Monthly Archives: June 2010

July 2, 2010 — Contents

FRIDAY JULY 2 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  Obama  in Freefall

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Another Black Eye for Russia

(3)  The Putin Paradox:  Less Evil is More

(4)  Neo-Soviet Russia and her Western Henchmen

(5)  Russia’s Secret Life

NOTE:  Oleg Kozlovsky continues taking the West by storm, with a recent trip to Washington DC including visits with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Helsinki Commission, Foreign Affairs magazine and the State Department.

NOTE:  The friends of Sergei Magnitsky offer a new video about the brutality surrounding his barbaric murder.

EDITORIAL: Obama in Freefall

The Obama administration in freefall

EDITORIAL

Obama in Freefall

The irony of a massive Russian spy ring being arrested in the United States just days after U.S. President Barack Obama finished munching cheeseburgers and touting his “reset” relations with his puppet Russian counterpart  Dima Medvedev could not possibly have been lost on anyone.

The chart above shows the job approval rating of Obama since he took office, courtesy of Real Clear Politics.  While Obama’s disapproval rating (in red) has soared his approval (in black) has plummeted so that now the two figures are for all intents and purposes identical, and well less than 50% of the population approves of Obama’s policies.  He has been denounced even by the likes of ultra left-wing columnist Frank Rich as dangerously close to collapse.

All this time, Obama has gotten closer and closer to Russia, culminating last week in his absurd “burger summit” with Russian “president” Dima Medvedev.

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EDITORIAL: Another Black Eye for Russia

EDITORIAL

Another Black Eye for Russia

Russia got another black eye on the international stage last week when British Petroleum appointed Bob Dudley to oversee the cleanup of its infamous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  He’s the same fellow who got kicked out of Russia for daring to stand up to the Kremlin in 2008. And now the international press is placing that event before the eyes of a slack-jawed world.  What goes around, comes around, you see Mr. Putin.

Talking Points Memo reports:

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The Putin Paradox: Less evil is More

Paul Goble reports:

The regime in Russia is undergoing a transformation, Grani commentator Dmitry Shusharin says, but not, as many expect, toward dissolution or collapse. Rather, it is seeking to “isolate” itself from society, a development that is likely to make the achievement of any positive changes there more rather than less difficult. Indeed, Shusharin suggests, Russia would be far closer to a breakthrough to a better future if the powers that be were more openly oppressive, whereas Moscow’s current approach can be countered most successfully only if the opposition is willing to engage in acts of civil disobedience.

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Neo-Soviet Russia and her Western Henchmen

Paul Goble reports:

Western specialists being enlisted in the Kremlin’s effort to legitimate Russia’s “special path to democracy,” a role they are prepared to play not only because of “business interests and weakness before big money but also because of a profound crisis of [their] worldview,” according to Grani.ru commentator Irina Pavlova. And because of their willingness to do so, she writes, the world is watching a situation like that of 30 years ago “when in the army of Western Sovietologists were only a few who spoke about the possible collapse of the Soviet Union and almost no one who was prepared to put the question as Andrey Amalrik did in his essay ‘Will the Soviet Union Survive until 1984?’”

Today, she notes, “the future participants of the world political forum” scheduled to take place in Yaroslavl in September, like the one that took place a year ago, are meeting in Berlin to discuss what will be discussed. Among those attending, Pavlova says, are Immanuel Wallerstein and Fareed Zakaria.

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Russia’s Secret Life

The Washington Post reports:

Soviet Russia’s missiles and soldiers snaking through Red Square made chilling images, but one Russian-American filmmaker is casting a new light on this time to show there was life beneath the ice.

Semyon Pinkhasov, an emigre to the United States at the height of the cold war has made documentary films about prominent Soviet-era artisan and sport figures, who not only survived but thrived during communism’s repressive rule.

“When the temperatures sink and snow is on the ground there is still life under the ice. It is the same for society under a dictatorship,” said Pinkhasov.

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June 30, 2010 — Contents

WEDNESDAY JUNE 30 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  Annals of Russian Betrayal

(2)  TRANSLATION:  Nemtsov Volume III, Part 3

(3)  Why Putin’s Russia is Doomed to Fail

(4)  What’s wrong with Cisco Systems?

(5)  The Code of the Muscovite Idea

(6)  The Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Art Continues

NOTE:  Several months ago we noted the 2,000,000th visit to this blog, as measured by the counter on our previous Blogger-hosted blog and the one on our current WordPress installation.  Last Saturday, the counter on our current blog rolled past the 2,000,000 visit mark all by itself.  We have now welcomed over 2.3 million visits to our blog, far more than has ever been displayed on the public counter of any other English-language Russia politics blog.  We are also soon to publish our 50,000th comment, many times more than any other English-language Russia politics blog has ever received.

EDITORIAL: Annals of Russian Betrayal

EDITORIAL

Annals of Russian Betrayal

The ink was not even dry on Russia’s signature accepting hideously watered-down sanctions against the crazed Islamic dictatorship in Iran when Russian diplomats were trash-talking, undermining and betraying the nations of the West that Russia had just supposedly supported.

No intelligent person can be surprised by this action, of course, given that the vast majority of movers and shakers in the Kremlin are proud KGB spies.  But it does not seem there are any intelligent people in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.  In fact, they’re not only too stupid to be surprised, they’re too stupid to even notice what is happening.

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Another Original LR Translation: Nemtsov Volume III, Part 3

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is the third installment of our series from Dave Essel translating the latest issue of the Nemtsov White Paper condemning the Putin years.  The first installment is here, the second is here, and the prior issues are here. Video of Nemtsov and Milov at the press release is here.

PUTIN: What 10 Years of Putin Have Brought

An independent expert report by
Vladimir Milov and Boris Nemtsov

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

CHAPTER FOUR:  Dead End in the Caucasus

The Caucasus has played a key part in raising Putin to Olympian political heights. Immediately after he was appointed prime-minister in 1999, Putin initiated military engagements against Chechen separatists and memorably promised to “slaughter them in their outhouses” [TN: the Russian phrase “zamochit v sortire” is intended to sound crude but does not really have much meaning – I would have gone for “drown them in their own sh*t” in a literary translation. This manner of speech is much more “Putin”.] Riding the terrorism wave, Putin got the support of a large number of people and became president in Spring 2000.

For the rest of the decade, the myth has carefully been cultivated that Putin pacified the Caucasus and beat the terrorists. In 2007, Putin declared that “ international terrorists’ aggression has been stopped in its tracks thanks to the courage and unity of the people of Russia.”

Quite the opposite, however, is true. Below you will find a table listing numbers of acts of terrorism over the last decade. This table has been assembled by us from data officially promulgated by spokesmen for law enforcement and the specials services.

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Why Putin’s Russia is Doomed to Fail

Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University and former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev came to visit California this week, he sent a warship ahead. After docking at San Francisco, the captain insisted that the battle cruiser’s visit was a sign of friendship.

If that were so, why didn’t Medvedev send a ballet company or a cultural exhibit to coincide with his visit, instead of a war vessel bristling with big guns and cruise-missile launchers? But then Russians can be a pugnacious people, and Medvedev wanted to make a point: Don’t take us for granted. We are still an important power.

That might be, but Medvedev chose to visit a part of the United States that boldly demonstrates two of Russia’s greatest weaknesses: creativity and innovation. “It’s not by chance that I came here,” Medvedev admitted to an audience at Stanford University. “I wanted to see with my own eyes the origin of success.” And it’s no wonder: Can you think of a significant Russian technological invention of recent times?

The problem isn’t the Russian people. Thousands of them are at work across Silicon Valley creating the very products and services Medvedev came to emulate.

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What’s wrong with Cisco Systems?

Before it’s News reports on the outrageous misconduct of a small number of foolhardy American corporations.  Did somebody say boycott?

Yesterday, Cisco announced a more than one billion dollar initiative to leapfrog innovation in Russia’s ICT sector. As part of the Skolkovo ProjectCisco will establish a “physical presence” in Skolkovo, relocate employees from its engineering team to the area, and launch Skolkovo as a model for Cisco’s“Smart+Connected Communities” by building networked infrastructure that enables a range of technologies like the smart grid, smarter transportation information hubs, and public safety surveillance hubs.

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The Code of the Muscovite Idea

Paul Goble reports:

After a Moscow city duma deputy proposed preparing a “Code of the Muscovite” to tell new arrivals what behavior is appropriate and what is not in the Russian capital, politicians in St. Petersburg have proposed coming up with an analogous document for the Northern Capital, a step that highlights the absurdities and dangers of such actions. On the one hand, Ilya Raskin writes in Vestnik Civitas, there is a very real chance that other cities and even small towns and villages will do the same, something that will make this an “all-Russian” phenomenon without the powers that be in the central government having to take responsibility. (In St. Petersburg, Elena Babich, an LDPR deputy in the city Duma, has called for the development of “a dress code” for gastarbeiters so that they will better fit in with the city’s longtime residents, something she said would be a supplement to the “ABCs for the Beginning Petersburger” developed last year.)

And on the other, Raskin notes, the timing of the Moscow proposal is suspicious: It appeared just as the FSB called for giving its officers the power to issue warnings to citizens without reference to the courts, a coincidence that represents in Raskin’s words, “a standard method of districting attention and [producing] disorientation.”

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Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Art

The Economist reports:

It was bad enough that an art exhibition attracted the attention of Russia’s criminal-justice authorities. It was worse that the exhibition was in Moscow’s Sakharov centre and museum, one of the few institutions in Russia that stands squarely behind the tradition of human rights, exemplified by the saintly physicist and dissident for whom it is named. Now prosecutors have said that they want the organisers of the 2007 “Forbidden Art” exhibition, the director of the centre, Yuri Samodurov, and Andrei Yerofeev, an art historian (both pictured), to be sentenced to a three-year jail term for “debasing the religious beliefs of citizens and inciting religious hatred”. Many say that the exhibition’s real crime was to highlight the overlap between official orthodoxy and the religious version.

The prosecutors’ move has aroused a furious reaction from the dwindling ranks of Russia’s intelligentsia, and in the non-Kremlin media. In an open letter to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Mr Yerofeev apologises (link in Russian) for unintentionally hurting believers’ feelings, but also blasts the church for teaming up with hardline officials and rightwing extremists. Which, of course, was one of the messages of the exhibition.

A leading Russian intellectual and professor of Russian at Oxford Universiry, Andrei Zorin, has sent the following comment to Eastern Approaches. (The full Russian version is here.)

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June 28, 2010 — Contents

MONDAY JUNE 28 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  Khodorkovsky slashes Putin

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Russian Failure in Ossetia and Chechnya

(3)  EDITORIAL:  Russia as Laughingstock

(4)  EDITORIAL:  More Brutal Sports humiliation for Russia

(5)  More on the Failure of the Obama “Reset”

NOTE:  Russia’s so-called “president” Dima Medvedev has started Twittering.  You will probably not be surprised to learn that, as Oleg Kozlovsky points out, Medvedev’s very first tweet, which started out with a highly presidential “Hi everybody!” contained a typo:  He wrote the number “6” as the last letter of the word “my.”  Oleg notes that in Russian slang “6” means “underling.”  Freudian tweet?  A little while later he bleated:  “I just ate a hamburger.” Yum, yum.

EDITORIAL: Warrior Khodokovsky slashes Putin yet Again

EDITORIAL

Warrior Khodorkovsky slashes Putin yet Again

At the second trial of dissident oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky last week, not one but two major figures in the Putin government heaped scorn on the ludicrious charge that Khodorkovsky personally embezzled millions of tons of crude oil from his company while he was a free man.

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EDITORIAL: Russian Failure and Humiliation in Ossetia and Chechnya

EDITORIAL

Russian Failure in Ossetia and Chechnya

Two reports last week highlighted the increasing humiliation Russia is experiencing in the Caucasus region.

First, Russia was left fuming with egg on its face when the Council of Europe adopted a draft resolution condemning barbarous Russian atrocities in Chechnya, and did so in the presence of infamous Chechen freedom fighter Akhmed Zakayev.  Once again, Russians were forced to confront their government’s utter failure in foreign policy in Europe, and forced to face the shame of having their wanton criminal behavior in the Caucasus exposed before a slack-jawed world.

And then came the news that Ossetia has already been declared a failed state.

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EDITORIAL: Russia as Laughingstock

EDITORIAL

Russia as Laughingstock

As if the Kremlin did not get enough humiliation last week, as we report in our lead editorial about Khodorkovsky laughing at Putin through his cell bars and in our second editorial about Russian failure in Chechnya and Ossetia — or for that matter the week before when it was forced to advertise in the classifieds seeking lawyers capable of defending it in the European Court for Human Rights — yet another devasting blow to Russia’s ego was delivered.

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EDITORIAL: More Brutal Sports Humiliation for Russia

EDITORIAL

More Brutal Sports Humiliation for Russia

Well, it’s another brutal new low for Vladimir Putin’s Russia where sports performance is concerned. We almost feel sorry for the poor bastard. Almost.

Ask any Russophile slob or Russian nationalist yahoo, and they’ll tell you:  Russia was ousted from the FIFA World Cup before it even started while America gained admission to that gilded, lofty club because Russia’s competition was tougher.

What an unbearably humiliating shock, then, to see America emerge victorious from its group in the first round at FIFA in South Africa this year, moving on to the lofty second round of the internationally essential contest.  After all,  America’s group contained not just mighty England but also the very country, Slovenia, whose bold and brilliant play dismissed Russia’s hopes of finally setting foot on hallowed FIFA territory.

Ouch!!

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More on the Total Failure of the Obama “Reset” with Russia

David J. Kramer, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs in the administration of President George W. Bush, writing in the Washington Post (Robert Amsterdam also holds forth on the same subject, over on Huffington Post):

Ahead of Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Washington this week, a “leaked” Russian foreign policy document is causing some Russia watchers to wonder whether the Russian president is shifting his country toward a more positive, pro-Western stance. A careful read of the 18,000-word document does not support such wishful thinking.

Russian Newsweek published the document in May, along with a Feb. 10 cover letter to Medvedev from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. While the foreign ministry did not dispute the authenticity of the document, neither it nor the Kremlin has issued it formally. This contrasts with Russia’s military doctrine, which was released officially in February.

Unlike the foreign policy document, the military doctrine was not greeted warmly in the West, given its clear anti-Western tone. According to the doctrine, the top dangers to Russia are NATO’s enlargement and its efforts to take on “global functions carried out in violation of the norms of international law.” Other dangers include deployment of foreign (i.e., American) troops in states bordering Russia and strategic missile defense, which would “undermin[e] global stability and violat[e] the established correlation of forces in the nuclear-missile sphere.”

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June 25, 2010 — Contents

FRIDAY JUNE 25 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL: Fewer and Fewer Russians

(2)  TRANSLATION:  Nemtsov Volume III, Part 2

(3)  Putin as Janus

(4)  Putin’s Theoretical Demography

(5)  The Putin Crackdown Continues

(6)  In Russian Business, it’s “Legal Shmegal”

(7)  TRANSLATION:  Nemtsov Volume III, Part 1

EDITORIAL: Fewer and Fewer Russians

EDITORIAL

Fewer and Fewer Russians

“Every year there are fewer and fewer Russians, alcoholism, smoking, traffic accidents, the lack of availability of many medical technologies, and environmental problems take millions of lives. And the emerging rise in births has not compensated for our declining population.”

That’s one of our favorite Russophobes, raging.  Anyone can see from his remarks his unbridled contempt for Russia and the people of Russia, and most of all for Russian ruler Vladimir Putin, who after more than a decade in unrestricted power has left his nation on the verge of extinction.  He’s a real Russia-hating bastard for sure, this animal.  He ought to be jailed in Siberia right next to Khodorkovsky.  You know the one we’re talking about, right?

Sure.  Dima Medvedev.

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Another Original LR Translation: Nemtsov Volume III, Part 2

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is the second installment of our series from Dave Essel translating the latest issue of the Nemtsov White Paper condemning the Putin years.  The first installment is here, and the prior issues are here.

PUTIN: What 10 Years of Putin Have Brought

An independent expert report by
Vladimir Milov and Boris Nemtsov

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

CHAPTER THREE:  Russia as Raw Materials Appendage

When “Putin – The Results”, the first edition of our report, was published back in February 2008, Putin was happily boasting about economic successes. On 8 February 2008, he addressed a sitting of the State Council. Talking about the results of his presidency, he made much of the facts that GDP had risen during it and that in 2008 alone Russia had attracted $83 billion on inward investment.

Even then, however, we warned that the economic model being constructed by Putin was just a speculative bubble that could burst at any moment. And that is precisely what happened six months after our report was published: a massive economic crisis broke in Russia in 2008, a crisis far worse than the 1998 default, one which if it is to be compared with anything, then only with the period of the collapse of the Soviet economy and the economic depression of 1992-1994.

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Putin as Janus

The Japan Times has Vladimir Putin’s number (hat tip:  Robert Amsterdam):

Diplomats in many corners of the world are puzzled by what appears to be a fundamental shift in Russia’s foreign policies in recent months, from a strategy based on threat and intimidation to one of a low profile seeking friendship, especially with Western countries. Their consensus, however, is that this shift is only temporary and that Moscow will sooner or later return to its old tactics.

The first sign of such apparent change was noted in the aftermath of a tragic airplane crash that occurred on Russian soil April 10, killing Polish President Lech Kaczyinski and a number of other high government officials of Poland. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally led a special committee to investigate the cause of the crash, and accompanied Kaczyinski’s body back to Warsaw.

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Putin’s Theoretical Demography

Paul Goble reports:

Officials at the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development have rushed to take partial credit for the slight uptick in the number of newborns in the first quarter of 2010, but an analysis of the ministry’s behavior, some in the Russian medical community say, shows that it is engaging in “theoretical demography” for show. That is because, Nadezhda Larina writes in the current  Argumenty Nedeli, the ministry is putting most of its money into a few new showcase perinatal centers in the major cities while ignoring most of the existing birthing centers across the Russian Federation or even putting burdens on the latter which they cannot meet.

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The Putin Crackdown continues despite “Reset”

An editorial in the Washington Post:

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Dmitry Medvedev tried again on Friday to portray Russia as a “modernizing” country seeking better relations and more investment from the West. “The changes will take time but it will happen,” he declared in the annual economic forum his government puts on in St. Petersburg. “Russia understands the tasks ahead and is changing for itself and for the rest of the world.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Medvedev, that was not the only message out of St. Petersburg. Friday also brought the news that police had waylaid a truck on its way into the city and seized 100,000 copies of a new book written by two senior opposition figures about Vladimir Putin’s first 10 years in power. “Putin, The Results: 10 Years” by Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov, argues that the decade’s most notable legacy is a massive tide of corruption and lawlessness — a judgment seemingly confirmed by the truck’s hijacking.

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