FRIDAY OCTOBER 17 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: “Elections” in Russia
(2) EDITORIAL: The Man Behind the Curtain
(3) An Assault on Politkovskaya’s Attorney!
(4) The Kremlin’s Jackboots, Marching against Oborona
(5) Edward Lucas: “I told you so.”
(6) Vladimir Putin, the Thug Behind the Myth
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“Elections” in Russia
Surely the most telling indicator of the barbaric depths to which Vladimir Putin’s KGB regime has driven Russia is the plain impossibility of using normal democratic terminology to describe his regime. One must use quotation marks when referring to “president” Putin and “prime minister” Medvedev since not only were their elevations to these posts shamelessly rigged but nobody has any real idea which job either man is doing, not even in regard to the management of Russia’s economic catastrophe. It’s quite convenient for both, of course, since that means it is impossible to apportion blame when their policies fail disastrously, as for example when we watch the Russian stock market continue to slip beneath the waves despite their massive campaign to artificially inflate its value with government purchases.
And above all, though, one must use quotation marks when referring to “elections” in Russia, as last weekend’s local polls across the country showed so horrifyingly.
The Man behind the Curtain
A little dog called “bourse” has snuck up behind the Wizard of the Kremlin and pulled back the secret curtain to reveal the little man behind it. Suddenly, the world sees a very different Vladimir Putin, stripped of his illusions and seeming very ordinary indeed.
The most crucial reality underlying the recent collapse of the Russian stock market is the implication for economic growth. Economist Konstantin Sonin says: “It appears that the healthy economic growth that Russia has enjoyed for the past seven years will soon come to an end. The Kremlin’s efforts to stimulate the economy by increasing government spending will only create an illusion of growth, which means that when this temporary windfall wears off, there will be a sharp economic decline. ” Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin predicts 2009 growth will fall by over 20% compared to this year.
The reason for this is obvious.
The Kremlin still fears mighty Anna
Paul Goble reports:
Two days before she was slated to appear at a preliminary hearing on the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, Karinna Moskalenko, who is serving as the lawyer for the family of the deceased and is currently in France, discovered that someone had placed a large quantity of mercury in her car in an apparent effort to poison her and her family. She and the members of her family are in satisfactory condition but will have to undergo treatment, Novaya Gazeta editor Sergey Sokolov said in an article posted on his newspaper’s website late last night. French police, he continued, are investigating the case at the present time.
It started out like this: A young woman holds a sign which says that a march against the military draft should have occurred on that spot on that day
Oborona reports (staff translation, corrections welcome):
On October 12th in St. Petersburg’s Victory Park Oborona activists Maria Govorova and Daria Kostromina were arrested for standing with signs protesting the cancellation of a protest march against the military draft.
Edward Lucas, writing in the Financial Times:
When I first published The New Cold War last February, many contested my title. But what once seemed eccentric now looks mainstream. Relations between the west and Russia have entered a period of extraordinary mistrust and mutual disdain. Indeed, after the conflict in Georgia, the description “cold war” risks looking like an understatement. Russia has shown that it is prepared to use military force against another country; the west has shown that it will not fight and will merely respond with a token protest. Some in the European Union, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, may see the Kremlin-dictated truce that stopped the fighting (though not the ethnic cleansing, which continues apace) as a triumph. From Russia’s point of view, the lesson of the Georgian adventure is simple: we got away with it.
News last week that a Russian nuclear bomber simulated an attack on a city in northern England, combined with the biggest military manoeuvres since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the dispatch of a Russian naval squadron to the Caribbean, raise two pressing questions: what is Russia up to and what should we do in response?
Robert Amsterdam translates an op-ed from the German newspaper Die Welt that tells the reals story of Vladimir Putin, the “problem kid and street hoodlum.”
A washing machine. That is all that Vladimir Putin, 37 years old at the time, had to show as the fruit of his labors from his KGB career. Alright, let’s not be unfair. He had also scratched together enough money to buy a Volga. The washing machine was a gift, however. It was a modest present from Putin’s German neighbor in the Stasi building where he lived. Today Putin no longer drives a Volga, but rather an Audi with BMW engine and a license plate that seems to sneer: 007. In the James Bond novels by Ian Flemings the double zero is the symbol for the license to kill. There is no doubt that Putin has made generous use of that right, but we will return to that in a moment. First, back to the washing machine. It doesn’t really fit what one would imagine for a top agent. And anyway, (with all due respect to the Saxons) Dresden?! Why didn’t the KGB heads send Putin to Berlin, on the front lines of the Cold War? Why not to West Germany, to see the whites of the class enemy’s eyes? Couldn’t it be that Putin (a washing machine!) was more of a modest secret service agent, a bland civil servant.