Vladimir Putin, Raving Psychopath
As many predicted it would do after Russia’s 2008 annexation of Ossetia and Abkhazia, it appears Russian success with aggression in Georgia has induced it to turn its eye toward an even juicier tidbit known, for now, as Ukraine.
Last Friday, in one of the most fully deranged displays by a world leader in recent memory, Russian “prime minister” Vladimir Putin spontaneously announced at a press conference in front of his Ukrainian counterpart in Moscow that he thought it would be a good idea if Russia’s giant natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, acquired its Ukrainian counterpart Naftogaz lock, stock and gas pipelines.
What was so astounding was not that Putin would entertain such thoughts, or even that he would say them (most of Russian public supports neo-Soviet aggression against Ukraine and Georgia), but that he would publicly announce such a scheme without giving any advance warning to his diplomatic peer, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who could do nothing but stammer in diplomatese that Putin had “expressed it in an impromptu way.” It’s simply unheard of for a the leader of a major nation to behave this way. Which means, of course, that it’s not the least bit surprising to find the Russians doing it.
Putin, Predator of the Press
Reporters without Borders has come out with a list of the 40 worst “predators of the press” on the planet, and unsurprisingly both Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov are on it.
Here’s what RWB has to say about Putin:
Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
Gleb Pavlovsky, a longtime Kremlin insider and pundit, hit the nail on the head when he described the pervasive corruption among Russia’s bureaucrats: “For the last 20 years, no one in the high levels of government has discussed whether this or that top bureaucrat abuses his official position for personal gain. It is taken as a given. They are all corrupt.”
That is why Russia — unlike China, Singapore, Japan and France — has not prosecuted a single high-ranking official on corruption charges in the entire 20 years of the post-Soviet period. The government’s whole “fight against corruption” boils down to nothing but empty speeches, useless anti-corruption legislation, amusing but meaningless “strategies” to combat the problem and occasional arrests on corruption charges of middle- and low-ranking officials — scapegoats who have no impact on solving the larger, systemic problem of corruption in government.
While the economy was growing in the 2000s thanks to high energy prices and business expansion fueled by a seemingly endless flow of cheap corporate credit, there was another boom taking place in Russia — the sharp rise in the number of bureaucrats since Vladimir Putin became president in 2000.
Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times (if you read Russian, there is a longer version of this article posted on Yezhedevny Zhurnal):
It may seem strange that I am writing about the 2009 report by the European Union fact-finding commission on the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war since it was published a year ago.
But the report is still very important today — in some sense, even more important than the war itself. The report, which was lead by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, is a blatant appeasement to Russia — a new Munich Agreement of sorts.
If you build policy and the economy on lies and self-deception, if you sincerely believe that you are the defender of freedom but out of fear and indifference you appease a dictatorship, and if you sincerely believe that you have a market economy despite having long ago sunk into debt and micromanaging the economy, the eventual consequences will be catastrophic.
To be honest, I was shocked by the report. My first thoughts after reading it were: “Europe has gone into retirement” and “Europe is no more.” Now one year later, Europe is falling apart.
Human Rights Watch reports:
The Russian government should closely examine evidence gathered by the Austrian government which indicates the president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, ordered the kidnapping last year of a Chechen refugee in Vienna, Human Rights Watch said today. The refugee, Umar Israilov, died as a result of gunshot wounds inflicted by his assailants.
On April 27, 2010, the Austrian prosecutor’s office announced that, following a year-long investigation into Israilov’s murder, the country’s federal counterterrorism agency had concluded that Israilov had been killed as a result of a botched kidnapping, which was allegedly ordered by Kadyrov. All three suspected kidnappers are in custody in Austria, awaiting indictment by the prosecutor’s office. Kadyrov has denied any involvement in the crime.