WEDNESDAY APRIL 15 CONENTS
WEDNESDAY APRIL 15 CONENTS
Able to Leap Tall Russians
Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Mikheil Saakashvili!
In Russia, when thousands want to march against the president, their leaders don’t even make it to the meeting place. Vladimir Putin has them arrested before they ever get there, and then his stormtroopers crush the rank and file, as they did just last weekend in Vladivostok. Once, Putin went so far as to draft Oleg Kozlovsky, one of the lead organizers, into the armed forces in order to block his participation. Over and over, those who most staunchly criticize the Moscow Kremlin (from Starovoitova and Politkovskaya to Litvinenko and Markelov) have been brutally shot and killed. There is not even one such instance under Saakashviili, who has no connection to the secret police where Putin spent his entire career.
In Georgia, by contrast, they simply march, and live to tell the tale. Saakashvili’s only response is to call elections — real elections, with opposition candidates supported aggressively by Russia — and win them over and over, exposing Russian power as inherently laughable. No wonder Putin hates this heroic Georgian patriot so much.
In Russia, the economy is in freefall, shrinking at least 7% in the first quarter of this year. Georgia, by contrast, expects 3-4% economic growth this year, up from 2% growth last year under Saaksashvili’s leadership. Russia did better than Georgia in 2008 but Georgia, of course, didn’t have to overcome the obstacle of being invaded by a country ten times its size and having a huge part of its territory lopped off, as Georgia did, and Georgia doesn’t have any of the fossil fuel wealth by which Russia is blessed. What would have become of the Russian economy last year if, in addition to all the other horror, it had been invaded by China? We don’t dare imagine. In 2007, Georigan ecnomic growth was an amazing 12%. One could almost think that the Kremlin decided to attack because it was the only way it could think of to stop Saakashvili’s economic juggernaut.
Russia’s Breathtaking Gas Hypocrisy
One of those truly amazing moments in the annals of Russian hypocrisy occurred last week, a demonstration of such flagrant two-faced dishonesty as only the Russians can produce.
No sooner had “prime minister” Vladimir Putin expressed outrage over Ukraine daring to import less gas from Russia than expected than Putin himself was infuriating Turkmenistan by refusing their gas shipments to Russia. According to the Turkemen, in their case Russia’s action resulted in a massive explosion at a terminal that was not prepared to have gas flows back up so unexpectedly, Russia having given no warning of its actions. Russia threatened to fine Ukraine for not buying enough; it didn’t offer to pay a fine to Turkmenistan, of course.
Neo-Soviet Russia Lashes out at the Internet
It was almost as if the Kremlin wanted to make neo-Soviet moron Kirill Pankratov look foolish.
Last week, just as Panratov was babbling insipidly about the freedom of the Russian Internet, Russia “president” Dima Medvedev was lashing out at foreign investors in Russian cyberspace, calling them a threat to Russian security. It was the classic stuff of neo-Soviet paranoia, laid bare for all to see.
Newsweek‘s Anna Nemtsova interviews Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili:
Nemtsova: Who wants your resignation?
Saakashvili: Mostly unemployed people. We fired about 250,000 people as a result of our reforms. A big percentage of these people have not managed to find themselves in the new economy. Fighting corruption and crime, we put thousands of people in jail. In Tbilisi alone we convicted 8,000 people; all of their relatives are outside today, asking me to resign.
What is the most painful part of the criticism?
I am not hurt by the criticism in Georgia, as I am hearing it from two opposition TV channels all day long. I did not expect the West to put all the relationships with us on hold while waiting for this revolution. An official delegation from France decided to postpone their visit. A Turkish company moved a scheduled contract signing until after April 9, and an Arab company until April 12. What is the matter with these people? Do we stop going to Paris or Strasbourg during their street protests?
Letters in Bottles reports on how Europe, in characterstically craven fashion, is exposing itself to the weaponization of Russian energy resources:
The gradual Russian seizure of control of oil and natural gas routes from Central Asia to Europe has been a pet concern of mine in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian war last summer. It is quite clear to me that the move had two intentions: to destabilize the most democratic country in the region in an effort to increase Moscow’s control there, and to send a warning to energy producers in the region to transit their oil and natural gas supplies through Russia (rather than the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan route through Georgia and Turkey).
Yesterday proved that Russia’s strategy is working beautifully. Arzu at Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines gives it to us straight: