Daily Archives: May 18, 2008

May 18, 2008 — Contents


(1) The Sunday Photos

(2) The Sunday Show Trial

(3) The Sunday Confession

(4) The Sunday Tract

(5) The Sunday Funnies

The Sunday Photos: Neo-Soviet Military Edition

Source: Los Angeles Times (click image to play)

The Sunday Confession

Reuters reports:

A prominent member of the youth wing of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party says he has been snorting cocaine and taking ecstasy pills for years, according to an interview published on Thursday.

United Russia, the de facto ruling party, advocates family values and a healthy life style. Its members include many famous sportsmen and showbiz celebrities. “The most terrible period is over now, and I am happy I have mustered up my will (to fight drug addiction),” pop singer Vlad Topalov, 22, told the Moskovsky Komsomolets popular daily. He said he had sniffed cocaine for the last four years.

The peroxide blond heartthrob, one of the best known faces in the pro-Kremlin Young Guard movement, is hugely popular with teenage girls in Russia and other ex-Soviet states. Young Guard leaders could decide to exclude the singer from their ranks because of the interview, a Young Guard activist told the Ekho Moskvy radio station. Topalov said he had suffered temporary kidney failure, fell out with his father and his drug abuse was a reason for the break-up of a popular singing duet.

The Sunday Show Trial

The Moscow Times reports:

A senior federal judge has testified in court that a Kremlin official threatened to derail her career if she did not reverse a ruling handed down against the Federal Property Fund. Yelena Valyavina [pictured], first deputy chairwoman of the Supreme Arbitration Court, told Moscow’s Dorogomilovsky District Court that Valery Boyev, an adviser on personnel appointments in the presidential administration, said she would not be returned to her post if she refused to change her position, Kommersant reported Tuesday.

“I was told unambiguously [by Boyev] that if I wanted to be re-elected [to my position], I’d face problems,” Valyavina testified as a defense witness Monday in a libel lawsuit filed by Boyev against radio news program host Vladimir Solovyov.

On the Solovyiniye Treli program on Serebryany Dozhd radio, Solovyov said there were “no independent courts in Russia,” but there were “courts dependent on Boyev,” Kommersant reported.

In her testimony, Valyavina said Boyev asked her in the fall of 2005 to change her ruling regarding the proper ownership of a share package in Tolyattiazot, the country’s biggest producer of ammonia. She said Boyev made his threat when she refused to comply.
In 1996, the Samara region’s Property Fund sold a 6.1 percent stake in Tolyattiazot to joint Russian-Swiss agricultural company Tafco.

In March 2004, The Federal Property Ministry appealed the deal. After having its first two attempts turned down, a third appellate court ruled that the Tolyattiazot deal should be voided. The Supreme Arbitration Court overturned that ruling in November 2005.

Valyavina could not be reached at her office Tuesday afternoon.

Solovyov’s lawyer, Shota Gorgadze, praised Valyavina for her testimony Tuesday, calling it an “exceptionally courageous and heroic act.”

A source in the presidential administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “the final decision was up to the court.”

The next hearing in Boyev’s libel case is scheduled for May 26, Gorgadze said.

In 2001, then-deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitry Kozak introduced a legal reform program, part of which involved trying to guarantee greater independence for judges, although charges of governmental pressure on judges are made regularly in the legal community.

In a January campaign speech, President Dmitry Medvedev called Russia “a country of legal nihilism” with a “disregard for the law.” He has promised to strengthen the rule of law to fight corruption and to encourage growth.

The Sunday Tract: On Neo-Soviet Ideology

Some people (idiots, mostly) claim that the Russia is different from the USSR in that it lacks ideology. Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writing in the Washington Post, shows that they couldn’t be more wrong.

Ideology matters again. The big development of recent years is the rise not only of great powers but also of the great-power autocracies of Russia and China. True realism about the international scene begins with understanding how this unanticipated shift will shape our world.

Many believe that when Chinese and Russian leaders stopped believing in communism, they stopped believing in anything. They had become pragmatists, pursuing their own and their nation’s interests. But Chinese and Russian rulers, like past rulers of autocracies, do have a set of beliefs that guide their domestic and foreign policies. They believe in the virtues of strong central government and disdain the weaknesses of the democratic system. They believe strong rule at home is necessary if their nations are to be respected in the world. Chinese and Russian leaders are not just autocrats. They believe in autocracy.

And why shouldn’t they? In Russia and China, growing national wealth and autocracy have proved compatible, contrary to predictions in the liberal West. Moscow and Beijing have figured out how to permit open economic activity while suppressing political activity. People making money will keep their noses out of politics, especially if they know their noses will be cut off if they don’t. New wealth gives autocracies a greater ability to control information — to monopolize television stations and control Internet traffic, for instance — often with the assistance of foreign corporations eager to do business with them.

In the long run, rising prosperity may produce political liberalism, but how long is the long run? It may be too long to have strategic or geopolitical relevance.

In the meantime, the power and durability of these autocracies will shape the international system. The world is not about to embark on a new ideological struggle of the sort that dominated the Cold War. But the new era, rather than being a time of common values and shared interests, will be one of growing tensions and sometimes confrontation between the forces of democracy and those of autocracy.

If autocracies have their own set of beliefs, they also have their own set of interests. China’s and Russia’s rulers are pragmatic chiefly in protecting their continued rule. Their interest in self-preservation shapes their approach to foreign policy.

Russia is a good example of how a nation’s governance affects its relations with the world. A democratizing Russia, and even Mikhail Gorbachev’s democratizing Soviet Union, took a fairly benign view of NATO and tended to have good relations with neighbors that were treading the same path toward democracy. But Vladimir Putin regards NATO as a hostile entity, calls its enlargement “a serious provocation” and asks “against whom is this expansion intended?” Yet NATO is less provocative and threatening toward Moscow today than it was in Gorbachev’s time.

So what is it that Putin fears about NATO? It is not the military power. It is the democracy.

The post-Cold War world looks different from autocratic Beijing and Moscow than it does from democratic Washington, London, Paris, Berlin or Brussels. The “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, so celebrated in the West, worried Putin because they checked his regional ambitions and because he feared their examples could be repeated in Russia. Even today he warns against “jackals” in Russia who “got a crash course from foreign experts, got trained in neighboring republics and will try here now.”

American and European policymakers say they want Russia and China to integrate into the international liberal order, but it is not surprising if Russian and Chinese leaders are wary. Can autocrats enter the liberal international order without succumbing to the forces of liberalism?

Afraid of the answer, the autocracies are understandably pushing back, with some effect. Autocracy is making a comeback. The modern liberal mind at “the end of history” has trouble understanding the enduring appeal of autocracy in this globalized world. But changes in the ideological complexion of the most influential world powers have always had some effect on the choices made by leaders of smaller nations. Fascism was in vogue in Latin America in the 1930s and ’40s partly because it seemed successful in Italy, Germany and Spain. The rising power of democracies in the last years of the Cold War, culminating in communism’s collapse after 1989, contributed to the global wave of democratization. The rise of two powerful autocracies may shift the balance back again.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, welcomes the return of ideological competition. “For the first time in many years,” he boasts, “a real competitive environment has emerged on the market of ideas” between different “value systems and development models.” And the good news, from the Kremlin’s perspective, is that “the West is losing its monopoly on the globalization process.”

All this comes as an unwelcome surprise to a democratic world that believed such competition ended when the Berlin Wall fell. It’s time to wake up from the dream.

The Sunday Funnies

Translation: Medvedev (whose name means “bear” in Russian) is shown as Winnie the Pooh (Vinnie Pookh in Russian) and Putin is apparently piglet holding a shotgun. Putin says: “Don’t worry about getting too high, I have everything under control!”

Source: Ellustrator.