Seeing More of the Big Picture in Ukraine

Uncle Volodya says, "Disaster is not necessary; the better world could be achieved through reason and common sense and a sense of fellowship -- but most of the present human world is dead set against us.”

Uncle Volodya says, “Disaster is not necessary; the better world could be achieved through reason and common sense and a sense of fellowship — but most of the present human world is dead set against us.”

They whisper still, the injured stones, the blunted mountains weep
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make things cheap
And say the Mea Culpa, which you’ve gradually forgot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

-Leonard Cohen, from “Steer Your Way”

A comment on the previous post reminded me of how informative it can be, particularly in the (mine)field of geopolitical analysis, to go back a year or two from the present, following a significant event, and enjoy the confident predictions of kingmakers and hacks – which could now not be much further from the situation which actually prevails.

In that spirit, let’s roll the counters back to September 18, 2013 – almost exactly three years ago.  Just before, of course, the glorious Maidan which freed Ukrainians from the oppressive yoke of Russia. At that moment in history, western analysts were trembling with eagerness to vilify Yanukovych, but were still hopeful that he would stick his head out of his shell long enough to sign the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the European Union. Washington maintains a kind of ongoing paternal affection for revolution – which is always less painful and noisy when it’s a continent or two away – but is practical enough to accept an easy victory if that’s the way it plays out.

It didn’t play out like that, of course, and an American-backed coup ensued in which Yanukovych offered to give the revolutionary political figures everything they had asked for – early elections, a provisional coalition government with the egghead among the revolutionaries as Prime Minister, the works. They were a little taken aback at how easy it was, and then decided it wasn’t enough – Yanukovych must  be holding back something if he gave in that easily, and therefore he must be tricking them, since the script called for the dictator-president to cower in fear and to be flung into the street in disgrace. So they went ahead with the traditional revolution, gaining nothing at all thereby except the ushering-in of a self-appointed revolutionary junta, and the empowerment of fervent fascist nationalists who had previously had to keep their admiration for the Nazis on the down-low.

It is worth mentioning here – because whenever it is brought up, the response ranges from amnesia to outright denial it ever happened – that the pre-revolutionary government went into it with its eyes wide open and a good working awareness of the probable consequences. Yanukovych and Azarov, at least, were briefed that cutting off trade with Russia, which Brussels and Washington insisted upon, would likely be disastrous for the Ukrainian economy. Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boiko announced that Ukraine was not blowing off the deal entirely; it was just suspending it until the state could be sure that increased trade with Europe would compensate for the loss of the Russian market. Before that, Yanukovych and Azarov tried energetically to broker a triumvirate coalition of Ukraine, Russia and the EU, to sort out the trade issues that Brussels insisted made such an arrangement impossible. Not to put too fine a point on it, Russia and Ukraine proposed a tripartite forum which would see Ukraine as a bridge between the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union. Brussels emphatically rejected it, confident that it could pry Ukraine away from Russia, because the initiative was always strategic rather than economic. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Russia, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Yulia Tymoshenko | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 845 Comments

Olympian or Politician? Make Up Your Mind.

Uncle Volodya says, "If you have the power to change the world for the better, you should do it. That's why people who do nothing are idiots, but idiots who do nothing are life-savers.”

Uncle Volodya says, “If you have the power to change the world for the better, you should do it. That’s why people who do nothing are idiots, but idiots who do nothing are life-savers.”

The latest Olympian to shoot off his cakehole to the world and bray his catastrophic ignorance is Canadian swimmer Mark Tewksbury. He tweeted earlier, although he has since taken it down, his extreme disapproval that ‘doper’ Yelana Isinbayeva had been elected to the IOC.

Isinbayeva, a three-time world champion and current world record-holder, double gold medalist for the Russian Federation and widely assessed to be the greatest pole-vaulter of all time, has never failed a drug test. Ever. But you can sort of see where ignorant know-nothings like Mark Tewksbury get the impression that everyone in Russian Track & Field is a zombie dope freak. Because of the just-as-ignorant McLaren Report, in which he and his pals on the ‘Independent Commission’ more or less acted as stenographers for Yulia and Valery Stepanov (who were paid $30,000.00 by WADA as a ‘fleeing fee’) and Grigory Rodchenkov, the central figure in Russian sports doping who is very likely parlaying it into a state-sponsored program to save himself. Grigory Rodchenkov, who previously referred to the members of the ‘Independent Commission’ as “three fools who do not understand how the Moscow lab works”.  But because his testimony was needed for political reasons, which are helping the United States of America humiliate its old and now lifelong enemy, Russia, McLaren deemed him to be credible anyway although his preliminary report assessed the exact opposite. Why? Because up as far as the preliminary report, Rodchenkov was denying everything. By the time the final report was thrown together, at just the right time to slap a national Olympic ban on Russia but leave them not enough time to undo it , Rodchenkov was singing like a canary and confessing to everything.

Confession is apparently not only good for the soul, it is also good for politically-motivated hack jobs which lack the weight of independent verification, setting in motion a rush to judgment that suits the regime-changers of North America and NATO, and feeds the hungry press a sensational story which is immediately assumed to be fact.

WADA and its foot-in-mouth-breathing soldiers would have been wise to sense, in the election of Isinbayeva, an attempt to back away from the precipice McLaren and his buddies are trying to drag us over. WADA no longer enjoys the confidence of the IOC, because it is comprised of partisan zealots who are willingly in the service of a political agenda, at the expense of sport. You can be assured that legal action will follow the Olympics, and if McLaren cannot get his ducks in a row by then, a whole lot of people are going to have egg on their faces.

So let me give you some advice, as a taxpayer who helps fund your spoiled and cosseted pursuit of sport in your discipline. If you’re at the Olympics, bully for you. You have been selected to represent your country. In politics? Check your paperwork; I’m pretty sure nobody ever asked you to perform in such a capacity. Next time you see the Foreign Minister of your country doing wind-sprints, or a tricky dismount from the horizontal beam, you can assume there’s some crossover.  Until then, keep your fucking political opinions to yourself. You’re there to swim, or run or jump or whatever. Let’s get that in perspective, what say? You’re not the discoverer of fire, or the wheel. You’re not the composer of a timeless symphony or the rescuer of a child from a burning schoolhouse. You can swim or run or jump faster or higher or further than anyone else who is involved in this competition. You are living proof that you can be the best at something, and not have a clue about anything else.

Richard McLaren does not have proof of who in the Russian Federation is a doper and who is not. What he has is witness testimony from three people who were themselves earhole-deep in doping,  and have fled their country. The IOC would not consider the election of Isinbayeva to the IOC if they were even optimistic that McLaren’s report rests on solid proof.

Everybody in the world has had it up to here with the behavior of pampered athletes abroad, from finger-wagging to rest-room-door-smashing to making up bullshit stories about robbery to sounding off about events from a dataset of zero. Stick to what you know, and the next time you’re tempted to step out of that circle, think again. Think of everybody in your country with a zipper over their mouths, and follow suit. If somebody asks you a question about your sport and your personal place in it, feel free to enlighten everyone. If you are asked a question or feel moved to publicly comment on something that is not your specialty, remember your mother’s advice; if you can’t say something nice, shut the fuck up. I’m sure she didn’t say it quite that way, but you can extrapolate a little for the times. Use your head for something other than keeping your Nicki Minaj ball cap from shrinking.

Posted in Education, Politics, Russia | Tagged , , , , , , | 1,868 Comments

Guilty Until Proven Guilty

Uncle Volodya says, "For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”

Uncle Volodya says, “For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”

“Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”

– William Penn

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.”

Ernesto Che Guevera

I can’t claim the social conscience of a Che Guevera, but it’s absolutely true that I feel more motivated to write when I am furious about something, and few things so infuriate me like smug pig-ignorance. And no smug pig-ignorance is so infuriating as that displayed by one’s own countrymen, as they happily allow themselves to be played like violins by an outside authority and exhibit their naked buttocks before the world. I really thought you were better than that, Canada.

According to the CBC – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a Crown corporation and the official voice of the nation – Russian athletes are “emerging as the villains of the Rio Olympics“. And maybe it’s just me, but the tone seems approving, self-righteous…judgy. As if the official mouthpiece of Canada is delighted to sign on to the Get Russia program offered by its southern neighbour and business partner to all its toadies and would-be chambermaids.

In a word, this is disappointing. I used that word because I didn’t want to start swearing so early, although I’m sure we’ll get to it.

Just so we’re clear – whose interests does it serve for Canada to enthusiastically sign on to booing and hooting like howler monkeys whenever Russian athletes step up to compete, like we were English football hooligans? Canada’s? How?

In fact, as everyone who is not thick as a BC pine knows, it serves Washington’s interests, because the USA wants Russia isolated and alone and friendless because it is pissed off at it for other things, and the more disrespect and ignorance and rudeness it gets from the former politeness capital of the world, the better Uncle Sam likes it. WADA is going after every medal Russia ever won, and it is not even looking at anyone else. And that entire effort rests on the credibility of two people; one who was convicted of doping herself and barred from competition for two years for it, and her husband who knew and did nothing about it while he worked for the national anti-doping agency.

We’ll get to that.

“It’s something not usually heard at the Olympic Games. Booing. Loud, sustained booing. The rain of fury is directed at a common enemy: Russian athletes. The contingent, clouded and shrouded by drug scandal, has quickly emerged as the villains of these Rio 2016 Games. Like Cold War days of old, the Russians are once again the global bad guys.

After avoiding a full Olympic ban, some wondered how fans and fellow athletes would treat Russian athletes. That answer came quickly. At the opening ceremony, even athletes from pariah nations were given polite applause. But fans interrupted the global Kumbya moment to let the Russians know their presence wasn’t welcome.” Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Russia | Tagged , , , , | 754 Comments

Who Needs Luck When Your Enemies Are Stupid?

Uncle Volodya says, "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

Uncle Volodya says, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

“People always call it luck when you have acted more sensibly than they have.”

-Anne Tyler

“Luck is a word the bitter teach the ignorant”

-Steve Maraboli; “Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience”

Perhaps this would be a good time to dispel any misconceptions about the quote which is attributed, each post, to Uncle Volodya.  See, how it works is, I make an assessment of what is the overall theme of the post: betrayal, ignorance, overconfidence, whatever. And then I search for “Quotes about…whatever”. Goodreads is a very good source, and probably the bulk of them come from there; it combines pithy aphorisms from history – Franklin, Roosevelt, Bonaparte – with modern authors, so long as they are all talking about the same aspiration, human failure or behavioral habit. Occasionally, I simply make them up myself. The only thing all of them have in common is that Putin did not ever say any of them, unless by some chance he was quoting the same source I am.

Today’s Uncle Volodyaism is actually from Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the greatest of American statesmen, orators and free thinkers. And indeed there is likely a causal link between luck and hard work. And because I am a wiseass who derives a good deal of enjoyment from seeing pompous prognosticators infuriated by the world’s unwillingness to conform to their fortune-telling, it needs some context to showcase the rich irony that is apparent to me. And here it is.

“Putin has the luck of the devil,” said Mark Galeotti, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “He can just sit back and watch this richer, more powerful and legitimate values-based bloc tear itself apart.”

Here’s the thing about being cast as the villain – the more successful you are, the more determined the self-appointed do-gooders of the world harden themselves to have nothing to do with you, the while they happily disport themselves with dictators of the Arab monarchies, hole-and-corner coup winners and fabulously wealthy despotic oligarchs, just as long as all those people avow – publicly, at least – western values. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , | 714 Comments

Putin is Weaponizing Popularity: Newsweek is not Amused.

Uncle Volodya says, "Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

Uncle Volodya says, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

“The mind, placed before any kind of difficulty, can find an ideal outlet in the absurd. Accommodation to the absurd readmits adults to the mysterious realm inhabited by children.”

 – André Breton

How appropriate, to say nothing of au courant,  to kick off this post with a quote from André Breton; a French poet, writer, and author of “The Surrealist Manifesto”, he is best remembered as the founder of Surrealism. And oh, Mama; surreal is what we have for you today. Yes, having weaponized everything from refugees to referendums, Putin has finally rolled out his magnum opus: he has weaponized his own popularity. Except it is somehow a secret. What a good thing that we have Newsweek to brief us on how that works, because at the outset I confess I am puzzled as to how secret popularity could function as a weapon.

I hate to give away right at the beginning how numbingly idiotic the piece is, but I am afraid most of you would guess as soon as you learned that the primary source upon which Newsweek relied for its breathtaking Kremlin insights was that old ‘Kremlin insider’ himself – Gleb Pavlovsky. Epiphany Number One: the overriding reason the west has Russia so wrong is that it keeps tapping the same sources for instruction and inspiration – Fiona Hill, Clifford Gaddy, Gleb Pavlovsky, Yulia Latynina, Stanislav Belkovsky, Edward Lucas, Julia Ioffe, Miriam Elder, Garry Kasparov, the late and mostly unlamented Boris Nemtsov…a phalanx of sycophancy that always tells it what it wants to hear. Thou, O Queen, art fairest still. Gleb Pavlovsky affects to know everything that goes on in Russia as if it were all unfolding to his own plan, and nobody ever seems to notice when he is catastrophically wrong or that he has been predicting Putin’s collapse for a decade. Here he is, running his mouth in The Guardian, four years ago: “[Putin] thinks man is a sinful being and it is pointless to try to improve him. He believes the Bolsheviks who tried to create fair people were simply idiots, and we wasted a lot money and energy on it … So Putin’s model is that you need to be bigger and better capitalists than the western capitalists. And more consolidated as a state: there must be a full, maximum unity of state and business.”

For Pavlovsky, United Russia’s collapse in the polls in December was obvious. “It was nothing more than a telephone system for conveying the Kremlin’s orders. It transmitted a signal. It has absolutely not independence and can not act on its own. It needs full instructions – 1,2,3,4,5. If 3 and 4 are missing, it stops and waits for instructions.”

The masses, in Putin’s mind, cannot be trusted to rule. Pavlovsky said: “What is the Putin consensus? It is a construction of a pact between the ruling elite and the main groups of society in which society is guaranteed a degree of social distribution and an elite which feels free to move across borders. This state has no ideology. It will be a state without ideas oriented on common sense, the average man, the citizen. Nonetheless the masses must not be given access to power.”

The Putin consensus began when Putin decided he was the sole bearer of that guarantee and he controlled the whole situation. But it ended at precisely point he decided to return to power as president: “That was his mistake. His decision to return was a certain delusion of grandeur, ” Pavlovsky said. Continue reading

Posted in Alexei Navalny, Boris Nemtsov, Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2,623 Comments

The Madness of Anders Aslund; Economic Advice for Ideologues With Too Much Money

Uncle Volodya says, "To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Uncle Volodya says, “To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Unwrap yourself for a starving man
Come drown your thoughts if they bite you
Turn off the world if it makes you hurt
I’m just a clown but I like you…

Max Webster, from “Let Go the Line”

What follows is an object lesson in how a bitter hatred of a country or an institution, nurtured over a lifetime, can make an educated man forswear everything he ever learned in an effort to make the desired end-state a reality, against every single glimmer of common sense. In this, you can no longer tell hatred and besotted love apart, because both can cause the afflicted to make a fool of himself and not care, having lost sight of everything else but his objective.

I have speculated here in the past, several times, on the question whether Anders Aslund is (a) a victim of a progressive and creeping malady which is causing him to lose his mind, (b) a natural-born idiot who tricked the world into believing he is an economist, or (c)  a madman who should be locked up. I am afraid I am no closer to an answer, although we can rule out (d), he is right and his advice is sensible. But perhaps if we break the situation down to two stark truths, you can help me reach a decision.

Truth one: Anders Aslund despises Russia, loses no opportunity to disparage it, and especially loathes its president, Vladimir Putin. Truth two, Anders Aslund continues to offer irrational advice on putting money into Ukraine, although it has been identified by even its most fervent cheerleaders as the most corrupt nation in Europe, staying in some sort of twilit half-life only through IMF handouts whose future is uncertain. In fact, Anders Aslund continues to beat the drum for investors to put their money into Ukraine although returns on existing invstments have been terrible, and investor sharpies who bet big on snapping up Ukrainian debt took a bath, as the expected IMF transfer of money from taxpayers to wealthy investors did not materialize.

Although that’s a pretty slender dataset on which to base a conclusion, I nevertheless conclude that Anders Aslund is so dizzy with hatred for ‘Putin’s Russia’ that he is offering economic advice which runs completely counter to common sense, in the desperate hope that a flow of new money will keep Ukraine alive long enough that it can serve its purpose and destroy its neighbour.

Aslund proposes that there has been a number of positive changes in Ukraine since the revolution, and proceeds to enumerate them. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Russia, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1,887 Comments

Rope-a-Doper, American Style: Don’t Do As I Do, Do As I Say

Uncle Volodya says, "What will the preachers say to teach men not to persecute men? For, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning a few fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike.”

Uncle Volodya says, “What will the preachers say to teach men not to persecute men? For, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning a few fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike.”

Before we get started, a moment of silence, please, for Mitt Romney, who collapsed and died on Tuesday following his fourth consecutive multiple orgasm of vindication, at A.R. Valentin’s restaurant in La Jolla, California. His dinner companions did not notice at first that Mr. Romney had fallen off his chair, all having raised their eyes to the ceiling and chorused “America’s foremost geopolitical enemy!!!” to complete Mr. Romney’s statement, “I told them Russia was…” because they had all heard it at least a hundred times that day.

No, seriously, of course Mitt Romney is not dead. In fact, he must be on top of the world; after all, he is America’s foremost psychic seer – he knew Russia would be America’s acknowledged geopolitical foe before anyone else did except for the very core of the corporate elite who run the country. Back when he said it, though, in 2012, his presidential opponent – Barack Obama – ridiculed him. “A few months ago, when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not al Qaeda; you said Russia,” the president said. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Funny old world, innit? Then, Obama fancied al Qaeda was America’s greatest geopolitical foe, and now they’re allies, united by the common imperative of overthrowing the President of Syria. Politics makes strange bedfellows; my, yes, ne’er a truer word was spoken. Well, Barack Obama might be slow to catch on, but he’s making up for lost time – demonization of Russia now goes on all day long, day in, day out, on every front, and no sector is too unimportant for The Land Of The Free to denigrate Russia’s efforts in that direction, and to paint its people as liars, cheats and savages. Not even during the sullen night watches of the Cold War was the rhetoric so corrosive and inflammatory, or the call to arms so strident. All, all is now subordinated to politics and the catechism of contempt and exclusion. Russia is the enemy, and whom the Gods would cast down, they first make inhuman.

The latest bear-baiting arena is international sport, as Washington goes all-out on cementing the impression that Russian athletes could not win an apple-bobbing contest unless they were high as kites, doped to the eyeballs. It’s not hard to see where this is going – exclusion of Russian athletes from the next Olympic Games, perhaps a permanent ban, and the degradation of Russian athletic performance in the past by implication. Nothing strategic about it, and it wouldn’t gain Americans anything other than an imaginary moral victory – it’s just more of the small-minded meanness that has grown to characterize American global relations. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia | Tagged , , , , | 574 Comments