Daily Archives: September 23, 2008

September 26, 2008 — Contents

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 26 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  Of Rats and Ships

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Russia’s Fist in America’s Belly

(3) The Nemtsov White Paper, Part II (Section 1)

(4)  Reading along with Andrew C. Kuchins, Neo-Soviet Bagman

(5)  Aslund on the Russian Wakeup Call

(6)  An Ode to Putin

NOTE:  For those who read Russian, there is a great blog standing up for democracy and freedom in Putin’s neo-Soviet dictatorship called “Human Rights in Russia” (“Права человека в России“) you’ll surely want to check out regularly.

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EDITORIAL: Of Rats and Ships

EDITORIAL

Of Rats and Ships

We continue to be amazed at the extent to which the Russophile rats are leaping off Vladimir Putin’s listing ship of state.  It’s almost enough to make us think we’re not being hard enough on neo-Soviet Russia, that things behind the new iron curtain are worse than even we dare to imagine.

We’ve previously written, for instance, about how Discovery Institute bigwig Bruce Chapman began backing away from the Putin regime after uber-blogger Charles Johnson took him to the woodshed over DI’s pathologically dishonest and warped coverage of the Georgia crisis on Russia Blog.  We can’t prove it, but we believe Chapman has been read the riot act by the conservative donors who support him, and has tried to impose a course correction on Yuri Mamchur, the loose cannon Russian citizen who runs the blog as a pro-Kremlin PR project.  After a relentless barrage of one-sided Kremlin propaganda from Mamchur, Chapman personally entered the fray on Georgia and called Putin “silly” for believing that a U.S.-sponsored plot lay behind the Georgian move into Ossetia.  You can bet that didn’t go down too easy with Mamchur, to say the least.

And then there’s Andreas Umland.

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EDITORIAL: Russia’s Fist in America’s Belly

EDITORIAL

Russia’s Fist in America’s Belly

The major Russian daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda has opened a valuable window into Russian society by creating an English-language version of its website.  A recent article entitled “Russia’s Fist in America’s Belly” (in Russian “«Русский кулак» под брюхом Америки“) goes a long way in illustrating just how seriously we can take the Kremlin’s claims that it wants a peaceful, cooperative relationship with the West.

For the uninitiated, the newspaper Pravda (“Truth”) was of course one of the basic propaganda organs of the USSR.  Along with its counterpart Izvestia (“Information”), these two papers continue operating to this day, without so much as a name change.  That alone should tell you quite a lot about how much has really changed in Russia (an old Soviet joke ran:  “There’s no information in ‘Truth’ and no truth in ‘Information'”).  and Komsomolskaya Pravda is an even more politicized name, since the “komsomol” was the youth indoctrination forum of the Communist Party. It’s as if Germany were still publishing a magazine called “Hitler Youth Life” two decades after the collapse of the Nazi regime.

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The Nemtsov White Paper, Part II: Gazprom (Section 1)

La Russophobe has previously published a brief extract from the second part of the Nemtsov White Paper, dealing with Gazprom, edited by us from the English version that appeared in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. In doing so, we had to rely on NG’s translation of the substance, not an optimal scenario by any means. Now, our translator and columnist Dave Essel has undertaken to provide the entire work in English, as he did for Part I.  Another benefit is that we now republish all Nemtsov’s illustrations, and as before we will publish this material in rolling installments and create an online PDF version, as well as a unified HTML document, after the final installment issues. Here is section 1.

Vladmir Putin: The Bottom Line
Part II – Gazprom

by Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

In February 2008, the authors of the report you are now reading published an independent expert report Putin – The Bottom Line in which they presented their views on what the Russian Federation’s second president had done for Russia. In Putin – The Bottom Line we gave an unflattering but in our view fair evaluation, backed up by facts and figures, of the outcome of Vladimir Putin’s activities for the country – an outcome that is hidden from Russian eyes behind a smokescreen of official propaganda – in such fields as the economy, the army, the pension system, health and education, roads and highways, and others.

A good number of readers rightly pointed out that there was one problem which we had only partially covered – Russia’s energy situation in general and the issue of Gazprom , Russia’s main energy company, in particular.

This was a deliberate omission on our part. We believe that the situation around Gazprom is worthy of individual attention and not something to be covered in just a few paragraphs.

This, firstly, is because Gazprom and what happens within it are of the utmost importance to our country. A second reason is because we have direct, first-hand knowledge of Gazprom’s problems because we were involved with it in our professional lives as former Russian minister of fuel and and energy and deputy minister of energy. Our last reason is that Gazprom has become a sort of personal special project of Putin’s: from the very beginning of his presidency he has carefully nurtured this corporation, appointed people close to him to key posts within it, and overseen its work in detail. Gazprom is one of only a few projects for which Putin can be considered to be personally responsible from the earliest days he was in power. One can, as a result, use it as a measure of the results of Putin’s doings.

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Reading Along with Andrew C. Kuchins, Kremlin Bagman

Scary, no?

Scary, no?

We haven’t done one of our little readalongs for some time now, where we publish somebody’s op-ed column and then comment on it paragraph by paragraph, and we’ve missed them. So let’s pick up where we left off, this time with one Andrew C. Kuchins (pictured, left), director and senior fellow of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writing in the Moscow Times. FYI, Kremlin-sponsored propaganda TV network Russia Today simply adores Mr. Kuchins.  Does the “C” stand for “Chamberlain”? You be the judge, dear reader, you be the judge.  We’ve previously called this nasty little bastard on the carpet for his torrent of pro-Kremlin propaganda.

His column is in standard typeface, our comments follow in bold.

Before heading to Moscow to participate in the recent Valdai Discussion Club, I had the sense that the United States was on the verge of a new era of confrontation with Moscow that could prove far more dangerous and unstable than the previous Cold War. Alliances are more rickety and as the war last month in Georgia proves, communication not always clear with tragic results. Suffice to say that the Valdai meetings did little to alleviate my concerns. The Russian presenters, with the exception of opposition figure Garry Kasparov, were all singing from the same song sheet: “We don’t want a new era of confrontation, but the choice is yours” — the United States’. And from the U.S. side, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a powerful speech on Sept. 18, concluding, “The decision is Russia’s and Russia’s alone.” Obviously both Moscow and Washington have choices, but I have little confidence U.S. leaders will make the right ones that will enhance the security of the United States and Europe, let alone Russia. What Washington needs right now is not megaphone diplomacy with Moscow, but real diplomacy.

So let’s see if we understand. This guy has just come back from Sochi after stuffing his face full of Russian lobsters and caviar and hobnobbing with Vlad the Impaler, and now he’s convinced that all the problems between Russia and America are the latter’s fault. Russians are sweet innocent little babies who only want love and affection, freedom and good will.  Seems like that lobster money was well spent, no?

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Aslund on the Russian Wakeup Call

Anders Aslund, writing in the Moscow Times, delivers the brutal wakeup call to those in the Kremlin who are asleep at the switch (copious amounts of vodka will do that to you):

These are frightful times. The U.S. financial crisis is clearly the worst since the Great Depression. New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini has long forewarned that this crisis was under way. Subprime mortgages were a sham from the outset, and the government should have regulated them — and the derivatives on which they were based — more closely. Moreover, the U.S. Federal Reserve maintained excessively low interest rates for too long, leading to an excessive monetary expansion.

The U.S. financial system had too little capital for the large credits it issued, especially the ones issued by government-sponsored Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The economic boom was too long and magnificent to believe. Booms breed corruption, while recessions strengthen morals. Now, we are waiting for the next shoe to fall. Surprisingly, no hedge-fund failure has been truly spectacular as yet, but some private equity funds are bound to be hit.

Amazingly, forecasts for the U.S. economy for next year are still suggesting growth of 2 percent. That is not likely, however, since the current financial turmoil will inevitably hit the real economy. Both investment and consumption are bound to be constrained as U.S. consumers will try to restore a normal savings ratio, and this will make the economy slump further. A number of large companies in sensitive, cyclical industries such as automobile manufacturing, aviation and construction will probably go under.

On March 26, I wrote a column in this newspaper arguing that Russia was likely to be the safest haven in the event that “the United States approaches a 1929-like depression.” Well, now we are there, but I am no longer convinced that “Russia will most likely suffer the least” from the turmoil.

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Ode to Putin

Blogger Susan Katz Keating offers an ode to Putin:

My favorite international strongman, Vladimir (“I’m in charge here”) Putin, is surely a man of great spirit. I detect in him not just an inner Soviet, but also a Tsarist dreamer, who whiles away his idle hours crafting great visions of renewed empire. What, oh what, could Vlady have in mind now? Perhaps music, in the tradition of Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky or others from the Great Five Russian nationalist composers? In fact, I believe I hear the distant strains of a work in progress: Voyage From Murmansk, in which orchestral tribute is paid to the Russian warships now sailing for Venezuela, accompanied by antisubmarine planes and nuclear subs loaded with live weapons.

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