Putin’s “It’s The Economy, Stupid” Tour Kicks Off in St Petersburg – Eat My G20 Dust, G8

Uncle Volodya says, “Wow, the economy just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it? I read last week that a truckload of Americans got caught trying to sneak into Mexico!”

Some little time back, on the occasion of Vladimir Putin’s decision to skip the G8 Summit – dominated by countries which had aggressively and openly campaigned against his winning the presidency of Russia and lovingly nurtured a nascent Russian protest movement in their popular press, inflating its numbers beyond simple imagination and edging into wish-fulfillment – self-important Swedish windbag Anders Aslund blatted angrily that Putin did not belong there anyway, and the G8 did not need Russia. As it turns out, Mr. Putin believes it’s the other way around…Russia does not need the G8. Nope; according to the gossip at Business New Europe, Mr. Putin feels more comfortable in the atmosphere of the G20. That includes all the G8 countries, of course, but it also includes the rest of the BRICS gang – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

Well, let’s take a quick look at how they stack up, economy-wise, since the economy was the subject of Mr. Putin’s speech. The G8 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – controls a cumulative GDP of $33,265,642 in millions of USD, 2010 figures from the World Bank.

Country GDP (in Millions of US$) Debt (as percent of GDP)
Canada 1,577,040 84.95
France 2,560,002 86.26
Germany 3,280,530 81.51
Italy 2,060,965 120.11
Japan 5,458,837 229.77
Russia 1,479,819 9.6
United Kingdom 2,261,713 82.50
United States 14,586,736 102.94

Oh, dear. There’s a problem. Despite controlling such a massive amount of money, it appears from the outset that some countries owe every penny they’re bringing in, plus more. In fact, it’s clear at the outset that some G8 countries are, in fact, liabilities.

As we see here (credit Reuters, sourced from the IMF and World Bank), the UK, Japan, Italy and Germany all experienced negative growth in the final quarter of 2011. The figures for government debt are different from those in my table because mine reflects 2010 figures. While the USA, Japan, Germany, Canada and Russia improved their debt exposure slightly, the UK, Italy and France worsened theirs.

Now economics at the national level is different than the simple facts argued by the numbers, of course; countries are given credit for past economic strength and for intangibles that are not considered in, say, a personal loan. Often, national debt consists largely of domestic debt – money owed to the country’s own citizens that was borrowed from pension plans, for example – and is considered “safe debt” because you trust the government to find a way to pay it back, rather than being exposed to large amounts of foreign debt where the other country might suddenly call in all its loans. Countries as individuals and as members of an organization are routinely allowed to overextend themselves, and most don’t seem unduly alarmed. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

Country GDP (Millions US$) The Math What’s Left, $Million
Canada 1,577,040 1577040 – 84.2% 249,173
France 2,560,002 2560002 – 87.6% 317,441
Germany 3,280,530 3280530 – 80.1% 652,830
Italy 2,060,965 2060965 – 120.3% -418,375
Japan 5,458,837 5458837 – 229.1% -7,041,899
Russia 1,479,819 1479819 – 8.5% 1,354,035
United Kingdom 2,261,713 2261713 – 83% 384,492
United States 14,586,736 14586736 – 99.5% 72,934
G8 Total 33,265,642 Minus Debt -4,010,994

First, though, let’s go back and take another look at that GDP-Versus-Debt thing. As becomes immediately apparent, once you make the G8 pay off its debts, the impression of cruising the streets of everywhere with a financial juggernaut at your side is replaced by that sick feeling you get when your chain slips off as you’re riding your bicycle up a hill, and you plant yourself nuts-first on your crossbar. Yeah…that 7-Trillion-plus liability of Japan’s kind of makes you want to curl up in the dust and hold yourself, doesn’t it?

Well, as we discussed above, economics and loans are not the same as they are for an individual. If Mr. Japan were to walk into his branch of Wells Fargo or Royal Bank and try to negotiate a car loan, what do you think their reaction might be when discussion revealed his debts were 229% of his income? I suspect he would be walking home, too. Even Mr. America might have a tough time when the bank realized only .5% of his current income was not spoken for by other debtors. Financial institutions have their own reasons for continuing to loan money (cough*bailout*cough) to countries that passed “insolvent” a few stops back.

But what would the G8 look like if we made Anders Aslund a satisfied Swede, and took Russia away?

Country GDP (Millions US$) The Math What’s Left, $Million
Canada 1,577,040 1577040 – 84.2% 249,173
France 2,560,002 2560002 – 87.6% 317,441
Germany 3,280,530 3280530 – 80.1% 652,830
Italy 2,060,965 2060965 – 120.3% -418,375
Japan 5,458,837 5458837 – 229.1% -7,041,899
United Kingdom 2,261,713 2261713 – 83% 384,492
United States 14,586,736 14586736 – 99.5% 72,934
G8 Total 31,785,823 Minus Debt -5,783,404

Oooooo….be careful what you wish for, Anders, because that picture looks kind of worse to me. And that’s probably because it is worse, although I find debt begins not to make sense to me after $5 Trillion anyway. Hey – just for fun, let’s take a look at the G20’s economic clout without the G8 countries dragging them down, put Russia in with them (the only G8 country that can claim to be exercising any kind of fiscal responsibility), and get rid of that European Union millstone (since it looks like being for the high jump anyway). How would that shape up, using IMF figures this time for both public debt and GDP?

Country GDP in $Million US Debt %GDP) What’s Left, $Million US
Brazil 2,492,908 66.18 827,646
India 1,727,111 68.05 551,812
Indonesia 845,680 24.5 638,489
Saudi Arabia 577,595 7.52 534,166
South Korea 1,116,247 33.3 744,537
Argentina 447,644 42.9 255,605
Australia 1,488,221 30.3 1,037,290
China 7,298,147 43.5 4,123,453
Mexico 1,154,784 37.5 721,740
South Africa 408,074 35.6 262,800
Turkey 778,089 42.4 448,180
Russia 1,479,189 8.5 1,354,035
Total 19,813,689 Minus Debt 11,499,753

Well, that looks a bit better, doesn’t it? Why, I can remember a time when you could ride into town, buy yourself a brand-new pair of boots, have a woman and a big steak dinner and still get change from $11 Trillion. When Mr. Putin encourages the G20 to provide global leadership rather than the G8, he seems to be on pretty solid ground, insofar as we are agreed you can’t provide very effective global leadership when you’re bankrupt.

Anyway, enough with the tables, they’re giving me a headache. What else did the folks at BNE say? If they reported accurately – and there’s no particular reason to believe otherwise- it sounds to me like Mr. Putin issued another warning to the holder of the world’s reserve currency. Come to think of it, why should you be the exclusive issuer of the world’s reserve currency when you owe 99.5% of each unit of it you make to foreign and domestic debtors? Does that spell stability, do you think? He was also clear that if other countries want in on investment opportunities in Russia, possibly extending even into the energy sector, it might happen; but only when he sees the barriers to Russian international trade coming down. This sort of sensible reasoning apparently sees “some leaders” making the bizarre assessment that Russia relations with the international community are “steadily decaying”, and that perhaps we are headed for a new cold war. Hey, wasn’t that the title of British assclown Edward Lucas’s book? Well, Ed, and all you other leaders, before you pull that trigger, you’ve got to ask yourself a question…do I feel lucky? Well, do you, punks? If I were riding around on $5 Trillion in debt and trying to catch up with $11 Trillion to the good, I would feel all the way across town from lucky. During the last cold war, quite a different economic situation prevailed, I think it’s safe to say.

A thought-provoking reform was the proposal that anyone who can collect 100,000 signatures or more in support can propose a law that must be taken up by the Duma for review. Where else is that level of public input to lawmaking to be found?

If I could digress a moment, I have to say that churches have the catchiest slogans. You know; they have those signboards out front and they often put some though-provoking quote on it, maybe to lure you inside to get you a little of that old-time religion. I saw a sign in front of a church yesterday as I was driving by which read, “Do you feel like you and God are drifting apart? Who moved?”

You might say the same of Russia and the international community. Between the two, who is acting reasonably, and who is bringing the crazy? Who is acting within the confines of the law, and who is insisting on their right to operate outside it? Who is paying down their debt and increasing the standard of living for their poorer and middle-class citizens, and who is carrying an insane debt load because they acted irresponsibly? Russia and the international community are drifting apart?

Who moved?

This entry was posted in Economy, Government, Investment, Politics, Russia, Trade, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

180 Responses to Putin’s “It’s The Economy, Stupid” Tour Kicks Off in St Petersburg – Eat My G20 Dust, G8

  1. kirill says:

    Some bright lights in NATO are hoping they can return to the good old times of the cold war when they could use the threat of communism to install loyal regimes or get support from local elites. But this time around they can’t dredge up an ideological threat. They can only accuse Russia of being a dictatorship that supports evil, horrible, ghastly, insane regimes like Syria. This story has appeal only in their own minds. I don’t see Latin America joining some anti-Russian crusade because Putin is called a dictator. Russia is not meddling in Latin America psychologically or physically. Neither do I see Africa or the far east joining the crusade either. Nope, the only thing going these days is expanding global trade with Russia as an active participant.

    What would a new cold war give Brazil, South Africa, Malaysia, etc.? More US bases? More trade with the US and NATO? Where is the incentive? Just to prove fealty to Washington? Aslund represents the pompous self-importance syndrome afflicting a large fraction of the NATO elites. Their debt-financed GDP growth has hit the brick wall as the inevitable adjustment process (i.e. paying the piper) has arrived. There is going to be quite a few years of pain and decline as the debt burden is cleared. The west can’t run up debt indefinitely and even though it is only 80-90% for most of the big NATO players it is already too much to handle. Most of the world would have to be crazy to join any crusade together with a bunch of teetering powers. Most of the world should be concerned about quarantining this source of global financial contagion.

    • marknesop says:

      Well, the Russia-joins-with-G20-nations-to-shut-out-G8 thing was just an academic exercise; it would never happen. Turkey and Saudi Arabia would side with the western nations against Russia, at least unless the west was visibly going down in flames. And of course I don’t want the west to fail, anyway; my own well-being depends on it succeeding, and I only want it to smarten the hell up.

      But even the joint economic power of China and Russia alone ought to give any sensible group of nations – that was running a $5-Trillion-plus deficit – pause for thought, and you would think they would dial back the arrogance meter. The west, and the USA/UK in particular, are at a crossroads where they must acknowledge the errors of their model and work to fix it, or face collapse without friends. But business as usual simply won’t do, and is an invitation to disaster.

  2. Misha says:

    On the subject of Syria, an opposing view to a more realist approach to foreign affairs:

    http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/third-option-syria-7098

    Excerpt –

    “So far, the debate over what is to be done about Syria has focused on two options. First, there is the concept of encouraging and pressuring Assad to change his brutal policy of suppression. This is called behavior change. Second, there is the idea of overthrowing his regime and replacing it with a democratic one. This is regime change.
    But there is a third way, and it is the approach that the United States and its allies should pursue. They should seek to force Bashar al-Assad out while not upending the regime. In other words, get other members of the Assad regime to remove him while leaving the regime intact.”

    ****

    Replacing the head coach to influence a better outcome doesn’t often work. Assad leaving the scene doesn’t greatly offset the issues concerning the rest of the Syrian government and the forces opposed to it. Relative to others on the Syrian government side, some have questioned the degree of Assad’s involvement in the crackdown. Simply replacing him, while leaving the rest of the government in place appears somewhat window dressing like.

    ———————

    Excerpt –

    “Even hard-bitten realists can acknowledge that there is a moral minimum that commands action when atrocities reach a level that no government claiming to be a global power can accept. The brutal repression in Syria has dragged on for more than a year and is escalating. It is bad enough when civilians, including children, are killed as collateral damage, when misreading intelligence or technical mishaps cause such casualties. But when a regime deliberately slaughters children and shells cities, week after week, month after month, those who promote a global order cannot dither endlessly.”

    ****

    The geopolitically more influential of governments are likely to achieve greater success at having their views on fighting terrorism and collateral damage acknowledged.

    ————————————————————————————————————————

    Re: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/stalins-general-the-life-of-georgy-zhukov-by-geoffrey-roberts/2012/06/23/gJQAwECmxV_story.html

    Excerpt –

    “Zhukov, who was born in 1896 and died in 1974, came from peasant origins and seems never to have forgotten them: ‘Zhukov’s humble origins and stratospheric rise are keys to understanding his lifelong loyalty to communism and to the Soviet system. The regime that Zhukov served all his adult life was brutal, repressive, authoritarian, and at times terroristic. . . . But compared with the old tsarist regime it offered people like Zhukov unprecedented and previously unimaginable opportunities for social mobility’.”

    ****

    In pre-Soviet times, Zhukov did reach the status of non-commissioned officer, while receiving a high decoration in the early part of his military career. Note that the Russian Civil War era White commander Anton Denikin rose thru the Imperial Russian military ranks as someone from a not so wealthy background. In short, it wasn’t impossible for the non-silver spooned to advance in a number of fields in pre-Soviet Russia. Consider what the world was like back then.

    Russia didn’t need what was to happen in 1917 and thereafter to achieve further socioeconomic advancement.

    ————————————————————————————————————————

    http://nz.entertainment.yahoo.com/news/article/-/14027996/lithuania-relives-bicentennial-of-napoleons-march-on-russia/

    • marknesop says:

      Etzioni has certainly come full circle, hasn’t he? It wasn’t long ago that he argued – in “Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy” – that democracies worldwide could look much different from that of the USA and still be democracies, and that “the U.S. should let regime change come, if it comes at all, from forces internal to these nations…” He also regards Russia as a “failing state”, and argues in the linked article for targeted bombing to kill Assad. Nothing much about that approach sounds very different to me from the repeated attempts to “get” Gaddafi, and so Etzioni’s reputation as a bright-spark intellectual with a humanitarian heart is wasted on me.

    • wanderer says:

      “Russia didn’t need what was to happen in 1917 and thereafter to achieve further socioeconomic advancement.”

      Without 1917, Russia was on Argentina’s path, which would have proved utterly inadequate in 1941. The consequences of such a failure? No Russians, Ukrainians, or Poles in European Russia, Ukraine, and Poland.

      http://www.amazon.com/Farm-Factory-Reinterpretation-Industrial-Revolution/dp/0691006962

      • Misha says:

        Nonsense. Russia was growing prior to 1917. WW I and how Russia fought it made it possible for the Bolsheviks. Consider Lenin’s glum outlook in 1913.

        • wanderer says:

          “Nonsense. Russia was growing prior to 1917.”

          So was Argentina. It was one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

          Then the bottom dropped out of agricultural prices and Argentine elites were too sclerotic to think up and invest in an alternative.

          “WW I and how Russia fought it made it possible for the Bolsheviks.”

          Indeed. And the way the Whites waged the Civil War shows that they learned nothing from WW I.

          And that’s the first clue that New Management was needed.

          • Misha says:

            Towards the end and in exile, the Whites exhibited a good deal of growth in understanding and dealing with realities.

            In addition, what happened in Russia after 1917 explains why the Whites and pre-1917 era Russia aren’t as highlighted with the negatively simplistic propaganda that was evident during the Soviet period.

            A “clue” on these points notes contemporary Russia’s readopted emblem and flag, to go along with the name changes of some areas back to their pre-1917 names.

  3. Misha says:

    Re: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/259686/putin-rare-trip-israel.html

    Obama has yet to visit Israel (at least as US president) – which pro-Israeli lobbyists are known to calling America’s best ally.

    —————————————————————————————————————————

    Re: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=275201

    As reported, there’s more of an openly direct Russian-Israeli agreement on Iran than Syria. With some reluctance, Israel has a basis to consider preferring Assad over the anti-Syrian government opposition. On the other hand, Israel has to also consider the prevailing mood among US officialdom.

    —————————————————————————————————————————

    Regarding the economic situation in some of the former USSR:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/06/25/latvias-fake-economic-model/

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2012/06/23/a-tale-of-two-labor-markets-the-shocking-divergence-in-russian-and-american-unemployment/

    • yalensis says:

      Putin’s visit to Israel seems to have gone well. Putin is popular among Israelis, especially Russian ones.
      In one piece I read that there were some noisy demonstrators (which Israeli police kept well away from Putin), but it turned out they were gay activists, not Russophobes. Some of the homosexuals were upset with Mr. Putin for not allowing gay pride parades in Moscow. Others just wanted to rip off his shirt and get a closer look at his muscular torso. (I’m not making this up, I just can’t find a good link.)

      http://www.timesofisrael.com/putin-says-russia-interested-in-preserving-peace-for-israel/

      • marknesop says:

        I’m afraid I just don’t get the resistance to gay pride parades. If you find that sort of spectacle repugnant, your choices are (1) a big parade once a year, and relative quiet the rest of it provided you don’t run a militantly anti-gay agenda – and except for that day you probably can’t even tell who they are – or (2) smaller but highly visible demonstrations all around that date because they’re angry they can’t have their own public event. I realize it’s a lifestyle choice rather than an event catering to enthusiasts, but if you can shut down the streets for a car show or a rock concert or a bunch of yobs who want to overthrow the government, you can let gay people have their day in the sun without interference. Nobody says you have to be gay to watch, or that doing so will turn you gay. Come on.

        • Leos Tomicek says:

          Maybe Russians just don’t want this kind of stuff in their streets:
          http://www.zombietime.com/up_your_alley_2008/part_1_blurred/index.php

          • marknesop says:

            Wow. I was brought up to believe the human body is beautiful, but there’s just something about overweight men wearing only a few leather straps that really makes me question that concept.

            Seriously, there’s a big difference between a gay pride parade in which all the customary decency bylaws are enforced – no nudity, no profane or vulgar T-shirts or signs – and a free-for all sexual bacchanal in which all sorts of public sex acts are tolerated. This would not fly in the case of heterosexual activity, either – oral sex in public between opposite genders is not permitted under indecency laws, nor is public nudity. This is taking permissiveness too far, and I don’t think any Russian gays are advocating for the right to gobble each other in public.

            But performances like this may well provide support for those who deny permission for gay people to hold a simple parade of celebration. Heterosexuals do not normally hold “straight pride parades” because heterosexuality is perceived to be the norm – it’d be like holding a computer programmer’s parade in Palo Alto. Gay is different, and if they want to hold a parade one day a year to celebrate their differentness, it’s not hurting anyone. Children watching a bunch of colourfully-dressed people marching down the street are not going to think, Gee, that makes me want to be gay.

            The spectacle you linked resembles a common gay pride parade like a shovel resembles an excavator.

            • Misha says:

              These two pieces were forwarded to my attention:

              http://newsru.com/world/26jun2012/putintrip.html

              http://newsru.com/religy/26jun2012/markov.html

              One of them suggests Putin faring better in Israel than Obama, with the Gay community standing out as noticeably protesting towards Putin:

              The other piece mentions a Levada poll, indicating Russia’s president, church and army as the most trustworthy. Lacking in trust are the police and media.

            • yalensis says:

              You actually looked at those pictures? I started to click on it, but was deterred by the screen warning about fetishism. Not sure my delicate, Scarlett O’Hara-like constitution can take fetishism. Anyhow, my notion of an awesome gay parade would involve floats, giant balloons, production numbers from Broadway musicals, the Rockettes…. Oops, I guess I am thinking about the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in Times Square!

              • marknesop says:

                Come on….you know you looked. And a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with gay people is just about what I visualized, too. Probably people have gotten arrested at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades as well for their behavior, but they must be very few. Just because you decide to allow the celebration of something that is not against the law – and being gay is not, in Russia or in the west – does not imply that you must allow other practices that are against the law, like waltzing around in public wearing leather pants that leave your buttocks bare for all to see, or some kind of leather harness and nothing else. I don’t want to see women doing that, either. Well, okay, some of them, but that’s just between us and I understand why it can’t be allowed. If it’s easy to allow protest marches but not the throwing of stones at the police, it should be easy to allow a gay pride parade that does not allow illegal behavior.

            • Leos Tomicek says:

              Gay pride parades tend to eventually devolve into something like this unfortunately. Usually it is not this extreme, but it usually happens in places that are the most tolerant towards homosexuals, where really there is no point in holding these parades. At least if one considers the philosophy behind them…

              • marknesop says:

                I wouldn’t rule anything out, but I have never seen any credible reporting of any gay pride parade anywhere dissolving into an unprincipled orgy of public sex acts, or any statistics that suggested a spike in gayness following a pride parade. Generally speaking – I beg your pardon, David Bowie – people do not take up being gay as a hobby or a diversion, and you either are or are not.

                In any case, that sort of revolting spectacle is hugely detrimental to the cause of gay rights, since those opposed will be able to reasonably argue that this is an example of the “rights” sought – the right to engage in public sex, which is against the law in any combination.

                • Leos Tomicek says:

                  Sure, there is no spike in homosexuality after a pride parade, I wonder who ever said that.

                  My point was that the more tolerant the place, the more provocative it gets, my example was from the final frontier. But then again, if you tolerate nudity and public sex, you will get just that, the process is gradual…

  4. yalensis says:

    @Mark: This is a great blogpost! I am very impressed with the graphs and statistics.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Yalensis! I thought it was a little confusing myself, jumping back and forth between 2010 and 2011, but I couldn’t always get figures for both that were from the same source (there are small differences, likely of interpretation, between the IMF’s and the World Bank’s figures) and really there was not much improvement where there was any. Anyway, the point should be fairly clear that it is the G8 nations that are dragging down the G20, not the other way round, and that Anders Aslund is as usual just blathering because he likes to be heard and quoted. Very little he says makes any sense, and much of it just makes you shake your head in wonder. Kicking the only solidly solvent nation in the G8 out of it (and I would kind of give Germany a pass, too, because the EuroCrisis is sucking the money right out of their pockets while they are simultaneously getting the bad guy label because they won’t bail out Greece again when the first bailout hardly even registered a ripple) is typical of Aslund’s shock-therapy thinking.

  5. landak says:

    Although I love those tables so much, they are physically meaningless.

    Albeit a country’s GDP is measured in USD, those values have a dimension of Dollars/year. While the debt values have a dimension of Dollars. You cannot subtract values which have different dimensions.

    I really do not know how to calculate the total nation’s wealth. But GDP values alone are not a proper answer, because that’s the amount of the economy’s output in a year. One would be correct to wonder, “why a year”? Why not a month and why not 10 years? If you measure the economy’s output in a month or in 10 years you would get drastically different values.

    • rkka says:

      But interest has to be paid out of GDP, so debt as a proportion of GDP is a meaningful indicator of the sustainability of the debt.

      • kirill says:

        Indeed. If a country’s debt is equal to its GDP and on top of that it has to pay 7% interest (e.g. Spain) then the national government has to find 7% of the GDP in revenue to finance the debt. Typically the national budget is around 20% of GDP (not including regional and city budgets). Having to divert 1/3 of your budget to debt financing is a serious blow. Basically it guarantees that there will be a huge deficit since the national government can’t just suddenly start collecting 27% of the GDP in taxes. It can’t even ramp up to this level without damaging the national economy.

        So huge debt => high interest payments => deficit => debt growth. A death spiral.

        • rkka says:

          And it’s not just governments that get into foreign debt death spirals.

          Before 2008, Latvians took out mortgages from foreign banks secured, not only by the property they were buying, but also .

          Then came The Crash.

          The mortgages in Latvia were such that in the case of mortgage default, banks could repossess the property, take second properties, and also recoup further debt from the future earnings of the borrower.

          Early on, after the PAREX bailout, the Latvian government tried, not very hard, to get the banks to write down mortgages to the lowered value of the property. The Banksters said “Thank you for bankrupting yourself to bail us out, but no.”

          No wonder people are fleeing. They were sold into debt slavery.

  6. landak says:

    That is, indeed, comparisons of the national wealth of the G8 and (G20 minus G8) nations are very interesting, and AFAIK, nobody has done that so far.

    There are also questions about the current methodologies of determining national wealth, as in:

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

    Yet, any methodology needs to be physically meaningful.

    • marknesop says:

      You are correct that there are many ways to interpret national wealth, and the United States still ranks high and is perceived to be a safe investment destination even though it is basically insolvent, because of its previous economic strength, the perception that it will shrug this off eventually as it has other crises, and because its government simply keeps raising the allowable debt ceiling – however, Moody’s recent downgrade of major U.S. banks is more than just symbolic: the last time it took such action was in 2007, just before the roof fell in.

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304441404577480751440488004.html

      I notice that, according to the Financial Post, Morgan Stanley’s stock actually rose by 3% following the downgrade, but that was likely due to internal money movement by the bank to strengthen the appearance of its capital base, or perhaps even purchase of its own stock to bolster confidence.

      But you are also right that the perception of national wealth has to be based on something meaningful, and you probably know that if you go to the bank for a loan, they will consider your credit limit on your Visa or MasterCard as exposure even if you don’t owe anything on it – you could commit yourself to that level of debt, and that’s all they care about. The only money they want to hear about is the funds you have available against which there is no claim by anyone. In this instance the G20 has far more power to get things done than does the G8 because, although the G8 is “good for” significant funding in pursuit of its objectives, it can raise those funds only through further borrowing. Your ability to raise money from your friends is not considered by the bank when you are there to, well, borrow money. And if the G8 does not get some fiscal responsibility very soon, it is going to run into the fiscal equivalent of production’s law of diminishing returns.

  7. Dear Mark,

    Another very clever and typically witty post and one which makes a very important point.

    Not all the GDP of the G8 states can be written off as debt but there is absolutely no doubt that Russia has kept its finances in immeasurably better order than any of the others. I would add that the very low levels of state debt are mirrored in Russia by very low levels of personal and consumer debt. Also Russia appears to be resisting follies like securitisation, which it seems even China is now dabbling in.

    Historically a firm financial base is always the key to economic success. Countries that sacrifice financial stability for growth always in the end run into trouble. It is precisely because Russia has kept its house in such good order that I am completely optimistic about its future. Actually I expect it to be the biggest economy in Europe (ahead of Germany) within a decade. Looking further ahead I suspect that in twenty years or so it could even be the third biggest economy after China and the US but ahead of Japan.

    I would finish this (for me) brief comment by questioning again how it is possible with these figures for the credit rating agencies to give Russia the lowest credit rating of the G8 (only one grade above junk bond status) and retain credibility?

  8. rkka says:

    “I would finish this (for me) brief comment by questioning again how it is possible with these figures for the credit rating agencies to give Russia the lowest credit rating of the G8 (only one grade above junk bond status) and retain credibility?”

    Because they’re politicized advocates of the “Washington Consensus”?

  9. Going totally off topic I see that liberal TV and media outlets are having to close and retrench apparently because of poor audience figures.

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120626/174255500.html

    As we have often discussed, liberal opinions are actually unpopular in Russia so the fact that liberal television stations have never attracted large numbers of viewers or made a profit is unsurprising and is for once an example of the market working as it should.

    Meanwhile I gather that the liberal exodus from the Presidential Human Rights Council (otherwise known as the Khodorkovsky Campaign Group) continues apace.

    • kirill says:

      The liberasts can spin this as evil dictator Putin shutting them down. They never argued using the truth so why should they start now.

  10. kirill says:

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120627/174259708.html

    This is how the hyperpower tries to create reality. By legislating it!

    How would some US politicians know more about the case than the investigators in Russia? How about we start judging the US by everyone who dies in detention (prison or pre-trial). Here is an example:

    “JAMES McDOUGAL – Bank Embezzlement crook, Clinton’s convicted Whitewater partner. Died 3-8-98 of an apparent heart attack, while in solitary confinement, serving 3-yr sentence for bank fraud. He was going to be a key witness in Ken Starr’s investigation and died while the reporters who were covering him were away covering a sudden, new standoff in Waco, (which, when he died, suddenly went away.) Jim McDougal suffered a heart attack that was brought on by the diuretics forced on him. They took him out of solitary as he collapsed, then left him alone in the medical wing. Instead of attempting to defibrillate his heart with equipment on hand at the facility, he was taken on a LONG drive to John Peter Smith hospital. Not the closest hospital to the Fort Worth Federal Medical Center, JPS is a welfare hospital, where (in the words of one local,) “they let interns practice on deadbeats”.

    The single most damning fact to come out of the McDougal death was his injection with Lasix, a diuretic, to force his giving a urine sample for drug testing, even though McDougal was not a known drug case, and Lasix is contra-indicated in cases of heart disease. Lasix can cause excessive diuresis, blood volume reduction, circulatory collapse, and vascular thrombosis, or blood clots. If a matching potassium supplement is not administered at the same time, Lasix can kill. McDougal may have been taking the heart medication Digitalin (foxglove) which cannot be combined with Lasix. Several inmates had gone public with the claim that McDougal was given a heavy injection of Lasix right after he ate lunch, but the prison system has refused to allow those prisoners to be interviewed nor have they released McDougal’s medical records.

    The Fort Worth Star-Telegram acquired the official report of the McDougal death via a Freedom Of Information Act request, and report that doctors ignored McDougal’s signs of imminent death. ”

    (http://www.handpen.com/Bio/clintonbodycount.htm)

    The above sounds quite plausible to me. If it is merely some tinfoil hat conspiracy theory, then so is that of Magnitsky, the corrupt accountant sanctified as a “human rights lawyer” in the west. If Magnitsky was offed as a coverup then it is from low ranking officials and not Putin and his close associates. The proper procedure is to investigate these officials and not to have some hostile foreign regime pass a law smearing the whole of the Russian government.

    The key word here is meddling. Brazen meddling with malicious intent.

    • marknesop says:

      I remain convinced that the Russian prosecution would not continue to pursue the Magnitsky case if they did not have what they believe to be strong evidence that supports such a pursuit, especially knowing what a circus the western press is making of it and in the face of the Magnitsky Bill becoming law. Likewise, rather than sadly accepting it and announcing a tit-for-tat counterpunishment, the Russian government would order prosecutors to drop it and move on. Russia has shown itself capable of apology and restitution before when it is clearly in the wrong. Both the government and the courts must believe they can make a convincing case even though Magnitsky is dead, and all the hoopla about it is likely an early attempt to discredit the finding when it is announced.

      • Dear Mark,

        Since Kovane has been back in contact let me again say that I thought his posts on the Magnitsky affair were the best written by anyone about it and were in all respects truly outstanding.

        As for the pending trial of Magnitsky, as I have said before there is precedent for such a thing just as I believe Russian law allows for people to be tried in their absence as is the case in some other states. In any event the trial is something that everyone should welcome as the only chance of getting to the bottom of this tangled affair.

        Specifically, there are two competing narratives about this case:

        1. That Magnitsky was engaged in a fraud apparently or presumably on Browder’s behalf; and

        2. That Magnitsky was victimised and probably killed because he and Browder tried to expose a fraud, which apparently involved their own companies and which was supposedly perpetrated by some of the same law enforcement officers who became involved in investigating them.

        A senior investigator in the case has said publicly that there is no evidence that Magnitsky exposed anything and I have to say that on the face of it this seems far more likely to me than the convoluted conspiracy Magnitsky and Browder have alleged. Having said this nothing so far has been proved even though serious crimes have been alleged and since Russia apparently does not have a system of public inquiries and given the serious criminal charges that are being alleged a trial does seem to me to be the obvious and appropriate way to find out what the truth is.

        • marknesop says:

          I completely agree, Alex; maybe we can get him to do a post on the ongoing trial. Somebody who speaks Russian as a first language will likely pick up a lot of new those who do not would miss.

    • marknesop says:

      That sounds like everybody-who-isn’t-a-devout-Muslim bashing to me, except for the “bear that licks the blood of our Syrian relatives” part. Hmmm…every stone in Jerusalem is Muslim – partly because a British commission says so. Religious extremists of all persuasions are just tiresome, and while I’m sure we Christians have our religious myths that are as silly as making a wall sacred because that’s where The Prophet tied up his magical flying horse, I’m having a hard time differentiating that from cultures that won’t allow themselves to be photographed because the camera will steal their soul.

      All I can say is, everyone who wants Israel to be run by Islamic fundamentalists who believe horses once flew (and who are willing to believe that while all available evidence contradicts it, but will accept the word of a British commission that a wall is sacred because of it ), raise your hand. Uh huh. That’s what I thought. You can only pander to people’s beliefs so much, and anyone who thinks you can have leaders who believe in flying horses – literally – and that those leaders will somehow oversee a prosperous, progressive society of tolerance and equality is in for a surprise. I loathe the situation that has the Israelis persecuting the Palestinians, but putting the Palestinians in charge of the whole thing so they could persecute the Israelis is not the answer, I’m afraid. Ditto Islamic extremists who are going to decide your route to work because otherwise you might walk on stones that are Muslim while you are not.

      • Misha says:

        As someone else sarcastically put it:

        And I guess they never heard of the great Temple of Solomon, since Mohammed pre-dates the great kings?

        • Dear Misha,

          I am afraid I do not see this as simply another case of Putin bashing. Rather I see it as yet more evidence of the descent into fanaticism and murderous stupidity that has taken hold in the Middle East.

          Ever since I formed an opinion on the subject back in the mid 1970s I have consistently been of the view that the Palestinian Arabs are the great victims of the Arab Israeli conflict. I think it was wrong to set up a Jewish state on their territory just as I think it was a crime to expel millions of them from their homes in 1948 to enable this to happen, something which the vast majority of people who have studied the subject with any degree of open mindedness or objectivity now agree was what took place. At the same it is totally absurd and frankly heartless in a way that is only possible for a religious fanatic to deny Jews their connection to the Temple and to insist upon an exclusive Islamic ownership of all of it.

          Putin acted absolutely correctly to visit in the company of his Jewish hosts what is for Jews the single most important structure of their nation where their religion and their nation began. Again it takes a fanatic to see this as somehow anti Islamic. For the record Russia has since the 1950s been the single most consistent international supporter of Palestinian rights, a stance for which it has received scant thanks or recognition in the Arab world, which has instead preferred to support anti Russian jihadi movements in Afghanistan, the Caucasus and Central Asia. That Palestinian Muslims apparently prefer to ignore this and instead chose to take umbrage because Putin in the company of his Jewish hosts paid a courtesy visit to part of the Temple wall tells one everything one needs to know about why the Arab world is in the mess it is in and why I expect to be long dead in my coffin before the Palestinian people finally obtain the justice they deserve.

          • Misha says:

            Alexander,

            I agree that the founding of the modern Jewish state of Israel has problematical aspects that you bring up.

            It has since become a clear reality and one not that’s likely to go away. A number of other nations have questionable past instances including the one I live in. I’m not about to root for its end.

    • yalensis says:

      “Muslims often refer to the Western Wall as the Buraq Wall — a reference to the wall where the Prophet Muhammad tethered his miraculous winged steed.”

      For extra credit points: What was the name of Muhammad’s winged steed?
      Please frame your answer in the form of a question.

  11. Going back to the main topic, I notice that Standard & Poor has now upgraded Russia’s credit rating.

    http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_06_27/79526087/

    A possible sign that reality is starting to dawn?

  12. Misha says:

    Forwarded to my attention, this piece notes Putin essentially calling the Bolsheviks traitors, while supporting efforts to honor Russia’s WW I role:

    http://newsru.com/russia/27jun2012/putin_i_bolsheviki.html

    —————————————————————————————————————

    This article is ironic in its presentation about history being used as a weapon in former Yugoslavia:

    http://www.transconflict.com/2012/06/using-history-as-a-weapon-in-yugoslavia-266/

    Excerpt –

    On Vidovadan, on 28th June 1989, Slobodan Milosevic gave his famous speech at Kosovo Polje, Gazimestan, in front of an enormous crowd (comprised mostly of Serbs), while the event was also broadcast live on national television. In his speech, Milosevic transposed the historical events of the 14th century Kosovo battle on to the conditions of the present. He condemned the disunity which had weakened Serbia’s ruling elite throughout its history and made them lose the original battle for Kosovo. He strongly emphasized the historical continuity between a 14th century Serbian empire and the Serbian people in 1989, and encouraged the Serbian people to show the same bravery as their ancestors when confronted with the current political struggles:
    “Six centuries later, now, we are being again engaged in battles and are facing battles. They are not armed battles, although such things cannot be excluded yet. However, regardless of what kind of battles they are, they cannot be won without resolve, bravery, and sacrifice, without the noble qualities that were present here in the field of Kosovo in the days past”.

    ****

    The above excerpted is a partial and misrepresentative presentation of Milosevic’s address. In that speech, he notes Kosovo’s relationship to Serbia while speaking favorably about the continuation of a multiethnic Yugoslavia.

    In contrast:

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/28012012-musings-on-the-former-yugoslavia-and-former-soviet-union-analysis-2/

    Excerpt –

    A common theme presents Milosevic led Serbs starting four wars in (sequential order) Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Among the peoples making up Yugoslavia, Milosevic and the Serbs en masse were not lone perpetrators of political violence. Actually, Milosevic’s 1989 address at Kosovo Polje spoke favorably of a multiethnic state. That speech of his was given with a background of non-Serb separatist minded terrorism in Kosovo.

    • Misha says:

      Another piece on what Putin said about the Bolsheviks:

      http://rt.com/politics/putin-accuses-bolsheviks-treason-877/

      • yalensis says:

        Oi… look at who is calling who a traitor!
        As an officer of the KGB, Putin took an oath to defend the Soviet Union against foreign enemies. He betrayed that oath when he joined up with Yeltsin and the other putschists conspirators to disband USSR and hand Russia over to American occupation.
        My advice to Putin: he should keep his mouth shut about WWI. The moment he starts calling that sorry imperialist mess a “just war”, he is opening a HUGE can of worms, involving all the European nations and their various pretensions.
        The Russian people did NOT want to fight WWI. Lenin promised to pull Russia out of that war, and he kept his promise. End of story.

        • yalensis says:

          P.S. There are a lot of good comments to read on the RT blog (along with the usual anti-Semitic crazies, who can be ignored). Many commenters see Putin’s unprovoked ideological attack as a symptom of his own weakness and ineffectiveness in dealing with NATO aggression. On last blog, I described Putin’s attitude as philosophical “que sera sera”, but now I see it as something more sinister, maybe even appeasement. Will he just sit by and watch NATO destroy Syria, and then turn around and say, “Well, it was all Lenin’s fault, if he hadn’t killed Tsar Nikolai, we’d all be sitting pretty.” Позор, Mr. Putin! Shame on you!

          • Misha says:

            Especially after the interventions in Kosovo and Libya, I’ve my doubts that the Russian government will take a neocon to neolib stance on Syria. China and some other countries are leaning towards the current Russian position. At present, the lead stories on Russian foreign policy have several pieces noting that the Kremlin maintains its ongoing view of the situation in Syria.

            • marknesop says:

              I agree. Russia’s official position remains commitment to a political solution that reflects the wishes of the Syrian majority within Syria, when all are free to speak their minds without fear of coercion or retribution. And under those conditions, Assad very likely would stay on as leader. However, the Syrian conflict should not distract from the west’s fundamental commitment to regime change in Iran, because that remains very much alive; it’s merely on the back burner for now because attention is focused on Syria. And if the west gets its way on this one, it will only be emboldened in its resolve to remake the Iranian political landscape. Russia and China, at least, have not forgotten that.

              But something I read somewhere in comments – I think it was on Alex Mercouris’s blog, and it might have been Jennifer Hor – still rings true: the west has seldom threatened a war that it did not fight, and I might add that on the occasions when that set of circumstances evolved, it was because the west got what it wanted without having to go to war over it. Not realizing its objectives typically does lead to war if war has been introduced as an option.

              • Misha says:

                The Western neolibs and neocons haven’t exactly gotten what they hoped for in Ukraine. Despite these forces having put in place a considerable influence in Serbia, that country hasn’t come around to recognizing Kosovo’s independence, while periodically exhibiting challenges to some other neo-colonial preferences.

                Along with some others, the Russia-China relationship is partly premised in opposing the worst of Western geopolitical thinking.

        • Misha says:

          Russian public opinion significantly turned on fighting WW I after the considerable Russian losses. Such human nature has been exhibited in a number of other countries.

          In contrast: in WW II, the Nazis were more entrenched on Russian soil (like the siege of Leningrad and the outskirts of Moscow), with a bigoted Nazi attitude that wasn’t as willing to come to terms with Russian political opposition in the way that was evident in WW I. This last point concerns Putin’s reference to Lenin.

          Following up on this piece:

          http://rt.com/politics/putin-accuses-bolsheviks-treason-877/

          Excerpt –

          “President Putin traditionally opposes the Communist Party of the Russian Federation – the heirs to the CPSU, but at the same time he has called the breakup of the Soviet Union ‘the biggest geopolitical disaster of the century.’ Recently Russia is taking steps against what it sees as the ‘revisionism of history’ – manipulations that question the universally accepted opinion on most questionable issues of the past.”

          ****

          Towards the end of the Soviet Union and thereafter (during the Yeltsin, Putin, Medvedev and second term Putin administrations), there’ve been noticeable efforts undergone in Russia to present views that were previously downplayed.

          Putin is on record for not favoring a return to the USSR. Without meaning to put words in Putin’s mouth, one can be against much of what went on in a now defunct entity, while noting how the way it ended caused a good degree of suffering, in addition to symbolizing a significant fall from geopolitical prowess. The proposed Eurasian Union involving Russia, some other former Soviet republics and possible others isn’t premised on the structure of the Soviet Union.

          Regarding Putin’s prior standing in the USSR, people have been known to change their minds. While feeling nostalgic about some of the Soviet era, there’s no majority yearning to seek a return to the USSR in Russia.

          • Misha says:

            BTW, Putin might not have dramatically changed his views as much as some suggest. In the “free world”, people have been known to keep silent about some of their views, on account of how their bosses and/or peers and/or predominating establishment think.

            • Misha says:

              The structure of this thread blocks me from posting this set of comments in a more preferable placement. Therefore, pardon the probable awkwardness of where it appears.

              By 1917, Russia was in a better situation in terms of having armaments. At the same time, the great hardships resulting from WW I decreased the popularity of that war effort.

              Unlike in WW II, the Russian military in WW I struck into Germany in the earlier stages of the war instead of withdrawing east. Germany was advancing towards France, with the Western Entente seeking a Russian offensive to offset the German effort in the West.

              In 1939, an immediate Soviet counter-offensive would likely have been extremely detrimental to the Soviet war effort.

              As previously noted, due to the bigoted idiocy of the Nazis, the Germans in WW II didn’t utilize Russian political opposition to the degree it did in WW I.

              Russia’s industrial development was well underway prior to 1913. There’s no reason to disbelieve that the country wouldn’t have further developed without the Bolsheviks. I’m suddenly reminded of an acknowledgement by a Marxist professor who agrees that WW I made it possible for Lenin to succeed in a way that would’ve otherwise not been likely.

              • Misha says:

                Following up on a point raised, the USSR wasn’t so militarily well prepared when the Nazis attacked. This aspect concerns how further devastated that country would likely be if an immediate Soviet counter-offensive was initiated.

                • wanderer says:

                  By the end of 1941, the German army in the USSR was in ruins.

                  Only one of the three German Army Groups could be rebuilt for offensives in 1942, and that offensive failed.

                  By contrast, even Brusilov’s 1916 offensive failed to wreck the German Army’s offensive power. Effective German offensives continued every year of WWI.

                • Misha says:

                  The battle of Tannenberg was in 1914. There were Russian-German battles as well before 1916.

                  A hypothetical reference was made to how likely catastrophic a Soviet counter-offensive would’ve been if they launched a counter-offensive immediately after the Nazi atack in 1939.

                  In WW I, the Russians would’ve likely been much better off with a similar hold back on attacking the Germans policy.

          • wanderer says:

            “Russian public opinion significantly turned on fighting WW I after the considerable Russian losses. Such human nature has been exhibited in a number of other countries.”

            Not only that, the demands of the war effort were beyond Russia’s capacity to meet.

            Q: What caused the Petrograd bread riots that caused the fall of the Tsar?
            A: The fact that by 1917 the Russian railroad system could either supply the Army with munitions, or the cities with grain, but not both at the same time.

            Q: Had the Russian railroad system improved between February 1917 and October 1917?
            A: No.

            Q: Why did large stocks of Allied munitions pile up in Vladivostok and Murmansk while the Imperial Army at the front was running short?
            A: Because the Russian railroad system couldn’t manage to move it.

            The Bolshies were not in charge of the Russian railroad system in 1917. Kerensky should have made peace in March 1917.

            “In contrast: in WW II, the Nazis were more entrenched on Russian soil (like the siege of Leningrad and the outskirts of Moscow)”

            The bigger contrast was that Russia had industrialized in a massive way, enough to have wrecked the German Army long before any serious Lend-Lease arrived. The USSR was far better prepared for war in 1941 than Imperial Russia had been in 1914.

            • kirill says:

              Thanks for this information. There is too much BS about the USSR and WWII that is being routinely spread to revise history.

              • Misha says:

                There’s a good deal of BS about Russia in WW I “that is being routinely spread” in a way that seems to better conform with a certain preferred slant.

                • kirill says:

                  Nothing he posted above is not factual. If the Czar’s regime had its shit together there would have been no communist takeover. Instead it was a corrupt, backward waste of space that was not prepared for the 19th century let alone the 20th. It’s hard to fake lack of railway capacity. There weren’t any mountain ranges like the Andes or the Rockies blocking Russian railway construction in the European part.

                  And it’s a fact that Hitler was dumbfounded by the resistance in the east which he expected to roll over in six months. It sure wasn’t Soviet human wave infantry squandering that stopped the Nazi advance. They could move through infantry like a hot knife through butter.

                • Misha says:

                  Nothing I posted is off base from being realistic.

                  Glad to see that Putin seems like he’s of the same view.

                • Misha says:

                  As for another comment made below (at least I believe so before posting this one), there was an alliance system in the lead up to WW I. The Central Powers weren’t the more virtuous over the Entente. I don’t disagree that (especially in retrospect,) WW I was a blunder. One main reason having to do with how it paved the way for Lenin and the Bolshes to have an opportunity to take over with German help.

                  Glad to see the greater open-mindedness on such matter in post-Soviet Russia. FYI, Solzh’s book on WW I isn’t so in line with the general pro-Russian/anti-Bolshevik view. He wrote that book while in the USSR in a way revealing a lack of different and valid perspective.

                • Misha says:

                  BTW, in the West, one can find a lack of knowledge and appreciation for Russia’s WW I effort among “Russia watchers”. Putin’s recent comments clearly aren’t in line with that situation. Therefore, suggesting that he’s somehow becoming a stooge of Russia unfriendly elements is off the mark.

                  Like I said, the study/commentary on Russia shouldn’t be exclusive to Russia bashers and “sovok” types.

            • yalensis says:

              Good points. WWI was a complete disaster for Russia. For Putin to start rewriting history now and saying WWI was a “just” war is basically taking the Anglo-Franco view of history and saying England was in the right, and Germany was in the wrong. Is he CRAZY??? I suspect Putin has been reading too much Solzhenitsyn, because this was S’s pet topic too. And I also wonder, when Putin spouts ridiculous things like this, isn’t he worried that he will offend Angela Merkel, his ONLY half-friend (or at least non-enemy) in all of Western Europe?
              Given the whole history (Crimean War, and Kipling’s “Great Game”, and all that jazz), why should Russia take England’s side in ANY conflict? Let alone send Russian soldiers to die for the glory of the Western allies? The Bolshevik slogan of “Land and Peace” resonated with the Russian peasantry, because they were sick of fighting and dying for England-France. The Bolsheviks won because they positioned themselves as the party of Peace. Okay, I am not naive, I realize that Bolsheviks had a definite slant towards Germany. Lenin was NOT a German agent, but his interests just happened to coincide with the interests of Germany. But what is so wrong about that? Many Russians, not just Communists, dreamed of a grand Russo-Germanic alliance against England and France. The same conflict continues today, and the players are almost the same.

          • marknesop says:

            Unintentional comedy. Still with the “Putin is trying to crush the protest movement”: oh, excuse me, the “unprecedented demonstrations”. RFE/RL is still speaking of the protest movement as if it were gaining strength rather than bleeding it. As always, Russia needs even more democracy. Russia, it seems, will never have an ounce of freedom until every citizen is free to do just as he or she likes with no interference whatsoever from the government – free to not pay taxes, free to not go to work, free to operate their own company outside the law and free to gather in large crowds and walk about the city streets blocking traffic. Then, THEN it’ll be good enough for the west. In fact, let’s just get rid of government in Russia altogether – who needs leaders? Every man and woman is a leader who need answer only to himself or herself.

            Be pretty easy to manipulate public opinion in a society like that, wouldn’t it?

            • Misha says:

              “As always, Russia needs even more democracy”, as opposed to the propped folks prone to saying this – people who don’t impress as being so open to some different and valid thoughts.

  13. kieivte says:

    What Russia Fears in Syrian Conflict by Joe Lauria — Antiwar.com
    http://original.antiwar.com/lauria/2012/06/26/what-russia-fears-in-syrian-conflict/

    Russia is opposed to regime change in Syria not only on principle, but because the likely new regime would be headed by an Islamist government inimical to Russian interests, analysts and diplomats say.
    “You can talk about arms sales and the port, but the real thing that Russia is worried about is an Islamic government coming to power in Syria,” said a senior Western diplomat, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity because of the current tension in Western-Russian relations.
    “Russia is obviously concerned about Islamic regimes, and perhaps most important of all, it is terrified of chaos,” said Mark Galeotti, who chairs the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. He said chaos and anarchy in the Middle East fuels the rise of Islamic extremism.
    “Russia feels that the West doesn’t know how to handle regime change and that the outcome is almost invariably the kind of the chaos from which Islamic extremist movements arise,” Galeotti said.
    The dominant member of Syria’s opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood, suppressed for 40 years by President Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad, before him. The discord in the Syrian opposition arises largely from differences between the Brotherhood and secular liberal groups, the Western diplomat said. The emergence of al-Qaeda–affiliated groups, responsible for several bombings, has added a menacing dimension.
    “There is a general sense in Moscow that if Syria fell to extremists’ hands, the whole Middle East could explode, which is also a security concern for the Russians,” Galeotti said.
    Russia’s struggle against Islamism has its roots in the 1979 to 1989 Afghan conflict, in which the Soviet Union ultimately failed with helicopter gunships and ground troops to defeat militant mujahedin armed with weapons, cash, and intelligence from Washington, Riyadh, and Islamabad. Shoulder-fired American Stinger rockets came to symbolize the conflict as they blasted Soviet helicopters out of the sky.
    Russian troops withdrew in defeat in February 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991 with analysts pointing to the Afghan debacle as a primary cause. Out of the war emerged Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, which later came to wreak havoc on its former sponsors.
    Washington policymakers typically employ a short-term foreign policy that later comes back to haunt them, analysts said. From the Islamists’ point of view, it is hard to turn down American arms and financing when policies are aligned and then implement its agenda once it is helped to seize power.

    • marknesop says:

      Witness to this witless policy is the election to power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and there has been talk that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – from whence the west gets its daily ration of casualties and mayhem, always laid at the door of the Syrian government and its ghost militia – is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. I’m unsure to what extent the west can be blamed for the overthrow of the Mubarak government, since the west brought him to power in the first place and he unarguably was a dictator. But the west is in love with technology and fancies itself the bringer of technology to the benighted, and there certainly was a lot of loving self-congratulatory western media coverage of “The Facebook Revolution”. There was also non-stop wall-sized Hillary Clinton and John McCain solemnly intoning, “Mubarak must go” and “Mubarak must step down”. I didn’t see any mention of what the plan was to safeguard an ever-more-alarmed Israel from the rise of fundamentalist Islamic governments, especially on the heels of Mubarak’s considerable contributions to relative peace between Israel and those who are less than fond of it.

      After expressing bone-deep loathing of Islamic fundamentalism and especially Wahhabism following the attacks of 9-11, American policy has come slowly around to enabling the rise of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Middle East as American policymakers rediscover – to their apparent delight – their ferocity as allies in overthrowing governments the USA does not like. Unfortunately, this dislike is usually rooted in that government’s unwillingness to facilitate American foreign policy objectives. There does not seem to be any looking ahead to the realization that a radical Islamic fundamentalist government is not going to support American foreign policy objectives either, and may well not allow any American commercial ventures in its new domain into the bargain, where pragmatism on the part of the former leader frequently did. The west simply seems jacked on the idea that they are scaring everybody, like someone who keeps pressing the accelerator way past safe speed because they get off on frightening everyone else in the car. If there’s a coherent plan behind all this rabble-rousing, I’m damned if I can see the outline of it.

      Once again, it’s curiously disorienting to see Russia playing the part of the exasperated but patient parents while the west acts the drunken, self-absorbed college student. Especially in view of the vituperation the west daily rains on Russia, supposedly a starving, autocratic near-dictatorship with delusions of grandeur. Oh, there are some delusional people, all right. But it doesn’t look like too many of them are in Russia. The author is perhaps too polite to point out that an Islamic governing majority in the Middle East might indeed be inimical to Russian interests – but it is hardly likely to be more amenable to western interests.

      • Misha says:

        Someone I know from Egypt who frequently goes back there told me what I sensed. There’s limited enthusiasm for the two presidential candidates. One is viewed as being too close to a problematical elite dominating the scene. The other has some views that a good number aren’t so supportive of. In any event, the military establishment still maintains considerable influence. A relatively close presidential vote tally, chalk up another example of how an election can have limits.

  14. PvMikhail says:

    Greetings people,

    I am very busy at the moment, that’s why I don’ comment frequently. However I always have time for Russia! Good article. I would not like to analyze the meaningfulness of the quoted indicators, others already wrote about the subject. The essence here is the principle, that officially rich, but otherwise dirtpoor first world countries wants to dictate conditions to officially poor, but otherwise fiscally responsible states. This is the manifestation of major injustice.

    And now good news:

    demographic indicators of first half of 2012 are very good, as I predicted in March (Rosstat):

    http://www.gks.ru/free_doc/2012/demo/edn05-12.htm

    Birth rate is skyrocketing with almost 10% in every ethnic Russian core regions, which are still in a poor state (Tsentralny O, Severo-Zapadny O, Kuban and eastern Donbass, N. Novgorod and southern regions of Privolzhsky O). Siberia leads the way! And here comes the summer, when the majority of babies are born, but death rate decreases. Further good news, that in Ingushetia and Chechnya birth rate decreased. In North Caucasus, Dagestan is the only problem-source, where BR increased. This must be stopped. Although Orthodox majority Stavropol and Ossetia also showed some moderate improvement, together with Orthodox minorities in KChR and KBR.

    God help us in further improvement. However God helps only, when you help yourself, so thank to VVP.

    • PvMikhail says:

      sorry, not first half, but only 5 months… I could have seen from the numbers… they are too low🙂

    • PvMikhail says:

      I don’t know what happened to Omsk region +16,5% births… WOW

    • marknesop says:

      Great news, PVMikhail!! I’m sure Anatoly will be pleased as well, he also did a lot of work on the “dying Russia” theme. I still think the key to making the Caucasus feel invested in Russia – and abandoning its ideas of a separate Emirate which the world certainly can’t support and which certainly can’t support itself – is inclusion and giving it more responsibility. Although, as kovane eloquently pointed out earlier, there are major cultural differences and Caucasians may think of their city brethren as heathen, there surely must be common ground and common interests.

  15. Moscow Exile says:

    Alongside its usual plethora of articles slagging off Putin and his “authoritative regime”, such as “The Collapse of the Putin Era” (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/the-collapse-of-the-putin-era/461224.html), “Criminalizing the Right to Assembly” (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/criminalizing-the-right-to-assembly/461052.html), “Putin’s Islamist Mindset” (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/putins-islamist-mindset/461140.html), “Nobody is Listening to Putin Anymore” (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/nobody-is-listening-to-putin-anymore/460565.html), “Putin Tough-GuyTactics Not Working on Protests” (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/putin-tough-guy-tactics-not-working-on-protests/460470.html), tucked away inside the Moscow Times the other day there was this little news article, not an opinion piece like all of the above that are regularly churned out by the MT stable of hired hacks, whose content seems to run contrary to yet another MT mantra, namely that the Evil Empire has long ago entered a demographic “death spiral” and that citizens of the Russian Federation are soon doomed to extinction.

    See: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/childrens-market-on-upswing-with-demographics/461213.html

  16. Moscow Exile says:

    I was also rather surprised the other day to find in the MT an article by Peter Reddaway and Stephen F. Cohen damning British historian Orlando Figes’ “academic and related abuses” and his assertation that the “Putin regime” had blocked the publication of his book “The Whisperers”, which deals with victims’ reminiscences about the Stalin repression.

    See: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/dishonoring-stalins-victims-and-russian-history/461228.html

    Cohen and Reddaway’s condemnation of Figes notwithstanding, I notice that the opening sentence of their article still contains the seemingly mandatory expression “President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime”.

    In the light of what follows in their opinion piece, perhaps the learned professors Cohen and Reddaway simply used this expresion very much tongue-in-cheek. On the other hand, they may have chosen to use that term of reference when writing about the present Russian administration in order that their article be published in the Moscow Times.
    🙂

  17. Evgeny says:

    Article on Syria in the ‘Small Wars Journal’: “A Hot Summer in Syria” by Peter Laskin.
    http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/a-hot-summer-in-syria

    He concludes:

    “Clearly it is neither in the humanitarian interests of the Syrian people, nor in our own direct self interest, to begin funneling weapons to the Free Syrian Army. As we learned in Beirut, Afghanistan, Mogadishu, and Iraq, short-term, impulsive military forays in the Middle East and Central Asia, even through proxies, normally cost us more than we stand to gain and do harm to indigenous civilians and our own soft power. While the US does have strategic and humanitarian reasons to dethrone Assad, the current approach ensures more harm than good.”

    We also did a translation of it:
    http://forum.polismi.org/index.php?/topic/2597-

    Do I understand correctly that that article is a professional view of the situation in Syria? Thanks in advance.

    • Misha says:

      Especially when considering some of the high profile commentary out there, the above piece in question can be considered “professional”.

      Elsewhere, some good and not as good points stated in this piece by a leading TV foreign policy wonk with a neolib lean:

      http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2118300,00.html

      Like most other English language Western establishment articles, the above commentary targets replacing Assad, in a way that overemphasizes the importance of a personality over other key variables. Reminded a bit of the faux propaganda line about Milosevic starting four wars in the 1990s.

      • Evgeny says:

        Thank you, Misha. I have added that article to our translation queue — although I cannot be sure if there would be anyone willing to translate it.

        • marknesop says:

          Hello, Evgeny; it’s good to hear from you again. If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to read Alexander Mercouris’s excellent piece on Russia and Syria, and to consider it for translation into Russian (although it would be quite a piece of work).

          http://mercouris.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/russia-and-syria/

          • Evgeny says:

            Hello, Mark. Thank you for the link! I do not translate any recently, but I will tell our translators about it. It only means that they will possibly learn of its existence. As they are volunteers, they choose themselves what to translate.

            Normally, we are quite open for cooperation with anybody. There is a subforum (visible only to registered users) where anybody can submit a link or an article for our translators to consider for translation. You are welcome!

            http://forum.polismi.org/index.php?/forum/26-

            • marknesop says:

              Thanks for your consideration, Evgeny. I think it is important for Russians to understand that, although the official western governments’ positions are that Assad is a brutal butcher who must step down so that the fragile flower of democracy can bloom in Syria, and that Russia is drenched in Syrian blood because it will not get on board the Regime Change Express, that is not the position of everyone in the west. Russians should also know some westerners find it curious that China’s position is never mentioned although it is virtually identical with Russia’s.

              Alex writes simply but eloquently, without a lot of slang that makes translation difficult. Although it’s quite a long article, there is a great deal of sense in it and I believe it would be broadly interesting to a Russian audience who might believe all the west is opposed to its stance on this issue. That’s not so.

              • Evgeny says:

                Mark, what do you think about making an interview with you for our resource?

                If it’s (generally) interesting for you, the best preferable option would be to add you to our chat in Skype. To do that (if you are interested), you need to add in Skype user “evgeny_v_filatov”. After you add me, I could add you to our group text chat.

                Very unfortunately, I have only a little free time. I am not sure I would be able to manage an interview at the moment. But if it’s interesting for you, you could work with others in our team, which is an overall friendly gang.🙂

              • Evgeny says:

                Mark, indeed, it works just fine for us.

                My email is: filatovev (at) mail (dot) ru, you are welcome to write to me. Again: filatovev (at) mail (dot) ru

                You should have a look at the interview we did with Poemless 1.5 years ago:
                http://poemless.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/in-which-i-am-interviewed-by-inoforum/
                And this was the forum thread to gather questions:
                http://www.inoforum.ru/forum/index.php?showtopic=59595

                I think we could do something similar this time — however, the team runs a smaller resource now, so there would be less questions.

                Caveats being:
                1) You should know that our resource, polismi.org, can be at odds with the InoSMI. At least, the previous resource — Inoforum — was. This time it may or may not be true — but I am not certain about how does InoSMI react to such an affair. It’s a political issue which is up to you to decide.
                2) May be — and most likely — it’s paranoia, but I still have a feeling that our interview eventually did not play out well for the Poemless. Are you certain that you can allow yourself to be interviewed by some Russians?

                If you agree, we would like to have the following things to start gathering questions:
                1) A photo of you;
                2) Some bio details about you, your interests, areas of expertise, political inclinations, family situation — to get some ground for well-thought questions.
                You could send those to my email.

                Many thanks,
                Evgeny.

                • yalensis says:

                  @Mark: My two kopecks: I think you SHOULD do the interview.

                • marknesop says:

                  Evgeny, I will contact you in the next few days to set something up. I remember when the interview was done with Poemless, I was just getting into blogging at the time. Although I don’t really understand the issues between the SMI’s (inoSMI and poliSMI), I doubt anything in the interview had a bad effect on Poemless’s life. Things appear to have sometimes not turned out the best for her, but I believe writing gives her one of her few pleasurable outlets, and she seemed to be fully engaged in the interview. She seems a very nice person with a bright, restless mind, and is kind to everyone but herself, but I don’t think the interview made anything go badly for her.

                  I am entitled to my personal opinion, and it does not matter who solicits it. It is offered with the understanding that it does not in any way reflect the official opinion or policy of the Canadian government.

              • Evgeny says:

                Mark, thank you for your reply!

                I hope that one day Poemless will return to active blogging, though. But she does not need our pity, she needs our support… Although I do agree with your assessments, I need to note that the interview was a challenge for her, too.

                In that regard, I need to note that we would simply like to talk to you, Mark Chapman — you are not supposed to speak the ultimate truth; for a large part it would be about your opinions, and no opinions can be 100% correct. Also, it’s good if all of us will have our time — as I remember, the interview with Poemless took from 2 to 3 months to complete. Hope, nobody is in a hurry.🙂

                I will be glad to hear from you!

                Thanks,
                Evgeny.

  18. kirill says:

    http://en.rian.ru/society/20120628/174290332.html

    The ridiculous lower court ruling in the case of the Karelian anti-Church crusader has been overturned. Good. Less meat for all the Russia haters.

  19. Misha says:

    To be expected from a Henry Jackson Society source:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/06/28/putin_has_america_right_where_he_wants_it

    To be expected from a Henry Jackson Society source:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/06/28/putin_has_america_right_where_he_wants_it

    ———————————

    Re: http://russiaprofile.org/business/60357.html

    Excerpt –

    “Stolypin failed to resolve the key issue of Russia’s industrialization, but Stalin did.”

    ****

    No notation about Stolypin being assassinated, which dramatically shortened his career in government.

  20. yalensis says:

    Off-topic, but conscience compels me to dial back my Nostradamus-like prediction of a Mitt Romney presidency in USA. My adjustment is based on yesterday’s news that Obama enjoyed a legal victory in U.S. Supreme Court, which (unexpectedly) upheld his Health-insurance bill as constitutional. I was pretty sure that it would go the other way, in a 5-4 decision. Color me surprised when Chief Justice John Roberts went against his own party to back Obama. Roberts made it clear that he could have ruled either way, based on the actual legal arguments, but he wanted to find a way to NOT undermine the executive branch. (This is in line with America’s evolution towards an imperial presidency and Caesarism, not unlike ancient Rome.)
    Anyhow, if Obama had lost this ruling, then his chances for a second term would have plummeted. Now maybe Obama still has a chance to win in a squeaker, although I still predict an eventual Romney victory in the electoral college. I also predict that between now and November, American banking system will collapse again, like in 2008, and it goes without saying this will harm Obama. Also note that Goldman Sachs has been downgraded, and Obama is personally tied to the Goldman wing of the capitalist class. (As opposed to Romney, who belongs to a different oligarchic clan.)

    • marknesop says:

      I, too, was surprised at Roberts’ personal ruling, and that he not only didn’t try to downplay it, but actually wrote the majority opinion. I find his reasoning – that the individual mandate could be construed as a tax and therefore both constitutional and well within the government’s purview – thin, but I’m certainly no expert in American constitutional law. It seemed to me, however, that Obama’s plan (and of course it was not his plan entirely, but the result of a grand collaboration with health professionals, politicians and industry, just as was the Republicans’ idea back when the Republicans backed it) was never constructed for personal gain or to favour industry with fat kickbacks, which seem to be hallmarks of Republican plans. Therefore, I felt it to be devised for the good of the American people, and far better use of American money than saddling up and riding off to another foreign war somewhere in a quest for imperial domination.

      I am still of the opinion that Romney will not win, but I must admit I am disturbed by some of the gains he appears to be making. Perhaps “annoyed” would be a better word, because he’s just so shallow and plainly eager for power for the sake of power that I can’t believe Americans don’t see it. I could have easily envisioned a scenario whereby all those who didn’t care for Obama – and you could now count me among them, although I once thought a lot of him – simply did not vote, so that he won enough to carry on as president while Romney did not get a single vote except for those of his family. He has no plan for America, and therefore his plans must be for Romney. If he managed to win, what would he do? Make America great again, I suppose, and right away, too. Where’s the money going to come from for that? From rich people? Ha, ha. Better not, or there’d be a few of them changing their vote. There are plenty of indications already, well in advance of the election, that Romney plans to cut taxes again for the rich. America already owes almost every dollar it earns, can’t afford to borrow any more, and his solution is tax cuts and rich people being allowed to keep more of their money.

      • R.C. says:

        I never thought much of “O” from day one. All one had to do was pull his voting record in Chicago to see he was nothing but more of the same.

        He gives good speeches though, so I certainly can see why people are swayed.

        On Health care: Single payer is the way that other advanced economies provide health care. A government run program that has nothing to do with insurance companies. Obamacare is all about big profits – forced payments – for insurance companies and has nothing to do with health care.

        We should not have to buy insurance or health care. Just end the damn wars, the war on terror, the wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria etc, close the thousand foreign bases, end the drug war, end the bank bailouts, and usher in the new golden age. Ah, but I’m a dreamer. What we are entering is not a golden age but a holocaust.

  21. Misha says:

    *Re: http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/06/28/dear_realists_consevatives_running_russian_foreign_policy_too

    Actually, The National Interest appears (in overall terms) to be more balanced than Foreignpolicy.com.

    On former Yugoslavia, one can see evidence of clear point-counterpoint differences between Ted Galen Carpenter versus Morton Abramowitz and Daniel Serwer. In contrast, Foreignpolicy.com tends to be top heavy with the overly biased and inaccurate commentary, as exhibited by Michael Dobbs.

    Concerning Russia, there’s negativity to be found at The National Interest. At that venue Paul Saunders and Sergei Markedonov have articles which aren’t “soft” on Russia. The National Interest has also featured the geopolitical likes of Ariel Cohen and Amitai Etzioni.

    • Misha says:

      As someone other than myself put it:

      Drezner seems to operate firmly within the NOW Atlantic imperial frame of reference. He’s structurally incapable of comprehending that Russia seeks to uphold the very order that American neolibs and neocons seek to alter. At play are the matters of conquest and power, with human rights as a idealistic cover. When laws and accepted international norms stand in stand in the way, they get crushed, redefined or mocked. Who’s the greater “rogue” here?

  22. Misha says:

    Any fashion police comments on the Russian summer Olympic wear?

    http://www.rt.com/sport/russia-uniform-zhukov-london2012-olympics-039/

    The Russian ice hockey team has Russia as Россия on its jersey, in contrast to most if not all of its other teams.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Good! Why should they have “Russia” on their shirts? Apart from the fact that Russia is pretty much the former RSFSR (РСФСР) and not the USSR, if my memory serves me rightly, they never used to have USSR on their shirts in the past: they had CCCP, which in my salad days caused me, together with many other of my contemporaries, to say “See-See-See-Pee”, such was the ignorance of my youth! 🙂

      I wonder if all the other competing nations at the Olympic games have the names of their countries written both in the Latin alphabet and in English? I am quite sure that the Georgians will have “Georgia” on their shirts and the Koreans, Chinese, Japanese and Indians, and Greeks etc. might well present the names of their countries in English as well as in their native languages and logograms/alphabets, but does the German Olympic team, for example, have “Germany” or “Deutschland” on its shirts? And as regards hockey, don’t the Swedes have “Sverige” on their team shirts?

      • Misha says:

        I recall one Olympics when the Croat basketball team played at least one game with “Hrvatska” on its jersey. Greece is another country that can (and IMO should) have its national kit spelled as done among Greeks.

        On another matter, I read that S. Cohen/Reddaway MT piece on Figes, which is quite damning.

        I’ll repeat what Belaeff has noted about Russian studies appearing often dominated by a focus on the post-1917 period, thereby explaining how some shoddy Western works on Suvorov and Gogol (among other pre-Soviet Rusisan topics) isn’t met with the kind of opposition as evident with S. Cohen and Reddaway vis-a-vis Figes.

      • Misha says:

        Offhand, I think the Swedes to have “Sverige” on their ice hockey jesreys, with the Finns having “Suomi”.

        Without checking, I’m pretty sure the Lithuanian basketball team has “Lietuva” on their jersey.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Not to forget “Eesti”!
          🙂

          • Misha says:

            Okay.

            In the US, some pro teams are known to have a third uniform in addition to their standard home and away unis.

            The Russian Olympic Committee can hypothetically have a black, off gold and white kit. Wackos shouldn’t have a monopoly on that color pattern, which is part of Russian history.

  23. kirill says:

    http://thediplomat.com/2012/06/29/an-authoritarian-axis-rising/

    Another “quality” article brought to you by self-righteous drones. Last time I checked nobody can accuse Chavez of rigging his electoral wins. What happened to freedom of choice? If Venezuela does not want to lick NATO’s balls then it has every right not to. NATO is the only axis around these days.

    • marknesop says:

      “Such a concert of nations can only inject turmoil into the international system.”

      And when I read that I laughed so hard I almost had to go change my pants. Like the “international system” is so stable now. It’s hard to imagine any other “concert of nations” could do a worse job. Thanks for that laugh, Kirill. That looks like a good subject for a post.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, I have to confess Fred has disappointed me; he seemed so sincere when he was here, and I was wrong to call him stupid. But my remorse for that only goes so far, and that I-only-present-one-view-because-it’s-very-difficult-to-actually-talk-to-the-Kremlin defense also extends only so far. I’m tempted to write to see if I could arrange an interview in his behalf, from the standpoint that he complains he must report what the people tell him, but that he only talks to opposition figures. Pretty hard to get any positive press on the government’s policies out of people dedicated to its overthrow and replacement. I wonder if there would be an exhibition of “1937 dissatisfaction” if this bunch managed a takeover, and people saw their incomes go back to 1937 levels.

      • Misha says:

        Unlike others offering something different and valid, let him have more RT appearances as some laud him as being one of the more objective of English language mass media journos. It’s no small wonder why the coverage is actually lacking.

        As presented at another thread, here’s a not so distant piece by him:

        Re: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/21/russias-rational-and-moral-stance-on-syria/

        Excerpt –

        The fixation on sovereignty is rooted in self-interest, and comes with its own healthy dose of hypocrisy. The Kremlin harbors a deep-seated fear that authorizing outside military force to support rebellious populations might one day be used to license intervention in Russia. And the principle does not seem to apply when Moscow is dealing with its own neighbors in the post-Soviet area; after defeating Georgia in 2008, Moscow effective dismembered its southern neighbor by granting independence to the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

        ****

        Note what is and isn’t highlighted. The above excerpted is in line with what Edward Lucas (at an RFE/RL sponsored panel in DC) and Andrei Zolotov (on a Wide Angle program that PBS used to air) said about the Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, serving to encourage separatism in Russia.

        At present, where’s there any greater evidence of this, relative to the separatist movement in Scotland? Some are of the belief that the American southwest might someday be ripe with the idea of separating from the US. The ramifications of the Anglo-American advocated dismemberment of Serb territory gets overlooked, unlike the Russian position on the former Georgian SSR. Also downplayed is how a number of territories outside Russia would rejoin that country if given the opportunity.

        Another matter to consider is the degree that each separatist movement is influenced by others seeking independence.

        As previously noted, the Russian independence recognition of Abkhazia and Georgia came after the 2008 Georgian military strike into South Ossetia. Up to that point, Russia didn’t recognize any of the disputed former Communist bloc territories. Since the wars of the 1990s, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Serbia haven’t militarily struck into the respective disputed land that they seek.

      • yalensis says:

        Fred disappointed me too, because I am a sucker and I bought his big sob story about how he was a red-diaper baby, and he really loves Russia, and all that jazz. If his editors are forcing him to write stuff that he doesn’t agree with, then maybe he could find a way out: like, maybe he could defect and go work for RT, or something like that…. Yes, I think you should ask him for an interview and ask him to explain himself, that would be very interesting!

        • Misha says:

          No surprise at all about him. A true improvement of the situation encourages for downplayed and quality others to come into focus.

        • marknesop says:

          Well, that’s not exactly what I meant. I meant I would write to the contact address for, say, Prime Minister Medvedev, and invite him to have an official at the appropriate level of government interviewed by Fred Weir. Not like I have any pull with the Kremlin or anything – much less than Fred himself, I imagine – but I get the feeling old Fred isn’t really trying all that hard. Anyway, it would certainly establish if there’s any truth to his suggestion that he “just writes what people tell him”.

          However, your idea is not bad, either, although I suspect he would decline, him being a serious journalist and all. But I’ll keep it in mind.

          • Misha says:

            The “serious journalist” category appears to include a good number who lob pot shots from a safe distance, while not addressing legitimate points of contention to what they say.

            For quality control purposes, it’s much better to advocate some personnel changes at the more high profile of venues.

          • yalensis says:

            Well, Fred’s big pitch on your blog was that he had built up this great rolodex of contacts in Russian government, going back to his red-diaper glory days. But most of those contacts were holdovers from Soviet period, and they are retiring or dying off now. I wonder if he has been able to build new contacts among the newer generation of bureaucrats, or if he just cruising on his laurels? What would happen if he did request an interview with Medvedev’s man? He could probably get the inteview, but it wouldn’t be the same as having an anonymous source who dished out the goodies.

            • marknesop says:

              I’d just be interested to see how it was reported. According to Fred, he’s just the microphone, passing on what he’s told without adding any of his own flavour. I’d be interested to see if he could actually pass along the government’s view of its progress and some home truths about the opposition without implying that it was all government propaganda. Of course, what the opposition feeds him is the smokin’ hot gospel, baby.

              • Misha says:

                Some profession. Off record, been told that manner is evident elsewhere in English language mass media – not that some other media is free of such.

                Fred’s articles aren’t simple matters of reporting. They include editorializing with the typically inaccurate slants against Russia.

                On Fred, someone other than myself briefly stated: “**** Fred, time he be put to pasture.”

                • I saw Fred a few weeks ago on Peter Lavelle’s Crosstalk programme on RT. I have to say that I thought he was far and away the least impressive contributor. He seems to have completely fallen for the “protest movement = revolution of the Russian middle class” theme even though it is completely and obviously wrong. My own impression of Fred is that though an essentially decent man he has fallen for western group think.

                • Misha says:

                  Where’s the long cane for stage removal?

    • PvMikhail says:

      Good article from the eyes of the demonized Serbs. I am curious, that what will happen during the presidency of Nikolic. Is he going to keep something from his earlier patriotic goals? Time will tell. And we have no good experiences with politicians, who make huge compromises.

      Curiosity:

      http://en.rian.ru/world/20120630/174330795.html

      Don’t f@ck with Ossetians… vendetta will be your reward…

      • Misha says:

        In a negative way, I recall John le Carré (in a NYT op-ed some years back) suggesting the Ossetians to be a mischievous group provoking earnest others. That article also portrayed Russia in a similar light. This was during the Yeltsin era.

        As for Serbia, a similar situation exists. Even the most pro-Western of Serb politicians will come under considerable scrutiny, if they’re perceived as not following the preferred parameters of Western neolibs and neocons. Nikolic has already pledged a commitment to a pro-EU membership agenda. At the same time, he recently received flack for stating what should otherwise be the objectively obvious about Srebrenica.

        This is how that view of his was represented by the Serb ambassador in London:

        http://grayfalcon.blogspot.com/2012/06/scoop-of-quisling-pabulum.html

        Western NGO influence in Serbia remain high, with EU abilities to expand remaining suspect. This reality seems to get covered up by highlighting the wrongs (real and exaggerated) in places like Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine.

        Awhile back, Branko Milanovic of the World Bank said that Serbia’s best bet is to seek closer EU ties short of membership (with that org.), in addition to further developing relations with others like China and Russia.

        • marknesop says:

          I really wish novelists would not use their status to publicly express their political views – like everything else about them, it’s much better left to the imagination of their readers, to whom they speak through their books. I can recall being shocked to learn that Ralph Peters, whose novels I greatly enjoyed, was such a hardcore conservative that he might as well be one of those Teabaggers running around in their varnished hats and swallowtail coats, carrying a musket. Ditto Michael Crichton, if I remember right. And to balance things, we’ve heard from some extremely liberal authors who favour the Democratic side – Stephen King, for one, although I don’t think he ever had a public conversation regarding his political views, at least not that I heard. He prefers to speak through his characters, and he is uniformly disparaging to Republicans through that channel. I can’t fault him for that, since if I were American I would probably be a Democrat myself, or simply not vote since there often seems to be no difference at all between the parties except in the positions they stake out in their arguments. In practice? Nada. Therefore, authors declaring their political loyalties serves no purpose whatever; except to alienate groups who resolve never to buy their books again, now that they know that dirty little secret.

          • kirill says:

            I remember Ray Bradbury getting his knickers in a twist when Michael Moore used the Fahrenheit 9/11 title for one of his documentaries. Rather petty but predictably partisan as is the whole US political landscape.

            • marknesop says:

              Yes, I remember that, too. Different when the shoe is on the other foot, though, like when Seattle rockers Heart asked the McCain campaign to stop using their song, “Barracuda” to introduce Sarah Palin and fire up the meat-eaters.

              (This clip is too close to the original recording to be anything other than a lip-synch, I’m afraid).

          • Misha says:

            Ralph Peters’ views of Serbia and Russia are especially horrid. He’s of course entitled to them.

            I respectfully caution about generally pinning conservatives as negative about Russia, with liberals taking a more sympathetic line. There’re a number of instances where the reverse is true.

            • My own impression at least here in Britain is that the only people who have anything sensible to say about Russia are old school conservatives (as opposed to neocons). Liberals here seem to hate Russia more than conservatives do, the Guardian (the newspaper of British liberalism) being a case in point.

              • kirill says:

                You make a good observation. In the US it is also the paleocons who cut Russia some slack and criticize the neocon/liberal imperialism that afflicts America. Looks like the UK is emulating the US in its political composition. I also find it annoying how neocons have taken over in Canada even though Canada does not have the southern US “values”.

                The way that the neocon agenda has creeped into power in the last 30 years in the west really tests the notion that the electorate determines its destiny. There is simply nothing popular about the neocon agenda. Here in Canada the trick was take over the original Conservative party when it was in the dumps during the Liberal majority of the 1990s and early 2000s. The core of the new conservatives was a fringe movement from western Canada (mainly from Alberta, aka Texas north) called Reform. It could not defeat the Liberals at the polls but once they “merged” with the old Conservative party and adopted its name the lemmings started to vote for them and by 2006 they formed minority governments. Now they have a majority even though they did zero for the country and their leader Harper managed to prorogue Parliament twice for petty reasons.

                I attribute the political power structure in Canada and the US to a combination of the media and corporate elites. The media gave Harper and his abuses a free pass. I can’t imagine the sort of stench in the media there would have been if Trudeau pulled something like this. Harper has been by far the most autocratic prime minister in Canada since I have been here. I can’t say anything about the prime ministers before Trudeau but I doubt they were as brazen as Harper. And you would think that mild mannered Canadians always wanted this sort of leadership.

                This is why I laugh at westerner and the western media caricature of Russians as goose stepping drones of the media. Russians have nowhere near the level of conformity to the narratives being dished out to them by their media compared to Canadians and Americans. Somehow there was serious political evolution in Canada up until the 1980s but this is now in full regression. I am not claiming Russia is some paradise but it is not regressing. The stink from the western media is not based on objective analysis. It is corrupt propaganda designed to divert the attention of the lemmings away from the serious crisis at home.

                • Misha says:

                  Making general observations about a group of people is a delicate process because there’re always exceptions to the rule.

                  The high profile Anglo-American pro-Russian advocacy continues to qualitatively lag from what it should be. Noting the talented and downplayed options is a threat to the existing status quo of those not so understanding of Russia (who prefer an easier time) and the ones opposing them.

                • marknesop says:

                  I voted Conservative in the last election for only the second time in my life, because there’s no way I would ever vote for a party headed by Michael Ignatieff. The Liberals bled a tidal wave in that election, even in this most liberal of provinces. But although Harper is indeed autocratic and politically wily, he also avoided pretty much all the horrible financial initiatives of the neocons to the south, resulting in a very solid economy – best on the planet coming out of the recession, according to the IMF – when the banks were begging him to deregulate so they could get in on all that beautiful cash that was practically growing itself.

                  I know that’s not everything, and he probably was more accurate than he intended when he referred to the Conservatives as “The Republican party of Canada”, but he has avoided most of the pitfalls the stupid fell into. I’d rather be led by a venal smart man than a straight-up stupid one. And there really weren’t a lot of alternatives.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Yes, as regards “old school” UK Tories, many in my native country seem unaware of the fact that perhaps in post WWII Britain the most despised by the left parliamentarian of all, Enoch Powell (1912-1998), a Conservative and also Ulster Unionist Member of Parliament, classical scholar, linguist and soldier, stated both that he disliked the American belief that “they are authorised, possibly by the deity, to intervene, openly or covertly, in the internal affairs of other countries anywhere in the world” and that he believed that Russia posed no threat to the UK.

                Powell maintained that the UK and Russia, both states being situated on the fringes of Europe and respectively “looking in”, as it were, from the Western and Eastern frontiers of mainland Europe, were “natural allies’ as regards the task of holding the European balance of power, not foes.

                • kirill says:

                  Conservatives have the freedom to hold such ideas publicly because they are not going to be accused as being soft on communism or some other nonsense. Liberals always have to squirm to make sure that they are not tagged as sellouts. So they had to bash the USSR and now Russia. I really don’t know what they are good for, frankly. If you can’t speak your mind freely because of paranoia then don’t bother speaking at all.

                  It is a bit ironic that the liberals who claim to be anti-imperialists and democracy lovers are bashing Russia in the name of oligarchs and US imperialism. The Khodorkovsky and Magnitsky cases don’t turn Russia into some dictatorship. Following such selective standards none of the western countries are democracies either. The treatment of the G8/G20 protesters in Canada and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US was much more brutal than anything the fringe liberast opposition received under Putin and Medvedev.

  24. Misha says:

    *Re: http://www.rferl.org/content/interview-analyst-says-uzbekistan-suspension-shows-csto-irrelevant/24629921.html

    Excerpt –

    “Moscow sits at the center of this system like the center of a wheel around which the spokes are arranged.”

    ****

    Give it time. That org. is still relatively new. There’s a basis for such a region wide military cooperation.

    Clichés and ignoring pertinent variables are his specialty.

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/07062010-haggling-over-the-former-moldavian-ssr-dispute-analysis/

    • Dear Misha,

      The article on Radio Free Europe is all wrong.

      The focus of Russian policy is not the CSTO but the Customs Union and the future Eurasian Union. About the latter there are it seems plans to create a single Eurasian parliament, a clear sign that the eventual objective is political not merely economic reintegration. The CSTO is one of the foundation blocks of the Eurasian Union but far from being the most important and so far as I am aware it has never sought and does not need “recognition” from NATO (what does NATO recognition have to do with it?).

      The reason Uzbekistan has withdrawn from the CSTO is because its dictator Karimov does not want Uzbekistan to be absorbed into the Eurasian Union, which would weaken his hold over the country. Karimov has therefore consistently kept Uzbekistan out of the various organisations such as the Customs Union which are working towards creating the Customs Union. The fact that Karimov has now taken Uzbekistan out of the CSTO is a sign that he is becoming worried that the integrationist processes in the former Soviet space are becoming stronger and that the Eurasian Union is indeed starting to take shape. By taking Uzbekistan out of the CSTO Karimov is hoping to put a greater distance between the Eurazian Union and Uzbekistan and to make sure that once the Eurasian Union is up and running Uzbekistan is outside it.

      Whilst I am a bit skeptical about some of the more lurid stories that are said about Karimov I think his policies and his dictatorship are in the end harmful to Uzbekistan. His whole game plan seems to be to try to play Russia, China and the US off against each other. China has however made it clear that it recognises Central Asia as Russia’s area of political influence whilst Karimov has undertaken so many shifts between the US and Russia since the Soviet collapse that neither the US nor Russia can fully trust him any more. If the US does finally withdraw from Central Asia after it pulls out of Afghanistan (as I think likely) then Karimov may find that he has to deal with the Russians on his own and that they may not be in much of a mood to deal with him.

      • Dear Misha,

        A good article by the way on Moldavia, another country that has gone horribly wrong.

        In fairness to Moldavia its major problem is that its neighbour Romania will not leave it alone but instead constantly meddles in its politics because it wants to annex it. I am sure that it is largely Romanian intrigues in Moldavia that explain the failure to resolve the dispute there.

        The annexation of Moldavia seems to be an obsession within the Romanian political class. It was an obsession fully shared by Ceausescu who shortly before his overthrow even went so far as to repudiate the post war treaties that confirmed Moldavia as part of the USSR. In his very final speech (the one during which he was booed) Ceausescu even said that the rebellion against his rule in Timisoara had been instigated by those who were opposed to the “territorial integrity of Romania” – a clear reference to the USSR and a sign that Ceausescu believed that Moscow was behind the attempts to overthrow him because of his attempt to regain Moldavia. This was of course pure paranoia. Actually opinion polls carried out in Moldavia consistently show that Moldavians have much better feelings towards Russia than they do towards Romania and that they have no wish to be annexed by Romania.

      • cartman says:

        I think it has to do with NATO transit to and from Afghanistan. Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and Uzbekistan all present obstacles to US desire to control Central Asia, so it is easier to wait until everyone forgets Andijan than go to any of those other three.

        From Craig Murray’s blog:

        “Doubtless large official payments are being made to the governments for transit rights, while in both Uzbekistan and Kirgizhstan there is a track record of using transport, fuel etc suppliers owned by the ruling families, and I have no doubt that will be a major continuing part of the operation. Other intrinsic parts of the deal have officially been conducted outside of NATO, such as the lifting of EU and US arms embargoes imposed after the 2005 Andijan massacre by the Uzbek government of over 800 pro-democracy demonstrators. The UK and USA have resumed military training of Karimov’s soldiers and the USA has resumed large subsidies to his notorious secret police.

        Less tangible but more prized still by Karimov is the political support, the ending of pressure over Uzbekistan’s appalling human rights record and the high level visits in both directions with major capitals to pander to Karimov’s thirst for official acclaim. I heard again today from an Uzbek source that part of the deal is for Gulnara Karimova to become Uzbek Ambassador in London. The FCO continues to deny this; but take my word for it, by the end of next year we will have seen both Karimov and his daughter parading the streets of London.”

        http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2012/06/the-shameful-alliance-deepens/

        • Dear Cartman,

          Craig Murray is of course absolutely right. The point is that Karimov constantly tries to play the Americans and the Russians off against each other. Now that he has a deal with the Americans he thinks he can get by without the Russians. To avoid getting criticised by the Americans he threatens them with the Russians.

          The great problem with this policy is that it takes no account of geography. A glance at the map shows why. The day may come when Karimov finds that he has the Russians on his doorstep and that America is far away.

          • kirill says:

            Interesting how the freedom of Uzbeks from the rule of this tyrant is not a hot item on the west’s “humanitarian” bleating.

            I am quite disappointed in the post-Soviet central Asian collection of ‘stans. Ruled by tinpot dictators off of the decaying Soviet legacy. No progress whatsoever.

            • Misha says:

              The farther away from America and western Europe, the less interest – putting aside natural resources and geo-strategic value..

              On the other hand, Belarus borders Poland, in addition to having a sizeable ethnic Polish population.

            • yalensis says:

              @kirill. Yes, it really is discouraging how these “stans” decayed. In the future, I think Russia/China will need to step up to the plate and start funding these countries, in the same way that Germany needs to fund Europe. Russian people don’t want to do that, but there may be no choice.

              • marknesop says:

                There’s always a choice. In the end, the people will decide, and using Germany for an example is instructive. Merkel has been forced into bailing out the irresponsible banks of Europe once too often, and is now in a position where a non-confidence vote is a very real possibility. If that happens, Germany will simply elect a government that refuses to bail out the banks and the Euro, and Germany might well leave the Eurozone.

                • Is it any coincidence that what seems to be by far the best governed and most prosperous of the “stans” is Kazakhstan, which is consistently the friendliest to Russia and the one that has pursued post Soviet reintegrationist strategies most consistently?

                • Misha says:

                  With Kazakstan, its energy prowess and (in relative terms) socioeconomically advanced northern half (still with a good number of Russian speaking Slavs) have been referenced as an explantion.

  25. Misha says:

    Just what Romania really needs:

    http://www.opednews.com/articles/Romania-U-S-Escalates-Mi-by-Rick-Rozoff-120630-139.html

    ———————————

    Check the bias in this piece:

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/157382

    Like the armed opposition to Assad doesn’t have blood on its hands.

    ———————————

    Lavrov rocks:

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation-world/sns-rt-us-syria-crisis-talks-lavrovbre85t0j3-20120630,0,7031496.story

    http://www.sana.sy/eng/22/2012/06/30/428600.htm

    The last link is from SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) *

    • Misha says:

      I like Agresto’s khaki M-65 field jacket.

    • marknesop says:

      I remember that when it first came out – man, they hated Dolan. Not so much for getting himself kicked off the faculty, but for that article. It perfectly summed up what a charade the Bush-Cheney administration was, what a fraud – on the face of it, a lot of twaddle about helping the brown people achieve freedom and harmony with the universe; but underneath, a cynical transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich and connected. The appointment of toadies who talked the right political talk but knew diddly about the jobs to which they were appointed stands as an excellent example. Heckuva job, Brownie.

    • marknesop says:

      Well, now that Anti-Flag has joined the fray, the state might just as well release Pussy Riot, because I’m sure they raised millions for their defense fund. Everyone has heard of Anti-Flag, they’re kind of their genre’s Jimi Hendrix.

      Yes, I was being sarcastic. I wondered how long it would be until somebody made that “church is not separate from the state” connection. As if the Church had its own police force or something, and was empowered to arrest the blasphemous. If somebody put a whoopee cushion on The Pope’s chair as a statement of protest, could he be jailed by the Vatican Guard? Sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder why earnestness is so often hand in glove with ignorance.

  26. Misha says:

    Re: http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2012/06/29/criticism-of-the-obamas-reset-with-russia-first-as-tragedy-then-as-farce/

    Excerpt –

    Michael Weiss recently penned a story “Putin has America right where he wants it” that might very well be the single most ludicrous thing that anyone has said about the issue.

    ****

    To be expected from a venue which ran one piece by Anders Aslund advocating that Russia get kicked out of the G-8 and another article by by Daniel Drezner suggesting that The National Interest is overly tilted in a soft way towards Russia. Never mind the blatant biases and inaccuracies of Michael Dobbs.

    • I am increasingly coming to like Adomanis even though I don’t always agree with him. His demolition of Weiss is a good one. However he misses what is for me the key point. This is that people like Weiss (and indeed most Anglo Americans who think about these issues) deny Russia any right to disagree with the US on anything. If Russia does not agree with the US on Syria, Iran, anti missile deployments etc it is not being obstructive. It is simply exercising its right as an independent country to its own opinions and its own foreign policy. Demanding that Russia always agree with the US on everything (even on things such as missile defence which affect Russia’s own security) as the price Russia must pay for better relations with the US, which is what Weiss and his ilk do, is tantamount to saying that Russia must sacrifice to the US its independence. This is not something Russia will ever do.

      • Misha says:

        As is true with others, he’s not always the best ball carrier for certain situations. Also wary of those willing to promote themselves at a crank’s blog (doing an “interview” while staying away from more intelligent discourse that cuts thru the BS often found within establishment circles. Such manner comes across as a Machiavellian attempt at self promotion.

  27. I have made my disagreement with the new protest law clear. A new law is however being proposed with which I totally agree. This is one that will oblige NGOs when they make their pronouncements and undertake their actions to disclose the foreign source of any of their funding. That will mean that organisations like Golos will in future have to disclose the fact that they are funded from abroad.

    Needless to say Golos and Alexeyeva of the Helsinki Foundation or whatever it calls itself are already complaining bitterly about this new proposed law. Not before time I say. It will be interesting to see whether or not the KPRF and/or Just Russia oppose it.

  28. Misha says:

    The propaganda to be had on this:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/euro-2012-final-lukashenka-belarus/24631709.html

    Lukashenko allowed to travel to Ukraine to watch the Euro 2012 final as Tymoshenko remains imprisoned.

    IMO, this seems a bit ridiculous:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-pm-medvedev-denied-landing-in-donetsk/24628760.html

  29. kirill says:

    @Misha

    “Making general observations about a group of people is a delicate process because there’re always exceptions to the rule.”

    Yes, that is why appeal to empirical observations such as the “58% of Americans think that Saddam Hussein staged the 9/11” attacks that were routinely cited from poll results up until recently. The majority of Americans picked up the insinuations and allegations of Fox News and the Bush regime as fact. Russians don’t act this way. They didn’t during the USSR era and they don’t do now.

    CNN’s “mistakes” of showing Tskhinval and claiming it was Gori bombed by Russians is an effective ploy in a culture where the media is given the benefit of the doubt. Americans would call most Russian conspiracy theorists since they don’t swallow and regurgitate the party line that is fed to them by the Russian media. These cultural differences are leveraged by the NATO elites to try to undermine Russia.

    • Misha says:

      Comments made about others can have an ironic twist.

      Just got thru a private exchange on how Serbs are portrayed as celebrating victimhood, unlike Bosnian Muslim nationalists and their ardent supporters (with their Srebrenica and geonocide commentary) who incessantly try to link dubious opinions as facts, while seeking to censor views in stark contrast – inclusive of smear campaigns.

      There’s a noticeable element that are off in their impression of the level of freedom in Russia versus the US.

  30. Concepcion says:

    Do you mind if I quote a small number of your posts as long
    as I provide credit and sources returning to your
    webpage: https://marknesop.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/putins-its-the-economy-stupid-tour-kicks-off-in-st-petersburg-eat-my-g20-dust-g8-2/.
    I am going to aslo be certain to give you the appropriate anchortext
    hyperlink using your webpage title: Putins Its The Economy,
    Stupid Tour Kicks Off in St Petersburg. Please let me know if this is acceptable with you.
    Many thanks

  31. Pingback: GAZPROM is Not Dead, and Anders Aslund is Officially as Thick as a Wharf Piling | The Kremlin Stooge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s