Hello; I’m From the European Council on Foreign Relations – I Hear You Have a Bridge For Sale.

Uncle Volodya says, "Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them."

Uncle Volodya says, “Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them.”

Are you familiar with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)? No? Well, have a look at their website. Not to be a spoiler or anything, but let me quote briefly from it: “Inspired by the role American think tanks played in helping the US move from isolationism to global leadership, ECFR’s founders set about creating a pan-European institution that could combine establishment credibility with intellectual insurgency.”

Intellectual insurgency – now, there’s a phrase that should inflame your mental ganglia with mingled interest and suspicion, and you’re going to see an inspired example of intellectual insurgency in just a moment.

“The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is a pan-European think-tank which conducts research and promotes informed debate across Europe on the development of a coherent and effective European values-based foreign policy.” Having, hopefully, established its affinity for intellectual insurgency, I’d like you to take the next step with me, and think about the target of all this intellectual insurgency. The formation of a coherent and effective European values-based policy.

Once again, please expore the website and draw your own conclusions; I have no wish to apply undue influence to your development of a viewpoint – but might I draw your attention to the membership?

Oh, the hell with it. Timothy Garton Ash, obsessive non-participatory warmonger and the biggest, knobbiest Russophobic prick in a waving pink field of turgid Russophobic pricks? Carl Bildt, Psychotic Pswede of the year and compulsive tweeter of everything anti-Russian? Ivan Krastev, Mr. Moscow-is-trying-to-split-the European Union when the European Union gleefully colluded in the manipulation of Euromaidan which started the cycle of violence in Ukraine? Radoslaw Sikorski, who needs no introduction? Toomas Ilves, fourth president of Estonia, who thinks current Russian wages are close to what they are in Ukraine? Russian average wages are more than three times as high as Ukraine’s – assuming people are actually getting paid in Ukraine – when both are converted to a common U.S. dollar value. Heidi “The EU is not trying to extend its sphere of influence to its eastern neighbours ” Hautala? Do tell. Come on, for Christ’s sake – don’t you think people can read? Continue reading

Posted in Caucasus, Corruption, Economy, Europe, Georgia, Government, Politics, Rule of Law, Saakashvili, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1,662 Comments

Navalny Hearts Trouble

Uncle Volodya says, "Enter, stranger; but, take heed Of what awaits the sin of greed: For those who take, but do not earn Must pay most dearly in their turn."

Uncle Volodya says, “Enter, stranger; but, take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed:
For those who take, but do not earn
Must pay most dearly in their turn.”

Longtime readers will recall that Yalensis has sort of a thing about Alexei Navalny, and worked harder than any real journalist I know of to get to the bottom of the KirovLes timber scandal for which he was found guilty of embezzlement. Navalny surfaced from time to time in the news after that, but any political gravitas he may have accumulated was spent when he failed in his gambit to win Mayor of Moscow. Although he actually made a surprisingly credible showing – largely thanks to Sobyanin’s not bothering to campaign – the government wisely gave him a suspended sentence for his financial crimes rather than jailing him, which I believe is what he hoped for. It would have allowed him to mount a political comeback by bleating that The Kremlin had locked him up to prevent his storming to victory in the election, while leaving him completely free to run gave him no excuse for failure except that the population of Moscow did not want him for mayor. He kind of hit the skids after that, largely disappearing from view except for cameo appearances to argue that sanctions are killing Russia, and basically adopting an opposite view to the official narrative, in an eerie imitation of the recently-assassinated Boris Nemtsov.

But he loves to be noticed, even if it’s just so that he can pretend he is a private person who doesn’t like being noticed. So we’re going to help a little, or Yalensis is. What follows is (potentially) yet a little more dirt on Navalny, a possible link between him and Hermitage Capital Management bad-boy William Browder, and a murky plot to discredit Russian businessman Denis Katsyv. Kastsyv is on the USA’s “Magnitsky List”, and the region in question is the Khimki Forest beloved of western lapdog Evgenia Chirikova. The final element in this crazy circus tent of disparate interests – furniture giant IKEA. I should mention that the case is currently before Arbitrage in Moscow, and ongoing. But I don’t imagine they will mind us kicking it around a little. Take it away, Yalensis!

IKEA, Browder, Navalny; A Tango For Three

Most of the material for this post comes from an interesting expose done by investigative journalist Oleg Lurie on his blog. The blogpost is entitled “IKEA, Browder, Navalny. A tango for three?

Executive Summary: Lurie alleges that William Browder secretly requested Alexei Navalny to launch a specific media campaign against Denis Katsyv.

[yalensis: I checked Navalny’s blog, but a word search on “Katsyv” didn’t produce any results.]

Khimki

Once upon a time there was a wealthy kolkhoz in the woods near Moscow named “Path of Ilyich” («Путь Ильича»), which held more than 3000 hectares of land. By the beginning of the 1990’s it was down to 1500 hectares, not all of them contiguous.

Later, this kolkhoz evolved into the “Collective Agricultural Enterprise” (КСХП) known as “Khimki Forest”. By 2010 Khimki was fully inventoried and reorganized as a contiguous public area, after resolving many disputes with former kolkhozniks and owners of private plots.

At the same time, mysteriously, 2 office buildings suddenly sprang up in one of the previously empty plots, around 20 hectares in size. In 2012, it was discovered that this plot of land containing the office buildings, had been surveyed and registered on behalf of IKEA. Apparently this plot had been sold to IKEA, which now held the title to it. The land deal was all the more lucrative, since the office buildings were also thrown into the deal, along with the land. Continue reading

Posted in Alexei Navalny, Corruption, Economy, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 301 Comments

About That Batumi Miracle…

Uncle Volodya says, "Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy."

Uncle Volodya says, “Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.”

Hey, remember back when Al Jazeera was the object of loathing and fear in the USA? Bankrolled by the Emir of Qatar – a thriving democracy in the Middle East whose ruler has been a male member of the Al Thani family since 1850 – Al Jazeera was once described by American media as “a mouthpiece for terrorists”, “anti-Semitic” and “anti-American”. It earned the anti-Semitic tag honestly enough, broadcasting an on-air birthday party organized by Al Jazeera’s Beirut bureau chief for a Lebanese militant convicted of killing four Israelis, including a four-year-old girl. And considering it was the outlet which carried Sheik Qaradawi’s weekly program, “Sharia and Life” and Sheik Qaradawi “extended his Koranic blessing to suicide bombing against American civilians in Iraq”, you could make an argument that it earned the anti-American tag honestly as well.

No more, though – all water under the bridge, let bygones be bygones. The outlet’s managers could not now be more pro-American, as this gushing testimonial to Mikheil Saakashvili’s appointment as Odessa’s governor attests. Penned by former United States Army officer Luke Coffey, it is a progressive tongue bath of Saakashvili that is almost embarrassing to read, kind of like watching a bizarre peep show featuring repugnant sex. Unless you’re an admirer of the former Georgian president, of course, in which case it is only his due as the Caesar Of His Time; render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.

Coffey pitches a quick little historical vignette, describing how observers and analysts should not be surprised at Poroshenko’s appointment of a foreigner to lead Odessa, since that was de rigeuer back in 1803. Two French noblemen were appointed during this period, the first by Tsar Alexander himself, as governors of Odessa. These appointments join wife selling, tobacco smoke enemas, lobotomy and the Divine Right of Kings as examples of a progressive society, for the period in which they were common. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Education, Europe, Georgia, Government, Investment, Saakashvili, Ukraine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2,228 Comments

Tumbleweed Town: Kiev Post-Gas Transit

Uncle Volodya says, "When every little bit of hope is gone, sad songs say so much."

Uncle Volodya says, “When every little bit of hope is gone, sad songs say so much.”

Life could do nothing for her, beyond giving time for a better preparation for death.

Jane Austen, from “Sense and Sensibility

Anyone who has not sleepwalked through the gas-price squabble between Russia and Ukraine since the Great Freedom Jubilee known as EuroMaidan is aware that Russia has grown fed up with Ukraine’s posturing and loose grip on reality – neither being a quality that is endearing or inspirational of confidence in its reliability as a gas-transit country for Europe. Russia has had projects underway for some time to gradually reduce its reliance on Ukraine as a gas-transit corridor for Russian gas since the stand-off in 2009, in which Ukraine was siphoning off gas intended for Europe for its own use free of charge, while Russia was expected to just make up the difference – Ukraine was confident Russia was without alternatives, since it would not dare shut off Europe’s gas. Which it did, of course, initiating a panic and a lasting reputation for Russia as an unreliable energy partner. Nothing much was ever said about Ukraine stealing gas; Europe made a few comments to the effect that there was wrong on both sides, and left it at that, and ever afterward the narrative was that they knew Russia accused Ukraine of stealing gas, but where was the evidence?

Russia constructed the Nord Stream pipeline, and partially completed South Stream, the two of which together would handle the entirety of gas shipped to Europe, without going through Ukraine. The EU dug in its heels, and went on about how everyone needs rules and Russia would have to abide by the Third Energy Package which said the same company cannot own both the gas and the pipeline, and lots of other twaddle although it simply hands out exemptions to its own suppliers, and Russia canceled South Stream. The EU was jubilant – it had put those Russkies in their place, by God! Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , | 1,212 Comments

Is It Too Early To Just Call The Game For Putin?

Uncle Volodya says,

Uncle Volodya says, “Hey, John; I had a dream about you. We were racing to see who could be the slowest person on earth. You were winning.”

“…Except in a very few matches, usually with world-class performers, there is a point in every match (and in some cases it’s right at the beginning) when the loser decides he’s going to lose. And after that, everything he does will be aimed at providing an explanation of why he will have lost. He may throw himself at the ball (so he will be able to say he’s done his best against a superior opponent). He may dispute calls (so he will be able to say he’s been robbed). He may swear at himself and throw his racket (so he can say it was apparent all along he wasn’t in top form). His energies go not into winning but into producing an explanation, an excuse, a justification for losing.”

C. Terry Warner, from “Bonds That Make Us Free

You know what makes a good loser? Practice“.

Ernest Hemingway

What’s the state of play in The Great Wreck The Russian Economy Invitational, hosted by the United States with support from Europe (especially the UK), Australia and Canada, having been in play since Euromaidan? Let’s look. Are sanctions having the desired effect?

They are not. In fact, consensus looks to be that sanctions are a dismal failure at everything except causing the income of ordinary Russians to fall for the first time since Putin took over the job of running the country. It’s hard to imagine that results could have been otherwise, given the effort the west put into it. But reducing the incomes of ordinary Russians was not an end in itself. No; they were supposed to blame Putin for their troubles, and rise up in revolution to throw him out. A new revolution in Russia is something the west wants so badly it makes its mouth water. It can almost taste it.

But the sanctions have had the opposite effect.

According to Ivan Nechepurenko, a staff writer for The Moscow Times – no friend of Putin – Putin is as popular among his voters now as he has been since 2008. Rather than blaming Putin for economic upset directed against Russia with a view to pushing its behavior in a direction the west wants it to take, civil society has instead rallied around national pride; “The logic was that as the country’s economic situation worsens, ordinary Russians will direct their anger at the government and at Putin himself, forcing him to withdraw his support for the pro-Moscow insurgents in Ukraine…When 85% of Russians say they approve Putin’s actions as Russia’s president, what they mean is that they approve and support the Russian state as such. According to leading sociologists from the independent Levada Center public opinion organization, by absorbing Crimea last March, Putin has made himself a symbolic figure who is viewed as not directly responsible for the economic perils of the country.” Continue reading

Posted in China, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1,719 Comments

How Much Of a Nobody Do You Have To Be, To Be Too Much Of a Nobody To Testify Before a Congressional Committee?

Uncle Volodya says, "If you like it, you'll find a way to justify it. If you don't, you'll find a way to falsify it."

Uncle Volodya says, “If you like it, you’ll find a way to justify it. If you don’t, you’ll find a way to falsify it.”

Liz Wahl is a proud American. So proud, in fact, that she will hear nothing against the USA, even if it’s true. My country right or wrong, baby. For those who do not know Liz Wahl, she was the news anchor for RT America who quit during a live broadcast, saying she could no longer in good conscience work for a network that “smeared America”. Well, that’s one of the reasons she gave. On occasion she says it is because Russia invaded Ukraine. In fact, neither of those is true, but we’ll get into that in a minute.

She decided “arbitrarily” that March 5th would be her last day; she had wanted to quit for months, but that just did it, the unconscionable way the network was whitewashing Putin’s dangerous invasion of Ukraine. So she went to the bathroom, a couple of hours before she quit, to compose some heartfelt notes – and called her good friend, Jamie Kirchik, the flaming Russophobe and longtime planner of gimmicky attacks against RT, to let him know she was about to put on a big show. She announced her resignation in an emotional speech on live TV.

In which she did not mention once, not a single time, her reason for quitting, which was – she just told you, how could you forget already – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. No, instead she blathered on about her family, glancing often at her notes as she recounted how her grandparents had escaped Hungary, fleeing before the Soviet forces in 1956. In fact, Grandpa was already in the USA for 10 years, having immigrated without his family at the close of the war. It was Grandma and some other family members who bribed the border guards and made a run for it in 1956, really stirring stuff.

Too bad, when Liz was interviewing Ron Paul, that she didn’t ask him about the 1956 Hungarian revolt. Because he would have told her it might have succeeded if it had gone the way the Hungarians were promised it would…by the United States. Radio Free Europe coaxed the Hungarians to rise up, promising them if they would only get the ball rolling, Uncle Sam would do the rest. The Hungarians believed them, and began large-scale public demonstrations on October 23rd, 1956. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Education, Europe, Government, Investment, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Terrorism, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1,323 Comments

Who You Gonna Believe – NATO, or Your Lyin’ Eyes?

Uncle Volodya says, "We must know something about malevolence, about how to recognize it, and about how not to make excuses for it. We must know that we cannot expect fair play."

Uncle Volodya says, “We must know something about malevolence, about how to recognize it, and about how not to make excuses for it. We must know that we cannot expect fair play.”

My father always told me that what’s wrong with lying is that it’s an admission of weakness. If you’re the strongest, you can afford to tell the truth.

K.J. Parker

The western media is abuzz with a new term that seems to be on the lips of every State Department staffer, every western journalist, every compliant NATO puppet and cheerleader abroad, and of course in Kiev, ground zero for Russian hatred on the planet. Hybrid Warfare. This, we are told, is how Russia is managing the battle in the east of Ukraine so that the Ukrainian capital – despite its highly professional, well-equipped and motivated army – cannot work its will on the easterners and bring them to heel as productive and happy contributors to a new European Union state and aspirant to NATO membership.

It must strike the thinkers among the greater public – and there are some – that “hybrid warfare” is an awfully convenient term which allows the west to prance about and yell that Russia is in the war up to its eyes…without ever having to offer any proof. What? Of course we don’t have any pictures, you dolt: it’s hybrid warfare, ever hear of it? Well, then – pay attention to current events, try and keep up, and don’t be such a Kremlin apologist.

The big-forehead types do not tell us how Russia can be foiling the Forces of Love and Understanding in Kiev so that they cannot crush the east – through hybrid warfare, naturally, in which their troops remain invisible – but does not take advantage of pivotal decisive defeats like Ilovaisk and Debaltseve to push the eastern salient to the doorstep of Kiev itself. God knows a flock of armored budgies would be as effective at stopping them as the Ukrainian army if they chose to commit their allegedly limitless Russian reserves, and you would think an invisible army would be quite a useful asset. Yet for some reason they choose to fight only when attacked. It would probably not require much of a strategic imagination to proffer a solution whereby the Ukrainian army stopped attacking, and it seems reasonable to conclude that this would result in fewer deaths.

Now, I had a point when I came in here….Oh, yes. Hybrid warfare. This concept was discussed at length in a clip one of the readers posted (thanks, Warren), which is a recording of a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. It is moderated by Paul Schwartz, a Senior Associate in the organization’s Russia and Eurasia Program. Mr. Schwartz is well-known in Washington circles, having been employed at various high-level IT positions in the Defense Department, including the F-22 program, and an attorney with international law firm Hogan & Hartson. His guest needs no introduction – co-author of the Clark-Karber Report, purveyor of fake photos of advancing Russian tank columns to the Senate Armed Services Committee and author of research on China’s nuclear weapons capability in 2011 that has been referred to alternately as a “goat rodeo” and “lazy and incompetent” which was apparently traced to an article plagiarized by a student from a single posting on a Usenet forum in 1995. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Military, Russia, Strategy, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , | 402 Comments