Noun, Verb, Kurils (Again)

Uncle Volodya says, "Ah; I see you use Green's Law of Debating, Pavel. Anything is possible if you don't know what you're talking about"

The first two of Russia’s new Assault Carriers, the French-designed Mistral Class, will allegedly be based in or near the Kuril Islands, the disputed island chain that Japan keeps forgetting they don’t own any more. The ships will likely be named something else when they commission in Russian service, but for now they retain the name the French gave them, which is taken from the cold, dry northerly wind that blows on the Southern coast of France in the winter months. And indeed, a cool wind on the fevered brows of the armchair strategists at the Jamestown Foundation would be welcome. Yes, once again the Kurils dispute that will not die resurfaces, stirred up by the folks who see reason for alarm in Russia’s continued resolve to guard what belongs to them – and they think you should be sweating, too.

For some reason, the notion that Russia intends to abide by a territorial agreement that was struck by – among others – the United States at the close of the Second World War is anaethma now in some quarters of the United States. Russia should give the islands back to Japan, because….well, if we’re honest, because Japan proved satisfied with U.S. dominance and did not kick over the apple-cart again, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt feared they might. Yes, Japan once claimed the Kurils. However, when President Roosevelt drew up his grand strategy for the furtherance of American aims in the Pacific, he believed Japan needed to be contained. At the same time, he believed Russia under Stalin and the USA had a future together in the region, and desired that the partnership should outlive the war.  The Kurils were promised to the Soviet Union at Yalta in 1945. The USA is a signatory to the Potsdam Declaration, which granted the Kurils to the Soviet Union. In case that wasn’t enough, Japan renounced all claim to them in 1951, in the San Francisco Peace Treaty with the Allied Powers. But the fiction persists that Japan didn’t really understand what it was “giving away”, and intended all along that Iturup and Kunashir were not included in the agreement. That’s odd, because Mr. Kumao Nishimura – head of the Foreign Ministry Treaties Bureau – responded to a direct question in the Diet on October 19th that same year that Iturup (Etorofu) and Kunashir (Kunashiri) were understood to be included in the agreement. His remarks are a matter of historical record.

President Putin announced his willingness to visit Tokyo in 2005 with a promise to return to Japan the Habomai Islets and Shikotan Islands. Tokyo said “no deal”, unless Etorofu and Kunashiri were included.

Before we get into the ridiculous notion that basing of two Assault Carriers in the vicinity constitutes a bold Russian grab at regional sea control, let’s pause to consider the legal implications overall. Japan surrendered unconditionally, and allowed the United States and its allies to redefine Japan’s territorial boundaries. A country that surrenders unconditionally following a military conflict has, under international law, no legal continuity. This means Japan the nation that emerged from the postwar agreements is not the same Japan the militant aggressor that entered into the war, and is not the juridical successor to titles held by the former nation. Unconditional surrender, under international law, implies dissolution of the defeated state with consequent loss of sovereignty, and future settlement conditions are determined at the pleasure of the victors by common agreement. The will of the victors was made abundantly clear at Yalta and in the Potsdam Declaration.

Just before we leave the legalities, I’d like to point out that President Roosevelt was not only unambiguous in his plans for containment of postwar Japan; present-day Japan should consider itself lucky he didn’t go further, as he initially intended. The Japanese also almost lost the Ryukyu Islands to China, as we read in the the February 1991 issue of the Pacific Historical Review, Vol 60 No. 1 (pg. 76/77);

“Roosevelt sought to satisfy Russian security interests in Northeast Asia as part of his larger Soviet policy. Intent on building a working relationship with Stalin that would survive after the war, Roosevelt saw no reason to quarrel over the future of the Kurils. Moreover, Soviet possession of the islands also fitted into his plans for postwar Japan. FDR planned to preserve the peace by surrounding the defeated Axis powers with military bases. In Asia, this meant depriving Japan of the Kurils. In dealing with Japan, questions of legal title and sovereign rights did not interfere with Roosevelt’s plans for postwar security.

FDR also wanted the Ryukyu Islands placed under Chinese custody, even though Japan’s sovereignty over the islands had been recognized internationally since the 1870’s.”

That seems a bit cheeky on America’s part, just swaggering around redrawing the geography to suit itself. After all, Japan owned those islands free and clear. Oh, wait – it didn’t. Not only did the Ryukyu Islands once have a traditional alliance with China, Japan’s ownership of them (following conquest) resulted from a ruling by – guess who? Yes, that’s right, the USA. From the footnotes in the same reference cited above; “Ulysses S. Grant ruled annexation in Japan’s favor in 1879, although the Ryukyuan King begged not to be separated from China”.

Well, that’s enough dusty history; let’s get with the now. At the authoritative Russian Military Reform blog, Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg sends Mr. Felgenhauer’s strategery home in tears, saying, “There are so many things wrong with this analysis, I’m not sure where to begin”. He’s right, and there’s no sense in my repeating the entire scolding here; the Mistrals are troop carriers and helicopter assault supporters, and while they are a nice piece of hardware and a badly-needed addition to the Russian fleet, the premise that they destabilize the region is just laughable. They couldn’t go near any enemy combatants without a bristling escort, because they are weak in self-defense capability (as is, although that deficiency may well be remedied by retrofit on the part of the new owners). Besides, they’re going to…what? Launch a beachhead assault against the U.S. forces based in Japan? Ha, ha…whew, my ribs were starting to hurt a little. As I mentioned in my comment to Dr. Gorenburg’s article, Mr. Felgenhauer must rate the capabilities of the Russian fighting man very highly indeed if approximately 3,500 of them could strike fear into the hearts of Japan-based US forces that outnumber them ten to one. The USA currently has about 35,000 military personnel distributed throughout 61 bases and stations in Japan. The forward-based USN Seventh Fleet at Yokusuka includes a nuclear Aircraft Carrier, a Command & Control ship, and their screen of a pair of cruisers and 7 destroyers. An Assault Carrier, 3 tank and support vehicle landing ships and a handful of Minesweepers are just a whistle away at Sasebo.

As you almost always find, politics is more the driving force behind this manufactured controversy than anything else. Japanese Prime Minister Kan’s national approval rating is sucking bog water at down around 20%: he has nothing to lose and perhaps much to gain by a campaign to stir up Japanese nationalism. I have a good deal of respect for the political grasp of the average Japanese citizen, and I can’t imagine them being fooled in great numbers, but you never know; it’s probably worth a try. It suits the American Right to keep the dispute front-page or close to it, in their ongoing campaign to keep the Medvedev/Putin government off balance and on the defensive. That, too, is unlikely to get much traction, as their national approval ratings make those of Kan look pretty sick, and they have absolutely nothing to lose by a continued display of resolve and poltical will.

There’s one more factor in play. We’ve discussed before this the growing untenability of American military facilities based in Japan generally and on Okinawa particularly. Some might be surprised to learn they cost Japan a good deal of money, under the status-of-forces agreement with the United States. And though those based in Japan generally behave themselves and contribute significantly to the economy, there’s just something about having foreign military forces a constant presence in the population that implies a lingering loss of self-determination and freedom. I’m not arguing that Japan didn’t bring it on itself, or that the USA was wrong to overthrow Japan, because that’s not so. But with all the rhetoric about democracy and free will, a continued occupation is difficult to justify as protection for a country that has an extremely powerful and capable military in its own right. The move of the U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, currently under discussion, would seem to bear this out.

In that discussion, I mentioned that the U.S. Navy might be looking for a new location for its forward-based naval units. A good place might be Iturup or Kunashir. Unlikely? Maybe – but the USA once thought it’d be an awesome idea. Once again from the Pacific Historical Review; “The Kurils also appeared in the JCS’s (Joint Chiefs of Staff) plans for postwar bases. In January 1944, a Joint Post War Committee study listed a base in the Kurils as “essential”, the highest designation given to prospective bases”.

Mr. Felgenhauer and his cronies  colleagues at the Jamestown Foundation hope the smell of smoke will lead the ignorant to believe there must be fire. It’s a good thing you’re not ignorant.

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204 Responses to Noun, Verb, Kurils (Again)

  1. Artocarpus says:

    An excellent review of Pavel’s forecasts during the 2008 South Ossetian conflict (in Russian)

    That man shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    • marknesop says:

      As I mentioned on Mr. Gorenburg’s blog, I once kind of liked Felgenhauer’s writing when he used to be a regular columnist for the Moscow Times (as he perhaps still is; I don’t have a subscription, so I don’t read it). I considered him a realist, but this nonsense is all the way across town from realistic. Thanks for the link – I can’t wait to see what he has to say about that debacle. Having it as a forecast is even better.

      • Misha says:

        I never thought of Felgenhauer as a “realist,” or someone worth propping on sheer merit. IMO, the ongoing promotion of him is one of several examples of what’s wrong with the coverage.

        One of Felgenhauer’s MT articles included a historical spin favored by anti-Russian/Polish nationalists.

        In English language mass media (I categorize The MT as such), show me a Polish or non-Polish propped defense analyst giving a mainstream Russian take of Russo-Polish history.

    • marknesop says:

      Ha, ha!!! That’s brilliant!! Let’s summarize:

      1. Georgia is well prepared. Georgia will not strike first.

      2. Georgia will not retreat.

      3. Russia will take thousands of casualties, and

      4. The war, if it happens, will be long and bloody.

      Pasha is the Russian George Will, of the Washington Post!! Nobody except Charles Krauthammer, also of the Washington Post, was so consistently wrong through every combat phase, in their case for the Iraq war. Thank you, I had no idea he was such a fool.

      • Alexei Cemirtan says:

        The question is, why after writing such garbage, and there is plenty of it, he is still considered an “expert”. How many times does he have discredit himself to be DISCREDITED.

        That being said, it had long become a rule of thumb for most Russians NOT to take seriously any publication that relies on Felgenhauer’s “analysis”.

        I just wish that Western media would finally stop embarassing themselves and annoying us by giving any credibility to this devoted practitioner of the world’s oldest profession.

          • Misha says:


            I suspect you might get a kick out of this one:


            There was an online takedown of the rumor mongering peddled in the “censored” piece from someone who was in the Caucasus at the time of the claim made.

            The MT going from Felgenhauer to Golts hardly qualifies as censorship, as much as maintaining a slanted status quo, albeit with someone else.

            • Alexei Cemirtan says:

              Wow! Its actually possible to go too far off the reservation even for the Moscow Times.

              Hm, was there ever such a time when journalists just did their jobs and reported the news, rather then went on constant crusades against all the wrongs in the world?

              • Misha says:

                Against those wrongs in the world, which are politically convenient to go after.

                Keeping in mind that some of the wrongs aren’t always as advertised.

        • marknesop says:

          The two Washington Post columnists mentioned – Will and Krauthammer – are both still employed by WaPo, and their opinion is still eagerly sought by those who see them as credible and Will in particular as “the Dean of Western Pundits”. Yet Will was wrong on virtually every momentous forecast, sometimes comically so.

          People who are willfully ignorant will continue to listen to a source even after it has been proven wrong again and again, because “there are two sides to every story” (yes, a right side and a wrong side) and “there are no firm answers”. Opinion-columnist journalism is apparently a lot like Psychology: there are no wrong answers.

          • cartman says:

            It is their livelihood to deliver articles with a certain slant. I notice Julia Ioffe used that word to describe her own career when Luke Harding was denied entry to Moscow. They write what the publishers want, and probably would have made excellent writers for pravda. What would they do without the crazy savage Russian? Write about sports?

            • Misha says:

              One of the folks you mention has negatively described a pro-Kremlin oligarch media in Russia, along with other terms like Russian (not Soviet) murder at Katyn and belittling of Russia’s stance on disputed former Communist bloc territories.

              From that same source, you won’t find much if anything critical about journos slanting like Felgenhauer and questionable (put mildly) neocon/neolib stances on disputed former Communist bloc lands.

  2. cartman says:

    Japan does not honor its commitments to clean up the chemical weapons they dumped on Chinese people, then buried throughout China to hide evidence of war crimes. This, after the $1 trillion the Chinese had forgiven them shows they are in complete denial they were ever in a war that they had started. I think they see Russia as a soft neighbor, but this dispute will probably push China and Russia closer together.

    • marknesop says:

      Japan and Russia have strong trade ties, and Japan is anxious that this tough talk regarding the Kuriles not damage the relationship, particularly where energy is concerned. At present Japan doesn’t get a great deal of its energy from Russia, but would like to diversify a little out of the Middle East with all its political volatility. Anything that pushes China and Russia closer together is not good for Japan, who has a territorial dispute going with China as well.

      • Alexei Cemirtan says:

        Actually there had been some studies which illustrate that Russian-Japan’s relationship never reached its full potential for the past 50 years and the continuous bickering over Kurils is cited as the main reason for this. In fact, it precisely the lack of significant ties that makes this disagreement possible, as both sides have nothing concrete to sacrifise by not cooperating with each other. Sure, the loss of great possibilities is regretable, but unfortunately for the last 50 years there never was a partner on the Japanese side who rated them as more important than scoring cheap political points at home.

        • marknesop says:

          The comments I saw expressing worry and concern that the relationship not be damaged were from ministers such as finance and energy. The leader has to strut and posture, but the folks in the trenches still have to keep the country on the rails. I’m actually getting tired of the Kuriles being kept in the spotlight, when the issue of ownership has been resolved over and over. I think this is the third post I’ve done on the subject, but the first is probably the one where I did the most research on the trade ties between the two countries.

    • Misha says:

      At the below linked Russia Profile panel, it’s suggested that Japan (and not so much Russia) is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis, given China’s growing economic clout.

  3. Misha says:

    In case anyone missed, this panel on Russian-Japanese relations might be of interest:

    • Misha says:

      This isn’t a good sign:

      Japanese sources openly discussing the military option of taking over the islands and the US government making comments that are arguably in the mischievous range.

      • marknesop says:

        Interesting. However, I noticed oil touched $100.00 a barrel again today, for the first time since panicky 2008, owing to worries about Libya’s stability. Japan is an energy importer on a grand scale, and had spoken previously about – hopefully – diversifying its energy sources, which are mostly in the Middle East. How’s that working out for you, Japan?

        The Kurils belong to Russia. I don’t personally have anything against Japan, and I like its people. However, either the law is the law, or there isn’t any, and there’s no reason we should recognize anyone’s borders or territorial limits. The U.S. of course will back Japan – the U.S. would back Iran if they were in a squabble with Russia. As you suggest, it’s mostly for the sake of making mischief and causing problems for Russia. But if they got really lucky, and Japan got the Kurils back, the U.S. would have a base there quicker than you could say “There’s nowhere you can go in the Sea of Okhotsk that we can’t see and hear you”.

        I don’t think anything like that will happen, though. As I mentioned, Kan is pretty unpopular, and Japan butts right up against a big country that still has a pretty sizeable nuclear stockpile. The Japanese are the only people on the planet who have already been nuked once, and I imagine they’d take great pains to avoid it in future. The U.S. is in no legal position to help them, since they gave the Kurils to the Soviet Union. All the war talk is just sabre-rattling, because Russia would be most unlikely to let the Kurils go without a fight. And a fight could escalate pretty quickly.

        • Misha says:

          An apparent answer to some of the comments made from Japan:

          • Misha says:

            US Wrong on South Kuril’s Belonging – Lavrov

            • Misha says:

              Preparing for the Worst on the South Kuril Islands

              • Yalensis says:

                Wow! Thanks for links. Is scary to think that Japan actually could launch a sneak attack, just like Pearl Harbor. Seems sensible strategy to defend islands from air rather than trying to defend overly-long coastline.

                • Misha says:

                  Don’t forget what happened at Port Arthur – a Japanese attack, which the West essentially went along with.

                • marknesop says:

                  Wow indeed. The wild card in the deck there is the U.S. forward-based elements of the 7th Fleet and the 35,000 American military personnel based in Japan, as well as the significant air component based at Kadena and other facilities. What would they do in the event of an unprovoked Japanese attack on the Kurils? Would they support it, or try to stop it? This is an important political question for the USA, because they have gone so far as to publicly support Japan’s claim despite being the actual brokers of the deal that granted control of the Kurils to the Soviet Union. And the beauty of it is that the original thinking behind the decision was to prevent Japan from ever again becoming the military power it now evidently is, with the capability to strike its neighbours without warning for purposes of conquest and expansion. The USA is now publicly supporting the policy that caused the Kurils to be denied to Japan in a deal brokered…by the USA. Should you not have noticed, this puts them in a very difficult position – all the more so since Russia has declined as a military power, rather than representing a new and building threat. By every fundamental underpinning of international diplomacy as we know it, the USA should come to Russia’s defense in the event of an attack, and they must know it.

                  It’s important to note that the subject article originates in Russia, and serves the same interests by whipping up nationalist spirit as does Japan. The smart thing for Japan to do would be to shut this down now, with an article expressing regret that Russia got the wrong idea, and that a little bellicose rhetoric on the part of a few political figures should not be construed as a war plan. Will they? We’ll see.

  4. PvMikhail says:

    I just “don’t understand” the US stance in this dispute. If the possession of the Kuriles could be debated it would mean (for objective and consistent observers) that any kind of WW2 agreements about infuence and territories could be reviewed. I think it is not the natural interest of the United States, who emerged as a total victor after the War and won a lot of privilege from those postwar agreements (lot more than it would have deserved based on contribution). I just can’t believe my ears that those idiots in the pentagon and white house hate Russia so much. They would jeopardize (I know that this is impossible, but in theory) the entire post-war world order just to f#%k with Russia over 4 little island-volcanos. They are just never tired to bugger Russia around.

    Otherwise I don’t think that Japan is serious partner in this dispute. The government only wants some credit for their “patriotic” (idiotic) stance. Based on this, Germany should declare that Poland should give back Oppeln, Danzig and the surrounding territory. How’s that? Brzezinski would be “happy”, I guess.

    • Misha says:

      In such an instance (of Germany getting back territories given to Poland at the end of WW II), he would probably seek for Vilnius (Wilno) and Lviv/Lvov (Lwow) going back to Poland.

    • rkka says:

      The US government has been systematically destroying the post-WWII settlement for at least three decades now.

      Reunifying Germany.

      Breaking up Yugoslavia, and backing ex-Axis partners Albanians, Croatians, and Muslim Bosnians while so doing.

      Pushing the USSR out of Central Europe.

      Breaking up the USSR into as many small pieces as possible..

      Backing Japan against the USSR/Russia over the Kuriles.

      Vituperating the UN, when not simply ignoring it.

      You see, the problem with the post-WWII settlement from the point of view of the Anglosphere foreign policy elite and punditocracy is that the US had allies whose views had to be taken seriously and accommodated to some degree, and it built institutions like the UN that put some small restraint on the freedom of action of the Great and Super Powers.

      The Anglosphere foreign policy elite and punditocracy are not interested in any constraint on their freedom of action, so any impediment to it, however small, must be destroyed.

      Yes, the logical outcome of this is another world war.

      • Misha says:

        The advancement of weapons encouraged the MAD concept of wars via proxy in the form of:

        – major powers indirectly fighting each other via their rival support for different sides in a dispute between miltarily less stronger countries.

        During the Cold War, this also included the super powers militarily supporting one side at war with the rival super power. Two examples being Vietnam and Afghanistan. The 2008 former Georgian SSR war bears some (stress some) resemblance to this last example.

      • marknesop says:

        That’s a very interesting analysis; I never really thought about it that way. It’s true the USA did not at the time imagine Japan would one day be such a strong ally, and the adjustment of ownership and borders had an emphasis on preventing Japan from ever again entertaining imperial ambition. It was not envisioned at the time that Japan would become such a devoted ally, or so regionally important given that the America/Stalin partnership didn’t turn out as planned. Now Japan is needed to furnish a bulwark against Russia rather than the other way round. Don’t forget that at the time, the USA dominated the oil market completely, while fuel consumption was ridiculously tiny compared to what it is now. According to Encyclopedia of Earth, the dramatic increase in global fuel consumption was tied to the phenomenal development of the automobile, and there were less than 18 million cars worldwide in 1945. In 1972 that number had surged to 161 million. Priorities change as national needs dictate.

        Your analysis, expanded a little and supported by source documentation, would make an interesting post.

      • Yalensis says:

        @pvMikhail and @rkka: Very good points made about the post-WWII world order and its undermining by USA. Most deleterious, in my view, is American undermining of the U.N., which used to be a valid forum for small nations, and is now just a joke. I would also add American ideological support for those in central Europe (Ukraine and others) who would rewrite history of WWII and turn Nazi collaborators into “good guys”. This began, unfortunately, not just 3 decades ago, but even earlier, right at the end of WWII, when Americans began to “rescue” Nazi war criminals from punishment by hiding them in U.S. This is well documented fact (by Simon Wiesenthal Institute, among others). I would also add American undermining of Olympic Games, boycotting Moscow Olympics in 1980. This is important because Olympics are another important international institution, like U.N., which require support and not undermining.

        • marknesop says:

          You can find out a good deal of information on the sweeping up of German scientists – some, but not all of them Nazis – after the war by googling “Operation Paperclip”. Here’s something interesting to get you started, including mention of the sickeningly evil Klaus Barbie allegedly being a U.S. Army CounterIntelligence Corps (CIC) asset. CIC protected him when France wanted to try him for war crimes, including sending Jewish children to Auschwitz, and helped him escape to South America when they couldn’t cover him any longer. I was also interested to see that material learned from Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests varies widely – some have asked for information and received more or less exactly what they asked for, while others receive redacted documents. You’d think there must be guidelines.

          There’s also occasional tantalizing mention (since we were also talking about Japan) of Unit 731, which appears to have been a unit of Japanese scientists brought to the USA to observe virology trials conducted by the German scientists of Operation Paperclip. Three of the top scientists of Unit 731 are alleged to have been shielded from war crimes trials in exchange for their research files, and to have gone on to found the Green Cross drugstore chain/pharmacology business in Japan. This is similar in nature to the situation with I.G. Farben, makers of the Zyklon B (originally formulated as a pesticide) that was used in the gas chambers. It is said that Germany could not have gone to war in 1939 without I.G. Farben; by that time the cartel had acquired managerial influence in more than 370 German firms and some 500 foreign ones – including (in the USA) Standard Oil, Alcoa, Dow Chemical and DuPont. Directors of Farben firms allegedly included not only Germans but prominent American financiers. Connections, connections, connections. Most sources mention the full story will never be known, as key German records were destroyed in 1945 when Allied victory appeared inevitable.

          On a totally unrelated matter, I see La Baturina is in the news again, and not in a good way. The noose around Luzhkov’s neck continues to tighten. I’m sure this will not have a positive effect on their efforts to find someplace else to settle down and spend their golden years.

          • Yalensis says:

            Re. American protecting of Nazi war criminals after the war: if it was just rocket scientists and men with important knowledge, that would be understandable. Those guys were considered trophies, and everybody wanted to get them, including Soviet Union. But Americans went way beyond that: they protected many even insignificant, low-IQ types like rank-and-file guards at extermination camps who had beaten and murdered Jews. These types were provided with false documents and allowed to hide out in America. Soviet Union did protect some German rocket scientists, true, but they also had a much better record when it came to prosecuting the average war criminal.

    • marknesop says:

      Actually, you appear to understand it very well, because your description is accurate. It should be stressed that this is not the position of all Americans or even all of the U.S. government – just some of the hard-right elements for whom the Cold war never ended. Their part is to amplify Japan’s position – which, again, does not represent all of Japan, but a leader in a weak position with the electorate who wants to rally them behind him under the banner of Japanese nationalism.

      The Kuriles are reputed to be particularly rich fishing grounds, and Japan eats pretty much all the fish it can catch; expanded fishing grounds would be welcome. There is potential for large oil and gas deposits based on regional statistics, and there is supposed to be some mineral wealth as well. But the quality about the Kuriles that cements Russia’s refusal to give them up is that it would cede control of the Sea of Okhotsk to a foreign power. Based on past history, if Japan assumed ownership they would be likely to grant the U.S. basing rights on the islands. The USA indicated considerable interest in a base in the Kuriles at the close of the Second World War. It would fit perfectly with U.S. foreign policy on Russia – gradual and continuous encirclement and inward pressure. It is the reason unrest in the Caucasus suits U.S. foreign policy, whether or not they directly support it, and the reason the Islamist elements receive such sympathetic coverage by Russophobic sources although Islam is itself politically unpopular in the U.S.

      • Yalensis says:

        I wonder if there is any room for compromise?
        For example, a treaty whereby Japan could use the islands almost as if they owned them, but precluded any military bases other than Russian ones? I personally wouldn’t care if Japan had the islands, so long as they didn’t let Americans in to build bases and encircle Russia.

        • marknesop says:

          Others have proposed a joint Russo-Japanese exclusive economic zone, but the current Japanese government poured cold water on the idea quickly. As I mentioned, Kan remains unpopular, and there’s a reasonably good chance of his being chucked out on his ear and his party replaced by one whose relations with Russia are considerably more cordial. I wouldn’t go for letting the Japanese use them as their own (if it was my decision, which of course it is not) owing to their mineral and oil wealth, as well as the rich fishing grounds that surround them. Not unless Japan was interested in leasing them for an amount that would approximate the total they would realize from selling extracted mineral wealth and natural resources such as fish, less a reasonable amount for their having done the work of getting them.

          Russia needs to control the Kurils in order to avoid being in a situation in which it must seek permission from another nation to gain access to the Pacific for its Pacific Fleet units based in Vladivostok. you can hardly project power and influence if you can’t even leave your own shores without permission, and that part just isn’t negotiable.

          • Yalensis says:

            Good points. I just got around to reading the Rozoff article, and he paints a very scary picture of USA instigating more conflict (surprise surprise) using Japan as cannon fodder against China and Russia. If it was just about mineral and fishing rights, I have no doubt that Russian and Japanese people could reach some kind of deal acceptable to both sides. But with USA in the mix inciting military conflict, no deal is possible, because Americans obviously have bigger fish to fry.. no pun intended… it’s almost as if Americans want a “re-make” of WWII, but this time with America playing the role of Germany vs. The World: Japanese good guys this time; Chinese and Russians bad guys; and different ending to the movie.

  5. Misha says:

    “Mr. Felgenhauer and his cronies colleagues at the Jamestown Foundation hope the smell of smoke will lead the ignorant to believe there must be fire. It’s a good thing you’re not ignorant.”


    They’ve have some beauts at their EDM organ:

    In addition to the above link, here’s another opposite view to Socor:

    • Alexei Cemirtan says:

      I seriously doubt that Trans-Dnistrea will ever return to Moldova. It is simply not in anyone’s interest. At the moment Pridnestrovie is the only territorial entity within Europe proper, that exists completely outside of international law, out of reach of any international institutions. The amounts of black market cash flows that go into Pridnestrovie, pass through its very permiable borders with Moldova and Ukraine and emerge clear and clean are just too big to allow any changes in the situation.

      • Misha says:

        In conjunction with each other, several realities make a former Moldavian SSR settlement possible:

        – Moldova hasn’t been able to have its preference in Pridnestrovie.

        – Pridnestrovie has a government which seems to better reflect its population than the Moldovan government. Pridnestrovie isn’t North Korea. By now, there would be evidence of popular support there for the Moldovan government.

        – Pridnestrovie hasn’t been able to get any independence recognition from any country.

        As I’ve said, a union state of autonomus republics within former Moldavian SSR territory seems like (IMO) the most reasonable of settlement options.

        Given the example of northern Cyprus, the former Moldavian SSR dispute can linger on for some time.

        • Alexei Cemirtan says:

          It will linger as long as Pridnestrovie can make more money by being a separatist unrecognised territory, than becoming a part of Moldava. Given the absolute financial hole that Moldova had been in for the last 20 years, with no light whatsoever at the end of the tunnel, being a part of Moldova will not be a more profitable option for a very long time to come.

          • Misha says:

            The linger on situation is premised on a relative sense of security with the existing status quo. A settlement brings on the notion of an apprehension on whether a change will be better.

            For its part, Russia understanably isn’t going to be so willing to broker a united former Moldavian SSR that shows noticeable signs of being insensitive to Russian concerns.

        • PvMikhail says:

          to all the people: I don’t think that Pridnesterovie has any interest in joining Moldaviya again. It simply doesn’t have any attractive potential. How can you have a sphere of influence, when you can’t even decide on your own fate? Do Moldavians want to stay Moldavians or want to sell themselves to Romanians? Until this dispute breaks to the surface all the time (the Romanians will not let this question to get solved), I think nobody should talk about settlement. If Pridnesterovie end up as a Romanian province, it will be very annoying for its people. Pridnesterovie has its own economy and a good football team 🙂 , I don’t think that “Europe’s poorest country (according to western press it grabbed the title from Albanians who truly love the west)” Moldaviya could give them much more than they have now. What they can offer is easier Romanian citizenship for Moldavian speakers, nonexistent minority in Pridnesterovie.

  6. PvMikhail says:

    sorry for OFF.

    People… Did anyone read somethin interesting in the news today?… After months of anti-Russian propaganda, smoke-screen and call for another investigation, Polaks quietly acknowledged that they were to blame for the Kaczynski-accident. Radoslaw Sikorski said it himself in the Polish TV. They are just tiresome.

    • Alexei Cemirtan says:

      There is actually a sensible article on Putin in the Independent.

      Had to read it twice to make sure that my eyes are not deceiving me. There is nothing new in it, but the actual fact that a Western journalist was able to discuss Putin without succumbing to hysterical stereotypes is quiet refreshing.

      • Misha says:

        A not so great overall media coverage/punditry makes the release of the otherwise obvious a great revelation for some.

      • marknesop says:

        That is a good article, and for the most part very fair. The Independent typically leans left, and provided some of the most critical coverage of the Iraq War, earning themselves condemnation from the Right as a nest of traitors. Even so, reading all the tropes brought to bear against Putin made me want to rip out my monitor by the roots and throw it, even if the author was mentioning them only to refute them. It makes me foam the way they can’t mention Putin without getting a dig in about the KGB. So effing what? Daddy Bush was the Godfather of the CIA, and you don’t hear that mentioned as a cautionary note to his overall trustworthiness every time his name comes up. They love to hammer on Putin for “closing independent TV stations”, but there’s no evidence that doing so strangled negative coverage of Putin from inside Russia, is there? When Saakashvili’s goons broke into an independent TV station in Tbilisi and shut it down on the spot, there was barely a peep from the west, and if you mention it in defense of Russia, a legion of mouth-breathers will start screeching “Whataboutism!! That’s whataboutism, over here!!!” while the “send” key is still warm. They still mention Putin “sanctioning” the murder of Politkovskaya, when there is no evidence to suggest anything of the kind and there would have been absolutely no reason for him to have taken such an enormous risk for zero payoff.

        This is a positive step, but I’m afraid it is an anomaly. We’ll see what the comments section of it has to say.

        • PvMikhail says:

          what they can’t (don’t want to) understand is, that Putin doesn’t care about low-profile people. How many “journalists” are out there who loudly bark false catchphrases about Russia everyday? Putin didn’t kill them. Politkovskaya had an inward relationship with chechen militants, thast’s for sure, now she’s dead, so what? her journalism wasn’t more threatening to the system than any other liberasti currently live and function in the country. Why would he kill these strange creatures? They can do more harm dead than in alive. Putin knows his country: the fact is, that if Russia was like Switzerland, even in that case it would generate that 1% who can’t live without words like “dissidence”, “human rights”, “dictature”, “samizdat”, “political prisoner” any more, because these words are the justifications behind their pitiable, useless existence as “authors” or “politicians”.

          • marknesop says:

            Precisely. High-profile Russophobes continue to insist Politkovskaya and Estemirova “knew something”, implying it was so big it could have brought down the government. Nonsense. I’m not trying to belittle their sacrifices or their deaths, and I have no doubt they were good, decent women who worked toward noble goals without expecting a reward. But let’s not endow them with magical powers they never had, which would cause Putin to perceive them as such a terrible threat that they must die. If anything, they might have helped reach a peaceful solution in the Caucasus, and if Putin had to admit some people got killed who shouldn’t have, I doubt that’s beyond his reach. Didn’t he cop to the murder of the Polish officers at Katyn, even though Russian responsibility for it is not certain?

            In my own personal opinion, the west hates Putin because Russia is headed in the wrong direction under his leadership, from a western point of view. A strong Russia, driving toward modernization financed by energy dollars and high on national pride is not what a west that hoped Russia would never recover from Yeltsin selling off state assets at giveaway prices hoped to see. Russia was supposed to reel and topple, and be broken up into republics that could be shoved around the chessboard at will. Big multinationals would manage its energy assets. I question whether anyone but Putin could have reversed that course.

          • grafomanka says:

            Politkovskaya was on to something – apparently some of the terrorists that attacked theatre in Moscow (one that got away alive) worked for Russsian security services.
            Not that it had necessarily something to do with Putin himself, but definitely with security people.

            • Misha says:

              People have changed.

              Before becoming allied with Alija Izetbegovic – Nasir Oric had an affiliation with Slobodan Milosevic.

              When with Izetbegovic, I don’t believe that Oric served as a double agent.

            • kovane says:

              Oh, please. You are clearly not familiar with Politkovskaya’s so called “work”. Let’s just say the the depth of her research was non-existent and mostly can be reduced to passing off Chechen scary stories about federals as the gospel truth without any fact-checking whatsoever. Everything is possible, and maybe Putin himself was implanted into some terrorist cell, but there’s no information to substantiate that or government officials’ involvement in her murder.

              • Alexei Cemirtan says:

                So true about the quality of journalism of these reporters. You know, they remind me of the old police warning thingies for your car. Since they wailed all of the time, at least sometimes they were bound to be right.

              • grafomanka says:


                I know, Politkovskaya was more of a “good mother” figure than a journalist, perpetually outraged at all the evil of the world. During the theater siege she actually went inside to plead with the terrorists to release hostages (didn’t work but she did try). About the terrorist- FSB connection – I just find it strange how all the people involved in bringing this up ended up dead – Politkovskaya and Litvinienko and politician Yushenkov and Terkibayev (the one that got out of the theater alive). Of course their death might not be connected at all – Politkovskaya did get death threats from Kadyrov and some army corporals.
                Politkovskaya definitely stepped on some toes, otherwise nobody would care to go as far as kill her in such a brazen manner.

                • marknesop says:

                  I agree, and the deaths of both women were unfortunate and unnecessary. But there were likely many who wished Politkovskaya would shut up who were a great deal more directly implicated than Putin. The manner of her death also was much too risky for the head of state to be directly tied to it; that her murderer is still uncaptured is a great deal more likely due to his fool’s luck than an elaborate coverup. If the state wanted her removed, it would have made much more sense to have arranged a traffic accident or something eminently more deniable, while still sending a clear message to those for which it was intended.

                  So far, every terrorist attack I can remember except for the two planes that were hijacked and driven into the ground has brought a knee-jerk accusation of FSB involvement, always Putin maneuvering for personal advantage. He certainly must have been an outstanding boss if all the Security Services are so willing to die for him. Once I would have said “except for the plane hijacks and the theatre attack”, but apparently even that was an FSB operation. I think you’ll find terrorists always try to salvage something from a mission; even if it’s a failure and everyone is caught before any damage can be done, you can always “confess” that you had a contact who was an FSB major, and the press will do the rest.

                • Misha says:

                  “Politkovskaya definitely stepped on some toes, otherwise nobody would care to go as far as kill her in such a brazen manner.”

                  A reasoned supposition that for accuracy sake should note that the actual motive for her getting murdered remains speculative.

                  It could be for a reason other than what some suggest.


                  Although fictional to a considerable degree, the NBC TV series Law and Order nevertheless serves as a valid reminder that without clearly established evidence, crimes aren’t always what they might appear to be.

            • PvMikhail says:

              so if this thing with the survived terrorist-agent is true, why didn’t the government ordered a less bloody siege with less casualties and with clear success on the side of federal troops? Just because in that case they would not shoot themselves into the foot and Security Services would get away with less or no embarrassment. Summary: my logic doesn’t let me believe those “findings”
              One more possible solution of the mystery: what if the agent was there to sabotage the terrorist act.

            • PvMikhail says:

              people! This is what I meant when I said: these liberast freaks worth more dead than alive. We don’t have to sleep too much until a new fairy tale will be premiered, of course, from western money. I just want to know, that exactly what part of this film benefits the Swedish taxpayers?


              Who will be the next? Magnitsky or Markelov? Everybody can do their bets here and now. Magnitsky 1,2:1, Markelov 1,5:1

              • marknesop says:

                Wow. That storyline isn’t slanted or anything, is it? Is there some reason they keep hammering on the point that she was killed on Putin’s birthday? Putin’s, what…58? Somebody should have hit on this sooner!!! Check how many people died violently on Putin’s birthday for the past 58 years!! My God, it probably means he killed them, too!!! Even just people in Russia, it should still be enough to make Vladimir Putin the greatest serial killer of all time!!!

                I don’t mean to be sarcastic, because she seemed like a very nice and kind woman, and I don’t doubt her heart was in the right place. She certainly didn’t deserve to be shot. But you’re right that she has achieved a degree of recognition in martyrdom she probably never would have reached had she lived.

                Maybe they’ll do Bill Browder next. I realize he’s not dead, but they could do a great film about how he was just trying to help stop corruption in Russia, and the fact that it made him astronomically rich overnight was just a coincidence. It would have the added appeal of the filmmaker not having to look for an actor who looks like Browder play him. He could just do it himself. In fact, I’d bet on the next one not being a murdered journalist – don’t want to saturate the market.

            • Yalensis says:

              Conspiracy theories about FSB involvement in various Chechen terrorist acts are just as implausible as those who believe CIA was behind 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City. Come on, people! Let’s have some proof! The only thing Politkovskaya was “onto” was spreading false rumors passed to her by her various Chechen terrorist contacts. Having said that, I do believe that Kadyrov probably had something to do with her death, and Putin probably did not, but knows who did it, and shrugs his shoulders, because he can’t go after Kadyrov, nor does he give a shit when people like Politkovskaya die. Having said that, I have no proof either, no facts, it’s all just speculation.

      • grafomanka says:

        Funny thing about western opinion
        When ‘the Independent’ publishes something like that Mary Dajevski’s article above the reaction is;
        ‘ The Independent is owned by ex-KGB oligarch Lebedev, it’s a Kremlin mouth piece!’
        But when they use Novaya Gazeta publications to condemn Putin’s regime nobody mentions Ledebev at all 🙂

    • marknesop says:

      Did you see that anywhere in writing, Mikhail? That’s very interesting; there was really little other conclusion, but it bodes very well for the Polish/Russian rapprochement if they actually acknowledged it. The Russian fool who stole a credit card from one of the bodies did serious damage to the Russian position, but I think the Russophobes have milked that for all it’s worth. The only thing they had left was stoking fury by implying Russia was to blame for the crash itself, and they were helped in that by some pro-western elements of the Polish government. If they had to confess it was the mistake of Kaczynski and his flight crew, it’s very significant, because it marks a point from which the Russophobes cannot force the narrative back to blaming Russia.

      • Misha says:

        Right here:

        Keep in mind the matter of inner-Polish political differences (not necessarily related to Russia) possibly playing a role.

        • marknesop says:

          That’s exactly what I am thinking of when I say, “pro-western elements of the Polish government”. Sikorski and his nutty wife have done as much to keep the impression of conflict between Russia and Poland on the front burner as any other combination of factors.

          • Misha says:

            Sikorski has differences with the K brothers on non-Russia related matters.

            That one of the two groupings is less extreme on Russia than the other is relative.


        • PvMikhail says:

          Another thing in connection with this. PiS demagogues bash Russia no matter what. I cannot help myself, I have to LOL on this Kaczynski-thing. When Lech died (ironically on Russian soil) Jaroslaw had a human moment and spoke about tragedy, even thanked the help of Russians (people and government). Some time elapsed and then he started (as usual) this kind of “Russian government conspired with evil UFOs to steal my brother’s body murdered by Putin himself, and put a deceased GULag mate into the coffin” behavior. He and his PiS mates started to bash Tusk and his government for incompetence and “bowing” to Russians. Tusk had to do something to neutralize this threat from PiS (according to these people, admitting any responsibility on polish side equals high treason) and came up with some idiotic two faced complaints about the MAK investigation and how everybody is guilty except Poland and we know what that means… They are probably gearing up for the next election, and parties in “democratic states” never select tools when elections are approaching.

          • Misha says:

            Reminded yet again when relative moderate Kerry bashed Bush for being soft on Russia during a televised US presidential campaign foreign policy debate, which (rather interestingly) spent more time on Russia than China and the Middle East.

            • PvMikhail says:

              you know… we have to wait until the americans who lived during the Cold War, die out, if we want to end this kind of “special” attention. No other solution.

              • marknesop says:

                Not just Cold-War holdouts from the USA. That loopy Oksana Bashiuk-Hepburn who writes for the Kyiv Post lives in Canada, and was even an advisor to the government (although it was in economics rather than foreign policy). She hates Russia with a bone-deep loathing that only her eventual passing on will eradicate. I’m sure she’s not the only Canadian, either; the Prairie Provinces have large former Ukrainian and Hungarian populations, and some of them have an irrational hatred of Russia as well. Some of Russia’s neighbours – such as Poland, as we’ve already discussed – have no love for Russia and like to shout about it rather than keeping it to themselves.

                I’ve heard it said that every country has enemies, and it’s probably true. But even Germany and Japan, two countries that not so long ago were mortal enemies of the west, have more friends in the west than does Russia.

                On another note, our friend Poemless is in something of a situation. It would be nice if everyone could stop by, and maybe offer a little comfort. If you live nearby (Chicago), maybe you can think of something that might help.

              • Misha says:


                There’s some not so old – old thinking (from the Cold War era) to be found across the board.

                Prior to the USSR, Russia and significant portions of the West had noticeable periods of cooperation and good relations. Keeping in mind that over the course of time, the West has experienced noticeable differences within its ranks.
                Russia sided with Britain, Prussia and Austria against Napoleon. During America’s revolution and civil war, Russia leaned towards not supporting the British. There’s also the alliance structure of two world wars to reference as well, with WW II involving the Soviet period.

                As has been noted at this and other venues, some folks are inclined to not be friendly towards Russia, regardless of ideology.

                I take the keep on keeping on approach, with the hope that reason will prevail.

                • PvMikhail says:

                  When I think about relations between west and Russia, my mind always echoes: Crimean war… Ottoman empire was a very un-european destructive force, we Hungarians can tell you about that. Despite that, west never really wanted to get rid of it because that would have given Konstantinopol to Russia, a christian power. They sabotaged every Russian attempt to liberate the city and however Russians managed to defeat Ottomans many times, they couldn’t keep what they got because of western pressure at signing of peace treaties. Finally in 1853, they showed their real intention and teamed up against Russia, while Habsburg monarchy betrayed the Czar (who formerly saved the Empire when its very existence was in jeopardy because of 1848 revolutions).

                • Misha says:


                  At a UCLA panel aired on CSPAN, an academic by the last name of Trager (hope I’ve his name right) noted that in the lead-up to the Crimean war, the Brits encouraged the Turks to be obstinate towards Russia.

                  Russia was mistaken for coming to the aid of the Habsburgs.

                  Your points are quite valid. However, there’re some Brits, Turks and Hungarians, among others, who want to move on in a way that isn’t looking to be unnecessarily antagonistic towards Russia.

          • grafomanka says:

            About MAK report
            Russians don’t help reasonable Poles, (like PM Tusk), by publishing one sided report that doesn’t acknowledge even a 1% fault at their side, and by being patronizing and rude.

            What the report fails to address is the condition of the airport, the role of the people in its control tower, and their communications with higher Russian authorities. Oh and commission responsible for the report is also responsible for overseeing the state of airports (!!!) so they findings couldn’t have been different.

            I actually started to wonder if they wanted to embarrass Tusk maximally and topple his government, because it was a perfect way to go about it.

            • kovane says:

              You conveniently forget to mention the other side of the coin. There’s so many unreasonable Poles in the establishment and they wield so much influence, so if Russia puts a finger in their mouth, they will easily bite off the whole hand. Or you don’t think that Kaczynski’s entourage will not spin any parts of the report that even remotely admit Russia’s fault in the crash to outlandish proportions? Whether someone like it or not, Russian-Polish relationships will remain in tatters at least for several decades, until a whole generation of politicians changes. And no pandering will rectify this.

              • grafomanka says:

                Jarek Kaczynski’s lunacy caused his alienation, even some of his own party members quit over it.
                But the report was a major scandal and embarrassment for the government, Tusk had to break his holidays, etc
                Now there’s a general consensus that it was not a good idea to expect an objective report from Russians, which only plays into Kaczynski’s hand.

            • marknesop says:

              Perhaps some of that unwillingness to assume any responsibility is that Kaczynski was not even invited to attend, he simply made a spur-of-the-moment decision that was purely political to go. Then he ignored the strongest possible advice from the tower that he divert to another airport. I’m afraid I can’t speak to the report being patronizing and rude, because I haven’t read it. But I guess I might be a little rude myself if I had to fight through a constant cloud of accusations and outright lies from the remaining Kaczynski twin and other radical russophobes in the Polish government, not to mention the eager and immediate amplification of same by the western press.

              Another plane full of Polish and international press had landed not long before, and the pilot of Kaczynski’s plane had spoken with the crew of that plane by radio, to be told that they had no problem landing – this probably influenced his decision. But visibility had worsened by that time, and the material condition of the airport could hardly be relevant when Kaczynski’s plane landed in the trees.

              It’s easy for me to say, but Tusk would not have been embarrassed at all if he had stuck to his original storyline and not wandered into tough-talk territory in an attempt to appease radical elements of the government who wanted to take advantage of the accident to worsen improving relations.

              • grafomanka says:

                Tusk would not have been embarrassed at all if he had stuck to his original storyline and not wandered into tough-talk territory in an attempt to appease radical elements of the government
                well unfortunately no, because it wasn’t just radical elements this time, but majority of the establishment, even his own party members, voiced concerns.

                • marknesop says:

                  Perhaps it was a majority of the establishment – you appear to have followed it more closely than I. But they were still wrong, weren’t they? My point is that if Tusk had stuck to his guns and said, “wait a bit, if we want a proper report that will settle the issue, it takes time to do the investigation”, he would now look like a level-headed, unflappable leader who had the inside track on what was really going on. Instead, he revealed that he actually got all his progress reports from the media, just like the most uninformed citizens, and could easily be pushed off his position by squawking loudmouths demanding action because he was afraid to look weak. By doing so, he made himself look weak.

                  As you can see here, the presidential aircraft was equipped with an American-made Terrain Avoidance Warning System (TAWS). It notifies a pilot who is about to drive into the ground that he cannot see by a “whooping siren” and the spoken command, “Pull Up”. No plane equipped with the system has crashed since it was introduced a dozen years ago. The report is said to confirm that the pilot was told by the tower at least twice that the visibility was only 400m, and that “no conditions existed for landing”. A Russian aircraft asked for clearance to land just before, and was diverted.

                  Now if you look here, you can see the pilot was warned nearly a half-hour before the crash that the visibility was unsuitable for landing. You can also read his conversation with a crew member of the other Polish plane already on the ground, in which the crew member advises him that he can “definitely try” despite the Russian warnings. At 10:30 there is a report from the plane that “there is no decision from the president about what to do next”, so obviously the landing attempt made which resulted in the crash was at his direction. Quite a few readers seem to be confused by the “400m visibility” figure – that reflects 400m vision in any direction, on a horizontal plane. It doesn’t mean how high up you can see, because you have nothing for reference. That’s covered in the clear report from the crew member of the Polish plane on the ground, when he tells the Presidential aircraft that the cloud base is at only 50m. That’s only 6 times the height of the plane when it’s sitting on the ground, and only a crazy man would attempt to land in such conditions. The TAWS system warns of “Terrain Ahead” 28 seconds before the crash; if the pilot had pulled up at that point, there’s every reason to think the crash would never have happened. Instead, the pilot ignores both the terrain warning and the command to “pull up”, and continues to descend. At 20 meters he still can’t see the ground, or he would have noticed he was far to one side of the runway, not over it – even if he had not hit the trees, the plane would have crashed. Just as the plane drives into the trees – incredibly – the pilot switches off the autopilot and autothrottle and takes the plane in hand control. The TU-154 is landed on Autopilot, as you can see in this interesting thread.

                  The pilot ignored not only repeated warnings that it was unsafe to land, but his own instruments that told him he was about to crash. I’m afraid I don’t see why Russia should assume any degree of responsibility at all, unless you listen to those nuts at freerepublic, who theorize that Russia fed the pilot the wrong barometric pressure to make him think he was higher than he actually was, or released a cloud of artificial fog to blind him.

            • Yalensis says:

              In any accident there is usually plenty of blame to go around; but in this case I honestly don’t see that Russian side did anything wrong. (Except for that thieving idiot who rolled dead body to steal credit cards – did that vulture really think he could get away with that??) Maybe air traffic controllers should have been more assertive (“NO YOU MAY NOT LAND HERE!”), but their behavior cannot even be interpreted as negligent. And maybe the airport is a bit rundown, true. It could probably use some fixing up. But legal liability? No question where that lies, as even Sikorsky now admits. If Russians were really mean, they could sue Poles for property damage to airport and surrounding forest.

  7. PvMikhail says:

    wow people… I only meant that if we don’t want US politicians to verbally (and by other means) harass Russia instead of their real geopolitical rivals, we have to wait patiently. Low IQ general Joes and Janes need show, but US can’t mess with China, that would be too dangerous, so the perfect choice is Russia. Is it scary enough? Yes! Is there anything to lose? No. In reality, is it hostile to US? No way.

    Brainless emigrants belong to a totally different category. However in general they are not enough to keep Russia negative in western brains.
    BTW I don’t think Hungarians are doing any harm to Russia right now. My impression is, that except some north-atlantic goons, right wing, militantly anticommunist intellectuals and politicians living from the memory of “system changing”(formerly or still on the payroll of Soros), general people have neutral attitude to Russia. That is because their “knowledge” is more or less based on positive/negative stereotypes and urban legends. And the Russia-haters I have mentioned, for them there was only Soviet Union, nothing more. No Imperial Russia, no modern Russia, because in their eyes Russian Fed’s only purpose is being successor state of the former hotbed of their hated ideology, so it is evil by principle.

    What they don’t understand is: we lost 20 years for bullsh!t. I can’t even count the things politicians f#%ked up. However I think they ignored the most important factor:
    Yesterday statbureau released demographic results of 2010 and birth rate is record low 9.0, which means that 90000 children was born. In comparison, when I was born, in 1988, there were roughly 140000 births, and that was short of the needed amount. In one world: we are f#%ked. Based on my demographic “knowledge”, we have 10 years to decide whether we want to stabilize our population at 7 million or die out. Russia is the only one who wants to deal with this problem, and they have even some success at it, so instead of bashing we should see it as an example in front of us IN THIS RESPECT. Germany or Japan has serious problem too, but they don’t seem to care about that and they are our official civilized western examples.

    • marknesop says:

      There are ways around the population decline, which just took a dip in 2010 – it was positive in 2009. Couples won’t have children if they both need to work and struggle to make ends meet, because they can’t afford for one to be out of a job. Provide incentives to have children, or pay better wages so one parent can make a reasonable living. Allow and encourage more immigration, but make sure you have the jobs to support it or you’ll end up like France, with an angry, brooding subculture that hasn’t got enough work to make a living.

      Besides, I don’t know why people keep freaking out because the Russian population is declining a little. Couples all over the world are making the choice not to have big families, for the reason I mentioned and for other lifestyle-related justifications. Canada is a big country, too, and has only about 33 million people. Russia is bigger, but not 4 times bigger, and it has better than 4 times the population of Canada. I don’t hear cries from every quarter that Canadians are dwindling out of existence, and the Canadian government plans to reduce immigration next year. The province of Quebec is really the only Canadian entity that fears extinction, and that’s because they worry that the French culture cannot be maintained in a modern, globalist world. A measure they have taken to safeguard themselves is a law that says school-age children of immigrants to Quebec must be educated in French, and language protections abound that insist everything must be labeled in French at least, although it is usually in both languages. A few people bitch about it, but it’s generally sensible, and Russia could easily do something similar to ensure immigrants assimilate quickly.

      • PvMikhail says:

        Maybe there was some misunderstanding. I spoke about Hungarian demographics. If you would like to know my reasons to be freaked out about population decline, I could share it. In the end, you will understand it.

        • marknesop says:

          Yes indeed, I did misunderstand and I thought you were talking about Russia. I know nothing of Hungarians’ demographic problems at all, I’m afraid, so everything you said would be new to me, but I’m very interested. Is it caused by choices as I discussed previously, in which both prospective parents must work, or is it a function of immigration (we often hear the suggestion that the native population in this place or that is being “bred out of existence” by immigrants who have large families and marry young while the native population can’t keep up)? My apologies for any confusion I caused.

          • cartman says:

            The communist regimes had natalist policies that encouraged couples to have children while going to school. Some had taxes on 18+ males without children. (Romania also banned abortion and contraception, which led to a lot of institutionalized children.)

            The regimes that took over abandoned these policies. Additionally most of the young and unemployed migrated to Western countries, depriving their home countries with stable employment bases. This, in turn, will hurt their abilities to meet pension obligations. The abandonment of natalist policies will further damage their workforces and abilities to maintain a “high” standard of living. Unfortunately, most of the countries have neither the money nor the politicians with the will to do anything.

            • marknesop says:

              At present there is nothing wrong with our fertility, but as the slowdown in birthrate globally sets in and the trend shifts away from huge families in all but the poorest countries (paradoxically, but that’s because of a high mortality rate, and a desire to ensure at least a couple of children are still around to care for their parents when they’re too old to care for themselves), one wonders if we will not end as a species in a scenario similar to P.D. James’ “The Children of Men”.

              Yes, I remember the natalist policies and, far from being abandoned, they continue in Russia at least. As recently as last year (if you can get past the ridiculous hyperbole in this posting) I was part of a “discussion” on the subject of posters exhorting Russian women to have more children. I don’t believe it specifies if there was any reward or support, but those may be true as well.

              • Yalensis says:

                @pvMikhail: I am also interested in your opinions on Hungarian demographics. What is reason for declining birthrate, in your view? I know almost nothing about Hungary. What is the situation with social policies involving women and children: child-care, pre-natal nutrition, jobs, medical care, etc etc? And how does this situation compare with past governments, including communist?

                • PvMikhail says:

                  please check out my opinion on the bottom of the page, it is a little bit long, thank you for reading it

  8. Leos Tomicek says:

    In my opinion Japan has literally no right to voice its opinion on the Islands. It is because Japan is no equal partner to Russia, it is de facto a protectorate of the US. Thus, Japanese rhetoric is highly insolent, and Japanese should be shown their place by Russian politicians.

    • marknesop says:

      Japanese historians agree Russians were first to explore the islands, back when territorial boundaries were established by conquest. Japan never conquered the Kuriles, and never established a colonial presence. The USA and its allies gave the Kuriles to the Soviet Union, because it suited American regional plans at the time. Russia therefore has traditional and legal title. Japan has neither. If the U.S. didn’t wish to reverse itself and have the islands in the possession of a trusted ally so it could “negotiate” for basing rights, we wouldn’t even still be talking about this.

      If the USA is deliberately trying to get Russia to remilitarize, it picked a poor time to do it – when the price of oil is on its way back up, the USA is a net energy importer while Russia is a net exporter, and when the USA has a record deficit.

  9. grafomanka says:

    I’m afraid I don’t see why Russia should assume any degree of responsibility at all
    Got to reply to you down here.
    You are 100% on all the details. I’m talking about a different issue, crash was obviously Polish fault and majority of people don’t question it. The problem with the report was that it failed to address the role of the control tower. After the report was published scripts and recordings from control tower were made public: basically upon seeing the fog controllers contacted some higher air command authority saying that ‘we’ve got those planes coming here and there’s a thick fog, what to do?’ and they got instructions to try and land the planes (meaning – let the airplanes make an attempt to land and if they don’t land send them to another airport we prepared…). Now, one could argue here that the controllers could just forbid landing. Russians are saying they couldn’t because of some regulations relating to presidential planes; maybe they are right, maybe not. The thing is, the report didn’t talk about this at all.
    The report should obviously have looked at the airport, control tower etc, even if the final conclusion was unchanged. Instead Russian commission felt like repeating 3 times at the press conference that there was a drunk general on board, and recently on another press conference, somebody representing Russia said that “the outcome would be the same even if there were not people, but chimpanzees in the control tower”.
    I had to face palm when I read about this because of course polish press was full of ‘russian chimpanzees’ the next day. Sometimes I feel like Russian officials should be trained in PR skills, there are just… good ways and bad ways of saying things 🙂

    • Misha says:

      Another issue being well substantiated replies not getting the same consideration as anonymous pot shot Democratist like activity.

      Great material gets de-emphasized when downplayed over dreck.

    • marknesop says:

      Okay, in that case I agree completely – for a nation that considers itself the descendants of sophisticated old-world diplomats and poets, Russia could front some people who know how to be smooth., instead of defensive gabblers. Sometimes just an arched eyebrow and turning away dismissively is better than any reply. The “chimpanzees” line was indeed unfortunate, but I understand the point he was trying to make: he should have said, “If the tower – which is itself in absolutely no danger of crashing and has the excellent perspective of being able to see what conditions are like from the ground while the plane cannot – offers its professional judgment that the conditions are unsafe to attempt landing and the pilot chooses to ignore both input from the tower and the warnings of his instruments which are purpose-built to prevent crashing, then the tower may as well not have been part of the equation at all for all the difference it made”. If I were him, I would also have leaned pretty heavily on “If the aircraft had obeyed the tower’s initial recommendation to divert instead of choosing to follow the advice of non-ATC-trained crew members in another plane on the ground, there’s every reason to think everyone on the plane would be alive now”. I don’t believe the influential advice from the pilot on the ground received the consideration that was its due, it appeared to have been passed over.

      • Yalensis says:

        Also, as far as I know, those “chimpanzees” in the tower got to keep their jobs. In my business we have a saying: “If you didn’t get fired, that means you did nothing wrong.”

        • Misha says:

          In some situations, screwups seem like they might very well get covered up because of cronysim/nepotism.

          On lousy PR, a water company has a rep. who recently claimed that his employer’s failure to provide basic filtration wasn’t a health hazrd. When asked if he’d drink the water in question, the rep. replied “absolutely not.”

          At last notice he’s still speaking on behalf of the company in question.

      • cartman says:

        I know yours is not a blog about conspiracies, but what do you think about the accusation by Russian intelligence that Raymond Davis was passing dangerous materials to Al Qaeda?

        I mean when CIA is lurking around AfPak region, something in the milk ain’t clean. Remember when the Iranians landed a plane carrying Abdolmalek Rigi last year? He was on his way to Manas air base, which, I believe is used mainly by US intelligence and NATO forces. I thought terrorists were supposed to be running away from these people, not meeting them at the airport.

        • marknesop says:

          It is interesting, but I’m afraid I would tend to discount much of it. It’s always possible the two dead guys were ISI agents, and I certainly wouldn’t want to suggest the U.S. intelligence agencies are squeamish about dirty tricks that would further American foreign-policy goals – but “black ops” guys check each other to a fare-thee-well on missions where deniability is key. He would never be caught with incriminating documents on him, and even much lower-cleared personnel know better than to carry around a personal cell phone that can be used to track their movements. It just sounds too sloppy to me for a guy who’s supposedly this super-agent. Even smart guys make mistakes, I guess, but both the documentation and the cell phone sound like amateur hour to me. And building a nuclear bomb is not as easy as Hollywood makes out, not even a crude one. It’s not the kind of thing you can easily do in a cave somewhere, it’s hard to hide and even harder to deliver.

          That said, the USA can rarely pass up a chance to meddle and keep the world situation unstable; curious, for a country that claims to be such a lover of peace. God knows, there have been enough events where everyone has said, “Oh, no, they’d never do that”, and it has turned out that oh, yes, they did.

          It just sounds more like an old trick, whereby – now that they’ve been accused of trying to smuggle a nuke to Al Qaeda – Americans will be doubly vigilant to make sure nothing like that happens, because they would obviously get the blame.

        • Yalensis says:

          Sounds pretty implausible to me. I mean, the black-ops guys do sneak around and do lots of suspicious things (I know this from watching all those spy movies), and they probably have many shady contacts, even murders and terrorists. But the idea that the US government would deliberately conspire to get their own country nuked or seriously attacked just doesn’t make any logical sense. It is more likely they would be sneaking around trying to PREVENT an attack.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      The report is available in English and Russian at this webpage, I suggest you not to base your opinions on the Russian press conference alone, even less on the Polish press.

      The problem with the report was that it failed to address the role of the control tower.
      On pages 114-116 there is a paragraph on this role 1.16.9. Expert Conclusion Analyzing Actions of the ATC Group of Smolensk “Severny” Airdrome on April 10, 2010 (ATC=Air Traffic Controller)

      Russians are saying they couldn’t because of some regulations relating to presidential planes; maybe they are right, maybe not. The thing is, the report didn’t talk about this at all.
      Really? From the above mentioned paragraph This provision refers to the international flight rules. In state aviation of the Russian Federation flights (approaches and landings) are not to be performed at the PIC’s discretion. The ATC instruction is mandatory for the PIC in the state aviation of the Russian Federation.

      The report should obviously have looked at the airport, control tower etc, even if the final conclusion was unchanged.
      And in fact the report looked at the airport and related facilities: Par. 1.10 AIRDROME INFORMATION, 1.11.7 Ground Recorders, 1.16.6 Navaid and Lighting Equipment Test Fly-Around.

      I can understand if someone says that the ATC or the airport weren’t properly investigated, but no one would make a report without also performing such an investigation. I hope you realize that it is an absurd claim.

      Oh and commission responsible for the report is also responsible for overseeing the state of airports (!!!) so they findings couldn’t have been different.
      I doubt that there is only one commission responsible for the report and the overseeing of Russian airports. Perhaps you meant that MAK is responsible for the report and the overseeing of Russian airports, but MAK isn’t a commission, it is the Interstate Aviation Committee of CIS countries. It’s the same in other countries, i.e. the same authority investigates incidents and oversee airports and aviation-related facilities. Should we be suspicious of every investigation of air crashes, or is it just a Russian problem?
      I agree on the PR point. If it were up to me I would have said “the outcome would be the same even if there were Polish personnel in the control tower”, leaving to anyone’s guess what it means.

      • grafomanka says:


        Yes, the Russian report states that the airport was perfectly fine. The Air Traffic Control group actions during the approach did not contribute to the accident.
        But the report did not provide sufficient documents to verify this (a lot of documents Poles would like to see are missing).

        Those are the Polish conclusions about the report.
        ‘In the report Russian side analyzes with meticulous details Polish omissions/mistakes in preparation of the flight, training of Tu-145M crew and and psychological situation on the board of the aircraft.
        Information included in the report, airport documentation available to the Polish side, and analysis done by the Polish investigation concludes that there were a lot of omissions/mistakes in ‘Severny’ airport preparation to accept government planes (both Russian and Polish ones) on 7 and 10 April 2010 which led to safety hazards. The Russian side did not strive to acknowledge or analyze any of those omissions in the report.’ (sorry for lame translation, I’m terrible with technical language).

        Also the Polish investigator just say that leaving out the whole situation in the tower completely out of report is inappropriate (if you’ve read this part of report you can see that the report is silent on this topic).
        The report discusses at length whether a passenger on a plane had some alcohol in the blood (and the Azerbaijan incident in 2008) but they don’t describe conversations in the ATC tower.
        These are the main objections that the Polish commission articulated. Polish side does accept that terrible mistakes of pilots, bad organization and poor training were primary reasons of the crash. They just demand all aspects to be professionally explained and included in the report (in other wards, the problems with the report relate to contributing factors of the crash, not the primary ones).

        • marknesop says:

          Well, fair enough, I suppose – but it begs the question, why? There must be a purpose to the inquiry, and I can’t think of any that wouldn’t include trying to spread the blame a little.

          Severny very likely was unprepared to receive the Polish presidential plane, because nobody knew he was coming, much less with half the Polish government. It’s already been satisfactorily established that he delayed his decision until the last minute, and was not invited. Severny had no reason to expect him, although there is likewise no reason to believe the entire landing would not have transpired without incident if the airport hadn’t been fogged in. If he’d been landing at LAX in those conditions, where the tower has every possible navaid ever invented at its disposal in state-of-the-art modernity, he would have been diverted to another airport. Below limits is below limits, whether the plane is trying to land in fog or rainbow-coloured oatmeal. I’m still afraid I don’t see how any “situation” in the tower could have affected the way things played out. What situation, exactly? Tower personnel contacted superiors to find out what they should do. I imagine that was as much to notify them, as anyone would expect, that the Polish president was minutes from unexpected arrival in Russia as it was to ask, “how do we land a plane that is not declaring an emergency, but the visibility is significantly below limits?”

          I understand what you’re saying, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with your translation; it’s crystal clear what they’re asking for. But it still looks to me as if they’re digging for a way to pin some shred of blame on the Russian airport. If they could do that, they wouldn’t have to tell their own people, “The Polish president died and took a lot of people with him because he was an impatient tool who expected presidential treatment extended to control over the elements, so that his pilot could land in heavy fog without risk while others could not”. If Russia will admit to any degree of fault, it will simply be expanded upon until it appears to have been a 50/50 accident. If you understand the rules, which are based upon risk of death, and violate them of your own free will, I don’t see how you can expect anything else.

          As long as the tower personnel at Severny were trained ATC’s (and they were), not drunk on the job (I have seen no such allegation), dealt with a totally unexpected arrival by asking for direction (they did) and followed established international procedures (the record reflects they did), I can’t see what purpose it would serve to delve deeper into the tower “situation”.

          By the same token, there’s also no reason for Russia to withhold such documentation if they have it, but it sounds like there isn’t any. The record reflects that tower personnel called to ask what they should do; the substance of the conversation certainly didn’t make Kaczynsky’s plane crash.

          If it was really some 70 feet to one side of the runway as it descended, though, I wonder why they didn’t see that? ATC radar is as precise as you can make that type of radar, and you’d think they’d have told him he was off the runway but still descending. Perhaps they assumed he could see the ground; the recorder says he was down to 20 meters and still didn’t have visual, maybe because he was over a ravine at the time. But you assume nothing in ATC, and it would have cost nothing to say, “I hold you left/right of landing track by 70 feet, still descending”. I doubt it would have prevented the crash by that point, because he simply didn’t have enough air left under him to recover, but they might have had time to say a prayer.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            Hi Mark,
            depending on the distance from the radar, a 70 ft horizontal deviation may escape detection. From the report, p. 154
            At a distance of 8 km the aircraft was 100 m higher than the glide path (glide path angle 2°40′), at 6 km (outer marker area) – 120 m higher than the glide path (glide path angle 2°40′), at 4 km – 60 m higher than the glide path (glide path angle 2°40′) and at 3 km – 15 m higher than the glide path (glide path angle 2°40′).
            At the distances of 8, 6, 4 km the landing zone controller informed the crew that the aircraft was on glide path although the actual aircraft position was higher than the glide path but within the tolerance range on the radar screen (glide path angle about 3°10′). At a distance of 3 km the aircraft was almost at the depicted glide path (glide path angle about 3°10′).

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          To me it looks like the Polish side is trying to highlight some quibble here and there, rather than demanding that all aspects to be professionally evaluated and included in the report. I think so because the Polish side asks for documents for every detail (I’ve read they’ve asked for the flight data recoder of the Il-76 that renounced landing at Smolensk that day), but refuses to provide documents to the Russian side. As you can read on the report
          It is impossible to assess the professional level of the PIC and the other crew members completely as the Polish representatives did not provide relative documentation to confirm their qualification (training programs completion, ground and flight training, checkride data including flight data monitoring) as well as results of the simulator training. p. 20.
          Information on the maintenance personnel authorization was only provided for one out of 11 specialists. p. 29.
          There was no information provided by the Polish side on the type of damage, ways of troubleshooting as well as about release to service. p. 30.
          Despite the fact that the Polish side did not provide the Certificate of Airworthiness for the aircraft, the investigation came to a general conclusion that the accident was not connected with the aircraft technical service or maintenance. p. 132.

          • marknesop says:

            The reason Poland is coy about the level of crew training is that the crew was assembled only a couple of days before the flight, and had not trained together at all. By the time you get to the level where you can pilot or copilot a passenger jet, you’re certainly no excitable fool, and the fact it was a new crew should not on the face of it suggest they did not know their jobs – they probably knew them very well. However, a pilot and copilot who have not worked together before might accept risks they would not normally entertain so as not to appear indecisive or nervous. Similarly, a copilot who was not normally teamed with that pilot might hesitate to advise him to go around again, or divert to an alternate airport because it was too dangerous.

            That said, it was likely President Kaczynsky’s decision to attempt a landing in spite of the risk; the recording clearly states the crew is awaiting the decision of the president. But any pilot who gets down to 20 meters and still can’t see the trees he’s about to fly into should know the cloud base is way, way too low for safety. As I mentioned before, the TU-154 has a fly-by-wire system that lands the plane on autopilot, but the pilot took it out of autopilot a fraction of a second before impact. This suggests he did not trust his instruments – a crew member (probably the copilot) had just clearly read off “20 meters” from the altimeter.

            Speaking of the altimeter, I read in a technical report that the pilot may have believed the TAWS system was malfunctioning, and consequently ignored it, because the altimeter showed the ground dropping away as the TAWS warned “Terrain Ahead” and “Pull Up”. That’s probably because the plane was transiting above a ravine that ran beside the airport, and when the ground rose up again on the other side they were too low to do anything. But it raises another point – those nuts over at FreeRepublic had all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories going, but one they seemed to think had some serious legs was that the tower had deliberately fed Kaczynsky’s plane the incorrect barometric pressure, thereby leading the pilot to believe the plane was higher than it actually was. Boy, they sure took advantage of that fog, didn’t they? The trouble is, the error introduced would have to be significant, and it is on the flight data recorder; also, the altimeter would have showed a wide deviation, and it appeared to be working fine.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              According to the report, the crew was formed on april 2nd, and didn’t train enough. The Pilot In Command (PIC) had to manage the communications with the Smolensk ATC, because he was the only one capable to speak Russian and to pilot the plane because the co-pilot hadn’t enough training on Tu-154.
              Re. pressure altimeters, the crew messed up the pressure on these, but the TAWS depends on the PIC pressure altimeter. Read p. 161 for more details.

            • Yalensis says:

              The “pilot error while flying in fog over ravine” theory seems the most plausible cause that explains the whole accident. Because he was flying blind, the ravine made the pilot think the ground was WAY DOWN THERE, but now, OOPS, here it is. Flight recorder caught pilot’s last words, which was the usual “Oh shit!” (whatever the Polish equivalent). People looking for root causes (or conspiracies) and quibbling over every little detail make themselves look ridiculous eventually. I would say to Poles: Stuff happens. Get over it. It is unbecoming to an important European country to comport themselves so childishly.

              • marknesop says:

                I understand perfectly why the Poles would be stunned by the tragedy – even if Kaczynsky was unpopular and probably headed for defeat, as appeared likely, he’s still the head of state, and his death in a foreign country would be a bombshell for anyone in similar circumstances. Given the latter-day enmity between Poland and Russia and the gravity of the occasion (Katyn memorial), plus the excited chatter of russophobes everywhere, it’d be unreasonable for them not to get worked up. It’s true that stuff happens, but more to the point, when stuff has happened and there appears to be no other explanation than that the person to whom it happened caused it himself, it’s better to shut up than to go on making noises about it until all the good work of rapprochement is undone. That, of course, is what russophobes hope for, and is why they keep it an active issue for as long as possible.

  10. Yalensis says:

    This is a continuation of “Politkovskaya” thread from above; I just wanted to add a comment about Politkovskaya’s penchant to insert herself into terrorist hostage negotiations. It wasn’t just Moscow theater siege; later, she attempted (unsuccessfully) to insert herself into Beslan hostage situation.
    I personally do not believe that Politkovskaya was a “good mother” feminine figure who simply loved Chechen people. I believe she was an ideological warrior who totally identified with Chechen insurgents and supported their cause unconditionally, to the point of even justifying terrorist tactics (because, as the saying goes, “the end justifies the means”).
    As we all know, Politkovskaya was flying to Beslan, hoping to take part in the hostage negotiations to free the Ossetian children, however, she never made it there, she got sick and had to be taken off the plane. Everybody believes (and is probably true) that FSB doped her on the airplane to make her temporarily sick so that she never got to Beslan. From FSB point of view, this was necessary act, as her presence in Beslan would do more harm than good. FSB believed, rightly or wrongly, that if this woman were allowed into Beslan school, she probably would have made a beeline for the terrorist leader and given him strategic information about what she had seen outside: placement of police, federal troops, types of weaons, etc. FSB had their own professional hostage negotiators, who quickly determined that this was not a true “hostage” situation, as the terrorists had no intention of allowing any children out alive. So Politkovskaya would have created a “catch-22” situation for the federal troops: If they let her in the school, she would give away their tactical secrets; if they didn’t let her in, she would give press conference and create propaganda bonanza for the other side.
    Also recall that during Moscow theater siege, due to tactical blunders and misunderstandings, terrorists within theater for a certain time had access to journalists’ video feeds showing situation outside. Moscow theater was not an unqualified victory for federal troops, it was a very messy and painful victory, too much loss of innocent life. But feds learned one lesson from this, which is not to allow journalists (especially ones sympathetic to the other side) close to the action.

    • Misha says:

      Agree with the “ideological warrior” characterization over the “good mother” seeking justice on every particular.

      On her statement about getting poisoned on an airplane ride, was it clearly established that she went to a doctor? If so, did she release the medical findings?

    • grafomanka says:

      The reason Politkovskaya went to attempt to negotiate was because it was believed she might have some influence over the terrorists. She would say ‘where are you from’ , ‘okay I know that place, I’ve been there…’ creating a sort of familiarity/trust (?) and then she would say ‘I have a son your age, he wouldn’t do this…’ ‘I could be your mother..’ etc bullshitting them from this angle.

      • Misha says:

        Before reading G’s latest reply (directly above), I was about to add the following in response to a portion of what Y said:

        The Russian government approved her going into the theater to talk to the terrorists. It stands to reason that such approval included an okay from the Russian government security team involved in the process. The latter’s apparent notion being that P wasn’t in a good position to give any kind of a key strategic tip off.

        • Yalensis says:

          @Misha: I have not been able to find any references to Politkovskaya’s poisoning other than her own statement that she was doped on the plane after drinking a cup of tea. I guess there is no proof that she was poisoned, but I take her at her word, as I am sure she really wanted to get to Beslan and would not have been deterred by ordinary stomach upset. So I am pretty sure in my own mind FSB must have put something in her tea.
          Re. Moscow theater: yes, authorities allowed her and a few other journalists to negotiate with terrorists, hoping to get them to release some hostages. I guess they thought she might have some clout with terrorists, due to her popularity among Chechen people. In any case, these negotiations were not successful, and situation devolved further. Maybe was factor that majority of terrorists were women (“Black Widows”), and I am guessing these ladies not as susceptible to her “I am just like your dear old mama” bullshit.
          @grafomanka: Ditto for Beslan, most of the terrorists there were Ingush, not Chechens, so once again, maybe would not be as susceptible to “I have visited your native village” line of bullshit. In any case, authorities definitely did NOT want her hanging around in Beslan, and probably feared she might (inadvertently?) give away tactical information to terrorists, or maybe even become an extra hostage herself.
          Having said all of that, I regard whoever killed her (or ordered her assassination) to be cowardly thug. Politkovskaya was an ideological enemy of the Russian government and an apologist for Jihadi terrorists; however, she never picked up a gun herself, her weapon was “pen” not “sword”, so she should have been refuted ideologically, which is actually kind of easy to do.

          • Misha says:


            Agree with your characterization of her killers and how she should’ve been dealt with – way short of murder.

            Perhaps on the claim of her getting poisoned and the actual motive behind that stated illness.

            Remember Tregubova’s claims about phone taps and being targetted with an apartment bombing? Phone lines the world over can have clicking sounds unrelated to wire tapping. On her living quarters getting bombed, I recall a source noting that the blast in question was closer to someone’s else’s living quarters, who had criminal ties. For clarity sake, I didn’t get that last point substantiated.

            A key point being that some journos (among others) can be a bit full of themselves at times.

          • PvMikhail says:

            to all replier: good opinions about this Polit case…
            I don’t really think it was necessary to kill her, as I have said before: In the point of view of Russian government, for the enemies of Russia she is worth more dead than alive.

            • Linda says:

              In connection to this, Berezovsky yesterday fell ill, and since apparently there is no way he can just be ill like the rest of us mortals, he’s wondering if he hadn’t been poisoned “like Litvinenko”.

              • PvMikhail says:

                God, give me a favor… please

              • Yalensis says:

                Uh… I’m no feeling so well either… kind of queasy…

              • cartman says:

                British food is poison. Don’t eat the meat.

                • marknesop says:

                  Oh, I don’t know. I visited there a few years ago, right around the time of the Mad Cow freakout. I stayed in Southwick, and the Red Lion was my favourite dining spot (partly because it was one of only two pubs in town). The food there was fabulous – I never had a bad meal. The steak and ale pie was memorable, to say the least. I liked the food so much and complimented the chef so often that he eventually came out to the bar to meet me once, not long before I left for home. He turned out to be an Israeli. He surely was a great cook.

                  But I agree the culinary gifts for which the world can thank the British are more or less limited to roast beef and Yorkshire pud. Unless you’re a fan of Stargazey Pie, that concoction with the fish heads sticking out of it. Just the picture was quite enough for me. Still, it puts the Brits ahead of North America in general. Well, the Americans have apple pie, which is a personal favourite of mine and my Mom makes the best in the world – but Canada doesn’t really have a signature dish. Quebec has lots but they’re not well publicized except for the worst of them, like poutine, and the rest of the country relies on ethnic cookery when it goes out to eat.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      I’ve found this interesting article from 2004 about Politkovskaya journalism. I found the link from Artocarpus’s blog (the first commenter for this post). I remember a couple of articles by Anna Arutunyan on “The Moscow News”. The first one was written just after Politkovskaya had been killed and contained some criticism. The second one describes how Arutunyan was blasted by liberast journalists at Echo of Moscow radio station and privately warned of consequences, mafia-style (“We have friends in Washington” or something like this).
      I think that someone like Politkovskaya in the West wouldn’t work in a major newspaper, at best people like her write their blogs.

      • marknesop says:

        Very eye-opening. Politkovskaya is practically a saint in the west, and it never occurred to me to question the notion that she was essentially good-hearted but maybe a little influenced by emotion in her writing. I’m very surprised to see a source actually suggest she was a liar and a fabricator, never mind the foregoing suggestions that she was in some measure cooperating with militants. This is all news to me.

        Any journalist who takes on a political role can count on offending somebody, and Politkovskaya was no exception. But I never read anything by her that expressed open support for militant causes, only criticism of government forces for their horrible treatment of Caucasians. Criticism of her is sacrilege in some quarters, and even the official stories surrounding her death in the Russian press were fairly low-key rather than dismissive. It seems the suggestion that she has much more clout as a martyr than she did while living is accurate.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          I’ve found the two articles by Arutunyan I mentioned.
          I think they can be an interesting reading.
          And a little OT: today I saw some images of Gaddafi’s “voluptuous blonde” nurse. Either my English dictionary is mistaken about the “voluptuous” term, or the US ambassador that wrote about this nurse was drunk.

          • marknesop says:

            Ha, ha!! Either that, or that picture is a normal image but displayed on a panoramic screen! Sometimes reporters, whether trying not to offend or as a result of actually having a deficient vocabulary, use “voluptuous” when they really mean “Rubenesque”. It’s my guess that Ghadaffi could easily get her to come back by trailing a chocolate donut across her path on a string as she’s boarding the plane.

            • Yalensis says:

              Mark, you are so-o-o-o-o mean! This is very nice looking Ukrainian lady. I like plump blondes myself, so I declare Ghadaffi has good taste in women (if maybe poor judgement in everything else). Speaking of donuts, this continues your thread above about great English cuisine like roast beef. If you go a little further north, to Scotland, you can try very yummy haggis (chopped up sheep guts), which they pour whiskey over and set on fire, before eating. Delicious! Now, as to “poutine” in Quebec (which, amusingly, is pronounced same as “Putin”), I tried this delicious dish when I was in Montreal. Eating “freedom fries” coated with melted cheese and gravy is like being in heaven. Only problem: about 10,000 calories per bite! It still amazes me that every person I encountered in Montreal is trim and slim looking, despite eating such greasy food.

          • kovane says:

            Well, at least nobody in the right mind can argue that she is petite 🙂

          • Yalensis says:

            @Giuseppe: Thanks for interesting links. Reading the first article by Anna Arutunyan, the name “Oleg Kashin” jumped out at me. Anna quoted this reporter as saying “Journalism in today’s Russia is not capable of seriously impacting the situation in the country, or the powers that be.”
            Recall that Kashin himself was savagely beaten (by unknown assailants) back in November. While Politkovskaya example shows that journalism still has a way to go in Russia before reaching level of professional competence, Kashin’s example also shows poor state of law and order in Russia, and that journalists (real journalists like Kashin and even fake journalists like Politkovskaya) unfortunately do live lives at risk.

            • marknesop says:

              Yes, that’s true – but I’d hesitate to use, “Journalism in today’s Russia is not capable of seriously impacting the situation in the country, or the powers that be” as substantiation for the sorry state of journalism. Look at countries where journalism – or what passes for it – basically controls the political process. Are they better off? Not from a leadership standpoint. I’m sure journalists would love to get to that happy place where they could topple the government with innuendo and maybe-so, but I don’t think that serves the people as best they could be. A national press that is controlled by moneyed interests is little better than one controlled by the government. There are few countries indeed that can claim to have an agenda-free press which simply reports the news without spin. Even that isn’t enough – a really good press should report the news unvarnished, but put the story in context, and you have to have a very good feel for national politics to do that. How many could manage it on a reporter’s salary?

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            The fact is that I expected a Valkyrie-like woman, but saw 2 Valkyries in one 😉 .
            It’s understandable that Russian journalists want more influence (like everyone), but they should realize that there is a price to pay. That is to say, to be more professional and to accept being fired when they commit a blunder.
            I was positively impressed by the Killian document affair and its consequences on Dan Rather’s career that Mark mentioned in a previous comment. US journalists have many drawbacks, and they regularly commit blunders on certain topics, like Russia, but there is a limit to their lack of professionalism. Cross that limit and you’re fired, your credibility is lost.
            As long as journalists write BS and nothing happens to them, people won’t care and they’ll have no influence. But I’m sure that, if a Russian editor will adopt the US method, thus firing some journalist, the same people lamenting a lack of relevance of the press will scream for the lack of “press freedom”. Here in Italy there is the same problem, journalists complain about their lack of influence (compared with their US colleagues) and think it is fine to make one blunder after the other.

            • Yalensis says:

              @Giuseppe: totally agree with your comments about journalists.
              Re. Valkyries not so much. I always say that 2 Vakyries are better than no Valkyries. Hey, you’re Italian yourself, your ancestors invented the “Rubenesque” physique, therefore you should celebrate it! 🙂

              • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                I remember that during my school days we students joked about the “Rubenesque” figures of women in history and art books. Something like “Yes, the Romans made an empire, the Greeks invented philosophy, but when it comes to girls…”, or “I’m not saying you’re a fat girl, you’re a neo-classical beauty!”.

      • Misha says:

        Beware of scripted freak shows.

        Arutunyan (so I’ve beern told by several sources in Moscow based media) isn’t far removed from Gessen and Albats in thinking.

        I’m not too familiar with Arutunyan’s work. So much good stuff out there to read, watch and listen. Ethically, I feel somewhat obligated to shun some of the sources which some establishment types prop (force feed).

  11. PvMikhail says:

    to all the people, who are interested in my opinion on the demographics of Hungary and Eastern Europe in general:

    The core of the problem is unacceptable level of birth rate and which is more important: low Total Fertility Rate. Eastern European countries started the demographic transition to smaller families much later than the developed parts of Western Europe: France, Britain, Germany and Benelux. As you know, the incredible amount of immigrants from their former colonies, combined with strong social network helped to bounce back this transition to more sensible boundaries. This second “revival” clearly can’t be expected in Eastern European countries, because of economic situation and problems with nationalism. This fact is enhanced by the existence of EU, because any foreigner who is qualified enough to work in high end positions and has access to European Union, will not stay in the eastern part, because it simply isn’t worth it. Salaries compared to living cost are much better in the western part.
    So we should start with some history. The two World Wars had an impact on fertility, but interestingly they didn’t push it down (except some extremes of the WW2), however after the usual baby boom, which followed the end of the wars, in peacetime fertility started to decline. The worst hit was Germany after the WW2, this is why Germany is in so grave situation now. The problem with the Wars is clear: They made the fertility fluctuate heavily, because the most countries here lost so many people in WW2, that an entire generation is cut by half. This fluctuation is can be noticed on every age-structure, and only time could remedy it if people would NOT CHANGE their reproductive customs.
    Here I switch to Hungary as an example, however other countries like Romania had different path. Hungary is closer in every way to Central than to Eastern Europe, (this can be explained by the coexistence with Germans in Habsburg Empire), so it is not surprise, that however the structure of society is different (Hungary always was a peasant society), naturally reproductive customs followed the German example. After the war and after the usual baby boom, TFR started to decline, so hardcore Stalinist Rakosi government introduced a short period, when abortions were outlawed and severely punished. This caused that the population cohort born between 1952 and 1956 is extremely big in numbers and they are the ones who currently hold the most positions on the labor market (including my mother). After the events of ’56, every form of Stalinist style government were rejected and after Khrushchev’s destalinization, much softer leadership was installed who ruled Hungary until 1989. During the 1960s fertility declined partly caused by the WW2 fluctuation (In Eastern Europe women gave birth to their first child from their early twenties to mid twenties), partly by other reasons, could be connected to lifestyle and conditions. This decline came in every countries of the region, however others answered by more focused and efficient pro-natalist policies. The average opinion of the communist government changed from punishment to guaranteeing of conditions. (If somebody is interested, I have some articles which compare Communist Germany and Federal Germany in respect of society structure and pro-natalist policies and highlights the relative success of GDR on the demographic front, where FRG failed miserably.) So the state started to give great allowances after children, especially to lonely/divorced mothers. State guaranteed kindergarten in the proximity of every greater workplace, cheap blocks of flats close to workplace, preferential loans and such things which help the mother earn money and raise children simultaneously. These things might look little, but they are VERY IMPORTANT.
    The other factor in the decreasing fertility was insanely fast transition from rural peasant society to town based industrial one (just like in Russia). Urbanization was very fast and people lost their roots. They couldn’t count on the help of their traditional family, so they started to downsize their families to 1-2 children (for ages, grandparents helped raise children and they were indispensable to do so in any Hungarian family). So nowadays Hungary is like: everybody has a grandparent somewhere far into the rural areas but everybody aged below 30 is in one of the major towns especially in Budapest, which is a real monster compared to the size of the country: more than 1/4 of the Hungarian population lives in the city or its agglomeration (trend shows, that wealthier people move outside of the city boundaries but live and work there). In conclusion rural areas are in decline and die out, because there is nothing more there but old pensioners and gypsies (i will reach this gypsy problem later).

    So in this already grave condition, they gave us a present: system changing in 1989.
    Communist countries (included Hungary) were industrial countries, the majority population had (high standard) secondary education, which meant they could enter to labor market as early as 18 years old, so they could start families early. Nevertheless after system changing society plagued by destabilization and cascading, everything (even rational ones) got deregulated and this brought uncertainty. People didn’t want children, because they rarely could make their own living during the ’90s. As a result 140-150 thousand births in ’80s fell under 100 thousand in ’90s. Deindustrialization pushed people to send their children into high education, because secondary education lost its ground (connections with factories) and practicable education became nonexistent. Everybody stuffed into the universities, even people who should not even come close to the building of an university. University degrees got devalued and there are schools where there is not even serious education at all. In conclusion youth dawdle away the time in a frivolous (or in one of the more serious) higher education institute, go out every day (as the values of the society totally changed in line of the propaganda comes from western media/entertainment), and no way want to move away from home, so they don’t want to start a family until they are 30 or so. This situation aggravated by economic downturn. After system changing, the average cost of life skyrocketed to Western European level, but wages didn’t followed. This resulted in a situation, in which a young couple (without any subsidy from parents or any inheritance) can’t buy a new home without enchaining themselves in 30-40 years long mortgage. So the conditions to raise children are uncertain at least.
    Another thing: communist government locked people into the country or into the Comecon block. In 1989 the country got opened up and westerners bought up everything usable during privatization including our best workforce. Emigration and especially brain-drain is a huge problem across Eastern Europe, this also pushed down our economy, demographic situation.
    I wouldn’t like to touch on all and every fatally idiotic measure of the previous democratic governments of Hungary during this 20 years, the list is too long. I would not write about how EU entry f#%ked up our traditional main sector for ages: agriculture. One thing is clear: nobody gives a flying f#%k what will happen in the future. I tell you: when all the people from that extreme ’52-’56 cohort become pensioners, the budget will collapse under the pressure, because there will be not nearly enough working age population to support it (the Hungarian pension system is integral part of budget, there are no private pension insurance). The unemployment is too high and too many subsidized people live from too few workers.
    Causes of unemployment:
    1. system changing, social collapse and sh!tty economic conditions with zero state companies.
    2. gypsy people and the Hungarian state’s far too generous social net compared to other Eastern European countries.
    Gypsies consist officially 10% of the population, but in reality this reaches 20% or more. (Here I want to proclaim that not every single person is like this, but the majority.) They prefer big families, so their TFR is higher than ethnic Hungarian TFR. They live in Budapest, northern and northeastern part of Hungary in big concentration, where complete villages have romany majority. Village gypsies are usually poor and live amidst bad conditions, which are the products of their own. (State tried to build/give them better buildings, but they just don’t know how civilized life goes, so they vandalize the property and sell things from it ending up in mess again.) They usually don’t work, don’t even finish their primary education, and a considerable part of gypsies take part in low-profile (theft), but sometimes brutally violent criminal activity. They receive their allowances from state after the children and for the bulk of them this is the main income, however parents usually doesn’t take care about children, but spend it on alcohol or gambling. In spite of subsidies they often hostile to majority population by principle, so if one meets with a group of gypsies on the street, problems can happen. Their behavior lacks the slightest harmony with anything called European culture. As the police/law has weakened after system changing, they can do literally anything, so public safety collapsed. Only incredibly brutal cases get the spotlight in the media, so police tries to investigate them more efficiently (for example some time ago a teacher was beaten to death in a village in front of his own children.) Their contribution to the maintenance of the country converge to zero, and in my personal opinion, this will not change in the future either. Majority population doesn’t trust them, so they stay unemployed during most of their lives. This is the second generation who grow up and don’t see their parents going to work, so the culture of work stays away from them. (Communist government employed them in public work projects and kolkhozes as assistant workers.) They are majority in prisons and youth correctional centers.

    All in all: the situation is hopeless. In my personal calculations, I estimate that the ethnic Hungarian TFR is below 1, and considerable number of births belong to Romany people. If Hungarian population decides to do babies again at least 2 per every woman aged 18-45, we could stabilize our population around 7-7.5 million people in 2040 with AT LEAST 30% non-Hungarians included. We have a huge deficit of women in child bearing age after 1989, so the following 10 years will decide, that what happens. This economic turmoil came in the worst moment, it again affected birth rate downward in 2010, in spite of the fact, that this is the time when effects of the post WW2 baby-boom should be felt all across Eastern Europe. (’50–>’80–>’10 are the local maximums of the age-structure)
    I think I mistakenly left out some things I wanted to say, but in general this is it. This is not a scientific work, because it could take long hours, days and pages, but all I have said could be supported by data or personal experience.

    • Yalensis says:

      Thanks, Mikhail, extremely interesting (if also depressing) discussion. Thank you for taking the time to inform us. And I hope things get better for your country in the future!

      • PvMikhail says:

        I hope so myself…

        I have told people permanently: we need a Vladimir Putin of our own. But our “f#%king clever liberal/conservative intellectual elite” doesn’t even want to hear about this. Its “undemocratic” and “uneuropean”. I should have my faith in our new government, but Viktor Orban already had one term back in ’98-’02. Although he has absolute majority now, which he lacked back then. I hope he will be the one. He has the political will, but is he strong enough and clever enough? Are the resources of this country enough? Will the people stand behind him? Will he get more pragmatic and less ideological? Will our masters let us to recover from our ashes?

        • Alexei Cemirtan says:

          Don’t you find the “uneuropean” argument so infuriating? I know I do. We here it all the time, all across the Eastern Europe and Russia, from “intellectual elites” who are oh so very proud of their cleverness. And yet they don’t even consider that the measures they advocate are absolutely destructive to their countries as long as they are “European”.

          Can anyonoe explain this insanity to me? Most normal people have already realised that Europe is not a paradise they imagined it to be. Yes, it does have superior qualities, but also a ton of very grave problems. But our “elites”, these… retards, cause what else can one call them, remain as enamoured with the West as they have ever been.

          They travel to the West all the time, so why don’t they show even a bit of realism in their assessments of Europe? They are not going to be punished politically, they wouls be just stating the obvious.

          • PvMikhail says:

            Infuriating? That’s a weak expression compared to my feelings. However I hate “democratic” argument much more. I have lived 21 years in this kind of democracy, I say would be proud to be Russian or even Chinese instead, but I am Hungarian, I love my country and this recent political structure destroys it. I don’t want to hear any more about any kind of democratisation, privatization, liberalization and such… I want to hear about emerging economy, centralization, regulation, nationalization, pragmatism.

  12. Yalensis says:

    Under category “Trouble in Paradise”, just saw this (above link). Article claims there is rift now between Saakashvili and Americans over Caucacus strategy. Author claims Americans warned Saak to not make trouble over Sochi Olympics and also to drop his campaign to condemn Russian Empire for “Circassian genocide”. I am skeptical, because I guess I assumed Americans were behind this project in the first place. Well, who knows? Here is quick executive summary of article:
    Saakashvili gave interview (speaking in Russian) to TV channel he had previously established to spread Gruzian point of view across Caucasus. Saak assured listeners he was thrilled about Sochi Olympics and had zero intention of sabotaging games.
    Meanwhile, in Washington, dissatisfaction was expressed with Gruzia: American intelligence presented report to Senate critical of certain Gruzian actions in Caucasus. Gruzian Foreign Ministry responded to this criticism by sending official note to Washington, requesting clarification. Opposition politician Lasha Amiredjibi claims that American prez Barak Obama ordered Saakashvili to lay off on the whole “Circassian genocide” thing. [Note: be skeptical, because Gruzian oppositionists always claim Obama is secretly on their side.]
    [Things to watch for: will Gruzian parliament take up the genocide resolution, as they are scheduled to do very soon? If they quietly drop it, that might be an indicator that Americans really did pressure them. If they still take up the issue, that doesn’t prove anything, however, because either 1.) Americans don’t really disapprove, or 2.) Americans disapprove, but Saak is going to do it anyhow because he doesn’t listen to Obama.]

    • Misha says:

      Saakashvili periodically reminds me of the South Vietrnamese leader Diem. The latter started dancing a bit to his own tune in a way that resulted in the US souring on him. He was eventually overthrown, with the US choosing to not come to his aid.

      It can be dangerous for a leader of a small but relatively important (in the deemed strategic sense) nation to lose the support of his super power backer.

      • marknesop says:

        True, but I submit Saakashvili is in no real danger of losing U.S. government backing – after all, they more or less created him, his country remains of vital strategic importance to the U.S. foreign policy goal of gradual encirclement, and there is no viable alternative to his leadership. There is no other so openly adoring of western values in cabinet, and no opposition figures offer anywhere near the sycophancy potential Saakashvili does. If the U.S. government forgave him for screwing up such a wonderful opportunity in 2008 by jumping the gun, they’ll forgive him virtually anything. I doubt Medvedev or Putin are moved to reconciliatory tears by his happy talk, although they might publicly welcome his “constructive approach”.

        • PvMikhail says:

          I’m afraid that Mark’s opinion is right, Washington will not sack Suckassvili until he does his job: serve western interests in the region. They fear that a sensible Georgian leader would turn Georgia to its historical roots backed by Orthodox faith and that would end this mindless rampage. Caucasus is too important to leave it alone for every side. Americans have trampled on it since 2003 and no way they want to give others a chance, be it Turkey, Iran or anyone, but first and foremost Russia. If they abandon Suckassvili, that would mean too much uncertainty. I think the reason why they keep him in power is the same which influenced Russian reaction to recent Byelorussian election. They TOLERATE Lukashenko and his games.

          • Misha says:

            “We shall see what we shall see.”

            Some American foreign policy establishment connected folks say that there was a good deal of behind the scene Western opposition to Saakashvili’s 2008 move. In addition, he has been known to have fallen out of favor with some Georgian political figures, who aren’t “soft” on Russia.

            I can see him getting dumped in favor of such a political figure, with not much opposition from the West. Time will tell. If it happens, remember this discussion.

            The Belarusian political dynamic remains a most interesting one.

        • cartman says:

          There is the Iran-factor working here. It seems that Iran’s regime has avoided most of the upheaval in the ME because there is enough fear that the country could become a colonial satrap once again. They may even be set to gain Bahrain, and Iran could expand into Iraq as well. Azerbaijan is another predominantly Shia Muslim country that could move to their column, making Georgia a basically empty link.

          Clinton is trying to play all sides of these revolutions, but don’t forget – her husband was the one who chose the Aliyev regime.

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, you’re right. It looks like the law of unintended consequences in action again, as the toppling of Iraq has actually resulted in the stabilization of Iran and an increase in its regional influence. In fact, in his excellent essay, “The King and Us; U.S.-Saudi relations in the Wake of 9-11”, David Ottaway argues persuasively that even the Saudi-U.S. relationship is unraveling, and that “…convincing them today that a Shiite-ruled Iraq is not an extension of Iran is not going to be easy”. Really, the only thing U.S. foreign policy has going for it in Iran is that Ahmedinijad appears crazy in public and makes outrageous statements that, while the country still rallies around him in affairs of state, prevent him from being genuinely popular. If he didn’t have to worry so much about his domestic image, he’d likely be a lot more bullish on expansion and/or some kind of unity pact with Iraq.

            You know, I once thought Hillary Clinton was going to leave big footprints as SecState, what with her experience, connections and credibility. I was wrong – she’s terrible. Her knee-jerk hawkish “So-and-so must go” statements are now yawningly predictable, and she’s so desperate to look tough that it makes it paradoxically evident she’s not. She’s a self-promoting creampuff who never looks beyond traditional alliances and has demonstrated no ability whatsoever to think outside the lines. Thank God, once again, that she didn’t get the presidential nomination – Obama is having a tough enough time with the Republicans, they would be spitting out Clinton feathers by now.

  13. PvMikhail says:

    Yalensis, where do you live inside Russia?

    I just want to know some facts. Do the rate of crimes (especially murder) rise or fall in your neighborhood according to official statistics (I know Rosstat numbers, but maybe there are some other sources), local media, and the most important: in your personal opinion and experience. Do particularly brutal crimes happen often or not? I tell you why are these polls: As you know, the media is kind of russophobe here if they deal with Russia, however in most cases news simply ignore it. Although there are some political/travel/adventure programmes where reporters sometimes talk about Russia, but in most cases they want us to freak out how surreal and violent it is. For example when they talk about curiosities, they chose something positive, like cuisine in France and after that they complain about crime rate in Petrograd, where people fear going outside. And their usual line which I hate the most: “And the situation is worse every year.” And every Russian who has more than $100 cash is “oligarch”. They also report about (the same) died journalists very often. How the hell do they know? Here and now I would like to ask some real Russians about the situation.

    • Yalensis says:

      Hi, Mikhail, I don’t actually live in Russia any more, I am part of ethnic Russian “diaspora”. I have to rely mostly on newspapers and internet to stay in touch. My father was from Moscow area but mostly grew up in Poland. When I lived in Russia it was in Petersburg, a city which I really love. I have lived in, or visited, several other Russian cities, but unfortunately, I have never been east of Urals. Someday it is my goal to see Volga region and travel to Siberia. When I lived in Petersburg I never personally had any problems with crime. I would go out walking Nevsky Prospect late at night without any problem (just like in Gogol story!) Only time I have been victim of crime is in America, and even that just petty crime (like my car broken into), but I don’t blame America for that and say it is country of criminals.
      It is my view that anecdotal experiences (while important) cannot substitute for statistics. So, anyone analyzing some issue like crime should really hit the books and learn to use statistics to make their arguments. If they can demonstrate something about a nation using statistics, then it doesn’t matter if they don’t live there or don’t know people from that country. The numbers never lie.

  14. L says:

    What’s with Medvedev these last months? Saying no official should speak about khodorkovsky right after Putin did, then saying no one should say the airport attack case is closed right after Putin did, and now saying the vote for the Olympics mascot was unfair(?!) after the leopard won. Before even getting into why anyone would “rig” a mascot vote, I think Medvedev is overdoing his concern about law and fairness and his objections are getting more ridiculous each time. Another very ridiculous claim about the mascot choice is that a leopard with a snowboard is unrealistic. Yeah, because somehow the fact that all these animals SPEAK didn’t give anyone a pause. Putin on the other hand always seem to want to show that he has good relations and similar views with the President ( when asked about his preference for the mascot, he answered: Oh, we were chatting about this with Dmitry Anatolyevich yesterday!). Anyway,anyone has any opinion?

    • marknesop says:

      Kind of like a clumsy good cop/bad cop, isn’t it? Somebody should point out that the Cheetos cheetah wears sunglasses like maybe he’s high all the time; I’m pretty sure that’s not too realistic, either. Anyway, Medvedev probably wants people to forget he was Putin’s hand pick – but if so, it could be done a lot better. The idea is probably not to make the President look like a hesitant dolt while the Prime Minister looks large and in charge. Unless Putin is planning to run again, which I once thought was very likely but have since become convinced is not at all, they’re going about it backwards. Medvedev should be the one coming off deliberate and decisive instead of a day late and a dollar short.

      • Alexei Cemirtan says:

        I am not so sure about Putin’s plans. Its true that its more likely that he will not run, but in terms of his and Medvedev’s singular most important policy interests, it would make sense for them to swap places.

        Medvedev’s main topic is modernisation and fighting corruption, which are essentially internal domestic issues and at the moment Putin is actually the one who does the work in these areas.

        Putin, on the other hand, is known to focus on more geopolitical issues like energy supplies, military reform, Russia’s role in the world, all of which are actually the President’s area of responsibility.

        Quiet frankly, both of them seem a bit out of place in their current roles. Medvedev looked more competent when he dealt with the domestic matters of “special projects” and Putin seemed more at ease on the international stage.

        • marknesop says:

          I agree, and I think Putin made a very good president. However, he must be sensitive to the fact that if he runs again, there will be such a howl from the west that he is a dictator, that the vote was rigged and not really a fair vote at all (despite his consistently high approval ratings) and that intense lobbying will take place to prevent any western rapprochement with Russia as long as he remains in charge. Maybe he thought that would be deflected if he remained in the number 2 spot, and maybe to some extent it was. The west got a taste of capitalism gone wild in Russia when Yeltsin was president, and they liked it. Their vote would be for some western-enamored reformer like Nemtsov to take over, so he could sell off the recoveries Russia has made in a Yeltsin-style landslide of privatizations.

          • Alexei Cemirtan says:

            Well, all of those who will howl have an absolute belief that he is the one who actually runs everything anyway, so in that sense this type of complaints lack impact, as most in the Western media and those who read it already believe that he is the main guy.

            Secondly, I am still waiting for any substantial benefits of the more liberal and soft Medvedev’s approach to international affairs.

            • marknesop says:

              Yes, you’re right; the west will be convinced that Putin is the puppetmaster as long as he is in politics in any capacity, even if it were Mayor of Kavaliereva, and probably for some years after he leaves if he isn’t dead. So what has he got to lose, right?

              Likewise, Medvedev is billed by the west (most recently in The Power Vertical’s interview with David Satter) as “a creature of Putin” and “a faithful lapdog”, so he really doesn’t have anything to lose by staying in power in some capacity, either. Hopefully Russia will give up on the futile effort to find common ground with the U.S., and direct its focus at building and strengthening ties with Europe. It wouldn’t hurt to remind them who is their major long-term energy supplier, with oil at over $100.00 a barrel again.

    • Yalensis says:

      My opinion: I don’t like the leopard either. Mostly because he is snowboarder. I am a downhill skiier, and I don’t like when crazy snowboarders cut me off. Also, they tend to scrape all the good snow off the slopes, leaving only scratchy sheets of ice!

      • marknesop says:

        A leopard with a snowboard is no less realistic than the clothes-wearing, skates-sporting racoon that was the 1980 mascot at Lake Placid, New York. Or the twin cowboy-hat-wearing bears for the 1988 Calgary Olympics – what were those supposed to be, Polar Bears (they were white)? The Polar Bear is not native to Alberta. France’s 1992 mascot at Albertville was the “snow imp”, which doesn’t exist at all. Maybe this selection will draw attention to the rarity of the snow leopard, which is arguably down to around 40 in Russia (although there are none in or around Sochi). In any case, I don’t see why Putin is not allowed a personal opinion, especially if it’s solicited. If that choice immediately becomes more popular generally, what does that mean? That the FSB immediately fanned out across the country and told Russians, “You will pick snow leopard, or you have eaten your last blin”? Come on. Putin should be flattered that his opinion on such a trifling subject carries so much weight. Bush couldn’t have influenced the selection of an Olympic mascot in his second term if he had chosen himself riding an electric chair.

      • PvMikhail says:

        I like the leopard, I think it is the best looking character, the bear is fine either, but I can’t really conciliate the bunny with Russia’s image. Putin’s choice always the best 🙂

    • PvMikhail says:

      You are right, Medvedev should calm himself a little bit. For example WHAT THE HELL IS THIS PRIZE FOR GORBACHOV? I hate when they try to whitewash Gorbachov and Yeltsin, it’s just so wrong. I think there is some difference between celebrating somebody and tolerating somebody.

      • marknesop says:

        “I think there is some difference between celebrating somebody and tolerating somebody.”

        Brother, sing it loud. I was sitting in front of the computer last night with my feet up, sipping on a Newcastle Brown and cruising down memory lane with the great Mark Adomanis; remember him? I can’t imagine why he left the Russian blogging scene, because he’s already argued most of the issues we’re still arguing now. But he did it with a delivery that, last night, often made me laugh out loud although I was the only person in the room. Usually that makes people think you have mental health issues, but if you’re alone, who will know, right? He was so bitingly sarcastic, yet so funny, and his exasperation with the gleeful ignorance of the Russophobic press was palpable. So many of those posts are classics now that it’s hard to pick just one. But a personal favourite is this one on the canonization of Mikhail Khodorkovsky by the west as the equal of Andrei Sakharov.

        A particularly pungent excerpt; “I swear that there are days when a large part of me thinks that the Russophobe press (particularly the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and The Economist’s always-wrong Moscow bureau) is actually packed to the gills with Kremlin double agents: the arguments are so crude, so palpably stupid, and made in such transcendent bad faith that they only seem to make sense when viewed as pro-Russian.” Here’s another, which aptly describes the period to which you refer, and for which some sources now insist leaders such as Yeltsin will one day receive their due credit: “Here is a man who made his fortune in the midst of the most lawless and chaotic period of gangster capitalism the world has ever seen, a decade when even the most basic institutions of the state were essentially indistinguishable from criminal enterprises…”

        Ah, Mark… you were an underrated talent.

        • Misha says:

          Not so “underrated” given RT appearances and InoSMI column space.

          Nothing new about The Economist from a source that:

          – lauds one particular not so Russia friendly journo, who has been the subject of valid criticism

          – while not acknowledging some truly good material, gives an interview to an anonymous source who many reasonably consider as bigoted – a source that punked out of appearing on a live BBC World Service show.

          Sense a buddy system cronyism, willing to sacrifice quality.

          A better product remains possible at the more high profile of venues.

      • Yalensis says:

        OMG, you are so right, it INFURIATES me when Putin/Medvedev honor the likes of Yeltsin and Gorbachov. Instead of giving Yeltsin a state funeral, they should have tossed his body into a dumpster; and instead of giving Gorbachov a medal they should prosecute him for grand treason, then force him to languish in harsh Gulag the rest of his worthless life.
        @Mark: I miss Adomanis too, with that biting Lithuanian tongue of his! I still read his articles in INOSMI, but much of his wit gets lost in translation.

      • Misha says:

        Suspect the move might be part of a PC spirit in exhibiting how the Russian government is open-minded.

  15. Yalensis says:
    Speaking of Giuseppe’s favorite Valkyrie: According to newspaper “Today”, Ghaddafi’s Ukrainian “nurse”, Galina Kolotnitskaya conducted herself so boisterously on the flight out of Tripoli back to her native country that Ukrainian officials were forced to take away her passport. They live in fear that she might attempt to travel once again.
    Summary of article: a drunken and aggressive Kolotnitskaya was dragged onto plane in Tripoli and led into cargo area. She immediately raised a storm of protest, why she had to fly cargo instead of first class? Started screaming at crew: I am wife of Colonel Ghadaffi, why do you treat me so poorly? Harried crew were tempted to restrain her and lay her down on floor, however they managed to control themselves and did not tie her up.
    Journalists who flew on same flight reported that Galina constantly bitched about absence of coffee service during flight and threatened to have the entire crew fired for their poor service.
    Flight finally arrived in Borispol. Returning to her apartment near Kiev, a now quiet Galina has hidden herself away from persistent paparazzi.
    That’s my girl!

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      This explains why Gaddafi laughs although he is risking his position and life.

      That’s my girl! Extreme Russian self-flagellation? 🙂

      • Yalensis says:

        Ha ha!
        “That’s my girl” — I meant it in the sense of “That’s my kind of woman”, but I was only kidding around. Really, nobody likes someone so rude. I cannot abide someone who verbally abuses working people. Chekhov would call this kind of attitude “пошлость”. And Mikhail is right too: that flight crew probably saved her life! If the rebels take Gaddafi’s place, they will probably kill everyone, including his harem. So Ukrainian govt is right to take away Galina’s passport: it’s for her own safety. She would probably try to escape back to Libya, even without the chocolate donut-on-a-stick lure, as described by Mark above.

        • marknesop says:

          It was on a string. Even Ukrainian neoclassical beauties who suffer from dessert issues and whose dream lover is pushing a snack cart can see the stick, and won’t fall for it even if distracted by chocolate donut lust. The chocolate donut lure is so powerful as to be almost a never-fail; but if it’s not properly presented, even this benchmark deep-fried persuader is not guaranteed to work.

          • Yalensis says:

            I stand corrected and concede to your superior knowledge of luring Rubenesque Ukrainian beauties. No doubt you stem from a long line of Canadian trappers and hunters, who probably had much experience in this regard.

    • PvMikhail says:

      B!tch. That’s what our Eastern Europe became after system changing: the harem of the world’s wealthy and influential… Shame.
      Her master has just fallen out of favor, why can’t she just get that? The ecacuators might have saved her life, because she could have been killed by the angry mob together with Gaddafi’s other servants. She might be somebody in Lybia, but she is nothing in Ukraina.

  16. Yalensis says:

    This is reply to “Kurils” thread above, @Mark and @Misha:
    The Rubtsov article makes a lot of good points about Japanese criminal culpability in WWII and current attempts to revise history. In retrospect maybe it was a mistake for victors to allow them to keep Emperor Hirohito? That must have given Japanese people a false sense that they didn’t lose war, just fought to a draw. In contrast, German people saw their entire governing elite (=Nazi Party) end up dead in fiery Gotterdammerung; and as a result, to this day Germany is a well-behaved European country which doesn’t threaten any of her neighbors. In any case, there is one big difference now, which is Japan is more of a parliamentary democracy than it was then (was monarchy/military dictatorship); so hopefully political process and public opinion would not allow them to launch such a militarist adventure?

    • Misha says:

      Good point Yalensis on comparing how Germany was treated at the end of WW II versus Japan. It’s not as if Japan was benevolent in its WW II occupation and POW stances.

      Latest news items on Kurils, c/o Rick Rozoff’s excellent email list of news and commentary articles:

      Japanese government makes noise. Russian government replies. US government decides to chime in.

      • marknesop says:

        The first piece raises another possible motivation for keeping the Kurils issue on the front burner – blocking Russia once again from admission to the WTO. It provides an excellent excuse for one or two countries to “express reservations”, and there will be another couple of years of intense diplomatic feathers-smoothing for Russia before membership can be considered again. I don’t think that would bother Russia now like it once would have, because the government must be more or less resigned that Russia will never be acceptable unless it’s completely controlled by western-looking liberals, with solid guarantees that it will stay that way (like another round of privatizations that would relieve it of most of the state control that was rebuilt after Yeltsin raffled it all off). Russia would be better served to explore a trade bloc/union with China.

    • marknesop says:

      I doubt it – I imagine few cultures on earth feel the shame of defeat like the Japanese, and I don’t think there could have been a single citizen who was in doubt over who won. I’d be surprised if current attempts to “revise history” actually originated with the Japanese, although the Japanese government is certainly going along with the storyline. Kan is struggling to stay in power, and few things cause the electorate to rally around the leader like the threat of military conflict with a powerful neighbour. And for a government that claims so vociferously to forswear foreign intrigues, there is no government that loves meddling more than that of the USA. There’s something deeply appealing about creating a problem for Russia that risks no American lives (not really, although there’s a large U.S. military presence in Japan) and probably not much American money. Just slap Japan in the back of the head when they’re not looking, say “Wow – you gonna let Russia slap you like that?” and stand back and watch the fun.

        • Yalensis says:

          I don’t agree with author (Pilko) on the point that reunification of Korean peninsula would benefit Russia. No doubt it would benefit Koreans themselves and even possibly China, but not Russia. Here is my reasoning:
          I don’t believe for one second that Russia feels threatened by current North Korean regime, with or without nukes. On the other hand, reunification of Korea, realistically, would entail South Korea subsuming North. And South Korea is American ally. Therefore, reunification of Korea could bring American troops and bases up to Russian border and very close to Vladivostok.
          Therefore, from purely geo-political point of view (ignoring for a second the desires of the peoples involved), just like when West Germany subsumed East Germany, would this not be a net loss for Russia and a net gain for pro-American bloc? I do agree with Pilko that China would probably be willing to sacrifice North Korea in return for bigger prize (Taiwan), even though this would bring American military bases up to Chinese border as well. Recall that American troops clashed with Chinese army during Korean War, fought to a draw, and there has been an armistice (not formal peace treaty) ever since. Completing that war in favor of America would be a serious blow to Russian security.

          • Misha says:

            I’m not so sure of a geopolitical agreement of China taking Taiwan with a US military presence in a united Korea.

            At some point in the future, I think that China and Russia might be inclined to consider a unified Korea under considerable South Korean influence.

            Germany reunified on account of an increasingly challenged East Germany and the notion that a reunited Germany under West German influence would maintain good commercial ties with the East, while being in the Western camp.

            North Korea appears to face the potential of ongoing socioeconomic challenges. A unified Korea under considerable South Korean influence could be mutually agreed upon if the American military presence there becomes limited or withdrawn altogether. South Korea has gone along with that American deployment on the basis of a North Korean threat. A unified Korea would end that concern, in addition to likely increasing the anti-US military presence sentiment in South Korea. Keep in mind that in the US, there’re folks who support a decreased global US military presence. This grouping stands to become more popular with a diminished case for armed foreign deployments.

            Having said this, I note that this morning’s BBC (aired in the US) had a feature depicting a growing Chinese military and raised concern over this development from India and Japan. Offhand, I’m not clear on how concerned India is of this aspect. As for Japan, the Koreans see China as a greater priority. I sense that China will be content enough with a united Korea on good commercial terms with Beijing.

            In the hypothetical situation described, Russia isn’t (at least necessarily) such a loser.

            There’re other variables that could happen in a way which would conflict with the thoughts expressed in this set of comments.

  17. Alexei Cemirtan says:

    Another good article, this time on Lybai and possible “humanitarian” intervention there. It really is a rare thing to see a mainstream journalism ripping through the bull as savagely as this.

    What the hell is going on in British press? Its almost as if honest journalism is not completely dead here.

    • marknesop says:

      Wow. That is good. And I often despise The Guardian. But you’re right – a lot of the sanest pieces available lately have come from the British press in general and The Guardian in particular. You could almost take Britain seriously for advocating restraint in foreign intrigues. Certainly more so than just about anyone else. It’s a pity that restraint wasn’t the government’s position. But the government’s first priority upon taking power is keeping power. Therefore, the government obviously thinks military intervention is what the voters favour, although I wouldn’t be in a position to know if that’s true.

      • Alexei Cemirtan says:

        Its all just another example of the West being incapable of heeding to its own advice. Just recently a huge number of articles praised Gorby for doing nothing, accepting the limits and the consequences of his actions in 1990s. Yet, at the same time, there is a huge demand from the very same sources to DO something with Lybia. For a very long time now, the British media had been a tail wagging the dog(Government), and unfortunately that is precisely what is happening now: politicians trying to be seen doing something, without proper consideration for the long-term consequences of their actions.

        Of course, if I am to be completely honest, its mainly our own, British, fault. We allow our politicians and media to treat us like idiots. We do not think through the consequences of our demands, as seen by the fact that the notion of “humanitarian” intervention is still not completely discredited even in liberal circles.

      • cartman says:

        Seamus is a contrarian to everything in the Guardian, which is probably why they hate him there. I am skeptical of what is going on in Libya because hearing that “he’s killing everyone” reminds me too much of the Gulf War when “he’s taking babies out of incubators and smashing them on the ground.” Gaddafi and Saddam are not good characters, so it is impossible to find anyone to challenge what often turns out to be bald-faced propaganda.

        This also made me think of April Glaspie, so I wanted to see what was on her Wikipedia page. This quote kind of relates to the Kuril Islands dispute:

        James Akins, the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia at the time, offered a somewhat different perspective in a 2000 interview on PBS:
        “[Glaspie] took the straight American line, which is we do not take positions on border disputes between friendly countries. That’s standard. That’s what you always say. You would not have said, ‘Mr. President, if you really are considering invading Kuwait, by God, we’ll bring down the wrath of God on your palaces, and on your country, and you’ll all be destroyed.’ She wouldn’t say that, nor would I. Neither would any diplomat.”

        Not sure if he meant friendly to the United States (would that include Iraq under Saddam?) or friendly between each other.

        • Alexei Cemirtan says:

          Certainly true about the possible propaganda. Maybe its me being paranoid, but everytime I see the media coverage of Lybia I just cannot shake the feeling of deja vu with the way they treated us to a great fairy tale of “poor brave Georgia” valiantly repelling the “treacherous” attack of big “Russian Bear”.

          I do have a question though, is 1000 dead a logical number for a country in an all out civil war, with the dictator intent on slaughtering all who oppose him? I do not wish to be callous, but its been 2 weeks now. It took less time and far less potent weaponry to slaughter 2 000 000 in Rwanda.

          I say again that any loss of life is regretable, but the current casualty figures (which are given by the opposition and the West who have no interest in underestimating them) do not quiet match the picture being painted in media.

          • Misha says:

            Like yourself, I don’t say the following with an intent to dishonor the innocent folks killed. Dare I say that my intention is for the comparatively greater moral advocacy of outing hucksters with a dishonest political agenda.

            You touch on the instances of intentionally trumped up casualty figures to serve a political agenda. The Bosnian Civil War was a prime example. Anti-Serb propagandists blatantly exaggerated death and rape figures. (The was especially true of the latter.) This point was later acknowledged. Many in Western mass media readily accepted the trumped up figures. It makes for a better story to sell the 1990s wars in former Yugoslavia as a Nazi like holocaust over trying to explain complexities which (if done) reveal considerable culpability among the Serb adversaries.

            In his book, Savo Heleta (who doesn’t come across as a “Serb nationalist”) discusses his witness to Bosnian Muslim nationalist wartime misinformation:


            Regarding the shoddy Western mass media coverage of former Yugoslavia:


          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            You’re not the only one being suspicious about the news stream about Libya. I’ve heard about Libyan Air Force planes bombing demonstrators in Tripoli and Benghazi, but no picture of these supposed bombings has emerged, not even from rebel controlled Benghazi. There are videos of air bombardments, but not against unarmed demonstrators, neither in civilian centers.
            Then there was the embarrassing video on “mass graves”, actually an ordinary cemetery in Tripoli.
            To me the Libyan uprising looks like an inter-tribal war.

            • Alexei Cemirtan says:

              That is precisely the conclusion I myself arrived at after looking at all available information.

              Tribal war, which has a lot more in common with infighting between criminal gangs, rather than a full-scale armed conflict, would explain most of the inconsistencies in the Lybia coverage.

              It explains why the Army is not really involved, as it consists of the mix of tribes. From what we see in the media, its the armed tribal militias on both sides who do the fighting. This in turn explains the limited scope of weapons used and limited casualties among all participants.

              The reports of Kadaffi using his airforce to bomb the rebels or using the full might of his forces are just ludicrous. The kind of carnage that use of such weapons would create is just incomparable with what has happened so far. Even reports of anti-aircraft guns being fired into the crowds sounds a bit fishy to anyone who has any idea about how powerful these weapons are. With big enough crowds, even a single gun firing for a short time would cause hundreds of casualties, which would be very difficult to hide. So if it did happen, there would have been at least some proof of that, rather than constant hearsay and rumours.

              BBC actually reported, from rebel accounts, about how the latter, apparently, managed to resist a full scale armoured assault armed with just small arms or even nothing at all. I apologise, but is this bullshit or what? Even it were to happen, once again the casualties would have been enourmous, which wasn’t the case. What probably happened, is that a bunch of soldiers from the rebel tribes simply deserted and took a bunch of equipment with them. They then drove to the nearest rebel held territory, scaring the latter shitless, who in turn to cover up their previous fear told an idiotic BBC reporter a heroic tale of valiant resistance against overwhelming odds.

              Now is it just me or does my version seem just a tiiiiiiiiiiny bit more plausible than a load of crap shown on the oh so venerable BBC news channel?

              • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                It makes sense, but with the current anti-Kadaffi bias in the news, we’ll never know. Googling for “Libyan tribes” gives some interesting descriptions of that society, and an insight into the current turmoil.

              • marknesop says:

                “Even reports of anti-aircraft guns being fired into the crowds sounds a bit fishy to anyone who has any idea about how powerful these weapons are. ”

                That’s just another means of applying pressure on Ghadaffi to step down. Such unsubstantiated reports are a signal that resistance to foreign government exhortations to do as he’s told could result in war crimes trials – using a .50 cal and up as an antipersonnel weapon is a war crime. You can shoot at a vehicle if someone is in it, but you can’t deliberately shoot people with it. Never mind if it could be proven – the message is that the west and its powerful media are prepared to get tough if they don’t get their way.

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