WEDNESDAY JULY 9 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Reading Vladimir Putin’s Mind
(2) EDITORIAL: Russia Through the Looking Glass
(3) Another Original LR Translation: Lonely Russia
(4) Aron on the Putin Implosion
(5) Russia is being Rejected Across Post-Soviet Space
(6) Wimbledon Wrapup: More Russian Humiliation
NOTE: In a thrilling development we’ve already reported, Barack Obama launched an indirect attack on Putin’s authority by giving an interview to firebrand opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta which was published on the first day of his talks with the Kremlin this week, and announcing he will meet with Boris Nemtsov and Garry Kasparov. At the same time, he’s launched a direct assault on Putin’s authority, publicly saying he’s obsolete and an anachronism and indicating he will circumvent Putin with appeals to Medvedev and the people of Russia. Bravo, Mr. President. Now we want to see you carry this diplomacy through into actual policy.
NOTE: Today we offer the work of two careful Russia scholars, Aron and Shevtsova, the latter translated by Dave Essel from the Russian press, exposing the failure of Putin’s domestic and foreign policy. These come as a perfect bulwark for the barrage of editorials we launched at Putin in our last issue.
Reading Vladimir Putin’s “Mind”
It’s quite beautiful, really, if you think about it.
There’s this guy, this American, Pavel Klebnikov. He’s writing all these nasty stories about corruption in my Kremlin, and so forth. You tell them to stop, but they won’t listen of course, these Americans. They think they’re invulnerable.
So, of course, I have to kill him, and I do. And you might think that would be risky for me, but surprisingly it’s just the opposite. Because here’s what I do.
Russia, Through the Looking Glass
Something very strange, something that ought to make the Kremlin’s blood run cold (well, colder) has been happening recently in Russia. The price of oil has been rising, but the stock market has been falling. That’s not supposed to happen.
Not Impressed by Power: How Russia Was Humiliated
Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate, Carnegie Moscow Center
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
The following is an extract, published in Novaya Gazeta, from Shevtsova’s new book – “Lonely Power: Why Russia Didn’t Become the West and Why She Has Difficulties With It” – about the the whys and wherefores of Russia’s foreign policies today.
Russia’s élite has managed to do the impossible – it has actually turned the chip on its collective shoulder into a survival plan and convinced society at large that its fears are their fears, giving birth to a new anti-Western consensus that supports the monopoly of power. Instead of national unity in the name of development, we have substituted status quo maintenance by toeing to the line “Who Are We Friends Against?” Strangely, a number of clever and, at first sight, liberally inclined people have come over to this cause and become defenders of the system.
What is the West guilty of in relation to Russia? That it, assert these defenders, humiliated Russia in the 1990s, forcing the country to make unilateral concessions and now a) does not want to accept it as “power centre” and b) wants to re-write the rules of the game that came into force after the collapse of the USSR. And that is why, they say, relations have taken a sudden turn for the worse.
AEI scholar Leon Aron, writing on Foreign Policy‘s website (and citing the Nemtsov White Paper which this blog translated into English):
Early last year, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov published a report titled “Putin. Itogi,” or “Putin. The Results.” It was a well-documented, comprehensive, and absolutely damning critique of the corruption, authoritarianism, and general dysfunction of what they called rezhim Putina, or “Putin’s regime.” Most revealing was their economic argument: After eight years of Vladimir Putin’s centralizing of the government and the economy, as well as the bureaucratic incompetence and cronyism his policies fostered, Russia had squandered the unique chance at modernization offered by the flush years of the early 2000s. Their conclusion: “The situation could be changed. But the current Russian authorities are neither responsible nor professional nor honest and, as such, cannot initiate change. The situation in Russia will change only when the Russians take the fate of their country in their own hands.”
The New York Times documents the relentless foreign policy failure of the Putin regime:
This was supposed to be Russia’s round in the battle over its backyard. All year, despite its own economic spasms, Moscow has earmarked great chunks of cash for its impoverished post-Soviet neighbors, seeking to lock in their loyalty over the long term and curtail Western influence in the region.
But the neighbors seem to have other ideas. Belarus — which was promised $2 billion in Russian aid — is in open rebellion against the Kremlin, flaunting its preference for Europe while also collecting money from the International Monetary Fund. Uzbekistan joined Belarus in refusing to sign an agreement on the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces, an idea Moscow sees as an eventual counterweight to NATO.
Once again, Russian women humiliated themselves at a grand-slam tennis tournament. Russia’s so-called “number one” player was by far the worst offender, so unspeakably wretched that she made the whole national tennis program look entirely fraudulent — the second time she’d done so in as many months.
Russian #1 Dinara Safina has now appeared in the finals of two grand slam events this year and the semifinals of the third, and embarrassed herself all three times. She won three of 15 games played at the Australian Open final, six of 18 games played at the French Open final, and an utterly pathetic one of 13 games played at the Wimbledon semifinal. 46 total games played against three different opponents, and so-called “world #1” Safina was only able to win ten of them, less than a quarter of the total. And six of those ten games came from a woeful, awful fellow Russian. In 28 games against non-Russians, Safina won only four, an utterly humiliating one-seventh share.
The performance of the other Russians at Wimbledon, though, was hardly much better.
“I agree with President Medvedev when he said that ‘freedom is better than the absence of freedom’. I see no reason why strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law cannot be included as part of our ‘reset’ in relations. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama to the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta in an interview (Russian version) the paper has published just as he opens talks with the Kremlin
Other Russia is reporting that Obama intends to meet with opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov and Garry Kasparov (who is crowing with in-your-face jubiliation). The combination of the interview and the meeting make one very bitter pill for Vladimir Putin to swallow. For the first time since we started blogging about Russia, we are excited about the country’s future in a positive way. Go, Obama, go!
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