Where Am I To Go, Now That I’ve Gone Too Far – Paul Goble’s Caucasian Epiphany

Uncle Volodya says, "There is much to be said for modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community"

Could there be anything finer on a sunny spring day, with birdsong and drifts of pink blossoms competing for the attention of one’s senses, than another serving of comic nonsense from Paul Goble? Ha, ha!! Bring me another beer, Darya!! No, I’m kidding – we’re not allowed to drink beer at work, and Daryana isn’t a real person. But a cold beer is about the only thing that could improve on this. Connoisseurs of classic rock will have recognized the first half of the title as a snatch of Golden Earring’s, “Twilight Zone”, and indeed that seems to have been the point of origin for Mr. Goble’s post.

I have to say, though, the guy puzzles me. If you read the “About Me” column to the right of the articles, you’d be compelled to draw the conclusion he’s quite well-credentialed: a salad bar of academic appointments, as well as some pick-and-shovel work in the trenches of government service, including the CIA. On second thought, perhaps that explains a lot, on both counts. Curiously, his Blogger profile lists his field as “Accounting”, although the list of credentials and accomplishments is the same.

Anyway, for a guy who’s supposed to be an academic, not to mention a researcher, and who apparently considers himself an analyst, the material he often chooses to feature is predictive in about the same context as me telling you, “You’re going to die”. Eventually, I’ll be right. Meanwhile, nobody is going to be blown away by my psychic precognition, are they?

With that, we turn to “Russia’s Colonial Rule of the North Caucasus Approaching Its End, Israeli Analyst Says”.

Is it really. Define “approaching”.  Are we talking, like, Earth’s sun “approaching” supernova and burnout? Or cutoff of my telephone service “approaching” if I didn’t pay my  bill last month? I hate to be a wiseass, but if you predict a significant change in the status of the North Caucasus, odds are that someday you will be right. But not anytime that could be described as “approaching”.

Meanwhile, we’re just going to have to do better than Avraam Shmulyevich’s scholarly analysis. About that; just who is he, anyway? According to my impromptu research, he’s a Russian-language journalist based in Israel. According to Gobel, though, he’s an analyst, a researcher and most lately, an “independent scholar”. What is that, exactly? Is an independent scholar somebody who studies something, but is not actually enrolled in any insitution of learning or a part of any academic syllabus? I only ask because I’ve noticed a tendency on Goble’s part to pad the qualifications of his sources to make them appear more credible.

Look at this, for example. According to the intrepid Shmulyevich, the Circassian diaspora is setting up a “government in exile”, to press Moscow for eventual independence. He apparently came by this information in an interview with movers and shakers in the Circassian diaspora, although we have only his word that an interview of any kind took place. That’s because he never actually mentions anyone else – all his sources are “unnamed”. The article mentions that the journalist “cites unnamed backers of this move”. Umm….Avraam? If you “cite” somebody you can’t name, it really isn’t a citation at all. Even a title would do, like “Undersecretary to the Grand Vizier”, or something. With nothing like that, it’s really no more newsworthy than saying “some guy told me”.

This trend continues throughout the article. Circassian “activists” interviewed? Unnamed. Armed groups with whom the diaspora is in regular contact? Sorry, can’t tell you. Members of the government-in-exile? Nope; secret. Is this journalism, really? Let’s say I put an article in the Boston Globe: I aver that the reason nobody of any significance saw or spoke to President Obama over the past weekend is because he took Air Force One to Kenya to participate in his illegitimate son’s circumcision ceremony. Government insiders told me that’s the truth, but I can’t name any of them. Kenyan immigration authorities pre-cleared his plane, but I can’t tell you who any of them are. What it boils down to is, I want you to take my word for it.

And you might, if I had a solid reputation for unearthing amazing stories that almost invariably turned out to be true. Which brings me to another aspect of Shmulyevich’s analysis. If anyone repeats what he says, they’re somehow confirming its authenticity, and the more mentions it gets, the more “worried” Moscow is. You can see a good example of that technique – if that’s what you want to call it – here: Shmulyevich almost laughs himself into some sort of fit because the clodlike, plodding Russian law enforcement agencies cannot define the membership in the Caucasus Emirate organization any closer than “between 50 and 1500”. For the record, outside analysis puts their numbers at “about 1000”. Shmulyevich goes on to chuckle that these unnumbered terrorists must be some kind of  “cyborg terminators, each of which is worth 10,000 federal soldiers “. Yes, Avraam, that is comical, maybe we could get you on Saturday Night Live. I like a guy with a sense of humour – I bet you’ll hardly be able to stay in your chair when you read this. Maybe you remember Donald “War Drums” Rumsfeld pegging the strength of the Iraqi insurgency at around 10,000 “dead-enders” and “no-hopers” back near the beginning of the invasion, when everything was still going more or less swimmingly. By 2006, when things had grown a little more ugly, he was unwilling even to say how many casualties the Iraqi insurgency had sustained, although presumably the U.S. Army was capable of distinguishing the difference between a live Iraqi and a dead one, settling for “The data is (sic) so imperfect that anything I said would conceivably be misleading”. He did allow that the insurgency was taking casualties at “roughly twice the rate of all coalition forces”.

The first thing that must strike you, Avraam, if you could stop giggling for a second, is that the best-equipped army in the world really had no idea at all the size of the insurgency it was facing. Estimates went from 15,000 in 2003 to as many as twice that number only a year later, to 70,000 in 2007.

The next thing that should become evident from data analysis of figures provided is that the U.S. military has already killed everyone involved in the insurgency at least twice, not to mention capturing them all several times over. After 7 years, the insurgency is still grinding along, and at its peak deployment the USA had  more than 161,000 troops in Iraq. That was in 2007, although major combat operations were declared at an end in May of 2003. Gee, those Iraqi insurgents must be some kind of super-cyborg terminators or something, what? Especially given their apparent ability to come back from the dead over and over – hey, perhaps they’re cyborg terminator zombies!

So you see, Avraam, that while it might be fairly easy to calculate the exact numbers of persons involved in an insurgent or terrorist movement from a desk in Israel, it’s considerably harder in the field. It isn’t easy in Iraq, obviously. As I’ll show you later, the Caucasus Emirate has been pushed out of the cities in the Caucasus, and now mostly operates from heavily-forested mountain areas. Keeping tabs on them must be a nightmare, but since you seem to have devised a stunningly accurate system yourself, perhaps you would share it with those hopeless boobs in Russian law enforcement. Unless, of course, you support the terrorists, in which case you’ll probably want to keep it to yourself.

Another recurrent theme in the Shmulyevich Chronicles is, if you laugh at his work and mock it, you’re probably members of the FSB on a disinformation spree, or “trying to silence him”.

Think I’m exaggerating? Check this out. According to Shmulyevich (and, by extension, Goble), the fact that the 145th anniversary of the expulsion of the Circassians from the North Caucasus went unremarked in the federal press was due to a suppression campaign by the FSB. No, no, come on – stop laughing! Seriously. Not only did the FSB lean on the media in Russia, they also personally contacted Shmulyevich by message and told him to keep his mouth shut. Surprisingly, no evidence of this is offered, because it’s rare the FSB is so careless as to actually leave one with written record of its manipulations. As if that were not sinister enough, the FSB also revealed its hand in a number of internet articles defaming Shmulyevich. One of these is a blog by a group calling itself, “Supporters of Public Security”, which you must admit is a damned clever cover for the FSB. Others originate with “stringer.ru”, whose traffic is estimated by MetaHeaders at 136 visits per month – obviously, the FSB has never heard the expression, “Go big, or go home”.

I think we’re done with Shmulyevich. Goble likes him as an analyst of shadowy events and motives in the North Caucasus that are hidden from media outlets with much greater resources, not to mention those clowns in Russian law enforcement. Except for Goble, nobody seems to take him very seriously – however, if you pay attention to his journalistic meanderings at all, you’re confirming their deadly accuracy…and if you laugh, you’re a secret agent trying to silence him. Suffice it to say it makes about as much sense as an Israeli journalist arguing for the furtherance of Muslim tactical objectives.

What’s really going on in the Caucasus? It’s difficult to say, because of problems already described with getting accurate information. As often happens with an insurgency, the claims are comically far apart – the forces tasked with smothering the insurgency say it’s just a few crackheads with big dreams and even bigger mouths, while the spokesmen for the insurgency claim out-of-control recruitment, staggering enlistment and fundraising numbers and a list of hit-and-run successes that would make Erwin Rommel green with envy, if he wasn’t already green with decay. As I mentioned, current estimates have the Caucasus Emirate numbering about 1000. That’s nothing to laugh about, since they can cause violence and destruction far out of proportion to their number, but it’s certainly not a threat that is going to storm the Kremlin, and it doesn’t represent nearly enough display of public will for Russia to consider Caucasian independence, as much as basket-weaving therapy candidates like Shmulyevich might wish that were so. In fact, the great majority of Caucasians want to stay with Russia.

So say John O’Loughlin and Frank D.W. Witmer, authors of “The Localized Geographies of Violence in The North Caucasus of Russia, 1999-2007“. The descriptions of their “geographically weighted regression predictive model of violence” and occasional skipping departures into spatial-statistical analysis are a little dry, but there are plenty of good, solid and well-supported conjectures. Looming large among these are (a) violence peaked in summer 2001, and has been steadily declining since, and (b) the Caucasus Emirate is a tiny but vocal minority, and Caucasians in large majority wish to remain part of Russia.

By far the dominant region in violent events was Chechnya, although Ingushetia began to show a significant rise toward the end of the event (2007). The Kernel Density of Events maps featured in Figure 6 (Pg. 188) clearly display a crescendo of violence in 2001, with a steady and measurable decline since. Even though there was an uptick in violence toward the end of the event measurement, the Moran’s Index of Spatial Autocorrelation diagram at Figure 8 (Pg. 191) indicates clearly that the ratio of violent incidents is lower than at at the beginning of the event (1999) and considerably less than half what it was during 2001.

That should not necessarily be linked to success – the Russian methods are heavy-handed and often counterproductive, while any collective punishment, anywhere, is possibly the worst option. The authors point out that a low-intensity conflict over a broad area is potentially more destabilizing to the region than outright war in a smaller area. There’s definitely room for improvement. However, although the authors cite the zachistki mass arrests by federal authorities as a major cause of discontent and hostility, they are at pains to point out that regional destabilization was initiated by the 1999 invasion of Dagestan by Chechen rebels. That sort of undermines the moral high ground, if you get my drift. Paul Goble likes to hammer on the fact that Russia supplies by far the biggest part of the Caucasus budget via federal handouts, and it’s true a great deal of progress needs to be made in employment for the region – however, I’m at a loss to imagine how that correlates with a supposed desire on the part of the majority to break free of Russia and form a Caucasian Homeland.

Russia is not going to grant the region independence, regardless how Goble and his Israeli sidekick yearn for it.  For one thing, it’s the most direct oil corridor between the Black and Caspian Seas, and the longer a pipeline has to be, the less attractive it is to producers. The west is a one-note band on the subject of energy security, and unfettered acccess to the Caspian Basin and its oil and gas deposits (bear in mind that the Caspian Basin has never been properly explored, which might account for the up-and-down accounts of its potential enormous riches followed by perhaps more pragmatic assessments that say there might not be much oil there at all) would achieve the doubleplusgood situation of boosting western energy security while taking it away from Russia. According to this 2006 CRS Report for Congress, development of the Caspian Basin and, ultimately, realization of its full potential from a western perspective are constrained by (1) disruption of projected pipeline routes by regional conflicts, (2) requirement for drilling rigs, and (3) the unresolved legal status of the Caspian.

For another, the stated goal of the Caucasian Emirate is a united Muslim Republic that incorporates the whole of the North Caucasus. Yes, there’s a goal Russia can stand up and cheer for, right? Especially when this is the expressed wish of about 1000 people of the more than 9 million who make up the population.

Meanwhile, in the “comes as no surprise whatever” category, subsequent western (read American) reaction to Russian attempts to bring Chechnya to heel are as different as night and day, and based entirely on who is in charge in Russia. In 1994, when Boris The Incredible Grain-Alcohol Storage Unit Yeltsin was running the show and kicked off the First Chechen War, official American reaction compared him to – I’m not kidding – Abraham Lincoln, and suggested “…no state has the right to withdraw from [the] Union”, drawing an obvious and deliberate parallel with the South’s secession and the North’s victory in the American Civil War. But when Chechen War number Two opened up, under exactly the same penumbra – fighting terrorism – but led by Vladimir Putin…you guessed it. “Brutality” and “war crimes against the Chechen people”, and Washington beltway pundits dancing into the streets with their arms full of candy and flowers to welcome Chechen writer Lyoma Usmanov, so he could tell them all about how Putin’s government has “nothing to do with democracy, nothing to do with the problems of the Russian people”. One of which, incidentally, was being blown up by Chechen terrorists.

Golden Earring brought us in, perhaps they’d like to take us out.

Help, I’m steppin’ into the twilight zone; place is a madhouse…

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122 Responses to Where Am I To Go, Now That I’ve Gone Too Far – Paul Goble’s Caucasian Epiphany

  1. sinotibetan says:

    Mark,
    I am no expert on Caucasian issues, but just a few comments:-
    1.”By far the dominant region in violent events was Chechnya, although Ingushetia began to show a significant rise toward the end of the event (2007). ”
    If I am not mistaken, the last 2-3 years also showed increasing violence in the Dagestan Republic – a republic that’s supposedly ‘closer’ to Moscow than the more spirited Chechens. Any comment on that republic?
    2.”the Caucasus Emirate is a tiny but vocal minority, and Caucasians in large majority wish to remain part of Russia.”
    I think it’s a ‘tug-of-war’ for the hearts of Caucasians between the Wahhabist-inspired jihadists and the Sufi tradition of many Caucasians and for a time the former had not insignificant followers – especially more idealistic youths. I think several factors led to the erosion of the former’s ‘influence’ in the Caucasus:-
    a.)Sufi leaders and imams maintain a socially conservative stand which is not at odds with the conservatism of the jihadists in many aspects except in cooperation with “Kaffir” powers such as Moscow. Whilst Muslim Caucasians are socially conservative(in general), majority are not as religious purist or fundamentalist as the Wahhabists.
    b.) A United Caucasian Emirate is like trying to hold magnets with like-poles together – unlikely to succeed unless the majority of Caucasians subscribe to Islamic fundamentalism(which had not happened)! Even in that likelihood, Caucasians are rather more ethnic-conscious to be so absolutely ‘subdued’ into such an emirate.
    However, as to ‘many Caucasians wish to remain with Russia’ – that may be so, but I think there is resentment of Caucasians against ethnic Russians in general(and vice versa is true also) and perhaps many Muslims there are not happy with the ‘encroachment’ of ‘Western influences/values’ into their communities. There is always that potential of that simmering resentment to be exploited by jihadist especially if Moscow is seen to be ‘too weak’ or when there is general chaos in the Russian Federation. Caucausian political stability depends somewhat on the political stability of the Federal Government.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      Well, I’m not an expert, either, but I often learn a great deal in the ensuing discussion. The report on Caucasian violence points out that Dagestan is now the most dangerous area in the North Caucasus for travelers. The authors suggest that a widespread atmosphere of hostility is more troubling than isolated areas of extreme violence, or can be. However, another reason Russia is not going to let the Caucasus go is that it constitutes better than 6% of its population. As long as the birth rate remains a concern, Russia is not going to entertain any proposals that incorporate a big drop in the population. I realize those people would still be physically present, but they’d no longer – technically – be Russians.

      I didn’t see any data to support Caucasians preferring to remain allied with Russia, but it was a component of the report. Some survey data would be nice. Religion is always a touchy subject, but I personally do not find Wahabbism any more offensive or incorporative of violence than fundamentalist Christianity. Speaking only for myself, I would find either religion too restrictive and would be unable to hold to its tenets, and cannot understand why anyone would willingly submit to it. But that’s their choice. Being part of any movement always draws the young, seeking to belong, and Russia’s current disciplinary methods contribute to their image in some circles as conquistadors and dictators, but Russia’s disproportionate contribution to the local economies demonstrates its recognition that the problem is serious and must be resolved. In my view, the eventual solution is not going to be independence. Also, sporadic terrorist attacks make it extremely difficult for the Russian government to make peaceful overtures or extra efforts to improve the standard of living for the average North Caucasian, when public emotion is inflamed by violence.

      I agree that widespread Islamic fundamentalism in the Caucasus is extremely unlikely. Again, I wish I had solid evidence that outside interests were stirring the pot in order to keep the situation unstable and restless, but I haven’t. It stands to reason that is the case given track records and the strategic importance of the area, but I have nothing that rises to the standard of proof.

      • cartman says:

        I do think Wahabbism is more violent than fundamentalist Christianity (unless you consider the Iraq invasion a Crusade, but then the Yugoslavia bombing campaign was one as well).

        I was looking through Wikipedia on the subject and came across a picture of this guy:

        His t-shirt has the Saudi emblem on it. Oops. Well, the Gulf States have other difficulties on their mind right now. Maybe that will help calm the situation in the Caucasus.

  2. peter says:

    About that; just who is he, anyway?

    He’s an old buddy of Putin’s.

    • marknesop says:

      Well, I’ll be damned. So he is – assuming it’s the same Shmulyevich, and I have no idea how common the name might be. It would stand to reason it’s the same guy, but a couple of things make me wonder. For one, I see little common ground between an angry denunciation of Russian “colonial rule” in the Caucasus and the Chairman of an organization that calls itself “For the Motherland”. Unless he’s maybe referring to Israel as the Motherland. Also, it would be unlike Goble to pass up the chance to credential one of his sources with the chairmanship of an international organization, if he perceived an opportunity to do so.

      Similarly, I have a hard time understanding the Jewish interest in the region when Jews number probably something less than 20,000 of a population greater than 9,000,000. Admittedly, it might now be greater, maybe even significantly; that’s an extrapolation based on 2000 figures and an expressed desire to get out of the region on the part of many. I note this reference also indicates North Caucasian Jews were “overwhelmingly” supportive of the Russian side in the second Chechen war – again, this strikes a false note against the framework of pining for an end to Russian rule in the Caucasus.

      I’m likewise suspicious of claims that Shmulyevich promised to use Israeli clout to force Arab nations to repay debt owed to Russia, in return for Russian support of a strong Israel. As best I’m aware, Israeli clout short of military force is just about non-existent with Arab nations, while Russian support for a strong Israel would likely be insignificant on the world stage compared to the influence exercised by the USA. Also, Shmulyevich’s alleged promise to use what influence he could bring to bear to preserve the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s privileges – and, in turn, its contribution to Russian influence in the Middle East – strikes an odd note. They sound like completely different people.

      But you may be right, and have certainly introduced an interesting new angle. Anybody know? Are these two completely different Avraam Shmulyevichi?

      • peter says:

        Are these two completely different Avraam Shmulyevichi?

        Nope, one and the same.

        • marknesop says:

          Yup; so they are. Wow. Maybe he has multiple-personality disorder or something.

          • peter says:

            Well, it’s more like the article in my link is an April Fool’s joke.

            • marknesop says:

              I’m afraid I couldn’t say – I’m not familiar with the site. But it’s the same picture. Certainly an entirely different policy perspective, though.

              • Yalensis says:

                If Putin met with this guy, it probably just speaks to the fact that Putin is a good politician and gets along with a lot of people, even ideological enemies. Remember, Putin used to be a secret agent in his youth, so he was supposed to talk to all kinds of people in order to gather intelligence for analysis. Maybe he thought this Shmulevich guy possessed some useful information, or had useful contacts, and was worth talking to. Especially if they already knew each other from University days. I don’t see it as that much of a paradox…
                P.S. Good blog! Although I am disappointed to learn that Daryana is not a real person…

                • marknesop says:

                  She’s real to me in every way that matters.

                • marknesop says:

                  Putin, for me, is a superior politician to Medvedev because he is much less emotional and it is much more difficult to tell what he’s thinking. Stories abound of Putin “losing his temper”, such as when Shevchuk supposedly pushed him over the edge at that charity benefit some time ago and made him furious. I watched it, and didn’t get that impression at all. He appeared mildly annoyed that Shevchuk would not stay on the subject, but that’s it. I’m sure he has a temper, and he probably exhibits it from time to time, but compared with Medvedev he is an iceman. It’s pretty easy to see what Medevedev is thinking – he’s much more candid and open – but it makes it easy to see where he can be pushed. Everybody claims to want candor and transparency in politicians, but I’ve noticed politicians who genuinely exhibit these qualities don’t last long.

              • peter says:

                Certainly an entirely different policy perspective, though.

                Авром Шмулевич: “Я – за русский национализм без антисемитизма”

                He is indeed an unlikely hybrid of an ЕРЖ and Dugin. Kind of like our Misha, only with brains.

  3. Misha says:

    Mark,

    During the first Chechen war of the 1990s, there was a good deal of Western based commentary critical of Russia and comparatively soft on Chechen nationalist transgressions. Such coverage served as a sign that even with Yeltsin, Russia would be subject to a good deal of unfair coverage.

    Regarding Paul Goble and the ongoing status quo –

    In a live TV/radio media situation or net variant, does he ever give follow-up answers to the replies of his at times questionable (put mildly) commentary?

    Qualitatively, good analysis presents reasoned follow-up to countering views. Successfully standing up to the sleazy defamation tactics of some serves as an added plus.

    This is in contrast to the bully pulpit types offering questionable (put mildly) commentary without much if any challenges.

    A frequent Goble tactic is to uncritically reference a source offering a dubious view. The simple message being: it’s not him saying such. One classic example is Goble’s whataboutism piece in reply to the closing of Russian language public schools in Ukraine:

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/russia-ukraine-whataboutism-17122010/

    • Misha says:

      Another he reports you decide piece from Paul Goble concerns a supposed secret deal between Russia and Ukraine, which would’ve Pridnestrovie becoming part of Ukraine:

      http://windowoneurasia.blogspot.com/2010/05/window-on-eurasia-do-medvedev-and.html

      In that piece, a number of reasons for doubting such an agreement weren’t brought up:

      http://www.eurasiareview.com/old/analysis/analysis/4424-differences-over-disputed-territories

      http://www.eurasiareview.com/old/analysis/analysis/393-haggling-over-the-former-moldavian-ssr-dispute

    • marknesop says:

      I don’t understand how he could have racked up all those academic credentials just by bottom-trawling the most scurrilous and sensationalist yellow-journalism rags and printing their most hysterical opinion pieces, and giving them a sober patina of analysis. Doesn’t anyone fact-check any of this stuff?

      I’ve never seen Paul Goble anywhere else but Window0nEurasia, and that only because LR used to quote his articles adoringly – even regularly referring to him as “the indispensable Paul Goble”. Now, there’s a match made in the polar opposite of heaven. I had never heard of him before. But if he actually was an analyst or something of that nature for the CIA, it goes a long way toward explaining how they often draw the most ludicrous conclusions from the most boneheaded information. You’d think people would have learned to be suspicious of analysis that sounds oddly like Just What You Want To Hear, because it usually is. But they never do.

      • Misha says:

        Part of the propaganda mantra will note where he has appeared unlike…..

        That aside, there’s a more substantive way of valuing the input of a given analyst.

        Having paper credentials doesn’t automatically guarantee great analysis. The best of academics willingly acknowledge this point.

        • Misha says:

          Sorry Mark, I missed something you posted.

          Yes, Paul Goble has appeared at numerous venues of known stature.

          Once again:

          In a live TV/radio media situation or net variant, does he ever give follow-up answers to the replies of his at times questionable (put mildly) commentary?

          Qualitatively, good analysis presents reasoned follow-up to countering views. Successfully standing up to the sleazy defamation tactics of some serves as an added plus.

          This is in contrast to the bully pulpit types offering questionable (put mildly) commentary without much if any challenges.

      • Doesn’t anyone fact-check any of this stuff?

        A few try to, but what’s the point? Rational people without an agenda ignore him. I never actually read him, apart from when researching that article. I believe his only regular readers are either hardcore Russophobes or those searching for a good quote to back questionable assertions (e.g. in his recent book on Russia’s demography, the right-wing analyst Nicholas Eberstadt footnoted him in support off the contention that Russia’s army is going to be majority Muslim by 2015).

        • marknesop says:

          What an astonishing coincidence; I was just on your blog and found all this interesting stuff about the Libyan campaign.

          Yes, as I mentioned, I had no clue who Goble was before seeing him rapturously canonized by La Russophobe. I’m still curious about his academic credentials and all the books he’s supposed to have written – I can’t imagine how those relate to the crazy pile of monkey droppings he writes on WindowOnEurasia.

        • marknesop says:

          Damn. That’s a good article. It’s a little before my time, I didn’t start this blog until July 2010, so I hadn’t seen it. But it certainly takes Goble apart like a good socket set, and he’s even crazier than I realized. No wonder the CIA regularly gets everything ass-backwards, if they rely on analysis from tools like Goble.

          • Misha says:

            Broken record and all: note the venues propping him (including RFE/RL and JRL), unlike some other sources who’ve been more on target – inclusive of some originally thought out and reasoned commentary.

  4. Misha says:

    It’s a “crazy” state of affairs, given some of the material that does and doesn’t receive greater acclaim.

    This piece lauds Goble as a great strategist for not being so against Abkhaz independence:

    http://www.scrapsofmoscow.org/search?updated-min=2010-01-01T00%3A00%3A00Z&updated-max=2011-01-01T00%3A00%3A00Z&max-results=24

    A related and just released piece:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/a_russian_land_grab_in_abkhazia/3542144.html

    In the first link, note how Goble is lauded for not being so against Abkhaz independence – provided it takes a certain geopolitical direction. Certain geo-strategists see a potential opening in Abkhazia. Actually, such Western enthusiasm for Abkhaz independence can serve to bring Russia and Georgia closer to each other.

    In that first link, also note the seeming hope that Abkhaz independence could encourage separatism in Russia. On different occasions, Edward Lucas and Andrei Zolotov have said that Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia could backfire against Russia, by promoting separatism within Russia. So far, the evidence of that appears very minimal, as some areas outside Russia express the desire to reunite with Russia. On the recognition of disputed land potentially backfiring, some Scottish nationalist have expressed the view that the UK’s recognition of Kosovo serves the interests of Scottish independence.

    • Misha says:

      In my set of comments directly above this one, the first link lauding Goble makes reference to a proposal of his for settling the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. No specifics were given.

      Seeing how the passions run high on both sides of that dispute and the past violence which has the potential to return, I believe that something creatively different is required for settling that conflict. Consideration can be given for Nagorno-Karabakh to have the unique status as a simultaneous part of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Any ruling completely against one of them will not go down well.

      http://www.russiablog.org/2009/04/settling-the-dispute-over-nagorno-karabakh-averko.php

    • Yalensis says:

      “Abkhaz independence boomeranging back on Russia by encouraging separatism in Russian Federation” – that became an instant trope on the part of Russophobes and pro-Saakashvili elements as soon as Abkhaz independence became a reality. But it’s just wishful thinking on their part. Losing Abkhazia was the most painful thing that ever happened to Gruzia, and the only way friends of Gruzia could salve their wounds was by fantasizing about some future karmic retribution against Russia. Abkhazian national independence will have ZERO impact on situation in Ingushetia/Dagestan, etc., since the insurgents in those republics are NOT fighting for national independence, but rather for a trans-national emirate.

  5. Misha says:

    Seeing how Libya was brought up at this thread, here’s one of my favorite Canadian analysts (who is especially good on former Yugoslavia):

    http://policystudies.ca/library-mainmenu-76/96-international-affairs/411-humanitarian-intervention-again

    • Misha says:

      Battling the Beast
      http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn04012011.html

      Some thought provoking excerpts from the above article:

      By my count, the mighty armies contending along the highway west of Benghazi would melt into the bleachers at a college baseball game. News stories suggest mobile warfare on the scale of the epic dramas of the Kursk salient in World War Two. But most of the action revolves around one tank. I’ve seen it in hundreds of video feeds. Like the tooth passed from witch to witch in Greek myth this tank performs many functions and to judge from the graffiti on its turret, it’s always the same vehicle. Maybe that’s why there’s endless bickering about whether the U.N. resolution covers the supply of arms and heavy equipment. The war’s PR men want to freshen up the visuals.

      ****

      As with any bombing, civilians died. A team of Russian doctors wrote to the president of the Russian Federation, the oleaginous Dmitry Medvedev, as follows (as cited on the Global Research site on March 28):

      ‘Today, 24 March 2011, NATO aircraft and the U.S. all night and all morning bombed a suburb of Tripoli – Tajhura (where, in particular, is Libya’s Nuclear Research Center). Air Defense and Air Force facilities in Tajhura were destroyed back in the first 2 days of strikes and more active military facilities in the city remained, but today the object of bombing are barracks of the Libyan army, around which are densely populated residential areas, and next to it – the largest of Libya’s Heart Centers. Civilians and the doctors could not assume that common residential quarters will be about to become destroyed, so none of the residents or hospital patients was evacuated.

      Bombs and rockets struck residential houses and fell near the hospital. The glass of the Cardiac Center building was broken, and in the building of the maternity ward for pregnant women with heart disease a wall collapsed and part of the roof. This resulted in ten miscarriages whereby babies died, the women are in intensive care, doctors are fighting for their lives. Our colleagues and we are working seven days a week, to save people. This is a direct consequence of falling bombs and missiles in residential buildings resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries, which are operated and reviewed now by our doctors. Such a large number of wounded and killed, as during today, did not occur during the total of all the riots in Libya. And this is called protecting the civilian population’?

      ****

      Everything is out of proportion. Qaddafi is scarcely the acme of monstrosity conjured up by Obama or Mrs. Clinton or Sarkozy. In four decades, Libyans have gone from being among the most wretched in Africa, to considerable elevation in terms of social amenities. President Obama’s hands are stained with more blood and suffering than those of the man who has given the world endless diversion through two generations. In terms of evil deeds, is Qaddafi a Mobutu, a Bokassa, a Saddam, or any U.S. president? Surely not.

      Obama’s speech this week, belatedly seeking to rationalize his latest war, was ludicrously disproportionate too: pompous and offensive treacle about America’s special role as savior of the afflicted ladled over one more plateful of folly in the nation’s downward slide.

      These ‘humanitarian interventions’ follow a familiar script: demonization, hand in hand with romantic effusions about the demon’s opponents, whether the Mujahiddeen in Afghanistan reinvented as Robin Hoods of the Hindukush or the Albanian mafiosi tarted up as freedom-loving Kossovars.

      The U.S.-led war on Iraq in 1991 included a propaganda campaign contracted by the government of Kuwait with the pr firm Burson Marsteller, which produced such triumphs as the babies allegedly hurled by Saddam’s troops from their respirators in a Kuwait hospital – a fraud I think I can claim to have been the first to expose. In this connection, one does have to wonder, at least for a moment, about that woman bursting into the journalist’s hotel in Tripoli, claiming to have been raped by some of Qaddafi’s troops, though if the intent was to rally liberals in America to the cause of intervention, allegations planted by Burson-Marsteller or some kindred outfit of a “hate crime” against gay Libyans, or a negative attitude to gay marriage on the part of Qaddafi might have been more effective.

      ****

      On the intervention and on Obama I yield the floor to Bill Blum who gave us an acrid Philippic, on this site last week:

      “So who are the good guys? The Libyan rebels, we’re told. The ones who go around murdering and raping African blacks on the supposition that they’re all mercenaries for Gaddafi. …During the 1990s, in the name of pan-African unity, Gaddafi opened the borders to tens of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans to live and work in Libya. That, along with his earlier pan-Arab vision, did not win him points with The Holy Triumvirate. Oh, and did I mention that Gaddafi is strongly anti-Zionist?

      Does anyone know what kind of government the rebels would create? … Will they do away with much of the welfare state that Gaddafi used his oil money to create? Will the state-dominated economy be privatized? Who will wind up owning Libya’s oil? Will the new regime continue to invest Libyan oil revenues in sub-Saharan African development projects? Will they allow a US military base and NATO exercises? Will we find out before long that the “rebels” were instigated and armed by Holy Triumvirate intelligence services?…

      If John McCain had won the 2008 election, and then done everything that Obama has done in exactly the same way, liberals would be raging about such awful policies. I believe that Barack Obama is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the American left. The millions of young people who jubilantly supported him in 2008, and numerous older supporters, will need a long recovery period before they’re ready to once again offer their idealism and their passion on the altar of political activism.”

      I wouldn’t have put that last paragraph as politely as Bill. There was plenty of evidence available in 2008, much of it amassed by CounterPunch, allowing conscientious enquirers to conclude that Obama was very bad news, in the pockets of the banks and big corporations. How about the words “dumb” and “credulous”, right next to “idealism and passion”?

      Alexander Cockburn’s brief characterization of [Obama’s NSC aide] Samantha Power’s Problem from Hell as a study of “US foreign-policy response to genocide” is not quite accurate. Among its “case studies,” the book includes only those situations/countries where the genocide was outside the US sphere/area of control. It does not include any studies about genocides that took place in areas within the US sphere/area of control, such as Indonesia, Guatemala, Turkey/the Kurds, etc. I asked her about this at one of her lectures; she said my complaint was false, because her chapter on Saddam’s gassing of Halabja was of the period in which Saddam was a US ally/client. Not much of a defense….Whether deliberately or not, Power’s argument for US intervention against mass killing is framed as an argument for expanding the United States’ military reach, while not troubling itself about mass killing within its own sphere of control/influence.

      Frank Brodhead

      • Misha says:

        I’ve noted the same of Power and add:

        I don’t recall Power saying much (if anything) about stopping or condemning the ethnic cleansing of at least 150,000 Krajina Serbs, of which over 500 were killed in the process.

        She seems to be the kind who would note the “Serb shelling” of Dubrovnik without noting what transpired there beforehand (Croat nationalist forces bullying about their way) and that the wartime damage of that city was comparatively limited.

        http://www.rferl.org/content/feature/2339783.html?page=2#relatedInfoContainer

        The kind of inaccurate bias at play explains the hypocrisy of being lax on Srdja Trifkovic getting denied entry into Canada as comparative hoopla was made over Luke Harding initially getting denied entry into Russia (over not following a proper administrative procedure).

        Where’s Power’s quoted outrage at how the repackaged KLA have carried on? Ditto her downplaying the transgeressions of Croat and Bosnian Muslim nationalists?

        Human rights as a propaganda tool is an otherwise clear reality. The Carter administration carried on accordingly. Human rights issues in the USSR were trumped up, while downplaying the greater abuses at the time in Romania and China. Machiavellian wise, Romania was a nice pesky thorn to see within the Warsaw Pact, with the Sino-Soviet dispute to be geopolitically taken advantage of, as an otherwise noble cause was disingenuously used. If I’m not mistaken, Carter’s admin went along with having the pro-Chinese and extremely brutal Pol Pot regime remain the representative of Cambodia’s UN seat, after the pro-Vietnamese and pro-Soviet Cambodians took control of Cambodia’s capita and much of the rest of Cambodia.

        This Democratic Party foreign policy stance was initiated with Madeleine Albright and the late Richard Holbrooke having roles in the Carter administration. Not that the Republican Party has been stellar on such matter. I nevertheless sense a less phony way of viewing such issues within some Republican ranks.

        I saw a video of Power before her Obama admin human rights position appointment speaking about the need to (as she put it) limit military aid to Israel and not let the Israeli lobby have their way – even if it means paying a price in support. Since her Obama admin appointment, has she said anything resembling such?

        Her view on not sucking up to a perceived wrong is quite ironic given how neolib as well as neocon leaning foreign policy politicos have kowtowed elsewhere. Power appears to fit in a Soros funded way of viewing humanitarian intervention. Paddy Ashdown, among others (including neocon Bill Kristol) suggested that going against the Serbs increases the opportunity of the West being on better terms with predominately Muslim nations. In point of fact, the EU by and large has been more gung ho on supporting Kosovo’s independence than the nations comprising the comparatively larger Organization of the Islamic Conference. Up to a year ago, this was true. I’d have to check the current tabulation on this particular to see if this is still true. The aforementioned comments from Ashdown and others have a bizarre updated and politically correct us and them Crusades like mindset.

        As I previously expressed on “humanitarian intervention,” and in retrospect to some past situations:

        – Russia had a basis to counterattack against the Georgian government strike into South Ossetia. All in all, that Russian military operation was pretty good at primarily hitting back at military assets.

        – There was a humanitarian reasoning for the Russian government to militarily respond to a couple of instances in 1990s era Chechnya. In these situations: doing so in a not so well thought out way against a brutal opposition within civilian areas compromised the humanitarian aspect of the Russian government’s military action. Yes, Russia should’ve a well trained and efficiently equipped armed forces for good use reasons.

        – Rather than provoke a hypocritically warped attack against Yugoslavia in 1999, the leading Western powers could’ve offered assistance to combat the KLA. The Western treatment of Turkish actions against the PKK highlights a definite hypocrisy. BTW, Milosevic years included, Albanians in Kosovo had greater rights than what the Kurds faced in Turkey, during the years of Turkish military operations against the PKK.

        The kind of “comparative politics”/”humanitarian intervention” analysis not encouraged at neocon/neolib leaning think tanks.

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, very interesting. I did a bit of searching on Gadaffi’s Great Man-Made River project (unsurprisingly, I had never heard of it before), mentioned in this article, and it seems to be quite the engineering wonder. Clean water is a priceless resource in an African country, and it looks like Libya has plenty of it. It seems an odd thing for a despot who thinks only of himself and hoards all Libya’s oil wealth for his own personal enrichment to spend $25 Billion on. I also found a reference that said Libya under Gadaffi’s predecessor (King Idris) was pumping 3 million barrels per day, which is more than Iraq is pumping now; so the potential for Libya to be a much greater force on the world market than it was prior to the “intervention” is still very much there, as Libya still has plenty of known reserves.

        I think NATO has stepped in a bucket of shit here, because if the article you cite is accurate and the “rebels” number no more than about 1500, they will never be able to hold on to power once installed. The Libyan population isn’t huge, but it’s a hell of a lot more than 1500. If you take the remainder and split it in half, and discount one half as disinterested bystanders who will fall in line with whatever authority offers itself, that still leaves about 3.25 million Gadaffi supporters.

        Factor in the allegation that the “rebels” have been linked to al Qaeda, and the intervention of NATO on their side – not to mention the obvious determination of NATO that the “rebels” must win, as evidenced by the British governments’s announcement of a legal loophole that would allow the west to arm the “rebels” – begins to smell a bit.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          From what I’ve read about the Libyan war, the 1500 rebels figure is the number of rebel troops that have military training, i.e. mostly former soldiers that have defected. There are much more untrained volunteers, whose numbers is difficult to assess, but of limited military value.

          • Yalensis says:

            I saw a bit on the news: rebels had been given NATO mortar launchers and rockets, but didn’t know how to use them and were accidentally launching rockets in wrong direction, against their own side. Meanwhile, as rabble approached Gaddafi-held city, Gaddafi government issued Kalashnikovs to all male civilian population of city, so that they could defend themselves against pro-Idrisi rabble approaching. Two questions: (1) if Gaddafi is such a hated despot, why is he risking to arm his own people, and (2) will American NRA (National Rifle Association) give Gaddafi honorary membership for being pro-gun?
            On last point, I recall during Iraq war, when Americans invaded they discovered that EVERYBODY in Iraq owned a Kalashnikov, every last man, woman and child. It was an NRA paradise. By American standards, Saddam’s Iraq should qualify as thriving red-blooded democracy. Same deal with Libya.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              Friendly fire incidents happens even in regular armies, that the same thing happens for the Libyan irregulars isn’t a surprise. Speaking of friendly fire, today there is the news that 10 rebels were killed by NATO bombers.

              • Yalensis says:

                Good point, Giuseppe. Friendly fire is just one of those things that happens in all wars, and normally everybody should stipulate not to bring it up for purposes of criticism or ridicule of one or other side in conflict, since everybody does it. In this case, though, Western news outlets were making a bigger point that the Libyan rebels are more clueless than the average “army”, and that if they are to have any hope of military success in land war, they would need Western trainers and advisors to go along with their fancy new NATO weapons. Realistically, they would need American marines to storm the “shores of Tripoli” to back them up. Allude to USA marines fight song:
                From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli
                We will fight our country’s battles on the air, on land, and sea…
                etc etc.

            • marknesop says:

              You are edging toward comic stardom with that NRA angle – that’s funny!

        • Misha says:

          Mark, regarding your comment on the breakdown of views in Libya, the defection of Libyan diplomatic personnel serves as a noticeable propaganda boost against Khadafy. It wouldn’t be a surprise if some of the defectors were recruited.

      • Yalensis says:

        …the president of the Russian Federation, the oleaginous Dmitry Medvedev…
        Ha, that is damn good writing! I had to look up “oleaginous” in dictionary. From the Latin olea “olive” – and no, Cockburn does not imply that our beloved Medvedev has nice, olive complexion. More like he is oozing some greasy substance from his pores… I like this paragraph too:
        “These “humanitarian interventions” follow a familiar script: demonization, hand in hand with romantic effusions about the demon’s opponents, whether the Mujahiddeen in Afghanistan reinvented as Robin Hoods of the Hindukush or the Albanian mafiosi tarted up as freedom-loving Kossovars.”
        How true… And American public always falls for this nonsense … or do they? I saw a poll yesterday; majority of American public is OPPOSED to Libyan war. This is something, considering that they are usually rah rah the first few months and only get disillusioned after a couple of years have gone by and still losing war.

        • Misha says:

          The American public has enough experience with questionable military action on the part of its country.

          Tack onto to that the more challenging domestic circumstances which many in the US now face.

        • marknesop says:

          You’re right, but the war’s engineers are counting on support lasting long enough to topple Gadaffi. Then it would prove a double bonus, because it could also be used to topple Obama. These people pride themselves on owing loyalty to nobody but the main chance and targets of opportunity. Gaddafi could live to fool them all if he could hang on a little longer. Not that I think he’s a great leader, but its hard to argue with the progress Libyan society as a whole has made since King Idris – things have certainly not gotten worse – and I have seen no evidence at all that the rebels have a plan beyond seizing power. They are patsies and do not realize it, allowing themselves to be used as the blunt instrument that will pave the way for…what?

  6. sinotibetan says:

    Sorry to post something out-of-topic :-
    “If Putin met with this guy, it probably just speaks to the fact that Putin is a good politician and gets along with a lot of people, even ideological enemies.”
    Is Putin’s days as a good politician over?
    “Increasingly assertive Medvedev attacks Putin allies”
    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world/view/1119948/1/.html
    However, according to this article, Kudrin and Nabiulla – whom I thought to be ‘liberal’ and ‘allies’ of Medvedev are also ‘targetted’ – hence, perhaps the analysis is not so sound.
    Out of topic, but if this happens, Russia will ‘destabilize’ and the situation in Caucasus will change as well.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      The situation in the Caucasus is bound to change, because too many agents of change are simultaneously acting upon it with exactly that in mind – the question is, who will win? Russia is, as I suggested, committed to keeping the Caucasus in the Federal fold. The government appears willing to be flexible in how this will come about, but is certainly not going to allow a Caucasian Emirate on its flanks with Georgia just on the other side.

      When the Americans resolved to “get” Saddam Hussein, I wondered (until it became apparent they wanted control of his country as well) why they didn’t simply watch him for a little while to establish his habits – it’s said he was a very careful man, because he feared assassination – and discern a vulnerability, and then send a two-man team in to shoot him from a rooftop or balcony across the street, something like that. Chances of getting away with it would be excellent for an agency with the resources of the CIA.

      I wonder now why small Spetsnaz squads could not eliminate Caucasian Emirate leaders. In a group that only numbers about 1000, I’d guess there can’t be more than about 5 people who hold it all together. They’d be much harder to get at than Saddam was, since they’re now mostly in mountain retreats or small, remote villages, but certainly not impossible. And it would save a lot of trouble for both sides in the long run.

      But the suggestion that Russia is about to cave in and let the Caucasian Emirate claim victory is absurd, and plainly calculated only to encourage them.

  7. sinotibetan says:

    @Mark
    “But the suggestion that Russia is about to cave in and let the Caucasian Emirate claim victory is absurd, and plainly calculated only to encourage them.”
    A couple of points about this statement:-
    1.) There is a plausibility of political fallout in Russia because it is becoming more apparent that there is a power struggle between Medvedev and Putin, civiliki and siloviki. Will Russia become destabilized with these interclan clashes? Maybe. The news are abuzz about the possible quitting of Sechin from Rosneft and Kudrin from VTB purportedly coming from Medvedev. Although Medvedev had claimed these to ‘reform’ the investment climate in Russia, the reason is possibly political – he has started his move to counter Putin by striking at his powerful political allies. I doubt Sechin in particular and possibly Putin will let their grip on influence and power slip away just like that. The tandem is cracking and seems widening. So a Russian Government ‘caving in’ due to these power struggles is not so far-fetched , in my opinion.
    2.) Surely neither Medvedev nor Putin would allow the Caucasian Emirate to claim ‘victory’. But you see, I see Medvedev to be a ruthless person(like Putin) and he is now showing his true colours; he is also ungrateful towards his former ‘mentor’ – however, unlike Putin, I think he is too weak to wield the country together should he actually succeed in getting rid of Putin and other political enemies. Although no drunkard like Yeltsin, he seems more and more like a bookish/idealistic person who believes every Western doctrine like some religious book. He seems to be in a big hurry to have radical reforms within Russia. And a very Gorbachev-like behaviour of alienating himself from the other political elites. All these , I predict, will lead to a return of a chaotic economic, social and political situation similar to the 1990s. It is an experiment that failed but Medvedev seems intent to pursue that route at all cost. The history of the Caucasus(especially the Muslim republics) are of enmity with Russia. Chechenya wanted to ‘break away’ from Russia because Russia was weak during the Yeltsin era as it dealt with serious socio-economic chaos. Potentially separatist republics within the Russian Federation remains because the ‘political economy’ appears positive should they remain within the Russian Federation. That ‘positive’ outlook depends on:
    a.) Continuing political stability within the central government. If it’s weak, then why not rebel if there is a chance to win full independence?
    b.)Continued improvement in socio-economic developments. Russia under Putin managed somehow to channel funds to those impoverished and generally super-corrupted region – even if the general public got crumbs, at least they got crumbs. Of course the bigger portions went to the local elites to placate them. Should Russia devolve into socio-economic crisis due to a war within the ‘tandem’, these funneling of funds will dwindle. Then, why not rebel since they are not going to get much of the ‘goods’ anymore?
    c.)It might not be the ‘Caucasian Emirate’ with the force of a puny 1000 that will ‘rebel’/be a force to reckon with. Maybe the local potentates? Maybe other new emerging leaders? Kadyrov is a Putin ally – might he rebel against Medvedev especially if Medvedev decides to replace him with ‘his man’, for example? etc. etc. The permutations are endless.
    3.) I still believe that the Western(i.e. American) ‘designs’ on the Russians would be this – to cut up the country into pieces, dismantle its colossal nuclear arsenal, secure the most via ‘free trade’ all of Russia’s natural resources and ‘absorb’ Russia into either NATO or more likely the EU so that she will be ‘contained'(somewhat reminiscent of the ‘German’ experience). The end of the Soviet Union did not mean the end of Russian aspiration for some form of regional or even global influence. Washington, in my opinion, wants to complete the job of subjugation it failed to do with the rise of Putin’s Presidency. They’ve found their man now in Medvedev. Like what happened to Serbia, similar destiny might await Russia. A geographically ‘smaller’ and demographically ‘smaller’ Russia would be better to achieve that aim. I suspect ‘Western’ aid to Caucasian republic ‘separatists’ once Russia weakens and Medvedev(or whoever is President) realises that the country is breaking apart try to keep them integrated within Russia.

    Sure it’s absurd to think Russia(even Medvedev) will want to let the Caucasian republics out of Russian Federation. The question is not of volition/wants….it’s whether they CAN stop these republics from rebelling should Russia destabilize. Maybe they can….but further detriment to the integrity of the Russian state as we know it. Although the Caucasian states are the most potentially restive and separatist – others like Chuvashia or the Bashkirs etc. might be encouraged to secede from the Union especially if central authority weakens or socio-economic chaos deepens.

    I see the latest Putin-Medvedev conflict as a bad omen for things to come.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      That’s certainly an interesting analysis, with conclusions that might very well come to pass. I see Medvedev as a smart enough guy, but an inexperienced politician who tends to run his mouth before he thinks. The true validation of your theory will come from the western press – if they decide Medvedev is a worthy successor to Boris Yeltsin in the wrecking-Russia category, the tone will change and they will begin to sing Medvedev’s praises; he’s a visionary, an intellectual dedicated to true reform, blah, blah.

      The west loved Yeltsin, and still speaks of him as the best chance Russia ever had to truly achieve western-style modernization. Yet he was a wily and cutthroat politician in the actions that led to his election, and then dissolved into a drunken fool who didn’t really know what was going on half the time. The devaluation of the ruble was a good example; his advisors knew before he did, because they discussed the collapse and then formed a group to go and tell him. If anyone is still not clear on this, the west does not want to see western-style reforms in Russia because it wants to see Russia succeed. It sees Russia as a competitor, and wants to see it reeling once more as it did under Yeltsin – it’s not averse to the possibility of picking up a few dollars in the process of overseeing Russia’s collaps, either.

      But suggestions that Medvedev is stepping up the pace of his rebukes to Putin and getting cockier by the day are missing something – Putin made Medvedev. He didn’t exactly pluck him from obscurity, he was quite a powerful businessman; but he was a political nobody. He was Putin’s pick for leader when Putin could no longer legally continue as leader: but if he proved to be as disloyal as some would now have us believe, Putin could unmake him nearly as fast. Of the two, Putin is considerably the more popular with Russians, and if he genuinely thought Medvedev was getting too big for his pants, he would challenge him for the presidency, and win. The conventional wisdom says he won’t, so he must not see Medvedev as anywhere near so out-of-control as some would have us believe. For what it’s worth, liberals probably pray nightly for exactly that to happen, because Putin running against Medvedev might split the vote enough to let a liberal reformer increase his power significantly.

      Russia cannot afford to get any smaller or any weaker. Therefore, since it is unlikely to grow any larger through conquest, it cannot afford to let the Caucasus go. The Caucasian Emirate will be eliminated one way or another; if force will not work, perhaps betrayal will. That’s where I’d put my money, because betrayal of the leaders by subordinates avoids the problem of mass arrests, which is not winning Russia any friends.

  8. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    I’d like to make a couple of observation about the Putin-Medvedev split.
    1) Some people play down the split, (like the guys at ROPV) others see it as a significant event in Russia. I belong to the latter category, but I don’t see it as a near catastrophic event. IMO, it can be the start of a competitive political system in Russia. That is to say, Putin and Medvedev may split, and along with them United Russia so as to form two parties that will compete for power on an equal footing. As Kovane explained in his post about the Russian political landscape, at the moment there isn’t much alternative than to vote for United Russia. The Communists seems out of touch with reality, Zhirinovsky is a clown, a Just Russia is (or is perceived) as a fake opposition and the “liberals” are insignificant, they’re there just to put a show for Western press and NGOs. I’m not implying this will necessarily be the outcome, even less that it was planned in advance, it is one of the possible evolutions.
    2) The Libyan war has not only splitted the Russian ruling class, but also the US administration (compare Obama/Clinton with Gates/Clark), NATO (France/UK stance vs Turkey/Germany), the EU (again France/UK vs Germany), the Italian government (foreign and defense ministries Frattini and La Russa acted quite independently from Berlusconi and idiotically, until they were reined in) and the Arab League (with some strange things, like the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon furthering the resolution on the NFZ). In other words, who exactly is against whom in this war is far from being clear, surely it isn’t the childish picture of bad guys vs good guys proposed by the media. At the least it is not clear to me. Perhaps, the speed with which the situation in Libya changes is the result of the conflicting interests outside that country.

    Just my two cents.

  9. PvMikhail says:

    I haven’t finished the reading of article yet, but my first idea was like:
    Shmulyevich? muhahahahahahahaha
    A jew preach about Russia’s “colonial” rule in Caucasus? What kind of idiotic joke is that? I know only a few countries, who rule over muslim people like colonists: first and foremost it is ISRAEL. In the light of demographic indicators, I foresee an even darker future for Israel, because the muslims INSIDE the country can outgrow them in years, and we don’t even count West Bank or Gaza. They are the ones who are trying to build a giant wall to prevent their downfall and buy some time.
    About Russian “colonial” rule in Caucasus: I don’t think, that if you invest and invest again, continuously fund local projects and try to raise living standards somewhere, we can call it a colonial rule. Caucasus people benefited a lot from Russian rule, all Russia wants in turn is loyalty to the center. I know, it is a compromise, where something have to be given, but I don’t think, that these people could do better without a rational ruling from above. Especially the vainakhs and likes. I think I have already written about the fragile balance between peoples inside of the republics. Dagestan is the best example where AT LEAST 6 major people live together. Imagine what would happen without the central power. I have an idea: they would be in endless war against each other and their living standards would be comparable to Afghanistan or something. These western human rights champions somehow always fail to mention, that we speak about peoples (in this example, the chechens), who has traditions like forceful kidnapping of brides. This is like normal for them. You kidnap a bride, then you negotiate with her family, of course nobody asks her. A lot of awful happenings are rooted in this custom: I have read about a case when the bride’s family didn’t accepted the kidnapping, they sat into cars and followed the captors. In the exchange of fire, 3 people killed, including the bride and a lot more wounded. I just would like to know, that what does a common day look like in Chechnya…
    I also want to point out, that Moskva gives almost free hand to the rulers of republic, who can chose between methods. I think every ruler adapts to the situation and the own character of his people. Ossetians live fine, nobody talks about repression there, because it is not needed in everyday life. There is no insurgency, uncertainty, so investors come, economy develops, living standards rise. Kadyrov is the synonym of terror, but what if it is the only way to rule chechens. Just an idea.
    Moskva’s only demand is loyalty, no matter at what cost. The implementation is up to the national rulers.

    • marknesop says:

      I think this is why the majority of North Caucasians are not excited about signing up for a trans-national Caucasian Emirate – once the money spigot from Moscow is turned off, how will an independent Caucasus support itself? Unless there are a lot of oil companies whispering in their ear that they could be pipeline city. And I haven’t seen any evidence of that. Yet.

      • cartman says:

        Remember, the Wahabists are engaged in their own terror campaign against people of the North Caucasus. (I mentioned that Circassian fellow who was shot in the head a few months ago because they judged him as an apostate.) Mr. Goble wears his Cold War blinkers, and if his analysis is typical for CIA intelligence, then the organization needs to see some massive layoffs. Although I am afraid it has already become club for the good old boys that is funded by taxpayers.

    • Misha says:

      Regarding Ossetians and something Mark mentioned (in his above post) on the West’s relationship with Yeltsin era Russia:

      http://www.nytimes.com/1994/12/19/opinion/essay-whom-to-root-for-in-chechnya.html?scp=29&sq=John+le+Carr%E9&st=nyt

      Along with some others in American mass media, William Safire was by no means “soft” on Russia – http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE2DB103FF933A15752C0A963958260 . In contrast to Safire and like-minded others, American mass media didn’t have any featured regulars offering a pro-Russian view at the same level of the anti-Russian takes.

      In the first link in this set of comments, Safire makes reference to an op-ed piece by John le Carre, which I recall. (Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find the link to it). In that piece, le Carre portrays the Ossetians as a mischievous people willing to serve the interests of a major power (Russia).

      Fast forward to the present day and note the greater Western based enthusiasm for Abkhaz independence than South Ossetian. To a good extent, this has to do with the view that the Abkhaz aren’t as pro-Russian as the Ossetians.

      Touching back on Yeltsin era Russia and some brief points in a discussion at the last thread at this blog on Serbia: an analogy of sorts can be made with Serbia under Tadic. That country has a good deal of corruption, inclusive of some of the portrayed reformers. Despite having done a good deal to accommodate Western neocon and neolib preferences, there remains a good deal of an unfair bias against mainstream Serb views.

      An excellent blog which discusses such issues:

      http://grayfalcon.blogspot.com/

      • Misha says:

        On English language mass media preferences in Russia, refer to some of the opening comments by the host:

        http://russiaprofile.org/experts_panel/34437.html

        Excerpt –

        “Putin, however, was probably right in terms of the substance of what he said, emphasizing that the UN resolution allowed a foreign intervention against a government in a sovereign country that was putting down an armed rebellion – not entirely unlike what Russia did in Chechnya, twice.”

        ****

        The politically incorrect comparison notes the years of American/NATO supported Turkish military action against the PKK within Turkey’s internationally recognized boundaries.

        That point leads to Russia and others having a reasonable concern over how “humanitarian intevention” can be hypocritically used with geopolitics at play.

        At the above link, there’re some points which reasonably (IMO) see the recent “Putvedev” coverage as a bit on the hyped side. (Some of which was previously expressed: http://theivanovosti.typepad.com/the_ivanov_report/2011/03/russias-response-to-the-libyan-crisis-a-foreign-policy-paradigm-shift.html#comments )

  10. PvMikhail says:

    OFF: What the hell is this? I don’t think this will help anything. On the contrary.

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20110331/163303066.html

    • cartman says:

      I think Medvedev is trying to separate the energy lobby from the government more than he is going after the siloviki. He has said many times that he does not want Russia’s economy to rely on exporting natural resources.

      • marknesop says:

        That’s what they say, but as long as the west deliberately relies on a petroleum-based economy, the opportunity for profit will be too good to turn down. It should be a comfort that Putin’s government (it was still Putin’s government when it started) has been putting money away instead of going on a crazy spending binge. It saw them through the recession, and now Russia has a healthy surplus in the bank when the nations who used to yawn, “Yeah, Russia’s okay, but they’re too dependent on energy” are going broke one by one.

        As near as I can figure, that complaint is inspired by the fact that Russia has choices – because Saudi Arabia is pretty dependent on energy exports, and nobody suggests they’re too dependent on oil.

        Medvedev might have big plans for turning Russia into a technology economy, and I’d like to see him succeed. But there are some important things that will have to change first.

    • Yalensis says:

      More privatizations? That explains all the thrashing in the water: the sharks smell MONEY !

  11. Yalensis says:

    Hi, everybody making a lot of good points. sinotibetan would make a very great Kremlinologist, IMHO, and could easily outclass all those overpaid and under-achieving “analysts” at CIA. But Giuseppe also making a very good point that a split in the elite (United Russia Party) could be a normal thing for a parliamentary democracy country. Realistically, since United Russia is only viable party in Russian landscape nowadays, then political differences within ruling party would manifest themselves as factions, possibly even leading to new political parties (say, a Medvedev party vs a Putin party).
    There are many unknowns, foremost, whether Putin actually wants to run again as Prez. Maybe he wants to retire and do something else, like run the Olympics or save endangered animals. But if he thinks that Medvedev has turned on him and starts to treat him like some kind of aging Margo Channing , then maybe his machismo will kick in, and he will decide to run, just to spite his ungrateful protege.

  12. PvMikhail says:

    I hope, that the future of Russia will look like this. Advanced technology on low price.

    http://en.rian.ru/video/20110401/163327391.html

    I hope that this project will not die. Prokhorov is a smart guy, so it has some chance to develop further.

    • PvMikhail says:

      Oh, god, these people are not amateurs.

      So many great minds, so much experience, resources! STOP WASTING IT.

    • marknesop says:

      I wonder if the mileage figure is accurate – it’s less than half the fuel my Hyundai Santa Fe uses. I’m guessing that must be edging down to the kind of efficiency achieved by the Mercedes Smart Car; it’s hardly more than a motorcycle. But the top speed of 130 kph isn’t great. Adequate, and faster than practically everybody would ever drive it, but still low. As an entry-level vehicle, it’s a lot better than Lada ever was, though.

      • peter says:

        Oh, give me a break, Mark. The original Zhiguli was a decent car for its time (trust me, I’m old enough to have driven one). This ё-mobil, on the other hand, is a total joke: a disposable plastic kit car with a lawnmower jetski engine (Weber MPE 750).

        … Пластмассовый автомобиль? Бирюков уверяет, что работу над кузовом по заказу Ё-Авто ведет всемирно известная компания Magna и что ё-мобили будут удовлетворять всем европейским требованиям по пассивной безопасности. Причем кузов будет «одноразовым» — после серьезной аварии его придется поменять целиком. Но ё-мобили вообще должны быть легкосборными — Ё-Авто будет лишь готовить машинокомплекты, а «отверточной» сборкой займутся дилерские центры. Утопия?

        Фантастична и затея с силовым агрегатом. Сперва белорусы хотели использовать роторно-поршневой мотор, но сейчас ухватились за экзотическую конструкцию роторно-лопастного двигателя, предложенную изобретателем Матвеем Филатовым из Новосибирска. Идея такого мотора известна еще с позапрошлого века — он компактен, сбалансирован и высокооборотен (до 17000 об/мин), он легче и проще обычного поршневого ДВС, а ресурс и эффективность сгорания топлива теоретически выше. С такой конструкцией экспериментировала австралийская компания Orbital Engine, известны попытки создания такого мотора и в России — например, в Псковском политехническом институте. Но создать надежный и долговечный механизм синхронизации движения лопастей пока не удалось никому.

        Однако главный конструктор Ё-Авто Андрей Гинзбург уверяет, что проблема уже решена, а партнером по доводке и выпуску роторно-лопастных моторов согласилась стать фирма Weber. Ну а если роторно-лопастная затея потерпит фиаско, на ё-мобилях можно будет оставить обычные поршневые двухцилиндровые Веберы, как на демо-прототипах: по словам Гинзбурга, средний расход топлива при этом возрастет с планируемых 3,5 л/100 км лишь до 4,0 л/100 км…

        • marknesop says:

          Well, perhaps I was a little effusive. But the Volkswagen Beetle wasn’t much of a car when it first came out, and many predicted it would be a huge failure. I don’t know that a plastic car is such a bad idea, provided it has a decent roll cage incorporated in the frame – after all, you don’t get a lot of protection from the panels that make up the car’s exterior. Most important, though, is that it represents the possibility that Russia will get interested in fuel economy and environmental protection, because Russia is a dreadful polluter. I like the idea that it’s financed by a local, even if he is an oligarch. Tech journals suggest the engine is very similar to an earlier British design.

          I can’t think offhand of any roads in Russia where the speed limit is 130 kph, and it would actually be safe to drive that speed. So it’s fast enough to reach reasonable highway speeds. If this car captures the imagination of young people, there’s no reason it shouldn’t do very well. And $14,500 is quite cheap for a car with all the options. Vehicles are built to be traded in about every 3 years anyway, that’s about the time it starts costing you money to keep it running well unless it’s a Mercedes or a Porsche or something like that. I hope it’s a success, because I’d like to see Russia start getting interested in reducing fuel consumption and becoming more environmentally aware.

          • Yalensis says:

            14,500 ?? Is that dollars or rubles? Either way, that’s more like it, I must have misheard the price in the BBC video (can’t understand British accents) — so please ignore my earlier comment about 450,000 being too expensive – sorry!
            I would say, sign me up for a YO-mobile, if Vova thinks it’s cool, then it’s gotta be cool, except, even 14,500 price would be too much for cheapskate me. My old heap with Japanese engine is already 10 years old, and I will probably continue to drive it until it dies on the road…

            • marknesop says:

              It’d work out to about $14,500.00, and I believe the 450,000 rubles figure was correct. That’s still pretty cheap here, my Santa Fe cost more than twice that in 2008. Cars are, on average, about $5000.00 more expensive here than in the USA, for exactly the same model. The manufacturers get around cross-border shopping by making one or two small components slightly differently on the Canadian models, and then branding them essential to meet Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards. If it’s made after 2006, for example, the ignition must include an immobilizer if it’s started without the key – that kind of thing. When we were looking at the Ford Escape, I could have bought it in Washington state for thousands less – but then Canada would assess a duty on it (cars, of course, are not duty-free and widely exceed the claimable limit anyway), charge a fee to bring it up to CSA standards, and it’d end up costing you more for your American car than if you bought it here, which is of course what they want you to do. With the Canadian dollar more and more at par with the U.S. dollar or slightly higher, there’s no excuse for charging much more here. The same with, say, a lawn tractor from Sears – Sears is a Canadian company as well; it’s the Canadian division, but it’s still the same company that was originally Sears, Roebuck & Co., and the lawn tractor sold by catalogue is exactly the same, identical in every way. Except price. The Canadian model will cost a significant enough amount more that it would be worth your while to have somebody drop you off at the U.S. border, take delivery of your 8 mph lawn tractor and drive it all the way home. You can buy Canadian Club whiskey, if you can believe it, for less in the USA, and it’s made here.

              I think the YO-Mobile is a great idea; it’s certainly not a flash-looking car, kind of a dull design, but it looks European and if they have solved the problem with the engine, it could be revolutionary. The engine I’ve seen techies comparing it with is the Granville Bradshaw Omega, which was developed as a motorcycle engine back in 1955; it’s referred to as a “toroidal” design, a term with which I’m not familiar. Also cited is the opposed free-piston engine developed by Belgian inventor Franky Devaere. It’s said to be revolutionary in several ways, including light weight and the pistons moving freely in their cylinders: no friction = no wear. Anyway, if it can get Russians interested in economy and environmental awareness, it’s worth its vendor making a profit on it. I don’t hope at this point that it’ll see much interest outside Russia, but you never know, and even if it were a domestic success only it would keep Russian money in Russia. Better than a billionaire simply sitting on his billions.

              • peter says:

                … if they have solved the problem with the engine, it could be revolutionary.

                Even if they have indeed solved the inherent problem of this type of engine (which I’ll believe when I see it), it’ll take a few years to go from a barely working prototype to mass production. Which means that the first (and I’m afraid last) generation of Ё-мобиль will be powered by the little puny Weber MPE 750 engine (2 cyl, 750cc). Paint me skeptical.

                • marknesop says:

                  If you weren’t skeptical, Peter, it wouldn’t be you; are you sure you’re not from Missouri? According to Itar-Tass, backlogged orders for the YO-Mobile already passed 25,000. That’s enough to keep the St Petersburg plant busy for more than 2 years just building pre-solds. Barring some massive accident or somebody who is a national icon being killed in one – maybe not even that; James Dean’s fatal smash in a Porsche never hurt their sales any – it looks like an early success.

                  I didn’t see any mention of the Weber being incorporated in the YO-Mobile; could you include a link that associates the two? I had the impression the toroidal design was going into the Yo-Mobile straight away.

    • Yalensis says:

      Did I hear correctly 450,000 rubles? Looks like a cool car, but yikes, who could afford that if they’re not an oligarch?

  13. sinotibetan says:

    Wow, great discussion! Everybody has very good points, I agree with yalensis!
    @ Mark
    1.)He was Putin’s pick for leader when Putin could no longer legally continue as leader: but if he proved to be as disloyal as some would now have us believe, Putin could unmake him nearly as fast.
    It depends on the ‘relative’ power between Putin and Medvedev. Yes, Putin is more popular amongst the Russians. And still has a hold on most of the elites – especially those from the security forces. Putin certainly can ‘unmake’ Medvedev. However, I think the political cost(not to mention turmoil) would be increased at each passing day of inaction from Putin’s part, if it’s true that Medvedev has ‘turned traitor’. I am sure Medvedev is finding his ‘own men’ and filling them into governmental structures. Even amongst the siloviki, they are not united – some might be willing to be part of Medvedev’s good books. Etc.Etc. What I ‘m trying to say is that should the struggle and clash between Medvedev&co. vs Putin&co occur, Russia may well destabilize even though one of them becomes ‘unmade’ in the end. Or is there someone(Surkov maybe?) instigating the struggle so that in the end ‘the watcher’ and ‘shadow’ wins just like the end of the Three Kingdoms era of China, where none of the three parties won but the Sima clan instead united the whole empire and started a whole new regime? Too many unknowns to speculate on the outcome and current internal dynamics thus I wouldn’t dare say that Putin can unmake Medvedev ‘fast’ even if he wanted to.
    2.)”If anyone is still not clear on this, the west does not want to see western-style reforms in Russia because it wants to see Russia succeed. It sees Russia as a competitor, and wants to see it reeling once more as it did under Yeltsin – it’s not averse to the possibility of picking up a few dollars in the process of overseeing Russia’s collaps, either.”
    Perhaps not just a Russia totally collapsed. A Russia smaller and weaker to be ‘manageable’ within the Western’s hold and grip. Some sort of a Poland-sized Russia geographically , demographically and politically(no offence to the Polish people!). Thus Russia at its current form collapsed and ‘re-emerged’ from the ruins: a weak, Western-oriented and dominated political elites, ‘Russia’ surrounded by seceded ‘new countries’ – Siberia -mostly new independent states which might end up being gobbled up by China or dealt with individually by the USA and China; Caucasian ‘republics’ squabbling against each other ‘influenced’ by the powers-that-be in the Middle East and the West; and other ‘new European states'(Chuvasia nation, Tatarstan etc.) all easily incorporated into ‘the EU’ etc. I think that’s the dream and wish of the political elites in the West. And of course, no more ‘global posturing’ by Russia – doubtful if such occur that Russia can remain as a ‘permanent member’ of the Security Council with veto votes or maybe can- as a weaker power akin to France maybe. As I’ve said elsewhere, Russia(and by extension Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the Balkan states) are ‘pet projects’ of the Western political elites – ‘these wayward whites/Europeans’ should be ‘civilized’ into the West and they’ll push it till they ‘become and accept it’ by whatever methods at their dispense- economic means, political means, etc. Belarus, for example, though ruled by an authoritharian – is far less authoritharian than Middle Eastern regimes propped up by the USA yet Lukashenko is a ‘special target’ of the West – latest using the IMF and Standard and Poor ratings to ‘punish’ that nation because Lukashenko crossed the ‘higher-ups’ in Washington and Brussels when he ‘won’ the Presidential elections again. IMF and Standard and Poor are all Western(basically American)-controlled/influenced. Seems to me their actions are motivated more by politics than just ‘good economic practices’. The West is ‘selective’ in their criticisms and political posturing which negate their high-moral rhetorics. A Belarus and Ukraine ‘absorbed’ into NATO/EU is strategic on Western machinations on the real target: Russia. So ‘Western-unfriendly’ politicians in Belarus and Ukriane must be ‘snuffed off’.

    @Giuseppe and yalensis
    “I belong to the latter category, but I don’t see it as a near catastrophic event. IMO, it can be the start of a competitive political system in Russia. ”
    “That is to say, Putin and Medvedev may split, and along with them United Russia so as to form two parties that will compete for power on an equal footing. ”
    “Realistically, since United Russia is only viable party in Russian landscape nowadays, then political differences within ruling party would manifest themselves as factions, possibly even leading to new political parties (say, a Medvedev party vs a Putin party).”
    This is quite possible. Putin seems to be not particularly ‘worried'(at least he does not seem so) about Medvedev’s rebukes or recent drives to ‘remove his allies’ which either means 1.) He’s plotting to counter Medvedev internally rather than show it in public or 2.)He is actually in ‘agreement’ with Medvedev and that they should actually have two separate political ‘platforms’ so as to give choices to the people – much in line with your suggestions.
    Two thoughts on the latter possibility:-
    1.) The timing. Why now? I think Russia is still ‘not settled’ politically to start with this trend as yet. I agree there should be more political choices for the people but the plurality should be done progressively over a longer period of time – not within even two presidential terms. Too speedily done risks political turmoil.
    2.)Although the Communist Party, ‘liberal parties’, ‘A just Party’ etc. are poor opposition – I think it is they that should form a coalition to challenge United Russia rather than two factions within United Russia – ‘civiliki-dominated’ vs ‘siloviki dominated’ which to me seem a recipe for political chaos. As Giuseppe pointed out, these parties are weak because they have antiquated political thought/ideals – Communist Party too reminiscent of a long gone Soviet Union and ‘liberal parties’ who love Washington than their Russian compatriots. If these parties can form a coalition with the Communist, being more conservative and patriotic as analogous to the ‘siloviki’ within United Russia and the ‘liberals’ – broken from their allegiance to Washington and committed in their loyalty to Russia instead analogous to the ‘civiliki’ within the United Russia – perhaps then they could be a choice to consider by ordinary Russians? For that to occur, Zyuganov, Nemtsov, Kasyanov, Kasparov, Zhirinovsky et al should be replaced by leaders who are more creative…. What do you think?

    sinotibetan

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan:
      “For that to occur, Zyuganov, Nemtsov, Kasyanov, Kasparov, Zhirinovsky et al should be replaced by leaders who are more creative…. What do you think?”
      I couldn’t agree more. I am a socialist myself, and I would love to see a brand-new labor-union based socialist party that isn’t burdened by shadow of Communist Party (while still recognizing great achivements of Soviet past). I realize that socialistic-minded people like me are a minority in Russia, as in any capitalist country, and are often branded as “sovki” and dismissed with ridicule. However, I think in future there could be minority socialist party in Russia that could form coalitions with other parties, such as Communists, etc., in order to win seats in Duma. Realistically, it would take a coalition of several parties to counter weight of United Russia, even if the latter splits into factions. Socialist party could have political platform attractive to many voters, for example defending rights of labor, raising salaries and pensions, increasing public sector, resisting more privatizations, etc. Russians naturally like these ideas, but it may take one more generation before Russian people stop equating “socialism” with Stalinism. Also, nothing can really be done politically right now until Putin’s future status is clarified.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      Hi sinotibetan,
      about the timing, I don’t have enough knowledge about the current Russian conditions to say if it is too early. For now it is only a possible start of a long process, i.e. I don’t expect that in 2012 we’ll see Putin and Medvedev competing for the Presidential election. I think that Putin wants to see a stable country that doesn’t need to use exceptional measure because of exceptional circumstances (Assad style, so to say). I came to this idea seeing Putin renouncing the third term in 2008.
      Also, it is generally difficult to make predictions, even more so for Russia, because, as Bismark said “The Russians harness slowly, but they ride fast”, i.e. Russians are slow at the start but all of a sudden become very quick (Note: even Russian popular music alternates between slow and fast tempos).
      About your second point, I agree with you that most of the current leaders have to be replaced. Currently, I don’t see any of these parties (besides the Communists) trying to do anything more than occupying a political niche, so their leaders have adapted to this role. IMO, this situation arises from the fact that UR is too strong, so I think that for other parties to develop outside their niches, UR has to break. As you pointed out it’s a risk, but as we say in Italy “chi non risica, non rosica” (nothing ventured – nothing gained).

      • kievite says:

        Actually splitting UR into two parties which are just replica of the USA structure with Democratic/Republican parties is a fascinating idea. As the USA experience proved it can be pretty stable politically as one branch of the same “united oligarchy party” would marginalise left and the other can marginalise extreme right.

        As Gore Vidal said

        “There is one political party in this country, and that is the party of money. It has two branches, the Republicans and the Democrats, the chief difference between which is that the Democrats are better at concealing their scorn for the average man.”

        This might be an interesting political innovation for Russia: substituting single party regime with the “dualism without choice” (or “choice we can believe in” if we use politically correct language😉. This dual party structure can serve as a powerful force for marginalising opposition both on left and right. reform. In this case both parties are the necessary and vital parts of the same bait-and-switch system.

        As for Medvedev actions I think that few people either in mass population or elite forgot economical and political rape of Russia under Yeltsin.

        As unforgettable George W. Bush said: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

        A popular mock word for “democrats” — “der’mokcats” and for “liberals” — “liberasts” reflects the common attitude after Yeltsin reforms.

        • Yalensis says:

          @kievite: All excellent points!

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          IMO, when a political landscape “evolves” into a one party (of money) with two or more branches there is a clear symptom: the political discourse is mostly gossip.
          Just out of curiosity, what is the meaning of “der’mokcats”?

          • kievite says:

            It should actually be “dermocrats”. They substitute in demo-crats the first word with the word dermo which is Russan vulgarity for turd.

            • Yalensis says:

              @Giuseppe: Yeah, @kievite gave a good explanation of term DERMOcrat, you’ll also see DERMOcratia, literally “turdocracy” as play on words for “democracy”. Russian bloggers and forum commenters (“forumchane”) use these derogatory terms as political shorthand. Another common term is “Pindostan”, as derogatory term for America, you’ll also see “United States of Pindostan”, abbreviated in Cyrillic letters as СШП instead of США. When you see people using these terms, you know right away where they stand politically.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              Thanks for the explanation. Also, thanks to Yalensis for introducing me the “Pindostan” term.

              • Yalensis says:

                No problem Giuseppe. We all have to stay “hip” with the lingo, no? Otherwise we’d be, like, a bunch of squares… LOL!

    • marknesop says:

      That’s also a very interesting analysis; although I still think Putin is far too clever and connected to allow himself to be outmaneuvered by the neophyte he himself installed. It’s possible indeed that it could all be a big show for the media, and like Oleg Penkovsky (a fascinating spy story; some suggest he arranged – once he knew attention had been focused upon him and detection was inevitable – to have himself betrayed by his successor so that the spying could continue. Others say that’s romantic hogwash, and he was betrayed by a KGB double agent named Jack Dunlap), he is deliberately building up Medvedev by allowing Medvedev to tear him down in public.

      If any of those scenarios are true, it’s a dangerous game, because it has the potential to weaken the party at a time when others see the stars aligning for a new power grab. However, the most interesting scenario to me was the possibility of a third party moving the pieces against both. I don’t see that actually happening, because such a group or such an individual would have to be pushing their own candidate, and there’s no sign of that although it’s far past time for such a candidate to have appeared. So far it looks like the same old tired opposition.

  14. sinotibetan says:

    @ Mikhail
    Regarding the Caucasus, you said one statement that binds them all and I agree completely:-
    “Moskva’s only demand is loyalty, no matter at what cost. The implementation is up to the national rulers.”
    Regarding Dagestan – it’s almost like a Caucasus within the Caucasus! A smorsgabord of peoples living within a small territory. Yup – without central control(and money from Moscow!), the Avars, Dargins, Lezgins and Kumyks would probably slug it out amongst themselves and the country will descend to the level of Afghanistan. Just like Yugoslavia broken down into ‘ethnic-enclaves’ ‘independent states’ – all too small in population to be economically viable.
    Ingush and Chechens probably have less of these inter-ethnic clash possibility within their territories. But you correctly pointed out that the some aspect of the culture of these Vainakhs are hardly examples of ‘human rights virtues’ and a Western ‘painting’ of ‘innocent and freedom-loving Chechens’ vs ‘autocratic Russians’ is but fictional painting.
    I think, if Russia remains ‘stable’ and develop itself, these republics would be unlikely to rebel against Moscow. However, I doubt these republics will be hot-spots for investment because low-level insurgencies and rampant corruption will remain for a very long time, if even it can be eliminated at all! The peoples of the Caucasus are proud of their disparate identities and have markedly different cultures from Russia proper to have their inklings for full independence totally stamped out from their minds.
    Regarding technology – Russia is noted for nanotechnology also, am I right on that? Another field to consider(on the part of Russia and other emerging powers) is pharmacotherapeutics – currently dominated by Western pharmaceutical companies and patients the world over have to pay highly exorbitant medical fees.

    sinotibetan

  15. Kazbek says:

    please read the article, it will help to understand the sitution in caucasus

    What is Circassian nationalism?
    http://www.natpress.net/index.php?newsid=1158

    • grafomanka says:

      With all due respect to Circassians, this article says: ‘in Russia…’ vs ‘in civilized world’ …

      • cartman says:

        Are these the “Boycott Sochi” people? There is a lot of hypocrisy in staging this in cities of the US and Canada where native americans were deported by white settlers around the same time Circassians were deported to the Ottoman Empire.

        • Misha says:

          Been a troubled past for sure. I also understand that inside and outside Russia, some Circassians have agreeably fraternized with Russians, who get tagged as nationalists and patriots.

          As is true with other peoples: at issue is the degree of sentiment among Circassians.

          Yeah, the “in Russia…’ vs in civilized world …” bit is a tell all.

    • marknesop says:

      I agree the Circassians have a right to national self-determination – just as soon as a majority wants it, and that majority has settled on who will be the national leader. As PVMikhail pointed out, there is a large number of culturally-diverse groups just in Dagestan alone. The Caucasus would not continue to have Moscow finance its economy if it had a broad strategy for an alternative, and so far it has not. The new nation also could not be hostile to Russia. Ask yourself if the United States would be amenable to the idea of New England becoming a transnational Muslim state.

      • Yalensis says:

        @Mark: Realistically there is NEVER going to be any trans-national Islamic emirate in the Caucasus. Not unless there is some huge game-changer, like NATO/Saudi Arabia bombing and invading Caucasus (maybe a “humanitarian intervention”?) to install Doku Umarov as regional warlord to control oil pipelines from Caspian to Black Sea. Without that scenario happening, individual Caucasian nations and tribes will have no choice except to sit down at bargaining table with Russian federal authorities and negotiate for more money, more autonomy, re-arrange boundaries of various administrative units to give them more clout, etc.

        • Misha says:

          Good reason for Russia and some other nations to have challenged the wiggle room for such “humanitarian intervention” in the approved UNSCR 1973.

          For at least one obvious reason, Russia isn’t likely to get bombed. Nevertheless, we know that other measures can and have been taken.

          There’s also the matter of some rather hypocrirical and self-righteous advocacy gaining greater ground. An example being how Charlie Rose has interviwed the likes of Samnatha Power and Richard Holbrooke – in sharp contrast to some others, including Amy Goodman.

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, remember self-answering softball questions on Iraq, posed by undercover gay prostitutes during Washington pressers, such as, “Why do you think your negotiations with tribal leaders resulted in such huge voter turnout?”, tying the whole packages together for the government so that they no longer needed to link the negotiations and voter turnout (example only; may or may not have been a real question).

            • Misha says:

              On a high profile level, a noticeable and intelligent criticism of letting UNSCR 1973 get approved serves as a basis for optimism.

              On the other hand, the leading Western military powers will bomb with or without a UN resolution, as was evident in 1999.

              This pattern encourages nations to have a relatively strong defense.

          • Yalensis says:

            Quote from @Misha: For at least one obvious reason, Russia isn’t likely to get bombed.
            Oh yeah! For some reason I keep almost forgetting that Russia has nukes. Something I bet Colonel Gaddafi wishes he had, right about now…

              • marknesop says:

                Very interesting article. The premature reaction to Putin by Medvedev might yet cost him some votes, although as long as the two are offered as a package deal it will not likely hurt very much. But as I suggested earlier, Medvedev has since walked back the attitude quite a bit, insisting Obama take responsibility for protecting civilians, blah, blah. there has to be incredible pressure on remaining government figures in Tripoli to defect to the rebels, because their remaining is the only real chance Gaddafi has.

                I was struck once again by the journalistic bias of outlets like the Washington Post; they report that “bus tours [in Tripoli] are stage-managed events, and pro-Gadaffi protesters magically turn up wherever reporters are, but the occasional Libyan will sidle up and voice a dissenting opinion”. If the reporters are not in other locations, how do they know such protests are not going on elsewhere? What is it that automatically discredits pro-Gadaffi protests as the work of paid stooges and shills, while the protests by the rebels are the true voice of the people?

                The article you referenced also previews, if the rebels are successful, a “greater role for Islam”. Yes, of course, that’s precisely why the west goes to war over and over – to make new terrirory fertile for Islam. I think the tide of popular opinion on this war is beginning to turn far earlier than usual. It’s probably still too late, but we’ll see.

              • Yalensis says:

                @Misha, thanks, this is fine article, very illuminating. Author, Shamir, makes many good points. I was intrigued by his theory that Medvedev may have just cynically “fed” Libya to NATO, as a way of tossing red meat to the beast (as in “here boy, eat this, just stay away from us…”) and evidence of this is Poland not being pleased with Libya campaign (because, obviously, it keeps NATO occupied fighting somebody other than main enemy, Russia…). Not sure if Shamir is giving Medvedev too much credit (for being cynical and canny as opposed to naïve and duped by Western propaganda). Also very interesting to see old colonial powers (France and Italy) lining up to re-conquer their old stomping grounds in North Africa. “Colonial” era supposedly ended in 1950’s, when African countries gained independence and Egypt took Suez Canal; but now maybe new era of colonization starting up again. Well, most Africans and Arabs already speak French, right?

                • Misha says:

                  Yalensis,

                  Among Arabs, Morocco, Algeria and the Lebanese Maronites are noticeably Francophone.

                  On a point you mention of Shamir’s, I’m not so sure Medvedev calculated in advance what would transpire, in terms of a noticeable second-guessing of Western military involvement in Libya.

                  In the West, a good portion of this apprehension is motivated by internal partisan politics.

        • marknesop says:

          Agreed, agreed and agreed.

    • Yalensis says:

      Thanks, @Kazbek, I looked thru the site and paid particular attention to the article
      Черкесский вопрос: история против политики – Грузия сегодня
      Excerpts:

      Исламский фактор в черкесской теме сейчас вызывает больше всего споров. Российские черкесы не хотят ассоциировать себя с исламским движением. …

      Поэтому “Черкесский Конгресс” – самое мощное объединение черкесов России и диаспоры, пытается держать себя на расстоянии от исламских лозунгов. Но “Конгресс” – движение большое, и сколько там людей, столько и мнений. Среди лидеров общества Заур Дзеукожев, который настаивает на том, что ислам – неотъемлемая часть черкесской культуры и не мешает решению основных проблем, поскольку все сто процентов черкесов, которые живут в странах Ближнего Востока – мусульмане.

      Диаспоры черкесов никак нельзя назвать пророссийскими. Однако в данный момент Москва воспринимается как союзник международного черкесского движения, поскольку они, как и Россия в целом, стоят перед серьезной исламской угрозой. Черкесы очень опасаются идей «Имарата Кавказ» и заинтересованы в усилении влияния России в регионе.

      Goes to the discussion of Circassian political/cultural autonomy vs. idea of Islamic trans-national emirate. Author seems to feel that Circassian diaspora could achieve better deal for their people by bargaining with Moscow, as opposed to joining up with Islamic insurgency in Caucasus. Sounds reasonable to me, and I have absolutely nothing against Circassians returning from diaspora and forming their own autonomy within Russian Federation; however, like other commenters, I have my suspicions about bona fides of these particular organizations…
      Agree that the “Russia vs. civilized world” is a needless slap in the face to someone they say they need to negotiate with (not to mention someone who holds most of the cards in the game…)

  16. kievite says:

    I have my suspicions about bona fides of these particular organizations…
    Agree that the “Russia vs. civilized world” is a needless slap in the face to someone they say they need to negotiate with (not to mention someone who holds most of the cards in the game…)

    This hypocritical adoption of high moral ground that “Russia vs. civilized world” implies is just one dirty trick in the deck of card that British foreign policy gurus invented. It is covered very well in “The Great Deception: Anglo-American Power and World Order ” by Mark Curtis.

    Curtis had shown the extraordinary levels of deception lurking beneath the squeaky-clean veneer of UK foreign policy’s much-vaunted concern for human rights. In many cases this is just old good “divide and conquer” policy in a new “human rights” outfit. He considers Britain to be an outlaw state – one that certainly gives the US a good run for its money – in art of deceiving the “unpeople”. These are the expendable citizens of faraway countries who have suffered and died to promote the equally ruthless foreign policies of both UK and US governments. Britain may well be complicit in the deaths of in excess of 10 million “unpeople” since World War Two.

    By the way, how can we describe the motives of a nation which puts enormous money and effort to encourage some other nation to commit the suicide?

    • Yalensis says:

      @kievite: Agree Brits are masters of deception and continue to astonish the world with the breathtaking magtitude of their own hypocrisy.
      What do you mean by “encouraging other nation to commit suicide?” Are you talking about how they treated Russia during Yeltsin era?

      • kievite says:

        Are you talking about how they treated Russia during Yeltsin era?.
        Yes, specifically “shock therapy” implemented by Clinton administration via Harvard mafia (Jeffrey Sachs, Andrei Shleifer, and Co). Under pretext of showing the Russians how to convert command type economy to more market oriented one and how to controls corruption the gang-style rape of the country was inflicted on its unsuspecting citizens with poverty raising from 2% to 40% of the population. Russia lost half of its total output, plunging it into a depression deeper than the U.S. Great Depression. Please read Anne Williamson’s testimony.

  17. peter says:

    I didn’t see any mention of the Weber being incorporated in the YO-Mobile; could you include a link that associates the two?

    In their own words:

    Сергей [20.01 15:17]

    1. Существует ли на сегодняшний день заявленный роторно-лопастной двигатель “в железе” в виде действующих опытных образцов или это пока только рекламные видео?
    2. Где планируется производить этот двигатель? (Страна, завод)
    3. Какие основные технические проблемы с двигателем на данный момент?
    В любом случае – спасибо за проект и удачи в его реализации!

    Андрей Бирюков

    1. Образец был представлен во время презентации после стендовых испытаний, сейчас начались ресурсные.
    2. В случае успешных испытаний, в чем я не сомневаюсь, будет принято решение по производству в России, используя самые передовые производственные технологии.
    3. Основная проблема – это время, которого всегда не хватает, а технические проблемы, выявленные в процессе ресурсных испытаний, надеемся, будут минимальными.

    Алексей [20.01 07:03]

    Получится ли к сроку довести роторно-лопастной двигатель?
    Будет ли семейство двигателей?
    Если не удастся с роторно-лопастным – есть ли что на замену?

    Андрей Бирюков

    Мы в это верим. При этом одним из преимуществ данного мотора является его масштабируемость до 1000 кВт при сохранении количества основных деталей (их всего 69). У нас всему есть альтернативы, в случае с двигателем – это WEBER объемом 0,75 литра.

  18. Z says:

    The “Cherkessian Factor” in the Contemporary Political Situation in the Caucasus
    Alexander Skakov, Nikolay Silaev, Andrei Ryabov, Sam Greene
    http://carnegie.ru/events/?fa=show&id=3114

    Thousands of Circassians demonstrated in Turkey
    http://aheku.org/forums-m-posts-q-2110.html

  19. Misha says:

    From the Carnegie link is this article:

    http://carnegie.ru/publications/?fa=41887

    Excerpt –

    “There is nothing ethnically incompatible about Armenians and Azeris. They had decent rates of intermarriage in Soviet times, and today trade and interact freely on the territory of Georgia and Russia.”

    ****

    Would like to see a detailed breakdown, which includes a comparison of other inter-ethnic Soviet era marriages. Another related point of consideration concerns the % of Armenia’s population that’s ethnic Azeri, as well as the % of Azerbaijan’s population which is ethnic Armenian. Without checking, I suspect these figures are low. From what I surmise, the Armenian and Azeri populations in Russia are somewhat akin to Jews and Palestinians in America. Specifically, noticeable differences of opinion between the two pairs on their respective conflict of interest.

    Another portion of the above linked Carnegie article suggests that the Armenian-Azeri war over Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) wasn’t so violent relative to some other conflicts. Offhand, the figure of up to 40,000 casualties is high when considering the population of NK. Offhand, at around 200,000 before the Soviet breakup. If I’m not mistaken, Bosnia’s 1990s pre-civil war era population was somewhere between 4 and 5 million. The Bosnian Civil War casualties are around 100,000. At times, that war saw Serbs, Croats and Muslim supporters of Fikret Abdic coordinate military activity against pro-Izetbegovic forces.

    In the above linked Carnegie article, there’s no mention of an earlier Azeri-Armenian war about the time WW I ended. I don’t sense Armenians and Azeris to be less inclined to fighting each other than Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs. The current Azeri government didn’t welcome diplomatic moves to improve Turkish-Armenian relations. Azeris (at least from what I’ve experienced) have tended to accept the official Turkish view of Turkey’s past treatment of Armenians. The present Azeri government openly expresses the possibility of using force to gain control over NK.

    • marknesop says:

      I thought those links would interest you, Mike! I imagined Sinotibetan and Yalensis would also be interested, with their fascination for cultural and ancestral links. For my part, I certainly can’t speak for the Russian government, but I’d think the Circassian diaspora would be welcomed back under the proper immigration guidelines and the current climate of population uncertainty. If they share most characteristics of the Abkhazi, as these links and other material suggest, perhaps that would be a good resettlement destination. However, I cannot see Circassian sovereignty being a big issue for Moscow, and while international recognition as a distinct ethnicity is certainly achievable and a worthy goal, the establishment (or re-establishment) of a “Circassian homeland” would likely be a non-starter. Again, I can’t pretend to be acquainted with Russian policy on the issue, but I suspect the already-restive Caucasus needs another land-claims fight like Britney Spears needs attention.

      Similarly, blaming the current population of Russia for wrongs against the Circassians in the early 1860’s is a little like blaming current Americans for black slavery. Nobody is left alive who played an active part in the forced resettlement and destruction of the Circassian polulation in the North Caucasus, nor was the opinion of anyone left alive in modern Russia solicited. Declaring that Moscow owes something to current Circassians who so identify and threatening violence if they don’t get it is not an auspicious start, and Russia would be justifiably sensitive to increasing the Muslim population in its territories by some 3 million (extrapolated from an estimate of about 6 million Circassians worldwide).

      • Misha says:

        A just released piece:

        http://www.austereinsomniac.info/blog/2011/4/5/abkhazia-between-the-hammer-and-the-anvil.html

        On one of your points Mark, things aren’t always quite what some say in a way that’s far more overly generalized from reality. The Bosnian Civil War is one such example. ( Like Croats, Serbs and anti-Izetbegovic Muslims coordinating activity against pro-Izetbegovic forces – Croats fleeing pro-Izetbegovic areas for Serb held territory – a period when Croat-Muslim fighting was greater than any fighting involving Serbs.)

        In the 1800s, good numbers of Georgians were involved in action directed against pro-Turkish leaning Abkhaz. Not All Abkhaz were in that category. While not meaning to downplay the ethical matter of forced deportation, it’s also not incorrect to note that the standards back then were different from today. It’s not like Ottoman Turkey and some of its allies weren’t at times ethically challenged. Hence, the screw or get screwed mindset.

        Like I said at this thread, inside and outside Russia, I understand that Circassians have agreeably fraternized with Russians deemed as nationalists and patriots.

      • Yalensis says:

        @mark: Good point about more land disputes not being needed in a region (Caucasus) in which blood feuds and violent squabbling over land and water rights has gone on for centuries. On that note, it is not widely known that dispute over WATER rights was a major factor in scuffles between Gruzian and South Ossetian villages in the months leading up to Ossetian War of August 2008. For a time, Gruzian villages had even cut off water supply to neighboring Ossetian villages. When war broke out (for other reasons) and Russian tanks had driven Gruzian local government and police away, Ossetian villagers took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to get even with their Gruzian neighbors, by driving them away. (Also took water supply back, of course.)
        Kind of emblematic of the way it has happened over the centuries, when Russia sometimes steps into the fray and takes sides. Under Stalin, Russia mostly took side of Gruzians against Ossetians and Abkhazians. This, despite fact that Stalin was half-Ossetian, on his father’s side. But Stalin was not fond of dear old dad. Too bad for Ossetians!
        Nowadays Russia takes side of Ossetians and Abkhazians against Gruzians. Despite fact that Abkhazians are not particularly loyal to Russia, although they do feel honest gratitude for Russia taking their side against Gruzians. Now, thanks to Russia turning against Gruzia, Abkhazians have a real chance to build their national identity, save their language from extinction, develop political institutions, etc. Whereas if Gruzia suddenly had revolution, got new government, and became pro-Russian overnight, Abkhazians might have something to worry about.
        In conclusion, in current situation, if Circassians want to make more friends and succeed in ethnic goals, they should ally with Abkhazians and say nice things about Russia. Instead, some of these Circassian diaspora groups have allied with GRUZIA against Russia, and I cannot see that this will gain them anything, because they have bet on the wrong horse.

        • Misha says:

          An interesting and complex situation, where some Abkhaz/Circassian reservations with Russia doesn’t automatically equate into siding with the Georgian government.

          As for diaspora views, keep in mind how some perspectives among them get propped over others. I’ve run into my share of Ukrainians who’ve views counter to the kind preferred at RFE/RL and oD. Likewise, note how patriotically reasoned Russian views aren’t favored in contrast to Russian views which anti-Russian types agree with.

          An uphill battle that could and should be improved upon with better advocacy options utilized by Russian government funded/involved orgs.

  20. Yalensis says:

    Here’s something interesting , it seems that Armenian internet access is completely dependent on one single fiber-optic cable that runs through the back yard of this little old lady in Gruzia…
    This one little human-interest story brings up all kinds of ineresting issues, from flaws in technological infrastructure, to geographical/political isolation of Armenia, to the way seniors are treated in Gruzia…
    Best comment to the article, IMHO, is from someone called CharleyRay15:

    “Pres Misha doesn’t like anyone much over theirs 50s getting into government. He much prefers women in their 20s and 30s who are, purely coincidentally of course, invariably somewhat easy on the eye.

    But pensions in Georogia are about 10 pounds a month and even allowing for the lower costs of living this is totally inadequate to live on, which is why you see old women begging all over the country.”

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