EDITORIAL: Getting Russia Right


Getting Russia Right

Russia’s best weapon against the West continues to be the West itself.  Our inability to get Russia right, inexcusable when we have so much more information about the country now than in Soviet days, is Vladimir Putin’s only hope to recreate a new USSR in Russia.

But there are signs that, at long last, this is starting to change.  Two Russian academics from the New Economic School blasted the Kremlin over the demise of Sergei Magnitsky in the pages of the Moscow Times earlier this week, and no thinking person can misapprehend their ominous words — words that, we might add, we have been publishing here on this blog for more than three years now.

Sergei Guriev is the Morgan Stanley Professor of Economics and rector of the New Economic School and Aleh Tsyvinsky is a professor at Yale University and the New Economic School.  Originally writing in Vedemosti, they state in regard to the denial of basic medical treatment to Magnitsky:

In this sense, law enforcement officials in Russia employ essentially the same methods as the notorious NKVD did in 1937. Up until last week, we knew that torture was frequently used in the country’s detention centers, but we convinced ourselves that it did not concern us personally. Now, if we are honest with ourselves and our children, we must acknowledge that this problem concerns everyone.

We already knew that it is dangerous to be an opposition politician, an independent journalist or a human rights activist in Russia. We thought that it was safe to stay out of politics and simply work in your chosen profession. At least, that is probably what Magnitsky thought. He did not die at the hands of some unknown hired assassin, but at the hands of the state. This is the same state to which we — including Magnitsky — pay our tax money.

This is not extremism, it is not “russophobia,” it is simply a statement of fact.  Today’s Russia is run by a proud KGB spy and it conducts its business in a way that is in no way different from the way it did so in Soviet times.  The only limitation on Russia’s misconduct is its poverty and lack of organization.  We sounded the warning call about this many years ago. Only now is the world finally waking up to the harsh, burning light of neo-Soviet reality.

Last week, Russian “president” Dima Medvedev gave a speech in which he criticized his own United Russia party for wholesale vote fraud. The speech was misunderstood almost everywhere it was reported in the West.

Western commentators, once again, started jabbering about whether Medvedev was in fact criticizing Putin, trying to separate himself from the Russian dictator, and seeking to implement democratic reforms. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Medvedev’s remarks had two simple meanings.

First and foremost, he was criticizing United Russia not for committing acts of vote fraud, but for being so clumsy and brazen about it, for getting its hand caught in the cookie jar.  Say what you like about them, even the benighted Western media were not fooled by Russia’s most recent elections, which were reported everywhere as being the most corrupt and fraudulent in the nation’s history, a new low in the annals of democratic politics.  The Kremlin was humiliated by this coverage, and it is angry at the local officials who proved incapable of acting with the proper amount of discretion.

But Medvedev had another goal in mind too:  To set the party leaders down a peg. A party that can organize vote fraud as massive and sensational as that which took place in Russia recently can threaten even the gorillas who prowel the Kremlin, and they are afraid. Very afraid.  Just as they were in Soviet times.

Here’s what Guriev and Tsyvinsky have to say about Medvedev:

Magnitsky was a citizen of Russia. We don’t know whether he voted for Medvedev in 2008, but only a few days before Magnitsky died, the president said during his state-of-the-nation address: “In the 21st century, our country once again needs to undergo comprehensive modernization. This will be our first ever experience of modernization based on democratic values and institutions.”  The president probably wanted to highlight the difference between current plans for modernization and Josef Stalin’s ruthless industrialization program. But after learning about Magnitsky’s death, it is difficult to avoid the fact that today’s Russia evokes disturbing memories of 1937.

In other words, quite simply, Medvedev is the new Stalin. He is leading Russia down the bleakest possible path, one that leads to the same fate met by the USSR.

The world must now take note and act accordingly.

6 responses to “EDITORIAL: Getting Russia Right

  1. Sergey Shelukhin

    There’s actually an interestng theory about Medvedev – that (which is pretty clear) he is merely warming the seat for Putin or next KGB nominee; so, as he cannot break away from Putin due to having zero political weight, so what he’s doing is making statements that are similar to comments you sometimes see in legacy code – “I know this code sucks, but I had to write it this way because senior developer forced me/this was hacked together speedily/the API I call has to be used this way/whatever”. So Medvedev is saying “What we are doing is bad, and I have zero ability to make a stand against it” for the record, so that you wouldn’t think he does this stuff because he’s incompetent or something.

  2. Well did you read THIS? ->

    Putin: “Georgia can get reunited again, every problem can be solved…”

    (He did make hints how… CCCP 2.0)

    Владимир Путин сразу предупредил, что очень хорошо понимает, что все сказанное выйдет за пределы этого зала. Более того, он на это и рассчитывает. После чего озвучил ошеломляющее заявление, что вопрос воссоединения Грузии решаемый. И что нет тех вопросов, которые мы не можем решить. «Вот пусть он (Евгений Максимович – прим. автора) и займется этим вопросом».

  3. An example of the Russian deaths in detention from the earliest Putin era (just after he was “elected president”):


    Ruslan Alikhadzhyev was seized from his home in the Chechen town of Shali in May 2000. He was never seen again.

    A critic of the extreme Islamists within the Chechen rebel movement, Mr Alikhadzhyev was widely seen as a moderate and had called for a negotiated settlement to end the brutal war in the separatist republic.

    Critics of the Kremlin have long argued that Russia’s armed forces deliberately targeted moderate rebels who wanted to sue for peace, while allowing extremists to escape.

    They claim that President Vladimir Putin benefited politically from a popular war, while many Russian commanders profited from it – in part by selling weapons to the rebels.

    “We think that one of the motives [for Alikhadzhyev’s disappearance] was the elimination of a political leader who could have achieved a breakthrough in peace talks,” said Oleg Orlov of the Human Rights Group Memorial which investigates abuses in Chechnya.

    The court ordered the Russian government to pay €40,000 (£27,000) in compensation to Mr Alikhadzhyev’s mother and begin a proper investigation into his death.

    Russia, which as a member of the Council of Europe is legally obliged to comply with the ruling, has been infuriated by a string of recent judgments against Moscow by the court.

    It denied any involvement in the disappearance, despite overwhelming evidence that Russian military helicopters and armoured vehicles were used in the operation to seize Mr Alikadzhyev.

    Russian troops have been accused of committing widespread atrocities during two separatist wars fought in Chechnya since 1994.

  4. Insurgency rages inthe republic of Kabardino-Balkaria:

    Two Russian security officials found beheaded

    From Jamestown Foundation last week:

    The Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria this week has been the target of a series of attacks apparently carried out by insurgents. On the evening of November 17, an electric power substation in the Adyl-Su Gorge in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Elbrusk district was blown up. Later that same evening, an explosion in the Azau Glade cut the line between the fourth and fifth abutments of the Azau-Krugozor cable line. No one was hurt in the blasts. Law enforcement sources were quoted as saying that members of “illegal armed formations” –the standard official Russian terminology for insurgents in the North Caucasus– might have been behind the blasts. Also on November 17, unidentified attackers fired automatic weapons and grenade launchers at an Elbrus district police post. The post was manned by five policemen at the time of the incident, but none were hurt in the attack (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, November 18).

    There were another series of incidents yesterday (November 18). An unidentified law enforcement source in Kabardino-Balkaria told ITAR-TASS that police in the republic’s Cherek district had averted a terrorist act aimed at blowing up the Aushiger hydropower plant. The source added that an arms cache containing four kilograms of plastic explosives, seven grenades, four detonators and a bomb had been found in a forest 200 meters from the hydropower plant. According to ITAR-TASS, the Aushiger hydropower plant, one of two hydropower plants on the Nizhny Cherek River, provides Kabardino-Balkaria with about 20 percent of its electric power (ITAR-TASS, November 18).

    Kavkazsky Uzel today (November 19) reported that two electric power line pylons were blown up on the outskirts of the village of Malka in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Zolsky district, one of which was destroyed completely. Traces of a bomb containing aluminum and plastic explosives were found at the scene. A Malka resident, Anyusa Khazhnagoeva, told the website: “We were all awakened by the explosion. The glass in the windows rattled and the lights went out immediately.” Kavkazsky Uzel also cited specialists as saying that had the Aushiger hydropower plant been successfully blown up, the villages of Aushiger and Urvan would likely have been submerged in hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of water and that the flood would have threatened other villages located on the banks of the Cherek River, including Nizhny Cherek and Psygansu (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, November 19).

    The government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on November 18 quoted inhabitants of the village of Terskol at the foot of Mount Elbrus as saying that the previous evening, the lights had gone out and many had heard shooting and explosions. The paper added: “The population of the resort zone, whose attendance by tourists and mountain climbers is growing year by year, cannot recall acts of sabotage or daring armed sorties of this kind. The goal of the bandits, according to local residents, is to intimate people and undermine the economy of the republic, given that guests from other parts of Russia and foreigners will not want to a visit a turbulent region” (www.rg.ru, November 18).

    While there has been no official statement on the attacks in Kabardino-Balkaria, Kavkazsky Uzel quoted a local human rights activist, Valery Khatazhukov, as saying they were probably carried out by “those who carried out terrorist attacks earlier.” He noted that a gas pipeline was blown up in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Elbrus district in September 2007. The website quoted an anonymous source as saying that the latest bombings were carried out by “destructive forces who by means of destabilizing the situation” in Kabardino-Balkaria are seeking to remove the republic’s president, Arsen Kanokov.

    • Btw, last summer in the hottest parts of the region after the “Counter-Terrorism Operation regime in Chechnya” was triumphantly lifted (Mission Accomplished), according to RIAN:

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