Vladimir Putin Keeps Playin’ That Rock and Roll

Uncle Volodya says, “The ultimate sin of any performer is contempt for the audience”

Don’t you know that I was sittin’ back in Moscow
I was playin’ those rhythm and blues
And then I got a big offer
For more money than I could refuse
I had the chance to make it
Playin’ anything I wanted to play
But way back in my mind
You know I could hear the people say –

Keep playin’ that Rock and Roll…

Of course, that’s Edgar Winter’s White Trash, from back in the early 70’s when Mr. Putin was barely out of his teens – just in case anyone thought I was serious, and perhaps Mr. Putin had decided to branch out from “Blueberry Hill” and take his act on the road. And it’s actually “Texas” in the first line, not Moscow: both rock and roll icons Edgar and his brother Johnny Winter were from Beaumont, Texas. See, here’s Edgar Winter and White Trash live in 1973. No Putin. Actually, this is the Edgar Winter Group, which came after White Trash and did not include Jerry LaCroix (the dazzling Ronnie Montrose played lead guitar for the Edgar Winter Group), but you’ll have to take my word for it.

Anyway, the inspiration for this post actually had nothing to do with rock and roll, or any kind of music, but with Mr. Putin’s popularity. The tireless snake-oil peddlers at the Wall Street Journal would have you believe that Mr. Putin’s popularity with his people is on a continual downward slide and, according to their source (Mikhail Dmitriev at the Center for Strategic Studies in Moscow) a “full blown political crisis” is looming. I received this almost simultaneously from Evgeny and from Mike, so a thankful hat tip to both.

Before we get into whether or not any kind of political crisis actually looks likely, let’s take a closer look at the Wall Street Journal‘s sources. After all, they’re idiots, so it’s probably not fair to blame them for just printing what keeps them happy in their fool’s paradise. That’s what they usually do, and we know what makes them happy, so there should be no surprises there. So let’s take a look at the Center for Strategic Studies, and Mr. Dmitriev.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies is a big organization, with projects all over the world: Mikhail Dmitriev is president of the Moscow Center for Strategic Studies, but the headquarters are in Washington, DC. CSIS celebrates being around for 50 years this year (Happy Birthday, guys), and states as its goal, “…finding ways to sustain American prominence and prosperity as a force for good in the world“. Although CSIS is a non-profit organization, it receives about 16% of its funding from the U.S. government and another 24% or so from American corporations. Its Board of Trustees includes Richard Armitage – former Foreign Policy Adviser to both Reagan and George W. Bush, signatory to the “Project for a New American Century” (so are Anders Aslund, Nicholas Eberstadt, Max Boot, Donald and Robert Kagan, William Kristol, John McCain, Michael McFaul, Randy Scheunemann and Radek Sikorski) and source of the leak that cost CIA operative Valerie Plame her job. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Bill Frist, who famously told Russia it could not be considered for WTO membership because of its horrible human-rights record in the same year that the photos of abuses at Abu Ghraib were made public, James Schlesinger and Brent Scowcroft – former Secretary of Defense and National Security Adviser, respectively.

As if that were not enough attitude-by-association, Mikhail Dmitriev serves also on the Advisory Council of the Carnegie Moscow Center, itself a subsidiary entity of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Fellow Advisory Council members are Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Pozner, Vladislav Inozemtsev, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Yevgeny Yasin and Grigory Yavlinsky. Resident experts at the Carnegie Moscow Center include Masha Lipman, Nikolay Petrov and Lilia Shevtsova.

None of that is by way of implying Mr. Dmitriev is stupid, and none of the people mentioned above is stupid, either (with the possible exception of the writers of the Wall Street Journal). However, the westerners listed are all tireless agitators for American-style democracy (which is to say, a political system in which the people have a free vote, but in which corporations are also considered people and have an unlimited ability to financially influence politics) and for regime change in any country where they assess it to be not present, while the Russians are all committed liberal ideologues sworn to overthrow the Putin government. It might be just me, but I’m bound to suggest Mikhail Dmitriev has a vested interest in seeing a reversal of fortune for Mr. Putin.

Well, now that we’ve come this far together, let’s take a look at the article, shall we? According to Mr. Dmitriev’s report, “the erosion of confidence can’t be stopped“. Ummm….where’s he getting his figures, and could we see some?  I’d be interested, because according to VTsIOM, Putin’s popularity is unchanged from April 15th 2012 to May 13th 2012 at 53%. In between it went to 52% and down to 48% before returning to 53%. I haven’t seen any current figures from the Levada Center, but Levada describes VTsIOM as a reliable source, Levada used to be part of VTsIOM and the two use the same methodology. What erosion of confidence?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Dmitriev’s study is being “closely watched” because his center was “the only major one to accurately predict early last year that support for the regime was plunging and that it would face a crisis as early as December’s parliamentary elections.

Support was plunging? Do tell. Because according to Levada, support for United Russia was exactly the same at 34% by the standard of public opinion in November 2011 – a month before the Duma elections – as it had been in August of that year and was only a single percentage point lower than it was at the beginning of the year. In the Spring it was up to 39%. Support didn’t become a crisis until western NGO’s like Golos began a full-court press of insinuations about election-rigging – after extensive beachhead preparation in the form of Navalny shouting about the Party of Crooks and Thieves – exactly as they did in 2007. According to this article, co-written by the same author as that of the piece that is the subject of this post, the weaker showing by United Russia was a surprise; their results were “unexpectedly weak” and Putin had to “contend with an apparent drop in the party’s popularity“. What? Didn’t Mr. White monitor Mikhail Dmitriev’s center, which predicted plunging support right from the beginning of the year? But this is standard practice for the wolves trailing the sled of Russian government; find an unsurprising weakening of a particular rating – which might be due to anything from holes in the roads to removal of a government subsidy – and dress it up as evidence the people are ready to rise up in their righteous millions and smite the leaders who so casually betray their interests. An article in last year’s Washington Post, by none other than Masha Lipman, illustrates this perfectly. Under the teaser headline, “In Russia, Growing Rumblings of Discontent”, Masha gleefully tells us “The souring public mood is spurred in part by a growing sense of insecurity as people realize their relative well-being is precarious and by mounting exasperation at social injustice and bureaucratic corruption and impunity.” Ooooo; careful, Masha – you went off-message there for a second. You’re supposed to insist that the rise of the new middle class coincides with a contempt for the old, dirty, corrupt leadership that led to their prosperity. If they actually were “insecure about the precarious nature of their well-being”, why in hell would they choose an unknown, unproven leader who had never led anything bigger than a political rally over a proven driver of national prosperity?  Do you think Russians are stupid? And the reference she cites in support of the leadership’s supposedly free-falling ratings is clear that “At first glance, the rating of the head of state has actually declined. Yet, if you look at the data for the entire last year (the Levada Center conducts these polls on a monthly basis), then it will most likely look like fluctuation of the rating. In various months the approval rating of the head of state fell to 72 percent and rose to 77 percent. The average number for 2010 in terms of the approval rating for Dmitry Medvedev was 74.5 percent. Obviously, it would be appropriate to compare this number to the same average for the entire 2011, and not only the results of January’s poll...This means that celebratory statements in the headlines of some publications are premature.” The same reference goes on to point out that a survey conducted by the Associated Press concludes that Barack Obama’s popularity (at the time) has suddenly gone up and that 53% of the American people approve of his performance – but polls only 1000 people. Another by Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra, which concluded that 49 percent of the people demanded Berlusconi’s resignation, polled only 600.

Well, let’s move on. Again with the “biggest anti-Kremlin protests in two decades”. That’s actually true. But it would be equally true if the protests had drawn less than 500. How big does a demonstration have to be to be bigger than nothing? There were no significant protests in the last two decades. Ah, but that’s where all the advantages lie with the Liberals of LaLa Land. If there are protests, it’s because the people demand to be free of Putin’s authoritarian yoke. If there are none, it’s because they have been beaten into submission by Kremlin Kruelty Inc. until they lack the will to lift a finger in their own defense. Spin, spin, spin. The biggest demonstration drew much less than 200,000 in a city with a population of more than 13,000,000, and all the rest were significantly smaller.

According to Dmitriev, Putin “has signaled little change in his inner circle, this week appointing mostly close loyalists to the new cabinet and transferring unpopular officials to new jobs, rather than firing them“. Hmmmm. According to all-over-the-map nutjob Anders Aslund, still regarded as something of a foreign policy idiot savant in some circles – including the ones that supply the Russian liberatsi with much of their support – “The old cabinet was stacked with ministers considered highly corrupt, including former KGB officers and Putin cronies from his days in the St. Petersburg city government. With a couple of exceptions, they are all gone…the group is in fact dominated by liberal technocrats“. What do you say, boys? Somebody is obviously full of poo. You can’t both be right, yet you are both pompous asses who could never entertain the notion of being wrong. Hey, who wants popcorn? This could be a good movie. Clash of the Tools.

Mr. Dmitriev’s center does not use polls to support its conclusions; it uses “focus groups”, claiming the results are “more predictive”. I was not overly familiar with the concept, so I looked it up. Here’s what I learned: it’s a form of research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, etc… Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. Presumably, in such a group, members could also argue to convince other members. Criticism of the method suggests “the results obtained are influenced by the researcher, raising questions of validity“. If there were any criticism that could cast doubt on a method used to obtain opinion regarding the government’ s leadership by an organization so collectively motivated to overthrow the government, that’d be it. Similarly directed results can be obtained dependent on the wording of referendum questions, such as “Do you agree Vladimir Putin should be allowed to exercise absolute power and make up the rules as he goes along?” Never mind that no such situation exists or will exist in the real world; most people are going to say “No”, which will then be interpreted as “the entire population of Russia turning against Putin”. Further criticism suggests focus groups are often motivated by a desire to please rather than offering their own opinions and suggestions, and that the data realized are often “cherry-picked to support a foregone conclusion”. Except for the fact that liberals would never do that, I’d find that a concern. Yes, I was being sarcastic.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin just keeps playin’ that rock and roll. Even his strongest detractors admit he had the support of the majority in the presidential election, and that’s the voice he hears; the solid backbeat of the Russian citizenry who, although they probably do have complaints about healthcare and the national road system and infrastructure, believed Mr. Putin’s promises to hear and address their concerns. Although his position does offer him a chance to make it, and play anything he wants to play, there is no evidence that he does so to enrich himself or increase his exercise of personal power over the common man. Day in, day out, against a constant barrage of criticism from the western press and its manufactured opposition movement; to me, there is a kind of tired nobility about it.

National leadership has a lot in common with rock and roll – if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Editor’s Note: Eugene Ivanov of The Ivanov Report has pointed out that the parallels drawn between the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and the Center for Strategic Research in Moscow are based only on the similarity in names and that they are not directly connected. This is correct, and I ask readers to disregard the gory portrayals of Richard Armitage and other well-known American neoconservatives as relevant to the philosophy of Mikhail Dmitriev, as thev probably are not. However, readers should recall that Dmitriev remains active on the Advisory Council of the Moscow Carnegie Center, which is supported by the Russia and Eurasia Program, which is a CSIS member organization. Also, Mikhail Dmitriev is a frequent speaker at CSIS events and collaborator on CSIS initiatives.

My thanks to Eugene for the redirection, and for the instructive research it entailed.

This entry was posted in Economy, Government, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Uncategorized, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

181 Responses to Vladimir Putin Keeps Playin’ That Rock and Roll

  1. kirill says:

    Focus groups as a replacement for real opinion polls? That’s rich. Perhaps we should get rid of the secret ballot and have various advisers at polling booths guiding the ignorant to the right choice. All of these thinktanks are nothing more than reservoirs of shills. Reading their intellectual excrement only supports this theory. Like Cato or the Fraser Institutes and their retarded drivel on global warming.

    • yalensis says:

      To my knowledge, this is the guy (=Frank Luntz) who invented the concept and techniques of the focus-group type of polling. He invented the little hand-devices they give people to render instant feedback to verbal statements that are made:

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

      • kirill says:

        I have seen these before and they can be quite useful, but you can’t replace real opinion polls with them. It is a matter of sample size and sample selection. Only random samples of a large enough size can properly gauge national opinions. Focus groups are for product refinement where the product can be a political platform.

  2. Another good article Mark.

    1. I have already discussed the Dmitriev report in a comment to your previous post. As I said in that comment Dmitriev has pulled a shabby trick. He is using the well known and undisputed fact that Russians are dissatisfied with many things in their country to mean that Russia is on the brink of a political crisis. This is an obvious non sequitur, a conclusion that finds no basis in the facts adduced to support it. In every country, even I am sure in a country as blessed as Canada, people are dissatisfied with something but that does not mean that they are about to rush off to the barricades. In Russia people are dissatisfied with rather a lot (and so they should be) but there is nothing remotely dangerous or potentially revolutionary about this fact.

    2. The government itself shares the dissatisfaction of Russians with the things in Russia that Russians find wrong. The gulf between the government and Russians that Dmitriev pretends to find does not exist. Indeed the government talks of little else other than its dissatisfaction about the current state of things and what it is going to do (or try to do) to put them right. There is no reason not to take the government at its word and the results of the elections (the Presidential election especially) show that the majority of Russians do. They have good reason to since progress is in fact being made and many of the things the government is doing have already borne fruit.

    3. There was a loss of support for United Russia in the parliamentary elections. That is not a symptom of crisis. It is a consequence of democracy. Ebbs and flows in the support of parties happens in all countries where there are real elections. It is unreasonable to demand in a democracy that a party go on increasing its support indefinitely in every election. Were that to happen it would not be a democracy. The fall in support for United Russia is a sign not of a political crisis but that Dmitriev and his ilk are wrong when they say or imply that Russia is a dictatorship. As you absolutely correctly say, people like Dmitriev in fact want to have it both ways. If in an election support for the government grows it is proof that Russia is a dictatorship. If it falls it is a sign of crisis.

    4. Dmitriev’s claim to have predicted a crisis is specious for the simple reason that there was no crisis. There were a few demonstrations in Moscow (demonstrations outside Moscow never really got off the ground) but as we have discussed at length in these posts the number who attended these demonstrations was never very large. Demonstrations are normal in democracies especially at election time and were it not for the involvement of outsiders and the overblown claims and outrageous comments of the protest leaders and of some of the commentary especially in the west no one would have seen anything more to it than that.

    5. As it happens I think there is a misunderstanding about the protests. In my opinion the only reason they took off in the way they did was not because of any great surge in dissatisfaction against the government or in support for the opposition (the Presidential election results put paid to that idea) but because of a change in opposition tactics. Before 2011 the pseudo revolutionary opposition had taken a deliberately confrontational line by insisting on holding street protests in places where they had not been authorised. This created ugly scenes as protesters clashed with police giving credence to the claim that the country is some of dictatorship. However since most people do not want to break the law or become involved in street battles it kept turnout low. This was always artificial given that we know from election results that there are and always have been several million opposition supporters in the country a disproportionate number of whom are concentrated in Moscow. When in December 2011 the pseudo revolutionary opposition decided that instead of street battles its cause would be better served by holding proper demonstrations it became for the first time possible for more opposition demonstrators to turn up, which is what they did. In the event this has done the pseudo revolutionary opposition no good at all since as it wants revolution rather than normal politics it has no idea what to do with peaceful protests, the mere existence of which as I have said anyway disprove its central claim that the government of the country is a dictatorship.

    I get the sense (forgive me for saying so) that Dmitriev has got a little under your skin. There is actually no reason why he should. He is not some great analyst or prophet. Actually he is more of a tawdry political conjurer plucking focus group data like dead rabbits out of a mouldy hat. There is no reason to take him seriously. I don’t.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Alex! Yes, you did pretty much eviscerate Dmitriev’s arguments, and I did obliquely refer to what you said in my closing paragraph, but I didn’t want to just steal your comments wholesale. You’re quite right that the whole approach is flawed, simply cherry-picking complaints that are perfectly legitimate – and that if not made, would lend weight to the charge that the public is afraid of Putin and just accepts whatever he says is right, which is obviously not true – and using them to diagnose widespread discontent. I really don’t think these “reports” are being taken very seriously by the government, any more than the government runs around trying to mollify a furious public whenever Nemtsov comes out with another of his “White Papers”. Nobody pays attention, and it’s not because the people are apathetic, it’s because the subject is boring.

      You always have a fresh way of looking at things that causes underlying contributing factors to a particular state to be simply revealed, and this is no exception – I had not considered the demonstrations from the viewpoint of a tactical reassessment, but of course now that you point it out, it seems self-evident. The augmented turnout could have achieved real momentum, but the leaders of various factions did not have a grip on their foot-soldiers and there was a general failure to recognize a common goal: therefore, the heckling and booing at rallies of some factions’ representatives by those of other factions, such as those who embarrased Sobchak or those who jeered at Kudrin. Navalny seems still to be the Great White Hope, although even his rhetoric sounds now like just going through the motions. Incidentally, speaking of him. I noticed in Miriam Elder’s fawning puff piece on his release that a minor political figure named Natalya Chernysheva presented Navalny with white flowers and blathered some guff about the Kremlin just arresting poor Navalny because they don’t know what to do with him, as if he were some sort of unstable explosive or something. You can see him holding the flowers in the accompanying photo. I wonder if she can be this Natalya Chernysheva. If so, it would explain a lot. This lurid backup article suggests the Russian government sought her extradition from the UK for alleged share fraud in 1994 and claims of a 763 billion ruble embezzlement of the Volgograd regional government in 1997. She was an executive at one of Yukos’ largest shareholders. Probably not her; I can’t imagine she would return to Russia if her extradition on criminal charges had once been sought. But you never know.

      Dmitriev doesn’t get under my skin any more than the rest of the posturing pretenders who keep seeing Putin’s destruction in patterns of chicken bones or tea leaves. What cranks me over every time is the gleeful western acceptance of these charlatans and its aggressive promotion of their drivel.

  3. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    Mark, a minor correction: it is “Corriere della Sera”, not “Corriere della Serra”. “Sera” means evening, “serra” is greenhouse, so the wrong version is something like “Greenhouse Newspaper”.

    • marknesop says:

      Ha!! That’s funny. I just copied it straight out of the reference, and I didn’t know any better because I don’t speak Italian; but it looks like it would be fairly easy to learn, and I already know a little Spanish. I’m guessing Portuguese is similar as well?

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        The difficult task in learning Italian are the inflections. Spanish is very close to Italian, I mostly understand it when it is spoken slowly. Also, dialects in southern Italy were heavily influenced by Spanish, which makes the task easier for me. Portuguese is similiar, but less so than Spanish.
        I’ve to add that you and Moscow Exile are undermining the stereotype of the Anglo-Saxons that speak only their language. You know English, French, Russian and a little Spanish (3+), Moscow Exile knows English, Russian and German (3). I’m limited to Italian and a not-so-perfect English (2-), unless we count Sicilian as another language🙂

        • Misha says:

          The contrasts among Romance influenced languages is an interesting study.

          I recall an earlier discussion at this blog on how Romanian includes some Slavic words.

          Will check with some relatives on this piece:

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

          Ladino appearing to be to the Sephardim what Yiddish is to the Ashkenazi.

          • apc27 says:

            Romanian is actually relatively free of Slavic influence. Moldavian, on the other hand, is heavily influenced by the Slavic languages (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish). In fact this is one of the main features that distinguishes it from Romanian, though now that Moldavian government and Ministry of Education are completely overrun by Romanian sympathizers not even the existence of Moldavian language is admitted.

            The two languages are very close, more akin to dialects of the same language, rather than two separate ones. Still, its really bewildering for people like my grandfather, who grew up as a Moldavian, speaking a Moldavian language, only to find out after seven decades of his life, that he is in fact Romanian, speaking a Romanian language.

            • Misha says:

              I recall coming across material saying that Romanian was initially written in the Cyrillic alphabet – not to be confused with the Cyrillic Moldavian alphabet developed by the Soviets.

              The Romanian language is definitely more Romance influenced, while having some Slavic traits.

              Interesting how some languages get compared. For example, a Slavic Macedonian told me that his native language is somewhere between Serb and Bulgarian – unlike what some others say about the (FRO) Macedonian language being very close to Bulgarian.

  4. Misha says:

    Mark & Co.

    As I noted elsewhere and perhaps at the last thread at this blog (I’d have to check on the latter for sure), time will tell for sure on whether Dmitriev is proven right. I lean in the direction that he’ll be wrong.

    There continues to be a lack of accountability, that’s part of a corrupt process, which continues to prop so-so analysis, over others with a better track record. In late 2004/early 2005, there was some spin suggesting that Ukraine successfully chose a different course away from Russia, with no turning back. Another example is a Moscow Times promoted article, believing that Russian troops might leave Pridnestrovie, in favor of a Western dominated military presence, in exchange for a visa free arrangement between Russia and the West.

    In some circles, the study of foreign policy, inclusive of Russia is top heavy with what some would like to see in accordance with their preferences, as opposed to a more realistic perspective.

    • kirill says:

      At the end of the day it is all Goebbels propaganda. The point is not to get the facts straight but to repeat the same line until the sheeple believe it to be true. Somebody is working really hard to permanently ruin any chance of reconciliation between Russia and the West. I am not clear on their motive. Are Germany or France colonies of the USA? No, So why does Russia have to be a banana republic to be associated with the west?

      This strange behaviour from the West’s elites makes me think that there are deep issues in the West when it comes to Russia. Basically some sort of racism.

  5. apc27 says:

    Yet another thing that discredits most “experts” like Mr. Dmitriev, is a continuous failure by ALL of them to take into account a simple fact that the Russian opposition are a bunch of incompetent screw-ups incapable of recognizing a political opportunity even if it bit them in the ass.

    What does it matter even if there was a political crisis looming on the Russian horizon (not that there is even a whiff of one), when there isn’t a single political force in the country capable of taking advantage of it?

    Whatever grievances and complaints people have, there must a political force capable of channeling these feelings into specific political outcomes. That is the only way to achieve change, either revolutionary or gradual, in the political leadership of the country. As things stand now, Putin’s ratings may as well go into negative figures, with no-one to replace him or his circle whatever crisis may happen the political sphere will remain unaffected.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, you’re right, although the western press regularly mocks the “no alternative to Putin” dialogue. Part of the problem is that Russian political leaders have picked up the western habit of concealing their plans for everything – or else, as frequently prevails in the west, there is no plan – and consequently everyone promises to, say, balance the budget, or eliminate corruption, but nobody has a plan for how it will come about. Their focus groups have told them this is a hot-button election issue, but no focus groups have been held on how to resolve the problem. I remember reading Zyuganov’s election manifesto prior to the last election, someone posted it here, and he hit all the high points. There was no reason to think he couldn’t be as good a leader as Putin. Except that he did not say how he was going to solve any of Russia’s problems. You have to figure that if you have an obvious problem, like a river running through the middle of your town, that all the obvious means of ridding yourself of it have been thought of and discarded for one reason or another: you could dam it and redirect it, you could dam it and build a tunnel that took it under the town, etc… So instead you just stand up and say, Fellows, this river is a problem (everybody knows that). If elected, I will get rid of it. Really? How? Send it into space? All the easy ways of doing it have been considered and rejected, so when you say you will do it but do not offer a method, people reasonably suspect it is just a political promise that will be forgotten as soon as you are elected.

      Meanwhile, Putin has demonstrated over and over that he can solve at least some of Russia’s problems, by solving them. Who you gonna call?

      Corruption is a problem, but only the truly naive think solving it is as simple as just saying Comrades, corruption is hurting our country. For the good of our country, it must stop not just now, but right now. People accustomed to living on an income of $3000.00 a month on a road-building project in which they are skimming money for materials, let’s say, are not going to start scraping by on an income of $850.00 a month just because you appeal to their patriotism. You will have to think of an offset. You could increase surveillance on every step of the procurement and logistics process, to prevent money from being stolen. But you will have to pay your new regulators decent wages or they will fall victim to bribery themselves – where’s that money going to come from? You could increase wages on road-building projects until they offset what you were formerly losing to theft, but then teachers would say, how in hell can you justify paying road-builders $3000.00 a month when you only pay your teachers $700.00? You could bring the hammer down hard on one particularly audacious thief and put him in jail, but then your enemies in the press will say you selected him for political reasons, and make a martyr of him and shout about him at every opportunity, how kind he is, how good, how you perceived in him a threat to your continued usurpation of power and that’s why you had him arrested. See? Not simple. If there were an easy way that would not piss anyone off were available, someone would have thought of it. Any of the ways you are considering will piss a lot of people off, and if you announce your plan in advance they will vote for your opponent. So you don’t announce your plan, or you don’t make one. You simply recognize the problem and say, if you elect me, I will solve it.

      If you are running against someone who is a proven problem-solver, you will most likely lose. There is no mystery to it at all.

      • apc27 says:

        I think the problem runs deeper than that. You might have the best solution in the world, but people still will not vote for you unless they have at least some minimal level of confidence that you are competent enough to pull it of.

        I recently watched a “Человек и Закон” “Man and Law” TV programme. For years it exposed low to mid level corruption among Russian bureaucracy and law enforcement agencies and it is shown on the main Russian TV channel. Every case shown there would be a God-send gift to any semi-competent opposition in the West. It sets up an easily identifiable problem, a hugely sympathetic victim suffering due to a corrupt official, and it provides an easy solution. It does not take a lot of political capital to force a corrupt village head from office, he is not Putin for Goodness sake. It does not take a lot of economic capital to say to the new administration, promising to right the wrongs of the last one, “screw you” and build that house, or get that treatment, or provide that benefit to an adorable old granny or a suffering war veteran out of their own pocket and then have a press conference with a teary-eyed victim thanking them and cursing the local administration, and by extension Putin in Moscow. The whole situation could be milked for weeks, WEEKS!!! And it doesn’t really cost anything. Its the very basics of PR and politics, that is how you begin to get those minimal levels of trust and confidence VITAL for any entity, be it an organisation or an individual, with serious political ambitions.

        People here are pretty knowledgeable when it comes to Russia. Have any of you heard of the Russian opposition doing any of these things? The REALLY depressing thing is, its not just the nutty liberal opposition that is a complete failure in this, Communists and other big parties are not any better.

        • marknesop says:

          Now that you mention it, I have not heard of any such action. And people like Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Prokhorov could easily afford it, although business ventures by Prokhorov have provided a lot of jobs. I’ve seen quite a few mentions that Mikhail Khodorkovsky provided money for schools to get computers and that he stocked libraries, but I’m afraid that still has the flavour of urban legend for me because I have not been able to find any evidence that it was more than a PR idea.

          That’s what I meant by Putin’s proven record. There’s a perception, whether or not its accurate, that if you can only get to speak directly and honestly to Putin, he will solve your problem. He was credited with personally saving the Yaroslavl Engine Works by ordering a bank to lend it money, directing the modernization of its production line and sending it business until it could stand on its own. That was in 2008, and 4 years later it still sewed up most of the votes from the region for him in the last election. He used a similarly personal touch to save the BAZ Aluminum Smelter Plant from closure, directing a sensible realignment to keep it in business without inefficiencies that would expose the action as a simple vote-getting stunt. He memorably threw a pen at Oleg Deripaska when he ordered him to restart the closed Pikalyovo aluminum plant (part of the RUSAL empire owned by Deripaska) and pay his workers their back wages.

          It’s a good point: Bidzina Inanishvili is using exactly that kind of technique to make Saakashvili look like a miserly incompetent windbag, although he got quite a stiff competition from Saakashvili himself. I don’t know why liberals don’t fight at least a semi-positive campaign that way; instead, they’re relentlessly negative – Putin is a thief, Putin is a charlatan, the guy who saved Russia from total economic humiliation and beggary and doubled your income in 10 years is a slimy toad, and a government run by us would just be so much better. Beat Putin at his own game, and pay it forward by helping ordinary people live better lives through your own personal efforts, and then ask for their votes.

          • apc27 says:

            Makes sense, right?

            And that is why it will NEVER EVER happen.

          • Misha says:

            Yes, the Prokhorov owned Snob.ru employs Gessen as editor.

            I hope the transplanted (yet again) Brooklyn Nets do well, as someone having fond memories of that team when it played on LI in the ABA. This past year, Mishka raised eyebrows sitting at a NJ Nets game that promoted a “Night of Russian Culture”. At that game, he sat with a score of very attractive (what appeared to be by those who saw it) Russian looking women.

            “Russian culture” and improving Russia’s image is limited by employing the likes of Gessen and (not that Prokhorov can be blamed) hanging with the lovelies.

          • kirill says:

            Just a correction, Putin’s regime managed to oversee a 10 fold increase in Russian wages after 1999 (from around $80 per month to over $800 per month).

  6. Well here is an opinion poll published in Kommersant and discussed by Itar Tass, which shows a sharp fall in support for the protests in May as opposed to December.

    http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/432895.html

    In truth what the poll says is self evident.

    Needless to say the decline in support for the protests rather contradicts Dmitriev’s claim that a political crisis and “collapse of the system” is looming.

    • Misha says:

      He would undoubtedly counter that a fluctuating situation is evident.

      Between the two diverse opinions of this situation, his view will not as likely prove to be accurate IMO and that of some others. Let’s see what the accountability is like down the line.

      • Dear Misha,

        Up to a point of course that is right. However a fluctuating situation is what exists in any society. Support for any government changes week by week and month by month. There is usually no more significance to occasional dips than to occasional rises. Obama’s approval rating rises and falls but that does not mean the US is on the brink of a revolution.

        At the moment support for the government is on a rising curve, which is no more than one would expect in the immediate aftermath of a successful election. The main point however is that we have now had two opinion polls in Kommersant, one which puts election rigging (the theme the protest movement is still sticking to) as a priority matter for just 2% of the population and the other which says that only 7% of the population are prepared to become involved in the protests. Such figures do not point to an angry and dissaffected populace or a looming political crisis.

        I guess the point I am trying to make is that in political terms Russia is a much more “normal” country than it is given credit for. What certain people construe as symptoms of crisis (demonstrations etc) are simply indicators of this.

        • I should quickly add (viz some of Yalensis’s comments) that one of the reasons for the strength of the government in Russia is that the opposition is so incompetent and weak. If there was a united and credible opposition I have no doubt that in electoral terms it could give the government a run for its money. Putin is undoubtedly popular but he has his critics and he has been around for a long time. There will always be people who will say that it is time for a change.

          The reason Putin wins elections seemingly so effortlessly is not because the system is rigged in his favour or because he is head and shoulders above all the other candidates (though there is an element of truth to both of these statements) but because there is no remotely credible alternative to him. Despite all the big talk during the winter the opposition failed to unite behind a single effective candidate that the mass of the Russian people could actually consider voting for though in the person of Sergei Mironov such a person arguably existed. The result was that by default most of the protest vote ended up going to Prokhorov, who is not even a real politician and who as a right wing billionaire oligarch is completely unacceptable to the vast majority of the Russian people. Not surprisingly therefore Putin coasted back in.

    • marknesop says:

      Well done; that’s the sort of reference I was looking for to support my argument but did not find, and had I done so I would most certainly have included it. Although Itar-Tass’s format is a little awkward and stilted, the point comes through clearly that the novelty has worn off and there is little that has changed that can be attributed to the protesters’ forcing their will on the government. It simply isn’t achieving any noticeable milestones, while life as it was before is far from unbearable. There’s no catalyst for continued and accelerating protest.

  7. Apologies for going completely off topic but I am becoming tired of reading in the British and western press of how the Security Council on Monday supposedly strongly condemned the Syrian government in its statement.

    The Security Council did no such thing. The Security Council statement is in fact a masterpiece of careful wording intended to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable opinions of all sides. Here is the actual text of the statement

    http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/sc10658.doc.htm

    As anyone can see, whilst the statement says that the massacre in Houla happened in the context of government use of heavy weapons, it does not say that it was use of those weapons that caused the massacre. Of course we now know it was not and that the people in Houla were murdered by being shot and stabbed. All the strong words and ferocious commentary about heavy weapons having been used in Houla is therefore beside the point and a total red herring.

    The statement does not blame the Syrian government for the massacre and does not say that the Syrian army or Syrian government militia carried it out. It does criticise the government’s use of heavy weapons and calls for them and for the troops who use them to return to barracks but it is careful to balance this by blaming all parties to the conflict for the continued violence and by saying that all parties should desist from violence, which of course includes the opposition.

    In conclusion not only do we have another case here of western governments and media misrepresenting things the Security Council said (this is becoming an almost compulsive practice) but we also have a perfect example of western hypocrisy, with western governments voting for a statement that calls for an end to violence and support for Annan’s peace plan whilst simultaneously doing their best to escalate the violence and to undermine Annan’s peace plan by arming the rebels.

    Lastly, on the subject of the massacre itself, I would say first that it is a horrible crime and second that it is far too early to say who was responsible.

    • Misha says:

      In mass media, some influential wishful thinking over reality is periodically noticeable to the trained eye.

      Over this past weekend, there was much media footage of dead corpses of children said to have been killed by Syrian government forces.

      Without meaning to belittle the horrific death of children, imagine the skepticism if an adversary of the American and-or Israeli governments showed numerous corpses with a pointed finger on who is responsible. “Collateral damage” and the possibility of gathering bodies from different areas for a propaganda production would be immediately considered. Yes, the knee jerk neocon to neolib reply might say that the American and Israeli governments aren’t anywhere near as brutal as some others. At the same time, scoundrels can have valid points.

      In some instances, the portrayed scoundrels aren’t always as bad as advertised – being either no worse and arguably better than the foes they oppose.

      Downplayed are how most of Syria’s Christian population (among some others in Syria) seem to prefer the Syrian government over the anti-Syrian government forces.

      BTW, I recall a recent RT piece suggesting a staged atrocity accounting on the part of the anti-Syrian government opposition.

      • Misha says:

        http://opinionleaders.htmlplanet.com/walker.html

        Excerpt –

        There is a widespread belief not only in Russia, but in other countries, that Walker’s role in Racak was to assist the KLA in fabricating a Serb massacre that could be used as an excuse for military action. Already, two major mainstream French newspapers–Le Monde and Le Figaro–as well as French national television have run exposes on the Racak incident. These stories cited a number of inconsistencies in Walker’s version of events, including an absence of shell casings and blood in the trench where the bodies were found, and the absence of eyewitnesses despite the presence of journalists and observers in the town during the KLA-Serb fighting. Eventually, even the Los Angeles Times joined in, running a story entitled “Racak Massacre Questions: Were Atrocities Faked?” The theory behind all these exposes was that the KLA had gathered their own dead after the battle, removed their uniforms, put them in civilian clothes, and then called in the observers. Walker, significantly, did not see the bodies until 12 hours after Serb police had left the town. As Walker knows, not only can “anybody have uniforms”, but anyone can have them taken off, too.

        ———————-

        Over the course of time, such instances have been selectively spun.

        • Misha says:

          http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1205

          Excerpt –

          Coverage of Yugoslavia “has been driven by pictures of violence,” an anonymous senior network producer told the New York Times (6/10/92). “Everybody seems to want to go for the blood…. It’s back to, ‘Cut me a minute of bang-bang.’ But nobody wants to go into the issues behind the bangs.” In turn, images of atrocities have driven U.S. and international policy toward the conflict.

          The most spectacular example was the May 27 Sarajevo breadline massacre, which occurred shortly before the European Community was to consider sanctions against Serbia. The gruesome pictures of blood-drenched pavement and severed limbs were broadcast around the world, and the press–despite lack of evidence–concluded that this was a deliberate Serbian mortar attack: “cease-fire, Serbian-style” (U.S. News & World Report, 6/8/92), “shattering hopes that Serbian aggression had been curbed by the threat of international sanctions.” (L.A. Times, 5/28) Within several days, the Bush administration, citing the attack, championed the passage of severe UN sanctions against Serbia.

          Only three months later was it revealed in a front-page story in the London Independent (8/22/92) that

          United Nations officials and Western military officers believe some of the worst recent killings in Sarajevo, including the massacre of at least 16 people in a bread queue, were the work of the city’s mainly Muslim defenders–not Serb besiegers–as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and trigger military intervention.

          This sensational revelation–that the press had been spectacularly duped–was carried by a number of U.S. news agencies (AP, Reuters, CNN, ABC), though not as prominently as the initial incident. Among those ignoring the story was the New York Times , which had given front-page coverage to what it treated as deliberate Serbian attacks–both the breadline massacre and another incident believed to have been similarly staged, the August 4 attack on a funeral for “Croatian orphan” Vedrana Glavas (in fact Serbian, and not an orphan).

          The breadline massacre was not the first time that the New York Times, whose coverage had been among the most one-sided, has reported fiction as fact. Sometimes the paper ignores its own reports, as in a June 27 headline, “Serbs Shatter Airport Truce,” over an article that notes in paragraph 7 that Bosnian government forces “admitted” to breaking the cease-fire.

          • Dear Misha,

            It is interesting that you brought up the subject of Racak because Sergei Lavrov also did in the recent talks he held in Moscow with the British Foreign Secretary William Hague. I gather that Lavrov also brought up Racak during the press conference he held with Hague after the talks. Because Racak is now a source of great embarrassment to both the British government and to the British media the British media has suppressed the fact that Lavrov mentioned it during his talks with Hague and you will find no reference to it in the reporting and commentary about Hague’s visit in the British media except for a brief passing mention in I think the Financial Times.

            • Misha says:

              Alexander, you’re an understander.

              • Dear Misha (and Moscow Exile, PvMikhail and Giuseppe),

                On the subject of amateurism in foreign ministry appointments, just consider the difference between Sergei Lavrov and William Hague, who met in Moscow a few days ago.

                Lavrov is a highly trained and experienced professional diplomat. He was educated at IMEMO, went to the Foreign Ministry school, speaks several languages including English and French, and has served in various diplomat posts including in Sri Lanka and at the United Nations where he was for a time Russia’s ambassador and permanent representative. His entire life and career extending back to 1972 has been in the diplomatic service and he must be considered today one of the world’s most experienced diplomats and a consummate foreign policy professional.

                Hague’s entire career has been in Conservative party politics, since in fact he addressed a Conservative party conference in the 1970s when he was just 16. He speaks no foreign languages and had no diplomatic or foreign policy experience at all until he was appointed Foreign Secretary by David Cameron two years ago. He had shown no previous interest in foreign policy questions and his entire career previous to his appointment as Foreign Secretary was exclusively in British domestic politics where he has held a number of different posts ranging from parliamentary private secretary to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont and Welsh Secretary under John Major though he never held even these posts for more than a short time and never made a significant impact in any of them. He was however for a brief and unsuccessful period in the 1990s Conservative party leader and because of this he is considered in Britain a political heavyweight. On the strength of this he was appointed Foreign Secretary and was put in charge of the country’s foreign relations when the Conservatives won power even though he has no obvious qualification for the post.

                How is someone like Hague going to be able to deal with someone like Lavrov on equal terms? The short answer is of course that he can’t. For an illustration of this just consider what happened in Moscow a few days ago. In the aftermath of the Houla massacre Hague, who had previously arranged to go to Moscow on a fence mending visit, was busy briefing everybody here in London and was telling the French that he would try whilst in Moscow to persuade Lavrov to change Russia’s Syrian policy. Any serious foreign policy professional would know that this was impossible and that by trying to make it happen Hague was simply setting himself up for humiliation. Yet not only did Hague tell everybody that he was going to try to do it but instead of downplaying the prospect of success he led everybody to think that there was a chance that he might succeed.

                Needless to say what happened was exactly what any foreign policy professional would have predicted, which is that Lavrov of course said no and Hague came away from the meeting totally humiliated and looking a fool. It has been absolutely fascinating tracking the response of the British media to this evolving fiasco as the meeting with Lavrov came and went and as Hague and his officials sought desperately to put the best possible spin on the debacle. Thus the day before yesterday when the meeting was still pending the editorial writer of the Times (who is especially close to Hague) was saying that it was “important to persuade” Russia that its own interests were in abandoning Assad whilst the following day the same editorial writer was writing that because of Russia’s “apologetics” for Assad, Russia is “part of the problem” rather than the solution and demonstrations outside the Russian embassy in London are therefore as appropriate as demonstrations outside the Syrian embassy would be.

                • marknesop says:

                  For me, much of the fascination lies in watching the western press argue for abandoning an ally when one has absolutely no reason to do so as if it were some kind of virtue. Perhaps that’s because the west has a long tradition of dumping allies to sink or swim when the shifting tides of politics suggested it might be an advantageous move.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Alexander Mercouris,

                  I bet Sergey Lavrov couldn’t sup 14 pints of best Yorkshire bitter a day though as William Hague claimed he could when he was nobbut a lad!

                  See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/871543.stm

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  As regards Sergey Lavrov’s language skills, the British Daily Telegraph ran a story claimimg that former U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband had been subjected to a tirade of obscene English from his Russian counterpart at the height of the Georgia crisis. Milliband, claimed the DT, received the undiplomatic tongue-lashing over the telephone after his having expressed the EU’s anger with the Kremlin. It was alleged that at one point Sergei Lavrov became so incensed that he barked: “Who the fuck are you to lecture me?”

                  However, after this story had surfaced, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry responed by saying:

                  “It is inadmissible in the practice of diplomacy. The use of foul language either means insulting a partner or insulting a country, which he represents. Therefore, I categorically reject such insults against our minister”.

                  See: http://niqnaq.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/lavrov-didnt-swear-at-miliband/

                  Ебанные лживые британские подлецы!
                  🙂

                • kovane says:

                  Ебанные лживые британские подлецы!

                  That would be “Ебаные лживые британские подлецы!”🙂

                  Sincerely yours, Grammar Nazi.

              • marknesop says:

                Hey, that rhymed. Maybe you should think about a hip-hop album. Put a nice bass groove behind that, and you never know, it could take off.

                • Dear Moscow Exile,

                  Who knows? Or perhaps tossing down beers is the one area where Hague might, just might, be able to compete with Lavrov on equal terms. May be we should urge him to give it a go. If he won it might make him feel better about himself.

                • Misha says:

                  Diplomatically speaking, one diplomat speaking very frank and off record to one of his peers isn’t unprofessional unlike a diplomat who reveals such a discussion to the public.

                  At this blog, diplomatic etiquette was brought up at the thread prior to this one. It’s not always off base for a diplomat to give an openly very frank reply when either he/she and/or his/her country is inaccurately described in a negative manner. On this particular, I reference Churkin replying to T. Friedman and Lavrov to Brzezinski on Charlie Rose.

    • marknesop says:

      The monitoring mission put in place by the Arab League was quite specific in saying that much, perhaps most of the violence was precipitated by armed rebel groups and was clear that activists were inventing actions and casualties that put the government forces in a bad light. The response was to mumble that the mission had been ineffective, and withdraw the monitors. The Arab League is every bit as complicit in the attempt to purge Assad as is the western media with its capering distortions, and I hope nobody forgets that.

      Meanwhile the U.N. asks for the impossible (government forces to lay down their arms and return to their barracks – where, presumably, they will remain while their country is taken away from them by the now-wildly-popular al Qaeda flip-flop army) so that they can continue to demonize him and his government for continued failure to cooperate.

      • Dear Mark,

        The important point to understand is that the Annan peace plan and the Security Council Resolutions and statements are balanced. If the rebels do not stand down there is no obligation on the government to do so either. Annan has actually said that it is the rebels and third parties that are largely responsible for the continuing violence, not that you would think it from the media commentary. The latest Security Council statement conspicuously continues to back the Annan peace plan, which is a flat rejection of the stance of the rebels who in the immediate aftermath of the Houla massacre pronounced the plan dead and said they no longer felt bound by it.

        I would add that there are some people in Washington and London who are beginning to become annoyed with Annan because of his continuing efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. I gather that there are already off the record statements being spread saying that by persisting with the peace plan Annan is “endangering his legacy”.

        • The latest editorial in the Times, written in the aftermath of Hague’s visit, needs to be read to be believed. Unfortunately I cannot provide a link because it is behind a paywall. Its tone is ferocious and it asks rhetorically about what sort of country Britain would be if it left an atrocity like the one in Houla go unpunished.

          All of this would of course be a lot more impressive if the Times had written a similar editorial in similar terms demanding action following the far greater atrocity that was carried out in Tughawa. Yalensis has told us about what happened there. Moreover whilst there are genuine doubts about what exactly happened and who was responsible for what happened in Houla, there is no doubt at all about what happened in Tughawa since the Misurata militia openly brag about it.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            British governments in the past let go unpunished in the Balkans a whole series of attrocities perpetrated there by the Ottoman Empire because British policy was to suppport “the sick man of Europe” (the Ottoman Empire) against “Russian aggression” (or, from the Russian point of view, the protection of Christian Slavs from almost unspeakable Turkish violations) that would lead to the Russian Black Sea fleet gaining access to the Mediterranean, thereby threatening the Suez canal and the British lifeline to its Indian Empire. The French were of like mind as well.

            • Misha says:

              Before the formal Russian intervention in question, some in the West were calling for action against the aforementioned atrocities.

              Thereafter, British, German and Austro-Hungarian geo-strategists became concerned about more independent and pro-Russian peoples in the Balkans desiring closer ties with Russia.

  8. Misha says:

    Pv Mikhail,

    Regarding Medinsky:

    http://russiaprofile.org/politics/59377.html

    Note that the author of the above piece doesn’t deal with historical inaccuracies that are noted in these pieces:

    http://inosmi.ru/politic/20120403/189815758.html

    http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/11-05-2012/121086-rape_russia_imagery-0/

    Motyl, Umland and some others get carte blanche relative to someone like Medinsky.

    For the benefit of the English language speaking audience, Medinsky should write a direct reply.

    If not, some will undoubtedly be influenced in a certain direction.

    BTW, I acknowledge a strategic Soviet land grab of the Baltics that had unethical aspects. Pro-Russian advocacy need not soft pedal such past actions, while ethically opposing anti-Russian biases, which the RP author in question seems to belittle.

    • Dear Misha and PvMikhail,

      As I cannot read Russian I cannot comment on Medinksy’s abilities as a historian. Russian historians of Russia are never translated into English, though when British historians like Orlando Figes are not translated into Russian there are noisy complaints of censorship.

      One point I would make is that the commentator in Russia Profile says that Medinsky’s claim that few Soviet prisoners of war liberated from the Germans were sent to the Gulag after the Second World War is in “stark contradiction” to the view in academic scholarship that most were.

      On this point at least Medinsky is right and the commentator is wrong. Academic scholarship now accepts that the claim that most Soviet prisoners of war liberated from the Germans were sent to the Gulag is a myth exactly as Medinsky apparently says. For once the Wikipedia article sets out the position well

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulag#After_World_War_II

      • Misha says:

        Academically and journalistically speaking, the RP article on Medinsky is lacking. The subject of anti-Russian biases continues to be under-represented. RP and/or RT can do an edifying panel on the subject by bringing on top quality perspectives that have generally been given the shaft in the biased and crony status quo.

    • PvMikhail says:

      Reading the headline, this is what comes to my mind:
      Yes, Russia needs propaganda, that’s all I can say. At least the country has to make counter-steps to anti-Russianism. They have to prevent normal working people, who don’t have the time or interest to go deep in history, from turning into self-hating losers, because this is the goal of the enemies, to kill national pride. Propaganda can be countered only by propaganda, so be it. I hope, that Medinsky together with the new Education Minister will stop the anti-Russian propaganda misleading the youth in history books. They have to install pro-Russian history books, no matter what. Every country does the same. Do you think, that any country (except the Germans) reject itself as a morally corrupted nation through the entire history? No, they do not. If their history is full of bad stuff, they just lie about it. We hear it all the time about the lies and distortions the Hungarian students have to learn from the history books of the neighbouring countries. In these countries, historical textbooks are made not to teach history, but to create a national myth. The primary objective is to boost national pride. And you know what? Normal people will never learn the history deeply, because high school is simply not enough to teach it. High school students listen to the class with varying degree of attention. So I say: a basic history is needed with a lot of actions which support national pride and Russia has no shortage in that. Russia don’t have to lie about anything, only select the good episodes, because it has a rich history. So I say, that Russia must prevent itself to be a scapegoat for everything. Russia must have it’s own clear version of history. Not more concession to anyone. Anyone wants anything, should talk with respect. Otherwise we have no business to do. I have already written about the foreign policy priorities. Deals with countries who are “enemies of Russia” category should be done only in hard currency.

      McFaul have to be kicked out from Russia. Enough is enough.

      Sorry for bad english i am almost dying from exhaustion.
      I have no energy to read this lie-mountain about Medinsky. Tomorrow I will and reflect.

      • Misha says:

        That advocacy should be as intelligently and interestingly implemented as possible. Even then, there will be attempts by some to belittle that action.

        We can walk and chew gum at the same time, in the form of acknowledging past and present fault-lines, while successfully debunking the existing anti-Russian propaganda.

      • kirill says:

        There is plenty of propaganda meat in the west for Russia. To start with the duopoly party system in the USA. It is not merely two parties dominating the scene, they actually prevent third party candidates from the ballot. This was the case with Ralph Nader in 2008 and he is a mainstream politician. That local Democrat and Republic dominated election committees do not ban third candidates everywhere in the USA is irrelevant, they just have to ban them enough places to keep their political mafia racket going.

        Then the USA dares publish reports and yell about democracy standards in Russia and elsewhere. During the 2012 presidential election there were four candidates on the ballot. Unlike in the USA, three of the candidates were actually opposition candidates and not “branch of the same party” candidates.

  9. PvMikhail says:

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120530/173755083.html

    The game is getting serious. We cannot laugh at this as a stunt. Businessmen OPENLY support opposition again. Remember 2003.

    • marknesop says:

      Gee, that looks like a nice watch Navalny is wearing in the photo. I wonder if someone from the New York Review of Books or Foreign Policy or The Economist or The Guardian is going to write a story on its provenance and how much it cost.

      Alexander Lebedev, what a surprise. What the hell does he care about corruption in Russia?

      In any case, I think the view expressed in the closing paragraphs is the one to go with: the Putin government could hardly object to Navalny’s activities, since it too is committed to dealing with corruption, and better the Russian government dealing with it than somebody like Bill Browder inventing it for profit. And of course Navalny will understand if the government investigates his own business activities, since anti- corruption effort must be applied with an even hand.

  10. Misha says:

    Latest Putin “snub” claim from a very likely source:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/30/vladimir-putin-snub-london-olympics

    Another way of looking at this situation notes that at the last summer Olympics in Beijing, the Russian PM (at the time Putin) was in attendance. As PM, Medvedev’s presence in London is therefore consistent.

    • marknesop says:

      I know exactly how they feel, because I invited Mr. Putin over this Saturday for a barbecue, and not only is he not willing to drop everything and come so that I can write a story about how out of touch he is with the Russian people that he has time to be sprawling on my deck drinking beer, he isn’t even sending Medvedev in his place. The nerve!!

      Was Mr. Putin specifically invited to attend the London Olympics? The article doesn’t say, although it is liberally sprinkled with references to all the thoroughgoing oligarch-loving British patriots who suggested he not be allowed to come. Somehow when he decides to take their advice and react sensitively to their non-welcome, it is a “snub”. Is there going to be a need for some more petulance bypass operations?

      This is likely just laying the groundwork for a British boycott of the 2014 Olympics, although that probably won’t happen.

      Hey, did you know Britain has storage capacity for only 15 days worth of gas supplies? Or that is heavily dependent on gas from Russia?

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/4127327/Britain-is-still-too-heavily-dependent-on-imported-energy.html

      Or that the British energy plan for reducing its dependency is more nuclear reactors?

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/world/europe/british-energy-plan-would-add-nuclear-plants.html

      Awesome. I like that the British are not scared of nuclear power like a lot of the fraidy-cats in this spineless world. Says Volker Beckers, Chief Executive for NPower, “What the energy sector needs now is simplicity and clarity”. Building more nuke plants when the rest of Europe is getting rid of theirs certainly would have the advantage of concentrating the nuclear waste in a smaller area, which sounds…well..simple, for want of a better term.

      Is it going to be a cold winter this year? Anybody heard?

      The running of a bunch of irresponsible and self-indulgent people’s pie-holes about Putin not being allowed to visit Merrie England is probably a Godsend, because if he visited there would be nutjobs from The Guardian hanging from tree branches to get pictures of him having a hamburger or enjoying a pint or some other leisurely activity, which they would then run in a story contrasting his life of ease with the squalor of some poor family in Pskov or something like that. Mr. Putin would be better served getting a subscription to Viz : it’s just like being there.

      http://www.viz.co.uk/

      • Misha says:

        Your sarcasm has awesome moments.

        From someone else:

        A big “So What?” It’s only further evidence of Putin treating Medvedev as a kind of Vice President, especially for these sorts of things (just as U.S. Vice Presidents get to go to the funerals-except for Cheney, who had to stay home to keep running the Bush government; he couldn’t quite send Bush to the funerals instead). As for this as being “further evidence of Putin’s authoritarianism,” spare me! And certainly there will be enough representation of the Russians at the Olympics — half the elite’s children are studying there and can probably afford the tickets that are out of the reach of the London proletariat.

        ****

        The number of Russians attending such events in the West is considerable. I recall the support their soccer team received at the last FIFA Euro championship tournament.

        I saw plenty of white, blue and red tri-color flags, two headed eagle shirts and caps, along with a smattering of black, gold and white tri-color flags – no liberast propaganda messages or CCCP throwback garb.

        • marknesop says:

          Ditto the Russian audience representation at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, especially the hockey. Note that only 8 more people attended the Gold Medal game which had Canada facing the USA (and as a result of which I promised to have Sidney Crosby’s baby: awkward) than attended the Canada-Russia game in which Russia was eliminated in the Quarterfinals. I’m sure there were a lot of Canadians there, because Russia is our legendary opponent in hockey, but I’m sure there were a lot of Russians also.

          • Misha says:

            During the mid-1990s time of troubles, a US-Russia World Cup of Ice Hockey game in NY’s MSG saw a noticeable Russian presence in the stands.

            On a hockey note, the Devils lost a tough one tonight.

    • cartman says:

      I have not registered on Forbes, but if Mark Adomanis wants to write rebuttals, he should probably stop agreeing with them first. That article by Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini was designed for maximum outrage – and infantile – so why give them an inch?

  11. yalensis says:

    INTERESTING:
    Debate within American media how to convince Putin to dump Assad and join Western (and Saudi/Qatari) Crusade against Syrian Alawites:
    In this parallel universe that we now live in, Zbigniew Brzezinski has become the Voice of Reason. Watch this duel between him versus famous journalist (and ferocious Russophobe) Carl Bernstein on American TV:
    Bernstein: “The Russians have become really ugly players…. The thuggism of the old Soviet Union represented anew by Putin…” (etc etc)
    Zbig (barely concealing his contempt for Bernstein): “What exactly do you propose to do?”
    Berstein (pompously): “We need the Russians to join the community of Decent Nations…”
    Zbig (with increasing irritation): “And if they don’t?”
    Bernstein: “Romney is right to talk about the Russians in terms of what a TERRIBLE force they have become [in the world].”
    Zbig (sarcastically): “So, the solution to the Syrian problem is verbal denunciations of the Russians in the UN?”
    In the end, Zbig makes mincemeat out of Bernstein. Be sure to have your popcorn ready, this is SO MUCH FUN to watch!

  12. kievite says:

    Russian reply on the US sponsored “permanent color revolution” now staged in Russia😉 :

  13. Leos Tomicek says:

    I recall I have read about that Dmitriev report somewhere, and that I stopped reading when I read about Putin’s popularity falling and a looming political crisis. There are better, more credible things I have to read.

    • marknesop says:

      I wasn’t all that interested in it myself until I read that his report was comprised of data realized from focus groups. Focus groups are great for convincing a bunch of rubes that they just love a new product that they really have no use for, but it is way too manipulative to use for compiling political data. All you have to do is rephrase the question until you get the answer you want. Adding on the bizarre suggestion that Dmitriev’s forecasts of plunging ratings for United Russia had been accurate while everyone else went off on a wild-goose chase with their silly opinion surveys was just like waving a red rag under a bull’s nose.

  14. Misha says:

    Regarding cronyism and soap opera like analysis:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/05/30/michael_mcfaul_undiplomat?page=0,4

    Some excerpts –

    When I met Sergei Markov, the United Russia Party foreign-policy hawk and Putin enthusiast, he was on crutches and had a cast on his left foot — a motorcycle accident in January had left him with a broken ankle. We talked as he waited in the freezing green room of a Russian television studio. He had set up an invisible conveyer belt from the refreshments table to his mouth. “The reset has fulfilled its mission, which was to remove the foolishness of the Bush era,” he said, inhaling a mushroom pastry in one bite. “Now it’s time for the Americans to meet us halfway.” That means: Get rid of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, develop their military strategy with Russia’s interests in mind, and change the anti-Russian “regimes” in Latvia and Estonia. (How? Well, that is up to the Americans, he told me.)
    Even with these beliefs, Markov thinks McFaul is the right man for the job. “He’s the perfect representative of America,” he told me, devouring a cucumber spear. “He is open, friendly, generous. He’s very democratic. He has a strong moral compass, and he really wants to help.” Markov knows all this firsthand.

    It is one of those strange twists of fate that this man was once McFaul’s close friend and colleague. The two were observers of the ferment of Moscow in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Markov was a philosophy graduate student at Moscow State and active in Democratic Russia, an early shoot of the Russian democracy movement, and McFaul was studying international relations at Oxford.

    &

    Markov began to work with the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute — a decade-long gig. He went to McFaul’s wedding in California, where he — unsuccessfully — hit on another Russia scholar and friend of McFaul’s, Condoleezza Rice. In 1994, McFaul and Markov helped found the Moscow Carnegie Center, which hosted regular discussions and seminars featuring a novel feature to draw an audience: free dinner. A few years later, Markov was pushed out of Carnegie because he was viewed as the propagandist of the second Chechen War. McFaul defended him and the two have remained friends to this day, “which can be kind of difficult at times,” says a mutual friend who had been part of their crew in the 1990s. “The last time I was in Washington, I stayed with McFaul,” Markov told me. “We debated vigorously.”

    • Misha says:

      Over the course of time, one can find issue with some of Markov’s views, in a way that’s not highlighted at neocon to neolib leaning venues like Foreignpolicy.com, as well as some high profile Russian venues.

      As one example, some of the Russian spin doctor’s comments about the so called “Orange Revolution” come to mind. Shortly after Yushchenko’s presidential inauguration, I recall Markov’s appearance on News World International. (Now defunct, NWI was a Canadian Broadcasting Company television affiliate). When asked why the Orange government was counterproductive, Markov said that its Russia unfriendly elements served to provoke a nationalist backlash in Russia. From a Russian vantage point, this wasn’t good public relations, in addition to not offering the most accurate of thoughts on the subject. Markov’s emphasis on Russia conjures up the image of a Russian not concerned with how Ukraine feels and provides fodder for the faulty notion of Russia being collectively ripe with overly aggressive nationalists. The better answer to the NWI question would note that the newly inaugurated (at the time) Orange government’s not so Russia friendly advocates are an anathema to many in Ukraine, who don’t view Russia with hostility. This in turn could create instability within Ukraine, which in the long run wouldn’t benefit anyone. In any event, present day Ukraine is politically murky, with Russia and the West now taking a different approach on that former Soviet republic.

      Regarding some of what has been said, Leos Tomicek recently expressed (at his blog), the view that some Russophile elements in Ukraine feel let down by Russia.

    • marknesop says:

      Soap opera like analysis sums it up perfectly. Lots of Ioffe trademark stage-setting asides, like what a pig Markov is, gobbling up all the free food. How responsive the Russians were to the early Carnegie Center initiative of offering a free dinner, because of course the Russians are starving and would listen to Mephisto torture the helpless if free dinner was part of the package – Russians, after all, are simple creatures, and you can get them to do anything as long as you share some of your incredible wealth with them. Naturally Markov’s wife made some extra money doing translation work for him, because Russians are born nepotists. Through it all, McFaul’s bluff, hearty good fellowship shines through like glimpses of armour through a torn cloak – although he apparently shares all Ioffe’s contempt for Russians, he “genuinely wants to help” turn them into something acceptable to the world, and help them get over this silly great=power complex they seem to have. There is no need, for example, for America to consider Russia’s interests in the formulation of its foreign policy, because America is the sole remaining superpower and other nations should be grateful it pays them any attention at all.

      Except for being loud – which perhaps she is in public; I couldn’t say, as we’ve never met – Ioffe is the stereotypical American that is sitting at the table next to you and you (as a fellow American) think, God I hope that person isn’t an American. It’s not that the United States is not a great country: it is, and I think everyone recognizes that. It’s that born-again patriots like Julia cannot conceive of anyone else even aspiring to greatness unless it’s done with American guidance and supervision. There can be no achievement unless it follows an American model, and anything else is laughable if it fails and dirty cheating if it succeeds.

      • Misha says:

        A “born again” something else in the form of what sells best for advancement in a given field.

        On another point, there’s plenty of nepotism to be found in the US.

        Over the course of time, there has been a litany of inaccurate material from that source. While being better than nothing, the establishment of venues like RT and the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation haven’t resulted in influencing as great an objective view in the West as some would like to see.

  15. Misha says:

    This matter:

    http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2012/05/the-prospect-of-western-europe-collapsing-like-eastern-europe/

    explains what motivates highlighting issues like:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18237811

    Rather than acknowledge EU limits, it’s better for some to focus attention on the shortcoming of others – something that can fly, given that there’s a degree of truth involved.

  16. yalensis says:

    American invasion of Syria looking more likely with every day, especially with the ramping up of the propaganda war. Tomorrow (Friday) is the day that Syrian “activists” have announced they will break ceasfire and launch all-out insurgency againt Syrian government.
    American UN Ambassador Susan Rice already announced that USA will not regard itself as bound by any Security Council veto, and can launch invasion whenever it feels like it. A big Middle East war launched near the end of the summer might have additional benefit for Obama in helping win re-election (on wave of American patriotic frenzy?). Republicans might be secretly horrified but would not be able to take anti-war stance, because they have already gone on record rooting for war against Syria and Iran and have taunted Obama as being a peace-loving pussy. Every time they taunt Obama, he responds by doing something macho, like killing bin Laden, or bombing Libya.
    Meanwhile, trained Al Qaeda soldiers, NATO special ops, and tons of weapons are pouring into Syria to from all sides – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, new American client states Egypt and Libya, the list goes on.
    Things are looking pretty bad for Assad. But, on the bright side: he still has suport of army, security forces, and government apparatus. He has good army, strong air defences, and even though he would lose in the end, I think he can give the Americans a good run for their money. Plus, Iran will stand behind him and shut down Straight of Hormuz. Americans say they will respond by sending in teams of trained dolphins to clear mines (I am not kidding).
    Hence, Russia and China will need to come up with some serious ideas in the next few weeks and months, if they want to prevent a serious geo-strategical defeat. For starters, sonar blasts can hurt the mine-clearing dolphins and cause them to beach themselves.
    By the way, I am convinced that any remaining Opp activity in Russia at this time (Navalnyites, etc.) must be seen within the context of the Syrian situation is simply an American Punch and Judy show aimed at pressuring Putin (or so they believe) into abstaining on war resolution in UN Security Council. However, Putin is unlikely to be impressed by these ineffectual color revolutionaries..

    http://www.dni.ru/polit/2012/5/31/234519.html

    • Misha says:

      On a related note:

      http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2012/05/30/sentenced-to-extermination.html

      There’s a chance that something short of a direct foreign intervention will occur. At present, Assad isn’t overwhelmingly opposed in Syria, with the opposition to him being a bit fractured among themselves, while lacking the support of a good number of Syrians.

      • Dear Yalensis,

        If there is a US attack on Syria without the approval of the UN Security Council I think there will be a very strong international reaction. It will not be the same as the response to the attack on Libya. The US does not have enough troops in the area to launch an outright invasion as it did against Iraq in 2003 and I suspect that there would be strong opposition to such a move within the US including from within the US military. A bombing campaign is a distinct possibility but international opposition might make it difficult to sustain for very long.

        The US also needs to calculate the damage such an attack would cause it in other places that of greater importance to it. Its transist convoys to Afghanistan are already being blocked from Pakistan, which has made clear its strong opposition to an attack on Syria. That makes the US totally dependent on Russia to maintain its supplies to Afghanistan. Would Putin be in a position to allow such supplies to continue to transit through Russia in the event of an attack on Syria? Would Putin still be able to keep the transit base in Ulyanovsk open given how unpopular it already is?

        One cannot unfortunately predict with confidence that the US is capable of making decisions based on rational calculations. However an attack on Syria looks so dangerous that I still think it unlikely. More probably there will be an escalation of arms supplies to the rebels, which of course has been happening already, together with further attempts to tighten up the economic blockade the US has already imposed on the country.

        Overall my impression is of intense frustration in western capitals at the way the regime change agenda in Syria is being blocked by Russian and Chinese opposition. Because the western powers are too nervous of China to criticise it openly they have directed all their abuse at Russia. The fact that they are abusing Russia in the way that they are is a sign however that they realise that their options are limited. There is also increasing criticism of Annan, with old and unfair criticisms of his role in the Bosnia crisis and Rwanda being raked up and increasing charges that he is somehow providing “cover” for Assad.

        Lastly, I would mention that there is one individual who has remained conspicuously silent amidst all the hysteria of the last few days. That person is of course Obama. I have long since had the strong impression that Obama deep down does not agree with the regime change agenda that Hillary Clinton has foisted on him but that his political position in the US is too weak for him to impose his will on her.

        @ Misha, Russian spokesmen over the last day are increasingly drawing the parallels with Yugoslavia you were making. May be they should sign you up?

        • Misha says:

          Alexander & Co.,

          The Democratic Party foreign policy thinking is very much influenced by people who went along with the Clinton admin advocated bombing of Yugoslavia. S. Rice, Power, Biden and H. Clinton immediately come to mind. I’m not suggesting that the Repubs are radically different, given the Bush admin’s basis for conducting the second war against Iraq, Romney’s recent comments on Russia and how the Bush admin (C. Rice in particular) have readily stayed the course on “independent” Kosovo.

        • cartman says:

          The French were the ones selling weapons in Rwanda’s case, and that was an actual genocide. I wonder if Hollande has joined the anti-Russia chorus, or if he remembers that it was during Mitterrand’s presidency when the weapons were sold.

      • marknesop says:

        Foreign policy makers don’t care what happens to Syria after Assad is overthrown – removing him and tipping Syria into chaos is the objective, not that stupid illusion of a peaceful and democratic, western-aligned Syria. Libya was instructive in that regard, and the west has done nothing ton stabilize it since installing a revolutionary al Qaeda council which is far from representative of the population, even of its most radical elements. Make no mistake: Syria, once “liberated”, would be abandoned to the revolutionaries just as Libya was; the west can punch their card later, but for now they serve to open up the attack routes on Iran.

        The west has become accustomed to using the easier-to-obtain-forgiveness-than-permission doctrine for awhile now, and just going in and doing its will and then scuffing the ground with its shoe and hanging its head afterward and saying gosh, we sure are sorry, we just got caught up, whereupon all is forgiven and the world goes on much as it did. I believe if it is clear that such deliberate manipulation will no longer be tolerated, the west will not attack, but will content itself with arming and encouraging the “rebels” in the hope that they will be successful on their own.

        • Misha says:

          The kind of short term thinking that’s out there is geo-politically mind boggling.

          An observation made from the perspective of what’s best for US interests.

    • marknesop says:

      The dolphins actually are very effective at minehunting and mine clearing in fairly shallow water, and they can be flown in anywhere; they were here last year for a joint minehunting exercise. Their pool travels with them and they are slung to put them in and take them out of the water. I don’t think they actually clear mines themselves (although I’m not sure, as it’s not my field), I believe they just identify and mark them for later clearance. But they’re very good art finding them even where there’s a rocky bottom, which there is not in the Strait of Hormuz. Using active sonar to blind them would be cruel to creatures that are just doing what they are trained to do, and unnecessary. A better method would be to seed the bottom widely with objects that merely look like mines and are similar in composition. Dolphins just know what a man-made object looks like; not what’s inside it. I’m sure plenty of people have thought of that already.

      If Iran was serious about closing the Strait, they could do it easily without mining it. The actual deep channel is not very wide, and if they sank a few tankers across it it would offer an obstacle to deep-draught vessels like oil tankers that would take weeks if not months to clear. And if Iran is attacked it will try to close the Strait, because then it will have nothing to lose. Still, its best defense – Syria’s as well – exists in getting the message out: we have no nuclear weapons, nobody has a shred of evidence that we have or are even developing one, and we have an established right – in writing in a treaty to which the USA is a signatory – to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. The manipulation of information regarding the enrichment of uranium for power generation versus that for weapon development is deliberate, and the two are not the same and the difference is verifiable. Hire a U.S. lobby group for crazy money, if that’s what it takes. In Syria’s case it is more difficult, because there is so much suspicion now over photographic and video evidence being faked, but I’m sure neutral journalists could be guided and protected by the Syrian Army as they captured verifiable and authentic accounts of Syria being set up by armed revolutionaries killing civilians, which is then blamed on government forces.

      • Misha says:

        Over the course of time, a good number of highly placed journos readily take sides to a conflict in a propagandistic way.

        Consider the lack of attention to the 150,000 or so ethnically cleansed Serbs from Krajina and the lack of outrage when Serb youths were gunned down outside a club, shortly before the NATO bombing of Yugo.

        In such instances, the establishment spin will include the suggestion that they (to include the government associated with representing them) had it coming to them. Concerning Russia, this has been evident in instances like Beslan and the Mosocw theater siege.

        In contrast, the they had it coming to them mindset is likely to be more scorned in instances like 9/11 and what happened at the 1972 summer Olympics.

        • kirill says:

          Not to nitpick, but there were 450,000 Serbs ethnically cleansed from Croatia’s current borders during the 1990s. This includes east and west Slavonia and large cities outside Krajina.

          You are right, there was a headline in a British paper that read: “Serbs them right” when they were being ethnically cleanses from Krajina. This sort of barbarian meathead coverage is typical of the western media.

          • Misha says:

            Yes.

            I was referring to the one instance known as “Operation Storm”, in late August/early September of 1995, which included numerous casualties.

            Consider me a serbversive.

            Around the end of the NATO bombing over Kosovo, on a Fox News show, Charles Kupchan flippantly said the Serbs would probably have to leave Kosovo, in a way that wasn’t condemning of such a move. On that same Fox segment Ben Works made it a point to highlight Kupchan’s lack of moral indignation.

          • Misha says:

            Regarding anti-Serb propaganda:

            http://www.rferl.org/content/white-ribbons-prijedor-bosnia-genocide/24599731.html

            The above piece speaks of Serb violence on Muslims and Croats. RFE/RL is prone to belittle instances like a stretch in the Bosnian Civil War when Croat-pro-Izetbegovic forces were fighting more with each other than Serbs. The back pages of The NYT reported on Croats fleeing Izetbegovic strongholds to Serb areas. Moreover some Muslims (led by Fikret Abdic) fought Izetbegovic forces, while being aligned with the Croats and Serbs.

            The people pushing the faulty agenda of “genocide denial” are the same folks who uncritically stated exaggerated Bosnian Civil War fatalities.

            At around the end of the Bosnian Civil War, there was a reasoned basis to conclude a death toll figure between 75,000-125,000, as opposed to the 200,000-350,000 figure typically stated by nationalist anti-Serbs and neocon to neolib influenced sources.

            Years after that war ended, a generally accepted casualty figure of around 100,000, with a margin of error of perhaps up to 10,000 one way or the other, became generally acknowledged.

            If journalism and political analysis were more merit based, a good number of venues would note those getting such figures right from the get go, over others who didn’t. In some influential circles, the latter grouping are more prone to getting a continued propping, unlike the ones who were right.

            Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden aren’t considered acts of “genocide.” How many more people of the given ethnic group were killed in these scenarios?

  17. Moscow Exile says:

    Off topic, I know, but….

    Search though I have tried, I cannot find any reference in the British press to this RT story:

    http://www.rt.com/news/berezovsky-litvinenko-murder-allegations-662/

    I wonder why?

    • kirill says:

      He’s seen the light. No coverage because it does not fit the propaganda BS narrative.

      The UK can huff and puff with its smear attacks, but it ain’t blowing the Russian house down. It will be interesting after 2015 what tune the UK is playing vis a vis Russia. Their ancient nuclear reactors have to be decommissioned (some of them will get extensions like Fukushima) and Norwegian gas production will be in decline.

  18. Moscow Exile says:

    News from The Parallel Universe:

    “Vladimir Putin’s new presidential term is just beginning, but it increasingly looks like the beginning of the end. Whenever Russia’s people pour into the streets en masse, as they have been doing since December, from that point on, things never work out well for the authorities.

    In March 1917, Tsar Nicholas II had to abdicate in the wake of mass street protests, clearing the way for the Bolshevik Revolution eight months later. In December 1991, the Soviet Union, then seemingly an unbreakable monolith, collapsed in just a few months. In August of that year, hundreds of thousands went into the streets to confront the hard-line coup against Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika”.

    From a Moscow Times opinion piece, of course.

    Those who live in Moscow and who may have read the article in which the extract quoted above appears would probably shrug off the author’s comments with a wry smile. However, the Moscow Times is not targeted at Muscovites, I am sure.

    The likes of the former chief of the Guardian Moscow Bureau, the plagiarist Harding, occasionally refers to the MT, as do other “Russia observers” in the West.

    See: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/putins-final-act/459585.html

    The author of the MT article linked above is Dr. Nina L. Khrushcheva, a Russian-American professor in the graduate programme of international affairs at The New School, a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute, and from 2002 to 2004 was adjunct assistant professor at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

    What a surprise!

    She is also Nikita “We shall bury you!” Kryshchev’s great-great granddaughter.

    What an irony!

    • Misha says:

      NLK has openly belittled Russia’s readopted coat of arms for the flimsiest of reasons.

      As has been suggested, the extremes resulting from the 1917 and 1990s periods serve to explain why many Russians aren’t so keen on sudden, drastic measures from a small group of elitny.

      A gradual development of periodic up and down trends, with the former trend slowly/hopefully improving is seen by many as the most practical route to take.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I presume her criticism of the present Russian Federation coat of arms is that it is, in effect, the old imperial arms. However, the Republic of Austria seems to manage to live with the double-headed Hapsburg eagle on its arms. Not only that, the Austrian eagle holds a hammer and sickle in each of its talons, which symbols were added in 1919 when the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg empire collapsed and which represent, as they did in the USSR, the proletariat and the peasantry. Attached to the Austrian eagle’s talons is a broken chain, which was added in 1945 to symbolise the liberation of Austria from Nazi “occupation”, albeit that the 1938 annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany was welcomed with open arms by the majority of Austrians and not a shot was fired during what became known by the Germans as “der Blumenkrieg” (the Flower War) because of the amount of flowers the welcoming Austrians threw at the “occupying” German armed forces.

        • Misha says:

          In short, she takes a rather hypocritical look at Russia’s past. The “reactionary” claim doesn’t take into consideration how other nations have present emblems dating back to centuries ago, when conditions were different.

          The east and west look of the two headed eagle is quite appropriate for Russia. I recall some hoopla raised a few years back by a Muslim org. (not a greatly popular one at that) saying the Russian two headed eagle is “too Christian,” on account of three not so visible crosses above the three crowns. Consider the high profile cross on the flags and/or coat of arms of numerous other nations, as well as Israel’s flag and coat of arms and the Muslim symbol on the falgs and/or coat of arms of numerous other nations.

          Some will say this is “whataboutism,” in a round about way of belittling the kind of hypocrisy that’s out there. Russia has a proud past, that need not be altogether ditched.

    • kirill says:

      This b*tch had an interview on Steve Paikin’s Agenda (TV Ontario) where she was hurling racist slurs at Russians. She basically called them “lazy Ivans” and nostalgic for the Soviet past. She called Russia the un-west, I guess like zombies are called the un-dead. This is tripe that if it had been aimed at some other ethnic groups it would have never made it to the TV screen.

      I find the label “lazy Ivan” rather amusing. There was an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski in the early 1990s about where the pieces of the USSR would go in terms of development. He was touting Ukraine as being the star performer and Russia as being too deficient to develop. I guess lazy Ivan ain’t so lazy. In fact he pretty much pulled himself up by the bootstraps (if only the rightwingers knew where this phrase comes from, LOL) and saved his country from complete collapse. Not his leaders or some foreign meddlers. During the 1990s Russian grew their own food and worked for nothing to keep defense plants operational. Meanwhile racist minority bimbo Khrushcheva was bleating her lame mantra.

      • Misha says:

        I’m reminded of this piece:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/10/opinion/10iht-edkruscheva.1.7073510.html

        Much unlike Khrushcheva: Gogol took pride in his country, while being able to criticize some negative aspects in it. Upon its release, Gogol’s novel in question was known to be admired by the czar – in effect showing a spirit of acknowledging flaws within the society.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        The concept of “shock worker” (udarnik) is one that “lazy Ivan” dreamt up, and Aleksei Stakhanov, a Russian, is on record as winning with a jack-hammer 102 tonnes of coal in 5 hours and 45 minutes. Some know-it-alls try to belittle Stakhanov’s claim, saying that he had a specially trained back-up team to help him achieve his record, which was 14 times his quota. Such critics just show their ignorance as regards coal mining: for every man at the coal face there are numerous men “outbye” (away from the face in the direction of the shafts) who all play an essential role in the winning of coal. A miner just doesn’t travel in to the face, does his stint, then tallies his output for each shift for his payment: it’s all team work, with the men at the face relying on the outbye workers to maximise their shift output.

        • kirill says:

          I am not really thinking of exceptional cases of productivity under communism which could have been real or not. But the 1990s demonstrated to me that Russian grassroots initiative is not something to be ignored. Those “lazy” Soviet-loving Ivans demonstrated a lot of entrepreneurial initiative to keep their country intact. None of the discussion about the fall of communism deals with the amazing fact that Russia survived intact while changing the economic and political system at the same time in a shock transition. As if such changes of Biblical proportions happen every day without any fallout. I am quite sure that Brzezinski’s dream of a fragmented Russia is not just some idle wishing from a nut, it was the expected result of the fall of communism.

          Regarding Putin’s regime, it is the result of the will of the Russian people. So attacks on Putin are attacks on Russians. We have the example of Mexico to compare to when you have a weak, Western-approved, “democratic” government in power. Drug cartels are basically running the show in huge chunks of the country and any reduction in violence in the Mexican states is not an indication of the triumph of law and order but is due to a final settling of accounts amongst drug gangs, i.e. the peace is phony. Mexico will naturally have its own characteristics and simple-minded comparisons are to be avoided. But there are universal aspects such as the lack of a strong and uncorrupted central government which accounts for the chaos. It is clear that “strongman” Putin is doing the right and proper job in Russia and has the support of about 2 of every 3 Russians.

          If all the Russia haters can pull on Putin is Khodorkovsky and some brazen law breaker demonstrators who get 15 days in detention (they are not sent to penal colonies) then they really have zero on Russia. Putin is a democratic leader who follows the will of the people and does not construct gulags to social engineer them into subservience. It is the rotten liberasts and their fanaticism that offer a real danger to the human rights of Russians. One of the first policies of this scum should they come to power will be to start sending Russians to gulags on various pretexts. I have dealt with some of these fanatics face to face. Russia does not need their psychotic zeal.

          • Quite an interesting piece by Nina Khrushcheva. It seems demonstrations by a few thousand people in Moscow are a better reflection of the will of the Russian people than anything so democratic as mere elections. Well she is the descendant of a CPSU General Secretary after all so she should know.

            Incidentally her two examples are historically wrong. Nicholas II did not abdicate because of street demonstrations but because the army in Petrograd mutinied after he foolishly and wrongly gave orders that it should fire on the demonstrators, a mistake which Putin shows no sign of making. The USSR did not collapse because of street protests but because the leaders of three Soviet republics, Yeltsin, Kravchuk and the then Byelorussian leader (I forget their name) decided to end it at a summit meeting in Brest in December 1991. This was done contrary to the will of the Soviet and Russian people who a few months before in a referendum in March 1991 had voted overwhelmingly to preserve the USSR. In others the USSR was brought to an end not by revolution or through streets protests but by a coup.

            PS: I was interested to see her estimate for Yeltsin’s fortune of $15 million. Was that a mere guess? It sounds plausible.

  19. Moscow Exile says:

    Great-granddaughter, not great-great grandaughter. And on her mother’s side, they say. So why is her family name Krushchev (or Kryshchev as I prefer to transliterate her great-grandfather’s family name)?

  20. Moscow Exile says:

    So it’s back to the old tactic: We won’t assemble where you tell us we may, but where we say we will. That’s “freedom”, just like in the West, where you can go and do just as you please.

    The venue for the scheduled for June 12 “March of a Million”, albeit that permission for no more than 50,000 to attend has been applied for, has been turned down by Moscow City authorities. Udaltsov has started off once again, demanding that he and the “oppositionists” be allowed to assemble on the Garden Ring, saying that their “right” to assemble in central Moscow is a “matter of principle”.

    Moscow City authorities have offered the “oppositionists” an alternative venue, the Frunzenskaya Embankment of the Moscow River, for their “March of Something in the Region of 10,000”.

    I wonder if any British republicans will be allowed to assemble in front of Buckingham Palace, London, this weekend, when an orgy of celebrating 60 years of the present unelected British head of state’s office officially starts, and if they did so without receiving permission, what would happen to them?

    See: http://www.mk.ru/politics/article/2012/06/01/710363-oppozitsioneryi-otkazalis-mitingovat-za-sadovyim-koltsom.html

  21. yalensis says:

    I saw this video on INOSMI, it was put together by Syrian government TV in attempt to refute Western media allegations that they “murdered their own people” in Houla.
    Video starts with typical Al Jazeera propaganda piece supposedly showing Syrian government artillery blowing up houses; and then horrible scenes of dead civilians.
    Video (in Arabic, with Russian overlay) then goes on to break down one of the shots of a house blowing up, proving that the explosion came from within, and not from artillery shelling. In other words, the allegation is that the “militants” set explosives within this particular house, and then blew it up, as part of the propaganda movie they were making.
    Video then goes on (at 5:15 min) to show the carnage on the streets, pointing out one of these flip-flop-wearing Al Qaeda militants casually strolling down the street slinging his Kalashnikov while horrified people are trying to deal with these bloody piles of bodies.
    At 9:20 in, if you have the stomach for it, there is an extended shot of a slaughtered child, clutching the Syrian flag in his hand. The announcer grimly reminds us that this is the “Syrian” flag, not the Opposition flag, that the child is clutching.
    This shot is reminiscent to me of one I saw on youtube during Libyan war. It was one of the worst atrocity videos anyone has ever seen. A small boy had been running down the street in Misurata waving the Gaddafi Green Flag. Al Qaeda rebels apparently seized the boy, took the flagpole away from him, and shoved it right through his body, from his anus up through his armpit. The video, which might still be up on youtube, shows the boy lying in a hospital bed, with the flag still through him, still alive, but stoically enduring terrible pain as the doctors try to fix him.
    In short, between Libya and Syria, the Monsters are the same, and the Methods are the same.
    (And in both cases, we have the Qataris, with their Al Jazeera sound studio, helpfully producing Hollywood-style propaganda movies for Western audiences on behalf of the Al Qaeda mercenaries.)

    http://www.inosmi.ru/video/20120601/192955543.html

    • yalensis says:

      P.S.
      I have watched the beginning of this video several times, and am trying to figure something out. At around 1:05 in, the man’s voice, which has been chanting, in Arabic, “Allahu Akbar” (as the explosion goes off), suddenly seems to switch to English and pronounce a sentence in an American Southern accent. I have listened to this about 10 times and cannot make out what he is saying, but it seems to start with the words: “Truly I am sorry for the intensity….” [sounds something like “of General Marsh???”]
      I wondered if this was some famous quote from a movie, being used ironically in this context, so I googled the phrase “truly I am sorry for the intensity” but all I came up with was some similar (but not exactly the same) quotes from Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

    • kirill says:

      The extremely annoying thing is that the majority of western media consumers fall for this sh*t even though it does not have a long shelf life and there has been a quick succession of it in the last 20 years. Few pay enough attention to even think through the claims. Haditha and MyLai are cases of “rogue” US soldiers, but every atrocity in Syria is the fault of Assad and his regime. I know in this case the atrocity is staged by Assad’s opponents, but the media consumer does not even bother to consider motive. Who gains from these atrocities and who loses. Clearly it is Assad who loses from every atrocity, so why would he have any incentive to pursue such tactics? It’s all good vs. evil in the minds of the lemming media consumer and the western media ladles them full of it.

  22. Eugene says:

    Mark,

    Could you please explain what makes you believe that Dmitriev’s Центр Стратегических Разработок (http://csr.ru/) has anything to do with CSIS? I always believed that the Center was established in 1999 with explicit Putin’s patronage (via Gref) to provide economic program for his presidency. Do you remember “The Gref Plan” of 2000? it was the Center’s brainchild.

    The Center’s website doesn’t even mention CSIS in the list of its international contacts. Moreover, it leadership includes the Irkutsk governor Mezentsev (the first president of the Center) and Vice-Premier Kozak. It’s hard for me to believe that Kozak would participate in any organization with explicit ties to the US government.

    Let’s clarify this point first as you seem to put a lot of stock in the idea that Dmitriev is run “from the abroad.”

    Best,
    Eugene

    • marknesop says:

      Good Morning, Eugene! I am just off to work and do not have the time to dig into it at the moment, although I will look when I get home. But at first glance it appears there is something to what you say and that the Center for Strategic Research is not actually a member organization of CSIS; that would be the Russia and Eurasia Program. I probably made an assumption based on the similarity of their names and the apparent commonality of their goals. If that turns out to be the case I will issue a correction.

      That said, the two are hardly strangers. As I suggested, Mikhail Dmitriev is a member of the Advisory Council of the Carnegie Moscow Center, and they are directly supported by the Russia and Eurasia Program which is a partner organization of CSIS. And Mikhail Dmitriev and our old friend Anders Aslund are working on a joint project with CSIS entitled “Russian Economic Goals to 2020; Dreams or Reality?” as well as Mr. Dmitriev’s frequent appearances at CSIS-partnered events. I think you’ll enjoy the latter reference; on the same page that confirms the Center for Strategic Research is in fact partly funded by the Russian government (page 6) – although it is an NGO – the closing paragraph makes this assessment of Navalny: “Finally, the role of Alexey Navalny was raised. In Dr. Dmitriev‟s opinion, Navalny has excellent economic and political instincts—he is market-minded and has ideas relevant to the current Russian environment. He has outstanding political talent, which has thus far served him well, with the foresight to take appropriate action. Moreover, he is working to develop a timely political agenda to transform himself into a national leader. According to Dr. Dmitriev, there are no other political leaders who can match Navalny at this point; if Navalny has enough patience and self-restraint and decides to fully enter Russian politics, he has the potential to become President someday.

      There must be another Alexey Navalny of whom I had not heard. Anyway, thanks for the information, and I will look into it later today. Best,

      Mark

      • Eugene says:

        Mark,

        Your criticism of Dmitriev’s approach reminds me of the famous French proverb: la plus belle fille du monde ne peut vendre que ce qu’elle a (even the most beautiful girl in the world can’t give you more than she has). I remember this proverb every time someone tells me that “the method A is bad because it’s based on assumptions and has limitations.” Trust the guy who spent a good half of his adult life developing and testing methods: every method is based on assumptions and has limitations. Every method works well only under certain circumstances; it’s just that under certain circumstances, some methods work better than others.

        Dmitriev’s March 2011 report — and I strongly assume that you actually read it, not heard about it — made two predictions: 1. that the popularity of the tandem and 2. that of United Russia will decrease toward the election cycle. Both turned true. If you know of a resource that predicted the events better, do send me a link: I’ll begin following them.

        In one of his recent interviews Dmitriev confessed that he expected his center to be closed after publishing the report. Quite to the contrary, a watershed of new orders followed. In fact, Dmitriev was even invited to a high-profile meeting hosted by Putin. Doesn’t it strike you as bizarre that Putin, as busy as he is, was wasting his time on someone who delivers crap?

        Moreover, there are certain reasons to believe that Putin actually acted upon Dmitriev’s report. For example, the report claimed that Medvedev was plainly unelectable — regardless of the administrative resources available. But Putin still was. Some Russian analysts argue that this factor was one of those considered by Putin when he decided to run himself. Also, in May (i.e. 2 months after the publication of the report), Putin announced the creation of the People’s Front, a potential double for UR.

        If only Putin knew that Dmitriev was no more than Brzezinski’s puppet!

        Best,
        Eugene

        • marknesop says:

          Hello, Eugene,

          And your staunch support of Dmitriev reminds me of a flight safety poster I saw today. It read, “Flying is not dangerous. Crashing is dangerous”. And while I completely agree every method works well under certain conditions and not so well under others, many in the press are quick to condemn advance polls in Russia prior to elections, when they usually turn out to be very accurate. Focus groups may be superb for product testing, but in my view they are not particularly visionary when it comes to politics. Dmitriev’s report makes much of the declining fortunes of Putin and Medvedev and United Russia, but fails to note they have not translated to significant gain by opposition parties; the party that consistently picks up the most dropped votes is the Communists, and they are far behind United Russia. All the squalling about vote-rigging in the world will not change the fact that United Russia remains the single most powerful party. There was also a great deal of unrest about the threshold for political parties being too high, and that there should be more competition. The threshold was lowered dramatically, and the opposition spun on its heel and complained that now there will too many political parties and they will essentially cancel each other out, leaving the people once more at the mercy of the Kremlin. Obviously the only acceptable solution is for the leader to hold consultations to see who the protesters prefer, and then abdicate in his favour.

          Support for Putin did not plummet. It did not even steadily decline over 2011. It remained about the same for much of 2011, fluctuating a little, and there was a struggle just before the election that could be largely attributed to the protests and the western media support of them. Gazeta, no friend of Putin, pointed out that his rating was rising just before the election. Something similar occurred with United Russia, whose popularity was subjected to a barrage of negative publicity just before the Parliamentary elections by the western press and NGO’s like GOLOS.

          Medvedev is unelectable? Lucky that one was never put to the test. However, that alone is enough to remind me that you are right and I have been too hard on Dmitriev, because Medvedev was the preferred candidate of the west. Vice-President Biden made it quite clear that the United States did not want Putin to run. Nonetheless, Medvedev would have wiped up the floor with Zyuganov, who would have been his next-closest rival. Nobody in the opposition would have been close other than that. Medvedev was less popular than Putin, but if Putin were taken off the board I believe Medvedev would have experienced a corresponding rise in popularity rather than the lost votes being diffused among the opposition.

          I don’t think I ever said Dmitriev was Brzezinsky’s puppet. In fact, since CSR is not directly associated with CSIS (which does not mean they are not connected), that whole line of attack is out and the signatories to the Project for a New American Century have no direct connection to Dmitriev: that certainly was a mistake. However, Dmitriev was at one time a grantee of the Moscow Carnegie Center, which is supported by the Russia and Eurasia Program, which is a member organization of CSIS. I don’t know that he still receives any financial compensation from the Moscow Carnegie Center, but he remains on their Advisory Council, which is stiff with oppositionists. That does not necessarily imply he is himself an opposition figure, but they say your associations proclaim your preferences.

          The report also introduces some distinctly western concepts, notably the “the people are a herd” red herring. Neither Putin nor Medvedev nor even any member of United Russia, to the very best of my knowledge, has ever likened the Russian people to a herd, and it is a western notion introduced as part of the campaign to overthrow the Russian government as a divide-and-conquer strategy. Like an attempt to make a schoolyard fight turn bloody, this is akin to the “You gonna let him say that about you?” fabrication intended to inflame tempers. This is similar to the specious accusations that wage rises introduced were “vote-buying” by Putin. Wages have risen steadily under Putin, year in and year out. Does an opposition liberal government promise there will be no wage rises if it is elected? Not what I would call a promising election platform. If a liberal government raised wages, what would it be called rather than “vote-buying”? Everything Putin does and says is consistently portrayed in the worst possible light.

          Anyway, this is a big subject, and I learned a great deal from the extra research you made me do. I’m afraid I have to leave it there for the moment because it’s getting late for me and I have to go meet my son’s bus, but I hope to finish my thoughts tomorrow on Dmitriev. When I have done so I will insert an editor’s note to the post recognizing your contribution and that there is no direct connection between CSIS and CSR. Again, thanks for the advice, and I hope to spar with you again tomorrow! Best,

          Mark

          • kirill says:

            Any analyst who goes on about Putin and United Russia’s “stealing the election” is a professional BS spreader. As you note, UR and Putin dominate the scene. The closest rivals are the KPRF and Zyuganov. Zuyganov could not even force a run off vote and Prokhorov only managed to get his highest number of votes in Moscow and they did not exceed 22%. Yet somehow Prokhorov was supposed to win the election and not Zyuganov? Zyuganov at least gets more national support.

            Because Putin is popular in Russia, it is a “fascist dictatorship”, but the two-party mafia in the USA is the very definition of freedom and democracy? They don’t really need to steal votes in the US since there is a 100% guarantee that one of the two parties will win. Also, with the first-past-the-post system it is much easier to steal elections. All you need is to rig a few votes or sabotage the voters going to the polling stations in only a few locations. This is what happened in Ohio in 2004 and in Ontario in 2010. In Russia, proportional representation means you have to fake millions of ballots to “steal the election”. With this much fraud there would have been much more evidence of fraud than the technicalities produced so far.

            • marknesop says:

              The core of the disagreement between Eugene and I – and indeed between Fred Weir and I, ongoing in another forum – is that Putin and United Russia simply remain the most popular by far among the Russian people. Those who favour the oppposition favour liberal parties. The next-closest rivals to Putin and United Russia are the Communists and Genady Zyuganov. This series of inconvenient truths consistently results in the liberal parties, who are simply not popular, falling far short of winning any representation. Since this reality clashes violently with opposition support’s vision for Russia, and since their cause is noble and just, Putin and United Russia must be cheating. Otherwise, God would make the liberals win.

              Consequently, the greatest gift Putin has given Russia (besides dragging it back from the abyss, of course) – economic stability – is routinely mocked. The middle class is tired of stability, we are told at a time when any western European leader who could offer his or her people economic stability would have to fight their way through cheering crowds shouting their name – and is ready to take a flyer on modernization and reform at the risk of losing economic stability. That happens to be not true at all, as the last election substantiates, and so that inconvenient truth is got round by suggesting Putin cheated, or that the people are so cowed by authoritarianism that they will pull the lever for Putin out of baseless fear. When advance polling simply confirms over and over that the liberals are once again going down to embarrassing defeat, reality-deniers like Masha Lipman and Boris Nemtsov and Lilia Shevtsova and everyone from the Moscow Times argue that the liberals’ market share is actually increasing, Julia Ioffe says that during an interview with college-age students not one raised their hand when asked “who’s going to vote for United Russia?”, and once again all the suggestions of a looming political crisis culminating in Putin being unceremoniously kicked over the border are trotted out. When this doesn’t happen, the only explanation they can come up with is widespread cheating. All of it has the effect of forcing upon the Russian people a government not of their choosing, by a narrow clique of perennially-discontented Russian intellectuals, a few rabble-rousers and a host of western supporters cheering from the sidelines.

              • Misha says:

                I prefer venues that don’t discriminate against valid input. In addition to some other comments made at this thread (pardon the repeats):

                In the US, one can be hard-pressed to find people gung ho on either Obama or Romney.

                Presto! The seeds of revolution are planted. The American cost of living is rising, with the middle class said to be leaving a number of key areas in droves. A stat came out that within the not too distant future, white America will be in the minority – the last point shouldn’t be inaccurately termed as pro-KKK hard or light. Rather, as a counter-point to how some changing demographics elsewhere are spun; in the form of the potential for greater conflict.

                It’s so easy to list a series of certain factors and come up with a doom and gloom situation, in a way suggesting trouble for one country in particular.

                Let’s remember this present exchange relative to what actually happens in the future.

                • marknesop says:

                  You can add to that the erasure of all the market gains of 2012, in a single day. That’s not a good climate going into an election. And it probably hurts Obama worse than Romney, because (a) Obama is the president and it’s happening on his watch, and (b) Romney will be able to rouse hopes by claiming his business savvy would be just the thing to pull America out of its economic troubles. That’s easy to say, but he probably thinks he could just borrow a bunch of money and kick the can down the road a couple of years. He may find a very different lending climate if he ever actually did win the presidency, which I say is not going to happen.

                  But yes, I’ll be remembering it, especially in light of all the people saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this” of the protests in Moscow. Fred Weir told me that, and while he is undoubtedly right that there are advantages to living where it is happening, that doesn’t protect you from tunnel vision that makes you see what you want to see.

            • Misha says:

              In the event that the future Russian situation remains stable with signs of gradual improvement and no neolib to neocon preferenced “people power” takeover expect some to spin a line like:

              The Russian government prevailed because it prudently took sound advice from its critics, in conjunction with the stereotypical image of the Russian people needing to be led from the top.

          • Dear Eugene,

            I think it is extremely unlikely that the tandem switch was caused by Dmitriev’s March 2011 report. Also I have no doubt that if Medvedev had stood for election as President in place of Putin he would have won. As I remember before the tandem switch and when most people still expected that Medvedev would be the one who would stand for President his victory was taken largely for granted. Indeed if one is to believe the media commentary (which by the way I don’t) the catalyst for the fall in United Russia’s support and for the winter protests is supposed to have been the tandem switch.

          • marknesop says:

            Good Morning, Eugene; sorry, I’m a day late as yesterday was frantically busy and I barely had time to turn the computer on. Anyway, to wind this up, I note Dmitriev not only cannot identify the cause of the social discontent he claims is rampant, he allows for the possibility it will reverse itself and everyone will magically become happy just in time to avert the development of the political crisis he believes is already happening. He also suggests “expressing political loyalty to the authorities may become regarded as a kind of “bad manners” and invite disapproval” as if this were a desirable state which will somehow bring about peace and stability. Is it the contention of opposition forces that Russia must have a violent revolution, and the sooner the better – in which the western supporters of liberalism will presumably not intervene for western gain – before any sort of reform or progressive modernization is possible? If that’s not the case, I must confess I am baffled as to why they seem always to be agitating for more civil disobedience, more open disrespect for government: what is going to happen when the desired end-state is reached, and a utopian liberal government takes the helm and everyone enjoys more freedom than they ever thought possible? Is the economy going to run itself? I’m only curious because the last time the liberals had carte blanche, they made a right pig’s ear of it. Is protest going to fade back into unpopularity, or will noisy street demonstrations in which participants are permitted to throw soft chunks of asphalt at police – assuming the police force is not abolished, the rule of law being left to the interpretation of the individual – become the norm, and the government overthrown and changed every couple of weeks? That certainly sounds a recipe for success.

            “On the contrary, with confidence in the authorities low and still falling, the authorities will become the target of universal criticism, ridicule and discontent, which may or may not be well grounded and constructive. That applies in particular to the political activities of the United Russia: any initiatives, slogans and programs will be rejected simply because they are put forward on its behalf”. This is straight out of Gene Sharp’s “How To Overthrow The Government For Dummies” playbook – make the authority figures appear ridiculous (pictures of Putin with his head wreathed in condoms) and they lose their power and become contemptible as people lose their fear. That’s been tried already, just as the stubborn attempts to make “the party of crooks and thieves” grow legs has been tried and has experienced no real success. The country is simply nowhere near as ripe for revolt as Dmitriev’s focus groups tell him it is.

            That does not stop barking-mad Russophobe armchair revolutionaries like Vladimir Kara-Murza from seeing the government already crumbling, caving in to the demands of millions hundreds of protesters, and seeing no disconnect whatsoever with their insistence on breaking the law while they shout for the rule of law.

    • Misha says:

      aEugene, Mark & Co.

      Said respectfully: over the course of time, some folks (you can undoubtedly figure out who) find their way to some prominence, inclusive of ties (in one form or another) with the Russian government. Conversely, there’re some more spot on others getting the shaft.

      Was it really so earth shattering to predict that “Putvedev” had lost some overall appeal? Regarding the future, the chance of a so-called “color revolution” isn’t likely to happen in Russia. Time will tell for sure.

      Polling Russian unhappiness with the political and socioeconomic conditions in Russia is by no means unique to that country. Across the American political spectrum, many in the US aren’t happy with the presidential choices and socioeconomic conditions. The OWS and Tea Party movements each have limits of overall support.

      I don’t sense a dramatic popular revolt against the respective situations in either the US or Russia anytime soon, if at all. Once again, time will tell for sure.

    • Misha says:

      *Someone reminded me of Putin’s not so distant meeting with the performing artist who criticized him – adding that such an occurrence serves as good PR, in showing that Putin will meet with the “critics.” In such instances, Putin isn’t actually acknowledging a given opinion as being savvy.

      Cheers!

      Mike

  23. Misha says:

    aOff topic and of some possible interest:

    http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/news/news-singleview/recap/7007.html?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=955&cHash=c6e4bdb09c

    Excerpts:

    “KHL President Alexander Medvedev announced that the league will stage two regular-season games in Brooklyn, New York in January 2013. Possible teams could be CSKA Moscow, Dynamo Moscow, Avangard Omsk, Salavat Yulayev Ufa and SKA St. Petersburg.”

    &

    “The KHL will be joined by three foreign teams next year: Lev Prague (relocation of Slovak club Lev Poprad) will become the first Czech club and is expected to share the T-Mobile Arena with Sparta Prague after no agreement could be found with the bigger and newer O2 Arena, home of Slavia Prague. Other new entries will be Slovan Bratislava from Slovakia and Donbass Donetsk from Ukraine. There has been no news recently about Milano Rossoblù, the Italian club that was once announced to join the KHL for the 2012/2013 season.”

  24. Misha says:

    On the subject of accountability, in the form of head on interaction, as opposed to lobbing pot shots from afar:

    http://rt.com/politics/medvedev-posner-show-soviet-767/

  25. kirill says:

    Russia’s development is highlighted by the growth of the wages. In this video you can see how spectacular this growth is since 2000:

    http://ww3.tvo.org/video/177474/orley-ashenfelter-big-macroeconomics

    Russia overshadows China pretty much the rest of the world in terms of wage increases. But the liberasts would have you believe it is all a lie and Yeltsin’s era was so much better.

    • kirill says:

      http://dataspace.princeton.edu/jspui/handle/88435/dsp01t435gd01h

      This is his paper (Word format) and of interest are Figures 12 and 15. The Great Recession has not stalled wage growth in Russia. I was a bit surprised but it is consistent with the fast rebound of Russia’s economy after 2008.

      • Dear Kirill,

        Very interesting. Do you think there is a chance by the way that Russian GDP growth is being understated?

        • kirill says:

          A few years ago I had a similar feeling. It would make sense to appear weaker in order to keep the west from entering a spasm of paranoia (they always see Russia as a threat). But I have no evidence for it and it is possible for wages to rise faster than the GDP rate.

          Something that may be related is the existing estimate of Russia’s oil reserves. At 60 billion barrels they are supposedly less than Kuwait. This is patent nonsense. Kuwait could never extract 3 million barrels per day out of reservoirs as easy to pump as those of Saudi Arabia. Yet Russia can pump 10 million barrels per day out of more challenging rock formations. My educated guess would be that Russia’s reserves are not lower than those of the USA (about 250 billion barrels) and are likely higher since the US conventional oil production peaked at 8 million barrels per day in 1973 (it is now about 5.5 million barrels per day).

          Russia classified its oil reserves and Khodorkovsky claimed that they were being seriously underestimated. This low-balling of reserves serves Russia by making it less of a juicy target for hate and resentment and war.

          • marknesop says:

            It is also what other big oil producers do, like Saudi Arabia, the extent of whose reserves is a closely-guarded state secret but which are believed to be less than the figure popularly circulated. You can’t exercise energy clout if everybody knows exactly what cards you’re holding. Given the west’s traditional “what have you done for me lately?” approach to alliances, Saudi Arabia could expect an increase in criticism (which is presently almost non-existent) of its human rights record and repressive policies if it were no longer perceived as the moneybags boyfriend of the relationship.

            • cartman says:

              I read somewhere (I think it was on the Oil Drum) that the oil around Sakhalin was known by the Soviet government decades before Western oil companies “discovered” it was there. The Russian government signed a really bad deal where it would get about 10% of the profits and the developers (Western oil companies) get the rest. It must have been like this:

              http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/22/the-looting-of-nigeria/

              • marknesop says:

                Never mind; the west is not worried overmuch about a possible collapse of Nigerian supplies (although the oil companies themselves might shed a sentimental tear). I read in the – as I mentioned, very conservative – National Post on the plane this morning that Iraq is up about 20% in oil production and is pumping something like 2.5 million barrels a day, and that the Libyan oilfields are supposedly returned to almost normal capacity. The report struck a gleeful tone that the west would now be able to strangle Iran without much fear of a world oil price spike on supply fears, since fading growth in China has lessened demand anyway.

                Containment of Russian ambition by keeping oil prices low was not mentioned, although that obviously would be a benefit, except to the extent that both LUKOIL and GAZPROM own assets in Iraq.

    • kirill says:

      Another BS front website similar to the dime a dozen global warming denier sites. It pushes the standard propaganda. More registered parties is actually evidence of totalitarianism, etc.

      • Misha says:

        What we’ve become accustomed to.

        Here’s another:

        http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/russias-double-headed-government-6987

        Medinsky continues to get pounded –

        “Young does not always mean liberal or pro-Western: Vladimir Medinsky (age forty-two), a former PR man in Russia’s Washington embassy, is now the minister of culture. A Russian nationalist and a propagandist with academic and literary ambitions, he may lead the way in promoting Russian nationalism. A positive image of Russia’s past, complete with self-serving descriptions of imperial Russian and Soviet history, is an important component in the trifecta of ‘Orthodoxy, stability and patriotism.’ The ideology is reminiscent of the late-nineteenth-century czarist slogan of ‘Orthodoxy, autocracy and folkishness (narodnost),’ which eventually pushed Russia into the abyss of two revolutions and imperial disintegration in 1917.”

        ****

        The author of the above piece is Crimean born. I don’t recall him ever taking otherwise well deserved shots at the flawed comments from the likes of Motyl, Umland and Riabchuk.

        “Orthodoxy, autocracy and folkishness (narodnost,” didn’t play the primary role in the Russian Empire’s end as much as WW I led to the demise of the Habsburg, Hohenzollern and Ottoman entities – as well as the singled out Russian Empire.

        Tolerant Russia sees the author of the above piece included in the Valdai Discussion Club. For edification sake, Russia needs to be more tolerant by bringing in folks who can do a better job at promoting Russia’s image abroad – in the form of directly seeking and addressing negatively inaccurate comments about Russia/Russians.

        Political biases on one end and an apparent cronyism on the other are thwarting this earnest effort.

        • Misha says:

          *In a detailed comparison, I’ve my doubts that Medinsky is more off the wall than some others harboring a different slant, while receiving a good amount of propping in major media and academia:

          http://www.austereinsomniac.info/blog/2012/6/2/motyl-says-bilingualism-is-good-for-you.html

          There’re other examples concerning the specific source discussed in the above piece. The same can be said of some others.

          Medinsky’s flaws (whether real or exaggerated) are highlighted because the sources doing such exhibit anti-Russian biases in one degree or another, as evidenced by how they don’t go after such biases.

          RP might very well do a panel on this. If so, Belaeff can be counted on to do a good job. One lone example at an establishment venue is far from balanced.

          Interesting Wiki entries on prior instances of foreign activity against the Russian government:

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

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

          • There are two quite extraordinary comments here:

            1. The assumption that young people are or should be liberal. What evidence is there for that claim?

            2. That Medinsky is somehow a sinister figure because his views on Russian history are not those fashionable amongst the commentariat in the west.

            On the latter point it is a particularly ugly form of imperialism when foreigners assume the right to write another country’s history for it and insist on imposing their view of its history on its people.

            • On the subject of Russia’s government and whether or not it is “double headed” as the article implies, when I talked about it with my brother his observation was how streamlined it looks. Russia has around 20 ministries as opposed to Greece which has 52 (!) and around 30 officials with the title of minister or deputy prime minister as opposed to Britain where the ministerial cadre in the House of Commons now runs to well over a hundred. A friend of mine told me that the total number of ministries in Germany is also well over a hundred.

              • I have just checked the German government website and see that the number of ministries in the central German government is 16, which is in line with Russia. I presume my friend was referring to the governments of the various German states when he said that the number of ministries in Germany ran into the hundreds.

            • Misha says:

              The not so discussed imperialism pertains to the kind of top heavy commentary against Medinsky (so far) in a recent Russia Profile article and a wonk who is affiliated with the Valdai Discussion Club.

              It’s not asking much to expect some high profile counter-replies that aren’t exclusively from the regular stable of the court appointed.

              Once again, constructive criticism of Medinsky and an acknowledgement of anti-Russian biases is lacking.

              Signing Assange to an RT show and a Russian government funded enterprise involving wonks like the author of that piece have been limited in terms of promoting views that directly address the aforementioned biases.

          • Misha says:

            SELF CORRECTION

            Medinsky’s flaws (whether real or exaggerated) are highlighted because the sources doing such exhibit anti-Russian biases in one degree or another, as evidenced by how they don’t go after some other biases.

            • Dear Misha,

              I hope that at some point some of Medinsky’s books are published in English. I am not holding my breath though. Except for a very few works by dissident historians like Roy Medvedev and Volkogonov, works about Russian history by Russian historians are almost never published here in Britain. All I would say is that so far nothing that I have read that is attributed to Medinsky seems to me unhistorical or even especially controversial.

              Incidentally of the two individuals (Reilly and Parvus) of whom you have found Wikipedia entries, Reilly was a mere adventurer and can be disregarded but Parvus was a person of some brilliance. He was an outstanding Marxist theoretician and journalist (something that does not come across in the Wikipedia article) and was for a time after the 1905 revolution especially close to Trotsky. Indeed Trotsky and Parvus actually did joint editorial work together. Parvus’s most famous action and one of crucial historical importance was in arranging Lenin’s return to Russia in 1917 across Germany in the so called “sealed train”.

              There is some uncertainty to this day about whether Parvus was simply a German agent or whether he was manipulating the Germans on behalf of the revolutionary movement. He of course to the end of his life insisted that it was the second. Certainly no evidence of any actual Parvus network operating in tsarist Russia has ever come to light. However his connections with the Germans discredited him and when he tried to emigrate to Russia after the revolution the Soviet authorities would not allow him to enter the country.

              • Misha says:

                Hi Alexander,

                Medvedev was a Marxist critic of the Soviet Union. As such, there was a certain slant for his views in the West.

                Not quite the same the same regarding works along the lines of Solzhenitsyn’s book on Jewry or comments attributed to Medinsky – some actual, others likely miscontrued. In such instances, the Western public is prone to getting interpretations in the form of the recent National Interest and RP articles on Medinsky.

                On one of your other points, the German connection with Lenin and the Bolshevik movement was a classic Machiavellian move between two sides with a similar interest, while being of a different overall mindset.

                • Dear Misha,

                  Roy Medvedev’s book which was published in Britain was his book attacking Stalin: “Let History judge”. From a Cold War point of view a book criticising Stalin and by extension the whole Soviet system when written by a Soviet Marxist had an especially great propaganda value in the west. That is why Roy Medvedev’s book was published here. It is also why Solzhenitsyn was published here and why Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak (for Doctor Zhivago) were awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. (I understand that Pasternak was a great poet in which case he deserved the Nobel Prize for his poetry. He did not in my opinion deserve it for Doctor Zhivago which at least in translation comes across as a very flawed and slight book).

                  By contrast standard historical works by Soviet or Russian academic historians hardly ever get translated and published here at all. On the very rare occasions when they do get translated and published they are only published in very limited editions running to no more than a few hundred copies, which are intended for academic libraries. An extreme example of this is historical works about the Second World War. I am personally not familiar with a single work by a Soviet or Russian historian about the war between Germany and the USSR which has been translated into English or published here in Britain. When I first took an interest in the Soviet German war back in the 1970s it was possible to read Manstein’s memoirs in English but not Zhukov’s and so far as I know that may still be the case today. Today the field is dominated here in Britain by such characters as Max Hastings and Antony Beevor whose work comes across to me as pretty thin and whose extreme anti Soviet bias heavily distorts their work. Back in the early 1970s a fine monumental study in two volumes about the Soviet German war was written by John Ericsson who was a genuine professional academic historian. However even this work is written by a British not a Russian writer and therefore has a British not a Russian perspective and besides it is now anyway out of date.

                • Misha says:

                  Alexander, if I’m not offhand mistaken, another book of M’s that was published in the West had to do with the October Revolution.

                  Conider how well non-academic books tend to sell over the academic types you refer to. On a somewhat related point, academically written (in overall style) books aren’t always so “academic”, in terms of being objective and complete, when covering a given subject.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Dear Alexander Mercouris,
                As regards your interest in seeking Russian perspectives to history, perhaps you would like to read this extract from the introductory chapter to the section on “The Great Patriotic War” that is to be found in my son’s school history textbook, which was published in 1997. First is the Russian text (to help your Russian studies!), then my translation:

                Возникает вопрос: было ли заключение договора с Германией о ненападении наилучшим вариантом решения проблем, вставших перед Советским правительством в этот период? СССР был поставлен перед дилеммой: или договориться с Англией и Францией и создать систему коллективной безопасности в Европе, или заключить пакт с Германией, или остаться в одиночестве. На этот счет имеются различные точки зрения историков.
                Некоторые специалисты рассматривают заключение договора с Германией как наихудший вариант, сравнивают его с Мюнхеном, утверждают, что пакт с Германией провоцировал вторую мировую войну. Другая точка зрения сводится к попытке сравнивать заключение советско-германского пакта о ненападение с подписанием Брестского мира, рассматривать его как пример использования компромисса, умения использовать межимпериалистические противоречия.

                Что же побудило Германию пойти на союз с СССР? Для Гитлера это было тактический шаг: ему нужно было гарантировать беспрепятственный захват Польши и разворачивать дальше военные действия. Советские же сторона, подписывая договор, стремилась, с одной стороны, обеспечить безопасность СССР накануне войны Германии против Польши за счет ограничения продвижения германских войск и отказа Германии от использования в антисоветских целях Прибалтийских государств, с другой, — обезопасить дальневосточные границы СССР от нападения Японии. Заключив в 1939 г. Пакт с Германией о ненападении, когда на Дальнем Востоке шли военные действия, СССР избежал войны на два фронта.

                В целом же этот пакт не дал возможности создать в Европе единый антисоветский фронт. Таким образом, заключив пакт, СССР оттянул на время начало военных действий и отодвинул свои границы от жизненно важных центров страны. Но несомненно и то, что полученную отсрочку СССР использовал менее эффективно, чем его партнер по пакту. Несколько слов о секретном протоколе к этому договору, который держался в глубокой тайне.

                Если сам договор от 23 августа 1939 г. можно объяснить и оправдать конкретными обстоятельствами, то принятие 28 сентября 1939 г. Дополнительных протоколов к советско-германскому договору было серьезной политической ошибкой, которой в тот период можно было избежать. [1]

                Назовем и другие внешнеполитические акции СССР. В эти годы была возвращена в состав Советского государства Бессарабия. Несколько раньше, в сентябре 1939 г. народам Западной Украины и Западной Белоруссии была возвращена территориальная общность с Украиной и Белоруссией. 17 сентября 1939 г., т.е. когда Германия вела военные действия с Польшей, советские войска перешли ее восточную границу. В официальном заявлении Советского правительства эти действия оправдывались необходимостью “взять под защиту жизнь и имущество населения Западней Белоруссии”.

                Последняя акция была прямым следствием реализации секретных протоколов к советско-германскому пакту, где Польша рассматривалась с позиции “сферы интересов” СССР.

                [1] В 1989 г.24 декабря II Съезд народных депутатов СССР, заслушав сообщение Комиссии по политической правовой оценке советско-германского договора о ненападении от 1939 г., осудил секретный протокол к нему и признал их «юридически несостоятельными с момента их подписания». Было признано также, что «…решение об их подписании было по существу и по форме актом личной власти и никак не отражало волю советского народа, который не несет ответственности за этот сговор».

                Translation

                The question arises whether the conclusion of a treaty, a non-aggression pact, with Germany was the best solution to the problems faced by the Soviet Government in this period.

                The USSR was in a dilemma: either to agree with England and France and set up a system of collective security in Europe, or to conclude a pact with Germany, or to remain in isolation. Historians have different points of view concerning this matter.
                Some specialists consider the conclusion of a treaty with Germany as having been the worst option, comparing it with Munich, and arguing that the pact with Germany provoked the Second World War. Another view attempts to compare the conclusion of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact with the signing of the peace of Brest [translator: Treaty concluded between Bolsheviks and Germany in 1917], considering it an example of compromise, the skilful management of their mutual, though contradictory imperialistic aims.

                What prompted Germany to work in union with the USSR? For Hitler, it was a tactical move: he needed to guarantee the smooth takeover of Poland and the further unrolling of military action. By signing the treaty, the Soviet Union sought, on the one hand, to ensure on the eve of the German war against Poland the security of the USSR by limiting the advance of German troops and to deny Germany the use of the anti-Soviet goals of the Baltic States; on the other hand, the far eastern borders of the USSR were made secure from attack by Japan. Having concluded the non-aggression pact with Germany in 1939, when there was fighting in the Far East, the Soviet Union had avoided fighting a war on two fronts.

                In General, the pact did not allow the opportunity for the creation of a unified anti-Soviet front in Europe. Thus by making this pact, the Soviet Union had put off the outbreak of hostilities for a while and had moved its borders away from vital centres of the country. But there is no doubt that the USSR used this deferment of hostilities obtained by the pact less effectively than its partner did. A few words about the extremely top-secret secret protocol to this treaty.

                If the treaty of 23 August 1939 can be explained and justified by the actual circumstances, then the adoption by the 1939 Soviet-German treaty of additional protocols on September 28 was a grave political mistake, which at that time could have been avoided [1].

                Let us consider other foreign policy actions of the Soviet Union. In those years Bessarabia was returned to the Soviet State. Earlier, in September 1939, the populations of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia were returned to Ukraine and Belorussia. On September 17, 1939, namely when Germany was carrying out military action against Poland, Soviet troops crossed its eastern border. In an official statement of the Soviet Government these actions were justified by the need to “put the lives and property of the people of Western Belorussia under the protection”.
                That last action was a direct result of the secret protocol to the Soviet-German pact, where Poland was seen from the perspective of Soviet Union “spheres of interest”.

                [1] In 1989, on 24 December the II Congress of the People’s Deputies of the Soviet Union, following the announcement of the Commission on the political and legal evaluation of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact of 1939, condemned the secret protocol and found them to be “legally invalid from the moment of signing”. It was also recognized that “…the signing was in essence and form an act of personal power and in no way reflected the will of the Soviet people, which does not accept responsiblity for this conspiracy “.

                End of translation.

                Note how this passage gives both sides of the argument and is certainly not uncritical of the Soviet policy under discussion. Also, in the footnote, Stalin’s personal power is criticized, although he is not named. I can assure you that in other parts of the book from which this extract has been taken, Stalin and his actions are certainly taken to task.

                Remember, this is from a textbook from a school situated in that country where the Western media states that its leader wishes to reinstate Stalinism and who regrets the “fall” of the soviet Union.

                I should also like to add that my son is 12 years old. Now what kind of reaction do you think you would receive off a British 12-year-old if you asked him his opinion concerning the 1939 Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact?

                • Misha says:

                  Touching on the basis of the M-R Pact is the matter of what prompted the Soviet-Finnish War – a number of particulars which aren’t so well known to many in the West.

                  In Khrushchev’s memoirs (at one point questioned as his, but since generally acknowledged as such), these not so well known variables are discussed – something that Nina K isn’t prone to discuss when commenting on past and present issues.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Misha,

                  As a matter of fact, the text from which the extract above was taken then goes on to discuss the Soviet-Finnish war, saying that the USSR proposed that the Finnish Hanko peninsula, which was of immense strategic importance as regards the security of Leningrad, be leased out for 30 years as part of Soviet territory, as welll as several strategically important islands in the Gulf of Finland and other Finnish territory in the vicinity of Murmansk. In return for this proposed leasing out of Finnish territory to the USSR, Finland was offered territory in Soviet Karelia that bordered Finnish Karelia. The Finns refused the offer. Talks were held over the issue and after they had broken down, war followed.

                • Misha says:

                  Makes sense that the Soviet-Finnish war would come into focus like that Moscow Exile.

                  In his memoirs, NSK acknowledges that under international law, the Soviets weren’t justified, while at the same time stressing what was at play.

                  Stalin correctly calculated the likelihhod of a future Soviet-German conflict, with Finland on the side of the Nazis. From a Soviet perpsective, there was ststegic logic behind the proposed land swap.

                  Within reason, Stalin has been faulted for the way the Soviet-Finnish war was conducted, along with not seeing when the Nazis were about to attack the USSR. Initially, the Finns appear to have been taken way too lightly, which arguably resulted in greater casualties than what should have been. Around the same time of the Soviet-Finnish war, consider the more s

                  impressive Soviet military performance against the Japanese.

                • Misha says:

                  Pardon the stilted end.

                  I’m in a bit of a rush. It’s not always so easy to scroll up and down under the format that’s in place.

            • Misha says:

              Another unflattering piece on Medinsky:

              http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-profile-culture-minister-vladimir-medinsky/24602133.html

              “Russia’s image” isn’t being helped with such commentary not being directly answered by the person in question.

              The author of the above linked RFE/RL piece used to be with RP. The recent RP article on Medinsky was authored by someone who might very well be the successor of the author of the aforementioned RFE/RL piece.

              At venues like RP and TMT, the personnel changes don’t seem to reflect much, if any of a difference in slant.

              Once again, Medinsky’s flaws (real and otherwise) appear to be used as a diversion away from addressing the anti-Russian biases out there.

              When it comes to scrutiny, the hypocrisy level is considerable, thereby making it imperative for official Russia to utilize the best available sources.

              • Misha says:

                Regarding establishment double standards, when Luke Harding’s name comes up at RFE/RL, don’t be surprised if the charge of plagiarism against him is downplayed, unlike what has been said of Medinsky.

  26. Misha says:

    Apparently, a certain way of carrying on isn’t quite as popular as some have suggested:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/154997/Snapshot-NATO-Intervention-Libya-Unpopular-Arab-World.aspx

  27. Misha says:

    Top heavy inaccurate spin from a North American neighbor of the US:

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/06/02/russias-chance-to-act-like-a-real-superpower/

    Mark, I sense you know my appreciation for the positive aspects in Canada, while not being pleased with some other trends that also happen to be evident in the US.

    Shifting gears, on a local PBS station, I saw this pretty good hour long documentary on your country’s love affair with the great sport of ice hockey:

    One hour isn’t enough. There should be a multi-series Ken Burns like version for that sport.

    A reference to:

    http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/baseball/

    http://www.pbs.org/baseball-the-tenth-inning/

    The 1972 Summit Canada-USSR Series brings back memories. There’ve been some other great ones as well, including the 1987 Canada Cup.

    • marknesop says:

      The National Post is about as conservative as a Canadian newspaper gets, and its columnists are impatient with facts such as the source of all reporting on violence in Syria coming from “rebel” activists (I refuse to call them rebels in any serious context, because what they actually are is opportunists who see the chance to spread Islamic fundamentalism and sharia law throughout the region, overthrowing the few remaining secular governments with the military muscle of NATO at their back) and the body count distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is just some nutty satellite dish salesman working out of his house. Therefore, when The Economist says Bashar Assad and his forces “plainly perpetrated the Houla atrocity” (quoted by the National Post), neither of them actually know anything of the kind and are merely passing on what they were told by activists who still hope for a military intervention.

      The National Post was loud in its support for Bush and the invasion of Iraq.

      It’s odd to see even a conservative Canadian newspaper argue that Russia could best demonstrate its independent status as a superpower by toeing the party line and doing what the west is trying to persuade it to do. I think they are reading willingness to give up Syria to the western regime-changers where there actually is no such resolve. I believe Putin will continue to argue for a diplomatic solution, and when they suggest he is now willing to see a political transition he means free elections, which opportunist al Qaeda leaders would be unlikely to win. However, any suggestion by the Post that Russia would be welcome at the superpower table will be quickly and noisily withdrawn when Putin refuses to sign on to a military intervention to overthrow Assad. The west’s political leadership will push too hard and too quickly, as it almost always does.

      • Misha says:

        The Carl Bernstein termed “Community of Decent Nations” (sic).

        Unrelated to this thread, while being related to the subject of Nina K, someone asked me about her, after coming across an anti-two headed eagle piece she wrote. This contact reminded me that part of her argument stems from how she noted Albania, Serbia and Montenegro having a version of the two headed eagle – adding that these states weren’t among Europe’s wealthiest.

        Is anyone familiar with Kenya’s coat of arms? I sense that Nina K’s New School employer (favoring views along the lines of the late Christopher Hitchens) would consider it somewhat offensive to speak negatively of that particular emblem.

        Being “open minded” in some “progressive” circles has limits.

        Some wealthier neighbors of mine are a bit on the hefty side. I’m not about to add weight on account of my poorer neighbors being trim.

      • Misha says:

        A different take from The National Post piece:

        http://www.opednews.com/articles/Opposing-Doctrines-Putin-by-Stephen-Lendman-120603-745.html

        Something more in line with that National Post bit:

        http://www.fpif.org/blog/the_crisis_in_syria_calls_out_for_an_intervention_-_with_russia?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+FPIF+(Foreign+Policy+In+Focus+(All+News))

        Regarding The National Post being “conservative,” categories like “liberal” and “conservative” can take different forms of opinion. At times, people on the left in one degree or another have found common cause with others on the right in one dgree or another – in contrast to how some others on the left and right view a given issue.

      • Misha says:

        Re: Kenyan Coat of Arms

        So there’s no misunderstanding, emblems throughout the world suggest an identity with the past, in a way that doesn’t mean living and being governed in exactly the same way that was evident.

        When it comes to Russia, the goal posts have been moved out of the stadium on that point and some others.

        • Dear Mark, Misha and Yalensis,

          Viz the National Post article, it says something about the contemporary world that no one finds odd articles by western writers (and Russian liberal writers) that claim that Russia would be acting in its own best interests if it acted in a manner which was contrary to its own interests. Needless to say the western powers most definitely do not apply this peculiar philosophy to themselves.

          I have to say that for all the fire and thunder following the Houla massacre I do not see any change in Russia’s (or China’s) policy on Syria at all. Evidence cited in support of such a change eg. Russia’s support for the Press Statement by the Security Council I discussed previously or Lavrov’s comment that Russia supports the peace process in Syria and not the Syrian government are fully consistent with established Russian policy.

          As for demands that Russia support Annan’s peace plan, it was Russia that initiated the peace plan and which supports and upholds it and it is the west and the Gulf Arabs who by arming the rebels are working to undermine it.

          • Misha says:

            On PBS, the different angle is something along the lines of D. Simes appearing to say that ROC Patriarch Kirill has influenced the Russian government into believing that Syria’s Christians are threatened by the rebels, along with Simes believing that Russia may lose patience with Assad, in the event that Damascus doesn’t pay the money it owes Moscow.

            • cartman says:

              A new word to the lexicon: Christianophobia?
              http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/world/europe/russian-church-opposes-syrian-intervention.html

              There is a good point in this. Serbs in Kosovo and Assyrians in Northern Iraq have been trampled over by the Washington’s ambitions to the point of near extinction. It is getting harder and harder to hide this fact. It is also hard to distinguish ethnic and sectarian conflicts but it is easy to see that Washington keeps a list of preferred ethnic groups. I pointed that out on Leo’s site to the guy who I think used to write for RFERL and he did not want to believe that.

              • Misha says:

                Be curious to know who that guy is.

                For a portion of the 1970s and 1980s, Israeli propaganda presented the image of Israel defending Christians in Lebanon. That spin received a good deal of coverage in the US.

                More accurately put, Israel supported some Lebanese Christians, unlike others.

                Regarding Simes’ comment about Syria not up to date in bill pyments to Russia (as stated by Simes) is a rebel takeover going to cover these bills? There’s also the matter of a Russian naval base in Syria.

  28. yalensis says:

    Putin in Berlin meeting with Merkel on a range of important issues, including Syrian conflict, and also European economic crisis. In the second part of this piece, I was surprised (and worried) to hear how much Russian reserves are invested in the Euro. I always assumed Euro could collapse without affecting Russia much, but apparently that is not the case. Do I get the impression that Merkel will be asking Russia to fork over a heap of cash to help re-fund the Euro?

    • Dear Yalensis,

      A lot I suppose depends on where exactly this money is held. Presumably it is held by the Central Bank in the form of bonds or deposits that are kept somewhere. If the money is held in some sort of special euro deposit run by the Central Bank in Russia itself then in the event of a euro breakup it would presumably become dust. However if it is held in the form of German bonds or on deposit in accounts in Germany then together with all other euro denominated German bonds or money held in German bank deposits it would presumably in the event of a euro breakup be converted instantly into high value D-marks. For pretty obvious reasons the Central Bank is not exactly forthcoming about where Russia’s reserves are held so I simply do not know what the position is. However given that Germany is by some distance Russia’s biggest trading partner in the eurozone I would presume that most of the euros the Central Bank holds are held there or are held in the form of German bonds, in which case it is pretty safe. Also one would like to believe that by now the Central Bank would have taken the basic precaution of moving its euro funds to where they are safest, which would be Germany and one or two other core eurozone states such as the Netherlands, Luxemburg and possibly Austria.

    • marknesop says:

      That’s certainly possible, since Germany’s electorate is sick and tired of capitalizing the Euro for neighbours who thought they could spend, spend, spend and simply borrow more money from a central bank that has no money of its own. I had read that Germany was opposed to the growth agenda the USA was pushing at the G8 Summit, and that Merkel had arrived committed to austerity and cutbacks. I imagine that reflected the feeling of her electorate. Nonetheless, she went away singing the praises of growth, and I don’t suppose Germany has the money to fund a growth plan for all of Europe, some of which is already operating under austerity measures of its own.

      We will likely see early indicators of such behind-the-scenes negotiating – if it is happening – in warming attitudes toward Russia, because they must know they cannot keep spitting vitriol and still get bailout money from Russia. Still, I hope Russia is not going to chuck good money after bad, because the Euro is a failure as long as it is going to depend on huge financial gifts to irresponsible member states who are undercapitalized but want fat pensions for their citizens anyway. When you hand over money to improve the social condition in Russia, it’s called “vote-buying”. What’s it called everywhere else?

  29. yalensis says:

    This article claims that Hezbollah is “transporing weapons out of Syria”, but the content contradicts the headline. Part of the content, including the headline, seems to come from Western propaganda sources, which would like to see Hezbollah fleeing a sinking ship (and trying to keep their weapons from falling into the hands of the insurgents). However, if you read further, Hezbollah is not fleeing, they are just MOVING their rocket complexes from the area around Damascus further out in a radius towards the borders with Israel and Turkey. Sounds to me like they are gearing up to help repel an invasion of their host country, Syria. Or maybe launch a counter-attack against Israel and Turkey? Fact is, Hezbollah is one of the few forces in the world which has successfully fought Israeli army and prevailed on the battlefield.

    http://www.rosbalt.ru/main/2012/06/02/988167.html

  30. Misha says:

    In the US, ESPN will be televising all of the Euro 2012 matches. Russia’s first game is this coming Friday against the Czech Republic in Poland at 2:45 PM, North American eastern time.

    http://espnfc.com/us/en/news/1082882/james-appell-russiafading-golden-generation.html

    Like ice hockey, football (soccer) is prone to seeing surprise performances.

  31. yalensis says:

    Independent Russian journalist Marat Musin: Houla massacre was carried out by Free Syrian Army (FSA), the insurgent military movement backed by Saudi Arabia and NATO. According to eyewitness accounts cited by Musin, FSA launched surprise attack on Houla on May 25 and still (to this day) control the town. Houla attack shows insurgents have expert snipers and trained soldiers, able to take on and defeat professional Syrian army.

    So, these are the names of those were killed by snipers in the early morning hours of May 29:

    1. Sergeant Ibrahim Halyuf
    2. Sergeant Salman Ibrahim
    3. Policeman Mahmoud Danaver
    4. Conscript Ali Daher
    5. Sergeant Wisam Haidar
    6. the dead soldier’s family name could not be clarified

    FSA attack on Houla shows elements of lessons learned in Libya war, most notably, terrorists have mastered the art of taking over and setting up checkpoints as a way of controlling ingress/egress and corralling local populations.

    Civilian victims of the massacre were pro-government families.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31184

  32. marknesop says:

    Off-topic, but remember a little while ago when we were talking about the BRICs possibly moving away from the dollar, and what the implications might be for the dollar as the world’s reserve currency?

    Early moves.

  33. kievite says:

    http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2012/06/192080.htm#RUSSIA

    First is with regard to Russia. The United States is deeply concerned by the apparent harassment of Russian political opposition figures on the eve of the planned demonstrations on June 12th. This follows searches of opposition leader’s homes and several arrests in connection with the May 6th demonstration in Moscow, and also follows the passage of the new law in Russia that imposes disproportionate penalties for violations of rules concerning public demonstrations. Opposition leaders organizing the June 12th demonstration are being called in for police questioning, which is scheduled to begin one hour prior to the demonstration, clearly designed to take them off the streets during the demonstration. And taken together, these measures raise serious questions about the arbitrary use of law enforcement to stifle free speech and free assembly

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