Crimson and Clover: Charles Clover on Putin’s Russia, Reprised

Uncle Volodya says, "It's difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it."

George Eliot, from his lofty seat of Victorian wisdom, once advised the world, “Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us worthy evidence of the fact“.

Excuse me; I should have said, from her lofty seat of Victorian wisdom, because George Eliot was, in fact, a woman. Mary Anne Evans adopted a masculine pen name “so her work would be taken seriously”, as female writers of the late 19th century confined themselves mostly to “lighthearted romances”. Her novel “Middlemarch” is acclaimed by some reviewers as the greatest novel ever written in the English language.

In any case, she certainly saw Charles Clover coming without ever seeing him at all, and the quote I led off with perfectly encapsulates his “Putin Builds Walls Round Kremlin“. Before you conclude that Mr. Putin has taken up bricklaying to while away the hours of idleness, Mr. Clover is speaking figuratively. But he must have been stuck for a title, and just went with a “Strashniy (scary) Putin” theme.

Oftentimes, especially when a story lacks substance, the comments are more illuminating than the story itself. So it is with this one, in which the comments broadly reflect an impatience with Russia-has-made-a-terrible-mistake articles that are mostly defended with nonsense. Commenter Ursus Ursa gets straight to the point: “It is extraordinary that the Americans rush to take credit whenever they overturn a regime not to their liking (e.g. the Orange Revolution) – yet when someone points out that they are attempting to do so – especially when they are unsuccessful – they get all huffy and start claiming that they never do things like that. They have a multi-billion dollar budget to subvert those governments which are unfavourable to them. Why not be open about it?”

Why not indeed. Although I think the budget estimate for jiggerypokery with opposition to foreign governments is a little high, Ursus is correct that the USA took an active part in installing Victor Yushchenko as Ukraine’s president in the Orange Revolution, not only providing financial assistance through NGO’s (although it was likely relatively modest, as most of the money to keep the “tent city” in Kiev going came from UK-based Russian exile Boris Berezovsky), but specifically tying future financial aid to Ukraine to Yushchenko’s success. This, as Ursus correctly suggests, was during the flush of victory when Orange Fever was epidemic in the halls of western power, and great things were still foretold for Ukraine. As we now know, the Bonfire of the Vanities between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko put paid to that.

Well, we may as well take a look at the piece, which was first pointed out at Sublime Oblivion by Eric Kraus of Truth and Beauty. I negotiated with Anatoly to let me have it for review.

The first float in the silly parade rolls past with the opening sentence: Mr Putin campaigned on fear, paranoia and an obsession with loyalty and betrayal, according to his critics. Well, what did you expect them to say??

In fact, Mr. Putin campaigned on addressing shortfalls in social mobility, toward realizing better job opportunities for graduating professionals. Toward addressing income disparity, in which he has already demonstrated considerable success as president. He campaigned on increasing efficiency of social spending. He spoke of “the interest of major corporations in the national system of qualifications open to small and medium businesses“, and pledged to “tackle this issue on a national level and involve all the resources of the state“. He promised, without fail, to “improve the efficiency of [Russian] education and healthcare systems“. Better pay for teachers. Increasing the salary for lecturers and professors to double the regional average by 2018. Restructuring ineffective organizations and programs so as to realize up to a third of the funds needed to overhaul and fairly compensate education. Any of this sound familiar? Yes, he did mention foreign interference in Russian national affairs – but that component has been hyped and amplified by the western media to the exclusion of all else, as if he attempted to fire up Russian voters by suggesting they all grab pitchforks and stand by to repel boarders. Nonsense. Read the speeches.

Putin, we hear, has “given up” on alienated middle-class protesters rather than rebuilding links with them, according to the ubiquitous influential-Moscow-businessman-who-asks-not-to-be-named. Maybe he fears Putin will track him down and kill him in his sleep. Or maybe he’s not a Russian. In whatever event – back to the speech. “Today, the bulk of the population is making entirely different demands, something to which the social sphere has so far failed to adapt. People, primarily the “middle class,” well-educated and well-paid individuals, are dissatisfied with the level of social services on the whole. The quality of education and healthcare is still quite low, despite higher budgetary allocations. Services that you have to pay for in these areas are still rife. The goal of creating a comfortable living environment is still a long way off. ” Does that sound like giving up on the middle class? Mr. Putin follows that statement with already-mentioned planned initiatives to sweeten the social contract and further empower the middle class.

Of course, rather than actually researching what Mr. Putin said, it’s likely a lot more thrilling – not to mention less work – to get your bias on with the likes of Garry “radiating charisma” Kasparov and kicked-to-the-curb (and obviously bitter about it) Gleb Pavlovsky. Let’s get something straight here – Gleb Pavlovsky was not “axed amid reports of infighting between Putin loyalists and those of outgoing president Dmitry Medvedev.” Gleb Pavlovsky was sacked because of, as Open Democracy for once accurately reports, “indiscreet comments made about the 2012 presidential elections and…for making his support for Dmitry Medvedev known”. As he certainly did, and to western reporters, no less.  Would you like an example of the gold mine of sound bites he gave the western press? “Putin brought the army and the FSB back into the power system and got rid of everyone who disapproved. But of course, once the siloviki came to power they brought along everything they had been involved in, including their new criminal links and commercial motives.” Yeah, uh huh, I’d want that guy on the team. More? Sure. “There wasn’t even a stable team; Putin wasn’t in control of his own team. His team was more like raisins in a biscuit, people who were embedded inside someone else’s team, Yeltsin’s team, which was closely-knit, held together by their links to the past and their attitude to Yeltsin, by property and views. “ Oh, Gleb, you krazy Kremlin spin-doctor, you. “And at the same time, Medvedev is livid that none of the things Putin created works. There are buttons on his desk, he can push this one or that one, but the cables underneath are missing. On the other hand, he understands that he cannot end his presidency with this election. Unlike Putin, he has his own vision of the state.”

Show me a western politician who would keep a Gleb Pavlovsky on his political team after airing his opinions to the foreign press like that. I can give you plenty of examples of political aides being run out of town on a rail for far, far less. I suppose Mr. Clover meant Gleb Pavlovsky when he suggested Mr. Putin is “obsessed with loyalty”. Or its polar opposite – betrayal.

Well, let’s wind this up. I’ll let the irrepressible Ursus take us out, once again from the comments. “Having spent months warning of how Putin was losing his popularity, rather than acknowledging his error, Clover – who must now account for Putin’s landslide victory – collapses into hysterical invective. The article is nothing more than a series of opinions, masquerading as journalism.

Apparently, the Anglo-Americans are miffed to find themselves faced with a Russia which no longer eats from their hands.”

Testify, Ursus. If I was looking for the real journalist in that article, it wouldn’t take me long to make up my mind. Would you like Gleb Pavlovsky’s old job? I hear the position is open.

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80 Responses to Crimson and Clover: Charles Clover on Putin’s Russia, Reprised

  1. Sorry for taking this OT from the first post, but this is too hilarious an example of self-parodying journalism to miss out on. From the honest and intrepid journalists of the Independent…

    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Too many exiles are tragically complicit in evil.

    PS. A note to readers. Since FT articles are usually behind the paywall, including this one, you can access it by Googling “putin builds walls around the kremlin” and following the link from the first result.

  2. cartman says:

    HuffingtonPost quotes the highly dubious DEBKAfile about Russian troops in Syria, and the Russophobic liberals who post there are in a twitter.

    • marknesop says:

      I like the part about “well, any invasion’s off now. Too much risk of an accidental confrontation with the Russians”. Does he not know the Carrier has been there for a couple of months? What does he imagine an Aircraft Carrier carries? Fresh fruit?

      • Hunter says:

        ..and vegetables! Don’t forget the vegetables! Aircraft Carriers are there to ensure we all live healthy lives. 😉

        Naturally the aircraft on an aircraft carrier are simply there to drop off the main cargo of fresh fruits and veggies to the blighted souls in Assad’s government.

    • yalensis says:

      Actually, I find DEBKA to be strangely reliable most of of the time. Although I wouldn’t put it past them on occasion to put out a false flag. They’re humans, they’re not perfect. (And they are Mossad.) In this particular case, though, I am pretty sure their info is accurate.

  3. yalensis says:

    Back to theme of blog:
    I love how Clover makes it sound SO sinister that Putin is firing some of his campaign advisors. Now these victims of injustice have to find new gigs plying their dubious trade. Clover makes it sound like Stalin purges of 1936: Vladislav Surkov, formerly his master of political theatre, was exiled to a peripheral post in December. Exiled? To where? Siberian Gulag?
    Mr. Clover: Вы — сурковская пропаганда!

    • kirill says:

      The whole western media is endlessly trapped in demonstrating a variant of Godwin’s law by comparing modern politics in Russia to the 1930s. There is no basis for this comparison.

  4. PvMikhail says:

    Sorry people, but my first idea about reading this: These retarded alarmists say that social services failed, education is “low standard” and the “well-educated” middle class is fed up with that. Logical question appears: HOW THE HELL CAN THEY BE WELL-EDUCATED IF THE EDUCATION IS LOW STANDARD? I don’t think that western educated Russians are so numerous, that they could constitute a class in the society.

    In fact, I know that education – as any other sectors – suffered a major setback compared to USSR, but I don’t think that the situation would be so catastrophic. The other possibility, that they have to accept the fact that USSR had a great education, and it is still has some influence today. However I doubt that they would ever say that.

    So we have a sh!t education criticized by highly educated professional middle class who came from Mars, but not from Russia, that’s for sure.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Many members of the apparently “well educated” middle class that have in recent months taken to the trouble of protesting in Moscow against Putin appear to me to have been about 10 or 11 years old in 2000, or even younger; which means that the standard of education that these protesters have attained and their social mobility ensuing therefrom, which, to a large extent, has enabled them to be categorized as middle class, all took place during the president-elect’s previous presidency and premiership. Perhaps these young “oppsitionists” think that they would have fared better in society if the Yeltsin regime had continued and if, say, Nemtsov, had been prime minister and had, perhaps, even become president?

      • Leos Tomicek says:

        Actually looking at some footages from the demonstrations, I would say that many were even younger in 2000. I would also say that many of these Muscovites were living relatively well compared to the rest of Russia in the nineties.

        • yalensis says:

          Exactly. My point (in previous comment), that this so-called “middile class” are actually the compadore bourgeoisie. Or, in this case, the spoiled children of the compadore bourgeoisie.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            About 7 years ago I became well acquainted with a very likeable 30-something-year-old member of the Russian bourgeoisie. He is a highly paid successful broker on the money market and, in my opinion at least, enjoys a very high standard of living. His brother is a surgeon, his mother a doctor, his father is now deceased. He and his brother are the progeny of the Soviet “middle class”. Before his father’s recent death, this young broker once told me that during the ’98 economic crisis, his father, on his mother’s advice, sold the Gazprom vouchers that were in his possession and that if he hadn’t done so, his father would have become extremely wealthy.

            This young man is highly educated. He studied physics at Lomonosov Moscow State University, where he graduated in 1997. However, whilst still studying physics, he decided to study economics as well at Lomonosov; he graduated in both physics and economics. He is, needless to say, a really smart young man. He could see the great opportunities that would enable him to enrich himself in a capitalist free market. He methodically planned his future and now, deservedly, enjoys the fruits of his academic labour and his application to the tasks that he had set himself in the business world.

            However, this young man often used to bemoan to me the fact that, in his opinion, he and his contempories belonged to “a lost generation”. He believed that he had missed out by not having been born a decade earlier, for if that had been the case, he would have become far more wealthy than he is now because he would have been able to apply his undoubted skills on the unfettered market that existed during the Yeltsin years. In short, I got the impression that he was envious of the opportunities that such people as Khodorkovskiy had enjoyed and that he believed that if he were 10 years older, he would have been just as able to have amassed such a large fortune as Khodorkovskiy and others of his ilk had.

            It seemed to me that when he put forward this point of view, which he very often did, he felt the “regime”, namely Putin, was responsible not only for his “impoverishment” but also for the fact that he was not as wealthy as he could have been if there had been no change of government in 2000.

            I should be quite surprised if the young man about whom I write did not attend the “opposition” demonstrations that have taken place over recent months in Moscow.

            I think it was Mark who commented in another thread as regards this matter that many of the young, bourgeois “oppositionists” are blinded by the success of the very small number of highly successful “businessmen” of the Yeltsin years, who, by fair means or foul – or both! – amassed huge fortunes during that time of criminality. And many of these “opposition” protesters feel bitter about having what they perceive as their “freedom” to operate in an unfettered market taken away from them by the “siloviki”, who clearly, in their opinion, enjoy a high lifestyle at the expense of the majority.

            In other words, many of the bourgeois protesters are greedy bastards who want more, and f***k the rest!

            • Leos Tomicek says:

              Being blinded by wealth is why many of them voted for Prokhorov. Prokhorov represents the success of their class.

              • marknesop says:

                Unfortunately, some get dragged in by the impression that he will make them wealthy, too. I guess this is just a human failing – like the overweight women who buy clothing they can barely shoehorn themserves into based on their hope it will make them look like the model, or men spending their kids’ college fund on a driver because they believe it will gift them with an ability to shoot a 10-under-par on every hole although they are not even an average golfer. People beg to be rooked, hoodwinked and preyed upon. Not most, of course, who are not delusional and probably not even many considering the size of the electorate. But sometimes it’s just enough to put a robber over the top.

                I don’t mean to imply Prokhorov is a robber – he may have been, once, in order to acquire his wealth, but maybe that was just boldness, too. I really couldn’t say, and he makes the effort to be charming in person while Putin seems impatient with the niceties of diplomacy. But there’s no reason to believe Prokhorov understands anything about running a country just because he knew how to make a fortune when all you needed was seed money and nerve. And even someone who started out as a shitty leader knows more about it after they’ve had years of experience as compared to a neophyte. Putin started out making the right moves and has rarely put a foot wrong since.

    • marknesop says:

      It’s my impression – and my wife was a teacher in Russia, as was my mother-in-law in the Soviet Union – that the Russian education system is superior in just about every respect (except for nice buildings, perhaps, and teacher salary, of course) to the western system. Competition was not recognized as detrimental to children’s self esteem as in the west and it continues to be encouraged. Although the grading system uses 5 in place of 100 per cent for perfection, the system itself is rigorously observed and rates classroom behavior as a factor, so you can’t be brilliant and an uncontrollable prick and still make valedictorian. Academic excellence is recognized and, proportionally, richly rewarded with scholarships to university. Russian children start formal school at age 4 rather than 5, but most have already had an extensive preschool program by that time; we are just getting around to that here, with a program called Strong Start. It was apparently even better when major state industries used to finance their own private schools for workers’ children.

      • marknesop says:

        Oops; I meant to say Russian children start formal schooling later, at age 7 where western schoolkids start at 5. I knew there was a difference, but I corrected the wrong way.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          My eldest, my 12-year-old son and my 11-year-old daughter, go to a Russian state school. I’m more than satisfied with the education that they receive there. In my opinion, the standard of education that they receive in Russia is of a higher standard tthan that which they would receive if they attended an English secondary school. (I say “English” because the English and Scottish education systems differ: the Scottish system is, in my opnion, better than the English one.)

          • kirill says:

            The dumbing down of the education system here in Canada has been systematic. In the 1990s the universities had to reduce their course difficulty because graduates of secondary schools were no longer prepared with basics. This was especially bad for mathematics. They got rid of integration and differentiation in the pre-university level. Now they are talking about having primary school children spending years on a topic they choose when they come of kindergarten. So some kid will be sudying ponies or fire trucks for 8 years? What a pathetic joke.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Exactly the same has happened in the UK, where many first year undergraduates have to go on remedial courses in order to learn what 16-year-olds learnt over 40 years ago at secondary school, such as integration and differentiation.

              I blame scientific calculators 🙂

    • yalensis says:

      The term “middle class” is at fault. Dishonest people use that vague term to mean whatever they want, and also to fudge over more rigorous sociological definitions of class. In the Russian context, when Nemtsovites say something like “The Russian middle class is disenchanted with Putin”, they are actually talking about the compadore bourgeoisie, the oligarchs and their dependents. To them “middle class” is a code word, just like “civil society” or “democracy movement”.

      • kirill says:

        It’s quite brazen. They used the same doublespeak in the case of Venezuela. All the anti-Chavez malcontents were “the middle class”. So naturally the vast majority and their voice do not count. Since only western approved “middle classes” aka compardor classes are legitimate electors. Now the same BS in Russia where some 5% of the population (I will not count communists among the pro-west opposition and Prokhorov must have gotten some votes from people who are not foaming at the mouth Russia haters) is the “opposition” and naturally should be in power. Again, the vast majority and their voice don’t count. These are the “democratic” values that the self-anointed beacon of humanity, the west, upholds.

    • Hunter says:

      There’s that duality again (we’re gonna need a list!): A well educated middle class emerging from a crappy education system.

      • yalensis says:

        Right! Here is another duality: in America dishonest politicians use the same term “middle class” to mean two completely different things, depending on which political party and who they are courting: (1) the working class, i.e., wage earners; or (2) small businessmen who employ wage laborers. When a term can encompass so many different things, then that term is obviously meaningless. (Those same American politicians, when they talk about “emerging middle class” in places like Russia, they are still talking about Khodorkovsky.)

        • Dear Yalensis,

          I think you are absolutely correct. I have previously complained about the characterisation of the protest movement as a “middle class revolution or uprising”. This is simply a crude form of inverted Marxism based on American assumptions about society and the role of the middle class in it that are wrong anyway and which are certainly wrong in relation to Russia. As you also correctly say there is huge uncertainty anyway as to what the words “middle class” actually mean.

          I would add that though there must be some predatory people with Nietscheian views like the one Moscow Exilehas met the most common attribute of middle class people however one defines them in the great majority of societies is that they are politically conservative ie. they support the existing structures in which they have prospered and which guarantee their wealth and status. Obviously there are exceptions but there is no reason to think that Russia is one. On the contrary given the country’s recent history of revolution and collapse that should make the middle class more politically conservative rather than less.

          There has not so far as I know been a proper sociological study of who supports the protest movement or who votes for liberal politicians and parties. I ought to add that though there is clearly a very large overlap between the protest movement and who supports the liberal parties the two are not the same as the varied turnout at the protest rallies show. Whatever Udaltsov is he is not a liberal. I would also point out that given the immense size of Moscow’s middle class population only a (very small) fraction of middle class people in Moscow can have attended the protests.

          Anyway given the small number of votes the liberals receive (even Prokhorov’s 8% is in single figures) far from all middle class people can support them. By the way I suspect that in Prokhorov’s case his vote was increased beyond the liberal fringe because in Moscow and St. Petersburg he managed to capture the protest vote which is bigger than the liberal fringe and which in the December parliamentary elections had voted for Just Russia.

          I suspect that if a proper sociological survey both of who supports the liberal parties and who support the protest movements were ever done the fallacy behind this assumption of a “middle class revolution” would become clear and it would quickly become apparent that the mistake many are making is to think that because the overwhelming majority of Russian liberals and of White Ribbon protesters are middle class that means that the overwhelming majority of Russian middle class people are liberals and White Ribbon protesters.

  5. Evgeny says:

    Interesting piece in the BotAS about NATO’s tactical nukes in Europe:

    “If a nuclear weapons-free world is what NATO truly wants, full disclosure is the first step.”

  6. yalensis says:

    On Syrian situation: Here is a very interesting article based on STRATFOR e-mails leaked to Wikileaks:

    Former Blackwater director Jamie Smith received a U.S. government contract “to protect Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) members and train Libyan rebel fighters following the announcement of the NATO no-fly zone over Libya one year ago.” Smith bragged to Stratfor that he even helped assassinate Muammar Gaddafi.

    Flash forward to December 2011: Smith got a new job from U.S. Congress to help with regime change in Syria.
    "Other leaked stratfor emails have confirmed that Special Operations Forces from numerous countries have been on the ground in Syria as of December, and are ready to facilitate regime change."

    The article goes on to point out how the U.S. and Al Qaeda are allies and fighting on the same side, at least as far as Libya and Syria are concerned.

    The establishment media, just as they did in Libya, continues to describe terrorists who fight under the Al-Qaeda flag as “activists”.

    Meanwhile, the Pentagon preparing to support these Al-Qaeda terrorists by launching “guerrilla attacks” and “assassination campaigns” inside Syria to topple Assad’s government, the article concludes.

  7. PvMikhail says:

    What about the french scooter-shooter? He is allegedly linked to Al-Kaida too. It seems to me, that whenever a madman starts a shooting rampage, politics benefit from it justifying the actions of it’s own…

    • yalensis says:

      I have not read very much about the scooter-shooter, but had the impression this was just some kind of individualist serial killer, kind of like that Norwegian whack-job Breivik who killed kids for sport at a summer camp? Who knows what goes on in these guys heads? Maybe in their fantasies they believe they are agents of Al Qaeda. Like Snoopy lying on top of his doghouse believing he is a Colonel in the French Foreign Legion?
      And speaking of the Foreign Legion, that’s what the REAL Al Qaeda is. It is America’s handy gang of soldiers and assassins, created in Afghanistan in the 1970’s and maintained ever since to carry out Pindostan geo-strategic plans to destablize and dominate Middle East and Africa. Dubious that this scooter a**hole belongs to THAT well-focused organization?

      • marknesop says:

        But from what I have read about it, he concentrated on Jews and North Africans, even going so far as to get off his bike and chase one of the Jewish girls into the school before shooting her in the head. His motivation seems to be race or religion, or both. He’s a Godsend for Sarkozy, though, who is milking it for all it’s worth as the Man Of Action. I suppose if I am fair he could do little else, due to the dramatic nature of the offense he could hardly just shrug his shoulders and say, “let the police handle it”. But there’s nothing much he can do personally (you have to be able to see over the dashboard to drive a police car), and I hate to think of him benefiting from it politically since I devoutly hope this election is the end of the line for him.

  8. yalensis says:

    Here is interesting dystopian article (this stuff up Anatoly’s alley) about depletion of Earth’s resources:

    Author mentions possible scarcity of food, but does not mention also scarcity of water. Humans can live without food — in worst case we can eat each other — but we cannot live without water.
    Speaking of which, on pro-Libyan blogs I am currently following a negative incident, two days ago the Great Man Made River sprang a leak at Bani Walid and water has been exploding up and being wasted. Nobody knows if the explosion was a natural accident or act of sabotage (and, in latter case, was it done by anti-Gaddafi to punish town of Bani Walid; or by pro-Gaddafi to harm rebel government?) In either case, there is nobody capable of fixing this leak. No more engineers or technicians. No functioning government. That is the result of war. Some of this precious water is literally millions of years old lying beneath the desert for many eons:

    • kirill says:

      They can’t miss the chance in the Rolling Stone piece to bash Russian “imperialism”. The reason that Russia “claims” half of the Arctic resources is that they happen to be within its UN sanctioned economic exclusion zone! Russia owns many islands on the Siberian shelf that extend this zone quite far. Also, it is the Siberian shelf that holds most of the fossil fuel reserves as the Arctic basin around the pole is composed of metamorphic rock which had its fossil carbon burned off long ago. All the squawking by Canada and friends about Russia trying to seize Arctic resources smells like an a priori justification for trying to seize Russia’s resources.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        This refusal to recognize Russia’s legitimate claim to Arctic resources arises, I believe, because Westerners either fail to realize the vastness of the Russian Federation or refuse to accept that such a vast territory should be recognized as a sovereign and unitary state.

        There is a popular myth that former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once stated that it was not right – ineed, that it was “unfair” – that a state should be as large as Russia is, thereby allowing it to lay claim to vast natural resources situated within its frontiers. This global urban myth, as it were, arose from a statement made by a member of the Russian military that this was the kind of thought that ran through Albright’s head, claiming that Russian research into the possibility of mind reading had enabled Russian scientists to confidently state that such thoughts as regards Russian sovereign territory were typical of Albright’s mindsight.

        Be that as it may, I do not think that one has to be in possession of mind-reading abilities to state that what many people mistakenly think Albright said as regards Russia’s vastness is what many Western governments actually believe. That is why, in my opinion, the West seems to be constantly striving to foster the fragmentation of Russia into “manageable” states that will become client states of the USA – in other words, members of the “International Community” – in which states the inhabitants will enjoy the benefits of Western civilization, such as Big Macs and Coca-Cola, whilst the oil, gas and other mineral reserves situated in those former Russian territories will be exploited by Exxon-Mobil and friends.

        • kirill says:

          I agree with your assessment but I could say that Canada and the USA are too big too. It is an accident of history that the desolate permafrost wastes were not developed by agrarian societies which led to the formation of countries. The quasi-nomadic subsistence people of the subarctic like the Innuit didn’t have time to build pyramids since they had to survive in this harsh environment. Canada and most of Russia are the result of 17th century European imperialism. If the west is going to play the game of “fair distribution” of resources it should start redrawing the borders at home first.

          Basically the west does not want to pay a fair price for Russian resources. It would rather get them for next to nothing as has been the routine in banana republics.

          • marknesop says:

            You could be right, but I think that also is an impression fostered by fevered press narratives. Oil is an internationally-traded commodity whose nationality is mostly irrelevant – that’s why it’s hard to stop it by sanctions; it’s merely marketed by a third-party broker. Moving the world’s resources around on a chessboard is thus not going to do diddly to weaken Russia’s power as an energy marketer, and the west could do far, far more to limit Russia’s clout as an energy superpower if it gave up invading oil-rich nations and republics. Every time the global price starts to moderate, the western alliance lunges at some other hapless country in an effort to “democratize” it, and the oil movers use the conflict as an excuse to jack prices on uncertainty. Every time they do, it benefits Russia. If Russia were in control of the entire Arctic, it would be a minor factor in the global price of energy, and might even bring it down on perceived stability. Conflict is good for high oil prices.

            • kirill says:

              This all true, but I am thinking of Saudi Arabia as the prototype banana republic. It may get hundreds of billions of dollars in western cash but that same cash goes right back into western banks and investments. So from a macro-economic perspective the west pays basically zero for Saudi oil. In the case of Russia there is no comprador regime like in the 1990s to pump every dollar to the west and that is simply unforgivable to the ambitious people who steer the west’s policy vis a vis Russia.

        • yalensis says:

          Ha! Turns out right-wing movie star John Wayne really did say the following about native Americans:

          “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.” -p.269

          P.S. Turns out native Americans were not a tiny little group of savages clinging to a whole heap of land that they didn’t deserve to own. Many historians now believe there were almost as many Indians living in North America back then before White Man arrived (pre-genocide) as there are Russians now living in Russian Federation. In other words, at least 100 million, possibly more. They had settled, farmed, developed, and (fairly) densely populated every patch of the North American continent. To be sure, they were not as technologically or militarily advanced as the newcomers, which explains why they got genocided in this clash of cultures.
          Still, White Man lied when he claimed they were just a few scattered primitive settlements selfishly clinging to the land. That is the Colonialist Mind at work!

          (This is in reference to Russia’s “selfish” claim to part of Arctic landmass.)

          • kirill says:

            Thanks for this piece of information. I often thought that Americans treat Russians like “injuns” who need to be contained and driven onto reservations. The manifest destiny of America is to rule the world and tell all the natives how to live their lives, making sure that the tribute keeps coming. The US media keeps on spewing the tropes about Russians being backward savages in spite of the fact that the cold war is over. So the cold war was never the reason for America’s hate towards Russia. I believe they were going on about the Czar and his despotism before the 1917 revolution and were glad to fund his removal. They got blowback but that never stops them.

            • yalensis says:

              I think the difference in approach is clear in the culture. America’s “cowboy” sagas are mostly about killing Indians and taking the land. Not that Russians didn’t also go to war and conquer, but there is a crucial difference. The Russian national epic “Slovo o Polku Igoreve” is about a clash of cultures, Kievan Rus’ versus nomadic Central Asian raiders. There are battles and killings, and there is a war. But there is no genocide. The epic (and Borodin’s derivative opera “Prince Igor”) celebrates Polovetsian culture as equal to Russian. Prince Igor’s son Volodmir marries the daughter of the Polovetsian Khan. Despite the hostility, the inter-marriage and inter-mingling of cultures has already begun. Each side is given its due. I believe this literary heritage demonstrates a crucial psychological difference. Americans cannot conceive of this type of cultural compromise. In their world view, one side must destroy the other.

      • marknesop says:

        We’ve spoken about this before, and I believe except for some unseemly and unnecessarily belligerent rhetoric on the part of the western principals – of which Canada, yes, is one – it could serve as a model for international disagreement about “property lines”. The point of contention is the Lomonosov Ridge, an undersea bridge which extends from Russia to the Canadian Arctic. First, where is its origin? It could as easily originate in the Arctic as on the Russian coastline. I don’t think anyone would take seriously a counterclaim by Canada that a huge swath of the Russian coastline belongs to Canada, and that we intend to drill in the region – stay out. It’s quite true the Lomonosov Ridge was discovered by Russia (a drifting Soviet ice station, in the 1950’s, if memory serves). But, so what? You can’t claim ownership of a geographical formation that exists in international waters just because you found it – not any more, in any event. Therefore, we’re back to which terminus is the origin of the Lomonosov Ridge.

        However, the entire argument ignores (the Canadian side, especially, does) the reality that much of the disputed area is seabed, and that overall the territorial limits of each nation lie well within areas already claimed by them. There are small disputed areas where edges come together (warning; this is a 1.14mb PDF file), but the area the press is foaming about is central, where “hydrocarbon recovery” would be extremely difficult and far from cost-effective using present technology if even possible. Instead, much of the discussion centers around the new viability of the Northwest Passage, and who is going to “own” it. Nearly the entire Northwest Passage lies within areas claimed by Canada from long standing – far predating the current scuffle – as territorial waters. Other nations, and most especially the United States, do not recognize this claim and insist it is an international waterway. However, it is important to note a couple of things here; one, this is a whole different argument from the Antarctic Seabed disagreement as the areas do not overlap, and two, recognition of the Northwest Passage as a Canadian territorial waterway would only add the Canadian right to close it. Canada already has rights to make and enforce laws relating to environmental standards, safety of shipping, fishing rights and smuggling; the only extra right conferred would be the right to close the waterway, while some of the other regulations would be less sweeping in force.

        The press deliberately confuses the issue in order to inflame national passions, but in reality a responsible agreement already exists between all the parties to the dispute (Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States), known as the Ilulissat Declaration of 2008. In it, all parties agree to let the dispute be governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the nation that finds itself disadvantaged will be the one(s) that did not do their homework on this regulation and its provisions for continental shelf development. That most certainly will not be the Russian Federation, whose planting of a titanium national flag on the Lomonosov Ridge in 2008 was purely symbolic and was recognized as such by Russia at the time. It was only alarmist newspapers – like The Guardian: surprise, surprise – that made it a big issue that otherwise would likely have passed without remark.

        Especially informative are the views of Finn Timo Koivurova of the University of Lapland, in the relevant section of “Canada’s and Europe’s Northern Dimensions”, from 2008, entitled “Is There a Race to Resources in the Polar Regions?” He argues reasonably – as does the Ilulissat Declaration – that all parties are behaving reasonably, that the Russian Federation’s claim was advanced in a strictly legal fashion using the UNCLOS as a springboard, and that nobody is party to an underhanded land grab. The eventual resolution might well see all participant nations involved in joint development and stewardship of the region.

        The one note of caution I would advance is that the United States is the sole participant nation that has not yet ratified the UNCLOS, although it has signed it. As we learned in an earlier (unrelated) post, non-ratification of an international agreement means you do not consider yourself to be legally bound by it.

        • kirill says:

          I thought the Lomonosov ridge claim was basically pulling a US and going beyond the EEZ. But Russia is claiming it only to the pole and not all the way to Canada’s EEZ. So Canada and Russia, would under normalcy of relations, split the difference of this ridge. But I heard our dear leaders insinuate that the north pole belongs to Canada.

          Anyway, only fossil fuels have been and will continue to be the target of undersea development. Mineral resources are accessible on land and don’t know of any undersea mines on this planet. There is no oil and gas in the Lomonosov ridge formation. It is metamorphic and not sedimentary. So the whole stink is literally over nothing.

          • marknesop says:

            Exactly – the whole stink is over nothing. I suspect much of the bellicose rhetoric on the Canadian side results from American pressure, but I have no evidence of that. In any event, no, the Russian claim does not touch the Canadian EEZ, is perfectly legal and has been thus far pursued in due accordance with international law. The interjection of the Lomonosov Ridge is as an extension of the continental shelf, and everything hinges on acceptance of this concept. It likely would not be used often, perhaps never again, although I could see the Japanese poring over seabed maps in the hope a similar geographical kink might hand them the Kurils. But those are more likely than not to be connected to Russia by any subsurface land link, just as the disputed Spratley Islands likely are connected to the Philippines.

            American interest in limiting Russian territorial waters lies more in strategic concerns over ballistic missile submarines – which might be able to take advantage of newly-viable positions thanks to reduced sea ice – than in oil recovery from the seabed; a concern that is reflected here.

            Incidentally, as also reflected in this reference, Canada claimed the region converging on the pole in 1909, and Russia supported the claim as well as making a similar one in 1916 for those regions it now claims. Nobody said much about it at the time because these regions were uninhabitable and inhospitable, and offered no recognizable potential for economic gain. Bla, bla, who cares, right? It’s only now, and owing to global warming’s sharp reduction of sea ice, that others are beginning to raise a clamor. And, as usual, the call to arms is directed at the ignorant and the incurious.

        • yalensis says:

          Does anyone know if there are mountains in the Arctic? If so, I would love to see the various nations cooperate to invest and build big ski resorts in the Arctic. Maybe they could even hold the Winter Olympics there sometime in the future? I am very concerned about global warming affecting my ski vacations. Already I had to cancel one trip this season, because the mountain lost its base in a freak heat wave.

          • marknesop says:

            The Transantarctic Range is one of the longest on earth, stretching about 3,500 km. I suspect it might take you all day to ski that far. The highest peak is Mount Kirkpatrick, at almost 15,000 ft. If skiing down a volcano turns your crank, legendary Mount Erebus on Ross Island is only a little shorter at 12,448 ft.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            None at all: the arctic ice is an ice-cap on the Arctic ocean. I remember as a child being fascinated by photographs of the United Stares nuclear submarine U.S.S. Nautilus, taken after it had surfaced at the North Pole through the pack ice from the ocean beneath.

            The Antarctic, on the other hand, is a continent with mountains.

            See Mark’s comment below.

            • marknesop says:

              Hey, I remember that. U.S.S SKATE actually predated NAUTILUS at the pole by a couple of months if I remember correctly, but did not surface, only passing underneath. I actually got to tour NAUTILUS while she was still in commission, although she was within a month or two of decommissioning. My first foreign trip with the navy included a port visit to Groton, Connecticut, which was just across the river from New London and the geniuses at Electric Boat. I was surprised at how spacious NAUTILUS was inside; seamen become accustomed to cramped quarters, but submarines are tiny and accommodations are decidedly low priority; in our diesel boats, the crew “hot-bunked” – two shared the same bunk and one was in it while the other was on watch, and all except the duty watch aboard stayed in hotels while the sub was in a foreign port. But NAUTILUS was the first nuke, and she seemed as big as a frigate inside. On the bulkhead (wall, to non-navy types) in the crew’s cafeteria was a drawing of a stylized whale bursting through the sea surface, bearing the nuclear symbol on the side of its head; it was signed by Walt Disney, and I presume Disney Studios artists produced it and that it was the original.

              • yalensis says:

                Hey, I have been to Groton and New London CT too! What a coincidence! Along with my brother, we visited Mystic Connecticut as tourists and viewed the the slave boat “Amistad”. Also the Sea World where we saw penguins and dolphins and other interesting animals. Then we drove to New London and toured a submarine, but I don’t think it was the Nautilus. Quite an experience! I am claustrophobic and I cannot even imagine the hardship of living day and night in such close quarters.

                • marknesop says:

                  When you are serving in the NATO Squadron, AKA STANAVFORLANT (The Standing Naval Force Atlantic), which I did from time to time when I was based on the east coast (up to 1987), you can sometimes take advantage of a program called the “Cross-Pol” (for “cross-pollination”, which I always found vaguely disturbing), in which you are transferred to another of the force’s warships and stay there either until the next port or the next transfer. I sailed for a few days in the German frigate FGS BRAUNSCHWEIG; she was a KOLN Class frigate, sold to the Turkish navy around 1990 and probably part of a reef by now. Anyway, she was really tiny, less than 3000 tons full load, covered with guns like the Germans favour but couldn’t hit anything smaller and faster than a zeppelin. But they were the hardest crowd of partiers I ever saw; the senior rate of what would be the counterpart to my section, Viktor “Ziggy” Prinz was younger than me and had less sea time, and I was only a Leading Seaman (Corporal, in Army rank) while he was the equivalent of a Petty Officer First Class. They didn’t seem to take anything seriously, and I often found myself wondering where that dour, humorless German character was. I got off when we made a port visit to Zeebrugge, Belgium (where the BRAUNSCHWEIG ran about 30 feet of chain from a dropped fender through her props and had to go back to Wilhelmshaven for repairs, which news inspired a roar of approval from the crew when it was announced over the upper-deck speakers). Anyway, you made me think of her when you complained of “cramped quarters”. The cubicles for the toilets in BRAUNSCHWEIG were similar to those on a submarine – so narrow that you could not fit inside with your elbows out, and consequently you would have to drop your pants outside and back in. The shower heads were down the center of the deckhead (ceiling) of the area which also contained the sinks, so everybody had to shave naked because you were often sharing a shower at the same time.

                  I later did a similar tour in the considerably-roomier destroyer HESSEN (HAMBURG Class), and that was also a complete blast; non-stop fun, and you couldn’t have asked for a more amicable, happy bunch of guys (there were no women in the navy then). All that stuff about Germans having no sense of humor is bullshit; they are extremely irreverent and comical. I went to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans that year with a bunch of Germans from HESSEN; we drove up from Mobile, Alabama (which actually has the original Mardi Gras; there are three – in Mobile, somewhere in Texas and New Orleans but New Orleans has acquired the biggest reputation) where the NATO squadron was visiting. It was all a blur of Hurricanes (the alcoholic variant) and laughing, I can’t remember when I had such a great time. You could play a 30-second loop from those two tours and it would probably be the strongest recruiting tool the navy ever had.

                  I did not know AMISTAD was in Connecticut, as she must have been at the time, or I would have made it a point to go and see her. I visited HMS VICTORY a few times in Portsmouth; where you enter the ship has a really low overhead and between decks is very cramped because the average guy was only about 5 feet tall then. There is a wooden block fixed to the deck near the stern in the command position which bears a brass plate that reads, “Here Nelson fell”. Every time I have seen it, somebody has remarked aloud, “Small wonder – he probably tripped over that effing block”. It must be the most popular joke in England.

          • I know you can go heliskiing in Alaska.

            One of my friends recently bought a package. It’s on the pricey side ($5000) but you get to ski 30 different (and untouched) mountains over 7 days.

    • marknesop says:

      I read, during the war, that the NATO forces deliberately bombed it on some trumped-up nonsense that Gadaffi was hiding his tanks in the pipes or something like that. In any case, it’s integrity has already been compromised and at least a portion of it is tainted.

      I wonder if NATO will send in engineers to repair the damage, and make the people grateful. What a mess that is – can anyone reasonably say Libya is better off now than before the invasion? I saw a surreal article the other day which suggested Libya could become a tourist hotspot (the same article mentioned Gadaffi had the same idea, and was in the process of building several new 5-star hotels when NATO stuck its nose in on the rebel side).

      • yalensis says:

        No reason why Libya could not be a tourist paradise. I myself have not been there, but I have seen many photos of the Tripoli beaches and so on, and they are quite stunning. It is the Mediterranean, after all. Then there would be interesting desert safaris, Roman ruins, and so on. All it takes is some nice hotels and a few tour buses and, bingo, you could have a multi-million-dollar tourist industry.
        But none of that is going to happen under the Islamist barbarians that are running things now. Militias are running wild, there is no police, the streets are not safe. Western women are certainly not safe there, there have been many rapes (and even murders) of Western females. Paying tourists need to be able to wear bikinis and swim in the hotel pool and drink tropical daiquiris without being beaten up and raped. Hence, European families would not be able to have a good time there and feel safe. Plus, this says it all:

        ‘There will be no alcohol’
        Her view was echoed by the Giuma Bukleb, media attaché to the Libyan Embassy in London. He told “We will never be like other countries with lots of big resort hotels, and there will be no alcohol. We want to encourage people to see our heritage sites

        Cultural heritage sites are nice, but, let’s face it, you are not going to be able to attract a lot of paying tourists if you don’t let them have booze.

    • Indeed!

      Alexander Motyl is a good example of how it is possible to gain a reputation in his case as a historian by lending academic authority to the prevailing ideological cliche.

      Incidentally his article is yet another example of the duality and lack of logic referred to by Hunter and Mark. Putin is popular and charismatic and stands up to the US so he must be a fascist. The Russian people vote for him so that means the country must be fascist. Though popularly elected since Putin is a fascist he is a dictator. The people who oppose Putin are the democrats even though they are a small minority so we must support them. Since Motyl realises that a country such as Russia with contested elections, a free and diverse press and completely free internet access cannot actually be fascist he claims that it is something called “fascistoid” instead.

      Incidentally the article also puts its finger on two of the major grievances the west has about Russia: (1) the Russian people’s refusal to accept the west’s interpretation of their history and (2) the project for the Eurasian Union, which is represented as aggressive and “imperialist” even though in contrast to current US foreign policy it is being carried out in an entirely peaceful and consensual way.

      Incidentally Motyl’s reputation is based on his studies of “empires” in which he absurdly writes about countries as diverse as the Akkadian empire of Sargon the Great (date circa 3,000 BC) and Bismarck’s Reich. Any serious historian knows that studies that draw generalisations from such massive and diverse material are worthless.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    First line of above linked article:

    “The massive demonstrations that rocked Russia in the aftermath of the Duma elections …”

    These articles never ever point out that the total number of demonstrators against the present government and its leadership represents less than 0.001% of the 61% or so of the 110,000,000 Russian electorate that voted in the presidential and duma elections.

    “…that rocked Russia…”

    When my wife had come back home the other week after shopping in he town centre, I asked her if the place was swarming with cops as reported on in the Western news media. “No, why?” she answered.

    “Because of today’s demonstration”, I said.

    “Demonstration? What demonstration?”

    Maybe she’s just a dumb devyshka. (I don’t think so!)

    Or maybe an alleged crowd of 150,000 is not that noticeable in a city of … I don’t know … let’s say 14 million.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      100,000 Sakharova demonstration was an interesting phenomenon:

      • Dear Leos and Moscow Exile,

        Your point is entirely pertinent. The “massive demonstrations” were nothing of the sort. They were of a respectable size but no more than that. What dictator or fascist or “fascistoid” state permit demonstrations anyway? The demonstrations do not prove Motyl’s hypothesis. They disprove it.

  10. Moscow Exile says:

    In a British newspaper feature on the “Russian Paris Hilton”, aka “socialite” Ksenia Sobchak, and her new role as a “leading light” of the Russian “opposition movement”, I commented that at the rally on Sakharova St. Moscow, many in the crowd simply chanted at her “F**ck off, whore!”

    Needless to say, my comment was deleted.

    • marknesop says:

      My wife says Ksenia Sobchak is just an actress, and her political opinions are likely bought rather than heartfelt. Like actors the world over, she is simply playing a part that she will abandon as soon as nobody wants to pay for it.

  11. Herewith the latest pearl of wisdom from Charles Clover

    Like all other articles in the Financial Times it is behind a pay wall. If anyone has trouble accessing it go to “Financial Times Moscow’s Malaise” on Google.

    The article concedes the protest movement is ebbing away. However it seems that Putin and Russia are doomed anyway. Apparently unless oil prices double (!) within a few years Russia will be facing both budget and trade deficits.

    The article does contain one small voice of reason in the form of the chief economist of Sberbank, who points out that if the trade surplus does indeed fall (at the moment it is growing!) the rouble will also fall pricing out imports and causing the trade balance to remain in surplus. That is what happened in 2009 when oil prices collapsed. I would also point out that the article entirely fails to address the extremely low level of personal tax in Russia, which could certainly be raised without risking deflation if the country were indeed faced with budgetary and trade deficits. In fact the major consequence of high oil and gas prices in budgetary terms is precisely that it has allowed the country to pay for its spending without having to tax or borrow much. At some point for the sake of the country’s economic and social health personal taxes in Russia are going to have to go up and become more progressive, something which everybody except the oligarchs and the gaggle of free market economists understands and for which save for Prokhorov all the candidates supported in the Presidential election campaign.

    Anyway I am going again to nail my colours to the mast and say that I think these expectations are completely wrong. I think that over the next few years Russia will move towards becoming a major exporter of manufactured goods as well as of other primary products such as food and wood products. I also think that before long it will finally start to attract serious foreign investment. I think that fears that the country will shortly start running a trade deficit are as groundless as the claims that were made some years ago that it would run out of gas (does anyone remember those?).

    • marknesop says:

      Ha, ha – well said!! This dovetails nicely with Motyl’s absurd forecast that Putin may well serve two more 6-year terms – but that’s absolutely it for him!! That way, when he fails to serve beyond the maximum limit he can under the law, he looks like a failure!! See how it works??

    • kirill says:

      These idiots need the following graph shoved in their faces every time they open their malicious mouths:

      Note the exponential growth in exports and imports under Putin’s regime. Also, the 2008 financial meltdown failed to disrupt this growth and producing a temporary decline. If Russia’s economy was weak it would not have recovered so elastically. It would have shifted to a new, lower plateau, and taken a long time recover. BTW, growth in imports is not automatic evidence of problems. A lot of those imports are machinery for manufacturing plants and other goods that help Russia’s economy grow.

      • marknesop says:

        That is indeed a cool reference whose impact should be immediate and visceral. I have said all along that Putin is the man for the job, but others are correct also that as soon as you make somebody’s life better, they begin to resent you for it. Human nature, I’m afraid. But obviously enough people are still able to exercise judgment.

  12. There is an article by Motyl on Anatoly’s facebook page.

  13. BTW congrats Mark, you’ve been noticed by The Man!

    I am accused of “jiggerypokery”

    “Jeanne Whalen ‏ @JeanneWhalen · Details
    @charles_clover Wow, that must be the most over-written blog post ever. Someone clearly wants to show off his GCSE English Lit chops”

    Charles Clover ‏ @charles_clover Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    @JeanneWhalen didn’t get those A levels for nothing…

    Charles Clover ‏ @charles_clover Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    @MrsTomSauter actually i there’s another piece naming most of the people I go drinking with

    • marknesop says:

      “Wow, that must be the most over-written blog post ever. Someone clearly wants to show off his GCSE English Lit chops…didn’t get those A levels for nothing…”

      Overwritten?? I…I think she meant that as an insult!!! I find that a bit comical, considering I thought it was a pretty weak post; I was in a hurry to finish it because I didn’t want to post it too long after the fact, and I blew through it in a couple of hours. Ursus Ursa’s comments were so perfect that they saved me a lot of work.

      Maybe that passed for A levels in England, but for my part I got kicked out of High School in Grade 11 in Canada. I finished my High School diploma through the GCE program when I was around 33, I think, just because I thought it would be nice to have (obviously, I already had a job, so I didn’t need it for that), and I have no post-secondary education at all.

      • kirill says:

        Your lack of certain pieces of paper has no impact on the quality of your analysis. I am a physics PhD and I think you apply your brain like a well educated researcher. In contrast, the many supposedly well educated pundits who spew crap at Russia look like a bunch of primitives jumping around a fire.

        • marknesop says:

          Thank you, Kirill; that’s very kind, and encouraging. But as I’ve suggested before, there’s no magic in it. The information is almost always readily available in the public domain for anyone who cares to look, and in cases where two different sources report widely differing narratives, I try to take the more reliable one or the one with the better reputation. For example, I could find all kinds of vehement rebuttals of various American policies on the World Socialist Worker website. But I don’t cite it, even if it supports a position I’m trying to defend, because it is driven more by emotion than reason. It would be like citing the western version of the KavkazCenter. I try to stay away from Wikipedia, since anyone can contribute information, but I like their comparative tables and they are usually sourced from the World Bank or UNESCO or someone like that.

          There’s no reasonable excuse for Russophobes consistently portraying an inaccurate picture of Russia; it’s obviously deliberate. However; I was intrigued by a comment on Charles Clover’s Twitter feed, to the effect of the “Rogue’s Gallery” including most of his drinking buddies. How could you be expected to develop any kind of affinity for the country you are in if you spend all your free time socializing with like-minded expats who do nothing but bitch and groan all the time about what a backward, benighted sewer Russia is? Do you think it might inform your writing?

    • Hunter says:

      I like how they seem to imply that the blog post is bad because of its length. It’s quite revealing that none of their comments in the section you quoted actually have any counterarguments to what Mark wrote but instead attack his style rather than the substance. I’m guessing they didn’t do so well in A levels did they? It’s rather sad, but I’ve found that some people who tended to be mediocre or poor in school will usually mock those who did well.

      • marknesop says:

        There was a further comment in there, apparently linked to this post, that said (sarcastically) something about, “Yes, we all said Putin would lose”. Of course, by the time polls closed for reporting before the election, the writing was on the wall that Putin would win in the first round and indeed all the western sources duly reported Putin would win in the first round – what else could they do? But that was not what was said; the remark was that Clover and others argued for a long period that Putin was losing popularity, not that he would lose, and consequently were left in an awkward position when they had to account for a fairly dramatic win. Especially when the accusations of fraud were mostly just going through the motions. Ursus read that post like he could see three feet into the ground under their shoes.

    • kirill says:

      Clearly the ploy to manipulate public opinion in Russia through a yap fest on various western information channels (including Facebook and Twitter) has failed. They can talk themselves blue in the face but Russians aren’t little kiddies, drooling at the prospect of precious, inaccessible western “democratic” candy. It is blogs like Mark’s and AK’s that are in touch with reality and worth reading so naturally they would be in the cross hairs of criticism.

  14. Charles Clover says:

    Hi there Mark.

    Just to answer a few of the points expressed on this page: a coupla things – we don’t write our own headlines. Also, while I (and most others did as well) report Putin’s popularity was falling in December, when he was projected to win 42 per cent of the vote by Vtsiom, by Feb, when his popularity had risen, we reported it, eg here.

    So when his popularity was falling we reported it, and when his popularity was rising, we reported it.

    Over the coming six years I tend to agree with sociologists like Mikhail Dmitriev who think that Putin’s popularity is trending downward long term, and the pre election bump was just that, similar to Yeltsin’s bump in 1996 election.

    There is a bit of a consensus in Moscow political circles, even among United Russia deputies, that Putin will be a weaker president in his third term than he was in his first two, that he has a narrower electorate, and that he will likely not run in 2018 in part because he is simply not going to be able to win.

    However, I admit, anything could happen in six years.

    On your other point – your argument that Pavlovsky is not objective with respect to Putin is well taken and could have been better signposted, however I did say he had been fired by the Kremlin. He also has a fairly impressive track record as an analyst – he was one of a few who said back in Sept that the Medvedev Putin job swap would lead to political crisis.

    Now let me take the knife to your post: sorry my friend thought that it was “overwritten” but if youre going to dish it out…

    Anyway, if I were your editor I’d cut the lead down – I spent the first few perilous paragraphs thinking you were going to accuse me of being a woman, like George Eliot, and then was relieved to find you were only accusing me of not knowing what I’m talking about.

    Anyway, I hope this helps you understand where I am coming from. I am open to (constructive) criticism and all for glasnost by the press.

    best Charles

    • marknesop says:

      Ha, ha!! Your next-to-last paragraph was excellent, and your point is well taken; it is true I like to approach a subject obliquely rather than head-on, perhaps circle it awhile, but I am not a journalist and am not reporting for paying customers. That’s just a matter of individual style, which one can indulge on a blog, and I appreciate it would likely be one of the first things to fall under the editor’s axe were there one in the loop. Therefore your friend would likely find almost every post “overwritten”.

      You certainly don’t have to apologize for anything, although your meet-you-halfway approach does you great credit and you were certainly not alone in reporting the roller-coaster ride of popularity. Therefore I will address it conceptually rather than as a matter of individual analysis.

      The problem was not with day-to-day reporting of Putin’s popularity rating – that is fair game, although it gets deeply enough into the weeds that it becomes boring and is better done if it can show evidence of a trend. The problem was with the “English” applied to the viewpoint that he was headed for oblivion – it became such a clearly desired goal that reporters lost sight of reality, and so much hope was vested – in journalistic effort – in the “revolution” that obvious facts such as it having nothing like the legs it would need to topple Putin were glossed over, and it appeared Putin would be lucky to escape with his life. It was in no way impartial, and slanted so sharply toward bringing about the desired end that it is a wonder it did not lose its balance and fall over.

      I have no problem with the indisputable fact that Pavlovsky was fired by the Kremlin; I did not mean to suggest he quit to spend more time with his family. It was the justification for his firing that I took issue with, which was not that he “decided to tell the truth too much”. About most of it he was demonstrably wrong, and it was his undermining of the party’s decision – apparently on personal pique – that got him kicked to the curb, as any political leader with the possible exception of “softy” Medvedev would have done; a presidential candidate Boris Nemtsov or Mikhail Prokhorov would certainly not have tolerated a supposed aide dishing to the western press in such derogatory terms. And any “political crisis” brought about by the switching of positions is largely manufactured; the western press openly offered to hold the mob’s coat if it would only beat up Putin, and frequently agitated the situation by pandering to the “protest movement” so as to make it appear bigger than it was, while applying exactly the opposite effort in places like Bahrain, which is a U.S. protectorate where the west would like to see the government continue as it is.

      Again, I appreciate your candor, and not only wish you well but hope to see more realistic reporting. Best regards,


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