A Dark Side of Alexei Navalny

Uncle Volodya says, "...and in international news today, out of Washington, there was a reported sighting of an Unbiased Journalist. Witnesses said he was riding a unicorn..."

It’s been a long time since we heard anything from kovane, and you might have been wondering if he was doing a little volunteer work with renovations in the basement of the Lubyanka. I’m happy to say that’s not the case, and that it was nothing more serious than good old-fashioned indolence. Since he doesn’t get paid, you can’t even really call it indolence.

Anyway, whatever one chooses to call the motivation for his lengthy sabbatical from publishing, I’m delighted he’s broken it. His most recent feature is on perhaps the most red-hot and polarizing figure in Russian politics today – Alexei Navalny. AGT had an excellent story on him recently (cited below), which was itself piggybacked on Julia Ioffe’s much longer and considerably more worshipful piece for the New Yorker. Everybody’s talking about this guy.

While I’m on that subject, it reminds me that I have lately been regularly visited with epiphanies, and one was motivated by a comment attached to another recent AGT post, on Navalny supporter Yulia Dikhtiar. The commenter tuned up on Putin’s ““народный фронт”, referring to it as “idiotic”.

“Suppose”, whispered the epiphany in my left ear, “Suppose that idea had been proposed by Navalvy! Then, then… well, then the theme from “The Love Boat” would begin to play softly, and on cue massed singers (perhaps the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus) led by Yury Shevchuk, his voice like the sound of large and very stubborn rusty nails being pulled from a wet 8 x 10 timber, would warble “Loovve…exciting and new….come aboard….we’re expecting YEEEWWWW!!” while a voice-over by some political activist or other would convey, in a voice quivering with emotion, that this was, well, exciting and new, and just possibly the bravest and most selfless political initiative in the history of politics.” And I thought, testify, epiphany – it’s only when the party in power (that you, incidentally, hate) does it that it’s a “cynical, shameless vote-grab”.

Anyway, born cynic that he evidently is, kovane appears less swept away by the Jamboree Bag of Wonderfulness that is Alexei Navalny, and more curious about the possibility he might be the thin edge of the wedge whereby interested outside parties hope to inspire another “Colour Revolution”, this time in Russia itself – a curiosity born of statements made by Navalny. Intrigued? Me, too. Let’s read on….

A DARK SIDE OF ALEXEI NAVALNY           by kovane

It’s true that currently there’s no more intriguing person on the Russian political scene than Alexei Navalny. Not that he is the most popular – recent polls showed that only 6% of Russians know about his existence; an additional reminder that we’re not there yet when retwits and likes alone will topple the bloody Putin regime. But for those who call themselves “a thinking part of society” or whatever self-aggrandizing label they can come up with, Navalny is a well-known figure despite the fact that national television – the main source of information for the majority – doesn’t confer much attention on him. And he certainly stands out against the tedious background of political life in Russia.

Navalny’s undisputed fief is the Russian sector of the Internet, Runet. It is there his blog ranks high in all rating systems, and his posts gather thousands of comments. He commands a vast army of zealously loyal Internet users who pounce on anyone who is even slightly critical of him. At times it goes so far that when some poor clueless Internet dweller very remote from any politics merely states that all the fuss about Navalny is tiresome, his blog is immediately invaded by dozens of angry commenters who make clear that such indifference is inadmissible. And more importantly, all results of Navalny’s activity are posted on the Internet; it’s the main means of communication, PR and defence for him, and he owes his current fame solely to Runet.

So far the battlefield that distinguishes Navalny is his relentless struggle against corruption. Although he began as a politician – earlier, he was a Yabloko member, but quit, unsatisfied with the party course – now Navalny positions himself as a people’s tribune, unassociated with any party. One specific case that propelled him to the attention of the public was his revelations of alleged shady dealings in Transneft. Encouraged by this success, he started a new Internet project, RosPil, designed to bring to light financial abuses by the authorities. But is there more to Navalny than just a mere fighter against corruption?

Oh, the kneebone connected to the...thighbone...

Navalny’s critics often state that the recipe for his exposures is a modicum of solid fact from open sources plus a pinch of rumors, and a great deal of meaningless foam. There’s certainly a share of truth to these words, but they forget one important issue. Navalny shouldn’t step in for law-enforcing agencies, and he himself stated more than one time that this wasn’t his intention. He is more of an activist than an immediate fighter against corruption. His goal is to draw public attention to alleged corruption and lead by example, rather than to prepare a complete criminal case. So, if he errs on the side of excessive suspicion, the wronged party should be able to explain away any irregularities: it’s part of their responsibilities, after all. And knowing how abysmally Russian corporations and government officials perform PR functions, such pressure is only for their own good. Learning to deal with defamation is important, since it’s in the standard arsenal of raiders and various swindlers. But if Navalny’s accusations turn out to have grounds, then the police are under close scrutiny and can’t just shrug the case off.

Despite his presently assumed political indifference, Navalny’s roots certainly lie with the liberal movement. It can be seen in his origins, in the company of people he associates with now and, of course, in his views. But nevertheless, he is at a great remove from the former image of the liberals that were often characterized by the word ‘demschiza’. Instead of the blatant Russophobia of  predecessors, Navalny avows himself a moderate nationalist; this issue was explored well by blogger A Good Treaty. The ability and desire to work within the current legal framework replaced a former petulance and sullenness. In general, people like Navalny give hope to the idea of sensible, united and strong liberal opposition, something that can benefit Russia greatly.

Still, he is not without fault, and often could be more effective if he paid more attention to the issue at hand, rather than the PR side of it. For example, here Navalny considered all tenders with unrealistically short-term contracts inherently fraudulent. Other users pointed out (1,2) that such “suspicious” tenders are due to the specifics of the state budget code, when money allocated in one year doesn’t carry forward to the next year. So these tenders are held to pay for already fulfilled contracts. Interestingly enough, Navalny didn’t acknowledge these corrections. Such a lack of legal knowledge doesn’t become any lawyer, but for a man who pretends to fight against financial abuses in the state budget, it’s unforgivable.

There’s another aspect of the struggle against corruption in Russia that eludes some of Navalny’s followers. The idea that he is some lonely champion is better left to future legends and movies. If it were true he would be long gone; serving a couple of years in prison for, say, stealing a cart from a supermarket. It’s not a big secret that there are no white knights among Russian elite groups, and all are complicit in financial crimes to differing extent. A man such as Navalny is could be an effective tool in the quite practical dynamics of power struggle. On the one hand, nothing stops the said groups from cleaning up their act, unprompted (maybe the improbable scenario of Hell freezing over does), or at least employing their own Navalnys to fight back. Needless to say, if every group began to expose each other’s crimes in a strictly legal way, society would benefit. On the other hand, the unlikelihood of such developments is evident, so there’s no need to expect much from Navalny. The basic idea is that whoever stands behind him – Batman, the CIA or even Satan himself, Navalny’s current activity can’t do much harm and may have some positive potential.

Identifying the groups which patronize him is not that difficult, by the way. For example, in 2010 Navalny won the right to participate in the Yale World Fellows Program. Winners are eligible for a stipend of $32,500 and the right to bring the family. By some remarkable circumstance, Yale overlooked the implicit demand of the program that all participants should speak English fluently (Although now, after half of a year in the US, his English is better).  I mean how lucky is this guy? Looks, fame AND Yale? Within the list of the referees, two names stand out – those of Sergey Guriev and Aleh Tsyvinski (he couldn’t think of a better transliteration of the name Oleg?). The former is a Rector at the Russian Economic School, the latter a professor at Yale. Together they published some works and they evidently have a good relationship. Russian Economic School is reknowned for its close ties with the liberal wing of Russian politics (Dvorkovich, Aven) and President Medvedev himself. Another clue comes from the only political statement Navalny constantly makes, i.e. his branding of United Russia as “a party of thieves and swindlers”. It’s worth recollecting that UR is Putin’s sole counterweight to Medvedev’s presidency, so eating away at its reputation is clearly playing into certain hands.

Yet another interesting story is Navalny’s fund-raising efforts for his RosPil project. Intending to gain even more perceived affinity with common people, he decided that the enterprise should be funded by citizens’ donations through the Yandex money system. The undertaking turned out to be a tremendous success – in just one day, more than $30,000.00 were gathered. This elicited jubilation on the part of Navalny’s supporters, and wry smiles from anyone who is familiar with fund-raising on the Internet. The institution of charity is fundamentally weak in Russia; common Russians have been burned too many times by various scammers, which turns them into the stingiest of misers. Even the noblest of causes, such as fund-raising for children with cancer, usually progresses slowly. Alas, not the best trait of Russians. So Navalny’s quick triumph and the quite unusual characteristics of the donations – most of them were made on the first day, while usually the distribution of donations is different – justly raised many suspicions. The answer lies in the specifics of Yandex-money – money on its accounts can be transferred from other accounts OR from street terminals. Knowing the ease of obtaining unaccounted cash in Russia, any money can be whitewashed in this way. For all we know, all donations could have originated with bin Laden himself, and there’s no way to tie this to Navalny. Once again, that doesn’t change the big picture; even if he cheated, so what? That only cemented his credibility as a people’s tribune, no harm done.

They say that all praise and good words are immediately invalidated if followed by the word “but”. Well, but. It’s only recently that Navalny has started to reap the fruits of his stardom, giving interviews left and right. The New Yorker featured him in a long-winded piece, commending his efforts, naturally. Answering questions later, the article’s author – Julia Ioffe, a well-known Russian patriot and an expert on Russia with a world name – expressed her views that Navalny is “Russia’s best hope”. Aww… should we take better care of Russia’s best hope? Maybe give him some free milk? By the way, Navalny’s success at collecting donations is explained in the piece as “tapping into a huge demand for a grassroots movement”. Double aww… in another amusing moment, Navalny later confessed that the magazine fact-checked such small details as if it were true that the table in Navalny’s office was half-round. Truly, they can’t be wrong about anything, then!

But the following interview was much more interesting. It’s with The New Times, a Russian magazine. Its editor-in-chief is Evgenia Albats, a quite famous member of the liberal opposition (and one of the people who helped Navalny get in to Yale); the magazine often publishes articles by Kasparov, Nemtsov and Sergei Guriev, among others. But back to the interview. Navalny goes large right off the bat and says “I think that the power in Russia will change not by an election process; they can elect whoever they like in March of 2012, but everything will be finished by April”, and then clarifies – “by something like a Tunis scenario”. Answering the question “Do you expect the wave from the bottom”, he says – “No, I don’t wait for it, I’m organizing it. We don’t know when it will happen, but it’s within our power to bring it closer. The current Russian authorities are thieves and swindlers. We must fight against them, exert pressure on them, create problems for them, and involve more and more people in creating problems. This pressure can be of different kinds – from simple negotiations to mobs on the streets that drag civil servants from their cabinets and hang them. And the faster authorities realize that and start negotiating, the less plausible the violent scenario becomes. I don’t think that any political technologies or twitter can make people come out on the streets and chase away thieves and swindlers, so normal people could take over.” (emphasis mine) . He goes on and on vilifying the current Russian power, MVD and FSB in particular. And later makes another interesting remark – “Medvedev knows that there’s a grey system of money bonuses for high-ranking officials in our state, which was created during the time of struggle against YUKOS, ostensibly so evil Khodorkovites weren’t able to bribe anyone. All these people receive cash monthly in one of the state-owned banks.”

Well… first of all, let’s just recall that every state has the right to defend its constitutional system by force, and such citadels of democracy as the UK and the US have no qualms about invoking it. Secondly, the Russian criminal code has the article “Violent takeover of power or violent retention of power”, punishable by from 12 to 20 years in prison. And I don’t remember anything in the Constitution that says that hanging of government officials is a legitimized feature of a democratic process. The code also has the article “Calls to extremist actions”. But let’s leave that aside for a moment.

On the whole, the interview create an obnoxious aftertaste and the impression that it was given by an extremely naïve or, alternatively, a very devious person. Navalny clearly states that he’s working towards a typical colour revolution. First, I don’t know what can be more undemocratic than a handful of raucous people changing power by riots and violence, simply because they don’t like the government, the outcome of some election or any other quality. The opinion of the rest of the people is commonly ignored. It’s also usually accompanied by tens or hundreds of corpses. Second, a common misconception is that power is transferred from bad authoritarian groups to “the people”. That’s a brazen lie; power simply gets transferred from one group to another, and the benefactor is well-known beforehand. Did anyone doubt that Yuschenko would become president when the Orange revolution succeeded? Or Saakashvili in Georgia? Third, and this is the most important point – there have been plenty of such revolutions. Has a single country benefited from it? Saakashvili’s more and more authoritarian rule and the unleashed war are something that the Georgians dreamed of in 2003? Yuschenko’s rating lying in the gutter is what the Ukranians stood in  Maidan Square for? The deposing of Bakiev in 2010 by yet another revolution was worth launching the first one in 2005? Navalny suggests that “normal people will take over”. Needless to say, that one statement will inspire laughter in any politologist worth his salt. Will these “normal people” spontaneously inherit another law framework and its institutions? Obviously, no. Then we have to take their word that after they come into power, these mysteriously benevolent “normal people” will start to limit their own authoritiy in favour of common people. Please remind me; how often has that happened in history? But OK, let’s be believers for a while, so let’s assume that they really are that incorruptible. In order to improve governance, the state should have better institutions and laws, so after the coup someone will have to write them. But what’s stopping “normal people” from drafting them now, even promoting them? Maybe the current power will adopt them, so there will be no need for a revolution! And finally, who will determine the suitability of these people? Navalny? Boy, I hope he is a better judge of character than he presently appears.

Navalny’s vilification of the present power structure is also disturbing. Apart from hackneyed accusations of corruption, he comes up with new ones. Allegedly, they get additional money behind everyone’s backs from a special bank. What’s next? Allegation that they gather at the top of the Bald Mountain, dance naked under the moon and eat Christian babies? Navalny says that this system was introduced in order to fight off YUKOS’s harmful influence. That means that the system must have been up and running at least for 7 years. Admittedly, I’ve never been a minister or even a deputy minister, but how many of them resigned during these years? How many people are involved in it? And this information surfaced only now, dug up by Navalny? I liked folktales only while I was very young… all these words look like an attempt to drive a wedge ever deeper between the authorities and the rest of the people. Something that sure does come in handy for a colour revolution.

I sincerely hope that this whole interview is just idle thoughts, and Navalny doesn’t vest any serious meaning in them. But alas, evidence suggests the contrary. All the traditional components are present – branding authorities as hopelessly corrupt and despotic, the government’s consummate demonization and alienation; praise from abroad of one group, presenting them as progressives; the preparing of key people in the West. It’s also useful to attach to the big picture the recent interview of Kasparov, in which he repeats Vice-President Joe Biden’s threat that if Putin should be reelected in 2012, the US will topple him with a colour revolution.

Even today, Putin and United Russia enjoy wide popularity, much more that any leader or party in the West. It could be fairly disputed whether the opposition has adequate access to the media, or if the elections are completely fair, but the ratings are proven by both state and independent agencies. And of course there are plenty of those who are not so enthusiastic about them, myself included. But no matter how much I can’t stand Putin, Nashi or United Russia, I would choose them over any colour revolution any day of the week. Russia has had too many great revolutions, military coups and small palace overthrows. And they’ve never brought any good; only tremendous suffering, giant losses and lost years. And if some yappy thinks that he can take a shortcut to power and skip all the tedious process of consolidating different forces, creating a cogent strategy and managing a party just because it’s hard to compete with Putin, then I will support any measures to point out to him how wrong he is. I’m sure that this sentiment is shared by the majority of Communists, Nationalists and those who vote for United Russia. Other than that, Navalny is my hero, and more power to RosPil.

Sages in the Kremlin are no fools, and I doubt that they are inclined to take chances. It will be interesting to see what measures they will take to hedge risk in the most unobtrusive way. Russia has a damned interesting year ahead of it.

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247 Responses to A Dark Side of Alexei Navalny

  1. Misha says:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/poland_assume_eu_post_pledges_attention_to_eastern_europe/24221420.html

    Excerpt –

    “We think that Europeanizing Russia is in Europe’s interests as well, and those kinds of initiatives will have Poland’s support during its presidency.”

    ****

    Sarcastically put, one needs to be fully “European” by being in the EU.

    Don’t count on Moldova or Ukraine getting full or near full EU benefits anytime soon. Likewise, some pro-EU Serbs might be disappointed. They should note the rumblings about how turning over Mladic isn’t enough. The above linked article doesn’t address a good deal of Croat public opinion which isn’t so supportive of Croatia entering into the EU.

  2. Yalensis says:

    I saw this yesterday, it is more backstory to the Libya conflict. As author Russ Baker states in his very first sentence: ”Qaddafi plus Goldman plus oil equals war.”
    Summary of author’s argument: It all goes back to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. No one ever proved that Qaddafi was actually involved (or what his motive could be). However, in 2001 a Netherlands court convicted Mr. Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, of carrying out the bombing. Eventually Qaddafi was forced to stipulate to the crime (without actually admitting to it) and pay reparations, as the price to pay for re-acceptance into the “world community”: lifting of UN sanctions, etc.
    As part of the settlement, Libya was supposed to deposit a large sum of $$$ in an international escrow account created for that purpose. The deal worked to end Libya’s isolation. In 2003 George W. Bush even welcomed Qaddafi back with open arms and the future was looking rosy. Western oil companies were “champing at the bit” to get their hands on Libyan oil assets. Britain Petroleum was heavily involved in all this and starting in 2007 tried to use their influence to get Megrahi freed from prison (which eventually happened in 2009).
    But then everything went sour: ”In early 2008, Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund controlled by Col. Moammar Gadhafi gave $1.3 billion to Goldman Sachs Group to sink into a currency bet and other complicated trades. The investments lost 98% of their value, internal Goldman documents show.”
    In other words, Colonel Qaddafi’s financial advisors made a very bad investment and lost all the $$$. Prior to that, Libya was flush with cash (in 2007 they set up an investment group in Tripoli with $40 billion to play with on international stock market), but with collapse of Goldman Sachs the money was now all gone, and Q couldn’t see how he could afford to pay into that reparations escrow fund. He needed more cash, so he started to lean on the inernational oil companies to give more money back to Libya; and even threaten to re-nationalize them. Next thing you know, he’s got a “color-coded revolution” on his hands, and then full-blown war.
    Interesting argument, I like this author, because instead of spouting on about “democracy” and “protecting civilians”, and all that nonsense, he basically says, “FOLLOW THE MONEY” !

    P.S. To @kovane: See, it DOES all relate back to “color-coded revolutions”, and hence relates to Navalny topic. If we wanted to, we could even figure out a way to make “Captain Kirk vs. giant lizard” relate to Navalny!

  3. I think what you gentlemen are debating is irrelevant. The difference between Putin and Medvedev is insubstantial. They are Siamese twins. Their disputes and disagreements are all make believe. The ideology of Russia’s Thieving Class is personal consumption (in that respect it is unique, I can’t think of no other society where personal consumption was the chief motivator of the society’s owners. There were states, as I mentioned before, which were largely driven by profit – 17th century Netherlands and 18th century Britain come to mind, but never was there a society which was ruled by a junta whose only reason to exist is its own personal consumption. That’s what Putinist Muscovite Khanate and so grotesquely named United Russia is all about). The notions that Russian Federation junta is somewhat not fully pro-American (false) or that Americans can undermine Russian junta (they can but why would they) should be put in a proper perspective. The government-owned air carrier, Rossia (funny, the Putinistas write their state airline’s name as RossiYa, with ya – like it were an Arab country), which is the equivalent of the USAF unit operating government aircraft including Air Force One, replaced all Russian airplanes with American Boeings. Not with Brazilian Embraers or Airbuses for short and medium routes but with Boeings. Come on. State aircraft procurement has always been the sign and the proof of one’s political orientation. Presidential Administration (the Khanate’s home office) in addition to luxurious BMWs for the viziers and Muscovite Khan’s most favorite eunuchs buys only Fords. Russian Federation “Ministry of Defense” buys Ford Focuses for their stuff, not Russian cars, not Peugeots, Citroens or Fiats but Fords. Militia bosses in St. Petersburg and KGB thugs drive hummers in a manifestation of machismo and Americaphilia that is unimaginable in the US itself. Not citroens, alfa romeos, or Russian vehicles. The image they want to present of themselves to the populace and the world is distinctly thuggish and distinctly (though phony) American. There is no more americanized “elite” in Europe or Asia than the Muscovite Thieving Class. It is far more americanized than America’s staunchest New European vassals. Russia keeps most of its foreign reserves in US dollars entrusted to the care of the US government while supposedly pro-American ethno-Nazi statelet of Estonia has no financial assets in the US. Russia’s thieving class prefers Russophobe London over Paris or Milan or Frankfurt – that’s where the Thieving Class of Muscovite Khanate buys blocks of prime real estate and keeps assets. That’s where corrupt managers and overseers of Khanate’s capital (city) run to when dismissed by the Khan (in time free of licking the fence of various alleged “concentration camps” on the eastern shore of the Baltic). Russia’s Thieving class sends its offspring mainly to the US and Britain for ” education” – not to France or Austria or Japan or China (I know a KGB functionary who is also a (state Russian) railroad kingpin whose children are all in America) – it is obviously a unbalanced one-sided relationship as I am unaware of a single instance when members of the American ruling class or its oligarchy had sent their kids to study in provincial colleges in the so-called Russian Federation, say to Ivanovo, or used deliberately russified English language for internal communications, bought Russian cars and if that were not enough also had kept all of their assets in Russia(-an Federation). This relation is far more skewed, one-sided and pathological than of any other country I can think, not even of its closest vassals like Britian, vis-a-vis the US. Neither Putin nor Medvedev ever stood up against American aggression or did anything to oppose the collective evil of the West because they cannot – how can you oppose anything in real life (babble on television is a different thing) if you moved all of your assets to the US and the EU, have kids studying in enemy countries, usually in the US or Britain, drive cars made by the enemy and have in the show of extreme affectation deliberately destroyed own industry so you could buy American aircraft for your own government use (what about spare parts in case of emergency?) . All your trinkets are supplied by the enemy. The “President” (again a word borrowed from the US English which replaced existing Russian equivalent of a person presiding over government) of the so-called Russian Federation, Medvedev openly displays his fondness for US corporate brands and promotes Apple Computer merchandise on over-the-air Russian TV (something no US president would do). The Soviet nomenklatura and criminal Moscow -based junta that usurped power in and over Russia and of which Putin and Medvedev are most visible “presiding” representatives do not care about Russia, Russian people or Russia’s interests. Its sole interests are personal consumption of its “members” and the maintenance of the resource-based regime that allows extraction of private wealth from public, once Soviet but then Russian, assets. Its rule rests on a bureaucratic dictatorship that. paradoxically, is also culturally US oriented. Russia or Russian Federation is a peculiar state in precarious state – there is no ideology save for personal consumption of the Thieving Class (naturally enough. enough crumbs fall off the table down into the hungry mouths of the servants, and the population of Moscow and Putinburg and a few other major cities. hence the underlings are reasonably content as long as they don’t keep Noalny’s blogt). The system is reliant on imports (physical and cultural) from Russia’s civilizational enemy and keeps all of its assets within jurisdiction of nations that are openly hostile to Russia. One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure out that Russian Federation junta is vulnerable to any kind of boycott or asset freezing. Structurally the system is unique in historic terms because its corruption is unparalleled as it represents a mini Soviet Union within the borders of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, hypercentralized – in fact the degree of centralization is quite unparalleled, it is centralization on steroids, a geographic and political entity which has been “privatized” wholesale by the nomenklatura and the criminal classes and where every state asset, office or institution, be it an oil well or police (militia) station is turned into money making resource for the members of the Thieving Class. I cannot find a historic analogy or a parallel to /Y/EltsinPutinMedvedev’s Russia. Fundamentally it is anti-Russian. It has low cultural immunity (in the cultural sense post-Soviet Russia is a patient with terminal stage of AIDS). Its Thieving Class is reliant on “abroad”, primarily on the US and Britain, for its daily needs – transportation, conveniences like credit cards and banking, entertainment, education of its evil offspring, anything, and thus is pathologically shy and unable to act in the nation’s interests. Under this setup when the choice is to be made between personal consumption and personal interests on one hand and national interests on the other, the personal consumption considerations always come on top – that’s also unique and historically almost unprecedented. With this sort of balance, the ongoing discussion about who is better Putin or Medvedev is irrelevant, it is a no-issue-issue, while the question who is Navalny can be answered regardless of whether Navalny has made dark sides or just one. He is someone who has exposed a few minor misdeeds of Russia’s Thieving Class and of the nomeklatura behind Russian Federation’s illegitimately privatized illegitimate state,

    • kovane says:

      That is some quality trolling, my friend.

      Thanks for the politics lesson, of course you’re right – politicians everywhere except Russia only concern themselves with public good, future generations and the fate of mankind in general. The thought of appropriating state funds repulses them and they content themselves with bread and water each day.

      Please, report more from the mysterious land of dreams where you obviously live.

      • marknesop says:

        Better throw that cretin Putin out on his ear quickly, and get that honest fellow who was so good with money – and making sure the proceeds of auctioned state assets made it down to the “little people’s” level – in office in his place! Oh, what was his name, again……Oh, yes! Boris Nemtsov! Boy, you’d soon see a return to Russia Pride under a Nemtsov administration, and no more shiny American toys.

    • marknesop says:

      Unless you’re talking about a different airline, or unless this clean-sweep replacement of Russian-made aircraft with shiny Boeings has taken place since this past Christmas, Rossiya has no Boeings in its government fleet, and only 7 out of 28 in its commercial fleet. The government fleet is all-Russian with the exception of a single (French) Dassault Falcon, and the commercial fleet has 15 French Airbus, 6 Russian Antonovs and 7 Boeings.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        To my knowledge, the An-148 was preferred to the Sukhoi Superjet 100, because the latter has much more non-Russian components than the former, hence a much higher risk of having a spying device onboard. The idea of Boeing-made aircraft in the government fleet of Russia is simply ridiculous.
        I hope that Eugene Soukharnikov doesn’t represent the new Navalny-style nationalist opposition, otherwise people will regret the Nemtsov pro-Western opposition.

      • cartman says:

        It is probably a fraction of their worldwide activities, but Boeing does have considerable operations in Russia on both the design and supply sides.

        http://www.boeing.ru/Home.do

        Maybe he was thinking of Aeroflot.

        • marknesop says:

          Agreed, and they make an internationally-recognized aircraft that is as good as anything in the air. But no airline in Russia I’ve ever heard of uses exclusively Boeings or exclusively American aircraft of any type. While Aeroflot uses some and appears to like them, I don’t see it as the expression of disappointment in the domestic product that Mr. Soukharnikov seemed to be angling for.

          • Misha says:

            Putting aside what I take as a likely intended shtik, there’s something within reason to be said of the belief that the Putin-Medvedev differences are a bit hyped – and that an influential class with crony elements can especially have a negative impact, on a country in need of further advancing itself.

  4. Yalensis says:

    The one element in Sukharnikov’s rant that I do agree with is the idea that it is dangerous for Russia to keep so many financial assets in Western banks. That worries me too. We see in Libya situation (and prior to that, with Saddam Hussein) that West has no compunction in simply freezing (=stealing) assets of any foreign government they don’t like. Recall that Great Britain became an international superpower back in the day by being PIRATES (Sir Walter Raleigh, etc.), attacking ships of other martime countries, and stealing their swag.
    In the case of Libya, Western leaders simply decided that all Libyan assets (oil revenues converted into cash) now suddenly belong to Libyan rebels. In the same manner, West could suddenly decide one fine morning that all Russian cash in Western banks now belongs to Navalny, to help him form new (un-corrupt and super-democratic) government.
    Hence, my advice to Russian government would be: Remove all or most cash from Western banks. Either set up new bank in Moscow, or put the $$$ somewhere reliable, like in Chinese bank. Worst case: pile all the loot into a treasure chest and bury at the bottom of Baikal Lake. It will be safer there than in tender care of Goldman Sachs, trust me!

    • grafomanka says:

      pfft. the West should have frozen oligarch assets on the basis that they come from unlawful privatisation and corruption. But no one’s going to do that and the money has been a laundered long time ago. London is still a pirate port, since the likes of Baturina and Berezovsky, and countless oil princes and princesses from CIS countries, end up there.

      • kovane says:

        grafomanka, I’m sorry for an offtopic question, but I just can’t help it – this has been gnawing at me for a while. What’s general attitude to Suvorov in Poland? (the one that was marshal, of course).

        • Misha says:

          Not Graf, but will answer that it’s something like how many Russians view Pilsudski.

          I recall it being said that the Warsaw born ethnic Pole Soviet marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky had street cred problems in Poland, when he became part of the post-WW II Polish government. Part of the problem was his being awarded the Stalin era instituted Order of Suvorov.

        • grafomanka says:

          You got me there, Kovane, I don’t really know. I haven’t heard about Suvorov since my school history lessons. But I think the attitude is negative because of the massacre of Praga (the suburb of Warsaw) where his troops murdered around 20 000 civilians.

          • Misha says:

            Philip Longworth has written what appears to be the most authoritative English language work on Suvorov, which includes Soviet and Imperial Russian sources.

            Without recalling the specifics, he provides insight in questioning that figure with by noting how it might be simply higher from reality, in addition to the matters of including wartime combatants and collateral damage.

            Subjects like Suvorov and Gogol have involved some questionably subjective commentary, that’s indicative of an underlying bias against Russia. This matter pertains to where Russian government involved English language media/PR efforts can be improved upon, by better utilizing folks who know the biases and how to directly address them.

            At an earlier thread at this blog, note how someone said that the Soviet actions against Polish military personnel at Katyn had in mind a payback for how Red Army personnel were fatally treated during the Soviet-Polish war. Before Suvorov’s attack on Warsaw, the Polish subjugation of Russia included some brutal aspects.

            Another evident and related bias concerns the use of “slaughter.” I don’t see it used to describe Hiroshima and Nagasaki, unlike some other instances, where it’s arguably/comparatively not more applicable.

      • cartman says:

        I wonder how Scottish independence would affect this? London could become insolvent, then Moscow could buy Berezovsky back in chains.

    • marknesop says:

      One of my predictions for the upcoming Sublime Oblivion interview was that Asian nations will form new financial institutions, which will invest heavily in Russia. Those sound like a better place to keep one’s money. Asian people are generally less emotional than westerners and more pragmatic. Western business leaders are more like Asians, too, but it is the common everyday people who are like cattle who smell smoke; it’s fairly easy to point them in one direction or another and stir them up. Just mention “Democracy” and throw in a lot of “Freedom”, and you can do pretty much anything you like with strong public support.

      Freezing of other nations’ assets and handing them off to democracy activists is something I never thought about, but you’re right – it’s fairly common. A couple of weeks worth of demonization in the popular press, and it’s easy to convince a western audience that it’s not only legal, it’s the right thing to do.

      • sinotibetan says:

        @ Mark

        “Asian people are generally less emotional than westerners and more pragmatic. ”
        You are absolutely correct on that.

        sinotibetan

  5. Ivo says:

    Has anyone noticed that there is too much Jewish involvement in this ?

  6. Pingback: Putin vs Medvedev vs Navalny | Timely Thoughts

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