Daily Archives: September 3, 2008

Special Extra: Russia’s Economy, Imploding

How low can it go?

How low can it go?

Over the summer, the Russian stock market reached a new high of 2,400 on the RTS index.  As Vladimir Putin’s crazily provocative statements about a major steelmaker reverberated through the markets, they began to plunge, so that by the time of the Georgia invasion Russia’s markets had lost a jolting 25% of their total value — and this despite historical highs on the price of Russian crude oil.

Then came the even crazier Georgia assault, and the markets plumbed new depths, sinking to a shocking valley below 1600, a startling loss of 800 points or one-third the total value of the summer high.

Finally last week the markets seemed to stabilize a bit, and clawed back a hundred points of their historic losses, and yet any hope of sunnier days proved a typical Russian illusion. 

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September 5, 2008 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL: Putin, Unmasked

(2)  Essel on the Russian Bandit State

(3)  Russian Generals run amok in Georgia

(4)  Ingushetia is the New Chechnya

(5)  Putin’s Georgia Crackup

(6)  The Georgia Crackdown – in Russia!

(7)  Georgia Fractures Urkaine’s Pro-Russia “Party of Regions”

NOTE: We feature three separate entries today (#4, 6 and 7) highlighing the devastating consquences of Vladimir Putin’s failed imperialist adventure in Georgia within Russia itself and its wider interests in the region.  Russians are losing even more of their limited freedom, pro-Russia political parties are being fractured and separatists are being encouraged to revolt. And it’s all due to the brilliant leadership of Mr. Putin! What a man!

EDITORIAL: Vladimir Putin, Unmasked at Last


Vladimir Putin, Unmasked at Last

We confess that, though we have been predicting it for years now, it has happened sooner and more spectacularly than any of us dared dream. 

Vladimir Putin has been unmasked and stands naked before the world. The $1 billion aid package for Georgia that the U.S. government has just announced is unmistakable proof that the world now clearly sees Putin for what he is:  evil incarnate.

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Essel on the Bandit Bully

Beware the Bandit Bully

by Dave Essel

Beware the Russian bandit bully – he always was one and always will be unless properly slapped down.

As the EU gets its talking shop into gear – I fear mainly to settle on some minimum of actions against Russia for its behaviour in Georgia that can just about be spun to the public as ‘principled’ – I find myself this Sunday reading a superb new book about the fate of the several thousand Americans left stranded in the Soviet Union of the 1930s. They had gone there – some out of their misconceived socialist convictions, others, misled by an irresponsible press corps that failed to inform them properly, to escape the Depression and find employment. Of course, absent serious a serious taking of positions by their country, all but a tiny few were arrested, tortured, and died in the Gulag.

Their detailed story is to be found in The Forsaken – An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia by Tim Tzouliadis (Penguin Press, New York, 2008). I highly recommend this book.

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Russian Generals run Amok in Georgia

The Financial Times reports:

As Russian troops advanced further and further into Georgia last month, some officials within the Kremlin became concerned that frontline officers, or even the military high command of the general staff, were overstepping the limits of their authority.

At the same time, however, these Russian generals were grumbling to their colleagues that Moscow had undercut them, and they wanted to finish the operation they had started – the destruction of the “aggressor” Georgian army, a mission which a ceasefire signed by Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, on August 12 prevented them from carrying out.

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Ingushetia is the New Chechnya

From the way Russia has behaved in Georgia recently, one would thin it has no breakaway regions of its own to worry about. But that is far from the truth. Paul Goble says that Russia has poured gasoline on the fire in Ingushetia and then thrown in a lighted match:

The opposition in Ingushetia has tried to work within the Russian political system to replace republic head Murat Zyazikov, but now, following the death of a website owner there yesterday from wounds he suffered while detained by Zyazikov’s militia, it has decided that it has no choice but to consider pursing independence for that republic. Even though it has become one of the hottest of the Russian Federation’s “hot spots” in recent months, with disappearances and killings an increasing feature of public life, that North Caucasus republic had been notable for its lack of a serious opposition group interested in pursuing independence.

But now over the last few days, one has begun to crystallize. On Saturday, Ingushetiya.ru reported that the unrecognized People’s Parliament of Ingushetiya Mekhk-Kkhel would meet to discuss beginning to collect signatures calling for independence, after which the site was attacked and has been inaccessible. And on Sunday, after Magomed Yevloyev, the owner of that Internet news portal which Zyazikov has sought to close, died from wounds he received at the hands of the local militia, even the more moderate Ingush opposition leaders have decided to pursue independence, and both the Kremlin and Zyazikov, the Kremlin’s man there, have no one to blame but themselves.

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Putin’s Georgia Crackup

The Carnegie Center’s Nikolai Petrov, writing in the Moscow Times, offers further analysis of Putin’s crackup in Georgia.  Above all, he makes a point we’ve been making here on this blog since our first day, namely that the people of Russia have a share in the blame for their government’s atrocities and must be called to account. This is especially encouraging given that Petrov is a hardcore moderate.  Perhaps the world really is finally catching up with us!

We must pause to note an odd feature of this text.  It’s been edited apallingly badly, as indicated for instance by the two huge errors in just this sentence:  “Recent events underscore that Putin inherited much more from Soviet leader Yury Andropov [‘s] leadership style then [than] he ever did from his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.”  Given this, we find it strange that the key sentence in the text, the last one where Petrov blames the people of Russia, has so little context.  Was some deleted, intentionally or inadvertantly?  The MT, needless to say, like the rest of us is far from perfect.  And it trouble us that we virtually never see a letter to the editor published on the MT’s pages taking issue with the paper’s operation.

The open hostilities of the Georgian war have settled down, but the war of interpretations is still being fought.

The patriotic rhetoric continues against a backdrop of inflammatory and confrontational statements by government leaders. Politicians and analysts claim that no harm will come to the country’s international reputation, that the furor in the West will die down and everything will return to normal relations. But this naive optimism is both groundless and foolish. Russia, Georgia, the Caucasus, the former Soviet republics and the rest of the world will never be the same as they were before the military conflict began on Aug. 8.

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The Georgia Crackdown — in Russia!

Paul Goble explains the Kremlin’s use of the Georgia invasion as a shabby pretext for even more draconian crackdowns on civil soviety in Russia itself:

Moscow’s moves in Georgia are having a profound impact on Russian domestic politics and policies, not only tightening the relationship between Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin but sparking the kind of witch hunts for “a fifth column” that presage even more repression at least in the short term.
The interrelationship between Russia’s foreign and domestic politics and policies has always been closer than many either there or in the West have assumed. And as the fallout from the Georgian events shows, this linkage is now closer than ever before, according to an article in today’s Nezavizimaya gazeta.

Surveying the opinion of the expert community in Moscow, the paper’s Vladimir Razumov argues that many are convinced that Medvedev and Putin responded to the Georgian moves in South Ossetia in the way that they did because the Russian people, increasingly affected by the nationalist rhetoric of the Kremlin, was more than prepared to go along. Initially, he points out, some commentators suggested that Moscow would not respond to Georgia’s action because South Ossetia was not central to the Russian government’s interest in pocketing the profits from the export of oil and gas. Indeed, many felt, there was a sense that any action could put those profits at risk.

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Georgia Fractures Ukraine’s “Party of Regions”

The Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor reports the devastating collateral consequences of Vladimir Putin’s failure in Georgia, here regarding Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions:

The Party of Regions expelled National Security and Defense Council (NRBO) Secretary Raisa Bohatyryova from the party’s senior decision-making body, the Political Council, and from the party itself on September 1. Until being appointed NRBO secretary in December 2007, Bohatyryova had been the leader of the Regions parliamentary faction.The surprise decision quickly followed Bohatyryova’s support for Georgian territorial integrity and NATO membership during a luncheon held three days before at Washington’s Metropolitan Club by the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC). Bohatyryova was on an official visit to the United States from August 24 to 30.

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