Yawn. Duma Elections and the Predictability of Western Outrage

Uncle Volodya says, "Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises - for, never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing."

The recently-concluded Duma elections in Russia have western media outlets in such a tizzy of self-fulfilling prophecy that you would think the opposition had actually won. In fact, although United Russia’s share of the vote slipped a little, it still (as usual) polled more than double the result of its next closest competitor, the Communists. It’s also worth remembering that United Russia still garnered better than 10% higher support than the 37.6% it gained in its first appearance, in 2003. Still, as I mentioned, western sources – almost dribbling in their excitement – now see fit to differentiate between the “Soviet Communist Party” and the New Communists, signalling their willingness to see Genady Zyuganov and the KPRF running the country if only he will defeat Putin. How very far, and by what strange pathways has America come since the xenophobic Joe McCarthy thundered, “Any man who has been given the honor of being promoted to General, and who says, ‘I will protect another general who protects Communists,’ is not fit to wear that uniform, General.” Back then, Communists were unambiguously the enemy; now, they’re the Russophobe’s best hope. Indeed, politics makes strange bedfellows.

Exemplary of what has become her signature spit-in-Russia’s-face style, Julia Ioffe spoke disparagingly – before the vote – about “a lot of people talking about going out to vote just to vote for somebody, even if the vote is falsified in the end just as a way to exercise their right and to at least participate”, as if it were a sad and wasted effort by a few despondent people who went out to just blindly push a ballot in a box so they could pretend they were voting in a real democracy. In reality, the Duma election voter turnout was better than 60%. To put that in perspective, in the last 3 U.S. midterm elections only two states (Minnesota and South Dakota) have ever broken 60% turnout, and the national average has not broken 40% since 1970. Voter turnout in Russia blows the doors off that in the USA and the United Kingdom, where it is sometimes embarrassingly in the 20’s.

The spicy vignette Ms. Ioffe offers about some previous unspecified St Petersburg municipal election, in which the first voter allegedly put his ballot in the wrong box and the box had to be unsealed and…surprise!! there were already 3 ballots in it, is just foolish. Is that how ballot-box stuffing works? Shady types just pop by throughout election day, sneaking extra ballots by threes and fives into the box? Come on.

Putin is just so skeevy, not like that dreamy Boris Nemtsov. I would so vote for him, only he didn't have a box.

Has Ms. Ioffe ever voted? That’s not how it works, anywhere – does she imagine there’s a different ballot box for each candidate, and you just put your ballot in the box marked “Kasyanov”, or whatever? What the fuck is “secret ballot” about that? Sure make them easy to count, though, wouldn’t it? In fact, procedures are set up so the voter can’t do something stupid like that, and there’s only one ballot box at each voting station. Russian election law specifically describes the procedure (I realize this is presidential electoral rather than municipal  law, but the process does not significantly differ) in the event a voter believes he or she has made a mistake, and cutting open a sealed ballot box to give the voter back their ballot is, ha, ha…. sorry – decidedly not one of them. Besides, what kind of fool would go to all the trouble of circumventing election monitors and potential international observers, to boost the vote for his favourite party by 3? How stupid does she think Russians are? I’m surprised someone supposedly as worldly as Ioffe would believe such horseshit. Perhaps it’s because she wants to believe it. But since her entire premise for suggesting the vote this time will be falsified is based on this nonsensical knee-slapper, then she is demonstrably wrong. Still, for such a short article, she managed to pack a lot into it; the suggestion that voting is a waste of time since it is meaningless serves to suppress the vote and discourage voters from turning out, while including the mandatory “party of crooks and thieves” tag reflects western efforts to help it catch on, although it is nowhere near as popular in Russia as such sources pretend. It need hardly be said that any Russian journalist who pulled a stunt like that in the United States during the midterms would be on a plane back to Moscow faster than she could say “Borscht”, freedom of the press be damned.

Well, let’s take a look at some other reactions. This “may mark the beginning of the end for Putin”, crows CNN. That’s despite noting that Russians’ disposable income rose by 10% a year between 2000 and 2008, and that it was the global financial crisis and not Putin that put an end to that. My, yes, I’d certainly be eager to put the boots to any leader who raised my disposable income by an average 10% a year. However, the author is at pains to point out that Putin still enjoys the approval of 67% of Russians and that his “regime is unlikely to collapse anytime soon”. Yes, about 2024, I’d imagine. See you, Putin, you bastard. Meanwhile, our paint-chip-eating friends over at the Caucasian Emirate are delirious with joy, quoting The Nobody Formerly Known As Garry Kasparov, who spoke from the relative safety of The Telegraph. Putin is just like Al Capone, we learn. Also that Russia has 100 Billionaires but no roads, which begs the question how Garry Kasparov got out of Russia. He must be quite a hiker, or else he has his own helicopter. Seems kind of silly to have airports in a country with no roads, comes to that. If you look here, Garry, at the fourth photo down, you’ll see a Russian road. Well, more of a highway, really – six lanes of it.

Oh, and for anyone who was still a bit on the fence regarding Litvinenko’s cause of death, you heard it here: Putin killed him during Russia’s nuclear terrorist attack on Britain in 2006. No, I didn’t make that up. You can’t make this stuff up.

Going back to the “beginning of the end for Putin” theme, Open Democracy takes a crack at explaining how an electoral result that sees the victorious party get more than double the votes of its closest competitor is actually its death knell. “By the standards of Western democracies”, Nicu Popescu wants us to understand, “falling just short of the 50% mark after three years of global economic crisis and 12 years in power would be a stellar victory. But in Putin’s Russia this is a serious setback for two main reasons. First of all, the elections were neither free, nor fair. Evidence of ballot stuffing is already swirling around the internet, and the election campaign was heavily biased in favour of United Russia.”

First of all, Nicu; evidence of ballot stuffing is not swirling around the internet – allegations of ballot stuffing are swirling around the internet. Evidence is what you have when you can prove it. Although the OSCE Preliminary Report made passing mention of “indications of ballot box stuffing”, that’s the kind of thing you say when somebody has reported ballot box stuffing, but has not provided any concrete proof at all. And many such reports to the OSCE monitors were from activists. If Egypt, Libya and now Syria taught us nothing else, they should have taught us (a) activists will tell any story they think they need to in order to get NATO involved in a rebel putsch, and (b) NATO is eager to believe activists, and isn’t really too sticky about substantiation.

Indeed, there were reports of provable instances in which employers or other authority figures appeared to pressure subordinates to vote a certain way. Those individuals should be punished appropriately – the higher the status, the sterner the sentence. However, that  philosophy should hold wherever such attempts to tilt the playing field occur. The USA even has a specific law which forbids it, called the Hatch Act. Bush administration officials threw the Hatch Act on the floor and pissed on it – figuratively speaking – more than 100 times. Please note this finding is based on more than 100,000 pages of evidence. Was anyone punished? Now that I mention it, no. The New York Times agrees the Bush White House “routinely” violated election law. More recently, the strange scenario of Alvin Greene surfaced in South Carolina, in which it looks strongly as though Greene was recruited by the Republicans to run as a Democrat against nutty-as-a-fruitcake Republican Senator Jim DeMint. The obvious winner there would be DeMint and the Republicans, as Greene – an unemployed African-American with a pornography charge pending -would theoretically drive votes to DeMint. Unethical? You tell me. Let’s not pretend Russia is the only place where party figures make an effort to skew the vote. The big difference is, Russian attempts to interfere in or comment upon American election practices are pretty close to non-existent.

Everyone’s favourite Russian grandpa, Mikhail Gorbachev, says violations were so widespread that the vote should be annulled and an election do-over held (Oh, me!!! Pick me!!! The Orange Revolution, Ukraine, December 2004). Until somebody else wins, of course, at which point it would be proclaimed free and fair to a fault, the cleanest election ever. I have to confess I love Gorbachev, although nobody in Russia really pays much attention to him any more – he’s just so dotty and bipolar. Here, for instance, is Mr. Gorbachev back in 2009: “In the West, the breakup of the Soviet Union was viewed as a total victory that proved that the West did not need to change. Western leaders were convinced that they were at the helm of the right system and of a well-functioning, almost perfect economic model…the dogma of free markets, deregulation and balanced budgets at any cost, was force-fed to the rest of the world…But then came the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, and it became clear that the new Western model was an illusion that benefited chiefly the very rich. Statistics show that the poor and the middle class saw little or no benefit from the economic growth of the past decades.

That’d be the system he’s now advocating be force-fed to Russia. And while he’s all about the protests and reform now-now-now, he told The Independent in June only last year that “…in general, I think we went too fast. A country with our history should have taken an evolutionary course. I said reforms would need 20 or 30 years…Of Yeltsin’s chaotic final months, when state industries crumbled and the quick and well-connected got staggeringly rich, he mourns, “Destabilisation became the number one problem.” Tell the one about the day the first television set came to the Soviet Union, Grampy; I love that story.

Which brings me to Golos. A few days ago, nobody had heard of this organization – now, they’re the big story of the Russian elections; puny, defiant Golos, who stood up to the Russian bear in defense of electoral freedom, and was of course unjustly punished for its courage.

However, Golos was reined in not only at the request of the ruling party, but also following “pressure from the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) and the A Just Russia party”. Both supported UR in a lawsuit that charged Golos violated Russian election law. Director Lilia Shebanova’s laptop computer was seized because she refused to allow Customs personnel to check it at the airport as requested, and it probably has nothing to do with the legal action that found Golos guilty and fined the organization; those charges revolved around its website.

By now, most everyone is aware Golos is a wholly western-funded NGO, receiving support grants from USAID and European democracy-promotion agencies. What you may not know is that Golos lists among its partners, on its website, the National Democratic Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy. These battle-hardened engineers of regime change in the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia are not candypants hand-holders; no, Sir – when they want regime change, they don’t wait around for the government to step down: they make it happen. Any doubt that the west’s intent in this and the upcoming presidential election is nothing less than the toppling of the Russian government should be dispelled by the “tweet” sent by former failed presidential candidate, darling of the Sunday talk-show circuit and general busybody who never knows when keeping his piehole shut would be the wisest course, John McCain; “Dear Vlad (McCain’s ignorant assumption of the diminutive for “Vladimir”), The Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood near you.”

The protests, which are being fueled by social networking sites Twitter and Facebook in what has become a blueprint for western NGO’s and “regime change consultants”, are unlikely to go anywhere this time. It’s too cold right now, and the strength of the “movement” is greatly exaggerated in the western press, as has also become a hallmark of regime change. But the west is obviously serious about it, and it is likely to reach a crescendo in March for the presidential elections. Really it’s a no-win for the targeted government, because as soon as they take steps to protect the country, the western papers scream about”loyalist” military thugs emptying heavy machine guns into crowds of women and children while the majority of the military – repulsed by the regime’s heartless tactics – deserts to the rebels. Doesn’t matter if it’s true, as long as it mobilizes opposition. The end justifies the means, as they say in the regime-change business.

I’m moved to recall the sentiments expressed by Kirill in comments to Anatoly’s post, “A Quick Note on Russia’s Duma Elections 2011” at Sublime Oblivion; “ They are going to have to change Russians, not just the regime if they want a poodle…Also, browbeating Russians about how un-west they are is the ticket to success in electoral politics.”

Word, брат.

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210 Responses to Yawn. Duma Elections and the Predictability of Western Outrage

  1. Dear Mark,

    An outstanding post in every respect. I would just make a few comments of my own:

    1. The protests have been attracting an enormous amount of attention wholly out of proportion to their size, which so far has been relatively small. The reason for that obviously is because there is a hope that the more publicity the protests get the bigger they will become. I notice by the way that the police put the number at the authorised demonstration on Monday as 2,000 but that it is now universally being reported at between 5,000 to 10,000. An Itar Tass reporter, who put the number at 3,000, said that it was difficult to arrive at an accurate figure because the protest happened after dark. The number at the unauthorised demonstration on Tuesday was certainly less than 1,000 and may have been around 500 whilst the number who attempted to gather today was apparently never more than 30 at any one time. According to Novosti and Itar Tass there were more journalists present than protesters. We shall see what happens at the next authorised protest on Saturday. However talk of a colour revolution is misplaced. The election showed that its potential supporters simply do not have the numbers. They also face the insuperable problem that there is no doubt that the result is overall correct.

    2. One factor that has gone unreported is that all the real opposition parties that actually won seats in the parliament have refused to withdrawn their deputies’ mandates. In other words they all intend to sit in the parliament. By this act and their presence they implicitly recognise the results of the election whatever their spokesmen may say in public.

    3. I have seen on Novosti two of the so called videos that supposedly show ballot rigging. Possibly because I do not speak Russian they made absolutely no sense to me at all. One of the videos supposedly showed a man completing ballot papers but all I could see was a man working quietly at a desk. It does on the face of it seem a bit odd that he would be forging ballot papers in this lonely and even genteel fashion. Incidentally so far as I am aware no one so far has come forward to admit that they participated in any act of falsification, which one might expect if it had happened on a significant scale. Perhaps others who have watched these videos and who speak Russian can make more sense of them.

    • I forgot to mention that RT is showing film of a picture that Fox News has shown, which is purportedly of the Moscow protests. RT has shown that the picture in question does not actually show the protests in Moscow but is of the protests in Greece

      • marknesop says:

        Typical. Accuracy at Fox News is about as important as education, and we’ve already discussed their winning a court battle that decided telling the truth in the news is optional.

      • yalensis says:

        @alexander: You make an excellent point that the 4 winning parties will be accepting of the results, and do not want to rock the boat. UR is just grateful at this point that they got away with it. The other 3 parties which won significant seats, they may grumble about being robbed, but the last thing they want to do is have a re-vote. That would be chaos. So everbody will settle down and start the wheeling and dealing.
        West will continue to meddle and stir the pot, they are whipping up their quislings and trying to build up to big color-revolution crescendo in March. However, the parties which actually won Duma seats will not find this revolution to their liking, as you cleverly point out. For many years they had to content themselves with a few meager seats. Now they are suddenly rich. They will be absorbed and excited about their increased seats, handing out the new jobs and portfolios, etc.

        Here is a link to RT reporting of the Fox piece which you mentioned about the “Moscow” riots (in Athens). Who knew Moscow streets were lined with palm trees and shop signs were in Greek letters?


    • marknesop says:

      Thanks very much for your support, Alex! Oh, I quite agree that a colour revolution will not get off the ground this time around, the numbers are too small and the level of discontent is being exaggerated to the degree it’s essentially fabricated. Still, all the elements are present; western NGO’s with aggressive agendas to foment frustration and anger, the eager complicity of the western press – whose stories of protest got to press so quickly that it suggests they were stovepiped the information by direct feed – and the use of social networking media to augment protest. It’s certainly not going to topple the government this time, but I was wrong to suggest to Yalensis that the west would never try it in Russia – it is constantly probing for weakness and vulnerability, and its efforts are sincere.

      I read that there was an instance (shown in one of the videos) in which a factory manager or something like that promised bonuses to those who voted for United Russia. I also read that it cost him his job. That was stupid, and such instances should indeed be punished. But they are being simultaneously portrayed as far more widespread than they actually are, and as just business as usual in corrupt Russia. Show me a decision in modern history that was more corrupt than U.S. courts recognizing corporations as persons, and thereby permitting unlimited financial support to political campaigns by corporations.

      A good many of the “thousands” of electoral violations displayed on Golos’s “interactive electoral map” were minor complaints such as that election monitors would not let Golos observers inspect ballot boxes or watch people in the act of voting – thus “interfering” with their observation. Golos has no right to inspect ballot boxes, and voters are entitled to privacy; also, unrestricted movement by observers often translates to restricted movement for voters, and voters are really who it’s all about.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Watch people in the act of voting? This would be a gross violation of vote secrecy, not just a violation of voter’s privacy. I don’t know the Russian law, but in Italy only severely disabled people are allowed to go inside the voting cabin with another person.

        • marknesop says:

          The relevant Russian law is in one of the links in the post. It says if a voter is unable to mark his/her ballot himself/herself, they can have another voter do it (not a poll worker or government official or election observer, there’s a list of those who are ineligible), but they must inform officials beforehand and the voter who marks the ballot must sign it and provide identification.

  2. apc27 says:

    Thank you Mark.

    Your post is like a breath of fresh air in a sea of putrid garbage, which passes for Western media these days. I do not know how my TV and monitor stayed in one piece during these last several days, given the amount of times I wanted to throw something at it.

    For a long time I had been a proponent of Adomanis’s view that Western reporters are not as much devious as they are lazy and incompetent. These views were really challenged by the appalling coverage of the Georgian War, but what they are doing now is the final straw. I mean, for goodness sake, even Soviet propaganda demonstrated more respect to the people they were trying to convince!!! The sheer arrogance of these… bastards, to treat their audience as complete and utter idiots. I mean, if they are going to skew and lie and mislead, shouldn’t they show at least some modicum of respect to their readers by putting at least SOME effort into their propaganda operation?

    So the final conclusion is that the Western media is devious AND incompetent AND lazy AND they are not going anywhere. The West likes to bemoan Putin’s system which stifles any alternatives, but look at what they accomplished with their media!!! Across national borders, across political lines, across economic associations, every single major mass media source is dumping their shitty propaganda with the efficiency and regularity of a stamping press and NOT ONE is taking a stand against what is AT THE VERY LEAST an obvious bias.

    I do not know, maybe its just me, but with Egypt and then Libya and then Syria and now Russia, 2011 really seems to be the year to beat all others in terms of COMPLETE AND UTTER GARBAGE dumped by the Western media establishment on our heads.

    (I do apologise for the amount of capitalised words, but last couple days have been reaaaaaaaally trying for my patience).

    • marknesop says:

      Hi, Alex; I haven’t heard from you for ages! Thanks for the kind words. I also agree with Mark that western journalists are lazy, at least inasmuch as they frequently file stories that are just rehashes of the ever-popular “Russians are fleeing horrible Russia to the Good West” meme. But the barrage of “Russians say it’s no use voting, because the vote will just be falsified to suit the ruling party” pieces is not laziness – it’s a tactic, and deliberately calculated to achieve a result: suppression of the vote. It works quite well on English-speaking audiences, and the west is skilled at manipulation of the electorate. Their target audience is young, educated Russians who speak and read English, but the problem there is that there are not enough of them. Getting them out on the streets for mass protests in winter isn’t easy, even for so hardy a race as the Russians. I predict there will be intensified effort for the presidential elections. The west loathes Putin, because he dragged Russia back from the abyss just as it was about to slide over the edge, and they’ll never forgive him for it. The number of people who can be persuaded that Russia needs a change of government….well, just because it’s time for a change, is small – but western press sources amp it up to make it look like a big movement. Remember, these guys are pros at window dressing – seeding town hall meetings with “professional protesters”, staging shouting assaults on rival politicians’ constituency offices by crowds that are purportedly grassroots movements of everyday citizens, but which surveillance cameras often reveal to be seeded with political operatives…the mob always just needs one individual to shout “come on, follow me!!” and it rushes forward without further thought. Afterward, people can rarely remember just what it was that galvanized them to action.

      These guys are good at what they do, they’ve had lots of training and several recent successes to whet their appetites. The Russian government will have to play this very cleverly to avoid the “autocratic tyranny” frame that it is being fitted for. One advantage is language; I’d be curious to know to what extent these “don’t vote; it’s useless” messages are being broadcast in Russian. All their work on that “Party of Crooks and Thieves” nonsense is more or less wasted if they can’t make it catch on in Russia, and the best they can do is stoke their little group of dissidents to fury. Even that could backfire, because if they do something too overt they’ll be jailed. To a certain extent that’s a bonus, but not if it whittles down your protesters to a number that inspires pity more than anger. Putin would be wise to give the west something to distract it around the time of the presidential elections. This is probably the last year that this tactic will work, because Russia needs to be extra-careful not to respond heavy-handedly, or more barriers to its WTO acceptance will appear based on those actions; in fact, goading Russia now might well have that as a secondary goal. I know Putin wants to get Russia into the WTO, although I’ve kind of gone off the idea myself. But once it’s membership is cemented, Russia will not have to be so sensitive to the west’s feelings.

      • apc27 says:

        I find it highly doubtful that anything will be able to distract the media from doing their “thing” with the Russian presidential elections. Duma elections are, after all, relatively unimportant, yet look at the sh… storm in the Western media. Even thinking about the amount of garbage about to be dumped on our heads for the main event is really depressing…

        Plus, it will be really badly written and badly researched garbage and to complete my frustration, having studied in London’s School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, I know or have spoken with quiet a few of these people and know that they actually do have brains and ARE capable of flexible thinking and balanced analysis… they just choose not to do it. That is probably the right choice in terms of their careers and it is certainly the fault of the wider public that we do not even demand a better quality of lies from them, not to mention the truth, but it still is just as I said… frustrating.

  3. rkka says:

    “or more barriers to its WTO acceptance will appear based on those actions;”

    You talk of this as if it would be a Bad Thing. 😉

    Russia imports aircraft, vehicles, and meat from the US. The US imports aluminum and oil from Russia. And Stoli. Russia would win a US-Russia trade war, because Russian oil/raw materials are low value-added and would find eager customers elsewhere. The US would have much more trouble doing the same.

    An effective way to counter this crap would be to kick the American economy in the nuts with some new meat safety restrictions, cancel a commercial airliner order from Boeing, and slap GM with a 50% tarriff. Hits Russophobe American politicians where it hurts, the wallets of their campaign contributors.

    • marknesop says:

      I agree that joining the WTO has lost a lot of its shine – it’s been such a long and difficult process now that the west has already wrung every drop of insult value from it, and are giving in now only because the potential advantages for the west overpower their enjoyment of keeping Russia out of the clubhouse. There probably would be opportunities for Russia, and I still believe the imperative for Russian businesses to adopt western business practices (especially in accounting and regulatory areas – remember, I’m talking about legitimate western business here, not some Enron grab-and-run scam) would be to Russia’s benefit – but it’d be an uphill battle and Russia would never be able to relax its guard, because it would never be a true partnership. The west would always be maneuvering for advantage and probing for a weakness that would increase its control. Is it worth it?

      But Putin wants it for Russia, so he has to move carefully to avoid giving the west an excuse to snatch it away. All the ideas you suggested are probably good ones, although they’d have to be based on provable complaints; for example, simply inventing a public-safety problem with meat imports would invite a tit-for-tat response. You could probably stall the Boeing order considerably without canceling it, that sort of thing. But I was thinking more of doing the same thing that Russia is experiencing; regime change consultants are for hire to anyone who has the money. What about ratcheting up the Occupy Wall Street protests? Establishing Eastern-European NGO presence in the USA that would funnel money and support to the protesters (that would have to be covert, and I mean untraceable covert, not Anna Chapman covert, because the protesters themselves are patriots who would angrily reject and suggestion that they are “in bed with the Commies”), and plastering western media with paid advertising featuring soulful defenses of the American worker, why can’t people get a fair deal anymore from the soulless, bloodsucking corporations? That kind of stuff. You couldn’t sneak people in to try and steal secrets or actually hurt America, because those are crimes and you don’t want to do that – you want to adopt a moral stance, just as the west does. Occupy Wall Street is a legitimate movement with defensible goals. Supporting it while kicking it up a notch or two would provide real distraction value while supporting the aims of those who are arguing for improvements that genuinely need to be made. Win-win.

  4. kievite says:

    I would like to think about this episode in a wider context of the mechanic of staging of what can be called “Color revolutions.” And if we think this way it is far from “Yawn”. It is actually pretty sinister development. Color revolutions is neoliberals rehash of the playbook of communist revolutions (“Red revolutions”), but for completely different purposes. They manage to enrich the quote of Thomas Carlyle “All revolutions are conceived by idealists, implemented by fanatics, and its fruits are stolen by scoundrels.” 🙂 . In this case it became symmetrically Machiavellian as in “…conceived by one set scoundrels, implemented by the other set of scoundrels, and its fruits are stolen by the third set of scoundrels”
    The technology is now well polished and extremely powerful against any “not so pro-western” country. Especially effective in xUSSR space. As such Russia is not an exception and represents a grave threat for any government in countries with “not enough pro-Western” policy. So I think it is unwise to underestimate its power. It already proved itself in half dozen countries. There are several films and books that document this new strategy such as

    Amazon.com Bringing Down a Dictator Ivan Marovic, Srdja Popovic, Otpor!, Steve York Movies & TV
    The Time of the Rebels- Youth Resistance Movements and 21st Century R…

    The idea of using economic difficulties for destroying “inconvenient” regimes facing elections and overthrowing the government without overt external aggression is far from being new. Bolshevik’s concept of a revolutionary situation ” when lower strata does not want to live by old order and upper strata can’t maintain the old older” is a century old. The new element is the method of artificially creating such a situation out of parliamentary or presidential elections. Even this is not new but can be seen as a variant of “divide and conquer” the strategy is as old as Roman Empire. Divide and rule – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The maxims divide et impera and divide ut regnes were utilised by the Roman ruler Caesar and the French emperor Napoleon. There is the example of Gabinius parting the Jewish nation into five conventions, reported by Flavius Josephus in Book I, 169-170 of The Wars of the Jews (De bello Judaico).[1] Strabo also reports in Geography, 8.7.3[2] that the Achaean League was gradually dissolved under the Roman possession of the whole of Macedonia, owing to them not dealing with the several states in the same way, but wishing to preserve some and to destroy others.
    In modern times, Traiano Boccalini cites “divide et impera” in La bilancia politica, 1,136 and 2,225 as a common principle in politics. The use of this technique is meant to empower the sovereign to control subjects, populations, or factions of different interests, who collectively might be able to oppose his rule. Machiavelli identifies a similar application to military strategy, advising in Book VI of The Art of War[3] (Dell’arte della guerra),[4] that a Captain should endeavor with every art to divide the forces of the enemy, either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he has to separate his forces, and, because of this, become weaker.
    … … …
    Elements of this technique involve:
    creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects in order to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereignaiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political and military spending

    I see the following key ingredients of “color revolutions” in action in Russian elections:
    1. The whole process is always staged around election fraud (the best consitions are if two opposing candicate get around 50% of votes, but can be used with different percentages as well). It works in two main phases:
    a. Attempt of de-legitimating of elections and forcing a new elections that supposal should rectify falsifications of the previous one. Gorbachov’s “two cents” about the necessity of new elections are pretty telling move in this respect if we are talking about Russia. Old fox knows how best to serve his masters.
    b. Parallel de-legitimatazation of existing government and its candidates via charge of election fraud and subsequent overthrow of the weakened opponent “by peaceful means” via second round of elections. Here is one Amazon comment from The Time of the Rebels- Youth Resistance Movements and 21st Century R…

    I regularly screen Bringing Down a Dictator in my courses at Swarthmore College. This film does an excellent job of introducing students to the fundamentals of nonviolent power. Students come to understand that authoritarian regimes, while formidable, are often more fragile than we imagine. Milosevic’s regime, like others, relied on a mixture of apathy, fear, and cynicism that the students of Otpor fought to dispel through humor, appeals to nationalism, and tireless public outreach. Like any large institution, Milosevic’s regime depended on the loyalty of its functionaries (such as the police) and at least a veneer of public credibility. Otpor students carefully undermined both through its broad grassroots organizing, popular nonviolent resistance, and by awakening a multi-party political opposition.

    2. The government in oligarchic republics like Russia always has a degree of distrust from people as it is well known that it is corrupted. That why classic in “color revolutions” moment for challenging “power that be” is when the election results in the election of the incumbent president or preserve the ruling party majority. A very plausible claim that “old guard does not want to turn over the power voluntarily” and resorts to fraud to maintain status quo is used. It is attractive to considerable percentage of population in all xUSSR space. And often is true. But even if false can destabilize situation to the extent that new possibilities are opened for the initiators of this process. Also so previous supporters of the “old regime” might jump the ship (remember that their accounts and often families are at the West) or at least bet of both horses. Economic difficulties in addition to elections make a perfect combination. In this respect Putin’s decision to be the candidate for the next president of Russia probably did served as a fuel in this particular episode. Because this does smell with the CPSU. In this respect dual party system is much more advanced and much more suitable for the oligarchic republic (and architects can rely on rich, century old USA experience).
    3. The starting point is always the immediate and coordinated campaign of forceful denunciation of “mass falsifications” no matter what actually happened at the elections. Statements of influential figures (like Hillary Clinton’s recent statement), etc in support of the claims about mass falsifications. This is followed by creating of “artificial reality” around this claim via well coordinated press campaign with the direct and prominent support of major Western MSM. Direct forgery of video and other documents can be used pretty successfully. Medvedev understands this but the real question is does he has the political will to prosecute perpetrators ? Use of “nonpartisan exit polls” as a pressure cooker for questioning the results. Falsifications and exaggeration of ballot fraud, especially “ballot staffing” via selectively interpreted exit pool data. Here is important to achieve some level of demoralization of authorizes to avoid prosecution of people involved or the whole scheme will fall like a house of cards. The Teflon cover of “fighters for democracy” is used to prevent prosecution. Same trick as with Khodorkovski.
    See http://lass.calumet.purdue.edu/cca/gmj/sp07/graduate/gmj-sp07-grad-venger.htm
    4. Cutting the space for maneuvering of existing government by stressing that this not a direct interference into country affairs but just support of democratic forces. As long as democracy is the “sacred cow” and Western democracy is the only legitimate form/model to which you need to progress from the current “wild”, unlawful, criminal and authoritarian state of total darkness, the Western powers are by definition the arbiters of this progress. There is no defence from this claim in you have foreign observers on the ground. This way the current government itself betray its own legitimacy by delegating it to foreign powers, who can abuse their role at will for benign or not so benign motives: without leaving hotel, the western elections observers will state about mass violation during elections, playing the role of Trojan horse of the “color revolution”. The government is caught is zugzwang as foreign observers are by definition the arbiters of the legitimacy of elections. Any move makes the situation worse.

    5. Systematic, long term attempts to build and maintain student/youth based and heavily financed (60% in case of Ukraine) fifth column of “professional protesters”, the move that actually mirrors Bolshevik’s reliance on “professional revolutionaries”. Students are the most suitable target as they are more easily brainwashed, are excitable, often dream about emigration to Western countries, always need money. Perfect “canon fodder” of the “color revolutions”. Creation of set of martyrs “for the course”, especially among young journalists who were arrested during protests and, even better, mistreated, is a part of this tactic. As emigration is considered as desirable future by considerable percent of young people, we have a pool from which it is easy to recruit fighters for the “democratic future” of the nation with the hope that after reaching critical mass the process become self-sustainable. And often it is. Also after being arrested and/or expelled from the university those people have nowhere to go but to became “professional color revolutionaries”. Some of then are pretty talented and can do a lot of damage. This was pre-emptive creation of a well-organized “anti-fraud front” tremendously helps to create legitimacy problem for the government as initiative is instantly lost to government opponents. The government is too bureaucratized, unprepared and is taken by surprise the strength of the response. They try to convince that election process was completely legitimate people who does not want to be convinced and just laugh at their efforts. As in any revolution loss of initiative is half of the defeat: the “democratizers” have plan, have hard currency, have hopes about their future in the West and the will to achieve their goals. In Ukraine the “anti-fraud” front has worked under the succinct slogan Pora— “It’s Time”.

    Activists in each of these movements were funded and trained in tactics of political organization and nonviolent resistance by a coalition of Western pollsters and professional consultants funded by a range of Western government and non-government agencies. According to The Guardian, these include the U.S. State Department and US AID along with the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, NGO Freedom House and billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Institute. The National Endowment for Democracy, a U.S. Government funded foundation, has supported non-governmental democracy-building efforts in Ukraine since 1988. Writings on nonviolent struggle by Gene Sharp formed the strategic basis of the student campaigns.

    6. Use of press influence as the most vulnerable forth branch of government to undermine the other three. If this part works for color revolution, and press turns against the government, the government is doomed. Under the cover of “freedom of the press” systematic use of all controllable media, Internet, web sites, social media, mobile communications for spreading the “truth” about mass falsifications. As Goebbels used to say

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    Substitute “State” for “color revolution”. Press also serves for coordination and maintaining the the direction and unity of the movement. Heavy use of well-financed NGO as a brain trust for the movement:

    Throughout the demonstrations, Ukraine’s emerging Internet usage (facilitated by news sites which began to disseminate the Kuchma tapes) was an integral part of the orange revolutionary process. It has even been suggested that the Orange Revolution was the first example of an Internet-organized mass protest. [31] Analysts believe that the Internet and mobile phones allowed an alternative media to flourish that was not subject to self-censorship or overt control by President Kuchma and his allies and pro-democracy activists (such as Pora!) were able to use mobile phones and the Internet to coordinate election monitoring and mass protests.[32][33]

    7. Attempt to provoke police brutality so that “public demonstrations” against attempts by the incumbents “to hold onto power through electoral fraud” became definitely anti-movement and status quo. The goal is to undermining police loyalty through carefully stage campaign about police brutality and “befriending policemen” neutralize then to allow “free hands” in undermining the current government. See Nonviolent_Struggle-50CP

    8. The use of “end justifies the means” politic at all stages. Promiscuity in building coalition and seeking allies. Anybody opposed to “brutal and dishonest current regime” is welcomed to join “anti-fraud front”. Are ultra-nationalists now best friends of democracy? There was never such a good friends. Are communist now best friends of democracy? No question about it.

  5. cartman says:

    I would like to know a little about Hillary Clinton’s popularity in Russia. I would think it is low, considering her husband launched the Kosovo War. Lesser reasons probably include Clinton’s expansion of NATO, the neoliberalism of HIID, and their connections to the money laundering operation called BCCI. Maybe Pat Buchanan should have been the one to run against Clinton.

    • kievite says:

      Don’t know about popularity Hillary Clinton in Russia. I guess as the USA minister of foreign affairs (aka Secretary of State) she commands a certain level of respect. After all the USA is a great power and her official status transcends Hillary’s personality. Also the fact that she broke the “glass ceiling” and became one of the few (or first) “real” female presidential candidates the USA history also entails some level of respect.

      As for Pat Buchanan vs. Clinton the key question is: “What essentially Pat can propose to Wall Street which owns the Congress? Or military-industrial complex?” As he is anti-war, even the idea that he could have been nominated from the modern Republican Party is a huge stretch.

  6. Alex says:

    May I re-Mark 🙂 -as yet another “Alex” ? 🙂

    I am not a fan of M. Gorbachev, but this time he is correct – the current government made a (big) mistake & re-election is the safest (for the country) option to correct it. The methods currently used are IMHO the best way to create large scale problems.

    I am not exactly excited by J.Ioffe’s writing either – but this time she is correct about the “elections” too. BTW, I understand that the USG likes Russian Communists even less than the current Russian Government, but they (the USG) would be wise to refrain from making comments – it is not their business.

    • marknesop says:

      I’m afraid I disagree this time, Alex (although it’s great to see you back, too) – I don’t think the extent of violations was sufficiently serious to warrant re-running the election, and note that the losing parties have not refused their seats; in fact, some are quite pleased with their gains. At the same time, re-running the election would be interpreted by the twitterers and the facebookers and the regime-change NGO’s as a tremendous victory, and they would redouble their efforts. I’d maybe agree if the object was simply a clean election, but it’s not; it’s the overthrowing and replacement of the government to suit the west rather than what is best for Russians.

      Similarly, when I see evidence of widespread falsification and ballot-stuffing, I’ll concede Ioffe might have a point. But I doubt her analysis comes from any….well, analysis. She’s just repeating talking points from the conservative playbook.

      Many of the “violations” are said to have been subjective judgment on the part of Golos observers who claimed they didn’t get the access they’d have liked. The OSCE preliminary report was much less critical, and I think the allegations of impropriety are overblown.

      • Alex says:

        Hi, Mark
        I accidentally deleted a phrase from my previous post – it was “Where I totally agree with you..” and further as in the text about Clinton/USG.,,, 🙂

        IMHO -you should have said “The official leaders of the “loosing parties.” .. because Zyuganov etc were permitted to survive that long for a reason. They are not exactly the people currently on the streets – even when these people are formally the respective parties’ members.. It seems the people had started to change (finally) – their whole attitude changed. Judging by the (real) results – there are a lot of such people – 30-40%. It is not wise to test their strength and determination already because they are right.They have the right to have an honest elections. And they will get the government they deserve – sooner or later. It is, probably, possible to suppress the current “wave”, but then it will sweep everything in March.

        And while I totally share your opinion on Julia’s far too frequently disappointing demonstrations of her analytical skills, sometimes she does the right thing – probably, by accident. Yes, her coverage appears to be influenced by numerous blog records, but she did go there herself. too.

        We will have to disagree on the scale of the electoral fraud – from what I can see , the “elections”: were a total , crudely executed sham. Топороная работа. Don’t have a more appropriate link at hand – but something like that http://esquire.ru/elections or try Sean’s blog for other (more detailed) links. I am surprised no one ran the election results for Benford’s Law compliance…yet… 🙂


        • marknesop says:

          The OSCE Preliminary Report does not support the allegations of massive vote fraud – indeed, that is mostly a western construction whipped on by Golos’s activism, and the Russian government may well be looking into deliberate falsification of exit-poll results in order to better support a narrative of vote-rigging. Let’s agree to wait for the detailed report, because I expect some pushback from the Russian government. I think the west will have a lot to answer for, and FOX News’ coverage of the “riots in Moscow” which actually showed the riots in Athens complete with palm trees and Greek script on the buildings will make that more difficult.

          This is not about clean elections, at least for the west – it always knew from relentless opinion polling that United Russia would win, and the only question was by how much. This is about western capability to influence the vote, with a view to regime change.

      • yalensis says:

        Once in a blue moon Julia Ioffe might be right about something, but only in the manner of the fabled broken clock who tells correct time twice per day.
        The one good thing that Julia ever did for Russia was to help get rid of Luzhkov. But, once again, her role was that of the geese in the fable who inadvertently saved Rome with their mindless quacking. That last allusion is for Giuseppe’s benefit.)

  7. yalensis says:

    Hello everyone, I am trying to find out more about the Medvedev/Navalny sheep-f*cking Twitter gaffe which occurred on December 5, this is what I have found so far: The scandal concerns the Twitter message orginally composed by United Russia political pundit Konstantin Rykov:
    Today it became apparent: that man who writes in his blog the phrase “Party of scoundrels and thieves”, is a stupid sheep who gets f*cked in the mouth. [Rykov is obviously referring to Navalny.]
    The pastoral reference apparently originated with Navalny himself (scroll down a bit to the youtube video of Navalny shouting to his mob something about sheep-f*cking).
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who follows Rykov on Twitter, re-tweeted Rykov’s tweet 10 minutes later. Later Medvedev deleted this re-tweet, apparently realizing that there was something improper about it.
    In a completely different tweet, Rykov proclaimed: “Надеюсь что сегодня до многих дошло, что заигрывать с оранжевой сволочью нельзя! Их нужно взять за горло и не отпускать! Только так! Либералы выдохлись. Надеюсь завтра будет третий тайм. Уж очень хочется всю эту госдеповскую сволоту закатать в асфальт! 🙂 “.
    While Medvedev’s esteem for Rykov has raised my own fading respect for Medvedev, I have to point out that this Duma election most likely seals Medvedev’s fate as a government leader. Does anybody still think that Putin (assuming he wins presidency) will appoint Medvedev as Prime Minister after such a poor showing for United Russia? (I know, I know… Medvedev is not really the Party leader, and it’s not really his fault, but still…..) One thing for sure: the Tandem is finished.

    • apc27 says:

      And good riddance, I say. After all, the current arrangement had already accomplished or failed ALL of its targets, so there is simply no reason to keep it going. The danger of elite fragmentation will be gone, once Putin is re-elected, and the search for a viable successor will have to be relaunched once more, as Medvedev is obviously unable to fill that role. No matter what he tried to do, the man always struck me as good follower, but never as a good leader.

    • marknesop says:

      I don’t know; I thought Medvedev wasn’t such a bad guy, and he seemed a lot more human than many of those Russian leaders who preceded him. He made a lot of mistakes, but it’s a hard job and at least half the people you listen to every day are trying to make you fail. I think UR’s losses are as much attributable to western agitation against the party as to Medvedev’s stumbles. I believe he wants to make Russia a better place for Russians, and I can’t think offhand who in UR would do a better job; maybe it’s time for a woman PM; the west loves those. But that’s no reason to pick a leader – it should be somebody capable who won’t take half the term to learn their job and who is realistic about what can be accomplished.

      Medvedev is okay. He just must never, ever dance in public again.

      • His failure was in some sense inevitable.

        Russia’s mood was basically at the peak of everything (economic confidence, gov’t support, sense that country was going in the right direction) in 2007-2008.

        Turned out it was a political as well as a financial bubble.

        • marknesop says:

          If the west learned anything from its own housing bubble, it should have been that nothing can trend upward forever; there have to be adjustments. And I don’t believe anyone can point anywhere to a stupid decision by Medvedev that caused the economic situation to worsen for Russia; that was inspired entirely by events beyond his control. I disliked his dabbling in liberalism, but overall his big decisions were sound and he showed he was willing to listen to advice.

  8. Evgeny says:

    Andranik Migranyan about the election:

    Just in case you have never heard of Mr. Migranyan, his 2004 article about Putinism:

    • marknesop says:

      That National Interest piece is a thing of beauty; indeed I had never hear of Mr. Migranyan, but his explanation of the confusion caused by the dichotomy of Putin not being the actual leader of United Russia going into the Duma elections, and consequently unable to campaign for the party without appearing to be disrespectful of Medvedev is a point I’d bet few have considered. A very satisfying and reassuring article.

      However, for anyone who doubts the west is seriously trying for regime change right here, right now – I offer some of the contents of a BNE (Business News Europe) newsflash I received in this morning’s email. Entitled, “Has Russia Reached a Tipping Point?”, it reports breathlessly, “The numbers of Moscovites who have registered to attend this weekend’s demonstration on Facebook has swelled to 30,000 in the last few days. The Blogoshere is alive with messages and calls to friends to attend. It looks like that the numbers could be even higher as each day for the last few days another 5,000-10,000 have posted to the site. Bankers this morning are issuing notes analysing how great the return of political risk is. The RTS has also sold off sharply and is currently trading at about 1,400.

      “We believe that the market is only now starting to price in the return of top-level political risk for the first time in 12 years, and that developments in Russia will lead to more short-term downside,” said Kingsmill Bond from Citi in a note today.

      He goes on to say that protests are likely to continue as “Russia is unusually well-educated and wealthy to endure a system characterized by so much corruption. Now that the spark has caught the tinder of discontent, we expect more protests,” says Bond. Other analysts warn that if the protests this weekend get violent then things could get out of hand. Has Russia reached a tipping point that will either end in mass violence and repression by the state or oust Putin and his clan from the Kremlin?

      Renaissance’s Charlie Robertson argued earlier this year that authoritarian societies with per capita income over $6,000 are increasingly prone to revolutions and with per capita incomes of $15,000 Russia is well beyond this point. However, Robertson made the caveat that oil producers are the exception to the rule as their governments have the money to placate their people.”

      Ummm….yeah; like Saudi Arabia, who – oddly enough – is not being targeted by the west for regime change despite unilaterally jacking its oil production by a half-million barrels a day in order to realize the funds necessary to carry out placatory reforms and manage civil unrest. A good push there probably would topple the regime. Will it happen? Ha, ha…No.

      The piece goes on to say that the opposition is trying to reach “critical mass”. The west is very excited by the results it has achieved thus far, and even though it is probably much too early for success, seems prepared to pour on the effort. Bonuses will be if any protests are put down violently – a few images of protesters with streams of blood running down their faces would sell well in the press right now. Mind you, that doesn’t have to happen in Russia: it could happen anywhere in the world and be portrayed as happening in Russia.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        I wonder if among the 30000 that have registered to the facebook protest page there is the Gay Girl In Damascus.

        • marknesop says:

          It has to be said, the media is played so easily because (1) it is lazy and will take a story that is thrust into its attention over one it has to work for, and (2) because it likes to be played.

          On the other hand, it was media figures who exposed the deception.

      • yalensis says:

        That analysis about authoritarian societies prone to revolution is a crock. That type of analysis might have had some validity in the 19th and even 20th centuries. In the modern global system a nation’s instability is a direct function of mostly one factor: Are they on NATO’s hit list, or not? That is why Saudi Arabia is stable, but Libya was bombed back to the Stone Age. It had nothing to do with authoritarianism or relative wealth of citizens.
        It seems pretty clear now that West has decided on regime change in Russia. Hillary has probably already issued the “kill order” for Putin like she did on Colonel Gaddafy. Only question is whether they are going to go for it this weekend, or wait until March. If they have decided on the Libyan model, and if they have decided to go “va banque” this weekend, then they will try to ignite some spark, like a demonstrator getting beat up or killed. Provocateurs will make sure this happens. I am trying to think of a clever tactical response, is tough because, as we all know, America has a way of controlling these events and putting defensive regimes into Zugzwang situation. – maybe the Russian police should just stay home and make it clear that any brutality that happens has nothing to do with them, because they are all sitting home watching TV while the demonstrators are out in the streets? That’s one idea I had. Maybe not a good idea, but the best I could come up with at such short notice.

        • marknesop says:

          That certainly is not a good idea, sorry. Then the narrative would be, corrupt police stay home, let Nashi and thugs run wild in the street, innocent protesters targeted. Maybe even “Putin orders police not to help desperate demonstrators”. The Russian authorities would be regarded pretty much like these Tennessee firefighters, who stood by and watched an owner’s home burn to the ground because he hadn’t paid the $75.00 annual subscription fee to the town, even though he offered to pay all their expenses. The same thing happened again yesterday. Note the subheadline; “Government bureaucracy at its insensitive worst”. Except they’d be talking about Putin and, to a lesser extent, Medvedev.

          You could always go the other way, and plaster Russian news sites with photographs of demonstrators carrying little U.S. flags, or wearing American flag T-Shirts – that’d whip up local fury, and we’ve already established (thanks, FOX News) that the news doesn’t necessarily need to be the truth – those are just guidelines. But that ultimately would hurt Russians, so, regrettably, it’s not the way to go. Maybe the demonstrators will get carried away and assault a police officer or set somebody’s car on fire – then they’re just a mob of lawless louts, and can justifiably be treated as such. Liberal and opposition websites say, “they can’t arrest us all”. I beg to differ. Temporary confinement facilities for large numbers – hundreds – of lawbreakers should be set up, and the authorities should be seen to be doing it. The west wails that Russia is not a country of laws? Establish the law clearly, and be prepared to arrest all violators. Remember who it’s important to please here – the Russian electorate. The west would like to see the government lose sight of that, and begin to play the west’s game. There can be no winning there.

          The west cannot win this without its NGO’s; not enough people in Russia are fluent in English or follow western news sites, and much of the electorate is already suspicious of the west. It needs native Russians like Nemtsov, Shebanova and Navalny to spread its message in the vernacular. These people should be portrayed as traitors, because what else would you call someone who is assisting a foreign government to destabilize your own? If Russia can’t win the propaganda campaign in its own language, then it deserves to lose. Come on; let’s see some effort from the home team here. Don’t just sit back waiting for it to happen.

          • Evgeny says:

            May be it’s a stupid thing to suggest…

            What if Russia uses some of its older ICBMs to destroy a nonsignificant target in the ocean with a nuclear warhead?

            A sort of a “projection of power”. A violation of international treaties, too. But may be, it’s better if the West fears Russia, rather than despises?

            • sinotibetan says:

              Dear Evgeny,

              Actually perhaps the West both fears and despises Russia. The problem at hand now is that the West thinks that there is internal weakness in the current ruling regime in Russia.
              Washington sees this is an opportunity to use all resources at her disposal to weaken it even further with the intention to sow discord, chaos and hopefully general uprising ala the Arab Spring. Thus, it is hoped that in the ensuing political chaos and upheaval, one of Washington’s minions or even anybody who Washington might feign ‘support'(as long as it destabilizes Russia and bring the whole country to her knees)would be elected as a weak President to be manipulated upon like the Yeltsin years ‘until Russia is shaped into the image of their desires’.

              I am afraid the solution would not be a show of force on a military scale. The solution must lie purely in the ruthlessness and shrewdness of Putin to eliminate this possibility of foreign intervention in Russian domestic politics. I would be surprised that Putin, being of KGB/FSB background, cannot come up with something. But this measure , even if it is successful, would only be a short term measure before more ‘attacks’ come in. I believe that Russia needs a credible opposition that’s Russia-centric, not Washington-centric. Such that, whether it’s Putin or opposition wins, the integrity of the Russian nation remains paramount and Washington would have little ‘material’ to stoke destabilization.


  9. Pingback: Russia: Anglophone Bloggers’ In-Depth Analyses of Dec. 4 Elections · Global Voices

  10. Pingback: Russia: Anglophone Bloggers’ In-Depth Analyses of Dec. 4 Elections | Sao-Paulo news

  11. New York Times: Navalny was less definitive about the future he envisioned for the country, saying only that he hoped it would “resemble a huge, irrational, metaphysical Canada.”

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, I saw that on your Twitter feed. I could almost like the guy after that. Almost.

      I’m afraid I laughed out loud at the assertion by one of his supporters that “he could beat Putin if he was allowed”. Just what the country needs – a western-leaning zealot in charge.

      • In all honesty, I imagine that if Navalny ever came to power – and he certainly has the brightest star of all the liberals – he would drop the pro-Westernism very quickly.

        After all, there’s only so much contradiction even Western countries can tolerate. I’d say shooting Caucasian cockroaches with pistols crosses the line.

        Well, okay, realistically speaking he won’t go that far. But if the ethnic and immigration policies he espouses were to be really implemented it would immediately create immense strife in the multinational RF. In such conditions, practicing liberalism would become impossible.

        • yalensis says:

          Why shouldn’t the West tolerate a Navalny in power? He is their new Flavor of the Month, replacing Nemtsov. The don’t care that Navalny is something of a neo-Nazi. After all, it doesn’t bother them that the government they installed in power in Libya (NTC) consists partly of Al Qaeda militants. To the West, Putin is the new Gaddafi, they want him out by any means necessary, after him comes the deluge, as far as they are concerned.

          • marknesop says:

            The west has half the equation right; it has become very skilled at removal of leaders it dislikes, although it’s been known to tolerate – for longer terms than Putin’s even if he won two more – pariahs it has itself installed who are manifestly hated by the country (see, Iran, Shah Of). But it’s the sitting down and thinking, “what might this government do once it’s empowered?” part that needs some work.

            Many western strategists are short-term-gratification thinkers, and see no further than Russia once again in the grip of a privatization-pushing egotist or, at a minimum, a leader who will defer to the west and accept a subordinate role in return for glowing western praise and whatever crumbs the west chooses to throw the country in return for control over its energy industry.

        • marknesop says:

          Well then, where’d he get all that “huge irrational Canada” stuff? Canada is about as far from nationalist as you can get (except for bristling at being called American, and the recent trade/information-sharing deal signed between Harper and Obama brings us closer to eventual complete integration even at that), and getting new immigrants settled and comfortable is almost a religion; free English classes, job searches and the like, cultural sensitivity…there is still some low-level grumbling along racial lines, but it is muted and broadly discouraged. It wasn’t long ago the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia was Chinese (David Lam). I can’t see that model working for Russia right now, and except for these daisies-for-everybody-and-no-corruption speeches from Navalny, I haven’t seen anything like a national strategy. From anyone but Putin/Medvedev, now that I mention it. What do the others intend for Russia? There’s no real skill in convincing people that they’re unhappy with the current state of affairs, and to set visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads (if I may be seasonal for a moment). Everybody feels they’re entitled to something better, and the only thing left to do is identify the person or persons standing in the way of their getting it. But everybody who isn’t a dolt usually says at some point, “Uhhh….how’s that going to work?”

  12. james says:

    Great article, Mark. Well researched and put together. Thank you.

    A suggestion – rather than Russia providing funding to the OWS crowd to do some ‘regime change’ pot stirring of their own, which would be covert why don’t they simply overtly fund an alternative media open to everyone and publish all well written and sourced stories so long as what is written/shown is true? Ok, you’d need a very large editorial staff but it’d be peanuts in the scheme of things.

    I mean, the very last thing the American elite wants is the truth being disseminated. And it is the very last thing they want because . . . . .

  13. james says:

    speaking of editorial staff, I should have proof read my last comment before sending it to the printers!

    • marknesop says:

      Ha, ha; I know what you mean – I get spoiled by the option of going back any time and fixing my own errors, and I sometimes forget I can’t do that on any blog but my own. Anyway, I fixed the errors for you, and thank you for the kind words!

      That’s actually a hell of an idea. I’d be willing to bet if it was a TV station, though, it’d never get an FCC license. I suppose it could be a newspaper, but television is really where it’s at. But you’re right that some of the nations who are getting pushed around are going to have to learn to play hardball. As I’ve mentioned before, regime change “consultants” like OTPOR are for hire, and they’ll work for anyone who can pay them. If you can’t get them, you’d be able to get someone else just as good, because what they’re really selling is destabilization.

  14. Иван К says:

    Thinking long-term, I have a question, a challenging and potentially irritating question, sorry about that, but I see no good reason to postpone it.

    Thought experiments: What if Putin suffers an injury has to be hospitalised for five months? What if he becomes diagnosed with terminal cancer?

    After a long deliberation, Putin picked a successor once. Many of us see that choice as seriously mistaken. What does he (really) think about it?

    Will Russia manage to get through a crisis of Putin’s succession without endangering its long-term economic development?

    I’d have been pretty tranquil about this, if it weren’t for Western elites’ increasingly berserk behaviour.


    • marknesop says:

      You know, I hadn’t really thought about that, Ivan – and it is a good question. Western critics say Putin has built a “cult of personality” which feeds the impression that he is the only man who can protect Russia. What if he’s right? Obviously, Medvedev was not the ideal choice, although I think he tried hard to be a good leader and to make his own decisions without just being Putin’s mouthpiece. But it was apparent he did not satisfy Russians’ ideals of leadership. After him, who is there?

      I believe the hope is always that the ideal candidate will appear in time to gain the experience necessary for his duties but to preserve his independence in making decisions – George Bush was a good example of a leader who believed he was making his own decisions, but was actually following “suggestions” from his advisers. Then the kind of leadership you get depends on the aims of the president’s advisers.

      If Putin were to become too ill to lead or if he were assassinated, I don’t know who would take over. I mean, obviously it would be the Prime Minister in the short term, but there is not yet a credible replacement waiting in the wings. Critics would say Putin deliberately preserves this impression to guarantee he will be elected. But if something happened to him, who would be chosen by Russians to take over? Never mind the west – we know who the west would choose. Who would be Russia’s Plan B?

    • hoct says:

      Putin isn’t some godsend. He is just a politician (in general a despicable class of people) marginally better than the average. If he croaked tomorrow things would be just fine, and if they weren’t that would only point to him having undermined institutions and people around himself to make himself indispensable (in which case it is better he drops dead sooner rather than later before he made himself even more indispensable and when his disappearance would mean an even greater crisis).

      Frankly his being raised into high heaven is uncalled for, let us recall he came to power after Yeltsin had fatally undermined a series of potential successors, because they were already making him look bad in comparison. There were designated successors Sergey Kiriyenko, Yevgeny Primakov, Sergei Stepashin, and before all of them there was competitor Alexander Lebed. There is little reason to believe Putin during his time in power pulled off something that could not have been matched by someone else, including some of the names above.

      • marknesop says:

        Well, perhaps we’ll get the opportunity to find out. Personally, I base my estimation of what a politician is capable of achieving on his or her explanation of how they mean to achieve their stated goals, usually loosely described as a plan. Nemtsov’s plan, for example, if so it could be described, consists merely of slagging Putin and suggesting all his successes are really gross failures or are – as you suggested – something so simple that anyone could do it.

        It would almost be worth it to have someone else take power for one term, and fuck things up beyond all recognition, just so I could say, “I told you so” to all the optimists. The trouble with that happening, I believe, is that Russia might not recover from it – might not be allowed to, as its destruction is desired by many. But I’m not selfish; if a new Great White Hope took power and managed to make a roaring success of Russia without compromising its sovereignty, I’d be the first to stand up and cheer. I just don’t see any of the current crop having anything that could be described as a plan. Especially Navalny, whose plan seems to be Destroy Everything So We Can Be Sure We’re Rid Of Putin, Then We Can Rebuild.

      • hoct says:

        Allow me to correct myself having consulted my notes, Kiriyenko did not make Yeltsin look bad, albeit particularly Primakov and Lebed did.

    • yalensis says:

      Ivan, that is a very good question. Where there is a ruling Party as opposed to a ruling Personality, then that party can assure a backbench of possible leaders, also running a youth group (like the Komsomols) to groom future leaders. Putin is associated with UR party of course but also positions himself as somewhat remote and above parties, like a Caesar or Napoleon. Is he grooming a new generation of leaders? I am not sure. In more primitive societies with a cult of personality (Iraq under Saddam is an example) crisis of succession can be provoked when aging leader begins to feel his own mortality and begins to groom his son. Political elite refuses to bow down to idiot upstart, and chaos ensues. Fortunately for Russia, Putin has no son. But assuming he is elected Prez, he had better think very carefully about whom he appoints as Prime Minister, and about grooming some capable team members. On the other hand, I would give him a pass over his disappointing Medvedev appointment, that was just a technicality to get him past the 4-year gap and maybe also placate the liberal wing of UR. Interesting times ahead…

  15. Swoggler says:

    Found your website via Sean’s and…I’m searching for theses in your above post and I think I’ve come up with a few. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    -You’re contending that there might have been some improper pressure put on people to vote for ER but no ballot-box stuffing because Russian voting procedure makes physical ballot fraud too hard to accomplish.

    -By your estimation, Golos is trying to bring down Russia via a color revolution with funding from NED, Democracy House, the Bilderbergers, and NDI; therefore anything they put out should be dismissed.

    -According to you, there is nothing connecting Litvinenko’s death with Russia.

    -Mark says, “there were lots of allegations of electoral wrongdoing in America and no prosecutions…so shut up America!”

    – And I think your last contention is that ER is still really popular and has nothing to worry about.

    That about accurate?

    • marknesop says:

      Ummm….no, it’s not. So yes, I’ll correct you.

      1. I don’t know where you get, from any of the material here, that there was no ballot box stuffing in the election. I’m sure there was; however, it is highly unlikely that it would have affected the outcome had it not occurred. And my contention is that there was considerable pressure also to not vote for ER.

      2. Golos is not trying to bring down Russia via a colour revolution. Golos is an instrument of western agencies that earnestly desire new leadership in Russia for their own interests , which I believe Russians would find largely did not coincide with their own. They list NED and NDI as their “partners”, but that does not necessarily mean they receive funding from those agencies. They admit to receiving funding from USAID and European democracy-promotion agencies. The Bilderbergers were never mentioned except by you, and your purpose in doing so seems to be solely to make the proposition sound like some crackpot conspiracy theory.

      3. I never said anywhere that there was “nothing connecting Litvinenko’s death with Russia”. I said his supposed friends had at least as much reason for wanting him dead, and that he might be more useful to them dead than alive. Again, you are deliberately oversimplifying in order to make the proposition seem ridiculous, as it would be if it were what I actually said. And whatever transpired, it would be hard to rationalize it as “Russia’s nuclear terrorist attack against the UK”.

      4. There was a mountain of evidence – not allegations – of electoral wrongdoing, resulting in a court decision. The transgressors could not be punished because they were no longer in office, which is a technicality: anyone found guilty of massive embezzlement or pedophilia, for example, long after the fact would certainly be punished, and such punishment would be deferred only if they were dead. The obvious implication is that electoral wrongdoing is not really serious. Unless it happens somewhere else, of course. And America is certainly in no position to criticize, which suits my intent much more accurately than, “Shut up, America!”, although that will do if you prefer.

      5. Relatively speaking, yes. What would you call a decision that left you with more than twice the votes of your closest competitor? A squeaker?

      • zed244 says:

        Here http://www.rosbalt.ru/moscow/2011/12/01/919378.html is some relatively new stuff about Litvinenko, polonium and SIS involvement.(in Russian)


        • yalensis says:

          Thanks, zed. This version, if true, does not surprise me, especially given recent confirmed revelations about Litvinenko having been recruited by British intelligence. (Surprise! Surprise!) According to this ROSBALT version, Litvinenko being a reckless idiot accidentally poisoned not only himself but also Lugovoy, who might have been meeting him in an attempt to recruit him back into double- or triple agent. I have always argued that polonium is a ridiculous means to assassinate a spy. If Lugovoy had wanted to assassinate Litvinenko and had access to slip something into his tea, he could have slipped something much safer and impossible to detect. People who conjure vast conspiracy theories often forget that many improbable things in life happen due to sheer human stupidity and carelessness.

  16. Dear Swoggler,

    I want to take up your penultimate point about the US and about whether or not it should shut up about Russian elections.

    Russian elections are a Russian concern. It is for Russians and Russians only to decide whether their elections are fair or not and it is for Russians and Russians only to decide who they elect to lead them. It is emphatically not for outsiders to do any of these things. The US should not therefore be commenting or interfering in the conduct of Russian elections even if the conduct of its own elections was exemplary, which by the way it is not.

    The damage that such interference causes is illustrated by the example of Golos. Let us assume for the sake of argument that Golos is an entirely impartial organisation and has no political agenda. The mere fact that it is however in communication with and apparently receiving money from a foreign government, in this case the US government, must inevitably raise doubts amongst Russians about its impartiality. Why should a foreign government want to fund such an agency in another country save in pursuit of its own interests? Golos’s credibly is thereby undermined and its work is made more not less difficult.

  17. Swoggler says:

    Mark, thanks for the clarifications. And yeah…the Biliderbergers crack was just for fun. Aren’t conspiracy nuts amusing?

    Alex, I can offer one possible explanation for America’s involvement with Golos. The U.S. benefits from alliances and agreements with other countries. America has done best in its short career with other democracies with healthy economies. Seems to me that it is in America’s best interests to encourage and develop as many free market democracies out there as possible. Perhaps they saw a lack of any impartial elections observers in Russia and thought they’d kick in a few grand. Seems like a small price to pay for the long-term long-shot of a free, fair, and transparent Russia.

    • marknesop says:

      Always a pleasure, Swoggler. It is indeed in every nation’s interest that wishes to better its standard of living through trade to encourage and develop as many free market democracies as possible. I’d venture to guess the U.S. has substantially more than “a few grand” sunk in “impartial” elections in Russia, but I couldn’t say the exact amount, so we’ll leave it at that. And to “free, fair and transparent” as aspirations for Russia, I’d add “independent”. If I thought any of the other candidates were as committed to the independence of Russia as Putin is, I’d be delighted to see them have a shot. It’s not so much Putin himself that I find compelling, although I confess I like his style. It’s the idea of a strong, independent Russia that doesn’t have to lick anybody’s boots and isn’t an international pariah. Anyone who can lead and achieve that is OK by me. Anybody but Boris Nemtsov, that is; I’m really starting to dislike that guy.

      • About $9 million per year, of which a third accrues to Golos. Make it perhaps $20 million for the black budget part.

        Still pocket change as far as big rich countries go.

        • marknesop says:

          Thanks for the figures, Anatoly!

          Apropos of nothing at all, I see in my morning BNE flash traffic that Mikhail Prokhorov will stand for election in the Presidential Sweepstakes, as well as that the tally in the Moscow protests was around 25,000 at the upper limit. According to BNE the expected 60,000 did not appear.

          Also, Alexei Kudrin is reputed to have ambitions to head a new liberal party. He is being credited as the sole architect of Russia’s economic good fortune – funny how things work out, what?

          For those who still doubt that Russia is being fitted for a colour revolution, it is the “White” or “Snow” revolution (the latter actually derived from the “revolution” in South Ossetia), so designated by the white ribbon displayed on Facebook pages and armbands. That this is being tried on almost exclusively by outside agitators, western media and the small crowd of permanently discontented Russian liberals should come as no surprise.

          • Hunter says:

            It’s funny, but I remember in one online article about the protests, there was a description of the colours of the flags of the various parties involved in the protests – red for the communists (although I have seen red-and-black anarchist flags as well which I suppose are associated with the communists), orange for Solidarnost and guess which party had white? Yabloko.

            Ah, here it is. The article I was referring to: http://russiaprofile.org/politics/51057.html

            What is interesting is that Yabloko is apparently still linked to Khodorkovsky (even calling for his release as part of its election campaign apparently)……

            • marknesop says:

              The flowers carried by the protesters, to be given to the police, is straight out of Tymoshenko’s Orange revolution playbook.

            • yalensis says:

              @Hunter: Thank you for comment and link.
              I was not there, but I doubt if communists would carry the red-and-black flag of the anarchists. Traditionally communists and anarchists are blood enemies.
              Russian Communists would most likely carry red banners with either a (large-white) or (small yellow) hammer and sickle insignia, as shown in this video in Ziuganov’s Near Year speech of last year. (Fast-forward to 3:15 minutes in to see what the flags look like when on parade.) Under no account would they carry red/black flags. (Unless things have really changed in the past year beyond recognition…. !

              • Hunter says:

                I guess they have, unless the anarchists were a separate group:


                In the gallery the third to last picture clearly shows a group holding the anarchist (or more specifically the anarcho-syndicalist/anarcho-communist) red-and-black flag (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_flag#Bisected_flags_and_stars).

                That kind of red-and-black is used by other persons who are often defined as communist:

                http://tomdiaz.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/castro1.jpg (look at his epaulette on his shoulder…)

                and by states which at one point ascribed to communism/socialism:


                • yalensis says:

                  Thanks for the link and slideshow, Hunter. For sure, the anarchists were there, you are right, that is definitely their flag (red and black). Looks like everybody and their grandmother was there. (Literally.) My point is that Anarchists and Communist (well, let me be more specific: Marxist-Leninists) are not usually very friendly with each other. There is a history there: Belinsky falling out with Bakunin in 1836, Marx/Engels vs. Bakunin in 1872, Lenin vs. anarchists at Kronstadt, etc etc – long story… Therefore, they must usually be kept separated like cats and dogs, and I suspect that they marched in separate groups.
                  I could be wrong… maybe everybody linked arms and sang “kumbaya”….

        • Dear Swoggler,

          I understand your point, which closely matches the kind of rationale you get from US spokesmen and apologists when they try to explain US interference in other countries. However it seems to me that there is an obvious flaw. Let us suppose that US intentions are basically benign. Let us go further and suppose that most people in the country affected believe that US intentions are benign. There are bound however to be some people who do not believe that those intentions are benign. Those people, who in any country will be at least a significant minority and who in a country like Russia may very well be a majority, will inevitably be more suspicious of those who benefit from US funding regardless of whether the purpose of that funding is benign or not. At the very least those beneficiaries of that funding will be open to the charge that their loyalty is not to their own country but to the US and as the old English saying puts it that they “love another realm more than this”.

          In addition what you say also shows why most people in a country like Russia may feel that US intentions are not benign. You say that it is in the US interest to promote democracies with “healthy market economies” and that this is why the US wants to encourage “impartial elections”. This however presupposes that the majority of people in a democracy will vote in “impartial elections” in a way that encourages the establishment of a free market economy. That may be true in some places but it may not be necessarily be true in all places. The strong showing of the Communists suggests that it may not for example be true in Russia. If so then interfering in the election process in pursuit of such an outcome, which is not the one that the majority of the people in the country want, frankly looks like an attempt to manipulate the process from afar.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          Just a note: I learned through the “Moon of Alabama” blog that the Levada Centre get money from the NED link.

  18. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Mark,

    You are absolutely right. Russia is targeted for a ‘colour revolution'(‘white revolution’). I’d thought you might be interested in this website:-
    Although not ‘free’ from ‘Western media bias’, I thought some business ‘politics risk stratification’ sites may be saner than the likes of those in New York Times, Financial Times and the usual bunch.

    yalensis was right after all for his worries that Russia is in Washington’s ‘main targets’ list. Hopefully the majority of Russians can see this malevolent ‘agitation’ by Washington’s stooges within Russia.


    • Dear SinoTibetan,

      Yalensis is absolutely right. Our Friends in Washington have never gone away and they emphatically do have Russia in their sights. They have always yearned to reverse the defeat they suffered during the crisis of 1998-1999, which brought Putin to power.

      However the events of the last two weeks shows the impossibility of the task they have set themselves. In the weeks before the election they did everything they could to encourage an internet campaign against the government. By way of example I am pretty sure they were behind the posting of the video of Putin being booed, which to my mind was simply a case of spin, and that they have also been directing the whole Navalny operation. The result of their policies has not however been to strengthen the position of the ultra liberals who they support but possibly to increase the vote for the left, though I think that would probably have increased anyway. Similarly I am sure that they were largely behind the original internet campaign that eventually led to the demo on Saturday only to have most of the people who turned up do so with flags and banners that identify them with the left. They then tried to inflame the situation by spreading through the internet stories about election fraud and about an imminent crackdown by the authorities with talk of the “streets running with blood” only to be confounded when the governnment allowed the demo to go ahead so that it happened in a quiet and orderly way. If you want to get a feel for their confusion and frustration you might like to read the editorial in today’s London Times, which struggles to make sense of Saturday’s events in a way which is consistent with its picture of Russia as a brutal dictatorship, though as it is behind a pay wall you may feel that there are better uses for your money.

      Russia has in my opinion evolved beyond the point where it is susceptible to the sort of manipulation that leads to “colour revolution” scenarios. That does not of course mean that those who are behind them have gone away or will give up trying.

      • yalensis says:

        @alex: If you click on “Play” for this C-span video, you get a good example of the main American propaganda line, which is basically “Russian people vs. Putin”. As if Putin is some isolated rogue who has the entire nation lined up against him. The flack they are interviewing (some Russia “expert” named David Satter, who I never heard of) makes sure to cover every single Navalny-ite talking point. Several times he repeats the Navalny slogan about “crooks and thieves”. At one point the interviewer asks him how many political parties were involved in the election. Satter’s eyes shift back and forth, he can’t admit that this is an actual multi-party system, that would violate the “dictatorship” narrative he is trying to feed the ignorant American viewer. So he ends up mentioning “Parnass” as the main opposition party.
        Amusingly, during the call-in segment, several American viewers start talking about their own concerns, like the predations of the elite and the “Occupy” movement, and so on; one caller mentions rigged elections in the USA, and Satter quickly tries to draw them back on point. No, no, this is about how horrible Russia is!

        • marknesop says:

          “Middle-aged people who remember those glorious days of perestroika, and want to bring them back”.

          My God. That would make a turnip laugh out loud. How many trips would you have to make across Russia to find a person who remembers the “days of perestroika” as “glorious”?

          Let me remind Russia how the west received that open and honest offer to change its ways and to become more transparent. With cynical opportunism, and scheming as to how best to bring the country down so that it could never recover. That’s what you can expect this time around, too, liberatsi, so have no illusions about how the west will turn Russia into a prosperous democracy with oodles of freedom and meteoric careers for all – for nothing but the pleasure of seeing Russians happy and free.

          Dream on.

        • rkka says:

          “(some Russia “expert” named David Satter, who I never heard of)”

          Satter is a flack for Loony Saak the warmongering tie-muncher and inveterate Putin-phobe. The Hudson Institute is packed with ’em:


          • yalensis says:

            Ha! Thanks, rkka. Sounds like that Hudson Institute generates an awful lot of hot air! I wonder what is the annual salary for a “Senior Fellow” ?

    • Hunter says:

      A “white” revolution must surely be a case of one of the most ill-advised names ever when it comes to Russia (with the “Whites” and the “Reds” from the Civil War). Just the name alone is probably enough to ensure that if it looked even halfway likely to happen you would have the communists teaming up with UR just to prevent it from happening.

      • marknesop says:

        Ha, ha…yes, it does seem an ill-advised choice. As far as I can make out, it was co-opted from the political upheaval in South Ossetia, which was quickly assigned the tag, “The Snow Revolution”. Everything to do with politics now must be a Something Revolution; it’s just so catchy and evokes images of excited fringe students hugging one another in steamy coffehouses while the grey-faced old men in the crumbling administration try desperately to stem the tide…very Le Resistance.

        Incidentally, it’s surprising there wasn’t more press coverage of that magnificent revolution, because in that case also the Kremlin favourite got the bulk of the votes although exit polls allegedly suggested her opponent was the winner. Maybe the opportunity for a new Colour Revolution in Russia dictated the South Ossetia election was overtaken in importance by events. No use letting a perfectly good name go to waste, though, is there?

        Anyway, I hadn’t picked up on the white flag/Yabloko link. I’m tempted to think it was a coincidence; a matter of somebody in the Slogans Department reasoning, “let’s see…. we started out with flowers, then went to colours and briefly to trees…the easily-led that we rely upon are going to start getting confused if we start bringing in meteorology. Better stick with colours”.

        I see Brian Whitmore at The Power Vertical has taken to calling the revolutionaries “The Decembrists”. That’s an even more unfortunate choice.

        • Whoever came up with this White Ribbon idea as a revolutionary meme is an utter idiot.

          Ed Lucas seems to be the only one enthusiastic about it. (See his Twitter feed).

          • marknesop says:

            Whew!! That was an epiphany if ever I experienced one. I went to your link, and to my astonishment, there was a picture of Ed Lucas in the right sidebar (third photo down). Then I thought, no: it just looks like Ed Lucas – actually, it’s a closeup of someone’s asshole. Imagine my chagrin when I learned I was wrong both times – it’s somebody’s eye.

            • marknesop says:

              Never mind; I didn’t realize the photos change every time. Your chances of ending up on the Ed Lucas/asshole/eyeball photo montage the first time are slim. You’ll just have to trust me on it.

            • yalensis says:

              All I saw was a picture of a deformed cat and another one of a sex orgy. Same principle, I guess….

  19. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Alexander,

    Thank you for your comments. I am really saddened to see what America has ‘evolved’ into. I am not really ‘anti-American'(although I’ve being accused of being one far too many times) but perhaps one reason America cannot resolve her own (very serious) problems is this constant planning to manipulate the domestic politics of other nations – surely wasting a lot of talent and money as well. And all these not for constructive but purely destructive ends. It really makes no sense at all!

    Just typing ‘Russia’ or ‘Putin’ in Google News and out spouts hundreds upon hundreds of ‘news'(mostly from the West or, in many third world country media, deeply influenced by Western portrayal)of ‘how imminent’ Putin’s downfall is going to be etc. The constant repetitions and exaggerations smell of propaganda. Perhaps it is to boost the morale of techno-savvy ‘protest mood’ Russians – to stoke further ‘demonstrations’? Or else I don’t see why they repeat the same ‘analysis’ again and again until it just sounds that it might come true soon.


  20. kievite says:

    The U.S. benefits from alliances and agreements with other countries.
    I beg to differ. Several prominent US Politians criticize the USA empire (Ron Paul in current presidential elections is one example; see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWpICzxteMk ).
    And my opinion is that it is not healthy for the USA and corrupts internal USA political processes, making an oligarchic republic that exists more and more middle class hostile (see recent 1% vs. 99% slogans) despite pretty high level of middle class incomes. It also costs the USA tremendous amount of money (maintaining 150 military bases abroad) and military budget that is an order of magnitude larger than the next state (Us (43% of total world spending, China 7.3%).

    So it is difficult to dispute that empirical thinking is at the heart of the USA foreign policy. It’s the essence of USA foreign policy, not some aberration. This is well established fact. See (CIA approved 😉 version at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_imperialism
    I think the most interesting and comprehensive critique of the USA empire was given by Pat Buchanan and Andrew Bacevich. The latter’s 2004 book American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01375-1 is well worth reading as well as more recent “Limits of Power”. In it he argues that (quote is from NYT review – which means the establishment point of view):

    …the country’s founding principle — freedom — has become confused with appetite, turning America’s traditional quest for liberty into an obsession with consumption, the never-ending search for more. To accommodate this hunger, pandering politicians have created an informal empire of supply, maintaining it through constant brush-fire wars. Yet the foreign-policy apparatus meant to manage that empire has grown hideously bloated and has led the nation into one disaster after another.
    … … …
    …the United States government was mutating as well. Responding to the shocks of the Communist revolution in China, the Soviets’ atom bomb and the onset of the Korean War, Washington created a vast new permanent security apparatus, consisting of the Pentagon, the F.B.I., the C.I.A. (along with the smaller intelligence agencies) and the National Security Council. These bodies, and a compliant Congress, enabled a huge expansion in executive power.
    Still, this new setup might have been fine, Bacevich argues, had it worked the way it was supposed to. But of course it didn’t. The vast bureaucracy quickly proved more hindrance than help; individual agencies put their interests above the nation’s; the generals just looked out for themselves and their particular services. Frustrated presidents from John Kennedy on turned to informal kitchen cabinets for advice, shutting out the newly established security system. And things quickly fell apart. In relatively short order we got the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, the ’70s oil crisis, Lebanon, Star Wars, the Persian Gulf war of 1991, Somalia, Kosovo and then, after 9/11, the “Long War” on terror, which has made conflict a “permanent condition.” Then came Iraq: proof, for Bacevich, of our political, economic and military rot.

    Economist was even more scalding in the review of the book:

    …the constitution has been perverted by the expansion of the presidency and by national security, at the expense of Congress. Concluding that America’s military power “turns out to be quite limited”, he argues that the country “doesn’t need a bigger army. It needs a smaller—that is, more modest—foreign policy, one that assigns soldiers on missions that are consistent with their capabilities.”
    This might sound as though his was a shrill voice of the left. It is not. Mr. Bacevich is a former colonel in the American army who is now a professor of international relations and history at Boston University. But he does share much of the left’s analysis of what has gone wrong. This includes both its dislike of what he calls (quoting the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr) the “most grievous temptations to self-adulation” brought about by American exceptionalism, and its perception that America has long been accumulating an empire. But he comes to these conclusions from the position of a genuine conservative.

    He expresses his judgments, some grumpy, some anguished, in sharp, epigrammatic language. “A grand bazaar”, he writes, “provides an inadequate basis upon which to erect a vast empire.” Americans have recast the Jeffersonian trinity—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—to read: “Whoever dies with the most toys wins”; “Shop till you drop”; and “If it feels good, do it.”

    “Citizens”, he remarks with justice, “yearn for a restoration of a mythical Old Republic. Yet one might as well hope for the revival of the family farm or for physicians to resume making house calls.” Beginning with the election of John Kennedy, he writes, “the occupant of the White House has become a combination of demigod, father figure, and, inevitably, the betrayer of inflated hopes.”

    People complain of what Arthur Schlesinger called “the imperial presidency”. But this, snorts Mr. Bacevich, is “mere posturing”. For members of the political class, serving, gaining access to, reporting on, second-guessing or gossiping about the emperor-president (or about those aspiring to succeed him) has become an abiding preoccupation.

    In this respect I think interference in Russia election can be legitimately viewed at the attempt to pursue the USA imperial security goals (access to energy and other natural resources), not so much as the promotion of diplomacy and enabling it to have more democratic friends. Actually the key representatives of opposing parties such as Mironov (acts as unchallenged dictator within own party), Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky and, especially, sleazy Kasyanov (the relic from Yeltsin “family” ) are dirty, corrupt and authoritarian type players in comparison with whom Putin looks like a saint. While Putin return to power is not without problems, in this respect the cure by such “democrats” is probably worse then disease.

    The question we need to think in this respect is: “Does the second reincarnation of Yeltsin’s years with associated instability and internal uprisings serves long term USA national interests?”
    If the answer is no, then this policy is short-sighted at best and should be opposed by any real USA patriot.

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  22. Swoggler says:

    As to your points, they seem to encourage a policy of isolationism for America. By your first argument, everyone in the notional foreign country should welcome America’s involvement or else the U.S. should butt out lest they taint the process with even the hint of their influence. I’m sorry, but this is fantasy…almost worthy of an economist in its non-real-world-applicability. Everything America has done or encouraged overseas since the dawn of the Republic has irked somebody. If America waited for 100% buy-in before making a move it would wait forever. That just isn’t a realistic expectation.

    And you’re quite correct when you point out that a non-Putin Russian government might not result in an economy friendly to America. Then again, it might also produce a government that encourages free markets and meaningful law enforcement which would bring investors in with their billions and everyone would benefit. What if right?

    Sino, I’ll include you in this next bit but it’s directed at Alex too. I think you guys overestimate Russia’s importance to America. I’ll admit that Putin isn’t a beloved figure in America…but Americans by and large just don’t care what happens over here. There are many reasons for this that I could enumerate but the idea that the Eye of Sauron is fixed upon Moscow, tricking people by the tens of thousands into demonstrating, whispering evil while distributing white ribbons, is silly. For one thing, it infantilizes Russians and suggests that they can’t make their own decisions about governments they like/don’t like. For another, it suggests an omnipotence and omnipresence of American clandestine and overt agencies that makes me and most Americans chuckle.

    And Kievite, you lost me at me at Ron Paul.

    Wait a second….is this blog an echo chamber for “Wouldn’t it be great if America was isolationist?” Darn.

    • kievite says:

      And Kievite, you lost me at Ron Paul. “
      I sincerely apologize. Never again I will quote anything from random libertarian (aka anarcho-capitalist) politicians even if they are close to so loved by Fox News Tea Party movement. Only from approved by Fox News politicians 🙂

      As for “a government that encourages free markets” God forbid. We already seen on the USA example the classic path of the state under such a government: dot com bubble — real estate bubble — burst of overleveraged Wall street banks – government bailout of said banks — debt ceiling problem — external debt crisis — mass learning of Chinese language.
      It’s kind of sad that the USSR no longer exists or ugly bronze monuments to Chairman Greenspan would beatify a lot of public squares. I suspect even “The Hero of Soviet Union” award might be in play ;-).

      Where you are right is that current economic difficulties that Russia experience since 2008 probably are more important in generating discontent then any external influences. But you forget that external influences can serve as a catalyze of pre-existing discontent, channeling it in such a way that “power that be” are really squeezed and “regime change” in in play. That’s what the word “destabilization” is about. Also the idea of “falsification of falsifications” is a really brilliant one if you think about it.

      As for “Wouldn’t it be great if America was isolationist?” I would suggest that the USA passed the point of no return as for voluntary change of the foreign policy course. It is now became hostage of its own empire. I suggest you to think about the question “Would the existing top 1% and their institutions allow the USA to become isolationist?” The right answer is NO and unfortunately in mature oligarchic republics only deep economic crisis can produce countervailing social forces because labor movement is castrated and “intelligencia” (including students) is by and large bought. Short of bankruptcy nothing can stop this foreign policy steamroller. That’s why bankruptcy is the typical end for empires.

      • hoct says:

        As for “a government that encourages free markets” God forbid. We already seen on the USA example the classic path of the state under such a government: dot com bubble — real estate bubble — burst of overleveraged Wall street banks – government bailout of said banks — debt ceiling problem — external debt crisis — mass learning of Chinese language.

        Lol, it took me a little bit of time to get it, but it’s a good one. You’re absolutely right, God save us from a government that encourages free markets.

        It’s kind of sad that the USSR no longer exists or ugly bronze monuments to Chairman Greenspan would beatify a lot of public squares. I suspect even “The Hero of Soviet Union” award might be in play 😉 .

        Absolutely, only the best for the Soviet Commissar of Interest Rates!

    • rkka says:

      “Sino, I’ll include you in this next bit but it’s directed at Alex too. I think you guys overestimate Russia’s importance to America”

      Go ahead and think that. Reality is very different, and is obviously foreign territory to you. The US has an army in Afghanistan that is dependent on Russia for the transit of its reinforcements and supplies now that Pakistan has closed the border crossings into Afghanistan.

      It is Russia that is not dependent on the US. Russia has partners that are far more important than the US, like France, Germany, The Netherlands, and China. Russia’s trade with these countries is higher than Russia’s trade with the US., and it comes without a lot of whiny irrelevant lectures.

    • hoct says:

      Lets face it, you are a boob making an argument from a position of ignorance. That you aren’t aware of something and that something makes you “chuckle” isn’t an argument. What Americans “by and large” care about has jack shit to do with anything the least of all what their government actually does.

      But hey, kudos for producing the level of cringeworthyness, only the thickest mixture of fanatical naivete and aloof patronage can accomplish. I’m sorry, I must have lost you at “promoting and developing free market democracies”. Just how much of an imbecile do you have to be to swallow that?

    • Hunter says:

      Then again, it might also produce a government that encourages free markets and meaningful law enforcement which would bring investors in with their billions and everyone would benefit. What if, right?

      How would it do that? Based on opinion polls, exit polls and the elections (and the chief of Yabloko’s own admission) the parties most likely to produce such a government that are NOT United Russia (and perhaps Fair Russia) would not get more than 10% in an election. In 1993 the nationalist (some would say outright fascist) Liberal Democrats got the largest number of votes with almost 23% of the electorate approving them. Their share has since halved but it has been fairly stable at around 8-12%. The communists have also seen their share fluctuate at around 12-24%. If say the US were to encourage the removal of UR through pumping money into the election process the most likely result will see the communists, Fair Russia and the Liberal Democrats all increasing their vote share (I could easily see it being 25%, 25% and 15%) and the parties that the US would want to win would probably have a dismal showing. Even under that scenario UR would probably still pull 25% of the vote, because it is not likely to lose all support (note that the Party of Regions in Ukraine didn’t just disappear with the Orange Revolution and still had a base of support).

      A lot of the color revolutions have failed (from the US perspective) because they weren’t founded on truly widespread/near universal discontent but on discontent among about half of the populace. So Kyrgyzstan’s “Tulip Revolution” has resulted in a more democratic (and more ethnically tense) Kyrgyzstan but has NOT resulted in a less pro-Russian Kyrgyzstan and basically all the leading politicians seems to support closer ties with Russia. Ukraine’s Orange Revolution was based entirely on the anti-Party of Regions segment of the population but it imploded because there wasn’t anything holding the lot together other than their opposition to the Party of Regions (so Yushchenko and Tymoshenko ended up quickly fighting over power) and besides which the leader of that Revolution wasn’t actually a capable leader (note that within the space of one term he and his party went from 50% support to about 5% support – not even George W. Bush at his worst could match that feat). The reason the one in Georgia succeeded is because Shevardnadze was already losing support from within and pretty much everyone wanted to see the back of him (note that his Citizens’ Union of Georgia does not seem to have figured significantly in any elections after 2003).

  23. yalensis says:

    This piece by Fred Weir from the Christian Science Monitor is surprisingly balanced. Is not that great a piece, but at least it has a minimal almost Marxist-type analysis of the class forces involved, e.g., most demonstrators represent middle class professionals and small business capitalists who have actually benefitted from Putin era. They are not revolutionaries, but maybe they would like a political party all their own. Author recommends to arch-capitalist Prokhorov to become the voice of this class. That seems like a sound plan to me: Those 30,000 demonstrators could vote for Prokhorov instead of Yabloko.
    Most interestingly, author refrains from the “Vlad the impaler” type rhetoric prominent in Western media coverage. He does not demonize Putin. He correctly points out that Putin positions himself somewhat above the fray. Currently Putin is being very quiet. He is thinking and analyzing what to do next. I would add, in my own Marxist-type analysis, that Putin had aspired to the “Napoleonic” role of standing above classes and above class conflict and representing all of Russia. That mode worked for him in the past, but will not work any more, now that class divisions and class struggle is intensifying (across the globe, not just in Russia). Now, if he wishes to be President, Putin needs to make a choice and lead a party. He must become an ordinary politician, and not Napoleon any more.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      Hi Yalensis,
      I had the impression that most of Saturday’s protesters actually were pro-KPRF, with only an handful of the liberast type. This makes sense to me, since it explains the high numbers (25-40000) that the liberasts were never able to gather, the lack of incidents with the police and the organisational level of the demonstrator. I’ve read that some troublemakers were expelled by the demonstrators themselves, meaning there was a kind of self-policing. Unlike Fred Weir I don’t believe the “spontaneous alchemy of mass networking”.
      Re. Prokhorov, he is going on with the cardinal sin of the liberals: the inability to find a common platform, candidate and converge into a single party. This is a luxury that a political group that barely reaches a 5-7% consensus can’t afford.

      • marknesop says:

        That “spontaneous alchemy of mass networking” nonsense is – much like the “Arab Spring” itself – predicated on a process similar to the Power of Positive Thinking; the concentrated focus of the media insists it is a kind of modern magic against which there is no defense, so it must be so. In fact there is a good deal of old-fashioned pick-and-shovel work going on, OTPOR-style community organizing, training in networking and using social media to spread dissent, how to get noticed by the authorities and how to rally people to your cause, and how to get arrested in a manner that will make you a martyr and make the authorities look like brutes for enforcing the law. It may even be OTPOR themselves, although I doubt it. The techniques are widely enough known now that it could be any one of a field of democracy advocacy groups.

        This would all be lovely if, as I’ve said before, the aim at bottom was to make Russia a better country, with freedom to do as you please and great salaries and generous pensions and human rights out the wazoo. It isn’t – it’s dangling something shiny in front of the population so it will overthrow its government, thus doing the west’s heavy lifting for it. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest nobody would realize any benefits at all if revolution removed the government and the west managed to install a toady government. Failing to deliver on any of the promises would only bring more revolution, only this time directed against the western surrogates. But it would be just enough to keep the people quiet, and no more, and much of it would be cheap gratifications that cost little but look flashy.

        It’s a pity to have to mistrust the west’s motives, since I am a westerner myself, but repeated examples suggest the west cannot be satisfied with simply establishing its version of democracy, investing and making money. Nobody expects those who risk much to do it for free. But no; it has to control everything, and make crazy money. It doesn’t have to do it directly – the west has long wanted to wrest control of global energy from OPEC, and it is slowly but surely tightening its grip on the world’s energy supplies; initiating revolutions, throwing out the government and getting its own industries in on the ground floor. Those deposed by “Twitter Revolutions” tend to be nationalists who retained tight state control of national energy resources, and those who are empowered tend to take power owing the west a debt of gratitude for their position. Western global giants begin to control more and more of the world’s resources, and anyone who buys that “Putin uses energy as coercion” argument and thinks the west would not do the same if it were in control is optimistic indeed.

        It’s unlikely to work in Russia; it manifestly would never have worked in Libya without military intervention, since the cookie-cutter rebels numbered considerably less than those involved in the Moscow demonstrations and were losing badly when NATO entered the picture and began flying combat missions for al Qaeda. But it would be wise to note how the west was able to take a tiny group of radicals, talk them up as mainstream and steadily build the narrative in the western press until it became reality.

        Democracy as an ideal is fabulous. In practice it tends to lose some of its lustre. The USA is the world’s model democracy, Land of the Free. It has a two-party system (theoretically) with a strong opposition. Most of you have noticed the current government is powerless, and couldn’t get a school lunch program passed in today’s climate of lockstep opposition. Is that what Russian liberals want, with their cacophony about political diversity? A myriad of political parties all agitating against anything getting done until attention is paid to their own pet projects and government funding directed to their constituents on a preferential basis? The effect that will have is to weaken a strong government until it can’t get anything done, and it’ll be voted out at the first opportunity. Problem solved.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          If I understand you correctly, then the KPRF wasn’t the main force that propped Saturday’s protest?
          I have a couple of reasons not to believe the “spontaneous alchemy of mass networking” stories:
          1) Long before the internet there were “spontaneous alchemy of mass something”, i.e. protests organised by a party or a trade union that tried to disguise themselves as a spontaneous grassroots movement. I stumbled upon one of these when I was a student at the University.
          2) If you dig in the internet you can find some unknown and fringe political group that on “paper”, or better on facebook, looks about the same size as the “spontaneous” groups that get airtime on traditional medias. That is to say tens of thousands supporters, but their “physical” demonstrations are limited to at best one hundred protesters and are ignored by the media. Obviously, what makes the difference is the support of the traditional medias and some well-greased structure, which is the privilege of those groups connected with some established political organisation, like a party or a trade union.

          • marknesop says:

            Not to blogwhore the site or anything (because I just cited it as a reference on Mark Adomanis as well), but there is an excellent piece at the National Interest, entitled “Behind The Clinton-Putin Face-Off”, by Paul Saunders (Associate Publisher of the magazine, and former U.S. State Department wonk from 2003-2005). Mr. Saunders advances the view that the makeup of the protesters (which he suggests may have comprised many liberals) is less important than the in-your-face fact that 43% of the electorate just voted for three left-of-centre nationalist parties. The thrust of his article, which made a great deal of sense to me, is that Washington consistently misprioritizes its contacts with Russians; to be more specific:

            “…American officials ostentatiously meet with Russia’s opposition leaders whenever they visit Moscow but give vastly disproportionate time and attention to people with a tiny political constituency. Lower-level officials do the same, concentrating on individuals and groups that often receive U.S. government funding. This is no way to understand what is happening in Russia…”

            And, just in case it seems that refreshing view was an accident:

            “The December 4 State Duma election suggests that the United States is profoundly disconnected from Russia’s electorate. If Russia’s domestic politics do begin to matter, and opposition parties actually gain a degree of real influence any time soon, Washington might find itself profoundly disconnected from Russia’s political system as well. While it is not fully known whose supporters were in the streets—and in Moscow and St. Petersburg, many of the demonstrators may well have been liberals—at least 43 percent of Russian voters just endorsed three left-of-center nationalist parties. How do the White House and the State Department plan to reach them and to engage with their leaders?”

            I can only hope Boris Nemtsov reads it, because I’m getting profoundly tired of seeing his pretty-boy face every time I turn on the news (figuratively speaking – I actually almost never watch television, and get most of my news from the internet) as he puffs up like a toad with self-importance. Boris Nemtsov, for all his swaggering and adopting the liberals’ gang colours, has as much chance of being president as he does of being voted Miss Universe, and all the time spent courting him for another juicy anti-Putin soundbite might as well have been spent blowing up “Nemtsov For President” balloons for all the use it was.


            • Hunter says:

              I think a good indicator of this supposed disconnect is the latest speculation on Prokhorov. Look what happens when you search for “kremlin stooge” in google. You get stories like this:


              and this:


              Yet according to the narrative in the western press we have the impossible situation of opposition parties and figures which are gaining (or supposedly have) popular support, who at the same time are being blocked by the kremlin (Right Cause) BUT who are also puppets of the kremlin.

              This really makes no sense. So Prokhorov formed an independent party which was secretly founded by the omnipotent kremlin but then got booted from his own party by the same kremlin only to now return as a challenger for the presidency under the direction of the kremlin.

              I remember an interview conducted on BBC with someone from Russia Profile and it revealed what was possibly the real reason why Prokhorov got kicked out of his party – he ran it like a business (authoritarian-style) and was apparently quite rude and brought in a lot of outsiders. It should come as no surprise that if you are going to treat fellow members of your party this way that you will inspire them to kick you out. They aren’t your employees but your colleagues and they don’t have to take abuse and insults (such as bringing in people from outside). This however seems to be ignored by the mainstream media.

              • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                Hi Hunter,
                the party (Right Cause) wasn’t formed by Prokhorov, he joined it and was elected as its leader. I too have read that the real problems between Prokhorov and Right Cause was that he behaved as the owner, Berlusconi-style, rather than just the leader. But unlike Berlusconi he wasn’t the owner of the party he was leading. See this for example.

        • yalensis says:

          @mark, you make a very good point about the sheer amount of grunt work involved in political and community organizing. Nothing is easy or spontaneous, and it certainly isn’t done by magic. Organizing humans is as difficult and time-consuming as herding cats.
          You also make a very good point about West not needing a whole lot of people to foment a revolution/regime change in a targeted country. A few thousand militants will do, a small tool can be very effective if used correctly. It is like what Archimedes said about a fulcrum, that if he had one that was placed correctly he could move the entire planet.

          • marknesop says:

            “It is like what Archimedes said about a fulcrum, that if he had one that was placed correctly he could move the entire planet.”

            I cannot conceive of a more perfect analogy.

      • yalensis says:

        @Giuseppe: You are right that there is no such thing as a spontaneous demonstration. The fact that there were porto-potties is proof that somebody did some advance planning!

    • apc27 says:

      What annoys me the most about these demonstrators (and destroys their credibility in my eyes) is that they allow this cohort of liberast-parasite traitors like Nemtsov and Co. to hijack their legitimate cause and use it to attempt to bring ruin on the whole of Russia.

      Was it so difficult to boo these bastards every time they tried to speak, to interrupt their friendly chats with the press, with the demonstrators in the background, to make absolutely clear to everyone that they see these traitors for what they are???????

      Had they done that, the capital, the entire country would have applauded them. Their numbers would have grown to hundreds of thousands, I mean all of us want free and fair elections, and they might have actually ACHIEVED something, as the government would have had to treat them as serious people with serious concerns, rather than a bunch of dupes used by the West. But did it happen? Noooooooooooo. Well, if they would allow themselves to be used as dupes, how can you treat them seriously?

      • yalensis says:

        Very good point, apc. There could have been many more people who wanted to demonstrate for better elections but, knowing how foreigners were poking around and meddling in the process, didn’t want to give them the satisfaction and so stayed home. Thus does Western meddling spoil what could be a positive internal development.

    • Chrisius Imperator Maximus Omnipotensque says:

      Fred Weir used to write for the newspaper of the Communist Party of Canada, so use of Marxist-type analysis is not surprising.

      • yalensis says:

        Ooooo! I did not know that! Thanks, Imperator, very interesting…. It always did seem to me subjectively that Christian Science Monitor is more “fair and balanced” in its foreign coverage than most other American media.

        • marknesop says:

          I didn’t, either, it’s interesting and explains a few things as you suggest, Chris. I find the Monitor‘s Russia coverage horrible – skewed, cliche-riddled and deliberately provocative, much like Kathy Lally’s in the Washington Post. It’s not news, it’s ideology with a costume.

  24. kievite says:

    An interesting tidbit about “democrat” Nemtsev (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Nemtsov), who is, as you can guess, is strongly against “corrupt and cruel Putin’s regime”. According to Wikipedia he:

    .. co-founded the “Committee 2008”, an umbrella group of the Russian opposition which also included Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Bukovsky and other prominent liberals[.

    ..a strong supporter of the eventual winner [of Ukranian Orange Revolution] Viktor Yushchenko,

    …co-founded with Gary Kasparov the political opposition movement Solidarnost (Solidarity) on 13 December 2008

    …is among the 34 first signatories of the online anti-Putin manifesto “Putin must go”, published on 10 March 2010.

    Now a glimpse into Nemtsov’s regime: a person who asked him an “inconviniet” question kicked in the face by a bodyguard:

  25. Swoggler says:

    Oh dear Mark, are you going back to the ‘maybe there weren’t any violations’ argument? That’s becoming a lonely side of the street.

    Let me try a different tack here to explain why I don’t support the premise that shadowy Western organizations are the brains behind this Russian backlash against rigged elections. It’s very simple and might even appeal to the knee-jerk America-haters that like to congregate here and congratulate each other on their awesomeness and perspicacity. It is this, “Americans can’t keep secrets”.

    Oh sure, maybe one or two Yankees can keep their mouths shut about this or that. But as more and more people join the coverup/cabal/conspiracy someone starts to get cold feet or begins to consider a book/movie deal. Pick your favorite low point in US history…Watergate, the run up to the Iraq War…the truth comes out.

    By your own admission what’s going on in Russia would need thousands of American-influenced toadies to ah, ‘leverage’ the situation. You’re telling me that not one of those guys will feel remorse and do an interview with Channel 1? Citizen journalists and activists have posted dozens of videos capturing United Russia’s ballot stuffing excesses. You’re suggesting that the FSB and true red-blooded Russian patriots lack the similar wherewithal to infiltrate and capture nefarious deeds in progress? (a briefcase of money here, a screencap of an email saying “bring your minions to Bolotnaya! Myuh-hah-hah!!”?) RiaNovosti reported on the Nashi rally that happened on the 12th (Constitution Day…yay!) and said that it ended after a mere 30 minutes because Rogozin and Kobzon couldn’t get the reluctant kids bused in for the occasion chanting any slogans. Interviewees in the crowd said that they were forced to come by teachers or bosses. Ouch. But wasn’t anyone doing interviews on Bolotnaya? Where are the videos of those admitting that they were only there for the 20 bucks?

    You want to ignore hard evidence in favor of innuendo and theory? Hey, it’s your blog. But even other Putin-apologist blogs are coming to realize that something is happening in Russia that isn’t going according to anyone’s plan (see Anatoly Karlin’s excellent AJ piece).

    And by the way, I agree that the Western media is far too fixated on Nemtsov. I’ve met the guy…I don’t like him. But it’s not like he’s the only other choice for president besides Vlad. There are millions of people in Russia. If elections here were truly open, free, and fair then I’m certain excellent candidates that the Western media has never heard of would rise to the occasion.

    • apc27 says:

      Typical liberal naivete.

      Do you think in America there ever will be a President without VERY close ties (if not a member) to either of the two parties?

      Do you think Britain is even remotely likely to have a Prime Minister from neither of the major parties?

      Do you think that ANYWHERE a person can just “emerge”, without an absolutely catastrophic upheaval taking place in their country?

      I am not writing this as an exercise in “whataboutism”. This is simply how the REAL world works. If something were to happen to Putin, the person to replace him would be one of the establishment candidates. Anyone really independent and unknown at the present would simply be CRUSHED by the power players in Kremlin before they would have even the remotest of chances of taking power and when I say crushed, I do mean it literally. There are groups and individuals there with such ENORMOUS appetites and resources, without any morals or regard for the rules, aside from the obvious respect of strength and power but that is more of a survival instinct, that its simply impossible to govern Russia without an extremely capable power-base of your own. And where would a complete newcomer get one? From our “friends” in the West?

      Even an extremely capable politician like Putin, we can disagree about his other qualities, but in this regard his career speaks for itself, needed almost a decade to only begin to move that VERY cumbersome ship of the state in the direction he wants it to go. So someone completely new comes along, somehow manages to survive, gets himself elected and then what? Does he have a power-base, the party apparatus, his own people in government to make sure that his decrees are not just empty proclamations and are being followed? How much time will be wasted while he reinvents the wheel and builds his own power-base, just like Putin had done?

      Anyway, the whole point is that if Putin were gone tomorrow there would be no unknown “saviour” coming along to deliver us all to the promised land. The only choice would be from the tired all faces of the establishment and none of them have even a iota of Putin’s leadership qualities. If by some accident or someone’s devious design a new force will be thrust into Russian politics, there will be war. Tanks would once again be firing on government buildings, Caucasus will once again drown in fire and blood and in the ensuing confusion, animals in human skin would once again prey on the innocents. This is not a fantasy. This is what happened each time a radical change was forced upon Russia. And each time, no matter how bad things were before, it never turned out to be worth it. Worth all the blood and broken lives paving the way to some naive fool’s dream, encouraged by oh so enlightened, democratic and humanitarian West.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, Nemtsov seems to have that effect on people; a little of him seems to go a long way – although I’m glad to hear it confirmed once more, as I’ve never met him personally and am not likely to. He has it in him to be a good public speaker; inspirational, perhaps, but he revels too much in playing the brave victim. I doubt Putin really has it in for him, since his influence is pretty miniscule in Russia (and who cares what people think of him elsewhere?), but the telling part for me was his lousy showing in the Sochi mayoral election. He did dismally on that occasion, and although he complained he couldn’t get equal advertising time, there’s no doubt everyone in Sochi of voting age knew who he was and that he was on the ballot.

      I didn’t say there was no fixing in the election; I said Avigdor Lieberman’s observers claimed to have not seen any. I’m sure of two things – the Israeli observer base was proportionately small, and they couldn’t be everywhere. The videos of alleged vote-rigging where people cannot be identified prove nothing; there is ample precedent in western democracies – who fancy themselves honest – of fakery used to discredit one party or another, or the opposite extreme, such as gubernatorial candidates who write their own endorsement letters and ask constituents to sign them and send them to their local newspaper. What would western observers make of that sort of performance by Kadyrov, for example? Would they just shrug and say, “what’s on CNN?” Running phony websites using the name of a candidate from the other political party, for the purpose of discrediting him? Guilty as charged, and the victim lost by only 322 votes. How would that be received in the western press if it were a political operative for United Russia pretending to be Zyuganov? I can smell teeth grinding already. If political operatives in Russia have ever pulled anything as fundamentally dishonest as the “Brooks Brothers Riot” in 2000, I’ve never heard about it. Remember that one? Let’s recap. In tightly contested Florida, the ballot recount was underway. A crowd of “demonstrators” rushed the offices of the Miami-Dade supervisor of elections, and forced a halt to the recount when the demonstration turned violent. Video records later revealed the leaders of the rush were paid Republican operatives, at least half a dozen of the ringleaders paid by the George W. Bush recount committee. New York Republican John Sweeney ordered the rush on the office, and many went on to lucrative and powerful jobs in the Bush White House.

      I specifically mentioned in the post incidents in which pressure was illegally applied by employers to influence the vote, and I’m satisfied justice was done in such instances. Videos that show somebody allegedly voting multiple times or shady deals in a car do not prove anything until the individuals can be positively identified. As we’ve already established, prejudicial videos are easy to make and readily accepted; websites like The Power Vertical brag about them “going viral”, and people are quick to believe what they want to believe.

      You seem to have a real absolutism thing going on there; if I don’t like something, it must mean I hate it. If I dislike certain policies favoured by the United States government, I’m an America-hater. Quite a few of the commenters here are Americans, and wouldn’t live anywhere else. It’s a great country. But there is no tool of coercion that the U.S. government will shrink from using to guard what it perceives as its interests. Is the determination to democratize Russia institutionalized in America? You tell me; here’s the fall syllabus for the Political Science course at Rutgers: an interesting line from the course overview – “The United States of America depends on some of these countries for
      the successful completion of the operations in Afghanistan, while Europeans try to diminish their dependence on Russia, by building new pipelines thoughout the region. Hence, we will explore whether there is a link between the richness in resources and the prospects for democratization.”
      . Your attention is drawn to item 24 – “The Russian resistance to democratization. The Color Revolutions: Rose, Orange, Tulip and Twitter revolutions”. Study material on which this objective relied was Michael McFaul’s, “Importing Revolution: Internal and External Factors in Ukraine’s 2004 Democratic Breakthrough“, and Corry Welt’s “Georgia’s Rose Revolution: from Regime Weakness to Regime Collapse”.

      • yalensis says:

        OMG: FINAL PAPERS DEADLINE: December 16
        That is day after tomorrow!
        And quite a reading list too.
        Hurry, Rutgers students, time is short, write write write!
        (or, should I say, “cut and paste”, “cut and paste”, “cut and paste”)

  26. rkka says:

    “There are millions of people in Russia. If elections here were truly open, free, and fair then I’m certain excellent candidates that the Western media has never heard of would rise to the occasion.”

    So, the rethuglican clown show now on display demonstrates that the US elections are not truly open, free, and fair because they’re the best a country of 300 million can do?

    • marknesop says:

      Ooooooo….right between the fifth and sixth ribs. One of those answers that makes you say, “I wish I had though of that”. Although I would normally say “Republican” was insult enough, and I try not to use made-up variations on the name, mostly because it annoys me disproportionately when they deliberately say “the Democrat party” instead of “Democratic”.

      I believe I said somewhere else in this comment thread that I would be happy to support such a yet-to-appear candidate; an individual who would satisfy the west that he/she was serious about needed legal and business reforms and productive dialogue with – as opposed to taking marching orders from – the west who could at the same time satisfy Russian voters that he/she was not going to relinquish control of the nation to his/her western backers. There are no such worries about Putin because he (a) has shown no interest in doing so in the past and (b) has no western backers.

      Another drawback to such a came-out-of-nowhere candidate is that he/she has no political organization. Maybe the western belief in such “instant” candidacies arises from the annoying buzz about running for political office that seems to arise in western circles just as soon as a previous unknown rises in a public forum and manages to deliver a brief inflamatory oration without shitting their pants or otherwise embarrassing themselves.

      The classic example of that was Katy Abram, who rose in a carefully-staged-but-made-to-look-spontaneous righteous fury in a town hall meeting featuring Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter. Ms. Abram delivered her instantly-famous speech about careless Democrats having “awakened a sleeping giant” (who apparently slept through the midterms as well), and the videoclip had people talking about her possibly running for political office while the air was still warm where she had just been standing. “Went viral”, as Brian Whitmore likes to say. So catapulted to stardom was she that she appeared on “Hardball” just a day or two later, and was almost immediately revealed as a talking-head ideologue who simply recited prepared points and knew basically nothing of what went on past her mailbox. She complained about the dreadful tax burden she and her family had to bear, but under questioning claimed not to have any idea what the family’s household income was. Watch it, I dare you. But don’t be surprised if you feel stupider for having done so.

      I suppose it is technically possible for a connected and savvy politician to emerge from total obscurity, complete with a political organization and a slate of ministers-in-waiting. But it’s very, very unlikely. As a further example, Alexei Navalny is now surging like Newt Gingrich in the western press. Alexei Navalny is not a politician, and although he has discovered a talent for getting people fired up, has no more idea how to run the country than he knows how to pole-vault over the sun. Some might say, “it’s precisely because he’s not a politician that I support him”. Those people would sing a different tune by the end of his first term. Politics is not something you just stumble into, and while it’s perfectly possible an unknown might have a real flair for it, an organization and at least a short background in politics, not to mention a network of connections, are essential.

      Let’s recall that the same electorate which believes touchingly in overnight political savvy debated bitterly over whether Barack Obama was too inexperienced to be president after he had served in the State Senate for 8 years.

      • Hunter says:

        In talking about this you touched on another topic which seems to be taken as common knowledge in the media – the idea that candidates are unfairly blocked from running for election in the presidency and blocked from sitting in parliament. I could agree with the view that the 7% limit (well, 5% to get a single deputy in and 7% to get full proportional representation) seems a bit high. I would advocate that it be lowered to 5% for full representation and 3% for a single deputy in Duma elections. When it comes to presidential elections though, the requirement is for 2 million signatures which is actually a fairly tiny amount in a country of over 100 million like Russia. Based off the election results and the turnout, being asked to get 2 million signatures is like being asked to get just under 2% of the voting age population to support you. This seems quite reasonable as if you can’t get 2% support just to be on the ballot, what chances do you have in a full blown election? Even Yabloko got over 2 million votes in the Duma election and they claim to have more support than that, so it isn’t as if Yabloko couldn’t field a candidate or couldn’t throw their support behind a unified ultra-liberal candidate.

        • marknesop says:

          Eugene Ivanov at The Ivanov Report has argued for the 3% threshold for some time, it’s a great blog for Russian politics if you were not already familiar with it. I’m sure there’s some vital reasoning that I’m missing, but a multiparty system that is too multiparty seems to me a drag on getting things done that outweighs its cosmetic value as all-embracing democracy. As an example, i like to use the American system, which is not actually a democracy at all in the purest sense, but a constitutional republic. But it has at present only two major parties, and the one in power can’t get anything done because of the rigid and partisan opposition of the one not in power.

          Maybe someone who knows what they’re talking about would volunteer to do a post describing how the Duma works and how the various parties and seats are weighed in terms of influence. I’d bet a lot of people – like me- have only the vaguest idea how it works. Canada is a parliamentary democracy: does the Duma work like that? How about you, Peter? Would you like to do a post on the Duma? If so and if you like, you could include what in your opinion is wrong and what works well with the current system and what would work better in terms of fair representation. If you want to do it, I’ll send you my email address. Of course, the offer is open to anyone who is interested and thinks they understand it better than most. I only suggested Peter because he is extremely critical of the present system.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            there is nothing you’re missing about a “multiparty system that is too multiparty”. It doesn’t work, plain and simple. I can say because I’ve lived under such a political system. Until the early ’90 the electoral system in Italy was a proportional one without any threshold. Here is a chronology of governments, whose average span was 1-2 years from the post war period until the early ’90, when some improvements were made. Each government was mostly a rehash of the previous one, so that one gets instability without change. Not a good deal.

            • Dear Mark,

              I have come round to Eugene’s view on the Ivanov Report that lowering the Duma threshold to 3% would be a good idea. The reason for this is the outcome of the election, which showed that Yabloko will struggle to reach even 5% but that it’s vote is overwhelmingly concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Though it is only a minority (a small minority!) of the electorate of those two cities, it is a sufficiently big minority in those two cities to feel disenfranchised by Yabloko’s exclusion from the parliament and I do not think for many reasons that it is a good thing for a substantial section of the population of the country’s two capitals to feel disenfranchised in this way.

              I would not go below 3% and I also think that some requirement for central registration of parties to ensure that they possess a minimum level of genuine support is absolutely essential in the sort of pure proportional representation system that Russia has otherwise the ballot paper will become so overfull with tiny and frivolous parties as to become confusing and unmanageable.

              • marknesop says:

                Wouldn’t Yabloko be better off going into municipal politics in Moscow and St Petersburg, rather than national, and perhaps some politicians could prove their suitability for higher office that way? That, after all, is how Putin got his start, so it manifestly can be done. It just seems to me that when you have to modify the entire electoral system in order to make a particular segment viable, you weaken the focus of the political process for the sake of diversity; it’s like the USA recognizing the Pagan Party, or the Medieval Party or something like that.

                Anyway, that’s a decision for Russia to make, and I guess I agree that when people feel excluded, you have to make a reasonable effort to accommodate them. But generally speaking the more you diffuse something, the weaker it gets. Things would have to change considerably before Yabloko grew big enough that they would be needed for coalition-building; consequently, it’s views would likely be ignored, and then people would bitch about that. Then what? Each Yabloko vote counts as ten? Like the old (rewritten) parable says: no good deed goes unpunished.

                Anyway, I’d still like a better understanding how the Duma works and why power is concentrated the way it is. But it sounds like a democracy to me.

              • yalensis says:

                @alexander: But if a party were popular in the capital but nowhere else, nothing should stop them (in theory) from getting into the local/regional government or mayor. I still think 3% is a bit low for national threshhold. Maybe 5% okay.

              • hoct says:

                “Disenfranchisement” is a key word. Lets think about what an election threshold means. It means telling your citizens “you better find a party enough others are going to cast their vote to vote for or else we are going to throw out your vote”. Implicit in such treatment is the accusation of being a crank and refusing to just go on with the program.

                What would anyone think if in some election 40% of the votes were for parties who failed to pass the 5%, or some other threshold? Would it be fair to disenfranchise 40% of the people who voted? Well, then it is not fair to disenfranchise 2, or 5, or 10% either.

                Of course there is the argument that it doesn’t work. But guess what people, democracy doesn’t work. It is a terrible idea and has major, major problems in any incarnation. However, until you are won over for my idea we should dynamite the parliament and unleash anarchy we might as well practice what we preach and not invent undemocratic, arbitrary and unfair rules for why and how not to give everyone a chance at representation.

                One huge problem with thresholds is that it undermines small parties who therefore have to gang up in coalitions which makes it all but impossible for them to stand for anything concrete in terms of doctrine. You end up with an absurd situation where the smaller parties and/or lists are unexciting ideological hodgepodges and you actually have to turn to the larger parties for something concrete in terms of ideas.

                Another, but more Russia-specific barrier to entry the country would do well without is the requirement to have a certain number of members in each of the federal subjects. I imagine that in a country of this size this is an incredible feat, and not allowing a party to take part in elections, before it has accomplished it just about guarantees it never will. This makes it all the more certain a new viable political party can not be launched without the backing of people already close to power, whether it is oligarchs, the state apparatus, or defectors from an existing party.

              • Hunter says:

                @hoct (on December 16, 2011)

                You say “disenfranchisement” means telling your citizens “find a party enough others are going to cast their vote for else we throw out your vote”. That is one way to look at it, but seriously given that most parties fall within a given ideological range, there are only so many types of parties that you can get before we start having duplication of platforms. For instance Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces were both liberal parties and logically should have merged way back in 2004-2006 but they didn’t. As a result both have since fared badly and probably more so than if they had merged long before.

                To get 40% of the vote for parties failing to pass 5% would mean that at a MINIMUM there would have to be 8 parties which got 4.99% each. Now how could we possibly have 8 parties that are so different to each other that they they shouldn’t form coalitions or mergers among themselves while at the same time 60% manage to vote for parties other than these 8? A situation like that used to exist in Russia in 1991-1999 and it resulted in 14 different parties getting elected to the Duma at any one time with most of them being ineffective and a lot of them eventually merging (that is how United Russia and A Just Russia came into being through a LOT of mergers). Having too many parties is literally unsustainable as at some point (unless you are going to have single issue parties based on ethnicity or religion as occurs in Israel) voters will drift away from the ineffective parties and towards the effective ones that still adhere to their preferred ideology. So if you had 2 communist parties, eventually voters would start to support the one which had better, more likeable personalities for instance and the one which had a clear, consistent message. I think a real life example of this would be 1995-2003 in Russia where there were two major liberal parties in the Duma; “Our Home is Russia” and “Yabloko”. Then in 1999 along came a (re-)newed party called “Union of Right Forces” and Our Home and Yabloko lost votes to the Right Forces. Our Home eventually lost so much support it seemed to have eventually merged with United Russia (I suppose becoming the liberal wing or forum within UR which is for lack of a better term a “center” party).

                I disagree that it is impossible for small parties to gang up and at the same time stand for anything concrete in terms of doctrine. A Just Russia was formed from just such a coalition and is clearly a social democratic party having been formed from social democrats, socialists (not communists) and greens. If small parties espousing similar ideologies find it difficult to gang up, it is not the fault of the ideology but the fault of the personalities leading the parties themselves.

                On the liberal side I see no reason why Right Cause and Yabloko need to remain separate. And according to this (rather poorly argued) article (http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/grigorii-golosov/russian-opposition-inside-or-outside-system) the “best known” unregistered parties are “the People’s Freedom Party, ‘Other Russia’ and the Russian United Labour Front”. Note that when I looked them up it turned out that ‘Other Russia’ is basically the National Bolshevik Party under a new name (it is run by Limonov), the United Labour Front is supposed to be a left wing party (and thus will compete with the Communists and A Just Russia) while People’s Freedom Party is yet another liberal democratic party (thus competing with Yabloko and Right Cause) which itself is a coalition of four parties/organizations:

                Russian People’s Democratic Union (led by Mikhail Kasyanov);
                Republican Party of Russia (lead by Vladimir Ryzhkov);
                Solidarity (represented by Boris Nemtsov);
                Democratic Choice (lead by Vladimir Milov)

                but apparently a number of Solidarity/Solidarnost members refused to join “including Garry Kasparov and his United Civil Front saying that they do not want to participate in unfree elections and waste resources attempting to register an opposition party, which, in their opinion, is impossible”

                Now does that sound like a set of people who seriously want to win an election or does it sound more like people who are blaming the system for their own dismal showing and ineffectiveness politically? If Yabloko can be registered there is no reason Kasparov cannot be, but he doesn’t want to because apparently he believes that sitting back and doing nothing when it comes to elections will achieve something.

                Finally I think the requirement to have a certain number of members in each of the federal subjects is a pretty sound idea. It guards against parties being formed around a single ethnic or religious group or being based on an entirely localized situation. If a party cannot have broad based appeal across a nation why is it focusing on national elections instead of local elections? To get even 1 seat in the 450 seat Duma (if there were no thresholds) would require getting at least 0.22% of the vote (this would be the natural threshold). This would mean getting 242,000 votes assuming that all 100+ million voters in Russia turned out. If turnout is 60% then it would mean getting 145,000 votes. I could easily see where that could lead to a party being based solely on ethnicity with zero ideological appeal. Even then it could mean that a party’s chance of reaching the Duma would be entirely dependent on the turnout being high for it in a particular place. In Altai for instance the Altay form only a third of the population of about 200,000. So an Altay based party would have zero chance of getting into the Duma anyway unless it somehow convinced the non-Altay population to vote for it, in which case the entire reasoning behind an Altay based party collapses. Spreading the support for parties across federal subjects could also guard against parties basing themselves entirely off income class. A party is unlikely for instance to be able to register itself if it only limited itself to the richest cities and campaigned on promises to make the rich get richer. Forcing parties to take a holistic approach to their own support is probably a pretty good way to ensure that parties become focused on national issues rather than taking what should properly be local issues and playing around with them in the Duma at the expense of issues affecting a society as a whole.
                And on the contrary I’m sure parties can be launched and be viable even with this requirement. If the party launched appeals to enough persons and fills their political needs then they will get the support necessary (without the need for oligarchs). What would be the point in launching a political party if you don’t intend to get support for that party nationally and have no intention of spreading the message of that party?

                • yalensis says:

                  @hunter: That was an excellent comment as well as a good explanation of how parliamentary democracy works. Your discussion of national vs. regional parties is very good. You also make a good point that the liberal crowd would have an actual national party to vote for (small but possibly influential), if people like Kasparov/Nemtsov, etc. actually merged their factions into a single party. Western media sometimes accuses these types of “ideological purity” why they won’t merge their factions and denote a single leader. I doubt if reason is ideology, since they all believe the same things. Ego is a factor, each one of these “leaders” is an egomaniac. More importantly, there is the corrupting influence of American grants. Liberals find that they can get paid from these grants regardless of any outcome measures of political success. All they have to do is make speeches and hold street demonstrations. They probably even get paid for being arrested. So they have no motive to be effective or successful. They are simply trolls, disrupting the normal evolution to a more democratic system.

                • hoct says:

                  I did not give the scenario of 40% of the votes being thrown out as something that is likely to happen, but to better illustrate the inherent heavy-handedness and injustice of crossing out cast votes.

                  I don’t think much of Just Russia. They are a bland, nothing-to-add party, but with gratis left-econ rhetoric. Rodina was better since it dared to be populist on occasion, but I didn’t think that much of them either.

                  The problem I see with you stance is that you approach the issue from the tail instead of from the head. You want to have an arrangement that is based not around fundamental principles, but around the kind of outcome you desire. If you do not like for minority nationalist parties to have much influence, or for there not too be too many small parties, or for them not to be based around societal class then you have the go ahead to argue for people not to give their support to such parties. Others who disagree with you will argue for the opposite view and whoever manages to convince voters will win out. The principle that democracy is based around and that we allegedly collectively buy into is that there should be a level-playing field to ensure the will of the people gets out, not that election must result in this, or that outcome.

                  And on the contrary I’m sure parties can be launched and be viable even with this requirement. If the party launched appeals to enough persons and fills their political needs then they will get the support necessary (without the need for oligarchs). What would be the point in launching a political party if you don’t intend to get support for that party nationally and have no intention of spreading the message of that party?

                  If a party does not have membership across Russia it does not follow from that that it is not working toward that end. You would not say poor people are poor because they want to be poor would you?

                  One problem to consider: how is a nationalist party running on the platform that includes ending subsidies to the Caucasus supposed to get the required number of members in (the ethnically cleansed) Chechnya? (Unless of course, an arrangement which shafts the nationalists is actually a good thing because being anti-pluralists who are happy to dictate outcomes we welcome an arrangement that does not permit nationalists a chance at gaining influence.)

                  Of course any barrier to entry can be overcome, particularly in theory. But that does not make it without consequence or else why erect it in the first place. I do not like cartelisation in business and I do not like cartelisation in politics. Political parties passing legislation that favors big business against their smaller competitors is bad, large political parties passing legislation that favors large parties against their smaller competitors is just as bad and even more plainly self-interested.

          • Hunter says:

            To add to what Giuseppe and Alexander have said, I would draw lessons from the Israeli Knesset which currently has a 2% threshold. Israel has had some fractious politics in the past and continuing today – there was only one time in Israeli history when a single party ever held a majority by itself and that wasn’t even due to an election but to the merger of 2 smaller parties with a larger party after the 1965 election. After the 1969 election this rarity of a majority party was ended. A 3% threshold would mean there would be 3 less parties in today’s Knesset. A 5% threshold would mean that there would only be 5 parties in the Knesset according to the last election results.

            I definitely would not go lower than 3% though.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              Germany has a 5% threshold and it has worked well there. IMO, there is another reason for Russia to have a proportional system with a 5-7% threshold. Unlike Germany or Italy, Russia isn’t a mono-ethnic country, so with a too low threshold one can expect the emergence of ethnic-based parties with all the problems that will follow. For example, these parties will trade their votes for more funding to their regions, or may stir up separatism if they’re unable to find a customer.

              • Hunter says:

                On the other hand finding a specific voice in the Duma might lessen the appeal of separatism as they can they air their grievances in the national parliament. But then most non-Russian ethnic groups in Russia don’t even comprise as much as 3% of the population individually except for the Tatars if what I read on Russia’s demographics is correct. There would probably have to be no threshold to get a lot of ethnicity based parties, otherwise we would have to see ethnic team parties (so Circassians teaming up with Chechens, Yakuts teaming up with the Bashkirs and Tatars, etc) – but I don’t see how that could work as such parties will probably be internally divided unless there is a lot of compromise to accomodate all those groups (at which point it would probably lose any nationalistic flair).

              • hoct says:

                In my opinion it would be fair to eliminate threshold requirements for nationality based parties (other than Russian), whatever the general threshold. Naturally Putin can not do this as it would be a contradiction of his ideology of civic (state-hegemonic) nationalism.

                I agree that in an arrangement like that trading votes for increased local funding is a certainty, but this is something that happens already anyway, what with the Caucasus republics receiving six times the amount of money collected from them, then sending back votes like 99.4% for YeR.

              • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                You’re right, only Tatars make more than 3%. I think that an ethnic representation in the parliament is a double edged sword. An ethnic party can air grievances, thus somewhat smoothing them out, but it can also be singled out along with the ethnic group when it takes positions that may be unpopular. Something like “The ***** Chechens side with UR on this issue, we’ll cut any transfer to their region as soon as we have the opportunity”. I know, this already happens, but an ethnic party would make it more evident.
                Anyway, it seems that the current law forbids the creation of ethnic-based parties, so my speculations are very speculative.
                It works that way in Italy, the 5% threshold doesn’t apply to nationality based parties. It doesn’t change much to us because there is only one such party in Italy, the Südtiroler Volkspartei for the German minority. But it would be very different in Russia, and the “vote for funding” thing would become too much blatant. Also, I think that the current funding for the Caucasus is meant to quell the insurgency, rather than buying the vote.

                • A few points here.

                  1. On the subject of thresholds, I would certainly not go below 3%. The example of Israel cited by Hunter is a cautionary one about what can happen when the threshold is set too low.

                  2. I would again say that in a proportional representation system such as the one in Russia it is essential for there to be some system of registering parties. The complaint from the OSCE on this point with its apparent suggestion that there should be no process of registration is absurd. It would mean that any group however small could set itself up as a party with the right to have its name on the ballot paper. Given that Russia has a population of 142 million people with 110 million voters we could end up with a ballot with literally hundreds or even thousands of parties on it, which is frankly ridiculous. Any party that aims to contest an election in a country like Russia must be in a position to show that it has some minimal level of support across the whole country in order to justify its place on the ballot paper.

                  3. I may add that in Britain we have a requirement that a candidate who wants to stand for election in a parliamentary election must put put up a deposit of I believe £500 in the district (or “seat”) where he or she is standing. Since we have 650 parliamentary districts in Britain a political party that wishes to contest all of them must put up £325,000 at each general election. If the candidate’s vote fall below a minimum number of votes the candidate’s deposit is confiscated. This system effectively does the same thing as the registration of parties does in Russia, it removes from the ballot paper token parties that have no real support and no realistic chance of getting elected.

                  4. The point that Yabloko should make a crack at making an impact in local government in Moscow and St. Petersburg is a very good one. I ought to say that it might even be possible to get representatives of Yabloko into the parliament via the Federation Council, which I understand is formed by local governments. Having said that I still think on balance that excluding the part of the population that votes for Yabloko in Moscow and St. Petersburg entirely from the Duma is unhealthy because it gives what in absolute terms is a by no means inconsiderable body of people in the two capitals a real grievance.

                  5. As for partiies organised on ethnic lines, I am totally against them and I think they should not be registered and anyone attempting to organise such parties should be prosecuted. I believe that the Russian Constitution or at any rate Russian law already prohibits the creation of such parties and I may add that in my opinion such parties are also contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights, of which Russia is a signatory, which outlaws discrimination on ethnic lines.

                • BTW, Russia’s threshold is getting lowered back down to 5%, but the law will only kick into effect during the new election.

            • hoct says:

              A single party having majority and being able to form a government by itself is an aberration in a proportional system. It almost never happens regardless of thresholds — it is not anywhere considered a problem, or a sign of fractious politics (which is bad, why?).

      • yalensis says:

        In America they also had Joe the Plumber who gained some political clout, even though he was just a simple plumber, and there was talk of him running for president. If voters were to actually elect somebody without qualifications or experience, then they might end up with an IDIOCRACY, like in this movie. This is my favorite scene: cabinet members in a ruined White House 500 years in the future debate whether or not “plants crave electrolytes”:

        • marknesop says:

          That’s funny.

          In fact, “Joe the Plumber” was not really a plumber at all, if having a plumbing license matters, which apparently it does. But you’re right; he’s another example of people making a megastar out of someone who is probably not well-suited to be anything other than what he or she is.

    • hoct says:

      I think a question of whether Russia is more democratic or if United States is more democratic is an appropriate one. I start from a position that there is no such thing as a real democracy, there are only grotesque imitations. Democracy for me means that popular will dictates state policy. This, however, is nowhere in the world the case. The most that happens in representative democracies is that the people are permitted to choose from a pre-arranged menu of policy options. Therefore, that representative democracy is more democratic where the range of options on the menu is wider.

      In theory in the United States anyone can run and win. Therefore in theory, the menu of policies the electorate can pick for the state to carry out is infinite. In reality, however, issues like ballot access, campaign funding and amorality of party machines and corporate media mean that only candidates who are members of the Democratic or Republican parties in good standing with their parties and their donors are actually viable and can hope to win. This automatically reduces effective range of politics Americans can select for the state to carry out to a very narrow range that represents the stated differences between these two parties.

      This range is further reduced when one considers that on numerous policy issues Democrats and Republicans are opposed only rhetorically. On many issues on which they are allegedly bitterly opposed and very distinct from one another they will nonetheless act almost the same once in power. This is to say they both espouse views they are not actually willing to do anything on. (Functionally they act as two wings of one party, with their “bitter” competition a performance for show.)

      So in reality effective range of policies American electorate can select — which is determined by variety of espoused views among figures who can actually win and who are actually willing to implement them — is very, very narrow. (Functionally hardly any wider than the space between McCain and Lieberman.)

      Virtual range of policies electorate can pick for the state to carry out in Russia is similarly infinite, but effective range is unfortunately (and shamefully) much, much narrower. It is however actually somewhat wider than in the United States, marking the space between Zyuganov and Putin.

  27. kievite says:

    You seem to have a real absolutism thing going on there; if I don’t like something, it must mean I hate it. If I dislike certain policies favored by the United States government, I’m an America-hater

    Mark this is not “a real absolutism”, this is classic totalitarism. There is an interesting parallel of charge of “Anti-Americanism” as used by Swoggler and the charge of Anti-Sovietism as was used in the USSR. In other words this is a kick below the belt to shut up dissidents used by totalitarian societies.

    Noam Chomsky once noted that such a charge is typical for “…people with deeply rooted totalitarian instincts, which identify state policy with the society, the people, the culture. In contrast, people with even the slightest concept of democracy treat such notions with ridicule and contempt.”

    I think the term make sense only in the context of systematic rejection – a sort of allergic reaction -to anything American. Just rejection of the USA foreign policy as many people in this blog do is not enough to justify the label. Can we call Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan and Andrew Bacevich whom I cites in my post about imperial tendencies of the USA foreign policy “Antiamericans”? That’s ridiculous.

    I think Swoggler should applogize.

    • Swoggler says:

      Mmmm nah. I calls ’em like I sees ’em. Perhaps if I had named names after a “post in haste, edit at leisure” moment… But if you’re feelings are hurt…perhaps some inner reflection is called for.

      For instance, if you’re willing to check your Occam’s card at the door and say, “Yes, I believe it is far more likely that dozens of American-funded stooges are roaming the precincts of Moscow making fake videos of vote rigging than the preposterous idea that citizen journalists shot footage of the way it actually went down.” well…you might have an America problem. Perhaps not hatred…maybe exasperation…or an inferiority complex of some sort…

      If, in your heart of hearts, you just can’t conceive of thousands of Russians gathering on a little island south of the Kremlin on their own without having their strings pulled…you might have a problem.

      The fact is that United Russia is DOING the things you think but can’t prove America is up to (see the astroturf Nashi demonstration earlier this week, and…though you may be loathe to admit it…election falsification of the week before) but all you want to talk about is how yucky America is…well…what’s a guy supposed to think?

      An aside though – you’re quite correct that the American system is rigged against a non-establishment politician jumping in. I think the last true dark horse was Warren Harding…who wasn’t exactly a political outsider. You can argue Bill Clinton I suppose…but not convincingly. Hey, I’m the first to admit that the U.S. has problems. Big ones. But, as a long-time expat, I’m always amused by the intellectual lassitude displayed by those who just can’t examine their own (or favorite) country’s problems without bringing America into the discussion. Can we seriously not discuss the current situation (or any other problem) in Russia without bringing the U.S. into it?

      I can do it if you guys can’t. There are serious politicians here in Russia who could still be considered dark horse candidates. Some…probably most of the realistic ones…wouldn’t be friendly to the West. Rogozin comes to mind. Svetlana Goryacheva. Sergei Shoigu. Again, would their notional administrations be more/less Western oriented than Putin’s? Who cares? The fact is that these people would have had a shot, a long one to be sure, but a shot at the presidency if Russia had a true democracy. And unlike your tired apocalyptic scenario of a Nemtsovian return to the 90s…they’d probably have kept Russia going on the upward track just fine. But they’ll never get the chance to try.

      Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps Putin is the only man with the vision to run Russia and nobody else (who’s a realistic candidate) WANTS the job. Seems unlikely…

      • apc27 says:

        All right, lets say that by some unimaginable chance either Rogozin or Goryacheva or Shoigu are elected… AND THEN WHAT??? Any law that they pass, any policy they envisage any changes they wish to make, WHERE would the power to do it come from?

        Do you expect the power elites to just fall in line and say “oh well, people have voted, now we must listen to them”? Do you expect that enormous bureaucratic apparatus to stop enriching itself and start running the country simply because the “people decided so”?

        This is not how it works, not only in Russia, but anywhere. Anyone, even the most noble and capable of leaders would need years, decades even to built the power-base capable of challenging the status quo.

        So if there is something about Russia you do not like and desire to change, you stand a much better chance of seeing it actually happen within your lifetime by convincing Putin and his team that it is necessary for both Russian and their own survival and prosperity.

        It sucks, but there is only group of people capable of effecting change in Russia, the one that currently occupies Kremlin (and even their ability in this regard is fairly limited). There is no one else. And there is not going to be anyone else for years, if not decades to come, no matter what protests, revolutions or crises roll over Russia in the meantime.

        Building new power structures is a very difficult and time consuming process. STOP UNDERESTIMATING IT.

      • marknesop says:

        I see I should have been clearer. What remains inconceivable to me is that there was massive (massive!!!) fraud in favour of United Russia, and yet they got a lower share of the vote than some supposedly nonpartisan polling firms predicted. This suggests that had United Russia not cheated like mad, their share of the legitimate free vote would have been somewhere down around 31%. But that completely disagrees with advance polls conducted right up until the cutoff before voting.

        This in turn suggests the Russian electorate itself is riddled with liars who said they were going to vote for United Russia, but then voted for another party; but United Russia instinctively knew just how much to cheat in order to get the share of the vote that advance polling suggested they would get. I’m afraid I just find that wildly improbable. I’d be happy to concede there was something strange about the Moscow exit polls, but the OSCE preliminary report just didn’t seem all that excited about massive (massive!!!) fraud. Therefore, I think I’ll wait for the detailed follow-up report before I jump to any conclusions. I realize that puts me in the minority, and I’m OK with that.

        It’s perfectly possible you are right and I am wrong, and that any of the candidates you named would do just as good a job, perhaps even without having to curtsy and abase themselves to the west in order to attract investment and move Russia forward while remaining independent (which is as close a definition of my bottom line as I can state). However, Russia already has a leader that has demonstrated he can do that. Why should Russians take a chance on someone who “might” be able to run the country successfully without betraying it, when they can choose somebody with a proven record? This again returns to the western narrative that Russians (especially young Russians who don’t recognize the shadow of the 90’s bogeyman) are tired of stability and want to take a chance on “meteoric careers” and the good life, western-style. Now, I ask you: with the world in the state it is, with European countries sliding over the edge every week and western countries groaning under their debt load – who in their right mind is going to blow off stability in favour of taking a flutter on an era that passed a couple of decades ago? That the notion has gotten the mileage it has owes much to the (largely successful) attempt to re-label “stability” as “stagnation”.

        I also don’t find the possibility that powerful external interests wish Russia ill to be a “tired apocalyptic vision”. William Browder’s recent adventures in Russia suggest he deliberately circumvented the law in order to gain a substantially larger share of GAZPROM stock than foreigners are legally allowed to own, and he bragged of the companies in which he had acquired a controlling interest by starting a whisper campaign in the international press which took them to the brink of ruin – when he would buy them up for a song and then wail about corruption until the government stepped in and cleaned them up for him. He called it “The Hermitage Effect”. William Browder is regarded as some kind of business genius in the west, although the Russian government took a dimmer view. Browder’s predatory practices did absolutely nothing to move Russian business forward, to make it more transparent, and only taught the corrupt a new trick. But the west moans about how unfair Russia is because it won’t let him back in to pick up where he left off, and confide to each other that it’s just because Russia is afraid to adopt modern business practices. In the west, it’s called “corporate raiding”, and western business schools typically do not recommend it. Similarly, many, many western sources rhapsodize about Yeltsin’s rule as a giddy time of breathtaking reform, bold risk-taking and hugely lucrative privatizations. Although a lot of ordinary Russians lost their savings, the tone-deaf insistence on Yeltsin’s greatness and vision suggests it would not be too far-fetched to imagine the west would like to see a return to those rip-roaring days.

        I choose America as a basis for comparison because it consistently volunteers itself. You, for example, are American, or so I have been led to believe. That should not suggest there’s nothing good about the USA, because that’s just not true. But if you step up to the plate and say, “I can hit a ball farther than any of you sissies”, expect somebody to ask you to prove it. Thanks for your interesting and thought-provoking answer.

        • Dear Mark,

          Like you I do not think there was massive fraud. Overall I think the result approximates reasonably to the way people voted. The emerging consensus seems to be that fraud may have tainted around 5% of the result. There also seems to have been great regional differences with the election conducted reasonably cleanly in many (most?) ethnic Russian regions but with severe problems in the northern Caucasus and some of the other ethnic areas. The controversy about the vote in Moscow is discussed exhaustively and from all possible angles in Anatoly Karlin’s blog Sublime Oblivion, where I am one of those who still argues for the overall validity of the Moscow result.

          Election fraud of course happens in many other places. It is pretty widespread in Greece and I think I am right in saying (Giuseppe can correct me) that it is fairly common in parts of southern Italy as well. It is by no means unknown in Britain where electoral registers are rarely up to date and are policed very lightly and where it is extremely easy (though a criminal offense) to be registered to vote in more than one place (I know several people who are) or to pack “ghost” names on an electoral register shortly before voting takes place. I have heard that this also happens in a big way in Ireland and that “carousel” voting (busing around voters from one polling station to another) happens quite often there especially in western rural constituencies. I cannot say how great the scale of the fraud is in any of these countries but I have never heard of a whole election being challenged because of it.

          • marknesop says:

            Kadyrov foolishly promised a huge turnout in favour of United Russia, and seems to have delivered just that in what could only have been forced or fraudulent voting. I really wish there was an alternative to his thuggish leadership, but there doesn’t seem to be one. There’s independence, of course, but a distinct minority of Chechens actually want that according to polling, and it would of course not be enough. Then Dagestan would have to be its own country, then Ingushetia, and in no time Russia really would have an Islamic emirate on its doorstep, with which it would constantly be fighting. I daresay if the Caucasus achieved independence it would want more land – dissidents are never satisfied – and there would be constant quarrels over borders and frontiers.

            Accordingly, Kadyrov is kept on, like a particularly vicious but loyal Rottweiler, because he gets results. Like everything seems to be in Russia, letting the Caucasus go would be final – once done, you could never get it back.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            Dear Alexander,
            rather than election fraud, it was mainly vote buying. That is to say, local politicians got their votes in exchange of some privilege, as is evident from the statistics: in southern regions the percentage of disability pensions is an order of magnitude higher than the national average and public offices are ridiculously overstaffed.

            • Thanks Giuseppe,

              I should say by the way that the worst examples of election fraud in Britain happen in parliamentary bye elections (when the sitting MP or Deputy dies and there has to be a vote to replace her or him) and in local council elections. The latter in some places are notoriously corrupt.

  28. Viz a number of comments that have been made:

    Dear Swoggler,

    1. It is not unreasonable to say that the US should not meddle in the internal affairs of other countries or to point out the negative consequences for those countries of the US doing so. Nor is there any element of fantasy involved in doing this. What is perhaps a fantasy is expecting the US to follow this reasonable and sensible advice even though it would undoubtedly be in its interests for it to do so.

    2. Demanding that the US respect the right of other countries and of other people to decide their own politics and determine their own future is not to demand “isolationism” on the part of the US. Rather it is asking the US to behave in accordance with its own founding principles and to respect the right of others to their own views and to their own decisions even when the US disagrees with them.

    3. The Russian political scene is quite open and covers a full range of views. There is no need to look outside it for future political leaders. I cannot see how the Russian political scene can be made more open than it already is, which is not to say that there is a level playing field, which of course there is not. A level political playing field of course exists in no country. Perhaps in Russia the bar is higher than it is in some other places but if one compares the Russian political scene with anywhere in Europe than the difference is only of degree.

    4. There are plenty of people of abiliy who could and perhaps want to lead Russia. Whether any of them do so or whether Putin continues to lead Russia is a matter for Russia and for no one else.

    5. I happen to agree with you that the demonstration on Saturday had in the end little to do with the US. I do not think it was an entirely spontaineous affair, such things never are, but I have no doubt that the great majority of those who turned out were law abiding peaceful people who want the best for their country. In fact many of them have gone out of their way to say as much and to make clear that they are not following any sort of revolutionary or insurrectionary agenda. This however once again brings back me to my original point. By meddling in Russian affairs and in the affairs of the other countries of the former USSR the US has inevitably sown fears within Russia of US sponsored “colour revolution” scenarios, This is bad for the demonstrators, who have to explain why they are not part of such a scenario, and is bad for the authorities and the people who support them, who are naturally suspicious of such a scenario. An additional complication is therefore introduced and the political process in Russia suffers.

    PS: I agree with all those comments about the stupidity of choosing white as the protest colour. If the photographs of the demonstration I have seen are representative then only a small minority of the protesters chose to wear white.

    PPS: The KPRF definitely did not instigate the protest. So far as I can tell the idea for the protest seems to have come from the group around Vladimir Ryzhkov. It then ignited through social network sites. Since the KPRF for its own reasons is alleging that the elections were effected by fraud once it became clear that the protest was going to take off it decided that it had no option but to give its supporters the green light to attend it. Had it not done so it would have created confusion and demoralisation within its own ranks especially amongst the younger voters who are now supporting it. The most interesting reports I have read both of the demonstration and of the events on the social network sites leading up to it were on the English language website of Voice of Russia.

    Incidentally whilst on the subject of the KPRF a report in the Financial Times by John Lloyd says that it came top in the recent student union elections at MGU. Yabloko came second and United Russia third.

  29. rkka says:

    “but all you want to talk about is how yucky America is…well…what’s a guy supposed to think”

    You’re badly mistaken. What you see going on is rejection of Anglosphere media and official criticism delivered in bad faith.

    “Hey, I’m the first to admit that the U.S. has problems. Big ones. But, as a long-time expat, I’m always amused by the intellectual lassitude displayed by those who just can’t examine their own (or favorite) country’s problems without bringing America into the discussion.”

    Nobody here denies that Russia has serious problems, and we’re perfectly happy to discuss them. For instance, Eric Krause, after calling out the Anglosphere punditocracy for its laughably wrong-headed analysis of the Duma elections and tehir aftermath, finshes up with this:

    “None of the above is meant to suggest that the current Russian political system is ultimately
    sustainable. Vladimir Putin is mortal – and unlike China, which has succeeded in developing a political system whereby the individual office-holders can be renewed and replaced while maintaining continuity of the political line, there is a total political vacuum outside of the opportunistic and servile United Russia.
    The Chinese model is not transferable – the Russian Communist Party was totally discredited during the breakup of the USSR, with a nominally democratic political model edicted in its place. In the absence of a reasonable body-politic and a stable middle-class electorate, we see little basis for stable Western style parliamentary governance. Continue with the outward trappings for long enough and the political drift towards the Russian historical tradition could produce an outcome which would leave the Western powers nostalgic for the stability of the relatively friendly and predictable Putin government.
    Those familiar with Russia’s 19th century history cannot fail to see the parallels. An ineffectual liberal opposition, almost Fabien in its outlook and obsessed with maintaining its own ideological purity, was totally unwilling to compromise with what they saw as the corrupt Tsarist establishment, choosing instead to go into a sterile and destructive opposition. Russia was thus left with only two political forces of any consequence – the ultramontane Tsarist right, and the radicals who ultimately formed the hard-core Bolshevik faction. The outcome was not a happy one.

    When challenged with the question of how Russia would develop a credible opposition, we must admit that we simply do not know. We had assumed that given a long enough period of economic stability, a rising middle-class would develop its own political institutions. Thus far, we see little evidence of this actually occurring.”

    Click to access TB-Russian-Duma-Elections-Desk-Note.pdf

    Russia needs another decade at least of stable growth for the developments Mr. Krause outlines. Russia isn’t likely to get it. There are severe storms ahead, possibly as bad as the 1930s, and every country needs strong and skillful leadership right now. Putin is exactly that.

  30. yalensis says:

    This is what happens when you lower the bar below 5% threshold:

  31. Swoggler says:

    rkka, that’s a remarkably good post. Thank you. The consensus here that Western coverage of all this has been bad is one I’ll happily join. And, based on many indicators, I also agree that Russia has a tough slog ahead…though I hope it won’t be 1930’s tough.

    Based on other reports and blogs I frequent it looks like the UR falsification accounted for a 5-10% boost in the latest elections. A statistically significant boost to be sure but not one that would have changed the fact that UR would still have been the victor. Perhaps not enjoying a simple majority in the Duma, but a strong plurality. And that fact would not have presented any but the smallest hassle to UR’s legislative agenda. It would have been child’s play to forge a coalition with one of the other parties or even just some of the members of other parties.

    So why, if you were going to win anyway, would you cheat? And if you were going to cheat…why not cheat bigger? I offer the following theory strengthened by no proof or data other than my own observations and instincts:

    Swoggler’s Hypothesis –
    Putin and the highest leadership of UR didn’t encourage or discourage the vote-rigging seen in the latest round of Duma elections. Rather, mid to upper level UR members did it in an attempt to ingratiate themselves and prove their worth to their superiors. The inner thoughts of one of these worthies may have gone something like, “Hmm, we’ve been directed to get out the vote. This is a great opportunity for me to show how grateful I am for my comfortable position as Vice Deputy Head of Yugo-Severny-Centralny Eta Samaya and show that I’m essential and ready for even bigger things.” Our notional official uses whatever technique he’s most comfortable with to get a few extra hundred votes into the box. A pile of pre-filled ballots here, a carousel there, a few extra absentee ballots from over there and viola! UR gets a nice boost. Not a Chechnya-boost…that would be embarrassing and obvious… just a push-up-bra style help for already impressive assets. After its over, our boy gets an “atta boy” from his boss. He returns a finger point and a, “Who loves ya baby?” He can count on his leadership’s support if he needs a favor in the future.

    Indeed, I suspect this has been the usual practice in polling places in Russia for quite some time and that this election wasn’t worse or better than others as far as fakery goes.

    So why the backlash this time? It’s not because people are pointing out the cheating; Liliya Shevtsova and Yulia Latinina and others have been doing that forever. There’s always somebody who complains…especially here. And people here suspected that voting was rigged…but it never seemed real. The difference this time was those pesky cell phone cameras capturing infractions. A video capturing bad deeds beats an impassioned letter to the editor every time. People could click on a YouTube video and say to themselves, “What the…that’s MY uchastok! I remember that guy! Oh HELL no!”

    So when the excrement began to hit the rotary impeller UR top leadership reacted the way they’ve always reacted, “Nope…everything’s cool. Good election. People have spoken. Pay no attention to paid provocateurs.”, and planned for the same old desultory Strategy 31 turnout at Triumphalnaya. But, bless their hearts, they weren’t ready for Bolotnaya and are trying desperately to spin the situation back to normalcy, “What’s that? Videos? Fakes. Fakes I tell you! Oh all right…we’ll investigate. Hey! I said we’d investigate! This is all the CIA anyway. Look…Prokhorov is a candidate now. Whew! Bet that makes you malcontents happy huh? A request to march on the 24th? Nope. Can’t do it…nationalists are marching that day. Seriously. City’s all booked up. Grr…ok fine you can have your pathetic little thing by the three train stations.”

    If my theory is correct, Putin could have defused the whole situation (and probably still could) by getting up and saying something like this, “Look, we’ve got some problems here in Russia. I know it. You know it. I am very appreciative of the brave citizens who have brought the violations endemic in our voting system to light. Your voices have been heard and we are taking steps. We have confirmed violations in several local voting stations, suspects are in custody and will be expanding an inquiry into the regions in the coming weeks. This type of nonsense might have been tolerated before, it no longer will be. Not on my watch.”

    Boom. Situation over.

    • I pretty much agree with everything here.

      As I see it, one of the strongest arguments against the idea that this fraud was ordered from the very top (i.e. Putin and his circle) – apart from the fact that falsifying by 5%-7% is irrelevant in the first place, as you point out – is that it was so prevalent in Moscow. In contrast, east of the Ural Mountains there were very few falsifications (United Russia actually got results that were less than the FOM opinion polls predicted). Now if I were planning fraud at the national level, the one place I’d do my utmost to KEEP CLEAN would be precisely Moscow because that’s where most of those pesky journalists, monitors, civil rights activists etc. reside! I’d make sure all the excess votes come from remote regions that are far from the spotlight. But as regards Moscow / Siberia, we have the exact opposite.

      I also agree that Putin could have handled the fallout better. Perhaps blaming it all on foreign provocateurs and their mercenaries in Russia as in his Q&A yesterday will work for the consecutive time. I doubt it. The latest VCIOM poll has his popularity down by 9% points over the past month, indicating that people aren’t buying it. I don’t know if his tone deafness on this issue is calculated or out of conviction. It may well be the latter. He doesn’t use the Internet and relies on his advisers for information. They must have presented him with the polls indicating UR was on course to win 50%-53% of the vote, and they must have presented him with the statistics on violations reports (which are long, but don’t add up to all that much; because most violations will go unreported). Did this present him with evidence for the 5% falsifications thesis (e.g. the updated FOM exit polls, and the various statistical analyses hanging around LJ)? Maybe not. For all we know he may genuinely believe that outside Chechnya things were all fine and dandy.

      Still, his suggestion to install cameras at every station for the Presidential elections was a step forward. It is in his own best interests now to really clamp down on fraud. If the fraud level is at 5% as usual, and he ends up avoiding a second round by getting something like 51%, then things could get ugly.

      • peter says:

        … falsifying by 5%-7%… 5% falsifications… at 5% as usual…

        Here you go again peddling those 5% as all but established fact. Where exactly does that figure come from? Is it a) your own estimate or b) something you read on the internet?

        If the former, could you describe very briefly the method you used? One or two sentences will do.

        If the latter, could you give specific references? One or two will do.

        • As I surely pointed out on more than one occasion, 6.5% is the difference between the most comprehensive exit poll (FOM) and the real results. Anything much greater than that would invalidate all the pre-election polls and exit polls, and would not be credible. I’d note that the most prolific blogger on election fraud, Kireev, also considers it to be less than 10%, although his range is slightly higher than mine (8%-9%). The reason for our difference is that Kireev thinks that people exiting the polls were more likely to say they voted for United Russia than they otherwise did, whereas I suspect there may have been a “Shy Edross” factor because of the bad PR around it.

          There are also statistical analyses, as you well know, having kindly pointed me to several of them. They give all sorts of ranges. The most (in)famous one, the one focusing on Gaussians and 5% peaks, implies that fraud was in the range of 15%. My cursory thinking about it leads me to consider its assumptions flawed, but that is for another topic, not here. The majority of other estimates I’ve seen converge around 5%-7%, tying in neatly with the FOM results. I do think it’s an interesting topic and once I get some time this weekend I hope to go through and summarize these various methods and estimates in a blog post.

      • yalensis says:

        Putin’s idea to install cameras at voting stations is a good one, the cameras should do a live feed to internet.

        • marknesop says:

          They presumably will; they were specifically mentioned as “webcams”. It’s a good idea in the sense that it will make electoral results more defensible, but although it might cut down on fraud a little, I expect allegations of fraud would escalate. This is the age of the citizen activist, imbued with righteous zeal, and there would be hundreds of reports of the same guy voting over and over again because it was more than one guy wearing similar clothing and they’re looking at a picture with shitty resolution, that kind of thing. There is a segment of society now that is convinced there will be massive (massive!!!) fraud even if they personally place each person’s ballot in the box for them for all the millions of voters. In this, the western blizzard of fraud has been very successful – if you’re looking for it and convinced it’s going on, you’ll see it.

    • marknesop says:

      I’m still not getting it, I’m afraid. As I’m sure I mentioned on more than one occasion, mathematics is not my strong suit; however, there seem to be too many factors arguing against massive fraud – or, more accurately, arguing against its indetectability. It should be easy to prove, and not take very long, as there is some instrument standing in the way of it no matter how you approach it.

      Ballot stuffing, for instance; sealed ballot boxes showing up already filled with votes before the poll even opens. How’s that going to work? You have to sign for your ballot in accordance with election law:

      “Ballots shall be given to voters included in the voters lists upon presentation of a passport or an equivalent identity paper (a serviceman’s card or an officer’s identity card for persons who undergo military service, a certificate, other paper of a standard format issued by the internal affairs bodies, a foreign passport of the Russian Federation citizen for persons who permanently reside or currently stay outside the territory of the Russian Federation, a seaman’s passport). Each voter shall be entitled to receive one ballot.

      When receiving a ballot, a voter shall write the series and number of his/her passport or equivalent identity paper and put his/her signature in the voters list. With the consent or at the request of the voter the series and number of his/her passport or equivalent identify paper may be written in the voters list by any voting member of a precinct election commission. The voter shall check the correctness of the entry and shall sign for the receipt of a ballot.”

      The election workers know what the population is, pretty closely, for their voting district, because Russia just did a comprehensive census recently, and we’re always hearing about how the dictator at the head of the Russian government still makes every citizen register in their place of ordinary residence. When the ballot box is unsealed and you have 500 ballots more than are on your list since the poll opened and there are no matching names for them, they’re obviously junk.

      Likewise, karuseli voting. Busing the same group of people all around the city to vote in multiple districts is kind of obvious, for one thing, and for another, they’re not registered voters in more than one district. It’s inconceivable to me that Russia is this draconian autocracy that obsesses on knowing its citizens’ whereabouts within 3 feet at any given moment – except on election day. Then they don’t have a fucking clue, these people could be…anywhere.

      Then there’s the the similarity – on the high side, if anything, of the advance polls for UR’s share of the vote and what they actually got. Vote-rigging would have to be developed to an amazing degree for the advance polls to be high by 20%, but UR wisely budgeted for a fraud factor of 40%, since their real votes if they didn’t cheat would be about 20% (about) less than what the final result was. Therefore they have to allow for 20% cheating to get a bigger share of the vote, plus another 20% to compensate for all the people who lied in the advance polls but never really intended to vote for UR. And it all comes out just enough to give them a slim majority? Wow. These guys are good.

      Putin could never have invalidated the vote and ordered it re-run. It would have amounted to an admission that there was massive fraud on behalf of UR (ER, YeR, whatever), and the second one might be a great deal closer. Besides, the only thing that would satisfy the west would be if someone else won. Ukraine in 2004 is an instructive example, the vaunted Orange Revolution. Viktor Yanukovich vs. Viktor Yushchenko. The first ballot had them neck-and-neck, less than a point between them. The run-off had Yanukovich victorious by only 3% – but everybody knows what happened next. Endless demonstrations, calls for a general strike, acts of civil disobedience. Although Yanukovich’s party was accused of cheating (massive!!! fraud), he was only ahead by 3%, and the exit polls allegedly showed Yushchenko ahead by 11%.

      The funny thing – well, there are a couple of funny things, actually – Yushchenko’s and Yanukovich’s support hardly budged between first ballot and Yushchenko’s dazzling victory. In their strongholds (the east for Yanukovich, the west for Yushchenko), the biggest change between first ballot and last was only about 2%, such as happened in Donetsk (8.91% to 10.12%) for Yanukovych, and in Lviv (5.15% to 5.56%) for Yushchenko. But in Kiev, Yanukovich’s support went from .67% down to .54%, while Yushchenko’s rose from 2.38% to 3.22%.

      Where’d he get the 11% lead that exit polls showed in the last ballot? How is it that the second ballot in the run-off had Yanukovich ahead by 3%, but that was one of the dirtiest elections ever, riddled with (massive!!!) fraud, while the election he won in 2010 had him victorious by less than 2% higher than that – but was grudgingly allowed to be “free and fair”?

      The usual western suspects were indeed present in strength for the Orange Revolution: OTPOR, NED, and various other democracy advocacy groups. Additionally, Berezovsky was accused of pouring millions into keeping the demonstrations going, which he never denied.

      I think the west plans to go big or go home this time, and that Putin is in for a non-stop battle between now and March. We’ll see if the demonstrations manage to keep up, and if there are calls for a strike and civil disobedience.

      • marknesop says:

        All that said (and I really should have done a post on it, it was long enough), your suggestion that UR officials were mostly responsible sounds fairly reasonable. I could buy that, and you have defended it very well. But I still don’t see the fraud being anything of the magnitude described in the western press, and it seems only to be growing with the retelling.

  32. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    I think one has to find a compromise between a fair representation and a working parliament and government. IMHO, an electoral threshold is needed in a proportional system to have a working, although imperfect, democracy. Second, without a threshold what you get isn’t exactly a fairer representation. What happens is that the small “centrist” parties can ally with the bigger ones (both on their right or left, as they see fit) so that their importance is blown out of proportion. Often they’re essential to get a majority, so they literally sell themselves to the higher bidder. On the other hand, the small parties at the extremes of the political spectrum are doomed to irrelevance. In short, for small centrist parties there is a good chance of entering the government, regardless of who wins the elections, for small “extreme” parties very low chances. With time this transforms the small extreme parties in “unexciting ideological hodgepodges” as you say, and the small centrist parties in shady business committees.

    • hoct says:

      Why does one have to find a compromise between fair representation and a working parliament and government? That means you are stacking the system in favor of your vision from the start. What if I said one has to find a compromise between fair representation and low taxes and therefore invented a 100% threshold for all parties arguing for higher taxes? You wouldn’t think that would be very non-partisan of me would you?

      You may like a working parliament and government, but someone else may not. I personally would like for elected politicians to ideally be given knives and told to fight televised death-matches in cages for our amusement. Failing that I am partial to government deadlock and paralysis so that we can begin to ignore them as ideally we would.

      If anything we seem to agree that political parties are nests of corruption, so why give them a system tailor made to result in working governments? No government, no government corruption. Seems straightforward enough.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Why? Because I like it and many others do. If others like a 0% threshold, all they’ve to do is vote for the party (Unione di Centro) that proposes to change the electoral law to their liking.

        • hoct says:

          It doesn’t matter if you like it. You may like not to hold elections at all, but in a representative democracy it is nonetheless out of bounds for a party to abolish elections. So should be enacting an election threshold and other anti-democratic legislation that toys with elections and restricts representation.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            The Italian Constitutional Court has a different opinion on electoral thresholds, deeming them compatible with fair representation. So, if I and my fellow countrymen like or dislike this electoral legislation matters.

      • Hunter says:

        “I personally would like for elected politicians to ideally be given knives and told to fight televised death-matches in cages for our amusement.”

        I wouldn’t mind seeing that either to be honest.

        You know what…if you form a advocacy group with this as your platform, I’ll support you. 🙂

  33. kievite says:

    STRATFOR analysys (free for their site) Russian Protests Alone Pose Little Threat to Putin
    (December 12, 2011). I recommend to read full analysis but here is an interesting quote:

    It appears that Moscow can manage this internal crisis, but the balance could be tipped by the United States.

    The media (especially in the West) is set on forwarding the notion that Putin’s power is under threat, even though the view from the ground is much different. Moreover, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials have spoken harshly about the most recent Russian elections, and have praised the protests.

    There has been public confirmation that Washington has increased its financial aid to groups inside Russia, by $9 million in the past few weeks alone. These groups include one of the most prevalent watchdogs to denounce the elections as well as a number of media outlets that have devoted heavy coverage to the protests. Putin has accused Washington of stirring up resentment against the Kremlin and Putin.

    This is not a new tactic by the United States, which has a multi-billion-dollar budget to fund and support non-governmental organizations, media outlets and other groups operating in Russia. However, the move at this time is critical, because Washington has an immediate vested interest in depicting Putin as weak. Washington and Moscow are engaged in a series of tense standoffs — mainly over issues pertaining to influence in Central Europe. Should Putin feel threatened domestically, his focus could shift from Central Europe back home. Also, should world leaders — particularly in Europe — see Putin struggling to manage his own domestic politics, they will worry less about whether Russia is as powerful as it claims. The uprising at home is real, but Putin can manage it as long as foreign influence doesn’t increase and push the protesters into further action.

    Now I think Swoggler should print his comments, shred them and eat them with borsch in best Russian tradition for such cases 😉

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks for that, kievite – very interesting. And I can’t recall STRATFOR ever being noticeably pro-Russian.

    • Swoggler says:

      $9 million brand-new samoleans is indeed a lot of money. That much given out that quickly does indeed raise eyebrows. Is there a citation from the article? Who’s getting this wash of money? How much is Golos getting? Who’s distributing it? Over what length of time?

      The rest seems like another anonymous blogger’s opinion to me…lots of innuendo…little analysis. Did America make a fuss over the last Duma elections? Was it because of some geo-strategic situation then? Has the amount of money from the US to Russian NGOs increased or decreased? Since when? By whose orders?

      So I’ll keep the borstch in the fridge for another day or two kievite (it tastes better that way anyhow).

      • sinotibetan says:


        1.)”Is there a citation from the article? Who’s getting this wash of money? How much is Golos getting? Who’s distributing it? Over what length of time?”
        I don’t know the answers to these questions and perhaps others who know more about these care to enlighten us.

        2.)a.)”Did America make a fuss over the last Duma elections?b.) Was it because of some geo-strategic situation then?c.) Has the amount of money from the US to Russian NGOs increased or decreased? Since when? By whose orders?”

        a.) If I recall correctly, not as much as this time. But, of course America MUST make a fuss of it somehow….America portrays herself as the bastion and true supporter of ‘democracy’. Eg…..the 2007 Duma elections:-

        b.) Russia has ALWAYS been of geostrategic interest to America whether now or ‘back then’. America’s aim is to see a Russia SUBMIT to Western supremacy and political dominance. As long as Russia refuses to ‘submit’, there will be intense covert and non-covert means to ensure such will ultimately occur. As to WHY the US is making more fuss currently and covertly hoping for a “Russian Spring” is because they perceive :-
        i.)A weakening of Putin’s popularity compared to 2007-2008.
        ii.)A younger generation of Russians who did not experience the turmoils of the 1990s who, due to American global ‘cultural hegemony'(trumpeting the ‘ideals’ of ‘democracy’ for example….via America’s ‘propaganda machine’ – Hollywood)-are easier to manipulate to view Putin’s slightly authoritharian regime as ‘suppressive’. This group has increased in percentage and are also more vocal(as most youthful people are).
        iii.)Putin’s decision to ‘return as President’ was a call to action on the part of the US. All the political elites in USA had been against this. Hence, the relentless attack on Russia INTERNALLY(I believe by covert means…eg. ‘aiding’ the Russian opposition – especially bloggers who will incite the passions of the above-mentioned ‘young Russians’)in the hope that Putin would either be discouraged to run for the Presidency or if he did, to ensure he loses the race or if he wins it, incite destabilization ala the “Arab Spring”.
        c.) Who really knows? USA is one of the greatest in covert operations of undermining ‘unfavourable regimes’. If we REALLY knew the answer to these, we are either involved in those covert operations or we better run for our lives and hide in Mars because we might be target of assassinations.


      • hoct says:

        There you go people. It only counts for interference if funding is increasing.

    • yalensis says:

      Just thumbing through INOSMI, you do see in the last couple of days Western propaganda outlets turning on a dime and pushing the “Putin is weak” line. Without this Western meddling I could have endorsed Swoggler’s proposed tactic of Putin placating the demonstrators, promising reforms, etc. But now, given the meddling and the propaganda war, such conciliatory moves might only be perceived as appeasement and contribute to the “Putin is weak” trope. Hence, Putin must continue to talk tough.
      All of this could have been predicted (and was predicted) even a few months ago, when Putin announced his candidacy for presidency. Joseph Biden said at the time that Putin’s returning to presidency was “unacceptable” to America. Everybody who knows Americans knows their leaders do not utter idle threats. Recall how Hillary Clinton flew to Tripoli and announced that Gaddafy must be taken “alive or dead”, and two days later Gaddafy was dead, ripped to pieces on the street by a mob, after his convoy was struck by American hellfire missiles.

  34. sinotibetan says:

    Dear all,

    I am sorry to interrupt…but just a couple of questions/comments:-

    1.)”There are severe storms ahead, possibly as bad as the 1930s, and every country needs strong and skillful leadership right now. Putin is exactly that.”
    I am not too sure now that Putin is that strong nor skillful. He does not seem to handle the recent protests well enough – I agree with Anatoly. I am sorry, but Putin had been disappointing.
    2.)As a consequence, Putin’s popularity is dipping(if we believe VCIOM and and FOM) which Wall Street Journal and others of the same are reporting with much glee….
    3.)It looks like Washington is ‘winning’ while Putin and co. is losing the game. This is bad for Russia in the long run because I see instability and chaos coming. I would not be surprised that a true Washington ‘win'(eg. an ousting of Putin – Gaddafi style[Washington hates Putin enough that he will not get away Mubarak style even])is on the horizon – and I think I(as well as Anatoly)have to eat back our words and indeed agree that yalensis so-called ‘needless worries’ turn out prophetic. However, looking at what’s happening in Egypt and Libya – those same Russian protesters will be grossly disappointed at the outcome of a Russia without Putin. They will see a Russia ‘ruled’ by weak rulers willing to genuflex to Washington and yet remain as despotic and corrupt as any corrupt Tsar could have been. In desperation, the support towards radicals will mount and lead to radicalization of huge segments of the Russian population. Will a Hitler-like ultranationalist then ‘hijack’ the situation…and imagine a fascist and ultranationalist wielding nuclear power in control? Or will Russia be plundered and denuclearized(by the West) before such a leader can appear and that means a Russia forever subdued? Or are my wild speculations just wild speculations?
    4.)One question….if Putin’s popularity is dipping….WHO is taking away that support? And why?
    5.)I still believe that Putin’s greatest error was to mistakenly choose Medvedev as ‘successor’. He should have held on to the post of President and altered the constitution. That interregnum by Medvedev led to worsening of the insider wars between siloviki and liberals within the ruling regime, weakening the regime. Also, Putin failed to groom leaders as capable or more capable than him.

    In short, I am sorry for Russia. Looks like the country is going the way of Egypt and Libya if the situation continues.


    p.s. I hope this post would not be construed as being ‘anti-Russian’. Hopefully, my sentiment is totally wrong. This is a post of someone who empthatizes with Russia and quite disappointed with Putin.

  35. kievite says:

    There was an old (1998) book by Zbigniew Brzezinski “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives ” . It might be an interesting exercise to reread it now. Here are some quotes picked up from Amazon review by “A Customer” (January 3, 2002)
    This is how Brzezinski views the (supposedly sovereign) nations of Central Asia:

    “The last decade of the twentieth century has witnessed a tectonic shift in world affairs. For the first time ever, a non-Eurasian power has emerged not only as a key arbiter of Eurasian power relations but also as the world’s paramount power. The defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union was the final step in the rapid ascendance of a Western Hemisphere power, the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power…”

    “Two basic steps are thus required: first, to identify the geostrategically dynamic Eurasian states that have the power to cause a potentially important shift in the international distribution of power and to decipher the central external goals of their respective political elites and the likely consequences of their seeking to attain them;… second, to formulate specific U.S. policies to offset, co-opt, and/or control the above…” (p. 40)

    – “…To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.” (p.40)

    – “Henceforth, the United States may have to determine how to cope with regional coalitions that seek to push America out of Eurasia, thereby threatening America’s status as a global power.” (p.55)

    – “America is now the only global superpower, and Eurasia is the globe’s central arena. Hence, what happens to the distribution of power on the Eurasian continent will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy and to America’s historical legacy.” (p.194)

    – “That puts a premium on maneuver and manipulation in order to prevent the emergence of a hostile coalition that could eventually seek to challenge America’s primacy…” (p. 198)

    – “The most immediate task is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitration role.” (p. 198)

    – “For Pakistan, the primary interest is to gain Geostrategic depth through political influence in Afghanistan – and to deny to Iran the exercise of such influence in Afghanistan and Tajikistan – and to benefit eventually from any pipeline construction linking Central Asia with the Arabian Sea.” (p.139)

    And ponder the meaning of these statements in a post-9-11 world:

    – “Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.” (p. 211)

    – “The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported America’s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (pp 24-5)

    To most Americans the people of the world are just that- people, just like us, with a right to self-determination. To Brzezinski, they are merely pawns on a chessboard. Such an imperialist strategy does not make me feel any safer- how did Napoleon’s strategy fare for the French in the long run? Or the Roman emperors for their citizens?

    Rome fell, Hitler fell, all imperialist powers ultimately fail, because they follow the over-extended geopolitical strategy advocated by Brzezinski. While our military is busy fighting for oil interests all around the world, who’s watching the front door?

    • kievite says:

      Sorry. Everything after “from Amazon review by “A Customer” (January 3, 2002)” is a quote. Looks like I made a typo in the tag and it was marked it as such.

    • cartman says:

      Interesting article here:

      “Washington’s heavily advertised reset in the relations with Moscow ended with a fabulous failure and no other outcome could be realistically expected from the outset. The reason is that over roughly the last 150 years the US was building a vision of the world such that Russia – Soviet, post-Soviet or sustaining any other social and political system – was a priori regarded as an enemy. From A. Mahan to Z. Brzezinski, US geostrategies were centered around crushing Russia as a prologue to the US global primacy. A couple of illustrative examples are given below.

      A. Mahan wrote that the US should gain control over the entire part of South Asia stretching from the 30 to the 40 parallel and start pushing the Russian nation to the north. His plan was that – as, by the laws of nature, the termination of growth necessarily leads to decline – the Russians would be doomed if locked up in their northern territories. Z. Brzezinski, in his turn, coined the thesis that the new world order would be built on the wreckage of Russia, at the expense of Russia, and would be used against Russia.”


      Mahan was a naval captain, and had not yet witnessed Britain’s total defeat in Afghanistan, so it is interesting that US foreign policy still believes that this is possible today. Sea and air power are ineffective, plus both strategies require massive consumption of the materials that are trying to be captured. (There will never be a “green” army, so the largest, best-equipped military in the world is still vulnerable to a cold death.) The New Silk Road strategy will go nowhere because everyone trying to send goods across the region will always have to pay local warlords along the way. The United States also completely lacks cultural and historical connections to CA. The only way to remedy this is to divert the flow of migrants and guest workers to the West. Russia could always threaten to deport migrants from CA and the Caucasus should these states get too far out of line. The deportations of Georgians back in 2006 was just a warning shot to Saakashvilli, which tells you that Moscow is not too worried about him.

  36. marknesop says:

    Great coments by everybody, there’s enough material here to keep me busy for quite a while!

    The “Putin is weak” theme seems perfectly straightforward to me; Putin is recognized as a strong leader by Russians. Since it seems that the younger generation – or so the west would have us believe – is tired of stability and equates it with stagnation, strength is probably Putin’s biggest draw. So the west is attempting to negate that advantage, and at the same time hoping Putin will do something brutal to put down the demonstrations, perhaps with people getting hurt into the bargain. Once again, it’s no-lose for the west; if Putin does nothing, he appears to confirm that he has lost much of the ruthless strength that characterized his rule. If he reacts, he’s a cruel dictator.

    According to the School of Russian and Asian Studies, there were about 148 foreign NGO’s operating in Russia in 2006. There may be more or less now, I’m afraid I don’t know and I don’t have time right now to research it. But most references are clear that while the new NGO law (new as of 2006) was no more restrictive than similar law in other countries including modern western democracies, a big reason for the law’s introduction was that there were no records kept at all previous to that on who was operating in Russia and why. The reference I cited also opines that a major incentive for the new law was the part played by foreign (mostly American) NGO’s in the Orange Revolution. While the law is, as I said, not particularly restrictive, there is plenty of language in it that will permit an NGO to be booted out of the country for “threatening the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity, national unity, unique character, cultural heritage, or national interests of the Russian Federation.”

    Returning once again to the Orange Revolution, this sentimental down-with-dictators piece in the New York Times urged populations to just put their faith in student activists, because they know no fear (The author is the amazing photographer from “Neeka’s Backlog”, in my blogroll). Maybe that’s because they have never been in a situation that taught them fear. The west keeps harping on the theme that Putin can’t scare people anymore with apocalyptic 90’s scenarios. But the events in Russia in the 90’s were certainly good reason for fear. People lost their life’s savings when the banks were wiped out. Brave students now who were children then might know no fear of western intentions for their country – but does that spell wisdom? Young activists in Kiev who swept Viktor Yushchenko to power were giddy with impetuous momentum and convinced with the unswerving conviction of youth that they had done something great for their country. But Yushchenko’s rule was a disaster for Ukraine, whose economy was obliterated and whose credibility was ruined until even the west – responsible more than any other factor for their nascent democracy – would no longer lend them money because Yushchenko’s plans were so flaky. Ukraine dropped steadily in the corruption rankings like the CPI, beloved of westerners, throughout Yushchenko’s tenure. The students who empowered Yushchenko did their country a great disservice, and – older and wiser now, they must know it.

    Disaffected youth is frequently the target of revolutionaries, because it is easy to convince inexperienced youth that it is getting a raw deal and that now is the time to do something about it. Youth is indeed fearless, because it has yet to learn reasons to be afraid. Ask the youth of Kiev and surrounding towns who gave the Orange Revolution all their anger and frustration if they would do it again. But there’s an inexhaustible supply of disenchanted youth ready to listen to the siren song of the promisers. That youth, unafraid and with visions of meteoric careers dancing in their heads, is the target again.

    • marknesop says:

      As a footnote, it appears the School of Russian and Asian Studies underestimated by several orders of magnitude. According to the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, there were at least 600,000 registered NGO’s operating in Russia in 2005, and the organization speculated there may have been as many unregistered organizations. One reason for the introduction of the 2006 law on NGO’s was to register what had previously been uncounted, but it seems there was a previous registration process after all.

      Many of these organizations serve a good, selfless and useful purpose. But the reference acknowledges that some also are connected with policy organizations and think tanks which promote democracy through advocacy.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        The number is too high to be trusted, but the article at the Yale centre reveals what these 600000+ NGO really are there are at least 600,000 registered non-governmental non-commercial organizations. Since when is an NGO a commercial entity?
        IMO, most of these “NGO” are business activities that disguise themselves as non-profit to dodge taxes. It’s a trick widely used in Italy where bars, gyms, touristic resorts disguise as non-profit entities “to organise the free-time of their associates”, “to develop the mental and body health of their associates” and so on. Checks by the tax police discovered a resort with an helipad registered as a non-profit organisation.

        • marknesop says:

          You’re probably right; perhaps the new law was designed to regulate non-ideological non-profits as well. Anyway, everybody had to re-register, and the new regulations governing requirements to produce documents doubtless resulted in some such organizations folding their tents and going home. But organizations such as Golos, as far as I’m aware, are all-Russian – they are just funded by western advocacy groups with an interest in regime change.

  37. sinotibetan says:

    Dear kievite,

    Thanks for that quote from a ‘customer’ regarding Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book. I read somewhere that Brzezinski is a Russophobe and Obama often seeks his views on foreign policy. Here’s one in Washington Post recently:-


    The author had endorsed Brzezinski as a ‘foreign policy guru’ for Obama:-



    That Brzezinski is ‘confirmed’ as one of Obama’s advisers is supposedly ‘supported’ by this article/news:-





    Any truth in any of these?

    Apparently Brzezinski is a confirmed Russophobe with an intense obsession to weaken Russia as much as possible and bring that country to submit to the West:-


    I wonder if Brzezinski developed his anti-Russian tendencies because of this:-
    “Zbigniew Brzezinski was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1928. His family, members of the nobility (or “szlachta” in Polish), bore the Trąby coat of arms and hailed from Brzeżany in Galicia. This town is thought to be the source of the family name. Brzezinski’s father was Tadeusz Brzeziński, a Polish diplomat who was posted to Germany from 1931 to 1935; Zbigniew Brzezinski thus spent some of his earliest years witnessing the rise of the Nazis. From 1936 to 1938, Tadeusz Brzeziński was posted to the Soviet Union during Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge.
    In 1938, Tadeusz Brzeziński was posted to Canada. In 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was agreed to by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; subsequently the two powers invaded Poland. The 1945 Yalta Conference between the Allies allotted Poland to the Soviet sphere of influence, meaning Brzezinski’s family could not safely return to their country.”

    Anyway, bad news for Russia if all this is true.


    • hoct says:

      I read somewhere that Brzezinski is a Russophobe and Obama often seeks his views on foreign policy.

      Both these things are common knowledge.

      • yalensis says:

        True. Brzezinski is associated with the Democratic Party, in particular the Clinton administration, which also explains his role as foreign policy advisor to Obama administration. In addition to being a Russophobe (which Obama is as well), Brzezinski is a tireless advocate for American hegemony around the world, particularly in Europe and Eurasia. He is considered an “intelligent” imperialist, for example, he was opposed to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, which he feared would backfire. As it turned out, Americans were successful in Iraq (against all expectations): they got rid of a “rogue” government which defied them, put in a “friendly” government and ensured that Iraqi oil will continue to be sold in American dollars. Mission accomplished.

        • hoct says:

          …put in a “friendly” government and ensured that Iraqi oil will continue to be sold in American dollars

          If you think about it they could have gotten that much by just letting Hussein back in the fold. An approach that would have had the added benefit of not bringing to power Iran-friendly Islamists.

          As it turned out, Americans were successful in Iraq…

          I argued they lost in just my last blog post.

        • hoct says:

          …put in a “friendly” government and ensured that Iraqi oil will continue to be sold in American dollars.

          If you think about it they could have had that by just letting Hussein back into the fold. It would also have had the added benefit of not empowering Iran-friendly Islamists.

          As it turned out, Americans were successful in Iraq…

          I argued they lost in just mylast blog post.

          • yalensis says:

            Thanks, @hoct, very interesting blog post. I follow your argument that the U.S. invasion of Iraq did not proceed as planned and resulted in unintended consequences, for example, the rise of Shia politicians to power, and the increase in Iranian influence. It is also noteworthy that Americans say they have pulled all their troops out; however, I am pretty skeptical about this, will they not leave strategic bases behind? More importantly, they will probably have a secret treaty with Iraqi government, allowing them to do fly-overs on their way to bombing other countries in the region. Also, my main measure of American “success” is the petro-dollar issue. Saddam wanted to ditch the dollar in favor of the euro for selling oil. Just as Gaddafy in Libya wanted to ditch dollar in favor of gold. Either plan would have seriously harmed the American currency, which explains why Americans went ape-sh*t at the prospect and spent many billions of these very dollars to overthrow these “rogue” regimes. As a result of these violent wars, Middle Eastern oil continues to be traded in dollars. While recognizing that reality is complicated and many factors are in play, I regard the “dollar” issue as the key to most things happening in that region (including the Libya war). Therefore, if Iraqi oil continues to be traded in dollars, then I regard this as an American success story. At least for now.

  38. I want to take issue with some of the more alarmist comments that have appeared here:

    1. Turning first to the demonstration that took place a week ago, it was an authorised demonstration supported by all the opposition parties in a city of eleven million people 57% of whom according to the official figures had just voted for the opposition parties. Given that this is so and given that we know from even the official figures that there are many millions of people in Moscow who in the election voted for the opposition parties it would have been nothing short of astonishing (and indeed frankly rather siinister) if a well publicised demonstration supported by all the opposition parties had failed to attract a respectable turnout. In the event the turnout, which according to the best estimates seems to have been around 25-30,000, was respectable but hardly overwhelming. Further afield the picture was a great deal less impressive with turnout at the various opposition rallies held across the whole country proving to be quite low with the best estimates of the total number of people who demonstrated (including in Moscow) coming to between 60,000 to 75,000.

    2. The demonstration however exposed the very fragmented nature of the opposition with the various parties that briefly came together for the demonstration since going their own way. Zhirinovsky and the Liberal Democrats have gone over to the government side. Indeed I question whether it is proper to call them an opposition party at all. The Communists and Fair Russia have both said they will take up their parliamentary mandates. None of the opposition parties are saying they will boycott the Presidential election. Each is insisting on running its own candidate for the Presidential election with no sign of the opposition succeeding in uniting behind one candidate. Each is also insisting on holding its own protest rallies independently of the others. Thus we had the small Yabloko rally today, which appears to have attracted no more than 1-1,500 in the city which is the centre of Yabloko’s support. We are going to have another Communist rally tomorrow, which I suspect will bring out between 3-10,000. Meanwhile even the so called “non systemic” opposition appears to be fragmenting with the so called Left Front apparently bitterly complaining about the presence of a few hundred monarchists and nationalists at the demonstration and at the presence of people like Nemtsov and Kasyanov on the platform.

    3. In the meantime the original organisers of the demonstration have been making one mistake after another. They took the foolish step of choosing white as the intended colour of the protest even though that is the one colour that the Communists can never accept since for them it is the colour of counterevolution and collaboration. This iwas especially stupid since following the wholly predictable defection of the Liberal Democrats to the side of the government the Communists are the party that won more votes in the election than all the other oppositon parties combined. The organisers of last week’s demonstration have announced another demonstration next Saturday, setting themselves up for humiliation if the turnout is less than they say or is less than at the demonstration a week ago, and inflicting on themselves the totally unnecessary challenge of trying to maintain the momentum of the protests on the even of the New Year and Christmas holiday and through the long winter months. Yabloko meanwhile is contesting individual election results in the courts at the same time as it is calling for the whole election to be annulled, which sends out a muddled message and promises a long drawn out argument in the courts, which is guaranteed to confuse people and make them lose interest.

    4. By contrast I would say that the government’s response has been calm and sensible, reflecting the government’s knowledge that the elections were not unduly distorted by widespread or systematic fraud and that the new parliament does in Putin’s words “reflect the true balance of political forces in the country”. The government did not make the mistake of trying to stop the demonstration a week ago from taking place. It did not make the furher mistake of ignoring the demonstration in television broadcasts or in Putin’s television marathon. It has agreed to parcel out Duma committees to the the opposition parties refllecting their greater strength in the new parliament.

    5. Lastly and contrary to what some people have said on this blog, Putin was absolutely right and showed the firmness of his political touch when he refused to admit on television the existence of any significant fraud. Had he done so he would have demoralised his own supporters who would have come away with the feeling that if even Putin was admitting to the existence of fraud the opposition might have a point when it said that the entire election was rigged. He would also have given a free gift to the opposition, who would undoubtedly have seized on his admission to renew their demand for a re run of the whole election. By contrast by saying that at the forthcoming Presidential election he will have web cameras installed at every polling station Putin is all saying that he has nothing to fear and nothing to hide and that the opposition is only complaining about fraud because they are bad losers, a particularly effective line of attack because it happens to be true.

    5. Putin incidentally was also absolutely right to make his surely pre prepared comments about the White Ribbon. Had he gone into lengthy explanations of why the White Ribbon is inappropriate he would have told the Communists, who are not going to wear it anyway, nothing they do not already know, and would have bored everyone else by what would have sounded like a historical lecture. Instead by making a coarse joke he not only made sure that what he said would attract everyone’s attention but he also made sure that people who might otherwise have considered wearing the White Ribbon would now feel ridiculous if they did so.

    In summary there is not going to be a colour revolution in Russia. The political system is stable, the government is strong, the elections show that it still commands widespread support and the demonstrations made clear that there is no insurrectionary mood in the country and no credible opposition leadership remotely interested in leading such an insurrection even if there was one. What is instead happening is a further move towards normal politics as these are conducted in other places. There are oddities reflecting the particular circumstances of Russia’s situation but there is really nothing more to it than that.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      Dear Alexander,
      thanks for the heads-up. The Russian demonstration are being blown out of proportion. If we compare them with the protests that are going on in the West, like the Occupy, Indignados they appear like child’s play, not only for their size but also for the level of violence. One thing that I find really absurd is all the talking about the Russian MSM that “finally” reported about the protests, while the previous ones were ignored. Peoples seem to forget that the previous demonstrations were attended by a negligible amount of protesters and protests of a negligible size are ignored everywhere. Otherwise TVs would spend 2+ hours just to report about every demonstration.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for comment, Alexander: A lot would have depended on the rallies this weekend. Western media was no doubt hoping for a surge of tens of thousands of liberasti fans. Instead, as you remarked, only around 1500 for Yabloko yesterday, and around 4,000 for Communists today. The danger of “color revolution” is not over, but it was never going to happen from within; my concern was more about outsiders inciting violence, giving West a pretext to intervene with sanctions, etc. I agree with you that Putin’s remarks were balanced and appropriate, and his vulgar joke about the “white ribbons” may well have deterred some naïve souls from donning that symbol.
      In that context I cannot resist repeating a joke that I posted on Anatoly’s blog. It is a transcript from an Echo Moskvy transmission, alluding to Putin’s joke. The moderator Vorobyova attempts to cut off her guest, Gusman, from cracking an oldie-but-goodie joke with a twist:
      Here is the Russian, which I got from a user-comment on INOSMI:
      Радиостанция Эхо Москвы, передача “Кейс”, время выхода в эфир – 15.12.11 20:07
      Ведущая – И.Воробьева
      Участники – Ю.Гусман,Т.Олевский
      Ю. ГУСМАН – Вообще с именами в Америке удивительное творится. Я прошу извинить моих друзей из Америки, там есть жуткая история. Однажды маленький индеец спрашивает у матери: мама, почему мою сестру зовут Восходящее Солнце. Потому что она была зачата при восходе солнца.
      И. ВОРОБЬЕВА – Я знаю. Я не хочу слышать про белую ленточку.
      Ю. ГУСМАН – А почему зовут Синий Цветок. Она была зачата в васильках. И хватить приставать ко мне, Белая Ленточка. В оригинале была Рваная Резинка. Пардон. Стала Белой Ленточкой. Это тоже история из жизни коренных американцев.
      Т. ОЛЕВСКИЙ – Кто первый запатентует название для контрацептивов Белая ленточка…

      Here is my to-English translation:

      Gusman: So this young Indian [native American] boy asks his mother: “Mama, why is my sister named ‘Rising Sun’?”
      “Because she was conceived at sunrise.”
      Vorobyova [interrupting]: “I know this one, I don’t even want to hear about White Ribbon….”
      Gusman: “And why [is my other sister] named ‘Blue Flower’?”
      “Because she was conceived in a [field of] cornflowers.”
      “And why…”
      “Stop bugging me [with your questions], White Ribbon.” In the original [joke] his name is “Broken Condom”.
      Olevsky: “Somebody is bound to patent ‘White Ribbon’ as the name of a contraceptive…”

  39. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Alexander,

    I hope your predictions are correct, being one of them with ‘alarmist’ comments. As I have said, I prefer to be wrong than right in this regard. Anyway, you made many compelling points. Thanks!


  40. Evgeny says:

    Hello everyone!

    In case you missed it, there’s a piece by Nikolai N. Petro:
    Petro argues that the United Russia has shown that low result precisely because they did a good job in the time of the crisis. Frankly, that point of him makes sense to me.

    As of his view about concerns of Russians (“Leading the rebellion is the rising middle class, which worries that modernization will cost them more than it will benefit them”), it really does not make sense to me. I really, really do not see it. I can’t say that Petro is wrong, either — I simply do not see it.

    May be, he is referring to a sort of a conflict between people’s spoken and subconscious concerns? Like, cognitive dissonance?

    • marknesop says:

      He also says, “In sum, this is a conservative protest vote. The social agenda of the left won, while the competitive agenda of liberals, a group which happens to include Medvedev and United Russia, lost.” If you approach his conclusions from the standpoint that Medvedev and United Russia are actually liberals, it makes perfect sense.

      Petro hints at it, briefly; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As a society’s most basic needs are met, it becomes more ambitious and its needs become more complex and difficult to satisfy.

      Of course, the way to make society’s more contentious demands lose their effectiveness is to drop the whole thing a notch down on the pyramid, so they begin to worry for their basic needs again. Hopefully it will not come to that, but I’m getting awfully tired of hearing about how the bold new generation in Russia is just crazy with courage and does not fear the destruction of the 90’s. You don’t fear getting your ass kicked, either, if it’s never happened to you. Does it make sense to fear those silly old terrors? The Yushchenko presidency taught Ukrainians a lesson they won’t soon forget.

      • Evgeny says:

        Thank you, Mark, I think I’m getting the both points now.

        Regarding the “new generation”, it’s a two-edged sword. Your point makes some sense. But socialist agenda is lost on us (as I’m one of the “new generation” I guess), too. An interesting opinion from V. Glinsky in that regard. His point is that the “new generation” has not witnessed benefits of the socialist system, so they do not get the message of the left:


        From another blog post of that person:

        “Пока каждый человек не поймет, что то место на коврике в прихожей, которое ему сегодня досталось — это и есть то место, на которое в будущем смогут рассчитывать его дети и внуки, вот до тех самых пор ничего и не изменится. И начинаться перемены должны с экономической борьбы за экономические права. И только так. А всё это политиканство – оно пока от лукавого и лишь легитимизирует существующую систему власти.”

        To sum it up, I guess the “new generation” will make its own collection of mistakes, and it’s not clear where will it arrive to in the end.

  41. Kurt says:

    Nice rant and I respect your style. But can you do with perhaps some footnotes to better check all claims. There’s a book about the First World War, “First Casualty”, well, it’s about finding the truth. Similar problem here, I’m looking for conclusive evidence to find truth.

  42. Hunter says:

    @hoct on December 17, 2011.

    “I did not give the scenario of 40% of the votes being thrown out as something that is likely to happen, but to better illustrate the inherent heavy-handedness and injustice of crossing out cast votes.”

    I understand and it was a good point and still is. Which is why I would argue for lowering the threshold. Perhaps the threshold could be gradually lowered with a view towards eliminating it entirely. However the examples of Italy and Israel don’t present particularly convincing cases for lowering the threshold immediately below 3% so I would first experiment with it at the local and regional level.

    By the way, in Russia had things turned out differently not a single vote would be discounted as a result of the 5%/7% threshold. Even up to 1999 various liberal parties garnered just over 15% of the vote. They then committed suicide so that even now the largest liberal party estimates that it would not get more than 7% of the vote in an election which was run exactly how it wanted it. If the Union of Right Forces and Yabloko had formed a coalition or merged after 1999 I’m fairly sure this Yabloko+ party would still be in the Duma today.

    Also in some respects, various forms of democracy mean that some votes will be thrown out regardless of what happens. When voting directly for a candidate, if one set of persons cast 60% of the votes for candidate A and another set of persons cast 40% of votes for candidate B then the candidate B supporters votes are essentially thrown out as they have no bearing on the candidate who actually won. Likewise within parliament votes pertaining to a measure will also see opposition votes usually crossed out as useless.

    “The problem I see with you stance is that you approach the issue from the tail instead of from the head.”

    I could plead guilty to that charge. 🙂

    “You want to have an arrangement that is based not around fundamental principles, but around the kind of outcome you desire.”

    It could be argued that fundamentally it is illogical for numerous parties pursuing the same ideology to remain separate unless they are not really ideological but based on cults of personality.

    . “If you do not like for minority nationalist parties to have much influence”,

    Actually that doesn’t matter to me. If a majority actually favour nationalist parties then that’s what they want.

    “or for there not too be too many small parties,”

    It’s not that I think that many small parties are necessarily a bad thing, but they just naturally do NOT last in any democracy. In the 1990s there were over 25 parties contesting Duma elections. A number of those parties merged and formed coalitions throughout the 1990s without the incentive of a change in the electoral system simply because it was a natural outcome of different groups of people sharing a similar enough ideology (or having non-conflicting ideologies) joining up when egos did not get in the way.

    “or for them not to be based around societal class”

    Well here it is actually dependent on the state in question. If one of the founding principles of the state in question is to favour unity/federalism and discourage class and ethnic/race differences then it is not about arguing for people not to give support to such a party but for such parties to be actively and legally discouraged as society has already accepted that they are to be discouraged.

    I don’t think much of Just Russia. They are a bland, nothing-to-add party, but with gratis left-econ rhetoric. Rodina was better since it dared to be populist on occasion, but I didn’t think that much of them either.

    The problem I see with you stance is that you approach the issue from the tail instead of from the head. You want to have an arrangement that is based not around fundamental principles, but around the kind of outcome you desire. If you do not like for minority nationalist parties to have much influence, or for there not too be too many small parties, or for them not to be based around societal class then you have the go ahead to argue for people not to give their support to such parties. Others who disagree with you will argue for the opposite view and whoever manages to convince voters will win out. The principle that democracy is based around and that we allegedly collectively buy into is that there should be a level-playing field to ensure the will of the people gets out, not that election must result in this, or that outcome.

    “If a party does not have membership across Russia it does not follow from that that it is not working toward that end. You would not say poor people are poor because they want to be poor would you?”

    No of course not, but being in the process of/working towards getting membership across Russia is not the same as focusing on single locality. I never said that the current parties aren’t working towards getting support across Russia but using the Altai example, if a party was launched being based solely around the Altay people it would be unable to get membership across Russia in sufficient numbers to get even 1 seat in a 450 seat Duma with no electoral threshold. What would be the point of that party contesting national elections for instance when it could focus on local and regional elections and then allow its membership to hold membership in another (allied) party which does have enough support to get into parliament nationally?

    “One problem to consider: how is a nationalist party running on the platform that includes ending subsidies to the Caucasus supposed to get the required number of members in (the ethnically cleansed) Chechnya?”

    As the Caucasus includes a wide variety of ethnicities I’m sure nationalist parties have little trouble find members in the Caucasus.

    Of course any barrier to entry can be overcome, particularly in theory. But that does not make it without consequence or else why erect it in the first place. I do not like cartelisation in business and I do not like cartelisation in politics. Political parties passing legislation that favors big business against their smaller competitors is bad, large political parties passing legislation that favors large parties against their smaller competitors is just as bad and even more plainly self-interested.

  43. yalensis says:

    KPRF might propose candidacy of its representative Ivan Melnikov as “Speaker” in the new Duma. Melnikov is a high-ranking member of Central Committee of Communist Party.
    Ziuganov is also hoping to get his guys some key committee chairmanships:


  44. kievite says:

    I became a little bit concerned how pollsters results are used to justify the existence of falsifications. Here are my two cents on the topic.

    Independent political polling is a myth. In reality in all countries, but especially in the USA polls are used as an important opinion making instrument, not so much as opinion measurement tools. Among related methods are pre-selection of respondents, force-feeding of respondents, slanting the wording of questions, and so on and so forth. And if such an organization is financed by foreign money it is natural for that its primary mission is to promote interests of its financial backer, That can be achieved without overt pressure, Buying researchers by Western trips, stipends etc was well established starting with Soros. That’s probably why polling NGO are so well represented in Russia.

    In other words is not inconceivable that the key mission on GNO pollsters is to manipulate, not monitor, the democratic choice of people. If this is true, then falsification of elections starts long before the elections and pollsters are important part of this process. The book by David More depicts real dirty tricks that pollsters use. The title is pretty telling: The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls. In it he demonstrates quite convincingly that pollsters are far from impartial observers of the public opinion. The key Moore’s argument is that “public opinion” is made to reflect and justify the policies the political forces behind pollsters — an apparent contradiction to what polls claim to do. Moore presents his scathing critique with an authority of a former senior editor of the Gallup Poll.

    That means that an important part of “falsification of falsifications” strategy would be to exaggerate the value of polls and use any discrepancy for claiming that the elections were falsified. Neat, is not it.

    Here is one Amazon review:

    Political polling took a credibility hit from the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary. The polls put Barack Obama comfortably ahead of Hillary Clinton. That led many pundits on that election day to predict confidently, even while New Hampshire Democrats were voting, that Obama would coast from there to the Democratic nomination.

    But Hillary Clinton proved the polls wrong and won in New Hampshire. The fight for the Democratic nomination was far from over. Months of fierce battling lay ahead before the final states voted and Obama outlasted Clinton to win, barely.

    All the New Hampshire polling was way off. What went wrong? After all, the New Hampshire primary has been the first in the nation for a while now. Surely polling scientists should be able to work their prediction magic in this small, well-studied state. At least be able to pick the winner, if not the winning margin. Or call the election too close to call. But the polls were not even close to the voting results.

    David Moore tells us why polls cannot predict well. Several reasons lie behind that. Pollsters pressure people into picking, even when they are undecided. Events after polling can have a big impact, like Clinton’s emotional coffee shop comments. People’s answers are influenced by how questions are posed. All these things affect the predictive power of polling.

    But others have also written about polling accuracy. Moore goes beyond that to talk about more troubling problems. He thinks that politicians and the media use polling to make public opinion, as much as to measure it. He says that pollsters tell Americans what they think, rather than the other way around. That, according to Moore, damages democracy.

    Moore’s crisp and persuasive writing gives his views power. Though polling and statistics can be boring, The Opinion Makers is not. This past presidential election proves that the problems with polling are not going away. They are getting worse.

    We should heed Moore’s warning.

    • Here is an article by Patrick Armstrong on Russia Other Points of View.


      If I have understood him correctly he seems to be saying in the section that discusses the elections that an investigation of election protocols from Moscow polling stations by Vedomosti has not so far confirmed the existence of major election fraud in Moscow such as would have fundamentally changed the election result. As I do not speak Russian I cannot read Vedomosti and I cannot comment on this.

      • marknesop says:

        I agree with most of it, and am unsurprised that little evidence of fraud has been found as this has been my position since the election. Mr. Armstrong still insists that Putin declaring he would stand for the presidency was a bad move, and that the shell-game that resulted in the two leaders merely switching places is even worse. I’m afraid I still don’t get that, as Medvedev was acknowledged by the west as a capable politician and it was plain he was the western preference for presidential candidate. It’s quite true that it makes the situation look like Mr. Putin only anointed Medevedev as a placeholder (a theory I once espoused, until Kevin Rothrock talked me out of it), and now is rewarding him for his loyalty with the Prime Minister position – a scenario made more solid by the west’s constant repetition of it. But realistically, anyone Putin chose (unless it was an opposition candidate, or Boris Nemtsov or a released Mikhail Khodorkovsky) would be immediately branded a Putin stooge, a toady that Putin was rewarding for loyalty only. As I said, that would hold true unless the new Prime Minister were the west’s choice. And once you start letting another power pick your leaders, you’re on the way out. Both Shevardnadze and Yanukovych tried to cut deals that would allow them to stay in power, and that weakness was trumpeted by western media as evidence of their guilt. Putin is right not to back down and suggest someone else – both because Medvedev is a capable politician with national leadership experience who will probably serve ably as Prime Minister, and because Putin knows the west is watching carefully for any sign of weakness. Giving in would be a big one.

    • marknesop says:

      You must be psychic!! See my new post, just published.

  45. Pingback: What They Say After: The Post-Elections Polls

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