitioning of 144,000 soldiers and senior enlisted to a contract basis. This number was then casually reduced to 133,000, then to 121,000. And now, lo and behold, reporting on the successful completion of the plan, they say that there are now 100,000 contract soldiers. True, the head of the mobilization command of the general staff, General Vasiliy Smirnov tells us that in the quick reaction forces there is a 20-percent “vacancy rate” in soldier and senior enlisted positions. If that is so, however, then there can be no talk of the FTP having been fulfilled. Just as there can be no talk of a quick reaction force where one-fifth of its complement is missing.

At the same time, Smirnov claims that the missing contract soldiers will be “additionally acquired” in the first few months of 2008. It is entirely possible that the short-time soldiers at the Totskiy garrison came, as they say, up for release just as their commanders were receiving an order to secure, by whatever means necessary, the required number of contract enlistments.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no reason for believing any of the figures put out by the leadership of the military related to the FTP. Because they are never consistent. Embarking in the FTP, the military leadership informed us that at that time the army already had 155,000 contract soldiers, and now they claim that this number has grown to 206,000. At the same time, there has been no mention of a massive reduction in the number of contract positions in the regular army. Therefore their total number has increased not by 100,000, but by only 50,000 men.

But the issue is not only in the shortfall in the number of military professionals. Even worse is the situation with their quality. In between the triumphant reports, the truth about their true condition comes rupturing out. For example, the senior commander of Ground Forces, General Aleksey Maslov acknowledges: “For some reason, in the level of their preparedness the contract soldiers are not much better than military units composed of draftees.” And the chief military prosecutor noted at the end of the year a sharp growth in crime among the contract soldiers – twenty-five percent higher compared to 2006. No surprise here: ensnared into contract units, short-term soldiers leave at the first opportunity, since they sincerely cannot see why in the heck they should stay another year.

And here is why the figures do not add up. For exactly the reason that the figures from any organizer of a pyramid scheme will not add up. In private conversation, senior military leaders admit: in recent years they have hardly succeeded in bringing in as many new recruits as those that have left the army. It would appear that the number of military service members in contract units hovers somewhere around 50,000.

Of course it is understood that at the moment this program is completed the entire pyramid will collapse. But the military leadership here skips along like any financial manipulator, and simply starts up a new swindle. It announces that a new plan has been prepared, as a result of which in 2009-2011 all senior enlisted in the military, including all shipboard crew in the Navy – a total of 87,000 positions – will be on a contract basis.


Golts on the British Council Outrage

Other Russia translates Alexander Golts from the pages of Yezhedevny Zhurnal:

Russia this week upheld another shining foreign policy victory: The work of regional branches of the British Council in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg was suspended. These brazen British, who have been soiling Russia for more than just the past century, reckoned on defending themselves with certain arrangements, like the 1994 bilateral agreement on cooperation in the domains of culture, science and education. Since in accord with [the agreement], Moscow pledged (oh, those “accursed 90s”) to “foster on its territory the opening of centres of culture, education and information of the opposite side,” and “provide every assistance to such centres.” Those shysters from foggy Albion were also counting on the fact that the British Council in Russia holds the status of a cultural branch of the embassy, and that all diplomatic privileged are extended to it. They were calculating, no doubt, that our mighty state would be proving somewhere, that the activities of British Council employees were illegal.

The good people studied our history poorly. Otherwise, they would have known how [Count Alexander von] Benckendorf rebuked the unfortunate [Baron Anton Antonovich] Delvig, who risked making reference to the law: “Laws are written for the subjects, and not for the authorities, and you don’t have the right to refer to them or use them to excuse yourself in your explanations with me.” And [the laws] are not strong in the ideology of the present-day Russian government. Otherwise the [students] would remember how one of Benckendorf’s successors explained the essence of “sovereign democracy” a few years back: “We must be the masters in our own country.” Not the law, not the people –THEM. And that’s why [the authorities] can demonstrate their truth by having “prophylactic talks” with Russian citizens working at the British Council, or by arresting Stephen Kinnock, who heads the St. Petersburg branch, for driving under the influence.

In truth, this whole comical war with the British Council—an organization called to serve the dissemination of the English language [and] knowledge of Great Britain’s culture—very clearly demonstrates the fundamental differences between the political cultures of the two countries.

More than a year ago, even before [Alexander] Litvinenko’s poisoning, when the Kremlin was taking pleasure in badgering the British ambassador with the help of the Nashi [youth group], one of Russia’s political analysts couldn’t bear it and asked a question: why don’t the British respond appropriately. Why not establish an “Ours” movement (preferably out of the most die-hard Liverpool [Football Club] fans”) and establish a merry existence for the Russian ambassador. Any why not, at present, make use of the circumstance that the children, wives and mistresses of Russia’s highest-[ranking] civil servants permanently reside in the United Kingdom? A Scotland Yard special division, in collaboration with MI-5 could easily discover a couple cartridges, or a baggie with heroin on family-members of some ardent British detractor. Under an “eye for an eye” logic, they would entirely have the right—remember, that the Stephen Kinnock arrested in St. Petersburg is the son of Neil Kinnock, the former head of the [British] Labour [Party].

Finally, why don’t they use the bank accounts of Russian citizens as a pressure lever. Well, why not review them for money laundering? And block them for the period of examination.

In a word, a lot of things could be contrived. And all that would remain would be to marvel at the desperation of Russia’s higher-ups, who had turned their loved ones into natural hostages on enemy terrain. But that’s just it, what the representatives of the so-called Russian elite understand perfectly well is that on the territory of the United Kingdom, nothing will endanger their families or even their money. For the simple reason, that even now, as in Benckendorf’s times and even earlier, the authorities in that country serve the laws, and not the other way around. The court there isn’t [like] Basmanny. And it doesn’t hand out arrest warrants on the prime minister’s command. And it allows extradition only in the event if a person’s guilt is proven.

And Russia’s patriotic superiors are perfectly aware of this. They prefer to keep their families in England, as at any moment, their close ones could become hostages in their native land.

Robert Amsterdam offers a translation of another Russian view of the crisis.

EDITORIAL: Well, Now We’ve Seen Everything

EDITORIAL

Well, Now We’ve Seen Everything

As if Russia had not already plunged far enough through the neo-Soviet looking glass and into the pigsty of self-delusion and destruction, two events last week make us think perhaps that now we’ve seen it all from the Russians. Anything after this can only be anticlimax.

First, a senile old goat who calls himself a “general” and just happens to have his finger near Russia’s nuclear button belched out some fanatical ravings in which he boasted that Russia wouldn’t hesitate to be the first to use nukes in the event of armed conflict. Apparently, he thought he was intimidating Russia’s enemies, but what he actually was doing was confirming the utter impotency of Russia’s conventional military forces and the total barbarity of Russia’s leadership, inducing Russia’s enemies to redouble their efforts to protect themselves. Only a Russian can accomplish such intense self-destructive stupidity in such a short space of time.

But that was just an appetizer. For the main course, as the Moscow Times reported, Russia announced that ” if Britain resumed cooperation with the Federal Security Service and expressed a willingness to ease visa rules for Russians.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Krivtsov stated that “everything started when the British refused to hold talks to simplify the visa regime and stopped cooperation with the FSB. After that, talks about the status of the British Council became impossible. That means conditions have to be created for the resumption of talks.”

In other words, what the Kremlin has done is to openly admit that it is persecuting the British Council in an act of naked neo-Soviet foreign policy blackmail. But the Kremlin seems to have forgotten that it’s told the people of Russia that the British Council is operating “illegally” (just as it accused Mikhail Khodorkovsky of doing), and that it is only enforcing the law. In fact, the Kremlin has openly accused the Council of harboring spies. This word has gone out across the country to the Kremlin’s minions, who have been repeating it like a mantra across the blogosphere. The Kremlin’s statement has just cut the legs out from under them, and destroyed even the absurd illusion that the Kremlin was acting pursuant to the rule of law. Just think of the precedent: If Russia is entitled to do this to Britain, then the world is entitled to do it to Russia. A weak, sick nation, Russia’s only defense from such action was to claim the moral high ground. Now, that’s gone out the window. Nice job, Mr. Putin. Way to protect your country!

Essentially, the Kremlin seems to be saying it’s just fine if the British Council goes on spying and breaking Russian law, as long as the British government drops the Litvinenko prosecution. In other words, it’s admitting that Russia is a banana republic.


The chart above is a snapshot of the Russian stock market, showing that in the four business days between January 16th and January 21st (last Monday, its worst trading day in 18 months) it lost over 17% of its value, dropping breathtakingly below the 2000 level before recovering slightly. The reason for this drop is that, despite Russian’s energy resources and the skyrocketing world market for them, the Russian economy is fundamentally weak and totally subservient to those world markets. The U.S. market has tanked, and taken Russia’s market right along with it. If Russians are cheering the U.S. losses, and they are, they are cheering their own demise. If Americans can’t buy huge quantities of crude oil, the price of that commodity will collapse. If it does, Russia’s entire house-of-cards economy will come down. Apparently, Russian fairy tale heritage doesn’t include the story of the goose that laid the golden egg. Either that, or Russia is simply a nation of morons.

Amazingly, it’s actually the Kremlin’s policy to provoke and alienate the markets upon which it depends utterly even more than they already are, just as the USSR always used to provoke the countries that supplied the grain necessary to cover its shortfalls and keep its threadbare population alive.

There’s only one word for that policy: Crazy.

There’s simply no way, not in their wildest dreams, that Russia’s so-called “enemies” (remember, Russians thought Solzhenitsyn was one, and Sakharov, and Pushkin . . .) could ever inflict a fraction of the damage upon Russia that the Russian people themselves, and their designated leaders, can deliver. Ever more cut off from the outside world, just like the famous Emperor with his “new clothes,” the Russian people are dooming their children do a life of woe.

That is, if they have any life at all.

EDITORIAL: Well, Now We’ve Seen Everything

EDITORIAL

Well, Now We’ve Seen Everything

As if Russia had not already plunged far enough through the neo-Soviet looking glass and into the pigsty of self-delusion and destruction, two events last week make us think perhaps that now we’ve seen it all from the Russians. Anything after this can only be anticlimax.

First, a senile old goat who calls himself a “general” and just happens to have his finger near Russia’s nuclear button belched out some fanatical ravings in which he boasted that Russia wouldn’t hesitate to be the first to use nukes in the event of armed conflict. Apparently, he thought he was intimidating Russia’s enemies, but what he actually was doing was confirming the utter impotency of Russia’s conventional military forces and the total barbarity of Russia’s leadership, inducing Russia’s enemies to redouble their efforts to protect themselves. Only a Russian can accomplish such intense self-destructive stupidity in such a short space of time.

But that was just an appetizer. For the main course, as the Moscow Times reported, Russia announced that ” if Britain resumed cooperation with the Federal Security Service and expressed a willingness to ease visa rules for Russians.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Krivtsov stated that “everything started when the British refused to hold talks to simplify the visa regime and stopped cooperation with the FSB. After that, talks about the status of the British Council became impossible. That means conditions have to be created for the resumption of talks.”

In other words, what the Kremlin has done is to openly admit that it is persecuting the British Council in an act of naked neo-Soviet foreign policy blackmail. But the Kremlin seems to have forgotten that it’s told the people of Russia that the British Council is operating “illegally” (just as it accused Mikhail Khodorkovsky of doing), and that it is only enforcing the law. In fact, the Kremlin has openly accused the Council of harboring spies. This word has gone out across the country to the Kremlin’s minions, who have been repeating it like a mantra across the blogosphere. The Kremlin’s statement has just cut the legs out from under them, and destroyed even the absurd illusion that the Kremlin was acting pursuant to the rule of law. Just think of the precedent: If Russia is entitled to do this to Britain, then the world is entitled to do it to Russia. A weak, sick nation, Russia’s only defense from such action was to claim the moral high ground. Now, that’s gone out the window. Nice job, Mr. Putin. Way to protect your country!

Essentially, the Kremlin seems to be saying it’s just fine if the British Council goes on spying and breaking Russian law, as long as the British government drops the Litvinenko prosecution. In other words, it’s admitting that Russia is a banana republic.


The chart above is a snapshot of the Russian stock market, showing that in the four business days between January 16th and January 21st (last Monday, its worst trading day in 18 months) it lost over 17% of its value, dropping breathtakingly below the 2000 level before recovering slightly. The reason for this drop is that, despite Russian’s energy resources and the skyrocketing world market for them, the Russian economy is fundamentally weak and totally subservient to those world markets. The U.S. market has tanked, and taken Russia’s market right along with it. If Russians are cheering the U.S. losses, and they are, they are cheering their own demise. If Americans can’t buy huge quantities of crude oil, the price of that commodity will collapse. If it does, Russia’s entire house-of-cards economy will come down. Apparently, Russian fairy tale heritage doesn’t include the story of the goose that laid the golden egg. Either that, or Russia is simply a nation of morons.

Amazingly, it’s actually the Kremlin’s policy to provoke and alienate the markets upon which it depends utterly even more than they already are, just as the USSR always used to provoke the countries that supplied the grain necessary to cover its shortfalls and keep its threadbare population alive.

There’s only one word for that policy: Crazy.

There’s simply no way, not in their wildest dreams, that Russia’s so-called “enemies” (remember, Russians thought Solzhenitsyn was one, and Sakharov, and Pushkin . . .) could ever inflict a fraction of the damage upon Russia that the Russian people themselves, and their designated leaders, can deliver. Ever more cut off from the outside world, just like the famous Emperor with his “new clothes,” the Russian people are dooming their children do a life of woe.

That is, if they have any life at all.

EDITORIAL: Well, Now We’ve Seen Everything

EDITORIAL

Well, Now We’ve Seen Everything

As if Russia had not already plunged far enough through the neo-Soviet looking glass and into the pigsty of self-delusion and destruction, two events last week make us think perhaps that now we’ve seen it all from the Russians. Anything after this can only be anticlimax.

First, a senile old goat who calls himself a “general” and just happens to have his finger near Russia’s nuclear button belched out some fanatical ravings in which he boasted that Russia wouldn’t hesitate to be the first to use nukes in the event of armed conflict. Apparently, he thought he was intimidating Russia’s enemies, but what he actually was doing was confirming the utter impotency of Russia’s conventional military forces and the total barbarity of Russia’s leadership, inducing Russia’s enemies to redouble their efforts to protect themselves. Only a Russian can accomplish such intense self-destructive stupidity in such a short space of time.

But that was just an appetizer. For the main course, as the Moscow Times reported, Russia announced that ” if Britain resumed cooperation with the Federal Security Service and expressed a willingness to ease visa rules for Russians.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Krivtsov stated that “everything started when the British refused to hold talks to simplify the visa regime and stopped cooperation with the FSB. After that, talks about the status of the British Council became impossible. That means conditions have to be created for the resumption of talks.”

In other words, what the Kremlin has done is to openly admit that it is persecuting the British Council in an act of naked neo-Soviet foreign policy blackmail. But the Kremlin seems to have forgotten that it’s told the people of Russia that the British Council is operating “illegally” (just as it accused Mikhail Khodorkovsky of doing), and that it is only enforcing the law. In fact, the Kremlin has openly accused the Council of harboring spies. This word has gone out across the country to the Kremlin’s minions, who have been repeating it like a mantra across the blogosphere. The Kremlin’s statement has just cut the legs out from under them, and destroyed even the absurd illusion that the Kremlin was acting pursuant to the rule of law. Just think of the precedent: If Russia is entitled to do this to Britain, then the world is entitled to do it to Russia. A weak, sick nation, Russia’s only defense from such action was to claim the moral high ground. Now, that’s gone out the window. Nice job, Mr. Putin. Way to protect your country!

Essentially, the Kremlin seems to be saying it’s just fine if the British Council goes on spying and breaking Russian law, as long as the British government drops the Litvinenko prosecution. In other words, it’s admitting that Russia is a banana republic.


The chart above is a snapshot of the Russian stock market, showing that in the four business days between January 16th and January 21st (last Monday, its worst trading day in 18 months) it lost over 17% of its value, dropping breathtakingly below the 2000 level before recovering slightly. The reason for this drop is that, despite Russian’s energy resources and the skyrocketing world market for them, the Russian economy is fundamentally weak and totally subservient to those world markets. The U.S. market has tanked, and taken Russia’s market right along with it. If Russians are cheering the U.S. losses, and they are, they are cheering their own demise. If Americans can’t buy huge quantities of crude oil, the price of that commodity will collapse. If it does, Russia’s entire house-of-cards economy will come down. Apparently, Russian fairy tale heritage doesn’t include the story of the goose that laid the golden egg. Either that, or Russia is simply a nation of morons.

Amazingly, it’s actually the Kremlin’s policy to provoke and alienate the markets upon which it depends utterly even more than they already are, just as the USSR always used to provoke the countries that supplied the grain necessary to cover its shortfalls and keep its threadbare population alive.

There’s only one word for that policy: Crazy.

There’s simply no way, not in their wildest dreams, that Russia’s so-called “enemies” (remember, Russians thought Solzhenitsyn was one, and Sakharov, and Pushkin . . .) could ever inflict a fraction of the damage upon Russia that the Russian people themselves, and their designated leaders, can deliver. Ever more cut off from the outside world, just like the famous Emperor with his “new clothes,” the Russian people are dooming their children do a life of woe.

That is, if they have any life at all.

EDITORIAL: Well, Now We’ve Seen Everything

EDITORIAL

Well, Now We’ve Seen Everything

As if Russia had not already plunged far enough through the neo-Soviet looking glass and into the pigsty of self-delusion and destruction, two events last week make us think perhaps that now we’ve seen it all from the Russians. Anything after this can only be anticlimax.

First, a senile old goat who calls himself a “general” and just happens to have his finger near Russia’s nuclear button belched out some fanatical ravings in which he boasted that Russia wouldn’t hesitate to be the first to use nukes in the event of armed conflict. Apparently, he thought he was intimidating Russia’s enemies, but what he actually was doing was confirming the utter impotency of Russia’s conventional military forces and the total barbarity of Russia’s leadership, inducing Russia’s enemies to redouble their efforts to protect themselves. Only a Russian can accomplish such intense self-destructive stupidity in such a short space of time.

But that was just an appetizer. For the main course, as the Moscow Times reported, Russia announced that ” if Britain resumed cooperation with the Federal Security Service and expressed a willingness to ease visa rules for Russians.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Krivtsov stated that “everything started when the British refused to hold talks to simplify the visa regime and stopped cooperation with the FSB. After that, talks about the status of the British Council became impossible. That means conditions have to be created for the resumption of talks.”

In other words, what the Kremlin has done is to openly admit that it is persecuting the British Council in an act of naked neo-Soviet foreign policy blackmail. But the Kremlin seems to have forgotten that it’s told the people of Russia that the British Council is operating “illegally” (just as it accused Mikhail Khodorkovsky of doing), and that it is only enforcing the law. In fact, the Kremlin has openly accused the Council of harboring spies. This word has gone out across the country to the Kremlin’s minions, who have been repeating it like a mantra across the blogosphere. The Kremlin’s statement has just cut the legs out from under them, and destroyed even the absurd illusion that the Kremlin was acting pursuant to the rule of law. Just think of the precedent: If Russia is entitled to do this to Britain, then the world is entitled to do it to Russia. A weak, sick nation, Russia’s only defense from such action was to claim the moral high ground. Now, that’s gone out the window. Nice job, Mr. Putin. Way to protect your country!

Essentially, the Kremlin seems to be saying it’s just fine if the British Council goes on spying and breaking Russian law, as long as the British government drops the Litvinenko prosecution. In other words, it’s admitting that Russia is a banana republic.


The chart above is a snapshot of the Russian stock market, showing that in the four business days between January 16th and January 21st (last Monday, its worst trading day in 18 months) it lost over 17% of its value, dropping breathtakingly below the 2000 level before recovering slightly. The reason for this drop is that, despite Russian’s energy resources and the skyrocketing world market for them, the Russian economy is fundamentally weak and totally subservient to those world markets. The U.S. market has tanked, and taken Russia’s market right along with it. If Russians are cheering the U.S. losses, and they are, they are cheering their own demise. If Americans can’t buy huge quantities of crude oil, the price of that commodity will collapse. If it does, Russia’s entire house-of-cards economy will come down. Apparently, Russian fairy tale heritage doesn’t include the story of the goose that laid the golden egg. Either that, or Russia is simply a nation of morons.

Amazingly, it’s actually the Kremlin’s policy to provoke and alienate the markets upon which it depends utterly even more than they already are, just as the USSR always used to provoke the countries that supplied the grain necessary to cover its shortfalls and keep its threadbare population alive.

There’s only one word for that policy: Crazy.

There’s simply no way, not in their wildest dreams, that Russia’s so-called “enemies” (remember, Russians thought Solzhenitsyn was one, and Sakharov, and Pushkin . . .) could ever inflict a fraction of the damage upon Russia that the Russian people themselves, and their designated leaders, can deliver. Ever more cut off from the outside world, just like the famous Emperor with his “new clothes,” the Russian people are dooming their children do a life of woe.

That is, if they have any life at all.