WEDNESDAY AUGUST 27 CONTENTS
(6) Stalin and Putin
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 27 CONTENTS
(6) Stalin and Putin
Russia and its Frontiers
by Dave Essel
Back in commie days, I frequently shepherded Soviet officials around London on commercial business. We had found that one good way of ensuring that contracts went smoothly was to make sure that our contracts provided for an inspection visit during the course of the work. The cost to us was of course built in to our prices so it was actually only a matter of finding time for the shepherding. The inspections/acceptances never amounted to more than a quick walk through followed by signing off the appropriate document. [Message to you present-day businessmen: wasn’t bribery cheap in those days?!?!?]
Annals of Russian Sports Humiliation:
A Beijing Olympics Recap
In the months before the Olympics, as we’ve previously reported, Russia made news by winning a European basketball title and reaching the playoffs of a European soccer tournament. Russian fans celebrated as if some new sports era were dawning in Russia, ignoring the feeble nature of its match victories and the fact that their soccer coach was not even a Russian. We took due note of that fact, and wondered if Russia’s “victories” weren’t in fact nothing more than freak occurrences unlikely to be repeated.
So we hardly found it much of a surprise to learn that Russia wasn’t exactly able to keep a good thing going. At the Beijing Olympiad Russia didn’t even send a male or female team to the soccer events and its men’s basketball team went down to utterly humiliating defeat. Russia’s male hoopsters placed fifth out of six teams in their pool group, winning only one game in round-robin play and ahead of only lowly Iran. They ended up being ranked 9th of 12 teams in the competition, excluded from the medal round of competition and bested by the likes of Greece and China, ahead of the likes of Angola.
In other words, by the end of the games Russia appeared to be a total fraud in both the sports where it had claimed alleged glory just months before.
And there was more bad news — much, much more. In fact, that failure was only the tip of the iceberg.
Biden Closes the Book on Russia
On August 12th, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, senator from Delaware and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, published an op-ed in the Financial Times newspaper on the Georgia crisis. The Daily Kos wrote it up the following day, and one of the first commenters stated: “Biden for VP? No thanks.” A second commenter stated: “Biden, why should Russia listen to you? They probably have no [sic] idea who you are. Now shut up. God, I hope obama doesnt [sic] pick him.”
Paul Goble reports on how Russia’s barbaric aggression in Georgia has come back to haunt it in Ukraine:
Having watched Moscow’s moves in Georgia and listened to various Russians suggest that the Crimea, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based, is or should be Moscow’s next target, Ukrainian politicians, diplomats, and foreign policy analysts are discussing the nature and dimensions of the Russian threat and what Kyiv should do to parry it. In addition to Russian actions and threats, this issue has heated up in recent days because of calls by senior Ukrainian officials for Russia to begin preparing to move its fleet out of Sevastopol by or possibly even before 2017, statements that most Russian politicians have refused to take seriously and most military analysts say would be very difficult.
AFP reports that U.S. military surveillance shows that Russia is still fouting the cease-fire agreement it signed more than a week ago and by which it promised to remove its troops from Georgia. AFP quotes a Defense Department spokesman stating: “They are still not living up to the terms of the ceasefire agreement. There continues to be a large presence of Russian forces in Georgia.”
Writing in the Moscow Times Chris Patten, a former EU commissioner for external relations, chairman of the British Conservative Party, the last British governor of Hong Kong and currently chancellor of Oxford University and a member of the British House of Lords, brilliantly excoriates Vladimir Putin’s “Olympics War” and condemns neo-Soviet Russia’s naked aggression:
What does the “Olympics War,” otherwise known as Russia’s invasion of Georgia, really mean? The war itself, of course, was predicable and predicted. Its results are equally clear.
Writing in the New York Times Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Young Stalin and the forthcoming novel Sashenka, warns us of the test we now face from the man who stands “in the shadow of the Red Czar.”
AT the center of Gori, Georgia, where every window has been shattered and Russian T-72 tanks patrol, the marble statue of the world’s most famous Georgian — Josef Stalin — stands gleamingly, almost supernaturally unharmed. As this vicious colonial war turns into an international battle over spheres of influence, Stalin is Banquo at the feast, metaphorically present in the palaces of the Kremlin, the burning houses in the villages, the cabinets of Europe’s eastern capitals.
Today, as far as Moscow is concerned, the Georgian cobbler’s son and Marxist fanatic has been laundered of any traces of Georgia and Marx. He is now a Russian czar, the inspiration for the authoritarian, nationalistc and imperial strains in today’s capitalistic, pragmatic, swaggering Russia. In this crisis, and in who knows how many future ones, Stalin represents empire, prestige, victory.
Writing in the Moscow Times Alexei Bayer (a Russian) offers a fitting epitaph for Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
Post-Soviet Russia is a curious place. It revels in unbridled jingoism that Soviet propaganda would have envied while renaming streets to honor dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. But these may not be so incompatible after all.