The Songs of Every Man

Uncle Volodya says,"Wars of aggression are popular nowadays with those nations convinced  that only victory and conquest could improve their material well-being"

Uncle Volodya says,”Wars of aggression are popular nowadays with those nations convinced that only victory and conquest could improve their material well-being”

From a distance we all have enough,
And no one is in need.
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,
No hungry mouths to feed.

From a distance, there is harmony,
And it echoes through the land.
It’s the voice of hope, it’s the voice of peace,
It’s the voice of every man.

God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance.

God is watching us; from a distance. If there is a God – something you pretty much have to take on faith – what does He or She make of our performance as human beings, this year of 2012 as it’s winding down? From a distance, there is harmony. Is it an illusion imposed by perspective? Let’s look closer.

February, 2012. Some 73 people are killed in a brawl between rival soccer teams, in Egypt. Knives and clubs are used, raising questions about security at the gate. Over 300 die in a prison fire in Honduras, initiated by an inmate who set fire to his mattress; most of the victims die in their cells, awaiting rescue. Russia and China veto a UNSC resolution on intervention in Syria, the same day as a “massacre” in the Syrian city of Homs which later accounts suggest was faked by the Free Syrian Army, in an attempt to steamroller the decision for intervention. Most of the dead appear to have been shot at close range, with none of the horrific tissue damage that would accompany the use of heavy weapons, as described by activists with a vested interest in drawing NATO into the fight as occurred in Libya. Hillary Clinton fumes “What more do we need to know to act decisively in the Security Council? To block this resolution is to bear responsibility for the horrors that are occurring on the ground in Syria.”

From a distance you look like my friend,
Even though we are at war.
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting is for.


March 2012. Valdimir Putin wins Russia’s presidential election, with about 64% of the vote. OSCE observers complain that he had no competition, and government spending at his disposal – as if having no competition were his fault, while one of his opponents is a multibillioniare and the 7th richest man in Russia. The total cost (estimated) of the Russian presidential election, according to Transparency International Russia, was $70 Million USD. The U.S. election campaign came in at an estimated $6 Billion USD. Elena Panfilova, head of TI Russia, complained that Vladimir Putin was abusing state resources in his election campaign although he made only one speech, as though all state visits should be discontinued during the year of a presidential election, while the opposition is free to do as it likes.  Investigation of complaints about election fraud reveals most of the video clips purporting to show falsification or ballot-box stuffing originated from a single server, in California. A U.S. soldier goes on a door-to-door rampage in Afghanistan, killing 16 civilians including 9 children, most of them sleeping.  Mohammed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, shoots a rabbi, two of his children and another child in Toulouse, France. Before he is killed by French police, Merah claims to be a member of al Qaeda seeking revenge for murdered Palestinian children. In Syria, President Assad agrees to a UN-brokered ceasefire and promises to withdraw troops from cities by April. The UN continues to publish and quote casualty figures in Syria as provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is one man working from his home in England, and who receives all his information from Syrian activists striving to overthrow the Syrian government.


May. Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng leaves the U.S. embassy to get treatment for an injured foot, but later says he left partly because the Chinese government threatened his wife’s life if he remained. He asks Hillary Clinton – in China for meetings – for help. Clinton arranges through government-to-government talks for Guangcheng and his wife and two children to visit the USA while Guangcheng studies at New York University; one for the good guys. Some sources incorrectly accuse Russian police of sending protesters to military draft centers.  Francois Hollande defeats Nikolas Sarkozy to become president of France. Another “massacre” in Syria, this time in the city of Houla, kills 108 civilians, 49 of them children and 34 of them women. According to accounts by the ubiquitous activists, the Syrian government’s forces shelled the area with heavy weapons, and then its mysterious Shabiha militia closed in, shooting and stabbing innocent people. The BBC is caught using a fake photo of bodies in shrouds – taken 9 years previously in Iraq – to substantiate the Houla massacre, which is subsequently suggested to have been another staged event by the “Free Syrian Army” – a loose collection of militants – in order to mobilize international support against president Assad. That notwithstanding, 11 nations expel Syrian diplomats.

From a distance there is harmony,
And it echoes through the land.
And it’s the hope of hopes, it’s the love of loves,
It’s the heart of every man.

Still closer.

June, 2012. Hillary Clinton accuses Russia of supplying Syria with attack helicopters, which turn out to be Syrian helicopters that were already in Russia for repair. This leads to wild rhetoric about the UK “striking at a 21st century scourge” by withdrawing the vessel’s insurance. While the British strut and prance, the vessel returns to Russia to be reflagged by a Russian underwriter. Mohamed Morsi wins a hotly-contested election in Egypt to consolidate a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, which coincidentally is the group which would benefit most by a western intervention to overthrow Assad in Syria. Morsi promptly proclaims sharia law, and says in a speech that “Today Egypt is close as never before to the triumph of Islam at all the state levels”. Russia’s Maria Sharapova returns to world #1 in women’s tennis, after winning the French Open.


July. Libya holds its first elections since the murder of Gaddafi by mercenaries led by al Qaeda warlord Abdelhakim Belhaj, supported by NATO warplanes. Two people are killed in armed assaults on voting centers. In Kufur, some voting centers close due to a tribal battle. Nonetheless, western-educated Mahmoud Jibril takes an early lead. Near a Bulgarian airport, a suicide bomber carries out an attack against a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on holiday, killing 5 Israelis as well as the driver. Netanyahu blames it on Hezbollah, saying angrily, “All the signs lead to Iran…This is an Iranian terror attack that is spreading throughout the entire world. Israel will react powerfully against Iranian terror.” No mention is made of Israel’s campaign of assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists. Russia and China veto another UNSC resolution which would have imposed sanctions on Syria, this one because it would offer a loophole for western military intervention. The UK was “appalled”. Susan Rice, American UN Ambassador, called it a “dark day” and said “The message it sends is that two permanent members of the Council are prepared to defend Assad to the bitter end.”

August. Egyptian president Morsi orders a retaliatory airstrike in the Sinai Peninsula which reportedly kills 20 militants, in retaliation for an attack at an Egyptian Army checkpoint which killed 16 soldiers. Ecuador grants asylum to  Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. Three members of Pussy Riot are convicted of hooliganism in Russia, and sentenced to two years in penal colonies. The U.S. military death toll in Afghanistan, a war that has dragged on for 11 years, reaches 2000. Russia is admitted to the World Trade Organization. According to some sources, expectations include “…an increase of 3% in the Russian GDP, more foreign investment, and a doubling of U.S. exports to Russia-as long as trade relations are normalized through the lifting of the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment.” The latter expectation is soon to be torpedoed by the American insistence on passing the so-called “Magnitsky Act” along with the trade bill.

September. Gunmen storm the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and 3 other embassy officials. The use of heavy anti-aircraft weapons and RPG’s leads some analysts to suggest the attack was planned in advance. Diplomatic cables later released reveal that Stevens repeatedly recommended or requested greater security for the Benghazi embassy. Other analysts suggest it was retaliatory anger at an anti-Muslim film released by a California producer; attacks on U.S. embassies in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt, where angry demonstrators climb into the compound and rip down the American flag, seem at the time to support this theory.

October, 2012. Turkey launches cross-border attacks against Syria in response to mortar attacks on Turkish cities, an act for which the Syrian Army is far too busy even if there would be something to gain from aggravating yet another enemy; it is more likely the work of the Free Syrian Army, tiring of efforts to prod the west into an intervention. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez wins a third term with about 54% of the vote. Rumors about his health promptly begin to percolate through the English-speaking press. Taliban gunmen shoot  14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who claimed to be unafraid of them and undeterred in her determination to get an education, in the head and neck in front of other children on a school bus. She survives, and is airlifted to Birmingham, UK for treatment of skull fractures and for long-term rehabilitation. A Moscow court frees Pussy Rioter Yekaterina Samutsevich on appeal, on the grounds that she was detained by security personnel as she approached the altar and was therefore not part of the act of hooliganism. The sentence against the remaining duo stands. A large bomb explodes in Beirut, killing 8 people and wounding at least 80; among the dead is Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan, a top security official and longtime foe of Syria; this is seen as an attempt to drag Lebanon into the conflict.

November. The quarrelsome Syrian National Council – a disappointing effort by western backers to unite the Syrian opposition – is shunted aside in favour of the Syrian National Initiative, a handpicked group chosen by the western Friends of Syria. It is immediately recognized by France as the only legitimate government of Syria, in an aggressive repeat of its action on Libya, albeit under a different French president. The new leader, Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, promptly requests financial assistance and arms from his beaming “parents”. Israel launches another of its periodic offensives in Gaza, in retaliation for rocket attacks, hitting some 20 targets and killing Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari as he is traveling through Gaza in a car. New Egyptian president Morsi steps up with aggressive vocal support for the Palestinians. His foreign minister and Hillary Clinton broker a cease-fire. Morsi declares himself the authority over Egypt’s courts, thus removing any check the law might exert on him. Surprising pretty much everyone, the UN approves non-member state status for Palestine. Israel is furious, while the USA and UK are disappointed their background maneuvering was unsuccessful. This will allow Palestine access to international organizations such as the International Criminal Court. A fuming Netanyahu announces Israel will not transfer about $100 million in much-needed tax revenue owed to the struggling Palestinian Authority, and will resume plans to build a 3,000-unit settlement in an area that divides the north and the south parts of the West Bank, thereby denying the Palestinians any chance for a contiguous state. Barack Obama is re-elected president of the United States. Russian election monitors present for the election, after enduring complaints from aggressive monitors of the Russian elections that monitors could not always see what was happening inside the polling station, are told that if they approach an American polling station closer than 100 yards they may be arrested.

Which brings us around to now. Protesters rally in Tahrir Square, where not even a year ago they were cheering Mubarak’s ouster and deliriously tweeting victory at each other, over Morsi’s constitution, which he presses forward with undeterred. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, announces she is pregnant with the someday likely heir to the British throne. Two Australian DJ’s play a prank, calling the hospital and pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles, and manage to score a scoop from the unsuspecting nurse who took the call.  The following week the nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, commits suicide by hanging herself with a scarf from her wardrobe door in the nurse’s quarters.

From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band.
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.
They’re the songs of every man.

According to The Statistic Brain, 50% of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day. Some 80% of the world’s population lives where income differentials are widening, not narrowing. Meanwhile, Exxon-Mobil’s earnings for the first 9 months of 2012 were $34.9 Billion, up 10% over the same period in 2011. In British hospitals, 43 patients starved to death and 111 died of thirst while on wards, according to a report by the Office for National Statistics; nurses placed trays of food in front of patients too weak to feed themselves, and later took them away untouched. Another 78 patients died from bedsores. Meanwhile, the British government’s Health Secretary announced that “real-terms spending on the NHS (National Health Service) has increased across the country” when figures from the Public Spending Statistics revealed that spending was actually down year-over-year.

An otherworldly deity watching us from a distance would have a hard time escaping the conclusion that we have progressed little from the cruel children we were on the playground, and that we have a long way to go to achieve anything like the self-satisfaction of looking after the weak and helping our fellow men through tough times.

Still, there is hope. We can still start 2013 better than we started 2012, and even those who have extended the hand of friendship only to draw it back full of warm spit can patiently extend it again. It’s late, but it’s never too late until it is. At this special time of year, as always, I wish peace and contentment in the company of family to friend and foe alike, from my family to yours. Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a New Year in which we all do a little better.

Editor’s Note: “From a Distance” is performed by Bette Midler, written by Julie Gold. You can see the official video here. It’s a great song, and I always thought Midler is an underrated singer with a gorgeous, soaring voice that suits this kind of music.

This entry was posted in China, Government, Middle East, Politics, Russia, Terrorism, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

803 Responses to The Songs of Every Man

  1. Moscow Exile says:

    Yeah, he talks of an authoritarian regime – “authoritarian”, though he can spout his shit on a radio station whose majority shareholder is an organ of that same regime – Putinism and Putinoids and that Putinism etc. is bound to collapse, as did the USSR, when folk realize that its power structure is a myth and blah, blah, blah…

    And he says that Putinism is already hiding its bunker and its end is near, so he wishes all his white condomist chums, citizens of a “Free Russia”, a Happy New Year.

    And after all that waffle, he fails to say which party will form a goverment.

    When the scales have at last fallen from the voters’ eyes, will they resoundingly reject the “party of crooks and thieves”?

    Who will be the new President and what will be the government policy? Will it be Navalny and a return to the (in his own words) “romantic times” of the Yeltsin years, when all who were smart enough could plunder??

    Ooh! Ooh! I know! Iknow! Pleeeeeeease sir, I KNOW!!!!

    It’ll be Khodorkovsky, won’t it?

    And we’ll all be as free again to become as rich as he had become before this tyranny fell upon us.

    It will be him, won’t it?

    It will, it will!!!!

    Please say it will!


    • kirill says:

      Yeah, you’ll be “free” to be rich only if Khodorkovsky’s goons don’t shoot you first because they want to rip off your apartment. And there’s the rub, freedom for everyone to plunder means that only a few will rise to the top and suppress the freedom of the vast majority to do the same. This has been true throughout history and it is shocking that people don’t realize this simple fact. You need a “regime” to impose law and order for the majority to have a chance at normal life. This means taking away the freedom of the few like Khodorkovsky for killing anyone they want in their stellar, Randroid wet dream rise to the top.

  2. R.C. says:

    I wonder how the Russian T-50 stacks up to the US Air Force’s F-22’s?

    • marknesop says:

      Its makers, unsurprisingly, claim the T50 is much better, although they confine their observations to differences that can be proven such as generated power, maneuverability, signature and weapons load. Of those, maneuverability probably depends largely on the pilot, and a good one who knows his aircraft well could probably humiliate a less confident one in the other aircraft type. I was surprised at the degree of AI employed in the avionics and weapons suite in the T50; it can save a lot of decision-making time as it is all based on algorithms, but a lot of people fear it because anything complex is usually unfixable if it breaks down when you really need it, and consequently they are afraid to rely on it. Hey, remember “Firefox”, with Clint Eastwood as USAF pilot Mitchell Gant? I think we might have brought it up on this blog once before; it had to be the most-mocked movie ever for military guys, and I’m afraid I was among those who took women to the movie and then irritated them with non-stop scoffing, “that would never happen”, and the like. It really was a spectacularly bad movie, but I remember the book on which it was based described the plane as having a “thought-guided” weapons system. It had been designed by a scientist who wanted to incorporate it into a wheelchair to give disabled people something like a normal life, but of course it was immediately commandeered by the ruthless Russian state that seems to exist in the minds of a lot of western writers, and slaved instead to a helmet that would let the pilot launch missiles and fire machine guns simply by thinking the commands; in Russian, of course.

      That was something else we snickered about back then, but the T50 and other 5th-generation fighters are getting closer to that all the time. I’m also very curious about the “nanotechnological materials” which are said to cover 85% of the exterior of the T50. They are said to decrease the radar signature of the plane, but this sounds like more than just a reflective paint job. The first primitive jammers introduced worked – and the principle in this particular mode is still the same – by capturing the radar pulse of a transmitter, attenuating it to a lower level and then sending it back, so that the radar seeking you got an incorrect impression of where the target is. Alternatively, in blip-enhance it could send back such a huge fuzzy echo that operators would think it was weather or some other such natural phenomena. I’m wondering if they have moved to making the entire outer skin of an aircraft into something like a jammer. Fascinating stuff, all conceptual so far as I know.

      Anyway, other sites will predictably say the T50 is a piece of junk, and jump on every crash as evidence that Russia is deluding itself if it thinks it can build an advanced fifth-generation fighter, because only the west has the technology to do that. That’s just going through the motions, because people in defense procurement who buy fighters to outfit their militaries are pretty hard to fool. Provided they really have the freedom to choose what they think is the best aircraft – absent political toadying – the results often surprise. The F22 had at least two crashes to its credit by 2009. That in itself doesn’t mean much – aircraft are expected to crash during the test phase and it is infinitely better that faults are found out then, before the plane enters series production.

      • R.C. says:

        Yeah, it’s common for countries to overstate the failures of their opponents and downplay their own. I remember all of those Bulava failures which went on for years and how the US press harped on it. I was told by a friend in the US air-force that present-day ICBM technology is extremely complex & complicated and it ususally takes a decade to perfect a platform and that the US goes through the exact same thing (high failure rates) as Russia when testing new tech. Once the Bulava finally entered the Russian naval fleet in late 2011, there was no mention of this in the US press……afterall, they’re only interested in the failures.

        • kirill says:

          It’s a solvable engineering problem. With enough testing they got the fixes that they needed. The western media likes to paint Russians as mentally retarded untermenschen since at least the days of the Cold War. Every failure is trumpeted as evidence of this inferiority. The only thing that the Bulava problems prove is that there was a breakdown in oversight and the missile was approved before it was ready. There was lots of talk about how fast it was being developed so I guess there were corners cut during testing. They had to pay for this corner cutting with late-stage testing.

        • marknesop says:

          Ditto the missile defense system, which experienced multiple failures and often passing of tests was linked to political brinksmanship – when the public began to grumble about financing such a failure-prone system, there would be a successful test, although it would later transpire that it had been set up to succeed. The time and bearing of the target launch would be known in advance, as well as target course and speed throughout the profile, and the target would be augmented to ensure it was detected.

          Some of the newspaper criticism of the system was unfair, because the general public does not seem to understand the developmental process and it is common to fly test profiles for data collection and validation of some related part of the system – the fact that the entire course of the target flight is known in advance is deliberate. But that should not be mistaken for an indication of how the system would perform against an unalerted launch.

          Most of the Bulava’s failures were attributed to substandard components, although each failure was used to hammer home the conviction that Russia is just not as technologically advanced as western nations and Russians can’t design or build to western standards. But I remember when the CIWS (Close-In Weapons System) by General Dynamics – also called Phalanx, when it first came out – had just entered series production. A couple of techs who were fired or for some other reason had a grudge against the company went public with the test process, and pointed out that each system was hooked up to a test bed, and put through its paces. It only had to pass once, and it was crated up and shipped out, but it might have failed 800 times in a row prior to that. In the end there is not a dime’s worth of difference in the way average people behave anywhere, although each country’s press attributes to itself virtue it does not possess while attributing to its ideological enemies faults that they do not possess.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Well, I’m no military or avionics expert, but, aesthetically at least, they certainly look impressive to me – at a distance, namely above my head at my dacha, which is situated not far from the aerodrome where they do their training. Last summer they were doing their tricks above my head the week before the Zhukovsky show mentioned above

      • kirill says:

        The maneuverability depends on the 3D thrust vectoring ability of the T-50. This does indeed make it superior in this metric to the F-22 since the F-22 only has 2D thrust vectoring thanks to its “stealth” nozzles.

        All the F-22 fanboys regularly yap about the round nozzles on the T-50 not being stealthy. Well, the F-35 is supposed to be stealthy and it has one big round nozzle. If I was an F-22 fanboy and had a clue I would be more worried about its massive billboard sized rear rudders. There is a reason that they are tiny by comparison on the T-50. The EM backscatter from the round nozzles is a tertiary issue in comparison to scatter from other flat surfaces with much larger areas. It does not matter that such surfaces are slanted since 1) the plane isn’t going to fly at one fixed orientation to the incoming radar beam(s) and 2) the EM waves being sent at the aircraft are going to come from multiple sources. So at the end of the day the good old physics notion of cross-section rules the day regardless of RAM coatings and angled surfaces.

        If you look at the profile of the T-50 from the side it is quite a bit thinner than the F-22.

        • Marcel Daissault, the designer of the French Mirage series of fighters, once said that a “fighter must be beautiful”. Certainly the T50 passes that test.

          For what it’s worth I get the impression that its flight programme has been going well. Certainly it seems a much more happy programme than that of the F35. The Borei submarine programme also seems to have been basically trouble free, the delays being almost entirely with the Bulava, which is apparently a very sophisticated missile using a lot of new technology, which not surprisingly had a lot of teething problems which have apparently been sorted out. The first in the class of the Yasen submarines, which appears in some ways to be a more sophisticated submarine than the Borei, has also apparently had its share of teething problems but there is apparently talk that it too will be commissioned soon.

          I think it is an exaggeration that the Russians have special problems with the engineering of their weapons. The S400, the Iskander, the Topol and the Yars all seem to have had relatively trouble-free development histories as has been the case with the Onyks and Kaliber cruise missiles. It is not as if other countries don’t run into such problems. Russia has no debacle to show comparable to that of the F35 whilst the sea trials of the latest British nuclear attack submarine the Astute have apparently not gone well with concerns that because of a design flaw in matching its reactor and turbines its speed is well below the intended 30 knots.

        • marknesop says:

          All true, and I would add that you are not going to pick up EM backscatter or even a solid hit off the thrust nozzles when the plane is pointed toward you. And that’s the only time you should be concerned.

  3. Misha says:

    From one source, a ranking of the top 10 present day tanks:

  4. Misha says:

    A bit of an awkward scroll, Canada-Russia in a few hours time:

    Winner takes first in the group they’re in,

    Both teams having already qualified for the playoff round.

    IMO, much preferable than reading and analyzing one brat interviewing another.

  5. R.C. says:

    I find it astonishing that stories like this can pop up in a British tabloid, but the mainstream US press is pretty silent on the atrocities being committed by the rebels. As Patrick Cockburn has said, you simply don’t hear about it in the press; probably becasue they’re busy passing on tales of rebel “victories” from (drumroll…..) THE REBELS!

    • yalensis says:

      This nun sounds like she knows what she is talking about, the West should listen to her. Surprising that this kind of blunt truth-telling can be found in a Western paper. I notice there is still a bit of a slant in referring to “rogue elements” or “fifth columnists” within the rebel ranks. As if these atrocities are only the work of a few oddballs. Everybody who followed the Libya war could see that sadistic psychopathological behavior is the POLICY of these rebels. Torture, murder, and rape. It’s what they do best, these are the types they recruit, and their core ideology (jihadism) encourages such behavior.
      I noticed in an online piece a few months back (I can’t remember the link, sorry), the writer referring to “pro-regime militias” as “Alawite and Christian thugs”. The combination of words “Christian” and “thug” must have caused a bit of cognitive dissonance in some western readers, because later that same piece was amended to remove the reference to “Christian thugs”, but did keep the “Alawite thug” reference. Most western readers probably don’t know what an Alawite is, and hence do not object to hearing them referred to as thugs. The western propaganda machine wants to give the mass public a simple plotline (like in a simplistic action movie) that they can just accept and put away in the backs of their heads, provided they don’t dig too deep into it and see all the flaws.

    • marknesop says:

      Even so, the Mail story still refers to “rogue elements of the Free Syrian Army”, as if the remainder was a disciplined and coherent force. It is not. They do have a component of a hundred or so who are clean-looking young men accustomed to drill at the halt and on the march, who are trotted out for the cameras when required, but in the main they are stateless mercenaries who could not give a tin weasel for military ethos or discipline. It’s great that a British tabloid breaks this kind of story, but even this is understating the case.

      It never fails to astound me that the Russian press does not pick up and reamplify these stories, so as to substantiate the government’s stand. Russia’s remaining aloof and refusing to explain its position is helping the rebels to win the YouTube war.

      • yalensis says:

        Russia knows that it is not as good as the West when it comes to blatant propaganda, so defers from entering combat in this arena. Or… (more cynically), there are Fifth-Columnist elements in the Russian government and media who support the Western line on Syria and want to see Assad fall, because they believe (correctly) that this would also be a blow against Putin.

        • kirill says:

          I would say it is not a question of how good Russian propaganda is but the tribal credulity of the western public. They are stuck in the us vs. them mode so anything Russia (or anyone not “us”) says is automatically rejected and the Mickey Mouse BS spewed by the western media given the benefit of the doubt or outright believed.

          I have had discussions with people who think that the Iraq invasion was justified because Saddam Hussein was a “very bad man”. Following this logic one would have to invade Saudi Arabia and Kuwait too. Also, the war based on false pretenses does not bother them in the least. There’s plenty of “bydlo” in the west.

        • Misha says:

          “Russia knows that it is not as good as the West when it comes to blatant propaganda, so defers from entering combat in this arena.”


          There’re examples out there to reference. Two main related issues pertain to the quality level and how to improve upon a situation that has involved some questionable hiriings.

  6. Moscow Exile says:

    Another paywall has gone up!

    I got notification this morning after having logged on that I now have to pay to read UK Telegraph drivel.

    I hadn’t noticed, but apparently it was announced last month that the wall was being erected. And get this, the wall is only to prevent non-UK residents free entry. So retired in their Spanish villas British Tories will henceforth have to pay the “Torygraph” for the right to harumph and bluster about how the UK has gone to the dogs and why they were forced to leave.

    So that’s the Times and the Telegraph gone. I ditched the Guardian on my own volition several months ago. There’s only the Daily Mail online left now. That’s the British rag that has the shameful record of supporting the Nazis right up until the UK declaration of war against Germany in 1939.

    So the only “quality” UK news source left open for my free perusal remains Lebedev’s horrendous Independent with its Moscow correspondent Shawn Walker.

    Aunty BBC is still free though.

    We should be grateful for small mercies, I suppose, a sentiment that US citizen Bill Browder in his “Notes from a Small Island” considers a salient feature of the British national psyche.

    I mustn’t be British then!


    • Jen says:

      Dear ME: The Independent has a paywall as well for non-British residents. It kicks in if you try to read it more than 30 times a month.

      Lots of people including some royals (Edward VIII in particular) in Britain supported Nazi Germany before September 1939. They seemed not to have learned their lesson either after the war; did anyone vet Prince Phillip’s background before he married Princess Elizabeth? At least one of his sisters was married to a former SS officer at the time.

    • marknesop says:

      Browder makes me laugh; he’s about as English as Kentucky Fried Chicken. But he still feels himself qualified to expand on the essential quality of Anglophilia.

      • cartman says:

        He renounced his US citizenship, yet got the House and Senate to pass a bill that doesn’t just name libraries. And his grandfather was head of the American Communist Party. Those are two potentially explosive angles that were completely ignored by the mainstream media.

        • marknesop says:

          I think the part about Gramps being a Commie – however inept and reviled a Commie he was – is fairly well-known. Browder was at great pains to get that one out front and dismissed quickly, as he does in his motivational speeches; something about his disadvantaged boyhood, having his roots in Russia and being the grandson of the head of the American Communist Party, followed by, “I dealt with it the best way I knew how – by putting on a suit and tie, and becoming a businessman”, or something like that. Probably written for him, specifically to answer the question, “How do I introduce my family’s past, thereby removing its usefulness to anyone who is digging, in such a way that it makes people sympathize with me and say, ‘there goes a self-made man you can trust’?” It’s certainly very carefully worded, and Browder delivers it perfectly, with that wry twist of the lips that says, “Yeah – my Grampa was a Communist – you believe that shit?” By the end of it, people are probably wishing they had more money just so they could lend it to Browder, he just comes across as so honest and straight-arrow, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

          About the renunciation of his U.S. citizenship, I didn’t know that, and it certainly is an interesting angle, for exactly the reason you describe. Do you happen to have a reference?

          • CB says:

            There are hordes of moneybags
            renouncing their U.S. citizenship
            as an ultimate tax-evasion scam.
            And a scumbag like Browder is a
            card-carrying traitor, wherever
            on earth he is.

  7. yalensis says:

    To R.C.: this is a continuation of the thread about the supposed delivery of Russian “Iskander” missiles to Syria. I read the link provided by MoscowExile.

    It’s a reputable Russian military journal (“Military Observer”), but all it is doing is mentioning that an Iranian paper (“Mashregh”) has reported that the Iskander missiles are being delivered. Here is a better link for you, in an English-language version of the story:

    As most commentators have noted, the claim about the Iskanders has not been confirmed, and is highly dubious. I am guessing a false flag to confuse the West?

    • kirill says:

      It’s a bit strange that it is coming from Iranian sources. Usually it is Debka or some other western source.

      • I suspect that the reason for this confusion is because the Russians have stopped giving information about what weapons they are supplying to Syria. Inevitably when this happens speculation fills the gap so that even reputable Russian military magazines are obliged to source their stories from dubious sources in this case Iranian.

        I suspect the reason why the Russians have stopped commenting on their weapons deliveries to Syria is because they don’t want it generally known that deliveries of advanced weapons to Syria have largely come to a stop. If Russia is delivering any weapons to Syria I suspect these take the form of ammunition and spare parts rather than complete weapons. The Russians do not want this fact generally known because it will again be misrepresented as “Russia abandoning Assad”.

        It is important to say that the coast of Syria is now under effective NATO blockade. Any Russian freighter that passes through NATO waters on its way to Syria and which is carrying weapons runs the serious risk of being stopped and its cargo seized. It is very difficult to see how Russian freighters can in fact reach Syria without passing through NATO waters whilst the cost of providing a naval escort to every Russian freighter sailing to Syria and carrying weapons would be politically exhorbitant. Russian warships can of course still travel to Tartus and indeed a flotilla seems to be heading that way at the moment and it may be that some of the landing ships that are part of this flotilla are carrying weapons for Syria but the amount of weapons that can be delivered to Syria in this way must be small.

        I don’t see the point in such weapons deliveries. Syria is already a very heavily armed country and one doesn’t get the impression of any great shortage of weapons or ammunition there. The most effective help Russia can give Syria is economic by supplying oil and food and even printing bank notes and we know that that is what Russia is in fact doing,

  8. I am afraid I have to sign off now to prepare for the New Year.

    Happy New Year Mark both to you and your family. May all you desire in the New Year come true.

    Happy New Year to everyone else who writes on this blog. It’s been a great pleasure exchange thoughts and opinions and news with all of you.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    All the Best to you as well, Alexander!

  10. Misha says:


    Forwarded to my attention from a friend, who isn’t part of the overly hyped dilettante class:

  11. Moscow Exile says:

    It’s turned midnight here, 31st December 2012, so…

  12. Jen says:

    Happy New Year for 2013 from Sydney to everyone here.

    • marknesop says:

      The waterfall of fire from the coathanger is spectacular – what a show!!! Happy New Year to you, too, Jen! Still a few more hours to wait for us.

    • yalensis says:

      Wow! Aussies really know how to do synchronized fireworks. How is it done, out of curiosity? I suppose some master computer that controls the sequence…

      • Jen says:

        From what I can find, the concept for the fireworks display is done by Imagination Australia, a subsidiary of the British company Imagination. They have been doing this work since 2011 when they won the contract from the City of Sydney Council after going through a tender process. (“Tender” as in competing against other companies for a contract by proving you can do a better job with less money. ) The wiring of the bridge supports takes place in late December but beyond that I don’t know so it must be a company secret.

  13. R.C. says:

    Happy New Year to Mark and everyone else here on the Kremlin Stooge blog!

    • marknesop says:

      My very best wishes to all for a season of peace and joy!! That said, as of midnight (here) the armistice is at an end, and we will taste once more the joy of battle. Bring me your Magnitsky Lists, and let’s get it on!!

  14. Misha says:

    Provided there’s a very nearby sauna and/or steam room, this looks like a great way to bring in the new year:


    Without meaning to disrespect his family situation, this chap shows the inaccurate biases of his soon to be former employer and himself:

    One gathers an ongoing situation of some changed names pushing the same old, same old.

    • marknesop says:

      …and an interesting potential legal option for Syria. There is little reason to believe the USA controls the International Criminal Court, since it customarily demands freedom from prosecution for its forces before or upon commencing a military adventure. It obviously fears prosecution thereby. I would also dearly love to see the French government get a serious smackdown, although I have nothing against the French people. That knee-jerk recognition of the rebel rabble as the legitimate government is getting just a little old for me.

      • Misha says:

        Yes, I saw.

        Following up on what Alex said about that source, I think that going over the top is within acceptability up to a point.

        When having a valid point, one need not get too overly rhetorical in a way that will unnecessarily put a greater number of people off. For the sake of accuracy, this last thought shouldn’t be confused with a constructively pointed rebuke at existing flaws which get covered up – inclusive of letting some views/sources go over the top without penalty.

        Then again, the author of that piece probably feels that view is appropriate with his piece.

      • yalensis says:

        It sounds promising. I think the Syrian government should pursue all possible defensive strategies, including the legal one. At the very least it might be able to get a temporary restraining order against this unholy coalition of (American/French/Saudi/Qatari/Israeli) Zionists and jihadists.

        • Misha says:

          Such “international law” is flawed.

          Without meaning to soft peddle Nazi atrocities, were there not any Allied WW II atrocities worthy of prosecution?

          The present day ICTY essentially carries on like a NATO/Sorosian kangaroo court.

          • Jen says:

            The following incidents in which Allied forces killed German and Japanese civilians might come close to “atrocities” worthy of prosecution:
            1/ RAF bombing of Hamburg during a hot dry summer in July 1943 which created a firestorm that swept through the city and killed at least 45,000
            2/ US and British air forces dropping 3,900 tons of explosives on Dresden in February 1945 which resulted in a firestorm that killed at least 25,000 or as many as 250,000, depending on who you read, and of course referenced by Kurt Vonnegut in “Slaughterhouse Five”
            3/ 1945 (February – May) napalm bombing of Tokyo by US air forces which killed over 100,000

            There are extreme opinions among the German far right that the Soviet submarine sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff off the coast of northern Germany on 30 January 1945, in which nearly 9,400 lives (mostly women and children refugees) were lost, should be a war crime but as the ship was also carrying military personnel, it was a legitimate target and was sailing through waters where naval and submarine warfare was heavy. The same submarine brought down the Steuben a few days later and some 3,600 lives were lost.

            • Misha says:

              A lengthy litany that for consistency sake can include forces under the command of Tito and Stalin. There’s also the matter of how some suspect folks were able to get off from being prosecuted, while having settled in South America and elsewhere. Some have also questioned the ethics of the former Nazi connection with NASA.

              Victor’s justice.

              With all due respect to Franklin Lamb, I don’t see the Syrian government successfully initiating an internationally recognized war crimes tribunal on its behalf. It’s not like the Syrian government is so virtuous – a thought which shouldn’t be taken as a rubber stamp for the armed anti-Syrian government opposition,

              • Jennifer Hor says:

                Dear Misha: If you include Allied collaboration with Tito and Stalin – I assume you’re referring to Winston Churchill’s willingness to surrender Cossacks and their families over to Stalin – then we should also bring in the exoneration of Dr Shiro Ishii and other senior researchers, who participated in the medical experiments on Chinese civilians and Soviet, US and British Commonwealth POWs, by the US. General Douglas Macarthur granted immunity to the Japanese scientists in exchange for the biological and chemical warfare research that they conducted. Some of these scientists did very well in their post-war careers in academia, business and politics.

                Also for some years after 1945, Germans living in the Allied-occupied western zones of divided Germany were subjected to a strict food policy that at times amounted to deliberate starvation. I’m not sure of the exact number of people who died but at least one million died over a period from 1945 to 1948 and the number might have been higher. There was also a plan (the Morgenthau Plan) to deindustrialise Germany and turn it into an agricultural country again.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  “In 2003, historian Richard Dominic Wiggers argued that the Allies violated international law regarding the feeding of enemy civilians, they both directly and indirectly caused the unnecessary suffering and death of large numbers of civilians and prisoners in occupied Germany, guided partly by a spirit of postwar vengeance when creating the circumstances that contributed to their deaths. There was also strict orders to U.S. military personnel and their wives to destroy or otherwise render inedible their own leftover surplus so as to ensure it could not be eaten by German civilians. The Americans also prevented locals from bringing prisoners food under threat of being shot.”

                  From “Rheinwiesenlager” (The Rhine Meadow Camps), Wiki.

                  I remember watching a lengthy documentary on this subject on German TV when living in Germany in the late ’80’s.

                  Up to then, the Germans had been falling over backwards not to appear that they were trying to exculpate themselves of the terrible crimes of which they had been part and parcel and which had been perpetrated by the Nazi regime, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

                • marknesop says:

                  I imagine this part of the story was mostly lost in a filter called “serves them right, and whatever happens to them (the German people), they deserve”.

                • Misha says:

                  Jen, Moscow Exile & Co.,

                  Among other matters brought up are the ethnic cleansing campaigns against Germans in present day Polish and Czechoslovak territories.

                  In the leadup to WW II, Nazi propaganda trumped up the negative conditions ethnic Germans faced in Poland and Czechoslovakia. That said, there was some mistreatment against these people, which the Nazis were only to willing to over-dramatize.

                  The American based Military Channel is airing a Brit documentary series on WW II. It has some of standard historiography about the Russian winter greatly hindering the Nazi war effort, as well as mention of Soviet rapes in Germany. From what I gather, the latter occurred on a noticeable enough scale to make it historically inaccurate to side step altogether.

                  That said, I’m by no means well versed on that particular issue to immediately get into the specifics. I’m aware of the the bogus trumped up rape and casualty claims regarding 1990s Bosnia.

                  The aforementioned repatriation of Soviet citizens and non-Soviet/Russian Empire citizens to the USSR involved others besides Cossacks. The repatriasted included the quite flawed to considerably more decent, as some like the Croat Ustasha and Galician based OUN/UPA were able to get refuge in the West.

                • yalensis says:

                  Post-WWII ethnic cleansing of German families to make room for Poles (moving lots of people around, in horrendous conditions, to re-draw European borders) should probably qualify as a war crime. But no Nuremberg for YOU, Germans!
                  Also, Russian soldiers raping a lot of German women, yeah, unfortunately, that happened, and served to tarnish an otherwise glorious victory over the Nazi army. Most to blame (in addition to the rapers themselves) were the senior officers, who encouraged this behavior. Not sure what the point was, because Russian soldiers don’t usually do that. At least on such a grand scale and without fear of punishment.

                • kirill says:

                  The rape claims are just that rape claims. They are of the sort heard during the war in Bosnia i Herezgovina during the 1990s when every non-Serb woman on Rebulika Srpska territory was alleged to have been raped. But when some reporter actually went to check the number went poof into thin air.

                  The Russian soldier rape BS was Nazi doctors (they weren’t all fired and removed from their jobs) spreading the usual untermenschen depravity propaganda that they were doing during the war. In reality, there was strict supervision of Russian soldiers and anyone trying to stage revenge atrocities would be shot. It was the Party’s policy to promote brotherhood of the people after the war. You can’t have it both ways, that Soviet soldiers had NKVD coercing them from the back and that they could do what they wanted as if the NKVD was not there. Modern military is all about enforcing a hierarchy and the Soviet army was not some mob running through Europe raping and pillaging as if it was back in the days of Attila the Hun.

                  The French have some stories of rapes by US soldiers but these are typically downplayed. Meanwhile the stories about Soviet rapes are exaggerated to ridiculous proportions ( The shitball propagating this blood libel is Anthony Beevor a cold war hack “historian”. Supposedly several million women were raped by Soviet soldiers. Either there were several hundred thousand serial rapists in the Soviet army or there were several million single case rapists. This is pure nonsense. The numbers cited in the wiki article and Beevor are all estimates and suppositions. They do not even have confirmation of several million rapes, which is the key point.

                • Dear Kirill,

                  Rapes of German women by Soviet soldiers definitely did happen though perhaps not on the scale that is sometimes said. It is important to say that though the Soviet authorities were undoubtedly embarrassed by the subject and did not like to talk about it they never denied it. Stalin himself admitted that it was taking place in discussions with western officials at the end of the war and in the 1950s Soviet generals like Marshals Koniev and Chiukov (who were both in Berlin) discussed it with the British historian Cornelius Ryan. It was explained as the result of a breakdown of discipline during the fighting and a loss of control by senior officers. The troops with the worst record for rapes were supposedly second echelon troops, though that may have been said to protect the honour of the combat veterans. There is a recent German film made with Russian help and with the Russian parts performed by Russian actors, which is called Anonyma which deals with this subject. It is not always an easy film to watch but I personally thought it was a good film though I can understand why many Russians might be upset by it. As it happens I understand that it has been accepted by Soviet veterans groups. In my opinion it gives a positive image of Soviet soldiers and it shows that their interaction with German civilians (even those who had been raped) could also be and often was also positive. The film contains several passages in which Russian soldiers discuss the immeasurably worse behaviour of the German army in Russia and refers to the orders from the supreme Soviet command to protect civilians.

                  There were lots of rapes of German women by western soldiers, though this is hardly ever discussed though I suspect that the scale of the rapes in the west was about the same as it was in the east. The German grandmother of one of my single best friend was raped at the end of the war by an American soldier whilst a friend of my brother’s is the result of a rape of his German mother by a French soldier. He doesn’t know his father and all his attempts and those of other German offspring of such rapes to trace their fathers meets a wall of silence and obstruction from the French authorities who simply refuse to acknowledge that such rapes took place. I have heard it said that the worst rapists (far worse than the Russians) were in fact the French who may have seen rape as a means to avenge France’s humiliation by Germany in 1940. Rapes by US and British troops were also very widespread in Italy as a British veteran of that campaign once told me. The city that suffered worst was Naples, where there was an appalling bacchanalia of rapes after the city fell, which unlike what happened in say Berlin (where the Soviet military quickly reasserted control after the city surrendered) continued for months because the Allied military administration did nothing to prevent it. Again this is a subject that is hardly ever discussed in the west.

                  Overall whilst there is truth in the story of Russian soldiers raping German women there is no doubt that it was inflamed for propaganda purposes during the Cold War.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  re. rapes of German women at the end of WWII

                  In a recent history of the Third Reich (Richard Evans) that I have recently read, the author talks about “cigarette rapes” perpetrated by western allied troops. He quotes a US infantryman who, on seeing a passing German woman in Frankfurt-am-Main, suggested that they have sex. She was making no suggestions that sex would be available, wasn’t hungry, wasn’t desperate. She immediately agreed. Afterwards, although having heard that the going rate for sex was 3 American cigarettes (cigarettes had become the means of exchange amongst Germans), the American decided to give the woman a full pack because he felt sorry for her. But then he changed his mind and gave her three – because she was only a German.

                  Not rape? Well, according to the letter if the law, I suppose not, and even if he had only offered her one drag at a cigarette, it wouldn’t have been rape either, I suppose.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Alexander Mercouris,

                  You wrote above:
                  “…there is no doubt that it was inflamed for propaganda purposes during the Cold War”.

                  One of the most vociferous Red Army propagandists who is often held partly responsible for urging on Soviet soldiers to rape German women was the journalist Ilya Ehrenburg. One pamphlet that he wrote was simply entitled “Kill”. It ends thus:

                  “The Germans are not human beings. From now on the word German means to use the
                  most terrible oath. From now on the word German strikes us to the quick. We shall not speak any more. We shall not get excited. We shall kill. If you have not killed at least one German a day, you have wasted that day … If you cannot kill your German with a bullet, kill him with your bayonet. If there is calm on your part of the front, or if you are waiting for the fighting, kill a German in the meantime. If you leave a German alive, the German will hang a Russian and rape a Russian woman. If you kill one German, kill another — there is nothing more amusing for us than a heap of German corpses. Do not count days, do not count kilometers. Count only the number of Germans killed by you. Kill the German — that is your grandmother’s request. Kill the German — that is your child’s prayer. Kill the German — that is your motherland’s loud request. Do not miss. Do not let through. Kill.”

                  Not that many Soviet troops from the occupied areas of the Ukraine, Belorussia and Russia needed much motivation in order that they wreak their revenge on the Germans.

                  In any case, as the conflict drew to a close, Ehrenburg suddenly had orders from on high to cease his exhortations and at the same time went out of favour.

                • marknesop says:

                  Reminds me of the boards convened to try “war resisters” as described in “The Stars Look Down”, said boards having as their purpose forcing those who were conscientious objectors into uniform. Although it is a work of fiction, it is based on factual behavior. In the examples in the book, a particular member of the board always asks the same question: what would you do if a German attacked your mother? It’s difficult to imagine a wide variety of options there, and if the objecter said he would kill to protect his family, it was met with spread hands and a “there you are, then” look. Why would you kill to protect your mother, but not to protect your country?

                • kirill says:

                  I am sure that rapes did occur. But as a physicist and not hack historian I feel the numbers given should be in the right ballpark and not on Jupiter. Even several hundred thousand rapes is a highly dubious figure. But several million is pure hate fantasy. So I want to see realistic figures and not qualitative information.

                  The other point is reprisal and revenge. If we had several million rapes then where are the several million murders. Why would the Soviet soldiers be restrained enough not to murder for revenge (there was way more than enough cause for that) but somehow unrestrained when it came to rapes. This just highlights the fact that these rape estimates are a pack of lies.

                • Dear Moscow Exile,

                  I am familiar with Ilya Ehrenburg’s piece. He was of course Jewish so he had a particular reason to hate the Germans.

                  Ehrenburg is one of those once famous intellectuals whose once giant reputation seems to have completely evaporated. In the 1930s he was perhaps the best known Soviet intellectual in the west and he seems to have been very highly regarded within the USSR as well. He wrote an interesting book describing Paris under German occupation (this was before Nazi Germany attacked the USSR) which was very obviously anti German and which was widely seen at the time as an indicator that relations between Nazi Germany and the USSR were cooling. However since the 1950s as an intellectual and a literary figure Ehrenburg is all but forgotten. Perhaps deservedly so (I am not familiar with his work). Incidentally though he remained a Soviet citizen until his death and continued to live in the USSR he went from being a fervid Stalinist in the 1930s to being an equally fervid Zionist at the end of his life.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Alexander Mercouris,

                  I often think Ehrenburg was to the literary world as is Pozner to the world of the news media.

                • Dear Kirill,

                  Talk of “millions” of rapes is surely an exaggeration if only because the time span in which they happened was short. Once the Soviet military leadership reimposed discipline the practice largely stopped . As I said there was a great deal of propaganda during the Cold War around this issue and one should be wary of a lot of what is said about it.

                  The important point is that whilst the Russians admit (and have never denied) what happened and as we have seen have even worked with the Germans to make the film Anonyma about it, the western side of the story is scarcely ever talked about.

                  Incidentally Anonyma is based on a memoir supposedly written at the time by a woman journalist who was in Berlin when it fell. Though she wanted her identity kept secret (thus the name “Anonyma”) she has recently been identified as a very well known high profile Nazi journalist. The film makes it clear that she was a Nazi. In the event her memoir was very badly received in Germany when it was first published precisely because it showed the interaction between Soviet soldiers and German civilians in an often positive way and also showed that many German women (including Anonyma herself) developed genuine romantic attachments separate from any question of rape with some of the Soviet military. Conservatiive circles in Germany criticised that as a slur on the honour of German womanhood. I would not be surprised if some of the stories of rape were simply attempts by German women to excuse or explain away to German critics what were actually in many cases consensual relationships with Russian soldiers.

                • hoct says:

                  On the rape issue, I read somewhere that when the allies landed in southern Italy in 1943 there was great scarcity of food there. So much in fact that many local women, who would not have otherwise been prostitutes turned to prostituting themselves to allied soldiers who had food, as a way to provide for themselves or their families. It strikes me that Germany in 1945 was similarly hit by an extreme scarcity of food, and overran with foreign troops with daily food rations so there existed the same conditions for a sort of widespread prostitution. It could be at least some of alleged rapes by Red Army men were attempts by German women to hide the shame of having prostituted themselves.

              • I am afraid I am with Misha on this one.

                First of all it is important to understand that there are two completely different courts, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. Frankly Lamb does not really make this clear. What he is talking about an application to the International Court of Justice (“the World Court”) rather than to the International Criminal Court.

                Such an application is very problematic. It is a virtual certainty that the western powers would deny that the International Court of Justice has any jurisdiction in the case. Getting the International Court of Justice to accept jurisdiction is notoriously difficult and it would be a big blow for Syria if it refused. It would be an even bigger blow for Syria if it accepted jurisdiction and decided the case against Syria. This may sound unlikely but unfortunately the International Court of Justice is not as impartial or exemplary in its judgments as Franklin Lamb says. It delivered a ludicrous judgment on the question of Kosovo’s independence in which in order to avoid saying that Kosovo’s independence is illegal (which on elementary legal principles it is) it said that Kosovo’s declaration of independence is not illegal. That is like saying that if I declare my garden in Britain independent I am not doing anything illegal, which is true but also meaningless. Needless to say the western powers seized on this judgment and misrepresented it (as the court must have known they would) as saying that Kosovo’s independence is legal.

                The other problem is that even if the International Court of Justice accepts jurisdiction and decides in Syria’s favour, proceedings in the International Court of Justice can take years and even decades. It is very likely that the Syrian crisis will be long over before any pronouncement is made. It is practically impossible to get the International Court of Justice to grant the sort of interim relief and to issue the kind of injunction demanding a cessation of action that Franklin Lamb is talking about. When this was tried in 1999 in order to stop the NATO bombing war against Yugoslavia (arguably a much more clear cut case of aggression than the Syrian case) it refused to act.

                There is also the fundamental problem that the International Court of Justice cannot enforce its judgment. When the International Court of Justice decided in Nicaragua’s favour against the US in relation to the US sponsored insurgency against Nicaragua (the so called “Contra war”) the US simply ignored the judgment and pressed on anyway. There is no reason to think anything would be different this time.

                Putting all these questions to one side, there is one fundamental concern anyone should have who wants Syria to take this route. This is that the US and its allies have been pressing for over a year now to get Syria referred to the International Criminal Court and to have Assad and his close associates indicted as war criminals. Unlike the International Court of Justice there is no doubt the US and its allies control the International Criminal Court. Though the two courts are completely different I cannot help but feel that a Syrian application to the one Court is bound to provoke renewed demands for Syria to be referred to the other Court. If Syria’s application to the International Court of Justice fails (as I think likely) then those demands will become even stronger.

  15. Moscow Exile says:

    Oppressed Russian bydlo dancing on Red Square last night.

    Something wrong with sound I think. I noticed on newsreels this morning loads of youngsters singing the national anthem last night and not a white ribbon in sight.

    • Misha says:

      Sanity prevails, while not looking as crammed as Times Square.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I think that most prefer to stay at home or as guests at friends and by the time midnight strikes they’ve already knocked back quite a few and dare not risk staggering outside for any distance.

        Russian cops are extremely strict about drunkenness on the street and if you’ve had a few and haven’t a pal under each armpit guiding you along the way, you’re bound to get nicked. Such is life in this lawless society under this tyrannical regime. That’s why I should think there are quite a few youngsters visible on Red Square in the clip as well as children with their parents.

        Where I live in the central admistrative district of Taganka – and it’s the same everywhere – very many revellers roll out into the street about half an hour after midnight to let off fireworks and to shout out season’s greetings: that’s what my wife and two eldest did last night. It gets quite noisy and the firewoks and cries of “S novym godom!” don’t end until about 5 o’clock in the morning. It’s still dark here until about 9:30 and when I went out this morning at about 8 o’clock, there were still a few late revellers in the small playground behind my house.

        Then there’s a deathly silence all over Moscow as the city sleeps it off.

        And now it’s nighttime again and the fireworks have started off once more as the New Year celebrants kicked off again partying and drinking.

        Next stop – Christmas: and after that – Old New Year!

        I didn’t need to sleep anything off though, because I’m a little goody-two-shoes now and haven’t touched a drop for 5 years.


        • marknesop says:

          I started off the evening well, by splashing wine all over myself trying to open the bottle. Red, of course. We (our whole family; parents and kids included) had a nice dinner with friends, and I didn’t drink much because I knew I would have to drive home. I’ve become quite virtuous about that since my niece’s boyfriend got nicked driving home after a couple of beers – he’s a carpenter, and some grateful clients for whom he had done a farmhouse kitchen makeover wanted to have a little celebration. Anyway, first offense, not long out of high school – time was he would have gotten a 72-hour roadside suspension. Not now. He lost his license for a few weeks (he needs the vehicle for work), had to pay a fine, and had to have an ignition-interrupt device installed where you must provide a breath sample before the vehicle will start (and if the sample doesn’t pass, not only will the car not start, it adds time to your sentence). Needless to say, all on his driving record as well, forever. As I say, that kind of harsh sentence used to be reserved for the old soaks because nothing else would keep them off the roads – not the lack of a license, insurance, or any other limiting factor; if they had a car, they were by-God going to drive it. He reckons all-in it cost him about $5000.00, for the fine, $2000.00 for installation of the machine, maintenance, breath-sample tubes and so on, all without figuring in the lost-revenue cost. Needless to say, it has had a sobering effect on everyone who knows him, which I suppose was the intent.

          We watched the New Year’s special, which was excellent; my wife has a subscription to WebTelek, and can get more or less all the Russian TV channels including access to archives in case she misses anything. They always have great guests and brilliant performances, and the audience always seems to be having such a fabulous time. The highlight for me was three attractive female singers in slinky gowns, supported by about 40 more in swimsuits, pumping their hips and winking over their shoulder while singing that Russians have the most beautiful backsides in Europe (samaya samaya samaya krasivaya popa). I stood up and cheered, and I think I might have had tears in my eyes. Sentimental, yes, I know.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Yeah, I watched that krasivaya popa piece as well. It was naughty but nice!

            • marknesop says:

              Oooo…good thing I didn’t embellish the story by saying they all shouted my name at the end of it, or something. I looked for that particular performance on YouTube, but I couldn’t find it; I did, however, come across this comical take on the same song, and there are many featured in it who do not have much claim to a krasivaya popa. Even a cameo by Batman!

              • Moscow Exile says:

                For your delictatation, sir: Glukoza and Co. performing on Channel 1, New Year’s Eve 2013 “Dance Russia – Cry Europe, because She Has the Most Beautiful Backside”.

                I’ve got to get out of this benighted land!

                I want to be FREE!!!!!!

                Won’t anyone out there adopt me?

                • Moscow Exile says:


                  Damn! Can’t see straight. It’s those devyshka’s fault!


                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Should be “because I have the most beautiful backside”:

                  Танцуй Россия и плачь Европа
                  А у меня самая, самая, самая красивая попа

                  The pulchritude of Russian women was one of the USSR’s best kept secrets, I believe. Those wily commies must have decided to allow those Western propagandists to believe their own bullshit in their portrayal of Russian men as slab faced brutes and their women as plump, vulgar, ruddy-faced peasants whilst those that knew the truth smiled inwardly.

                  I well remember when Western tourists started to tentatively visit Moscow in the early ’90s and were totally gobsmacked with the beauty of the Russian girls.

                  I should add that I use the term “Russian women” above when I really mean “россиянки”, which translates into the clumsy, yet precise, “female citizens of the Russian Federation” but is usually rendered as “Russian women” in English.

                • marknesop says:

                  I assumed much the same, I’m afraid, until my first vist, when my head must have looked like it was on a swivel.

                • Misha says:

                  There were exceptions like the Bond movie from Russia With Love, as well as some other Bond thrillers, which depicted the opposite of the above.

                  The coverage accorded to the 1972 Soviet Olympic women’s gymnastics team is another example.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Here are the full lyrics:

                  Мы девчонки из простых
                  Без сережек золотых
                  Вот таких золотых
                  Но красивые при том
                  Посмотри со всех сторон
                  Посмотри … со всех строн…

                  Танцуй Россия и плачь Европа
                  А у меня самая, самая, самая красивая попа
                  Танцуй Россия и плачь Европа
                  А у меня самая, самая, самая красивая попа

                  Олигархи не вопрос
                  Милионы алых роз
                  К моим ногам
                  Я девчонка из простых
                  Без сережек золотых
                  Вот таких золотых

                  Танцуй Россия и плачь Европа
                  А у меня самая, самая, самая красивая попа
                  Танцуй Россия и плачь Европа
                  А у меня самая, самая, самая красивая попа

                  [We are girls of a simple background,
                  Without gold ear-rings
                  And such things of gold,
                  But just take a look at us from every side,
                  Just look at us all over…

                  Dance Russia and cry Europe
                  Because I have the most, the most beautiful backside.
                  Dance Russia and cry Europe
                  Because I have the most, the most beautiful backside.

                  There’s no question about oligarchs.
                  There are millions of red roses
                  At my feet
                  I am a simple girl
                  Without gold ear-rings
                  And such things of gold.

                  Dance Russia and cry Europe
                  Because I have the most, the most beautiful backside.
                  Dance Russia and cry Europe
                  Because I have the most, the most beautiful backside.]

                  Я согласен!

                  Я СОГЛАСЕН!!!


                • Moscow Exile says:

                  @Misha re. the Wendy ad:

                  That’s the sort of thing I was on about, and clearly this propagandistic image still persists but bears no relationship whatsoever to that parade of lovelies shown in the Glukoza video clip above.

                  I am not saying, of course, that there are no plump girls in Russia, but I should imagine that there are considerably fewer here than there are in the “anglosphere”.

                  Two years ago I together with my family spent the whole day at a UK aquapark and believe me, my children were amongst the slimmest children there. And I should add that amongst the overweight British kids (the vast majority of those present) there were many obese children of African and Indian sub-continet descent as well.

                  As regards Soviet women athletes, I remember the West had a wonderful time mocking the Press sisters, most especially Tamara Press, a shot putter, whose gender was suspect.

                  In fact, I think Tamara, who is Ukrainian, is a “man” now. I think I saw a report a few years back about her/his “coming out” – if that’s the right phraseology to use.

                  Here’s Tamara (centre) in her pomp.

                  ” ‘Er’s a bonny lass!” as they say where I come from.


                • marknesop says:

                  I read something on the “Press Brothers” which suggested the rumors continued to persist because the Press sisters retired abruptly in 1966 immediately before a rule requiring “gender testing” to be able to participate in women’s sports was to go into effect. Even more suspiciously, they never again participated in professional sport. They quit ostensibly to look after their ailing mother in Kharkov. Irina died in 2004, but Tamara is still alive, somewhere.

                  The whole controversy seems stupid to me, because I’ve seen quite a few women who were stronger than the average man; is the implication supposed to be that any guy could go into women’s sport and immediately dominate?

                  That said, none of the three on the podium in the shot you included looks particularly feminine.

                • Misha says:

                  Moscow Exile,

                  Russian women have had the rep of being well figured up to a certain age, before filling out. The overweight situation you mention in the UK is also quite noticeable in the US.

                  Some years back, I gave a Jewish anti-Russian leaning neocon (the kind that thinks highly of Julia Ioffe and Shoshana Bryen like commentary) an intellectual drubbing, after he made a series of crude remarks, inclusive of categoring Tamara Press as a Russian.

                  Among other things, I pointed out Press’ Jewish background and Ukrainian SSR origin:


                  Vis-à-vis the former Russian Empire/former Soviet Union, the surname Press seems to often be Jewish (at least based on my own experience) in relation to any other ethnic group.

                • Misha says:

                  That’s: categorizing.

                  Pardon any other snafus.

                • I can certainly confirm all that’s been said here about the western image of Russian women. Throughout the Cold War the media image of Russian women was simply awful. I can remember for example reading a guide book from the 1970s that jeered at the “ample figures” of Aeroflot airline stewardnesses. The strange thing is this went hand in hand with an image of Russian women as dangerous femmes fatales, witness their occasional appearances in James Bond books and films eg. From Russia with Love and The Spy Who Loved Me. Nobody ever seemed to notice the contradiction. Remember though that in From Russia With Love the beautiful Russian girl is balanced by the monstrous Rosa Klebb, who approximates far more closely to the typical western image of Russian women during this period.

                  The strange thing is that there were plenty of examples of beautiful Russian women if anyone cared to look. The ballerinas of the Bolshoi and Maryinsky (or Kirov as it then was) already in the 1950s had a reputation for great beauty. There were beautiful actresses in the occasional Soviet film that got shown in the west. There was apparently a brief craze in the west around Tatiana Samoilova after she appeared in The Cranes Are Flying (I was too young to be aware of it). As Misha also correctly says, there were a great many beautiful Russian women athletes in the Soviet Olympic teams and not just in the gymnastics team. However this somehow never seemed to shake the dumpy image of Russian women with athletes like Tamara Press getting immeasurably more comments for their appearance than any number of other really beautiful track and field athletes.
                  I don’t think in anything has Russia’s image transformed so completely and so suddenly and so much for the better as it has in the image of its women. The reason for that is surely because Russians are now able to travel and (more importantly) many more westerners now travel to Russia than was the case during the Cold War.

                • marknesop says:

                  I thank you very much for this sociological material. I saw upon first review that I had recalled it incorrectly, and that rather than 3 singers, there were at first 2, then 4. I could not account for the discrepancy, and had to watch it several more times. Sadly, I an still no further ahead in my research, although perseverance is key to understanding.

        • Misha says:

          Times Square aside, the idea of travelling and getting stoned on new year’s eve has (by unscientific appearances) declined in the NY metro area.

          The strict enforcement of the DWI law undoubtedly plays a role. An older average population might be a factor as well. The Times Square gathering consists of many under 30.

          Was informed that there were plenty of early risers at my local gym – the overwheliming majoriy being over 30.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Here’s why the Red Square New Year celebrations look considerably civilized – there was a ban on alcohol sales in the city centre on new Year’s Eve.

          Yet again another Putin crackdown on human rights!

          There was criminality though, as reported here, associated with alcohol.

          Also, and gone barely reported in the West, although the new legislation was reported here as long go as last July in the Moscow Times, on January 1st began the ban on the sale of alcohol from kiosks and the sale of alcohol from shops between 11pm and 8am. So gone are the days when you could get any number of bottles of beer anywhere, anytime throughout Moscow. (The beer in the hands of the men pictured in the MT article is the favourite beer tipple of Russian boozers, the strong beer “Okhota”; at 11.5% alc. by content, It is treatedd as an apperitif by serious drinkers, a mere wet to put oneself in the mood for a real gargle. It tastes bloody awful!)

          Another infringement on the basic freedoms of Russians!

          I really do hope that Alekseeva writes to the US Congress about this.

    • yalensis says:

      Cool fireworks. Not as great as the Aussie ones, but still not too shabby. I like the ones that start in a point and flower outward – for a moment they look like skeletal bony fingers grasping out – ha ha!

      • Moscow Exile says:

        The Moscow “salutes” (firework displays) take place all over the city and also in all major towns and cities in Russia, e.g. in Voronezh, where I once lived. If you go to Sparrow Hills, you can see the displays bursting out all over Moscow.

        On Victory Day is the biggest salute of all, which is also accompanied by a 30-gun salute fired by a ceremonial artillery battery.

        The salute over the Kremlin is the nearest tro where I live. On New Year’s Eve my children were invited to a neighbour’s flat that is situated on the top floor (15th, I think) of a block in the next street so that they could look right across the rooftops towards the Kremlin, stuated about a mile away. Our flat is on the 2nd floor and the house is surrounded by trees.

  16. Moscow Exile says:

    Here’s a better video of last night:

  17. Moscow Exile says:

    I was wondering the other day whether this would happen but thought: “Nah, too bloody daft! Not on New Year’s Eve.”

    But it did!

    Strategy-31 protesters assembled on Triumfalnaya Square on New Year’s Eve, all 50 of them, and got arrested in yet another Putin crackdown on freedom here.

    How vile this regime is in its vindictive spoiling of those New Year revellers’ party in such a brutal and repressive manner!

    The arrested freedom lovers were released today, according to this RIANOVOSTI report.

    I think that most here would consider these demonstrations more of a public nuisance now rather than a public protest.

    • Dear Moscow Exile,

      These are three excellent videos you have shown us. Of the two of the firework display despite the defective sound I actually liked the first more. It is always pleasing to see young people having fun. Incidentally despite Russia’s well known alcohol problems I have always found such gatherings at least in Moscow a lot less riotous and far less violent than comparable ones in London. Some of the scenes in Britain have to be seen to be believed and for my part I get embarrassed by them. I would far rather find myself with Russian revellers on New Year’s Night than British. As you so correctly say, at least Russians know how to hold their drink and how to behave in public.

      As for the cheeky video of the young women, it is every bit as delectable as Mark says. It shows by the way that Russians themselves have come to realise how beautiful their girls are as compared with those elsewhere in Europe. Obviously I cannot follow the song but does it perhaps also contain some humorous self criticism? I thought I caught a reference to oligarchs in it.

      • Actually I see you’ve already translated the song, for which thanks!

        As for Limonov, his Strategy 31 protests have now gone beyond the point of total irrelevance given that the point they were originally intended to make, that protest is being suppressed in Moscow, has been disproved by the authorities’ handling of the protest movement. Do I nonetheless get the feeling that there is an upswell of grudging respect for him (not of support, of which as the derisory attendance at this latest protest shows there is practically none)? At least Limonov has stuck to his principles however misguided those may be and he comes across as being someone of altogether greater moral integrity than the likes of Navalny, Udalstov, Nemtsov etc. There’s been no suggestion so far as I know of his owning foreign companies or doing shady deals with timber merchants or taking money under the table from Georgian oligarchs. I gather he also said after the Pussy Riot “performance” that though he knows more about illegal protest than practically anyone else that he would never dream of holding a protest in a church.

      • marknesop says:

        Actually, much of the strain-of-beautiful-women thing seems to be as much Slavic as it is Russian – there are great beauties to be found also among the Ukrainians, Poles and Czechs as well as others. But in Russia I could see more of a concentration of fabulous-looking women in a city block than anywhere else I have ever been, and I have never even seen major city centres like St Petersburg and Moscow.

  18. R.C. says:

    Professor Stephen Cohen interviewed on RT on the threat of a new cold war:

    • R.C. says:

      The link above didn’t post for some reason. See here:

    • Misha says:

      In the post-Soviet era, he has been periodically pushing the new Cold War threat view for quite some time.

      Offsetting that threat are the socioeconomic realities in the US and overall geopolitical situation. In the psot WW Ii era, I understand that it took a good number of years before many in America began looking at Japan and Germany with less apprehension.

      Perhaps I’ll check that link in a bit. SC gets a good deal of attention as is.

      • kirill says:

        But there was no anti-Japan and anti-German propaganda after WWII in the USA and the rest of the west. Russia is not in this category, I have been watching anti-Russian propaganda on TV and reading it in the papers since 1991.

        • Misha says:


          At the same time, there’s a degree of periodic reasoning to be found among some of tne leading Western decision makers, plus the previously mentioned geopolitical and socioeconomic realities.

          In addition, there’s a good degree of direct people to people contact, which serves as an offset to the negatively inaccurate imagery.

          Of course, there’re the know it all imbeciles who’ve spend a good time in Russia while learning little.

          • I understand where Stephen Cohen and Kirill are coming from on this. There’s been so many attempts since the Second World War to achieve a rapprochement between Russia and the west. More often than not the initiative comes from the Russian side and it is invariably the Russian side that is asked to make the initial concessions. I still bridle at the memory of how western politicians and publicists in the 1970s and 1980s used to constantly call on the USSR “to take risks for peace”, something which of course which they were never demanded of themselves. However when the Russians do make concessions they are always treated as a sign of weaknesses and they simply get asked to make more. There is never any western reciprocity. It bewilders me that there are still people in Moscow who seem unable to understand this. Fortunately Putin, Lavrov and Rogozin are not among them and most people in Russian agree with them.

            • R.C. says:

              Yes, even Medvedev had to learn this lesson the hard way via Libya. Putin was particularly livid at the whole situation and made it very public at the time. The west has a hard time acknowleding/accepting that another leader can reject something solely out of principle – something western leaders seem to have cast off. When Putin was angered over the fact that NATO intentionally bombed the presidential palace in Tripoli and several of Ghadafi’s homes in an attempt to kill him, pundits spun this as Putin being “chummy” with Ghadafi, which of course, was nonsense. If Putin didn’t agree with this blatant/illegal assassination attempt on another leader, it couldn’t possibly be out of a respect for law, but because they’re “pals” or because Putin is “just like him” as Fox News loved to remind their clueless American audience. John McCain would later claim that Putin was “next,” which prompted Putin to call McCain “nuts.” (classic!)

            • Misha says:

              “There’s been so many attempts since the Second World War to achieve a rapprochement between Russia and the west.”


              An uphill battle that’s by no means a lost cause.

              The Cold War is in fact over. The Cold War mindset hasn’t completely ended. John McCain’s pointedly stated views on Russia aren’t enthusiastically shared by many in the West.

              There’s no ideological Communism versus Capitalism Cold War era baggage. Post-Soviet Russia has more of a stay at home defense structure. At the same time, the increase in business and people to people ties has dramatically changed. The actual present day geopolitical conditions and America’s current socioeconomic situation, serves as a basis to believe that a more pragmatic view of Russia will eventually prevail.


              For now, Russian-American commercial ties remain limited, unlike Russia’s business relations with some other Western countries.

              I recall Michael McFaul saying that in the long run, he sees Russia and the West on better terms. He added a concern on what can happen until then, suggesting that the ball is in Russia’s court on that score. If anything, I believe the reverse to be true.

              • kirill says:

                I am afraid your are too optimistic. The role of media hate propaganda cannot be understated. It is one of the key factors throughout the history of war and genocide. Be it Nazi Germany in the 1930s or Rwanda in the run up to the genocide. The media instigates hate and shapes perceptions and opinions.

                You can try to fob this off as over the top since the western media isn’t calling for Russians to be exterminated. But it is preparing all the stages up until this point. Given that the west claims to be the beacon of humanity the war propaganda can hardly be Rwanda style. It has to be more sophisticated. In the case of Russia it is the demonization of the duly elected, democratic center-left leader into some sort of Hitler-Stalin monster. Polonium, dead journalists, support for butcher Assad, ad nauseam. It also the systematic discounting and disregard for the opinion of Russian citizens, unless it is some sycophant fringe singing to the right tune. This pure hate propaganda where the victims are disenfranchised and dehumanized for alleged failure to live up to the “democratic” standards the west does not adhere to itself. Of course these alleged infractions against “human rights” and “democracy” are pure 1984 style lies.

                Right now there is only lip service being paid to the idea of normal relations. But the reality evident in the western mass media is something altogether different. Maybe you can see through the propaganda and give it low weight, but to the average bydlo it is God’s given truth and they do not form their opinions on their own initiative. That’s what makes the west so dangerous.

                • Misha says:

                  I’m for a measured overview that includes noting instances like Obama going after Romney’s view of Russia being a great geopolitical threat and MSNBC/NBC Democratic Party TV news host Chris Matthews supporting Obama on that particular, while referring to a new Russia.

                  Moreover, it’s not reasonably in America’s best interests to be so confrontational with Russia.

                  I’m of course aware of the ongoing biases, which I’ve frequently noted and followed up on.

                • Misha says:

                  A follow-up:


                  One can be understandably apprehensive about Albright. The flip side is that she’s part of the American foreign policy establishment and not one who should be confused with being soft on Russia.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Yeah, like Killary Clinton’s comment that the building of closer Russian and Chinese ties is a barely disguised programme for the resurrection of the Soviet Union.

                  I don’t know whether she’s noticed it or not, but there exists something in “Putin’s Russia”, aka nascent USSSR, that was anaethema to to the Soviet Union: it’s called capitalism, which, like socialism, is another Western import to Russia.

                • marknesop says:

                  It’s easy not to notice or recognize things that do not support your narrative. It’s called Select-O-Vision.

                • Misha says:

                  Moscow Exile,

                  I gather you’re referrng to H. Clinton’s recent comment about closer Russian ties with some of the former Soviet republics.

                  As for China, Brzezinski was keen on monopolizing Sino-Soviet Cold War differences with a slant towards China.

                  Nowadays, Zbig sees Russia eventually moving West out of a fear of China. I’m of the impression that the greater reality is that some like Brzezinski seek for Russia to act in that way – a mistaken view in how it assumes Russia will be in a begging position.

                • marknesop says:

                  I’ll take that bet, Zbig. I say Russia will move closer to China, not further. However, if America eventually comes to broadly adopt the view that Russia will trend more westward, they have one hell of a funny way of trying to achieve that reality.

                • There’s a long tradition of western policy of trying to isolate Russia and China from each other by playing on their respective fears and suspicions of each other. During the Cold War that policy was completely successful. I don’t think it has any chance now because the Russian and Chinese leadership are (1) wise to it and (2) so completely disillusioned with the west.

                  For the rest I am afraid I agree with Hoct. During the Cold War I assumed like most people that it was Communism the west objected to. I am afraid I have gradually come round to the view that what they object to is simply Russian power. The stronger Russia becomes the more hostile they’ll become to it The one thing I would say is that as Russia grows stronger the point will eventually come when they have to accept it whether they like it or not.

                • Misha says:

                  During the Cold War, two different views were evident in the West. One being anti-Russian/anti-Communist, with the other of a pro-Russian/anti-Communist perspective.

                  These differences also existed in Nazi Germany.

                  Like I said, there’s an uphill battle which is by no means a definite loss. The situation isn’t helped with a wonky tonk, phony crony kind of a stifling presence at venues purportedly designed to give a different and more accurate accounting.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Yes, it wasn’t the Russian friendly relationship with China that raised Clinton’s ire but the proposed customs union with CIS countries. The US Secretary of State stated that greater integration in the CIS was “a move to re-Sovietize the region.”

                  “It’s going to be called a customs union”, she said; “it will be called the Eurasian Union and all of that. But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow it down or prevent it”.

                  What right does she believe the USA has to hinder or prevent taking place such a proposed customs union mutually and cordially agreed upon by sovereign states?

                  The right of imperial might, I presume.

              • hoct says:

                I don’t think Western-Russian relations will improve. On the contrary if Russia continues to grow and strengthen they will deteriorate further — limited bilateral cooperation on issues where both can make major apparent gains by working together (like Nordstream, and Afghanistan) notwithstanding. But I don’t think that’s something to lament either. If western states were children they’d be spoiled punks and bullies. It’s better Russia does not keep that kind of company.

                • Misha says:

                  The West isn’t monolithic.

                  Some punks and bullies have the capability of eventually seeing the wisdom behind a changed attitude.

                • marknesop says:

                  I’m afraid I agree. Western states – with pragmatic exceptions who mostly stick to their guns, like Germany – generally view Russian progress as something that can be stopped or tumbled over and redirected, rather than something that might form part of a cooperative relationship, something for which they might be able to take part credit if they helped. Consequently, although western states will continue to invest in Russia and expect a good return on their investment, they will counterintuitively continue to lavish funding and positive coverage on the political opposition, whom they hope will by some miracle come to power, and repay their benefactors by causing the country to lose direction and purpose or by seeking western help to build their model.

                  There is something, however, to the cult of personality which surrounds Putin – a little like arch-foe of Russia, Napoleon. When Putin is gone, as inevitably he must be one day, who is going to keep Russia trending toward national success? It clearly will not be Medvedev. Contrary to the view of the doomsayers, I fully expect Putin not only to finish this term successfully, but to win another , always providing of course there is not some disaster such as a collapse of his health or something like that. But that’s it. Of course he’s not going to rule until he dies, or anything so ridiculous as that, although some have suggested it as a possibility.

                  To me, what makes Putin different from the rest of the crowd of prospective leaders, besides his hardheadedness and practicality, is that he is mostly without vanity. He will not be cajoled or flattered into supporting western pet projects on the illusion that he will be best friends with them afterward, like a Kudrin or Kasparov or Nemtsov would. Those are the kind of leaders I believe the west would leave in power if it could ever get them there, and anyone who thinks that couldn’t be done in the face of outrage from the people should look at how long they kept Mubarak in power through 5 assassination attempts. Not Navalny, though. Navalny is just an angry destroyer, and once he had wrecked things to their satisfaction, I think the west would arrange to have him overthrown.

                • Misha says:

                  Among Western nations, consider the countries which have had some bitter historical moments and how they now get along relatively well.

                  There’s hope.

  19. Moscow Exile says:

    re. “Rosa Kleb” (above) in the film “From Russia With Love” (1963), she was played by an elderly Austrian, Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer, aka Lotte Lenya no less, wife of Kurt Weill, who wrote for her the song “Mackie Messer” (Mac the Knife) sung by “Jenny”, the role she played in “Die Dreigroschenoper”, (The Threepenny Opera) that Weill wrote in collaboration with Bertold Brecht.

    Lenya, Weill and Brecht, of course, had to get out of Germany quickly when Hitler came to power.

    Here’s Lotte’s original 1928 recording of Mackie Messer. I love it! One of my prize possessions is a vinyl Deutsche Grammophon remastering of Die Dreigroschenoper that I bought when resident in Germany.

    Lotte was 30 when she played the role of Jenny and I think she was quite pretty then as well – much prettier than “Russian” Rosa!

    Much better than Bobby Darrin’s version.


    (I have put the comment here because it was getting too narrow for the video above.)

    • Moscow Exile says:


      WTF is SME?

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        That is indeed an excellent version of Mack the Knife. Immeasurably better than the Darrin or Sinatra versions.

        Incidentally if you want to see Lotte Lenya as she was at the start of her career, there is a fascinating film version of Die Dreigroschenoper made by Pabst at the UFA studio in Berlin in 1930 with much of the original cast and with the music conducted by Theo Mackeben, who was the conductor at the first performance in 1928. Lotte Lenya plays Jenny, which was her breakthrough role and the one that made her famous. She does not sing Mack the Knife, which is sung (brilliantly) by a male singer who plays the part of a ballad singer with a barrel organ setting the scene for what follows at the very start of the play as Brecht intended. The film does make some fairly radical departures from the play so though Brecht and Weill helped to produce the film they later repudiated it, which is why it is not as well known as it deserves to be. However the film does convey brilliantly the mood and atmosphere of what a performance of a Brecht play must have been like in Weimar Berlin and is an immeasurably more authentic document of the world of Weimar theatre and cabaret than say the Liza Minelli film version of Cabaret. My father saw a comparably outstanding performance by the Berliner Ensemble in East Berlin in the late 1950s but it is simply impossible to recreate such a performance now if only because as I understand it the distinctive rather grainy Berlin accent (used by Lotte Lenya in the song though she was in fact Austrian) required for these songs has now all but disappeared.

        • yalensis says:

          In the Pabst film, Ernst Busch (he of the gravelly voice and rolling R’s) reprised his stage role as the organ-grinder singer. He sings “Mack the Knife” while Mackie himself is lurking in the crowd:

      • marknesop says:

        Customarily, it stands for “Subject Matter Expert”; usually a government term rather than a press term, as the press typically just calls them “experts” or “analysts”.

  20. On a more negative (actuallly much more negative) note I gather Ivanishvili has said in his New Year address that “the time has come” to give a blanket amnesty to all Saakashvili’s henchmen. It looks as if the western pressure on him has had the desired effect.

    • marknesop says:

      Strikingly similar to the blanket amnesty granted the Republicans when Obama took the reins, accompanied by much talk about healing and what was best for the country. Ivanishvili does not really seem to have very well-developed political instincts, but I could be wrong and they could be instead razor-sharp – perhaps he has had it explained to him that the enemy is prepared to run a scorched-earth campaign, whereas if he cooperates he might salvage something. At any rate, the west seems to have given up on running him out of Tbilisi on a rail, because he’s hardly ever mentioned now.

  21. Evgeny says:

    Just happened to come across that cute link: “Col. Chris Hadfield’s photos of Canada from the Space Station”.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Zhenya, and Happy New Year!! Too bad he did not include a photo of the west coast, but if he had done it would have been all black but for the mountains, because we have no snow. We had a little bit for one day, back around mid-December, but it didn’t last past noon the next day. Otherwise, that’s it so far for this year.

  22. I have only just caught up with the thread at the top and at the revelation that Vasilyeva may be the first cousin of Medvedev’s wife.

    If this is true then I am afraid it explains a great deal: about how Vasilyeva was appointed to her post, about why Medvedev continues to speak up for Serdyukov and possibly even about why Serdyukov was appointed Defence Minister in the first place. It is strange that Medvedev, who once posed as the “anti corruption” President, is involved in all this.

    • marknesop says:

      It might also explain why Serdyukov is so cocky – I speculated earlier that he was basically a nobody who had pissed off a very powerful man in his Father-In-Law, but it transpires he might have krysha after all, from an even higher level (also, coincidentally, a former GAZPROM executive). Then again, it might turn out that Medvedev himself is not involved, and that it was only aggressive orchestration by his wife.

    • yalensis says:

      But wait, there’s more! Please bear with me, this story may start off as a sordid pedophile/incest scandal, but it too has a Medvedev connection:

      This big scandal has all the Russian bloggers abuzz, especially the anti-Oppositionist ones, who are really sharpening their knives, the story is about a prominent Opp (member of Navalny’s Coordinating Committee) named Rustem Adagamov, whose ex-wife, Tatiana, has accused him of having sex with an underage girl (starting at age 12) for many years.
      Politrash himself did a blog entry on this scandal:

      Tatiana writes about the young victim (their daughter???), who allegedly endured many years of abuse from Adagamov. Tatiana rages against Adagamov; he replies to her in an email: “Are you trying to put me in prison?” To which she replies: “In Norway you would get 10 years…. You are a criminal and a pedophile.” Adagamov replies: “Tania, isn’t there some way we can settle this issue? This will be a scandal to high heaven…” Later in the correspondence he seems to admit the rape charge: “I despise myself, and I am guilty. I only ask one thing: let this whole (matter) remain within our former family. I beg you, I beg you…”
      Putting aside the incest angle and the horrible family scandal, skip down to the last paragraph of the RU piece which reads:
      “Rustem Adagamov became popular due to an illustrated blog where he writes about the latest news, posting pictures from international news agencies as well as his own pictures. In 2009, Adagamov was invited to the Kremlin, where he photographed then-President Dmitry Medvedev, the blogger later accompanied Medvedev on several official trips.”
      So… in other words. Without meaning to bury the lead…. Still another white-ribbonist with a connection to Medvedev! Aha!

      • yalensis says:

        P.S. Once again I buried the lead. I wanted to provide some contextual background, but the main point I was trying to make in my comment was a Kremlinological meta-point about the fact that RT.COM (not RU, that was a typo) found fit to slip a sly reference about DMITRY MEDVEDEV into a sordid story about incest and pedophilia. From this (since RT is a government media) I am drawing the conclusion that certain elements within the Russian government are trying to discredit Medvedev by hinting at his unsavory connections with Oppositionists and Pedophiles!

        • I think Medvedev’s problem is that unlike Putin he is not really a politician. Basically he is a lawyer academic who had the good fortune to become acquainted with Putin and who rose in Putin’s shadow. Medvedev is definitely a good lawyer and he has been very loyal to Putin but many of his choices both of people and policies have been badly judged. Like many people he tends to be easily influenced by those he finds most personable and articulate and he suffers from an unhealthy desire to be liked. The converse is that he is petulant when he is criticised. A good example of this was the way he sacked Kudrin over the course of a televised meeting. Kudrin’s conduct was outrageous and his dismissal unavoidable but it should not have been done in such a public and humiliating way, which was bound to make Kudrin into a personal enemy. When Putin sacked Serdyukov he did not make that mistake but sacked Serdyukov in private. Sacking people in public not only humiliates the person sacked but looks weak as if the person making the sacking somehow feels he needs to justify it. Gorbachev made exactly the same mistake in the way he mishandled Yeltsin’s resignation as First Secretary of the Moscow Party Organisation. I gather that like Gorbachev, whom Medvedev eerily resembles right down to being a lawyer and to having an arrogant and expensive wife, Medvedev has a reputation for being a bad manager and a poor administrator.

        • marknesop says:

          For some reason, that phrase is “to bury the lede”, not the “lead”. I say “for some reason” because it’s not clear why they use that alternate spelling; they mean essentially the same thing.

          • yalensis says:

            I never knew about that ALT-spelling. I learn something new every day!
            I guess they use it so people don’t think they are referring to the metal “lead”.

      • AK says:

        The only problem with all this is that the emails appear to be clumsy forgeries as the writers apparently messed up the time stamps.

  23. I see that Navi Pillay and the UN have now upped their estimate of the death toll in Syria to 60,000.

    This is impossibly high and makes no sense in the light of what Patrick Cockburn says about the real state of the conflict there, It is strange that the UN continues to be given any credence on these questions. The UN also published absurdly inflated casualty figures for the number of people supposedly killed by Gaddafi’s troops at the outset of the Libyan uprising, which are now known to have multiplied the true figure several times. Going back further there were similarly preposterous claims made about the numbers who had supposedly been killed in Kosovo and Bosnia during the conflicts there. Yet as RC said above there doesn’t seem to be any limit to people’s credulity on these questions.

    • R.C. says:

      You’ve beat me to it Alexander.

      One has to wonder where the UN is getting their information since they have virtually no presence in the country. This report is now being cynically used by the US press to vindicate the claims of “activists” and “rebel opposition groups” who they now tell us, have actually understated the number of deaths, which now vindicates the US media’s endless trumpting of rebel propaganda because, you see “it’s true!” – the UN even says so!


      So I guess the gist is whenever the rebels start issuing phony youtube videos and stories of fallen military bases and massacres, the US press can rest easy with uncritically reporting their garbage because the UN has given it the rubber-stamp. Who needs journalists like Patrick Cockburn in the country when the rebels, according to the UN, seem to be providing a restrained picture of what’s really happening!?

      The “Moon of Alabama” blog is all over this and has already done some research into the “reports” findings. Well, it turns out that the company (Benetech) contracted to carry out the survey is, not surprisingly, bankrolled by the parties backing the rebels:

      There’s some interesting info in the comments section as well……….

    • Misha says:

      Recall the trumped up Bosnian Civil War fatalities, which were later acknowledged as false.

      There was a good basis to dismiss those faulty numbers when they were originally stated. Those who got it right from the get go (ahem) tend to not get rewarded by the English language mass media establishment, unlike those who uncritically re-stated what nationalist anti-Serb propgandists were drum beating as “truth”.

      • Dear RC,

        Thanks hugely for this link, which also provides a link to the report itself.

        It turns out that the report has been prepared by a US analytical company that is funded by our old friends the Soros Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy and the US State Department. In other words a US government funded study is being passed off by the UN Human High Rights Commissioner as an impartial study. It is wretched that under Ban Kyi Moon the UN agencies have been packed by US partisans so that the UN Secretariat has become in effect a district office of the State Department.

        Three things stand out in the study:

        1. The sources for this figure are revealed to be overwhelmingly the Syrian opposition including our old friend the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A whole group of rebel agencies are cited and put on the same level as the Syrian government. Since there are many more rebel sources than the source which is the Syrian government the cumulative rebel reports massively outnumber and predictably overwhelm the Syrian government’s reports even though it has long been obvious to any detached observer that the various rebel agencies are simply copying each other’s claims.

        2. The report concedes that there is no overlap between rebel casualty claims and those of the Syrian government’s reports, which are much lower. Incredibly rather than see this as evidence that someone is lying the report explains this away by saying that the Syrian government is reporting “a different universe of violence” (?!) to the rebel reports. Please someone tell me what that means because I don’t understand it.

        3. The “corroboration” for the report is provided by the allegation that every casualty has been identified. This is exactly the sort of false corroboration that unfortunately can be relied upon to mislead many people. In reality it is no sort of corroboration at all. If people are prepared to invent casualties then there is no reason to think they cannot invent names to attach to the casualties they have invented. As the events in Bosnia and Kosovo show the only reliable way to verify casualties is to count bodies.

        • Dear Misha,

          Your point about the people who got the reporting of casualties in Bosnia and Kosovo right not being rewarded could not be more true. In fact as we both know that those who did report the truth correctly (or who expressed skepticism about the numbers being reported) got a bucket of vitriol poured over them and have to this day never been forgiven. In Britain if you really want to provoke trouble just try to publish an article casting doubt on the number of casualties that followed the fall of Srebrenica. I absolutely guarantee you that you will be permanently banished from the mainstream of reporting if you do.

          • R.C. says:

            The Moon of Alabama blog states:

            For some reason I can’t find any Benetech reports calculating the death toll in Iraq or Afghanistan. I guess the decade long wars must have gone unnoticed at the State Department linked NGO. But fear not, they are on the case in Kosovo and Syria and Guatamala and even rolling out a software program called MARTUS in Russia to document human right abuses there.

            Is it a bit fishy that they seem to go investigate human rights abuses only in countries that are against the US? Tried looking for any Benetech report on Israel and sadly looks like they have no human rights violations to report. Saudi Arabia also must be like Sweden or something because not a word from Benetech.

            On Syria the method of taking activist claims and they tabulating an estimated death toll from that data seems like a classic case of “Selection Bias” much like when Dick Morris predicted a Romney landslide 24 hours before Obama’s win. If you over-sample one side you get a skewed result.

          • Robert says:

            Vineyard of the Saker casts doubt on the official story of Srebrenica

        • Misha says:

          Alexander, RC & Co.,


          “I am not a genocide ‘denier’ because it is impossible to deny something that doesn’t exist. I am a Srebrenica ‘truther’ and the truth about Srebrenica encapsulates historical developments stretching from 1992 to 1995 that can in no way be limited to July of 1995. On the other side of the spectrum, we have the Srebrenica ‘mythers,’ whose version of events currently ‘prevails’ with the North Atlantic community’s interested public. The difference between the ‘truthers’ and the ‘mythers’ is in the fact the ‘truthers’ are willing to seek the truth, while the ‘mythers’ are only obstinate in defending the myth they have fabricated to favor their political agenda.”


          Another post from the above blog concerns the differences between some of the Yugoslav WW II era leaders/groups:

          Another site offering a muted perspective:

          Plenty of good reason to doubt a figure of a close to or greater figure of 7,00 Muslim males rounded up and summarily executed in and around Srebrenica. Pro-Bosnian Muslim nationalist propagandists have run a sleazy campaign in misinforming on those who’ve taken issue with their dubious and at times flat out false claims.

          Their activity has included heavy handed attempts to block Srdja Trifkovic to speak at the University of British Columbia (a successful act) and Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik from speaking at Columbia University (a failure, which IMO speaks more positively of the freedom of speech situation in the US versus Canada)

          Summary executions surely took place in 1990s era Bosnia and from an ethical standpoint should be prosecuted in as objective a manner as possible. From what’s known and can be reasonably surmised, the summarily executed during that period in Srebrenica is at least in the hundreds and perhaps greater – but (put mildly) quite questionable in the area of close to or greater than 7,000 Muslim males. Besides the actual number killed are the ways people died (summary execution, collateral damage and as armed combatants), and their ethnicity (Muslims weren’t the only victims in Srebrenica and elsewhere in Bosnia).

          From awhile back:

          • Jen says:

            Dear Misha: A Serbian friend of mine who still has family in Belgrade tells me that the number of Bosnian Muslim dead kept on rising from 800 to 8,000 because for some time there were various delegations that came to Srebrenica and wanted to see the remains so they were brought out (I’m not sure whether they were being exhumed repeatedly or brought out from storage) and counted, and it seems that every time the bodies were counted, the number of dead went up by 800. So that means there must have been nine visits of delegates to see the bodies and nine exhumations / disinterments of them!

            Besides which, I understand that only men of an age when they could be called up for military duty were killed and furthermore they did not all die in the same way within a very short period of time which would be consistent with a deliberate massacre.

            • Misha says:

              Hi Jen,

              Some reports make mention of stated fatalties found to be alive.

              The official age for soldiers in Izetbegovic’s army was 16-64.

              • I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject of Srebrenica. What I would say is that every other supposed atrocity during the Bosnia and Kosovo wars turned out to be grossly misrepresented and exaggerated. I find it very difficult to believe that the same was not true of Srebrenica.

                However what I take very strong exception to are the vicious attacks on those who question the official narrative and the disgraceful practice of labelling them genocide deniers. Reinvestigation of the facts of what actually happened at Srebrenica and the asking of searching questions that might call into question the official narrative are totally legitimate fields of scholarly activity. The fact that continuous attempts are made to close down discussion of this subject without addressing many of the questions that are raised about it is the strongest possible indicator that the official narrative is untrue.

                • Misha says:

                  Count me as one of the defamed who didn’t change course like a former NYT journo by the name of Simpson who RT has promoted.

                  There’s a relatively long time MT staffer, who (in an informal chat) had arrogantly and ignorantly ridiculed Russian mass media, for not following the typical Western mass media slant on Srebrenica.

                  That individual totally ducked the reasoned challenge to her position. A “legendary” (not CF Mark) blogger came to that MT individual’s defense in what seemed like an ass kissing for the establishment move.

                • Dear Misha,

                  All credit to you if you are prepared to stand up to abuse and argue your corner on Srebrenica and on the Yugoslav conflict generally This is one area where brave men fear to tread. The Israel/Palestine conflict is another.

                • Misha says:

                  Hi Alexander,

                  I’m by no means alone as there’re some competent sources out there on that and related matters

                  Over the years, Israeli-Arab issues have become easier to openly discuss and IMO are easier to openly discuss than giving credence to the mainstream Serb position on the wars of the 1990s.

  24. Moscow Exile says:

    They’re all from St. Pete. So is Putin. And Sobchak. And her dad.

  25. kirill says:

    Thick and rich. But the US is playing up its “humanitarian credentials” with yet another “think of the children” ploy. Russia needs to pass some more laws like this. Dirty tricks such as the nebulous Magnitsky List (since when did the US legislature start solving Russian crimes?) need to have consequences.

    Something very obvious about the Magnitsky List is that during the 1930s the US could have been subjected to the same sort of laws. After all, in Chicago and elsewhere the cops and judiciary were rotten thanks to organized crime. Hence the premise of the film “The Untouchables”. But there was no country in the world using the internal problems in the USA to enact laws to coerce its leadership even under unrelated circumstances.

    The Magnitsky Law is a vicious violation of human rights itself. It actually does not distinguish between guilty and innocent since it already has placed dozens of officials on the list even though at most a few of them were related to the Magnitsky case. This is on top of the fact that there is no proof that Magnitsky was murdered and that he was some innocent victim and not a crook in Browder’s criminal enterprise. Al Capone and the cosa nostra had their “family” lawyers too.

    • marknesop says:

      Well, it’s certainly thick. But despite the title, U.S. Senate Appeals to Russia to Reconsider Adoption Ban, I didn’t see a lot of appealing going on there. Appealing is when you say “Please please don’t do this”. Passing a resolution condemning it is not appealing against it. This is just our old friends trying to have it both ways, as usual. If Russia holds its ground – and it will – they’ll say, “blub, blub …but we asked nice!!!” If for some reason Russia were to weaken, they’d say, “See there?? Force is all those Russkies understand. Show ’em the big stick, and they back down, every time”.

      What’s kind of sad is the way, once a number is introduced to the public consciousness, it becomes self-fulfilling prophesy and everyone just runs with it. There are nothing like 740,000 children in Russia living without parental care, and UNICEF figures are unreliable in the context they are being used because UNICEF considers an orphan to be a child who has lost one or both parents. By that definition, all children of single mothers – I wouldn’t care to hazard a guess as to how many of those there are in Russia, but it must be hundreds of thousands – are orphans. If you break it down to just those who are living in a state institution and awaiting adoption, it is – according to the article we’re discussing – 110,000, attributed to the Russian Ministry of Science and Education. Curious that they would be able to supply such figures, as I’m pretty sure there is a more responsible source of statistics on this issue, but if true, it is only slightly higher than the USA at about 104,000. The OSA (Orphan Society of America) defines an orphan as “a child whose parents have died. The word orphan however is used to describe children who have become parentless for a multitude of reasons in addition to the death of parents. One child welfare expert described an orphan as a child who has no functioning parents”, in an excellent reference cited by Anatoly in a great post on the Dima Yakovlev Law. The same reference points out that the word “orphan” is rarely used in the United States, and that it “revictimizes children” (okay to use it to describe Russian kids, though), and reports (as of 2007, when the study was done, that 800,000 children entered the child welfare system in 2007. That’s more than all the “orphans” in Russia, even using UNICEF’s oddball definition, in a single year (pg. 13). The introduction reports that most children end up in care due to “abuse or neglect”. This from a country that has time to cobble together “resolutions” to “condemn the adoption ban” in Russia?

      Seeing the article anchored by a comment from James Inhofe, who – besides being co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) – is one of the stupidest people on the planet, is just the icing on the cake. In addition to pooh-poohing climate change as nonsense because it’s in the Bible that “as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night”, and appointing himself leader of a “truth squad” to attend the United Nations Conference on Climate Change when he has publicly taken positions like ““With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people?”, not to mention saying he was “outraged at the outrage” over revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib, Inhofe was one of only nine senators to vote against the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibited cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees. His buddy, Ted Stevens, who is perhaps even more stupid than Inhofe, being the confused individual who attracted lasting ridicule for describing the Internet as “a series of tubes”, was another of the nine.

      My, yes – James Inhofe. That’s the guy I’d pick to be in charge of adoptions.

      Oh, and there aren’t “hundreds of Americans who were already in the process of adopting Russian children”. There are 46 couples who had adoptions already in process.

      • kirill says:

        Inhofe is indeed a piece of work. When he went to the Copenhagen conference he prompted laughing from the European reporters with his climate views. At least in Europe the media are not complete clones of the US media, but that does not extend to Russia where we have a NATO common front of propaganda.

        As for poor Russian orphans, however they are defined, the problem is for Russia to find them a better life and not to ship them off abroad. I want to see some true investigative journalism showing that Russian orphanages are hell holes (like Residential Schools used to be in Canada). So far all I am seeing is the typical political posturing and spin. The psychological trauma of being bullied and harassed during childhood is not something to be laughed off as minor. Being poor but surrounded by sympathetic people is an infinitely better environment. Russian poverty is not sub-Saharan famine.

      • yalensis says:

        And there WAS (past tense) a very good chance that those 46 couples WOULD HAVE BEEN (conditional tense) allowed to complete their adoptions and grandfather them in (no pun intended) before the new law took effect, since the paperwork was well underway. Until Americans kept continuously poisoning the same well. Now those 46 adoptions will probably be cancelled too.
        What’s next? Some Russian bloggers have joked that if this Cold War continues, Russia will be forced to forbid Russian women from marrying foreingers. Hence, no more mail-order Russian brides for the Tony Sopranos of the West.

        • Dear Kirill and Yalensis,

          I agree with both of you. As you know I don’t agree with the adoption ban but the wording of the Senate resolution with its implication that the US is doing Russian children a favour by having them adopted by US families and that they face lives of unrelenting misery if they stay in Russia is beyond insulting. This is not an Appeal but an exercise in Posturing.

          My one hope is that with the Magnitsky and Dima Yakovlev laws out of the way things will now calm down. The Obama administration seems in no hurry to publish its Magnitsky list and one possible interpretation of Albright’s demarche with Igor Ivanov is that it is intended to steady the boat of US Russian relations after all the damage that’s been done over the last year.

        • marknesop says:

          In fact, international adoptions often take years to complete – not to mention costing thousands upon thousands – and unless the ones we’re talking about were within days of completion, they are scrapped. At least, I read that they were all cancelled. Americans will get nowhere trying to reason with their own government, with a view to withdrawing the Magnitsky Act, because that would be too politically damaging and America doesn’t do backing down – they would be better off appealing directly to the Russian government for mercy on a case-by-case basis, offering to make trade-offs such as perhaps furnishing an annual report of the child’s progress, monthly medical exams, liberal access by Russia authorities, a monthly interview via Skype, things of that nature. You never know – it might work. Putin is known to like gestures of that sort, kind of like giving away his expensive watches to workers, and it would not hurt him politically. Making the odd individual exception would be very, very hard for the western press to spin as “Putin’s capitulation”, and a show of individual mercy wouldn’t hurt his image with Russians, either. There might even be a great human-interest story in it.

          • yalensis says:

            My ski buddy, who is a Russian girl adopted by an American couple (but they live in Canada now), this probably wasn’t typical, but she was adopted and moved out of Russia within just a few months of being born, so she was still a teensie baby at the time. Of course, this was during the 90’s, and she was a fixer-upper type of kid (she needed a couple of surgeries), so I bet a lot of corners were cut back then. Things are different now, and I suppose it takes years to complete the deal. (By which time, the kid is probably ready for Social Security retirement).
            Anyhow, my little pal is a great kid, and her adopted parents are wonderful people, but the price she paid is that she never learned Russian, and she didn’t get to keep any Russian culture. I think they even turned her into a Catholic. (Horrors!) Also, Russia lost out on a great asset, because she’s a good enough skiier that she could have been on the Olympic team, IMHO.

            • Misha says:

              On the flip side, there’re people of Russian background in the West, who’re brought up with a positive awareness off their roots to the old country.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                My little girl got really upset the other day when I told her she was English. Seeing her decidedly negative reaction to this news, I quickly added that she was Russian as well; that she was half-Russian and half-English.

                That didn’t improve matters any, and although I had been speaking to her in English, she shouted at me in Russian: “No, I’m RUSSIAN!!!”

                She’s only four.

                • kirill says:

                  As long as nationalism is not driven into the brains of the citizenry with propaganda and hysteria, it’s OK. She will acknowledge her roots when she grows up. I doubt times have changed so much in Russia that people feel guilty or insecure if they are of mixed ethnicity.

            • marknesop says:

              This experience is likely no more typical, although it does serve to highlight that American couples do frequently ask specifically to adopt a child with a disability, which is very much to their credit. Although being HIV positive is not necessarily much of a disability – easy to say, I suppose, if you don’t have it – compared with Downs Syndrome or inability to use one or more limbs. While I support the adoption ban and I believe it has had the desired effect – Russia was always going to come out of it maligned in the press anyway, it was just a question of whether the spin would be anger about a reaction like this one or mocking contempt because Russia couldn’t do anything about the Magnitsky Act but rage impotently – it should not punish people like these.

              I also included this reference because it points out that the orphanage in which they found the child was a “clean, safe environment for children aged 4 to 16”. Additionally, because it mentions the case of another adoptive couple who have tried to keep their son connected to Russia through awareness of his birth country and joining a group of Russian-Americans. In my experience that is rare, but it’s good to see, although the child was only 20 months old when he was taken from Russia and I doubt any trace of it at all will remain when he is an adult.

              Americans, generally speaking, are going for the shiny thing dangled in front of them, as usual – the notion that Russia is the bad guy who is trampling on poor innocent children in an effort to hurt Americans. When the Magnitsky Act is mentioned at all in these stories, it is invariably portrayed as a very narrow human-rights legislation, sometimes just as a punishment for those who had a part in his death. He must have been a mighty man indeed, if that were the case, because the list opened with some 60 names on it. But the part they don’t seem to get is that it immediately had the opposition in Russia quacking about adding the names of everyone in the United Russia party who voted for the new NGO law, for example, or everyone involved in arresting the 31 protesters, including judges. Meanwhile, American senators boast about expanding it to include those who oppress the political opposition. In Russia. Another country, where Americans have no right to interfere in the political process, certainly not with legislation that flies in the face of the Constitution and democratic principles, whereby you can be punished without there ever having been a formal process to determine if you were guilty or not. The adoption ban, taken on its merits, is in no way worse than that. Americans need to know that the avenue to getting the adoption ban lifted or even to get their own case viewed favourably (if they are one of the 46 couples already in the process) is to lobby to have the Magnitsky Act repealed. Squalling about how unfair Putin is, and what a beast he is, is exactly the way the U.S. government and the western press want people to react. They want people to forget that it was the stupid and deliberately insulting Magnitsky Act, which provided nothing new in the methodology for preventing undesirable foreigners from entering the United States but made sure to loudly and publicly single out Russia, which started the whole thing. Russia just finished months of careful negotiation to adjust the adoption process with America, and would certainly not have done so if it were thinking of just slapping on a ban and shutting the whole thing down.

              I notice the Johnstons are very careful with their language so as not to offend Russia or appear to be assigning blame. By contrast, I read an article by a couple of British twits – which predated the adoption ban by about a year – about an orphanage in Russia in which they clearly had a checklist of negative things so as to tilt the article as insultingly as possible; the children were dressed in mismatched clothes, there was only one worker on duty and she was at a desk with her back to the children, their expressions were vacant or sad and unloved, bla, bla.

  26. kirill says:

    Oh, my. This would be a type of corruption I would think. Although it is also a case of idiots writing laws.

    • marknesop says:

      It’s funny how often companies claim “You can’t touch me – it’s totally legal” when in fact it is reprehensible behavior, and they know it. Unfortunately, this time they are correct and it appears to be legal although it is at the very least unethical. The email suggests they knew this very well. Hopefully they will be punished by being passed over as a carrier because of unethical behavior, but – also unfortunately – this often just earns headshakes of admiration from the business community for being “sharp operators”. I imagine the law will be quickly amended, and it’s too bad that had to happen because it was probably a good initiative to start out with.

      Why do people think the U.S. Tax Code is so huge and unwieldy? It’s because every time they pass a law, sharpies start figuring out a way to get around it.

      • Misha says:

        Thereby explaining why legalese has become more commonly used among non-lawyers, who want to limit any potential problems.

        • On the subject of legalese there is nothing that is explained by it that cannot be explained in plain language. The only reason lawyers use legalese is to conceal the terrible truth that the law is actually rather straightforward. It also serves the useful purpose of making the easy and simple look bafflingly complicated and difficult. Where would lawyers be without legalese? If there was no legalese people might even get the idea that the law is actually so simple that (horror) there is no need for lawyers. If a lawyer or anyone else resorts to legalese you can be sure that he is trying to confuse you or conceal something. Bullshit Baffles Brains as lawyers happily say (to each other).

          • Misha says:

            “If a lawyer or anyone else resorts to legalese you can be sure that he is trying to confuse you or conceal something. Bullshit Baffles Brains as lawyers happily say (to each other).”


            They don’t like it when their own clients sense BS serving as cover for the given lawyer’s interests coming in conflct with the folks they’re supposed to represent.

            On a legalese matter, some editor of a non-paying site gave me a bit about my agreeing to assume legal responsibility for any of my content.

            i told that person that if he’s sued, I’m not gong to do a Nikolai Tolstoy (seeing what happened in his instance) – adding that as an American based American of reasoned views, I don’t expect to experience what has been evident in some other Western democracies.

  27. Misha says:

    Two potentially great semifinal games (Canada-US, Russia-Sweden) in a few hours time.

    The US has been impressive (close losses to Russia and Canada, with a trouncing of the Czech Republic):

    Russia got a bit of a scare from a Swiss side, which over the last few years (on the junior and senior levels) has played some close games against the top national ice hockey teams:

  28. R.C. says:

    Russian navy to undergo more modernization:

    At Russia’s present rate, they should have a pretty technically advanced conventional military by 2020.

    • Dear RC,

      You are absolutely right about this and it is strange how all this is going unnoticed. At the present time Russia is busy with programmes for a fifth generation fighter, an advanced bomber, several new types of surface to air and surface to surface missiles, three new armoured vehicle families (two tracked, one wheeled), a new artillery family, three new submarine classes (one conventional and two nuclear), three corvette classes, two frigate classes and a destroyer class. Further on there’s also said to be plans for an aircraft carrier class. We also have the Mistral and Ivan Gren amphibious warfare ships, two new types of helicopter gunship and a new aircraft trainer all either building or entering service. There’s also said to be an ambitious programme for developing aerial drones.

      All this suggests intense activity and though there are inevitable teething problems after the two decades long equipment drought the strong likelihood is that after 2014 the pace of reequipment will accelerate markedly. On the face of it Russia has a significantly wider and greater range of military programmes underway than does the US. One wonders when people will wake up to the fact and how they’ll respond when they do.

      • marknesop says:

        All of it dependent, it should be said, on energy prices remaining relatively high. I don’t mean to suggest Russia has all its eggs in one basket as so many of the detractors do, and Russia still realizes significant revenue from manufacturing – steel, for instance, and chemicals – but nothing else in the current portfolio will support massive defense outlays.

        On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine how the USA is going to sustain its current level of defense spending, since it is not an energy exporter and has outsourced most of its manufacturing.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, I noticed the other day, when I was looking back through some old posts for statistics I wanted to quote, a table that appeared in this post; see it, about a quarter of the way down? It wasn’t one that I made; it was originally from a Reuters source and they in turn sourced the data from the IMF and World Bank, for 2011. The USA spent 17.9 percent of its total government spending on the military – but Russia was close behind at 14.1 percent. Nobody else in the G8 was even in the same league; the next-closest was Canada – if you can imagine – at 7.5 percent. But, as usual, there is an untold story in those figures. A good part of that military spending for Canada went to service its commitment in Afghanistan, just as a good part of short-term future military spending will go to replace Army equipment and vehicles destroyed, damaged or worn out in the campaign. That and the F-35 will occupy much of our spending, and although the F-35 will qualify as new capability, a lot of spending will be on replacement rather than innovation. For the USA, a huge part of the spending will have been to service its military interventions around the world, although the American defense industry is always innovating. But for Russia, with no military commitments to speak of internationally, the biggest losses of impact in their spending will have been losses incurred due to corruption, like that yahoo Serdyukov.

      It’s worth pointing out, as well, that this surge in military spending by Russia comes just at a time when western states are groaning under the load of their military spending, and cannot match it, but rather are worried about how they can continue to sustain their present levels of spending.

      • Dear Mark,

        What you say is true though I would make three observations (1) that I think it unlikely that oil prices are going to fall significantly or for any sustained period any time soon despite regular predictions that they will and (2) that a specific reason for the increase in defence procurement which even Kudrin acknowledges (though he opposes it) is to strengthen the domestic manufacturing and science base so as to further the diversification of the economy and (3) the Russian government is very committed to this increase in defence spending partly for the reasons of economic diversification that I said and given its very large financial reserves and its almost non existent debt the strong probability must be that it can and will continue to fund it even if there is a downswing in oil prices which is anyway likely to be brief and temporary.

        • kirill says:

          Diversification of the Russian economy has become a trope. 1) It has been diversifying continuously for 12 years and more and no evidence has been ever produced to show it has been doing the opposite. 2) Take away US military spending and you don’t have much manufacturing left since a huge part of it has been shipped off to China. So it has been the USA that has been un-diversifying in the last 20+ years. It’s tiresome to listen to the endless western media bleating about Russia’s alleged oil dependence. Oil and gas account for around $270 billion in export revenues (easy enough to calculate using data available on the web). The nominal GDP of Russia in 2011 was $1850 billion. Yes, that’s a whopping 15% dependence on oil and gas.

          Suppose that the oil and gas prices fell by 50%, then Russia would lose out on $135 billion in revenue. I say, run a f*cking deficit like the precious west and it will have no impact whatsoever. If Washington could run a 7-10% deficits since 2008 then Russia can run a 7% deficit for a few years too. During this period the diversification away from fossil fuel exports will continue and in fact accelerate since the deficit spending would be creating jobs outside the fossil fuel industry.

          But oil prices would only collapse if the world economy collapses. The demand increases every year around the world and discretionary consumption in the rich countries like the USA is not dropping anywhere enough to offset it. Also, the media routinely ignores peak oil and even puts out propaganda to discredit it. One trick is to count kerogens in shale as de facto oil. This is ludicrous since there is not a single extraction facility that produces syncrude from kerogens anywhere on the planet. The reason is that it takes over 1 barrel of oil in energy to extract 1 barrel of syncrude. At least with the tar sands it takes 1 barrel to get 6 barrels.

          • marknesop says:

            Running a deficit – and generally being fiscally irresponsible – is a luxury allowed you when you are the originator of the world’s reserve currency. That’s why the BRIC countries have been talking about floating their own, or using common currencies that edge out the dollar, and why the USA falls upon anyone who is relatively alliance-poor and tries to drop the dollar (Saddam Hussein, who dumped the dollar for the Euro, Gaddafi who proposed introducing the gold dinar, and Iran, whose oil bourse was set up to buy in Euros; the latter was even shut out of SWIFT for its pains, which was unprecedented) and spares no effort to destroy them.

            • kirill says:

              That didn’t stop Canada and most of western Europe from running large deficits. In fact, the west has been pumping itself up with deficit spending for decades all to produce the grand Potemkin facade of economic superpower.

              What I am talking about is the Keynesian dynamic governor approach: if there is some 7% constriction from an exogenous shock then it is best to remedy it with government spending (and borrowing) than allow knock on effects to further lower the GDP. Of course, when thing as booming the government should accumulate reserve funds (and lower intervention in the economy). If fossil fuel prices were to drop by 50% then the Russian economy would adjust naturally. There is not central planning agency assuming anything and getting caught with its pants down on a regular basis.

              The 15% figure I brought up is shrinking every year faster than real GDP growth, since the Russian nominal GDP growth is much larger (the economy hasn’t fully monetized yet). It is best to compare the size of these exports in nominal terms since they are in raw dollars and there is no discount that would lead to PPP corrections. Several years ago it was routine to see the figure of 40% Russian dependence on oil. The nominal GDP was much smaller then and this also highlights the fact that the real GDP does not care so much about these exports. If it did, then you would have a paradox as to where the growth comes from.

              • marknesop says:

                That’s very interesting, because before I got led down the garden path by trend lines and PPP, I was originally looking for a graphic I once sited that displayed the top 10 Russian earners. I haven’t found it yet, but less than half of them – if memory serves – were energy-related. Oil production was a big one, of course, no use pretending energy is unimportant to Russia, but chemicals and some manufacturing were major sources of income as well.

                • I would just add to what Kirill says here that Russia did of course run a budget deficit in 2009 and 2010 when oil prices crashed. In fact Russia carried out a classic Keynesian response, far closer to what Keynes actually envisaged that what some of his modern disciples in the US propose, which seems to come close at times to saying that the budget should be kept in permanent deficit. Russia ran a budget surplus during its period of growth and built up substnatial reserves. It then sustained demand by running a deficit during the crisis, which it was able to do by drawing on its reserves. After growth returned in 2010 it ran a surplus again and has now rebuilt its reserves so that they are now only slightly below their pre crisis levels.

                • marknesop says:

                  Yes, that’s correct, but I see nothing Keynesian in the budget planning of today’s Republicans in the USA, who squawk constantly about slashing government spending – but only the programs they don’t like, most of which are social programs, and insist on leaving tax cuts that are skewed to the wealthy alone. They also screamed as if they were being boiled alive at the auto bailouts, then tried to pretend they were actually their idea when all the companies paid back their bailout funds in less than the expected time and saved thousands of jobs. As you seem to imply, the fiscal policy of the modern GOP – as exemplified in the Ryan Budget – owes more to Ubu Roi than Keynes.

                  And just by way of example of what I meant when I mentioned “serious signs of come-apart”, here’s an eye-opener. According to the World Bank, “…the U.S. represented 31.8% of the world’s economic activity in 2001. By the end of 2011, that share had dropped to 21.6%, meaning America’s slice of the world economy is 32% smaller than it was a decade ago, and getting smaller every day.” Oh, sorry – do you live in Britain? “The United Kingdom gets third place in the 2001-2011 major economies’ “Race to Oblivion”, although with a less than 3.5% share of world GDP it’s hard to call this a major economy with a straight face anymore. While the U.K. printed its way to 24% loss in world GDP, France and Brazil both passed the nation where an actual troy pound of sterling silver now costs about 235 “pounds sterling”. With government debt expected to reach 88.7% of GDP in 2012, once-Great Britain will soon be seated at the kids’ table at economic summits, if it gets invited at all.”

                  Did I see Brazil mentioned in there, headed upward? Mmmm…yes, I thought I did. In fact the BRICS share of world GDP in 2010 was nudging 20%, with China at 10% on its own (note: since these are 2010 figures, South Africa is not included). As the report is at pains to point out, this is the fastest-growing market in the world, and no global company dares ignore new consumers – keep that in mind when the doomsayers sqeak about capital flight and collapsing FDI. Highest among the BRICS for per-capita GDP – by a wide margin, double that of China – was Russia. However, to inject a dash of reality, the report points out that is true also because the populations of India and China are so much bigger. The BRICS accounted for 40% of the world’s reserves of gold and foreign exchange, with Russia third in the world.

                  The report also discusses at length the desire of the BRICS to abandon the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. China wants it to be the yuan, of course, but that may be a little too ambitious for now. A much more likely result, if the BRICS’ economic clout continues to grow, would be a Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket of international currencies in which the yuan replaced the U.S. dollar. The pound sterling might go as well, although the Euro would likely stay unless it completely shits the bed. Which it may do – it would be kept on under strict conditions. The initial maneuvers on the chessboard have begun. Note that the last great currency war, in 1930, was precipitated by several nations’ devaluation of their own currencies in order to offer advantage to their domestic economies. What’s happening now? In 2009, the Federal Reserve authorized the printing of an extra $600 Billion USD which was not secured by assets. There occurred “a rapid influx of dollars into developing countries (through investments) and the domestic currencies became more expensive.” It also had the effect of rendering the bonds the Chinese were holding nearly worthless.

                  Interesting times. What makes it more interesting is how few people appear to see it coming.

                • yalensis says:

                  EXTRY EXTRY! Obama finds solution to U.S. currency crisis!
                  Obama gathered the best financial minds of our generation, put them all together in the same room, and they came up with a solution so simple and yet so elegant…. Why did nobody think of this before?


                • marknesop says:

                  If I were an enemy of the United States – which I am not – I would say that’s a great idea. Because, as it would not be backed with assets any more than the equivalent amount of paper money, and would not be self-valued unless each coin were about 30 feet across (so much for the idea of just “walking it over to the treasury”), the gambit would be just going through the motions. Therefore, paying its debts with what is essentially play money would only hasten the USA’s economic collapse and the demise of the dollar as reserve currency.

                • rkka says:

                  ” Russia ran a budget surplus during its period of growth and built up substnatial reserves. It then sustained demand by running a deficit during the crisis, which it was able to do by drawing on its reserves. ”


                  The Master said “The boom, not the slump, is the time for austerity.”

                  The fact that the West is going about it in exactly the wrong way indicates that Western leaders have something unpleasant in mind for their peoples:

                  “All for ourselves and nothing for other people has in every age of the world been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” – Adam Smith

          • Dear Kirill,

            You are absolutely correct when you say that in reality the Russian economy has been diversifying for a long time. I would only add that in the unlikely event that oil prices were to fall to $50 a barrel and stay there for a long time, that though Russia would have to go through a period of difficult adjustment, there is no doubt it would do so. It gets consistently overlooked that if world energy prices fall so will energy prices in Russia. Russian consumers of energy (both manufacturers and the general population) would after a period of doubtless difficult readjustment benefit from this. Russian manufacturers would also benefit from a lower rouble rate.

            As for shale gas and tar oil, my cynical view is that what we are looking at is simply the next US credit bubble. The whole pattern of US economic history over the last twenty or thirty years is of getting out of the problems created by the bursting of one bubble by the blowing up of another. Aside from the bond bubble, which is too alarming to ignore, the shale gas/tar oil “revolution” fits the bill for the next bubble perfectly. There is the grain of reality (in this case the actual production of more oil and gas) which is an essential part of any bubble. There is the “new technology”. Americans are always suckers for technology, though in this case it isn’t really new at all. There is the euphoria we saw during previous bubbles, such as the takeover and merger mania of the 1980s, the bubble of the 1990s and the sub prime mortgage bubble of the 2000s, with all the usual boasting about how it is different this time and not a bubble at all and how it will transform the US economy and lead it back to world primacy and greatness. There are the eternal cliches about American ingenuity and enterprise. As always there is little real attempt to carry out a hard headed analysis of the actual numbers (which as always are surprisingly difficult to find) whilst the few skeptics get banished to the sidelines. If there is a discussion at all it tends to focus not on economic questions but on humanitarian and even cultural ones, in this case the impact on the environment. When the bubble eventually bursts (as it invariably does) the unreal nature of many of the more way out claims and the grotesque misallocation of investment becomes clear as does the damage done to the US’s financial fabric. .

            • marknesop says:

              Industrial production staggered hard in 2009, for reasons not too hard to understand, but it has actually been pretty steady otherwise. It’s worth mentioning the record high was in 2010, at 12.6%. This year it’s up 1.9% year-over-year; not bad, but nothing to inspire revelry. Exports look good, there’s a strong positive trend (hint; check the “trend” box underneath the chart after setting the time period to the range you want to sample: I love that feature!). Business confidence, however, looks quite pessimistic. Seems to be somewhat of a disconnect there, because the industries sampled (subsurface resource extraction, gas and water, and processing and electricity) all have some export component. Consumer spending, though, is trending up strongly, and that is often a measure of national confidence. Changes in inventories, too, almost doubled in the second quarter of 2012 over the first quarter; as the resource points out, changes in inventories in Russia are often a leading indicator for the overall performance of the economy. This seems borne out by a steady upward trend in exports of goods and services. Maybe there’s something to the suggestion that Russians (businessmen, at least) are predisposed to pessimism, after all.

              The last couple of stats are from the page (selectable at the bottom of Trading Economics’ main page) entitled “World Bank Data“. Boy, they’ve got statistics on everything; it gives you a headache just looking at the index. But every once in awhile you come across something that makes you laugh. Like this, for example – remember how Russia keeps sliding further and further down the irredeemably stupid Corruption Perceptions Index? Remember how Georgia flew up those same rankings, and the CPI groupies almost came in their pants when they raved about its “ease of doing business”, how you could open a new business in Georgia during your cigarette break from your other business? The CPI is supposedly compiled by analysts familiar with business development and ethics and the way things are supposed to run in developed countries. It hardly needs saying that they are all western or western allies. But I feel sure that at least one of those influential resources has to be the World Bank.

              Here’s what it says about the ease of doing business in Russia. Adjust your date values to display from 2000 to 2013, then select “trend” from the options under the chart.

              That’s right. Up, steadily.

              Now here’s Georgia’s ease of doing business ratings, according to the World Bank. As before, adjust your dates to correspond with Saakashvili’s reign (2004-2012), select “trend”, then “update”.

              Tell me that’s an improvement on Russia’s performance.

              • Dear Mark,

                The year on year increase of 1.9% in industrial production is only for the month of November not for 2012 taken as a whole. As you correctly say industrial production has been fairly steady at around 2% over the last two quarters of 2012 reflecting the softening of the economy in those two quarters as opposed to the much faster expansion in the first two quarters of 2012. As we have discussed before the softening of the economy in the last two quarters is due to the poor harvest (which affects the food processing industries) and the Central Bank’s decision to raise interest rates. I would add that another factor in depressing the overall figures for industrial production in 2012 are falls in oil and gas output in that year. That may be explained by a variety of factors but lower demand in Europe and elsewhere because of the world economic crisis must be one. Manufacturing output (which is only one component of industrial output but which from a qualitative point of view is arguably the most important) has been growing consistently faster at well over 4% throughout the year except possibly in December (the full figures are not yet available) when it may have been hit by the cold weather.

                Incidentally the very high industrial growth of 12.6% is also a figure for a single month, in this case May 2010, are reflects the bounce back from the collapse in output during the worst of the crisis in 2009.

                As for pessimism by Russian businessmen I suspect that simply reflects the tighter credit conditions and softer growth in the second half of 2012.

                In summary I would say these overall are good figures and show a solid macroeconomic performance. In this case one can say that the fundamentals of the Russian economy really are sound. Whilst growth is lower than it was before the crisis the quality of growth is arguably higher and the rise in exports may reflect this.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  And child production is increasing as well as industrial production.

                  A while back Moscow Times published a very small article on the the boom in child care/products retail oulets in the already booming Russian retail sector, citing this as evidence that the endlessly discussed by Western “experts” Russian “demographic crisis” might have come to an end.

                  The other day I took a stroll up to Tagansky Square near my house, intending to call into the large bookshop on Marxistskaya St. that has been there as long as I have lived in this neighbourhood. It was originally a Soviet bookshop and had been revamped since the ’90s and had a huge selection of books in store. It is a good while since I visited the place.

                  I say “had” because it no longer exists. It is now a children’s department store full of baby and toddlers’ clothing, children’s shoes, prams, buggies, toys, maternity wear, baby food, “Huggies”, “Pampers” etc., etc.

                  I was really disappointed. I really liked that book shop. When I got home, I despondently said to my wife: “The book shop in the “Lilac House” has closed!”

                  “I know”, she said,”It closed ages ago”.

                  Russians are reading less, it seems.


                • marknesop says:

                  I know an Englishman who reads less than his wife.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  I knew plenty of Englishmen that had never opened a book to read since they left school when they were 15 years old: they used to boast to me about this. They did read though: usually the racing pages in some god-awful British “red top”. (When I lived there, the most popular rags in the UK had their names emblazoned on a red background. I used to be regularly ridiculed by many of my former workmates for reading the “Guardian”: “What are you reading a bloody businessman’s paper for?)

              • kirill says:

                Consumer spending is the most important metric. Domestic demand in Russia is what is driving Russian GDP growth and not banana republic commodity exports. I remember economists talking about the Chinese economy “igniting” when it went from export GDP growth to domestic demand GDP growth.

                Unlike in the west, the Russian middle class is growing and rather fast. This process has not saturated and will be an important driver of Russian economic development in the next 20 years.

                • marknesop says:

                  You’ve reminded me of something that rarely fails to amuse me – the tendency of “journalists” like those at RFE/RL to argue loudly that each protest, each online initiative of the Navalnyites marks the beginning of something big. Actually, it would not be inaccurate to say the white ribbonists are the shale gas of social evolution: big initial yields (at least according to the western press) followed by increasingly-disappointing diminishing returns. Anyway, bloggers like Brian Whitmore never get tired of arguing that the protest movement “isn’t going away any time soon”, or that every internecine squabble marks a “rift in the tandem”, shortly after which “storm clouds are gathering over the Kremlin”.

                  But if you argue that serious signs of come-apart in the American economy suggest the USA would be better served by some navel-gazing than international intrigues, they will say it’s just a blip, and certainly no indication of a trend.

                • Dear Mark,

                  An interesting twist to the World Bank survey that you mention is that buried in the small print it says that Russia has the world’s fifth largest GDP. That would put Russia ahead of Britain and France. I have no doubt that is true but I wonder how that was arrived at.

            • kirill says:

              Art Berman has done an excellent analysis of the shale gas “revolution” in the USA and indeed it is a racket that won’t last.


              • marknesop says:

                Yes, you’d think authoritative commentary like that would put a spike in its head once and for all. But there’s no shortage of suckers – as he points out – who are sent gaga by the high initial returns on new plays and do not want to hear about steep fall-offs. According to them, shale gas (especially in Poland, for some reason) is going to screw Putin into a knot so tight that by the time he gets free, everyone who bet on shale gas will be wearing platinum boxer shorts.

                It seems to escape them that Russia also has enormous deposits of such shale plays. If they turn out to be the death-knell of oil, whoopty-doo. Russia has lots of that, too. But it won’t. I used to like tormenting the Russophobes (before I got banned at La Russophobe), because that seemed an intense concentration of shale-gas moonies, but they just would not respond to reason and it would have soon grown tiresome anyway.

                • Dear Kirill.

                  Thanks for these two very interesting articles on shale gas. Don’t they in fact show that what we are looking at is a bubble? Investment has been pouring in to shale gas, which inevitably leads to a rise in production. However the articles show that this is both uneconomic and unsustainable. In the meantime lots of people are making a killing as they always do in the midst of a bubble and they of course have a compelling incentive to talk things up and to keep the bubble inflating.

                  Viz your point about export dependence, a good example of an economy that has become locked into export dependence is Argentina. It had by some estimates the fourth highest per capital income in the world in the 1920s. However the over dependence of the economy on exports means that there is an actual disincentive to develop domestic demand since this would lead through to higher wages and a consequent loss of competitiveness. The result is that Argentina’s rankings have until recently been in continuous decline.

                • yalensis says:

                  I noticed that shale gas, instead of being a dry economic/industrial discussion point, has become almost like a mystical Holy Grail of the Russophobes. On any blog, there is always some Russia-hater who will peck out something like, “Fracking shale gas will be your demise, Evil Russkies! Mwa ha ha ha!” They’re always hopeful they will find that magic thing that will destroy Russia once and for all…

                • Dear Yalensis,

                  Your point about shale gas having become the Holy Grail for the Russophobes is exactly right. Though no one says so it is one of the major factors driving this thing.

                  There have by the way been any number of projects to get shale gas going in Europe “to reduce European dependence on Russian gas”. Poland not surprisingly was particularly enthusiastic about the idea. Nearly all these projects including the one in Poland have been abandoned because the geology and the economics are simply wrong for them.

                • cartman says:

                  I think they are going for the Syria option. They want to build a pipeline from Qatar to Europe, which would have to pass through Syria and Turkey.

                  And yes, the Bazhenov formation is larger than all these shale fields put together.

                • kirill says:

                  This is the real Nabucco project. The only plausible suppliers of gas to the EU are Iran and Qatar. LNG sucks up 30% of the natural gas just to liquify the gas and needs expensive infrastructure to deliver. So pipelines are cheaper. Turkey was going to host Nabucco, this is just the same pipeline with its head shifted south to where there are sufficient deposits. Turkmenistan cannot supply the EU and has already over-committed to China. The rest of the Central Asian ‘stans do not even merit attention since their production and reserves are so small.

                  Thanks for bringing this up, the attack on Syria makes more sense now.

            • kirill says:


              Another interesting web article on the shale gas bubble. Smells like the subprime mortgage racket.

              • marknesop says:

                Ha, ha!!! That being the case, and financial heavyweights who are investors rushing to buy up cheap land which will be subsequently labeled a layer of frosting over a shale-gas bonanza, and sold to clueless buyers – what we should be doing is enthusiastically supporting the shale gas industry on Russophobic websites, seeding them with links to where they can buy shares or land, and recommending they get on this diamond-studded gravy train before it pulls out of the station. A few years from now, they’ll all be selling pencils out of cups on the street corner. Mwaahahaahahahah!!!!

        • marknesop says:

          I strongly agree. Any drop in oil prices is likely to be greeted with a surge in construction and development which was waiting for just such an opportunity, which will shortly drive prices back up as the law of supply and demand always does. All the happy talk about Russia being left holding the bag “when the bottom fell out of oil prices” always presupposed the west was going to be able to keep prices down for a period of a couple of years. There are only three ways to do that – starve development and vastly cut western domestic use of oil (easy to insert a stick in the spokes of that one; suppliers just pump less and there’s still only so much available), for the USA to tap the strategic reserve (the drawbacks are obvious, and it’s not all that big anyway, it’d go pretty fast and certainly would not last years), and rely on Saudi Arabia’s reserve pumping capability. There’s a good deal of speculation on whether they could even do that now, since the state of their reserves is a closely-guarded secret, but many of their known deposits must be getting low.

          The wild-card alternative, of course, is a broad-based swing away from petroleum in favour of green energy. But I just don’t see that happening any time soon. I should also mention shale gas, which devotees keep rhapsodizing is going to leave Russia begging for customers at any price they want to pay. Dream on.

          • kirill says:

            The Hirsch report ( demonstrates quite well that it would take 20 years with WWII like effort to re-gear the US economy to use alternatives. There is simply no evidence of such and effort being exerted at all. The trickle of wind mills and PV panels is not going to change much in the next 20 years even if the annual growth rates look really high since the numbers involved are so small.

  29. R.C. says:

    The US magazine Foreign Policy has named Putin the 2nd most powerful political figure in the world. For some reason that I don’t entirely buy their reasoning for leaving the number one position empty (I’m guessing they really didn’t want to give Putin the top position). Obama was ranked fourth……

    • yalensis says:

      Why leave the top spot empty? Shouldn’t it be that nice Mr. What’s-his-face the leader of China?
      Or maybe they should do a Time Magazine type thing and declare the most powerful man in the world = The Uprising Peoples of the World? The Arab Spring protesters? The democracy-seeking mobs on the streets of the world’s capitals? Etc etc.

    • marknesop says:

      What??? Navalny didn’t make the cut??? After being ranked one of the World’s Great Thinkers?

      If you’re second and there’s nobody in the top spot, then the top spot is only notional and you are first, you’re right.

      I suppose Transpareny International will have to move Russia a few slots downward on the Corruption Imagination Index so that Putin won’t get cocky, or something.

    • Misha says:

      FP has had some rather immature themes.

      Overall, The National Interest is better – even with some periodic shortcomings.

  30. Moscow Exile says:

    I suppose that means that the Russian president has at his disposal more military facilities than these and a larger navy with fleets operating worldwide than this and a larger airforce than this at his disposal – all these US deployments to safeguard freedom and democracy, of course.

    Not to worry though: US military spending and deployments are on the increase – not that all US citizens want this, as reported here.

    • Dear Moscow,

      Quite. The US’s military forces are vastly more powerful than those of Russia and China even in combination. Suffice to say that whilst the US has eleven nuclear powered aircraft carriers Russia and China have none and whilst the US has scores of overseas bases Russia has only one small base outside the CIS (in Tartus in Syria) and China has none.

      Nonetheless I don’t think Obama is the world’s most powerful man if only because he has such enormous problems getting his domestic agenda through the Congress. Whilst the military power and international status of the US is much greater than Russia’s Putin’s domestic authority is much greater than Obama’s. As for Xi Jinping, he is not yet formally China’s leader and will only become so when he succeeds Hu Jintao as President in the spring. Besides the Chinese leadership (like the Soviet leadership under Brezhnev) works on a collective or collegial principle in which Xi Jinping is never more than first amongst equals. Though I don’t think there are any significant divisions within the Chinese leadership (why should there be?) this does put Xi Jinping in a somewhat different position than Putin.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Dear Alexander Mercouris,

        So what the Western propagandists are really saying in their nominating Putin as the second most powerful man in the world is that notwithstanding the obvious fact that no state comes anywhere near the USA as regards its military might and, although now waning, the USA economy far outstrips that of the majority of other nation states, Putin’s might, unlike that of the elected leaders of democracies, lies in the fact that he has absolute power over his political minions and the Russian bydlo; what Putin says goes, and all tremble before him as they did once when prostrating themselves before the Great Khan, which is an apt comparison because the West knows full well that Russians are really barbaric Asiatics and not civilized Europeans at all; that they have never enjoyed, nor, it seems, have they ever wanted, democracy; that they are possessed of a servile mentality and are only, therefore, capable of cowering in craven obeisance before a mighty and fearsome leader.

        In other words, by nominating Putin as the 2nd most powerful man in the world, Western propagandists are begging the question that the president of Russia is an all powerful tyrant, albeit that the country over which he literally presides and rules arbitrally and according to his whim is one that has a third world economic structure based on the exportation of raw materials, no industrial base, a declining populational, abysmal health care, no rule of law, unbelievable corruption in both the state bureaucracy and business, rampant social diseases etc. etc.

        However, the West must ever be on its guard against Russia, for this shithole of a country with a crap military and a dimwit, drunken population of cattle-like serfs is ruled over by a megomaniacal tyrant – the 2nd most powerful man in the world! – and is hell bent on world domination.

        • Dear Moscow Exile,

          Of course I agree with you. I was making an objective comment but the editors of Foreign Policy are not. They are simply pumping up Putin to make him a convincing stage villain. Sauron is only dangerous if he’s Great.

      • marknesop says:

        Completely agree, except that China does have an aircraft carrier. Ex Russian ski-jump carrier VARYAG (fairly common name in the Russian lexicon, an old-dialect word for “ship”, and there is a current cruiser in the Russian Pacific fleet with the name VARYAG) and now the LIAONING, seen here at sea doing aircraft cycles. The aircraft are Shenyang J-15s, copied from a Sukhoi Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. The Chinese tried several times to buy the Su-33, but Russia would not sell it because there was an outstanding dispute over intellectual property-rights violations, in which China illegally copied content from the Su-27 in building its J-11B. Finally China got hold of a prototype Su-33 from Ukraine in 2001, and commenced building the J-15 almost immediately afterward. Something any potential ally should keep in mind – when they are determined to acquire a technology, if you won’t sell it, they don’t see anything at all morally wrong with stealing it.

        I was impressed with the ship’s cleanliness and the evident discipline of the deck crews, as well as the businesslike movement of the aircraft into position for launch and from recovery, and the pilots’ evident skill. Bear in mind that the mere presence of this single carrier at sea, provided her precise location is unknown, has the effect of pushing the entire Chinese coastline 300 miles seaward in terms of power projection, from the viewpoint of an adversary.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          “Varyag” [Варяг; plural: Варяги] is Russian for “Varangian” or “Viking”.

          The Varyags used to sail or row along what are now Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian rivers and porterage between them from Scandinavia to Byzantium and did a litttle bit of this and a little bit of that on the way. In doing so, they engendered the respect of the Estern Slavs who were so impressed by the Varangians that they invited them to be their rulers and, in doing so, put an end to the interminable internecine warfare that up till then had existed amongst the Slavs . The Varangians gratefully accepted the Slavs’ offer and founded the Rurik dynasty, which then proceeded to wage interminable internecine warfare amongst itself, the Varangians having no primageniture, like the Slav rulers before them, hence their endless dynastical strife.

          As well as the most recently named Soviet warship Varyag, now the Chinese carrier Liaoning, there have been many Russian warships named “Varyag” or “Viking” in English, including:

          Imperial Russian cruiser Varyag (1899)

          cruiser Varyag (1983)

          Soviet cruiser Varyag (1965)

          It was the 1899 cruiser Varyag that slogged it out valiantly against the Japanese and did not surrender and whose crew’s valour is celebrated in this stirring Russian song:

          Actually, the song was written in German by a German, Rudolf Grenz, and then translated into Russian.

          • marknesop says:

            That’s interesting; it was my wife who told me it meant “ship”. Maybe she doesn’t know what it means at all. It certainly isn’t like any other Russian word for ship or boat.

          • yalensis says:

            Dear Moscow Exile:

            The “Variag” song is so patriotic and so inspiring that foreign governments use it as sure-fire way to root out Russian spies and moles trying to pass as non-Russians. All they have to do is play the Red Army Chorus version of “Variag”, and the Russian spies just can’t help themselves, they leap out of their seats and salute!
            To counter this gambit, Russian spies are trained to put in ear plugs just before they start the song.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Here’s 1899 Varyag link again, the last link above, that seems to have been incorrectly inserted. It’s a nice link showing plenty of pictures of the valiant Varyag.

      • R.C. says:

        It’s hard to believe that Russia doesn’t have at least ONE aircraft carrier. What happened? Didn’t they have several at one point? Don’t they have one aircraft carrier called the Admiral “?????” (Can’t remember the name). It seems short-sighted to have sold their aircraft carriers off.

        • marknesop says:

          They did have several, starting with the KIEV Class, way back. The new LIAONING is ex-VARYAG, but before that she was ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV.

          It’s worth noting that getting rid of their Carrier component is absolutely consistent with Russia’s forswearing long-range power projection, once a Soviet aim.

          • Dear Mark,

            Varyag is not the same ship as the Admiral Kuznetsov. They are sisters. The Admiral Kuznetsov is still in Russian service undergoing a major refit. See Wikipedia and my comment below.


            • marknesop says:

              Dear me; that was careless of me. Ships of the Russian navy frequently change names for various reasons, and this is particularly true of the capital ships. VARYAG was the second name that unit bore as a ship of the Russian navy, but she was commissioned the RIGA. KUZNETSOV was originally named RIGA, was launched as LEONID BREZHNEV, did trials as TBILISI and was finally named KUZNETSOV.

              The present VARYAG, the cruiser, was commissioned CHERVONA UKRAINA (Red Ukraine).

        • Dear RC,

          Russia does have an aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, though it is currently out of service undergoing a major refit. The Chinese carrier was originally her sister, incomplete when the USSR collapsed and bought from the Ukrainians by the Chinese who then completed and commissioned her. My impression is (Mark can correct me) that by US standards these are comparatively small conventionally powered carriers that do not compare with the nuclear powered US supercarriers. Both Russia and China both have plans for nuclear powered carriers but these are years away. Also it seems that the planned Russian carriers at least will not be as big as the US supercarriers. Even when Russian and Chinese nuclear carriers do appear it will take time before they can match US expertise in handling carriers, which is based on unbroken experience extending all the way back to the 1930s.

          The simple truth is that though the US navy may be be as Mitt Romney said during the election dimensionally smaller than it was three decades ago, US naval dominance at the moment is simply overwhelming (comparable to that of Britain at the end of the Nineteenth Century) and likely to remain so for a long time.

          • marknesop says:

            The KIEV Class was deliberately built small and provided only a little-league aircraft capability compared with the American supercarriers, because the Soviet navy wanted to use them to transit the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, both controlled by Turkey. The Montreux Convention of 1936 forbids this. The Soviet navy designated the KIEVs as “Large Antisubmarine Cruisers”, and in truth they carried mostly helicopters. The fixed-wing fighter they did carry, Yakolev’s Yak-38 “Forger”, was a horrible aircraft; longer than its western counterparts but with a shorter wingspan, less range, less fuel capacity…it really had only two standouts – it was faster than either the American Boeing Harrier II or the British Aerospace Harrier, and flew 10 years before either of them. It wouldn’t be quite correct to say the Soviets had the idea first – although I’m not sure who did – but the Harrier debuted as Hawker Aircraft (originally Hawker-Siddeley, one of the companies that would later be nationalized and merged to form British Aerospace) P (for Project) .1154. I don’t believe it ever flew – it was cancelled in the development stage due to costs. The concept was re-examined and a follow-on aircraft developed from P.1154 and an earlier prototype (which was not VTOL – Vertical Takeoff and Landing – capable), P.1127, flew in 1964 and was ordered as the Harrier GR1 by the RAF in 1966.

            The KIEV carried something like a dozen Yak-38s.

            But that’s getting off the subject. Anyway, the Soviets classified the KIEV as a Large ASW Ship deliberately in order to get around the prohibition on Aircraft Carriers’ passage through the Dardanelles, and the Turks bought it. It would never have been possible with something the size and design of KUZNETSOV. Interestingly, NATO complained about the KIEVs and records show they reckoned it a significant threat to themselves and the U.S. Sixth Fleet, although they officially did nothing but mock and belittle them. That’s probably because the Soviet navy designers, and the Russian navy after them, put significant numbers of long-range cruise missiles such as the SS-N-12 on their carriers. the USN typically does not do this – an American carrier’s striking power is in its air wing, and it is itself usually lightly armed for self-defense. That’s why it always travels with an escort where there is any possibility of a threat.

        • Jen says:

          R.C.’s opinion that it was short-sighted of Russia to have sold its aircraft carriers raises the question of the usefulness of aircraft carriers in navies. If countries that have carriers have at most one or two and the US navy has 20, doesn’t that suggest the US has far more than what’s needed to defend its own shores and interests, and that having carriers is really all about intimidating everyone? If in addition to their original role of transporting short-range aircraft from A to B, aircraft carriers are used as repair and refuelling stops and to monitor enemy or pirate activity, it’s arguable the military bases the US has around the world should be able to handle those particular jobs instead.

          Anyone interested in what goes on in a US Nimitz-class carrier can check out this article to get a sense of the ships’ colossal nature and the immense logistics involved in running such ships.

          • Misha says:

            They serve as an effectively threatening way to project power.

            For most if not all countries deemed as the most likely targets, trying to hit them is tough.

            Simply sending them in a certain direction during a geopolitically tense situation sends a message.

          • kirill says:

            Aircraft carriers are WWII dinosaurs. They are only useful for projecting air power against countries such as Iraq that are unable to sink them with supersonic cruise missiles such as the Yakhont ( or knock out the aggressor aircraft with systems such as the S-300.

            In any superpower standoff since the 1950s they would serve no purpose since there is no conventional war that can be waged with nuclear missile armed adversaries. Escalation is assured to occur and carrier battle groups can be nuked out of the water. Nuclear submarines are vastly more useful in such conflicts.

            • Misha says:

              Power is often projected against countries like Iraq as opposed to the major powers.

              In geopolitics, countries like Iraq are seen as valued pieces.

              Besides, even the US can’t have land bases everywhere. In addition, carriers just don’t carry planes.

              • Jen says:

                Dear Misha: Each branch of the US military (air force, army, navy, marines) maintains bases across the globe and each base may have a different focus: one may be on training, another on storage, another may have a port and so on. In the western Pacific alone, the US navy has several bases in Japan (located in or near Atsugi, Misawa, Sasebo and Yokosuka near Yokohoma), one naval base in Guam and one also in Singapore. A list of these bases can be viewed at this link

                There’s another list here, slightly different, which includes Subic Bay in the Philippines:

                The concentration of US naval bases in this region – and there are going to be new bases in Darwin, Perth and Brisbane in Australia as well – suggests that US strategy is aimed at encircling China and limiting its influence in the Pacific. The Australian cities mentioned have port facilities and could be used as refuelling and repair stops, training, communication centres and recreational stops. I believe the Pentagon also wants to re-use the base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.

                • Misha says:

                  Hi Jen,

                  If not a Chinese perceived threat, another would be highlighted, as history has shown.

                  Further down this thread, there’s further agreement on the benefits of having carriers.

                  You might’ve heard of the term “shock and awe”, which can serve to encourage an adversary to not act in a certain way, as well as better contribute to a given war effort.

                  The US defense establishment and body politic aren’t looking for a greater global parity between the American armed forces and those of other countries – especially when it comes to Russia and China.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Jen,

                  My nephew is at present serving in the British army in Brunei, which, as I am certain you are aware, is a tiny oil-rich sultanate in Borneo, but which many think is an Arab Gulf State.

                  Anyway, my sergeant-major nephew is only one of a handful of British soldiers there; the remainder are Ghurkas and some British Royal Marine commandos. My nephew tells me that the sultan doesn’t relish the thought of having a regiment of boozy British squaddies spoiling the harmony of his small, Muslim, jungle sultanate, but he tolerates Hindus, which is what the Ghurkas are. My nephew tells me that the Brunei Muslims are pretty easy going and the locals who work in the British camp don’t refuse the odd can of Singapore Tiger beer on offer, even though the local mullah pulls his face over this. My nephew tells me that everyone gets on just fine with one another there and the Muslims and Hindus all wished him and his British pals Merry Christmas the other week when they were all on a jungle exercise.

                  However, my nephew tells me that for a few years now the US has been pressurising the sultan to phase out the British presence and allow the US to install a base there because they are better equipped and have American know-how etc. Word has it that the last thing the sultan wants is an American base in Brunei, but that the pressure put on him from Washington is increasing.

                  No doubt Washington considers the British garrison at Brunei a weak link in the chain that they are setting up to contain China, which is understandable of them to reason so, I suppose, considering what happened at Hong Kong in 1941 and Singapore in 1942.

                • marknesop says:

                  Those are ambitious plans, but I would remind that the U.S. government often negotiates agreements whereby the host nation pays for the base and its upkeep. Sometimes the expectation is that the personnel stationed there will live off the local economy and it will sort of balance out, but it almost never does; the base will include a Base Exchange which will have a large US-style department store, and a Commissary which will stock American groceries and even cigarettes and booze. Japan is a good example of a country which is increasingly interested in divesting itself of its American bases.

                  Unless Australia is so flush with cash it can afford 3 expensive new military bases, it might not work out so well. Or possibly the two countries have negotiated a different agreement, in which case it will be the USA which is fielding bases it cannot afford.

                • Jen says:

                  @ Mark: Darwin already hosts two army barracks (of which one is already being used by 200 US marines on rotation) and bases for the RAAF and RAN. The US is interested in both Brisbane and Perth as naval bases: Perth would host a carrier action group (it is already home to HMAS Stirling) and Brisbane was identified by an Australian Defence Department review as the ideal location for a new naval base to eventually host most of Australian naval defence personnel.

                  US plans for bases in Darwin, Brisbane and Perth more or less slot in with Australian plans already to upgrade Brisbane and Perth. It looks like a chicken-and-egg situation: is the US coming here because of our own plans or are our plans dovetailing with US plans in the western Pacific which put pressure on China to defend its sea territory and in turn on Australia to defend its northern shores? So essentially we Australians would be paying for the Americans to come here. As Moscow Exile’s comment about the British base in Brunei also illustrates (thanks, ME!), the US strategy for locating new bases includes buying or leasing other nations’ bases. Even the US base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, was once a Soviet base. BTW the lease in Manas runs out in 2014 and the Kyrgyz govt has decided not to renew it on the grounds that hosting US air force personnel there endangers Kyrgyzstan.

                • marknesop says:

                  I couldn’t speak to the excellence of any of those locations, as our arrival in Brisbane – let’s see, that would have been 1998 – coincided with a fire at the jetty where we were supposed to moor, just a day or so prior to our arrival. Either some buildings on the jetty caught fire, or a ship burned alongside; in any case, we ended up at an old sugar factory, probably 4 miles outside of town. I’ve never visited Perth. I was at the Garden Island Naval Base in Sydney a couple of times, and it is a great facility; walking distance from Darling Harbour, too.

                  There is already growing public appetite to close U.S. bases abroad, and I’m not sure how the government would sell an expanded network of bases. Especially when they’ve spent years demonizing Russia, while soft-pedaling the Chinese economic threat and playing up the potential for Chinese partnership – people will wonder, why do we need to encircle our partner with bases? Still, if the government can convince allies to pay for their bases, it would certainly save money – constructing and maintaining bases cost American taxpayers $41.6 Billion in 2010. Once upon a time, like before the Iraq war, that was a lot of money.

                  More to the point, where is the money going to come from for all these Carrier Battle Groups? A carrier now costs more than $11 Billion to build, more than double what it cost to build NIMITZ and her sisters. If elected, Romney promised to increase the defense budget to a mind-boggling $720 Billion. Where did he think the money was going to come from?

            • marknesop says:

              A setpiece of American modern military campaigns is establishing immediate control of the airspace, and sometimes those campaigns take place far from the nearest land base but close to the sea. America has never forgotten how Japan kicked Pearl Harbor’s ass using carrier-based aviation, and has repeated the Japanese success several times itself. There’s still a lot of strategic mileage in the Carrier Task Group, because if you don’t know where it is – and usually you find out through air surveillance yourself, which is susceptible once near the group to running into a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) – it could be anywhere. You have to take elaborate and resource-intensive precautions against a threat that might be there, might not. But it’s not so much the bombers and fighters that cause countries which are the object of American displeasure trouble – it’s the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft. Sometimes they come from the Carrier, sometimes over land, because the AWACS (for example) is a big plane with tremendous range. And that can see everything, on the ground and in the air, for a tremendous distance. The codicil is, you can’t put up slow stoogey AEW aircraft while they’re vulnerable to enemy fighters – so you have to have control of the air.

              There’s still an important role for aircraft carriers. They’re absurdly expensive to build and to operate, and with the bean-counters increasingly militant about waste in the military budget, if they didn’t need them, they wouldn’t build them.

              A nuclear submarine is indeed useful in certain roles and especially once war has been declared and the gloves are off. For power preojection and implied threat that might prevent a war from even breaking out, a million nuclear submarines would not be as useful as one carrier task group. It has only to saunter up and down the coast, advertising its presence, for the threat to be clear. You can’t see a nuclear submarine.

              Even – perhaps especially – nuclear powers are very conscious of the tremendous damage implicit in nuclear war, perhaps extending to making the planet uninhabitable. They are the least likely to use a nuclear weapon when another escalation of conventional force might do the trick.

              • R.C. says:

                I agree Mark that carrier’s are used more for intimidation than anything else. Krill is also correct in that I’ve been told by many – some of them in the US Navy, that in a war with major powers like Russia or China, the American public would quickly find out just how vulnerable these menacing monsters are in actual combat against an opponent who has the ability to easily sink them. Needless to say, Americas pride would be irrevoccably wounded and the American public would indeed feel humiliated if one of their behemoth carriers were sent scurrying to the bottom of the ocean floor. Who knows, next year there may be a possibity of this happening if China & Japan should go to war (they are coming awfully close) and the US decides to join the fray with Japan (naturally) and dispatches a few of those monsters to intimidate the Chinese (though the Chinese could probably do far more damage economically by just dumping their dollar/treasury holdings instead).

                As far as Russia goes: 12 carriers is certainly overkill, but a major power like Russia should have at least two state of the art carriers – perhaps one for the Northern Fleet and another one for the Black Sea Fleet. I think that Russia does have plans to build two carriers, so this will likely be all that they’ll need.

                • marknesop says:

                  That may be true, but it would take a far more dedicated and focused attack than many seem to think; the screen always includes at least one AEGIS destroyer or cruiser and a veritable picket fence of anti-air missiles, plus the fact that it takes a lot more than one cruise missile hit to sink a carrier – something more like 12 would be reasonable. Missiles that do not arrive simultaneously on target are themselves easy targets for the screen’s defenses – that implies the attacker will need a waypoint capability so as to engineer a multi-axis attack, as well as considerable coordination. Such an attack is unlikely to originate from land, and any substantial force to seaward would be seen by air patrols, which are up round the clock in contested waters. The greatest chance for success would be a submarine, and even one heavyweight torpedo would do tremendous damage. That, too, is anticipated and the carrier’s screen always includes at least one, usually more, submarines.

                  Here’s an example of a carrier battle group underway. This screen formation is formulated more with a view to getting a nice aerial shot and simultaneously not have any collisions than it is for defense, but it’s close enough. It’s difficult to tell even in the larger shot, but the four units in the lead are surfaced submarines – you can tell by the wakes. Obviously, they would not be visible.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Any chance for latter-day kamikaze flyers?

                • marknesop says:

                  What do you think? What kind of ideology would you have to have to try and fly through that? And don’t forget, the Carrier is fairly well-armed itself with short-range self defense systems only, such as the CIWS 1-B, which chucks 4000 20mm rounds per minute into the air and includes a radar which tracks both the target and its own outgoing rounds, so as to bring the two quickly together. When it’s firing it just sounds like a heavy sheet of canvas being torn in two.

                • Jen says:

                  Mark: That’s a wonderful photo of the USS Abraham Lincoln. The ships’ formation is almost symmetrical. The laggard at the back that looks overcrowded must be Australian :-).

                • marknesop says:

                  That is a Photex (Photo Exercise) formation, and as I mentioned, is planned so as to allow sea room to units that are not so good at scrambling out of the way to avoid collision – that’s why the submarines are at the front, never mind surfaced. We always do a group photo like this at the end of RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific), which runs every two years, and the Aussies are indeed consistent and enthusiastic participants. They punch well above their weight, as well, with unconventional thinking and doing the unexpected. We got whacked (notionally, for exercise only) one year by the Australian force before we even knew where they were because they used a reconnaissance helicopter called the Squirrel, with someone hanging out the door using a hand-held radar such as the police use to check traffic speed, to telegraph the fleet’s position back to the missile firers. Only a nut would do something like that, but it worked.

                  Anyway, that is not representative of a defensive formation, which would be arranged so as to have pickets in every warfare specialty ringing the Carrier (and usually the tanker, too; if you lose that, may as well go home unless all your ships are nuclear-powered) at sufficient distance that they have clear fields of fire.

                • It is difficult to see the relevance of aircraft carries in an offensive war against the USSR given Soviet economic self sufficient and given that the centres of Soviet power were located far in the Eurasian interior out of reach of carrier based aircraft Incidentally I have been told that the same geographical problem basically scuppered the US post war bomber force. The development by the USSR in the 1960s of barriers of sophisticated anti aircraft missiles (constantly updated ever since) and the immense distances needed to reach Soviet targets presented the US bomber fleet with a problem that was (and is) basically insoluble and this explains why all US attempts to develop a bomber to replace the B52 (eg. the B70, the B1 and the B2) have in the end proved disappointing.

                  However its possession of carrier task forces means that the US controls the world’s sea lanes, which is essential for it to project its power given that it is essentially an island continent. In the event of a war with the USSR it is difficult to see how the Soviet navy could have challenged the US for control of the ocean given its own lack of air cover and the overwhelming force the US could have brought to bear.

                • rkka says:

                  The VMF never hoped to wrest sea control from the USN/NATO navies. Their main mission was to be present. In the event of war, all the VMF hoped to do was disrupt/delay reinforcement of NATO ground forces in Europe, run an anti-commerce war, and defend “boomer” bastions in the Barents Sea and the Sea of Othotsk.

                  Killing a carrier battlegroup would be nice, but not necessary.

                • kirill says:

                  I doubt that US ship-borne anti-missile systems are so good that they render Soviet/Russian missiles such as the Yakhont obsolete. The Yakhont was designed to defeat defense systems. It skims the surface and then in the final stage accelerates to over Mach 4. It’s basically a carrier killer and that’s for the conventional version. There is no defense against nuclear attacks.

                  The USSR never controlled oil flows and major sea lanes so it never developed a navy similar to that of the US. The US and its colonial marines are all about suppressing 3rd world (at the time) states to keep the spice flowing.

  31. kirill says:

    At least Russia gives de facto asylum to decent people and not murdering gangsters like Berezovsky.

    But Depardieu will find it quite a culture shock to adjust to Russia. Belgium is a better place to reside, especially if he wants to live in a small village. Small villages in Russia are dying out and poor. Unlike in Belgium and France.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      I suggest that Monsieur Depardieu take up residence in the Belgian city of Huy.

      • marknesop says:

        Their coat of arms looks slightly phallic.

      • Jen says:

        Wouldn’t Depardieu be required to spend a minimum of three months living in Russia to maintain his citizenship? Or he could make a film in Russia – it doesn’t have to be a movie, it could be a five-minute guest appearance on a talk show or a spot on a celebrity reality TV show. A TV advert plugging a holiday package to Huy flying Air France might be too much upset for his bladder though.

    • marknesop says:

      I never thought about that tax hook. Still, I’d say it’s a stretch that Russia could expect an influx of rich foreigners seeking to keep as much of their wealth as possible. Maybe from Europe, where the taxman might actually try to get a hand in their pockets, but in many western countries the lawmakers are the rich, and as far as the taxman is concerned they are invisible.

      • Sacre Bleu! Wonders never cease. I gather Brigitte Bardot is now threatening to follow Depardieu’s example and take out Russian citizenship. In her case apparently it is not to protest the French government’s proposed tax changes but alleged French mistreatment of animals. At this rate the entire French “creative class” will soon be in Moscow. One wonders how the supposedly disaffected Russian “creative class” we hear so much about feels about that. Perhaps they should all go to Paris though the high French tax rates might put them off.

    • yalensis says:

      It’s not just Depardieu. Russia is being over-run with French celebrities, and even their pet elephants:

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I faintly remember how Jean Paul Belmondo was very popular here as well. He’s bobbing on now, but I remember how over 20 years ago he seemed to have a soft spot for the Evil Empire and seemed to be here very often in the early ’90s. At the back of my mind I have a faint recollection of him being invited to take Russian citizenship so as to stand for office somewhere – I think it was in Novosibirsk as mayor.

        This may not sound as impossible as one might think: a couple of years back I recall a story about an African from Zaire, I think, who became mayor of a town in the Tambov region. It seemed that he was well respected locally for his honesty. As far as I know, he is still mayor.

        As it happens, there’s nothing in the Russian constitution that could prevent me from standing for president – apart from the fact that I’m not a Russian citizen (something that could be very quickly remedied), I have lived here long enough and am over 35 years of age. Howevever, if my my mother had been, say, a “GI-bride” and I had been born in the UK or mid-Atlantic, even, on RMS Queen Elizabeth heading back to the USA with my father, but otherwise had lived all my life in the USA, I should be unable to stand for office as President of the USA.

        I always used to think of this whenever I heard Bob Hope crack his gag that he decided to leave England for the USA when he realized he never could become king. He never used to add that in the USA he could never become president either.

      • Jen says:

        The actress Catherine Deneuve has defended Depardieu’s decision to leave France so she could be joining the queue too if her annual income exceeds 1 million euros.

  32. By the way it seems that there is a massive row underway in Radio Liberty with many of the team unhappy with Masha Gessen’s management and (wait for it) accusing her of being a Kremlin agent.

    • kirill says:

      That is good news. It is a pleasure to see this pack of lying hyenas at each other’s throats.

    • marknesop says:

      There’s an extremely interesting post up at Mark Adomanis’s blog on it, and in a comment to it Sean of Sean’s Russia Blog points out that Steven Korn – President and CEO of RFE/RL – resigned on New Year’s Eve. One of the reasons is said to be Gessen’s sacking of REF/RL journalists in Moscow and replacing them with her cronies, while seizing firm control of RFE/RL’s direction. It is those who believe she deliberately sabotaged RFE/RL the “great threat to Putin” who suggest she and VVP are buddies, which is so ridiculous I can’t even think of a category to put it in.

      • Misha says:

        “Masha Gessen Is A Heroic Opposition Journalist, Not a Kremlin Stooge


        Crapola from an establishment promoted source. Nothing “extremely interesting” about it. As an editor, Gessen doesn’t come across as someone particularly open minded, when it comes to bringing on folks with a noticeably different and valid point of view than her own.

        If I’m not mistaken, I had (earlier at this thread) posted that bit on Korn with some follow-up comments. Sean doesn’t give the full scoop on what’s actually wrong with the coverage. Then again, he’s among the RFE/RL-JRL promoted.

        • marknesop says:

          Well, what I meant was that it was interesting to me – since it delivered information, indirectly, that I did not know, that Korn had resigned – and probably to some of the other readers as well, such as Alex; who plainly did not know it either. Of course it is not interesting at all to someone of your elevated stature. Please feel free to give it the silent treatment.

          • Misha says:

            What it deserves given that Korn’s resignation was linked at this thread, with follow-up comments.

            Of course, it’s understandable that an oversight can occur. There’s also the quality control issue of comparatively so-so commentary being given way too much attention over “brilliant” and “extremely interesting”, insight that establishment promoted sources are prone to not bring up.

          • yalensis says:

            It’s true what they say: Nobody does sarcasm better than Canadians!

            • Misha says:

              A matter of opinion, which can be legitimately second guessed.

              This time around, the Canadians weren’t the best at the IIHF Men’s U20 World Junior Champioships, which has Ufa as its venue.

              Russia beat Canada for the bronze. The US is presently leading Seweden 2-1 in the gold medal game.


      • Moscow Exile says:

        I notice in Adomis’s article that he describes Gessen as “one of Russia‘s most outspoken and consistently anti-Putin journalists” but adds that he neither particularly cares for her nor does he agree with her opinions:

        “Now let me be forthright in saying that I agree with Masha Gessen on almost nothing and that I think she is consistently hysterical and wrongheaded in her analysis of contemporary Russia. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to see that she very often allows her visceral, seething, and very personalized hatred for Vladimir Putin to influence her analysis of Russian politics, and that she too often substitutes feelings for analysis”,

        Later, however, Adomis writes that Gessen is “one of Russia’s bravest and most outspoken voices of political opposition”.

        Why does Adomis believe she is “brave” in her political opposition?

        He is clrearly suggesting that it is dangerous to crticize the Russian government and its leadership.

        What are these dangers?

        Do journalists risk some horrid retribution if they criticize Russian government policies or the Russian president?

        Do journalists even risk forfeiting their lives if they dare criticize the Russian government or Vladimir Putin?

        Is it that which Adomis is suggesting?

        • marknesop says:

          I’m not sure what he’s suggesting, but every once in awhile of late, his posts have a surreal quality; as if he had sent them in chunks via Twitter while drinking heavily and being exposed to widely-differing influences between transmissions, or simply phoned them in while being chased by a dog pack. There are abrupt mood swings – perhaps he’s going through The Change!! No, much too young for that. Oh, and the wrong gender. But he does say up front that Gessen is a heroic (illiterate; it’s “an heroic”) opposition journalist. So far as I’m aware, outside talking up the opposition because there was a chance they might overthrow Putin, who makes her shiver with loathing like somebody biting on tinfoil, she has no truck whatsoever with the opposition. I wonder how many people noticed her star reference for the Salon piece was Berezovsky? You know, the one who was just called a serial liar in a court case in which he was used to mop the floor.

          Whatever, there are a number of disconnects there. He professes to agree with Gessen on almost nothing, and since he believes he is telling the unvarnished truth about the many discussion points they have in common, that suggest Gessen is the polar opposite – a liar. What use is an opposition journalist – or any journalist – who just makes shit up? (I’m looking at you, Yulia).

          I actually think Masha Gessen is enough of an embittered head case that she is trying to provoke Putin into having her killed, just so she can join the exalted roll of Great Journalists In The Sky Killed By Putin, with Estemirova and Politkovskaya. When you think about it, outside a small claque of…ahem….women in comfortable shoes with short haircuts, and an anemic gaggle of Russophobes, who goes into raptures over Gessen’s writing? Even fairly-sympathetic reviewers panned “The Man Without a Face”, saying there was nothing new in it and little substantiation for anything that was in it. But there’s no shortage of people who undergo some weird sort of exaltation and begin speaking in tongues just from passing Anna Politkovskaya’s empty desk at Novaya Gazeta. Put me in, coach – I’m ready. Sorry, Gessen – back to the bench for you.

          I think Mark just occasionally gets tripped up by his knee-jerk qualification of his analyses – Russia’s GDP rose steadily…although of course it’s still dirt-poor compared to the USA’s living standards. Masha Gessen is an idiot who lives in a dreamworld….although of course she’s very courageous and deserves credit for saying what she thinks in such a dangerous country. That sort of thing. It’s as if he fears Gessen actually will get whacked, and people will go quiet and shuffle their feet and whisper “It was that last post of Adomanis’s that did for her, poor girl”.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            “I actually think Masha Gessen is enough of an embittered head case that she is trying to provoke Putin into having her killed…”

            The same thought has often crossed my mind too.

            She spent her US jouralist years berating Russia for, amongst other things, its alleged anti-semitism and for her having to have “Jewess” stamped into her Soviet passport, notwithstanding the fact that Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Latvians etc. also had their nationalities stamped in their passports as well. Then, after having returned to the country which she so despises, she criticicized Russia for removing from its passports the national identity of the bearer, claiming that by this action the Russian government had deprived her of her national identity.

            She is homosexual and has a homosexual partnership with a woman, a Russian whom she met and married in the USA. She has also borne a child – how she was inseminated I do not know, nor do I care: it’s her business – and has adopted another. However,she has chosen to live in Russia with her partner; in that country which she also berates for its antipathy to homosexuality and its abhorrence of open homosexual partnerships, albeit that homosexual acts between consenting adults is no longer illegal in Russia.

            And she writes the grossest of distortions and calumnies against the Russian president, whom she openly admits she dislikes personally, and this in a country in which she clearly believes that journalists who continuously criticize people in power will be liquidated.

            She wants to be a martyr for her cause – because she’s nuts!

            Dr. Exile
            Clinical Psychologist


            • Misha says:

              Russians had their own nationality stamped as well.

              Moreover, the Soviet policy on Jewish identity was in line with the Zionist view of what being Jewish constitutes.

              I understand that in the USSR, one could (under certain conditions) change their actual ethnic identity. For example, a Latvian living in the Russian SFSR could change his national identity to Russian.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                They certainly did: I keep my wife’s old Soviet passport so as to support my arguments when trying to explain to some of my fellow countrymen thet the Russians (russkiye) are not “Soviets” and that they declared their independence from the Soviet Union as did the Ukrainians, Latvians, Georgians etc., etc.

                As you know, the English language does not differentiate between the terms “russky”, a member of the eponymous ethnic group of Eastern Slavs, and “rossiyanin”, a citizen of the Russian Federation, who could, for example, be a Tatar or Bashkir etc. as well as a “russky”. The English word for both “russky” and “rossiyanin” is “Russian”.

                • Misha says:

                  You touch on an example of how that country can be spun.

                  Instead of portraying that point as an example of Russia formally recognizing ethnic diversity, some will suggest credence to a warped Gessen “stamped” BS.

        • Misha says:

          In comparison to what Gessen does as a journo, it appears far more “brave” to formally and openly take issue with Pipes, Johnson’s Russia LIst and some of the things that the overly promoted Adomanis says.

          The suggested contradictions of the latter come across as being relative to the censorship/self censorship issues evident at the higher profile of English language mass media/English language mass media influenced venues.

  33. marknesop says:

    Say; I was still fuming a bit over this snotty piece at Forbes, a couple of days ago. Russia Screws its Orphans to Hurt the U.S. Some Ukrainian emigree named Katya Soldak wrote it, and it sounds like it came right out of the Kyiv Post, refuge of Ukrainian nationalists who didn’t get enough of a wedgie from the Yushchenko presidency and still figure Ukraine’s best chance to be paving their streets with gold lies with the west.

    Anyway, I was looking through Google images, trying to find out where she got the photo that accompanied the article – you never know, the child pictured might not even be Russian. I didn’t find it (or at least only one copy, which was attributed to the same article), but I did keep running across stuff about orphanages in Ukraine. Apparently, the situation was not great.

    And, lo and behold, looky here. Some 88,000 orphans, all of whom – according to this article – are disabled and in the care of the state, abandoned by their parents because the perception is the state can take better care of them. Yup, a country that just £9 Billion (you don’t even want to know what that comes out to in dollars) on infrastructure preparatory to co-hosting the European football championship screws its orphans so Euro football fans will say, “Hey, wuzzent they Ukrainian buses AWESOME?” But you don’t read much about Ukrainian orphanages, although the number of children institutionalized in them has doubled in the last 10 years, according to UNICEF. Nope, it’s just Russia, Russia, Russia all the time.

    To be fair, UNICEF is not the most reliable source, because as we well know, it lumps in a lot of children as orphans who are actually living with a relative or have one parent remaining. Still, the author seems convinced the doubled amount represents children actually living in institutions. 88,000 disabled or special-needs orphans, nearly as many as the total living in institutions in Russia…in a country with less than a third of the population.

    I mention this not to give Ukraine a bad name – well, not to anyone but smarmy Ms. Soldak, anyway, since she seems quite proud to be Ukrainian – but to illustrate how Russia is constantly singled out for shame and fury , while countries who are known to be as bad or worse are simply given a pass. I seem to remember in 2011 Americans adopted something like 600 Ukrainian orphans. Here you go, Americans – knock yourselves out. You’ll be helping poor children who need a home, many of whom are disabled. But don’t forget to rub Ukraine’s nose in their own shit over what a pestilential hellhole you delivered them from.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Yeah, but you can bet it was those damned Soviets (aka “Russians”) that built those hell-hole orphanages and it is the clapped-out Soviet infrastructure that Ukrainians inherited after centuries of Russian occupation that has contributed to Ukrainian social woes. Russians are barbarians and they aren’t really Slavs, they’re Asian: they are atheist, communist subhumans that were never part of Ancient Rus’ – which should be called Kievan Rus’ by the way – and they tried to exterminate all Ukrainians and they’re all so wicked and……..

      • marknesop says:

        Curiously enough, I see no mention of “Soviet inheritance” in this British-origin article, either. Perhaps I’ll forward it to Ms. Soldak. I’m sure she’d want to know the nurses at the Torez orphanage “..just spend around 30 seconds spooning in a soupy mixture which then falls out of the child’s mouth before they move on to the next” when feeding disabled children who might need extra help to eat. Or that most of those who are bedridden are soaked with urine. Or that of the 100 or so children at the orphanage, there is an annual die-off rate of about 12. Or that the staff fight adoptions or fostering overtures because their funding depends on the number of children on the register – think we could get Latynina to shriek like a bandsaw cutting through a frozen cat over that one? I’m sorry, I’m joking, but it’s actually very hard for me to talk about children this way, and there’s nothing remotely funny about it.

        No way to claim the Americans don’t know about it, either – Teresa Fillmon, who related that vignette about the children having watery gruel spooned into their mouths, runs a U.S -based charity which aids orphanages in Ukraine. Western medical professionals have visited Torez and offered considered opinions that the children are suffering from malnutrition. No less than Baroness Nicholson, campaigner for orphans’ rights in Eastern Europe, is aware of the situation; Lady Nicholson has children’s rights cred up the wazoo, being Executive Chairman of the Associatia Children’s High Level Group as well as co-founder (with Harry Potter luminary J.K. Rowling) of England’s Children’s High Level Group, and former Director of the Save The Children Fund (1974-1985); she’s also co-Chairman – with the Romanian and Moldovan Prime Ministers – of the Children’s High Level Groups for those countries. According to Lady Nicholson, a life peer of the Realm, “This kind of issue can not only delay EU membership, it can forestall it for ever, until the country concerned takes a proper attitude of protection and not exploitation.”

        One more time, I am not introducing this as some sort of grotesque whataboutism to distract attention from the Russian adoption ban, nor is it my purpose to shame Ukrainians. I just want to know where somebody like Soldak gets off ripping on Russia for its orphan situation, while being to all appearances blissfully unaware of the unbelievably squalid, mean conditions in which children, disabled children, live in her own country of origin.

        As a footnote, I notice Lady Nicholson is adamantly opposed to international adoption. She was a whistleblower on the child-trafficking – which she refers to in this interview as “the fastest growing organized crime on the globe” – in Romania and appears to have been instrumental in getting it shut down. She has just joined Lady Gloster on my List of Women Who Make Me Think I May Have Misjudged Britain. When pressed on the subject of “international adoptions subject to stringent rules”, she replies, “I am not a child psychiatrist nor a social worker nor a medical person but I am told by the experts that children are best brought up in their own environment, own culture, their own language, their own family. Maybe they do not have a mother or a father, but they will have cousins, grandparents and aunts. All the professionals engaged in child welfare or in child health or development will say unhesitatingly that children are best brought up in their own environment. I am absolutely sure there are some instances where there is no future for an abandoned baby. And therefore, if you get the right fit, the right people, the right altruism, the right couple then I am sure that wonderful things can happen to the child that would never otherwise have happened. But I am also told that this is perhaps a bit of a rarity and it is all too easy even with well meaning efforts for wrong things to happen.”

      • Misha says:

        I recall bringing up one of Soldak’s articles at this venue. A sampling of her slant.

        Her take on Pussy Riot is on par with what Adomanis has written.

        Regarding how “very interesting” and ‘brilliant” get dubiously used, relative to other examples:

        An excerpt that concerns freedom of expression and a comparison between the Kyiv Post and Moscow Times –

        “As I have previously stated, at times, the portrayal of a given nation can have a misleading geopolitical bias. The muzzling of views in Serbia countering neoliberal and neoconservative positions is not a focal point. Likewise, with the Canadian government blocking Srdja Trifkovic’s entry into Canada for a politically motivated reason. Besides Trifkovic, some other law abiding people in Western countries have experienced the same treatment by Canada’s government.
        In comparison, greater attention has been given to British journalist Luke Harding being denied reentry into Russia. Harding was later granted permission, with an explanation that the denial was related to his not following an administrative guideline for reentering Russia and for having previously not respected a standard media procedure when he was in that country. Frequent critics of Russia regularly leave and reenter it.

        English is the modern day lingua franca, with reasonable pro-Russian advocacy regularly getting the shaft, in the world’s most influential language. On the subject of English language online newspapers, in the former Soviet Union: the Ukrainian based, non-Ukrainian owned Kyiv Post does a better job at presenting nationalist, anti-Russian leaning commentary than the Russian located, non-Russian owned Moscow Times does at presenting reasoned pro-Russian views.

        The Russian government funded 24/7 English language television news station RT (which has formally dropped the name ‘Russia Today’) covered Harding’s denied entry without (to my knowledge) doing similarly with Trifkovic getting rebuffed. In reality, RT falls well short of this immature characterization that the Kyiv Post (KP) runs when posting selected RT material – ‘Editor’s Note: The following story was published online by Russia Today, a Kremlin funded information organization that has been criticized for its anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian propaganda.’ The KP does not provide disclaimers when it frequently carries material from the likes of Alexander Motyl, who exhibit clear biases against Russia.”


        Moscow Exile touched on a point concerning “Kievan Rus:” being a ltter day terms in contrast to what “Rus” was known as.

        Soldak doesn’t come across as someone so willing to see her views tested in a reasoned discussion. North American Ukrainian studies programs are deginitely slanted in a certain direction as evidenced by this piece offering the first full online translation of Pavlo Skoropadsky’s edict for an “All-Russian Federation” inclusive of Russia and Ukraine:

        In contrast, North American Ukrainian history pieces include reference to Skoropadsky going to bat for Nazi imprisoned OUN personnel. After his government was overthrown, Skoropadsky lived in exile in Germany, where he wasn’t known to have embraced Nazi ideology.

        • marknesop says:

          I’m sorry, I must have missed it; when I went to that particular piece about the orphans, it was the first I’d ever heard of her, and I think I found it myself while browsing articles on the subject rather than it being linked but I can’t remember now for sure. Anyway, she reminds me of Oksana Bashuk-Hepburne or whatever her name was, a proud nationalist Ukrainian to whom Russians are scum of the gutter, who firmly believes the west is missing out on a great opportunity by not considering Ukraine for long-distance statehood, and is completely unaware of its shortcomings. This stands in stark contrast to the Russian intelligentsia, who seem to make it their life’s work studying the shortcomings of their own country and broadcasting them to the world in terms of the chilliest contempt.

          Anyway, cheer up, Mike; true artists never get the recognition they deserve until after their death.

          • Misha says:

            Much unlike the establishment promoted bullshit artists and some of the ass kissing wannabe class below them.

            People thinking along the lines of Soldak include an element that’s quite authoritarian, when it comes to respecting valid views which contradict theirs.

            Here’s a Soldak like commentary which was front page featured at the Kyiv Post:


            Regarding the aforementioned (in the article) Ukrainian education minister Tabachnyk, I note how the Russian language was treated beforehand in Ukraine, along with the Yushchenko pushed honoring of Bandera.
            Over the course of time, I’ve been in contact with Soviet era born ethnic Ukrainians who aren’t so pro-Soviet, while preferring to speak Russian and belonging to churches which aren’t UOC-MP affiliated. Post-Soviet polling continues to contradict the slants of the kind of Ukrainian views often getting the nod at the Kyiv Post and Western mass media. The post-Soviet Ukrainian Communist Party isn’t such a great individual force in Ukraine.

            BTW, Russia’s anti-Communist culture minister is a Ukrainian born ethnic Ukrainian:


            Kudos again to the History News Network for picking up the above piece.

            On the subject of Ukraine and the often promoted Stephen Cohen, I recall him getting trounced by a Ukrainian academic (on the PBS NewsHour) when Cohen inaccurately stated there were 20 million ethic Russians in Ukraine.

            I’m not looking to tap dance over that and besmirch S. Cohen’s overall input. At the same time, it’s horseshit to suggest that a choice few others besides him should be carrying the ball to the degree that they have.

            Improvement comes with qualitative changes made in the decision making process.

            While having the necessary resources, those truly seeking such make it a point to actively pursue the quality options getting muted on account of political biases and/or cronyism.

            Newly created venues that are purportedly intended to offer a different view are contradicting themselves when they promote much of the same old, same old.

  34. Misha says:


    Relative to English language mass media/English language influenced mass media, this is one of the better attempts at objectivity:


    On Russian-German relations:

    The gathering in question is done with the underlying theme of promoting better Russo-German relations. There’s a seemingly obligatory comment on some contentious historical issues.

    In the US, Nazism isn’t typically brought up at von Steuben Day festivities.


    Recent Russian naval news concerning an area with some disputes that have the potential to get out of hand:


    New Russian military field outerwear:

    I understand that the practically made M-65 field jacket is relatively popular in Russia:

    Currently debating on whether to buy a new Alpha or Rothco.

  35. kirill says:

    On the theme of Russian corruption, again. We have examples in India of elected representatives acting like dons for organized crime groups. What is interesting is that similar cases existed and seem to still exist after WWII in Japan where the yakuza has a “roof”

    I find it strange that the situation in super-corrupt Russia does not seem to be as bad as in Japan, in terms of the “roof” aspect. Of course, organized crime is quite active in Russia but I have yet to see an example where some Duma or upper house representative was running or covering for a crime syndicate. //sarcon Perhaps this just confirms the claims of the foaming at the mouth white ribbonists that Putin is the true tyrant. He would then be the ultimate roof for all crime syndicates in Russia. //sarcoff

  36. STOP PRESS: There has been a dramatic legal development here in London.

    One of the policemen involved in the Magnitsky case has instructed a group of top lawyers to bring a libel case against Browder. It is universally assumed that the Russian government is funding him. I am told that the news has provoked hysteria here. There have already been press attacks on Browder’s behalf attacking the courts for entertaining the case.

    If Browder loses the case and if Magnitsky is posthumously convicted of tax fraud in his forthcoming trial in Moscow then the way may be opened for the Russian authorities to bring a claim against Browder and Hermitage Capital in the Commercial Court in London (the same court which tried the Berezovsky v Abramovich case) to recover any money Browder and Hermitage Capital might have stolen.

    • marknesop says:

      Whoo-HOO!! That’s more like it.

      I don’t know that it will have much success, but a recent example in the British courts suggests such cases are not hopeless. Mind you, that was Russian against Russian, so it was a foregone conclusion that a Russian would lose. We’ll see when it’s a Russian (or Russia) against a Johnny-come-lately Brit. But even if the case goes nowhere, some evidence is going to be dragged into the light of day, and libel ain’t libel unless you say it knowing it to be not true. Tough to prove, but maybe it will give that twat Browder something to keep him busy.

      • Dear Mark,

        The point to understand about libel is that since it is Browder who has been making allegations about the policeman it is Browder who must prove them in court to be true. The policeman does not have to prove that Browder did not believe in the truth of the allegations he was making. It is irrelevant whether or not Browder honestly believed in the truth of the allegations. However if the policeman were to prove that Browder made the allegations knowing them to be untrue (which I agree would be very difficult) then Browder would not only have libelled the policeman but would also have committed a malicious falsehood, which is a separate legal wrong from libel and which I believe is also sometimes a criminal offence as well.

        • marknesop says:

          No, that’s correct; as I understand it, libel is the repeating of a falsehood that one knows or ought to have known (presuming, I suppose, a wealth of information in the public domain that contradicts the falsehood) was untrue. I didn’t realize Browder would have to prove it was true; I thought all that was necessary for libel is that the police officer’s lawyers prove Browder ought to have known it was not. Perhaps malicious falsehood is what I was thinking of.

          I can’t help wondering if this is a carefully-calculated effort to get the package of evidence on Magnitsky the senatorial delegation brought to western leaders – and which they refused to look at – into the public record. If so, it’s worth the try even if it does not succeed. On that occasion, Browder’s pal Jamison Firestone penned a triumphant howl of mockery for the Moscow Times, inferring what they brought was just a Power-Point presentation that everyone had seen before. I find it hard to believe they were that disorganized, or that Mikhail Margelov – head of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee – “admitted that no independent investigation had been done”.

          Things have been going Browder’s way for a long, long time. It’d be sweet if the direction was changing, but even if things continue to go Browder’s way, getting some more information into the record is a good place to start. Not least of all because the whole bottom might fall out of the Magnitsky Act. If that happened, I might have to take the day off with a bottle of good scotch.

          • Dear Mark,

            “Libel is the repeating of a falsehood that one knows or ought to have known was untrue”.

            No. That may be the position in the US or Canada. I don’t know. As I have heard in the US libel is a difficult claim to bring because of the defence provided by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Also in some European jurisdictions where libel is a criminal offence there is a need to prove a criminal intention, which presumably means that the prosecution must prove that the Defendant knew or was indifferent to the fact that the statement was false. However there is no requirement in Britain that the Claimant prove that the Defendant either knew or ought to have known that the libellous statement was false. All the Claimant has to do is show that the statement is (1) libellous ie. damaging to his reputation and (2) that the Defendant has made it and has communicated it to third parties. It is the Defendant who must then show that it is either (1) true or (2) a fair comment. There are also defences of privilege and public interest which do not apply in this case (and rarely do).

            Trust me on this. I have been involved in lots of libel cases and I know my way round this law well.

            • marknesop says:

              Yes, I did a little digging on it, and libel cases brought in Britain by foreigners are apparently not unusual, precisely because of this quirk. As I said, I’m trying to get a post out on it, it’s about half-done, and I’d rather not fight it it out in the comments only to find the issue is stale because I spent all my time on it without posting about it.

    • cartman says:

      I guess that’s what this is about (which will open for comments shortly):

      • Dear Cartman,

        Indeed. Notice that Nick Cohen is trying to insinuate that it is somehow an “abuse” for the policeman to bring the claim in a British court. However Browder is a British citizen living in Britain and has made his allegations in Britain where they have been widely published. I have no doubt the British Court does have jurisdiction in the case. I will be astonished if it decides that it does not.

        I would add that the media here must be feeling under pressure at this moment. They have all been freely publishing Browder’s allegations and have been doing so for years. Should the court decide that Browder libelled the policemen they may face libel claims and not just from this particular policeman as well.

      • Misha says:

        The news item that Alex brought up and Cartman’s referral of the Nick Cohen (Boo!) piece reminded me to check oD, which has this long winded piece, that among other things, touches on the idea of Russia breaking up:

        Mud can be thrown elsewhere:

        On the subject of “racist Russia”, this lad was made captain of the Russian U20 ice hockey team that just defeated Canada for bronze at the IIHF world junior championship in Ufa:


      • Moscow Exile says:

        Cohen is a shit!

        He describes Browder as a “pugnacious financier” who “has developed a devastating way of parting Putin’s gangsters from their money”.

        And how he acquired said money was perfectly above board? Was he a squeaky-clean knight in shining armour then, fighting for the righteous and justice? What did he do with the money? Redistribute it to the poor and needy? Or is it safely tucked away in Browder’s bank account?

        Here’s one take on how he succeeded in “parting Putin’s gangsters from their money”, albeit that this video begins with the unsubstantiated claim that Magnitsky was “tortured to death”. The gist of the video can be read here.

        “The Kremlin crime gang fears revolution” writes Cohen, repeating like clockwork that much loved trope about there being a threat of revolution in Russia before which Putin and Co. quake in fear. As regards Browder’s “parting Putin’s gangsters from their money”, Cohen writes: “I cannot tell you how much they hate him for it”.

        Oh please do, Nick! Please grant us access to the workings of the Russian executive’s minds, which you are privy to!

        Ye gods! How I loathe the Guardian and its hacks! The best thing I did was stop reading it every morning. That Cohen article will have put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day now – and it’s Christmas Eve as well.


      • yalensis says:

        And Nickie Cohen on Browder: not content with the ritual stipulation that “Gramps was a commie”, he decides to go a little deeper and even brings in the 1950 NYC debate between Grampa Browder (the Stalinist) and Max Shachtman (the Trotskyist). As if this had anything to do with the current Magnitsky affair and/or libel law. But nonetheless, even this is factually wrong, because by 1950 Shachtman was no longer technically a Trotskyist. He was still on the Left and in the American Labour movement, but he wasn’t a Marxist any more by then.
        Shachtman had completely broken with Trotsky as early as 1939. Three guesses what the issue was? You guessed it – Russia! (actually Soviet Union)… The MOLOTOV-RIBBENTROP pact was the deal-breaker. A component of the international Trotskyist program was “unconditional support of the USSR in wartime”. Hence, it was a given that all Trotskyists should support the Molotov-Ribbentrop deal. Supporting Molotov-Ribbentrop just meant that one backed the USSR both tactically and strategically, it didn’t mean that one suddenly became pro-Hitler. It requires a subtleness of mind to see the difference. (Nowadays, one would call this “thinking outside the box”, but in those days they called it dialectics.)
        Trotsky was technically Jewish, but he didn’t think like a Jew. Shachtman, on the other hand, like many Jewish intellectuals, was so horrified by the idea of Stalin making a tactical deal with Nazi Germany – these guys found they couldn’t emotionally handle this level of commitment to the Soviet Union, they then used this as a convenient excuse to begin their evolution back to the to the Western “democratic” fold. In time this would lead to the development of the bogus theory of “totalitarianism” as a system separate from both capitalism and socialism.
        In Shachtman’s case, he had already broken with the concept of “dialectical materialism” 2 years earlier, so he had already begun his evolution away from Marxism. This no doubt facilitated his single-minded attitude about Molotov-Ribbentrop.

        Break with Trotsky
        In 1938, Shachtman shocked Trotsky by publishing an article in the New International in which James Burnham declared his opposition to dialectical materialism, the philosophy of Marxism.[10] Although Trotsky reassured Shachtman, “I did not deny in the least the usefulness of the article you and Burnham wrote,”[11] the issue would soon be revived as Shachtman and Trotsky clashed on the outbreak of World War II.
        Following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (August 23, 1939, a non-aggression treaty between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union), the combined Invasion of Poland (September 1 – October 6, 1939) resulted in German and Soviet occupation of Poland. Inside the SWP, Shachtman and James Burnham argued in response that the SWP should drop its traditional position of unconditional defense of the USSR in war. The differences intensified with the outbreak of the Winter War (November 30, 1939 – March 12, 1940), when the Soviet Union invaded Finland. Shachtman and his allies broke with Cannon and the majority of the SWP leadership, which along with Trotsky continued to uphold unconditional critical defense of the USSR.

        • Misha says:

          Back in the day, the hard American left went at each other with gusto.

          Always fantasized a panel discussion featuring reps from the CPUSA (pro-Soviet), SWP (Trots), CPUSA-Marxist Leninist (pro-Albanian and prior to late 1970s-early 1980s or so pro-Chinese) and Workers World Party (likes and still likes Mao, Lenin and Trotsky in a can’t we all get along among Marxist-Leninists mode).

        • Robert says:

          Demolition of Shachtman and his legacy

          The Shachtmanites ended up supporting Scoop Jackson because of his support for the Vietnam war and when he lost the Demcocrat nomination they formed Socialists For Nixon. The neoconservatives venerate Scoop Jacksons legacy and its no surprise that Cohen holds Schachtman in very high regard. Cohen was one of those who propagandised for the Iraq war and was vitriolic towards those on the left who opposed it.

        • Misha says:

          “Shachtman, on the other hand, like many Jewish intellectuals, was so horrified by the idea of Stalin making a tactical deal with Nazi Germany – these guys found they couldn’t emotionally handle this level of commitment to the Soviet Union, they then used this as a convenient excuse to begin their evolution back to the to the Western ‘democratic’ fold. In time this would lead to the development of the bogus theory of ‘totalitarianism’ as a system separate from both capitalism and socialism.”


          Something kind of similar to this happened around the 1960s, with the neocon movement.

          In the 1970s, I recall Norman Podhoretz saying how he became annoyed with what he saw as an anti-Israeli bias on the left.

          I also recall his wife in the late 1970s-early 1980s going to bat for the Chinese in the Sino-Soviet dispute. Fast forward to the early days of the Yeltsin era, she started taking a more sympathetic view of Russia – contrasted from the Pipes influence among neocons.

          We know about the present. History in flux.

          • These references to Schachtman and the article to which Robert has provided a link with its references to now forgotten Trotskyite luminaries like (Tony) Clifff, (Gerry) Healy, (Michel) Pablo and their like brings back happily to mind the incessant feuding and unintentionally comic “revolutionary” posturing of the various Trotskyist microgroups that were active in Britain, the US and Ireland right up to the 1980s. This is the world lampooned in the famous Monty Python Life of Brian sketch about the Judaean People’s Front versus the People’s Front of Judaea. When I was at university the world of British student politics was still heavily under the influence of these people. Its nature was perfectly summed up (for me) by the immense seven volume work compendiously prooduced by the group around Gerry Healy under the portentous title “Trotskyism versus Revisionism: Against Pablo”. The one genuinely funny thing the KGB did was secretly sponsor a book that was published in English by a British Communist in the early 1980s that hilariously and racily took apart each and every one of these groups. It is to this day remembered as a minor classic and is still the best overall account of Anglo American Trotskyism. It goes by the happy title “Quite Right, Mr. Trotsky”.

            Unfortunately, looking back, it is clear that these Trotskyist groups did have one massively negative effect, which is that the one thing their former followers took from their membership of these groups and which they retain to this day long after they broke away is a pathological hatred of the USSR, which has now morphed into an equally pathological hatred of Russia. This is a real problem because a surprisingly large number of political commentators and journalists currently active in the west passed through these groups. Though I don’t actually know much about Nick Cohen I understand that his background is Left so he may also be a product of this milieu and this may account for some of his opinions.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              This “pathological hatred of the USSR” amongst British Trotskyist factions, “which has now morphed into an equally pathological hatred of Russia” is well reflected in the association of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party star catch, renowned British actress Vanessa Redgrave, who is often seen in the company of and gushing over fellow “Lovey” and so-called current Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakhaev, now resident in London.

              Zakhaev is wanted in Russia on charges of murder and terrorism.

              • Misha says:

                Redgrave as also part of the Serb bashing brigade, in addition to having an anti-Israeli lean.

                In turn, some in Israel, Serbia and Russia see a common foe, regarding left of center Redgrave types and some Islamists.

        • Misha says:

          Re: “Trotsky was technically Jewish, but he didn’t think like a Jew.”

          Reminded of this not so distant piece –

          Excerpt –

          “Many famous Russians, were in fact Jewish, even if they did not identify as such. Leon Trotsky – a brilliant but cruel revolutionary – was Jewish and propagandized as one, even though he called himself an internationalist and declined to help out the Jews as the Whites carried out pogroms during the Russian Civil War.”


          Trotsky wasn’t in a good position to help Jews in territory which wasn’t under Red control. Moreover, Russian Civil War era Red controlled areas weren’t (on the whole) effectively centralized and included instances of wanton violence.

          The above article makes no mention of the pogroms carried out by forces headed by Ukrainian separatist Symon Petliura. For most of the post-Russian Civil War period, the general consensus seems to be that Petliura’s forces were mostly responsible for the pogroms. Among pro-Ukrainian nationalist/anti-Russian leaning sources and those influenced by them, claims have been made that the Whites committed the most pogroms.

          Regarding this matter, consider the number of pro-Petliura/anti-White leaning sources over those reflecting more of a constructively critical White perspective. This book reflects the latter:

          The Whites had lower and some upper elements that were involved in the violence against Jews. There was no master plan for such activity, which included an unstructured manner; on territory where the pogroms had already been evident, during the prior period of control by Petliura’s forces. When Peter Wrangel became supreme commander of the Whites, the level of violence among White forces decreased.

          In exile, Petliura was assassinated by a Jew, with the motive said to have been pogrom related. The claim of a Soviet orchestrated hit job was never proven. Even if so, a revenge factor could’ve still existed.

          In exile, many Whites including Anton Denikin and Peter Wrangel lived respectable lives. During the Cold War era, Novoye Russkoye Slovo established itself as the largest English language newspaper in the US. Staffed with a good number of Jews, this paper reflected pro-Russian/anti-Communist views, inclusive of a respectful treatment of Denikin.

    • AK says:

      The obvious question is this: How did Mr. Karpov get the money to hire such expensive lawyers in the first place?

      For once Mr. Cohen seems to make a valid point.

      • Dear Anatoly,

        The universal assumption here is that the Russian government is funding him (which is fine by the way). Another possibility is that he has agreed with the lawyers a no win, no fee arrangement.. They are very common in libel cases. Of course there could be other explanations. He will undoubtedly be asked this by the Court over the course of the case so we should find out in due course.

        • AK says:

          The universal assumption here is that the Russian government is funding him (which is fine by the way).

          Possibly, although it presumes a great deal of competence and foresight on their part, and assuming Mr. Karpov is guilty of the claims made against him by Russian Untouchables. (A competence that it is hard to envisage given the utterly lackadaisical attitude to countering the Magnitsky Act as described at E. Ivanov’s blog).

          Another possibility is that he has agreed with the lawyers a no win, no fee arrangement.

          Also a possibility. Although I would point out that a British lawyer associating with someone like Karpov even if she is convinced he is innocent, would entail reputational risks (she has already drawn the ire of the Guardian wing).

          In any case, I look forwards to this as much as you do. In particular I was struck by this WTF moment when reading the article:

          Proudler says there is “not a shred of evidence against Karpov”. He had nothing to do with Magnitsky’s death, nor was he involved in prosecuting him. As for his conspicuous consumption, he bought his cars and properties before the Hermitage fraud.

          Assuming Cohen is not misrepresenting this in some way… How did he buy those cars and properties exactly? After he did so, why did he keep his job as a policeman?

          • Moscow Exile says:

            “[S]he has already drawn the ire of the Guardian wing.”

            Likewise Depardieu: “The man- a friend of Putin’s – is a disgrace” huffed and puffed one irate reader the other day, though not in the Guardian but in Lebedev’s Independent. I am sure, however, that many Guardianistas are of like mind.

            Anything to do with a defence of any Russsian point of view starts these dogs baying and salivating for blood!

            As regards Karpov’s cars and properties, Kovane touched on this point in this very blog almost exactly two years ago on January 19th 2011, when he wrote in the closing paragraph of his analysis of the Hermitage Capital/Magnitsky cases:

            “The saddest part of this story is the uncanny ability of the Russian government to shoot itself in the foot from any position. I mean, how hard is to hire some callow student to put together a lucid presentation of the investigators’ stand in English? How many billions has Russia lost, just because some honest investor read Browder’s
            unchallenged blaring and vowed never to invest a single penny in Russia? How much longer will any Russian investigation be maligned by the fact that the policemen drive a car worth more than their 10-year salary? How come millions of dollars just disappear from the budget, never to be found, while some talented doctor is pulling a night shift for a respectable $300 a month? Those are the questions I don’t know the answer to. Does anyone?”

            • AK says:

              Forget the car, even. The properties are not a 10-year salary but a 100-year salary. If the typical Moscow senior policeman is that corrupt then probably the CPI is correct and Russia really IS Zimbabwe.

        • AK says:

          I have just read the Untouchables material on Karpov and the evidence looks damning.

          Unless the documents there were blatantly forged, they do indeed show an array of huge property purchases around the data of the $230mn heist from the tax offices. Not to mention the holidays, cars, etc. that a policeman on his salary certainly would be unable to afford.

          This should have warranted a suspension and an independent investigation at the minimum. None of that happened, instead he was promoted in Jan 2010.

          I do not think they would lie on these points as such things can be easily double checked.

          • kirill says:

            Wow, 1.3 million dollars. Let’s have a revolution so that Khodorkovsky alone can loot billions of dollars EVERY YEAR. So $930,000 out of that $1.3 million is for the apartment owned by Karpov’s mother. Clearly someone is assuming that the only source of income for Karpov’s extended family is his $6,000 a month salary AND that they had no savings whatsoever. Did they check if it has been paid for upfront with cash or does it have a mortgage. Also note the “market price” trick, what did Karpov’s family actually pay for the apartment.

            Further tricks on this website are the Porsche 911, note the release date: 1998. Yeah, a 14 year old car is going to cost $41,000, but only In Russia hate land. BTW, Porsche 911 models aren’t that expensive so they are basically claiming a brand new price. This ain’t no Lamborghini. This website conveniently cuts off the release date on the Audi A3. Hmm, I wonder why.

            This website does not pass the smell test.

            • kirill says:

              This website also tries to mislead its readers that Karpov’s salary is $6,000 per year. This is a bald faced lie. People all think that Russian officials are paid very little since it is a poor country and can’t be bothered to look up the actual incomes of civil servants. The average monthly wage for civil servants in Russia is $1,600 per month. So someone of Karpov’s rank making $6,000 per month is realistic. But having him make only $6,000 per year is BS.

            • AK says:

              There is a document attached that confirms the claimed salary. Well, either that, or it was forged, or Karpov lied in his declaration.

              But anyhow, get a grip dude! Khodorkovsky was prosecuted for corruption. So, according to you, continuing the practice will lead to a revolution and his return?

              • marknesop says:

                I read elsewhere – I’d have to go and find it again now – that Karpov’s salary was a little over $800.00 per month. Even so, I’m given to understand none of that really matters: Browder has to prove that whatever allegations he has made against Karpov are true,. He can be as corrupt as the day is long, provided only that he is not guilty of that or those specific damaging allegations, and Browder would still lose. Of all the libel actions brought in 2010 (I’m afraid I don’t know how many there were, but they were summarized in a judicial review), not one was won by the defendant. What are the chances, with his penchant for exaggeration and his inflated image of himself as crusading anti-corruption activist, that Browder has said some damaging things about Karpov that he cannot prove?

                Also, Navalny recently blasted a Duma politician for corruption using his fancy cars and expensive foreign schools for his children as substantiation, and the defense was that all the wealth was acquired through his company before he was a politician. He didn’t seem too flustered and seemed quite prepared to defend himself, and I didn’t see Navalny pursuing it further. Karpov’s claims are similar, although it would beg the question why he took a lousy-paying job as a cop if he was wealthy. Major is not that high up in the police ranks, either, so likely not for the power. Anyway, doubtless we will know more once things get started.

                Speaking of Khodorkovsky, isn’t he out pretty soon, with the reduction of his sentence? I sure hope he goes to live in the USA.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        If Karpov’s case is being funded by the Russian government, what’s wrong with that?

        Surely it is in both the government’s and Karpov’s interest to prove in court that
        Browder’s accusations made against Karpov are libellous. If Karpov is successful in this case, he should enjoy the satisfaction of having Browder exposed in court as a liar and also receive damages; from the Russian government’s position, proving Browder to have made libellous statements as regards a person involved in the Magnitsky affair should contribute to undermining the concerted efforts of Browder and the US legislature to defame a huge number of Russian legislators, members of the Russian judiciary, Russian civil servants, medical, prison and law enforcement officers whose names have been secretly placed on the “Magnitsky list”.

        • Let me go through some of the points which have been made:

          1. Libel is all about reputation so Karpov will have to provide an explanation for his riches if and when the case goes to trial. It is inconceivable that his lawyers have not been through this with him already and have not questioned him closely about his assets and obtained a full explanation from him. Presumably whatever this explanation is the lawyers feel confident enough about it to bring the case, otherwise they would have advised him against doing so. One of the useful things about this case is that hopefully it should clear this issue up and the fully legitimate questions about the sources of Karpov’s wealth should be answered,.

          2. We do not of course know for a fact that the Russian government is funding this case. However on the assumption that it is, the big question is why did wait so long before it acted?

          Russia sleepwalked into the Magnitsky law. I totally agree with Eugene Ivanov on this point. It was not until the summer of 2012 that the Russian authorities woke up to the threat posed by the Magnitsky law and realised that it had a real prospect of coming into effect. It was only at that point, which was far too late, that they tried to prevent it. It might be that this provides the reason for delaying the start of the case until now. It would takes a few months for lawyers to research a case like this and to advise whether it should be brought so a decision in Moscow in the summer of 2012 to look into this possibility makes sense.

          I do not know why it took so long for the Russian authorites to grasp the threat presented by the Magnitsky law. Incompetence must be part of the story. I strongly suspect however that a key further factor was that the Russian political elite were completely absorbed throughout 2011 and 2012 with the tandem switch, the election cycle and the protest movement that were simply was not giving sufficient attention to other things. I am afraid this is part of the price Russia pays for still being politically and administratively speaking very much a top down society. It is only now that the political problems of 2011 and 2012 are out of the way that the responsible people in Moscow are giving proper attention to this subject.

          Of course there is also a more Machiavellian explanation, which I do not myself believe but which I nonetheless offer. This is that someone in Moscow deliberately delayed the start of this case until after the Magnitsky law was passed. Karpov must be one of the people whose names are going to appear on the Magnitsky list.. The fact that Browder’s allegations would have led to Karpov being put on the Magnitsky list will exponentially increase the compensation Browder will be ordered to pay Karpov if Karpov wins the case against Browder. It could also discredit the Magnitsky law. A British Court would have said that one of the persons whose name is on the Magnitsky list is innocent and that the allegations that caused his name to be placed on the Magnitsky list are untrue. This would be an effective way of exposing the basic flaw of the Magnitsky law, which is that it presumes the guilt of persons who may well be innocent.

          I do not believe in the Machiavellian explanation myself. It looks to me to overcomplicated and altogether too clever. However people do sometimes think in excessively complicated ways and there are some very clever people working in the Russian Justice Ministry and in the Procurator General’s Office.

          3. The lawyers must know that they will come under a sustained attack if they take on this case. That is an occupational hazard for a lawyer. Libel lawyers especially have a reputation for being tough and independent minded. They can also in Britain be sure that if they do come under sustained attack the Court and the legal profession will protect them. I wouldn’t be too worried about them.

  37. R.C. says:

    Assad’s speech………

    I’ve noticed that the western press isn’t keen on providing full translations of leaders they don’t like. For example, Putin gave several interviews during the Georgian war in 2008 to the American press, in which they carefuly redacted those interviews. I remember Putin saying that when a Fox news reporter was confronted by a tourist in South Ossetia who told them that the Russians came to the rescue after the city was attacked, that the Fox reporter looked as if he was going to “soil his pants.”

    Responses to Assad’s speech:

    -The Turkish FM had the nerve to say Assad doesn’t understand the Syrian people. Has this idiot appointed himself the spokesman of the Syrian people? I believe the word here is desperation. After two years of trying everything, Assad’s still there.

    – I find it perverse that twitter, with posts constrained to 140 characters, has been used by the British foreign secretary to provide an assessment of a 45 minute speech delivered by the Syrian President. Hague’s comments essentially amount to a ‘I know you are, but what am I’ and ‘well you started it’ position that one might expect from an prepubescent simpleton. Is this moron the best Britain can do? Someone like Lavrov puts him to shame.

    Sour grapes I say. Assad’s survival is their defeat.

    • Misha says:

      Which moitvates them to see him go.

      Pretty much the same with Milosevic.

      An obsevation not intended to be a blanket support of the two.

    • marknesop says:

      “I remember Putin saying that when a Fox news reporter was confronted by a tourist in South Ossetia who told them that the Russians came to the rescue after the city was attacked, that the Fox reporter looked as if he was going to “soil his pants.”

      That was probably Amanda Kokoeva, a South Ossetian girl who lives in San Francisco and was vacationing in South Ossetia when the attack on Tshkinvali broke out. Her interview is here.

      • Misha says:

        I saw that Fox news segement.

        She wasn’t censored. The host made clear that he had to go to a commercial break and that she would be given time when that segment continued. That’s what in fact occurred.

        There was some lousy accounting of that segment. I’ve seen similar segments on Fox when folks giving a preferred (by that station) slant are cut short for a commercial break.

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