Daily Archives: September 8, 2008

September 10, 2008 — Contents

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 10 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  Russian Roulette

(2)  Exploding 10 Myths about Russia

(3)  Putin, Unhinged

(4)  One Picture is Worth a Thousand Screams

(5)  Putin and “Greater Russia”

(6)  Panicked Investors Flee Putin’s Russia in Droves

(7)  Ah, the Glory of Russian Sport!

(8) Russia’s “Little Brother” Proves its Lineage

NOTE:  Check out the new website SOS Georgia, dedicated to documenting Russian imperialism and aggression in the former Soviet republic. They post, for example, YouTube video of the human chain protest demonstration.  We have reason to believe that William Dunbar, who we just wrote about being expelled from Russia Today, will soon be writing for them.

NOTE:  The Economist is holding an online debate over whether the West is being assertive enough in responding to Russian aggression in Georgia. Cast your vote now!

EDITORIAL: Russian Roulette

EDITORIAL

Russian Roulette

“Let him first respect his own signature.”

That was French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, talking last Saturday at a meeting of the European Union in Avignon, France.  He was talking about the “president” of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, calling him worse than a liar, someone who signed a formal written promise and then broke it.  Kouchner says that Medevedev has violated at least half of the key terms he agreed to in a France-brokered ceasefire which sought to resolve the Georgia crisis.  For a diplomat from any country, much less France, to use language this stunningly tough (this, indeed, larussophobian) is sure and certain proof of just how utterly Russian foreign policy has come a cropper.  Even though Russia hasn’t used nearly as much military force in Georgia as the U.S. did in Iraq, and hasn’t deposed the country’s ruler as the U.S. did, the world’s reaction has been wholly different. Russia has been villified and condemned, and now stands in exactly the position it wished to place the U.S. in when it opposed U.S. action.  This is neo-Soviet failure, laid bare.

Writing in the Moscow Times on Monday Richard Hainsworth, CEO of RusRating, a Moscow-based credit rating agency, scathingly condemned the barbaric behavior of the Russian government during the Georgia crisis.  He began this way:

When Russian troops moved into Georgia, foreign investors moved out and the Russian market plummeted. When U.S. troops moved into Iraq, foreign investors hesitated but the U.S. market barely blipped. Is this a double standard? Not really.

Why not?  Because of simple fact that all the world, but not Russia, clearly understands.  As Hainsworth puts it: “Russia’s actions in Georgia were unpredictable and unexpected. Its aims and goals — starting with official pronouncements and ending with its actions on the ground –were difficult to disentangle.”  In other words, the manner in which the U.S. and Russian governments behave is as different as night and day. Hainsworth explains:

Whatever the reasons or motivations for Russia’s invasion into the sovereign territory of another country, investors were not prepared for this unpleasant surprise. Their investment models did not include this factor. When U.S. troops go anywhere, they are accompanied by journalists, news conferences and public warnings. Investors may not like a military conflict and they may be severely damaged by it, but they are prepared.

Russia hides from the truth.  It lies, and it gets caught in lies.  People who have money on the line don’t like this kind of behavior.  They don’t mind the use of military force, they understand its going to happen.  But they want it to be done in a manner that is predictable and reasonable, mature and responsible.  For all the criticism of U.S. president George Bush, as the American saying goes “money talks and B.S. walks.”  The international markets had no real problem with the Iraq invasion, but they were appalled by what Russia did in Georgia because Russian actions made it clear:  Today it’s Georgia, tomorrow it’s you.

As MT columnist Alexei Bayer has written: “Mark Twain remarked that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot. If so, recent events in Russia are starting to rhyme with some of the worst pages of the country’s history.”

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Newsweek Explodes 10 Myths About Putin’s Russia

Writing in Newsweek magazine Denis MacShane, a Labour M.P. for Rotherham and a former Europe minister, brutally explodes 10 myths about Putin’s Russia:

Far from being a mystery and an enigma—to use Churchill’s language—today’s Russia now stands revealed as a bully, wrapped in nationalism and cloaked with its leader’s arrogance. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s adventure in Georgia has produced shock and awe at the sight of tanks, planes and warships mobilized against a small neighbor. But Russia has always been a great mythmaker—from setting up Potemkin villages in the 18th century to fomenting great fear that Sovietism would conquer the world after 1945. Here are 10 of the biggest myths about today’s Russia:

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Putin, Unhinged

An editorial in the Boston Globe, headlined “Putin’s Gang Loses its Grip on Reality” (ouch! what a double zinger!) shows that what Russia considered an act of strenth has actually shown the world truly pathetic Russian weakness.

Judging by what they’re saying about Georgia, Russia’s leadership is becoming increasingly disconnected from reality.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said his defense analysts had concluded that “someone in the United States created this conflict on purpose to stir up the situation for one of the candidates” for the presidency. He did not say which one. And now, military spokesman Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn says Russian forces have proof of U.S. involvement – a passport, found in a Georgia outpost, of one Michael Lee White, an English teacher in China who says he was in Texas when Russia invaded Georgia last month.

White said he accidentally left his passport on a Moscow-New York plane three years ago. The Wall Street Journal says White’s account stood up at every point it could check.

It’s absurd. Covert operatives never carry passports in the field; when they do carry passports, they support whatever identity the operative has assumed. Far more likely is that Russian authorities simply added White’s old passport to the stash they keep for their own dirty tricks.

Don’t the Russians have an embassy in Washington that reports on American opinion? Any candidate suspected of ginning up a war for the sake of popularity would lose votes by the ton and face questions about his sanity.

Putin has complained about the presence of what he said were too many Western warships in the Black Sea: one Polish, one Spanish, one German and two from the United States, which carried aid to Georgia’s Black Sea ports.

That appears to be under the limits of the 1936 Montreux Convention governing the use of the Black Sea by countries that do not border it. We have not heard Putin mention Montreux. (Turkey refused to let U.S. hospital ships enter the Black Sea on the grounds that they exceeded the Montreux tonnage limits. The United States never signed the convention but has promised to abide by it.)

This may not be Putin’s best argument. Russia keeps 40 warships in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol, and in the past has violated Montreux by sending aircraft carriers from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. But it takes a realist to recognize effective arguments.

One Picture is Worth a Thousand Screams

Putin and “Greater Russia”

Jeremy Putley tips La Russophobe to the following item in the Financial Times that puts Vladimir Putin’s KGB regime squarely in the crosshairs.  Two years ago, Putley defined the “Putin Doctrine” as follows:

The collapse of the USSR had been a catastrophe; only one thing could be worse, and that was a similar dismemberment of the Russian Federation, with constituent states seceding one after another. Putin and his advisers concluded that regardless of any other consideration the risk of such a break-up justified extreme measures to prevent it” and so it was driven by a “territorial imperative” in which “the ends justify the means ­– any means at all, including all-out war such as was launched in Chechnya by Vladimir Putin in 1999 as prime minister and then carried on by him as president. The faking of elections is a trivial crime by comparison with what preceded them, but they are in an unwavering continuum. There is nothing enigmatic or hard to understand about Putinism.” I think these observations stand the test of time. 

And now we see that doctrine horribly realized before our gaping eyes! Here’s the FT response:

We need to get this straight. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has invaded a neighbour, annexed territory and put in place a partial military occupation. It seeks to overthrow the president of Georgia and to overturn the global geopolitical order. It has repudiated its signature on a ceasefire negotiated by France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and disowned its frequent affirmations of Georgia’s territorial integrity. Most importantly: all of this is our fault.

The “our” in this context, of course, refers to the US and the more headstrong of its European allies such as Britain. If only Washington had been nicer to the Russians after the fall of the Berlin Wall. If only the west had not humiliated Moscow after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Surely we can see now what a provocation it was to allow the former vassal states of the Soviet empire to exercise their democratic choice to join the community of nations? And what of permitting them to shelter under Nato’s security umbrella and to seek prosperity for their peoples in the European Union? Nothing, surely, could have been more calculated to squander the post-cold-war peace.

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Panicked Investors Flee Putin’s Russia in Droves

The Guardian reports:

For Russia’s leadership, it seemed everything had gone right. In three weeks, the country had invaded Georgia, crushed its military and defied international opinion by recognising the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Western threats came to nothing. Russia’s attack on Georgia went unpunished.

But victory has been undermined by an alarming flight of capital. Analysts estimate that, since the war began on August 8, $19bn (£10.7bn) has been withdrawn from the country. The Kremlin is also facing other economic problems. They include a rapid drop in the oil price, which has fallen almost 30% from peaks close to $150 a barrel, and a 9.7% increase in inflation since the start of the year.

Analysts believe the war could become a catalyst for a more profound slowdown following at least seven years of unprecedented economic growth. So far the Kremlin has managed to unite Russians in support for the invasion of Georgia. But as the economy cools, the euphoria is wearing off.

“The war in Georgia has been the major driver of the whole thing. Officially capital flight has been $19bn. We estimate it could be $20bn-$25bn,” said Vladimir Osakovsky, a Moscow-based analyst at UniCredit.

“For most of this year we were viewed as a safe haven. Capital was flowing into Russian markets and into Russian funds. We have lost this safe-haven sense.”

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