Mikheil Saakashvili Channels His Inner Nixon

Uncle Volodya says,”Mikheil Saakashvili is not in great demand for his leadership. He’s just paging himself over the intercom.”

Once upon a time, posters were youth’s talisman against an ordinary life of mediocrity – large, colourful pictures decorating our walls which advertised not so much who we were as who we wished we were; the circles in which we wished we could move and be recognized, and a defiant advertisement of our hipness, savvy and world-wisdom at a time when we had only the vaguest idea what those things were. Glen Buxton, Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway and Mike Bruce snarled down from my walls, hung about with the tools and heraldry of heavy rock and fronted by the strutting embodiment of stagecraft, Alice Cooper – while just on the other side of the same wall, Donny Osmond simpered down upon my sister and her teenybopper friends.

A poster which may have looked out of place among the longhairs and the dubious promises of how you could become an eastern philosopher if you only smoked enough pot was one which featured a middle-aged man with a receding hairline and a jittery grin. He held his arms wide, and the first and second fingers of each hand were splayed in the “V for Victory” sign which, in the 70’s, meant “Peace”. The caption varied; sometimes it said “I am not a crook”, sometimes “Trust me”, and occasionally, “Shut up, Hippie”.  Richard Milhous Nixon, deceptively brilliant political bête noir and disgraced president, criminal and living symbol of political whoredom, whose inclusion in our bedroom galleries was supposed to advertise our wise-guy familiarity with political undercurrents and our cynical rejection of lies.

Never chosen to appear on those posters was the phrase for which Nixon is perhaps best remembered: “If the President does it, that means it’s not illegal”.

Fast-forward to today, when another president is busily rearranging the political landscape of his country so that he can remain not only close to the seat of power after term limits force him from office, but carry it about with him wherever he resurfaces. In just a few days – October 1st – Georgia will hold parliamentary elections which will determine the course of the country’s domestic and foreign policies for some time to come. And Georgia’s current leader, President Mikheil “Slippery” Saakashvili, is busily loading the dice to consolidate his personal hold over political power in Georgia. And it’s not illegal. It is, however – for a variety of reasons – disturbing.

This is as complex a story as we’ve ever covered, so bear with me. During his years as President, Mr. Saakashvili devoted considerable effort to constitutional amendments to increase and amplify his personal power as the holder of that office. However, in a constitutional rewrite in 2010, he began to transfer all those powers to the office of the Prime Minister, seemingly undoing all that he had done. Those changes will come into effect in 2013 – just as the new President takes office.

What is Tricky Mickey Saakashvili up to?

At present, until 2013 when the new constitution comes into effect (the Presidential election is also in October, next year), the Prime Minister is appointed by the President. There was a great deal of speculation that Mr. Saakashvili intended to….well, appoint himself. Once the new constitution becomes effective, the Prime Minister will be appointed by Parliamentary vote. Widespread suspicion was that Mr. Saakashvili’s ambitious and steady transfer of powers to the office of the Prime Minister meant he intended to occupy that office. And despite direct questioning and plenty of opportunity to say “absolutely not”, Mr. Saakashvili refused to rule it out. Even when some people somehow got the idea he had ruled it out, his office was quick to correct them.

Well, now he appears to have ruled it out. In late June this year, he appointed trusted ally Ivane “Vano” Merabishvili to the office of Prime Minister. This, many say, ends the speculation; Mr. Saakashvili has settled on a choice which will still allow him to influence decision-making in Georgia, albeit as an ex-President with no official authority.

Not so fast, say I. Let’s remember who we’re talking about here. This is a guy who – following a 2004 meeting with Vladimir Putin in which Putin mentioned a Georgian minister in positive terms, expressing hope the minister would remain in his post because he enjoyed the respect of Moscow – immediately reassigned that minister and later fired him. This is a guy who announced a unilateral cease-fire in the run-up to the conflict in South Ossetia in 2008, and launched an attack only hours later.

This is a guy who (a) doesn’t like to be told what is the right thing to do – by anyone – and (b) can’t be trusted for a second.

Also, I call your attention to an item mentioned in one of the articles I linked above. The text itself seems quite benign; but look at the caption just under the photo: “The government of President Mikheil Saakashvili does not rule out that his prime minister will take over as president after he leaves.”

Gee. That’d leave the post of Prime Minister vacant, wouldn’t it? And a trusted ally who has been with him since the late 1990’s, at his side during the Rose Revolution, in the President’s seat.

Before we go any further, let’s back up a second, to 2010. Let’s take a look at what changes are introduced in Mr. Saakashvili’s constitutional amendments. You can all read, so I’ll just list the important ones, and you can parse the rest yourselves. Ready?

Oh, my. The Prime Minister will have the right to appoint and dismiss other members of the government, including the defense and interior ministers. The Prime Minister automatically triggers the dissolution of the government with his own resignation. The government’s powers are suspended as soon as the mandate of newly-elected Parliament is approved, and not upon electing a new President. The Prime Minister’s candidacy is named by a political party, which shall be the winning party in Parliamentary elections. Government members are named by the PM-designate. The government has the right to request Parliament to ratify or reject international treaties; the President must have the government’s consent to exercise this right. The President will need government’s approval to appoint or dismiss ambassadors. The government appoints and dismisses regional governors, not the President – in the original draft, the Prime Minister was allowed to do this unilaterally. Most Presidential decrees will require the Prime Minister’s signature. The President will require government’s approval – of which, we have established, the Prime Minister will be the head – to hold international talks or sign international treaties. The President will no longer direct and exercise the domestic or foreign policy of the state: that’ll be – you guessed it – the Prime Minister. The President will require government approval to appoint or dismiss senior military commanders. The President will not be allowed to convene an emergency session of Parliament, or call for a referendum. Parliament will be able to overrule a Presidential veto with a simple majority.

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a tough time believing someone as devious and egotistical as Mikheil Saakashvili is essentially transferred the entire hammer of state power from the President’s office to that of the Prime Minister just on a whim. He must have had a plan. And that plan will most likely work in the best interests of the person he most admires; himself.

Since we were already headed in that direction, let’s retrace our steps just a little more, back to 2008 – the presidential election, in which Saakashvili won a second term. That was as dirty an election as any the west holds up to ridicule, although you’d have a hard time forming that impression if you read only the western press. Here, for example, is President George W. Bush’s congratulatory statement. Bush often found it useful to lie while he was President, and this is no exception. According to congratulations relayed by the State Department, the 2008 election “was the most competitive in Georgia’s history…[and] was determined by international organizations to be in essence consistent with most OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and shared standards for democratic elections, despite significant challenges”. That might be boiled down to “Congratulations: you mostly didn’t cheat”. Is that really what the OSCE found? It is not. The OSCE found the Central Elections Commission (CEC) did not train its operatives properly, and that a handbook describing their duties and responsibilities was not produced until their training was almost complete. Ten days before the election, the CEC itself produced stickers reading “Where will you be on 5 January?” The “5” was inside a red circle, similar to the logo on Mr. Saakashvili’s campaign materials (Mr. Saakashvili was number 5 on the ballot); these stickers were widely circulated and were “in evidence in polling stations on election day”. The CEC did a country-wide voter registration drive in 2007, yet the OSCE received many complaints that deceased people remained on the list, and the CEC was forced to admit a full third of voter records had not been checked at all. Software that was supposed to track multiple entries did not work, and NGO’s and political parties were able to provide OSCE monitors with examples of multiple and incomplete registrations and omission of eligible voters. Opposition parties complained these errors affected over 40,000 voter records. The campaign of Mr. Saakashvili was “notably more extensive than those of other candidates” – it should have been, considering he outspent his next-closest rival by more than triple; $14.6 million to $4.36 million. Vouchers for utilities and medical supplies were distributed by authorities ahead of the election to pensioners and the poor; a clear case of use of state funds to buy votes, especially as the vouchers were prominently marked as being from Mr. Saakashvili and incorporated his trademark “5”. Some voucher recipients were asked by distributors if they planned to vote for Mr. Saakashvili and were asked to sign documents confirming their support. Taking election-rigging to new heights, a presidential program – again using state funds – purchased tractors for farmers, which were handed over with Saakashvili campaign posters affixed to them; these tractors were also used as displays at rallies, and Mr. Saakashvili made it clear where they came from. Police and local officials pressured opposition candidates to stop campaigning or face consequences to themselves and their families, including arbitrary arrest or termination of employment. Business enterprises were pressured to support Mr. Saakashvili’s campaign. Cases of violence, including kidnapping, against opposition activists were verified. Imedi TV, perceived as pro-opposition, was raided by the police, fined and had its broadcast license suspended for an alleged plot to overthrow the government. In the 4 weeks preceding the election, Mr. Saakashvili received 27% of news and prime-time coverage by monitored stations; this coverage was assessed as 98% positive or neutral. The next-closest candidate received 18% of the coverage, and most of it was in connection with his alleged plot to overthrow the government. Understandably, about 33% of it was negative. And on and on it goes – needless to say, any such examples in Russian elections would inspire western media outlets to a perfect ecstasy of democratic fair-play froth and fury. In this case, plainly, they just pretended it was all good.

And that’s just the stuff the OSCE saw. According to the Georgia Times, the village of Yormuganlo voted 105% for the ruling party in 2008. Opposition activists risked being beaten up. In this village of approximately 14,000 voters, almost all are Azerbaijani, and approximately 2000 have the same name, Ali Mamedov. The 12 polling stations in the village recorded only name and a general address, such as “Yormuganlo”.  How many times could a guy named Ali Mamedov vote, considering he did not need to supply a street address? Additionally, video footage recorded as many as 6 people in a polling booth at one time, and local administration officials standing outside saying “besh, besh” (five) to every voter on the way in to the booth.

Naturally, all those practices are expressly and virtuously forbidden now (Article 47 of the Elections Code, Vote Buying, Article 48, Prohibition of the Use of Administrative Resources in the Pre-election and Election Campaigns, and Article 49, Prohibition on the use of budget funds and official capacity), now that Mr. Saakashvili will not need the help of “administrative resources” to win another presidential election, and perhaps they were forbidden then, too. But the west decided to give him a pass and look the other way. It’s worth noting that there was no Prime Minister in the original constitution of Georgia; Mr. Saakashvili created the position in a constitutional rewrite in 2004. At least you can never accuse him of failing to plan ahead, and an old military couplet advises us that if you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.

Flushed with newly-discovered zeal for the law, Mr. Saakashvili has rained a perfect torrent of campaign violation fines and punishments upon the rival considered most likely to pose a real challenge – Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. First, upon announcing his intention to form a party to challenge for the Presidency, Ivanishvili was stripped of his Georgian citizenship, making him ineligible. International pressure made Saakashvili walk back on that one – probably because Georgia’s next U.S. Ambassador called the Oct 1st elections “a litmus test for Georgia’s NATO accession”. Yes, NATO is still keen to admit Georgia, even though the rules say you can’t be considered for NATO membership while unresolved territorial disputes cast doubt on the integrity of your borders. I guess the west is simply going to go with Georgia’s constitution, which still includes Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Georgian provinces, ( Article 1: Georgia is an independent, unified and indivisible state, as confirmed by the 31 March 1991 referendum, which took place throughout the country, including the Abkhaz ASSR – in the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, and the Independence Act of April 9, 1991) although both have declared their independence and held elections, which the west and Georgia refuse to recognize although NATO adores nothing more than brave breakaway republics which love democracy and hold elections. Except when that practice conflicts with western goals, apparently. Then Ivanishvili was charged with violation of campaign-finance laws for distributing free satellite dishes to rural Georgians, because it would facilitate access by his television station, while one of his biggest investors was detained and accused of money laundering, although as of June he had not actually been charged with anything. Ivanishvili’s companies providing cheap transport to party members is , yes, also a violation of campaign finance laws uncovered by the eagle-eyed State Audit Service, which was apparently stricken with glaucoma while Saakashvili was distributing tractors with his face on them – purchased with state funds – to Georgian farmers, using municipal buses to transport rally supporters and paying only for the gas, and coercing pensioners and the poor with vouchers for medical supplies.

Nineteen would-be political parties are disqualified from participation in the October elections; a few on their own request according to the Central Elections Commission, but most for violations of the elections code such as “Documents do not comply with the law” and “List of supporters not submitted”. Since quite a few of them are repeats from the last election, you’d think they would sort of, you know, realize you have to submit a list of supporters.

In another slick move announced with the pretense of open-handedness, the Central Elections Commission announced it was opening “additional polling stations abroad” to help registered Georgian voters abroad cast their ballots. These Georgian expatriates, also according to the CEC’s calculations, number 42,613.

There are more than half a million Georgians in Russia alone, and perhaps even more than a million if emigration trends have remained stable since 2005, all eligible voters in Georgian elections. But there will be no polling stations in Russia – even though the Swiss Embassy represents Georgia in Russia – for “technical reasons”. Expatriate Georgians are out of reach of Saakashvili’s inducements, and many could be expected to vote for the opposition. Many of them are also illegal migrants in their host country, where they have made their way for economic reasons owing to unemployment in Georgia the government officially puts at 16%, but which opposition activists insist is more than double that figure. To top it all off, the election day was moved to a Monday; although it will be a holiday in Georgia, it will not be anywhere else, and expats will be faced with a long journey to capital cities where a polling station is available, on a workday in a country where many of them are illegal migrants who cannot risk taking a day off work or attracting notice to themselves. Vote suppression, plain and simple.

In order for Saakashvili’s plan to work, the United National Movement – his party – must score a decisive win. But after that comes the puzzle. I already have my own idea how it will play out, but I’m not going to tell you. Dig into the law, and you tell me. If UNM wins a decisive majority, they could decide to run Vano Merabishvili as their Presidential candidate. That would leave the Prime Minister’s office open. But Saakashvili would still be President until Merabishvili – theoretically – won the Presidential election. He can’t be President and Prime Minister at the same time. How is Saakashvili, from where he is now, going to get to the office with all the power for as long as he is able to hold it, because it is unregulated by term limits?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And if the President does it, it is not illegal.

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555 Responses to Mikheil Saakashvili Channels His Inner Nixon

  1. Leos Tomicek says:

    I would not say it is the West that is eager to see Georgia in NATO. It is US that sends Georgia weapons and advisors, even as we speak, and the presence of US military is unmissable in the country. Fortunately US is not the only country which will decide on Georgia’s membership, others might not be so enthusiastic.

    • marknesop says:

      No, you’re right, it is mostly the USA and – to a lesser extent but still significant – the UK who agitate for NATO membership for both Ukraine and Georgia, with an interest level that is more or less directly proportional to those countries’ willingness to host American military bases or a less permanent military presence. I quite often say “the west” when I mean “the USA” to avoid hurting the feelings of Americans who form the largest body of visitors to this blog, and on the demonstrable reality that not all Americans approve of their government’s foreign policy maneuverings. I try, if you will, to avoid making them feel disloyal.

      Germany, for example, is generally – at least under Merkel, it is – a realist where Eastern Europe is concerned and generally avoids gratuitous demonization. France under Chirac was similar, although it took a hard right turn under Sarkozy from which it has yet to recover. Most of the other nations are far less influential, globally speaking.

      The west, by which I mean the USA, remains fond of Saakashvili although his stupid lunge at South Ossetia pissed the bed for some time to come. The new stirrings regarding NATO membership are aimed at his successor, because it will never happen while Saakashvili is President, mostly because of Russian resistance. But while that is true, I believe the USA and UK would not be at all opposed to a Georgian government which featured Saakashvili as an extremely powerful Prime Minister, because they like his style – which is to say, his constant provocation toward Russia, his instant blaming of every problem on either Russia or his own opposition, and his panting loyalty to the western majors. The President would be in place to soothe Russian feelings and stroke diplomacy, while Saakashvili continued kissing up to the USA for more weapons, more foreign aid and a greater U.S. military presence.

      The west and Saakashvili understand each other.

      • Misha says:

        “The west and Saakashvili understand each other.”

        ****

        Up to a point.

        Some politically connected folks maintain that the strike on South Ossetia wasn’t pre-approved by the West This has included some follow-up that Saakashvili was advised not to militarily strike.

        Saakashvili has also not taken the neolib-neocon stance on disputed territories which recognizes Kosovo’s independence as a “special case”, unlike the other disputed former Communist bloc areas.

        • marknesop says:

          In fact, the west has been at great pains to show that it warned Saakashvili not to take any provocative action. But they had to have known what kind of personality they were working with; conceited, impulsive and overpoweringly self-interested. The tone of reporting as regards the Georgian military just before the war was one of marveling at how quick they were to catch on and how enthusiastically they applied their new skills – one, in short, of suggesting they were ready for anything and that their training made every soldier the equal of several in other armies. After they were basically run over, it was all like, oh, it was so tragic to just crush those poor boys, anyone could see they were in no way combat-ready.

          History does prove the Bush administration (unless their own papers were lying) did consider a military response in support of Georgia, and the predictable elements in the government argued strongly for it, but in the end it was rejected. It was that response that Saakashvili counted on, convinced that he was getting subtle signals to go ahead with whatever he thought the best course of action, and he could count on backup.

          • Misha says:

            Keeping in mind that countries often have scenarios which privately take into consideration the application of extreme action. Such thinking is ideally kept private to avoid negative publicity.

            For example, it seems believable that some not so will informed Russian and/or Ukrainian official on the former Moldavian SSR might’ve hypothetically brought up in private a scenario of Pridnestrovie (Transnistria) becoming part of Ukraine with official Russian approval. In this particular instance, there’s good reason to question whther such a thought ever really came up.

            Those with a good enough background on that issue see the wisdom behind such a diplomatically provocative thought getting shot down.

          • Leos Tomicek says:

            My own personal opinion is that Saakashvili started the war for propaganda purposes. To distract domestic audience, and win sympathy of the West. He knew he will lose, but winning was not the point in my opinion.

            • Misha says:

              A kind of Falklands/Malvinas, plus the knowledge that he’d get sympathy among some influential elements in the West.

            • marknesop says:

              I must admit that possibility never occurred to me, but either way he would have to be crazy to really think Russia would not react. It speaks to his skills as a strategic planner, which are evidently far weaker than he imagines, and still paints him as a sociopath as he must have known Georgia would take losses that could have been prevented.

              That the west tacitly supports him despite all his ready-fire-aim shenanigans is also evident, by their letting him get away with including the two breakaway republics as Georgian territory in the constitution. NATO well knows these republics have declared their independence in precisely the same way Georgia herself did – which was quickly recognized with tears of joy from the west – and have their own duly elected autonomous governments. But the west still speaks of “litmus tests” for NATO membership for Georgia although membership may not be considered in the case of a country which has unresolved territorial disputes.

              • Leos Tomicek says:

                NATO cannot tell Saakashvili an outright no, so they talk about “litmus tests” of which, of course, it is doubtful that Georgia will pass. I am doubtful there is any strong desire to include Georgia in NATO, so they have to come up with some convenient excuse.

                • marknesop says:

                  I wouldn’t be too sure; quite apart from the titillating possibility of building U.S. military bases right against the hip of Russia – something Saakashvili has been eager to host – the west would dearly love to make Georgia a pipeline corridor which would bypass Russia and offer Europe a choice of natural gas suppliers, and which would hopefully cut Russia out of the market. They keep saying Russia’s economy would be cut in half without oil and gas revenues, and I believe they would love to put that theory to the test.

                  Of course they could not cut it off altogether – it’s the world’s largest supplier – but offering alternative supplies would take away a powerful bargaining tool. And a lot of Russia’s modernization plans would have to be modified or shelved if the country could not count on energy revenues. Anything the west can do to slow modernization fuels discontent, which fuels protest, which the west exaggerates, and so on and so on.

                  The Southern Corridor has been called by some the last “Great Game”, as western agencies try to nail down a pipeline corridor which will circumvent Russia and thus limit its power. Two major factors influencing this are Germany’s plans to phase out nuclear power by 2022 (in which case their gas consumption will rise steadily if not sharply), and Europe’s current fiscal woes, which mean new financial ventures have a harder time attracting investment. In this new game, especially considering Russia is flush with cash and steadily plowing ahead with SouthStream, any instability in Georgia is of abiding interest to both sides.

                  Georgia would need to be a NATO member to host a base, or at least if it wanted assurances that base would be defended by NATO, while Georgia would not necessarily have to be in NATO to be a pipeline conduit. But such a pipeline would be vulnerable, and assurances it would be defended by NATO would be a powerful inventive to invest in such a corridor.

                  http://wiki.openoil.net/index.php?title=The_'Southern_Corridor'_and_pipeline_politics_in_the_South_Caucasus

                  http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Taking-a-Second-Look-at-the-Southern-Gas-Corridor.html

                • Leos Tomicek says:

                  That is an interesting theory, but why would NATO hinge Georgia’s membership on democratic demands? Georgia can be accepted regardless of its democratic record. Turkey was a member of NATO for a long time, and its record on democracy and human rights was and still is questionable. Besides that, a US base does not need to be in a NATO member state, and on its own would provide assurances of security.

                • marknesop says:

                  NATO membership cannot be extended to a country with outstanding territorial disputes. That might well be why Saakashvili launched his attack to bring the two rebel provinces to heel. It’s true the USA has established military bases in non-member states, but usually because it was at war within them or for an ad hoc purpose, such as logistics. It became difficult for the USA to stay on in Georgia after it had completed its training mission, and it never really had a base there as such. But Saakashvili indicated often that he would be happy to have Georgia host one.

            • yalensis says:

              I don’t think Saak would have launched the war thinking he will lose. He was absolutely terrified at the prospect of Russians capturing or killing him. Recall that video where he fled in panic thinking a Russian drone was overhead. His physical cowardice would prevent him from taking such a risk. No, he must have really believed, deep down, that NATO will come to the rescue and he will win the war.

              • Leos Tomicek says:

                I think even that was staged to elicit sympathy…

                • marknesop says:

                  No, it certainly wasn’t; he heard what he thought was a plane overhead and suggested moving to cover, but everybody followed and then somebody screamed and it turned into a panic. He either fell or his loyal security detail pushed him down, and covered him with their briefcases. That made me laugh out loud – the Georgian leather portfolio, impervious to bombs and bullets.

                  But it’s true he routinely exaggerated the Russian threat, although not so much to gain sympathy as to get free gifts of advanced weaponry and more foreign aid for training.

                • cartman says:

                  He looked nervous:

                  Add another flag of Europe to the count.

              • yalensis says:

                Like all bullies, Saak is a COWARD. According to some accounts, he was so scared he soiled himself; this is why his guards are so frantically shooing everbody away, even after it becomes clear there is no drone.
                The leader of a nation at war is supposed to be brave. Nobody would ever follow this guy onto a battlefield, ever again:

              • Misha says:

                Was the aforementioned video more a matter of him being scared or something he framed as a greater threat for publicity sake?

                Another idea kicked around is that he was setup by the Russians and South Ossetians. If true (which I lean towards not believing), that thought can be used against him.

                He has a loud side which serves to motivate some extreme behavior to grab him headlines.

                Regarding security threats, there’re numerous other issues to consider than Russia:

                http://www.eurasiareview.com/25092012-junk-food-us-security-threat-say-retired-military-leaders/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+eurasiareview%2FVsnE+%28Eurasia+Review%29

                • Viz my views about this see my comments about the war and why Saakashvili might have thought he would win it see my comments below. I would just say

                  1. Of one thing I am absolutely sure, which is that Saakashvili went to war fully expecting to win. No one not even the maddest person launches a war intending to lose. Saakashvili may be eccentric but he is not that mad.

                  2. The Germans made it absolutely clear at the April 2008 NATO summit that they totally oppose Georgia joining NATO. I happen to know from people in the Greek delegation who were there that the April 2008 NATO summit, which had been intended to celebrate NATO sixtieth anniversary, degenerated into a furious row between the Germans and Bush who came to the summit determined to get Georgia and the Ukraine admitted into the NATO partnership programme. Bush was furious when the Germans (supported by the Italians, the Belgians and the French) said a categorical no. Over the course of the row Merkel (who apparently has a personal dislike for Saakashvili) apparently mentioned the fact that Georgia is not in full control of its territory. By the way Britain and the NATO Secretariat supported Bush.

                  3. My view was that the war was launched in August 2008 to resolve this argument. If the war had succeeded then the plan was to ram through Georgia’s and the Ukraine’s membership programme at the summit of NATO foreign ministers in December 2008 just before the Bush Presidency ended. In the euphoria that would have followed a Georgian military victory and with Russia sunk in a political crisis after its humiliation in the Caucasus in the summer this demand would have been irresistible. Saakashvili and Yushchenko would have got what they wanted and Bush would have left the Presidency with at least one foreign policy success to show.

                  Of course 3 is speculation on my part though I think well informed. By the way it doesn’t mean that Bush and Condoleeza Rice instigated the war. If they did they obviously didn’t inform the US ambassador to Georgia as his reports to Washington during the war (leaked by Wikileaks) make clear. If I am right then I suspect that this plan originated in Saakashvili’s fertile brain. He is the sort of gambler who would come up with a plan like that and it would be entirely like him not to tell the Americans about it.

                  4. I am not sure that Saakashvili is exactly a coward. He comes across to me more as nervous and highly strung and perhaps over imaginative rather than exactly cowardly. My own view is that the famous incident in which he cowered with his bodyguards from a non existent Russian air attack was staged for the benefit of the western media in order to show Saakashvili’s courage in appearing in public during an air attack. This was one occasion when his flair for the melodramatic ran away with itself so that it alll backfired. One effect of the war was that Saakashvili briefly came in for much more critical observation than usual by the western media who of course travelled to Georgia in much bigger numbers than usual. The result is that he was not able to control his appearances to the extent that he usually does.

                • Misha says:

                  Dear Alexander,

                  There’s good reasson to believe that the Georgian government strike on South Ossetia was intended as a quick in and out, with the option to be greater, if Russia was seen as not striking back.

                  With this in mind, he might’ve thought that the Russian counter-attack would be limited from what happened.

                  Concerning the issue of why some countries go to war, did the Argentine junta really believe that Britain wouldn’t militarily respond to the takeover of the Falkands? It has been said that the Aregentine takeover of the Falklands was done as a means to take attentn away from the socioecomomic problems in Argentina.

                  At this thread, Leos offered the view that Saak was looking for publicity and diversion of other problems.

                  Whatever the case, I concur with the view which questions Saak’s ability to think and act coherently.

                  On the subject of a quick in and out miltary action, I recall China’s late 1970s strike on Vietnam to teach the latter “a lesson” on Cambodia. The analysis of that military action finds that the Chinese were beaten up in that brief exchange.

                • Dear Yalensis,

                  Because this thread was getting narrow I discussed why Saakashvili might have thought he would win the war in a comment below. Briefly I think based on recent US experience in fighting wars he may have thought Russia would not respond for several days or even weeks until it had assembled a big army to give itself a decisive numerical advantage on the battlefield. In that time he probably calculated that he would have time to consolidate his control of South Ossetia and would be able to mobilise international opinion behind him. That Russia would attack within one day when its forces were actually outnumbered on the battlefield was something he did not expect and nor I suspect did his commanders on the ground or his US allies. Bear in mind that he had re equipped the Georgian army with many modern weapons before he started the war. In 2008 the Georgians had more sophisticated weapons at their disposal than did the Yugoslavs in the 1999 Kosovo war when the US was unwilling to take the Yugoslavs on in a ground war. Saakashvili may have felt that what nearly worked for the Yugoslavs in 1999 would work in 2008 for him especially when his adversary was the despised Russians. Given that this was so and his numerical advantage at the start of the battle it is perhaps understandable why he became over confident.

                • marknesop says:

                  That’s the part that made me laugh; that the Georgian soldiers threw away their new rifles and went back to the AK, because they knew how it worked and they trusted it.

                • Misha says:

                  Regarding the comparison with Yugoslavia, its JNA had a noticeable and pretty well protected force in Kosovo – much unlike the Georgian military position in South Ossetia.

                  Unlike the Georgian government, Yugoslavia didn’t initiate an attack against the armed forces of a major power.

                  On the sophisticated weapons point, the JNA did manage to shoot down a stealth NATO plane. I think its fair to say that Yugoslavia’s military personnel performed more effectively in 1999 when compared to the Georgian military in 2008.

      • Misha says:

        “Germany, for example, is generally – at least under Merkel, it is – a realist where Eastern Europe is concerned and generally avoids gratuitous demonization.”

        ****

        On the issue of former Yugoslavia, Germany (Merkel included) is on the provocative side.

      • kievite says:

        We need to see a bigger picture… In all crucial respects, as Basevich many times noted the Bush era did not end Jan. 20, 2009. Among other things Bush:

        — “Preempted any inclination to question the wisdom of the post-Cold War foreign policy consensus, founded on expectations of a sole superpower exercising “global leadership”.

        — Completed the shift of US strategic priorities away from Europe and toward the Greater Middle East.

        Georgia is an important part of this “shift of US strategic priorities”. See http://snuffysmithsblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-bush-hath-wrought-andrew-bacevich.html

  2. Leos Tomicek says:

    By the way, number 5 has the most posters, opposition presence is localised.

    • marknesop says:

      Oh, that’s right, you’re there! Well, your presence is going to be invaluable to this post, then; please give us frequent updates on anything you think is newsworthy regarding the election. Maybe you’ll run into Solomon Ternaleli, the author of the blog I cited as a reference. I have to say I’m impressed with his style, and intend to add him to the blogroll.

      • Leos Tomicek says:

        I’m not there, I recently came back, I was there just on tour around the country. There is not much I can tell about the posters, I can’t read their language nor can I speak it.

  3. yalensis says:

    Excellent post, Mark. Well researched, and interesting to read.

    I am trying to figure out the puzzle you posed, but I am not sure I have it right. Here is my reading of the chronology, let me know if I got something wrong:
    On October 1 (just over a week from now), the Gruzian parliamentary elections will probably (through massive vote rigging) return a majority to the ruling UNM party. The party will therefore get to appoint the next Prime Minister, who will continue to be Merabishvili. This status quo (with Saakashvili as powerful Prez and Merabishvili as less powerful PM) will continue for one more year.
    Then, in October 2013, everything changes: Saakashvili’s term as Prez expires, and he will not be able to run again, ever, due to term limit rules. There will then be a new election for Prez. At the same time, the PM (Merabishvili) will acquire super powers. Whoever is elected new Prez will now be the second banana.
    Are you thinking that in October 2013 Saak and Mera will do a switcheroo? (Sort of like what Putin and Medvedev did?)
    To do this, I guess Mera would have to run for Prez, win the election, and then resign as PM. This would force Parliament to pick a new PM who would be … Saakashvili!
    Did I get that right, or did I miss something?
    Of course, many things could happen in the next year….

    • marknesop says:

      A lot depends on the language in the constitution that is currently in effect, as it applies to the Prime Minister. Remember, this is a new position created by Sakkashvili. Under the new constitution (the one that takes effect in 2013), if the Prime Minister resigns, the whole government is considered to have resigned and a new government must be formed. But Merabishvili would have to resign before the presidential election in order to run for President. Does that trigger the resignation of the government under the current constitution? Sounds risky, if so, don’t you think?

      • yalensis says:

        Okay, here is my scenario:
        Mera resigns as PM just in time to run for Prez. Under current constitution, this does not collapse the government; instead, the Speaker (I think that is Bakradze?) becomes PM.
        In 2013 Mera runs for Prez and wins. The new constitution takes effect. Then Bakradze resigns as PM, collapsing the government. New parliamentary elections are held. Ruling party wins by a landslide. Saakashvili is appointed Prime Minister. After that he is ruler for life. He could then even pass the power along to his son, provided his party stays in power forever.
        I think that scenario works, from a purely legal POV.

        • marknesop says:

          I think it’s going to be something like that; the post of Prime Minister will probably be left vacant for a few months or perhaps a placeholder will be appointed. Or perhaps Merabishvili will be able to hold his present office and still run for President; I’m not sure, and the Georgian constitution has been more or less set up as Saakashvili’s instrument, do be played as he wishes. Remember, if the President does it, it’s not illegal.

          Everything hinges on UNM getting a majority. If that doesn’t happen, Saakashvili can still try to bully Parliament into making him PM, but it’ll be much more difficult. But it has plainly been engineered that Saakashvili could be the all-powerful Prime Minister even if Ivanishvili won the Presidency – he would have no power to remove Saakashvili without the consent of the government, which for all intents and purposes would be Saakashvili.

  4. yalensis says:

    This note is for Alexander Mercouris, you may have seen this already, but I stumbled upon this English-language website for the Russian Legal Information Agency, that has a lot of information about the various cases going on:

    http://rapsinews.com/

    • Dear Yalensis,

      Thanks about this. I am aware of RAPSI. I used their excellent summary of the Pussy Riot trial in the second Pussy Riot post I wrote for my blog. As I understand it RAPSI is part of Novosti but it seems to be a lot more objective in its reporting than Novosti.

  5. yalensis says:

    And this note is for MoscowExile (sorry, I am REALLY off-topic here, but this is important):

    @Exile, do you remember how you did that brilliant DaVinci-code style deconstruction of the Voina “Chicken in the Snatch” art work?

    Well, I believe I have accomplished a similar, if not so brilliant, decoding of Voina’s “Zoological Museum Piece”. I believe I know the secret meaning of this work, and it is so obvious I don’t know why nobody thought of it before. It involves Medvedev, of course, in the guise of a Bear, and also a heterosexual couple expressing their love in a certain way. Here is the clue, and they should have entitled their work, simply, Превед:

    http://lurkmore.to/%D0%9C%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%B4

  6. Dear Mark,

    An excellent post.

    I don’t think anybody who has followed Saakashvili’s career has the slightest doubt that he is looking for ways to remain in power after his present Presidential term ends. If he simply did a job swap with the present Prime Minister in itself that would be no different than what Putin and Medvedev did and would not be objectionable. It is the rewriting of the Georgian Constitution to transfer the President’s powers to the Prime Minister that is objectionable. I will be interested to see by the way whether those western commentators who have at various times complained about the Putin Medvedev swaps are going to complain about what Saakashvili is doing.

    Having said all this, it bears saying that this is Georgia’s internal affair. It is Saakashvili himself and his positions I object to not the fact that he is looking for ways to perpetuate himself in office.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Alex! I do object to Saakashvili attempting to remain in office, as well as his engineering the constitution in order to gift whatever office he chooses to occupy with all the powers he previously enjoyed as President, because his rule has been a disaster for Georgia that he has mostly been able to conceal by way of his playing the devoted submissive to the major western powers. From the tubing of its capital-to-assets ratio to its soaring debt to its steadily worsening GINI Coefficient (31.3% of the country’s income in the hands of the top 10%), Saakashvili’s performance by the numbers rather than the glowing paeans to his “reforms” in the western press has not fallen far short of wrecking the country.

      Indeed it is Georgia’s internal affair, provided the vote is free and fair, which it is not going to be. The west does not hesitate to piss all over elections in Russia although it can offer little in the way of conclusive proof of election violations afterward. In Georgia, international monitors either look the other way, or if their reports reflect the true state of affairs they are ignored. According to Georgians, the power of the ruling party is entrenched all the way down to the schoolteachers, who are appointed by regional authorities and know their job rides on their loyalty. They are said to exert pressure on parents by way of their power over their children’s grades. I know that sounds fantastic and perhaps it is not accurate, but it came from a Georgian source. The deck is heavily stacked in favour of the UNM.

      • Dear Mark,

        That’s exactly the point. Elections in Georgia are not free or fair. Saakashvili when he came to power did consolidate Georgia and this did win him genuine support. He did not build on what he achieved. His Prime Minister died in mysterious circumstances when he began to seem like a possible challenger. His police far from being selfless guardians of the nation treat his opponents with great brutality. He has filled up the prisons. He has as we all know waged (and lost) aggressive wars against his neighbours. He has neglected Georgia’s health and education systems and his economic and social policies (taken from the Ayn Rand handbook) have been nowhere near as successful as his fans say. The only area where Saakashvili has achieved unequivocal success is in his public relations but only because there are people in the US and EU who desperately want to believe in him and therefore shut their minds to the obvious absurdities and contradictions in what he says.

        • Misha says:

          The Zolotov termed respectable London based internet magazine OpenDemocracy is by no means pro-Russian and Sorosian in its editorial selection of commentary.

          At that venue, there has been criticism of Saakashvili. His loose cannon manner can eventually influence something along the lines of what happened to Diem in South Vietnam.

          Major powers have been known to turn on leaders of small countries who’ve been viewed as greatly owing their existence to the given power. This happens when the individual in question is seen as too much of a risk, in terms of acting too independently/unpredictably.

    • marknesop says:

      I love the part at the end, when the ecstatic anarchist chick is trying to get the cops to shut down the guy who is taking the opposite position, on the grounds that he is “being loud and we can’t do our program”, and when told freedom of speech means freedom for him, too, she asks, “Did you send him?”

      • yalensis says:

        The NYC cops come off looking really good in this. They are doing their job exactly the way they are supposed to, keeping public order and preventing violence while being cool and even humorous about it. When the anarchist chick approaches them with a complaint about the heckler, they are initially receptive and willing to listen to her: “What’s he doing?”
        “He’s shouting and being very loud.”
        At that point they know she’s full of shit, so they shrug her off. “Well, so are you…. And, by the way, do you guys have a permit for this rally?”
        “We have freedom of speech,” she replies huffily.
        “Yeah, well, so does he.”
        Great job, NYC cops! (I have to give credit where credit is due.)

        And, BTW, like I’ve said before, this clip shows in a microcosm everything that is wrong with anarchists: They claim not to believe in any state authority, but they are always the first ones to run crying to the cops and calling for them to repress somebody else whenever something doesn’t go their way.

        • cartman says:

          They are wearing photocopies of a picture of the masks because wearing balaclavas in New York is illegal. Some anarchists…

          • marknesop says:

            They like to pretend they are real anarchists and get a little thrill from being so rebellious, but they probably all go for a burger together after the big day of eschewing bourgeois values, instead of stealing food from supermarkets, and then all go home to their warm beds instead of squatting in a bus station. They like to believe they are defending the values of true artists because they probably heard a variation of the story in which the three clean-living young women just wanted to sing their little song in church, who knows – maybe it would be a hit like that Aussie nun did with the Lord’s Prayer, and then everybody would just be sorry they didn’t get on the Pussy Riot bandwagon when they had the chance, especially those creepy Orthodox sore losers. You can bet they didn’t hear that they were screeching about shit and bitches, or else it would get a reception in America like the artist who does the “Piss Christ” art show featuring a photograph of a crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine. Fox News insists the President get involved in that little bit of blasphemy, otherwise he is plainly favouring Islam because he didn’t order the bombers to go in and flatten Libya over their killing of the American Ambassador. “The Obama administration’s hypocrisy and utter lack of respect for the religious beliefs of Americans has reached an all-time high,” trumpets Representative Michael Grimm, of the same city featuring the paper anarchists defending Pussy Riot. Nobody seems to notice the irony.

    • yalensis says:

      Article linked by Misha points out the disarray of Saak’s ruling party, and the bombshell effect of the prison abuse leaks. Normally this would be enough to turn the election over to Opposition, but since Gruzia is not a real democracy (just a sham democracy with fake elections), UNM will probably still win election, despite all this.

  7. yalensis says:

    This piece contains 2 interesting tidbits:

    (1) Famous Gruzian singer Bakur Baduli (whom, admittedly, I never heard of) gave up his Medal of Honor given to him by Saakashvili a few years back. He did this as act of protest against the newly revealed tortures/abuses in Gruzian prisoners;
    (2) In a separate scandal, Gruzian television channel GNS did an expose of Saakashvili’s botox treatments. Nobody can fault Saak for wanting to look a little smoother (Putin gets the injections too), but the real scandal is that Saak charged the state budget for for the expensive injections. If he wants to look younger, he should really do that on his own dime.

    http://www.dni.ru/polit/2012/9/24/240931.html

    • marknesop says:

      This one is pretty much the way I see it happening. I am convinced Saakashvili is maneuvering for the Prime minister’s chair, and rather than Merabishvili being merely a placeholder, he is going to be UNM’s Presidential candidate. The provision for the outgoing President to serve as Prime Minister (which has no term limits) is already written into both constitutions, and it is because of western pressure that Saakashvili is delaying the announcement until the last possible second. I honestly believe him to be sociopathic; he understands the difference between right and wrong but does not care. Exactly as in the case of his attack on South Ossetia in 2008, he believes the west will bitch a bit, but will be caught flat-footed by his bold action and will have little choice but to support him – for the price of a bit of finger-wagging and maybe having to hang his head and pretend to be repentant, he will get everything he wants.

      We will see if the west is serious – the disenfranchisement of between a half-million and a million Georgians in Russia is a move that begs for intervention. For his part, Putin could offer a one-time, one-day amnesty, so that Georgians illegally in the country as migrants could go and vote without fear of deportation; early announcement of this would build the will to participate, and put pressure on the Swiss Embassy to offer to take a more interventionist hand and set up polling stations. I can’t imagine Saakashvili will get away with disenfranchisement of better than a half-million voters on the basis of “technical reasons” without being directed to explain further, and it is here we will see if the west is serious or if it is just blowing smoke and will pretend to scold Saakashvili but will accept him as Prime Minister without to much heartache.

      If Inanishvili has any sense at all he will be hitting on this hard, as well as the prison scandal and the hypocrisy of the fines being levied against him for campaign-finance violations when Saakashvili got away with the same things in 2008; they are recorded in the OSCE report. If he is being credited with about 30% support right now (I forget, but I think it’s about that), it is surely higher in reality because Saakashvili is careful what he allows the west to see. And the western media is careful to see only what they are told.

      • Misha says:

        In the background:

        http://www.rferl.org/content/georgia-south-ossetia-trade-accusations-of-preparing-for-war/24716583.html

        Saakashvili’s “inner Nixon” seems to exhibit an “inner Diem” dynamic, which might ultimately (at some point) contribute to his possible demise.

      • Hunter says:

        Actually Mark, Putin is probably better off leaving Saakashvili to his own devices. After all, think about what would happen if say 400,000 Georgians in Russia got to vote and the vast majority voted for various opposition parties. The UNM would probably still win a plurality and be the leading party but it might not win a majority. It might win say 48% of the vote. So the way would then be open for a coalition of opposition parties to put in place someone else as Prime Minister. This might actually be a problem from Putin’s point of view because it might mean someone sane occupying a position of authority in Georgia. This then might lead to some really crazy stuff – like the new government attempting to mend relations with South Ossetia and Abkhazia and offering them some real guaranteed autonomy in Georgia. If they take the deal then the way would then be open for Georgia to join NATO. On the other hand, letting Saakashvili get away with what he seems to be intending to do will keep a crazy guy in power in Georgia, erode democracy and the legitimacy of the state there, indefinitely delay Georgia’s entry into NATO and continue to solidify the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Sure he will rant and rave about Russia and provoke Russia whenever he can, but there isn’t much he can realistically do now anyway. The situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is no longer the messy situation of pre-2008 where Georgia had some control over parts of those areas and Russia is now in the WTO. So Georgia can’t use its position to try to conquer South Ossetia and Abkhazia anymore and Georgia can’t keep Russia out of the WTO anymore. In short, Saakashvili has gone from being a potential spoiler to being an irksome, if useful non-entity.

        If the West had a clue it would be actually be pushing for all ex-pat Georgians to be given the vote including the ones in Russia in hopes of toppling Saakashvili and establishing a relationship with someone from outside the UNM (or maybe someone else inside the UNM). As it stands now, Saakashvili might just be allowed to continue his policies for as long as the Georgian people are willing to put up with it without overthrowing him in another Revolution (maybe 12-20 years down the road), by which time enough time might have passed that the anti-Saakashvili movement no longer trusts the West (due to unwavering Western support for Saakashvili) and might start to see Russia as a potential supporter. At that point we might see a Nixon goes to China moment of sorts where the new Georgian leader goes to Russia in order to establish good relations and change the entire dynamic in the region.

        • Dear Hunter,

          I think you make a really good point. Saakashvili in power in many ways actually serves Russian interests. Whilst he is in power there is no serious possibility that the Germans (under any government – not just Merkel) will agree to Georgia joining NATO and there is no possibility of any sort of rapprochement between Georgia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia. A more reasonable pro western government in Georgia might actually cause more problems for Russia. Quite apart from anything else Russia might come under pressure to respond to any overtures that come from Georgia by making concessions on a range of issues which it might not want to make. Having said that, a more reasonable government in Georgia is nonetheless what I want to see for the Georgian people’s sake.

          • Hunter says:

            Yes, a more reasonable government would be better for the sake of the Georgian people. Unfortunately for them an unusual set of circumstances means that just about everyone else (the West, Russia, Saakashvili and Saakashvili’s supporters in Georgia) has their own reasons why they would want Saakashvili to stick around. This is then compounded by the Georgian opposition being fractured such that the UNM doesn’t face any serious challenges even in a completely free and fair election.

        • yalensis says:

          Dear Hunter:
          Your analysis is solid, if somewhat Machiavellian.
          Sometimes if one tries to be too crafty and think too many moves ahead, one could easily make a false move and see it all blow up. This happens to even the best chess playes. (Allude to Kasparov.)
          Hence, I don’t think it would be useful for Russian government to try to get too cute and think “It’s better for us if Saak stays in power.” Actually, there is very little that Russia can, or should, do to influence internal Gruzian politics. Just sit back, defend one’s own borders, and let nature take its course. That’s my philosophy.

          • Hunter says:

            Well letting nature takes its course would pretty much amount to letting Saakashvili remain in power somehow and in the end it would serve Russia’s interests better. This seems to be one of those times when doing nothing is the best course of action anyway.

            When one thinks about it, if Russia WERE to try to get the 500,000 Georgian ex-pats in the Russian Federation to be able to vote the result would be a lose-lose situation:

            – having the Georgian ex-pats voting in the way Mark outlined could lead to Saakashvili not becoming Prime Minister and a saner figure getting the job….which could lead to a some fence mending with Abkhazia and South Ossetia (maybe even an autonomy deal!) and then perhaps NATO membership for Georgia. Offering a one-time, one-day amnesty to illegal Georgian migrants would also NOT go down well with some of Putin’s voters in Russia as he would be seen as coddling illegal migrants (never mind that it is a one-time affair). This will only give fuel for the anti-immigrant factions within Russian politics (either within United Russia or outside of United Russia in other parties). Better to leave well enough alone just for those reasons.

            – offering a one-time, one-day amnesty and attempting to encourage the registration and participation of the 500,000 to 1 million Georgians in Russia in the vote would be characterized in the Western MSM and in the Georgian government media as “Russian intereference” in Georgia’s democratic process and no doubt there would allegations that many of these Georgians in Russia are actually not Georgians and/or are being paid by Sauron…I mean…Putin to vote for the anti-Saakashvili parties. This in turn might well weaken the anti-Saakashvili parties who might now get viewed by some swing voters in Georgia as actually being stooges of Russia even if that isn’t the case. They would be hard pressed to prove it because they would have to be proving a negative. Better to let the anti-Saakashvili camp and the Georgian people in general come to view Russia as a potential partner on their own and over time (the wounds of the 2008 conflict would still be far too fresh) than to attempt to push things along too quickly.

            Better to just let things pan out naturally and prepare for any eventual outcomes rather than wind up in a lose-lose scenario.

        • marknesop says:

          Hunter!!! Where you been, man?? I was wondering what had happened to you, and it’s good to see you back.

          I’m with Alex on this one – although you are thinking far ahead and as a long-term strategy your scenario makes sense, the ordinary Georgian people are living in misery with a government that intimidates them, and income inequality under Saakashvili is worse than the worst it was before he took over (use 1995 or earlier to today for values); the lowest it has been in modern memory was 36.08, in 1997. Unemployment has climbed steadily under Saakashvili, from 14% in 2002 to 16.8 in 2008; no figures are available after that, or at least not at that website, and it reflects official figures from the World Bank – opposition members in Georgia say it is actually much, much higher. Those figures relate to unemployment among men, as a percentage of the labour force – among women the situation is considerably worse, from 11% in 2002 to 16.1% in 2008. You can see why people would vote for Saakashvili – or his party – even if they despise both, just to keep their jobs in that kind of an employment environment, and if the complaints of ordinary citizens are true threatening citizens with job termination to muscle votes out of them is commonplace. This is borne out in the World Bank’s official figures for “vulnerable employment“, which is defined as unpaid family workers and own-account workers – the latter defined by OECD as “those workers who, working on their own account or with one or more partners, hold the type of job defined as a self- employed job, and have not engaged on a continuous basis any employees to work for them during the reference period”, and has never been less than 60% under Saakashvili. National debt has quadrupled under Saakashvili, while dollar-on-dollar borrowing on IMF credit has achieved escape velocity. Bear in mind these are all official figures from the World Bank, likely given the kindest interpretation it is possible to bestow. It is difficult to imagine the wreckage Saakashvili and the UNM have made of Georgia, because the west keeps parroting the line that accompanies all of TradingEconomics’ graphs on the country – “Georgia has been one of the fastest growing economies among the countries created by the ending of the Soviet Union. Its national output is based on cultivation of grapes, citrus fruits, and hazelnuts; mining of manganese and copper; and small industrial sector producing alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, metals, machinery, aircraft and chemicals. In recent years the government undertook a number of institutional reforms aimed at modernizing the economy and improving business climate.”

          I will not disagree the Saakashvili government has improved the business climate; the ease-of-doing-business index reflects it is very easy to start a business in Georgia. The same index does not reflect how hard it is to make a profit from your business when you might get a call from a government figure at any time ordering you to cough up $50,000.00 or $100,000.00 for campaign funds or whatever, and list off your relatives that you can borrow it from.

          Saakashvili is a sociopath and he is visiting misery upon his people, at least according to many ordinary Georgians.

          As I mentioned in the post, the government barred 19 opposition parties from competing. In theory, this should be where the Saakashvili government slipped up, because Ivanishvili should be approaching all those party leaders with a view to coalition-building under his banner, to circumvent the endgame you describe. If he can’t unite the opposition, then he has little hope of being able to unite and lead the country in a post-Saakashvili environment. What he should be doing also is convincing the police to work with him, possibly in exchange for amnesty contingent upon future exemplary professional behavior, and to arrest and imprison Saakashvili immediately upon winning the vote, before he has a chance to get away. He can comfort himself with the likelihood that Saakashvili will find a way to do the same to him, if he wins.

          • Hunter says:

            Well I’m glad I was missed Mark. :)

            I agree with Alex and you that Georgians deserve a better government. I just don’t agree with your idea that Putin should offer any sort of amnesty for any Georgians living in Russia illegally to be able to go to vote. While it is a nice and noble idea in principle for the reasons I outlined above it would cause more problems than it would solve (it might even backfire): Putin would be giving fodder to anti-immigrant voices in Russia; the West and Saakashvili would characterize it as meddling in Georgia’s election (“look Putin stole the elections in Russia and now he is trying to steal them in Georgia too!”) and such a move might actually weaken the opposition within Georgia as undecided voters might believe the perception that the opposition really is just a bunch of Russian puppets and decide NOT to vote for them.

            If Putin did want to get Saakashvili off the scene by helping Georgians to vote him out, his best bet would be to hope for a situation to develop in which the West would “push” him in the direction he wanted to go anyway (i.e. the West would then be calling for all ex-pat Georgians to be given the vote including those in Russia and “pressuring” Putin to facilitate such a vote). Unfortunately for such a situation to develop we would probably need to see:

            A. Georgia’s opposition accepting that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are independent
            B. Georgia’s opposition foregoing NATO membership

            Neither of which is likely to happen.

            • marknesop says:

              Actually, I was talking more about a one-day amnesty, just to vote, which could be sold by the Russian government as a generous move – we’re not telling you who to vote for, but we’ll make it possible for you to vote – which it would be hard for the west and Saakashvili to mischaracterize although I’m sure they’d try. But I do hope for just that – an opposition government that will forswear joining NATO; what benefit would it be, if not from the viewpoint of a military alliance that would welcome the USA in to build military bases and flood the country with American soldiers? It’s not like it’s a trade alliance, and Saakashvili and the west wanted it only for the mutual-defense clause that would make a Russian attack on Georgia an attack against NATO. That would make Russia cautious, and if Russia felt it had to be cautious in its own region of influence it would be weaker. I also hope an opposition government could establish a sovereignty alliance with South Ossetia and Abkhazia that would stop short of them returning to the Georgian fold. I don’t see why it couldn’t happen, as the populations of both have made it plain they want their independence in the same manner exactly as Georgia achieved her own.

              As mentioned elsewhere, Georgians and Russians get along fairly well, and I don’t think nationalizing the Georgian diaspora or even giving them dual citizenship would bring the same outcry from nationalists as does railing against the Caucasians, who are actually Russians anyway. But the short-term goal is to keep Saakashvili from establishing himself as Prime Minister, from which office it will be 500 times harder to dislodge him as he will still be at the head of his criminal organization but without the leverage of term limits.

              • Hunter says:

                That one day amnesty is also what I was talking about.

                The idea of giving any amnesty to illegal migrants won’t go down well with some voters and probably even some within Putin’s own party. Even for the legal migrants it would be pretty difficult to give a one day holiday to JUST the Georgians. Business owners who have hired legal Georgian migrants won’t appreciate the government giving their workers a holiday (and thus forcing them to close or to be short-staffed) while other businesses (their competition) remain open and fully staffed. Likewise the non-Georgian workers will be jealous that the Georgian workers get this holiday (doesn’t matter if it is to vote or not because you can be sure not all of the Georgian workers would use the holiday to vote) while they do not.

                It would also be very easily mischaracterized by the West and Georgia. And probably very successfully mischaracterized as well. One shouldn’t doubt the media machine. It can be pretty effective at times and this is just one of those times when it would be extremely effective since the Russian government would be easily seen as only having one (non-altruistic) reason for this move: removing Saakashvili. And as we all know Saakashvili in the West is viewed as the “good guy” (he might also be viewed as the “crazy guy” but this is not incompatible with the view of him as the “good guy”). Plus, what is worse is that they could find numerous examples to support their narrative: from the disgruntled business owner (“Putin is beginning to lose popularity among business owners”), to the disgruntled non-Georgian worker (“Putin is losing popularity among the working class for his Georgia move”), to the nationalist (“Russians are opposed to Putin’s gambit in the Georgian elections”), to the Georgians in Georgia who might be suspicious of Putin (“Georgians think Putin is trying to steal their election”) to probably even Georgians in Russia who might just happen to not like Saakashvili and who might wish to vote for the opposition AND not have a problem with Russia and Putin (cue the interview with Georgians in Russia who will be caught on tape/film saying they are against Saakashvili and that they like Russia or (heaven-forbid!) that they like Putin).

                Now even if Russians and Georgians get along fairly well on an individual level, what is the perception of the Russian government (particularly Putin) by the general population in Georgia? And what are the views of Georgians in Georgia generally regarding South Ossetia and Abhkazia? Because if Georgians get along fairly well with Russians on an individual level but view the Russian state and Russian government with hostility or fear and if they view South Ossetia and Abhkazia as integral parts of Georgia then such a move by the Russian government is going to be viewed with suspicion inside Georgia even among the opposition party supporters and perhaps cause them be more receptive to any Western MSM and Georgian government media characterization of the move as an attempt to topple Saakashvili and advance Russian government interests in the region. This might cause them (and almost definitely cause the undecided voters) to question whether the parties they support are indeed worth supporting or whether they have become pawns of the Russian government. As Ivanishvili supports NATO membership and the reintegration of South Ossetia and Abkhazia based on true democracy and as his party seems to be second in opinion polls, I doubt that very many Georgian parties are opposed to NATO membership (except one party in Ivanishvili’s coalition of parties; the Industry Will Save Georgia party headed by Gogi Topadze) and willing to accept that South Ossetia and Abkhazia do not want to be a part of Georgia.

                Doing this would basically only cause problems for Putin AND the Georgian opposition.

  8. AK says:

    Above is a graph of the turnout for the Georgian 2008 Pres. elections. Bad, although nowhere near as bad as in the 2007-8 elections, and 2011 elections, in Russia.

  9. AK says:

    The drat thing doesn’t allow me to embed images. Anyway you can fix that Mark? Anyhow, turnouts for:

    Georgian Pres. 2008: http://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/6504/22828320.0/0_a8558_cd66735e_L.jpg
    Russian 2007, 2008, 2011: http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/russia-elections-turnout.jpg
    Russian Pres., 2012: http://img.gazeta.ru/files3/805/4026805/fig20.jpg

    • marknesop says:

      Not that I’m aware of – it seems to depend on what it is. I’ve been able to embed videos sometimes, but I have had no luck with still photos and always have to just include the link. Only in the comments, though; it’s no problem to embed such things in the blog post itself. Yalensis might know.

      • yalensis says:

        Mark: I (usually) have no problem embedding youtube videos, simply by typing the web address into my comment. Graphs and JPEGS are a different story. According to Mr. Google, WordPress, unlike LiveJournal, does not allow mere commenters to embed JPEG images. I tried to hack my way around that once, with an HTML IMG tag in my comment, and my attempt was an epic failure.

        One possible way around this technical limitation: the commenter could film their graph on their camera phone, upload the ensuing video to their youtube channel. The “video” would basically just be one static shot, but still a video, say one minute long. Then link the youtube video address in the comment, and the graph should appear when people click on it.

        It’s a crazy idea, but it might just work!.

      • AK says:

        Anyhow, the point is – esp. @ Alex – if Georgian elections aren’t “free and fair”, then certainly neither are the Russian ones.

        Because while electoral fraud does exist in Georgia, it is substantially less prevalent than in Russia (albeit vastly more prevalent than in any advanced democracy).

        • marknesop says:

          Oh, I don’t know. The western press always talks a good game about ballot-stuffing and carousel voting and unfair media coverage in every Russian election, but they rarely provide actual examples recorded by OSCE observers themselves as the OSCE did in Georgia in 2008. More often, it’s allegations by activists working as volunteer election monitors and blurry cellphone video of people getting off of a bus or sitting in an election booth with a handful of papers in front of them.

          Besides, Saakashvili doesn’t need election fraud to win, except for those outlying villages who cast more than 100% of their votes for him. He simply buys votes with state funds, and everyone pretends not to see except for the OSCE, who harrumphs about it a bit but ultimately just writes a report that everyone ignores. Or he puts the opposition in jail, and says they are Kremlin stooges who are part of a plot to overthrow the government.

          • yalensis says:

            And, as we now know from Major Bedukadze’s interview, after he puts the Opps political opponents in jail, Saak has them tortured and sodomized with broomsticks; ensures that their pain/humiliation is recorded on videotape; and then watches the tapes to entertain himself.

            2 questions:

            (1) Why is everything so commercialized today that you can’t even watch a torture video on youtube without first having to skip an ad? I recall one year ago how Gaddafi’s snuff video was sponsored by Lindor chocolates at one point.

            (2) In this video, why is one of the guards speaking English? At 0:35 seconds in, while the unfortunate prisoner is being raped with a broomstick, I can clearly hear somebody saying, in English, “I don’t believe those cameras should be here…” or something to that effect….. Who is that guy, and why is he speaking in English?

            • yalensis says:

              P.S. Everybody remember Irakli Okruashvili? This handsome devil was originally a Saakashvili “Rose Revolution” ally who broke with Saak and tried to form his own Opp party in 2007. Okruashvili was arrested, later released (after European pressure to get him out), and fled to France, where he still lives in exile. At the time Okruashvili claimed that he had been beaten and sodomized in jail, by Saak’s guards, but nobody believed him. Maybe now they will believe him?

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irakli_Okruashvili

              • Dear Anatoly,

                I am not saying that Russian elections are free or fair. The picture is patchy and unsatisfactory to say the least, the results in some places like in the eastern Muslim regions and the Northern Caucasus are preposterous and in Chechnya they are completely absurd. However Russian elections are relentlessly criticised. In contrast the western media take on Georgia is that it is a shining beacon of democracy in the Caucasus.

              • Misha says:

                It has been said that Okruashvili is more of a hardliner on Russia than Saak. Okruashvili has also said that Saak had a plan to attack South Ossetia before that action was undertaken.

                • yalensis says:

                  Okruashvili is a Gruzian nationalist and ferocious proponent for his (Kartvelian) tribe. He is so patriotic that when 2008 war broke out he offered Saakashvili (who, remember, had had him arrested and tortured) to return from exile and fight on the front (against Ossetians/Abkhazians) as a simple foot soldier. Saak did not take him up on his offer, which I believe was sincere.
                  Okruashvili is a horrible guy, but he is also brave and sincere. I think he is somebody the Russian government could do business with.
                  (Putin, BTW, is somewhat soft on Burzhanadze.)
                  .

  10. Moscow Exile says:

    Gessen came out with a cracker yesterday as regards her new post of director of the Russian service of “Radio Liberty”, stating that she wanted to make the news content at Radio Liberty unbiased:

    “I want to do a kind of journalism that no one is doing at the moment. I would describe it as normal journalism. … Something that’s not polemical, like opposition media, and something that’s not controlled by the Kremlin”.

    Gessen is soon going to have a hard job doing this – on the air at least: Radio Liberty will stop AM broadcasts on Nov. 10, when a new law goes into force making it illegal for stations more than 48 percent foreign-owned to be on the airwaves.

    Why didn’t she know about this when she accepted her new position at RL after her quitting her old job at “Around the World”?

    No doubt being employed by Radio Liberty fits in well with Gessen’s mindset: launched during the Stalin era, which, I am sure, still exists inside of Gessen’s head, RL pipes the joyous news of western freedom to the oppressed masses of the “former-Soviet Union”.

    I know of no oe who listens to it – which, of course doesn’t mean that there aren’t any who don’t, but I have to agree with Professor Zassoursky of Moscow State University School of Journalism, who has stated: “People don’t need Radio Liberty”.

    See: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/kicked-off-airwaves-radio-liberty-rethinks-strategy/468703.html

    • Misha says:

      This fits in well with Gessen:

      http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/24/west-must-speak-out-on-russia/

      – Mention past anti-Jewish violence in Russia.

      – Make a broadly flippant remark saying that the anti-Putin opposition is a respectable lot.

      – Standard and inaccurate generalization about the current Russian media situation, in addition to doing likewise concerning how Russians view political activism. In some influential circles, Russians protesting action like the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia are prone to being portrayed as “kvas” patriots, unlike those who lean towards the preferences of neocons and neolibs.

      If Gessen types were actually “objective”, they’d actively utilize reasoned pro-Russian advocacy on such matters as Russian media and how Russia/Russians get inaccurately portrayed in English language mass media and venues influenced by such a slant.

      http://www.eurasiareview.com/02042012-coverage-of-russia-uncensored-analysis/

      http://www.eurasiareview.com/02042012-coverage-of-russia-uncensored-analysis/

      The same views keep getting propped. Countering them has a repetitive like aspect.

      • Is it possible that we now have an explanation for the Vokrug Sveta episode – Gessen engineered her removal so she could take a much more important (and surely much better paid) job with Radio Liberty? Her appointment to her new job has come amazingly fast after she lost her old one. Is it not more likely that she was already in private discussions with Radio Liberty before she left Vokrug Sveta? That might also explain Putin’s otherwise (to me) inexplicable decision to meet her. He wanted to make clear that her decision to leave Vokrug Sveta was her own so that she would not be able to take to the airwaves at Radio Liberty and play martyr for journalistic freedom by pretending he’d forced her out.

        • Misha says:

          She has quite a track record in media, while still getting propped.

          IMO, Putin should concern himself more with the reasonably pro-Russian folks who (in actuality) come closer to Gessen in the category of being censored.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      RFE/RL Tatar Service provides a venue for Russophobic Tatar nationalists, it is maybe good they are off the airwaves.

  11. Moscow Exile says:

    Here’s a typical generalization about Russia that was slipped into this AP article that appears in today’s Moscow Times:

    “Cruelty to animals is common in Russia…”

    This article concerns a spate of dog-poisoning that has recently been taking place in a particular area of Moscow.

    See: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/deadly-hobby-of-dog-hunting-gains-popularity/468660.html

    In my experience, I feel that Russians are no more cruel to animals than are the citizens of other European states where I have lived. On the contrary, I think Russians are pretty soft on animals. True, there are very many feral cats and dogs in Moscow, but it is not uncommon to see people feeding them throughout the day, an action which irritates me intensely because the dogs especially can be a great nuisance at times.

    There are very many dog lovers and owners in Moscow. A huge beast such as a Schnauzer or Dobermann or Rotweiler is a sight to behold when lunging around a cramped Kryshchevka: it is something that I have witnessed many a time as a guest of “doggy” hosts.

    My wife had two cats when I married her (she had three children off me later! :-)) A bloody nuisance they were, and she fed them on best, diced steak whereas I was given kotlety and macaroni!

    Last weekend my wife had to visit a hospital where, in the emergency room, a child was being treated after his face had been savaged by a German Shepherd owned by a neighbour. The dog has bitten other children previously, yet its owner, the injured child’s mother told my wife, refuses to have the dog put down.

    The AP journalist quoted above, however, categorically states that cruelty to animals is common to Russia without providing any substantiation to this statement whatsoever.

    • Misha says:

      Reminded of Elder’s flippantly broad an inaccurate depiction of rape and sexual abuse in Russia.

    • marknesop says:

      Strikingly similar is just about anything written by Julia Ioffe; an excellent example is her “Farewell, Moscow” article for someone-or-other, I can’t remember, I saw the link to it in Sean Guillory’s Twitter Feed on Sean’s Russia Blog. Yes, she’s off home for Washington, having spent 3 years in Moscow, and this is her what-I’ll-miss-and-what-I-won’t piece as she takes her leave. No use in Moscow breathing a sigh of relief, either, I shouldn’t wonder, as I imagine she will pick up her anti-government tirades as soon as she gets back to America, and it never mattered whether she was physically there or not because she regularly saw things few others see anyway and can do that just as well from the vantage point of the USA. Things like Russia’s “casual racism” and “casual misogyny”, as if both are routine.

      I maintain she’s a good writer, in the sense that she has a good vocabulary and knows how to put a story together; she knows, also, how to evoke a certain emotion in the reader, and where Russia is concerned it typically comes across as weary exasperation that the Russians have a few good points but just can’t quite make it as human beings. In that style she is far better than Latynina, who can only do barely-controlled fury and boiling contempt. But both are meant for the world of fiction.

      Julia had a habit of attributing coincidental behaviors she happened to observe as representative of the country as a whole; for instance, one of her first stories in Russia (from this last jaunt) and one of her first that I read told of her being on a bus and a bunch of football hooligans getting aboard, loudly singing “Russia for Russians, Moscow for Muscovites”; incredibly, some of the other passengers joined in!! She was moving around, snapping pictures like reporters do, and one or two of them said something to her. From this – and you would have thought from the narrative that she was in peril of being killed – she intuited that Russia is “casually racist”. And so on.

      I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her.

      • Misha says:

        An otherwise not so significant source whose placement and continued propping is an example of what’s really wrong with the coverage. Include the source where you picked that up.

        Some might recall a JRL/Eurasian Home propped journo by the name of Julian Evans, who spun a similar line as JI. He wrote a farewll piece upon his leaving Russia.

      • apc27 says:

        Russians are not more racist, sexist or other things than most other Europeans. The big difference and a major source of these wrong impressions stems from the fact that they are a LOT less politically correct and a LOT less tolerant of the polite bull… which completely permeates our Western societies. Of course, having lived in Russia for as long as she did, Ioffe should have been able to draw this important distinction. She is though certainly not the only foreign correspondent who completely disregards the advantages of actually living in the country for the sake of editorial line and her future career prospects.

        • Misha says:

          Something I’ve noted as well. American red necks (if you may) tend to be more politically correct in the way they keep some of their views in private.

          Elder was especially flawed:

          http://www.eurasiareview.com/09052012-rape-russia-and-imagery-analysis/

          On the “career prospects point”, Russia’s image will change for the better when those with reasonably opposing views to the likes of Ioffe and Elder can freely express themselves, while having a key level position in a leading media and/or think tank situation.

        • Here was the article by Joffe that Mark was referring to

          http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/107651/departing-russia-love

          What comes across for me in the article is that Joffe’s impressions of Moscow are based very much on the very narrow range of people she has mixed with. If you read the article carefully it is obvious that she is talking about people she calls “professionals” who one suspects are largely journalists and their families.. Though I recognise some of the things she says (eg. her comments about drinking habits and the care some Russians – especially women – take over their appearance) much of the rest is hardly representative of Russians generally. Most of the Russians I know emphatically do not burble on endlessly about “freedom” or “liberty” or whatever and are not certainly not into “abstraction”. However I can well imagine how opposition activists and radical journalists of the sort Joffe spends most of her time with do.

          On the subject of racism in Russia I agree with apc27’s comments.

        • AK says:

          I disagree with this.

          Russians are more racist and sexist than other Europeans, but that is because the world is pretty racist and sexist. What’s unforgivable however is that they are whites; only non-white peoples abroad are allowed to have those kind of views.

          Case in point:

          In Moscow, I have debated the following topics: whether or not the archived kill-lists with Stalin’s signature are forgeries; the allegation that I am naïve for thinking that American traffic cops generally don’t take bribes; that I am a C.I.A. spy; and the reason America is a more successful country than Somalia (hint: it wasn’t founded by black people). I’ve also been asked to prove how smoking causes lung cancer.

          Only an utterly indoctrinated liberal or a dishonest one would pretend to be shocked by that. She lives in Washington DC for chrissakes.

          Incidentally, US traffic cops do take bribes, but only in backward areas of the Deep South. ;)

          I won’t miss the casual racism and the relax-I-was-just-joking anti-Semitism. I will miss the fact that just about everyone can do a killer Georgian accent and knows a truly wonderful Jewish joke.

          LOL. Making fun of Georgians is cool but making fun of Jews isn’t kosher. Typical Ioffe.

          • Misha says:

            Ioffe doesn’t seem like she’d be as willing to acknowledge the bigotry of some (stress some) Jews. Selective sensitivity in mass media is an issue that’s aloof from a good number.

            BTW, as is evident among some other groups, some of the best Jewish jokes are told by Jews, who’re by no means ashamed of their Jewish background. Big fan of Don Rickles.

    • AK says:

      Moscow’s dogs can easily navigate the Metro system. I wonder if given a few centuries of this they will be able to evolve an advanced form of dog intelligence.

  12. yalensis says:

    Here is interview with Major Vladimir Bedukadze, the whistleblower who leaked the videos of torture/rape abuses in Gruzian prisons. It is my understanding Bedukadze is now in hiding in Belgium.

    • There are so many errors and misconceptions in this article of Fred’s that I am not going to bother to discuss it in any detail. Suffice to say that his understanding of the Pussy Riot case is entirely wrong. His insistence that the prosecution was authorised by someone in the Kremlin is based not on evidence (for of that there is none) but the opinion of unnamed experts. Actually we know exactly who it was who reported the crime to the police leading to the case being prosecuted, it was an Orthodox cleric and there is no reason to look for more complicated explanations than that.

      The most important thing to say is that as an act of political provocation the “punk prayer” was a failure. If the Pussy Riot conviction had really divided Russian society and galvanised the Russian opposition in the way that Fred says it did then the place for this to have manifested itself was in the “March of Millions” on 15th September 2012. In the event it is now grudgingly admitted by everyone apart from Fred himself that the latest “March of the Millions” protest was the smallest in the series and was a damp squib. Articles like this by Fred make me think that he doesn’t know or understand Russia very well.

      • Misha says:

        Or he’s not being so honest, which has been spun by some others as writing what the elites prefer.

        If and when RT has him on again (which is quite likely), it’d be journalistically appropriate to take him to task. This thought shouldn’t be taken to mean that he should be personally attacked.

  13. Misha says:

    From one pro-Israeli perspective:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/09/was_obamas_illegal_war_in_libya_a_trial_run_to_attack_israel.html

    Don’t know the author well. Without going too much out of my way, I’m curious what differences she might’ve with Shoshana Bryen.

    • marknesop says:

      That sounds like a Grade 8 cheerleader’s Facebook page. Full of wild, unsubstantiated accusations and catty snide barbs, it is the kind of foamy ranting that should never make it into the pages of a national magazine. I never thought the American Thinker was up to much – not to mention being inappropriately named – and this does nothing to raise it in my estimation.

      • I agree. The writer of this article is a ranting fool.

        • yalensis says:

          I agree too. Accusing Obama of using R2P to target Israel is crazy talk. Like every mainstream American politician, Obama is totally loyal to the Israelis who, by the way, helped to overthrow Gaddafi by supplying arms and training to the Al Qaeda “rebels”.

          • marknesop says:

            But the expected reaction to this is that Obama will bump up Israel’s foreign aid by a couple of million, shut up about the settlements and give Israel more weapons along with more devout promises of undying love and support. It’s all about inspiring a reaction in self-defense – see, I love Israel; here, have some more taxpayers’ money and some of our newest weapons and technology, just please don’t call me a Jew-hater.

      • Misha says:

        The bar was already pretty low.

        The article in question touches on how some pro-Israeli advocates are apprehensive about post-Khadafy Libya, while being opposed to Soros – two positions which have merit. The neocon-neolib wing of pro-Israeli advocacy shouldn’t wonder why Israel and Russia find common ground on some issues.

  14. Misha says:

    Regarding how the otherwise noble cause of human rights has been used as a propaganda tool:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/08/28/the-decline-of-political-protest/

    • This article by Diane Jonnstone has had a huge impact. I understand that Amnesty International was very concerned by it.

    • Robert says:

      Excellent article. She hits it bang on the nail

    • yalensis says:

      Diana Johnstone’s article is really good. Among other great points she makes:
      Credited with coining the expression “smart power”, taken up by Hillary Clinton as a policy slogan, Ms Nossel has won international recognition for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, thereby positioning the United States as a vanguard of human rights against the world’s many traditional societies, especially those whose regimes U.S. “smart power” wishes to embarrass, isolate, or even overthrow.
      Trying to cram “gay rights” down Russian throats as an integral component of the pernicious pro-NATO compadore package has done more to poison this issue than anything else. All too many patriotic Russians now believe that every gay person is a pro-NATO traitor and “white-ribbon” degenerate.
      This is too bad, because Russia is not even the worst in the world when it comes to gay rights. Transgenders can legally get the same rights as their adopted gender, for starters. Gay people are allowed to serve in the military (under a kind of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy), adopt children, and donate blood. It’s not as good as Europe, but it’s a start. However, the constant hammering on this by Russia’s enemies can only serve to create a backlash against these modest gains.
      Let Amnesty International promote gay rights in Saudi Arabia, for starters. Lots of luck with that.

  15. yalensis says:

    Here is interesting film about Syrian conflict, by Russian reporters embedded with Syrian army. In Russian, with English subtitles:

  16. Misha says:

    Latest from Saaki:

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation-world/sns-rt-us-un-assembly-georgia-russiabre88o1eh-20120925,0,258298.story

    He sems to enjoy the spotlight.

    CNN provided much of that for him in 2008.

    • marknesop says:

      Forgive me for blogwhoring, but here’s the comment I posted at Mark Adomanis’s blog; I’m too tired to type it all out again. I’m not disagreeing with Mark – this time – but with a commenter named Irakli; there are a couple of pro-regime Georgians on there for the latest post and suggesting Saakashvili’s whirl of activity is testament to what a great reformer he really is. I say bullshit.

      “A former prison warden who blew the whistle on the abuses says Saakashvili knew what was going on in the prisons – is he just making it up?

      http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2012/09/whistleblower-saakashvili-knew-of-torture-in-georgia-prison-2469766.html

      And it is perfectly true that whenever Saakashvili gets caught at something, he bustles around in a whirl of distracting activity, fires a bunch of people and makes reassuring noises about reform. That should not be confused with the actions of a real reformer, because the next thing he does is blame it on Russia or the Georgian opposition. And in this case, sure enough, the video was set up by Ivanishvili; “The Interior Ministry on Wednesday blamed Saakashvili’s political foes for staging the videos, claiming prison officials were paid for orchestrating and filming the abuse by an inmate with connections to opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.”

      http://metronews.ca/news/world/375212/prison-abuse-videos-rock-georgia-ahead-of-vote/

      Saakashvili is a turd. His campaigners bribed the poor and elderly in 2008 with vouchers for utility payments and medical supplies, clearly marked as gifts from the President, and some distributors even made those people sign a document pledging to vote for Saakashvili. He bought tractors with state funds and donated them to farmers, with Saakashvili posters all over them, and used them as backdrops for his political rallies, in just about as blatant a violation of campaign finance law as could be imagined, but now he’s virtuous to a fault and dropping multi-million dollar fines on Ivanishvili for violations of campaign finance laws. Did the OSCE make it all up?

      http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/georgia/30959

      In 2007 the prison population in Georgia increased by 50%, an average of 400 new prisoners per month – put down to Saakashvili’s aggressive new crime-fighting program. There must be a lot of criminals in middle schools, because in May the same year the Saakashvili government lowered the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12. As of 2008, when the report was compiled, the Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili had still not completed an investigation into a 2006 riot at Tbilisi Prison #5, in which excessive force by authorities was alleged and in which 7 inmates were killed. But the government was a lot quicker with corrective measures following a “disturbance” in the juvenile prison, described by officials as a scuffle between several inmates. As a direct result, 107 children were transferred to an adult prison and 64 of them remained there for 3 months as punishment, including curtailment of their education and restrictions on seeing their families. Did Human Rights Watch make it up?

      http://www.hrw.org/legacy/englishwr2k8/docs/2008/01/31/georgi17743.htm

      Dig on those facts awhile, see if they get in your way.”

      • Dear Mark,

        In my opinion one of the most disturbing aspects of life in Saakashvili’s Georgia is that one hears regular reports of the authorities simply seizing buildings and property and of the police putting the squeeze to extort cash from people who for one reason or another have fallen foul of the authorities. I have read too many reports of this to doubt any longer that this is actually happening. Here is one such report the link of which I found in Mark Adomanis’s fine article

        http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/09/georgias-prison-rape-scandal-and-what-it-says-about-the-rose-revolution/262720/

        I have read similar articles that say the practice of extorting money from business people or seizing property goes on in Georgia published by RT (perhaps not an altogether reliable source) but also by the prestigious British foreign affairs thinktank Chatham House. What makes this latest article more convincing is that it appears to be written by someone who is physically present in Georgia and who not only knows Georgia well but who seems to have at once had quite a high opinion of Saakashvili and who claims to know one of the victims of this practice.

        This is government by protection racket. Luke Harding calls Russia a Mafia State. Surely that title better belongs to Saakashvili’s Georgia?

        • marknesop says:

          Nothing seems to deter Saakashvili and his inner circle of cronies, and blackmail is just one of the tools at his disposal. But the international community seems slowly to be becoming aware of the scale of Saakashvili’s depradations, and the Georgia Times article I linked below seems quite optimistic that Inanishvili’s Georgian Dream is not only gaining ground rapidly, but that the topic of conversation in the Saakashvili camp – predicated on that dawning awareness – seems to be the secrets that will no longer be able to be concealed and what damage they may do.

          I’ve seen articles also which portray Ivanishvili as somewhat of an eccentric crank as well, one recently by an American tutor who claimed to have been teaching the Ivanishvili sons English and who said he was abruptly fired for no reason, and that the family home is a bit of a nuthouse. Hard to say; Saakashvili is fond of seeding the press with articles that serve to bring down his opponents and, as we have seen, he is not above simply arrresting opposition figures on made-up grounds that they are plotting to overthrow the government. But as more comes out, Saakashvili looks dirtier and dirtier. The main thing is to prevent him from assuming the office of Prime Minister, because he has set up the new constitution so that he would be extremely difficult to dislodge once in that position. If his party does not gain a majority in this election – or actually loses, which I am hoping will occur – he will not be able to implement his scheme. But it sounds like the family is quite wealthy, with far-flung properties and interests, so I doubt he will have to mow lawns for pocket money regardless where he ends up.

        • Misha says:

          Yes, this article by Charles Fairbanks is an eye opener:

          http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/09/georgias-prison-rape-scandal-and-what-it-says-about-the-rose-revolution/262720/

          In line with my earlier point at this thread on how some of the establishment connected Western foreign policy wonks are apprehensive about Saakashvili.

  17. Misha says:

    “Blogwhoring”?

    Whatever is meant by that term, I prefer dialogue at venues which aren’t plastic, along the lines of promoting sources like Ioffe (“Julia Ioffe has a really excellent….”) going on LR for an “interview”, while staying away from good hard talk with certain competent sources which are typically shunned by the establishment.

    Improvement of the coverage comes about by bringing on board the quality sources that haven’t generally received the nod at the more high profile of venues c/o political biases and cronyism.

    • Misha says:

      Just saw a roughly one hour segment between Charlie Rose and Sergey Lavrov:

      http://www.charlierose.com

      It should be available for viewing shortly.

      CR took the neocon-neolib line that Assad remains in power on account of Russian and iranian support. Lavrov countered by noting the outside forces involved with the anti-Syrian government opposition. He added that Russian military shipments to Syria haven’t exceeded what was agreed to before the civil strife in that country.

      Other highlights include Lavrov:
      – pointedly criticizing the Iranian position on seeking the elimination of Israel
      – Russian opposition to the hypocritically inaccurate lecturing of its internal situation by some outside sources.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, Mike; I suppose in the interests of pure science I should have typed out the entire message again without ever mentioning that Lithuanian guy’s name, but I was just too tired.

      I’m well aware of your opinions on the more high-profile of venues, as you reassert them every time someone mentions the Lithuanian guy, or the Russian guy who used to live in the English Midlands, or the guy who used to work at AEI (and maybe still does, I don’t know) or the guy who used to write for The ExIled but is now a teacher, or the girl who just got a new job in Washington but used to live in Moscow, or the one who still does live in Moscow but flies to the USA to get her dry-cleaning done. And I realize it’s propping them to mention their names, but it’s a terrible habit I picked up in the Far East, and I can’t seem to shake it. Meanwhile, look on the bright side – I prop you every day.

      • yalensis says:

        @mark: If you had re-typed the entire comment, then you would have been plagiarizing yourself! Plagiarizing is worse than blog-whoring, IMHO.
        By the way, it was an excellent comment.

    • AK says:

      Mike why are you so obsessed with me in this weird passive-aggressive way?

      I went on LR for shits and giggles, obviously. And I “tell it like it is” (to borrow an Averkoism) on Ioffe. She *is* indeed an excellent writer in the technical sense.

      • Misha says:

        You flatter your self AK. I wasn’t referring to you in that instance. I also don’t create Facebook pages using the photo of someone else.

        Mark, do as you please of course. Qualitatively, those folks haven’t exceeded the knowledge and intellect of yours truly on a number of subjects. I don’t need your approval.

        I’m for improving the coverage without the sucking up to the existing status quo bit.

    • peter says:

      “Blogwhoring”? Whatever is meant by that term…

      “Blog whoring” means posting links to yourself on other people’s blogs — that’s exactly what you’re guilty of when you spam Mark’s fine blog with links to (God forbid) American Chronicle.

  18. Misha says:

    Re: http://rt.com/community/blogs/tim-kirby/russia-firm-pr-people/

    Yes, PR firms can have a tendency of being a hired hand, as opposed to an entity truly believing in the product they represent.

    Towards the end of the article, there’s reference to considering the sources that can be considered as “unconventional” from the PR bit.

    English is the modern day lingua franca that relates to the venue carrying the above referenced piece. There’re paid professionals, which I gather include the author of the article in question.

    Identify key areas where Russia/Russians are frequently portrayed in a negatively inaccurate way in Western media, academia and body politic. Note who is and isn’t getting propped at the more high profile of English language mass media and English language mass media influenced venues. Bring in the quality underrepresented for the benefit of improving the coverage.

    • Misha says:

      On ther payola point in the last set of comments, one general view having greater monetary opportunities over another serves as an influencing factor. From a reasonably pro-Russian perspective, RT could and should do more.

  19. Misha says:

    Albright on the thought of restructuring the UN:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/13/who_broke_the_un

    Excerpt –

    “I often tell my students that American decision-makers only have a handful of tools in the toolbox to achieve the kind of foreign policy they want: bilateral diplomacy and multilateral diplomacy; economic tools; threat of the use of force and use of force; law enforcement; and intelligence. That’s it. I don’t believe in multilateralism as an end in itself. But I believe in it as an important instrument of policy. If we start thinking that the United Nations doesn’t work, that we don’t have to pay our bills, or that everything in diplomacy will turn out exactly the way we want it, we are leaving out an indispensable tool.”

    ****

    Nothing about her role in American government, when the US bypassed the UN to bomb a sovereign country that was fighting a terrorist element in 1999. Her likely retort would probably not bring up the comparative American government position on how Turkey has dealt with terrorism.

  20. Misha says:

    Re: http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/09/08/the-lies-that-led-to-the-iraq-war-and-the-persistent-myth-of-intelligence-failure/

    Last night’s Charlie Rose discussion with Sergey Lavrov included some commentary pertaining to the above piece – http://www.charlierose.com/guest/view/6974

    If not yet ready, the airing of that feature should be available shortly.

  21. Misha says:

    Re: http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/01/19/why_is_russia_freaking_out_more_than_china?wpisrc=obnetwork

    Is it not fair to say that (over the course of time) the US government has been generally more critical of Russian domestic issues when compared with the internal situation in China?

    Does the yes answer concern a more grudging respect for China’s economic clout?

    On the subject of how Russia and China are viewed in the US, there’s also the matter of what offhand appears to be a greater anti-Russian lobbying influence in the US among some ethnic groups with historical gripes against Russia.

    Once again reminded of the 2000 Kerry-Bush nationally televised foreign policy debate when Russia was a greater topic than the Middle East and China. In that exchange, Kerry went after Bush for being “soft” (sic) on Russia.

    Go back even further to when the Carter administration downplayed human rights abuses in China in comparison to what was evident in the Soviet Union.

    • kirill says:

      The west’s relationship with China is peculiar. For all the past bleating about the Red Menace there are now Chinese professors taking over jobs in most Canadian universities. I see no anti-Chinese diatribes and histrionics on Canadian TV. To me it looks like they are being promoted. I even heard one Chinese professor at some Alberta university on CBC radio being interviewed about the CNOOC takeover of Nexxen yapping about how CNOOC is a “proper” company unlike Gazprom. No one called him out on this obvious BS.

      The west wants Chinese economic clout. I am not quite sure why. The massive transfer of jobs from North America to China over the last 30 years amounts to treason of the first rank. Gutting local industry to have Chinese garbage (and it is garbage if you actually buy anything from garden loppers to automotive tools) dominate the retail sector is bizarre. Believe it or not you could actually get quality German made tools at Canadian Tire around 1980. Good luck finding them now. As in academia there is outright pandering to China by the west, to the point of throwing their own citizens under the train wheels.

  22. marknesop says:

    Solomon Ternaleli’s latest post is up at “Solomon’s Thoughts”. Entitled “Misha’s Guys”, it chronicles such political nest-feathering, building of alliances with American NGO’s, involvement of those NGO’s (principally NDI, the National Democratic Institute) in Georgia’s Transparency International organization (small wonder Georgia stays high in the ranks for ease of doing business and attacking corruption) and fraudulent strong-arm practices (such as threatening prisoners’ families that it will be the worse for their loved ones in prison of they do not bring in enough Saakashvili votes) that it is hard not to feel despair at the upcoming elections and fury at the continued boosting of Georgia’s image under the present leadership. What a sham. Long, but well worth reading in its entirety.

    Did you know, for instance, that Mikheil Saakasvili’s uncle (Temuri Alasania) was an officer in the First Main Directorate, KGB?

    http://www.georgiatimes.info/en/articles/70546.html

    Did you know that Saakashvili’s government is stacked with former local staff of prominent international NGO’s? True story, so I’m told; Dmitri Shashkin (International Republican Institute), Kakha Lomaia (Eurasia Foundation, Soros Foundation), David Darchiashvili (Soros Foundation), Giga Bokeria (Liberty Institute), Temur Iakobashvili (Soros Foundation), Eka Tkeshelashvili (IRIS-Georgia), Bacho Akhalaia (Liberty Institute, HR Defender’s office), Zurab Tchiaberashvili (International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy), Gia Kavtaradze (USAID), Givi Targamadze (Liberty Institute), George Papuashvili (Soros Foundation), Gia Nodia (Caucasian Institute), to name a few.

    Check it out.

    http://solomonternaleli.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/mishas-guys/

    • Dear Mark,

      Very interesting. My brother who used to work for the EU in Brussels and who is now a European Affairs Consultant some years ago told me that since the Rose Revolution Georgia was being referred to by EU officials as “the NGO state” because the political class that carried out the Rose Revolution and which has governed Georgia since then all had their roots in western funded NGOs.

    • yalensis says:

      Saakashvili is also known to “stack” his government with his mistresses, young attractive women who are appointed to high-level cabinet ministries without the appropriate qualifications. In return for the job, they must be willing to have sex with this powerful psychopath

      • Misha says:

        I heard about that. Without checking on the accuracy of the claim, I recall the same being said of his pal Yushchenko

        This time of the year, the NY based Charlie Rose Show has on numerous visiting dignatories who attend the annual UN General Assembly meeting.

        There was a time when Saak was a regular on that show. That’s not the case this year.

        Prokhorov is scheduled to be on CR tomorrow.

        As of the submission of this set of comments, last night’s feature with Lavrov is directly on at this link:

        http://www.charlierose.com/

        • cartman says:

          I can’t see Prokhorov stacking his administration with prostitutes.

          Actually I can’t see his administration being anything other than a big joke.

          • marknesop says:

            He’s probably a pretty smart guy, but I’m betting he would start out running the country as if it were a business, and that his plans in the fantastic event that he won the presidency reflect that he believes running a country is really no different than running a business. It isn’t like running a business at all. In a business you essentially start with nothing (I know I’m oversimplifying, but bear with me) and your objective is to build it up until it is profitable, eliminating the competition along the way. In a country you start with a set amount of money, and you have to get to the end of the year or whatever the time period may be without overspending too much, efficiently dispensing your resources, or you’ll have to raise taxes to keep thinks ticking over. You could try to eliminate the competition on the way and take over their market share – which is called “empire building” – but few have made it work for any great length of time, and a better approach is to make deals with the competition while trying to make them run out of money before you do. Nothing at all alike, and in fact you have to be able to make business and running the country co-exist. It’s nowhere near as easy as Prokhorov thinks it is, if his public statements to date are any standard of measure.

      • AK says:

        And that makes him different from Berlusconi how?

        • marknesop says:

          Peter has thus far shown no affinity for bunga-bunga parties, I bet his watch cost a lot less than a half-million dollars, and no evidence has been offered that his country sang a song of thanks when he left it. Nothing at all in common, really. That’s why Berlusconi will be staying home when Peter, Giuseppe, Yalensis and I are visiting the Burgess Shale.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      The Lebedev story in today’s Moscow Times late online edition:

      http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/billionaire-lebedev-charged-with-hooliganism/468825.html

      Note how the storyline is that Lebedev is being charged not because he assaulted someone, but because he supports “the opposition”; the comment: “Most wealthy businessmen have avoided backing anti-Kremlin political movements since the 2003 arrest of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who had openly supported opposition parties. He is still in prison” rather ignores the not so small matter concerning Khodorkovsky’s mega-tax-evasion scam: according to MT, it seems that he’s in jail because he’s anti-Putin.

      Here’s a video showing Lebedev’s criminal assault just over one year ago on Sergei Polonsky on Sept. 16, 2011:

      • Misha says:

        Nothing about what Polansky seeks. Upon some quick checking, this piece from awhile back notes an intent on his part to sue:

        http://rt.com/politics/criminal-opened-russian-fistfight-027/

        AL looks rugged. In a very different situation, I’m reminded of this incident involving the much older Nolan Ryan against Robin Ventura:

        http://thedugoutdoctors.com/2011/08/video-robin-ventura-and-nolan-ryan-infamous-fight/

        • marknesop says:

          I notice it follows the now-default line (in the original article linked) that “new laws have increased fines for protesting”, thereby implying that protesting is a crime. It is not. Participants in a legal demonstration for which permission has been obtained, and who do not throw chunks of pavement at the police or want to wear a mask or otherwise break the law have nothing to worry about, because the fine for protesting legally is zero.

      • yalensis says:

        Did Polonsky bring charges for that sucker punch?

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Aparently not, although he tried to reach an out-of-court settlement with Lebedev.

          According to Miriam Elder of the Guardian : “The charges against Lebedev come amidst a wider crackdown as Putin attempts to defuse the growing opposition against him”.

          See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/sep/26/alexander-lebedev-hoologanism-battery-russia?newsfeed=true

          It’s that authoritarian crackdown again – the one that has come about because of the growing opposition that has been sending shockwaves throughout Russia and which has caused the Russian president to hole himself up behind the Kremlin walls, and about which western journalists constantly remind their readers.

          • As with the Gudkov affair there may be something in the argument that it is a bit suspicious that the charges are being brought now a year after the assault happened. However the fact remains that there definitely was an assault – we all saw it on television. As in the Pussy Riot case the criminal is in no position to deny the crime because it was filmed and shown publicly on television. If charges are being brought against him for what was beyond any question a violent physical assault Lebedev has no one to blame but himself.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Oh, but he now says that he feels he was tricked into taking part in the interview and that the whole thing was an FSB set-up.

              I suppose the FSB must have some kind of mind-control device that made Lebedev stand up and throw not just one punch at Polonsky and that the latter had just provoked him (under FSB orders of course) by saying a minute or two previously that he felt like smacking someone in the gob.

              The straw that finally broke Lebedev’s back was when Polonsky said: “And this is the man who said about Federation Tower…”

              Federation Tower is one of Polonsky’s projects. Lebedev caused great concern a few years back by saying it was jerry-built and that there was a crack in its 5th sub-basement foundations. So the day after Lebedev had announced this, Polonsky invited a team of journalists to the tower and promised anyone there $1 million if they could find any structural problems. He took them to the 5th sub- basement as well. No one reported finding a crack there.

              I suppose that’s what Polonsky was about to tell the studio audience when Lebedev decided to spring up and throw some punches at him.

              Lebedev had clearly been set up by the forces of evil.

            • yalensis says:

              “The wheels of Justice grind exceeding slow,
              But they grind exceeding fine.”

          • Misha says:

            Elder like commentary doesn’t take into consideration that Russian legal advocates with a pro-Putin/anti-Lebedev lean might be acting on their own without any “orders” from the Russian government.

            Touching on this mindset somewhat is the questionable vote counting that gets highlighted in Western mass media. From awhile back, I remember Leon Aron suggesting that this kind of occurrence is more the result of folks acting on their own than doing so under an unofficial Rusisan government directive.

            • Meanwhile The Times whilst ignoring institutional torture in Georgian prisons has devoted an editorial to the Lebedev prosecution. Systematically sodomising prisoners in Georgian prisons is not newsworthy. A prosecution of a billionaire oligarch following a televised punch up is.

  23. Robert says:

    Article from Vineyard of the Saker’s blog last year on possible chances for rapprochment between Russia and Georgia if and when Saakashvili goes.

    http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2011/07/nino-burdzhanadze-georgias-best-if-not.html

    I don’t think there’s any chance of progress as long as Saakashvili is in power. Apparently Abkhazia and Ossetia are not the only issue. The Russians have been seriously annoyed for some time about Georgian covert support for Chechen jihadis.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      I am reading the first paragraph, and I wonder who those advisors were? Maybe I should investigate the primary source…

      • marknesop says:

        Actually, I remember – and wrote about, before – Saakashvili being of the opinion that Russia would not react, or at least not militarily, and that he expected to be able to confront them with a fait accompli, to roll up South Ossetia and Abkhazia quickly and then to negotiate from a position of strength whereby Russia would more or less have to accept Georgia’s terms. But I thought he just arrived at that incredibly stupid conclusion himself.

        The only thing that makes it sound suspicious is that no ministers were punished afterward or lost their portfolios as a result of Georgia getting its ass kicked. That seems out of character for Saakashvili. Of course there are explanations – those advisers could have been vital to his inner circle so that he dared not fire them, or perhaps he did fire some people and it just got lost in the excitement over the war itself. In any case, he is looking more and more like a psycho.

        • Misha says:

          Perhaps he thought that Russia wouldn’t militarily reply to the degree it did.

          IMO, Russia responsibly took its time to take out Georgian military assets in a counter-attack that was nowhere near as bloody as some others elsewhere.

          It’s extremely foolhardy to actually believe that Russia wouldn’t militarily respond to a brazen strike from a small entity – an attack that killed Russian civilians and military personnel.

    • marknesop says:

      Wow; that’s a great blog – I think I’ll add it, thanks. I seem to remember the Saakashvili government accusing Burzhadnadze and her son of something heinous, but all I could find upon looking was a report that 10 activists from her opposition party were arrested by the Interior Ministry. That – in light of what we know now – merely smacks of the usual intimidation and preparation of the ground for accusations that Burzhadnadze is a Kremlin puppet and a traitor who is, of course, trying to overthrow the government.

      Yes, Burzhadnadze was once a Saakashvili supporter, and took an active part in the protests that brought down Shevardnadze. But she seemed to change her mind quite early on, although I note at least her name was being used to pressure voters prior to an election to vote for Saakashvili.

      How is it this information was not pushed hard at the time, front-page news everywhere, as it would be if it happened in Russia? Look at these cases!! A factory board member threatening his workers with dismissal if they did not only vote for Saakasvili, but persuade others to do so as well. Buses appearing at a hospital to take all workers to a meeting with the ruling party, whether they wanted to go or not. Officials of the Kutaisi Prison calling residents and asking for their passport information and ID numbers and those of their families. Persons who are known to be abroad or dead still carried on the electoral rolls after the discrepancies were brought to the attention of officials. A district elections head warning voters that “all deceivers (those who did not vote for Saakashvili) would be punished by the government after the election”. Unbelievable!!! That more that comes out about this government, the worse it looks and I do not see any way now that it can win. It may falsify the results to look like a win, but there should be a sufficient wave of popular protest (although you’ll probably have to go to the foreign press to learn about it) to drive the government from power, and I dare to hope the west will not continue to support Saakashvili if he attempts a military suppression of protests.

      I’m actually starting to feel a wave of pity for the Georgian people, whom I formerly blamed for voting that idiot in. Twice. It looks more and more like they had absolutely no choice at all.

      • yalensis says:

        Nino Burzhanadze, like Irakli Okruashvili, was an original participant in Rose Revolution, and allied to Saakashvili. They were all allied together, same as (for example), Nemtsov-Kasparov-Navalny etc. in Russian Opps. Allies, not friends. During the brief interregnum after Shevardnadze resigned, Burzhanadze actually ran the country for a couple of months. I believe prior to that she had been Speaker of the House in Gruzian Parliament. She hoped to keep the job and run for Prez. Many people, including the Russians, thought she might be the best of a bad lot.
        However, the Americans made clear that Saak was their choice for Gruzian Leader, and all others had to be second bananas to him. Very quickly after taking power, the “revolutionaries” had a falling out with each other. Vicious power struggles ensued, with Saak emerging the victor every time. In some cases actually killing off his opponents. For a while Nino was really worried about her family, because Saak had threatened to kill her husband. Saak also accused her of corruption. This is his big shtick, after all, anybody he wants to get rid of, he accuses them of corruption, tosses them in jail, and next think they know there is a broomstick up their ass.
        Hence, Nino was very scared, not so much for herself (she is a tough lady), but for her family. She made several trips to America, begging for help against Saakashvili. But Americans pushed her back, they didn’t want to hear any bad words about their beloved Mikheil. Fortunately for Nino, some remaining influence with the Europeans has, I believe, saved her family from reprisals.

        • yalensis says:

          P.S. I think you are right not to blame the Gruzian people themselves for this mess. They did make one original mistake, the first time they voted for Saakashvili. Everybody is allowed one mistake. It was a case of “one man, one vote, one time.” Since that first time, they have not been given a chance to correct that mistake, and now there is nothing they can do about it, since all the decisions on their behalf are made in Washington DC.

          • Dear Yalensis,

            Obviously I agree with this and I am sure that many people in Georgia who supported Saakashvili in 2003 now feel betrayed and know they made a mistake. However there does seem to be something seriously wrong with Georgia’s political culture which since 1989 has been completely dysfunctional. In 1990 the Georgians elected Gamzakhurdia as their leader, who seems to have been every bit as unbalanced and as murderous as Saakashvili. He was eventually overthrown and murdered. His eventual successor was Shevardnadze who in contrast to his previously good image ran Georgia in a cynical way that in the end lost him support. Shevardnadze in some ways was a bigger disappointment than Gamzakhurdia or Saakashvili since by all accounts he was a successful and popular Communist Party First Secretary in the 1970s and 1980s and as Soviet Foreign Minister (whatever one thinks of his performance in that role – I think it was awful) must have acquired a great knowledge of the outside world. Shervadnadze was of course in turn overthrown by Saakashvili who started out as his protege.

            The trouble seems to be an unwillingness on the part of the Georgian political class to accept that in spite of its antiquity and its rich culture Georgia at the end of the day is a small country that has to make the sort of compromises that all small countries must make. Instead they conduct their policies as if Georgia was a great power like France. They also seem to share with some other ultra nationalist elites on the Soviet periphery (eg. those in the Baltic States, the western Ukraine and Moldavia) a contempt for Russians which is both racist and completely and disastrously misinformed. Inevitably what this means is that they end up having to depend on the support of far away powers (ultimately the US) to conduct a foreign policy that is far beyond their own strength. Any country that pursues a foreign policy that depends on the support of another country is courting disaster and I am sure that that is what all of these small countries will sooner or later find out. If they are not careful they will wake up one morning to discover that Russia is on their doorstep and the US is far away.

            • yalensis says:

              Dear Alexander: I agree with all of that. I think if you are a small country, just like being an ordinary person, you have to examine yourself very realistically and tally up your assets and liabilities. Then work hard to enhance your assets and deal with your liiabilities.
              Like Voltaire said, “Tend your own garden.”
              From that Voltarian POV, Gruzia has a few liabilities, but quite a lot of assets. Tourism, strategic geographical location, natural beauty and rich soil, friendly people, etc.
              Gruzia could have been prosperous if they had concentrated on their assets and also bargained with Russia for good gas prices and so on. If they wanted to be an independent country, fine, Russia was not going to stand in their way.
              But the one thing the Gruzians could never have is the one thing they obsessed about the most, which was to get Abkhazia back. That obsession was their downfall.
              It’s like if your wife decides to divoce you, there’s nothing you can do about it, except go on and build a new life. That was what Gruzia should have done. What doomed them was their unhealthy obsession with returning the “lost territories”, which never belonged to them anyhow, and even if they did, so what? they’re gone now. So suck it up and move on.

    • Misha says:

      Realisitically, there is doubt at the chances of Burzhadnadze ever posing a serious challenge for the Georgian presidency.

      The relationship between some Georgians and Chechen separatists is interesting. Dudayev and Gamsakhurdia were on good terms. In 2008, a Chechen detachment was involved with fighting on the Russian side in the former Georgian SSR conflict. Been told that there has been some historic friction between Georgians and Chechens.

      From the newswire, a recent poll claims a good number of Georgians being suspicious of Russia. Historically, Russia and Georgia have been on generally good terms.

  24. marknesop says:

    Just a thought, but in the last 30 days, I’ve had hits from 90 countries. For some reason, I seem to be a smash on the Isle of Man (475 hits). Anyway, 66 of those were from Georgia. Not a lot, but fairly steady. Since this post went up, which is specifically about Georgia – on the eve of perhaps the most important election in its history – not one.

    Not to be all portentous or anything, but I wonder if there’s something funny going on with the internet in Georgia, considering the bad press and general shitkicking the Saakashvili government is taking in the last few days.

    • AK says:

      Georgia did cut off access to the Russian Internet during that little war, so there’s kind of a precedent… But to be honest it’s not like your (or mine) blogs are going to influence Georgians to any appreciable degree.

      • Misha says:

        The sincerely competent of pro-Russian advocacy continue on, knowing that in a reasonably well moderated high profile situation, reason stands to gain greater ground.

        It can be a bit rough along the way, given the kind of biases and cronyism that has been evident.

        As for Georgians and Russians:

        http://www.rferl.org/content/What_Georgians_Really_Think_About_Russia_/1752380.html

        The relationship has taken an overall turn for the worse in recent years. However, there’re some positive signs to build on that include a pretty good and lengthy past relationship and other between the two and other signs that include friendly exchanges between the Georgian and Russian Orthodox churches, as well as a good number of people with Georgian background positively involved with Russia in one way or another.

        I realize this set of comments aren’t as “concise” as Peter’s troll barbs. My agenda appears to be much different than that of some others.

        • Dear Misha,

          We can do a lot better than this poll. Here is a report of a poll undertaken late last year by the International Republican Centre an agency which I understand is aligned with the US Republican Party in which case it cannot be accused of pro Russian bias.

          http://www.kyivpost.com/content/russia-and-former-soviet-union/poll-over-70-of-georgian-population-favors-better–118538.html

          This shows that over 70% of Georgians want better relations with Russia and see this as a priority and that far and away the biggest issue for Georgians is unemployment and that the question of the country’s territorial integrity (read reconquest of South Ossetia and Abkhazia) comes well down on their list of priorities. Bear in mind that this comes after years of unrelenting anti Russian propaganda by Saakashvili and his myrmidons and endless talk about the greatness of Georgia etc, “King David the Builder”, “Queen Tamara” etc. Even the Radio Liberty poll (of which by the way I suspect we are being given only very selective results) appears to confirm strongly positive views by Georgians of Russia in that Russians appear to be the preferred foreigners for Georgians to marry above even Americans. There can hardly be a more positive endorsement of Russians than that.

          I would add that one of the articles to which Mark provided a link in one of his comments suggests that one should be very wary of the results of some of the opinion polls that are coming out of Georgia. It suggests that the main opinion polling agency in Georgia is under the control of one of Saakashvili’s sidekicks.

          Anyway what surely puts the matter beyond doubt is that Russia (not the US or Germany or the UK or France) seems to be far and away the favoured destination of Georgians who want to leave their country and work abroad. Around a fifth of the Georgian population now lives and works in Russia. As I remember at the time of the spy arrests in Georgia in 2006 the Georgian diaspora in Russia supported Saakashvili but it is now strongly opposed to him. In truth when you consider how bad relations between Georgia and Russia have become the complete absence of any interethnic tension between Georgians and Russians in Russia is astonishing (if there was any you can be certain Saakashvili would be trumpeting the fact for all it’s worth) which must again mean that Georgians and Russians are basically well disposed to each other. The fact that Saakashvili is so obsessive in his attacks on Georgia’s cultural links to Russia (eg. his effective banning of teaching of Russian, his attacks on Soviet war memorials and his attempts to block Russian television broadcasts) suggests that he is aware at least at some level of how strong the cultural bond between Russians and Georgians is.

          PS: I have checked the Isle of Man website. It seems to be largely dedicated to promoting the ideas of someone called Benukidze who describes himself as a libertarian philosopher and a disciple of Ayn Rand. It is definitely pro Saakashvili. The Isle of Man is not technically part of the United Kingdom but is one of those quasi independent British islands like Jersey and Guernsey which acknowledge the British Queen as their head of state but which are nominally self governing. In truth these islands are simply tax havens where very rich men hide away their money and frequently live in order to avoid paying tax. I suspect that the person who owns this website is some pro Saakashvili Russian or Georgian oligarch.

          • Misha says:

            The ROCOR and I understand the ROC-MP have a noticeable contingent of folks with Georgian roots.

            Saak has catered to the Captive Nations Commitee crowd, as indicated by such instances as his friendship with Yushchenko and how he ranted on CNN (during the 2008 war) about Russia being a nation of aggressors who hate freedom on account of never having it.

            Agree or disagree, most Georgians seem to feel that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia. The Russian premise for recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia is greatly influenced by the Georgian government strike on South Ossetia. Up until that attack, Russia didn’t recognize the independence of any of the disputed former Soviet bloc territories. Since the wars of the 1990s, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Serbia haven’t militarily acted in the manner of the Georgian government in 2008.

            So there’s no misunderstanding, I was jesting a bit on the Isle of Man to refer (albeit incorrectly) to Manhattan, where the Georgian Daily venue says it’s based.

            • peter says:

              … I was jesting a bit on the Isle of Man to refer (albeit incorrectly) to Manhattan…

              To translate this into Human: you didn’t know until today that the Isle of Man and the island of Manhattan are not the same place.

              • Misha says:

                Intelligent humans don’t need a translation from a scumbag like yourself.

                You’re a horrible mind reader among other things.

              • yalensis says:

                Isle of Man motto =
                Quocunque Jeceris Stabit
                Rough translation: “He who smelt it, dealt it.”

                Isle of Man has a very creepy flag, it looks like a monster with 3 legs but no arms or head:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Flag_of_the_Isle_of_Man.svg&page=1

                • marknesop says:

                  You are moving ever closer to your stand-up debut. I am learning not to read any of your comments while I am eating or drinking anything, because it will be sprayed all over the screen. Damn, that was funny. Ummm….I mean, that was not funny at all, Yalensis; in fact, it was…downright insensitive!! To our Isle of Man readers, I mean. Now I want you to go and sit down for a while, and just think about what you did. He didn’t mean any insult, Isle of Man readers. And Manhattan readers, just in case any lingering confusion persists.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  I would have you know, sir, that the Isle of Man is a very pleasant place indeed, a former Viking kingdom whose greatest attraction for many of my generation was the fact that the pubs were open all day, whereas on the mainland there then existed the ludicrous licensing hours imposed by the British parliament upon purveyors of alcoholic beverages. For that reason, forty or so years ago steamers from Liverpool to the Isle of Man used to be packed during the summer season with rollicking merry makers outward bound from the dark satanic mills and dreary coal mines of northern England and all heading for that green oasis set in the midst of the glittering Irish Sea. Manx kippers (smoked herring) are also famous in my old neck of the woods as well. A wonderful golden colour they are, and not dark brown like those from Aberdeen.

                • Misha says:

                  I defect.

                  Bleep the American colonies.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Further to your reference to those Brtish North American colonies that ungratefully seceded from the benevolent British Empire, I should also like to add that Manxmen are still awaiting an apology from said former colonies for the actions undertaken by that pirate Jones, who, in the service of those North American ingrates, passed himself off as a fighter for liberty and raided the island as well as the English port of Whitehaven, which lies due east of Man.

                • Misha says:

                  There was a hypocritical aspect to those “freedom fighters” (terrorists).

                  They drank British booz as they threw out British tea.

                  Jus kiddin. Love America, while readily acknowledging the deep ties with Britain.

                  Erudite minded Americans, Brits, Russians and others find common cause against some of the misguided views that span the globe.

                  One can be an internationalist without being a Leninist.

                  Easy Wanderer.

                • yalensis says:

                  My spokepersons’s official statement would go something like this: “If any Manxians were inadvertently offended by my comment, then I regret the fact that they felt they had to feel this way.”

                  But seriously, can anybody explain that creepy flag to me? It looks like 3 legs in a jockstrap turning cartwheels? Maybe a 1-legged drunk in such a hurry to get to the pub that he forgot to attach his body?

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  The Three Legs of Man and the slogan “Quocunque Jeceris Stabit” (Wherever you throw – it stands) is an ancient Viking symbol that some say is related in its antiquity to the swastika that originated in the east.

                  Some say the three legs are a symbol of the sun that rolls across the heavens. As I said before, Man was a Viking kingdom and there were Norse settlements to the east of the island in Northwest England (in the present English counties of Lancashire, Westmoreland and Cumberland), where there is an abundance of Norse place names (Bickerstaffe, Skelmersdale,Thingwall, Kirkby, Irby, Greasby etc.) and the east coast of Ireland.

                  The Irish capital, Dublin (“Black Pool” in Old Norse), was a Viking settlement: its name in Irish is Baile atha Cliath (pronounced something like “blyah clyiyeh” [blʲaˈklʲiə]). According to research done by geneologists at Liverpool University, over 60% of the population of that part of England where I come from have Scandinavian haplogroups, the Scandinavians in question having originated from from what is Norway.

                  The original folk on Man and in Ireland and what is now England were Celts of course. It seems that the Vikings and Celts sometimes got on well together: the Viking King of Man fought alongside the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, at the Battle of Clontarf (1014) near Dublin; sometimes they didn’t get on so well: Brian Boru’s enemies at Clontarf were Viking mercenaries from what is now Scotland and other Irish kings.

                  Never a dull moment those days!

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  @ Yalensis:

                  As regards your not being able to find the video of Russian troops in Gori and of a Gruzianess talking to them, I am sure it will turn up sooner or later in this thread.

          • Misha says:

            With some others besides yours truly noting, I recall seeing film of Russian forces in Georgia (beyond South Ossetia) being treated in a fraternal way by some of the locals during the 2008 war.

            • Dear Misha,

              I don’t remember Georgians treating Russian troops in 2008 in a fraternal way but I do clearly remember a highly embarrassing live television broadcast on BBC television. As I vividly remember a BBC correspondent found himself surrounded by distraught Georgian villagers who complained bitterly to him as they were preparing to flee from their homes that Russia had protected Georgia “for centuries” and that the war was all the fault of “clever people” in Tbilisi who thought they knew better. I can clearly remember the journalist’s embarrassment at being told something he obviously hadn’t expected and didn’t want to hear and I am sure that if the broadcast had not been live it would not have been broadcast at all. As it was there was a reference to this incident in one of the British newspapers the following day but since then like so many other inconvenient facts it has vanished down a memory hole.

              What particularly surprised me about this incident is that I had always assumed that Saakashvili’s support is actually strongest in the countryside rather than in Tbilisi where I had been led to believe the majority actually opposes him. Of course this incident does not necessarily contradict this. Perhaps the village was unrepresentative or may be the sentiment the villagers expressed is widely shared but people in the villages nonetheless support Saakashvili despite it and for other reasons.

              • marknesop says:

                Ditto that American newscast featuring a young girl and her mother who had been vacationing in South Ossetia when it was attacked. When she began to tell the television’s audience that she and her mother had run toward the Russian troops to ask them to protect them from the Georgians the newscaster seemed to become quite embarrassed and went to a commercial so he could sort out the situation and bring the segment to a close.

                Oops; sorry, the woman was her aunt, not her mother.

                • Dear Mark,

                  I remember the Fox News incident. The BBC could not cut off the broadcast with a commercial break because BBC television is publicly funded and therefore doesn’t have commercial breaks. However you will never find any reference to the broadcast now.

                  Back in 2004 I returned from Russia shortly after the Beslan atrocity. I remember switching on BBC Radio 4 and listening to an interview with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he condemned the jihadi rebels who carried out the massacre in the strongest terms and compared their action to Herod’s. I should say that Rowan Williams speaks Russian and is a leading scholar in Britain on Russian literature especially Dostoevsky so unlike most British commentators who write or speak about Russia he has a deep knowledge of Russia and of Russian culture. Rowan Williams’s interview impressed me hugely since it was in such sharp contrast to other British commentary about the massacre, which basically blamed the death of the children on the Russian authorities. Last year I tried to get hold of a tape or the text of Rowan Williams’s interview. I had no success. The only proof that Rowan Williams had given an interview was a brief written summary provided by the BBC that bore no relation to what I had heard Rowan Williams say and which was so vacuous as to be completely meaningless. I have tried to contact Rowan Williams himself but he has never replied. He is a very busy man who must receive hundreds of letters every day and why after all should he?

                • peter says:

                  Last year I tried to get hold of a tape or the text of Rowan Williams’s interview. I had no success…

                  Here

                • marknesop says:

                  I will say it again, Peter; your research skills are humbling. You are like the character Red in “The Shawshank Redemption” – the man who can get things.

                  It’s a pity you have decided to use your powers for good. Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete.

                • Misha says:

                  Mark, I saw that Fox segment and have a different impression of what seemed to have occurred.

                  The nature of Fox News segments like that one is to be brief and concise for tabloid sake and getting in commercial time. I can see where some might believe the two guests in question were scripted in delivery. On the other hand, that can very well have to do with their not being used to appearing on such a segment.

                  For review sake, it might be a good idea to get a full (not partial) unedited video of that segment.

                • Misha says:

                  As a follow-up, the two guests took offense when the Fox News host (S. Smith) broke for a commercial. If I correctly recall, the host attempted to calm them by saying that they’d be on again after the commercial break. Thereafter, their pro-Russian military intervention view got in.

                  Once again, if you’re looking for that video, make sure that it’s complete and not partial.

                • Dear Peter,

                  Thanks a lot for this. I found this script whilst I was looking last year. However this is not the interview I remember hearing. Notice for example that Rowan Williams does not refer to Herod whilst I clearly remember that in the interview I heard he did. Also the interview of which you have found the text is basically a discussion not so much about Beslan itself but about what it tells us about God. The interview I heard was more specifically focused on Beslan itself. I also remember Rowan Williams making criticism of the way the atrocity was covered in the British press. These do not appear here.

                  Of course it is possible that it is my recollection that is at fault. We are talking about a radio interview that happened 8 years ago. However I have a pretty good memory for this sort of thing and frankly I doubt it. Rowan Williams often appears on the radio and on the subject of Beslan (which he clearly felt very strongly about – notice that even in this interview he refers to the perpetrators as “evil”) it is natural he would have given several interviews. This one is specifically with John Humphreys who is well known for having forsaken his previous Christian beliefs and basically forms part of the endless and for me utterly tedious argument we have here in Britain between “secularists” and Christians on the subject of God with Beslan becoming yet another point of contention in the argument.

                • Misha says:

                  The character Red was nowhere near the sleazeball as “Peter”.

              • Misha says:

                I remember Alexander.

                Folks came out of their homes talking in a friendly way, inclusive of offering food and drink to the Russian aggressor.

                • yalensis says:

                  Yeah, I remember seeing one clip where Russian tanks were rolling into Gori. You could tell it was authentic because the soldiers were kind of lounging around smoking on the top of the tank, not looking very alert or crisp at all. So it couldn’t have been an official Russian video.
                  Some ordinary-looking middle-aged Gruzian woman, you know the kind, a little bit overweight and gold teeth in mouth, approaches the tanks; the entire column stops; she chats briefly with one of the officers leading the convoy. Everybody is smiling and relaxed. She waves at them, they wave back, and they go on their way. Commentary said something like she was asking THEM for directions.
                  I remember the clip, because it was kind of silly, and I enjoy these little human moments. Unfortunately I can’t find it on youtube any more.

                • marknesop says:

                  I saw a good one of the Georgian Army shooting up Tskhinvali; taken from the back of an APC of some sort, the guy manning the main gun is just taking random potshots at buildings, there is no sign at all of any resistance but they are just laughing and shouting and firing at buildings as they drive through the streets, having the time of their lives. Pity it had to end so badly, they really seemed to be enjoying themselves.

                • yalensis says:

                  Yeah, I saw that clip too, but that’s not the kind of “human moment” I had in mind. Call me a sap, but I enjoy watching clips of people being nice to each other and getting along…. !

      • marknesop says:

        No, I didn’t mean that; I just wondered if the Saakashvili government was trying to block access to the internet to prevent its people finding out other details regarding the prison scandal, because more and more seems to be coming out each day although the stuff I am discovering was in reports all along, from 2007/2008, they just didn’t get any attention. No, my traffic from Georgia only averages out to about 2 hits a day, I doubt that would change any minds. But usually when somebody is controversial you see their name in the search terms; I got a huge spike from a Yuliya Tymoschenko post during her trial, and the post itself was a couple of months old. Again, nothing.

        It would just be typical of what we are coming to learn is the Saakashvili government for internet access to be curtailed or reduced.

  25. yalensis says:

    On the Gruzian diaspora in Russia: I think it would benefit Russia a great deal to offer Russian citizenship and permanent residency to Gruzian migrant workers. (The real workers, of couse, not the criminals.)
    This idea was floated around in the years between Saakashvili coming to power and the 2008 war. One of the cleverest ideas I ever read was to offer any Gruzian who still carried an old Soviet passport who wanted it automatic Russian citizenship. This would have struck a blow against Saakashvili regime by draining him of his captive people. Russia should consider doing this even now, it would be a good ploy against Saakashvili regime, and would allow many Gruzian families opportunity to escape that fascist police state.
    P.S. this is one reason Saak does not want younger Gruzian generation to learn Russian, it would make it harder for them to escape to Russia.

    • marknesop says:

      It would be a good idea in that it might induce those new Russians to bring their families to Russia as well, but meanwhile Saakashvili and his government depend on those migrant workers to send money home and to shut up the complainers who say there are no jobs and the pay is too low. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that although minimum wage is kind of a soft concept in Eastern Europe and the region, the listed minimum wage in Russia is far higher than that in Georgia; $1,558 International Dollars (IMF data, averaged to a hypothetical currency) against 279 in Georgia. I forget what percentage of Georgian GDP comes from the Georgian diaspora in Russia, but it is significant and Georgia would be in a harder economic situation without it. And its continuance depends on those diaspora members having family back in Georgia; if they did not, their money would likely stay in Russia whereas at present they probably only keep enough for themselves to live on.

      If those people’s families were moved to Russia, that would make a difference that Saakashvili would feel. But hopefully he will not survive the election. Let’s see.

  26. Viz some of the discussions above about Saakashvili’s miscalculations about the 2008 war, I am no sort of military expert but I thought at the time that one of the reasons he might have launched the war was because his military advisers who had received US training assumed that the Russians would fight as the US does. The general impression I get of the US military is that its approach to war is systematic and methodical and rather risk averse. I once read that that was the view German commanders had of the US military during the Second World War and nothing that has happened since seems to have changed it. After all given the enormous resources the US has at its disposal why should it fight differently? A systematic and methodical approach to war plays to its strengths.

    If that is correct then Saakashvili and his advisers may have thought that the Russians would not respond until they had built up a large superiority in men and weapons and that a Russian ground offensive would anyway be preceded by a lengthy bombing campaign. That seems to be how the US’s most recent wars have been conducted. Saakashvili may have thought that in that time his forces would have captured Tskhinvali and cleared South Ossetia and that he would be able to rally international opinion behind him by playing up the fact that he was simply reoccupying what was internationally recognised as Georgian territory. Of course if there had been a bombing campaign that would have made his task of rallying international opinion behind him even easier. The diplomatic pressure on Russia to accept the fait accompli would have been overwhelming and with Medvedev in the Kremlin it is easy to see how Saakashvili might have thought that this would suffice. Saakashvili comes across to me as a gambler and as someone who believes in his lucky star so if he thought all this I can see why he might have taken the risk.

    In the event if that is what Saakashvili and his military advisers thought the Russians did not act according to his expectations. Instead of taking days or even weeks to assemble their forces and instead of launching a lengthy bombing campaign before they attacked the Russians attacked on the following day before the battle of Tskinvali had been won by Saakashvili’s troops at a time when the Georgian troops actually outnumbered them on the battlefield and without waging a lengthy bombing campaign in advance. Again in contrast to the incremental way the US tends to fight its wars the Russian military fought a high speed war of manoeuvre even including seaborne attacks which gave the impression of attacks coming from all directions. Obviously this way of fighting war would not have succeeded against US troops but against the Georgian army it was totally successful and the war as we all remember was over within 5 days.

    I have to say that one of the most infuriating things for me is the way in which some sections of the western media misreport this war. By any measure the Russian army fought a brilliantly successful military campaign in difficult country against a well equipped adversary who enjoyed numerical superiority through much of the battle and won its battle decisively within just 5 days. Unlike most other recent military campaigns this one achieved all the objectives the Russian military was given by the country’s political leadership who in their turn understood how far it was reasonable for them to go. Contrast this with the megalomaniac plans to restructure entire societies we have seen coming from the west in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Yet to read western accounts of the war the performance of the Russian army was so shambolic it is difficult to understand how it won at all. I find this totally delusional. Of course some things went wrong, in war they always do, but that does not detract from the overall achievement. Even more impressive is that after winning its war the Russian military instead of indulging itself in an orgy of self congratulation as any western military would surely have done and as the British military did after the Falklands war and the US military did after the Iraq war of 1991 instead embarked on relentless self criticism and set out purposefully to learn the lessons of the war. The result is that we have seen a major military reform with the army being comprehensively reorganised around a new brigade structure and with a programme underway to re equip the army with the new range of armoured vehicles, which we discussed previously. Far from seeing in this a recognition of failure or weakness I see it as proof of intellectual vitality and strength. Certainly it makes a striking contrast to the paralysing conservatism of the British military.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      Assuming that Russians would fight in the same way Americans do is in my opinion a really bad military thinking. I’m likewise no military expert, but I sense this is something any manual on tactics would warn against.

  27. Misha says:

    Good propaganda study:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/lat-na-tt-ukraines-struggle-20120927,0,1350962.story

    The author notes a relationship with the Sate Dept. and claims that he’s not told what to write – without acknowledging how some seem to know what views are preferred for high profile media employment at venues paying top dollar.

    The recent Yalta 2012 conference included clear criticism of the Ukrainian government. English language media outlets like the Kyiv Post show a preference for anti-Russian leaning views over the noticeably pro-Russian slant of many Ukrainians. Ukrainian mass media has included views from the activist anti-Russian leaning perspective. Should that media give disproportionate coverage to that take?

    • marknesop says:

      Interesting to see the analysis that Georgia might “slide further into authoritarianism”, just as if that had been what was reported all along rather than the “We Heart Saakashvili” Love Festival between he and western media outlets. I note also that the prescription for success in this country that was brought to life by western engagement is – more western engagement!!

      I understand the author means well, but concerted western engagement to ensure the vote is fair will be interpreted by the Saakashvili government as a green light to rig it in every way possible, because that government has become accustomed to western agencies covering up its mistakes and making excuses for its excesses.

      • Dear Mark,

        I agree with you about this article. Why is “western engagement paramount”? The Georgians are an ancient people. They are not children who have to be taught how to behave. Georgia’s problem is that there has been altogether too much “western engagement” not too little and it is precisely such “western engagement” which has created the present situation in the first place. I have never understood this urge so many people in the west have to try to micromanage other people’s affairs from afar. Perhaps if the Georgians were left alone to sort out their problems they might actually find solutions for them.

      • Misha says:

        I note also that the prescription for success in this country that was brought to life by western engagement is – more western engagement!!

        ****

        The above comments relate well to some other countries as well.

        At times, there’s a morally imperialistic attitude behind that position, which includes seeking to keep some other countries out of an “engagement” process.

  28. Moscow Exile says:

    Off topic, I know, but Sob-Check’s got her money back. The Russian equivalent of the FBI finally decided that the dosh stashed away in her apartment was hers:

    http://www.kp.ru/online/news/1257708/

    • yalensis says:

      In that case, I guess I owe Xenia an apology for calling her a “bagman” and “gangsta moll”. So sorry, Ksiusha! Enjoy your dough!

      • Dear Yalensis,

        Don’t be too hasty with your apologies. It remains strange that Sobchak had so much money in cash in her flat. That it legally belongs to her does not mean she was not given it for some political purpose.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Apparently the money in the envelopes tallied with her bank statements. So she withdrew money from her accouts – remember, she says she does not trust banks – and had it stashed at home, in envelopes. For payouts?

          • marknesop says:

            I still think the, “I don’t trust banks” line was the first explanation she could come up with, and she probably thought it was dead clever but I don’t think anyone would believe a million dollars is safer behind a door a good-sized guy and a chunk of 4 x 4 could probably take right off the hinges (unless it’s a steel door, which would only mean they would have to be a bit more imaginative, still not as safe as a bank).

      • marknesop says:

        Me, too; sorry, Ksyusha, for doubting you. I’d change my locks, though, if I were you, considering tons of people to whom a million bucks is probably quite a lot of money now know you keep that kind of cash just lying around in your flat, protected only by envelopes and a dinky little safe that I daresay I could throw over the railing of your balcony quicker than you could say, “that durak with the glasses just stole my million bucks”.

  29. I suppose I should make the obvious comparison between the utterly microscopic coverage the British media have so far devoted to the Georgian prison abuse scandal and the inundation of tendentious articles and commentary we got during the Pussy Riot case. Torture in Georgian prisons including sodomising of prisoners just isn’t so important. After all it’s not as if Georgian prisoners are being persecuted by the Dark Lord of the Kremlin and the Great Enemy of Humankind.

  30. Misha says:

    Re: http://www.disinfo.com/2012/09/the-paranoid-style-in-russian-politics/

    Excerpt –

    “Russia’s friends in the West — and it may have more than it sometimes thinks — must do what they can to prevent the Kremlin’s current paranoid style from producing negative foreign policy consequences in the real world. Americaphobia in Russia can easily spark Russophobia in the West, which, as Romney’s remarks demonstrate, still has its knee-jerk adherents.”

    ****

    “Russia’s friends in the West” aren’t properly utilized to a good extent.

    “Russophobia” in the West encouraging “Americanphobia” in Russia is the arguably greater influencing factor. Upon the Soviet breakup, the pro-American sentiment in Russia was challenged by the way the first wave of NATO expansion was undergone, some brazenly unfair anti-Russian comments concerning Chechnya and former Yugoslavia – all of this occurring at a time when Russia was governed by someone whose government took some misguided economic advice from the West.

    —————–

    Talking Turkey:

    http://www.courant.com/news/nation-world/sns-rt-us-syria-crisis-turkeybre88q1l0-20120927,0,894241.story

    —————–

    Interesting comments on Soviet ice hockey:

    http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Grandson+reveals+downfall+father+Soviet+hockey+what+could+have+been/7308708/story.html

    • Viz the first article the essence of paranoia is that it is delusional. There is nothing delusional about the Russian government’s concerns. The west does support the radical opposition to the Russian government and does partly fund it and the radical opposition with the west’s support does deny the legitimacy of the Russian government and does want to overthrow it. Far from being paranoid the Russian government has been amazingly restrained in the face of all of this.

      • Misha says:

        Hopefully, the Russian government will do better at influencing some of the English language media operations that it’s involved with in one way or another.

        Reaching out to Gessen over some others is counter-productive to the advocacy of improving Russia’s image in the West.

      • marknesop says:

        Where do you suppose Saakashvili learned to exaggerate and blame Russia or his political opposition for everything bad that happens?

        • Misha says:

          The reasonably pro-Russian folks who grew up in the belly of the beast (so to speak) of anti-Russian propaganda should see high profile action and (dare I say) become more strategically involved.

          Some of the discussion on improving Russia’s image has an empty calories blah, blah, blah aspect.

  31. yalensis says:

    On Libya embassy attack: Obama/Hillary finally forced to admit this important tactical defeat in their bullshit “War on Terror”. Finally forced to admit that attack on embassy and assassination of Ambassador Stevens had nothing to do with silly youtube video, and everything to do with Al Qaeda’s desire to celebrate 11th anniversary of 9/11. According to Fox News, new AQ mastermind is some guy named Sufyan Ben Qumu. Like Belhaj, Qumu spent some time being abused in Gitmo, then CIA “rendered” him back to Libya. Unlike Americans, Gaddafi treated his AQ prisoners humanely and didn’t torture them. Which is a good thing. However, they were supposed to stay behind bars forever. Unfortunately, Gaddafi’s son, Saif, made a terrible mistake and amnestied them. They swore an oath to Saif on a stack of Korans that they would not to take up arms against Gaddafi. Within minutes of being sprung from jail, they promptly took up arms against Gaddafi. See, they lied.
    Looks like some pennies are finally starting to drop in some minds, even if it’s just the tiny minds at Fox News:


    Fox News adds in their report that so far the finger is being pointed at 53-year-old Sufyan Ben Qumu, a veteran of the Libyan Army who has previously been interned at America’s military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba over accusations that he was linked with al-Qaeda. Qumu was released from Gitmo in 2007 despite being considered a threat by American authorities, and sent back to Libya, where he was promised to be held behind bars. The regime of former leader Muammar Gaddafi later released him from the facility, after which the Daily Mail says he “emerged as a leader of the rebels” that attempted to overthrow Gaddafi’s very government.

    http://rt.com/usa/news/stevens-laden-terrorist-attack-597/

    • yalensis says:

      P.S.
      AlQaeda has this weird obsession with numerology. A lot of their terrorist attacks seem to be picked for some magical date that obviously means something to their tiny reptilian brains.
      For example, if you take the magical date (September 11, 2001) as your starting point, then count forward 911 days, that brings you to the date March 11, 2004, which is the date of the Madrid subway attack.
      Okay, okay (before peter corrects me on this), I KNOW that (+911) days actually gets you to March 10, 2004. But either the AQ guys decided it was okay to fudge it by one day, in order to get to the magic number 11 (as in March 11), OR (my theory), they screwed up and counted wrong, like maybe those idiots thought that 2002 was a leapyear.
      In any case, the number 11 is obviously magical to them, maybe this is why the 11th anniversary of 9/11 seems to be more important to them even than the 10th anniversary was, and they felt compelled to celebrate it with a big bang at the American Benghazi embassy.

    • marknesop says:

      It sounds extremely unprofessional when journalists appropriate military slang – which they can’t resist doing, as witnessed by the fact that they couldn’t order a pizza in 2003 without saying “boots on the ground” – such as referring to Guantanamo Bay as “Gitmo”, because it sounds so warrior culture. Maybe they will want to start calling San Diego “Dago”, as the sailors do; I’m sure the city will appreciate it. They also refer to any meal they cannot immediately identify by sight as “Glit”, implying it is a mix of equal parts shit and glue. Don’t forget to order it in those tony DC restaurants, journos – the chicks will be weak at the knees.

  32. Moscow Exile says:

    Latest on the never ending saga of the Russian feminist punk-rock band freedom fighters: they’ve written an open letter in which they nominate their defense counsel for — wait for it! — the Nobel Peace Prize.

    They write in their letter:

    “Нам хотелось бы выдвинуть их на Нобелевскую премию мира потому, что без их помощи не удалось бы показать мировому сообществу судебную систему нашей страны. Судебную систему, от которой ежедневно, ежечасно страдают тысячи людей”.

    [We should like to nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize because without their help we should not have managed to show the world community the judicial system of our country - a judicial system in which every hour of every day there suffer thousands of people.]

    What’s that got to do with peace?

    See: http://www.mk.ru/social/article/2012/09/28/754481-pussy-riot-vyidvinuli-svoih-advokatov-na-nobelevku.html

    • yalensis says:

      They’re just making a big show of complimenting their shylock in order to draw attention back to their selves. I think they’re fishing to get the Nobel and all the glory for THEMSELVES! Shock and horror.

    • marknesop says:

      Perhaps they meant their defense counsel showed the world how incompetent Russian lawyers can be at their worst. Lawyers who deliberately irritate the court with endless and frivolous delays and petitions, then lose and promptly announce in public that they expect to lose the appeal as well might cause people everywhere to wonder if they were hired out of the telephone book or from graffiti on the bathroom wall. It’s just possible they are not attorneys at all, and were only there to refill the vending machines in the main lobby when they were mistaken for lawyers, and decided to let it play out for a lark like the plot of any number of situation comedies.

      In any case, I’m not sure 3 votes moves them very high up the list.

  33. yalensis says:

    Meanwhile, in Navalny news:
    I mentioned in an earlier comment that one of Navalny’s ongoing projects has been his ideological attacks against the Russian state-owned bank VTB. In order to attack this institution, Navalny became a minority shareholder (like he also did with Aeroflot, Rosneft, and many other important companies). I think it’s pretty obvious that Americans give him the $$$ to buy stocks in these companies so that he can spy on them from within, recruit other spies for industrial espionage, and also short these companies when needed, by attacking them on his blog.
    Navalny’s latest attacks against VTB involve some kind of oil/gas deal which is a joint investment with a Chinese firm, and it’s something out in Siberia involving hundreds of millions of (American) dollars, and it’s a big effing deal.
    Hence, Navalny’s ideological attacks against this deal (which could have scared away investors and sent stock prices plunging) was taken seriously, VTB responded with a huge publicity blast of their own a couple of weeks ago, and took a team of their major investors out on a junket to the drilling fields to prove that drilling was actually going on, despite Navalny’s allegations that it was all just a big potemkin village.
    The latest in this saga is this blog piece by somebody named V.I. Sinyakov entitled “Алексей, ты не прав!” (obviously a play on the famous, “Boris, you are wrong” directed against Yeltsin).
    Sinyakov is also a minority shareholder of VTB and used to be an ally of Navalny’s, but has recently broken with him, as he addresses in this piece:

    http://vi-sinyakov.livejournal.com/57842.html

  34. Moscow Exile says:

    I think the heat has been suddenly turned up as regards the charges made against Lebedev, which had been kept on the back burner as it were for just over a year, because of his announcement that he is intending to close shop in Russia and, though he says he has no intention of doing so, the possibility of his leaving Russia. Lebedev is Navalny’s chief supporter and a major critic himself of alleged corrupt practices amongst politicians and bureaucrats. I think the attack against both Navalny and Lebedev are part of the same operation to discredit both of them.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      You see, for me the thing is about Lebedev is that with all his shouting about corruption and his running “independent” newspapers that criticize the “regime”, the image is projected that he is squeaky clean and that his millions were all amassed legally and above board. I have always maintained, however, that anyone who became unimaginably wealthy during the immediate post-Soviet years did so clearly by stealth, cunning and also, to a greater or lesser degree, by illegal means.

      Lebedev underwent an amazing transition from being an employee of the state security service to becoming a banker.

      A banker!

      Did he learn about banking and finance in the KGB? What skills that he acquired in the KGB did he apply in order that he become a fabulously wealthy banker and media magnate? How and where did he acquire his capital to undertake his enterprises? Or is it that he holds up his hands to the fact that much of his wealth was very likely amassed partly through criminal means, but pleads that everyone else would have done the same whilst at the same time claiming, Khodorkovsky-like, that he has since travelled the road to Damascus and now wishes to play by the rules and at the same time is determined to expose those that certainly don’t.

      I am always very suspicious of extremely wealthy whistleblowers, whose cries and alarms often serve, in my opinion, to divert attention from their own wrongdoings.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        It seems that he studied economics at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and went on to get the equivalent of a Ph.D at the Institute of Economics of the World Socialist System before joining the KGB: He must have thought there were better rewards and opportunities given for punching people in the face at the Lubyanka than in trying to be an economist in a world socialist system. Be that as it may, in the’90s he left the FSB and had enough capital to set up a business and to later buy a bank, which by a stroke of good fortune was one of only two banks that survived the 1998 financial crisis.

        Now that was a spot of good luck, wasn’t it?

    • Misha says:

      No article from ….. , depicting a former KGB Russian brute, sucker punching someone of Jewish background.

  35. marknesop says:

    A little off-topic, but a delightful email exchange which reveals something I didn’t know – since I never watch CNN any more – that Ambassador Stevens’ diary was found lying around and picked up by a CNN reporter for return to the family. Apparently it was also read and some passages quoted which made State look bad, culminating in this email exchange which finished at the “Fuck off” stage. “Toria” is of course Victoria Nuland, State busybody, frequent spokeswoman and wife of neoconservative Robert Kagan.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeedpolitics/hillary-clinton-aide-tells-reporter-to-fuck-off

    • Misha says:

      Some US government appointed positions can have a bipartisan aspect to it, as a sign of a limited reaching out within the American political class.

      Nuland’s background includes a position in Bush II’s government. Not sure of her party affiliation, which can have a limited meaning. Among some politically left of center types: if push comes to shove, Republican James Baker is more appealing than Democrat Joseph Lieberman.

      Robert Kagan was with the Carnegie Endowment, with brother Fred having an association with the AEI.

      That link involving a CNN-State Dept. spat is an exception to the rule. In an uncritical way, CNN has been generally supportive of the predominating Democratic Party establishment foreign policy line on a number of prominent news issues. including Pussy Riot, former Yugoslavia and Syria.

      • Misha says:

        Re: http://rt.com/usa/news/us-netanyahu-un-obama-238/

        Not mentioned is a covered H. Clinton-Netanyahu get together, which involved a noticeable degree of hand and eye contact.

        On CNN, a Muslim advocate referenced Jeffrey Goldberg ridiculing Netanyahu’s exhibit of an bomb at his UN General Assembly speech. Shortly before that reference, I saw Goldberg on an NBC Sunday news show being somewhat critical of Netanyahu – suggesting that the prime minister doesn’t recognize which country is the junior partner in the American-Israeli relationship.

        In short, American government and Jewish-American pro-Israeli support has taken a bit of a different turn from what it has been.

        Netanyahu is known to be on good terms with Romney. If so, the snub of sorts (brought up by RT) is indicative of another dynamic.

      • Misha says:

        Forwarded to my attention, I’m not able to get any audio of this one –

        “Israeli leaders meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in NYC”

    • yalensis says:

      By everything holy, this Benghazi scandal should have ended the careers of at least 2 people: Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice. And Obama’s as well (except it is looking like he will skate through this like he does through everything….)
      There is a saying in American politics that “It isn’t the original crime that gets you, it’s the cover-up…” In this case, the “crime” was the whole Libya fiasco and the crushing defeat for Hillary Clinton and the American diplomatic corps. The cover-up was that Obama lied about it and tried to pass off some bullshit story that even the idiots at Fox News can see through like glass.
      If I were Obama, I would have delivered a speech on television the following day, something like, “OMG this Benghazi thing was a really horrible catastrophe, Al Qaeda really nailed us because Hillary and her cronies were asleep at the switch, but don’t worry, my fellow Americans, I just fired her ass, and we’re going to make this right.” Instead, he lied his guts out, because he thinks he needs Hillary’s hubba Bubba to help him win the election.

      • marknesop says:

        “…except it is looking like he will skate through this like he does through everything…”

        You’re just bitter because it looks increasingly like you will be washing my car. Don’t worry; I’m keeping an eye on the polls, and unless Romney demonstrates an ability to walk on water and turn well water into Jack Daniels Tennessee Sour Mash pretty soon, he is toast to a golden brown. And instead, every day he says a new stupid thing to make even his supporters marvel at what an appetite he has for his own foot.

        • yalensis says:

          Well, Mark, remember that my prediction of a Romney win was based on my assumption that American Supreme Court would strike down Obama-care. That was a solid assumption. When Chief Justice Roberts ruled Obama’s way, and Obama was able to skate through with a 5-4 ruling, I was so surprised that my jaw fell open and my teeth clattered to the ground. (And not just mine.)
          And then, again, I also didn’t factor in just what a lousy candidate Romney is. He can’t do or say anything right, and he has a horrible secret to hide (=that he didn’t pay any taxes for many many years). It’s all highly ironic, because Republican base never liked him anyway, but they thought he was winnable, as opposed to all the other idiots they had on tap. In retrospect they should have just picked an idiot that they actually liked. Rick Perry, for example.
          Having said that, reputable polls show that Obama should win big, but don’t trust polls. Remember that Repubs are working their little tushies off suppressing African American/Latino votes in crucial swing states. So Romney could lose the popular vote, but still win electoral college. By vote fraud and cheating.
          And as for your automobile, I still recommend a touchless car wash. But I understand they may not have those new-fangled things in Canada …

  36. Our old friend Alsund has written a piece about Gazprom in the Financial Times. It is behind a paywall but can be found by simply typing in to Google “Financial Times Alsund Gazprom Putin”. The article is already being picked up by various websites including several associated with the jihadi movement in the northern Caucasus.

    Alsund’s argument is that the combination of shale gas from the US and the anti monopoly claim brought by the European Commission will between them force Gazprom into bankruptcy causing its break up and bringing down Putin and the present Russian government.

    The argument is expertly demolished in a comment by someone called “Skeptical German” who calls it “wishful thinking” (which it is). He correctly points out that the price of US shale gas will soon have to double or its producers will be forced into bankruptcy. The European Commission has no means to force Gazprom to sell gas at a lower price. If the European Commission tears up Gazprom’s existing gas supply contracts Gazprom will simply stop supplying gas (no contract, no gas). Ultimately Europe imports Russian gas because it has to. If Russian supply is cut off the cost of importing alternative supplies from elsewhere would be simply prohibitive.

    “Skeptical German” is surely right on both counts. I have to say that when it comes to Gazprom I have a recurring sense of deja vu. A few years ago it was liquified natural gas which was going to spell its and Putin’s doom. Then it was going to be the Nabucco pipeline. Now it’s shale gas. Even if shale gas is all its cracked up to be, which I strongly doubt, rising demand for energy will surely absorb it.

    As for Alsund, we’ve discussed him before. In my opinion he’s long since stopped being an economist. What he has become instead is a singularly obsessive and frankly rather unpleasant anti Russian polemicist. I don’t understand why he continues to be taken seriously.

    • yalensis says:

      Shale gas seemed like a good idea at the time … until they found out that fracking CAUSES EARTHQUAKES!!! .

      • Moscow Exile says:

        They were drilling for it last year in my old neck of the woods in the UK – near where Anatoly Karlin of da Russophile spent part of his youth, actually – but they stopped because of a series of earth tremors that occurred. I found it rather annoying to learn that they had been test drilling there because not far away is the now closed down coalfield where I used to work. The coal’s still there – 400 years of reserves, they say, and that’s only an estimation on what can be won using present day technology. Horrible, nasty business is coalmining, though, and coal is horrible nasty stuff, not environmently pristine as is shale gas and its extraction.

        • marknesop says:

          The energy industry keeps raising the banner of “clean coal” and asserting that it can be a viable energy producer using the techniques of “carbon sequestration”. It has as its opponents pretty much the entire environmental community and as its supporters Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton – and I would not even call them supporters so much as the choir for energy self-sufficiency so that America might proceed with its foreign policy objectives without being leveraged by energy providers – so I will leave it to you to make up your own mind.

          I would just say that China has enough coal to last it a couple of lifetimes and probably they still use it somewhat – they still had coal-fired steam locomotives when I was there in 1988 – and they would never put China in the guise of an energy dependent rather than an energy superpower if there were any way they could make ‘clean coal” work.

    • Misha says:

      On Aslund, prmary fault should go to the venues which prop him while muting others with different and valid views.

    • marknesop says:

      Shale gas has actually been around since the late 1820’s in the United States, and I think Japan had some limited development before that. I have a really good reference but I’ll have to look a bit for it. In any case, shale gas is a curious story, because people keep getting excited about it and saying it’s going to put oil out of business. Is it? Ha, ha. Not likely.

      Shale gas reserves are plentiful, there’s lots of gas there. Developers and speculators like to talk about billions of cubic meters and a 300-year supply, just in the USA alone. All true. But shale gas is a low EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested) technology. So are biofuels, so far, meaning it takes nearly as much energy to bring them to market as they supply. Only the very richest shale gas “plays” offer a profitable extraction opportunity, and shale gas also is a diminishing-returns product – it plays out relatively quickly, and developers quickly reach the point where they are fracturing tons of shale per barrel of oil recovered. The simplest way to look at it is how long it’s been around (since the early 1800’s) and how far technology has come since then. If shale gas was going to break the back of petroleum, it would have done so by now. As it stands, oil is still far, far more profitable because it is child’s play to extract when compared with shale gas, and there are still new discoveries of oil fields all the time. Iraq offers huge potential for exploration, and I read a study once (something else I’ll have to look for) that said U.S. researchers figured they could bring a barrel of Iraqi oil to market for less than $5.00, including all development costs and a kickback to the government. With oil at even $50.00 per barrel, that’s a license to print money.

      According to the industry, shale gas fracking does not use toxic chemicals any more, or they contribute only about 1% to the mix; the rest is sand and water. But I have learned not to trust energy companies, as they are fond of stringing people along until a problem becomes too big to hide, and then pleading for understanding and healing and saying we all have to work together to solve it. In other words, their problem is now your problem. And it is somehow associated with seismic activity, sometimes apparently causing earthquakes.

      As long as oil remains cheaper to extract, there is more profit in it and all companies are driven by profit. Therefore unless shale gas become cheaper to extract than oil – no time soon – shale gas is not going to put anyone in the oil industry out of business

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Alsund popped up the other day in the Moscow Times (no surprise there) with a similar (or the same – I don’t know, I won’t pay Murdoch money to read his paper) article re: Gazprom and shale oil etc:

      http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/big-setbacks-give-gazprom-impetus-for-change/468840.html

      • Misha says:

        Another example of what’s actually wrong with the coverage pertains to the same old, The same old source material getting propped over different and substantively more accurate source material.

        The following repetition is appropriately restated in reply to the re-circulated likes of Aslund.

        An earlier and not so distant Moscow Times piece by Anders Aslund:

        http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx (JRL promoted)

        The stated 1,000 Russian troops in Pridnestrovie (Transdnestr) aren’t enough to bully pro-union with Moldova sentiment in that disputed territory, which historically and human rights wise has an arguably better case for independence than Kosovo – whose independent status in some circles is greatly the result of NATO military action, a NATO influenced foreign military presence and combined geopolitical clout of the US, UK, Germany, France and Turkey, as well as decades of Albanian nationalist activism.

        In contrast to Aslund –

        http://www.eurasiareview.com/10012012-pridnestrovies-present-and-future%c2%a0-analysis/ (not JRL promoted)

        The situation in Moldova remains ongoing in a way that doesn’t appear so etched in stone. With the EU appearing to have limits, it’s reasonable for Moldova to leave open other options.

        Regarding another commentary from Aslund:

        http://www.austereinsomniac.info/blog/2012/6/22/aslunds-real-benefits.html

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        This article says basically the same as the Financial Times article but the Financial Times article is far more gloating and unpleasant. As I said you can actually by pass the pay wall and read the Financial Times article by typing the relevant words into the Google search engine. In this article Aslund at least admits that this action may take years.

        In my opinion the European Commission action (which is surely politically motivated) has little legal basis. Gazprom is not a European company. It is a Russian company that was once a Soviet Ministry and in which the Russian government still has a major stake and which Russia uses its vehicle to supply Russian gas to the EU. If Gazprom has a dominant position as a supplier of gas in certain EU countries it is because those countries have chosen to source their gas from Russia instead of say Algeria or Qatar. The EU cannot dictate to Russia what vehicle Russia should use to sell its gas since this is a matter within Russia’s sovereignty. If Gazprom was a European company (say a German company) that squeezed out competitors on the European market and achieved a dominant market position by becoming the sole European importer of Russian gas it would be another matter. However that is not the position. To me this case makes as little sense as would a claim against the Saudi national oil company because the EU sources much of its oil from Saudi Arabia.

        As for shale gas my brother has also told me it’s been around since the ark. Apparently the gas lighting in London in the nineteenth century was fuelled by it. I suspect that in the end far from being the great bonus some people expect US shale gas will in the end do harm since exaggerated expectations of what it will do will further delay the energy efficiency measures the US ultimately has to take. As such it serves as another example of the American propensity to look for technological solutions to American problems.

        The European Commission has been antagonistic to Gazprom for a very long time. As we all know it was at one time trying to force Russia to sign up to the so called Energy Charter, which would have forced Russia to cede a large measure of control of its energy supplies to outsiders. This latest legal action should be seen as the latest spat in its long campaign against Gazprom. The fact that it has delayed bringing this case for such a long time is surely because it is aware that it actually has little legal basis. I have heard that assessments of the potential for shale gas in Poland and elsewhere in the EU have proved disappointing and with the Nabucco project apparently also failing to achieve its expected results it may be that disappointment that dependence on Russia for the supply of gas is set to continue is what has triggered this case.

        • I would just quickly say that I notice that Aslund repeats in the Moscow Times article the tiresome falsehood that Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Europe in 2006. As Aslund of course knows Gazprom did no such thing. The Ukrainians stole Russian gas intended for other customers. It was obvious at the time, Berlusconi said it and it’s now largely admitted. The Ukrainians did the same again in 2009. Why does Aslund persist with this falsehood? I understand that he’s a fully paid up member of the Saakashvili fan club so may be he’s simply copying the methods of his hero.

        • marknesop says:

          My suggestion that shale gas is unlikely to reward its boosters in the manner they hope is precisely for that reason – the loudest shouters don’t want it because it will supply decades of clean energy, they want it so Russia will be squeezed out of the energy superpower club. And even that not so much because it would humble Russia and it would have to listen to a resurgent powerful and triumphant United States, but because it is perceived as the sole source of Russia’s economy and prosperity, and without it that prosperity would wither on the vine and Russians would become poor again. I remember an American commenter who called himself Ron who used to show up regularly at La Russophobe and crow about shale gas discoveries in Poland, and how they were going to reverse the power dynamic and Russia would have to beg for crumbs from Poland’s table. Those who harbour an irrational hatred for Russia pray constantly for it to be brought low by some great reversal that will impoverish it and force Russians to swallow their pride and beg for mercy on western terms. Shale gas is just the newest (and periodic, because it has come up before) great white hope.

          It’s true shale-gas extraction has made significant strides technologically, and that recovery methods are improving. So are the oil sands; they’re down to about 1-to-1 as ratio of water to oil to extract it, where once it was 5-to-1 in terms of barrels of water to barrels of oil recovered. But Alberta is still a huge greenhouse gas hotspot and I don’t know anybody except oil executives who views it as an improvement.

          • Dear Mark,

            You’ve put your finger on it. When people like Aslund write euphorically about the prospects of shale gas it’s not because they are interested in it but because it fits in with their own anti Russian agenda.

            • Misha says:

              As a political economist, Aslund (in the technical sense) especially falls short when commenting on some issues that aren’t directly related to the matter of raw economics.

              He also doesn’t come across as someone willing to be seriously taken to task. This manner takes the form of getting placed at high profiles venue and not addressing facts and fact based opinions running ciounter to his commentary.

  37. Misha says:

    A human interest story on a Canadian coach who decides to take a job coaching a Russian KHL team:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/article4576276.ece

  38. yalensis says:

    On the topic of oil and gas drilling, here is more on the feud between Navalny and VTB, in regard to their Orenburg gas/oil drilling sites:

    http://vi-sinyakov.livejournal.com/57842.html

    [Please note: all amounts named below are in American dollars, not rubles.]
    Navalny’s version of the story:
    The managers of the VTB Bank set up a licensing company called VTB Licensing, for the purposes of siphoning off company funds (for their personal enrichment, it goes without saying).
    They bought some oil and gas fields (near Orenburg), the transaction was done through a Cyprus Offshore called “Clusseter”. $150 dollars was siphoned off through the offshore.
    The managers of the bank also set up a dummy corporation called “Well Drilling”, whose job was to rent out the drilling fields. The difference between the payments to VTB Licensing and the rental payments was also slush that was went into the pockets of the managers.
    The drilling fields were purchased at a price 50% higher than market, and are not being exploited, they were just a potemkin shell and pretext for these other financial transactions.
    Taking all this together, the VTB Bank (and stockholders) were harmed, to the tune of $450 million dollars plus other costs.
    Sinyakov’s version of the story (actually VTB Licensing version):
    In 2007 a guy named Iu. A. Livshitz who worked for “Well Drilling” applied to “VTB Licensing” for a loan/investment to finance the sale of some Chinese drilling fields. These fields, for whatever reason, were technically owned by a Cyprus company called “Clusseter Ltd”. Each field cost $15 million dollars, and there were 30 fields, giving a total sale price of $450 million.
    According to [Russian? Chinese? Cyprian?] licensing laws, a licensing company is needed to change titles for such property, hence Livshitz approach to “VTB Licensing”. Livshitz proposed a rental agreement between “Well Drilling” (his own company) and “Northern Expedition” [a technical company that does drilling for major clients like Gazprom and others].
    Here are the parameters of the financing deal, as laid out by Sinyakov:
    1. “Well Drilling” gave VTB Licensing a $45 million deposit (10% of sale).
    2. The drilling fields were set up and equipped, and almost immediately began to return revenues.
    3. In 2009 the new management of VTB Licensing [apparently there had been a huge shake-up in all of VTB as a result of the 2008 financial crisis] received additional credit from a Chinese bank, to the tune of $240 million.
    4. In summary, with “Well Drilling” providing $45 million deposit and the $240 million from the Chinese, that left only $165 million for VTB itself to cough up in order to achieve the full $450 million to finance this operation. (The Chinese will be paid back eventually, it goes without saying, the payment plan is based on revenues from the actual drillings.)
    Sinyakov concludes that the deal was completely legal and actually quite a good one for VTB and its shareholders.
    (Recall that Navalny claims the deal was an embezzlement scheme, and has been attacking VTB in his blog for years, attempting to short them and lower their stockholder confidence.)
    Sinyakov goes on to discuss the 2008 financial crisis, the role of the Cyprus offshore Clusseter, the role of Livshitz, whom he refers to as a new “Ostap Bender”, etc. A lot of interesting stuff that I don’t have time to read right now, maybe later….

    • yalensis says:

      But wait, there’s more!
      Further developments in this burgeoning feud between Navalny and Sinyakov. (Who, BTW, used to be allies in the anti-corruption gig.)
      In his more recent blogpost Sinyakov writes of the meeting of the Consulting Committee of VTB Shareholders, to which both he and Navalny (as stock owners) were invited. Also invited, at Navalny’s insistence, was Navalny’s attorney, Vadim Kobzev, who later fired off an angry tweet to Sinyakov, accusing him of being a prostitute for VTB. See screenshot in S’s blog:

      http://vi-sinyakov.livejournal.com/58183.html

      Meanwhile, the blog about the VTB meeting goes into all the details of the controversial deal with the Chinese company, and the public dogfight between Navalny and Sinyakov. Sounds like a real fun meeting, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall. Apparently Navalny was forced to admit publicly, in front of all the VTB shareholders, that his negative allegations against the company came from documents provided to him by representatives of a “Grant”. Which grant he refused to say.
      Well, I would make an educated guess that it was some kind of AMERICAN grant? Hmm?

      http://vi-sinyakov.livejournal.com/58012.html

      [I’ll translate more later, this seems like a really cool story.]

      • yalensis says:

        Correction:
        on closer reading, Sinyakov was not using the word “grant” in the sense of, say, a USAID grant, but in the sense of “leak”. Then “sporaw” chimed in with a comment on his blog, providing exact information from whom this leak arrived. Recall that “sporaw” is the self-appointed Keeper of the Navalny Hacked-Email Archives, so he was able to pull the exact message, which occurred in 2009:

        http://vi-sinyakov.livejournal.com/58012.html?thread=45724#t45724

      • Dear Yalensis,

        I found these two of the most interesting comments you have written on the subject of Navalny. They give a very interesting insight into the way he works. Google provides an English translation of his blog but this reads like a machine translation and I find it difficult to follow and one always has to worry about how accurate a machine translation anyway is.

        Firstly, on the actual VTB deal, this looks like a very straightforward and above board financing deal. I have seen deals like this by the score. There is not a single actual fact here that suggests anything corrupt or dishonest on the part of VTB. I would be curious to know who Livshitz is and what his precise role was and what the precise role of the Cyprus company was but if there was corruption on the part of Livshitz or the Cyprus company that does not prove corruption by VTB. Contrary to what Navalny says it seems that oil really is being produced and I don’t see anything in what you have written to suggest that anybody within VTB management has personally corruptly benefitted from this deal. Specifically so far as I can see Navalny has provided no actual evidence that anybody within VTB is siphoning off money for their personal use. By actual evidence I mean documentary evidence of actual payments or transfers of money to actual named individuals within VTB. Anything else is not evidence but simply guesswork or inference. I hardly need say that simply saying that something looks suspicious is evidence of nothing at all.

        Which brings me to my main point. Navalny’s claims only become believable if one comes to them with a presumption of guilt. If one already believes that VTB’s management is corrupt then I can see how it is possible to infer corruption from this deal. However the same can be said of any commercial or financial transaction. If one assumes that someone is corrupt then anything they do can be made to look corrupt. For example simply opening a bank account can be construed as “evidence” of money laundering.

        What Navalny is doing, and what I suspect he always does, is instead of provide proof of VTB’s guilt he demands proof of VTB’s innocence. This is what his incessant demands for production of documents are all about. This is impossible since it reverses the burden of proof. It is not for VTB to prove that it is not corrupt since that is to demand that VTB prove a negative, which is almost always impossible. In practice what it means is that Navalny demands unlimited access to the confidential documents of companies like VTB in the hope or expectation that he will find proof of corruption there. British courts call this a “fishing expedition”, which for obvious reasons is something prohibited by British law.

        That at least is how the situation looks to me at the moment. I will be interested to see what more you come up with. I suspect by the way that one of the reasons for Navalny’s feud with VTB is that if my memory serves me correctly VTB was in some way involved in the KirovLes affair. Could it have been VTB that tipped off the authorities of the fraud he and Ofitserov were carrying out. VTB is an international bank and is therefore under a legal duty to inform the authorities when it sees evidence of fraud or money laundering. If that is right then Navalny may have a strong motive to try to discredit VTB before it gives evidence at his trial. Any news by the way about when that will be?

        I need hardly say that if Russia had a properly functioning libel law this sort of thing would be impossible. Yet again we see what happens because it doesn’t. An individual like Navalny who is himself under investigation for fraud is able to spread with impunity unsubstantiated stories of corruption on the part of the country’s second biggest bank. The bank is thereby obliged to spend time and energy defending itself from allegations that are wholly unsubstantiated. Navalny in the meantime is able to pose as a heroic anti corruption campaigner when all he is in reality is a spreader of malicious gossip. Meanwhile the country’s reputation as a place to do business takes a further knock.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Navalny is soon to be eating porridge, I reckon.

          See: http://www.gazeta.ru/politics/2012/09/29_a_4792905.shtml

          Translation:

          Navalny moves closer to Khodorkovsky
          Kirovles general director testifies against Navalny
          Navalny has almost no chance of acquittal from the Kirovles case

          Alexei Navalny has almost no chance of an acquittal in the Kirovles case, as the general director of this company has gone and done a deal with the investigators and given evidence for which everyone is grateful. Officially the oppositionist has not been notified about this and has not been called for further questioning. In the meanwhile Navalny remains under surveillance.

          The general director of Kirovles, Vyacheslav Opalev, has made a deal with the investigators and pleaded guilty to involvement in the embezzlement of $16 million as part of an organized group, led by Alexei Navalny in 2009. Gazeta.Ru has been informed of this by Navalny’s lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, who learnt about it from the mass media. “After Opalev’s plea of guilty, Navalny has almost no chance of acquittal” the politician’s lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, told Gazeta.Ru.

          A criminal case against Navalny was initiated in early May last year. The charge against him is that in 2009, when working as a consultant to the Kirov region governor, Nikita Belykh, Navalny persuaded the general director of Kirovles, Vyacheslav Opalev, to centralize sales and to purposely enter into an unprofitable contract with the Vyatsky Forest Company, selling timber at reduced prices, which damaged the enterprise to the sum of 1 million rubles. It was Opalev who in 2011 demanded that Navalny be prosecuted. The oppositionist explained then that he had simply been carrying out an independent audit of the Kirov region and, at the request of the Governor, had given recommendations to Belykh’s management as regards the improvement of the business transparency; he also revealed that Opalev used “grey” schemes. Shortly after, Opalev was removed from the post of Kirovles general director. When Governor Belykh found out about proceedings being instituted against Navalny, he publicly supported Navalny’s version of events. In may 2012, the case was closed for lack of evidence, but after a month, at the request of the head of the investigative committee, Alexander Bastrykin, the case was opened again.

          At the first Navalny interrogation, it became clear that in the course of one month the case against him had visibly changed and the politician was charged according to chapter 3, page 33 and chapter 4, page 160 of the Russian criminal code: “ large scale embezzlement, with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison”. Navalny now appears as a key figure in the case details, as the organizer of the theft of a forest and that the amount stolen was not 1 million but 16 million rubles; and Opalev has changed from being a victim into another one of the accused. The third defendant is the general director of that very same Vyatka Forest Company, Petr Ofitserov. Investigators believe that they were all in cahoots: Navalny was the organizer of the scam who persuaded Opalev into selling 10,068 cubic metres of timber for a lowered price; and the general director of the Vyatsky Forest Company, Ofitserova, who bought this timber and sold it it to various contractors for a price totalling $ 16 million.

          Navalny has repeatedly stated that the business deal was legal and explained that in 2009 the share of transactions with the Vyatka Forest Company as regards the total sales volume of Kirovles was only 2%, and that in that year Kirovles was selling raw materials to all other companies for the same cost as the Vyatka Forest Company was. As regards his connection with Ofitserov, Navalny just says that they were both members of the Yabloko party. There is no indication of any proof of Navalny’s involvement in these transactions made in the indictment. (The politician published it on his blog back in July, after the first interrogation.)

          Now, after the deal with Opalev, proof of Navalny’s guilt is not required.

          “The deal with the investigation involves the confession of guilt in exchange for a more lenient sentence. Opalev took this opportunity. It is often found in judicial practice. We were expecting this. For Navalny and Ofitserov, this means that the following will happen: Opalev will go on trial and the case will be expedited. But after the verdict has been made concerning Opalev (and I think he will get a suspended sentence) and is applied, Navalny and Ofitserov’s trial will also become a formality: their guilt will be considered already proven, and the judge, even if he wished to do so, will not be able to acquit them until Oralev has been sentenced. An acquittal verdict for Opalev is virtually impossible: he pled guilty”, explains Kobzev

          The counsel is referring to the principle of preclusion, on which is founded Russian judicial practice: If a Court has already handed down a decision, the circumstances on which it was based are considered proven. However Kobzev says that Opalev’s testimony concerning Navalny will have no effect: “The thing is fabricated, and hardly any circumstances could worsen the situation. But we will continue to insist on Alexei Navalny’s complete innocence, because that is what it is: it is a lie from beginning to end “.

          The counsel noted that neither he nor Navalny have officially been informed about Opalev’s confessions and that there has been no summons to a new interrogation. The previous interrogation took place on Friday morning and Navalny refused to answer questions from the investigators, explaining that they had started to ask him questions about Kirovles that bore no relation to the case. “They have already tried to interrogate, not on the merits of the charges, but on all the seized documents in other places”, wrote Navalny in Twitter. “The fact is, that this is not the ‘Kirovles Case’ but about the ‘Case about the Life and Work of Navalny’. I refused to be interrogated as the interrogation was in violation of the Code of Criminal Procedure”.

          For the time being, the oppositionist remains at liberty but under surveiilance.

          End of translation

          • Dear Moscow Exile,

            Opalev’s confession is indeed a blow to Navalny. A confession by one defendant is not however proof of the guilt of another defendant. This is a fairly basic legal principle. Opalev’s confession makes him a material witness against Navalny. It does not mean that the trial is now a formality or that a finding of guilt is a foregone conclusion. That Navalny’s lawyer of all people should be saying it is before the trial when his client is still protesting his innocence is incredible. I suppose I should be astonished that a defence lawyer is giving interviews before a trial in which he discusses evidence of which he has not been formally informed and in which he predicts that his client is going to be found guilty. Sadly I am not.

            • marknesop says:

              Yes, what the hell is it with Russian lawyers?? Is this the famous fatalist spirit of legend, where as soon as calamity is forecast, everyone promptly sits down and wails, “We are lost, we are doomed”?? Doesn’t sound like the nation that chased Napoleon all the way back to Paris. Pussy Riot’s lawyers did the same, predicting they would lose the appeal before they had even applied for it. Astonishing!! Anyone I know would fire their lawyer sky-high on the spot for such a thing, and it is more common in the west for lawyers to be rounded upon by their clients for being too confident and cocky, so that the client was seduced into a belief that winning would be easy.

              I suspect the reasoning is the same in both cases – both Pussy Riot and Navalny are useful martyrs in prison while they are mostly embarrassing yappers when free at large. Both cases attracted and will attract huge international attention, and consequently their attorneys will retain tremendous prestige in Russia even if they lose, owing to the “star factor”, so they have nothing much to lose by proclaiming their cases hopeless.

              It’s quite true that guilt by association is not necessarily assumed in court; you still have to prove Navalny did something illegal, and he still maintains he did nothing of the sort. Those circumstances alone should be enough to ensure a competitive trial for any attorney who was really trying. But I think there is a good deal of will on both sides for Navalny to be locked up; on the anti-Navalny side because he is believed to be a phony anti-corruption criminal, and on the part of his hamsters and their western surrogates because a Navalny noble in prison, bloodied but unbowed, will be a martyr and rallying-point for the cause, and something new for the western media to point to in shock and disbelief.

              • Dear Mark,

                You’ve explained it: “both Pussy Riot and Navalny are useful martyrs in prison”.

                The lawyers are not trying to win. They are not really lawyers, more politicians. Actually though Navalny’s case is difficult it’s not impossible if there was a will to win it.

              • peter says:

                Yes, what the hell is it with Russian lawyers??

                Вас обязательно оправдают…

                • marknesop says:

                  Yes, granted; acquittal in Russia is a bleak prospect. But Russian lawyers have a lot to learn about keeping the game face on right up to the verdict, and these guys are pitiful. Telling the world you expect to lose is an invitation to the judge to rule against you, because that’s likely what he or she wants to do anyway, and if you register no objection to losing you should expect exactly that to happen.

                  I’d like to think that you don’t get charged with a crime in Russia if you’ve done nothing, but that’s probably not true – the justice system is not something I know well. But I would also not like to see the Russian courts evolve to something like the American courts, where certain well-connected lawyers can get you off no matter what you did and murderers and perverts routinely walk because somewhere along the chain of evidence their rights were violated.

                  The state has so far indicated a sensitivity to international criticism of high-profile cases, such as Pussy Riot’s; all the more reason for defense lawyers to be strutting and guaranteeing a win, although Navalny’s lawyer at least continues to maintain he did nothing wrong.

                  I wonder why, when Russian lawyers suggest their client is doomed, they don’t cite the ridiculously low acquittal rate as an indicator?

              • yalensis says:

                Russian fatalism, haha!
                Instead of channeling his inner Dostoevsky, maybe Kobzev should heed the advice of a different Russian philosopher, Tiutchev. Here is Nabokov’s translation of Tiutchev’s famous poem “Silentium”:

                Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
                the way you dream, the things you feel.
                Deep in your spirit let them rise
                akin to stars in crystal skies
                that set before the night is blurred:
                delight in them and speak no word.
                How can a heart expression find?
                How should another know your mind?
                Will he discern what quickens you?
                A thought, once uttered, is untrue.
                Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
                drink at the source and speak no word.
                Live in your inner self alone
                within your soul a world has grown,
                the magic of veiled thoughts that might
                be blinded by the outer light,
                drowned in the noise of day, unheard…
                take in their song and speak no word.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fyodor_Tyutchev

                I think what Tiutchev was trying to say was:
                “Moron, just shut your f**king pie-hole!”

                Perfect advice.

          • yalensis says:

            Thanks a bunch, @Exile!
            So, Opalev DID plead guilty. Ooh la la! I guess that means Navalny’s swan is cooked, for sure. Ofitserov’s as well. Only a miracle can save them now. Otherwise, it’s off to the gulag for those boys.
            P.S. I love the way Navalny’s lawyer, Kobzev, announces that his client has ZERO chance of acquittal. Attaboy, Kobzev, keep up the positive attitude!

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Yes, that’s what I thought was really weird about Kobzev’s statements to Gazeta.Ru: his claim concerning the veracity of Opalev’s testimony notwithstanding, Navalny’s defence counsel categorically states that his client now has zero chance of acquital.

              Regardless of the report that Opalev is going to testify in court against Navalny and regardless of the statistical fact – as pointed out in the link posted by Peter above – that acquital in Russian courts is not a common occurence, it is Kobzev’s duty as counsel for Navalny to defend his client in court: that’s what he gets paid for.

              It seems that Kobzev has already thrown in the towel. If I were Navalny, I would right now be looking for another lawyer.

              • Dear Peter,

                Again I am hampered by my lack of Russian but I gather from the other comments that the point you are making is that the acquittal rate in Russia is abysmal.

                You are right, it is abysmal and Russian judges are appallingly prosecution minded. However the point to understand is that in such circumstances it becomes MORE not less important for defence lawyers to defend their clients in the most professional possible way. That is especially the case where there are reasons to think that there is a political motive behind the trial. This is because the most effective way of discrediting and exposing a biased or political trial and prosecution is by defending the charge in the most proper and professional way.

                This has been well understood in the past by defenders in political trials. Perhaps the two most famous examples in the twentieth century were the Leipzig trial and the Rivonia trial. In the Leipzig trial before a Nazi court Dimitrov (who represented himself) and Togler’s defence Counsel Dr. Sack turned the case round by behaving with complete propriety throughout the trial and by skillfully cross examining the prosecution’s witnesses (who included Goering and Goebbels) in order to expose the absurdity of the charges brought against them. In the Rivonia trial the challenge was in some ways greater because Mandela and his co defendants unlike Dimitrov and Togler were guilty of the charges brought against them. Nonetheless they too showed respect for the Court and behaved with complete propriety throughout the trial as did their brilliant legal team acting at no point in the sort of arrogant grandstanding manner that we saw in the Pussy Riot casel or which I am afraid we are going to see in Navalny’s case. The result was that in the Leipzig trial the Court was in the end forced to acquit Dimitrov and Togler and two of their co defendants for lack of evidence whilst Mandela and his co defendants in the Rivonia trial were able to avoid the death penalty.

                Obviously I am not saying this would work if the judge is an Ulrich (the judge in the Moscow trials of the 1930s) or a Freisler (the terrible head of the Nazi People’s Court). “Trials” before Ulrich and Freisler were not properly speaking trials at all so much as ritual displays before the sentence (nearly always death) was pronounced. However even in such “trials” before Ulrich and Freisler defendants found that the most effective response was a dignified bearing and a calm refutation of the charges. This was the tactic used by Bukharin and Yagoda before Ulrich and by Sophie Scholl and von Moltke before Freisler.

                The Court that tried Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot and which will try Navalny is not presided over by an Ulrich or a Freisler. Moreover its judgments are subject to review by the European Court of Human Rights. There is no reason therefore to treat the Court with disrespect or to fail to conduct a defence in a proper professional way. Doing so is contrary to the interests of the defendant. How can Navalny’s lawyer now convincingly argue to the Court that the Court should find his client innocent when he has already said publicly that the Court is certain to find his client guilty?

                • yalensis says:

                  Excellent points, @Alexander. To the examples you give, please permit me to add the example of the Amistad trial in New Haven, Connecticut (Navalny’s alma mater – LOL!). Admittedly, I only know this story from watching the Spielberg movie, but I am told it is historically accurate. In this political blockbuster of a trial, John Quincy Adams defends Cinque and the other escaped slaves before a court and judge who are stacked against them. On the one side, you have the Spanish Crown, which demands the return of their “property”, i.e., the ship and slaves. On the other side, you have passionate abolitionists who want to turn the whole trial into a circus, in order to draw attention to the anti-abolitionist cause. They don’t have any expectation that their side could possibly win. (Especially considering that the Africans mutinied and killed most of the Amistad crew, except for a couple of guys that they needed to keep alive, to steer the ship.)
                  Fortunately, Cinque has hired great lawyers, including John Quincy Adams and the character played by Matthew McConaughey. They base their defense not on abstract principles of abolitionism or human rights, but on the concrete fact that the Spanish shipping company DID NOT HAVE A BILL OF SALE for the slaves. Hence, they argue that the Africans were actually kidnapped, not bought. And a kidnapped person has the right to kill his captor, in self-defense. Because the prosecution cannot cough up a bill of sale, the defense’s legal point is indisputable, they win. And, ironically, their non-ideological victory does more to help the abolitionist cause than if they had gone the route of turning the courtroom into a soapbox.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amistad_(film)

                • Dear Yalensis,

                  Thanks for this and I agree with what you say about Amistad. The strange thing is that I have never seen Amistad though I have heard lots about it. I shall certainly make a point of seeing it after what you have said about it.

                • wanderer says:

                  “In the Leipzig trial before a Nazi court Dimitrov (who represented himself) and Togler’s defence Counsel Dr. Sack turned the case round by behaving with complete propriety throughout the trial and by skillfully cross examining the prosecution’s witnesses (who included Goering and Goebbels) in order to expose the absurdity of the charges brought against them”

                  Blum and Gamelin did the same at the Riom trial.

        • yalensis says:

          Dear Alexander: Thank you for your comments. By the way, speaking as a linguist AND a computer programmer, machine translation really is no good whatsoever, and really just a waste of time.
          Hence, possessing a human not a digital brain, I do intend to translate more of the Sinyakov blogpost (maybe tomorrow), because it is quite fascinating story in its own right.
          In reference to KirovLes, while researching, I do remember encountering VTB as a player in that story, and I remember Navalny and Ofitserov being livid about VTB somehow thwarting them in their big Timber Tycoon Plan. I think this was around the same time (2009) when Navalny really started to feud in earnest with VTB. This giant and powerful bank has apparently been a real thorn in Navalny’s side.
          Sinyakov, by the way, seems to believe himself that VTB is somewhat corrupt, in the sense that all big companies (especially government enterprises) are corrupt, for example, there is nepotism in hiring, too much money spent on junkets and lobster dinners, and so on. But Sinyakov makes the same point that you do, namely, that Navalny just keeps throwing wild accusations at them that he cannot prove, in the hope that something will stick. I think he’s trying to destroy their international reputation, for obvious personal/vindictive reasons; and maybe something even more sinister, like he is shorting them on the stock market, or something like that. Or maybe Americans just ordered him to bring down big state institutions like VTB, Gazprom, and the others. Which provides more international pressure to break them up and privatize.
          Hopefully I will have more on this VTB Licensing controversy tomorrow, I need to really buckle down and study these blog posts and sporaw’s revelations about the leak, see if I can figure out what is going on.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            yalensis wrote:

            ” …machine translation really is no good whatsoever, and really just a waste of time”

            That brings back memories of over 20 years ago when I was a postgraduate at Manchester University. I had long, heated discussions there in the Computer Sciences dept. with an academic who was involved with machine translation research. She insisted that machine translation would soon be commonplace and scornfully maintained that people such as myself would be redundant. She also did not disguise the fact that she held linguists to be a lesser breed and that the study of languages was not a “real” academic pursuit. She regularly made comments concerning her belief that all linguists were innumerate and were incapeable of understanding “real” science and technology. Unkown to her, however, was the fact that I had only four years prior to our meeting decided to become a linguist and that I was well acquainted with “real” science and technology. I guess that’s why my department head at Manchester had rather mischievously allowed me to participate with the machine translation people.

            Apart from the fact that her wonderful programs were concerned only with technical translations, I asked her if she had ever seen a synchronous translator in action, such as Pavel Palazhchenko, Gorbachev’s amazingly gifted translator (see: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,263086,00.html) and whether she believed that gifted people such as he was would soon be replaced by a machine translator. She hadn’t heard of Palazhchenko, of course, but she really believed that human translators were very soon to become an extinct breed.

            I once suggested that she had probably been inspired by the Star Wars series in which the Starship Enterprise crew were all equipped with a little box, their machine translator, strapped to their tunics. I asked her if she really believed that that science fantasy would one day become reality, that such little machine translator boxes would soon be used at, for example, United Nations assemblies. She categorically replied in the affirmative. So I tried to push her into stating when she thought these wonderful machines would appear – in 6 months, a year, 18 months, 5 years,10 years?

            She said “in the very near future”.

            As I have already said, this regular altercation as regards machine translation took place over 20 years ago.

            As a postscript: that English term “the very near future” is cognate with the Russian expression “ближайшее будущее”, which literally means “the nearest future”: that is what Russians, in my experience, nearly always say when speaking English and it is also how machine translators would usually translate “ближайшее будущее (sometimes machine translators give “the near future” as well).

            Native English speakers, however, starting with “the distant future”, bring predicted events ever closer to the present by saying say “the future”, “the near future”, and, finally, “the very near future” but never “the nearest future”.

            I don’t know why: neither do machine translators.

            • yalensis says:

              @MoscowExile: I am in complete agreement with you that machine translation is a load of crap. And frankly I am surprised that reputable computer scientists still promote that Star Trek idea of simultaneous translation of human languages, as done by machine. I am not saying this will never happen; who knows, maybe at some point “in the distant future” they will invent a different type of computer that is wired more like a human brain, and less like an array of on-off switches.
              Speaking of which, ALL digital computers today, no matter how fancy they look and all the great things they can do, are still basically Turing Machines at their basic level of essence. And Alan Turing himself, who created the mathematics behind the Turing Machine proved (via mathematical equations) that a lower-level system (such as a Turing Machine) cannot generate a higher-level system (such as a human language). Despite Turing’s mathematical proof (which Noam Chomsky was maybe not aware of, and which only a handful of people in the world are even capable of understanding, since Turing’s IQ was simply off the chart), Chomsky himself wasted years trying to create a self-generating model of the English language which could have been plugged into a digital translator machine. (You know, like those “sentence diagramming” type things, Subject-Verb-Object, arrow pointing to Preposition, that sort of thing.) For Chomsky, the Holy Grail would be a complete diagram of English grammar (with ancillary dictionary of all vocabulary) that could be programmed into a digital computer.
              Chomsky failed in his quest, not because he did didn’t work hard enough, but because the quest itself was theoretically impossible. The Grail simply did not exist.

              Having said that, there ARE certain things that digital computers can do, as the brilliant programmers at Google have proved. You can build databases of words and expressions, SOME grammatical rules and so on, employ search string algorithms, all that sort of thing. But even with all that, there is NO WAY that any computer around today (which is, remember, still just a Turing Machine) can reliably and accurately translate from one human language to another. At best they can make life a bit easier for the real translator by already looking up some of the words and making a best guess at the meaning.
              I also note that digital computers ARE capable of doing voice recognition, but people wrongly pass this off as language skills or Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is also a bogus concept. In reality, voice recognition is based on the scientific/mathematical principles of acoustic phonetics, which, through statistical methods, maps an individual’s acoustic utterances to the phonological universe of that person’s human language. The “intelligence” which creates these algorithms is all human (mostly mathematical), and nothing “artificial” about it.

              • marknesop says:

                Similar to the limitations of the polygraph and its recent cousin, the voice stress analyzer. The polygraph itself – with which I do have some experience – is little changed in the manner of how it works since its invention, having undergone only minor tweaks to increase its mechanical sensitivity.

                Both can record and display, but not interpret. Those taking a polygraph test are often – so far as I know – given a booklet to read before taking the test, which assures them they need not be worried if they are nervous, because the polygraph technician can tell the difference between nervousness and a deliberately untrue response. This is a lie, and responses in both cases are displayed identically; the examiner can tell there is something about that question or series of questions which upsets you, but it can’t read your mind. The voice stress analyzer is simply measuring another parameter, while the polygraph measures differences in perspiration, respiration and pulse. It is perfectly possible for a nervous subject to be taken for a guilty subject, and in fact it happens far more often than not.

                Until language is so structured that each word can have only one possible interpretation and be associated with only a single set of circumstances, machine translations will continue to make errors from the original text, sometimes comical ones. But I find that, bizarrely, the better you understand the target language already, the easier it is to decipher machine translations and see what the speaker probably meant. The same applies if you are bilingual or multilingual. You’d think if you could already speak and read the target language you would not need a machine translation, but many people who are considerably less than fluent can still read a machine translation with much better understanding than someone who has n o knowledge of the target language at all. Even a language that is compatible in structure helps; I find my understanding of French helps me a lot with Russian.

            • Misha says:

              So true, when considering that the same word can be used somewhat differently among some languages, with some other words being even more difficult to translate.

              • Dear Yalensis and Moscow Exile,

                I have never had any joy with machine translations. I have to do translations from time to time from Greek into English and vice versa. I have occasionally been given machine translations to help me in this but these are so completely different in word and spirit from what is written and are so often complete gibberish that I find it better to ignore them. Even when they bear some approximate resemblance to what is written the diction is so clumsy that reading and understanding the text becomes extremely time consuming and difficult. Certainly I would never dream of relying on a machine translation for a legal or political or business text or document.

    • kirill says:

      Does Navalny have any actual examples of corruption or are all of his claims this weak? For a country supposedly more corrupt than India there sure as hell ain’t no actual examples of Indian style corruption. There are plenty of corporate shenanigans in the west. But somehow only in Russia is this supposedly pure, egregious government corruption.

      I will restate my challenge to anyone who claims that Russia is somehow vastly more corrupt than the USA or most of the EU. Show me the money and not some contrived propaganda that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Let’s see evidence of the hundreds of millions of dollars in siphoned funds from the Russky Island bridge project. Compare it to the Big Dig in Boston. There should be plenty of such cases with the tell tale signs of graft in long project overruns.

      • yalensis says:

        @kirill:
        “Does Navalny have any actual examples of corruption or are all of his claims this weak?”

        Yeah, they’re all pretty much like this. Remember that Navalny has been plugging away at this for years through his “Rospil” project. Which consists of blogging about corruption in major state enterprises, using leaks, industrial espionage, and insider information. In some cases, his allegations of specific corporate shenanigans may be true; in others, not. Navalny’s hacked email archive shows cases of whistleblowers approaching him (in one case, an auditor working for Ernst & Young) with purloined documents from their companies. In some cases, the whisleblowers demand money in return for the information; in other cases, the whisleblowers want to help Navalny out of ideological reasons, because they believe in his (anti-Putin) cause. In addition to whistleblowers, Navalny uses his status as minority shareholder to attend board meetings, demand access to internal documents, and so on. In some cases he takes the company to court demanding discovery; it seems like every other day he is in Basmanny Court with some new lawsuit against one of these major companies.
        I don’t know… there might even be some good in having somebody act like a defender of the Russian taxpayers and keep a watchful eye, like to keep the greedy corporate bosses on their toes. But Navalny is no Ralph Nader. Nader lives a spartan life and is pure of heart, but Navalny is a corrupt sleaze himself, he has all kinds of political motives for what he does, and which companies he chooses to attack. Plus, unlike Nader, Navalny is a paid CIA agent, so it goes without saying like that little fact should discredit everything that he says and does.

        • kirill says:

          Indeed, Navalny is no Nader and you are right Russia needs a Nader and many like him to put real fire to the feet of politicians and bureaucrats and corporations. Instead we have 5th columnists posing as civil society advocates. Sick!

  39. Misha says:

    Despite the likely denial, this matter probably has a good deal to do with partisan politics:

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/29/kerry-defends-rice-against-attacks/

    On the other hand, the aforementioned Peter King very willingly went along with the anti-Serb stance taken by the Clinton administration.

    S. Rice doesn’t come across as being considerably less competent than Nuland and H. Clinton.

    As previously noted, in a 2000 presidential foreign policy debate, John Kerry went after Bush for (supposedly) being “soft” on Russia.

  40. Misha says:

    The opposite of Roy Gutman, who recently appeared on RT:

    http://sorryserbia.com/

    ————————-

    Perhaps the situation in Greece (tough economic times, amid give and takes with the EU) might be influencing what this person saw – which comes across like it might be hyping one situation that isn’t as indicative of the whole area:

    http://www.cyprus-mail.com/letters/welcome-russian-republic-cyprus/20120929

    A Russian flag and Russian language presence at a not so specified locale of a Cypriot airport – which for all one knows (would’ve to check further) could be an area of the airport with a hanger where Russian planes tend to land.

    Over the past several years, there’ve been news articles on a noticeable Russian influence in Cyprus. In contrast, it’s considered more acceptable to see the influence (good and not so good) of some other countries outside of their borders.

    ————————-

    Regarding tough times for ice hockey in a part of Kazakhstan, where it has been pretty popular:

    http://www.eurasianet.org/node/65978

    A comparatively more upbeat article on the fate of a travelling alumni team of Russian ice hockey greats from the Soviet period:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/hockey-legends-toast-their-russian-revival/article4576643/

    That team involves the input of a wealthy businessman, who is a hockey buff. The Prokhorovs of Russia can serve to benefit their country in a way different from employing people with views like Masha Gessen.

    The article might be seen by some as suggestively presenting the idea that this team is part of some sort of pro-Putin propaganda campaign. From the looks of things, this team has more to do with the preferences of the businessman in question – an ice hockey fan, with the opportunity to promote his interest(s).

  41. Misha says:

    Just released piece on the upcoming vote in Georgia:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2012/09/29/georgia-elections/1601115/

    Be nice to see a mass media released article with more on Ivanishvili’s stance towards Russia and Russian related issues.

    ————-

    Russian cities selected to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup:

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/fifa-chooses-host-cities-for-football-world-cup/468978.html

    • marknesop says:

      Georgia’s “near decade of democratic progress”: what a bitter joke. I don’t know what’s “democratic” about a country where the government can threaten to take your job away if you don’t vote for the leader of a certain party, and where all the monitoring agencies are staffed by government stooges or westerners who are in bed with the government.

      They must have looked hard to find that shot of Ivanishvili so that all the guys behind him looked like thugs in their dark sunglasses.

      • Misha says:

        Reminded somewhat of Don Barzini:

        http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=don+barzini+godfather&view=detail&id=8A5A35BA183788DFDCEB7F8C1720DF72EB8F8768&first=1

        You might recall the wedding scene involving him and a photographer.

      • Misha says:

        Another find:

        http://www.rferl.org/content/stakes-could-not-be-higher-in-georgian-parliamentary-elections/24723413.html

        The hyped Russia bit on Ivanishvili doesn’t take into consideration the coalition in the political movement he’s involved with. They’re tactically putting aside their differences for now. No breakdown offered in the above piece on their differences or potential differences.

        As for the thought of Ivanishvili’s business ties to Russia suggesting a Kremlin lackey status: at last notice Prokhorov is still acceptable, in terms of not being indicted for anything. He’s the chap who has felt comfortable employing Gessen to run a venue that has had some not so positive commentary on the Kremlin – never minding her own takes. Consider the “state giant” Gazprom owned Ekho Moskvy relationship and a good portion of what RIAN has favored.

        Also note how some Ukrainian politicians have been viewed as being more Russia friendly than others – only to see some disappointment, once the former grouping are in high office. Georgia like Ukraine has a good eal of Western NGO influence, which is just not simply going to go away.

        • marknesop says:

          It reports the video of the prison scandal was “orchestrated by Georgian Dream” when, to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence at all to suggest that beyond Saakashvili’s immediate knee-jerk instinct to blame his troubles on either Russia or the opposition.

          • Misha says:

            Recall his saying that the disclosure of such shows how much better the situation is in Georgia when compared to Russia.

            Reminded of PR saying they weren’t being anti-ROC, while in another instance, their attorney questions the judge’s neutrality by asking if she’s ROC.

            Shifty.

            • The point about the prison abuse videos is not whether Ivanishvili and his movement have publicised them or have orchestrated their circulation (of course they have) but whether they are true. Even Saakashvili admits they are.

              • marknesop says:

                I have not seen any substantiation for the allegation the prison videos were “orchestrated” (which implies they are not even authentic, but are performances by actors) by “a prison official connected with Bidzina Ivanishvili”. How is he connected with Ivanishvili? If that means he gave them to the Ivanishvili campaign believing that was the only chance they would be seen – a sensible assumption, given Saakashvili’s corruption – how does that imply a previous connection with Ivanishvili or Georgian Dream?

                If Ivanishvili timed their release, he did so brilliantly, but I don’t believe so; I think they were released as soon as they were available, because Ivanishvili does not seem to be much of a political strategist. Saakashvili’s tendency to blame the opposition (or Russia) for his woes is well-established.

              • yalensis says:

                Alexander: I still haven’t seen anyone out there in the broader blogosphere comment about the fact that somebody in the prison torture video (posted in above thread) clearly utters an English sentence at 30 seconds in, something like “I don’t think the cameras should be here?”
                The person speaks English with an accent that is not British or American.
                Why would he speak English? I cannot even fathom a theory.

  42. Here are some pictures and a video from RT of the big opposition election rally in Tbilisi today.

    http://rt.com/news/georgia-opposition-rally-election-305/

    There is the usual wide range of estimates of the size of the rally. The figure of 300,000 is impossible. I would guess around 30,000 to 50,000 from the photos though it’s difficult to say for sure because part of the rally seems to have spilled over into a side street, which however looks pretty full. Say 20,000 to 30,000 in the square and 10,000 to 20,000 up the side street . Anyway it certainly looks at least as big as most of the opposition rallies in Moscow though Tbilisi’s population is only about a tenth the size of Moscow. I have to say though that Ivanishvili has all the charisma of a paper cup.

    • marknesop says:

      I would have said Bidzina Inanishvili was kind of the Georgian Medvedev, in terms of stage presence. I’ve read he is kind of weird and eccentric in his personal life, too. But I seem to remember voters in another land far away (from Georgia, not from here) choosing a new leader based on his looking like a fun guy to have a beer with. I don’t need to tell you how that turned out, I’m sure. The voters are putting Ivanishvili in (hopefully) to run the country, not to host a game show. Saakashvili reportedly has charisma to burn, yet if assholes could fly his cabinet would look like an airport.

      That crowd looks quite big to me, I would have said maybe 75,000 and perhaps even as high as 100,000, although of course 300,000 is just dreaming. Maybe it looks big to me because I want it to be big, I want to see Saakashvili mailed surface post to Washington by the Georgian voters. Ivanishvili might be a little odd, but right now not being Saakashvili could get a stray dog elected. I can’t say Ivanishvili will win, because Saakashvili is full of tricks and has the dead and the absent on his side, but this looks hopeful, particularly for the parliamentary elections; the Presidential elections are still a long way away and there’s plenty of time for Saakashvili to make up another fake attack by Russia, or for pictures of Bidzina and a sheep in bed to surface, or things of that nature.

      • Misha says:

        System presently not allowing me to post under a new heading.

        Saw this Ignatius-Kaplan exchange which was sponsored by the Center for a New American Century:

        http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/TheReve

        Sure enough, during the Q & A, there was a youngster with an East European accent who identified himself from this institution, as he belittled Russian security concerns:

        http://www.iwp.edu/faculty/

        • Misha says:

          Brought up by Al Arabiya, a possible misinformation campaign claiming that rebel captured Syrian government documents note a Russian approved execution of Turkish armed forces personnel:

          http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=5941

          http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=134910&Cat=8

          —————-

          On Pussy Riot (PR), some agreeable and not so agreeable thoughts from a Polish academic at a DC educational venue:

          http://www.iwp.edu/news_publications/detail/pussy-gone-riot

          More on PR:

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/sep/30/russian-court-pussy-riot-appeal

          http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/09/30/russian-church-asks-for-clemency-for-anti-putin-band-if-repent-for-punk-prayer/

          —————-

          Regarding Russian-Pakistani relations:

          http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=134910&Cat=8

          • Al Arabiya has been the source of lots of obviously untrue stories over the course of the Libyan and Syrian conflicts. I understand that it is a Saudi run channel. I would be extremely surprised if these reports are true. They look like exercises in black propaganda to me. Would Assad who has to worry about a possible referral to the International Criminal Court really say in a written message to an official that two captured Turkish pilots should be murdered and their bodies dumped into the sea and that he was doing this on Russian advice? Isn’t this the kind of order which when it is made is made verbally?

            • Misha says:

              Agree.

              On past questionable claims, Pulitzer Award winner Roy Gutman (recently propped by RT) wrote a lengthy piece on supposed Russians involved with torture camp procedure in Kosovo around the time of the 1999 NATO bombing campaign.

              His evidence was reported hearsay – much like a good portion of his earlier Bosnian commentary.

              I don’t recall this same journo being so gung ho in pursuing the human organ accusation against some Albanians, which appears more credible than the one on Russians in Kosovo being involved with torture.

              Al Arabiya has some questionable issues, thereby making it imperative for a venue like RT to be more challenging when it has on Western mass media establishment people like Gutman and Weir – unlike some competent others offering a different take.

            • yalensis says:

              I am surprised Saudis didn’t claim Assad signed AND notarized the message, in front of several witnesses.

              • Misha says:

                On that Al Arabiya claim about Russian involvement:

                http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/09/28/240700.html

                On its English language news hourly telecast, Al Jazeera made no mention of it.

                Al Arabiya has a noticeably selective way:

                http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/09/30/241116.html

                Let’s see them go after the trysts of some Saudi government folks.

                Oh that’s right:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Arabiya

                • marknesop says:

                  And on the old reliable Telegraph, word from a “former Libyan senior intelligence officer” says Bashar al-Assad killed Gadaffi by giving his satphone number to the French in exchange for them taking it easy on Syria so that he could kill a few more of his own people before international attention zeroed in on him. And France accommodated him, we’re told. Really? I could have sworn the French were among the first to jump from the Libya bandwagon onto the Syria bandwagon. And that’s because they were: Here’s Tiny Nicky in May 2011, “denouncing what must be denounced”; Gaddafi died in October.

                  It’s amazing, the rubbish the Brit tabloid press will print. This “no honour among thieves” piece is right up there with the fake Gaddafi-issuing-viagra-to-his-troops-so-they-can-rape-more-women-freedom-activists story. There should be some sort of journalistic prize for the media outlet that shows itself willing to wallow longest in the gutter, to so thoroughly debase itself that you couldn’t ask them the time of day and expect to get the truth. If there isn’t one, let’s create one. What shall we call it?

                • yalensis says:

                  Mr El Obeidi had fallen out of favour with the most powerful faction in Libya’s transitional government because of his links with Gen Abdul Fatah Younes, a senior rebel commander killed by his own side in July last year.

                  Interesting … Western MSM used to insist that the saintly Younes had been killed by Gaddafi supporters. Meanwhile, everybody and their grandma in the blogsophere knew that Younes had been murdered by Belhaj goons.

              • cartman says:

                Pardon my French, but I have seen a few photos of James Brooke on that site and he has a shit-eating grin in every one of them. Is this smug, schadenfreude-loving man really the guy you want to be the Voice of America?

                • Misha says:

                  Based on what Brooke has written, he wouldn’t do well when matched against a competent opposite in a reasonably moderated exchange.

                • marknesop says:

                  I don’t doubt that the situation he describes is exactly the way he sees it; that he loves his country deeply and is to some extent blind to its faults, and believes the Russians of today are ungrateful because they will not trust the America of today because of what a different America did yesterday. He is asking that America be judged only on the good things it has done, and as I have said many times, America has done selfless good many times. A lot of those times, it seemed to depend on who had the upper hand in politics, and once there was a clearly discernible difference. But now even when a party that arguably would like to do good works is in charge, it is so busy pandering to the crowd that wants to see the country use the stick instead of the carrot so it will not be thought weak, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between them judged on their actions. Russia today would be foolish to open up to America today based on what America did yesterday, because it wasn’t the same country then. The kind of ridiculous material printed in today’s American media about Russia suggests they are thinking of a different country, too.

                • Misha says:

                  That such arrogance and ignorance is readily tolerated is indicative of what’s wrong with the coverage.

                  One can be a proud American, while not clinging to such an inaccurate caricature, which some might (withi reason0 take as being somewhat insulting.

                • This article is a good example of historical revisionism.

                  Firstly, it is absolutely true that the US did provide generous food aid to Russia during the Civil War famine. I don’t know whether this is mentioned much in Russia today but it certainly was on Radio Moscow’s foreign language broadcasts in the late 1970s and 1980s when I was an occasional listener. Needless to say this has absolutely nothing to do with USAID since at the time Russia and the US were not geopolitical adversaries.

                  Secondly, the US did not provide “aid” to the USSR during World War II. What is continuously overlooked about Lend Lease is that it was not a free gift but was something that had to be paid for. As I remember it the USSR paid the US for the supplies it got with gold. The author anyway greatly exaggerates the importance of Lend Lease supplies. They started to arrive in bulk after the crucial battles in Moscow in 1941 and in Stalingrad in 1942 had already been won. Even after they started to arrive they did not amount to more than a small (though not insignificant) fraction of Soviet war material. I remember reading once that their most important contribution was to provide the Red Army with trucks which helped it sustain its offensives. To claim that without Lend Lease supplies Hitler would have celebrated his victory banquet in the Astoria Hotel is nonsense and is frankly insulting to the million or so people who died defending Leningrad some of whose descendants I have met. Lastly, Lend Lease was provided at a time when Russia and the US were allies in the war against Hitler so again the question of Lend Lease has no relevance to USAID.

                  Thirdly US “aid” in the 1990s (which is relevant to the question of USAID) was by any measure an unmitigated disaster. Russians have no reason to be grateful for it.

                  Fourthly, to the extent that USAID is providing financial support to opposition groups and parties in Russia it shouldn’t be doing it and that is a good reason for closing it down. The fact that that most Russians don’t consider it responsible for the protest movement is neither here nor there. All that proves is that the “aid” has been ineffectual. It does not justify or excuse it.

                • cartman says:

                  I would also add that it was British policy to keep the famine in Russia a secret because they wanted to prevent the US from rendering famine relief. Ireland and India are clearly not the only times that the British have used famine as a weapon. It is interesting how the VOA article does not name a conspirator because it happens to be a US ally. Also, I think I have seen the photo of starving children in the article as one that was used to propagandize the Holodomor.

                • Misha says:

                  Over the course of time, Soviet educated Russians have informed me of their knowledge of Lend Lease, in terms of what it did and didn’t achieve.

                  As noted above, the Nazis were already in retreat when a good portion of the aid arrived to the USSR. The supplies greatly assisted the Soviet war effort, while not being the difference between victory and defeat. Consider the Nazi disposition as a prime telling point on this subject.

                • marknesop says:

                  That’s as may be; my position is not to minimize the greatness of America’s heart or mock its generosity. My position is that the article seeks to draw a false parallel between American openness then and Russian ingratitude now. USAID’s services are nothing like lend/lease or food aid to starving people, and although USAID does do good in terms of medical research and charity work, it also openly allies itself with the opposition in Russia and “civic watchdogs” it supports such as Golos go out of their way to discredit and disrupt the vote in Russia. I’m guessing, but I imagine USAID was quietly given an opportunity to cease funding Golos, Transparency International in Russia and militant Human Rights groups – or register each of those agencies as foreign agents – and it refused.

                • Misha says:

                  “AID” and publicity should be going in another direction from what has been evident in the examples of Pussy Riot and the establishment propped sources that have spun biases against Russia/Russians.

                  Until then, any improvement will be limited from what it could and should be.

          • marknesop says:

            Hey, here’s a question: if sources like The Guardian continue to insist the Pussy Riot performance was “anti-Kremlin” and had no religious implications, why do they uniformly refer to it as a “punk prayer”?

            • kievite says:

              Mark,

              They don’t care about small inconsistencies. The damage is already done. They just enjoy how clever they are. And their ability to wage full scale propaganda war with impunity.
              I think Russians made three blunders.

              — First Tolokonnikova should have been be tried separately and charges with two episodes not one, as she participated in the orgy in Zoo museum. Look how diligently Western MSM try to hide this interesting fact. Also the role she played and the level of criminality she demonstrated was completely different from other two women.

              — The second blunder was that they did not reveal the puppeteers and just decided to punish puppets, which is a very bad policy in any case. This might be interpreted as a sign of split inside the government, existence of two powers of Kremlin.

              — The third is implicitly linking their behavior with desecration which instantly polarized Russian society as suspicions about church corruption are running strong.

              Now they put themselves into position which is not enviable. I wonder how all this might end.

              • marknesop says:

                I imagine their lawyers are right, and the appeal will not succeed. That’s no excuse, of course, for saying it was hopeless – in public – before the appeal was even filed. I also doubt the sentence will be reduced, as the prosecutor asked for much less than the maximum at the outset and what they were awarded is already quite lenient.

                I think their day in the spotlight is over. they went from being the name on everybody’s lips to page 18 in about a week, and now they are barely even mentioned – when they are it is often part of a summary on what is wrong with Russia, when the author drags out everything he/she can think of. RFE/RL still mentions them, but it’s not like they have a huge readership. They will likely get another bump in attention when their appeal is denied, but after that I think the next time you will hear about them is when they get out of the jug, and if they don’t do something attention-grabbing within 2 weeks of that date I think they will just fade out.

                • kirill says:

                  Perhaps the case is not resonating with the western public. It’s obvious BS to invoke free speech when said speech infringes on the rights of others. Is it OK for people to go into someone’s bedroom at 1 am and start shouting political slogans? If they are anti-Putin then the line fed by the western MSM is yes. Not all media consumers are totally retarded just yet.

                • marknesop says:

                  Well, they would argue that someone’s bedroom is private property, and that nobody is allowed to trespass there without the owner’s permission. But, they’d say, a church is public property, and anyone has the right to go in and do as they like. Actually, that’s not quite true; even public places are built and maintained for a specific purpose, and if you are determined to exercise your right to use them for your own purposes – to hold a rock concert in a library, for example, or a public wine-tasting in a gun shop, you will be escorted out. That’s why I thouight it was such rich irony when, only a week or two after the Pussy Riot trial, Ksenya Sobchak and her activist paramour were having lunch in a Moscow restaurant. Public place, right? A news crew attempted to film them, and Ksyusha and her lover had security throw them out after confiscating the film.

              • yalensis says:

                @kievite: I don’t think Tolok could be prosecuted for the превед медвед orgy in the zoo, because nobody pressed a charge.
                In the case of the church incident, the gals would have got away with that too, except that some church official actually went to the police and pressed a charge.
                At that point, police/justice had to decide whether to dismiss or pursue the charge.
                That’s the difference, I think.

                • Dear Kievite,

                  I understand the points you are making and actually they are very astute ones. However the difficulty is that what may be politically wise is not always legally possible. To take your points in turn:

                  1. There was no basis for trying Tolokonnikova separately. This was a joint enterprise planned by all five members of the group in advance and carried out by all five of them together. It is impossible for the prosecution to say that Tolokonnikova was more guilty than the others. Alyokhina and Samutsevich could have said it and Samutsevich’s father said it to the police but not at the trial. Had they said it Alyokhina and Samutsevich would have had to instruct different lawyers than Tolokonnikova. However they didn’t say it but chose instead to defend the case alongside Tolokonnikova. Given that this was so the prosecution couldn’t do the work of the defence and ask for Tolokonnikova to be tried separately.

                  2. You are quite right that the western media has tried to suppress information about the orgy at the museum and the other bizarre activities. However it would have made no sense to charge Tolokonnikova with that crime. Firstly Yalensis is absolutely right that no one it seems complained about it. Secondly it would look extremely odd to say the least to bring a charge for the crime now 4 years after it had been committed. Thirdly Tolokonnikova would have been in a position to argue that she was no more guilty of the crime than were the other participants in the orgy. The prosecution would in that case have had to explain why they were prosecuting her and not the others. It would make the prosecution of Tolokonnikova look vindictive and would actually give some weight to her claim that it was a political trial. If the prosecution did decide to prosecute the others participants in the orgy then given that far more people were involved in the orgy than the “punk prayer” the entire trial would have been swamped by discussion of it. Last and most important of all, please remember that the orgy was a far less serious crime than the “punk prayer”. It does not fall within the scope of Article 213 and is not therefore hooliganism. At worst it is merely an administrative offence for which the penalty is a fine. If the prosecution had charged Tolokonnikova with it they would have undermined the strength of the prosecution for the “punk prayer” for the reasons I have given to no useful purpose.

                  3. Of course it would have been better to prosecute the “puppeteers”. However in a trial one needs evidence. Without evidence that the “puppeteers” knew in advance of the “punk prayer” and actually assisted in the committing of it there is no case against them. Supporting or funding Pussy Riot is not itself a crime.

                  4. The prosecution had to be based on the act of desecration because that was the crime which was committed. I discussed all that on my post about the case on my blog.

  43. yalensis says:

    Well, the Russian blogosphere is all a-buzz with the news of Opalev’s confession. Many people mocking Navalny (including on his own blog) and describing to him what his life will be like behind bars (“one spoon, one bowl, one toothbrush…” etc.) Others urging him to flee before it is too late. Meanwhile, this blogger noticed a silly reverse anagram turning “Kirov-Les” into “Sel Vorik” (=”thief has gone to jail”).

    http://vvv-ig.livejournal.com/292796.html?thread=16369084#t16369084

    I think all this mockery is intended to scare Navalny into making a run for it!

    • kirill says:

      I am hoping this comprador monkey runs and fast. Maybe he can become a professor of law at Yale.

      • yalensis says:

        I hope he runs too, because I have some money riding on that.
        Unfortunately for me, Navalny is grounded in Moscow, and under police surveillance 24/7.
        I have already offered my homey a lot of gratuitous advice how to evade his tail and go on the lam. For starters, a disguise is necessary. I recommend a bald-head wig and a walrus moustache. Nobody would recognize him. Then he needs to slip out at night, use a body double as a decoy to fake out the coppers, take the train to Petersburg, use a fake passport of course, then slip across the border into Finland, then the ferry to his safe house in Tallinn. Oh, WHY do I have to tell him everything what to do, what am I, his mother?
        Беги, Леша, беги!

  44. yalensis says:

    I saw this comment on Politrash blog by someone who goes by the name “sarrleton”, and wanted to translate it in full (maybe just eliding a few sentences to save time), because I think it is a brilliant comment. It actually reads like entire blog post that commenter or someone else wrote, and he is just trying to get it out there by putting on Politrash blog.
    I don’t know who this “sarrleton” is, but his points agree with my hunch that Navalny was recruited by CIA maybe as early as 2006. Maria Gaidar was somehow involved in his recruitment, it goes without saying, she was probably the one who originally brought Navalny to the attention of the Americans. Here is “sarrleton” comment:

    http://politrash-ru.livejournal.com/101377.html?thread=31922945#t31922945

    Here is English translation:
    In addition to monetary incentives from American funds, received by hundreds of NGO’s in Russia, “vanity” incentives are also employed. For example, the target might be invited to meetings of the Trilateral Commission, or the Bildenberg Club (Chubais, Shevtsova, Yasin), or given the title of a lead researcher, say, at the Royal Institute – Chatham House (Shevtsova). Into this category would fall also Navalny, who was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world, according to the magazine “Time”. (….)
    Navalny deserves more attention. In 2006, the NED began to finance a joint Navalny-Masha Gaidar project “Da!” [yalensis note: This project was on the model of the one-word Colour-Revolution movements like “Otpor”]. After which, Russia’s most famous blogger was able (as some of his biographers allege) to accumulate 40 thousand dollars by trading over the internet (his own words), with which (starting capital) he was able to buy stocks in a series of giant Russian corporations, all of which have a majority share government ownership. In this way, Navalny achieved the status of a “minority shareholder” [in mostly state-owned firms], and a platform for his anti-corruption activities.
    [I skip most of the paragraph about Navalny’s semester at Yale in 2010.]
    (…) Navalny himself writes that it was none other than Masha Gaidar who advised him to apply for the (Yale fellowship), and he also received references from leading professors of the School of Higher Economics in Moscow. [yalensis note: Aha! I KNEW that place was a nest of compadores…] And, by the way, Navalny began his anti-corruption campaign against “Transneft” while he was still living in New Haven (and studying at Yale).
    (…) on the topic of Navalny’s psychological type: In public he gives the impression of a split personality, whereas his online (personality) is openness and sincerity itself. When his gmail.com mailbox was broken into and his correspondence with the American consulate and the NED was published (correpondence related to his financing), Navalny was forced to admit that the letters were genuine. (When confronted), Navalny attempts to disarm his questioners (with humorous retorts) such as “So, you believe that I work for the Americans, or for the Kremlin?” Eventually he will be expendable for his (American) sponsors, but the for the time being the actions of Navalny and his closest associates serve as a perfect illustration for the works of Gene Sharp.
    Let us return to the process of recruitment. The Americans have worked out a unique and very effective formula which they call MICE – “Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego”.
    [commenter goes on to describe how CIA approaches and recruits dissidents in a given society]

    I like the point about Navalny using humor and b.s. to deflect suspicions. It’s like a double bluff: Somebody accuses him of being a CIA agent, so he will joke about being a CIA agent, thinking they will think that a REAL CIA agent will never joke about it. But we have also seen, for example, in Navalny’s email with the NED bureaucrat, where he jokes about Gitmo, that he has an inappropriate sense of humor when dealing with powerful forces. Or maybe humor is just his way of coping with the internal pressure of leading such a double (and, in his case, triple or even quadruple) life.
    I also note that “anti-corruption” campaigns have been important weapon in American-sponsored regime-change movements everywhere around the globe. Hey, who isn’t corrupt? Every government is corrupt. So, every government is vulnerable to this form of attack. And very difficult for targeted regime to refute accusation that they are corrupt, since they are. So, it was a very natural thing for Americans to focus on this particular point in their ideological campaign against Russian government. And Navalny turned out to be a perfect instrument for this campaign, given his internet skills. However, he would have been even MORE effective if he had been an “Incorruptible Robespierre” type of revolutionary himself, instead of a money-grubbing crook.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      I agree that this is a very astute comment. That Masha Gaidar should have been the person to recommend Navalny to her US contacts makes complete sense. She has doubtless inherited these contacts from her father. As for the Higher School of Economics that it provided references for Navalny doesn’t surprise me at all. By the way what connection does Navalny have with the Higher School of Economics? Did he study there? If not how were its academic staff able to give him a reference?

      As to your last point I completely agree. I would add that when it comes to allegations of corruption I follow a very crude and I admit wholly unscientific rule. This is that those who complain loudest of corruption in others are almost always those who are most guilty of it. I developed this rule in the early 1990s when I saw what Yeltsin (who also started out as an anti corruption and anti privilege campaigner) and the liberals (who also noisily complained about corruption in the 1980s) were doing in Russia. It has never let me down.

      • yalensis says:

        Dear Alexander: Your question about Navalny’s relationship to the Higher School of Economics is a good one; and unfortunately I don’t know the answer. He didn’t study there or get a degree there; his degree is from Patrice Lumumba Univ. I guess he knew some people who knew some people. If I find the answer, I will let you know!

  45. marknesop says:

    Well, here’s good news, surely? The International Republican Institute – an NGO, some of whose former employees are ministers in Saakashvili’s government, will act as election monitors for today’s parliamentary vote! I wonder what could go wrong?

    Especially with head honcho Kay Granger, a Romney Republican and author of a book on American values – whose opening address to the subcommittee of State and Foreign Relations included references to the Palestinians “going around the peace process” to achieve statehood, Russia and China’s unwillingness to “join the international community [to] pressure Iran on pursuing nuclear weapons” and that the head of the IAEA has “serious concerns” that Iran is “hiding secret weapons work” – in charge.

    Somebody like that is likely to see a lot of percentage in “Kremlin stooge” Bidzina Ivanishvili’s party getting a majority, isn’t she? My, yes.

  46. kirill says:

    Re: Georgia as a pipeline corridor.

    This is the Nabucco game that the west is losing. The reason it is losing is that there is no gas source to fill it. It’s that dumb. All the noises about bypassing Russia are simply retarded wishful thinking. The *only* source of gas that could fill Nabucco is Iran. Not Turkmenistan and certainly not Azerbaijan. This may explain all the focus on Iran and the hope for regime change there.

    Fossil fuels are a clear and present motive for a big part of western foreign policy and propaganda. There is nothing happening today that will quickly replace fossil fuels as the prime energy source of the west’s economies. Windmills and solar panels are boutique “solutions” that are scaling at glacial pace. Sorry but 50% annual growth is nothing to write home about when the baseline numbers are tiny. There is no chance of alternatives replacing fossil fuels in the next 20 years.

  47. AK says:

    I just read Pussy Riot changed lawyers (Feigin, Polozov, etc) for another trio. Looks like they’ve thought twice about doing more than a year behind bars and decided on lawyer lawyers over politician lawyers.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      According to RIANOVOSTI, it’s only Samutsevich, the eldest one, who has fired her lawyers.

      Prosecution says it’s a deliberate tactic to delay the appeal.

      If that’s true, it might simply be because as long as they are appealing, they remain in a remand prison – which is what their lawyers have already requested. Perhaps they’re just playing out the appeal so as to avoid their scheduled trip to a “colony”?

      RIA and the rest of the Russian media still insists on labelling these degenerates as members of a feminist punk band. Why do they keep playing to the rules set by avowed enemies of “the former Soviet Union” and “former Soviets”?

      See: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20121001/176332910.html

      • Moscow Exile says:

        From what I’ve just read in Moskovsky Komsomolets, where there is an an online report of the appeal, I think that Samutsevich just might be considering changing her plea:

        13.09 Защита участниц панк-группы Pussy Riot пока не знает, будет ли она сотрудничать с новым адвокатом Екатерины Самуцевич. “Если она не будет
        противоречить линии защиты Марины Алехиной и Надежды Толоконниковой, то мы будем сотрудничать, если позиция будет расходиться – то сотрудничество исключено”, – сообщил адвокат Марк Фейгин. Он пояснил, что если Самуцевич признает вину, то среди подсудимых появится раскол.

        [13.09 The defence counsel of the Pussy Riot punk group members still does not know whether it will be working with Ekaterina Samutsevich's new lawyer. "If she is not against Marina Aleksina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's line of defence, then we shall be able to work together; if the position fragments, then collaboration will be excluded", said lawyer Mark Feigin. By means of an illustration, he said that if, for example, Samutsevich pleaded guilty, then there would be dissidence.]

        You don’t say!

        And why should Feigin use the possibilty of Samutsevich changing her plea as an example of a fracture amongst this happy band of sister musicians?

        See: http://www.mk.ru/social/article/2012/10/01/755155-protsess-po-delu-pussy-riot-onlayntranslyatsiya.html

        As a by the way: I always thought Dickens’ Fagin in Oliver Twist was a fictitious character. I now think that he might have been real and his family still lives on in Russia. Dickens’ Fagin was hanged, of course.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          One of the Pussy Riot supporters outside the court in Moscow today where the appeal against the anarchists’ conviction is being held, which appeal has been postponed until October 10th because of Samutsevich’s unexpected announcement that she wants to change her lawyer.

          On the demonstrator’s T-shirt is written in the archaic script of Old Church Slavonic (the language of the Russian Orthodox Church liturgy, which sounds to Russian ears something like Middle English [the language of Chaucer] would to modern native
          speakers of English): Correct Spelling or Death.

          The word meaning “correct spelling” (правописанiе) may be mistaken at first glance for the word “православiе”, which means “orthodoxy” (literally: correct glorification). The shirt resembles ones worn by extreme nationalists who also claim to be devout Orthodox Christians.

          It’s a joke, see.

          It’s not anti-orthodox.

          It’s not meant to offend any Orthodox Christians.

          See: http://rt.com/files/news/pussy-riot-appeal-hearing-354/image-279.jpg

          And these people were also gathered outside the same courthouse today, which people the woman above had no intention of offending:

          • Moscow Exile says:

            I forgot to mention that the large young woman wearing the black T-shirt is also sporting a pink triangle, which indicates that she is probably a homosexual as the pink triangle was the symbol that homosexuals had to wear in Nazi extermination camps.

            I bet it was a bundle of laughs outside that courthouse this morning.

            • yalensis says:

              @Exile: правописание is simply the Slavic calque of Greek word “orthography”.
              I don’t understand the point the woman is trying to make.

              • yalensis says:

                P.S. but I am expecting YOU to decode this riddle!

                • This is becoming more and more bizarre.

                  I wonder whether the first intimation of dissatisfaction with the lawyers was tne wierd statement purportedly from the group proposing their lawyers for the Nobel Peace Prize.. That looked to me at the time like an attempt to silence criticism of the lawyers. It now seems that there may be dissension within the group itself. I do hope that reality is finally starting to dawn.

                  Incidentally if Samutsevich changes her plea how will Amnesty International explain its decision to declare her a “prisoner of conscience”.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                That’s right, and “orthography” in plain “English English” Is “correct writing” or ” spelling”. But as I wrote above, for some at first glance “правописанiе” looks like “православiе”. It’s rather like the firm French Connection UK having the smart arse logo FCUK, which at first glance looks like something else.

    • marknesop says:

      Too late, I think: the damage done by the previous lawyers, the contempt of court and the endless foolish delays, the petitioning to call the President as a witness cannot be made to have never happened, and to reduce their sentence now would be an acknowledgement that the girls had never been part of that, that it was all the lawyers. Does anyone think the girls were not part of the previous process, and that they just sat in detention passively while their lawyers thought up all these grandstanding stunts? I surely don’t, and it was a large part of their being sentenced to jail in the first place. Bringing in polite lawyers now (we’ll see if that’s their approach) who will sing a song of repentance and remorse should not fool anyone, because if it worked they’d be back courting the press and mouthing off as soon as they were free. I say the state was sufficiently merciful already. When it all started I would have voted they just get community service and no jail time, but the way they turned the trial into a circus convinced me a little time away would be good for them. Good for their kids, too, if the truth be known – their mothers’ attitudes toward the world can’t make for a very stable upbringing.

  48. Misha says:

    Another parliamentary vote is coming up in late October:

    http://aminuk.org/index.php?idmenu=12&idsubmenu=279&language=en

  49. Misha says:

    The sinister Russia mantra line:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/1001/Beware-Russia-s-hand-in-elections-in-Georgia-Ukraine-Lithuania?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feeds%2Fcommentary+%28Christian+Science+Monitor+%7C+Commentary%29

    ——————

    Regarding Russian foreign donor involvement in Russia:

    http://rt.com/politics/putin-pledges-support-foreign-408/

    http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/behind-russias-usaid-expulsion-7528

    Given the ongoing anti-Russian leaning biases out there, it’s understandable why Russia at large has issues with some (stress some) of the foreign advocacy.

    Bratty commentary questioning anti-Russian biases is understandably not welcome by a good portion of Russia’s population and body politic.

    Contrary to some of the suggested spin out there, Russia has exhibited a good amount of tolerance as evident by the manner of a number of venues in that country. Some of these venues exhibit negatively inaccurate perceptions of Russia/Russians – in line with what one sees abroad.

    ——————

    Lebedev on his punch:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/01/world/europe/russia-lebedev-interview/index.html

    • Misha says:

      Another piece on foreign funding:

      http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2012/10/01/civil-society-intervention-as-a-geopolitical-instrument.html

      If Russia at large is serious about improving its image, it’ll take a critically hard look of some of the sources it has propped over the course of time, inclusive of bringing into play competent alternatives who don’t do things like:

      – belittle anti-Russian biases with the kind of smug sarcasm that has existed
      – play on themes like anti-Jewish sentiment in Russia in an overly selective way
      – mock the Russian Ministry of Foreign Afffairs, much unlike some other organs elsewhere including the US State Department
      – second guess whether Pussy Riot committed a punisgable offense.

  50. Our intrepid reporter friend Tintin aka Luke Harding is now in Georgia where he is reporting on the elections. Interestingly the one person he found who supports the President is someone who goes by the interesting name of “Eduard Saakashvili” and who he tells us is the President’s relative. Presumably he couldn’t find anyone else?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/30/georgia-election-bidzina-ivanishvili-mikheil-saakashvili

    • Viz Tintin’s latest article I notice that “Eduard Saakashvili” happens to be the name of the President’s eldest son whose one claim to fame is that according to the Guinness Book of Records he is the fastest ever typist on an IPad (a considerable achievement by the way – I take ages to type anything on mine). Presumably this “Eduard Saakashvili” and the “Eduard Saakashvili” who Tintin has interviewed (who Tintin assures is a “distant relative”) are not the same person.

  51. marknesop says:

    According to the New York Times, voter turnout in Georgia was greater than 53% by late afternoon, and exit polls suggested Georgian Dream was running above half of the vote. The Times suggest, though (somewhat hopefully, I thought) that Saakashvili’s UNM might still retain a majority in parliament as that vote only counted Tbilisi, where the opposition is strongest.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/world/europe/georgia-votes-on-keeping-saakashvili-in-power.html

    The same site offers that the Moscow Appellate Court has postponed the hearing of Pussy Riot’s appeal, owing to Ms. Samutsevich’s decision to ditch the lawyers the three were using. If you read between the lines, it does suggest a rift in their previous unity; I am particularly intrigued by Ms. Samutsevich’s statement, “My position in the criminal case does not coincide with their position”. Could she be getting the anarchist’s equivalent of cold feet?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/world/europe/pussy-riot-hearing-is-postponed-by-moscow-court.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fworld%2Feurope%2Findex.jsonp

    • Moscow Exile says:

      The schism:

      “One of Samutsevich’s acquaintances explained that after having been convicted in the punk-prayer trial, Samutsevich took the decision last week to dismiss her lawyers. “Katia received confirmation of previously available information about the unsatisfactory performance of the lawyers’professional responsibilities”, she told Gazeta.Ru .

      Another source familiar with the situation around the case, agreed that the lawyers “had acted in a clumsy way that was really awful and had also not fulfilled their duties. He acknowledged that a possible invitation to the lawyer Dmitry Dinze might return confidence as regards the conduct of the defence.

      Problems with Samutsevich’s lawyers arose after her relatives and friends had begun to notice that she wasn’t getting all her letters nor were they receiving all the letters that she had sent them, said another source who is familiar with the situation. “So talk began about the need for having a fourth lawyer who would deal exclusively with the communications and contacts with the girls. What has been happening is that all of the information has been confined to the three lawyers and Verzilove (Tolokonnikova’s husband – Gazeta.RU), said the source. Eventually the relationship between Samutsevich and Violeta Volkova turned sour because of this and also because of that lawyer’s trip to the USA. “Katia filed a complaint that they didn’t take her close acquaintance to America, the person who has been corresponding with Yoko Ono and who essentially clinched the award (the “Peace prize” awarded by the LennonOno activists to Pussy Riot on September 21 – Gazeta.RU ), to which complaint Volkova replied very rudely. So Katia decided to refuse the services of these lawyers”,said the source.

      A source close to the group has reported that not only Ekaterina Samutsevich is dissatisfied with the lawyers, but that Maria Alekhina is as well. However, Alekhina’s lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, has not confirmed this.

      The lawyers have refused to give the names of those who have played a role in the schism between the activist and her defence counsel. Meanwhile, the evening before, Violetta Volkov twittered: “It started thus: Anno Komarov (LGBT-activist – Gazeta.RU) stated that the letter about the Nobel Peace Prize had been forged by us. Accused us of only chasing after money, that it would be a bonus for us”. (Earlier, the lawyers had released a letter in which the Pussy Riot activists asked to give the Nobel Peace Prize to their counsel; later, the lawyers travelled to United States in order to have talks with representatives of the American branch of the international human rights organization Amnesty International, which had already recognized Pussy Riot as prisoners of conscience.)

      When asked what happened, Anno Komarov replied that he “doesn’t want to play
      around with a bugged phone”.

      [Одна из знакомых Самуцевич объяснила, что осужденная по делу о панк-молебне приняла решение об отказе адвокатов на прошлой неделе. «Катя получила подтверждение ранее имевшейся информации о недобросовестном исполнении адвокатами профессиональных обязанностей», – рассказала собеседница «Газеты.Ru».

      Другой источник, знакомый с ситуацией вокруг этого дела, согласен с тем, что адвокаты «уж больно себя стали вести коряво, но лишь частично». Он признает, что возможное приглашение к процессу адвоката Дмитрия Динзе могло бы вернуть доверие к линии защиты.

      Проблемы с адвокатами у Самуцевич возникли после того, как ее родственники и друзья стали обращать внимание, что до нее не доходят все письма и ответы на них, рассказывает еще один источник, знакомый с ситуацией. «Тогда речь зашла о четвертом адвокате, который был нужен исключительно для переписки и связи с девушками. Так получилось, что вся информация стала замыкаться на трех адвокатах и Верзилове (муж Надежды Толоконниковой. – «Газета.Ru»)», – рассказывает собеседник. В итоге у Самуцевич испортились отношения с Виолеттой Волковой, в том числе из-за поездки адвоката в США. «Катя предъявила претензию, что в Америку не взяли ее хорошего знакомого, который переписывался с Йоко Оно и по сути добился вручения премии (речь идет о премии мира «LennonOno», которую вручили активисткам Pussy Riot 21 сентября. – «Газета.Ru»). На что Волкова ответила очень грубо. Тогда Катя и решила отказываться от этих адвокатов», – комментирует источник.

      Источник, близкий к группе, сообщил, что адвокатами недовольна не только Екатерина Самуцевич, но и Мария Алехина. Впрочем, адвокат Алехиной Николай Полозов эту информацию не подтвердил.

      Адвокаты отказались называть имена тех, кто сыграл роль в расколе между активисткой и ее защитниками. Между тем накануне вечером Виолетта Волкова написала в своем микроблоге в социальной сети Twitter: «Началось так: Анно Комаров (ЛГБТ-активист. – «Газета.Ru») заявил, что письмо о нобелевке мы подделали. Обвинил нас, что мы на свои деньги его за премией не взяли». (Ранее адвокаты опубликовали письмо, в котором активистки Pussy Riot просили дать Нобелевскую премию мира своим защитникам, позже адвокаты ездили в США на переговоры с представителями американского отделения международной правозащитной организации Amnesty International, которая уже признала Pussy Riot узниками совести.)

      На вопрос, что случилось, Анно Комаров ответил, что «не хочет играть в испорченный телефон».]

      See: http://www.gazeta.ru/social/2012/10/01/4794533.shtml

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        Thank you for all this. This is both utterly predictable and utterly fascinating. I wonder whether Alyokhina will also find the courage to sack the lawyers. I have always had the darkest suspicions of Verzilov and of his part in this whole business. I wonder whether we are at the start of more revelations about this affair?

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Here are two pictures from RT. They were taken outside the court today where the PR appeal started.The subtitles say that they show PR supporters. They might well be, but I don’t think so, because the caricatures of two of the PR defence team (Polozov and Feigin) that they are attaching to balloons are not very flattering:

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Yes, they are PR supporters because it says “Occupy Mosccow” on their balloons. So they’re for the the convicted PR three but very critical of their counsel.

            For three young women who have been constantly presented by western journalists as highly intelligent, it seems to have taken quite a long time for at least one, or perhaps two, of them to wise up to the fact that they are being used.

            The snake in the grass is, in my opinion, the mysterious Verzilov who, together with his consort, albeit she is the youngest of the three women, very much seem to be the driving force behind the “feminist punk-rock band”.

            • marknesop says:

              I thought the same myself, and would not be surprised if the missing letters are going into a My Life With Pussy Riot book Verzilov intends to release, or something of that nature. People would buy it regardless what they felt about him if it contained exclusive behind-the-scenes stuff nobody else had seen.

              • Misha says:

                At its peak, the Elian Gonzalez story drew far greater attention than “heroic” (sic) Pussy Riot.

                The latter should quickly sink into oblivion.

    • Tintin is also reporting that exit polls are putting Ivanishvili ahead. He cites one from Imedi TV which gives Ivanishvili 51%, Saakashvili 41% and don’t knows/won’t say 35%. Even someone as completely innumerate as me can see that unless Imedi TV or Tintin have discovered some new mathematical law these figures don’t add up. Having said this it does increasingly look like Saakashvili has lost. I wonder what he’s going to do now?

      • marknesop says:

        Well, the Georgian system is kind of weird. There are 73 seats to be realized from this draw, if you will, in Tbilisi, and 77 to come from direct elections in the regions, as I best understand it. So UNM could lose every seat in the election that is being reported (even though it’s all the same election) and still control Parliament if it won all the others in the regions. The party that has a majority in Parliament gets to appoint the Prime Minister, although I saw elsewhere that Saakashvili has said he will not take the post of Prime Minister in any case. I wouldn’t believe anything he says, but it is just possible he plans to rule through Merabishvili. Whatever happens, he did not engineer the system personally to the degree he did, to see it all blown away and that suggests he means to exercise some degree of personal control.

        He must be pinning all his hopes on the direct elections in the regions, because Tbilisi has always been – at least as long as anyone didn’t like him – where he is weakest, while many villages far from Tbilisi idolize him. Or so it’s said; we’ll have to see. But I think the results in Tbilisi (which got out internationally quite early, while the vote was still ongoing, which suggests his message control is slipping because there was no advance reporting of exit polls in 2008) may encourage those outside the city who are afraid to vote against him that he is a spent force and it’s safe to vote one’s conscience.

        If UNM loses big, it’s hard to say what he will do, because Bidzina Ivanishvili has indicated he will take the post of Prime Minister at least temporarily if his party wins. there wouldn’t be much for Saakashvili in Georgia if that happened. Maybe he’ll go back to the USA and be a Georgian-government-in-exile.

        • Dear Mark,

          I have no doubt that Saakashvili’s original plan was to make himself Prime Minister, otherwise why carry out constitutional reforms at all? I suspect the reason he has now started to say that he never intended to make himself Prime Minister is because he senses that the tide is now flowing against him.

          I do not understand the Georgian electoral system at all. However if early indications are correct Saakashvili has not just lost but lost badly. I think that if after a big defeat Georgians find that they have a parliament which is still dominated by Saakashvili’s supporters the mood could turn ugly. Perhaps it is better to wait until the final result before speculating. I have to say that given the way the exit polls are going if the final result is very different from what the exit polls suggest given the widespread distrust there is for Saakashvili that could also mean trouble.

          One way or the other we are surely seeing the beginning of the end of this regime. Bear in mind that the Georgian diaspora in Russia has not been able to vote and it is known to be strongly hostile to Saakashvili. Given that that is so and given what the exit poll tells us about the mood is in Georgia it is beginning to look as if support for Saakashvili amongst Georgians has ebbed away. Even if Saakashvili somehow manages to cling on a the myth of Georgia united behind him has been shattered and given what a divisive figure he is I cannot see how he can sustain himself for long.

          I have to say I am surprised. I got this one completely wrong. Like I think many people I assumed Saakashvili had much more support than it seems he has. I should have had the courage of my convictions. After 2008 I realised the image of Georgia Saakashvili had constructed was bogus. I should have remembered that the people who would know this best are the people who live there.

          • One last point before I sign off: if Saakashvili does fall what are the Moscow liberals like Latynina going to make of the downfall of their hero? More evidence of a Kremlin plot or more proof that ordinary people cannot be trusted to vote?

            • marknesop says:

              I look forward to Mr. Putin’s congratulatory message, which I expect to be redolent of satisfaction even though he must curb his enthusiasm for fear of confirming the Saakashvili crowd’s accusations that Ivanishvili is a Kremlin stooge.

              I imagine his pleasure in seeing Saakashvili kicked to the curb (if indeed that’s what happens, which looks increasingly likely) will be reflected in immediate increased access to Russia for Georgian businessmen, which will be welcomed, especially in the wine sector.

            • marknesop says:

              Tintin’s latest update, which sounds a little subdued to me in contrast to his usual boisterous ignorance, reports that aides of Bidzina Ivanishvili say they expect President Saakashvili will resign. There are a lot of quotes that uniformly suggest Saakashvili has lost large. Ivanishvili is already busily making plans for his first official visit as Prime Minister – to the United States, which should mollify them somewhat.

              It will be ironic indeed if Saakashvili engineered a juicy seat of power for himself that could not be set aside by term limits, only to have his rival occupy it. Ivanishvili would be wise to double his guards.

              • Don’t be too hasty. Whilst early results are in line with the exit polls counting seems to be very slow. As of the time of writing only a quarter of the votes have been counted though the authorities were at one point promising a final result by this afternoon. Georgia is a small country with an electorate of just 2 million and with good roads and communications. It is difficult to undErstand why counting should be so slow. As I was saying during the Russian elections last year a delay in announcing an election result is a much more frequent sign of ballot rigging than speed in doing so. Saakashvili claims to be winning in the countryside and in the constituency results where results are easier to fix. With someone like Saakashvili it’s not over till it’s over.

                • marknesop says:

                  No, I’m afraid you’re right about that. As I was shutting down for the night the tone of reporting began to suggest Saakashvili had conceded defeat in the proportional vote and was pinning his hopes on UNM triumphing in the first-past-the-post vote in the countryside, where he remains strongest. He seemed to be paving the way for that, saying we are all Georgians and we have to work together as if trying to defuse in advance violence that might erupt if it were revealed that he will still have the dominant role in politics even if he lost the election. A lot will depend on monitors in the regions and what they will allow him to get away with, because I simply will not believe anyone who has made the shambles he has of running Georgia is actually popular. Perhaps his talk that he will not be Prime Minister is simply to allay such fears where they might cost his party votes, but Merabishvili would be no better and I don’t trust Saakashvili an inch.

                  I think if it were to turn out that UNM was still the majority there would be rioting, but it’s questionable how long they could keep it up, and Saakashvili is not afraid to use the police to put it down hard. As we have seen, even a huge protest like the Orange Revolution has to be kept up for days before the leadership will capitulate, and the western press would likely be less sympathetic to the crowd than they were in that case, calling them lawbreakers instead of democracy-seekers.

                • marknesop says:

                  Oh, wait; nope, it looks like Saakashvili has conceded. No intention to resign until the bitter end, though; he intends to stay on as President until a new one is elected, and that’ll be the next subject of speculation, because Ivanishvili intends to occupy the Prime Minister’s chair. I think he should run a woman for Georgian Dream’s candidate.

                  This article manages to squeeze in every distraction about Ivanishvili; that he’s rich, acquired his billions in Russia and means to mend fences with Moscow, showcasing the editor’s disappointment. Of course, the author is Ellen Barry, who is no friend of Russia and a conservative democracy activist as long as it plays to America’s interests.

                • Misha says:

                  Like I said, given the past, one should be cautiously optimistic about what Ivanishvili will offer.

                  Perhaps Saakashvili sees some wisdom for taking the route he has chosen. His stance might partly be the result of knowing that (to some degree) he has fallen out of favor with some Western foreign policy elites. He could be looking at a bigger picture down the line that best involves a willing exit (for now) on his part. Offhand, who knows? Maybe he seeks a bit of a break as well.

                  Ellen Barry is another Western journo who has appeared on RT without really being challenged in a constructively hard way.

                • Misha says:

                  As quoted by the BBC, a brief sampling of international reaction to the just completed Georgian vote:

                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19801458

                  The Kommersant person makes some especially valid (IMO) points.

                  For the purpose of improving Russian-Georgian relations, something might be creatively needed to bridge the differences over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

  52. Misha says:

    Hmmm:

    http://english.pravda.ru/society/stories/02-10-2012/122316-patrick_downey_political_asylum-0/

    ————-

    Concerning the early beginnings of The Moscow Times:

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/how-the-moscow-times-was-born-20-years-ago/469112.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:%20themoscowtimes/opinion%20(The%20Moscow%20Times%20Opinion)

    Excerpt –

    “The next 20 years pose a challenge greater than the one I faced in October 1992, for Russia appears to be at a crossroads. Will it embrace democratic values or backslide into authoritarianism? Will it buttress freedom of expression or intensify the current trend toward censorship? Through all of this, will The Moscow Times succeed in telling the story, accurately, fairly and truthfully? Will it continue to make a difference?”
    I hope and trust that it will.”

    ****

    Seeing how the likes of JRL and the court appointed of establishment Russia friendlys deemphasize a valid perspective running counter to the above excerpted, I’ll once again note that the non-Ukrainian owned/Ukraine based English language Kyiv Post does a much better job at propping Russia unfriendly views than the non-Russia owned/Russia based English language Moscow Times does at promoting reasonably pro-Russian perspectives.

    Who actually comes closest to being the greater victim of an unjustified censorship? GET REAL!

    ————-

    Somewhat comical:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/free-and-fair-elections-are-coming-to-russia-no-really/24722038.html

  53. Misha says:

    Russia officially replies to a (put mildly) questionable claim promoted by Al Arabiya:

    http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_10_01/Russia-dismisses-accusations-of-involvement-in-Turkish-jet-s-downing/

  54. yalensis says:

    Interesting discussion on poliTrash blog about the Samutsevich/Pussy situation.

    http://politrash-ru.livejournal.com/101852.html

    Apetian predicts that Samutsevich will cop a plea, apologize to the plaintiff (=the church), and will be released with time served, and allowed to go home to her parents.
    Can one even do that on an appeal? I would have thought by then it would be too late. Well, I guess it must be possible, because ROC is still making noises like they will accept an apology from the girls. Tolok herself will never apologize, she is a clear-eyed fanatic for her beliefs (whatever they might be), and she will go to the colony and suffer any amount of suffering and torture, just to make a point. (A silly point, but still a point.)
    Samutsevich – not so much. Now that she has a better lawyer, she can point out to the judge all the mitigating circumstances, like the fact that she herself never actually approached the altar or danced. The fact that she was tried together with Tolok as if the two were one, would have ruined her life, which she finally realized. It’s like being handcuffed to a crazy person who is determined to jump in the lake. All that Samutsevich is doing is unlocking the handcuff so that she can rise or fall based on her own merit, and not chained to a crazy person.

  55. yalensis says:

    Navalny’s latest ideological foray into issues of religion: “Mama, may I shoot into the air?” “Yes, but you may not dance in the church.”
    Navalny is really getting desperate now, he is trying to make hay out of some stupid incident in Moscow where a Chechen wedding party got out of hand and started shooting into the air, like these morons are accustomed to do on their own turf. (I want to add my personal opinion that this shooting in the air thing is so wrong for so many reasons that nobody should ever be allowed to do it, not even Arabs.)

    http://news.yahoo.com/russian-nationalists-want-wedding-shooters-jailed-150604035.html

    In any case, everybody in Moscow was shocked at such dangerous and reckless behavior. The police put a stop to this circus, and the Chechens were forced to pay fines.
    Now people like Navalny are trying to make even more hay out of this ridiculous incident and see if they can score ideological points by comparing it to the Pussy Riot case.
    Oi veh, does this guy NEVER shut his piehole? I wish he would sew his own mouth shut, like that other dissident did.

    http://navalny.livejournal.com/739142.html

    • marknesop says:

      All he’s doing with this is turning off everyone but the nationalists. When the opposition is as small as it is, it has to stick together and use every opportunity to make the government look bad. He could have bitched about how long it took the police to show up, for example. But going at it this way will cause quite a few among his own ideological sediment layer to shake their heads in puzzlement. Actually, this might be a very small example but it shows clearly that Navalny could never unite the opposition, and that he is not the inclusive leader they need. Any more time spent on Navalny – from the viewpoint of the outside agitators who support the Russian opposition from afar – is time wasted. McFaul might as well cross him off his Christmas-card list.

    • Misha says:

      The title of that Yahoo linked article from Yalensis underscores what has been evident in a number of instaces:

      “Russian nationalists want wedding shooters jailed”

      I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of citizens in any major Western city wouldn’t take kindly to lax manner towards the shooting of bullets in the air.

      As previously noted regarding Navalny, a “nationalist” conjures up the image of someone with a pride in his country, in a way that opposes biased perspectives against it. Navalny IMO falls short of that attribute. He comes across more as someone who plays on an agenda to further his image. Based on some comments attributed tio him, he also might have some red necked (if you may) views – something that hasn’t escaped everyone with a seemingly liberal bent.

      So there’s no misunderstanding, I’m for a responsible patriotism that cautions against chauvinism.

      • kirill says:

        Journalists are typically high school dropouts and paid propaganda whores to boot. They have no clue that bullets fired in the air come down at velocities high enough to kill. In a vacuum they would come down to the same height at muzzle velocity but even the air friction is not enough to render them harmless.

        Criminal negligence is punishable under any objective criteria and is only open to “debate” in the propaganda toilet that is the western MSM.

        • Misha says:

          A good number of journos are “well educated” on paper. Practical intelligence, inclusive of the ability to directly face constructive criticism (not to be confused with brazenly rude personal attacks) is another matter.

          Another issue pertains to some others who suggest a different line, while promoting commentary like this on the apparent basis of being “fair”.

          http://us-russia.org/126-russia-unfortunately-being-russia.html

          Actually, such a selection is insultingly counter-productive to those offering something different and more valid, while not getting the nod.

        • kievite says:

          Kirill,

          Some percent of people have high level of anomany in any society. Some claim that 1% are phychopaths (http://www.hare.org/links/saturday.html). Just look at one prominent political activist:

          “Russia!: Do you really think that you can make a dent in the system?
          “You know, we might not have no choice,” says Chirikova. “The Russian people in many ways are like cattle. They would tolerate anything. We don’t expect fair play from the government, but we surely did not expect the hoax that the “tandem” pulled off on September 9, 2011 (on that date President Medvedev announced that he will not run for president and that he recommends the ruling party to nominate Vladimir Putin). We just couldn’t ignore such an obvious disregard for democracy and civil society. This is our answer to Dima and Vova, who seem to completely forget about the people they are supposed to represent.
          I simply don’t see any future for me and my daughters in Russia, unless we manage to change things around. I will leave if I have to, but many of my friends will have to stay and to see how this great country is falling apart.
          We are grateful for the support from the international community and from the U.S. We discussed our efforts to fight the corrupt system and develop civil society with the Vice President Joseph Biden and with the deputy secretary on human rights Michael Posner. I hope that we’ll be able to take a stroll in the Khimki forest in the years to come.”
          * During his official visit to Russia, Vice President Joe Biden awarded Evegenia Chirikova with the Woman of Courage award.”
          (с) http://readrussia.com/blog/politics/00343/

          Actually the idea to amplify energy of those people with grants is a pretty slick political trick.

          • kirill says:

            You are right, there are all sorts. But it does not take much education to become a journalist. The science articles I read are many times truly ignorant prattle displaying lack of even basic research to get the concepts right.

            As for Chirikova, she is an obvious hater of Russians. Her name sounds Russian but that means nothing. And these racists can’t hide behind the fig leaf of being “Russians” who can criticize their “own”. They are like Nina Khruscheva nothing but haters. You have to get past their double speak, what they call corruption is anything that does not allow them to lord over Russians. I hope this rotten c*nt leaves Russia and departs for her promised land. She’ll have all the freedom and opportunity she desires in her mythical west. LOL.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Before her activities at the Khimki mayoral hustings began and on the day before accepting a Goldman Environmental Prize in February, 2012, Chirikova, with her spouse alongside her, finds time after visiting an old growth redwood forest to relax on a California beach, where she composes a post for her popular @4irikova twitter feed addressed to the “bydlo” back in the Old Country wishing that he could bring a redwood (sequoia) tree seedling home to fellow Russian activist Suren Gazaryan:

            Oh what a busy little bee she is!

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Yevgenia Chirikova trying to differentiate herself from Sobchak:

              “We are from different planets. I was in business and bringing up my children. I didn’t even have a television set”.

              Dossier on Chirikova:

              Above clips taken from this TV programme that was transmitted in the land where the media is controlled by the Kremlin and where no one dare utter a word against the “regime”:

    • kievite says:

      Chechens
      Dagestanians

      • yalensis says:

        Thanks @kievite, there were contradictatory accounts of the ethnicity of the “air shooters”. Everybody agrees they were from Dagestan, but according to some, they were ethnic Chechens.
        Also, BTW, there were reports on some blogs that the “bullets” were actually blanks. Which does mitigate somewhat. But still dangerous. Not to mention environmental pollution and noise pollution. I am very firmly against this air shooting, even with blanks. But my opinion does not matter; in law of Russian Federation this is only categorized as minor hooliganism.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Dagestan, “non-lethal firearms”:

          http://rt.com/news/wedding-fire-downtown-moscow-347/

          http://www.kp.ru/daily/25959/2899870/

          The pictures and video shots were taken on Tverskaya, Moscow’s main drag. The colours on the tapes seeen on the car bonnets are those of the Dagestan flag.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            As a by the way regarding this Dagestan wedding cortege incident the other day in Moscow, the shit hit the fan in the popular press here this morning over the revelation that, thanks to a promise made by that nice Mr. Medevedev, the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation will receive from the central government during the period 2012-2013 the sum of 20 milliard rubles – or as speakers of American English would say: 20 billion rubles: that’s 20,000,000,000 rubles or US$642,687,719.74, which is jolly decent of the prime minister, don’t you think?

            From today’s Moskovsky Komsomolets:

            Медведев пообещал Кавказу дополнительную помощь

            Регионы Северного Кавказа получат в 2012-2013 годах дополнительно около 20 миллиардов рублей, пообещал премьер-министр РФ Дмитрий Медведев.

            “Я совсем недавно, 24 сентября, подписал постановление правительства, которое предусматривает в рамках ФЦП “Юг России” выделение дополнительно 2 миллиардов рублей на завершение строительства инфраструктурных объектов региона Кавказских Минеральных вод, а также направление в регионы СКФО практически 12 миллиардов рублей в этом году и около 6 миллиардов в 2013 году”, – сказал Медведев на заседании правительственной комиссии по социально-экономическому развитию СКФО…

            [Medvedev has promised additional aid to the Caucasus

            In 2012-2013, regions of the North Caucasus will approximately receive an additional 20 billion rubles, promised Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev...

            "Just recently on 24 September I signed a decree that within the framework of the FTsP (Federal Target Programme) "Southern Russia" provides the allocation of an additional 2 billion rubles for the construction of infrastructure in the region of Caucasian mineral waters, as well as in the regions of the SKFO (North Caucasus Federal Region) to almost 12 billion rubles this year and about 6 billion in 2013", said Medvedev at a meeting of the Government Commission on the socio-economic development of the
            SKFO...]

            Примечательно, что на заседании Медведев упомянул и об инциденте со
            стрельбой, устроенной кавказским свадебным кортежем в центре Москвы. Он сказал, что культуру общежития надо воспитывать с младенчества, но забывать о правовых нормах все же нельзя. Если бы подобные вещи происходили в Нью-Йорке, то “это могло бы закончиться весьма печально: полиция открыла бы огонь на поражение и была бы в этом оправдана”, – предположил премьер.

            [It is noteworthy that at the meeting, Medvedev alluded to the shooting incident involving a Caucasian wedding convoy in the centre of Moscow. He said that it is necessary that cultural standards of a community be taught from an early age and that one must not allow legal norms to be forgotten. If a similar event were to have happened in New York, then "it might have ended very sadly: the police would have opened fire and shot to kill and they would have been justified in doing so", speculated the Prime Minister.]

            See: http://www.mk.ru/politics/article/2012/10/03/756307-20-milliardov-posle-strelbyi-na-svadbe.html

            • Misha says:

              Yes Moscow Exile, there was a recent NYPD killing which raised some eyebrows.

              The other issue you raise has led to animosity among some other parts of the Russian Federation, which are in need of funding.

              Quality funding is advocated on the basis that it’ll lead to a less violent/crime ridden element.

              We shall see what we shall see.

          • yalensis says:

            Yeah. Apparently the groom is a nice guy. It’s the relatives and in-laws who are the problem. They’re a rootin-tootin-shooting bunch. I hope groom wasn’t overly late for his wedding.

      • peter says:

        Lezgins.

        • yalensis says:

          Yeah. Technically there is no such thing as a “Dagestani” per se, from what I understand. “Dagestan” is geographical entity. The people themselves are a collection of various tribes, languages, and nationalities.

          • Misha says:

            Upon an immediate comparative thought, which might be off upon further review: consider Bosnia – where saying that one is Bosnian can typically mean four different things (Serb, Croat, Slavic Muslim, or any mix of the three).

            On a somewhat realted note, the term “Bosniak” is a modern day term used to describe Slavic Muslims from former Yugoslavia – including areas outside Bosnia.

          • Dear Peter,

            Thanks again for this. Presumably the Lezgins are responsible for the famous dance that was orchestrated by amongst others Khatchaturian and Ippolitov Ivanov.

  56. Misha says:

    Buchanan makes a reasoned point on the recent criticism of Obama appointees S. Rice and Carney:

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/02102012-patrick-buchanan-the-unraveling-of-obamas-foreign-policy-oped/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+eurasiareview/VsnE+(Eurasia+Review)

    In all likelihood, they were expressing what was handed down to them. Not that there haven’t been times when a given official can go a bit rogue – especially in a spur of the moment media Q & A. Regarding Carney and S. Rice, one is of the offhand impression that their comments in question were part of a process involving a pre-screening of questions/thoughts presented to them.

    • kievite says:

      Even better quote from America’s Last Crusade by Patrick J. Buchanan

      http://original.antiwar.com/buchanan/2012/09/24/americas-last-crusade/

      Sometime he reminds me Ron Paul…

      If the Islamic world is so suffused with rage and hatred of us — for our wars, occupations, drone attacks, support of Israel, decadent culture, and tolerance of insults to Islam and the Prophet — why should we call for free elections, when the people will use those elections to vote into power rulers hostile to the United States?
      If the probable or inevitable result of dethroning dictator-allies is to raise to power Islamist enemies, why help dethrone the dictators?
      During the Cold War, the United States took its friends where it found them. If they were willing to cast their lot with us, from the shah to Gen. Pinochet, we welcomed them. Democratic dissidents like Jawaharlal Nehru in India and Olof Palme in Sweden got the back of our hand.
      During the Cold War and World War II, the critical question was not whether you came to power through free elections — after all, Adolf Hitler did that — but are you with us or against us?
      Ideology, as Russell Kirk admonished us, is political religion, and democracy worship is a form of idolatry, the worshiping of a false god, a golden calf, an idol.
      And — while this may border on a hate crime — some countries are unfit for democracy. As Edmund Burke remonstrated: “It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
      With hatred of America rampant across the Arab and Islamic world, we face anew a defining moment. What now is our mission in the world? What now should be the great goal of U.S. foreign policy?
      What global objective should we pursue with our trillion-dollar defense, intel, and foreign aid budgets, and pervasive diplomatic and military presence on every continent and in most countries of the world? Bush I’s New World Order is history, given our strategic decline and the resistance of Russia, China, and the Islamic world.
      Bush II’s democracy crusade and Obama’s embrace of the Arab Spring have unleashed and empowered forces less receptive to America’s wishes and will than the despots and dictators deposed with our approval.
      All three visions proved to be illusions. With America headed for bankruptcy, with new debt of $1 trillion piled up each year, perhaps John Quincy Adams’ counsel may commend itself to a country weary from a century of crusades.
      “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

      • kirill says:

        I like many things that Buchanan says, but there is a missing elephant in this analysis. The so-called democracy that the USA and its minions try to install is corrupt democracy of the sort that exists at home. There will be free elections for parties and leaders essentially chosen by the west and its local business establishment sycophants. The loyalty of business interests to the USA and the west is natural since that is where all the money and markets are (anyway up until recently given China and India’s growth).

        The west’s anti-Russia spew proves it does not support real democracy. Putin is a truly popular and legitimately elected leader who obviously does not rest on some sort of tyranny for his power. Yet all the western MSM coverage and official views are foaming at the mouth hate spew about the tyrant Putler. The same can be said for Chavez in Venezuela. A leader who is not a comprador and whose power rests on free elections. The west obviously does not want such leaders in the Middle East. And I give Egypt more credit than Buchanan who avoids pointing at the real problem, religion. What skews the political process in the middle east is Islam and its micromanagement of daily life through Sharia directives. People think that the Middle East should get out of its dark age like Europe. But Christianity is de facto much more liberal than Islam and lacks anything like the Sharia.

    • yalensis says:

      I can’t believe I am saying this, but I agree with almost every word in Buchanan’s op ed.
      What am I becoming?

      • Misha says:

        You reveal some practical traits.

        Buchanan has been saying things like that for awhile.

        The world has complexities, which can lead to some with different views on some issues seeing eye to eye on others.

  57. Misha says:

    “A Russian killer”:

    http://www.kyivpost.com/content/kyiv/murder-in-kyivs-shopping-mall-committed-by-russian-killer-according-to-media-313806.html

    I don’t recall such a characterization of national origin stressed towards the ethnic Ukrainian mass killer from a few years back in Russia.

    • kirill says:

      Ah the petty label tricks of the MSM. They called some Bosniak killer in the USA a Yugoslavian even after Yugoslavia had been gone for over 15 years. I am sure if he had been a Serb that would have been trumpeted up and down. We have to stop pussyfooting around this and call it for what it is: racist propaganda. Russians and Serbs are killers and all of the west’s lap dogs are innocent victims.

      • Misha says:

        The KP uncritically quotes the comment in question from a Ukrainian interior ministry official.

        In contrast, that venue will go ballistic on some other matters:

        http://www.eurasiareview.com/12082012-cherry-picking-the-soviet-past-and-russian-present-analysis/

        On the Russian-Serb point, consider how RFE/RL covers church matters. Recently, a Croat government official with ties to the Croat Catholic Church belittled the legacy of the Ustasha run concentration camp at Jasenovac. No mention of that at RFE/RL – much unlike the way that venue runs critically negative pieces on issues that are connected in one way or another with the Russian and Serb Orthodox churches.

  58. kirill says:

    Re: first past the post in Georgia

    This is a clear example of why first past the post is not a truly democratic electoral system. It can be rigged with boundary redistribution and tricks such as misdirecting voters to wrong polling locations. All it takes is a handful of voters to win in many cases. All the whinging about fraud in Moscow during the Duma elections is simply nonsensical. A few % of stolen votes can work in first past the post systems, but in the Russian system you need 10s of % of fraud to achieve the same result. This is vastly more challenging and the lack of fraud reports from the Duma elections in December 2011 that would indicate such levels of fraud says it all.

  59. kirill says:

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20121002/176363795.html

    So Pussy Riot is evidence against Russia? Of what? That hooliganism doesn’t pay? Or that western governments and their mouthpieces are full of sh*t?

  60. kirill says:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9581682/PIMCO-America-could-resemble-Greece-before-2020.html

    Perhaps the USA should try to fix its own problems before starting another cold war with Russia.

    • Misha says:

      Reminded of a recent Brookings-Carnegie foreign policy panel which featured R. Kagan and T. Friedman.

      Some frank and reasonably objective analysis, blended in with the suggestively given understanding that the US can and should be abroad unlike some others.

  61. The response of the media here to the Georgian election result is that it vindicates Saakashvili and proves he’s a democrat.

    There is some force to this argument. I am afraid I take a more skeptical view and think it more likely he realised that feeling was running so strongly that any attempt to override the result would provoke protests he would be obliged to put down by force. The last thing Obama wants in the run up to the Presidential election is a crisis in the northern Caucasus. I suspect that Saakashvili has been told in the clearest possible terms that the US will not support him if he uses force to put down protests.

    Anyway the point to remember is that it is still not over. Saakashvili remains President with full executive powers until October 2013. He is therefore still the country’s leader. He has rejected Ivanishvili’s hint that he resign immediately. He still has a year which he could use to undermine Ivanishvili and to split Ivanishvili’s movement. If he can provoke a big enough crisis he might use this as a pretext to dissolve parliament and call new elections.

    May be I do the man an injustice but I will not believe he is going until he is gone.

    • yalensis says:

      “The response of the media here to the Georgian election result is that it vindicates Saakashvili and proves he’s a democrat.”
      There is an appropriate Russian expression to this kind of spin:

      хорошая мина при плохой игре, which translates something like “putting on a good game face when you just drew a poor card from the deck”… Or maybe: “making the best of a bad turn of events”… Or maybe “trying to make a defeat look like a victory…”

      • yalensis says:

        P.S. I agree that Saakashvili will not go gentle into that good night. He will fight with everything that he has to stay in power. Gruzians face one year of vicious power struggles and a split government. If anything, daily life will get even worse for them over the next year, with a crippled government. It will be like Yushchenko-Timoshenko, only more violent.

        • Misha says:

          Time will tell, with yours truly thinking that he might (stress might) see the wisdom behind stepping aside with the possibility of politically coming back.

          Among the overrated establishment promoted punditry, there’s evidence that his victorious opponent doesn’t seem like such an anthema to the perceived interests of the West. Coupled with that perception is the growing unease that some in the West had with Saakashvili.

          Lincoln Mitchell doesn’t come across as someone who is particularly “soft” (if you may) on Russia.

          • The final results give Ivanishvili’s movement 55% of the vote. If we suppose that some of 41% Saakashvili got was obtained by the usual “administrative methods” and if we recall that one fifth of adult Georgians live in Russia where they were unable to vote but would have voted heavily against Saakashvili if they could then the scale of his defeat becomes clear.

            I think we have to revise our opinions about Georgia. The results of this election surely prove what opinion polls have always suggested, which is that what concerns Georgians most is their difficult economic situation and that far from making him popular Saakashvili’s ferociously anti Russian foreign policy is actually unpopular. Improving relations with Russia is just about the one concrete thing Ivanishvili has promised to do, which given the scale of his victory hardly suggests a country brimming with Russophobic feeling. It would be richly ironic if calling Ivanishvili a “Kremlin stooge” was something that actually caused people to vote for him. I would add that this is the first electoral test Saakashvili has faced since the 2008 war and he has lost it.

            I suspect that Saakashvili’s radical economic policies were also never near as popular as some western commentators thought. Why should they be after all? Whilst some people in Georgia are doubtless better off than they were in a country where unemployment is so high and where social security has to all intents and purposes been abolished many (most?) Georgians must be worse off not better.

            Overall this is beginning to look like another Colour Revolution that has failed. The story of the Colour Revolutions is of politically marginal individuals with extremist agendas who are leveraged into power by western influence and money. When in power they pursue extremist and Russophobic policies that are popular with western elites but which command little support in their own societies. After a certain time the momentum dissipates and the “revolution” eventually collapses. That has been the story in the Ukraine, Kyrghyzia and now Georgia and I suspect it will be the story in Moldavia too before long.

            • Misha says:

              The Western establishment spin includes the view that the Georgian election result ultimately depends more on domestic Georgian issues than Russia – adding that there will still be difficulties between the two countries. It’s not so easy to treat these two matters (Georgian domestic issues and Russia) as completely separate issues from each other.

              The situation in Ukraine cautions against the notion of a counter-color revolution president moving substantially closer to Russia. In the long run, it makes sense for some former Soviet republics to move closer to Russia, given the limits of what other power blocks have to offer.

              The West at large shouldn’t see such relationships in zero sum game terms.

              • Dear Misha

                I agree with you only up to a point.

                Firstly as regards Ivanishvili I have no expectations of him at all. For all I know he is just another American project now it has become clear Saakashvili has failed. I still find it suspicious that the prison abuse videos got as much publicity as they did including repeated viewings on Georgian TV. This suggests that some within the elite have gone over to Ivanishvili’s side. That together with Saakashvili’s readiness to concede may be a sign he has lost US support. As Mubarak found to his cost the US is utterly ruthless in dumping it’s “friends” when they become a liability.

                Having said that, that still doesn’t change my point. In this election Saakashvili campaigned as the great enemy of Russia against an adversary who says he wants to improve Georgia’s relations with Russia and who Saakashvili says is a Kremlin stooge. In the event it was for the “Kremlin stooge” the Georgian people decisively voted for. That does not suggest massive hostility in Georgia to Russia.

                • Misha says:

                  Alexander, any disagreement between us appears limited on this particular matter.

                  I seem to recall our both noting at this thread that the Georgian view of Russians is pretty good, with yours truly having also noted (if not here, elsewhere) the good ties between Rusia and Georgia in the pre-Soviet and Soviet periods, as well as the good ties between the Russian and Georgian churches.

                  South Ossetia and Abkhazia are clear sticking points. On a comparative note, an influential minority of anti-Russian Ukrainians continue to have a disproportionate influence from their actual numbers. Saakashvili isn’t the only Georgian harboring an anti-Russian bias.

  62. yalensis says:

    I saw this video interview with Stanislav Apetian posted on his (=Politrash) blog. Please ignore that the Russia.ru studio setting is cheesy and the sound quality not so good. The live Skype interviews have poor sound quality. In spite of all this, still very interesting to watch:

    http://politrash-ru.livejournal.com/102142.html

    The first 30 minutes of the interview are about Navalny, and here are some interesting milestones for those like me who have been closely following the (KirovLes-SelVorik) case:
    At 11:00 (minutes) in, begins discussion of Navalny Rospil project, how he attempts to break up state-owned monopolies by accusing of corruption.
    15:30: begins discussion of KirovLes case.
    21:30: Skype interview with a lawyer (didn’t catch his name) who offers free advice to Navalny’s lawyer: Lawyer should nominate Navalny for Sakharov Prize; and in return, Navalny should nominate lawyer for Nobel.
    26:30: Skype interview with Sergei Karnaukhov. Recall that Karnaukhov is former Vice-Premiere of Kirov Region during the time of Navalny’s adventures there. He was one of the first to notice Navalny’s crooked activities with Ofitserov and attempted to blow the whistle on them. But was overriden at the time by Nikita Belykh with his “administrative resources” providing “krysha” for Navalny.
    On the topic of Belykh, Apetian expresses his opinion that Belykh was a type of “experimental” Governator, in the sense that Medvedev conducted an experiment in appointing an oppositionist liberal to this high post. Apetian does not believe that Belykh will be prosecuted for KirovLes, because it cannot be proved that he personally stole any money. (We already know that his accounts were found to be order for the Urzhumsky Distillery, there was no missing money.) Hence, his only sin was in closing his eyes to Navalny’s capers and providing “krysha” for him and his friends. Nothing criminal that could ever be proved.

  63. kirill says:

    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/syria-mortar-kills-5-wounds-8-in-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nID=31590&NewsCatID=341

    Well, there it is, the staged pretext to invade Syria. Yeah, Syrians would shell Turkey deliberately. BS.

    • Misha says:

      In the past, Turkey was essentially given clearance to bomb PKK targets in Iraq.

      The same holds true of Israel vis-a-vis its foes in Lebanon.

      In contrast, in the late 1990s, Yugoslavia had a legitimate basis to bomb KLA bases in northern Albania

      • kirill says:

        Might makes right. All the frothing from western propagandists can’t hide this aspect of western foreign policy.

        The hypocrisy of Turkey is brazen and obscene. It funds foreign militants fighting in Syria and then screams about some shell (fired by most likely its own agents) hitting one of its villages. The only consolation is that the day of reckoning for NATO is approaching. It is doing nothing to wean itself off the fossil fuel addiction and it is not ready for the economic devastation that will result starting after 2020 or 2030 at the latest.

  64. Moscow Exile says:

    And now for something completely different….

    Latynina in today’s Moscow Times waxes lyrical on the wondrous nature of the so-called co-ordinating council of the so-called Russian opposition and the sterling efforts of those whom she considers the leading lights of the “opposition”, namely Navalny and Kasparov in neutralising the efforts of nationalists and leftists amongst the opposition in heir attempts to gain control of the “opposition movement”. Navalny and Kasparov are praised by Latynina because, in her opinion, largely through their successful manoeuvring the Kremlin, which “has scared everyone into thinking that Communists and neo-Nazis dominate the opposition and that a revolution would bring extremists to power”, has been revealed to have been crying wolf about this threat and it is now clear “that the leftists and neo-Nazis don’t have thousands of supporters as previously thought, but hundreds at best”.

    Does Latynina really live on the same planet as the rest of us? Specifically, is she really resident in Moscow – this Moscow and not another one in a parallel dimension?

    A commentator to Latynina’s article clearly thinks not:

    “Ms. Latynina is missing three critical points. First, the concerns about the neo-Nazis and the Communists arise from their dominant presence at the most recent series of street demonstrations. They are absolutely valid concerns. I am not the Kremlin, I am an ardent and committed foe of the Kremlin, but I advance them. The photographs of the events make it quite clear that the rest of the opposition was not able to match them in getting people onto the streets, and in that respect revealed themselves as miserable failures. Second, Navalny promised that the street demonstrations would grow vastly, tenfold. The exact opposite happened, they shrank tenfold. Navalny is an abysmal failure in motivating his followers to take real political action, and his followers are strictly limited to the city of Moscow, and they are a very small group. It simply makes no difference what takes place at these elections, because it will not change these basic facts. And third, most important, there is simply no evidence at all that the elections will actually cause the opposition to unify. Even if there were, there is no evidence that they will anoint a leader bold and charismatic enough to actually implement any meaningful opposition policies. So no matter what happens, the opposition will remain a shadow and a sham. In other words, it will remain Russian”.

    Apart from the last sentence in the above response to the article, I agree with everything that that commentator has written.

    I must need treatment!

    The commentator is La Russophobe!

    See: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/navalny-1-udaltsov-0/469168.html

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, she lights into Brian Whitmore from time to time also, at The Power Vertical; he tends to have a mooncalf adoration for Navalny and all the diverse flotsam and jetsam of the liberal opposition, regularly penning admiring articles that aspire to cliffhanger excitement about what those madcap liberals will do next. Quite often when he writes something about Navalny, La Russophobe shows up with a reality enenma for him, to which he never responds. She used to be in love with that blog’s co-host, Robert Coalson, who had a decidedly more acidic flavour to his commentary on Russia and tended to be snide and contemptuous, whereas Whitmore was a bit more balanced and reasoned. Since Coalson’s exit, he seems to have assumed the responsibility for generating bitter small-mindedness where the Russian government is concerned – descending into wild hyperbole over everything it does – while embracing the opposition like long-lost relatives, and is one of the few who still stubbornly maintains that Navalny is an “anti-corruption whistleblower”.

      Anyway, if I wasn’t so tired I would dig into it a little bit and see if La Russophobe ever had a Navalny crush, and just became disillusioned, or if she actually pegged him as a loser from the start. But on the rare occasions I read her material, she is contemptuous of him and reckons he is just a big poser, which of course he is. She has generated commentary at The Power Vertical on the subject of Navalny with which I completely agree. But it’s important to remember she is as barking mad as she ever was and just as prone to write absolute rubbish about Russia that would not look out of place in one of Latynina’s science-fiction novels.

      It is, however, unusual to see her take on Latynina, whom she used to regularly canonize as a “hero journalist”. And she seems to have a real thing about Navalny, although she’s not obsessive on the subject and mostly dismisses him as the conceited prat he is.

      Well, I guess I’m not as tired as I thought. Here she is flipping out on Navalny himself, for not embracing his feminine side. And, if you can believe it, referring to him as a “clueless freak on his way to jail”. All in English, although the individual claiming to be Navalny (looks genuine to me) spoke in Russian. And here, disparaging him as a phony leader who inspires even less confidence than Zyuganov. And yes, if you go back far enough, she had at least one foot on the Navalny bandwagon, but maybe she went off him because he wasn’t enough of an irritant to Vladimir Putin.

      • Misha says:

        Mark, with hesitation I reply to your LR comments by noting that he/she/it loathes Navalny for his supposed “nationalism”, to mean that anyone of Russian heritage deemed as expressing a pride in Russia (putting aside the degree of how true that sentiment) is circumspect.

        This point relates to the Captive Nations Committee mindset of anti-Russian/anti-Communist (LR) contrasted with pro-Russian/anti-Communist (…. : ).

        As has been noted elsewhere, Whitmore leans in the direction of his overall selection of “Russia watchers”.

      • yalensis says:

        Extremely interesting research, @mark. If you can do all that when you’re tired, imagine what you could do in full vim and vigor!
        Seems like in earlier days LaRussophobe WANTED to like Navalny, because everybody else was saying how great he was; but deep down she couldn’t go along with the herd mentality and ended up rebelling even against her own herd leaders. I think she always sensed (call it feminine intuition), that there was something deeply wrong with Navalny, even though everybody else kept insisting that he was THE ONE.
        Then, when Pussy Riot incident occurred, LR felt that Navalny initially waffled, he made some earlier cracks about them indicating that he didn’t really like them or approve of them. (I think he had said something like he wouldn’t want his daughters to behave in such a disgusting way.) Then later, after a dope slap from his American handlers, Navalny came out more decisively for them, when Pussy support became an ideological red line in the anti-Putin movement. But LR evidently did not forgive Navalny for his earlier perceived anti-feminist stance. She believes that Navalny disrespects women, and she is probably right about that. (As opposed to her hero, Boris Nemtsov, who is a prince of chivalry!)
        Also, I don’t see anything unusual in her replying in English to Navalny’s Russian tweet. She apparently can read Russian, but chooses to write in English, because her English is better than her Russian. That’s fine, nothing wrong with that. Reading and writing are two separate skills. I love her comment calling Navalny a “clueless freak on his way to jail”. I think she thinks he is guilty of the petty embezzlement for which he has been charged. Once again deviating from the herd POV, according to which Navalny is innocent of all charges and a political martyr of the bloody regime, led by proud KGB Colonel You-Know-Who.

        • Misha says:

          Alexander, FYI, LR used to acknowledge using a “David Essel” for translation purposes. LR has botched up in a number of instances, like not immediately picking up on a Russian tennis player being of Georgian origin, when that player’s name had a Georgian surname.

          LR is “clever” enough to duck a live one hour BBC World Service Radio appearance, which qualitatively turned out for the better. The attention given to such “brilliance” (cowardly ducking out of earnest dialogue, while lobbing pot shots from a safe distance) is indicative of how ****** up the coverage is.

          • Dear Misha,

            I don’t say La Russophobe is brilliant. She is by her own admission bigotted and prejudiced and frantically anti Russian. I merely say she is too clever to be an effective anti Putin propagandist. She understood right from the outset that the protests last winter were going nowhere, she has seen through the hollowness of Navalny & Co and she understands the absurdity of the new “Council”. That suggests someone with a far better grip on reality than the likes of Latynina & Co or the dismal constellation of western journalists that write about Russia.

            • Misha says:

              La Russophobe versus Latynina – some choices.

              Umland has spoken against the LR element. My formally written commentary approaches the subjects in an academically earnest manner by presenting different views to a given situation in a relatively objective manner (we all have biases to one degree or another), with support for a position by presenting facts and fact based opinions.

              JRL promoted Whitmore sees it fit to link LR unlike some other “Russia watchers” is one tell all sign of what’s qualitatively wrong with the coverage.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              As regards the “absurdity of the council”, here’s a spoof on said council, entitled “The Central Committee of the Bolotnaya Politburo” that appeared a few days back in Komsomolskaya Pravda:

              http://www.kp.ru/daily/25959/2899385/

              Translation (rough and ready one!):

              All Power to the Opposition Coordinating Council?

              Komsomolskaya Pravda has become aware of the details of a sensational report made by political scientists about the non-systemic opposition leaders [full report]:

              The main task of the “white ribbon movement” at the current stage of elections for the Opposition Coordinating Council (OCC). The declared objectives of the OCC is that it must seize all power in the period of transition when the current regime is running scared of meetings and marches and flees the Kremlin. However, not all political scholars share this view.

              One of those sceptics, political analyst Pavel Danilin, heads a group of experts and basically believes that the real goal of an OCC is to “create and legitimize by means of an election a decision making institution that is controlled by a small group of VIP-protesters – a kind of Bolotnaya Square Politburo”.

              This Politburo should provide legitimate cover for those few people who already have a place on the podium and in the media on behalf of the protesters. In his opinion, “the organizers of the elections did not pose a challenge to update the composition of the rostrum with new and popular persons. Quite the opposite in fact! All parties are participating in the elections, but the unspoken purpose of the OCC is to stop the rotation of protest leaders and fix the opposition line front men, if only during the summer of the current year”. That is to say, they do everything to prevent new faces from appearing amongst the leaders and moreover, curtail new slogans that old leaders might not understand how to use – all the more so because the movement’s resources deflate just as its organizers’ ratings do.

              Danilin’s report has turned up at KP and we have decided to acquaint you with some of the most interesting extracts concerning specific persons from the new Politburo.

              And so:

              Alexei Navalny: “Head of the Politburo; “Bolotnaya President”; political leader and authority (symbol of the “purity” of the opposition); sets benchmarks for the development of the whole protest movement…

              Successes in the power struggle: for many years has fought with thieves and rogues, drilling-rig windmills in VTB, Transneft and Gazprom, but has found and smashed only Maxim “Tesaka” Marcinkiewicz (known nationalist – ed.)

              Having become “politician of the year 2011”, in competition with Putin on the popular election font; preferred rivalry with M. Katz (oppositional Deputy of Shchukinsky Moscow Municipal District – ed) on Internet election for the OCC.

              Was able to lead a crowd against the Kremlin, but instead occupied the Abai monument and seized power on the Aeroflot Board of Directors.
              Learnt how to audit multibillion dollar state budgets, but never mastered the rules of Google email removal.

              Sergei Udaltsov: Vice President of Bolotnaya and the Fountain.
              “The moral authority (symbol of Bolotnaya “sincerity”); sets benchmarks for the leftist part of the protest; provides a bunch of political and social protest, as well as a bunch of moderate protesters and radicals…

              Successes in the struggle for power: went to the Kremlin, fell into a fountain.
              Entry in the history of the revolutionary movement: “Udaltsov on Top of an Outdoor Shithouse” appears in the same line as “Lenin on Top of an Armoured Car”.
              Led a “March of Millions” in which 16 thousand people took part.
              Tricked the Federal Guard Service of the Russian Federation and brought a shoe with him to a meeting with Medvedev, but didn’t learn his lines and forgot to bang it on the table.

              Did something that even eluded Zhirinovsky; caused G. Zyuganov to have a heart attack.
              Reconciled left-radicals with the glamour girls K. Sobchak and B.Rynska.
              6th May: sat people in a puddle at Bolotnaya.

              Creator of the market of affordable rented housing for protest activists (special terms for those held on administrative charges).

              An example of how a professor’s son and grandson of an academician and an ambassador can successfully imitate a simple factory hand whose experience is limited to industrial areas.

              Boris Nemtsov: Finance Minister; “Bolotnaya Bag Man”

              “The attraction of financing protest activities, leftist Liberals and left-wing radicals, as well as their guide (” Solidarity “,” Left Front “)…

              Successes in the struggle for power: succumbed to love charms of B.Rynska and saved the Bolotnaya Organizing Committee from her penetration.

              Flew over Russia with Chubais and Khakamada in a white aeroplane, and then, as shown by the elections, flew on plywood.

              Successfully led the protesters from Revolution Square to Bolotnaya after having become the progenitor of the Bolotnaya movement.

              Published compromising materials on all opposition leaders, making it clear that he would write a new report – “Bolotnaya: the results”.

              Promised to have all civil servants using a “Volga”, but has demonstrated a rare love for foreign car makers.

              Often does touching poses for photographers in the metro, forgetting that his electorate never uses it.

              Ilya Ponomarev: Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs; “Zurabov of Bolotnaya” [Zurabov – former Russian ambassador to the Ukraine – Moscow Exile].

              “Responsible for the link between political protest and the social organization of protest in the regions; provides the parliamentary presence of Bolotnaya and is the Bolotnaya leader in ‘Fair Russia’…

              Successes in the struggle for power: successfully introducing a revolutionary idea into the lair of the enemy; the first to wear a white ribbon in the State Duma; has made inroads amongst the participants of the “Seliger” forum, recruiting members of “United Russia” into the framework of joint legislative work.

              Went to Siberia for the “white autorace” and as a deputy with impunity, violated traffic rules when it was time to prepare “the autumn offensive against the crooks and thieves” in Moscow.

              For example Lenin wins financial support for the Socialist Revolution off oligarchs, allowing them to feel like Savva Morozov [turn of 20th century governor of Moscow region – Moscow Exile].

              The only one of the left-wing politicians that has managed to occupy three positions at the same time: to be accepted by the left opposition, the oligarchs and the bureaucrats.

              In the fierce struggle for the ideals of socialism has managed to become a millionaire.
              Gennady Gudkov: Foreign Ministry, “Bolotnaya Paramilitary Security”, candidate for the flying-out of politburo members after the expiry of their mandate and the collapse of their business.

              “He was responsible for the security of opposition activities and negotiations with the Interior Ministry; could provide power resource in case of need…

              Didn’t take care of his health while fighting for power, as he has caused himself to suffer from amnesia. “We shall make the mandates”, shouted Gudkov from the Bolotnaya stage last winter only to kneel in prayer 9 months later to the “illegitimate government” about preserving his mandate.

              Waging an uncompromising struggle against car blinkers for the priviliged, has categorically refused to remove the blinker from his vehicles..

              In his time has denounced E. Limonov as a dangerous extremist and prevented in advance his entry into the Organization of future meetings.

              Set off on the path of atonement, honestly confessing that he had beeen engaged in a commercial activity when a Duma Deputy, but made this courageous step a little too late.

              By means of his ChOP [private security firm- Moscow Exile] successfully defended the Kremlin from invasion by the opposition in the winter 2011/12, leading the protest into the Bolotnaya ghetto. At rallies, Gudkov’s security men successfully prevented attempts by nationalists to be allowed to speak.

              Together with V. Ryzhkov has developed a plan of making “Fair Russia” into a truly liberal opposition party by ousting S. Mironova, but has failed to implement it.
              Has proven in practice the fairness of the saying: “He’s just a stuffed scarecrow”, having infiltrated the State Duma after the loss of his mandate, albeit in the humiliating role of assistant to his own son.

              Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: Secretary of the Central Committee on Ideology, “the conscience of the Bolotnaya nation”.

              “Has responded for the cultural component of the Bolotnaya protest and anti-church orientation of the opposition. In future, will be used by Bolotnaya as ‘a victim of political repression’”. In case of early releasel from a prison colony, could become a victim of provocation (like the Ukrainian Gongadze case) [Murdered Ukrainian journalist of Gruzian descent – Moscow Exile]. This will enable Bolotnaya to provide the the West with its first victim of a bloody regime”.

              Successes in the struggle for power: has become the main “political prisoner”.
              Has revitalized hatred towards the Russian Orthodox Church and religion amongst the protest intellectuals to that level achieved by the Bolsheviks.

              Has legitimised public orgies and the hanging of dummy gastarbeiter into truly oppositional acts.

              Has managed to cause the Bolotnaya leaders to fall out with the majority of the population of the country.

              Has dragged the Bolotnaya protest movement out of a dead end and given the opposition a new slogan: “Free Pussy Riot!”

              Together with her husband, Peter Verzilov, has successfully handed over the Petersburg activist group “Voina” and activists of “Marches of Dissent” to law enforcement authorities.

              Ksenia Sobchak: Minister without Portfolio for liaison with the community, “The Mistress of Glamour”.

              “Is responsible for the distribution of fashion when protesting in glamorous environments in order to attract the attention of youth to politicized opposition. Active in the popularization of the head of “Bolotnaya Youth”, I. Yashina, with whom her romance has become really public. Has the highest personal anti-rating amongst the whole of the Bolotnaya Politburo…

              Successes in the struggle for power: leaving Federal TV broadcasting and twittering about it, thereby showing the protest leaders an example of true renunciation of secular benefits for the sake of the struggle for power.

              FULL TEXT OF REPORT

              End of translation

              • marknesop says:

                The Bolotnaya Politburo. That has the ring of a phrase with long legs; I think it’s going to catch on. I like it a lot, and mean to use it in further conversations. Should also be required reading for anyone who says Russians are a dour people with no sense of humour, especially the Navalny part, where somebody who can’t even master GMail is claiming the cred to audit multibillion-dollar accounts.

              • yalensis says:

                Amusing article and brilliant translation, @Exile. I got a good laugh. Thanks!

    • Misha says:

      Another gem from that venue Moscow Exile.

      Stephen Cohen isn’t the only one with media criticism:

      http://www.eurasiareview.com/02102012-post-soviet-tv-experts-how-unwary-journalists-help-dilettante-analysts-spoil-reforms-in-former-ussr-oped/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+eurasiareview%2FVsnE+%28Eurasia+Review%29

      Judging from Andreas Umland’s piece, I’m sure that the likes of The Moscow Times, Yulia Latynina and openDemocracy are way off his radar for quality control scrutiny.

      The below quoted is in line with the reasoned assessment that paper credentials alone don’t always serve as a good measurement of analytical skills. It’s therefore academically inappropriate to question the ability of someone without DIRECTLY responding to their views.

      “Umland’s condescending essay doesn’t take into consideration the conformity involved (with a number of academic, think tank and media venues), which restricts intelligent discourse.”

      ****

      Over the course of time, Umland has referenced a good amount of my commentary, while not offering any follow-up – despite the two of us having some obvious disagreement.

      I recently had an exchange with someone who exhibited an attitude on what has been primarily wrong with the coverage. Seeing how that frank conversation was privately between two people, I’ll refrain from providing the specifics, while noting that his comments were stated as part of a consensus within his grouping. On that last point, I answered by noting how others are turned off by a high above the clouds mindset that seems to be hypocritically and inaccurately evident in certain circles.

      Rather than challenge the analytical quality of a source in question, the person I interacted with hypocritically and inaccurately criticized the personal manner of that source as a reason to reject his participation at a venue – never minding the (put mildly) dubious acts of some of the people that have been willingly promoted/utilized by that venue. In one form or another, personal attacks have been used as a basis to essentially duck certain realities.

      Within objectivity, quality analysis can be reasonably surmised by the originality of perspective, inclusive of supporting points, in addition to the willingness and ability to defend them.

      From the look of things, this kind of earnest analytical insight is lacking among the more high profile of venues.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        So-called expert Latynina must be surely miffed now that her certain prediction that the newly inaugurated President Putin’s first move would be to order an invasion of Gruzia will not come to fruition now that a “Kremlin Stooge” has been successfully implanted as leader of the Gruzian government.

      • As I think I have said before about La Russophobe, her problem is that she is too clever for what she does. I suspect that she will have made lots of enemies within what passes for the Russian opposition over the course of the last year.

        For the rest La Russophobe is of course absolutely right. The liberal opposition is pathetic. They cannot unite. They will not join one of the two liberal parties that already exist and which participated in the parliamentary elections. They will not join Yabloko, which is far and away the biggest liberal party and the oldest. They have already fragmented into a score of microgrouplets they pretend are parties. They cannot win elections. They cannot organise protests without these being taken over by ultra Leftists led by Udaltsov. So to hide their failure from their foreign sponsors and themselves instead of competing in real elections they stage sham “elections” to a “coordinating Council” that coordinates nothing. Yet with people like Ryzhkov, Kasyanov, Limonov and Ponomariev refusing to participate it looks like this “Council” has split before it is even established.

        For the rest the biggest opposition party by far is the KPRF which is of course a Marxist party but one which of course does not exist in the alternative universe that Latynina inhabits.

        • yalensis says:

          Being of suspicious mind (hey, I AM a Russian after all, we’re supposed to be paraoid, right?) I see something sinister in the way these sham elections were organized over the internet. “Voters” were forced to authenticate themselves via a passport photo; and also had to provide a valid money transfer via Paypal or some other such service. (I still couldn’t figure out how the passport photo thing worked, I got the impression that people were supposed to take a camera-phone pic of themselves holding their passport and upload this image to the website; still not sure though. Obviously, I did not participate, and even if I wanted to, I doubt if I could have figured out how to do it, since I don’t even own a smartphone.)
          But anyhow, I think people can see the direction I am going in: using all this data, Navalny and his handlers have been able to put together quite a database (tens of thousands of people, so they claim) of Russian dissidents. This provides CIA with a pool of potential recruits. And also (since database will no doubt be hacked by somebody like Hell, given Navalny’s track record with internet security), will provide FSB with similar database of potential enemies. Thus saving everybody quite a lot of time.

          • Dear Yalensis,

            Anyone foolish enough to give Navalny money and his passport photograph in order to participate in this “election” is a complete moron.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            ” I AM a Russian after all, we’re supposed to be paraoid, right?”

            Reminds me of that great Joseph Heller line:

            “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you!”

            • yalensis says:

              Haha! You can’t trust anybody these days. As Boris says, “It’s not the words that count. It’s the thought behind them.”

        • Dear Misha,

          I don’t think Umland’s point is really about the media. The point he is making (and it is an entirely valid one) is that since the USSR collapsed political, economic and social punditry and analysis in the former Soviet states has been largely monopolised by all sorts of dubious characters who have no academic or professional background or credentials and who give themselves an appearance of importance by pretending to head some centre or institute that in reality consists entirely of themselves.

          This was until very recently entirely true. The English language editions of Russian newspapers and news media I can read were littered with quotes from various “experts” whose comments were invariably so juvenile that it was impossible to take them seriously. In this respect the post Soviet press was far below the standard of the Soviet press. If one cut through the obligatory Marxist verbiage the standard of commentary and analysis in such Soviet publications as Mezhduradnoya Zhizn, Novaya Vremya and even Pravda was extremely high. I suspect the reason was that when the USSR collapsed the established analysts and commentators as figures of the former Soviet establishment and as people trained as Marxists were no longer acceptable to what had become a liberal dominated government and an overwhelmingly liberal media establishment. They were therefore replaced by the various amateurs and charlatans Umland complains about.

          I have to say however that recentlly things have begun to get better. Fyodor Lukyanov and Dmitri Babich seem to me outstanding commentators and analysts and as good as any you will find anywhere.

          • Misha says:

            Alexander, IMO and that of some others, there’s a snide aspect behind what Umland deems as “expertise”. Like I said, paper credentials don’t necessarily make for a great analyst.

            Someone expressed these views of the Umland piece:

            “A lovely fairy tale. Back in the real world, the function of mass media is to entertain, attract audience share, and provide a opportunity for advertisers to push their products. Propositions presented to a mass audience should be simple, easily understood (without advanced education or thought), and categorical. There is no place for a real expert in mass media. A real expert? Boring! Incomprehensible!

            This is not the fault of the journalists. It is the nature of the beast. And like the tiger and the leopard, mass media is not likely to change its stripes and spots anytime soon.

            Attention would be better directed to the question of how to increase the demand from the decision makers and political elites for genuine expert advice and counsel.”

            ****

            When employed by The Moscow Times, I recall Babich saying some very Moscow Times kind of things. Lukyanov is by no means the end all of great thought provoking punditry.

            I’m not into a carte blanche promotion of the existing status quo, when there’s room for improvement, that’s being shunned for either political biases and/or a crony desire to not let some others exhibit their talents in a high profile situation.

          • kirill says:

            This is basically a variation on the carpetbagger theme (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpetbagger). Opportunists move into distressed regions to take advantage. The collapsed USSR is like the Old South after the civil war and the Northerners are akin to the westerners moving in to loot and manipulate.

            Not surprising that Umland does not recognize any academics. The whole process is anything but enlightened and more closely resembles a piranha feeding frenzy.

            • Misha says:

              He seems quite willing to readily acknowledge certain kinds of “academics”, as in the ones favoring a particular view.

              In actuality, an academic approach pertains to conducting a detailed research, involving primary and secondary source material, along with presenting conclusive thoughts, based on facts and fact based opinions, that take into consideration opposing views. “Political science” is a soft science, which IMO is better defined as political studies.

              Having paper credentials shouldn’t serve as a license to skirt these particulars. People should be judged on what they substantively offer as opposed to politically biased and/or crony appointments.

              At the more high profile of venues, there has been a very much recycled approach of the same sources, which in turn has blocked out some different and valid input. This situations turns off a good number.

              If the goal is to really improve the coverage, there’s a good deal which can be promptly done.

  65. Misha says:

    No great surprise:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9585945/Turkey-shells-Syria-live.html

    ———————

    On what might be next for Saakashvili:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/georgia-will-outgoing-leaders-play-spoiler/24728253.html

    ———————

    Lavrov watch:

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/russias-lavrov-skipped-big-powers-iran-meeting-u-231913241.html

    http://www.canada.com/news/Russian+comes+Pakistan+improve+ties+after+Putin+postpones+trip/7340694/story.html

    As Lavrov is set to visit Pakistan in place of Putin, one other news item suggested a cancelled Russia-Indian defense related meeting was a Russian snub of India.

    In evidence is analysis of Lavrov snubbing a key UN meeting, Putin snubbing Pakistan with Lavrov as a substitute and Russia dissing India – perceptions that might be more of an over analysis than a decidedly pointed series of manner.

    ———————

    Regarding an earlier discussed hypocrisy issue on a given Olympic venue vis-a-vis those categorized as indigenous:

    http://rbth.ru/articles/2012/10/04/russia_needs_to_sort_out_the_caucasian_issue_before_sochi_olympics_18813.html

    Written by a DC based Russian with US think tank ties, it’s fair to say that this piece (posted at a RIAN affiliated venue) is in line with Western mass media preferences.

    ———————

    Concerning the idea of a Jewish homeland:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/world/europe/jewish-homeland-in-birobidzhan-russia-retains-appeal.html?ref=world

    Excerpt –

    Unlike other places contemplated for Jewish resettlement over the years, like Uganda or Alaska or Japan, Birobidzhan, (pronounced bi-ra-bi-JAN) cannot be written off as a historical footnote or dismissed as fiction. Though it never became the agrarian, socialist-Jewish utopia that some founders envisioned, Birobidzhan remains a Jewish place.

  66. kirill says:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/lithuania-hits-russias-gazprom-with-19-billion-arbitration-claim-for-alleged-price-gouging/2012/10/03/44d36d5e-0d4e-11e2-ba6c-07bd866eb71a_story.html

    Baltic twits at it again. Gazprom should invoke the argument that they charged much less than Norway for gas for most the last 12 years. Let’s see some consumer in the west march into their local shop and demand to set the price to the level they want it.

  67. kirill says:

    http://en.rian.ru/crime/20121004/176405405.html

    Well, cry me a river. Will everyone who gets threats and harassment now get an article on their case in the media?

    I hope these scumbags get threats all the time. They need some fire under their 5th columnist a**es. I believe one of the “Russian” HRW drones was busily dismissing the victims of MLRS and artillery attacks by Saaki’s troops in the middle of the night on Tskhinval in August of 2008. No sympathy for such slime whatsoever. HRW tried to fob off an Israeli cluster bomb casing as being Russian (the morons). I guess “human rights” only applies to Washington lackeys.

    • Misha says:

      You might recall Tregubova’s claims from a few years back. In that instance, there was some question on her claims. Clicking sounds on a phone aren’t necessarily the result of big brother. If I’m not mistaken, the explosion in her apartment complex was closer to the landlord’s residence than hers. A landlord who was (if I’m not mistaken) under investigation for criminal activity.

      I came across an excerpt in Harding’s book when he says that he came into his apartment with an item or items being re-arranged – suggesting some psychological pressure against him. As has been discussed at this blog and elsewhere, there’s also the matter of how Harding has spun things in an inaccurate way. As difficult as it might be for some to believe, others tell some very lies.

      All this said, personal harassment in reply to what someone has said/done within legal bounds isn’t something that IMO should be belittled. Giving a political opinion can lead to such harassment, thereby explaining why a good number refrain from openly expressing their views.

      The last paragraph is by no means exclusive to the former USSR and applies to the “free world”.

      • kirill says:

        There is a fine line between opinion and information terrorism. Paid foreign shills need harassment. Just imagine what would happen in the “free” USA if there was someone like Chirikova attacking the electorate and running for office at the same time. Similarly, let’s see some “human rights fighter” apologize for war crimes by foreign governments in the USA. Americans are harassed and threatened for much less than this tw*t. It’s bad and good at the same time like most things in this non black and white world.

        • Misha says:

          I’m for constructive engagement in the form of openly challenging such individuals in a relatively well moderated high profile, open forum kind of situation, which can involve media and/or think tanks.

          From a reasoned pro-Russian perspective, this kind of situation has been qualitatively lacking. The neocons and neolibs can only be faulted so much for the ongoing status quo. RT and some others could and should be doing more.

      • Leos Tomicek says:

        It requires a thick skin to express views that excite passions.

        • Misha says:

          A good deal of hypocrisy taking the form of those who dish it out, while not being as accepting when their manner is shoved back at them – a point relating to what’s really wrong with the coverage among the more high profile of venues.

    • marknesop says:

      And yes, yes, it’s all part of a “Kremlin crackdown”. Really, when you think about it, Putin has been cracking down for as long as he’s been in office in any capacity – I dispute if there is any further down he can crack. In fact, freedom must have been pretty much wiped out now, so that you probably need a Kremlin pass to go down to the magazina for a jar of pickled beets. It’s good of him to put on a dog-and-pony show for western tourists whenever they visit, though, so that they don’t notice the streets are empty except for marching troops and a few furtive, scurrying residents like the way it is when there are no tourists there. Hey, if a crackdown happens in Moscow and there’s no Human Rights Activist there to hear it, does it make a sound? I wonder how the bars and restaurants stay in business, now that Putin has cracked down so far that there is no freedom left whatsoever. Try this, just for fun – say “Kremlin crackdown” out loud 500 times without stopping, except to draw breath. You will find the phrase loses all meaning after about 300. Which is just about where I’m at. The phrase, “Kremlin crackdown” is wasted on me, because it has lost its sting through promiscuous overuse.

      Also, naturally, it must be somebody who has the resources and free time to track her 24 hours a day, who can tap her phone with ease and who has no scruples about threatening her unborn child (cough* FSB * cough).

      • Misha says:

        There seems to be a bit of an irony regarding some of the critics of Putin. He comes across as being more tolerant of criticism than them.

    • Misha says:

      Regarding that HRW affiliated Russian brought up earlier by Kirill at this thread:

      http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/10/05/putins-miscalculation

      Kenneth Roth, the author of the above piece has been HRW’s undemocratically selected executive director for quite some time – offhand, I think longer than Putin has been the elected Russian president. At HRW, has there been any disagreement with Roth’s positions?

      Concerning what Moscow Exile said, the above piece starts from the get go with a link to Putin.

  68. Misha says:

    Another Al Arabiya exclusive:

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/160558

    This claim seems more believable than the one concerning Russia and a downed Turkish jet.

    While Al Arabiya’s claimed proof (from the anti-Syrian government opposition) might be crock, it’s nevertheless within reason to believe that Israel and Syria might’ve reached some off record understanding

    • marknesop says:

      I highly doubt it. The entire document sounds as if it were written by the rebels. Turkish pilots downed in the shooting incident were deliberately executed by Damascus after consultation with Moscow?? Yes, very likely; Putin said, “You shoot those pilots right now, Bashar. And send me some more of those preserved lemons”. As if. An administrative error was “discovered by the Joint Command (Syria/Iran/Russia”??? What “Joint Command”?? Have Syria, Iran and Russia announced a formal military alliance? Conveniently, China is absent from this discussion, because the west still hopes to mend fences with China; who – not coincidentally – holds enormous amounts of western debt.

      The Commanding Officer of the Iranian Quds Force contacted Assad directly and confirmed “the chemical warheads were ready to be relocated”?? What kind of bullshit is that? How the hell would he know? He’s been under a travel ban for years. How would he know things about Syria’s chemical weapons that Assad doesn’t know, and why would he write to Assad directly instead of the Commanding Officer of 3rd Corps, headquartered in Aleppo, which is responsible for chemical and biological weapons? Is he talking about chemical weapons being moved from Iran to Syria? He doesn’t think that’d be a little risky, since American authorities have declared that as soon as Assad moves any of his chemical weapons, they will jump in his shit forthwith and directly? He decided to let Assad know that Iran thought this would be a good time to move some chemical weapons, and let him know in a letter that would take God knows how long to be delivered in a war zone, if ever, when he could have just picked up the phone and spoken in a simple code? How stupid does Al Arabiya (and Arutz Sheva) think people are?

      This is just those crude boobs, the Saudis, and their pet lunatics in Syria trying to cook up something that will send America over the edge and into war – even the Turks, who are sweating to mix it up with Syria (or say they are) say the documents look fake. This is about as believable as Bibi with his big bomb graphic at the UN. It’s a collection of every red line NATO has said will propel them over the border and charging for Damascus, all conveniently mixed in with Iran and Russia. I’m starting to think there are even worse warmongers than Bibi And The Likudniks, and they live in a monarchy that starts with “Saudi” and ends with “Arabia”.

  69. yalensis says:

    File this under “Only in Russia…”
    After losing her American USAID grant, Alexeeva, badly in need of new funding, announces she will apply to Putin for a Russian government grant.
    What a country!

    http://anna-news.info/node/7681

    • Moscow Exile says:

      And file this “Only in the Russian media….”

      Todays Moscow News compares protests and protesters in New York City and Moscow.

      The article leads thus: “Does Moscow’s protest movement have much in common with Occupy Wall Street? And what can members of either movement expect when they take to the street?”

      The Moscow protester whose opinion MT reports is a certain Baronova, who “emerged as an activist during the first mass protests for fair elections that erupted in Russia in December 2011″.

      Later she “became an aide to opposition State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov”.

      “We have neither democracy, nor autocracy”, says Baranova. “There are no rules. We have no politics.”

      Baronova wants Putin to leave office.

      Baronova now faces public order charges as regards her alleged actions perpetrated at Bolotnaya. The maximum penalty that she faces if found guilty is 10 years in a “colony”.

      So far all this is factual, although it is hardly likely that Baronova would get sent down for 10 years if found guilty.

      Right at the end of the article, however, Boronova is aked what she expects the result of her trial to be. Baronova replies: “That’s a question for Vladimir Vladimirovich”.

      And there the impressionable reader is left with the image of an evil tyrant who sits within the Kremlin ever observant and always control, whence he dictates the verdicts handed out at political trials.

      Of course, that Putin dictates the verdicts of trials is only Baronova’s opinion, which, it seems, she is free to express in the Russian news media, albeit she offers not one shred of evidence to support her statement that her fate will be entirely decided by the Russian president, nor is this pointed out by Anna Arturyan, the journalist that wrote the article.

      Artuyan was born in Erevan, Armenia, in 1983 but grew up in the United States, where she studied journalism at New York University. (Some sites say she was born in Russia [see: http://www.mcgraw-hill.co.uk/html/0335228895.html%5D: some people, it seems, still cannot distinguish the difference between Russia, the Soviet Union and and a constituent Soviet Socialist Republic thereof.)

      Likewise Verzilov, Tolokonnikova’s mincing husband, states on You Tube that his wife’s is at present incarcerated because Putin ordered it.

      No concrete proof offered: just “proof” by assertion.

      And no counter statement by a spokesman for the Russian government either.

      So the lie is repeated.

      Repeat the lie.

      Repeat the lie.

      Clampdown!

      Authoritarian regime!

      Return to Stalinism!

      Pussy Riot trial a show trial similar to those of Stalin’s time…

      And on and on and on….

      See: http://www.themoscownews.com/politics/20121001/190304527.html

      • Misha says:

        People close to the Moscow media scene have likened Arutunyan to Gessen – thereby making the Ekho Moskvy spat that she had with Albats appear comedic.

        Count Arutunyan as another JRL promoted journo with a certain kind of Western mass media slant who has appeared on RT without having her biases challenged.

    • marknesop says:

      I suspect she is only asking because she expects to be refused, and that such a refusal is a necessary part of her anticipated narrative. To be fair, the Russian government’s line on the new registration laws did mention that funding exists within Russia and there is no need to swing off the foreign teat, especially one whose current policy is opposed to the present Russian government. She may well receive some funding from the Russian government. If so, that’ll give her something to angrily reject later when she says that the government is trying to censor her and steer her narrative. She should just move to Washington or something – there she’ll be amply provided with funds and flattery. In fact, that message applies to all those noisy Russian dissidents and anarchists: move to America, and complain about Russia from that vantage point. It works well for “native Muscovite” Alexei Beyer. Just be careful not to flood the market with diatribes against Russia, or interest will go down. It helps to have a second country you hate and in which you are also an expert, like Iran or Syria.

      • It’s a well known propaganda tactic – repeat the same lie endlessly and it acquires the appearance of truth.

        With apologies to Peter I discussed the whole argument about the supposed political motivation behind these trials in my second Pussy Riot post. The European Court of Human Rights supervises the Russian judicial system because Russia is a signatory of the European Convention of Human Rights. If individuals who have been convicted of criminal offences can prove that the prosecution against them was politically motivated then they have the right to refer the conviction in their case to the European Court of Human Rights which will then quash it.

        There was one famous Russian case where precisely this happened. I don’t remember the exact details but to the best of my recollection a Russian businessman was imprisoned and told he would only be released if he signed away his shares in his company. He did so but the European Court of Human Rights had no hesitation in striking down his conviction and in ruling that his prosecution was politically motivated.

        That was a clearcut case in whch the complainant actually had evidence to support his complaint. An assumpion of political interference in a case is not evidence of political interference in a case and merely assuming that a certain prosecution is politically motivated does not make it so especially where there is no doubt that a crime has in fact been committed.

    • Misha says:

      I’ve heard that there’s difficulty for pro-Russian advocacy positions in the US to get American government funding in contrast to what anti-Russian leaning orgs have been able to get.

      Touching on this thought, consider the Cold War era created Captive Nations Committee (greatly influenced by some people of Ukrainian background with a pro-Bandera sentiment) and how it influenced the US Congress to officially approve a “Captive Nations Week”, which recognized every Communist country as captive (including some Nazi created ones) with the exception of Russia.

      For good reason, it’s considered bigoted to collectively hold Jews as greatly responsible for Soviet wrongs. In contrast, presenting Russia/Russians with inaccurate negativity has been more acceptable.

  70. Misha says:

    In the role of Monday morning quarterback, this JRL promoted source presents some pretty obvious views:

    http://russialist.org/wordpress/the-vote-in-georgia-why-saakashvili-lost-why-ivanishvili-won-and-what-this-means-for-the-future/

    Not like the cutting edge analytical insight, which offers something different and valid from what has been repeated in English language mass media.

    • marknesop says:

      Pretty typical for Paul Goble, really; an introductory paragraph which hints that what follows will be insightful discussion of an aspect or aspects of the issue that has/have been either overlooked by everyone else, or misinterpreted by everyone else, followed by several paragraphs of exactly what everybody else already said, bookended by a summary paragraph that offers a conclusion totally unsupported by anything the author previously said. Vintage Goble. The yearning conclusion that someday Russians themselves might want to have a democratic election followed by a peaceful transfer of power just suggests – as usual – that (a) there is no use talking to Paul Goble, because his mind is made up, and (b) he has been asleep since the 90’s.

      • Misha says:

        In that particular one, nothing new was really said in relation to what has been already circulated.

        In other instances, he has uncritically recycled some questionable points raised by partisan sources – that tend to get the nod at openDemocracy among other venues.

        From the perspective of reasoned pro-Russian advocacy, it’s better to promote competenttly earnest advocates, who get muted at venues, run by folks with some misguided notions about Russia/Russians.

  71. cartman says:

    OT, but I had no idea that Finland had been seizing so many children from Russian parents:

    http://rbth.ru/articles/2012/10/05/over_fifty_children_seized_from_russian-finnish_families_18866.html

    • kirill says:

      It’s that vaunted western tolerance and respect for individual rights. These cases expose the ugly racist mentality under the thin mask created from media myths and lies.

      • Misha says:

        On a bias that’s arguably bigoted, one can reference RFE/RL.

        An earlier RFE/RL anti-Mihailovic propaganda piece:

        http://www.rferl.org/content/Public_Opinion_On_Nazi_Collaborators_Gets_Revision_In_Balkans/2036823.html

        The comments section includes some coherent counter-points. That section isn’t exactly reflective of a free press. Rather, it shows that a paid journalist has a better chance of existing as such when he/she spins a certain line.

        *********

        A just released propaganda barrage on the same subject:

        http://www.rferl.org/content/draza-mihailovic-rehabilitation-tension-in-society/24730615.html

        This is part of an ongoing RFE/RL propaganda campaign, which downplays the gruesome manner of the Croat Ustasha, while providing negatively inaccurate characterizations of Serbs/Serbia, including Draza Mihailovic and his forces.

        On a related note, RFE/RL ran a recent piece on Serb Orthodox Christian priest with abusive actions stated against him. In contrast, RFE/RL appears to have had nothing on this story involving a Croat Catholic:

        http://www.b92.net/eng/news/region-article.php?yyyy=2012&mm=08&dd=23&nav_id=81890

        If anything, the above linked B92 leans more towards a pro-Partizan than pro-Chetnik stance.

        THERE’S NO COMPARING THE NAZI ALLIED LEGACY OF THE USTASHA WITH MIHAILOVIC AND HIS FOLLOWERS – SOMETHING THAT RFE/RL HAS BLATANTLY SIDESTEPPED.

        In the above article, note the utilization of Marko Attila Hoare, who is a sleaze cloaked with paper credentials. Hoare has specialized in making bully pulpit attacks, well short of an evenly moderated point-counterpoint situation. He makes no mention of how the Ustasha negatively treated shot down Allied airmen. His claim of Mihailovc’s forces turning over Nazi pilots to the Germans should be fact checked.

        An excerpt from the above linked RFE/RL piece –

        “While some characterize Mihailovic’s trial as biased, most Western scholars — and many in Serbia — consider his dealings with the Axis Powers and his oversight of ethnic massacres to be incontrovertible facts.”

        ****

        It was a Communist show trial, lacking any semblance of objectivity. The RFE/RL article deemphasizes the support accorded to Mihailovic in the West, as well as other issues like the Nazi wanted posters for Mihailovic. There’s also evidence of Partizan-Nazi collaboration – something that was acknowledged by people who were within Tito’s inner circle. As used, “most Western scholars” is dubious given that most scholars aren’t well versed on this historical matter, with some others having questionable slants. A brutal war was fought with deaths on all sides. Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki aren’t referred to as “ethnic massacres”. The Serbs had nothing matching Jasenovac.

        For a balanced perspective: as a counterweight to Hoare, RFE/RL could’ve taken into consideration the points noted in this book, which utilizes primary source material:

        • Misha says:

          Regarding Hoare’s pro-Partizan/anti-Chetnik lean, which includes describing the Chetniks as “opportunists”: unlike Tito, Mihailovic’s forces opposed the Nazis before the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union. This makes sense, given Tito’s Communist ties with the Soviet Union. Following WW II, Tito played let’s make a deal with the West, followed by a policy that can be termed as seeking to simultaneously get the best from the West and Soviet bloc.

          The suggestion that the Partizans were free of committing atrocities is sheer crock.

  72. Misha says:

    Latest Buchanan:

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/05102012-patrick-buchanan-folks-we-have-a-brand-new-ballgame-oped/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+eurasiareview%2FVsnE+%28Eurasia+Review%29

    Be interesting to see how the foreign policy issues are discussed in the upcoming foreign policy debate on October 16 at Hofstra University.

    Iran, the Syrian conflict and dealing with China are foreign policy topics getting stressed in the presidential campaign. Russia will surely find it way as well.

    I once again recall the 2000 Kerry-Bush foreign policy debate, when Russia took up more time than China and the Middle East – with Kerry attacking Bush for being “soft” on Russia. At times, politicians use some issues as a political football.

    ————–

    Claim that Saakashvili lost by a wider margin than recorded:

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/04102012-georgia-dream-claims-won-more-mp-seats-than-official-results-show/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+eurasiareview%2FVsnE+%28Eurasia+Review%29

    ————–

    On Syrian-Turkish relations:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/10/05/turkey-plays-chicken-for-nato/

    http://sana.sy/eng/22/2012/10/05/445388.htm

  73. Misha says:

    Geopolitical comedy:

    http://www.voanews.com/content/soviet-union-light-future-putin-russia/1521341.html

    Excerpt –

    “Why did Putin say he wanted a Eurasian Union in place by 2015?

    By then, some Moscow analysts predict the United States will be fully out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Washington will refocus its attention on Russia.

    Of course, if Mitt Romney wins next month’s U.S. presidential election, that day could come sooner. The Republican candidate has singled out Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe.”

    ****

    Chalk up another JRL promoted source lacking substantive analysis when compared to some others not getting as much high profile treatment.

    The author of the above piece seems to have some kind of a fetish for thinking that Russia’s fate (refer to his earlier WW II bit) and decision making revolves around his very faulty red, white and bull mindset.

      • Misha says:

        Pardon the mishap. I’ll add that:

        America has a great deal to be proud of. Responsible patriotism shouldn’t be confused with a jingoism that can include overplaying the role of a given nation.
        On Russia, Romney has said some (put mildly) questionable things, which should make for an interesting October 16 foreign policy debate between him and Obama.

        • Misha says:

          Besides, Romney has a reputation for flip flopping.

          As Americna prez, there’s little he can substantively do if Russia and some other former Soviet republics arrange for closer ties in a practically based manner.

  74. Moscow Exile says:

    Anatomy of Protest – Part 2

    Shown last Thursday – a continuation of the NTV exposé of the alleged trickery and provocations that the “opposition” has been using in its protest movement. Part 2 focuses on Udaltsov’s activities. (Not too far off-topic, as in the documentary there is exposed a Gruzian connection with the traitor Udaltsov.)

    Udaltsov has, of course, been kicking up a fuss about this 2nd documentary – all lies he says, a sentiment so eruditely expressed in the You Tube comments to this video:

    Пиздец, НТВ опять отслужилось перед диктатором. Какое же говно люди по зомбоящику смотрят, и ведь верят всей это лжи.

    [NTV has fucking well been serving the dictator again!. What shit people watch on the idiot box and then believe all these lies.]

    See:

    From the first Anatomy of Protest:

    The youth handing out food to fighters for freedom and democracy during the “White Ring” demonstration, when asked who is beind this benevolent act, simply replies: “People. We are just kind people”.

    He is probably unaware of his probable sponsors’ all too true aphorism: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    • Misha says:

      On the matter of protestors and how they get portrayed, see the RFE/RL photo of anti-Mihailovic protestors at this link:

      http://www.rferl.org/content/draza-mihailovic-rehabilitation-tension-in-society/24730615.html

      Navalny and friends have done much better, which for the sake of democratically replacing Putin isn’t saying much.

      There seems to be a zombie element with the RFE/RL photo in question. RFE/RL doesn’t seem to realize that in actuality that shot isn’t good PR for the anti-Mihailovic slant. Then again, how many serious readers of that article would pick up on this observation?

    • yalensis says:

      Same video was posted by a commenter on Navalny’s blog, but somebody (presumably Navalny) removed it.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        The oppositionists (or the US embassy) have produced a counter video to NTV’s latest “Anatomy of Protest” called “Aнатомия протеста-2. Зарещенный выпуск” (Anatomy of Protest-2. Forbidden Edition”).

        It just goes on and on about what a disaster for Ruissia Putin has been – demographic crisis, the only increase in statistical figures are the numbers that are dying and /or leaving the country, corruption, vote rigging etc. In other words, the stuff pumped out daily by the CIA and Russian “experts” and “native Muscovites” resident in the USA, whence they fled to escape endemic Russian antisemitism, lack of freedom and human rights etc., etc., etc.

        It’s the old, old story that is shouted out ever louder the more it is contradicted.

        See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZVkQ04KYiw

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      That kompromat video with the Georgian fatso looks wicked. I hope somebody posts the whole thing in time…

      • Moscow Exile