Daily Archives: March 7, 2008

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda

The Moscow Times reports:

Last year, weekly tabloid Express Gazeta held a competition for children to draw the Russian president. The winner depicted Vladimir Putin declaring his love to his wife with a single rose. She won a puppy, and not just any puppy, but a relative of Putin’s black Labrador, Connie.

This year’s competition is to draw the future president, and the winner, to be announced in May, will have to settle for a laptop, a cell phone and a teddy bear. Although the election hasn’t taken place, the children taking part all chose the same subject for their drawings, which went on display at the Photo Center of the Union of Journalists this week.

“The children all drew [Dmitry] Medvedev,” said Yekaterina Shumeiko, a spokeswoman for Express Gazeta. The contest started after Putin announced Medvedev as his preferred candidate in December.

Other candidates only appeared in one drawing, Shumeiko said. A child drew a scene involving Medvedev, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, but she made it clear that Medvedev was the winner.

One thousand children aged 7 to 16 drew pictures of Medvedev in a variety of poses. The two most common themes were weightlifting and orphanage visits. The children who entered obviously picked up on his biography. In his university days, he liked weightlifting and rowing. One of his most noticeable characteristics, his diminutive height, does not come across in the drawings.
One drawing shows Medvedev weightlifting in a red singlet emblazoned with the word Russia. He holds a bar decorated with words including “peace,” “sport,” “school” and “children.” A more ambitious picture shows him dressed in a leotard, lifting up a map of Russia. He is helped by Putin, who is wearing judo gear.

“Another interesting point is that the kids have drawn Medvedev and Putin together in many of the entries, so it’s obvious that the children link Medvedev and Putin,” Shumeiko said.

A drawing of them together shows two statuesque leaders walking side by side along a red carpet, with an airplane in the backround. It is called “Putin and Medvedev on a joint trip overseas.”

Medvedev’s visit to a maternity ward last year was also a popular source of inspiration, resulting in at least three drawings. One picture shows him holding a baby girl and baby boy in his arms. Behind him is a row of babies in pink and blue swaddling clothes.
While Shumeiko insisted that nothing was stage-managed, some of the drawings include messages asking parents to vote for Medvedev. One shows him standing under a banner with the slogan “Vote for Medvedev” and drawings of a syringe and a cigarette with red lines through them. In front of him, the members of the audience all cheerfully raise their hands to vote for him.

“One girl drew a picture. Her letter said, ‘I want my parents to vote for Medvedev. If he is trusted by Putin, who is trusted by all of Russia, then we should trust him too,'” Shumeiko said.

Another popular theme is international affairs. One drawing shows Medvedev shaking hand with the German president. In another, he sits at a table with George W. Bush. And one shows people of different nationalities holding hands around a globe with the slogan “Our President is for Peace.” Russia is the only country marked on the globe.

“People nowadays say our children are apolitical, that they grow up not caring about issues, but this competition goes to prove this is not the case,” Shumeiko said.

Russia’s Paranoid, Neo-Soviet, Xenophobic Crackdown on Foreigners Continues

Reuters reports:

Russia may limit foreign ownership of Internet providers, electronic mass media and publishing houses, extending a list of industries deemed strategic, a senior lawmaker told Reuters on Wednesday.

Russia’s parliament is set to debate the controversial law this month amid a tussle between government officials and the security services over what industries should be deemed sensitive and how much to limit foreign investment in them.

“We need to defend our public space from foreign firms, which may seize dominant positions,” said Martin Shakkum, head of the parliament’s land and construction committee, which is responsible for preparing the new law.

According to the draft law, a foreign company seeking a controlling stake in a Russian firm working in a sector deemed strategic will need to seek a permission from a special government committee. Outgoing President Vladimir Putin secured tight control over national television channels and other major media during his eight-year rule, prompting criticism from Western governments and human rights groups.

The media arm of state-controlled gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) controls national television channel NTV, Izvestia newspaper and even the Ekho Moskvy radio station, which sometimes criticises the Kremlin.

MORE SECTORS

Smaller traditional media outlets as well as Internet media enjoy relative freedom and have been targeted by international companies seeking to tap Russia’s booming advertising market.

Sweden’s Modern Times Group (MTGb.ST: Quote, Profile, Research) owns 40 percent of television firm CTC Media Inc (CTCM.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and Finland’s SanomaWSOY (SWS1V.HE: Quote, Profile, Research) owns the publisher of business daily Vedomosti. Mobile operator Vimpelcom (VIP.N: Quote, Profile, Research), where Norwegian group Telenor (TEL.OL: Quote, Profile, Research) has a blocking stake, provides Internet services through recently acquired fixed-line operator Golden Telecom. Other major Internet providers are Russian-owned.

“The presidential administration wants to put more sectors on the list, they want to control mass media, publishing and the Internet. In the last draft there were 40 sectors, now there will be 43 to 45,” a senior government source told Reuters.

The Duma passed the draft at a first reading last September, over two years after Putin ordered officials to more clearly draw up legislation to define rules on foreign investment.

Russian officials had pledged the law would be passed last year, before the parliamentary and presidential election, but the second hearing was delayed after intervention by the security services.

The parliament also asked the government to submit amendments to the subsoil law, which defines strategic natural resource deposits. The new investment law would then apply curbs to exploration of such deposits.

Industry sources told Reuters the Federal Security Service (FSB) wanted the limits on foreign investment in exploration of strategic deposits to apply to existing licences, causing an outcry among foreign investors already working in Russia.

Annals of Espionage

The Canadian Free Press reports:

In what could be the biggest State Department scandal since State Department official and United Nations founder Alger Hiss was exposed as a Soviet spy, a top Clinton State Department official and former Time magazine journalist has been identified as having been a trusted contact of the Russian intelligence service.

The sensational charge against Strobe Talbott is made in a new book based on interviews with a Russian defector. The book, Comrade J, by veteran author and reporter Pete Earley, identifies Talbott as having been manipulated by a Russian official working for Russian intelligence in order to get information about U.S. foreign policy. The same book describes the United Nations as a major base of espionage operations for Russia in the U.S.

But the story gets much more scandalous than that because Talbott himself has just written a book, The Great Experiment, describing his own background in the pro-world government World Federalist Movement and naming a network of friends and close associates that includes former President Bill Clinton and billionaire leftist George Soros. Curiously, the book calls for expanding the authority of the U.N. but completely ignores the role of Soviet spy Alger Hiss, himself a top State Department official, in founding the United Nations.

The purpose of Talbott’s book is to promote “global governance,” a euphemism for world government. It is defined in the subtitle as “The Quest for a Global Nation.”

Interestingly, one of Talbott’s closest friends in the U.S. Senate, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, has emerged as a foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. In 2005, Lugar and Obama made a visit to Russia to promote the scandal-ridden “Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR),” also known as the Nunn-Lugar program for its original Senate sponsors. The CTR has poured about $6 billion into the former Soviet Union in foreign aid, supposedly for the purpose of preventing nuclear proliferation.

“After actively promoting Nunn-Lugar while at Time [magazine], Talbott was put in charge of the [CTR] program when named by Clinton as ambassador at large to Russia and the newly independent states in February 1993,” notes journalist Ken Timmerman, in a report headlined, “Strobe Talbott: Russia’s Man in Washington.”

Although Talbott has been identified in press accounts as a current adviser to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, he showed up to hear Senator Barack Obama deliver a foreign policy address in 2005 to the Council on Foreign Relations and declared, “It was very impressive.” A story about the speech carried by MSNBC and published on Obama’s Senate website noted that Lugar was “helping” Obama in the foreign policy field, that Obama and Lugar “have formed a political joint venture and mutual admiration society,” and that they had traveled to Russia together. The trip to Russia was designed to ensure Obama’s support for maintaining and even expanding the foreign aid for Russia through the CTR program.

Although CTR supporters claim it can be effective in keeping nuclear weapons or materials out of the hands of terrorists, various reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveal that funds have been used mainly to destroy obsolete weapons that Moscow was going to replace with high-tech arms. The International Proliferation Prevention Program, which has evolved from the CTR, was recently exposed by the GAO as a jobs program for Russian scientists, more than half of which may not have any weapons-related experience.

Nevertheless, Obama said that “few people” understand Russia better than Lugar, a “rock star” on the world stage. Lugar, in turn, calls Strobe Talbott a “good friend” and “source of sound counsel” who “continues to provide outstanding national and international leadership.” Comrade J is about a Russian master spy, Sergei Tretyakov, who defected to the United States because he was disgusted with the Russian/Soviet system and wanted to start a new and better life with his family in America. His allegations about Talbott have been ignored by most of the media.

Tretyakov is described as the highest ranking Russian intelligence official ever to defect while stationed in the U.S. and handled all Russian intelligence operations against the U.S. He served under cover from 1995-2000 at Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations but was secretly working for the FBI for at least three years.

Talbott has been and continues to be a major foreign policy thinker. Back in 2000, when he was named head of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, he was described as “a key architect of U.S. foreign policy” during the Clinton years. Talbott now serves as president of the liberal think tank, the Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C., where he gets paid over $400,000 a year, leads a staff of 277 and presides over an endowment of over $200 million.

Talbott denies Tretyakov’s charges, calling them “erroneous and/or misleading,” and his denials are featured on page 184 of the book. He says that he always promoted U.S. foreign policy goals and that the close relationship that he had with a top Russian official by the name of Georgi Mamedov did not involve any manipulation or deception. This is not the first time that Talbott has come under scrutiny for his alleged contacts with agents of a foreign intelligence service. In 1994, when he was being considered for his State Department post in the Clinton Administration, he was grilled by Senator Jesse Helms, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, about his relationship with Victor Louis, a Soviet “journalist” who was actually a Soviet KGB intelligence agent. Talbott had been a young correspondent for Time magazine in Moscow.

As reported by Herbert Romerstein in Human Events newspaper, Talbott admitted knowing Louis from 1969 until his death in 1992 but that he was not aware of his “organizational affiliations.” Pressed further, Talbott acknowledged that he was aware of assertions or speculation to that effect about Louis. Helms then confronted Talbott with a 1986 State Department publication revealing that Louis had been identified as a KGB agent by KGB defectors and had been used by the Soviets to spread disinformation. Talbott said he still didn’t know for sure that Louis was a KGB agent. Romerstein’s Human Events article accused Talbott of writing articles following the Soviet line.

However, Talbott had powerful friends, including Senator and fellow Rhodes Scholar Richard Lugar, who supported his nomination.

Romerstein, a retired government expert on anti-American and communist propaganda activities, said the Earley book is valuable because it documents that the Russian intelligence service picked up where the KGB left off, and that operations against the U.S. continued after the end of the Cold War.

But he said the information about Talbott needs further explanation from Talbott himself. “Talbott really has to explain more than he did to Pete Earley what his relationship was to Mamedov, and he should tell us about his relationship with Victor Louis,” Romerstein said.
On January 4, Talbott gave a talk at the “Politics & Prose” bookstore in Washington, D.C., where he explained in precise detail what he means by “global governance.” He said that it “allows for a multiplicity of governments [or] nation states in the world but at the same time depends increasingly on an international system made up of up treaties, international law, institutions, and various arrangements whereby nations in effect pool their national authority in order to deal with certain problems that they cannot deal with all by themselves and they can’t deal with in small numbers.”

Talbott added, “That is the big idea that the book attempts to describe and trace. And it’s not just a utopian dream. Global governance is a reality. We have it today.”

In the future, Talbott says the U.N. will need to be “incorporated into an increasingly variegated network of structures and arrangements, some functional in focus, others geographic; some intergovernmental, others based on systematic collaboration with the private sector, civil society, and NGOs [non-governmental organizations]. Only if the larger enterprise of global governance has that kind of breadth and depth will it be able to supplement what the U.N. does well, compensate for what it does badly, and provide capabilities that it lacks.”

In 1993, when Talbott was nominated by President Clinton as Ambassador at Large and Special Adviser to the Secretary of State on the new Independent States (of the former Soviet Union), Senator John McCain took to the Senate floor to declare that, despite Talbott being a close friend and personal pick of the President’s, “I cannot in good conscience vote to confirm his appointment.”

McCain said that Talbott, as a writer for Time magazine and a commentator, had been guilty of making “mistaken observations” and suggesting “flawed policy solutions” on the matter of whether Russia “will evolve peacefully and democratically, collapse into chaos, or return to totalitarianism, be it Communist or fascist.”

McCain noted that Talbott opposed all of the Reagan initiatives, including deployment of missiles to Europe and the Strategic Defense Initiative, which had kept Europe free from Soviet control and eventually resulted in the demise of the Soviet empire. McCain said that “it would require many more hours for me to cite all the examples of mistakes and inconsistencies upon which Mr. Talbott bases his reputation as a Soviet expert.”

However, on April 2, 1993, Talbott was confirmed by the Senate to this post by a Yea-Nay Vote of 89-9. One of his leading Senate backers was Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar. The nine voting against Talbott were Craig (R-ID), Faircloth (R-NC), Gorton (R-WA), Helms (R-NC), Kempthorne (R-ID), Lott (R-MS), McCain (R-AZ), Smith (R-NH), and Wallop (R-WY).

On February 22, 1994, again with Lugar’s vigorous support, Talbott was confirmed by the Senate by a Yea-Nay Vote of 66-31 to the post of Deputy Secretary of State. Once again, McCain voted against him.

While critical of the George W. Bush Administration, Talbott hosted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a May 2007 meeting of the International Advisory Council of Brookings. In his book, he gives credit to Rice for “moderating the tone and substance” of policy coming from the Bush White House in the president’s second term.

Talbott’s book, The Great Experiment, not only ignores the role of Soviet spy Alger Hiss in founding the U.N. but describes the production of the U.N. Charter as a “very public American project.” He thanks George Soros and Walter Isaacson, formerly of Time but now with the Aspen Institute, for their input on his manuscript.
Talbott also gives thanks to convicted document thief Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton’s national security adviser who now advises Hillary’s presidential campaign; Soros associate Morton Halperin, formerly of the ACLU; Javier Solana of the European Union; and Bill Clinton, “for helping me better to understand several aspects of his view of the world and America’s role in it.”

A close personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Talbott is described in the Comrade J book as having been “a special unofficial contact” of the Russian intelligence agency, the SVR, when he was Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration. Talbott had been in charge of Russian affairs.

“Inside the SVR, that term was used only to identify a top-level intelligence source who had high social and/or political status and whose identity needed to be carefully guarded,” the book says. On the same level of interest was Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, a communist “recruited by the KGB during the Khrushchev era” who continued to work for the Russians after the Soviet collapse, the book says. He, too, was a “special unofficial contact.”

Talbott was allegedly manipulated and deceived by Russia’s then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Georgi Mamedov, who was “secretly working” for Russian intelligence, the book alleges. The book, however, does not make the specific charge that Talbott was recruited as a Russian spy or was a conscious agent of the Russian regime.

The book cites Talbott as an “example of how a skilled intelligence agency could manipulate a situation and a diplomatic source to its advantage without the target realizing he was being used for intelligence-gathering purposes.” It says Mamedov was “instructed” by the SVR to ask specific questions to get information about certain matters.

The book says that Talbott was so compromised by his relationship with Mamedov that the FBI asked Secretary of State Madeleine Albright not to share information with Talbott about an espionage investigation at the State Department because Mamedov might learn about it and tip off Russian intelligence. Earley says he confirmed this account but that Albright has refused to discuss the incident.

The book cites a House of Representatives report, released in September 2000, which found that the Clinton Administration and Talbott in particular had excused the actions of the Russian government and had failed to promote democracy and free enterprise there.

Earley’s book itself discusses how, during the mid 1990s, Talbott, State Department spokesman Mike McCurry, and President Clinton himself echoed Russian propaganda that justified Russian attacks on Chechnya. This “delighted the propagandists inside the SVR,” which claimed credit” for what the U.S. officials had said, the book says.

It seems that Talbott has a tendency, which continues to the present day, of whitewashing the Russian regime.

In congressional testimony just last October on U.S.-Russian relations, Talbott attacked the Bush Administration for withdrawing from the ABM treaty, urged Russian membership in the World Trade Organization, and advocated more negotiations and agreements with Russia over nuclear arms. The U.S. has “set a bad example” for the Russians in foreign affairs, Talbott said.

With all of these high-powered connections, the story about Talbott being used by the Russians seems to be a story worth reporting or commenting on. However, if the media examine the charges against Talbott, they might have to deal with other evidence and information in the book about how spies for the Soviet intelligence service manipulated the U.S. media.

The book, for instance, explains how the Soviet KGB peddled charges that deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons to Europe in the 1980s might lead to their use and a “nuclear winter” or climate crisis for the world. The book says the story was cooked up by the KGB and fed to the Western world by anti-nuclear activists such as Carl Sagan, who penned an article on the topic for the Council on Foreign Relations journal Foreign Affairs. The book notes that Sagan later appeared on the ABC television network to talk about the subject.

Tretyakov says he discovered “dozens of case studies” of the KGB using “propaganda and disinformation to influence public opinion” in the West.
A prominent journalist himself at one time, Talbott achieved notoriety for writing a July 20, 1992, Time column, “The Birth of the Global Nation,” saying that in the next century “nationhood as we know it will be obsolete,” that we will all some day become world citizens, and that wars and human rights violations in the 20th century had clinched “the case for world government.” This reflects the views of the pro-world government World Federalist movement.

“The piece made me briefly popular with foreign policy liberals and, not so briefly, a target of brickbats from the right,” he says in his book. He acknowledges that his parents were members of the World Federalist Movement (they were also “active in the internationalist wing of the Republican Party in the late forties and early fifties “) and that he had a dog growing up known as “Freddie,” which was short for World Federalists. The World Federalist Movement collaborated with Soviet front groups such as the Soviet Peace Committee during the Cold War and tried to avoid scrutiny from anti-communist congressional committees after World War II.

In one of his first major media appearances after his selection as Brookings president, on the Charlie Rose program, he was identified in promotional material as a World Federalist. But this designation doesn’t appear in the official biography on the Brookings website.

Talbott’s global left-wing vision was endorsed personally by President Clinton, who had sent a June 22, 1993, letter to the World Federalist Association (WFA) when it gave Talbott its Norman Cousins Global Governance Award. In the letter, Clinton noted that Cousins, the WFA founder, had “worked for world peace and world government” and that Talbott was a “worthy recipient” of the award. Talbott and Bill Clinton became friends when they were both Rhodes Scholars.

Hillary Clinton, who has been friends with Talbott since their days together at Yale University, gave a videotaped address to the WFA in 1999 on the occasion of the group giving former anchorman of the CBS Evening News Walter Cronkite its global governance award. She praised Cronkite’s work. For his part, Cronkite declared that “we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government” and America must “yield up some of our sovereignty.”

For Gary Shteyngart, Russia is a Dead Country

Courier International reports:

For Gary Shteyngart, Russia is a dead country

Gary Shteyngart, an American writer with Russian origins, has just published a satirical novel about Russia, Absurdistan. Interviewed buy Antonio Lozano, he takes a pessimistic view of his country. “Today Russia is nothing but a gigantic natural gas and oil supplier. It is a dead country. It has a very low birth rate for one thing. And yet in terms of culture, it has the best prose of the19th century, without which contemporary literature cannot be understood. … When Absurdistan was published in Russia, I was called a traitor to the nation, on the Untied States’ pay-roll, but at the same time, several critics said, ‘We live in Absurdistan!’ … [Satire] has always been the best political weapon, since Jonathan Swift, and then Gogol, my reference. And it continues to be, with Vladimir Sorokin in Russia and George Saunders and others in the United States.”

Shteyngart has said: “This is a reality book, and the reality is that we are becoming Absurdistan with each passing day. Look, you have a government that spies on its own citizens, is basically an oil kleptocracy, the government serves the oil interest, just the way it does in Russia.”