Après moi, la Désintégration: Alexander Motyl Does Putin’s New Russia

Uncle Volodya says, "If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?"

Once upon a time – say, back in 1993, when his Dilemmas of Independence; Ukraine After Totalitarianism was published – you might have been able to reason with Alexander Motyl. I mean, he’s obviously not a stupid guy: he’s published a ton of books, both fiction and non-fiction, he writes poetry, he paints – from what I’ve seen, quite emotionally – and hints of his life suggest he’s a sensitive man who feels things deeply. He speaks several languages fluently and can get around in a couple more, one of which is Russian. He was – and is, so far as I know – a professor of Political Science and Director of the Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers. But back then, a review of  Dilemmas suggested it advocated “gradual reforms for post-Soviet states”. Good enough; We’re there, right? Who thinks those regions would not benefit from gradual reform? That’s what I thought.

Any such illusions of inclusiveness are dampened with the first sentence of the introduction – “Unlike most of the other Soviet successor states, Ukraine matters.” Well: not a lot of grey area there, is there? A possible agenda for Ukrainian greatness is furnished in the second – “It is important for a variety of reasons that ensure it a central role in the future of Europe and thus in the foreign policy of the United States.” While some of his material might lead you to believe he is Ukrainian, in fact Alexander Motyl is American; born in New York, although he is of Ukrainian descent.

And while we’re forming a 5-minute picture of Motyl that doubtless does not do justice to his complexity, this might be a good time to bring up what it is that he loathes about Russia: the secret police. “I went into Soviet studies with a mission: I wanted to understand this criminal state and to be able to write about it in ways that would weaken it and advance human, national, and civil rights. This is very clearly related to my background – my family is Ukrainian, and several relatives had been murdered by the Soviet secret police – and so it has a personal and a political component.”  Got that? Motyl sees his education as an obligation to avenge his dead relatives by doing what he can to weaken the present  Russian Federation, thereby punishing its “secret police”, of which the Russian Federation’s new leader happened once to have been a member. Once again, I’m sure that doesn’t encompass the entire complex human that is Motyl, but there’s only so much we can do in less than 3000 words, and we don’t want to spend all that talking about what a complicated guy he is.

Instead, I’d like to focus some of it on the stuff he writes (thanks to Leos Tomicek of Austere Insomniac). Because while the Alexander Motyl of 1993 might have been open to reason, maybe just kind of hopeful that Ukraine was going to become one of the dominant powers of an expanded Greater Europe and a solid American partner in the region, the Alexander Motyl of today seems to have grown so bitter and mean that he’s becoming delusional. You’ll see what I mean, I’m sure.

And right away, too: no waiting. He gets right into the hyperbole from the starting gun. “The massive demonstrations that rocked Russia in the aftermath of the Duma elections of December 4, 2011, surprised everyone, including most Russians.” Where did you see massive demonstrations rocking Russia, Professor Motyl? In a John McCain tweet? The very biggest one was no more than 150,000 people in a city of around 14 Million. The Orange Revolution protests, financed and supported by western interests, were better than 500,000 in a city with a population only about a third of Moscow’s. The Russian protesters were a diverse lot with no common goal except opposition – no use to look for coalition-building there.

Perhaps this would be a good time to point out that when authors who support a western-dominance agenda say “observers agree”, they almost invariably mean western observers and western Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) such as GOLOS. That’s why such authors don’t bother to cite any sources for their contention that there was broad agreement. I think we’re all on the same page that it is a mistake to allow your exit polling to be done by a western consortium unless you are extremely confident that you are a solid ally and they mean you no harm. Otherwise, all they need do to cast doubt on the legitimacy of your elections – and perhaps start a riot that will lead to the regime change so beloved of the west – is to introduce a discrepancy between the exit polls and the advance polls. Such discrepancies led to the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and in both cases western organizations were in control of the exit polls as well as having plenty of their own “administrative resources” on the ground to spark a flash mob.

Anyway, Professor Motyl’s chosen observers apparently agree that it was both Medvedev’s announcement that he and Mr. Putin would change places (this was in fact not what he said at all, which would be beyond cynical; he announced that United Russia’s candidate for 2012 would be Vladimir Putin, and Putin later announced that he expected Mr. Medvedev would head United Russia’s list for Parliamentary elections and be Prime Minister) and fraudulent elections for the Duma that “sparked the countrywide demonstrations”. Just remember, you made me say it – the countrywide demonstrations incorporated less than .001% of the around 61% of the Russian electorate that voted (thanks for that statistic, Moscow Exile).

Mr. Motyl is quite correct that observers agree the leading role in the protests belonged to the middle class and youth. However, one need only to look at the forest of flags on show at Sakharov and Bolotnaya to see the demonstrators were a widely diverse group with their own goals and aspirations, and were far from a united movement with a common objective. In fact, had they been successful, they likely would have fallen to fighting among themselves like Chechen warlords. Nationalists under the yellow-and-black guidon of Imperial Russia, Communists under the red banner, even the red-and-black standard of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA: good eye, Leos!) Strange to see the Hammer and Sickle side-by-side with the flag of the citizen army whose leaders included Nazi collaborators and joined with Germany to fight against the Soviet Union in the hope a victorious Germany would grant Ukraine independence- truly, freedom of expression is on the march.

According to Professor Motyl, the system Vladimir Putin built is “profoundly unstable… one that [is] likely to decay, decline, and possibly even crash“, which “may be starting to happen“. Is that so? I would have thought the global financial meltdown in 2008 would have stressed such a system severely. It would be a surprise to see that system rebound quickly and flexibly, returning to profitability in less than two years (so quickly, in fact, that limiting controls had to be imposed in order to curtail inflation) , and to outperform all its fellow BRIC countries in all but a single category, in which it came second. Perhaps it was a surprise to Professor Motyl, because that’s what happened. It’s difficult to imagine a motley crowd of everything from nationalists who want Russia to divest itself of the Caucasus to students who were less than 10 years old when Putin first assumed the presidency and who went along because dissent was perceived as cool could provide a greater strain on Putin’s shaky system. But that appears to be what Professor Motyl is saying.

I realize he is talking about the political system Putin built rather than the financial system of the Russian Federation. So, where would you like me to separate them? In a nation whose biggest capital inflows are controlled by the state, and one in which – according to countless western critics, “nothing moves without Putin’s word”, how could the political system be weaker than a financial system that is manifestly such a success?

However, if you thought that was weak, you will be shaken by Motyl’s abrupt dive into the dumpster, down, down through the strata of rubbish to the very core of garbage, that comes with his introduction of and support for the term “fascistoid”. Russia is not quite fascist, we learn; it is “fascistoid” – whereupon Mr. Motyl goes blithely on to describe a fascist system anyway. This system, we are told, is characterized by (1) reverence for soldiers and policemen. Daryana!! Where’s that piece where Motyl said the Russian Army was falling to pieces? Ahh.. thank you. How, then, do you explain this in the context of reverence for the military, Professor Motyl? Isn’t that your name under the title? But…you describe the Russian Army as “a pale imitation of itself, a wheezing symbol of Russia’s deterioration. From a total of three million men under arms toward the end of the Cold War, the Russian armed forces have shrunk to one million. That would be good news were it now a better force. But except for some elite units, most Russian troops are poorly trained and demoralized draftees subjected to pitiless hazing and prone to alcoholism, suicide and corruption.” How, pray, does that square with an elite group given “pride of place” in Putin’s fascist dictatorship? And when you wrote that in 2007, you said the middle class made up about a fifth of the Russian population. Fast-forward to 2012, and the middle class is a gigantic, unstoppable juggernaut mercilessly stoking the engines of social change and dissent. Yet somehow the man who presided over this quantum leap in empowerment of the middle class is a failure whose ruthless dictatorship squashes individual initiative? Are you listening to yourself?

Russia is a member of the G8, you say, but kind of sticks out in that group like a cockroach on a wedding cake because it is neither rich nor democratic. The country that has the world’s third-highest cash reserves and the G8’s lowest debt? That the one you mean? Sure you want to stick with that story? You must be a devotee of that “borrow a dollar and the bank owns you: borrow a million dollars, and you own the bank” theory. I’d point out also that you trot out virtually every disproved Russian trope in that piece, including the nearly-a-million-Russians-disappearing-every-year nonsense, and ally yourself as you have done before with nutty windbag center of the bozone layer Lilia Shevtsova. Rather than Putin’s political system looking shaky, it is your own claim to be an academic.

Police given pride of place? Hardly – according to this mostly-positive piece (which mentions, by the way, that the final draft of the new Police Bill included suggestions from the public: quite a fascist dictatorship), the police are “dogged by low salaries and low public regard”.

Well, let’s move on with our fascistoid dictatorship, before I lose it and start kicking things. Next up, (2) a fascistoid system restricts freedom of the press. This, applied to Putin’s Russia, is nonsense. There are plenty of extremely vocal critics who heap vituperation on the government’s head without letup, and even mainstream outlets are simultaneously more balanced in their coverage than America’s Republican mouthpiece, FOX News and less worried about government shutdown than independent television stations in Tbilisi under Saakashvili. (3) Repression of the opposition. That’s it; that tears it. That’s all I can take of the horseshit about marginalization of the opposition in Russia. To whom are you referring – PARNAS, the Great White Hope of the Russian liberals, led by Vladimir Ryzhkov, Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov and Vladimir Milov? For starters, Vladimir Ryzhkov is a card-carrying member of the World Movement for Democracy, which lists itself on the “about” page as a subsidiary of the National Endowment for Democracy, a pro-regime-change Washington NGO which was prominently involved in both the Rose and Orange revolutions. There he is, on the far right in the photo of the Steering Committee, of which he is a member. How far do you suppose a complaint would get that the sitting U.S. Government was “marginalizing the opposition” because there were no Communists in the House of Representatives? The Communist Party does exist in the U.S, of course, but it never wins anything significant and the country styles itself a model of tolerance because it allows it to live. Boris Nemtsov could not get elected official chicken-catcher during a bird flu epidemic, consistently polling under the threshold for the Duma. His political adviser, Vladimir Kara-Murza, is also connected to the National Endowment for Democracy. So, what you’re saying is that Putin and United Russia are by their popularity with the Russian electorate marginalizing opposition parties, and if they were fair they would get caught in some kiddie-porn sting or something like that, to make themselves less popular. In the interests of a free and open competition. Doubt me? Check any western reference you like that features a story on Russian politics within two weeks of the election. They all acknowledge Vladimir Putin is extremely popular and will win easily. But somehow when he does just that, it’s not because he is popular, but because he marginalizes the opposition. Does that honestly make sense? At all? Let me help you. No, it doesn’t.

Well, the opposition will doubtless be delighted to learn that new reforms will drop the membership quota required for registration as a political party from the current 50,000 down to a truly laughable 500, and scrap the law that required parties to have a minimum number of signatures. What? They’re pissed off about it?? “But analysts question how far the liberalized procedures will help the opposition become a real political force. ‘The liberalization of party registration will simply lead to the appearance of dozens, if not hundreds of parties in the next year or two,’ said Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation.

“This will particularly apply to the liberal parties – they will simply cancel each other out.

There you have it, folks. The best way to “help the opposition become a real political force” would be to allow the votes of their family members to count as a million each, disqualify any party that does not agree a liberal party should win, and require non-liberal voters to speak a secret password that will be controlled by the liberals before being allowed to cast a ballot. I’m sorry, I know that’s just sarcasm – supposedly the lowest form of wit – but I will be damned if I can see what will satisfy Russia’s liberals beyond simply granting them victory without a contest.

I confess I stopped reading at the point where Professor Motyl offered that, while nobody could reliably predict just when Putin’s tottering, corruption-riddled system might collapse, two more six-year terms would be the end of the line for Putin. I began to hear the voice of Basil Fawlty, from the British comedy series Fawlty Towers: “Do you think we could get you on ‘MasterMind’?? Our next contestant, Alexander Motyl – special category, the Bleedin’ Obvious!!” Two more terms would be the limit Mr. Putin could serve under the law, and the loophole regarding “consecutive terms” will likely be removed during this period.

Let’s keep this simple. There was nowhere near the level of fraud western sources claim in the presidential elections, and likely there was very little. Mr. Putin was forecast to get around 60% of the vote in poll after poll before the election, and that’s precisely what he did get. Russia is far more democratic than many of the truly vile systems the west avidly supports, such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and is more democratic than some that were pet western projects, like Georgia. The west’s vision of democracy for Russia means a system in which western influence will determine the leader, who will be chosen based on his/her attitude toward – surprise! – western policy.

Fascistoid? Really? As the saying goes; if I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

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388 Responses to Après moi, la Désintégration: Alexander Motyl Does Putin’s New Russia

    • marknesop says:

      Too true, Blue; I didn’t read the whole thing, but what I read captured the nonsensical nature of the controversy very well. What we have here is a situation in which the west insists the will of the majority defer to the will of a tiny minority, call it democracy, and allow the removal of a leader who is popular in Russia because he is not popular in the west in favour of a bunch of liberals about whom the west cares nothing beyond the coincidence that their aims intersect in a few orbits.

      And of course, the more you laugh at such a comical concept, the more desperate and scared you are.

    • Hunter says:

      What immediately struck me on reading that eXile article is how little has changed in western reporting (except to implicitly acknowledge that Russia isn’t quite as bad financially speaking as it was in the 1990s). They really do just recycle stuff.

      Note that the general western meme now is that Putin’s “regime” is now actually “weak” because of its “strengths” (this is in 2012). Yet the eXile article from 2006 says:

      <quote?This week's edition of Newsweek features one of the most bizarre articles I've read in a long time. It's called "Why Russia Is Really Weak," and as the schoolyard-taunting title suggests, it's a desperate attempt to convince Newsweek readers that Russia isn't as strong as they think.

      So 6 years ago Russia was “really weak” and today Russia is “weak”. Why do I get the feeling that in 2024 we will be reading about the same “weakness” in the western MSM, facts notwithstanding?

    • Misha says:

      Motyl has been clearly debunked by using facts and fact based opinions:

      http://www.eurasiareview.com/15112011-russia-as-provocateur-analysis/

      http://www.eurasianhome.org/xml/t/expert.xml?lang=en&nic=expert&pid=2355

      More on the Ukrainian nationalist/anti-Russian leaning likes of Motyl in a short bit.

      • marknesop says:

        Hi, Mike; long time no see. It’s good to see you back.

        • Misha says:

          Thanks mark.

          Much ground to cover.

          Been having some computer issues, while attempting to get something detailed out soon on the subjects discussed here.

          I continue to be underwhelmed by much (not all) of the sources getting the more high profile of treatment.

          I’ve the goods to backup this contention. This view isn’t a matter of selective nitpicks – but an established pattern.

  1. A point I would make about Motyl is that he comes up with a definition of fascism I am sure is original to him. Thus according to Motyl fascism is compatible with a variety of political parties and elections provided these are somehow controlled making the election process unreal.. I cannot think of a single genuine fascist state that corresponds with that description. He says that fascism is not totalitarian apparently unaware that the expression “totalitarianism” was actually invented in Italy in the 1920s to describe the fascist political system that was evolving there. Besides no one who compares the two systems would seriously dispute that Nazi Germany was much closer to being a totalitarian society than Brezhnev’s USSR. Motyl at some point in his 2007 article even claims that Putin’s “capture” of the press compares to the “gathering in” of the press that happened in Nazi Germany after Hitler came to power. The idea that Hitler and Goebbels would have tolerated a Novaya Gazeta or Moscow Echo is of course ridiculous and the parallel is absurd.

    Frankly my overwhelming impression is that Motyl as the son of Ukrainian exiles has imbibed the hatred of Russia common in such people and he focuses on Putin precisely because Putin has become for him the embodiment of Russia’s recovery. As a professional historian and academic he is skilled on cloaking these visceral feelings with the apparatus and language of scholarship.

    • yalensis says:

      Very good points, @alexander. I would only quibble that Motyl does not seem at all to “cloak” his visceral feelings about Russia. In the piece that Mark quoted Motyl openly admitted that he went into Russia studies in order to better know his enemy so he could help destroy it to avenge his dead relatives.. I find that kind of honesty actually refreshing, especially in an academic.

      • Dear Yalensis,

        I completely agree. I too find Motyl understandable if not exactly refreshing. See my comment below.

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, you can’t fault him for that, and it is considerably more honest than toads like Lucas and Harding, who do it from notions of superiority to the colonials and barbarians.

        • Misha says:

          !?

          Motyl is doing it from a point of view of superiority as well.

          On top of that, he’s an academic at what’s considereca major university, which includes another nationalist anti-Russian leaning source, who wrote an academically suspect work on Gogol a few years back.

      • hoct says:

        Soviet studies, not Russian studies. Wanting to weaken the Soviet state is a legitimate motive that doesn’t have to point to him have it out for Russia. A Russophile Ukrainian or a Russian nationalist could have conceivably made the same quote. So while I would bet Motyl does in fact have it out for Russia I don’t think that quote can be taken as proof of this. (It is only revealing to you, because you know, as I do, that to the Ukrainian nationalist diaspora Soviet and Russian are synonyms, but I’m afraid that wouldn’t be admissible in court.)

        • Misha says:

          If one has to pick between anti-Russian and anti-Soviet, I’m not certain that Motyl is more the latter.

          Overall, some others besides Motyl have a clear bias against Russia and Russians at large.

          I didn’t suddenly discover Motyl.

        • marknesop says:

          You’re right that I am gifted with cheap insight only reading of other Motyl posts could provide; on its own, indeed, “Soviet Studies” might have little bearing on the modern Russian Federation. But plenty of samples tell us, or at least suggest to us, that Motyl’s “Soviet Studies” focused on Ukraine, and the country he believes stamped her face into the dirt and held her back from the greatness she must otherwise have realized. Another, even more twist-the-needle-off-the-hate-o-meter Ukrainian nationalist (who also published frequently in the Kyiv Post) is Oksana Bashuk-Hepburn, and she actually held a Canadian government post at one time (nothing to do with policy, thankfully; something in finance, I believe).

          I think Alexander’s analysis is nearest the mark; Motyl is indeed a clever man and a good writer – I like his style, if not the substance. But he passes opinions off as irrefutable facts, and throws in sweeteners of theoretical analysis regarding long-past events which have the effect of inferring a great scope of knowledge. I certainly don’t mean he’s stupid; I just said otherwise, but much of what he advances as “what really happened” in ages past would be extremely difficult to prove or disprove today. We are left wondering if he has access to resources we do not, which likely is the intent.

          • Misha says:

            Like I said, he might appear smooth to some on account of the non-opposition he faces and those who aren’t so familiar with the historical issues pertaining to his historically challenged (put mildly) commentary.

        • yalensis says:

          Ha! Good point, @hoct.

  2. Meanwhile Masha Gessen has written a lengthy piece about Khodorkovsky in Vanity Fair

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/04/vladimir-putin-mikhail-khodorkovsky-russia

    Rather than discuss this piece in detail I would merely attention to her one brief reference in this very lengthy piece to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. She mentions only one decision whereas there have been to my knowledge at least three and claims incredibly that the decision was “mainly in Khodorkovksy’s favour” and “practically mandated his release”. This is totally untrue. On the contrary the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly dismissed the allegation that Khodorkovsky’s prosecution was political and has come nowhere near mandating his release.

    • marknesop says:

      It’s funny you should mention her, because I was about to follow your last comment – about imbibing the hatred of exile parents of Russia and its people – with her and Julia Ioffe as examples.

      On Khodorkovsky, I agree; I read the decision, and it was quite specific that the court could not find prima facie evidence of political selectiveness. But I guess part of being a supporter of Russian opposition causes (not necessarily liberal, just whoever happens to be opposing the present government) means you see what you want to see when you read.

      According to the Chair of the Moscow City Court, there is no reason to reopen the Khodorkovsky case and it is closed. I’m sure that’s not what the liberals wanted to hear. I was unaware the sentence had been reduced by a year; now he and Lebedev will be out in 2016.

      • Dear Mark,

        This is one occasion when I go further than you. I am quite sure that Masha Gessen knows exactly what the European Court of Human Rights decided. She is not misreading its judgment so much as misrepresenting it. Of course she has to because it refutes the entire argument about Khodorkovsky she is making.

        • marknesop says:

          So saith no less an authority than The Grauniad, although I imagine it made Luke Harding weep bitter tears of anguish – in the manliest way possible, naturally.

          The court said the charges against Khodorkovsky caused “reasonable suspicion” but added that his legal team did not present “incontestable proof” of political motivation in the case. “Khodorkovsky’s political opponents or business competitors might have benefited from his detention” but this “should not have been an obstacle for the authorities to prosecute him if there were serious charges against him”, the court said.

          Show of hands – who thinks that sounds like “practically a mandate for his release”?

          • Dear Mark,

            The Guardian did not report the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights properly and nor did the western media. Here it is in full

            http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?item=85&portal=hbkm&action=html&highlight=russia&sessionid=89298692&skin=hudoc-en

            The key paragraphs are paragraphs 249 to 261. The earlier paragraphs deal with his arrest and pre trial detention issues. Khodorkovsky won on some of these but his award was only $35,000. Nowhere in its Judgment on these issues did the European Court of Human Rights imply that Khodorkovsky should be released.

            As I said the key decision is set out in paragraphs 249 to 261. The key comment is not the one about “reasonable suspicion” that the western media has latched on to. The key comment, which the western media has ignored, is the one in which the Court says that any person as prominent or as powerful as Khodorkovsky would be in a position to claim that the charges that were brought against him were politically motivated but that the court needs proof that the prosecution was not brought in good faith not merely assertions or opinions as to that the fact. The court also pointedly said that the fact that Khodorkovsky was a rich and politically important man does not give him impunity from serious criminal charges. The comment about “reasonable suspicion” was simply intended to distinguish the court’s rigorous standards from those of politicians and journalists, who can act on “reasonable (but unproven) suspicions”, which the court can’t.

            • Just to complete this section of comments on Khodorkovsky, a fair and accurate summary of the European Court of Human Rights’ Judgment would be that Khodorkovsky entirely failed to provide proof that the prosecution against him was politically motivated and that the Court rejected his claim that it was since it was based on what were no more than the speculations and opinions of unqualified third parties. If the western media were reporting the Judgment objectively that is how they should have reported it. Just as Putin won the election but the western media cannot admit it, so Khodorkovsky lost the case but the western media cannot admit it.

              Lastly, notice the way that the European Court of Human Rights casts doubt on some of the judgments against Russia made by various European courts that have heard Yukos related cases, suggesting that they cannot have heard the full facts of the case in the way that the European Court of Human Rights has done. This is as close as the European Court of Human Rights can go in saying that Khodorkovsky is guilty and the courts that made judgments that say the contrary were wrong.

  3. rkka says:

    Cut the poor fool some slack. He’s probably still not over the fact that his beloved Ukie nationalist Orange Revolution clowns led his beloved Ukraine off a cliff.

    I mean, having the cause you have placed at the center of your whole emotional life proven a catastrophic failure would be tough for anyone to deal with.

    • marknesop says:

      I think he’s capable of shifting his holy grail based on circumstance; I don’t doubt the Orange Revolution made him rub his hands with glee, both for the lure of true independence it offered as well as for the sweaty thumb in the eye it was to Russia (although I think that latter impression was magnified considerably by the western press,for maximum enjoyment). But he seems to have grown disillusioned with Yushchenko fairly quickly. Instead, he’s pinning his heart to the sleeve of….you guessed it: Yulia Tymoshenko.

      Enjoy this piece, in which he refers to her as the “Queen Bee” and rhapsodizes about her “inevitable comeback”. The liberal opposition really seems to have a thing for criminals. Chock-full of the on-the-fly Doctor Motyl psychoanalysis we’ve all grown to love, how one frigid glance from Tymoshenko is enough to make a man’s penis freeze solid and drop off, whereupon it can be used as a handy swizzle stick (because you’ll want to drink yourself to death without a penis).

    • Misha says:

      For him, it’s a simple matter of many misguided Ukrainians under Soviet and Russian Empire rule.

      Motyl grossly distorts the more pro-Russian of positions in Ukraine and elsewhere.

      The propped eXile article doesn’t address a number of key particulars pertaining to how the likes of Motyl think.

  4. Dear Mark,

    I forgot to mention that amongst the outstanding articles you have written on the unlikely assortment of characters that inhabit western media commentary about Russia this one on Motyl is my personal favourite. You have added a lot of the forensic analysis to your usual powerful invective. Well done!

  5. I have spent the last few minutes reading more of Motyl’s articles on World Affairs. He is a prolific writer on Ukrainian politics about which he writes from a consistently nationalist point of view. His hostility to Russia and to Putin is obviously a consequence of this..

    I do not agree with Motyl’s views, which in my view create artificial divisions between the two peoples and countries that have to put it mildly a great deal in common. Having said this I always have more understanding for the perspective of someone like Motyl however misguided and malicious he is than I do for the likes of Ed Lucas and Luke Harding, whose hostility to Russia has no reason or basis. I certainly prefer Motyl however malicious and wrong he is to Russia’s homegrown liberals with their frankly creepy hatred for their own country and people.

    • Misha says:

      If I’m not mistaken, Lucas is of eastern/central European background.

      Harding comes across as a mainstream Western mass media hack, spinning the preferred line that will get $.

      One shouldn’t always judge a person’s views on their ethnic background. I’ve come across my share of reasoned people from ethnic backgrounds that have been characterized as being among the more hostile towards Russia.

      • Dear Misha,

        What you say is absolutely true.

        Having now read quite a few of Motyl’s articles (including the ones for which you kindly provided links) I have to say that in his case the description “Russophobe” describes him exactly. I would actually call Motyl a classic Russophobe. Not only is he consistently antagonistic towards Russia and Russians but he is consistently antagonistic to Ukrainians and Ukrainian politicians who he perceives as sympathetic to Russia and Russians. By contrast Ukrainians and Ukrainian politicians who stake out anti Russian positions he always has a good word for even when their past is criminal as in the case of Bandera. Needless to say he also tends to judge western politicians and countries by the strength of their antagonism to Russia. A country like Germany that seeks to have cordial commercial and political relations with Russia is for him a dangerous backslider.

        The possibility that the best way for the Ukraine to secure its independence might be for it to become a friend of Russia is one that never seems to occur to him. When he does talk about friendship between Russia and the Ukraine it is always a friendship couched on his own very extreme terms. In practice I very much doubt that there is anything Russia could ever do that would satisfy him whilst any Ukrainian politicians that favour any sort of rapprochement with Russia are by definition in his universe criminals and traitors. His antagonism to Yanukovitch and to the Party of the Regions is extraordinary whilst one of the most remarkable articles of his I have read is on the language question when he rails against the (as he sees it) unreasonable refusal of 40% of Ukrainians to speak Ukrainian instead of Russian. In this article he comes dangerously close in my opinion to classifying all eastern Ukrainians as potential traitors to the Ukraine and as a Russian fifth column – a self fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one!

        The other striking feature of Motyl’s writing is (of course) the way in which he consistently represents his actually very intolerant and illiberal views in the language of tolerance and liberalism. Since he is a very clever man who writes very well he does this with much greater skill than do more primitive Russophobes such as Ed Lucas. One thing I always find most objectionable in the kind of commentary that Motyl and others like him indulge in is the way he and they try to pass off their views as a defence of “European values”. I have always found this attitude frankly racist and when used to separate two such similar people as the Ukrainian and the Russian especially so.

        Lastly I would say that not only do I think that Motyl is a classic Russophobe but I have to say that of all of the people who Mark has discussed on this blog I think he is by some distance the most dangerous. It seems to me that he falls precisely into that category of an American who adopts to an extreme degree an ultra nationalist historical narrative of what he perceives to be his former country, which he then tries to re export back and impose on his former country even when and especially when (as is the case in the Ukraine today) the majority of its people don’t support it. The best known example of this is AIPAC, which consistently takes a more extreme position on Arab Israeli questions and Israeli history than do most Israelis themselves.

        The trouble is that past experience shows that people like Motyl tend to wield a disproportionate amount of influence in US policy making where Russophobia of this sort always finds a ready audience. One only has to think of people like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Richard Pipes, who Motyl resembles closely, and the utterly malign influence they have had. I would not be surprised to see Motyl holding a senior post in a future US administration and I definitely think he is someone to be careful of and to watch.

        • Misha says:

          Hi Alexander,

          Motyl and views like his gets a good deal of unopposed run at venues like The WSJ and Newsweek, along with the very skewed openDemocracy.

          Actually, Motyl isn’t as extreme on Bandera as some others. Refer back to the Eurasian Home link I provide in my intial set of comments at this thread. I’ve referred to him as a sugar coated nationalist anti-Russian.

          I don’t think he’s so sophisticated. He might’ve that appearance to some, based on his bully pulpit like presentations.

          In contrast, I’m not at all shy at directly presenting and replying to the views I oppose.

          For quality control purposes, an ongoing issue remains some of the sources that do and don’t get promoted at the more high profile of venues.

          Pardon any misspells in this note. i wrote this one on the fly.

          • Dear Misha,

            Thanks again for all this. I am going to start following Eurasia Home. Your points are excellent.

            • Misha says:

              Hi back Alexander,

              Eurasian Home (EH) has been inactive for awhile. I was pleasantly surprised when they ran my piece in response to Motyl. It was around the time EH became inactive. For all I know, its staff said – what the heck, the gig is up. I’m of the offhand impression that EH received some Western mainstream funding.

              Eurasia Review is very much active.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Motyl and other North Americans of Ukrainian descent appear to have an institutionalised loathing of all things Russian that is, in my opinion, similar to that which many North Americans of Irish descent have towards the British – or “the English” in their mindset. This loathing has not diminished in proportion to the time that has passed since their forefathers arrived in the USA or Canada, nor has it diminished in proportion to the geographical distance between their place of residence and that of “the Old Country”; rather their loathing for their perceived oppressors has so increased with time and distance that it often appears to me to have become so magnified and distorted that it now resembles a folk mythology.

          For example, just as the tragic Irish famine of the 1840s is now presented by some Irish-Americans as typical of “English” perfidy and baseness, in that “The Hunger”, rather than having been the result of foolish British policy and incompetence, was really a concerted effort undertaken by the British government to eradicate the Irish peasantry: in other words, “The Great Hunger” was an attempt at “genocide” made by a wicked and alien culture, that of the “English”, against the Irish nation. Throw religious animosity into the mix and you have a situation that now exists between some North American Irish and the British which is similar to that now existing between some North American-Ukrainians and Russia and “the Russians”: namely the tragic famine that took place in the USSR during the Stalin regime and in which not only Ukrainians perished, but also millions of other Soviet peasants of different ethnicities, was not simply a glaring example of Bolshevik economic incompetence and policy stupidity, but rather a glaring attempt of the evil “Russians” to systematically murder an entire nation.

          The North American Ukrainian concept as regards what is considered by them to be Ukrainian national territory, that territory which, from their point of view, was all once known as Rus’, is, in my opinion, another myth propagated by those of Ukrainian descent in North America. I find it ironic that most US and Canadian Ukrainians believe that that territory formerly known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, a creation of the Stalin regime which includes the former “Ancient” or “Kievan Rus'”, is the Ukraine. Sorry! That should be “Ukraine”, because native English speakers, as are the vast majority of North American “Ukrainians”, fully realise the semantic implications of a definite article before the name of a country, albeit that there are no articles in the Ukrainian language and that in English one says “in the Ukraine” rather than “on Ukraine”, as do Russian speakers, who thereby imply that the Ukraine is a territory and not a sovereign state – or so North American Ukrainians maintain.

          When Bandera’s visage began to appear on Ukrainian stamps and that person was in the process of being elevated to the status of “Ukrainian National Hero” by a previous Ukrainian government, I began to visit Canadian Ukrainian web sites to see the reaction there towards the official Ukrainian state adulation of that criminal. As I had suspected, Bandera’s elevation to heroic status in the Ukraine was seen by Canadian-Ukrainian crypto-fascists as a signal for their emergence from behind the woodwork in order to reveal themselves fully in their red and black plumage. On their web sites, these Canadian Banderites seemed to have a propensity towards screaming “LIAR!” towards any that criticised their point of view. I should think it not hard to imagine which uniform not a few of their forebears had chosen to wear in 1941-1945. And their confidence seems not to have diminished: of late their banner has even appeared on the streets of Moscow.

          • Misha says:

            http://www.americanchronicle.com/authors/view/2713

            For openers:

            http://www.russiablog.org/2006/04/yuschenkos_wife_and_the_ugly_h.php

            Russians and Poles are more like Brits and Irish, with Russians and Ukrainians being closer in comparison to Scots and English, with Russians and Belarusians being somewhat similar to Welsh and English. In Scotland, I understand that the highlands portion is more nationalistically inclined because it has historically been more distant from England. That aspect is similar to the regional dynamic in Ukraine.

            Actually, Russians and Ukrainians are ethnically and linguistically closer to each other than English and Scots. Moreover, the Irish never subjugated the English and Scots the way Poland subjugated the peoples comprising Rus – an entity whose sentiment didn’t just suddenly end following the Mongol occupation.

            Note the culturally biased use of “Russification” when “Angloization” is the greater reality. Compare the popularity of non-Russian languages in the former USSR and former Russian Empire with the use of Gaelic in Scotland and Ireland. The USSR and Russian Empire included the key input of people from Ukraine.

            Contrary to Andrew Wilson’s suggestion in a book of his, the English-Scottish relationship didn’t continue on because English dominated Britain was more benevolent than Russia. In distant and not as distant history, the British Isles were fortunate to not endure the kind of occupations that endured the land making up Rus. The horrors of WW I and the way the Russian Empire chose to fight that war paved the way for a dramatic change that had some brutally detrimental aspects. WW II experienced another situation which included some Nazi strategizing that involved hate mongering divide and conquer propaganda tactics in the USSR. During the Cold War, the aforementioned Nazi planning was evident in the Captive Nations Committee. The British Isles didn’t experience anything along the lines of these particulars.

            The 1930s famine encompassed other parts of the USSR, with Ukraine being hit the hardest – not because there was an attempt to eliminate Ukraine. The Ukrainian SSR wasn’t eliminated. During WW II, a famous Red Army detachment had the formal name of Ukrainian.

            It’s reasonably considered bigoted when Jews are thought to have benefitted under Communism at the expense of others. On that very same premise, the Captive Nations Committee mindset of people like Motyl comes across as bigoted against Russians on the very same basis.

            A talented artist doesn’t necessarily make for a reasonable analytical mind on history and politics. Some of the most ardent of Nazis expressed very humane instincts in some instances. Not that I see Motyl as a Nazi. The talented artist point nevertheless has some bearing on a matter brought up in the above post.

            As I recall Mark expressing similarly: over the course of time, I’ve run into numerous folks of Ukrainian background in North America, who aren’t anti-Russian. The anti-Russian leaning wing has some creepy aspects, as evidenced by someone who has regularly posted at Leos Tomicek’s blog. Such manner undoubtedly discourages some to openly take issue with the anti-Russian leaning activists.

            Less time on LR and more time on a more accurate accounting of the former Communist bloc will lead to a better understanding. The anti-Russian leaning side isn’t the sole reason for why the coverage can’t be better.

            • Misha says:

              For the sovoks out there, I’m not saying that Russia before 1917 was the perfect example of progress. There was a gradual movement of change that arguably would’ve been smoother without the WW I experience – specifically how Russia chose to fight that war.

              On the matter of myths, some Ukrainian nationalists (particularly from Galicia and Volhynia) suggest that western Ukraine better represents Rus than Moscow. That view doesn’t make sense, given that the Moscow area emerged as the strongest and most independent of Rus territory, following the Mongol occupation.

              Concering sovoks and svidomites, there should also be room for pro-Russian/non-sovok views.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              I always find it tragic that Poles, Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians have had at times very strained if not bloody relationships during the course of their histories, though they are all Slavs sharing similar cultures and whose languages belong to the same linguistic family.

              Contrast this with the historical animosity between the peoples of the British Isles, the root cause of which is that the Celtic Irish, Scots (an Irish tribe that migrated to what became Scotland) and Welsh, together with the possibly “Iberian” Picts of Caledonia, were to a greater or lesser extent subjugated by the invading continental Germanic tribes, the Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes, who, when consolidating their newly acquired territories in the former Roman Imperial province of Britannia, soon took to calling themselves “Angelcynn” (Angle kin).

              However, those peoples remaining on the “Celtic fringe” of the former province of Britannia, for some reason or other, chose to refer to the English invaders collectively as “Saxons”. Scots still disparagingly refer to “the English” as “Sassenachs” (“Saxons” – originally Scottish Gaelic “Sasunnach”), as do the Irish (“See in the east a silv’ry glow. // Out yonder waits the Saxon foe”- from the Irish National anthem) and the Welsh (“Twll din pob sais!” is not an uncommon expression heard in Wales, where “sais” means “Saxons”: translated, it means “The English are arseholes”).

              I once worked alongside several Poles and Ukrainians in the coal mines of Northwest England. Most of them had been “displaced persons” – the flotsam of post-WWII Eastern Europe. Some of them, I am sure, had been HiWis – “Hilfswilliger” – auxiliaries in the Wehrmacht: POWs who had been faced with the choice between certain death or donning a fascist uniform. One of them, a Ukrainian, used to tell me that he had worn the uniform of three armies during WWII: that of the Red Army, the German Army and the British Army. In each of those armies he had been a lorry driver. He must have only been 16 or 17 at the time. Dare I condemn him for his actions? What would I have done if I had been in his place?

              One could argue that when taking the cultural differences that existed between the “Anglo-Saxons” and the Celts, together with the fact that the former forcefully ousted the latter from the greater part of their homelands, it is hardly surprising that such animosities between the English Irish, Scots and Welsh exist. But animosities just as long standing exist between Poles, Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians, which people have a common ancestry. Or do they? I knew a Polish woman, my sister’s neighbour, who once told me that she hated being called a Slav. That same woman, after having noticed my Russian wife from afar when my spouse and I first visited my sister after our marriage, said to my sister after we had returned to Russia: “Your brother’s wife is Russian, isn’t she?”

              “Yes”, said my sister, “she is. But how did you know?”

              “I can tell”, came the Pole’s slightly chilling reply.

              In conversations with Poles and Ukrainians about their attitude to Russians, I have noticed that they often stress that Russians are not really “true Slavs”, that they have been bastardised, have been mutated or whatever through their interbreeding with Tartars or Mongols or whatever Asian bogeymen they can dream up. And there is also the religious card that they play. I recall well how a Russophobe contributor to the Guardian “Comment is Free” feature, a person who claimed that he was of Polish extraction, regularly used to state that the Russians had murdered his uncle. He would then expand upon this claim by saying: “His throat was slit with a Tartar knife”.

              I often used to wonder about that statement. Did the Russophobe mean that his uncle’s Russian killer used a Tartar knife; or, in order to conjure up the imagery of unbelievably shocking Asiatic cruelty perpetrated against a cultured European victim, did he mean that the Russian killer used his knife after the fashion of a Tartar?

              German Fascists used to do the same thing when propagandizing against the Russians, who, according to Herr Doktor Goebbels and chums, were Mongols, Tartars, Bolsheviks, Jews etc. all rolled up into one menacing Asiatic horde that threatened to engulf the civilized Western Christian world: “Der Untergang des Abendlandes” no less, a Teutonic prediction that the Fascists very nearly brought about in Europe through their own actions.

              • yalensis says:

                Yeah, the Nazis (and also the Poles) love to criticize Russians for “inter-breeding” with Asiatic hordes. You still hear Russophobes like Julia Ioffe go on about the “Tatar” influence and bloodline. Personally, I think “inter-breeding” makes cultures stronger, not weaker. Just think this: If Russians had NOT interbred with Asians, then they would be exactly more like Poles. That would not be a good thing.
                White Europeans favorite method of dealing with indigenous populations was to kill ’em all and steal their land. Russians historically chose a different path.
                To the racists out there, let me explain how the process of “inter-breeding” works: Handsome young Russian boy meets gorgeous Tatar girl. Their fathers are at war with each other, but it is a dark, luscious night out on the steppes where the Horde are encamped.
                Boy and Girl feel this strange attraction to each other that they cannot explain. They know they are supposed to hate each other, but somehow all they want to do is kiss. Nature takes its course. They decide to make love, not war. The end.

                • yalensis says:

                  Damn, that youtube link doesn’t work, too bad it’s a great love duet.
                  (Music by the great Borodin, of course.)
                  If you want to watch it, right-click and “copy link location”, then goto youtube and paste link. A little culture for all.

                • marknesop says:

                  The Royal Family in some cultures was forbidden to marry outside the family, never mind outside the race. look at some of the freaks that practice turned out. But multiculturalism certainly does have its enemies.

              • Misha says:

                Keeping in mind that “Kievan Rus” is a latter day term. In its time, the entire entity in question was simply known as Rus.

                Different parts of it were referred to by the name of the part in question, followed by Rus, much like Toronto, Canada or Beijing, China.

                • Misha says:

                  In the American made movie about Ambassador Davies’ attempt to enhance a better image of the USSR just before and during WW II, a Polish diplomat is depicted as saying that a Russian is an unfinished Pole.

                  Elsewhere, I heard that a Ukrainian is a Polonized Russian. This last one comes from a Ukrainian. The bottom line is that national identity isn’t always so “scientific.”

                • I was aware that up to fairly recently Russophobes like to bring up Russian admixture with “non Europeans” but I was not aware that this was still the case. As many have often said (including on this blog) Russophobia is the only form of racism that remains completely respectable.

                  On the subject of Russians mixing with other peoples, Yalensis you are of course completely correct: it is a cause of strength (cultural and otherwise) not of weakness. To give just two examples, Pushkin’s grandfather was African and the film director Tarkovsky came from a family that was originally from Dagestan but which converted to Orthodoxy. There are so many other examples that a list would be endless. By the way it may be of interest to people on this blog to learn that the Russians had a particularly bad reputation amongst Europeans in late nineteenth and early twentieth century China because Russian women were famously willing to have relationships and even to marry Chinese men. That was well and truly letting the white race down.

                • Misha says:

                  Russians mixing with others is of course a two way street that nationalist anti-Russian leaning types typically downplay.

                  Over the course of time, Russians at large have willingly accepted many non-Russian contributors to Russia.

                  Instead of highlighting this aspect, the nationalist anti-Russian leaning types typically highlight the reverse instances.

          • Hunter says:

            a creation of the Stalin regime which includes the former “Ancient” or “Kievan Rus’”, is the Ukraine. Sorry! That should be “Ukraine”, because native English speakers, as are the vast majority of North American “Ukrainians”, fully realise the semantic implications of a definite article before the name of a country, albeit that there are no articles in the Ukrainian language and that in English one says “in the Ukraine” rather than “on Ukraine”, as do Russian speakers, who thereby imply that the Ukraine is a territory and not a sovereign state – or so North American Ukrainians maintain

            Moscow Exile, I thought Russian didn’t have any definite articles either and that the contention is that in English, English speakers and Russian speakers use “the Ukraine” rather than just “Ukraine”. I’ve encountered that semantic ire before and totally ignore it because it is so inherently ridiculous. The use of “the” as part of a country’s name in English is usually a historical artifact and in no way implies that a country is sovereign or non-sovereign. The best example of course is “the Netherlands”. I’ve never heard anyway simply say “Netherlands”. There is also “The Bahamas”, “The Gambia”, more often than not “the Congo” (though you can simply write “Congo”) and of course “the United States”, “the United Kingdom”, “the Soviet Union”. The best argument I’ve seen yet for dropping the definite article from the name of Ukraine can be found here: http://www.infoukes.com/faq/the_ukraine/

            Although ironically enough that source claims that the origin of the definite article before Ukraine’s name came ‘from many Ukrainian immigrant scholars, due to their imperfect knowledge of English, used the form “the Ukraine” in their books thus helping to perpetuate this usage.’ So the original usage of the definite article before Ukraine’s name came from a set of Ukrainians!

            • Moscow Exile says:

              That’s right. Russian has no articles as well. ( My “Sorry! That should be “Ukraine” above was written ironically.)

              I remember when this instruction as regards the dropping of the definite article from the term “the Ukraine” was announced in Kiev and immediately thought: “This is the work of a North-American Ukrainian, someone whose mother tongue is English”. However, “the Ukraine” in German is “die Ukraine” (the Ukraine is of feminine grammatical gender in German): so much for the theory “the origin of the definite article before Ukraine’s name came ‘from many Ukrainian immigrant scholars, due to their imperfect knowledge of English, used the form “the Ukraine” in their books thus helping to perpetuate this usage’ “.

              I still see “die Ukraine” in German newspapers. Kiev doesn’t seem much bothered about this. Likewise, in standard English the Russian “Крым” (Krym) and Ukrainian “Крим” (Krim) is “the Crimea” and “die Krim” in German: the Ukrainian government now insists, however, that that part of Russia given by Kryshchev to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic be henceforth known in English as “Crimea”.

              And all this bugs me because there are no articles in Ukrainian and Russian; yet someone in Kiev has taken it upon himself to change English syntax in order to score a political point.

              The term “Ukraine” comes from the Slavic край ( “krai” – “edge, border”), from which, together with the preposition “у” (“u” – “by”) and the case ending required for the noun when this preposition is used, we arrive at “у краю” (u kraiyoo), thence “Украина” (“Ukraina” – Ukraine).

              And get this! The term first appeared in Polish and was used to define (hence the definite article in English and German) that territory lying to the east, namely “at the edge” of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and situated between that commonwealth and “Tartary”.

              In Russian, unlike in English, they say “на Украине”, literally “on” or “at” the Ukraine, whereas in English one says “in the Ukraine”. Kiev, however, has also prescribed the usage of “в Украине” (v Ukraine), where “в” means “in”, as in standard English usage. Kiev maintains that this “in” preposition implies territorial hegemony, whereas the Russian “at” merely suggests a territorial area. So according to the dictats from Kiev, English speakers are allowed to say “in Ukraine” but not “in the Ukraine” or “at the Ukraine” and russian speakers have been instructed to say “в Украине” and not “на Украине”.

              I wonder if similar demands have been made as regards French usage, and if so, what L’Académie française has to say about it?
              🙂

              And as rerds the Ukrainian demand that the article be dropped from “the Crimea” – are they saying that the Crimea is a sovreign state and not merely part of the Ukraine?

              • Dear Moscow Exile,

                I always refer to the country as “the Ukraine” since so far as I am concerned that is the way it should be written in English. I am not making an anti Ukrainian political point by doing so. I detest manipulation of names for nationalist agendas. By way of example at Greek insistence the country that should be called “Macedonia” is called “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” or “FYROM” for short because calling it Macedonia supposedly calls into question Greece’s right to its own province of Macedonia. I have no truck for this sort of nonsense and though Greek always refer to Macedonia as Macedonia and use no other name.

                • yalensis says:

                  Alexander the Great of Macedonia did not want to be confused with that other Alexander the Pretty Good from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (aka Alex of FYROM).

              • Hunter says:

                I’m not sure about the origins of “die Ukraine” in German. It could well be that Ukrainian/Russian scholarly immigrants also popularized its usage in Germany and the usage fit in with pre-existing German patterns of use. I strongly suspect though that the article’s claim is partly true insofar as that Ukrainian immigrant scholars who learnt English and various native English speakers who came to learn about eastern Europe (geographers, explorers, diplomats and so on) probably had the concept of Ukraine as a region that wasn’t very clearly defined early on (much like “the Highlands” or “the Mark/March” or “the Netherlands”) and so naturally applied the definite article to it (I doubt it was that they had imperfect knowledge of English, but I think there is truth to the claim that they helped popularize the usage). Later on Ukraine came to be more clearly defined (in a way similar to how Denmark is no longer thought of in terms of “the March of the Danes”)

                And all this bugs me because there are no articles in Ukrainian and Russian; yet someone in Kiev has taken it upon himself to change English syntax in order to score a political point.

                Yes, but it seems to be something about the English language which draws politicians from a lot of countries to do this. So in the past we had Persia -> Iran and more recently the Ukraine -> Ukraine and Ivory Coast -> Côte d’Ivoire (and the government at the time requested this change not just for English but for all languages!) and East Timor -> Timor Leste.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  The definite article used with the name of a country is uncommon in German, where the name without a definite article is normal practice, as in English, the country being self defined by its name, hence “Deutschland über Alles” (“Germany above everything else” and NOT “Gemany over everyone”) and “Wir marchieren gegen England” – “We are marching against England”, a jovial little ditty popular in the early 1940s.

                  The vast majority of country names are of neuter grammatical gender in German. A few, however, are feminine nouns, and it these that have a feminine definite article, e.g. die Schweiz (Switzerland), die Türkei (Turkey) and last but not least, die Ukraine.

                  As regards those countries that have a definite article in English, these are those that are defined, as in the Netherlands, which term answers the question “which lands”, the answer being “the nether ones”, “nether” being the somewhat archaic and now mostly poetic term for low; indeed we still say “the Low Countries”. And in German it is also for the same reason “die Niederlande”. Likewise “the United Kingdom”. Which Kingdom? – The United one of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And the United States of America – here we have post-definition with the term “of America”, hence the definite article, which is an English grammatical way of saying: “You don’t know “which one” but I’m going to tell you which. When I do this, I lead with a definite article (which is against the Russian rules of English grammar!), e.g. “The greatest invention the world has known is the computer”. The first “the” is a signal that I’m about to define, the second “the” is because you know which world I’m talking about (not because there’s only one world – another Russian rule!) and the third “the” is to define a singular countable in order to indicate a genus, in this case every computer that has been, is and ever will be made – not one definite computer that you know off or which I shall define later.

                  The other countries that have “the” as part of its name have this feature for historical reasons. “The Lebanon”, for example, was the Levant, a defined place. Now many people just say “Lebanon”. Likewise “the Cameroons”, the Gold Coast etc.

                  And such is the case with “the Ukraine” – “the border land” as it were, the edge of European civilization fom a Polish point of view some 600 years or so ago. And the name has stuck in English. But when I say “the Ukraine”. I am in no way suggesting that that country is not an independent sovereign state: after all, I make no such implication when I say “the Netherlands”, and I prefer “the Netherlands” because the more common term “Holland” really refers to a province of the Netherlands. Yet someone in Kiev seems to have taken grat affront to this English article usage with “Ukraine”, albeit that there is no article in either Russian or Ukrainian, nor do native English speakers use the preposition “at” when referring to the Ukraine as do Russians and which usage Ukrainian prescriptivists also seem to abhor.

                • yalensis says:

                  And let us not forget Prince Saakashvili of Gruzia insisting that all European countries now refer to his American colony as “Georgia” (with the English pronunciation). To which I say: United States of America already HAS a state named Georgia. So pick a different name, Saak.

                • marknesop says:

                  How about “Saakashville”?

              • Leos Tomicek says:

                На Украину или в Украину? Зависит от позиции…

                • Misha says:

                  Official Ukraine and many Ukrainians prefer “Ukraine” over “the Ukraine” which I’ll go along with. I make it a point to say “Crimea” as opposed to “the Crimea,” while not challenging its status as part of Ukraine. When I first heard of this matter as an issue, the Netherlands point immediately came to mind. As for transliteration, I’ll say “Kyiv” when referring to instances like the officially stated “Kyiv Post.” Otherwise, I stick to Kiev, Kharkov etc. One other exception besides the Kyiv Post is Lviv, which takes into consideration the consensus in that town.

                  The edge/border point applies to the region known as Krajina in former Yugoslavia. Historically, it was a kind of frontier point between predominately Muslim and Christian peoples.

                  In western Pennsylvania, scene of the 1970s Deer Hunter movie, there’s a mining area with many people of different Slav backgrounds. A good number of them have intermarried. I know someone from there who is of Slovak and Russian Orthodox Christian backgrounds.

                  Nationalist anti-Russian leaning Poles and Ukrainians support Tatars when they go against Russian interests as has been evident in Crimea. These anti-Russian elements will also say Russians aren’t full Slavs due to Tatar influence. Never mind that Tatar rule extended into Ukraine as well as some other territory west of modern day Russia.

                  There’re numerous people who identify with a Russian background, while having Polish roots. Denikin was one such person. Regarding him and the Russian-Polish dynamic, inclusive of Ukraine:

                  http://www.russiablog.org/2009/10/russian-polish-history-averko.php

                  On an overall people to people basis, I see little if any problems between Russians and Belarusians.

                  Concerning Poland’s current foreign minister:

                  http://www.rferl.org/content/interview_polish_foreign_minister_sikorski_says_moldova_on_right_path/24514286.html

                  Muted in tone, Radek Sikorski’s comments don’t reflect a complete break from the kind of anti-Russian commentary he exhibited when writing for National Review (NR) in the 1990s.

                  In the pre-internet era, I recall one NR article by Sikorski, when he describes a train ride with a Russian woman, who at one point poses the question of why Sikorski hates us (Russians). Sikorski didn’t deny the hate point, adding that Russians (according to him) don’t acknowledge Russia’s past wrongs.

                  Actually, while showing a willingness to consider the past wrongs of their nation, many Russians simultaneously and understandably resent hypocritically pious comments about their country and themselves.

                  On a more upbeat note, is this news item concerning the Polish Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches:

                  http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=13699

                  Sikorski’s above linked interview at the very top of this note diplomatically puts the onus on Russia vis-a-vis a settlement on the disputed former Moldavian SSR territory of Pridnestrovie (Transdniester).

                  Pridnestrovie has a better historical and human rights case for independence than Kosovo. Poland recognizes Kosovo’s independence unlike Pridnestrovie’s.

                  Prior to the Georgian government strike on South Ossetia, in 2008, Russia didn’t recognize the independence of any of the disputed former Communist bloc territories.

                  Related article:

                  http://www.eurasiareview.com/10012012-pridnestrovies-present-and-future%C2%A0-analysis/

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Why do English speakers insist on saying “Moscow”, the Germans “Moskau” and the French “Moscou” when the name of that city is Moskva?

                  Why do the French say “Londres” when they mean London?

                  Why do the French say l’Angleterre when they mean England? And they use an article as well!

                  England was one of Europe’s oldest sovereign states before becoming unified with Scotland in 1707. Why the article?

                  And why do Russians ape the French and say “Edinburg” for Edinburgh and – horror of horrors! – “La-Mansh” when everybody knows it’s the English Channel?

                  I’m willing to bet that the English Channel in Ukrainian is “La-Mansh” as well, or something very similar.

                  I think something should be done about this.
                  🙂

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  “Official Ukraine and many Ukrainians prefer ‘Ukraine’ over ‘the Ukraine’ ”

                  I should have thought that Ukrainians would prefer “Україна”.
                  🙂

                • Leos Tomicek says:

                  @ Misha

                  I’m currently writing an article on the origins of the discourse that Russians are not full Slavs. It has some very dark and shameful origins, and it is a shame it still has adherents.

                • Misha says:

                  Besides the Tatar bit on Russians not being full Slavs, there’s also the Finno-Ugric mantra.

                  Some people fluent in the Russian and Ukrainian languages tell me that nationalist anti-Russian types hype the Finno-Ugric influence in the Russian language.

                  The hypocrisy on the nationalist anti-Russian leaning side is quite noticeable. They expect respect, when they negatively distort Russia and Russians at large.

                  I don’t buy the “refreshing” view of Motyl. Frankly, immature seems more appropriate – especially when considering his academic standing. Some might be familiar with Umland’s shots at Dugin in Russia Profile and openDemocracy. High time to level the playing field.
                  😉

                  Academics don’t always carry on like academics. In this instance, they can be bested in an academic manner.

                  A reasonably objective person should be able to recognize how others suffered and how incorrect it is to believe that the USSR acted as a benefit for Russia at the expense of others.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  As regards this contention made by some Slavic nations that Russians, as a result of the “Tartar Yoke”, are not “real Slavs” because of their interbreeding with members of the Horde and their adaptation of Tartar-Mongol ways, I remember reading long ago that in Poland there exists a handful of villages where the population is Muslim, these people being the descendants of those of Batu Khan’s horde that penetrated furthest into the West.

                • Misha says:

                  For sure.

                  I’ve heard it said that Belarus got its name because it didn’t come as much under the influence of the “Golden Horde”/”Tatar Yoke.”

                  Well….. consider the centuries of a likely (without checking on specifics) migration in and out of Belarus.

                  Nevsky has been a target of bogus nationalist anti-Russian criticism, in terms of how he dealt with the Mongol subjugation.

                • yalensis says:

                  Зависит от позиции…
                  Ha! Exactly the same linguistic debate I had (on a previous blog) with Mark’s troll, “peter”. The debate concerned the correct syntax for “stomping someone in their mug”, was it в морду or на морду, and of course the answer depends on the relative position of stomper vs stompee!

                • cartman says:

                  I do not understand the Ukrainian racism towards Finns. If you compare Finland to Ukraine it is easy to see which one is more successful.

                  Anyway, Russians just voted to send six grandmothers from Udmurtia to represent the country for this year’s Eurovision. They will be singing in the Udmurt language, which comes from a Finnic people known as Chuds who helped co-found the first Rus state.

  6. cartman says:

    I saw this on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, and it is another argument to throw Russia out of the BRICS. He has updated it since, so I have not had time to read it all, but it is now chock full of more stereotypes and jokes about Russia.

    http://asiansecurityblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/its-time-to-de-russianize-the-brics/#more-1931

  7. Hunter says:

    Another well written piece Mark. You certainly do have a gift with words.

    These paragraphs however had me in stitches:

    “….Well, the opposition will doubtless be delighted to learn that new reforms will drop the membership quota required for registration as a political party from the current 50,000 down to a truly laughable 500, and scrap the law that required parties to have a minimum number of signatures. What? They’re pissed off about it?? “But analysts question how far the liberalized procedures will help the opposition become a real political force. ‘The liberalization of party registration will simply lead to the appearance of dozens, if not hundreds of parties in the next year or two,’ said Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation.

    “This will particularly apply to the liberal parties – they will simply cancel each other out.“

    There you have it, folks. The best way to “help the opposition become a real political force” would be to allow the votes of their family members to count as a million each, disqualify any party that does not agree a liberal party should win, and require non-liberal voters to speak a secret password that will be controlled by the liberals before being allowed to cast a ballot. I’m sorry, I know that’s just sarcasm – supposedly the lowest form of wit – but I will be damned if I can see what will satisfy Russia’s liberals beyond simply granting them victory without a contest…..”

    From before I finished reading that first sentence, I thought “no, the liberal opposition couldn’t really be complaining about those kinds of measures could they?” And then you said they were and I was floored! I believe your assessment is correct – they won’t be satisfied with anything less than simply being handed electoral victory on a platter. I get the distinct feeling that the liberals in Russia are simply marching themselves towards extinction at this rate. While constant complaining (and insulting the majority) may appeal to some people, the numbers will be tiny. Most of the rest will just be turned off or not interested. They don’t seem to realize that voters usually want people who offer solutions (or at least pie-in-the-sky promises) – not people who gripe and complain about everything (even things which should benefit them).

    By the way, have you ever read articles by this guy: http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/grigorii-golosov/russian-opposition-inside-or-outside-system ? His arguments seem to mesh with what the liberals want (i.e. not having to work and organize as a real, active political party). He implies that the opposition parties are essentially at risk of persecution for having “members who were underage, dead or not resident at the given address” and that apparently “in a list of 45,000 people there are bound to be a certain amount who fall into these categories”. The funny thing is that I’m sure in a lot of democracies around the world, parties keep list of 45,000 or more members without having dead people, wanderers and children on the list. The usual way I would imagine would be to have various regional chapters/committees/branches/whatever handle the local membership list (of maybe a few thousand persons) and that all the lists would be combined in a national list.

    • yalensis says:

      I think you guys have hit the nail on the head. The liberal Opposition are lazy Oblomov types who want to be handed power on a silver platter without having to work or organize. Humans are not ants. If we were ants, we’d be really easy to organize: Just hand us a Queen, have her bark some orders, and we start marching.
      But no… Organizing humans is very tough work. Kind of like herding cats. I know, because I once tried it. (Organizing humans, that is, not herding cats. )
      Anyway, from that experience I learned that (1) it is extremely hard and grueling work to organize a bunch of bickering humans and get them to reach consensus on ANYTHING, even the smallest tactical decision; and (2) due to my introverted personality type I am completely not cut out for this type of work. (But there are others who are, and who are quite brilliant at it; and I totally respect anybody who can do political or community organizing for a living.)
      What I am trying to say is that Russian Opps are a bunch of lazy Oblomovs who would rather out-source this tough political organizing work to the American Embassy, while sitting at home drinking tea and cashing their checks from NED. Even Nemtsov barely lifts a finger any more, and basically just phones it in. So yes, they would rather just be handed POWER, and get all the perks without having to work for it.

      • Misha says:

        In a recent openDemocracy (oD) article, Mykola Riabchuk takes a shot at Navalny, who has been promoted by oD.

        I don’t expect the “nationalist” Navalny to answer back.

        The promoted opposition to Putin is supported by anti-Russian leaning elements like oD, which favor the likes of Motyl, Riabchuk and Kuzio over reasoned pro-Russian perspectives.

      • marknesop says:

        The trouble with that is, the west would like to empower exactly such types. The last thing they want in there is some idealist who thinks he or she is going to get to the top of the heap and empower the masses to take their country back. Preening narcissists like Nemtsov are just what they like.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Hunter! Yes, this was the case with PARNAS, and A Good Treaty argued that the number of registered members who were actually dead or indigent or whatever was sufficiently small that it was clear they had the required base of support – much like the argument that, yes, there was some small amount of fraud in the presidential elections, but it was a clear win for Putin and whatever fraud occurred would not have stopped that from happening.

      I would argue, in the case of PARNAS, did those members who were actually dead die after they were registered, or did PARNAS simply pad its rolls with dead people? The one is indeed an honest error, and the time when we wink out can seldom be predicted with much accuracy. However, if they died in 2002 or something like that, it looks less like a mistake. Everyone was ready to jump on the courts for “marginalizing the opposition”, but it might well be a case such as some have described – notably Eugene Ivanov: everyone tries to outdo the boss, and to bring him good news. Nobody, I don’t think, is suggesting that PARNAS’s leaders went door to door canvassing for membership (although it’s just the sort of thing Nemtsov would do to generate personal publicity), and those who “grew” their membership rolls may have taken a shortcut here and there.

      In any event, I wished that PARNAS had been allowed to field candidates for election; convincing losses might have denied them the opportunity to bellow that they were cheated and it’s just not possible to get electoral fairness in Putin’s dictatorship. If Nemtsov were really as popular as he thinks he is, nothing could stop the outcry. You notice most of the outcry came from him. This signifies, at least, that Nemtsov is just as popular with Nemtsov as he ever was.

      • Yalensis is absolutely right when he says that these liberal oppositions are people who expect to be given power on a plate rather than do anything constructive to achieve it. The hard grunge of real politics is not for heroes like them. That is why when they are given the chance to run anything it all falls apart.

        On the subject of party registration, I think this is a classic example of being careful for what you wish for. In the parliamentary elections the liberal vote coalesced around one liberal party, which was Yabloko, which is a real party and which was on the ballot paper. Instead of joining this party and developing it into a real political force the liberals are now busy running around setting up a bewildering array of new parties. Thus we have Yabloko, PARNAS, Prokhorov’s new party (which Kudrin may or may not join), the Republican party, Gorbachev’s new Social Democratic party (if it gets off the ground) and the Russian liberal equivalent of Uncle Tom Cobley all rushing to get their parties registered. Meanwhile I understand there is already talk of Just Russia falling apart with Ponomariev and Gudkov already at odds with Mironov. Presumably if and when Just Russia does fall apart they will register new parties as well. Doubtless Udaltsov and Navalny, who at the moment seem to be as thick as thieves even though they supposedly hold diametrically opposite views, will register their parties as well.

        Each of our heroes will therefore have his own party all of which will be fighting fiercely over the same 4-9% which is all the liberal electorate amounts to. The ballot paper at the next parliamentary election will become a nightmare and will probably be as long as a book. In this swamp the only parties that will stand out will be those parties that have a strong definition, which at the moment are United Russia and the KPRF. At this rate if any of the liberal parties comes anywhere close to passing the 5% barrier to get into the Duma it will be nothing short of a miracle.

        • Hunter says:

          I certainly hope a Just Russia doesn’t fall apart. It has been making progress and sounds like it could be the only sane alternative to UR at some point in the future.

          As for the liberals, I’m sure they will claim that their future failure to make it into the Duma is all because of a Kremlin plot to lower the registration requirements and thereby stimulate the proliferation of liberal parties and divide the vote among the liberal supporters.

          As you said though it is amazing that instead of joining one liberal party they are all rushing to form separate parties to appeal to the same slice of the electorate. Surely if United Russia and Just Russia can be formed from the merger of several parties with similar views (and in the case of United Russia still maintain 3 or 4 separate clubs/discussion groups) I don’t see why liberal parties (which would supposedly encompass a far narrower spectrum of political thought than the make up of UR) can unify around a main party (Yabloko). Certainly Yabloko, Parnas (of which the Republican Party is a part of it seems), Gorbachev’s Social Democrats and Prokhorov should join up. However something tells me that those parties are less about liberal theory and more about personality (with the liberal ideology being distinctly subordinate to the personality). Yavlinsky, Prokhorov and Nemtsov probably just couldn’t get past burying personal ambition in favour of joint action.

      • Hunter says:

        I can certainly understand that political parties won’t catch that they have dead people on their rolls or those who have changed address. As you said, we never know when we are going to die and sometimes when people move the hassle is such that updating all your contacts on it can take time. But I can see no reason why children should be registered party members. Surely you need to provide proof of ID (and age)? And when it comes to having dead people or those with changed addresses on the roster it is a fine balance between honest mistake, fraud and disorganization. The honest mistake bit you have already covered. When it comes to the other two possibilities having people who died long ago or people who cannot be found at the address given we are dealing with the possibility of fictional people (so either real people who have died or made up persons just given a random address).

        When it comes to disorganization we have the prospect of a party that is so disorganized that members can die and change address and nobody notices. I would contend that if you change your address and don’t give your party updated contact information then the party isn’t that important to you. In the case of fraud or disorganization it is only right that party gets de-registered since (at least according to that article) “Official registration guarantees not only the right to take part in elections, but a range of other privileges, the most of important of which is the right to financial support from the state and to accept private donations.” I certainly wouldn’t want to know that my tax money is going to support fraudsters or jokers. Personally I would prefer that my tax money would not go to supporting any political party at all, but if society is okay with it and it is a law on the books I would at least want to know it isn’t being wasted when it is being used to support political parties.

  8. yalensis says:

    Mark: sidebar, continuing thread from previous post, here is a review of the “Amistad” exhibit at Mystic Seaport:

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g33845-d105371-Reviews-Amistad-Mystic_Connecticut.html

    I really liked the movie “Amistad”, so it was was interesting to see the boat and setting that was used in the movie. A lot of the movie was filmed on location in Mystic Connecticut.

    • Misha says:

      I read this just as I was researching which is the best pea coat to consider between Sterlingwear (official USN outfitter) Schott (which had a USN contract) and Fidelity.

      They’ve a nice museum in Mystic Seaport.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    Take a look at that maniac Zigfeld’s comment to this article in the Moscow Times:

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/when-in-russia-talk-the-talk/455335.html

    Most definitely certifiable!

    • marknesop says:

      Ah, yes…that sounds like the old “Kim Zigfeld”. She seems to have gotten her groove back here, although in her hatred she stumbles and appears to not speak even English very well (“Moreover, there preciously little that Russians can teach foreigners about anything, they live in brutal, benighted failing society.”) I used to twig her regularly about her sloppy grammar and leaps of context, which may have contributed to me being run out of town on a metaphorical rail.

      • yalensis says:

        “They live in brutal, benighted failing society…”
        Hm… broken English. dropping her indefinite articles. Native Russian speakers never do get hang of articles.

        I wonder if Kimmie could be …. gasp! master Russian spy, Boris Badenov?
        Oops! “Don’t be blabbermouth, you blabbermouth!”

        • marknesop says:

          Is funny, yes? I’m afraid “Kimmie” is as English (American) as they come; she likely just got caught up in a spasm of fury that made her pound the keyboard and made her careless of what she typed. But her reaction when you correct her reminds me a lot of my first wife. We had a Scrabble game, and I used to dread playing, because she was both extremely competitive and not particularly widely-educated. I would put down tiles that would give me a big score with a word like “Gypsophila”, and she would glower and say, “that’s not a word. You made it up”. And I would try to be reasonable and say, “It is a word, dear; it’s a flower”. Then she’d say, “no foreign words”, and I’d say, “it’s not a foreign word, it’s used fairly commonly in the English language” (although it’s roots are Latin). Then she’d say, “get the Dictionary. I want to see”. I’d get it, knowing what was coming. She’d read the relevant page silently, slam the book down and stomp out to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea and stare out the window. And just as likely as not, avoid speaking to me for a couple of days on the excuse that I made her feel stupid. But she had an uncanny knack for spotting when you were trying to lose, just for the sake of peace, and that would make her mad, too.

          Anyway, I’ve made fun of “Kimmie” before for sloppiness, poor spelling, and – on one memorable occasion – for linking to a Paul Goble who, rather than penning deathless rants against totalitarian Russia from darkest Staunton, was a celebrated author of children’s books. That was a good one, she obviously didn’t even read the citation, and simply hyperlinked the first Paul Goble she found. Likewise, I’ve poked her for citing conclusions in articles that are not supported in any way by their content. Her wrath on such occasions (before she began simply deleting the comments) was highly enjoyable, but it sent a chill down my spine to think what it would like to be married to her, because I have been. Sort of.

          • yalensis says:

            Mark, are you absolutely SURE that Kimmie and your first wife are not one and the same person? After all, nobody has ever actually seen Kimmie. To my knowledge, there is only one very blurry distant photograph, like Bigfoot.

            • marknesop says:

              Well, pretty sure. My first ex-wife lives in Toronto now, and remarried quite a few years ago. Kimmie is supposed to be based in New York. That’d be quite a commute.

  10. Moscow Exile says:

    Certifiable!

    She admits, however, that over 60% of Russians voted “to return a proud KGB spy as president”.

    • Misha says:

      For some like that source, the official tally in question serves as proof that Russians en masse are primitive.

      One of the porblems with the coverage is that a dip like that gets more attention than some others who can successfully substantiate their views in a live one on one situation.

      Why promote a coward who punked out of a live BBC World Service appearance? It’s so much easier to lob pot shots from a safe distance.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, she loves her some KGB, and she has probably used the phrase “proud KGB spy” for Putin at least twice as often as she has used his name. As you know, I started this blog to kick her feet out from under her, but I rapidly got distracted by other writers of whom I had previously been unaware and I first stopped writing about her and then stopped reading her stuff altogether. It was a surprise to me (from Anatoly) that La Russophobe had shut down. Of course, she started up again almost immediately at “Dying Russia”, which suggests all the happy talk about giving up La Russophobe because all the future was Twitter feeds and Facebook was rubbish. It simply wasn’t doing very well, and perhaps she needed a fresh start where you couldn’t simply go back into the archives and mock her for having held the opposite position on an issue a few months before.

      But something happened. While I don’t doubt her contempt and loathing for Russia and its people continues unabated, she seemed to have been sucker-punched by the liberal opposition, and seemed also to feel that Navalny had hijacked the purity of the liberal agenda. Where previously her knees would tremble with awe whenever she discussed popinjay carnival barker Boris Nemtsov, she positively spat venom at Navalny, and I have to say her forecast that he would turn out to be just a big frog in a small pond was deadly accurate. Her spewing about what savages Russians are was abandoned (mostly) in favour of withering dissections of the liberal opposition and its playing at being hardcore dissenters that were far more realistic than the pablum being peddled by the Vive La Révolution chablis-sippers of the mainstream press.

      An example of this redirection of hatred can be found here at The Power Vertical. Yes, that was me endorsing her comment, which I never thought I’d see. Moreover, if you follow the link she provides to her story, you’ll see it is completely devoid of Whitmore’s ecstatic pie-in-the-sky characterizations laced with the fanciful smoke of urban combat, and rather exposes a silly girl with delusions of grandeur very much in the mold of Evgeniya Chirikova.

      • Misha says:

        The stated opposition to Navalny partly stems from him having a “nationalist” agenda.

        Hmm..

        I understand he was quoted making a bigoted comment. If so, there’s no excuse for that.

        There’s also no excuse for reasonably pro-Russian minded people to not take issue with the anti-Russian editorial slant at openDemocracy, where Navalny has appeared. As earlier mentioned at this thread, Riabchuk took a shot at Navalny at oD. Navalny not responding is indicative of the kind of “Russian nationalist” activity that’s out there.

        BTW, that Riabchuk oD piece is fundamently atrocious in a number of ways.

    • kirill says:

      This whole Putin=KGB schtick is so lame it isn’t even funny. Gusinsky actually hired the former head of the 5th directorate (you know the one that was tasked with repressing dissidents) and there was not a *single* squeak from the west. As long as butchers and assorted rogues kiss western a** it is all fine and good. But when decent people say no to western diktat they are worse than Satan!

      Putin was not the head of the KGB like George Bush Sr. who was head of the CIA during the 1970s and its meddling in Latin America to install death squad juntas in Chile, Argentina and elsewhere. Bush had the blood of tens of thousands on his hands. KGB Putin was some sort of liason in East Germany and was not even some analogue of agent 007 fighting to subvert the west on its own soil. KGB Putin was not even responsible for repressing East German dissidents.

      Obviously the tag KGB is being thrown around like some drool inducement for Pavlov’s dogs.

      • marknesop says:

        I remember doing something once, I can’t remember if it was a post or just a comment – and of course I can’t find it now – about other western leaders who had been something else before they were in politics, roughly as long ago as Putin was on active service in the KGB. Did you know Tony Blair once fancied himself a rock star? True story. But people don’t say, “Tony Blair, rock star” every time they mention him; he’s remembered for being the Prime Minister of the UK, even though the band he fronted was called “Ugly Rumours”, which suggests so many comic turns (given his horrible judgment on Iraq) that your brain kind of overloads on possibilities.

      • Misha says:

        Bush wasn’t really CIA in terms of the “company man” type.

        He was put in as a sort politico outsider to oversee that org.

        A rough analogy is something along the lines of Trotsky heading an army consisting of military educated officers.

        • kirill says:

          I am being consistent with western logic. I am prepared to give Bush Sr. some slack. But what would western media and pundits yap if Putin was head of the KGB during the 1970s? They have left themselves no room for more hyperbole. Perhaps they would be demanding that Putin be brought before the ICT.

          • Putin’s background was in the KGB’s First Directorate which was involved in gathering foreign intelligence. This was always a distinct agency within the KGB. There were times in the 1930s and 1940s before the KGB was set up when it was a wholly independent agency. It was not concerned with political repression and when the KGB was dismantled in 1992 it was separated to become the agency that is known today as the SVR. When Putin was briefly appointed to head the FSB this was not therefore for him in any sense a “coming home”.

            The western media never understands the differences between the various Soviet/Russian intelligence and security agencies. For example they consistently refer to Litvinenko as a former spy and KGB agent. Litvinenko was not a spy and never belonged to the KGB. The agency he originally joined was the Interior Ministry or MVD where he eventually became an agent in the department dealing with organised crime. That department was then transferred from the MVD to the FSB when the Russian security agencies were reorganised following the abolition of the KGB.

            For the rest the western or at least the British media well into the 1970s used to refer to the KGB and the GRU (the General Staff’s intelligence agency) interchangeably as if they were one and the same or (something I once remember reading) as if the GRU was a department of the KGB, which of course it never was. Thanks to Ian Fleming most British people (including many British journalists) continued right up until the early 1980s to think that SMERSH continued to exist either as a separate agency or as a division of the KGB even though it was abolished in 1946.

            • Hunter says:

              Well for a lot in the west the KGB was simply renamed the FSB and the various directorates and so forth being split off was all just cosmetic. Although if one were to say that a former “MI5” employee had a “homecoming” because he was appointed as director of the agency commonly called “MI6” a lot of people in Britain would think you were clueless.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Until quite recently there was officially no British secret service: the British always presented themselves as far too gentlemanly to be involved in such sordid, underhand activities.

                Quite right too!🙂

                Then they eventually decided to come clean about this matter and built a monstrous edifice facing the Houses of Parliament from across the Thames and in which is housed “the secret service”.

                The building always makes me think of one of those awful ministries in Orwell’s 1984.

            • Misha says:

              Alexander, I think it’s fair to say that many aren’t so well understood on the makeup of intelligence agencies the world over.

              Andropov was considered a reformer in his day. During that time, I recall it being said that the most likely of reformers in the USSR were some of the intell people involved with gathering info. from the West.

              Such individuals had a better understanding of realities in the USSR and the West, in contrast to many other Soviet employed officials.

  11. yalensis says:

    I just saw Fred Weir’s latest in Christian Science Monitor (via INOSMI):

    English:
    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0322/Russia-exasperated-with-US-over-missile-defense/%28page%29/1

    Russian:
    http://inosmi.ru/usa/20120323/188932060.html

    I was glad when Weir defended himself on previous blog, because it gave us blog readers a chance to figure him out. I don’t think he is a hack like the others. I think his niche is that he lived in Russia all those years, including from Soviet times, where his Communist ties gave him access to Party elite and officials in the Kremlin, and he has managed to keep up those ties and contacts over the years. As in this article, he uses those ties to communicate the views of Kremlin officials to Western readers. I suppose that is an important function. Most other Western journalists only report the views of fringe Opposition, and probably have no access to anybody in real position of power.

    • PvMikhail says:

      Speaking about Fred Weir and his argument with the people of this blog…
      Good news seem to be approaching:

      http://www.gks.ru/bgd/free/b12_00/IssWWW.exe/Stg/dk02/8-0.htm

      The first 4 or so months are the most critical in every state concerning population dynamics. If this is true, there could be a natural population growth by yearend.
      RUSSIAN KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! Everything depends on the living will of the nation. Russia CAN and MUST show to Europa, that the social/health program of a responsible government can create a family friendly environment reversing the disastrous population trends jeopardizing the existence of a lot of European countries. Putin HAVE TO and WILL focus on the main problems: increasing the fertility of central/ northwestern Russian regions but draw a limit to the growth of places like Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetiya, Tyva. The necessary steps are being taken according to http://premier.gov.ru/eng/

      внешних причин смерти (death from external causes) decline is also continuing.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Well I’m proud to say that I, together with the dutiful assistance of my Russian spouse, have done my bit to help save the Russian nation from extinction.🙂

        Our third child is fast approaching her 4th birthday and we already have a soon to be 13-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. When our youngest, Sasha, was born, my wife was immediately given 12,000 RUB by the state and she later received 350,000 RUB in her account which is to be spent on children’s food, clothing etc. or as a deposit in order to acuire more spacious accomodation.

        We also have a passport-like document which states that we are a “multi-chidren family” and in which details of our family are registered. On presentation of this document, we get discount on purchases for children’s clothing, school books etc. We even received a golden medallion off the Moscow City authorities when our youngest was born, on which is proudly emblazoned “Born in Moscow 2008”.

        All this is the result of a policy implimented by the “proud ex-KGB spy” Vladimir Putin.

        Such is life in the Evil Empire.

        • PvMikhail says:

          Russia is thankful to You! A child, a heir is a must. If a childless person dies, who will remember him? I presume, that your children give you a lot of happiness and extra energy. God bless you with more of that.

          I wish my country would have a strong focus on reproduction like Russia has. I am afraid that it’s tool late now. I even had the idea, that Putin was late, when he raised demographics to state priority status in 2006. The right time would have been 2000-2001. The outstanding effect on birth rate was seen from 2007 onwards.

        • yalensis says:

          Congrats, Exile! Your kids sound great, and I wish your family all the best.
          P.S. Did your wife go to that casting call for the crowd scene? Sounds like great fun to be in show biz.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Thanks, Yalensis! It’s half-term holidays now in Moscow, so my eldest children are off school and my youngest is not at kindergarten.

            School starts again on April 2nd. The next holidays in the literal meaning of the word (“holy days”), though not state ones, are at Easter, which falls this year on April 15th. However, it is more like early winter than spring now: daytime temperatures are still sub-zero (it’s minus 6C as I write) and there has been persistent snow of late. The thaw is forecast for the beginning of April. And the clocks didn’t go forward last weekend either (they stopped daylight saving last October), so it feels a little strange here with Moscow still snow covered at the end of March and dark at 7 o’clock in the morning .

            My wife doesn’t play in crowd scenes: she’s quite an accomplished actress now and has speaking roles in court room dramas on TV. She’s a good cryer and is often asked to turn on the water works when she ‘s being grilled by the prosecutor. She gets regular roles now.

      • yalensis says:

        Lots of good points, @pvMikhail. I know ZERO about demographics, but I did read somewhere that the single best way for any government to improve its demographic situation is by providing good health care and social services to women, infants, and children. Also things like daycare centers and pre-school programs. All that socialistic stuff.

        • PvMikhail says:

          Yes, in fact the first state stimulating birth rate with these measures from a low base was Honecker’s GDR. FRG had no such program, which can be seen on the demographic indicators now. GDR had a catastrophic decline in births during the early 90’s, because 3 million people went to the west after 1989, majority of them are women. But now in Eastern region fertility overtakes the West. This example is worth to examine by any people interested in demographics. The 2 country had the same history, same conditions, but different society and social policy..

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, this does seem considerably more balanced, doesn’t it? It highlights Russian concerns without making them appear childish or unreasonable. It basically just tells the reader what happened and who said what, without trying to “flavour” either side, which is pretty much what reporting is all about.

      I don’t think anyone really believes that system is intended against “rogue missiles” from Iran, so they might as well drop that silly pretense. It isn’t so much the missiles that are a concern to Russia (as I’ve said before, for just about every sophisticated feature you build into a missile there is a countermeasure that costs about a quarter as much); it’s the radar.

      • yalensis says:

        Here is how a reasonable fact-based article could become slanted:
        I (a fact-based journalist) write:
        “Russian Defense Minister Boris Badenov expressed his concerns to me that the the missiles could constitute a challenge to Russia’s ability to deter a first strike…”

        After my editor works it over, it becomes:
        “Russian Defense Minister Boris Badenov, a former Soviet bureaucrat who has held this job since the late Brezhnev era, expressed to me the usual Russian paranoia about missiles. Due to their horrible experiences under the Tatar Yoke, Russians are suspicious of foreign intentions and worry about annihilation, even though American officials have made clear the military defense is directed against Iran not Russia.”

        • Dear Yalensis,

          I see exactly this sort of manipulation of the language of reporting happen all the time. What makes it worse is that the British media has completely abandoned its former tradition of separating news reporting from commentary. If you read old newspapers from the 1950s or 1960s or even the 1960s you will see that the news pages tended to be strictly factual and dry as dust whilst commentary and news interpretation was strictly confined to the features and editorial page. That distinction was already eroding in the 1970s and it completely vanished in the 1980s largely (though not entirely) under the influence of Rupert Murdoch.

          By the way the earliest example of language manipulation in British media reporting I can remember was during the Vietnam war, when the BBC in its broadcasts always referred to the North Vietnamese as “the Communist forces” and the South Vietnamese as “the government forces”. This subtly challenged the legitimacy of the North Vietnamese government and implied that it was the South Vietnamese government that was the legitimate or “real” one and that the North Vietnamese were merely rebels. In reality the truth was the diametric opposite. The legitimate government of Vietnam was the Communist government in the North and the illegitimate government was the government in the South, which was formed by the Americans after they refused in 1958 to allow all Vietnamese elections as had been agreed at the Geneva conference of 1954. It tells you a great deal about the change in media standards in Britain that this mislabelling of the respective parties to the Vietnam war was actually quite controversial at the time. Today it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

          • Whilst on the subject of the manipulation of the language of reporting, could somebody who knows more about Russian politics than me tell me whether Putin himself or anyone close to him has ever used expressions like “managed democracy” or “power vertical”. I say this because I have never come across a single speech or article in which he has done so.

            Surkov did use the expression “sovereign democracy” in article he wrote many years ago but if one reads the article objectively the meaning of the words is completely different to that commonly attributed to them. Surkov was not using the words “sovereign democracy” to describe a system of sham or controlled democracy. Rather he meant it in the sense of Russia being a democracy that was politically independent ie. had full control of its domestic space and its own fully independent foreign policy. No guesses who it was to be independent from.

          • Misha says:

            I also recall distinctions between South Vietnamese, North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces – the last referring to pro-North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam.

            Around this time, “Red China” (mainland) and China (Taiwan) was being used. Then again, at the time, the UN recognized Taiwan on the UNSCR as China (Republic of China).

            Even after the rift between te USSR and the PRC, the former never went against the idea of the latter representing China in the UNSC. One of the first rewards for this policy was the PRC bashing of the USSR in the UNSC.

            • Dear Misha,

              The other label that one came across was “the free world”, used to refer to the US and the west as opposed to the USSR and its allies (which were always called “satellites”) which by implication (though never explicitly) were the “unfree” world. It is fair to say however that the expression “free world” was never used as often in Britain as it was in the US.

              • Misha says:

                Yes Alexander.

                When discussing present times, I periodically hear “free world.”

                Overall, the British seem to have a more Machiavellian way of seeing things than Americans. There’re nevertheless crusading ideologues in the UK.

                • Misha says:

                  On the matter of British and Machiavellian:

                  http://slon.ru/russia/rebyat_vy_videli_etu_stranu_kakie_mahinacii-652050.xhtml

                  Excerpt –

                  “But I see the British press differently. I am friends with those colleagues and see that they seek tabloid news because they have a different relationship to the press. Even in this conversation with you I often repeat the words ‘truth,’ lie,’ ‘objectivity,’ but there they consider that you, as a journalist, exist to entertain the masses. You are more an entertainer. Furthermore, Britain is closer to Russia, and therefore all the news from here — it is ‘Oh, such a big, bad Russia, which must be feared.”

                  ****

                  One can further translate (political dissident style) by suggesting that the above excerpt comes across as a bit self serving. It caters to a Russian audience, making British media appear worse than the American variant. For accuracy sake, there’re some good and not as good examples of media in the US and UK, which should be judged on an individual basis.

          • marknesop says:

            The best work I’ve ever read on this sort of yellow journalism is A. J. Cronin’s, “The Northern Light” – I highly recommend it, and I’ve probably mentioned it before, it’s such a great book. Completely fictional, of course, but unerringly exposing the fascination with catering to the lowest common denominator in human baseness with sex scandals and sly wink-wink pieces heavy on editorial opinion in place of unbiased reporting that lets the reader come to a decision unassisted by anything but the facts. A large tabloid (The Chronicle) tries to buy out a local competitor (The Northern Light), and when its offer is refused, sets about a dirty campaign to drive The Light out of business. It’s astonishingly contemporary considering it was written in 1958, and the triumph of integrity – despite the horrific cost – over unbridled corporatism is inspiring.

            I’m sorry to have to say that Britain has by far the worst reputation for such sensationalist and empty-headed journalism.

            That said, I had to take my wife to the hospital last night for an infection in her finger that had become very painful; whiling away the time in the waiting room, I read a truly awful piece in “MacLean’s” on “Putin the Terrible” that rivaled any of the journalistic birdcage carpeting I’ve read anywhere else.

            • Misha says:

              I recall instances of Russian journos who seem to cater to a Western audience when appearing on English language mass media TV.

              These same journos likely would say something differently to a Russian audience. A good number in the West are brought up believing that kind of manner to be indicative of a censoring attitude in Russia, without taking into consideration another kind of censorship.

              There’re other Russian journos who appear across the board in their selection of pitches.

              The most successful censorship is the kind not getting highlighted.

  12. Apparently the authorities in Kuwait by mistake played the fake (and highly obscene) Kazakh national anthem from the Borat film in place of the real one. You could not make it up:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/23/borat-kazakhstan-anthem-kuwait-medal-ceremony

    • PvMikhail says:

      Khazakhs must be extremely angry with this Borat show and Cohen. They degrade Khazakhstan’s image on the basis of ignorance of common people. Most people think that this Borat guy is equal to Khazakhstan. I don’t know much about the country except the basic data I know about all the Soviet territories, but the northern part has many ethnic Russian inhabitants and basically a Russian character. The southern part is maybe less civilized, but must be much better than any middle eastern country…
      I think Borat should have been Uzbek or Tajik… but why Khazakh? It’s a decent country.

      • Dear PvMikhail,

        I utterly loathed the Borat film. It came across to me as a film by a very rich man (which Cohen is) laughing at poor people and by a Jew obsessed with anti semitism and finding it everywhere even in places like Kazakhstan where there is no history of it,

        • Leos Tomicek says:

          I wonder if Cohen could have been brought to a trial for libel. He is not as rich as Kazakhstan.😉

        • I disagree it had classist or anti-anti-Semitic themes.

          He wrestled naked with a fat dude in front of hundreds of horrified rich people in that swanky hotel dining room, and exposed those college students as racist bigots (hardly a poor demographic).

          There was at least as much mockery of Islamophobia as anti-Semitism.

        • marknesop says:

          I didn’t see it. I used to find Cohen funny when he was in his British hip-hop persona; we used to catch him from time to time on BET (Black Entertainment Television; my elder daughter was a huge fan and would have turned black if it were possible). But like a lot of entertainers, he seemed to get full of himself, and he was at his best when he was making fun of his own peer group. Obviously, as you say, he’s not a poor Kazakh. I never noticed the Jewish angle, although there’s no denying it exists; look at Masha Gessen and her slobbering love for Khodorkovsky, as featured in her recent Salon piece.

      • The Borat film’s intention was to lampoon (real) Americans as narrow-minded redneck bastards, and succeeded at it.

        (If you tape 100 hours of interactions with any nationality, of course you’d be able to capture any number of assholes once you edit it down to 2%).

        It had nothing to do with Kazakhstan itself, except insofar as it stood for an imaginary shitty-ass broken down Third World country against which the US could be compared and indirectly identified with. It was anti-American (but in a humorous, acceptable way) but not anti-Kazakh. That said, it is not surprising that it would fly over many heads, especially in parts of the world where people don’t have the exposure to American culture to appreciate the film as the slapstick, Jackass-style comedy it really is.

        I quite liked the film, though I found myself cringing throughout most of it. I envy Mr. Cohen’s shamelessness and lack of self-awareness.

        • Dear Anatoly,

          I never thought of the Borat film in this way. This is because apart from New York, which I know very well but which (as I am repeatedly told) is entirely untypical of the US, I have never travelled through the US to any great degree. I have never been to the south or the Bible belt or the West Coast. The result is that I didn’t see the film as about the US. Instead as I have said I found it deeply upsetting for the reasons I have said.

          On the subject of Cohen, when I said he was rich I did not just mean that he is richer than Kazakhs. He comes from a very wealthy family and is very rich by British standards.

        • hoct says:

          Even with the editing I couldn’t escape impression of regular Americans as first of all super-friendly, open, tolerant, polite, and patient and conflict-avoiding, even thick-skinned. Had he tried this stuff in my part of the woods I imagine he would end up in hospital in short order.

          The main way the film succeeds in showing Americans in a “negative” light is in that they accept the Borat persona as plausible, not realizing it is an act, which makes you ask just what kind of an imagine of the rest of the world do they have? But then insularity, and the ensuing cluelessness as to how the rest of the world works is not a crime, and Americans are not the only offenders, just the worst.

          • yalensis says:

            @hoct, that is my impression of Americans too. They are actually pretty great people, on the whole. Resourceful, friendly, helpful, etc etc. Maybe a bit gullible, like you say, and totally ignorant of other cultures. Which is why an a**hole like “Borat” can easily prank them.
            American mass culture can be ridiculously unpleasant and wrong when it attempts to parody other cultures. For example, I have seen skits in comedy shows where they think they are making fun of Iran by showing Iranian women in full-on burquas and Iranian men supposedly ululating. Modern Iranian women do not normally wear burqas or cover their faces, usually just a scarf or jihab; and, to my knowledge, Iranian men do not ululate. I believe that is Arabs who do that, and I believe it is the women who ululate at funerals.

            • Hunter says:

              Actually there was an American movie which did make fun of this American ignorance of the ululating. It was Three Kings I think and in it an American soldier in Iraq (the movie is set in 1991 during the First/Second Gulf War (depending on how you count it)) begins ululating after some event when the women are ululating and an Iraqi rebel has to stop him and tell him that only women do that (meanwhile the women were laughing at him).

    • BTW, speaking of Borat…

      • PvMikhail says:

        I like this girl. If I were her, I would have probably made a problem out of this situation, I am a hot head. She has a typical Russian calmness in her🙂 There are many more good Russian sportsmen compete for Kazakhstan.
        Again, I think Khazakhstan is a decent country. It’s only problem is that it isn’t the part of Russian Federation, where it belongs…

    • yalensis says:

      I like the dignified way Dmitrienko handled this blunder. The girl has a lot of class. Something that could not be said for the likes of Baron-Cohen, whose infantile antics cause harm.

      • marknesop says:

        Let’s not lose sight here of the angle that no harm at all would have been caused were it not for the stupid, lazy Kuwaitis who just took the first link they Googled and did not trouble themselves to find out what the anthem actually sounds like. Would they have been likely to play the Jimmy Hendrix version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” if an American won? There’s no excuse for that kind of laziness in diplomatic work. Politicians usually have speechwriters parse their intended speeches for any possibility of offense except where it is intended, and this is the same thing.

        • yalensis says:

          True. The event organizers are supposed to have all this prepared in advance, with legitimate tapes of all the anthems kept at hand, as well as the flags and other paraphernalia..

  13. Here is a fine article by the British Marxist scholar Martin Jacques about British and western inability to come to terms psychologically with the rise of China

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/25/china-rise-ignorance

    I would add that Britain and Europe have exactly the same problem though to an even greater degree about the rise of Russia. I fully expect (and I am not alone in thinking this) that by 2030 Russia will not only have much the biggest economy in Europe but that its living standards will be visibly higher than in most (perhaps all) of Europe as well. The Eurasian Union will also by then be fully up and running almost certainly including the Ukraine and Europe will lie in its shadow. There is no evidence that anyone outside Germany is taking any of this seriously or is preparing for it at all and in Britain at least the claque of Russophobes discussed so eloquently by Mark on this blog makes facing up to this reality impossible. As Martin Jacques says here in Britain at least we prefer the setting sun to the rising one.

    • marknesop says:

      The usual technique is to loudly deny it is happening until acknowledgement that it actually is becomes undeniable, and then to introduce a distraction like who won in the latest reality show.

      I did a post quite some time ago on the Skolkovo Technology City, in rebuttal to a piece of nonsense which relied heavily on expert advice from Seattle cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr. Carr inferred throughout, in a word-to-the-wise sort of way, that the Russians would be wiring the buildings in Skolkovo for electronic snooping. Why would anyone do that now, leaving behind undeniable evidence , when everything is wireless?

      Anyway, all the way through it was the sly Russians this, the sneaky Russians that. When asked about China’s efforts in cyberspying and R&D capture, Carr blithely wrote it off to the Chinese “just looking out for their national interests”, like America does. Really?

  14. yalensis says:

    Off-topic, civil war in Libya, Sirte vs. Al Qaeda:

    This video shows a convoy of Misuratan militias, flying the black Al Qaeda flag, preparing to attack the city of Sirte. Apparently there was a clash 2 days ago, Green Resistance fighters in Sirte fired on members of the unelected NTC government, including Interior Ministry officials. Nobody is flying the official NTC flag any more (which was the flag of the Italian colonial government under King Idirs): they fly either the Al Qaeda flag; or the Gaddafi Green flag.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      Libya is increasingly resembling a set from a Mad Max film. Poor Libya!

      • marknesop says:

        The really sick thing is that so many people saw it coming and said this is what would happen. And yet NATO blundered ahead in spite of it, firing off cheery blow-sunshine-up-your-ass combat reports about the gallantry and courage of the “rebels” as if they came from an alternate reality. Libya will probably never recover. Disgraceful.

        • Dear Mark,

          You are absolutely right. It is incredible that after the fiascos of Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq all the same misdeeds should have been committed all over again in Libya, here in Britain without criticism or discussion.

          Putin in one of his articles said he was unable to understand this itch “some people” have to attack everyone and everything. I agree with him. Even if it comes down to wanting to take control of Libya’s oil (which surely must have been a factor) the intervention makes little sense. Gaddafi had opened up Libya to foreign investment. Surely the sensible thing to do was to do a deal with him? He had after all made it clear that he was up for it and western oil companies were already successfully working there. Perhaps he would not have given the west all it wanted and would have hedged by making separate deals with the Chinese and the Russians but was getting total control of Libya’s oil and keeping the Chinese and the Russians out really so important that the whole country had to be destroyed?

          Nor could Gaddafi and Libya with its six million people be considered any sort of military threat. On the contrary Gaddafi had made a major effort to come to terms with the west whilst his son and presumed successor Saif Al Islam Gaddafi was LSE educated and pro western. By contrast now that Libya has been effectively destroyed as Yalensis’s video shows Al Qaeda has been given a footing, which it is doubtless quickly converting into a base. In other words having fought terrible (and unsuccessful) wars to deprive Al Qaeda of its bases in Afghanistan and Somalia we have now of our own volition and with full prior knowledge provided Al Qaeda with a new base in Libya? How long before we attack Libya again to defeat the threat from Al Qaeda there? The coming of the drones to Libya must be only a matter of time.

          Meanwhile as recent events in Mali show the war against Gaddafi has not helped the anyway dubious cause of stability in west Africa. On the contrary it has destabilised west Africa. As for the war having been fought to eliminate one of the only two independent states on the Mediterranean coast completely independent of the west (Syria is the other) how does destroying Libya enhance US or western control of the Mediterranean, which has been totally dominated by the US Sixth Fleet and been to all intents and purposes a US lake since the Second World War?

          I rack my brains and I still cannot come up with a remotely rational or convincing explanation for this war that makes any sort of sense in geostrategic or economic or even ideological not to mention humanitarian terms. Tell me someone what the point of this war was? Meanwhile a whole country has been destroyed and its people have been immiserated and Al Qaeda has been given a base and I struggle to understand for what.

          • Hunter says:

            Well I could think of a reason for the Libyan intervention. You even said it:

            In other words having fought terrible (and unsuccessful) wars to deprive Al Qaeda of its bases in Afghanistan and Somalia we have now of our own volition and with full prior knowledge provided Al Qaeda with a new base in Libya? How long before we attack Libya again to defeat the threat from Al Qaeda there? The coming of the drones to Libya must be only a matter of time.

            Perhaps with Al Qaeda rendered less powerful (i.e. more localized in power in Afghanistan) and the war there going to be ended there was a need for a new theatre of warfare to justify military spending?

            I really, really doubt that is the case. I strongly suspect the Libya war was just a confluence of many factors at the right time (or wrong time) to produce this intervention. There probably was no real ulterior motive.

            • marknesop says:

              I disagree that there was no ulterior motive. The barrage of “Gaddafi kills his own people” and “Gaddafi tortures” and even, God save us, “Gadaffi issues Viagra to his troops so they can rape more women” war happy talk that was uncritically passed on, the insistence on the USA not leading the mission but supplying the vast bulk of flying armor and bombs and bullets and the deliberate re-characterization of the “rebels” as simple but honest peasants forcing the master out so they could be free to till their own land was too calculated to not have been planned as a focused media campaign, which in turn would not have been done without a motive. Likewise, the USA is often pretty good about listening when others tell them they are making a big mistake and throwing a lot of money on the wrong horse – that is, unless they have a stake in the game they don’t want to tell you about until later, when it’s a big success; then, they are stubborn to a fault. And in this case they stubbornly refused to see the true nature of their “allies” while distorting the picture of Gaddafi as bogeyman out of all recognition – my God, most people must have wondered how we had lived so long with such a villain in our midst.

              The motive might have been a new home for AFRICOM, might have been money to bail out Europe, might have been the Goldman-Sachs thing to which Yalensis alludes, or we may never know because conditions following the Great Al Qaeda Liberation may prevent the motive from ever coming to pass. But I am sure there was one.

              Just as I am sure there was one in demonizing Syria – which I notice the press continues to do, only now bringing Iran into the picture as gunrunner to Assad, just in case the American people have forgotten the goal. The Russia/China veto spoiled things far more effectively than the mainstream news conveys, and if it had not taken place I am sure the west would have its coveted “boots on the ground” right now. Although the UK talking head argued angrily that all the war talk had been sponged out of the resolution, Alex is quite correct that it gave Assad about 3 weeks to basically hand over the country to a replacement government and pull back all his troops, or there would have been another “special meeting” where they would discuss “further measures”. And Alex is also correct that having already said Yes, Russia and China would have had a far, far harder time putting on the brakes at that point. But you could almost see the struggle to lunge those last few feet and be at Syria’s throat, and smell the frustration.

              • Hunter says:

                I disagree that there was no ulterior motive. The barrage of “Gaddafi kills his own people” and “Gaddafi tortures” and even, God save us, “Gadaffi issues Viagra to his troops so they can rape more women” war happy talk…. was too calculated to not have been planned as a focused media campaign, which in turn would not have been done without a motive.

                Hmm…maybe, but a media campaign can be planned in a very short time you know. When one considers the events that were happening in Egypt and Tunisia as well as Gaddafi’s past history with the West and the perception of him among the western public I can easily see how what happened in Libya could have simply been the confluence of a number of factors. For example, Sarkozy played a leading role. I’m sure the French government and prominent French companies have interest in Libya and its resources. While Gaddafi might have been workable as a business partner, logically those indebted to you would make better business partners since they actually owe you in some way. Gaddafi was not indebted to the French (either government or businesses) for putting him into the position he occupied at the time. Cameron also played a leading role and like the French the British (businesses and government) probably have interests in Libya. Obama played more of a supporting role, but a lot of Americans have a view of Gaddafi’s Libya shaped by the 1980s and 1990s, so any opportunity to put pressure on Gaddafi (or better yet have him overthrown) would be taken up. I would not be surprised if initially the western governments had hoped to use the rebellion in eastern Libya to their advantage by working with the rebels who they hoped would overthrow Gaddafi and be more amenable to their wishes OR working with Gaddafi if the rebellion fizzled after having put pressure on him by supporting the rebels initially. If say Gaddafi had gone the route of Mubarak and started making concessions to the rebels, then although he might have remained in power he would have been severely weakened politically which would be to the gain of the west.

                The rebellion was heading for failure though, but not because Gaddafi gave in but because he struck back and was succeeding. At that point western interests were surely in more jeopardy as a Gaddafi who had put down a western supported rebellion would not only NOT be politically weakened, but would he would politically strengthened AND be less inclined to continue working with the West as he had before the rebellion (and could well have thrown in his lot with Syria and Iran and more distantly with Russia and China). I don’t think American companies had been so engaged in Libya at that point as had various European ones, so that might be why the Europeans seemed more gung-ho about intervening. Even so, no intervention would have been possible without the support of the UNSC and the Arab League supported call for a no-fly zone. That would not have been possible without the Arab League’s other members generally not being inclined to support Gaddafi for various reasons (Tunisia and Egypt since they just went through successful revolutions which the Libyan rebellion was being compared to; Algeria because of past disputes with Libya; Sudan because of past instances of bad blood and the peninsular members probably because Gaddafi had turned away from Pan-Arabism towards Pan-Africanism and they felt snubbed…also given that it seems that the tribe of the former monarch of Libya was involved in the rebellion it might well be that solidarity with monarchs past and present played a minor role in their reasoning). Finally no intervention was likely to have occurred even with Arab League support and the UNSC resolution and western interests in not seeing the worst possible outcome (from their business point of view) in Libya if Gaddafi had in place a robust air defence network. He didn’t, so an intervention was very low-risk and had high rewards. It gave the defence establishments in the western countries to show their worth and essentially advertise new weaponry. The media coverage though is likely to have simply evolved with the ever changing situation and been supported by western governments. No western news agency was ever going to portray Gaddafi as the good guy, so the western governments didn’t really need to plan a media campaign against him. It’s like a less intense version of how Iran is perceived in America – thanks to the recent past, there is hardly a western journalist alive today who is ever going to portray Iran as the good guys and the opponents of Iran as the bad guys in any crisis with Iran. The western government would support such journalistic biases with various press releases and presentations but for the most part I have little doubt that they have to orchestrate/plan any media campaign any more than one would need to plan the rain to fall in the Amazon; it will just happen naturally. All you have to do as an interested party is take advantage of it.

                • marknesop says:

                  Well, that’s certainly a compelling argument, and it is true that manipulation of the media does not take long to set up, especially when it already has a template and just has to plug in the names of the new “demon”. But I have found that when the media relentlessly hammers on a particular viewpoint and will not entertain any dissent, it is usually being steered and directed. Left to its own devices, it likewise usually goes back to obsessing about celebrities and looking for odd or unusual items that might “go viral”. As evidence, I offer the round-the-clock coverage of the “rebels'” slow inching toward the capital, even extending to broadcast of a fake situation – the fall of Tripoli, before it actually happened, to aid in demoralizing the residents and to compel quick surrender. Is it your contention the media simply came together all on its own to deliver those results, and then – with eerie abruptness – abandoned almost all mention of Libya as soon as Gaddafi was dead? Then, without even so much as a new baby for Angelina Jolie, the ramp-up against Assad’s Syria commenced. It just seems too much in line with foreign-policy objectives to be random. As to motive, what looks like a potentially significant oil find has been made in Kenya, and the same article mentions oil has also been discovered by Tullow in Uganda, Sierra Leone and Ghana. These are all mostly poor states (with the exception of Kenya, which is the biggest economy in East Africa), and while there is no need to conquer them, Africa might be the next big oil frontier.

                  The problem with that scenario is the drop-it-like-it’s-hot treatment of Libya as soon as the “rebels” claimed victory. Usually when the west wishes to take over management of one of its victims, it installs a provisional government headed by one of its own until it can be sure the incoming government consists of reliable toadies and bootlickers. In this case, the west simply backed away and let Libya collapse into anarchy, and shows zero interest in going back in to consolidate the “rebel” win although a pretty good insurgency seems to be starting up. That I can’t explain, as it is like no other pattern I have ever seen.

              • Hunter says:

                Likewise, the USA is often pretty good about listening when others tell them they are making a big mistake and throwing a lot of money on the wrong horse – that is, unless they have a stake in the game they don’t want to tell you about until later, when it’s a big success; then, they are stubborn to a fault.

                Really? I never got that impression. I can’t recall a single instance where others have warned the USA they were backing the wrong horse and the US listened and stopped doing it. I think that is usually because when the US backs any horse, they have a stake in it and hence as you said, will stubbornly refuse to stop backing it come what may.

                • Dear Hunter,

                  I have to say that on this question I agree with you. The reasons given by Yalensis and Mark might have formed part of the picture but were they sufficient reasons for the war we got? To take the Goldman Sachs theory, weren’t there simpler ways to stop Gaddafi taking over Goldman Sachs than destroying the whole of Libya and killing him?

                  I notice by the way that Jibril the leader of the NTC is now saying that Gaddafi was killed because too many people wanted to silence him because of the secrets he knew. The interview is on RT and can be found on its website.

                • marknesop says:

                  Yeah – I guess you’re right about that.

          • yalensis says:

            @alexander: I personally ascribe to the “Goldman Sachs did it” theory, which goes something like this: Goldman wanted Gaddafi dead because, under Gaddafi’s clever guidance, Libya was on the verge of taking something like 30% ownership in Goldman Sachs. Gaddafi’s transaction with Goldman is historical fact, but the rest of it is a bit of a full-on Hamlet “something smells rotten” kind of theory, because it requires that we believe Goldman has not only most Western leaders in their pockets, but also NATO and the UN. Now it IS a proven fact that Goldman OWNS Barack Obama, he has even been referred to as “Wall Street’s half-breed catamite”. But does Goldman also own Sarkozi? I don’t know the answer to that question.
            As for Al Qaeda, yeah, Gaddafi (like Saddam before him in Iraq) was their fiercest enemy and never allowed them any foothold when he was in charge. There were something like 1000 organized Al Qaeda criminals in Benghazi, and Gaddafi had most of them safely locked up in jail. Then Gaddafi’s son Saif, in one of the world’s greatest blunders ever, amnestied these criminals and released them from the slammer, with a promise that they would be good boys. Next thing you know they are starting a violent uprising, murdering soldiers and police, and lynching blacks in Benghazi, and Gaddafi is like, “Shit, thanks a lot, Saif, now I have to go in and round up these creeps again,” but this time NATO swoops in to help the bad guys, and the rest is history.
            So, now Libya will become Al Qaeda’s new HQ on the Mediterranean. This is so agonizing to see for anybody who likes Arabs and wishes them well, because Gaddafi was proof that you could be an Arab and even a devout Muslim (as Gaddafi was), but still build a modern multi-ethnic secular society with great cities and decent social services.
            Now it has all gone to hell, and extremely bad news for anybody, not just black people, unlucky enough to be in the path of these Mad Max psychopaths, because these Al Qaeda dudes are really, really bad men, they are utterly sick, mean, cruel, monsters without a conscience, the worst of the worst. Is like a whole army of Hannibal Lecters!
            I maintain that Al Qaeda is “America’s Foreign Legion” in the Arab world. Well, more like Saudi/Qatar’s Foreign Legion, but they serve America’s interests as well and act as a tool of NATO. But this does not mean there will not be conflicts and clashes between the Master and his Golem. So yeah, NATO will probably have to fly in again and drone them at some point.

  15. Moscow Exile says:

    Concerning Russian-Polish relationships:

    “The realization that Putin’s Russia was nondemocratic and anti-Western was made clear in Putin’s 2004 decision to replace the Nov. 7 national holiday, marking the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, with National Unity Day, celebrating the expulsion of Poles from Moscow in 1612. Sure, the holiday marks a national rising against a foreign invader, but the decision to drag out a forgotten conflict with Poland is highly symbolic.”

    Thus spake the native Muscovite Bayer in today’s Moscow Times.

    So rather than congratulating the ex-KGB spy Putin for having abolished celebrating the Bolshevik putsch of 1917, Bayer condemns him for having Russian unity celebrated by way of remembering the expulsion of Polish-Lithuanian occupying forces from Muscovy in 1612. Furthermore, he maintains that this conflict with Poland is a long forgotten one.

    Perhaps Beyer may really have forgotten learning about it at school in Moscow before he left Russia over 40 years ago as a 17-year-old, though I hardly think so. My children certainly know who Minin and Pozharsky were and why, for almost 200 years, there has been a statue of both of them on Red Square celebrating their historical role. I am pretty sure every Russian citizen knows of “The Time of the Troubles” as well. Beyer, however, seems to be suggesting that this piece of Russian history be better forgotten and that by making November 7th a national holiday, Putin is setting out to antagonize the West.

    As regards Beyer’s contention that the Polish-Lithuanian eastwards expansion, one of its results being the occupation of Muscovy, was so long ago that it is now hardly worth remembering and his maintaining that commemorating the expulsion of the Poles from Russia is simply an exercise in dragging old and long forgotten skeletons out of the cupboard for present-day political objectives, I wonder how the native Muscovite Beyer explains last year’s celebration in France of Jeanne d”Arc’s activities, in which celebration French President Sarkozy played a high-profile role and which historical activities took place almost 200 years before the Russian “Time of the Troubles”?

    Come to think of it, 1945 is going back some years now. I wonder if Beyer thinks it high time Russia ditch celebrating the Soviet Union victory against fascism in 1945 as well? After all, that victory was hardly a victory for democracy and it was certainly one against the armed forces of a large part of Western Europe. Should Russia cease celebrating May 9th because to do so may be judged as “nondemocratic and anti-Western”?

    See: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/putin-showed-his-weakness-with-poland/455449.html

    • yalensis says:

      And let us not forget Ivan Susanin, that other national hero from time of Troubles. Susanin was the simple farmer who tricked the invading Polish infantry, and hence sacrificed his own life to save that of the new Tsar Mikhail Romanov.

      I have a particular soft spot for Susanin because (according to possibly questionable family lore) he MIGHT have been a distant relative on my father’s mother’s side.

      Here is Susanin’s dramatic aria as he faces certain death at the hands of the ruthless Polish invaders:

    • Misha says:

      To be expected from a venue where some of the names change, with much of the same old, same old.

      A few years back, the then MT editor sent me a Dear John on an article in support of the Russian two headed eagele – after that venue ran an op-ed like news piece sympathizing with the view that the symbol in question is “too Christian.” Upon a close look, it has three crosses.

      In contrast to TMTs’ treatment of reasonable pro-Russian views, the Kyiv Post does a much better job at promoting nationalist anti-Russian leaning commentary.

      In short, Russians aren’t allowed to be patriotic about their past unlike some others elsewhere. If anything, it can be argued that a good number of Russians are passive to
      supportive (the latter especially pertaining to some of those involved with English language influenced mass media) of such a slant.

    • Hunter says:

      It never ceases to amaze me how people who can call themselves supporters of democracy can now find common cause with the old communists and their legacy in the former Soviet Union. So replacing a holiday associated with the Bolshevik Revolution which eventually ushered in the USSR is now undemocratic?

      I wonder how the native Muscovite Beyer explains last year’s celebration in France of Jeanne d”Arc’s activities, in which celebration French President Sarkozy played a high-profile role and which historical activities took place almost 200 years before the Russian “Time of the Troubles”?

      Surely he must think this is Sarkozy’s way of antagonizing Britain since it commemorates the eventual expulsion of the English from France.😉

      • The article is ridiculous. it seems that not only can the Russians not be trusted to write their own history, conduct their own elections, run their own economy and decide their own foreign policy but their national holidays must be decided for them by outsiders as well!

      • yalensis says:

        Who could blame Jeanne d’Arc for taking up arms against the Brits? I bet they were just as annoying and deceitful back then as they are now. Grrr!

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Against the English! Remember, “the Auld alliance”: the Scots were allies of the French.🙂

          The so called Hundred Years War was a dynastic war where the French fought against the French, only the winning French team called the losing one the “Burgundians”.

          The “English” were those that supported the English king’s claim to possession of sizeable chunks of what is now France, which territorial claim was in no ways a spurious one.

          What Jeanne d’Arc did was focus the the struggle into a national one, which was quite a novel concept at the time, there being few nation states in Western Europe in the mid-15th century. England and Scotland were, though, no doubt because those kingdoms are situated on an offshore island.

          Most Western Europeans at the time, however, considered themselves as part of an overarching structure known as “Christendom”, wherein their monarchs were “God’s annointed” to rule over them.

          Jeanne d’Arc didn’t really succeed in raising French “national consciousness” in her lifetime though, because it was, after all, the “Burgundians” that not only captured her but also handed her over to their allies, the English.

          • yalensis says:

            Ooops, apologies to all! I meant to say “English” of course, not “British”. The Scots, of course, WERE the good guys. Always were, always will be! Alba an Aigh!

            • Misha says:

              Scots are sort of mixed in a way that’s kind of like the Ukrainians.

              Some of the biggest pro-Brits are of Scot background – Nial Ferguson included.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Scots made up a very large proportion of the civil servants that administered the British Empire as well as its military. So did the Irish. The numbers of Irish born in the 19th century British army peaked at 42% of the total.

    • PvMikhail says:

      This Bayer is a d!ck… Gee, I wonder why almost all nation states celebrate a big victory or heroic but futile resistance against foreign forces as national holidays. Because these acts of history UNITES people!

      I can only mention my state. There are 2 big national holidays, each is about fighting one of 2 geopolitical dominators of Hungary with initial successes. 1848 revolution against Austro-Germans and 1956 revolution against communists backed by Soviet Union. This is how it is.

      If we view the things this way, Polish Independence Day is against Russians and Germans. If they can agree, that Russians and Germans has no right to harass Warsaw’s independence, then it is logical, that Poles had no place in Minsk, let alone Moskva’s suburbs.

      • Misha says:

        Bingo!

        Hypocrisy galore that’s tolerated in Russia.

        In contrast, the Kyiv Post isn’t so tolerant of pro-Russian views running contrary to the likes of Motyl, Riabchuk and Umland.

        Once again keeping mind that most Ukrainians don’t appear to share their negativity of Russia.

        • Misha says:

          Somewhat comical when a person with the slant of a Bayer gives suggestions on how Russia can improve its standing:

          http://www.russiablog.org/2010/02/improving-russias-image-russian-ukrainian-relations.php

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Here’s another one of the Alexei-Beyer-the-native-Muscovite Moscow Times articles, where, for the first time in years since I have been reading his diatribes, he says something positive about Russia, namely “…the Jewish community is thriving in the mainstream of Russian society…”.

            This, however, seems to run contrary to that which he goes at lengths to maintain in the article, and also, no doubt, is the fundamental reason why he, Muscovite though he may be, has lived in the USA for 40 or so years, namely that anti-Semitism is endemic in Russia.

            He maintains that anti-Semitic slurs are being used to denigrate leading members of the “opposition to Prime Minister Putin’s regime”. Furthermore, he maintains that anti-Semitism has ever been used thus against opponents of the “regime” in Russia:

            “Then, as now, the implication was that only Jews would want Russia to be free, democratic and join the community of nations on an equal footing, and not as a pariah state”.

            Notice how he begs the question there? Notice how he takes it as a given that Russia is a “pariah state”?

            His fallacious argument runs like this: If it weren’t against the law, it wouldn’t be illegal.

            Likewise, Beyer’s reasoning runs as follows: Russia is a pariah state and is neither free nor democratic; if it were free and democratic, opponents of the regime wouldn’t be fighting for freedom and democracy.

            See: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/jews-in-russia/454458.html

            • PvMikhail says:

              I can only say one thing about this guy: jews have been always over-represented in the fifth column of European societies, especially in Eastern Europe. An they wonder why is the strong anti-semitism…

              • PvMikhail says:

                In one word: Bayer should not write on such things, like national holidays, and national unity of the nation state, which things he and his friends can’t understand.

                • Notice an interesting thing about this latest article of Bayer’s. He points out that in 1939 more than half the world’s Jews lived between Moscow and Berlin. He also says that Russia is the only country along this axis that continues to have a large and even flourishing Jewish community. However he entirely neglects to give the reason for this, which of course is the Nazi extermination of Europe’s Jews. The reason Jews survive and flourish in Russia but nowhere else in central and eastern Europe is because of the Soviet and Russian people’s successful struggle against fascism, which prevented the Germans from completing their programme of exterminating the Jews on Soviet territory. Bayer obviously does not want to give Russia or the USSR credit for this since to do so would come close to admitting that the country whose anti semitism he discusses is the same country that was ultimately responsible for the salvation of Europe’s Jews.

                  On the subject of anti semitism in Russia, there is no doubt it exists but in my experience on a significantly smaller scale than in some places I know eg. France. I am not going to discuss in detail the most conspicuous horror stories like the Baltic States where SS veterans parade around in public and where a Jewish acquaintance of mine and his father were subjected to personal anti semitic abuse whilst on a day trip there. What I will say is that given the disproportionate number of Yeltsin era oligarchs who are Jews (eg. Berezovsky, Guzinsky, Khodorkovsky, Abramovitch etc) what I find surprising is that there is as little anti semitism in Russia as there is.

                • marknesop says:

                  That’s a very astute observation, and indeed I had not noticed – like many simple truths, it only stands out when drawn to one’s attention. There probably is antisemitism everywhere to some degree, just like prejudice against other races and sexual discrimination exist; you cannot legislate discrimination out of people because you do not have the right to order them to love everyone, simply to order that they not express their distaste in a public forum. But it is also true that antisemitism is the discrimination that the world gets its nose rubbed in daily, thanks to powerful lobbying interests like AIPAC. This is done so that these organizations can the more easily don the mantle of victimhood when it is tactically necessary to achieve an objective. People are so conditioned to the existence of “widespread antisemitism” that the default reaction is to accept that the accusation is true and give it broad coverage. It has evolved to self-fulfilling prophesy.

                • Misha says:

                  A recent oD article by Ukrainian nationalist/anti-Russian leaning Riabchuk claims the Jews arguably ruled the Russian Empire.

                  Perhaps he was clumsily sarcastic. If so, bad job by oD’s editor(s).

                  If a Russian like Dugin made such a comment, it would come as no surprise to see oD favorite Umland do a pointed tap dance.

                  Of course the Jews didn’t come close to arguably ruling the Russian Empire. They experienced discrimination and the potential for upward mobility, at a time when some others elsewhere faced harsh conditions (like African-Americans and Indians in the US and some non-Turkic peoples in the Ottoman Empire).

                • Misha says:

                  In Russia, has there been a commmercial at the level of this one?

                  http://rt.com/art-and-culture/news/turkish-jews-hitler-shampoo-ad-487/

                • On the subject of Jews in Russia I recently came across the following lengthy and tedentious article by the British journalist Nick Cohen.

                  http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/features-april-12-how-the-left-turned-against-the-jews-nick-cohen-anti-semitism-israel-islamism?page=0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C0

                  The article is not specifically about Russia but about the Left, which it accuses of anti Semitism. However on page 4 it includes the following remarkable comment:

                  “….the Jews were a special case in the old Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks recognised other minorities as minorities with homelands. They never said there should be a Jewish homeland in their empire”.

                  Both as a Jew and as a highly educated man I find it well nigh impossible to believe that Nick Cohen is unaware of the Jewish Autonomous Region with its capital Birobidzhan, which was created by “the Bolsheviks” as a Jewish homeland within the USSR. However if he does know about it then I cannot see how his comment can be called anything other than a lie. Presumably Nick Cohen has to deny the existence of the Jewish Autonomous Region since to admit its existence and to recognise that the Soviets did accord Jews a separate identity would contradict his claim that they did not.

                • Misha says:

                  Not many Jews took to going to that created area in the USSR.

                  In retrospect, many lives would’ve been saved.

      • Misha says:

        On a point made a bit above about Irish and Scots who served the British empire:

        Some of the aforementioned Irish were of either Protestant or Catholic backgrounds.

        Conversely, some of the leading Irish proponents for an independent Ireland came from a Protestant background.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          That’s right! Wolf Tone of the United Irishmen, revolutionaries that drew their inspiration from the American and French revolutions, for example, was a protestant (Church of Ireland), as was Henry Grattan (Presbyterian); both were Anglo-Irish.

        • Misha says:

          Regarding the reference to a Bayer piece on Jewry in post-Soviet Russia:

          Crapola.

          Many “mixed” if you may marriages between Russians and Jews. In the post-Soviet era, many Jews who left Russia have returned.

          Yes, bigots do exist in Russia, as is true throughout the world.

          • Misha says:

            MT censorship includes not having a regular contributor with a noticeable different view from Bayer on the subjects he covers.

            On a somewhat related note, I recall RT doing a half hour show on global anti-Jewish sentiment, which is a valid topic that gets covered at such outlets as American PBS and NPR.

            I don’t recall the RT show in question doing a similar show on anti-Russian sentiment.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Dear Alexander Mercouris,
              Excellent observation made above concerning Bayer’s article on anti-Semitism in Russia. Another and similar point to the one that you have already made and which I should like to repeat, for someone – I forget whom – has already made it, I think, in this thread, is this: without the defeat of fascism, for which the Soviet Union played by far the largest part, there would be no Slavs in Europe either.

              • yalensis says:

                Yes, Hitler’s goal was to exterminate all Jews in Europe and Soviet Union. He halfway succeeded, but was halted in his mad quest by heroism of Red Army and Soviet people. There are practically no Jews in Europe any more, just a few scattered individuals, in place of the vibrant ethnic communities they used to have all over Eastern Europe. Before the war Poland was the center of a vibrant Yiddish culture. Now there are so few Jews left in Poland, you could practically cound them on the fingers of one hand. One of the few remaining centers of Yiddish culture is the Russian Autonomous Oblast of Birobidzhan, which has a small but thriving population of some 80,000 people. To my knowledge, both Yiddish and Hebrew are the official language there:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birobidzhan

                • yalensis says:

                  To Misha’s comment above that most Soviet Jews did not want to move to Birobidzhan, that is true enough. The place is very remote, and no urbanized person would want to live out there in the “Wild East”. It was Bolsheviks’ attempt at a compromise between Zionism and assimilationism: Jews who wanted their own homeland tended to be Zionist-leaning, for them nothing short of emigrating to Palestine would be acceptable. For Jews who did not want to emigrate from Soviet Union, most were urban, assimilated and secular, they had important jobs and may not have any interest in learning Yiddish or living in remote frontier town. Hence the small number of volunteers.
                  Well, say what you will about Bolsheviks, they were ideologically consistent: the rights of ethnic groups and nationalities was one of their core beliefs that was forged in the horror of WWI. One of Lenin’s major works was The Right of Nations to Self-Determination . This was not propaganda for show, Bolsheviks totally believed in this. One of the reasons Stalin was able to rise to power within the Party was because of his supposed “expertise” in the nationalities question, which was considered of crucial importance to the new government. Lenin and the others delegated a lot of the nationalities issues to Stalin, including drawing borders of autonomous oblasts and so on. On the whole, I must admit, Stalin did a pretty good job with this task, and the boundaries have been fairly stable, although he did make a couple of egregious mistakes, including the Gruzia/Ossetia matter.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Yalensis: “On the whole, I must admit, Stalin did a pretty good job with this task, and the boundaries have been fairly stable, although he did make a couple of egregious mistakes, including the Gruzia/Ossetia matter.”

                  And I should also include the boundary changes that resulted in territorial additions granted by Lenin’s and Stalin’s and Kryshchev’s “totalitarian regime” to the so-called Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, to say nothing of the territorial additions made by Russian tsars to the Ukraine over a period of 300 years.

                  See: http://rutube.ru/tracks/1530599.html

  16. Moscow Exile says:

    The anthem during the Yeltstin time was Glinka’s “Patriotic Song”, which was a song without words. It seemed that Yeltsin liked this piece and had words composed for it in 1999. Many, however, bellieved that Glinka’s “Patriotic Song” with words added was the last chorus of Glinka’s opera “A Life for the Tsar” because both pieces begin with “Be Glorious…!” (Славься…!) And of course, Glinka’s “A Life for the Tsar” was set during that period when the Poles were the bully boys round this neck of the woods – but we shouldn’t talk about that, at least not according to Mr. Beyer of the MT!

    I rather liked that Glinka anthem. However, the present Russian national anthem melody, the three-times revamped Soviet anthem of 1944, is in my opinion, one of the best in the world; the words are not bad either: a close runner-up being the Marseillaise of France Both are far, far better than that Teutonic dirge which the British sing. But as they say round these parts: На вкус на цвет товарища нет!
    🙂

    Just remembered! The national anthem that causes me great mirth is that of Taiwan, for it is none other than Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell” – better known by most as the theme tune of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.

    • Dear Moscow Exile,

      The Soviet national anthem ranks together with the Marseillaise as the greatest national anthem of all. I agree with what you say about the British national anthem, which is completely dismal. By the way the Greek national anthem is not bad and the lyrics are some of the finest though they translate very poorly. I also have a soft spot for the Internationale though a lot depends on how well it is sung.

      @yalensis, on the subject of Ivan Susanin, it is my favourite Glinka opera. My DVD version from the Bolshoi calls it A Life for the Tsar, which was its tsarist era title. I gather that in Yeltsin’s time the Bolshoi went back to the tsarist era lyrics that though I am told this was controversial and that many think that the Soviet era lyrics and title were better.

      • yalensis says:

        @alexander: Nice to find another opera fan. I am obsessed with opera, I could listen to it 24/7.
        Yes, Glinka is wonderful, and I think I have that same Bolshoi Theater DVD. What I love about “A Life for the Tsar/Ivan Susanin” is the sheer simplicity (and emotional resonance) of the story. It’s not exactly “Gotterdammerung”, there are no plot twists or big surprises. The opera just lays out the drama of a simple man, a widower, who has been struggling to raise his small family, then war intervenes, and this man is forced to make a conscious decision to sacrifice his life (and thus orphan his children) for another whom he considers more important.
        As for Yeltsin, how dare he even inhabit the same universe as Glinka? Glinka was a world-class musician and Russian patriot. Yeltsin was a drunkard and a traitor.

        • Dear Yalensis,

          Really we must meet one day because we are kindred spirits. I am crazy about opera just like you. We can talk history, politics, film, opera and ballet (I love ballet) and compare notes on the world. I will show you my collection of CDs and DVDs, which is huge.

          Best Wishes!

          • marknesop says:

            Maybe you would like to go to visit the Burgess Shale with Yalensis and Peter and I. Peter has not actually accepted, which is impairing scheduling a little, but we have plenty of time and need not hurry. Stirring opera throughout would help keep Yalensis calm and focused, and while Peter is more of a techie (a physicist), I suspect he secretly – or perhaps openly – loves the logic of a lovely aria. The more, the merrier, say I. No souvenir-hunting, though.

            • yalensis says:

              I love ballet too. So, if Mark has a DVD-movie system in his RV, we can alternate between watching operas and ballets on this long trip, while Mark does all the driving. If Peter gets bored with watching ballet, we can throw on a scientific movie for him, like “The Origins of String Theory”, or something like that.
              As for stealing priceless fossils from a world heritage site, that sounds like quite a caper. Don’t worry, I would never do anything like that! (What were those idiots planning to do with the fossils, anyhow?)

              • marknesop says:

                Nope, sorry; I have the i-drive version of the X5, it’s a 2007. You can make the dash computer do a lot of cool things, but no DVD player. However, if you bring a nice selection of music on CD, it offers the advantage that one must listen to it, and not talk. Then it’s less likely that you and Peter will fall to arguing over Putin and PPP vs. GDP.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for your comment, @Exile, I am continuously amazed by your erudition in so many different fields!
      I want to add:
      (1) For those who are not necessarily experts in Russian opera: Glinka’s opera “A Life for the Tsar” is one and the same as the opera “Ivan Susanin” which I alluded to above. I inadvertently slipped into “sovok” mode: When Bolsheviks came to power, they were of course, being intellectuals, devotees of culture, and they loved Glinka. (Who doesn’t love Glinka?) However, they were understandably uncomfortable with the pro-tsarist ideology of Glinka’s opera. Hence, their cultural commissars renamed it “Ivan Susanin”, and whenever it was performed during Soviet times, musical censors tried to tone down the pro-Romanov dynasty ideology and make it more generically pro-Russia patriotic.
      (2) On national anthems: I would have to agree that the Soviet/Russian national anthem and the Marsellaises compete for Number #1 and #2 as best ever anthems. I love the pan-humanism of the Russian anthem, but I also find the blood-curdling lyrics of the Marsellaises simply thrilling. In third place (and this may surprise people who see me as being militantly anti-American): the American national anthem (“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light…” etc.) It has everything: a complex musical line with an unusual bridge; rockets red glare; and a high note that very few singers can reach. One gets sick of hearing it at the Olympics, but all the same it is a fine piece of music. (The other interesting thing about this piece is that it is all about the War of 1812, which is a war that the Ameri LOST (and Canadians WON! Ha ha!)

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Further to national anthems:

        Yes, Yalensis, I agree with you about “The Star Spangled Banner”. I forgot to add that the USA national anthem is one of my top three favourite anthems as well. I should also like to mention my fondness for “The Internationale”, which until 1944 was the Soviet Union anthem. I shall give that 4th place.

        Funny thing is though, I don’t know the English version of “The Internationale” and I feel more at home singing it in German because I first learnt it when I was living in Germany, where German socialist chums always used to end their rousing version of “The Internationale” with a little flourish, singing “Und Trümpfe sind rot!” (And trumps are red!)

        As regards opera:

        I only first watched an opera after I had moved to Germany and I must confess that on my first visit to an opera house, I was determined not to enjoy it. I only went because my German girlfriend’s mother, who was a member of the Frankfurt-am-Main opera house orchestra, had presented us, my girlfriend and me, with two tickets gratis. Technically speaking, it was not an opera that I first saw but a “Singspiel”: Mozart’s “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” (“The Abduction from the Seraglio”) sung in German. I was totally enthralled, perhaps because by that time my German had already become quite good and I could understand what they were singing about. I was fascinated by the aria “Martern aller Arten” (“Tortures of All Kinds”) sung by the prima donna soprano and which is the same aria that is sung in the Hollywood film “Mozart”, based on Pushkin’s tale “Mozart and Salieri”. I was hooked – especially on Mozart.

        I still remain hooked. My mobile telephone ring tone is the Queen of the Night’s aria “Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”) from Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” (“The Magic Flute”). Every time I hear that aria sung, it sends shivers up my spine! I also often get some strange looks from other passengers on the Moscow metro whenever my ‘phone sounds off.

        In my experience, if you mention opera to most of my fellow countrymen, they usually respond with “I can’t stand opera!”; to which I often reply, “Oh really? And which ones do you particular dislike?” I have never received an answer to this enquiry, other than a scornful harangue about fat women shrieking in a foreign language.

        There is this general dislike for opera in the English speaking world, I believe, because it is looked upon as “elitist”, and elitist it is if one considers that one has to have a good deal of money to spend if one wishes to attend an operatic performance, especially in the UK. However, in Europe the arts are considerably better subsidised by the state and opera is, therefore, far more accessible pricewise in, say, Germany than it is in the UK, especially if one has to travel from “the provinces” in order to watch an opera at the Royal Opera house, Covent Garden.

        Needlesss to say, after having moved to Russia, attending opera performances became even more afffordable for me. (Another of my many reasons for preferring to live in Russia.) The last opera I watched here was “Tosca” at the Bolshoi Theatre. Sadly, that was already several years ago: having three children has severely restricted my theatre-going. However, as my children are rapidly growing up and my wife and I shall soon be able to entrust our eldest with the care of our youngest, we shall soon be able to watch opera again, hopefully at the newly restored Bolshoi, though I should think that ticket prices there will have become seriously inflated since the time of our last visit.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          PS I’ve just noticed my touch of “Little Englanderism” in writing above: “in Europe” when comparing arts subsidies in European countries other than the UK.

          As the famous Times headline one proclaimed:

          “Fog in Channel; Continent cut off!”
          🙂

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Going well off topic, I know, but as regards the allegation made by some (see above) that opera consists of “fat women shrieking”, the link below may be of interest:

            http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stevesilverman/100061641/katherine-jenkins-hasnt-got-the-voice-or-the-technique-to-sing-opera-so-why-does-she-pretend-that-she-can/

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Elīna Garanča – bellissima!
              🙂

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Something else as regards national anthems that I meant to mention and which concerns the usual hypocritical nature of Western criticism of all things Russian.

                Has nobody found it strange that very often Western journalists are fond of pointing out, that the melody of the present Russian national anthem, deletions in it of all references to Lenin, Stalin, Communism etc.notwithstanding, is the same as that of the Soviet Union from 1944 until 1990; which fact is, therefore, held by many Western Russia “experts” to be irrefutable evidence that Putin is hell bent on resurrecting the USSR/totalitarianism/Russian “imperial” expansion etc?

                On the other hand, nobody ever seems to feel in any way offended by the fact that the present national anthem of the Federal Republic of Germany was also that of Fascist Germany as well as that of the German Empire founded in 1871, albeit it that the present Gerrman national anthem – mistakenly believed to have been called “Deutschland Über Alles” but always officially known as “Deutschlandlied” (Germany’s Song) – has had all references in it to nationalism deleted, which has resulted in its now consisting of only one of its original three stanzas, which, refers to “freedom”, “justice” and “unity” for the Fatherland.

                No commentaters in the West, however, seem prone to giving regular rants concerning the rise of German fascism/nationalism/imperial expansion evidenced by the fact that the present German national anthem is the same as it was during the Nazi regime, but with two of its stanzas deleted.

                And what about the Marsellaise? Does the fact that the French have never shown any inclination to eschew that revolutionary call to arms indicate that militarism and Bonapartism still lurks beneath the surface of the French republic?

                • Hunter says:

                  Well I suppose the excuse proffered in the case of Germany for the differing treatment is that today’s rendition of Deutschlandlied only uses the third stanza and omits the first two stanzas entirely, while under the Nazis it was the first stanza used followed by the Nazi party’s anthem. And although Deutschlandlied was around at the time of the German Empire it wasn’t used officially (and there was also another unofficial anthem which had been used by Prussia before the Empire’s formation and which utilized the same tune as “God Save the Queen” (as did several other anthems at various points including one used by Russia)).

                  Still if Germany can use Deutschlandlied with the controversial bits taken out there really shouldn’t be any reason why Russia can’t simply use the melody of the Soviet anthem with entirely reworked lyrics (excepting for a single verse) which mention God no less (something which would have been unthinkable in a communist Soviet Union’s anthem).

              • yalensis says:

                Netrebko is gorgeous. And what a voice! I can’t wait to see her “Manon” performance, hopefully it will come out on DVD.

                • Misha says:

                  If I’m not mistaken, she’s of Kuban Cosaack background from Krasnodar.

                  Russocentric people with ko ending surnames rock.

                • Misha says:

                  Pardon misspells. Doing a few things at once.

                • Misha says:

                  Yes, I’m aware of the suggestion that the Kuban Cossacks are actually Ukrainians who’ve been reprogrammed.

                  That view is in line with the kind of analytical hypocrisy that’s out there.

                  What influenced some to go from Orthodox-Christian to Greek-Catholic AKA Uniate?

                  I’m aware of the sugar-caoted spin on that one, which is another example of the kind of analytical hypocrisy that’s out there.

            • marknesop says:

              Wow. That’s a nice takedown; I really admire his style. That’s somebody who can write.

        • yalensis says:

          Hi, @Exile: I found this wikipedia page for you that has the lyrics to “Internationale” in French, Russian, and English:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Internationale

          From a purely poetry perspective, the French version, which I believe was the original, is the best:
          Debout, les damnés de la terre.. such a wonderful strong opening with the alliteration of the “D”sound.
          Compare to the Russian:
          Вставай, проклятьем заклеймённый.. not bad, but a bit of a tongue-twister, with all those consonant clusters!
          Whereas the English version is simply silly:
          Arise, ye workers from your slumber…
          Slumber? Really? In French and Russian versions you really get the feeling that proletariat are going to march out and engage in blood-curdling battles. In English version it sounds like they are lifting the proletariat from his crib along with his Teddy, because it’s time for tea and biscuits.
          Having said that, each version has something cool to offer, even the English one (I like that verse about “shooting cannibals and generals”). The Russian version was the one I learned first, of course, and my favorite line was always that bit about forging iron, because it sounded so … industrial:
          Вздувайте горн и куйте смело,
          Пока железо горячо!

          How cool is that?

          • PvMikhail says:

            Russian is EPIC

          • Moscow Exile says:

            I’ve heard the French version sung several times by French workers. I was once on a big march with French strikers to Place de la République, Paris, the Left’s gathering point in that city, and they were belting out L’Internationale. The song, as you say was composed in French by a Paris Communard in 1871. The Paris Commune and its disastrous end and why it ended disastrously was always deeply analysed by Russian revolutionaries. Did you know that one of the things that was taken into the first manned Soviet flight into the cosmos was a tattered remnant of a Communard banner rescued from the ruins of Communard Paris? And I often buy very well made children’s shoes here in Moscow that are manufactured by a former Soviet firm that’s still going strong. The firm’s name is Парижская коммуна – The Paris Commune.

            See: http://www.parcom.ru/

          • Moscow Exile says:

            I still prefer:

            Wacht auf! Verdammte dieser Erde
            Die stets man noch zum Hungern zwingt.
            Das Recht, wie Glut im Kraterherde,
            Nun mit Macht zum Durchbruch dringt!
            Reinen Tisch macht mit dem Bedränger,
            Heer der Sklaven wache auf!
            Ein Nichts zu sein, tragt es nicht länger!
            Alles zu werden strömt zu Hauf!

            Refrain:
            |Völker hört die Signale!
            Auf zum letzten Gefecht!
            Die Internationale
            Erkämpft das Menschenrecht!

            Wake up, you damned of this earth
            Who are always forced into hunger…etc

                • When I hear people stress about Russia’s use of Soviet era symbols such as the music for the national anthem or the red star on its military aircraft I remind them of France. Its official title is the French Republic, its flag is the tricoleur, its anthem is the Marseillaise, its currency until the introduction of the euro was the franc (with Madeleine symbolising the Republic in her Phrygian cap on the obverse), and its motto, which appears on all public buildings, is Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Its law is the Code Napoleon and its system of public administration uses the Napoleonic system of Prefectures. Yet France today is not a Jacobin dictatorship and there is no guilliotine on the Place de la Concorde.

                • Misha says:

                  Russia gets bashed for acknowledging its pre-Soviet past as evidenced by Nina Khrushcheva’s hypocritically applied commentary against the Russian two headed eagle.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Alexander Mercouris,

                  I too react the same way as you whenever the Western critics start baying on Victory Day, May 9th, that Russia is a militaristic nation that loves to parade some of its hardware, in that I refer them to “Bastille Day” in France. I often wonder if these critics have ever been to Paris on the 14th of July, where, since 1880 there has taken place the “oldest and largest military parade in he world”? (Wiki).

                  Allons enfants de la Patrie
                  Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
                  Contre nous de la tyrannie
                  L’étendard sanglant est levé (bis)
                  Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
                  Mugir ces féroces soldats?
                  Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
                  Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

                  Aux armes citoyens
                  Formez vos bataillons
                  Marchons, marchons
                  Qu’un sang impur
                  Abreuve nos sillons

                  Arise children of the fatherland
                  The day of glory is at hand!
                  The bloody banner of tyranny
                  Has been raised against us
                  In the fields, hear the shouting
                  Of the fearsome soldiers
                  Who are coming into your midst
                  To cut your families’ throats

                  Citizens take up arms
                  Form your battalions
                  March, march
                  So that impure blood
                  Water our furrows

                • Misha says:

                  Some would really bust guts if the below became an official flag and anthem:

            • yalensis says:

              I love it!
              German is a fantastic language. I think it is particularly suited for poetry and song, because of the syllabic structure and that wonderful combination of strong consonants and soft vowels.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                “German is a fantastic language. I think it is particularly suited for poetry and song…”

                “Das Land der Dichter und Denker” (the land of poets and thinkers) as Germans used to and, no doubt, still say, with very good reason.

                Unfortunately, during the Nazi Time many Germans changed this cliché to “das Land der Richter und Henker” – the land of judges and hangmen.

  17. PvMikhail says:

    You know… I usually think about the significance of our mission. Are we right? Is it necessary to defend Russia from all that indiscriminate bullcr@p it gets every day? And the outcome is always the same: Yes. Simply put, we are right.

    Here is the result of the 12 years-long decline, they call Putin-system, the rouge enemy of people, the communist-fascist suicidal dictatorship:

    http://en.rian.ru/society/20120326/172402640.html

    Russian people said it, not me.

    Of course, ignore “middle-class bla-bla”, young people are always eager to leave in every society, and the 90% of them doesn’t do anything to achieve his dream: sunbathing in Malibu between Playboy girls. I think Russian youth love dreams too, but they have to face the sober, hurtful reality of one of the fastest growing real incomes in Europe. Of course, why would Europe need those men with their “useless” education? As an average Joe, if you watch too much commentary on Russia, you could have the idea, that it is a banana republic between Costa Rica and El Salvador…

  18. marknesop says:

    On another matter, we are closing in on 10,000 comments (9,505). I would like to recognize the 10,000th commenter as Anatoly did, and every 10,000 after that. But I don’t have a store or any “Kremlin Stooge” T-shirts. Should I make some? Or would the potential winners prefer something else? Ideas? You absolutely cannot have anything like a Maserati Quattroporte (actually, I was surprised to see they are still making cars; they seem to be very rare and I think I have only ever seen one in my lifetime) or a cigarette boat. We’re on a budget here, and the Kremlin Stooge is a non-profit. I have some neat stuff in my garage; you could take your choice of a Charles and Diana Royal Wedding tray that is a little rusty, or I might have a couple of those cool 70’s Avon cologne bottles that are a green glass horse’s head with a gold ring through its nose. I’m pretty sure it’s not real gold, but there might still be some cologne in them. What do you think?

  19. Hunter says:

    @Mark (since the previous replies were becoming too thin):

    re: your post at 1:48 am on March 27

    But I have found that when the media relentlessly hammers on a particular viewpoint and will not entertain any dissent, it is usually being steered and directed.

    True enough.

    As evidence, I offer the round-the-clock coverage of the “rebels’” slow inching toward the capital, even extending to broadcast of a fake situation – the fall of Tripoli, before it actually happened, to aid in demoralizing the residents and to compel quick surrender. Is it your contention the media simply came together all on its own to deliver those results, and then – with eerie abruptness – abandoned almost all mention of Libya as soon as Gaddafi was dead?

    Remember which media station actually produced the staged fall of Tripoli – it was Al Jazeera wasn’t it? I wouldn’t define Al Jazeera as part of the western MSM. Here we had a situation where Al Jazeera’s interests (and the interest of Qatar which owns the station) coincided with the west and its mainstream media in a very similar situation as to how western governments and Arab League governments for the most part had different reasons to find common cause in loathing Gaddafi.

    Certainly Al Jazeera was directed since it is directly owned by the state (Qatar). With the western MSM we have a combination of lazy journalism (many are VERY quick to simply pick up reports from Al Jazeera and the rebels and run with them as news stories and not do fact checking) and inherent biases in the western media (as I said before, I doubt very many journalists will not have a view of Libya and Gaddafi that was not shaped by the 1980s and 1990s). So we have a very easily manipulated western MSM. That’s actually more dangerous than a directed media since a directed media implies some amount of competence. Western MSM standards have fallen SHARPLY as others have pointed out (especially concerning the mixing up of facts, opinions and commentary in a single news story) and will likely only get worse. A directed media at least has the potential to become independent with high standards if a government loses control of it for some reason. An easily manipulated but for the most part independent media is terrible as a government doesn’t need to take control and could credibly point to the media being actually independent even though they are able to play it like harp.

    And I expected the media to abandon the Libya story once Gaddafi was dead and Tripoli in the hands of the rebels. That’s what they always do. Look on Iraq. Extensive coverage in the lead up to the war and during the invasion and first few years but after that coverage dipped. It’s the same thing that happened with the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear disaster in Japan – you had round-the-clock coverage for a few weeks and then practically nothing…almost as if it didn’t happen and thousands didn’t die and people weren’t trying to rebuild. In fact I was surprised at how quickly the media hype around Japan died down considering there was considerably more hype for a longer period of time for the Indian Ocean Tsunami. It’s the same thing with Haiti. People are still living in tent cities there months after the earthquake, but you would never know it since the media doesn’t report it but only focused on the horror of the immediate aftermath of the Haiti quake. Ditto with Pakistan when they had a devastating quake some time ago. Lots of people were still suffering from bitterly cold winters as a result of being homeless after the quake, but the suffering wasn’t of the kind that would get the media to be giving coverage (for that you usually need a sudden, sharp devastating event like an earthquake or lots of explosions like in a war…occasionally a famine will get a lot of coverage since you will have a lot of dead people and starving children…but folks freezing their asses off or still living in tents months later? That will never be headline international news). Finally look at Ivory Coast. We had a civil war, an election, a continuation of the civil war with proposed ECOWAS intervention and an active UN intervention (this time on the side of the legitimate government) and once that old fart Gbagbo was captured we heard nothing coming out of Ivory Coast. Up to this day I still don’t know how Gbagbo was stupid enough to run again for president for what was effectively a third term after he delayed elections long enough that he essentially served two terms in his official “first” term as president. If he were smart he would said he wasn’t running and instead give his backing to someone else in his party.

    Then, without even so much as a new baby for Angelina Jolie, the ramp-up against Assad’s Syria commenced. It just seems too much in line with foreign-policy objectives to be random.

    Again we are seeing a confluence of certain interests in Syria. Al Jazeera and the western media both have an interest in Assad’s Syria as a bogeyman (news of governments cracking down on citizens usually makes for eye-catching news especially if it can be presented as evil government bad guys versus rebel good guys and thus play into the concepts of the audience) and have biases against Assad (for the western MSM he’s an unelected dictator and a member of the Ba’ath party which would be associated with Saddam Hussein (a bogeyman who is probably missed in a sick way in the media) AND he seems to have links with Russia; for Al Jazeera he is opposed to rebels supposedly representing the Sunni majority and so on). Note though that unlike the Libya situation, whereas we have had a confluence of media interest there has been little confluence of state interest. Only some Arab governments (I think Qatar) have even called for active intervention while western governments have basically been publicly ruling out active intervention for months (because I suspect that unlike Libya there aren’t that many western business interests in Syria to spur governments on and with a more robust air defence most western military leaders would probably be more strongly advising AGAINST a no-fly zone in Syria). At most the western governments seem willing to put more pressure on Assad and perhaps open the door for a UN sanctioned intervention by Arab states, but I can’t see the RAF, French Air force and USAF flying missions over Syria anytime soon, except in the event that some flare-up happens in Iran (either Israel attacks and the US then gets sucked in somewhat willingly or the US attacks straight up after some incident which is used as a basis/excuse). In that case there might be some conflict with Syria since Syria and Iran supposedly have a mutual defence pact and Syria might (or might not) come to Iran’s aid (in which case the USAF would then have a solid reason to drop bombs on Damascus and would push the political leadership of the USA to let them do just that).

    But take a look at Bahrain. During the height of the protests before they were brutally suppressed it was the western MSM covering it while Al Jazeera was apparently very limited in its coverage at the start (apparently due to Saudi and Bahraini pressure on Qatar to muzzle Al Jazeera in relation to the Bahrain protests).

    The problem with that scenario is the drop-it-like-it’s-hot treatment of Libya as soon as the “rebels” claimed victory. Usually when the west wishes to take over management of one of its victims, it installs a provisional government headed by one of its own until it can be sure the incoming government consists of reliable toadies and bootlickers. In this case, the west simply backed away and let Libya collapse into anarchy, and shows zero interest in going back in to consolidate the “rebel” win although a pretty good insurgency seems to be starting up. That I can’t explain, as it is like no other pattern I have ever seen.

    You haven’t seen that before? Afghanistan in 1989? Lots of hype and support for the rebels against the Soviets but when the Soviets left, they abandoned Afghanistan to infighting?

    Even Somalia somewhat fits the pattern as Siad Barre used to have US support from the 1970s to 1990 and then when the US distanced itself from Barre’s regime they did nothing to support the formation of a new stable government (and in fact began allying with warlords opposed to the faction most instrumental in overthrowing Barre) and when the 1993 intervention failed they just washed their hands of Somalia.

    The media got bored with Libya (as I expected) and the various western militaries do not see it as their job to do politics in Libya and go about helping to form a stable government (and to be honest, it isn’t their job). In the current situation, western governments and businesses are probably just looking at cutting deals with whoever is in charge locally on the basis that eventually a stable government will form and honour commitments undertaken during this period and that such local bigwigs will be willing to cut very favourable deals in return for western (and Arab) support.

    • Hunter says:

      Incidentally this is why I fear that Libya might become like Afghanistan or Somalia (we might even see a return of piracy in the Mediterranean). It seems it is being abandoned to anarchy during a crucial transitional phase (no matter what we think of the previous governments and any future governments partly installed through foreign powers) just like those other two countries.

    • Hunter says:

      Oh, and I just remembered that this same pattern would have been repeated in Iraq in 1991 had the western supported Shi’ite Arab and Kurdish rebellions succeeded in overthrowing Saddam. Iraq would have had a revolution but probably no provisional government and I can’t imagine the Kurds and a new Shi’ite Arab government would see eye-to-eye. Then of course there would probably have been various Sunni Arab militias continuing to oppose any new Shia dominated government.

    • marknesop says:

      Well, well. It looks like you’re right. I was quite sure I didn’t see the “Fall of Tripoli” on Al Jazeera (because we don’t even get it), but it looks like they were first, and all the other networks just picked it up and ran with it – part of the sloppy mess that modern visual journalism has become is due to the obsession with getting “breaking news” out fast, and almost nobody takes the trouble to verify anything any more in the rush to spill it out for the masses. I read elsewhere that the stage set for Tripoli was done in a Qatari studio, so that fits, too.

      Further down in that rather angry piece is a revealing glimpse of the corporate boards of major media outlets, which says a lot about why they report the way they do.

      Good call, you nailed that one from every angle.

    • yalensis says:

      Great analysis, @Hunter.

  20. marknesop says:

    Browder’s minions rake over the muck again; Wall Street Journal compares Magnitsky to murdered South African anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko. Behind a paywall, of course, but you know what to do; the title is “Russia’s Steve Biko”.

    Some great imagery here, such as “In that crass species of cruelty in which Russian officialdom has always specialized, Magnitsky’s bereaved mother was required to sit in her son’s place.” And, naturally, William “White Knight” Browder was denied entry to Russia “for exposing corporate skulduggery among Kremlin-favored companies. ”

    Apparently, Alexei Navalny was fined $3,500.00 for transmitting links to Senator Cardin’s “Magnitsky Untouchables” list. He seems a little bitter about it. From A Good Treaty’s Twitter feed.

    • Misha says:

      That’s the guy who stopped linking Leos and yours truly while linking to a noticeably anti-Russian slanted source.

      **** that noise.

    • I completely support Navalny on that.

      Fining people for writing stuff, let alone linking, is utterly unacceptable.

      • marknesop says:

        I suppose you’re right, although I’m disposed to disagree because I really don’t like Navalny. I can’t think of any good examples where citizens of any other country have deliberately aided and abetted negative coverage of their own country by another that has on various occasions declared itself an enemy. Especially when it is not true; the USA is accepting William Browder’s version of Magnitsky’s death because it suits American objectives. You could draw the comparison with those who leaked videos of American military personnel torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, I suppose – but those people really did do those things. Navalny is helping to promote the view that Sergei Magnitsky was a crusading lawyer who stumbled on a huge Russian scam, possibly involving government figures, and he was incarcerated and killed to stop him from telling what he knew. The Russian government’s position is that Magnitsky was an accountant, not a lawyer, and that he was the brains behind the tax fraud perpetrated to the benefit of Hermitage Capital Management. I don’t know what is closer to the true story, of course, but I maintain it would be unusual for the Russian government – especially under Medvedev – to hold so firmly to its position in the face of such concentrated western pressure.

        Another example might be Julian Assange, but he likewise released actual information that people actually did write and say, not supporting some made-up story. And there were plenty of cries for him to be prosecuted for it, too.

        But you’re right that I should not support a precedent for prosecution of a particular action just because I dislike the individual who did it. Maybe they should have exiled him to the USA instead.

  21. Misha says:

    Motyl will probably not be so pleased with this news item regarding a Pushkin monument in Ukraine:

    http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_03_25/69576777/

    Good!

    Reflects the will of the people, in a way that’s different from the kind of nationalist anti-Russian leaning babble, getting the nod elsewhere.

    • PvMikhail says:

      It is planned in Odessa oblast, so not a big deal I guess. But good for them. I wonder when those western oblasts will erect a monument to a Russian literary hero… However the lack of proper education will prevent them looking past the 1 million-years-old “Ukrainian statehood” and embrace some not invented culture.

      • Misha says:

        Up to a point, I’ve no problem letting them do as they please.

        They’ve a missionary zeal that sees them going to other parts of Ukraine to hustle their agendas.

        For accuracy sake, it’s true that Galicia and Volhynia isn’t the only part of Ukraine where one can find a nationalist anti-Russian leaning mindset. At the same time, not all of western Ukraine buys into the Russia unfriendly slant.

        • Misha says:

          If I offhand correctly recall, Odessa honored Catherine the Great with some protest from the usual group.

          According to what a Ukrainian-Canadian academic said to me, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics have had problems establishing churches in Odessa. I brought up to him the numerous problems that Orthodox Christians of the Moscow Patriarchate have faced in some parts of Ukraine.

          At issue are different sympathies, with many in the West, primarily hearing from one of the involved parties.

    • cartman says:

      Odessa is a Russian city. Any Ukrainians there before 1792 were sold on the Ottoman Empire’s slave markets.

  22. Misha says:

    Then again, who was calling themself Ukrainian in 1792?

  23. Moscow Exile says:

    I was in Odessa last summer with my family. It was my first visit there – and my wife’s. I was very impressed. It reminded me of a city in southern France and seemed very “European”. My wife asked a local taxi driver if any one spoke Ukrainian in Odessa, for although public signs and aannouncements everywhere were in Ukrainian, she had not heard anyone speaking that language. He just laughed, and said, “No. We speak Russian here – and Odessan!” I had a similar reaction 6 years ago off a taxi driver in the Crimea, in Evpatoria.

    What I have written above, I also posted on a site in which an extremely anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalist, a woman, was posting to as well. I’m pretty sure she was a Canadian-Ukrainian who wasn’t born in the Ukraine. I got the usually response off her that I have already experienced several times off such people before: “You are a liar!”

    • Misha says:

      The “you’re a liar” grouping is a lower version of the type who either duck certain individuals altogether and/or carry on in a diversionary way that includes jumping to another topic, bragging how their source has certain paper credentials, without directly replying to the facts and fact based opinions, running counter to their (put mildly) questionable c0ntentions.

      The aforementioned paper credentials bit is horseshit. Lawyers and police officers aren’t allowed (at least formally) to be given a pass for such offenses as rape and theft. Likewise, a crock historical/political analysis isn’t automatically covered by academic degrees.

      • Misha says:

        Just remided of the pro se and citizen’s arrest concepts.

        In the US, it’snot uncommion to see insurance companies lose in small claims court to the non-attorney plaintiff with a valid case. The media coverage of foreign policy and some other issues doesn’t often face the same level of scrutiny.

        “Political science” isn’t a hard (precise) science.

        The high profile and flawed analysis has an interest in not seeing such views substantively challenged. Hence, the examples of the BS that’s out there.

  24. yalensis says:

    On American politics as relates to Russia: On Monday, during meeting with Medvedev in Seoul, Obama was overheard (forgot to turn off mike) telling M that he (Obama) would have more leverage to negotiate on missile defense after November election. They were speaking in English, without interpretor, and M whispered something like: “Thanks, dude, I’ll be sure to let Vladimir know.”
    Next day Mitt Romney came out with a big huge blast against Russia, calling Russia America’s “greatest geo-political foe” and implying that Obama was selling out his country to the Evil Empire.
    Now, here’s the thing: I am willing to bet $$$ that Mitt Romney WILL be next American Prez. Even as we speak, Obama is on the verge of a colossal political defeat when Supreme Court strikes down his big Healthcare Reform Act as unconstitutional. (It’s like I have been saying all along: Obama should have gone with the “Single Payor” government-paid health insurance instead of private insurance plus Government Mandate — that idea was pure silliness IMHO.)
    Anyhow, I am donning my Nostradamus hat, and I hereby predict:
    That any day now American Supreme Court will strike Obamacare down, in a 5 to 4 decision.With this strategic defeat under his belt, Obama will lose the November election to Mitt Romney, a guy who believes that Russia is his greatest enemy of all time. LOL!

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Ladies and Genlemen! The President of the United States of America:

      See: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/03/27/bowing_to_the_kremlin

      • Misha says:

        Foreign Policy might very well be the dumbest of the propped foreign policy venues.

        BTW, FP politically censors posted comments, while favoring the PC troll remarks – a glowing example for Russian media to follow.

    • marknesop says:

      The individual mandate, it’s worth noting, was originally a Republican idea, and they pushed it relentlessly up until Clinton decided to adopt something like it. Then, of course, they were against it. Similarly, Mitt Romney’s state health care plan when he was governor is as like Obamacare as two peas in a pod.

      Basically, Mitt Romney is an idiot. What it boils down to is whether or not America wants an idiot for President. God knows they have before; perhaps it’s time for an idiot again. I am sufficiently disappointed in Obama’s performance that I personally don’t care if Romney wins – I think, in fact, it would be a sharp lesson for America, although it might not survive it. But Obama is definitely not making decisions to do with national governance (financial, medical) that are bad for Americans. The Affordable Health Care Act both increases individual Americans’ choice of healthcare and decreases the overall costs of healthcare, those are demonstrable facts. That the Republicans have to fall back on “it’s unconstitutional” suggests they have gotten nowhere with the “it’s expensive” and “the president is trying to kill you”.

      Republicans desperately want Obama out of the picture, but I don’t think Mitt can deliver. He’s just not the guy; he’s merely going to be the only one left standing – that certainly is the one unanticipated effect of allowing deep-pockets corporate sugar daddies to make unlimited political contributions: it has dragged out the primary process to incredible lengths.

      • Hunter says:

        The individual mandate, it’s worth noting, was originally a Republican idea, and they pushed it relentlessly up until Clinton decided to adopt something like it. Then, of course, they were against it.

        Wow. What is it about politics that does this to people? I know of a similar experience in the Caribbean. There is a common court of justice which is intended to become the highest appellate court for a lot of countries in the region. But get this, in the 1980s one Jamaican politician had been supporting it, to the point where he came up with the method of appointing the judges, but when his party went into opposition he (and that party) became opposed to the court, claiming the method (that he came up with) of appointing judges was open to political interference!

        You have to wonder how much further along the world would be if politicians would stop acting like circus clowns and letting ideas become casualties to political theatre. At the very least more health insurance for all would have been available to millions of Americans in the 1990s.

        • marknesop says:

          There are a million examples of this kind of – as you so accurately termed it – political theatre. Sarah Palin squawking about the heresy of moving the words “In God We Trust” to the sides from the front of American coins, implying Obama was marginalizing God and that he is some kind of heathen…for implementing an Act that was signed by George Bush. Republicans freaking out about the bailout that gave billions to the financial industry – including absurdly greedy monolith AIG, who promptly sent their executives on a posh “retreat” – a bailout that was implemented by the Bush administration.

          Such reversals have probably always been around – but the “people’s memory” of the internet now makes it much easier to expose them. But there’s certainly something Orwellian in it. “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”.

    • Misha says:

      Don’t be so sure that Obama loses. Many Republicans aren’t happy with Romney. Last night, on this show dealing with Russia, a leading Republican takes what seems to be a clear swipe at Romney for his remarks pertaining to Russia and what Obama said to Medvedev:

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036697/#46873044

      On the surface, Russophiles will find agreement with the comments made by Democratic Chris Matthews concerning Mitt Romney and post-Soviet Russia.

      It’s possible that Matthews has changed his tone for reasons other than partisan Repub-Dem politics, with Russia as a political football. I recall that when George Bush II was in the White House, Matthews didn’t seem as understanding of the situation in Russia. During this period, Condoleezza Rice (in one televised episode) took issue with the way Matthews depicted (in a trumped up way) the level of Stalin’s popularity in Russia.

      These thoughts relate back to an earlier observation when John Kerry ran against George Bush II. Their televised foreign policy debate spent more time on Russia than any other international issue – Israel and China included. In that particular foreign policy debate, Kerry actually went after Bush II for supposedly being too “soft” on Russia.

      When out of office, the given presidential candidate is prone to accuse the existing president’s views. Once in office, they see the light. Granted that Romney having Leon Aron as adviser might be an arguably more hardline propositiion than Obama’s reliance on Michael McFaul, which just goes to show the limits of Capitol Hill perspectives on Russia.

      During the Clinton administration led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, then New York talk show host Jay Diamond acknowledged something that I sensed among some (stress some) Republicans (non-elected to office Republicans as well) who expressed skepticism on that military action. Ron Paul excluded, the involved apprehension was quite possibly more related to a Pavlovian reaction to a Democratic Party administration’s action, than the sincere belief that the bombing campaign was either questionable or flat out wrong.

      Romney’s softer approach on China is on account of Beijing’s great economic clout. In addition, animosity of China/Chinese isn’t as great within the US foreign policy establishment when compared to Russia/Russians. Quite interesting given the legacy of the Korean War, with all of those Chinese “volunteers.” Not that a bash China policy is being encouraged.

      There’s an anti-Russia lobby of sorts in the US. This informal but erudite thread discussion touches on some of its aspects, in a way that isn’t as well detailed at a good number of high profile venues, which frequently comment on Russia.

      • marknesop says:

        Well said, Mike, and excellently supported.

        • What I find interesting about Romney’s article is that whilst he burbles on about how Russia is the US’s greatest enemy and how Obama has supposedly sold the shop to the Kremlin in return for nothing at all the only evidence Romney can come up with for the supposed hostility of the Russian government to the US are Russian support for Assad regime (shared with China and hardly a central concern for the US) and Russian opposition to a US strike on Iran (shared by most world governments).

          This to me is the fundamental point. If one were to back to the year when Gorbachev became General Secretary in 1985 it would have been impossible then to imagine the concessions Russia has made to the US since then. Notwithstanding Russia having effectively surrendered its entire international position to the US and making concessions to the US that in 1985 no one could have reasonably expected it to make and despite Romney’s inability to come up with any real evidence for Russian hostility to the US, Romney and people like him are still not satisfied and still say that Russia is the US’s greatest enemy. There really is no satisfying these people and anyone in Russia such as the liberals who continues to harbour any illusions on that score really needs to wake up. If Romney’s comments are not an expression of pure Russophobia then what is? Meanwhile they confirm the essential truth: it is not Russia which is the enemy of America but America which is the enemy of Russia.

          • Misha says:

            A Romney win isn’t likely going to be such a horrid turn against better Russo-American relations.

            Romney has been known to flip flop. Post-Soviet Russia isn’t the USSR, with the geopolitical conditions having some noticeable differences since the Cold War’s end.

            It’s never the less troubling to hear what some like Romney and McCain say.

            • The point is that there is ALWAYS a receptive audience in the US for this sort of Russia bashing. The size of this audience obviously fluctuates according to circumstances and the subject is remote from most Americans’ everyday concerns. However it is always there and always able to make up with energy and influence what it lacks in numbers. By contrast there is no section of US society that consistently and straightforwardly wants friendship with Russia and which is prepared to mount an effective challenge to the anti Russian narrative. Those who call for good or at least civilised relations with Russia are always on the defensive.

              The one thing I would say is that the US at least on this question is an oasis of enlightened thinking compared with Britain where there are no contrary voices at all.

              • Misha says:

                Besides myself, there’re some other Americans who don’t accept the negatively inaccurate commentary on Russia.

                The issue is that someone with views like Motyl continue to have better access to a number of venues including NewsWeek, The WSJ and openDemocracy.

                It’s not on account of their reflecting a more just, accurate and better presented view.

                In any event, BS can only go so far versus an otherwise clear reality. My sense is that many Obama critics didn’t accept Romney’s attempt to bash the American president over the recent open microphone incident.

                Remain optimistic and continue advocating.

              • marknesop says:

                But that sort of influence (the positive kind, that wants events and happenings in Russia to be viewed as they actually happened rather than the spin of the author) can arise from blogs. It certainly would not be easy, because people tend to gravitate to information sources which validate their opinions and preconceived notions. But look at Navalny – what would he be without his blogging? Nothing. Many more people every day, even in the west where smug complacency is the rule, get some or all of their news from the Internet. We bought our new TV (I think we must have had one of the last non-flatscreen TV’s on the continent) in a Boxing Day sale 2 years ago, and I bet I have watched CNN (which at one time ran constantly in the background whenever I was at home) no more than 3 times in that period. I get all my news from the Internet, and our little girl uses the TV to watch Disney Junior.

                • Misha says:

                  Navalny has also benefitted from some influential propping abroad.

                  Within blogging, there’s some mass media influence.

  25. Moscow Exile says:

    Agent provocateurs in Merry England?

    Never!🙂

    See: http://rt.com/news/london-rally-snatch-squad-267/comments/?d=1684115?

    Over 25 years ago during the year long miners’ strike they were doing the same in the UK. Their main task was to identify “ringleaders” and then “short-shield” snatch squads used to dash out through the line of “long-shield” goons that stood, Roman-legion style, facing us and the “short shields” would attempt to lift the person or persons identified.

    When the legionaire lines parted so as to make a really wide gap, that was when you made youself scarce, because that’s when the cavalry was going to come charging out at you. Officially, the troopers were only supposed to swipe down at you with their long sticks so as to break your collar bone, but they always went for the head. They loved it!

    In the summer of 1984, I once witnessed bus loads of cops dressed up as striking miners being transported up the main motorway from London to the Yorkshire coalfield, where a mass picket was assembled: Scotland Yard’s finest in pit rags!

    My National Union of Mineworkers lodge (union branch) had an old, second hand “pig wagon” (police bus) with its signs removed donated to us. Local supporters had kidded the cops, saying that they were working for a charity and had bought it off them at a discount. The cops were furious when they found out that they had been duped; not least because before handing the bus over, they had filled the bus tank as a token of their kindheartedness. Before the police found out that we were in possession of such a vehicle, the cops used to wave us through their road blocks around the coalfield they had occupied, clearly thinking that we were agent provocateur colleagues rather than “the enemy within” as their paymaster, the British prime minister of the time, had infamously described us.

    Plus ça change, plus ça la même chose!

    • Dear Moscow Exile,

      As a matter of fact there has been a succession of scandals here in Britain over the last year concerning police infiltrators who were infiltrated by the poliice into various protest groups and organisations from within which they then acted as spies and informers. Several of these individuals have been exposed as having practiced classic provocation tactics especially by calling for violent actions during demonstrators. There have also been several cases of these people seducing young women within the protest groups they have infiltrated and even fathering children on them.

      Though the scandal strikes me as nothing short of extraordinary it has received nothing like the media attention either here or internationally that it surely deserves. Imagine what the liberals in Russia and the international media would be saying if FSB agents were similarly exposed doing the same sort of things in Limonov’s or Udaltsov’s or Chirikova’s or Navalny’s organisations.

      Nor have the Russian police used mounted police to break up demonstrations in the way the British police did during the miner’s strike or “kettling” as practiced against the student protesters in 2010. The latter seems to me to be a particularly brutal tactic. If mounted poliice were used against protesters in Russia I am sure we would have all sorts of lurid tales about tsarist era Cossacks dusted off whilst “kettling” would surely provoke outrage. It does not take much imagination to guess what the reaction would be.

      • Misha says:

        BTW, some of those Cossacks were sent in to stop violence that was initiated locally as opposed to a grand plan from the Czar.

        The history on that isn’t as some generally depict. Sort of like saying that the White House planned the lynching of Blacks and ethnic cleansing campaigns of Indians. To some degree, there’s a government culpability that wasn’t always the case.

        The actual history of the Indians in places like contemporary Georgia (US) isn’t what I was taught in grade school – much unlike the hyped evil in the Russian Empire.

        • Dear Misha,

          There is no doubt at all that what you say about the Cossacks is true. I was not referring to the historical reality of the tsarist period but to the way events in Russia are routinely misrepresented in Russia by the liberals and by the media in the west. Given that the west routinely misrepresents Russian history why should it hesitate to resurrect old myths about the Cossacks?

          Incidentally I can very well remember how on the day when the results of the run off in the Ukrainian presidential election were announced in October 2004 with the claim that Yanukovitch had won, an OSCE observer appeared on the BBC to claim excitedly that “Cossacks” were being mobilised to attack Orange demonstrators who might try to challenge the result. Needless to say no such Cossacks ever appeared.

          • Misha says:

            Hi Alex,

            Overall, Ukraine’s Cossacks tend to be among the more pro-Russian of elements in Ukraine.

            One of the Ukrainian nationalist anti-Russian leaning claims highlights how western Ukraine (particularly Galicia) is the best represenative of Ukrainian identity.

            At the same time, Ukraine’s Cossacks are viewed as a kind of Ukrainian symbol. To date, I’ve yet to come across a Greek Catholic Cossack.

            A not so distant Shuster article presented Crimea’s Cossacks in a negative light, much unlike the Tatar community in the region. Translation: pro-Russian leaning group bad, unlike those leaning in a more opposite direction.

            Some fiasco aspects of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election was greatly downplayed in Western mass media.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Those Cherokees in Georgia USA were smart: they decided it better to adapt to “the white man’s ways” than engage in a doomed to failure struggle against them; they developed an alphabet for their language, and successfully settled down as arable farmers. They looked nothing like Plains Indians, by the way, all dressed in buckskins and adorned with feathers: they wore woven cloth and the men sported turbans.

          And what did the Cherokee Nation get for its pains in adapting to the intruder’s civilization? – mass deportation to a foreign land, which for them was the trans-Mississippi Oklahoma territory, a forced eviction that they labelled “The Trail of Tears” and along which many perished.

          As regards the Byzantine nature of double and triple agents used to maintain order and supress insurrection in Imperial Russia, it’s hard to know who worked for whom and even whether the provocateurs themselves knew who their masters were. Father Gapon of 1905 Revolution fame or, as the case may be, infamy, for instance, was a police agent – they say. And it is still not clear who Stolypin’s assassin was working for, or, indeed, who he thought he was working for?

          I should think in such situations one simply has to apply the ruling cui bono? (“to whose benefit?) For example, it is very likely Litvinenko died believing that he had been murdered on Vladimir Putin’s orders and that his assassin might even believed that that was the case, but cui bono?

          • Misha says:

            American PBS ran an interesting documentary on the Cherokee experience in Georgia.

            I recall mention of a mixed Cherokee-White attorney who succeeded in getting a US Supreme Court decision against state of Georgia attempts to take over Cherokee territory. The documentary in question noted that after the aforementioned Suprme Court ruling, then President Andrew Jackson tipped off the state of Georgia that the US federal authorities would not go against a Georgia takeover of Cherokee land. The Cherokees themselves were divided on whether to accept a deal to move. Their eventual forced move led to many winter cold related deaths.

            The most critical of the US PBS aired documentaries often get run at hours that are past midnight on the American east and west coasts.

            A PBS British aired documentary on the American Revolution is an eye opener to many Americans. Ditto one on the War of 1812.

            Elements of the left and right in Russia had a basis to oppose Stolypin.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              The iconic photograph “Migrant Mother” taken in the 1930s Great Depression of an “Okie” (Oklahoma) immigrant on a fruit farm in California “came to epitomize the plight of many displaced farm families during the Great Depression”:

              See: http://texascccparks.org/archive/gen-migrant-mother-lange-516/

              The woman’s name was Florence Owens.

              She was Cherokee.

              See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Owens_Thompson

            • Dear Moscow Exile,

              I have studied academically the late tsarist period and I since I am fascinated by the subject I remain up to date on the scholarship. Father Gapon and Stolypin’s assassins were police agents. That does not mean that the police were in full control of them or that they were behind the demonstration that culminated in Bloody Sunday or Stolypin’s murder. In the case of many of the terrorist outbreaks in Russia in the period 1890s to 1917, the terrorist organisations were so heavily infiltrated by the tsarist secret police organisation the Okhranka that it is often unclear who in the end was manipulating whom.
              One of Akunin’s Fandorin’s novels, the State Counsellor, captures the madness of the period well.

              • cartman says:

                The FBI did the same thing, including murders of Black Panther Party leaders.

              • Misha says:

                There was the flip side of anti-government activity like the People’s Will, which encouraged an unruly situation, in the hope that the primary finger pointing would be directed against the government.

                In modern times, a less violent aspect includes getting arrested as a public nuissance with the claim of persecution.

                • marknesop says:

                  Indeed, as I mentioned in a post some time ago. This reference, however (by an amazing coincidence, the author is Lucas Harding, long before I had any idea who he is) points out that the authorities often prefer to fine activists; the ones who go to jail are the ones who refuse to pay up, and those are the ones who are often doing it just to get attention. Those horrified at being inadvertently swept up in a dragnet usually pay the fine and don’t make a big deal about it. The reference also suggests that activism through arrest is getting more difficult (in England) as authorities broaden their power to collect fines without your consent, by garnishment of wages or automatic debiting from bank accounts.

            • Hunter says:

              Do you know the name of those documentaries on the American Revolution and War of 1812?

              • Misha says:

                Will try to look them up in a short bit.

                • Misha says:

                  Another example of claimed censorship/persecution is when a start up venue runs out of funding, while being unable to sustain itself:

                  http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=7701&IBLOCK_ID=35

                  Certain irony in the above piece.

                  I believe this link concerns the PBS aired documentary in mind on the War of 1812:

                  http://frontierbattles.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/new-pbs-documentary-%e2%80%9cthe-war-of-1812%e2%80%9d-explores-the-truth-and-mythmaking-of-history/

                  The documentary in question (assuming it’s same one I saw on PBS) notes that the US attack north of the border was likely strategized on the basis of the Brits being preoccupied with Napoleon in Europe.

                  The aforementioned documentary also noted that the burning of DC was probably done as a form of payback for how the American forces behaved north of the border. Some other points noted US propaganda professing to advocate a liberation from British rule, which instead resulted in people of British, French and Indian backgrounds coming together to fight the invader – the suggestion being that the US attack helped nurture a Canadian identity.

                  Upon a quick perusal, I’m unable to find anything on the British produced documentary on the American Revolutionary War, aired on PBS.

                • marknesop says:

                  Our celebration of the War of 1812 will certainly include Dalhousie University in Halifax – built with money raised from taxes collected when Canadians occupied several ports in Maine and continued to collect levies. That occupation lasted about a year, if I’m not mistaken.

  26. Misha says:

    These two articles on the Circassians typify the predominating slants:

    http://russiaprofile.org/international/56577.html

    http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-275454-syrian-circassians.html

    The second of the linked articles has a noticeably Turkish view of the subject matter. Don’t be surprised if the author of that piece isn’t so willing to use the G word in relation to the Armenians.

    Both articles downplay that:

    – a good numer of Circassians were and remained loyal subjects of the Russian Empire

    – the role that Georgians played against some of the Circassian desires.

  27. yalensis says:

    Things in Syria looking a bit more hopeful now:
    Kofi Annan, special representative of U.N. and Arab League, has succeeded in getting agreement to his peace plan for ceasefire and regulating Syrian conflict. According to Annan’s plan, Assad will remain in power, hence regime change is off the table:

    http://www.rosbalt.ru/main/2012/03/28/962725.html

    The stakes are high. Syria people should not be subjected to same horrible fate as what befell Libyans when NATO defeated them in unfair genocidal war.
    This blogger has, over the past year, been putting together a catalog of videos showing Libyan “Freedom Fighter” atrocities, mostly against ethnic Africans, since February 2011. Most of these videos were actually shot and published by FF’s themselves, proving that they have no shame. A casual person reading this list might think the blogger is simply making it all up. But no. All of these videos actually exist, although some of them disappear from time to time when youtube steps in to take them down. I have watched a lot of these videos myself, as I followed the Libyan war, and I can verify that the blogger is stating their content accurately, without exagerration. Taken altogether, they constitute a body of evidence of war crimes and atrocities that someday somebody must pay for:

    http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/2011/04/rebel-atrocity-videos.html

    Who must pay for this genocide? Well, here is the money shot: If you scroll down a bit, you see war criminals Sarkozi and Cameron joyfully celebrating their victor in the EXACT SAME PLACE (shown by green outlines) where an innocent African man was publicly lynched and beheaded (window right outside the office of NTC head Jalil). By appearing there, in that spot, Sarkozi/Cameron in effect endorsed the lynching and the rest of the genocide:

    http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/2011/09/video-study-benghazi-beheading.html

    • apc27 says:

      Genocide is a very serious term. Just because the Western media effectively robbed all meaning of the word by using it as a slapstick for any atrocity in war does not mean that we should do the same. Millions of slaughtered Russians, Poles, Roma and Jews. Thousands of towns and villages burned to the ground. That is the proper context for the use of this term. The fact that the press was always so quick to use this word in other conflicts is quite frankly insulting to the memory of those who died in the horror on the scale beyond anything that happened before or since.

      • yalensis says:

        In Libya the issue is a small clique of Salafist Islamists (ethnic Arabs) coming to power (with NATO help) and murdering of ethnic Sub-Saharan Africans. The numbers may not be big, certainly not on the scale of millions, as in WWII. The Africans are killed one at a time, their heads sliced off with rusty knives. Obviously, this is not an efficient way of killing a lot of people, so the numbers can never compete with Nazi accomplishments.
        The biggest case for charge of “genocide”, which could actually be a winner if it ever made it to the World Court, is the ethnic African town of Tawergha, just south of Misrata. Before the NATO bombing started, this town contained some 30,000 inhabitants. Now the town is gone, wiped from the face of the earth, and most of the inhabitants seem to be dead (although some of them were possibly able to flee to Chad). There only seem to be a around 1,500 Tawerghans left, scraping by in refugee camps near Tripoli, and still vulnerable to Al Qaeda attacks and raids. Is this legally considered genocide, or are the numbers too small to count? I do not know the answer to that question.

  28. kievite says:

    An interesting analysis of Putin by Paul Robinson, professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa
    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/blog/putins-philosophy/

    In fact, contrary to this view, Putin fits into a long-standing Russian tradition of “liberal-conservatism.” Modern Russian author A.V. Vasilenko summed up this school of thought, writing that “A strong state is needed not instead of liberal reform, but for reform. Without a strong state liberal reforms are impossible.” This is the basis of what British academic Richard Sakwa calls “a unique synthesis of liberalism and conservatism” embodied in Putin’s rule.

    Boris Chicherin (1828-1904) is perhaps the ideology’s founding father. According to historian Richard Pipes, he “espoused Manchester liberalism and civil rights, and, at the same time, supported autocracy.” “The Russian liberal,” Chicherin wrote, “travels on a few high-sounding words: freedom, openness, public opinion … which he interprets as having no limits. … Hence he regards as products of outrageous despotism the most elementary concepts, such as obedience to law or the need for a police and bureaucracy.” “The extreme development of liberty, inherent in democracy,” he said, “inevitably leads to the breakdown of the state organism. To counter this, it is necessary to have strong authority.

    I would say pretty rare in in the stream of the crude anti-Russian propaganda you’ll usually read in the USA MSM.

    One comment reinvents the term comprador bourgeoisie and suggests existance of a strong link between Russian fifth column (which includes and probably is directly by some oligarchs) and western top 1%:

    Fran Macadam, on March 29th, 2012 at 3:26 pm Said:
    The Soviets were hardly psychotic madmen, else we would have seen a nuclear holocaust. Only one country, in a fit of hysteria, has actually used these weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations, and it is not that country famous for its cerebral chess players. We still boast our “first strike” nuclear capability is one of “all options on the table.”

    The Russian oligarchy has become so powerful, not unlike our own American corporate and financial elites, that the government felt obligated to counter its threats. Unfortunately, the democracy movement in Russia, in which we involve ourselves – something we wouldn’t allow any foreign nation here to do – was mostly cynically bankrolled by oligarchs that Putin pushed back against and whom had no interest in it before.

    It is not unlikely that some of these oligarchs have purchased political support from their fellow 1-per centers in the West who, through their own control of our politicians, are using our foreign policy to come to their aid.

    • marknesop says:

      I strongly agree, especially with the contention that not only is a muscular state required for liberal reform, but that such reforms are much less likely to come about under a broadly inclusive and decentralized government model. The best evidence of this was the angry frustration of opposition leaders at the drastic reduction in the threshold required to register as a political party. “This will lead to hundreds of parties that will cancel each other out”, was the ungrateful reaction, as if it were all a Machiavellian plot rather than one of the reforms liberals have been agitating for but find they do not like at all unless they seize it in a sweeping revolution – we don’t want you to give it to us, we must take it.

      Similarly, I agree with the statement that liberals espouse a quiver-full of buzzwords like “freedom” and “openness” which are simply Pavlovian dog-whistles to their followers, while the leaders are more than prepared to betray any of those high-minded concepts if only it will bring them to power; rationalizing that the end justifies the means.

      • yalensis says:

        American politicians use the word “FREEDOM” in a very peculiar way. Almost like a caricature of a classic Marxist analysis, they are referring exclusively to the “freedom” of capitalists and employers, not at all to the “freedom” of workers and ordinary citizens. For example, in the recent debate on Health Care Insurance reform, Presidential candidates Romney and Santorum have both stressed that employers’ “freedom” is violated when they are mandated to pay for their employees’ prescriptions to birth control pills. Because, say, the employer is Catholic and doesn’t believe in contraception, so he should not be forced to assume the $50 co-pay, because this violates his “freedom of religion” and wounds his conscience in a terrible way. Under this reasoning, if the employer firmly believed in the efficacy of corporal punishment of his employees; and then the government tried to step in and tell him he couldn’t whip his workers, then that would also be a violation of his “freedom” and core beliefs. It’s like, in the minds of these politicians, workers themselves have no “freedoms” or “rights” whatsoever. Like I said, it is caricature Marxism, but from the other side.

        • marknesop says:

          Well, you’re right – but it’s a tricky concept. Not only because the deception is more on the part of the working class which is fooling itself with what it hears rather than the ruling class displaying hypocrisy in what it says. “Freedom” simply means two different things to the two groups, and I blame the working class the more of the two for not waking up in spite of numerous examples. But it’s tricky, because once upon a time capitalism was just a more technical name for the American Dream, and once upon a time it was true. Once the Big Boss made about 4 times what the average wage slave on the production line made, instead of 40 times. Once upon a time if the community fell on hard times, it was nothing for a factory owner to keep the place going even though it wasn’t making any money, just because he knew his workers would go under without their jobs. Such stories abound as recently as the 1950’s. But somewhere – probably in that transitional decade of the 60’s when a man was no longer undressed on the street if he wasn’t wearing a hat – the imperative to make money, to achieve an ever-bigger profit-vs-expenses gap became an enshrined priority in business. “Freedom” came to mean something quite different depending on who was saying it, and the corporate elite began to emerge.

          Once, the American Dream was perceived to be inclusive, and if you weren’t getting your share people would try to help you. Some agencies still do, but now they rarely include the management of the company you work for. Now that in many cases the employees are mostly in China or India, the company’s executives feel no compulsion to subsidize them with what might otherwise be company profits.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Even as a schoolboy I began to get sick of hearing the word “freedom” repeated, it seemed, ad nauseam at every opportunity in Hollywood films. I’m talking about when the Cold War as at its peak, of course, and I started to get suspicious as to why the USA felt it had to beat this freedom drum so frequently.

          I remember feeling particularly irritated over this matter when watching the incredibly boring John Wayne epic “The Alamo”, in which Wayne, playing Davy Crocket, gives a soliloquy concerning the possibility of Texas, then a province of Mexico, becoming an independent republic:

          “Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat – the same tightness a man gets when his baby takes his first step or his first baby shaves and makes his first sound as a man. Some words can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm. Republic is one of those words”.

          And I wanted to throw up.

          If William Shakespeare had been present, he might have said: “The United States doth protest too much, methinks!”

          (The meaning of “protest” in Shakespeare’s day was to “declare solemnly”. When Shakespeare wrote in “Hamlet” that “the lady doth protest too much”, he meant that the lady in question was voicing her opinion to such a great extent that she was loosing her credibility in that her assertions were beginning to appear as too insistent and too elaborate.)

      • kirill says:

        These clowns want to have their cake and eat it too. When the threshold was raised from 5% to 7% the cry was that dictator Putin is stifling the opposition. Now they whinge about the threshold being lowered. Consistency and logic appear to have not relevance for these people.

    • Misha says:

      As has been suggested elsewhere, there’s the view that Russia’s development went off course a bit in 1917, with Putin essentially representing a reform that some wanted to see at around the time of WWI, if not before.

  29. Misha says:

    I suspect that some might appreciate this sarcastic jibe at the decision to ban Assad’s wife from travelling to EU countries:

    http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29993

    • marknesop says:

      I usually try not to use Global Research as a reference, since I believe they might be a little ideologically biased. Although it’s in the direction I prefer for my references, they’re just a little over the top in their criticism, and I don’t subscribe to the notion that the west has never done anything good or never approached a transaction without its own betterment as a guiding principle.

      But there’s no denying their reporting falls directly in line with what unbiased reporters on the ground such as Lizzie Phelan are saying, as well as what some commenters here have been sourcing on the determined effort to fit Bashar Assad for a “demon” frame, and I guess you might just as well call it a Psy-Op as anything else. What always strikes me funny is the derision of westerners for the allegedly lemming-like intake of propaganda from “Kremlin TV” that takes place in Russia, and whenever some new liberal initiative falls flat it is because the people were “brainwashed by state TV”. The “hipsters” who get all their news from Navalny’s LiveJournal blog are much more in the know. Yet anyone in the west who contradicts the party line on CNN or NBC is a starry-eyed libertine radical who is just unable to see the world as it really is due to his idealism, the more fool him.

      I recall at the time the event was happening that Condoleezza Rice received little censure for shopping for shoes at Ferrragamo while residents of the ninth ward were drowning in New Orleans, as a result of one the worst natural disasters the USA has ever suffered, although she did fall on her sword for it much later, apparently in an effort to expunge George W Bush’s legacy. In any case, while it might be easy for European governments to say “stay away” to Mrs. Assad’s money, I doubt European businesses are so patriotic.

      You can add this one to the “Freedom Fries” debacle in the accounting of Ways The West Has Gone Out Of It’s Way To Appear Conspicuously Ridiculous.

      • Misha says:

        When compared to Global Research (GR), Foreignpolicy.com isn’t a greater example of accuracy/objectivity on a number of issues.

        Overall, I think that GR deserves far more respect than a certain anonymous blogger, who launches pot shots from a safe distance, to go along with having punked out of a live BBC World Service appearance.

  30. PvMikhail says:

    Greetings people, I have outstanding news:

    Births are skyrocketing with more than 10% in the first 2 months of this year. Deaths remain flat on the 2011 level. Volga district trends did an U-turn with 12,2% more births.

    http://www.gks.ru/free_doc/2012/demo/edn02-12.htm

    I don’t know what the state does, but it’s working. If the trends stay that way, we can have a positive natural change of 70000 people at the yearend. This projection is not official, but I did it with my own primitive methods.

    Byelorussia also seems to have some improvement on this front, however it is less successful, than Russia.

    http://belstat.gov.by/homep/ru/indicators/pressrel/demographics.php

    Note that results of the first 4 months are always the worse, because of the seasonal imbalances. Summer and Autumn can compensate that.

    Ukraine also has shown some improvement in 2011, but no data for 2012, because the statistics are ALWAYS late compared to Russia and Byelorussia. The situation in baltic countries however is worse than ever, I think I can say: it is beyond repair.

    http://www.stat.ee/57612
    http://www.csb.gov.lv/en/statistikas-temas/population-key-indicators-30624.html
    http://www.stat.gov.lt/en/news/view?id=11136
    http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/analytics/?doc=54310
    http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/analytics/?doc=55058

    Note that Baltic Course is a anti-Russian, Latvian news agency. Furthermore, these results are official numbers. Recent censuses in Baltic countries, namely Latvia and Litva have shown, that they systematically underestimate migration. That’s how the big difference of 200000 missing people came out and the statistics bureau had to adjust its numbers to the reality. 2,2 mill or 2 mill is not equal. Exact the same happened in Litva

    http://www.lithuaniatribune.com/2011/05/16/lithuania-has-3-05-mln-residents-preliminary-census-results/

    I like the diplomatic language about the fake and real numbers…🙂

    • marknesop says:

      I join you in cheering this positive news, Mikhail, and hope it is evidence of a trend rather than a flash in the pan. If it continues, demographers far and wide will have to eat crow, and the reporters who unquestioningly pass along their gloomy predictions will have to find another narrative. Perhaps, like La Russophobe, they will fall back to hammering on life expectancy – I don’t expect any acknowledgement that the upturn is good news. Our best indicator that demographics are moving identifiably in Russia’s favour (and in other countries associated with Russia) will be if the press and the “brain trust” among the Moscow elite simply stop talking about it. We, on the other hand, will watch it carefully, and thanks for sharing the conclusions of your work!!

      • rkka says:

        “If it continues, demographers far and wide will have to eat crow, and the reporters who unquestioningly pass along their gloomy predictions will have to find another narrative.”

        Actually, I think it best to keep quiet about this. With the Russian birth rate exceeding the German by ~50%, and the Polish by ~20%, it would take very little time to revive the “Russia is a dire military menace to NATO” bit.

        • marknesop says:

          I hadn’t considered that, and it’s a good point. However, given how slowly the west responds to changes in Russia – unless they look like they might turn into a revolution that will bring down the government – I think it’s safe to say the Russian population could reach 165 million before western demographers or the Moscow School of Higher Economics would acknowledge it as a trend rather than an anomaly.

    • Sergey says:

      Deaths are only flat because the February had 29 days this year. Otherwise, January+February deaths would be 2.1% less than in 2011, which is about the rate at which crude death rate has been decreasing in the last several years.

      • PvMikhail says:

        Thanks Sergey, I would have never figured that out myself. One can always learn something… I have watched demographic data since 2007 and I still have something to learn🙂

    • cartman says:

      Latvia is a tough case. In Europe it has the highest old age dependency ratio (followed by Romania and Poland).

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46889066

  31. yalensis says:

    FP has article on American public perceptions of Russia. The good news: chart shows younger Americans less likely to be Russophobes than older generation.
    Speaking of Russophobes, Kimmie left nice comment :

    “…Russia is ruled by a proud KGB spy who spent his entire life learning how to hate and destroy American and her values, who has declared himself “president” for life, eliminated local elections, wiped out opposition political parties and jailed or killed rivals. Russia is even playing the Soviet national anthem at the Olympics!”

    Again with that “proud KGB spy”. Should he be a “self-effacing KGB spy with an inferiority complex?” Is not good thing to take pride in one’s work??

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/03/28/the_not_so_evil_empire

    • Misha says:

      “Wiped out” as in how that not so brilliant foreign policy venue politicially deletes and then blocks certain comments, while leaving otherwise dubious comments on for neocon/neolib leaning PC reasons. No small wonder why the coverage continues to lack when Russians en masse are likely to see FP articles promoted at InoSMI over those of some others with a different and more substantively more earnest approach.

      “The not so evil empire” bit in that article reveals some obligatory kiss.

  32. Moscow Exile says:

    Navalny has again revealed his violent, yobbish nature after his pal, US Ambassador McFaul, had rounded on an NTV camera crew that had approached him in the street the other day while he was on his way to an appointment with Ponomarev. The ambasssador harangued the crew for five minutes, accusing them of harrassment and also of hacking his mail, for how else, the ambassador maintained, could they have found out about his appointment.

    Later, after it had been pointed out by the Russian Public Chamber Media Commission that the news crew had not broken any law in their attempt to interview a public figure, Navalny tweeted the following:

    “I don’t understand McFaul — he has diplomatic immunity, and can beat up NTV journalists with complete impunity! Go Mike!”

    I thought Navalny was a lawyer.

    Encouraging one party to exercise physical violence against another party does not seem like sound legal advice to me, though I may be wrong about this.

    See: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/31/world/europe/russia-ambassador-michael-mcfaul-ntv-hacking.html

    • yalensis says:

      What do you guys think? Could this dude throw a decent punch?

      • marknesop says:

        Gee…that’s a tough one. It’s hard to answer, because there are several Michael McFauls. Are we talking about the Michael McFaul pictured here, who blathered about “your great country” and the relationship the United States and Russia have “developed…based on mutual interests and mutual respect for one another”, or the Michael McFaul who argued bitterly in Slate, “Time’s theory about Putin and Russia contains three central flaws. First, the positive change so trumpeted is exaggerated. Second, the positive change that has occurred between the 1990s and the last several years has little if anything to do with Putin. Third, the Time theory that Putin’s democratic rollback has been a necessary condition for achieving stability and growth—they call it the “grand bargain”—is simply wrong. In fact, there is no evidence at all—and most certainly not in the 36 pages Time devotes to Putin and his Russia—that greater autocracy has caused either order or growth. Autocracy’s re-emergence under Putin has coincided with tremendous economic growth but has not caused it. If anything, Putin’s autocratic turn has reduced the economic gains from what they would have been had democracy survived.” I would just…ummm…point out that the man he is tuning up on here was the President of Russia at the time, and was just elected to another term with better than 60% of the vote of the Russian people. I could think of better ways to show mutual interests and respect. Then there’s the Michael McFaul who seemed to acknowledge that the United States had made a deal (with Gorbachev) that there would be no further expansion of NATO beyond what prevailed in January of 1990 (page 185)…and the Michael McFaul who referred to Putin in 2008 as a “lame-duck President” and advised George W. Bush to engage Medvedev, not Putin even as Bush celebrated the commencement of NATO membership for Croatia and Albania, saying, “Henceforth, should any danger threaten your people, America and the NATO alliance will stand with you and no one will be able to take your freedom away” The Michael McFaul who snickered up his sleeve at outgoing Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov in 1995, saying, “In resigning as finance minister, Boris Fyodorov predicted the new course would result in rampant inflation, the return of price controls, and the arrest of privatization, leading to the collapse of the Russian economy by the end of 1994. A year later, this nightmarish scenario has yet to unfold…Admittedly, industrial production continues to decrease, gross domestic production is contracting, and serious enterprise restructuring has just begun. Nonetheless, the performance of the Russian economy in 1994 has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations.” or the Michael McFaul who was left egg-faced 3 years later when the Russian economy imploded – but not before Fyodorov was proven eerily prescient, as inflation rocketed from 5.73% in July to 84.47% in only 6 months.

        Could any of those guys throw a punch? Hard to say; they look in pretty good shape. But I can see why the video you attached is in English; his Russian doesn’t sound that great. Anyway, I think I’ve found the subject for my next post! Borrowing from Masha Gessen’s “Man Without A Face”, I think I’ll call it, “No Face, Mr. Putin? I’d Be Happy To Lend You One Of Mine”. I’d be glad for input.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I don’t know whether McFaul can throw a decent punch, but he makes me want to throw up!🙂

      • PvMikhail says:

        http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120330/172482777.html

        f#ck McFaul

        If somebody says something, at least don’t lie about it. Take criticism like a MAN!

    • cartman says:

      Did he also call Russia a “wild country” on twitter (or actually a “savage country”)? His term is becoming an embarrassing circus.

      • Leos Tomicek says:

        I translate that as ‘savage country’, yes he did say that. He also thinks that it is normal for an ambassador do meet with opposition figures rather often. I wonder if the ambassador of Russian in US also meets with figures like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich regularly? And if he did, would he not draw the attention of media?

        • marknesop says:

          An excellent analogy, Leos, and I think you know the answer. U.S. authorities would claim to have uncovered another “spy ring”, a la Anna Chapman, and the entire Russian Embassy staff would be deported quicker than you can say “Jackson Vanik”. But Kislyak should put Alexei Navalny’s theory to the test, and exercise his diplomatic immunity by punching out the next FOX News reporter who asks him a question. See how that’ll fly.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          McFaul himself translated “дикая страна” as “wild country”, claiming that he had “misspoken” and that he had really meant “wild NTV”.

          I should think that he really meant “barbarous”, not “wild”, because “wild” can have in context romantic overtones, as in “The Wild West” so beloved of Americans and in which the Colt-45 revolver was known as “the peacemaker”.

          So romantic to be on the receiving end of a 45 calibre slug!

          But who knows what dark semantics swirl in the recesses of Ambassador McFaul’s mind?

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Yes. He said: “Это – дикая страна”.

        Later, he tweeted “”I mispoke [SIC] in bad Russian, Did not mean to say ‘wild country.’ Meant to say NTV actions ‘wild’. I greatly respect Russia”.

        Ambassador McFaul must have been having lessons in the noble art of misspeaking off US Secretary of State Clinton

        See the video of his “harassment ” below, where at 2:32 he “misspeaks”:

        http://www.ntv.ru/video/novosti/301326/

        Would you buy a used car off this man?
        🙂

        • Misha says:

          Re: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/jan-june12/russia_03-05.html

          Shortly after the last Russian presidential election, Michael McFaul cancelled out of a scheduled PBS NewsHour appearance, leaving Margaret Warner to conclude that he’s in an awkward position, because the US government is seeking cooperation with Russia on a number of issues.

          At the time, I said that some of the biggest critics of the Russian government would probably see McFaul’s cancellation as a wimpy move. The Russian government can’t be so happy about that change as well. McFaul could’ve come on and said that despite the stated imperfections having some validity, it nevertheless seems likely that Putin did actually receive over 50% of the vote and without conclusive proof to the contrary, the US recognizes the result – which essentially happens to be the case.

          McFaul does have the benefit of doubt option of formally saying that his PBS decline was due to some last minute problems, unrelated to seeking to keep a low profile.

          In response to these thoughts, someone with US foreign policy establishment ties and a fairly prominent journo communicated to me the view that McFaul’s cancellation was likely the State Department’s doing, on the premise of not wanting to risk a ruffling of feathers. US diplomacy hasn’t exactly been diplomatic as evidenced by H. Clinton and S. Rice using words like “despicable” and “disgusting” to describe the Russian government’s stance on Syria – which IMO comes acroos as being a more prudent route than what the Anglo-American governments have sought.

        • yalensis says:

          Wow, I had not seen this footage, this is quite revealing of a man (McFaul) who is in completely over his head. You always think of Ambassador as such a high and lofty title, anybody with that title is almost like a god among men. Especially representing a nation like USA which is a leading world power. And here you see this inadequate fumbling little clown. I don’t care so much about the дикая страна comment, that is just his poor knowledge of Russian; and, by the way, it is not required that a diplomat be completely fluent in the other language; but if he is not, he should always communicate through an interpretor and not be shown to struggle like this, it is simply comical.
          Anyhow, I am more interested in the bit (at 3:35 in) where Ponomarev puts his arms around McFaul and tries to physically drag him away from the attractive redhead reporter. But McFaul shakes him off, he is on a roll and wants to continue to make a fool of himself. That shows not only an interesting relationship (between McFaul and Ponomarev), but also the fact that Ponomarev feels completely comfortable manhandling this international emissary! Whose tail is wagging whose dog??

          • Moscow Exile says:

            And don’t forget that the hapless McFaul is not only the United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation, he also an academic – a professor at Stanford no less!

            “McFaul earned a B.A. in International Relations and Slavic Languages and an M.A. in Slavic and East European Studies from Stanford University in 1986. As a Rhodes Scholar, he earned a Ph.D. in International Relations from Oxford University in 1991…

            A professor of political science at Stanford University, McFaul is the former director of the university’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. A Hoover Institution Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow with friendly ties to neoconservatives, McFaul is a Democrat who was the architect of U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy on Russia”. (Source: Wiki)

            Who says educational standards are falling?
            🙂

            • kirill says:

              I am biased because I am a scientist, but these humanities degrees look like mail order nonsense to me. Where is the sober analysis? Political BS appears to the main product of this “research”. I suspect they could not find sock puppets like McFaul amongst people with science or engineering PhDs. Not enough “logical flexibility”, I guess.

              • Misha says:

                One issue being the matter of the hard sciences of formulas and equations versus a soft one, largely open to interpretation.

                IMO, “Political Studies” is a more appropriate substitute for “Political Science.”

  33. Moscow Exile says:

    And in this morning’s Moscow Times, the U.S. State Department Defends McFaul’s Twitter Use:

    “At a media briefing by the U.S. Department of State on Thursday, deputy spokesman Mark Toner…defended McFaul’s and other U.S. ambassadors’ use of Twitter as a tool for communicating with local citizens.

    ” ‘These are ways for chiefs of mission to raise issues for discussion. They’re directed at a broad number of followers to air these issues out, if you will. It’s an informal way to communicate’, Toner said, according to a transcript of the briefing”.

    Here’s one of McFaul’s recent tweets concerning arrests made at Pushkin Square earlier this month:

    “Troubling to watch arrests of peaceful demonstrators at Pushkin Square”.

    Raising issues for discussion?

    Is that an ambassador’s function: to raise issues concerning the domestic policies of a state to which he has been accredited?

    McFaul said in Russian to the NTV film crew that approached him on a Moscow street on Thursday, March 29th: “Your ambassador to our country walks around all the time without this. They do not interfere with his work. And you are always with me – at home…Aren’t you ashamed? It is an insult to your country when you do this, do you understand that?”

    He told the NTV crew that he was meeting Ponomarev, a man whom he had known for 25 years, and that such a meeting was part of his job, just like his meeting two days earlier with President Dmitry Medvedev had been.

    US State official Toner, in defending McFaul’s tweeting, has described the ambassador’s tweets as “rhetorical”, adding that his tweets did not necessarily reflect formal concerns over surveillance by the Russian government or media.

    “A rhetorical question, in and of itself, is not directed at anyone” said Toner. “Many of our chiefs of mission have Twitter accounts and they are allowed to express themselves. We have full confidence in their ability to express themselves on matters of U.S. policy.”

    Well, here’s my rhetorical question about McFaul: How often does the US Ambassador to the Russian Federation tweet Moscow prostitutes?

    Well, I”ll tell you: nobody knows how often, and as far as I know, he doesn’t. Nevertheless a person whom he communicated with by tweeting the other day goes by the name of “prostitutkamila”, which makes you wonder.

    Or does it?

    I think my rhetorical question concerning McFaul’s tweeting habits should be open for discussion.

    See: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/us-state-department-defends-mcfauls-twitter-use/455811.html

    • yalensis says:

      Does McFaul’s wife know about his relationship with the beautiful Russian prostitute Mila? (Mila is a tough but sassy girl with a troubled past, she fell in with the wrong crowd, but has a heart of gold.) Ooo this could turn into a real soap opera!

  34. Moscow Exile says:

    “U.S. ambassador to Moscow accuses Russian journalists of hacking” says the Los Angeles Times of March 30th:

    “MOSCOW — The only thing missing from the scene was one of those heroic images of Lenin peering from a shop window, or perhaps a glimpse of the Soviet hammer and sickle fluttering over the nearby Kremlin.

    When the new U.S. ambassador to Russia arrived this week for a private meeting with a prominent human rights activist, he was confronted by a crew from a Kremlin-controlled television station that blocked his path and peppered him with questions. Uniformed men, tall wool military hats on their heads, were there too.

    And a burly civilian held up a sign with a pointed question for Ambassador Michael McFaul’s host: ‘What is the price of the motherland today?’ ”

    Notice how the LAT sets the scene? Only images of Lenin and the Soviet Hammer and Sickle were missing, otherwise it would have been just like the USSR – you know, the place that the proud former KGB spy Putiin yearns to return to.

    And those wicked Kremlin hacks blocked McFaul’s path – they were clearly obstructing and harrassing him, weren’t they?

    Oh yes! And there was “a burly civilian” who was holding up a sign that read: “What is the price of the motherland today?”

    Well take another look at the NTV clip that I posted earlier:

    http://www.ntv.ru/video/novosti/301326/

    Can you see the hacks that “blocked his path”?

    Can you see anyone obstructing McFaul?

    At 2:52 in the clip you can see a couple of cops and someone in a military style uniform; they are at a distance of about 10 yards from McFaul. Their presence is what caused the ambassador to “misspeak”, or so he said in a tweet after the incident. (As a matter of fact, I think the “military man” is a “прокурор” – a state prosecutor – but I can’t be sure.)

    Was he really so worried by their presence?

    I fail to see why: there is always a 24-hour presence of cops at any embassy or any ambassadorial residence in Moscow. McFaul walks past such cops every day when he leaves his residence and goes up the road to the US embassy. But whilst being “harrassed” and at the same time observing the presence of cops nearby, he “misspoke” – or so he said.

    And right at the very end of the clip, can you see the “burly civilian” holding up the sign.

    Well, as a matter of fact, you can’t see much of him. He has grey hair and appears to be in his 50s. He seems to be of short stature and his physique is hard to discern, for his torso is completely obstructed from view by the not so large sign that he is holding up in front of himself.

    Burly?

    I shoudn’t say so.

    And McFaul most definitely was referring to Russia when he used the Russian adjective “дикий” to describe “this country” (Russia) when he said “Это – дикая страна”; it was definitely the English word “wild” that he chose to translate “дикий” with in his tweet made later, where he said that it was simply a slip of his forked tongue and that he had meant to say “NTV” and not “country”. However, having said “This is a wild country”, he went on at length to say “It isn’t normal…it doesn’t happen with us, it doesn’t happen in England, it doesn’t happen in Germany: it only happens with you”.

    With you people that work for NTV or with you Russians that live in this “wild country” and unlike those people that live in the USA, England and Germany?

    Who do you think you are kidding, Mr. McFaul?
    😦

    Or should I say “Mike” as Navalny seems to prefer doing?
    🙂

    • kirill says:

      Too bad for the liberasts, but there is no potential for them to milk this clown and his circus to bash Putin and his “regime”. Instead they will look like idiots like McFaul. As if western TV news camera crews have never been in anyone’s face. Morons.

      • PvMikhail says:

        Russian media only use western tactics learned in the past 20 years. If he is not ready for this, it is McFaul’s problem.

        • McFaul’s is becoming ever more extraordinary and outrageous;

          1. To repeat, viz his comment about the conduct of the police at Pushkin Square, it is emphatically not the function of an ambassador to carry on a running commentary about the conduct of the police of his host country.

          2. Nor is it the function of an ambassador to have secret or “private” meetings with members of the political opposition to his host government, the purpose of which can only be to plot against that government. The US ambassador can meet with whomever he wants but he should do it openly and publicly and not in this secretive way.

          3. It is absolutely not the function of an ambassador to go out of his way to insult his host country by publicly calling it “wild” or “savage”.

          Once upon a time and not so long ago an ambassador who behaved in this way would have certainly been expelled for conduct incompatible with his diplomatic status. In the eighteenth or nineteenth century such conduct might even have provoked a war. In 1870 the French ambassador on instructions from his government insisted on barging in and speaking to the Prussian King in a hotel in which the King was on holiday in Ems. This was enough to, provoke war between Germany and France. The US has long considered itself exempt from normal diplomatic protocols and because of its power has long been able to get away with it. For how much longer one wonders?

          • kirill says:

            That is a very good point. I am not sure why Russia doesn’t kick this idiot out. But perhaps then they will start crying rivers about how Russia suppresses free speech and freedom of association. Blah. Blah.

            I think this McFaul monkey is openly fomenting sedition and should be given his expulsion notice with this stated clearly.

            • marknesop says:

              Russia would be very foolish to do that – his withdrawal would be a thousand times more embarrassing if he were removed from the post by his own country because his chances of contributing anything positive to a rapprochement between the two countries were increasingly poisoned by his attitude and behavior. And you can be sure they are watching. You’re absolutely right that if he were expelled – very, very doubtful on the basis of what has occurred so far – Russia would have ceded the high ground to the United States, to caper and point and shout about repression and freedomfreedomfreedom. If he continues to shred his own credibility, Russia should let him do it. And I would point out that he announced, in his here-I-come-ready-or-not speech that Yalensis linked, his intention of meeting with activists and dissidents. The real surprise here should be that he set up such a meeeting on the sly, and plainly expected to conduct it in secret, not to be found on any official record of his movements – which he has admitted, whether or not he meant to. That’s the part that makes him look bad, not his let-me-tell-you-what-freedom-is impromptu speech on the sidewalk.

          • PvMikhail says:

            I think McFaul destroys the remaining image of US in Russia, that’s why they don’t kick him out. His retarded actions bring the real intentions of US into the light and Russian people can see, that they can’t be trusted for a moment. Abroad nobody cares what McFaul does, this show is for Russia, and I think they suck at playing right now…

            Russian people have BRAINS, I know it is different from home, mr McFaul

            • yalensis says:

              If I were an Ambassador, I would (1) not have a Twitter account, (2) not have a Facebook or any other social media, (3) never blog or comment on blogs, (3) limit my e-mail use to bare minimum with encrypted messages, and (4) communicate to the public only via carefully prepared press releases written by professional diplomatic aides. Anything short of that is Amateur Hour. Speaking of which, McFaul reminds me of an overage college student who thinks his career is a prank. Might as well appoint Borat ambassador to Russia. Actually, Borat might do a better job!

              • PvMikhail says:

                In the BBC documentary I had the impression, that he is not amateur. Either he receives very bad advices from home to be some kind of social blogger hero, or he is really f@#king stupid. Or the combination of two.

                Question: Everybody have seen the 4 part BBC documentary about the Putin system and its environment, haven’t you? If not, it is a must see!

          • AK says:

            There’s really very little point in kicking McFaul out.

            (1) His behavior if anything reflects badly on the US, not on Russia. Not Russia’s concern.

            (2) Lots of scope for PR. (Is anyone seriously concerned about the outcome of any “plots” with the likes of Ponomarev? LOL).

            (3) On the contrary, negative PR from kicking him out.

            (4) Obama was personally invested in McFaul’s appointment, so it’s better to let him keep face as not doing so would benefit Romney, who is far more hostile to Russia.

  35. Dear Yalensis,

    A couple of weeks ago you speculated that McFaul would not survive in his post very long. I questioned this when you said it and pointed out that ambassadorships in the US are awarded only after prolonged negotiations and on a purely partisan basis.

    McFaul’s latest antics are causing me doubts. I am starting to think you may be right. His behaviour is so way out of order that there must be people within the State Department who are becoming concerned about it even if they share his views. From their point of view what he is doing has the opposite effect to that intended since it helps Putin by discrediting the opposition. As for Obama, if he really does want to improve relations with Russia after the election as one rather suspects, he must be wondering how this is possible when his ambassador in Moscow is such a loose cannon.

    • Just one last point in this flurry, let us be absolutely clear that what NTV did was entirely proper. In saying this I make no endorsement of the channel as a whole. However the person who acted inappropriately was McFaul who is conducting private or secret meetings outside the embassy with members of the political opposition. That is scandalous behaviour coming from an ambassador and NTV was acting entirely properly in tracking him.

      Incidentally one does wonder who tipped NTV off. Was it the FSB or might it possibly have been disgruntled diplomats within the embassy annoyed by what McFaul is doing? I think it is more likely that it was someone inside the opposition. They all seem to detest each other and I would not be surprised if one faction leaked the news to NTV in order to discredit and embarrass another.

      • kirill says:

        Well, then, McFaul should have known not to stick is face into other people’s business. If they try to use him, then it is entirely his own fault.

        My conspiracy theory is that things in the USA and the west are not what they appear to be on the economic front. The US GDP growth statistics during the last 20 years can be dismissed as inflated garbage given the brazen manipulation of the inflation rate definition around 1990 (e.g. introduction of hedonics adjustments). The real inflation rate in the USA is not under 3% but over 6%. General Mills recently informed its shareholders that the producer price increases it faces are about 10%. To me this is enough evidence to not take the GDP deflator value of 1.03 used for many years now as credible. It should be between 1.06 and 1.1. Given the claimed 3% growth rate, the actual growth rate is negative to the tune of 3% or more. This is consistent with the shipping of jobs to China and the disappearance of high paying manufacturing jobs in the last 20 years, which are replaced by minimum wage service jobs.

        This contraction is gradual enough that it is hard to perceive except for places such as at the supermarket where food prices are increasing at 10% per year.

      • marknesop says:

        I think it’s at least possible if not probable that low-paid tipsters for all the major networks watch McFaul every time he appears outside, since his behavior is increasingly newsworthy. How did paparazzi follow Lady Diana everywhere she went, even when she pulled standard dodges like leaving by service entrances or trying to conceal her face? Hack her phone? I think we can all agree that’s extremely unlikely. I’m quite sure that even if McFaul had not set up his clandestine meeting by phone, he would have been rumbled by News crews, simply because what he says is newsworthy and the nuttier he acts, the better.

        • marknesop says:

          This story would seem to confirm my earlier suspicions that NTV relies on informants to know when McFaul is on the street. And if he did nothing newsworthy, they would stop. Notice the reliably Russophobic Masha Lipman characterizes NTV’s behavior as “sloppy journalism”, “crass work” and “Anti-Americanism”. I swear, the American conservatives are becoming more and more like the government of their beloved Israel every day; there, you see the same determined suppression of any criticism by labeling everything that is not open-armed acceptance “anti-semitism”. While he’s arguimg that harrassment of American ambassadors does not happen anywhere else in the world but Russia, he should note that nobody is being “harrassed” but him; the biggest complaints about being followed before him were made by Luke Harding. And the level of interest in McFaul is driven directly by his erratic and undiplomatic behavior.

          • kirill says:

            Excellent points. Now the Russian media, which is doing what the western media does, is being accused of wrong doing. Western hypocrisy is simply absurd. Who are they trying to fool with this intellectually insulting drivel?

      • yalensis says:

        FSB tapped McFoul’s phone. Idiot is not using secure channel!

    • yalensis says:

      “I transmit zis information to Vladimir.”🙂

    • Hunter says:

      From their point of view what he is doing has the opposite effect to that intended since it helps Putin by discrediting the opposition. As for Obama, if he really does want to improve relations with Russia after the election as one rather suspects, he must be wondering how this is possible when his ambassador in Moscow is such a loose cannon.

      Here’s another angle to look at it from. Obama actually does want to improve relations with Russia and has put forward McFaul as a combination sacrificial lamb and trojan horse for the opposition. They welcome him with open arms and in return he poisons their brand even further with his remarks. What better present could Obama get for Putin than McFaul? An Ambassador who did the polar opposite of McFaul would have been seen by Obama’s opponents in the USA as proof that he is a communist/socialist/too soft on Russia/whatever other label you want to choose, but McFaul prevents that while at the same time continuing the discrediting of the opposition that has been going on.

      What might be happening is that McFaul doesn’t realize his true role and is just acting as himself.

      • Misha says:

        In the post-Soviet era, Repub and Dem presidential administrations have had hot and cold relations with Russia.

        Assuming Obama wins in November, we shall see just how improved Russian-American relations become.

        Refer to the past, when events change the mood like the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (Russia get viewed better), as well as the arrest of Khodorkovsky and the 2008 war in the former Georgian SSR (when the perception of Russia becomes generally more negative).

  36. Moscow Exile says:

    Breaking news in the UK Telegraph:

    “A dramatic plot to assassinate a Russian politician on the streets of London has been uncovered by MI5”.

    And the “Russian politician”?

    None other than the self-styled envoy-in-exile to the “Republic of Chechnya”, Akhmed Zakayev.

    It really is a shame that in the English language there is no way of differentiating between “Russkiy” and “Rossiyanin”, although I shouldn’t have thought it hard for the Telegraph to differentiate between “politician” and “alleged murderer”.

    And Lipman acuses NTV of “sloppy journalism”.

    Doesn’t happen in the “Free World”, does it?

    See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9178628/MI5-warns-of-assassination-plot-against-Redgrave-friend.html

    • PvMikhail says:

      Zakayev is not even a politician, and not even Russian LOL. He’s a chechen terrorist. I wonder who wants to threaten his meaningless life? He could not do much in Russia in recent years, so I don’t think that the government wants anything from him as he is more valuable dead than alive. Litvinenko 2.0
      The joke is, that some years ago, I think in 2010, Kadyrov told him to come home and reconcile with recent leadership. He was afraid and stayed at London. However in the light of what happened to Sulim Yamadayev, maybe his decision was not the best one…

      • kirill says:

        This is an old ploy: kill one of your own expendable pawns and then yell that your opponents are to blame. Most of the population is gullible enough to fall for such tricks, unfortunately. Just as with the Litvinenko case. He was a nobody and a loser. Killing him and not his mafia boss Berezovsky makes no sense whatsoever. Also, the use of Polonium, smeared on a plane doing flights to Moscow is a transparent set-up attempt. Why use Polonium? To incriminate yourself in a flashy way? WTF?

        • marknesop says:

          If I recall correctly, polonium traces were found also at Berezovsky’s offices. Similarly, the last interview ever conducted with Litvinenko assessed him as unstable and reported that he had spoken of blackmailing his previous associates. You could argue that was a setup as well, and that Litvinenko never said any of those things, but it seems odd that the polonium traces in Berzovsky’s offices were on the photocopier. Why would Litvinenko be using Berezovsky’s photocopier (I believe Berezovsky’s explanation was that Litvinenko had frequently visited his offices)?

          • PvMikhail says:

            Pollonium, like a bad Hollywood movie. “Russia exports agents of mass destruction!!!”
            In any serious case, KGB would have just used some more simple tactics. There are lot of deaths which can be seen as “accidents”, don’t have to use highly radioactive material…

            • Moscow Exile says:

              I remember Tin-Tin of the Guardian, aka Harding the Plagiarist, doing a feature on the Litvinenko case last year. He wrote that the killers “mustn’t have known” that polonium is highly traceable (because “KGB thugs” are all retards, see) and that the isotope trail led back to Russia, ergo: Putin did it.

              Firstly: It has not yet been ascertained whether Litvinenko was murdered.

              If Tin-Tin had gone to the Westminster Coroner’s Court to get a statement about Litvinenko’s death, he wouldn’t have got one – because there isn’t one. As regards Litvinenko’s untimely demise, there isn’t even a “cause of death unknown” to be had from the coroner.

              Secondly: The killers mustn’t have known that polonium is highly traceable?

              Poor reasoning there, cub-reporter! The persons that transported the polonium to the UK, if killers they indeed were, might very well not have known about the traceability of the isotope, but to say that they must not have have known about this traceability means that one is logically obliged to believe that this is the case, which begs the question that there was an order to kill Litvinenko by means of polonium and, because that isotope is traceable, the killers, therefore, mustn’t have known about the fact that isotope trail would lead back to them – either that or they were unbelievably stupid. (For a person that graduated in English, I find it strange that former Guardian Moscow Bureau Chief Harding does not know that the epistemic use of the modal auxiliary verb “must” indicates very high probability based on perceived evidence.)

              On the other hand, if Litvinenko was murdered, his killers might very well have known about the traceability of the polonium isotope; that’s why it might have been chosen to kill him: so that the finger of accusation could point well and truly towards Sauron’s Dark Tower in the Evil Empire.

              And Gessen argues in her latest book on Putin: all polonium comes from Russia (not quite true); one needs the highest state authorization to access polonium (true, if accessed legally); Putin, therefore, must have given this authorization; Putin murdered Litvinenko QED.

              Razor sharp logic leading to a stunning, irrefutable conclusion – I don’t think!

              In fact, after Litvinenko’s death, Scotland Yard’s finest found traces of the polonium isotope all over London and, curiously, no traces of it in places where it most certainly had been. And because of traces of polonium found on him, Scotland Yard and the British Crown Prosecution Service are trying to fit Lugovoi up with Litvinenko’s death.

              Well how about those who handle Berezovskiy’s office photocopier, on which polonium traces were also found? Shouldn’t they be suspect?

              • Misha says:

                Never mind Litvinenko’s Italian friend, arrested for arms smuggling, who also has Polonium traces (if I’m not offhand mistaken) in his system.

                Litvinenko was said to have converted to Islam, while being sympathetic to Chechen separatists.

                There’s a reasoned theory on how he was actually poisoned.

                • yalensis says:

                  Lotta religious conversions going on in that London Mafia gang. Litvinenko converted from Orthodox Christian to Islam, and Berezovsky converted from Jewish to Orthodox Christian. Now it is Zakaev’s turn: he must convert from Islam to Jewish!

            • yalensis says:

              @PvMikhail: There are lot of deaths which can be seen as “accidents”, don’t have to use highly radioactive material…
              I agree. If KGB wanted to poison someone, then a single drop of digitalis in their martini, and the guy is dead 30 seconds later with nothing suspicious showing on the autopsy.
              How do I know this? Because I watched Casino Royale like about 10 times!

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Lead poisoning is also cheap, speedy and effficient as well – If correctly administered in the right dosage in the form of a bullet.

                • If anybody really wants to read a completely ridiculous book on the Litvinenko affair then I would refer them to the book on the subject written by the BBC’s former Moscow correspondent Martin Sixsmith. In its acceptance of paranoid anti Russian conspiracy theories it takes some beating. The book reveals the heavy influence of Berezovsky, who Sixsmith calls the “leader of Russia’s democratic opposition” and the Putin’s “real opponent”. One can get a sense of its complete absurdity from the fact that Sixsmith claims in the book that an informer drove him past a building in Moscow, which is the FSB’s poison laboratory. Sixsmith’s “evidence” that the building is used to fabricate poisons and that it belongs to the FSB is that the same doubtless well paid informer told him as much. The possibility that he was being literally taken for a ride never seems to have crossed Sixsmith’s mind once.

                  Sixsmith has recently published a history of Russia that is every bit as bad.

                  On the subject of Litvinenko, there has been so much misinformation that it is very difficult to separate fiction from fact. I am absolutely sure that Putin had nothing to do with Litvinenko’s death and I strongly doubt that the FSB did either. Polonium 210 as several people in comments here have pointed out is just about the most complex and cumbersome murder weapon one can come up with. Apparently it has to be carried around in a special sealed container since it is so dangerous and toxic. No one has come up with a remotely convincing explanation of how Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned with it. According to the British police Litvinenko is supposed to have ingested it when it was put in his tea at the bar of the Millenium Hotel. Given that the polonium must be held in a special container no one has explained how Lugovoi or Kovtun are supposed to have put the polonium in the tea without Litvinenko or anyone else noticing. Since some of the strongest traces of polonium are supposed to have been found inside the teapot from which Lugovoi and Kovtun were also drinking such a scenario would anyway in theory be equally consistent with Litvinenko trying to poison Lugovoi and Kovtun as it is with Lugovoi and Kovtun using polonium to poison Litvinenko. The German authorities who have looked at the evidence for a possible case against Kovtun have come to precisely this conclusion and have said that the so called “polonium trail”, which appears to be the only evidence the British have against Lugovoi and Kovtun, is equally consistent with an attempt to poison Lugovoi and Kovtun as it is with Lugovoi and Kovtun using polonium to poison Litvinenko.

                  Having said this I should stress that all this is pure speculation since the British have refused to provide any of the evidence of the case they say they have. A US journalist working for the New York Post who has been allowed access by the Procurator General in Moscow to Litvinenko’s file says that the only “evidence” the British have provided in support of their demand for Lugovoi’s extradition is a brief two page statement signed by a British official. The British have so far refused to publish a copy of the report of the autopsy that was carried out on Litvinenko after he died so there is not even conclusive evidence apart from press leaks that Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium. As for the famous statement that Litvinenko is supposed to have made on his death bed accusing Putin of his murder, that is undoubtedly a fabrication by Berezovsky’s associate Goldfarb.

                  The one thing I would say is that there is supposed to be a Coroner’s Inquest underway in London, which is examining the circumstances of Litvinenko’s death. This is a kind of legal investigation that takes place sometimes (not always) in Britain where there has been an unnatural death. Supposedly the evidence the British authorities claim to have will be released to the inquest and made public. However I have my doubts. The inquest seems to be taking forever (they are usually quickly over and last no more than a day) and I strongly suspect that if and when it ever does take place it will descend into another circus with all the doubts and uncertainties about the case left unresolved.

              • marknesop says:

                An overdose of many substances that are naturally occurring in the body will have the same effect, and are much less likely to be detected as they are expected to be present – although a particularly alert medical examiner (such as is found in every detective novel but almost never in real life) might notice it was a little high.

                I learned that from asking the ship’s physician how she would murder someone so that it would look like a natural death. I forget the name of the agent she mentioned – and I wouldn’t repeat it here anyway, as it might give someone ideas – but whatever it was, would induce a heart attack very quickly and would afterward be very unlikely to be noticed.

                • kirill says:

                  Yes, that is exactly it. There are dozens of compounds including KCl that can induce heart attacks and leave little trace because they are already present naturally in the system. But I recall it was routine during the cold war to treat Russians (aka Soviets) as mentally inferior (need to copy advance western tech, even though their education level was world class, etc.). So any buffoonery would be normal for them.

            • marknesop says:

              If polonium is so readily available in Russia and is the Russian assassination weapon of choice, why have no journalists or political opponents been killed that way in Russia? We keep hearing about Putin – and many before him, to be fair – slaughtering everybody who opposes them, and people nod and wink knowingly at each other when one such “falls from a balcony” or “is the victim of a hit-and-run accident” or some such pedestrian instrument of removal. Why would the FSB suddenly decide to try a new and dramatically undeniable method of killing a rival (who had become much more of a problem to his former colleagues than to Russia) in a foreign country where it would scream, “Russians did it!!!”?

              • kirill says:

                Everyone forgets that you could actually order Polonium online in small quantities. It’s not Plutonium. Since it is an alpha emitter it is safe if sealed (no beta or gamma emissions). But handling some fine powder is another story and would have to be done in a containment chamber (i.e. using a teaspoon to put it in someone’s tea will get it to spread all over the place and onto clothing, etc).

                So the whole claim that Polonium could “only be supplied by the Russian state” is a load of unadulterated rubbish. Berezovsky and his billions could easily afford to buy enough of it from commercial resellers (in small individual quantities) to stage this farce. I think the total cost would be under 20 million dollars, certainly a small price to pay to bring down the Putin regime.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Western journalists have presented over and over again as irrefutable proof that Vladimir Putin ordered that Polonium-210 be used to assassinate his sworn enemy Litvinenko their oft repeated line that that radioactive substance is only manufactured in the Evil Empire, where, because of the common use of that isotope as a “neutron trigger” in a nuclear device, its control and and distribution is strictly regulated by tbe highest authorities.

                  However, Polonium-210 has other uses. It is present, for example, in small quantities in “anti-static brushes used in photography laboratories.

                  The “Staticmaster” ionising brush is a photographic laboratory anti-static device that makes use of Polonium-210. According to some sources, Staticmaster brushes are still freely available on the market. (I supppose that the rapid growth in digital photography has led to a huge fall in demand for these photographic ionisers.)

                  According to one US photographer: “If the FSB [the former KGB] wanted to poison someone with polonium-210 they would only have to go to… any of the big photo dealers and buy a bunch of brushes or, even better, the refill cartridges. The polonium could be removed and powdered quite easily”.

                  See: http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/news/Polonium210_present_in_antistatic_dust_brush_news_102468.html

                  And not only the FSB could buy such cartridges: anyone can.

                  However,Masha Gessen reckons Putin bumped off Litvinenko.

                  Well she would though, wouldn’t she?

                • Dear Moscow Exile,

                  Masha Gessen not only believes (or says she believes – the difference is important) that Putin ordered Litvinenko killed but she also says she believes that Putin was behind the 1999 apartment bombings. Her book is in fact essentially a rehash of any and every anti Putin rumour or story you have ever heard all presented as fact. Needless to say she has no more evidence that Putin was behind the apartment bombings than she does that Putin ordered Litvinenko dead.

                  I have only glanced at the book but I have read in full Masha Gessen’s article on the Khodorkovsky affair in the current edition of Vanity Fair. I have already discussed how she completely and surely intentionally misrepresents the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. She also significantly omits Khodorkovsky’s successful defeat of a proposed tax of the oil industry, which Kudrin and Gref have both said was achieved by systematic bribery of the Duma deputies, and which in my opinion was the true starting point of what became the Khodorkovsky affair. This omission, like her misrepresentation of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, must be deliberate. When someone alters the truth in this way by engaging in omissions and misrepresentations of this sort one has to wonder what they really believe and what their true motives are.

                • marknesop says:

                  Makes you wonder how this group came to be labeled, “Intellectuals”, doesn’t it? “Shepherds” would be more accurate – leaders of the sheep who believe their lurid fantasies.

                • Misha says:

                  Like the Litvenenko-Polonium connection, the one suggesting a Russian government tie to apartment bombings is faulty. Upon a quick recollection requiring further follow-up for accuracy sake:

                  The Russian government didn’t need to create an excuse for militarily replying to the increased havoc in Chechnya during Maskhadov’s presidency. The “evidence” is some journo coming across a Russian security operation that involved a situation using a vacated building area for an anti-terrorism drill. As a security operation, there’s a basis to believe that the Russian government wouldn’t be happy about a confidential exercise being monitored by an outside source. If I correctly recall, the journo in question was reprimanded – will have to check. This matter might’ve become more dramatized if the journo in question died – again would’ve to check on the specifics.

                  Immediately reminded of how a given Russian journalist dying is by default, the suggested result of a Russian government directive.

  37. PvMikhail says:

    Greetings people. This is a little bit OFF, however I think I have to share it with you.
    I don’t really know the author of this article/post and her background, but she often writes to increasingly liberast RIANovosti about Russian “lifestyle” habits in pitiful, sometimes disrespectful tune. She appears to be some kind of expat herself, but her words suggest, that at least some good sense remained in her. The problem is may seem like girltalk, but bigger than it seems. The attitude can be observed in the behavior of big number of Russian (Moskva) expatriates, which greatly influences the already bad image of Russia abroad.
    So the situation is: an expat is talking about a more snob and moronic expat who pities her for being too Russian. (Apparently she is not enough Russian for me…)

    http://globalcomment.com/2010/editors-diary-moscow-expats-and-going-native/

    I hate the kinds of people described in the article. If they hate everything about a country except the shopping centres, why don’t they just go “home” and shut up, while serving their ideal american men?! This is not the first time I hear this mentality from EastEuropean expat women. I have read more girltalky from Eastern-named women complaining about poor quality men here and so on. My first thought is: maybe they just want to justify (in front of themselves) their past as cheap mail order brides, common phenomena of the turbulent 90s? Money, luxury are OK, but living without pride can be hard. Or it’s just me…
    Sorry, but I am a patriotic person, and this lack of national pride just hurts me, no matter what country is in question.

    About RIANovosti:
    I don’t know if anyone noticed the state agency’s twist toward liberast line. I have written to them about this in a friendly letter, describing my loyality to them for at least 5 years, but they haven’t even answered. First this Mark Bennets guy, but he is OK, he is British. Could have been worse. However this Konstantin Eggert named self-identified NATO “Atlantic” brown nose can really make me flip my lid. There was also an older foreign man, i don’t remember his name, who constantly wrote about how bad is Russia compared to USA and Finland, that Russian workforce is lazy and stupid compared to others and so on. Fortunately the guy apparently left RIAN, because I can’t see him anywhere around. Maybe he is dead?🙂
    So the question is: how far a state media can go with not just anti-government, but outright anti-nation propaganda?

    One more to this topic: yesterday I saw a hysteria in the Hungarian news about changes in the board of Ekho Moskvy. Of course I know what is in the background. They only showed one man: Varfolomeev who reminded people about the clash between Putin and Venediktov in the beginning of the year and called the reshuffle a revenge. Of course our TV said that Putin was angered and used obscenities against Venediktov back then. I have read the transcript of that conversation and this is distortion, the worst kind.
    The situation is the same: Gazprommedia, a subsidiary of a government company owns a media outlet which – Putin was right – pours sh!t on him and the government 24/7, even countering logical sense, as in the case of NATO missile defence happened.

    • kirill says:

      RIAN, the English language version, appears to have been infiltrated by people who are not quite loyal to Russia. For example, they routinely use the exact same language to describe politics in Russia as western media propagandists. Specifically, the use of the term “pro-Kremlin parties”. This phrase is a distortion of the facts and not merely some proper English phrase. I could just as easily use the term “pro-White House” or “pro 10 Downing Street” parties. The concept of a loyal opposition applies to Russia and not just sanctified western beacons of humanity. Some radicals who stage nothing but street riots (Limonovists, etc.) are not proper opposition parties or groups. They are hudlums and seditionists. It is irrelevant if such groups are not active (through suppression and media blackouts) in the west.

      • Misha says:

        Kirill,

        One source tells me that some non-Russian Western personnel at RIAN are an issue, along with some English language mass media experienced Russians.

        I recall one not so distant RIAN news blip referring to “pro-Russian hardliners in Transnistria.”

        In an anticipated short bit, the beans will be formally spilled on these matters, in a way that has been very much downplayed.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Dear PvMikhail,

        Allow me to add some comments concerning expatriate attitudes in Moscow.

        Antonova wrote in her above linked article that the woman with whom she had a chance meeting in Moscow declared to her “You’ve gone native!”

        I have very often had the same experience with fellow countrymen, who usually barely hide the accusatory or surprised tone of their statement.

        “Well, I suppose it’s easier for you”, said Antonova’s interlocutor at GUM, referring to the fact that Antonova is a native speaker of Russian. (By the way, I think TsUM is far posher than GUM.)

        Again, I too have very often had that statement made to me, although I am not a Russian native speaker.

        Those persons who have believed that my life must be easier here because I have a command of Russian have, however, almost always had a minimal or, more often than not, no command of the Russian language. It also seems to me that those that accuse me of having gone native here, having discovered that my wife is Russian, believe that this fact must be a contributory factor towards the comparitive ease of the life that I enjoy in the Evil Empire.

        On this latter point, I should tend to agree!

        I soon began to realize how much these compatriots of mine that seemed to consider me as some species of “traitor” really detested living in Russia. I began to ask myself why they were here. Were they some kind of masochists? Did they take some perverse pleasure in living in a society that they clearly hated so much?

        I was once asked by a Russian acquaintance to proofread a note that she had written for her boss. She was the personal secretary to a senior partner in a very well-known and prestigious, international audit company here in Moscow. Her boss was British – an Englishman to be exact – and he had been away for some time on business in London and was soon due to return to Moscow. After I had checked her note, she asked me how she could close it in a friendly fashion. I suggested that she write: “Welcome back to Moscow!”

        “Oh no!” she replied, “I can’t write that”.

        “Why not?” I asked.

        “Because he hates Moscow”, she said.

        It seemed that her boss’s Russian wife did as well: she lived in London – permanently.

        I came to the conclusion that the Londoner in question only tolerated living in the Evil Empire because it paid well – very well, in fact. I realized that this was the case with most of the rest of my compatriots with whom I had become acquainted and who detested living here; who constantly bleated about Russia, its peoples, its food, its weather, its customs and traditions etc., etc. They were all parasites; strange parasites indeed, for they were all sucking greedily away on a host that they preferred dead.

        It was such people whom I have very often come across on various expat websites that began to spring up in Moscow in the 90s: the majority of these expatriates seem to have gathered online at such expat sites so as to bleat to each other about their trials and tribulations in this beleaguered land and to voice their scorn and disgust about its citizens.

        Many of them also use such communal sites so as to find out where to hire nannies and chauffeurs, gardeners, cleaners and other domestics etc.

        • PvMikhail says:

          Thank you for the insight. It is a very sad fact. At least I am not alone noticing this attitude. We also have these kinds of people here. The question is rhetoric, because you have already answered it: WHY ARE THEY HERE?

        • yalensis says:

          People with colonizer attitudes are all the same. You would read the same kind of thing in the 1800’s from British colonials who were forced to live in places like India and Africa. They were there primarily to make money, and the work was obviously lucrative, but this didn’t stop them from complaining bitterly about how benighted and filthy the natives were, and so on.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Exactly!

            For a long time I’ve had this opinion concerning many of my compatriots’ attitude to their placement in Russia. I’ve known men who have lived and worked here for many years, yet they refuse to speak Russian or even to learn simple phrases in that tongue. Many of them have never used the metro or have traveled by electric train out into the Moscow region. They live in a closed expat community where they just spend their time slagging off their host country and its citizens. After my arrival here in the early ’90s, I soon became sickened by this expat-colonizer attitude to “the natives” and stopped frequenting the bars – usually “Irish” ones – where these types congregated.

            It was many years ago when I first detected their animosity towards me by virtue of the fact that they thought I had “gone native”. Of course, I know many expats who are like me, and they have told me that they too have experienced similar experiences as I have, namely that they have been treated with a certain degree of suspicion by their compatriots because they have “gone native” or “have gone soft on the natives”.

            I’ve experienced on several occasions when fellow countrymen have said to me “Oh! You speak Russian”.

            [Pause]

            “So you like it here, do you? You like Russians?”

            To which enquiry I used to reply, “Yeah! I like them so much, I married one”.

            And then, on finding out that I am not only married to a Russian, but one who prefers to live in her Motherland, the “colonizers” often say something like “Oh right! I understand now”.

            You see, in the colonizers’ opinion, the natural desire of any “normal” Russian is to flee at the first opportunity that what the “Free World” perceives as a hell-hole, and any Russian that does not want to set off for “the Free World” must, therefore, have a vested interest in the state, namely he or she is a “Commie”; furthermore, any Englishman that not only wants to live with a “Red”, but has also chosen to live in the Evil Empire and to bring up his family there, must, therefore, also be under great suspicion of being a traitor to all that is good and wonderful in that blessed plot, that earth, that realm, that England.

            (With apologies to W. Shakespeare – not that he can hear them! 🙂 )

    • marknesop says:

      This is Natalia Antonova; Russian-born but spent a lot of time in the U.S., now back in Moscow and deputy editor of the Moscow News. She’s actually a very good writer, and her English is perfect and idiomatic. I have to assume her Russian is excellent as well, although I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by her in Russian, but it is her first language. She has a Russian husband and – recently – a Russian son.

      I may have read the piece differently than you, but I thought she was trying to say she was tired of people assuming she is pro-American just because she speaks English, and that she is suffering in the hellhole that is Russia after having tasted the delightful paradise that is America. She does not seem to feel that way at all. I have read pieces by her that are critical of Russia, but usually they are fair and based on personal observations rather than some nonsense she read in The Economist. Her blog is listed in my blogroll, although it is not very political since she married and is mostly about her family.

      • PvMikhail says:

        I have maybe missed the point. In my reading: Antonova is being a reasonable expat, but ideologically an expat after all. The other expat, whom Antonova talks to, thinks, that he is stupid for being too Russian and dating Russian men, when he could so much easier could find Clark Kent/Superman in America of elsewhere. Correct me if I am wrong.

        I talked about the rich expat, who don’t want to date Russian men, and don’t want Russian women as friends, because they are being “inferior” compared to Western people. She married a Joe instead for money and came back shopping, I guess?

        • marknesop says:

          It was my impression from the article that the expat woman was an expat American who only knew a few words of Russian. She seemed to be of the opinion that Antonova was making a great sacrifice by living in Russia, since she did not have to, like most Russians. Although there is a brisk trade in Russian brides for the west, there are very few western women looking for a Russian husband. Generally, I’m afraid, they are perceived as drunkards with either low-paying or no jobs who possess only manual-labour skills.

          • This abuse about “going native” was often directed at westerners who in the nineteenth and early twentieth century made a genuine effort to interest themselves in the societies of India and China where they had settled. Invariably such attitudes provoked hostility and mistrust on the part of other westerners.

            One consequence is that though the British were the colonial rulers of India for almost two centuries their knowledge of the great achievements of Indian civilisation are astonishingly poor. The finest Indologists are Russians and Germans and to this day the only complete translation of the most important Indian religious and philosophical text, the Rig Veda, into a European language is in Russian.

            Similarly the British and Americans despite their massive interaction with China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century are astonishingly ignorant of pre Manchu Chinese history, culture and philosophy. Even their grasp of the history of the last Chinese dynasty, the Manchu, is remarkably poor with the personality and policies of the Empress Dowager Cixi in particular almost entirely misunderstood. Most of the best non Chinese work on China has been done in Japan.

            Edward Said has of course made the same complaints about western cultural arrogance towards the Arab and Islamic world.

            This arrogant attitude towards other peoples and cultures has been the cause of endless trouble, bitterness and misunderstanding but it continues undiminished. It seems that absolutely nothing has been learnt or understood.

            • marknesop says:

              This very much parallels the storyline in “The Ugly American”. Homer Atkins, a regular-guy engineer who feels the joy of comradeship for anyone who has a love for or an interest in engineering regardless his colour or politics (this also parallels the character of fellow (fictional) American Jake Holman in the 1960’s classic, “The Sand Pebbles”, which chronicled the rise of Communism in China as an anodyne to being treated as coolies in their own land by foreigners), engages the local people in a joint project to build simple water pumps using bicycle power which will greatly revolutionize their irrigation of rice crops. The fictional people were known as Sarkhanese, but the people and the country were generally understood to represent Vietnam. The American diplomatic corps is contemptuous of the local people, and makes no effort to observe their customs or learn their language; its members spend most of their time socializing among themselves and trading stories of the backward peasants they have to work with. Their Soviet counterparts, by way of contrast, are sophisticated in Sarkhanese culture and fluent in the language, and are consequently regarded as interested partners and honest brokers of international assistance by the Sarkhanese government. Homer Atkins’ noble and unsparing effort at winning hearts and minds is seen in the greater context of a sadly wasted opportunity, and though it was a work of fiction, it was sufficiently thought-provoking to attract the interest of the President (JFK, at the time) and inspired the creation of the Peace Corps. I highly recommend both books.

  38. Misha says:

    PvMikhail,

    I don’t want to spoil what should be out shortly on the issues you raise.

    Briefly:

    The different online foreign language editions of RIAN vary in content. English RIAN caters to much of the English language mass media slants brought up at Mark’s blog.

    The hoopla over board changes at Ekho Moskvy typically downplay the instances of biased programming which arguably contributed to the personnel move in question.

    It’s considered healthy for a country to have critical views about it. I’d add that it’s unhealthy when the given nation exhibits a good number of situations where it’s identity is often negatively misrepresented.

  39. Misha says:

    Last sentence should be “its”.

    On the run.

  40. AK says:

    @Mark,

    Could you please update your blogroll to Da Russophile / http://darussophile.com/ as my blog?

    Explanation here: http://akarlin.com/2012/04/01/welcome-back/.

    I wasn’t able to transfer my blogroll, but your Kremlin Stooge will, needless to say, get into my blogroll as soon as I get time to create it.

    Thanks,
    Anatoly.

    @Everybody,

    As per above, my Russia blog is now at http://darussophile.com/.

    My blog on Everything Else I’m Interested In (e.g. China, sustainability, geopolitics, casual everyday observations, etc) is at http://akarlin.com/

  41. PvMikhail says:

    Masha Gessen – I would be happier not to hear that name any more, because I get sick. Typical jewish expat, hating Eastern Europe with passion, seeking revenge I don’t know for what. The kinda person who makes me the angriest. Nauseating from inside and outside. Can’t say any more. Or don’t want. This is a civilized community.

    • Misha says:

      At some high profile venues , certain Jewish and Ukrainian views get propped over others.

      Like I said (sorry to repeat), in a short bit, I hope to have a civilized but firm counterpoint to what MG typifies.

      Regarding your earlier mention of RIAN, the journos in question aren’t the people selecting their material.

      I believe in addressing the root cause of an issue like the ones under discussion.

      • Misha says:

        Hello!

        http://www.eurasiareview.com/02042012-coverage-of-russia-uncensored-analysis/

        Agree or partially agree, the overall gist is different from MG.

        • PvMikhail says:

          Thank you Averko, I very much like your writings. Quality.

          All these morons we are talking about, wrote a “book” defaming Russia. Do you consider writing of an actual book? I have a vision, something like “Myths and realities of modern Russia”… of course together with our Mark, M. Adomanis, A. Karlin, Y. Ivanov, L. Tomichek and all the people who I forgot to mention.

          Everybody has his own field of interest and talent. Leos likes to write about the situation in Ukraine and the politics of religious matters there. AK likes hard facts and analysis in the fields of demography, elections. Mark has an unparalleled literary language (noticed even by enemies – remember the gal describing his piece as “overwritten”) and talent to pinpoint inconsistency. Your long article cites so much examples from old and recent history… And so on, you get the picture.

          The problem is, that our side is always in defence, always reacting. We must attack!🙂

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Well here’s a new line attack, one that can be used against the public surveillance undertaken by the state – the state in question being my native country, which likes to style itself as the home of parliamentary democracy, freedom, liberalism, fair play etc., etc., etc. and other such pompous bullshit.

            Remember George Orwell’s “Big Brother Is Watching You!” line from his novel 1984 concerning totalitarianism? Well, take a look at this:

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/9180191/New-powers-to-record-every-phone-call-and-email-makes-surveillance-60m-times-worse.html

            http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/police-and-mi5-get-power-to-watch-you-on-the-web-7606788.html

            Can you imagine the furore of condemnation that would happen in the Western media if such plans were announced by the Evil Empire?

            • marknesop says:

              “This will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance as China or Iran”

              In reality, neither of those countries exercises those levels of surveillance of its citizens. If I recall correctly, Britain is already the most-watched population on earth; it certainly has the most surveillance cameras per square mile: many, many times the number in Russia. I did a post on it around this time last year, here. According to information at that time, Britain had 26,600 times as many CCTV cameras as Russia although it is more than 70 times smaller.

              What I really like about the British government, a fine example of that never-say-die British pluck, if you like, is the way they get into power on a vow to destroy this or that database or policy – and then a year or so later announce plans to revive it, revealing it was never destroyed at all and will in fact be expanded. If you lied to your wife the way the government lies to its citizens, you’d be single in pretty short order, and I suspect protestations that it was all for her own good and you had her best interests at heart would not get you far.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Only a couple of weeks back, a black African footballer employed by a British football club had a heart attack during a match. Some idiot fan of another club tweeted that he hoped the African footballer would die and used racist terms in voicing this most unsporting comment. He was arrested the next day and is now serving a three-month prison sentence after having been found guilty of inciting racial hatred. An appeal was made against the sentence and was overturned.

                The police arrested the man who tweeted his objectionable views after having received
                a complaint from another Tweet user.

                The arrested man had broken the law. He claimed that he had tweeted the offensive comments whilst drunk. With these new surveillance proposals, however, the police will no longer need informers: they will have access to everything that one writes electronically or says into one’s telephone.

                The unfortunate footballer did not die and seems to be making a satisfactory recovery. I have no idea whether he felt greatly offended on hearing that someone had wished him dead and had referred to him as a n**ger and a black ba**ard. I should imagine he did.

                In the UK Daily Telegraph there regularly appear comments from readers, who, without fear of any retribution whatsoever, post opinions such as: “The only good Russian is a dead one”.

                In view of the fact that my wife and three children are all Russian, I can categorically state that I find such Russophobic comments that appear with alarming regularity in the Daily telegraph and other British publications extremely disturbing and offensive.

                I look forward, therefore, to hearing in the not too distant future of the arrest and due punishment of those guilty of posting gross and offensive Russophobic comments such as the one that I have quoted above. However, I should think it highly unlikely that the British police, on the basis of evidence gathered by means of electronic surveillance, will soon be making mass arrests of those very many British citizens who regularly post to British newspapers their most vile comments and opinions concerning Russian citizens.

                I wonder why?

          • Misha says:

            Thanks PvMikhail.

            There’s much which could and should be qualitatively done at the more high profile of venues.

            In the meantime, not all is unnoticed elsewhere.

  42. PvMikhail says:

    BTW There is more evidence about 911 being an inside job, than 1999 Moskva bombings. The two thing are almost the same in nature and you can see how Russia helped USA in Afghanistan compared to how USA and the West “helped” Russia with Chechnya. I want to see “Budanovs” in connection to Afghanistan, the recent events (random killing rampages, UAV kills, desecrating bodies, burning Qurans) really support this statement. Budanov was tried and jailed for “war crimes” (torturing and killing a chechen woman – he identified her as a sniper or assistant) and he served his sentence. Then he came out and got assassinated. I am really angry with the establishment, because they didn’t defend him.

    For a more complex interpretation:

    The case tried to break the backbone of the Army and maybe it is more significant than it seems. He was a born soldier, his men, even his superiors respected him. Should have been killed in action, not shot like a dog…

  43. Pingback: Is Khodorkovsky A Political Prisoner? Read The ECHR Judgments Before Quacking

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