What I Did on my Summer Vacation, by Yury Luzhkov

Uncle Volodya says, "Clumsy effort, Yury. You disappoint me."

The Russian Flag, as it appears through peat smoke

Just about everyone agrees that Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov would have to have hired a disaster choreographer in order to make himself appear a worse example of responsible civic leadership, during the suffering of Musovites as a result of wildfires around Moscow recently. If he opened his dresser drawer tomorrow morning and found nothing there to wear except T-Shirts bearing the slogan, “I’m a Useless Insensitive Douchebag Who Should be Tarred and Feathered and Exiled to Detroit” (voted worst city in the world to live in by Lonely Planet) , he would have only himself to blame.

La Russophobe is a little late out of the gate on this one – Julia Ioffe already tore the pants right off of Mayor Luzhkov, better than a week ago. For those not familiar with the excellent series the Moscow Diaries, Mayor Luzhkov first asked (through intermediaries) what all the fuss was about. Was this, like, an emergency, seriously? Then he claimed (again, through intermediaries) to have been receiving treatment for a sports injury. Before the laughs could even subside on that one (except in Moscow; there wasn’t much laughing from that quarter) he was busted in the act of evacuating his precious honeybees to a less smoggy locale. No, I’m afraid I’m not kidding. He topped off this poo sundae with a petulant observation (through intermediaries- seeing a pattern here?) that he had over a year of vacation time accumulated, and could have stayed away lots longer.

So, there’s something to the suggestion that appointment of officials who should really be elected (Mayor Luzhkov has similar appointment status to a Governor) is not the best path to good governance. At least to the extent that the disinterred corpse of Vladimir Sukhomlinov would have a better chance of being elected mayor next time around if it was up to Muscovites, which it isn’t.

However, the La Russophobe article is – predictably – marred by hysterical Putin-Tourette’s disconnection. The headline (“Putin the Dictator, Failing at Every Turn”) is the extent of her contribution on this one; the remainder is a copy-and-paste from the Moscow Times. She doesn’t say what Putin has to do with Luzhkov’s breathtaking incompetence – I know his appointment is supposed to be an act of cronyism: the fact that this is an indulgence of every politician in every city in the world passes unremarked.

The original article is by “hero journalist” Yevgenia Albats. I’m curious here; why are so many columnists for the Moscow Times “hero journalists”? Is there some kind of course you can take for that? What do you have to do to get the title “hero journalist”? Criticize the government? Do you have to criticize the government and work for the Moscow Times? I’m just asking on behalf of the New York Times and the Washington Post, because they want to know if they can start calling all their reporters “hero journalists” for their (eventual) criticism of the Bush administration. Anyway, if the “hero journalist” accolade is just something La Russophobe made up, it’s getting cheapened through overuse.

Well, let’s get into the body of the complaint. This is where Albats begins to draw silly conclusions – based on what appears to be wishful thinking, or perhaps an idealized projection of how democracy works. Let’s see if I understand this:

What would have happened if Luzhkov served in a country that had popular elections for governors? If Luzhkov knew that he would soon be facing re-election — his term expires in October 2011 — would he have allowed himself a vacation while Moscow was being ravaged by heat and toxic smog? Of course not.”

Let me know if my interpretation is way off base, but what Ms. Albats seems to be getting at here is that elected officials will perform more responsibly if they are aware they are accountable to the voters at the end of their terms.

Ummm….I’m going to have to say no. Examples? Coming up. Remember Mark Sanford? The Governor of South Carolina left his state without any explanation, not even to his wife – on Father’s Day weekend – and took off to Argentina to boink his girlfriend. Granted, his state didn’t burn up while he was gone, but anything from wildfires to a biblical rainfall of toads could have happened while the Governor was off on a nookie sabbatical, and his constituents didn’t even have a clue where he was. Did the thought of being chucked out by the voters at the next opportunity cause him to say to himself, wait a minute – this is wrong? Not so you’d notice.

Wait – there’s more. How about Rod Blagojevich? Impeached for abuse of power, he was caught in the act of trying to sell the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama to the highest bidder. Presumably, he planned to keep the money himself. The head of the inquiry told the House of Representatives that he had betrayed the public trust, that he was “a public servant who has chosen not to serve the public … who has betrayed his oath of office … who is not fit to govern.“

Not fit to govern. He must have known that getting caught was a possibility, and that if caught, he would be held accountable for his behavior. How much hesitation does this appear to have injected into his plans? I’d have to say, pretty close to zero. Was it a big risk? Evidently not; he was found guilty of one count of lying, and 23 additional charges vaporized in a mistrial. There’s a powerful incentive for politicians to lead responsibly.

Does the irresponsible behavior of elected officials in a democratic system, even though they know they will be held accountable by the voters, stop at the Governor level? Oh, my, no. While Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, President Bush continued his vacation for three days. The Vice-President was also on vacation. The Secretary of State went on a shoe-shopping spree at Ferragamo just a couple of days after the levees gave way and drove thousands of desperate people from their homes. Afterward, President Bush remarked in an interview, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees”. That’s what comes of not reading, I suppose: National Geographic predicted it with eerie prescience a year before it happened. They were way off on the death toll (50,000 predicted vs. 1,836 actual), and their forecast that it would be “the worst natural disaster in American history” is open to debate – the 1900 Galveston hurricane killed at least 6000 and perhaps as many as twice that number (no explanation was offered for the wide discrepancy) and is generally recognized as America’s worst natural disaster. However, Katrina caused $84 Billion in damages. If it wasn’t the worst, it was in the top five.

Were any of these individuals punished in any way for their incredible incompetence? Absolutely not. In the case of Governor Sanford, he sprinkled his confession with references to The Almighty, cried a little, and at least some of the electorate ended up feeling sorry for him. There’s a lesson for you, Mayor; keep a bible tucked under your arm, and a big slice of raw onion in your handkerchief.

If Ms. Albats is suggesting Governors in Russia should be elected rather than appointed just because that’s a better way to do things, she’s right. The people who live in the governed regions ought to be able to express their pleasure or displeasure with a vote. But it looks to me like she’s saying democratic election to office would have made Mayor Luzhkov less filled with a sense of entitlement, and more likely to keep the voters in mind during decision making – that’s what happens in democratic countries.

Is it? No, it’s not. The examples above are testament that being elected to office quite often results in weak and self-centered leaders who don’t give a rip about the people who voted them in. How did Ms. Albats close out her ringing indictment of those appointed to office? “A regime that cannot respond to its citizens’ basic needs has no legitimacy at all.”

Word, Yevgenia.

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36 Responses to What I Did on my Summer Vacation, by Yury Luzhkov

  1. Misha says:

    A good topical article touching on several issues Mark.

    Participatory democracy in the form of elections can be problematical when a limited number have great election advantages over others. There’s also the matter of the political center having limits in relation to some regional power structures with authoritarian aspects.

    At least for a good portion of the short post-Soviet Russian history, the areas having the greatest autonomy from the center have also been among the most challenged on human rights and/or political pluralism issues.

    http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/8375-25.cfm (pardon some grammar/clarity snafus, as a draft of the final was sent in error)

    This matter is part of an ongoing process in Russia.

    As for “hero journalists” related to the kind of Russian views favored by the likes of The WaPo, WSJ and RFE/RL, the Tom and Tom skits come to mind:

    http://www.strimoo.com/video/16238001/In-Living-Color-Black-Like-You-par-In-Living-Color-MySpaceVideos.html

    • Misha says:

      Some others from Tom and Tom:

      • marknesop says:

        Thanks for the clips, Mike – I’ll watch them when I get home. I loved In Living Color – funny ran through every fibre of the Wayans brothers, and Jamie Foxx is a fabulous actor in his own right; his portrayal of Ray Charles in “Unchain My Heart” was outstanding.

        My point in suggesting cronyism is far from unique to Russia was that politicians always reserve the right to appoint trusted friends, family members and business movers they think will do them some good to positions of power. Not as high as Governor, at least not in enlightened democracies, but it’s largely just a matter of scale. You’re right that even democracy is far from perfect – when securing a position depends on being voted in, political figures are not above lying and bribery to get it, which isn’t really much worse than being given the job in a sweetheart deal, as an appointment. Don’t even get me started on George Bush and the too-close-for-comfort almost-appointment of Bernie Kerik, for example.

        I still believe that, although imperfect, democracy is the best model there is for choosing government. I completely understand your point, because Canada is a microcosm of it. If every living soul in British Columbia who’s old enough to vote casts their ballot for Candidate A, but Quebec and Ontario want Candidate B, that’s who’s getting in no matter what the rest of the country wants. Quebec and Ontario are the most populous provinces, and in a representation-by-population system, what they say goes. That has the unfortunate result of the political wannabes pitching themselves largely to just the centre of the country, and more or less ignoring everyone else until days before an election. It’s not great, but what else is there?

        Somebody with the kind of clout Luzhkov has shouldn’t be appointed. In that, Albats is right and, by extension, La Russophobe is right. However, the notion that the threat of losing their position by being voted out promotes honesty and forthrightness is just naive.

        • Misha says:

          For sure Mark.

          Dave Chappelle is the closest match to In Living Color since the latter’s demise.

          As you might know, Chappelle suddenly announced the need to take a leave of absence of sorts. His reruns seem to be aired in every American market.

          I hope he’s back in a high profile situation.

  2. Igor, AU says:

    Thanks, Mark – I read it with interest. It seems, you have a thing or two to teach Sergei Tsoi 🙂
    Also, following one of your links, I found an interesting material about Deputy Mayor
    Cheers

    • marknesop says:

      Wow. That’s interesting; I didn’t hear a lawsuit was underway. I don’t know about the misrepresentation part, because there must have been enough journalists to hear what was said and such press conferences are typically recorded, at least by some. I don’t imagine Ioffe would simply make stuff up – we frequently disagree, but I don’t doubt her integrity, and she was there. My immediate reaction would be, rather than going after the magazine with any real zeal, Luzhkov is going to throw Tsoi under the bus.

      • Igor, AU says:

        If you meant the claim against Deputy – yes, I was also surprised that it was re-submitted (could not say that I felt it was a bad thing either🙂
        Tsoi … I can imagine someone handling the matters for mayor better – he could at least talk less. His threat it seems is just a chest-thumping as it does not look like Luzok has any chance to win here (and he is not an idiot). Julia shall be safe in any case – it is impossible to sue for libel if the “libel” was just a recital of another source. Nor do I think that Julia is inherently evil or unscrupulous – I just realized how young she is actually. Perhaps, sometimes too emotional and not always as careful as her profession demands.

        • marknesop says:

          Hi, Igor!! In order to throw Tsoi under the bus, Luzhkov doesn’t need to win the lawsuit – the process doesn’t even need to run its course. If this is what’s unfolding, the magazine will do Luzhkov’s work for him. They’ll defend themselves by saying, “Here’s what we were told, exactly, word-for-word. Please watch the monitor”. Then Luzhkov can say, “But…but….that’s not what I communicated to Mr. Tsoi at all”. While the conversations between Tsoi and the press were likely recorded, the conversations between Luzhkov and Tsoi almost certainly were not. Tsoi won’t have a leg to stand on. It’ll be his word against Luzhkov’s.

          I don’t really dislike Julia at all – she’s a very bright observer and an accomplished writer already, and both will only improve with time and experience. My issue with her is that she seems to take a lot about Russia personally, as if each encounter were a deliberate calculation to insult her. Everything is a confrontation, and she appears to have a low tolerance for practices and social mores that – outside Russia – would be received with a shrug. Politicians are lying shitheels everywhere you go; so what? Can you find examples of corrupt political figures who lie to investigators without blinking, and steal their constituents blind, outside Russia? Easily. It’s the implication that not only is Russia the most corrupt scab on the face of the planet; the people (except for a few hero journalists and dead martyrs) are too stupid to notice or care, and the blundering efforts of a few in the leadership to fix things are either shameless pandering or comic sideshow that bothers me.

          I wouldn’t want her to be more cautious; I admire her fearlessness. A little perspective and compassion, though, wouldn’t be unappreciated.

          • Igor, AU says:

            [One cannot deny the fact that Julia Ioffe either as a topic or as an author, so far did not fail to attract a lot of internet traffic🙂 ]

            You, know, Mark – with your “it’s fundamentally dishonest to pretend your purpose is to empathize and support, when it’s really to ridicule and mock ….” – I entirely agree. If the above is a fundamentally conscious process, when the author cynically weights (her) personal gains against the broader implications of what (she) is effectively doing. The latter can be described as working in the anti-Russian “feedback loop” in the “western” media, creating problems for the future generations (of Russians). After reading a few of Julia’s pieces, I don’t think that this [a conscious goal-setting as above] is the case with Julia at the moment. Btw and imho the only thing “wrong” in the referenced piece in her blog is that she failed to find & show the signs of success of the anti-corruption campaign, but rather translated the feelings of the environment (the Russians) she is in at the moment. You perhaps, know how someone defending the Government looks in the eyes of their peers in Russia.

            Bribery. I am afraid this is a topic too complex to discuss on the margins in the comments.

            Cheers

            • kovane says:

              “Btw and imho the only thing “wrong” in the referenced piece in her blog is that she failed to find & show the signs of success of the anti-corruption campaign, but rather translated the feelings of the environment (the Russians) she is in at the moment. You perhaps, know how someone defending the Government looks in the eyes of their peers in Russia.”

              Igor, AU, that’s just not true. The article has one clear meaning, she took only one sentence out of it and presented the whole issue in a complitely different light, the opposite, in fact. Another nice example of her unscrupulousness is here (look in the comments):

              http://trueslant.com/markadomanis/2010/07/29/russias-demographics-are-like-the-country-still-slowly-getting-better/comment-page-1/#comment-1600

              Maybe defending the government is bad in her environment, but it’s a pretty normal thing to do among all the Russians I know. As long as there’s something worth defending, of course.

              • Igor, AU says:

                “kovane” – “AU” means “Australia”.

                Re: Julia. Look, I do have mixed feelings about her writing myself, but I.. (see my previous post) . Will we agree if I say that at the moment she is a bad reporter, but a (sometimes) good, if only somewhat sensationalist and not-always a hard-fact-type journalist?

                Maybe, under the “Government” we understand different things? I meant all of the Government at all levels minus (perhaps) Putin and Medvedev. Attitudes, similar to the one can get from reading e.g. this (I recommend,interesting per se) or this (about ER & Dr. Glinka) not to mention блоггеры по поводу засранца. etc
                Cheers

                • kovane says:

                  Igor, I figured it out🙂 I was just copying and pasting your nickname. You’re right, it’s much easier to address you by name. Sorry.

                  No, we won’t agree here. She’s not a bad journalist, she’s much worse, a biased journalist. While you can hope that a bad journalist will become better in time or won’t screw up covering some issue next time, you can be absolutely positive that a biased journalist will always do what he does. Can you expect an article criticizing Israel’s policies from Jeffrey Goldberg? A pro-Putin speech from Nemtsov? I might enjoy reading Julia’s column about, I don’t know, New York weather or Knicks’ latest game, but when she writes about Russia – it’s better be very cautious, for her agenda is clear and ever-present.

                  But you’re right, she’s getting much more attention than she deserves, I’m sick and tired of writing about her.

                • Igor, AU says:

                  “kovane” – you expressed it well – I too, would rather read Julia’s pieces about Americans – in the same style she writes about Russia. I suspect that Americans will feel the same uneasiness (& perhap, discuss her as we do🙂
                  Cheers

  3. kovane says:

    “A little perspective and compassion, though, wouldn’t be unappreciated.”

    Yeah, and I have a long-standing dream of having sex with Pamela Anderson.🙂

    When all facts are lying right before you and you’re still making biased conclusions, the problem is not in the facts. Unfortunately, Russia has a century-long history of disgusting liberal traditions and I can’t recall a single case of sudden enlightment. Julia is maybe young, but she isn’t 18, when some soul-searching is normal. I suppose her views are deeply personal and are not likely to change. Russian liberalism is an incurable decease, but it’s terminal not to a patient, but to Russia itself. Can anyone expect Novodvorskaya or LR to change their view? I guess not. Why should this instance be different?

    • marknesop says:

      Hey, Kovane! Don’t be hatin’!

      Pamela Anderson, huh? You know those pneumatic boobs aren’t real, right? She’s originally from Ladysmith, British Columbia; just down the road – although I doubt she comes back often to visit her roots. If she does, I could put in a good word for you. After all, she’s single, and was (briefly) married to Kid Rock – who is so mythically ugly that anyone who doesn’t look like Leatherface has a chance. Hey, we’ll trade you for Anna Chapman!

      It’s probably easier to erase a tattoo than to erase bias. It’s when it’s thinly masked with a pretense of being interested in “helping” Russia in order to bad-mouth it with a clear conscience that I can’t stand it, which is what LR does. I wouldn’t say Julia is like that. Maybe she thinks real journalists have to be hard-bitten and cynical and bitter, and that if you write anything positive, nobody will want to read it. It’s certainly true that there’s an audience for whatever you can say about Russia that’s negative. It’s also true that audience is stone-blind to their own county’s faults. Julia sometimes comes across as overly sarcastic in pointing out her repugnance for certain aspects – well, most aspects – of life in Russia, but I’d have to say that on the issue of Luzhkov she was absolutely right. Provided the sequence of events actually took place as described, which I have no reason to doubt.

      • Misha says:

        You know the saying about a broken clock Mark.

        In calculating manner, some journos seem to write in sync with the biases of their bosses and/or others they’re trying to impress.

        Granted, it’s possible to have a sincere belief in such views.

        Media at large is qualitatively better by having the competing views go at it in a substantively frank discourse – that shouldn’t be confused with sleazy antics.

        • Misha says:

          As far as PA goes:

          Of Ukrainian, German and Estonian backgrounds.

          • marknesop says:

            Hi, Mike!

            Really? I’d read somewhere that Ms. Anderson was fractionally Russian, through her mother. Maybe they meant Ukrainian, since it would have been the USSR then. Dirigible breasts aside, she’s unarguably an attractive woman, and she was quite the stunner (in my humble opinion) before she opted for the Trident-missile nosecones. Of course, she was quite young then: age is often less kind to women. She has the rep of being a dumb blonde, which is unfortunate given that your first major role (in the acting world) often typecasts you for the rest of your career. Barb Wire didn’t do her any favours, although she already had the aforementioned label. She’s quite active in animal rights and some other charities, and seems to be a fairly nice person outside her stage persona.

            I quite agree that The Message benefits from constructive argument, but in the blogging world today you can always find a reference to cite that substantiates your viewpoint. That causes opponents to be a bit smug sometimes. I try to stick to major journalistic sources for citations, but sometimes I have no choice but Wikipedia because I can’t find it anywwhere else, Usually, in my view, the New York Times beats an opinion piece on somebody’s blog, although NYT embarrassed itself almost beyond redemption with some of Judith Miller’s asshat advocacy journalism leading up to the Iraq war.

            I don’t mind Julia’s pieces when she can substantiate her vitriol, as she certainly can in this case. She just tends to take a vitriolic view of everything, and on the rare occasions she’s not excoriating someone or something, she tends toward an “Awww….isn’t that cute?” style that is patronizing and suggests it is anything but cute. These are generalizations – she’s obviously very smart and has an enviable vocabulary, I imagine in at least two languages (I’ve never read any of her stuff in Russian). She has the potential to be at least a solid tenured columnist in a major newspaper, if not an editor. I just hope she won’t be so mean if that eventuality arrives. She’s at least sensitive to the Russophobe label, which seems a positive to me, as real Russophobes regard it as a badge of honour.

            • Misha says:

              Hi back Mark

              That last link I posted refers to EE and not PA.

              On your other points –

              “Sensitivity” can be due to not liking or agreeing with criticism. Regarding that person, there’s a track record.

              One gets the impression of a questionable force fed by the establishment propping.

              Meantime, there’re other sources on matters having to do with Russian foreign policy, history and sports – which come across as more well informed and objective.

              The NYT has issues. I recall a span when its op-ed had a series of Russian views from Albats, Latynina and Gessen. Being better than The WSJ and The WaPo can be a relative comparison.

              • Misha says:

                Mark, some follow-up to my last set of comments at this thread:

                Besides Judith Miller, The NYT had the Jayson Blair incident. For years, The NYT has been home for Tom Friedman, who leads others besides myself to think of the “I don’t get it” quote. I can go on about the “paper of record.”

                Of late, Judith Miller has been a regular panelist on (get this) Fox News Watch, which is a weekly show, designed to critically review recent media coverage. I found that show tolerable when Jeff Cohen of FAIR was a panelist.

                Sorry, but I’ve issues with a journo who calls RT “propaganda,” without doing the same with some other news outlets. Writing about bigotry among Russians while not speaking out against anti-Russian bigotry is another of several instances involving that person. I also sense a kind of buddy system where someone like Jeffrey Goldberg is open to criticism unlike that individual.

                There’re plenty of media issues to address. In Moscow based English language media, two articles on the same subject come to mind.

                “Rogue Espionage,” Russia Profile, August 18 – http://www.russiaprofile.org/page.php?pageid=International&articleid=a1282150677

                Note how the article gives credence to Romania for gathering military intelligence on Pridnestrovie (Transdnestr), while describing the Russian presence in that territory in a second guessing manner with peacekeepers in quotations. I wonder how the author of this article refers to the non-Russian foreign troops in Kosovo?

                The article notes a minority pro-union with Romania sentiment in Moldova, without noting how unlike Moldova, Pridnestrovie was never part of Romania.

                When referring to the 1992 war in Pridnestrovie, no reference is made of Romanian involvement in that war. The Russian and Ukrainian involvement in that war relates to that territory’s historical relationship with Russia and pro-Russian elements in Ukraine.

                As for the described non-military suspect manner in Pridnestrovie, there’s a basis to concern oneself with this issue in relation to Moldova.

                In relation to the below Moscow Times article on the subject, the goal posts are suggestively being moved back on Pridnestrovie, with a selective stressing on its reliance for outside support. Moldova itself is in such need and has benefitted from foreign assistance.

                From time in memorial, secessionist movements have relied on outside support. According to a recently aired PBS documentary, the British sought to formally surrender to the French on the premise that the latter were the difference maker in the outcome of the American Revolutionary War.

                Putting aside the big power geopolitics influencing how some disputed territories get greater independence recognition over others, I’ve yet to see evidence of Kosovo having a greater human rights (the state of multiethnic relations among other issues) and historical case for independence than Pridnestrovie. A Kosovo-Pridnestrovie comparison of suspect manner spilling over elsewhere serves as another talking point.

                “Thawing the Frozen Conflict in Transdnestr,” The Moscow Times, August 17 – http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/thawing-the-frozen-conflict-in-transdnestr/412483.html

                Excerpt:

                “Two years ago, Russian intervention brought one set of conflicts – Georgia’s disputes with separatist regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia – to a dangerous boiling point.”

                ****

                Russia militarily responded to the Georgian government’s armed strike on South Ossetia.

                ———————————

                Excerpt:

                Following a summit between Russia and the European Union in June, there were reports that President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the situation and that Moscow might be prepared to back a resolution of the longstanding conflict and possibly withdraw some of its forces from Transdnestr in exchange for a visa-free travel regime with Europe. This followed a meeting between Medvedev and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev in May in which they said the conflict in Transdnestr was a top priority for both countries.

                ****

                Medvedev and Yanukovych emphasized that Trandsnestr’s concerns should be respected.

                ———————————

                Excerpt:

                Meanwhile, the brief suspension of Russian aid payments to Transdnestr prior to Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin’s visit to Tiraspol in July may have been intended to remind the local leadership that the territory exists only with Russia’s support. What’s more, after the International Court of Justice ruled in late July that Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence was permissible under international law, Russia carefully avoided suggesting that this could be a precedent for a similar move by Transdnestr.

                ****

                The aforementioned “brief suspension of Russian aid payments to Transdnestr…” is perhaps more the result of the Russian government’s announced decision to crackdown on suspect aid transactions leaving Russia. Some in Russia have questioned the distribution of aid to Transdnestr. Note that the stated Russian crackdown refers to ALL suspect aid transactions leaving Russia.

                On another point, ALL of the disputed former Communist bloc territories and northern Cyprus rely heavily on outside aid.

                Regarding the ICJ decision, Russia continues to be against Kosovo’s independence.

                ———————————

                Excerpt:

                In short, Russia may be prepared to consider giving up its military foothold on the EU’s southeastern doorstep – and on Ukraine’s western flank – for more meaningful access to European markets. Russia now appears to recognize that its economic interests are more important than the costly projection of military power in the region. Offering a concession to European and U.S. interests in resolving this longstanding frozen conflict would strengthen Russia’s hand as it seeks economic engagement with the West and assistance with its domestic modernization agenda.

                ****

                The level of the Russian troop deployment in Transdnestr is considerably less than the non-Russian foreign troop deployments in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Should Russia be the only country that should cut back on foreign troop deployments?

                From its vantage point, Russia reasonably seeks a unified former Moldavian SSR entity, which is on good terms with the Kremlin, as opposed to what’s evident in Georgia.

                A viable former Moldavian SSR settlement option is possible:

                http://www.eurasiareview.com/20100527393/haggling-over-the-former-moldavian-ssr-dispute.html

                http://www.eurasiareview.com/201007064424/differences-over-disputed-territories.html

              • marknesop says:

                Hi, Misha – I’ll answer in more detail tomorrow, it’s getting late here. Sorry about that partial post, “Ignorance is Strength”; it’ll be up tomorrow. My wife wanted to use the computer, and I inadvertently selected “publish” when I intended to select “save draft”. Talk to you tomorrow!

      • kovane says:

        No, Mark. I have no hard personal feeling about her. But I just can’t stand Russophobic people on the whole.

        Thank you for your generous offer, of course, but I must politely decline it: a dream must remain a dream🙂 By the way I’ve heard that Anderson has distant Russian ancestry🙂

        You see, that’s far from being about cynical and bitter. For example, take Matt Taibbi. He is cynical and bitter, that’s for sure. And he says and writes a lot of nasty stuff about America. But there’s a small difference: he don’t resort to rabid lies to criticize it, on the contrary, he digs out real problems and brings people’s attention to them. And I don’t remember him saying disparaging things about common Americans.

        Here’s what was the last drop for me:
        http://trueslant.com/juliaioffe/2010/07/27/battle-against-corruption-produces-metastases/

        You have to be immensely stupid or immensely biased to come to the conclusion Julia did. I hope that Princeton has some standards yet, so it’s safe to assume the second. And let’s not forget, that was a post in her personal blog, not some paid article in a newspaper, so we can’t ascribe it to some evil editorial policy. Nobody makes her do what she does. But she’s far from being special. There’s a legion of the likes of her, much more subtle and crafty at that. I read comments on her article at INOSMI, nobody bought her crap.

        I agree that she’s right about Luzhkov, by the way.

        • marknesop says:

          I love your sense of humour, and I wish I could be as funny in Russian as you are in English! By the way, you’re either getting better at it with every post, or you were twisted out of shape with fury by the article you referenced, because your English now and your English in the comment section are like two different people.

          In fact, that was the very article that pushed me over the edge, too – although I must confess I (stupidly) had not read the comments until just now, and didn’t have an appreciation of how many disagreed or were even angered by it. What turned my teeth sideways about it was the hypocritical slant – complain and yowl about how Russia needs to tackle the corruption problem, and then make fun of the first guy to give it a serious try. That’s really helpful; I’m sure he was inspired to redouble his efforts by that encouragement. This brings me back to my earlier comment that it’s fundamentally dishonest to pretend your purpose is to empathize and support, when it’s really to ridicule and mock for an appeciative audience of fellow bigots, while advancing your own career. On that occasion (comments on the article), your style was much like the one I try to follow – read the actual reference, check it for inaccuracies and misjudgments, and follow up with an angry or sarcastic (depending on the circumstances) rebuttal.

          That’s why I’m encouraged by Julia’s recent work. Although she sometimes strayed into gratuitous mockery, on the whole the series of posts on the wildfires highlighted the misery of ordinary citizens who could not avail themselves of Luzhkov’s options, while laying bare his selfish assclown attitude for everyone to see. There’s nothing wrong with a style that accurately identifies the problem and its effects, then exposes how the figure(s) that could and should be solving it are just basically jacking off. If it’s true – go to print with it.

          Let’s not start sticking pins in little burlap Julias yet.

          • kovane says:

            Ha!🙂 Many thanks, but I’m not considered to be a very humorous person even by my Russian friends. My sense of humor is way too dark and sarcastic to their liking. I hadn’t used English for five years or so until recently so it certainly got very rusty. If you look at my first True/Slant comments you’ll promptly reconsider calling my English “enviable”🙂 But you’re right, my confidence in using it is slowly returning, actually, that was one of the main reasons why I began commenting. I guess reciprocity is in order: I really enjoy reading your articles and comments and your writing has greatly rubbed off on my English. I’ve already mentioned that your language is rich and vivid, and I can only hope to reach that level of fluency.

            Well, the pleasantries have been exchanged, so let’s return to less polite and enjoyable fellows🙂

            You’re absolutely right, fact-checking is the bane of all lying hacks, Russian liberals and LR in particular. They are aware of it and try to replace any references to concrete facts with their own pseudo-intellectual musings and theories. I especially like to read Yulia “the hand of Oscilloscope” Latynina. The irreality of her interviews is only matched by the confidence she spews them with.

            But I don’t share your optimistic views on Julia’s recent works. As the saying goes: “a rotten tree does not bear good fruit”. And I’m very sceptical about people’s ability to change.

            • kovane,
              Honestly, I’m not flattering you when I say your English is excellent. I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t your first language.

              • Yalensis says:

                Here’s a thought I’ll just toss out there for debate: I’ve been thinking that maybe “we” (bloggers and forumchane)should stop using the word “Russophobe”? I think it would be more accurate to classify opinion-makers based on their specific political views. In the case of Julia Ioffe, with whom kovane and I have exchanged many polemics (!), I would characterize her as a liberal westernizer, whose (unstated) goal is to bring Russia under western dominance. Her tools are journalism and sarcasm. She probably doesn’t regard herself as a “Russophobe”, because, in her own twisted mind, she probably believes that the Russian people would be better off if they lost their sovereignty and became a U.S. protectorate (like Iraq, say). So maybe we should just characterize people based on whether they want Russia to be strong and independent, which doesn’t necessarily equate to loving Luzhkov or even being a supporter of the current Kremlin government? ‘Cause I’m not exactly a Kremlin stooge myself, but I do want to see a strong Russia, free of western dominance. Just throwin’ it out there…

                • marknesop says:

                  For my part, I’m reluctant to drop altogether the title “Russophobe” as it’s used in this blog, because the Chief Offender bills herself as “La Russophobe”. However, I agree that “Liberal Westernizer” would be more appropriate for Julia Ioffe – while maintaining that her sometimes-sarcastic defaming of Russia is, at its heart, unabashedly conservative. This is something that’s a disconnect with the Russia issue: the Russian opposition are referred to as “Liberals”, but their western backers uniformly come from the conservative side of the aisle. We know Julia doesn’t regard herself as a Russophobe, because she reacted quite sharply to being called one.

                  I don’t consider myself a Russophile, because I don’t advocate the advancement of Russia at the expense of other countries, my own included – but others might see the situation differently. A strong, independent Russia with solid mutually-beneficial trade ties and mutual respect between itself and the west would suit me fine. Until that happens, where Russia is an issue I am an advocate for minding your own business unless you have something constructive to offer.

                  You have my vote for labeling Julia Ioffe a liberal westernizer.

  4. Misha says:

    Mark

    There’s a track record suggesting differently with that individual.

    It’s not at the level of some others, while (like I said previously) having a track record leaning in a direction which is definitely more anti-Russian than pro-Russian.

    It’s not so uncommon for people ranging from out and out bigots to those treading a more tame line to deny being anti the given subject of their attention.

    • marknesop says:

      A broad comparison of posts over a lengthy period certainly doesn’t suggest otherwise. Many, probably most have a “what did you expect? It’s Russia!!!” tone – at best headshaking amusement, at worst snarling condemnation. Certain things, such as an encounter with some sports fans on the metro where they were allegedly singing “Russia for Russians, Moscow for Muscovites” or something to that effect, and a couple got a little pushy when they realized she was filming them, seemed to take on a much deeper significance for her than if the same thing had happened in, say, Chicago. It’s important to read the original Ioffe piece, naturally, because when it appears at La Russophobe it’s often been given a particularly hateful spin in the title. She’s lazy, though, and the remainder of the article is usually word-for-word.

      I try to avoid always holding up America as an example, because I don’t want to appear anti-American, but it’s difficult because the Russophobic comment was usually made by an American. It’s difficult to refute it without pointing out how hyopcritical it is.

      • Misha says:

        On that particular journo, there’re numerous other examples indicative of being better described in the anti-Russian over the pro-Russian or neutral categories.

        It’s not like there’s a shortage of effective analysts/journalists running counter to writing a series of things like:

        – highlighting a “crappy “Russian airplane” (concerning the tragic Polish plane crash in Smolensk)

        – utilizing “Russian” rather than “Soviet” in relation to the murder at Katyn

        – seeming joy at needling the Russian winter Olympic team’s performance in Vancouver

        – finding reason to express views counter to the joy many Russians had when the Russian men’s national soccer (football) team was on a roll

        – belittling Vladimir Posner for bringing up Kosovo to Hilary Clinton, by rhetorically suggesting that Chechnya should get independence consideration (never mind that the independence bug has noticeably declined in Chechnya and that putting Russia aside, there’s plenty of hypocrisy which could be directed at the independence position on disputed former Communist bloc territories)

        – describing bigoted Nashi youths on the Moscow subway, while not (to my knowledge) showing ANY sympathy against the anti-Russian imagery out there

        – viewing herself/himself as someone risking her/his life by her/his described role as a journalist in Russia

        – becoming an icon for an anonymous anti-Russian source who has been accepted within some mainstream circles.

        ****

        Regarding “danger” and “journalist”, how “safe” (from an employment standpoint) is it for a qualitatively assertive pro-Russian journalist to function as such in English language mass media? Put it this way, there doesn’t seem to be as many of them, when compared to others taking an opposite stance. Why? Self censorship? An understanding of what certain influential sources desire?

        “Pro-Russian” doesn’t and shouldn’t mean supporting everything the Russian government does, while constructively acknowledging the various flaws within Russia.

        • Misha says:

          In the US, there’re a number of establishment liberal journos who exhibit patriotic sentiment towards their country. In comparison, that feeling appears lacking with the Russian “liberal” journos (whether expat or in house).

          As one Russian who isn’t in that camp while being critical of “Putvedev” privately put it:

          “I despise Latynina and others like her because they prostitute themselves to the obvious adversaries of Russia.”

          • Misha says:

            Pardon the hat trick.

            Could be wrong offhand: I recall a not so respectful piece on Kirill’s visit to Ukraine last year, which leans towards the line of anti-Russian/Ukrainian nationalists.

            Challenging anti-Russian biases as opposed to leaning towards them isn’t my ideal kind of journo.

  5. Yalensis says:

    Very good discussion! I just wanted to clarify my earlier remarks that I want a “strong and independent” Russia. I do not desire to see Russia conquering or dominating any other country. I agree with Mark that I would like to see Russia as an equal and friend to all nations. I am myself an ethnic Russian and I do feel a certain sentimentality about Russian culture, especially when I have had a bit too much to drink (!), but I do like to think of myself as a “human being” first, a citizen of the world. I know that sounds horribly corny but I really believe it! I don’t personally hate any country or any people. I don’t even hate America, although I am often horrified by American foreign policy! If I were a journalist, I could not even imagine myself going out there and deliberately seeking only stories that make America look bad to the rest of the world, the way Julia Ioffe does with Russia. I think I would try to be balanced and show both good and bad sides of anything important that was going on.
    One final remark about “liberal” vs. “conversative”: it is not only American “conservatives” who are anti-Russian. The American leader who did the most to destroy Russia (and also Yugoslavia) was Bill Clinton, who is a liberal, I believe.

    • Misha says:

      Neo-liberal might be a better characterization of Bill.

      “Russophobes” like “Russophiles” can be of either left, center or right political persuasions.

      There’re others observing Russia, who don’t fit so neatly into either of the “Russophile” or “Russophobe” positions. I’ve had the impression that Rice and McFaul could be considered as such. I suspect these two individuals state their views in a way that takes into consideration the direction of the opinions predominating most in the US.

      • Misha says:

        Lest we not corrupt the definition of “liberal” as it pertains to Russians.

        For example, doesn’t Alexi Pushkov qualify as a liberal? If so, note the difference between him and some other Russians described as liberals. With Pushkov, you get the sense of someone who is open-minded and tolerant in a way that doesn’t involve a flippant and constant crapping on his country.

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