MONDAY FEBRUARY 15 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Russia, Nation of Cheaters
(2) CONTRIBUTOR: Russia and the Mistral
(3) Dangerous Tsarist Russia
(4) Ryzhkov on the ICD Report
(5) Ukrainians, Making Democracy look Bad
(6) Has Medvedev lost it?
NOTE: LR founder Kim Zigfeld’s latest installment of her Russia column over at the mighty Pajamas Media blog exposes the fraud that attempted to blame Russia’s plight on freedom and democracy.
NOTE: Oleg Kozlovsky blogs about his most recent trip to the USA and his plans for others. Who says Russians can’t get things done! Required reading.
Russia, Nation of Cheaters
We continue to believe that much can be learned, and much insight gained, about the true nature of Russia as a nation by studying the country’s wretched legacy of pathetic athletic exploits.
It can hardly surprise anyone even vaguely familiar with the work of the Transparency International think tank, for instance, to learn that in the run-up to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympiad so many Russian athletes have already been caught cheating, through the use of performance-enhancing drugs, that the President of the International Olympic Committee has openly made a demand to the President of Russia to clean up his nation’s act in order to avoid disgracing the entire worldwide athletic community.
Making things even worse, the only athlete actually caught cheating during the last Winter Olympics, Olga Pyleva, was also a Russian, and because of a loophole in the regulations she is being permitted to compete this year even though a recent rule change will ban such competitors in the future.
A warship deal, a broadcaster and an irritated Kremlin
By Inge Snip
What happens when you pit a major shipbuilding deal between Paris and Moscow alonside the creation of a Russian-language Georgian television channel carried by the French satellite carrier Eutelsat? Simply: the satellite channel loses out.
On January 15, the Georgia-based broadcaster First Caucasian began airing via Eutelsat and was expected to receive a solid contract on February 1. However, in a surprise move, Eutelsat instead opted to discontinue broadcasting, citing an ever-fluctuating list of reasons that have failed to remain consistent. Although First Caucasian remains viewable on cable in Georgia and online, the channel’s satellite broadcasts were a crucial part of its strategy to be available to large parts of Russia to challenge the Kremlin’s near-total media monopoly. Of course, Russia would have none of that. As Russian deputy interior minister Arkady Yedelev stated on January 14, “the TV channel is definitely directed towards planting anti-Russian, anti-State stance and the ideology of extremism.” Right.
James Corum, Dean of the Baltic Defence College in Estonia, has taught at American and British staff colleges and is the author of seven books on military history and counter-insurgency. He is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserve and has 28 years’ experience as an army officer. Writing on a blog of The Telegraph, he describes a dangerous, Tsarist Russia bent once again on confrontation with the West:
Western nations and NATO ought to take note. Several events have recently occurred that will embolden Russia to adopt a more aggressive and less cooperative stance in its dealings with the West.
Domestically, Russia has had some good news lately. After disastrous yearly drops in population for two decades, Russia showed a minuscule increase in population (11,000) last year. The Russian inflation rate has dropped to single digits. A rate of 8.8 per cent is high by Western standards, but a huge improvement over the massive inflation suffered by Russia in the last decade. With oil prices holding fairly high, the Russian regime can count on a steady income.
Former Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
As anticipated, the report recently issued by the liberal Institute of Contemporary Development titled “21st-Century Russia: Reflections on an Attractive Tomorrow” caused a big stir in the muddy waters of Moscow’s elite.
The opposition forces quickly threw their support behind the main thesis of the report — that the successful modernization of the country is impossible without political democratization. As expected, United Russia and propagandists loyal to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin viciously attacked the report, accusing its authors of trying to return the country to the “wild ’90s” and even of thirsting to dismember Russia, a scenario that former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski famously described in his 1997 book “The Grand Chessboard.”
Most observers have contemptuously labeled the Institute of Contemporary Development report “utopian.” They contend that the proposals are not only unrealistic a priori, but also that the overwhelming majority of Russians do not support the ideas, even if they could be carried out in theory. In my view, the accusation that the report is “utopian” and calls for a return to the “wild ’90s” are entirely unfounded.
Yulia Latynina, hero journalist, writing in the Moscow Times:
Viktor Yanukovych’s victory in Sunday’s presidential election — not unlike the victories of former Chilean President Salvador Allende, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Adolf Hitler — once again raises doubt about the basic premise of democracy: that the people are capable of choosing their own leader. Unfortunately, only wealthy people are truly capable of electing their leaders in a responsible manner. Poor people elect politicians like Yanukovych or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
When the Orange Revolution hit Ukraine five years ago, the people arose in a united wave and did not allow themselves to be deceived by the corrupt elite. That elite had reached an agreement with the criminals and oligarchs of Donetsk to make a minor criminal, who could not string two sentences together, the successor to former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.
Five years ago, the Ukrainian people gave President Viktor Yushchenko a mandate for reform, but he failed. The country remains highly corrupt. One example: Yushchenko himself allowed the murky scheme in which all Russian gas came into the country through the intermediary firm RosUkrEnergo.
Whenever a weak leader is incapable of managing the state, he starts looking for enemies and begins stoking nationalist passions. Yushchenko singled out Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as his enemy and engaged her in a heated polemic over the Holodomor.
The always insightful Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute, writing in the Los Angeles Times:
The security of the United States continues to be tied to decisions in Moscow, as evidenced by President Obama’s touting of the pending strategic arms-control agreement with Russia in his State of the Union address. And those decisions, in turn, will hinge on Russian domestic politics. The central question is whether President Dmitry Medvedev’s increasingly radical rhetoric will begin to translate into policies that would spell a decisive break with those of his predecessor and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin.
Could 2010 become Medvedev’s equivalent of Mikhail Gorbachev’s 1987 — the year when, also after only two years in the Kremlin and against very strong opposition by hard-liners, Gorbachev began lifting totalitarian controls over politics by declaring glasnost and democratization?
Like Gorbachev in 1987, Medvedev faces tough odds. His speeches are still contaminated by the bluster and outright propaganda lies of Putinism. Moreover, unlike Gorbachev — who had the awesome power of the office of the Communist Party’s general secretary — Medvedev’s authority still appears to be on loan from Putin. It’s as if Gorbachev had ruled with Leonid Brezhnev watching over him.
And yet, just as unmistakably, in the last few months, Russia’s president has not only dissociated himself from key tenets of Putinism but challenged and repudiated them, in effect chipping away at the legitimacy of the political and economic order he inherited. Medvedev’s critique was especially pointed and concentrated in his September article, “Rossiya, vperyod!” (“Russia, forward!”), posted on the opposition Web daily Gazeta.ru — and more or less reprised, alongside propaganda cliches, in a November address to the Russian parliament.