MONDAY JANUARY 12 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Oh, Nobama!
(2) EDITORIAL: ZheZhe on the Brink?
(3) Once again, the OSCE Disappoints on Russia
(4) Happy New Year, Neo-Soviet Russia!
(5) Georgia and the U.S. are Officially Partners
NOTE: LR founder and publisher Kim Zigfeld has broken into yet another major web publication, adding to her portfolio at Pajamas Media (see our header) with a column at the American Thinker. Her opening installment deals with Russia’s catastrophic race violence question. Required reading as always.
Predictable things are starting to happen to the presidency of Barack Obama, which hasn’t even started yet but is already marked by a stunning series of serious setbacks. We hope these will not be an equally predictable distraction from Obama’s essential confrontation with neo-Soviet Russia.
ZheZhe on the Brink?
Our charming hosts here at WordPress appear to have scented blood in the virtual waters. On January 8th they published a post implying that the LiveJournal blog (known as “ZheZhe” in Russia, where it is the leading host of blogs in the country — the New York Times operates a ZheZhe blog onto which it translates some of its stories) is on its last legs, and invited ZheZhe bloggers to transfer their content to WordPress. Two days earlier it had been reported that ZheZhe was laying off at least a fifth of its staff because of incipient financial woes. It is closing down its entire operation and moving its headquarters to Russia, apparently its last bastion of strength.
Let’s be clear: Any manpower or technical resources belonging to ZheZhe that are located in Russia are at risk of being liquidated by the Kremlin at any time. Despite what some say about the vitality of the Russian blogosphere, in fact only about 20% of Russians have Internet access and e-commerce is woefully underdeveloped in the country since credit cards are rare and banks are corrupt and unreliable. Given those facts, its hardly suprising if ZheZhe finds it difficult to sustain itself.
If the Russian blogosphere is serious about speaking truth to power and defending its status as the last vestige of free media in Russia, then it must take immediate action. It must develop ways to raise funds so that it can operate indefinitely, and it must find ways to house server data far outside the reach of the Kremlin’s clan of KGB spies. If this isn’t done, and done quickly, we will wake up one morning and read that the Kremlin has simply pulled the plug on the Russian blogosphere.
We’ll read about it, but the people of Russia won’t, because state-controlled, neo-Soviet Kremlin TV won’t report it.
The brilliant Vladimir Socor, writing in the Jamestown Monitor’s Eurasia Daily Monitor:
With a sleight of its hand, Russia has run the OSCE out of South Ossetia. The mandate of the OSCE Mission in Georgia expired on January 1, because Russia blocked the routine annual extension of that mandate by the organization. This is only the latest OSCE presence that Russia has terminated with impunity. Previously, it had forced the closure of the OSCE Border Monitoring Operation in Georgia in 2005 and then kicked the OSCE’s election-monitoring arm, ODIHR, out of Russia, ahead of the December 2007 parliamentary elections and the April 2008 presidential elections.
This OSCE Mission’s termination could, however, be a blessing in disguise, if the European Union rises to the occasion and extends its own Monitoring Mission (EUMM) from Georgia’s interior into South Ossetia, filling the vacuum in the OSCE’s wake.
Yuri Zarakhovich, writing in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor:
“A Happy New 1937 [the peak of Stalin’s Great Terror] to you,” Moscow wits quipped on January 1, 2009, while the Putin regime, frightened and incompetent in the face of a mounting systemic crisis, prepared to lock up protesters and squash mass protests with crude force.
Over the last decade, the Russians swapped whatever flimsy freedoms they had for the illusion of stability and prosperity offered by the Putin regime and sustained by high hydrocarbon prices. Now that the prices have dropped and the regime is failing to provide either, the people are beginning to grumble. According to a poll taken from December 12 to 15 by the authoritative Levada Center, 23 percent of the respondents saw protest actions as “quite possible” and 20 percent were ready to join them. Meanwhile, the Social Sentiment Index (SSI, a synthesized index of trends in mass sentiment, which reflects the impact of mass consciousness on the country’s development) dropped by 21 percent from March to December 2008. The Levada Center analysts believe that the rate of this fall is comparable to the worst SSI decline in September 1998, one month after Russia’s financial meltdown (www.levada.ru/indexisn.html).
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (R) and Georgian FM Grigol Vashadze shake hands after signing a bilateral cooperation agreement at the State Department, 9 Jan. 2009
The Voice of America reports that the U.S. is spitting in Vladimir Putin’s eye. Putin sends creaking battle cruisers to Cuba, and Washington sends Condi Rice to ink a pact with Georgia:
The United States and Georgia Friday signed a bilateral charter on strategic partnership aimed at increasing cooperation in defense, trade, energy and other areas. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the deal should advance Georgia’s bid for membership in NATO and other western structures.
State Department officials stress that the charter is a not a mutual defense treaty, but they say it is a highly-visible sign of American support for the Caucuses state in the aftermath of its conflict with Russia last August.