The Voice Of I’m Better Than You

"We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others, by their acts."

“We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others, by their acts.”

A lot of people on both sides of the debate say that anti-Americanism is on the rise in Russia. Although the cause of international harmony is by no means lost yet, I’d have to agree that sentiment has some merit. And there are few such sea-changes which take place over a short time, geopolitically speaking, for no reason. So there is likely to be a reason. Who’s to blame? Is it Russia, and Putin’s supposed crackdown on civil society? If so, I’m bound to inquire why only a handful of civil-society organizations – chiefly those in the pay of foreign democracy-activist agencies – and the usual liberal bobbleheads are complaining, while the new laws generally draw support from those Russians who are politically engaged. Of course the new laws draw zero support in the west, but until the west participates in Russian elections – openly – it has zero to say about how the country is run. Is the west being particularly accommodating and trying to understand Russia’s position? Well, you tell me.

Here’s an excellent example of Anglospheric detente, drawn to my attention by Mike Averko a couple of days ago. The Voice of Smug.

All right, let’s go through Mr. Brooke’s Reality Check item by item, what say? I should mention before starting that I received a nice email from Mr. Brooke, informing me that he had posted my comment – which, at time of writing, is still not posted at the relevant article – and that it was good to know the anti-American fringe was still active. Since I have no way of showing you what that comment was, I decided to move the discussion over here.

So, let’s get started. This series of chest pokes is supposed to answer the question, who needs the other more – the United States of America, or Russia? Mr. Brooke opens with population, for some reason I’m damned if I can fathom. He says by 2038, Americans will outnumber Russians three-to-one. That would be nice if every Russian wanted his own American; there would certainly be no quarreling then, would there? A virtual embarrassment of choice. Otherwise, how does that illustrate that Russia needs the USA more than vice-versa?

Well, perhaps a sensible answer will reveal itself. Meanwhile, Mr. Brooke knows as much about turning pig iron into steel as he does about what the world’s population will look like in 2038. And that goes for everybody else as well (except maybe for steelworkers), so he needn’t feel embarrassed by his ignorance, although he might have given us an inkling of how he arrived at that conclusion; all his facts are unsupported by references. Nobody really knows, as world population could be affected in the future by a large number of factors. But let’s take a look at where the trends are heading. My, yes; U.S. population growth is robust, and stood at 311.59 million in January 2012, according to the World Bank. Russia’s population growth, by contrast, appears to have just pulled out of a power dive, and stood at 141.93 million as of January 2012. Still not seeing why that means Russia needs America.

Is it because America is the world’s biggest economy, and market? If so, the U.S. Intelligence Council’s Global Trends Report is likely to be an eye-opener. Before that keenly-anticipated day when America can say, “We outnumber you three-to-one!! In your face, borscht-eaters!!!”, China’s economy will have left the USA’s gasping for breath by the side of the road. There will be food and water shortages, and a tectonic shift with the rise of a global middle class.

The report has a lot more revelations, but we have limited space, so let’s just look at those factors for the moment – bearing in mind that something entirely different from that picture might be what actually happens. But assuming those influences come to pass – which country would it be better to be in, if there were food and water shortages? A small country with a huge population, or a large country with a smaller population? If there really is a rise of a global middle class, would it be better to live in a country that has distributed its income mostly among the middle class in the form of incremental gains in the living standard and regular pension raises, or one in which the country’s wealth has been overwhelmingly skewed to the top 1%? I still see nothing in these projections which would suggest Russia better start kissing up to the USA in order to stave off ruin – is it likely that food shortages are going to force Russia to beg for potatoes from the USA, or the other way around? Do you know how much land it takes to run beef cattle, and feed them? Would that work better, do you think, in a country with a population density of 84 people per square mile, or one with 22? Just sayin’.

Did you know the U.S. natural birth rate has been running below replacement rate since the 1970’s? If the children of immigrants are included, two-thirds of the approximately 3 million new Americans added every year are immigrants. Although it is sensible to point out that nobody can really see the future, it is also sensible to take note of fact-based studies which suggest overpopulation in the USA is headed toward being more of a problem than an asset.

All right; I think we’ve beaten population to death as an issue, and while it sure was fun, I still don’t get how having lots more people is a compelling invitation to international sycophancy. Especially when the more populous country has an unemployment rate nearly a full 2% higher than that of the less-populous country, and trending upward.

Let’s move on. Next up on the you-better-be-nice-to-me index: the USA’s economy is 8 times bigger than Russia’s. Quite right; it is the world’s largest economy, for a little while longer. But Russia sits right next to what will be the world’s largest economy in the next few years, and is its biggest energy supplier. A country where the people already outnumber Americans four to one , not to put too fine a point on that population thing.

What else you got, Mr. Brooke? Oh, right; The U.S. outspends Russia ten to one on defense. So? How is that an advantage which compels Russia to kneel at your feet when you are part of international organizations which regulate how you will use that massive military machine? Were you thinking of a unilateral attack? Russia bitch-slapped Napoleon into next week when he was head of the world’s preeminent military power, and Paris is only a little more than 1,500 miles from Moscow. Washington is almost 5 times that.  I realize warfare has moved beyond horses and muskets and towed field guns, but that’s still one hell of a long logistics chain. Unless you were thinking of a preemptive nuclear strike, in which case you are a nut, because Russia is a nuclear power as well, and if you are just talking an exchange of nukes, spending ten times as much on defense means diddly. Although actual numbers are a closely-guarded secret, I’d look at all available sources before making such a decision, if I were you. While you’re at it, you might want to look at the Cato Institute’s analysis of the U.S. defense budget; they argue not that the current $531 Billion annually the USA spends on defense is unsustainable, but that it will likely continue simply because it is sustainable; the USA shops for military hardware like rich folk shop for handbags, because it can. Yet is still runs all its major military operations as coalition efforts. And although it might be affordable today, while the USA is the world’s largest economy, just keep in the back of your mind that that state of affairs is likely not going to continue for much longer.

I’d like to ask here for a moment of silence, to mourn the death of James Brooke’s credibility. Probably it was the sudden transition from arrogant blowhard to lunatic that did it. The “big game-changer” that will keep the USA kicking ass and taking names from now until the Judgment Trump, we are told, is….shale gas.

Lord have mercy. Just like you see, every once in awhile, headlines in those tabloid newspapers next to the supermarket checkout; “Japanese Submarine Surfaces After 68 Years; Did Not Know War Was Over”. Never mind that that just couldn’t happen, because they were all diesel submarines then and not even a nuke could go 68 years without refueling; the implication is that there are still people who are completely unaware of current events. Remember, just a few years ago, when the Anglospheric press was trumpeting the joyful news that huge deposits of oil-bearing shale in Poland meant it (and its bestest pal, Europe) could finally shrug off the sweaty paw of the hated Russian bear? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask Radek Sikorski or anyone involved in the marketing of shale gas, the dream persists. If you ask other sources – not so much. Exxon-Mobil pulled out of Poland last summer, owing to the failure to develop gas flows on a commercial scale. Conoco-Philips declined to exercise its 70% option in northern Poland. Costs per well were running at three times the cost in the USA. According to Cezary Filipowicz, business-development manager for United Oilfield Services, “Whoever expects that we will be an exporter of gas for the European market is dreaming”.

Things are much more promising in America, though, with the gigantic God-gifted Bakken formation, and shale plays from here to the far horizon, right? Actually, no. The Bakken is an anomaly, not exactly a conventional shale play at all, but even so its yields are not going to be the game-changer Brooke and others are doing the happy dance over. In fact, the situation is rich with irony: western Russia analysts and experts (and the only qualification seems to be that you have a pathological loathing for the country, because there is apparently no downgrading of one’s expert status as a consequence of being wrong over and over) regularly croak dolefully that oil will have to stay above $90.00 per barrel in order for Putin The Cloaked Malevolence Of The Kremlin to realize his crazy dreams for Russia. It seems to escape their notice that every time the price of oil starts to drift downwards, NATO picks a fight with some other oil-producer, and up it goes again, but never mind that. The ironic part is that that’s just about exactly the break-even price of oil from the Bakken as well. If oil prices fall below that, it’s no longer profitable, and funny things happen to people in the oil industry when they see “oil” and “not profitable” in the same sentence. Although the Bakken puts out about .6 – .7 million barrels per day, according to people whose business is oil and oil futures, “…it is challenging to find support for the idea that total production of shale oil from the Bakken formation will move much above present levels”. As for other conventional shale plays, “The average well now yields around 85 000 Bbls during the first 12 months of production and then experiences a year over year decline of 40% (+/-) 2%”. That’s the thing about shale oil; early yields are good, good enough that the producers start to swagger and say, “Oh, yeah!! How do you like me now???” But it almost always turns out like getting drunk and telling your boss what you really think of him, based on an offer to get taken on at twice the salary by another company, which then falls through. You’re left looking like a jackass, and also looking for a job.

Say…that wound looks like it could use a little salt. Okay, here it is; according to whistleblowers inside the International Energy Agency (IEA) – and the Anglosphere loves a whistleblower, just look at how it has canonized Magnitsky – the annual report upon which the western powers base their energy predictions is subjected to American pressure to fudge the figures, so that they are largely meaningless. This would be the report that forecast what a game-changer shale oil was going to be.

I’m not even going to get into the remaining twaddle about world affairs which the USA can manage nicely on its own without any help from Russia, owing to the sentence “That said, Russia’s cancellation of the sale of its S-300 air defense system to Iran put pressure on Tehran to negotiate its nuclear weapons program.”  Tehran does not have a nuclear weapons program, and the continued attempt to make it grow into truth by simply repeating it over and over is entirely handcrafted from something warm and brown which bulls leave behind them, but which my personal refinement and delicacy prohibit me from naming. The IAEA is responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program to ensure it is used only for power generation purposes, and that agency has never, repeat never, found any weaponized uranium in Iran. The west is not truly concerned about Iran’s Low Enriched Uranium (LEU); if it were, it would never have allowed the UN to broker a deal whereby the IAEA would supply Iran with uranium enriched to an even higher degree, in exchange for Iran’s LEU. Uranium enriched to around 20% is the standard for reactor fuel, and you cannot make a weapon with it. Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to higher than 80%.

But if the USA is prepared to solve all those problems without Russia’s help and does not need or want it, by all means get on with it. You did such an awesome job in Libya, al Qaeda is still talking about it. Approvingly, for the most part.

You want to know what is responsible for the crumbling of USA-Russia relations? Strutting, ignorant braggadocio like this. I’m accused of being anti-American, but the truth is I am strongly pro an America that has been gone for a long time, now scarcely within living memory – whereas the only thing acceptable as pro-American these days is unquestioning acquiescence to American foreign-policy goals, continuous meddling in the sovereign affairs of other nations in attempts to overthrow governments of which the American political elite disapprove, and remaining politely attentive during To Know Me Is To Love Me sessions like this. If James Brooke truly is the Voice of America, look for the situation between Russia and the west to get much, much worse.

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308 Responses to The Voice Of I’m Better Than You

  1. “Which country would it be better to be in, if there were food and water shortages? A small country with a huge population, or a large country with a smaller population?” …. Smart conclusion, you got at the root of the problem.

    • marknesop says:

      Well, I’m not suggesting Russia deliberately kept its population low because it foresaw such developments. It simply irritated me that the author saw Advantage USA in everything.

      • Yeah, I see you. You are right and curent statistics show that the demography has been growing since 2000. BTW do you know that we had more people than in the US in Tsar Russia (more than 170 mlllion).

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Top 5 Economies of 1900
          1. British Empire
          2. Russia
          3. China
          4. United States
          5. French Empire

          Top 5 Largest Armies of 1900
          Russia – 2,680,000 (Conscription)
          France – 1,375,000 (Conscription)
          Hanover – 775,000 (Conscription)
          China – 730,000 (Feudal System)
          Prussia – 667,000 (Conscription)
          (There was a German Kaiserreich in 1900, but no German army as such.)

          Top 5 Largest Navies-1900
          1. United Kingdom
          2. Russia
          3. France
          4. Japan
          5. United States of America

          And then Europe committed mass suicide 1914-1919 and, in the immortal words of Lev Bronstein (though in a different context), was subsequently destined to end up in “the dustbin of history”.

          • Misha says:

            WW I was a much different experience for Russia than WW II. The former included an earlier drive into Germany, with impressive performances against the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman armies. Militarily, Germany was to establish a military presence in Russian Empire present day Ukrainian territory, much unlike Russia proper (if you may) – the territory of today’s Russian Federation. In WW II, the Nazi forces were considerably more evident on that Russian territory. With their backs greatly against the wall and Stalin encouraging Russian patriotism, the Soviet Union was able to rally a victory. Facing greater odds can serve to better motivate people at times. Concerning that last point, Russia’s WW II enemy had a more vile aspect than the WW I variant.

            The pre-Soviet Russian economic stats reveal a country that could’ve very well advanced further without a Boshevik revolution. As I’ve previously said, I’m glad to see post-Soviet Russia at large take a more positive look at its pre-Soviet past, in contrast to some of the simplistically inaccurate before the revolution there was nothing kind of slant that has been suggested in some circles.

            • Jen says:

              Misha: I’ve discovered that from 1932 to September 1939 the Soviet army fought Japan in the Far East parts of Soviet territory and had walloped the Japanese army and air-force once and for all at Khalkhin Gol in Mongolia by 15 September 1939. (I was never taught this stuff at school but it had a huge influence on Soviet conduct of the war against Germany; Marshall Zhukov made his name fighting Japan and used similar tactics in fighting both the Japanese in the 1930s and the Germans in the 1940s.) By mid-September, Stalin had his pact with Germany and could concentrate all Soviet forces on Japan if necessary. The Japanese saw that their situation was hopeless, abandoned all plans to proceed into Soviet territory and signed a neutrality agreement respecting Soviet and Mongolian borders with the Soviets in 1941 which lasted almost for the entire length of WW2 from then on.

              • Misha says:


                Stalin was known to have referenced the past. Japan had improved their reputation as a fighting force upon its earlier surprise attack against Russia in 1904-1905.

                I heard it said that in the USSR, the farther that one was away from Moscow, the greater the chance a Red Army officer stood of not getting purged. After the Soviet defeat of Japanese forces, the Soviet far eastern force could be transferred and effectively used against the Nazis.

                BTW, as I’ve previously noted, some Russians felt a sense of irony when the Japanese launched another surprise attack some years later at Pearl Harbor.

                The Western powers initially took a glee at the aforementioned 1904 attack much unlike the stance taken by Montenegro:


                Note the similarity of the Russian and Montenegrin coat of arms:


                A somewhat humorous view of Montenegro/Montenegrins and other former Yugos:


                • kirill says:

                  The Soviet war with Japan has been one of the most butchered and obscured facts of WWII. You would think that Japan only fought the USA and had no interest in attacking the USSR. Perhaps Khalkin Gol convinced Japan not to try to invade Siberia for resources and instead prompted Pearl Harbour. But the western allies put extreme pressure on Stalin to launch a second front against Japan. So in 1945 he obliged and Soviet forces defeated the one million man Kwantung army. This was not pushover army and a big blow to Japan. Japan tried to wiggle its way out of the consequences of this loss with some pronouncements about peace but the fact is that their army kept on attacking to the bitter end. This political shite has been used by Japan as an excuse to claim the southern Kurile Islands which it lost fair and square. In fact, Churchill and Roosevelt both agreed that southern Sakhalin and all the Kurile Islands would become USSR possessions when they got Stalin to open up a second front against Japan.

                  The US dropped two nuclear bombs without telling the USSR anything about these plans supposedly to stop the war from dragging another 6 months. This is self-serving propaganda nonsense. The defeat of Japan’s main land army by the USSR served more than just a bit to force Japan to surrender. After the war the US stabbed the USSR in the back by basically backing the whole “Northern Territories” shtick of Japan. Japan should blame its western friends for losing that territory after of course blaming itself for starting a war of aggression.

            • wanderer says:

              “WW I was a much different experience for Russia than WW II. ”

              Very true Mike, and in a way that does not reflect credit on Imperial Russia.

              In 1914, Russia faced ~12 divisions of the German Empire, perhaps 150,000 German troops in total. And subsequently were constantly defeated by the Germans for the next 3 years.

              And got butchered due to bungling incompetence on a massive scale.

              In 1941, Russia faced 134 German divisions, over 3,000,000 German troops, about 20 times as many as Russia faced in 1914, and cut them up far worse than anyone else had up to that point in WWII. The Germans found themselves in need of a new army by early 1942, because the one they had had been wrecked by the Soviets.

              • kirill says:

                At one stage I bought into the cold war version of WWII, but then I learned quite a few facts that threw that propaganda snow job out the window. Stalin was on the ball and not some silly cartoon character. Even the final battle for Berlin was not “Stalin squandering Soviet soldiers” but prompted by the essentially unopposed western rush to grab it first. So the USSR absorbs 80% of Nazi Germany’s war effort and at the last moment the anglophone western allies grab all the credit.

                The Soviet war effort was nothing to criticize. The organization of war factories even inside besieged Leningrad was an epic achievement. There were just too many correct decisions and too much advanced and brilliant planning to justify the caricatures of incompetent, ham-fisted Soviet goon leaders. It’s annoying seeing these internet “expert” debates which basically assume that advanced weapons systems grow on trees. Stalin personally signed off on weaponry which changed the course of the war. The military purges of the 1930s are regularly invoked to prove what a moron Stalin was. So why was the same incompetence not shown during the war? Zhukov and other generals should have been shot at one stage or another based on one pretext or another. Of course the deep infiltration of German intelligence into the USSR during the 1930s is conveniently ignored.

                • hoct says:

                  “At one stage I bought into the cold war version of WWII…”

                  Well isn’t that ironic. Me, I never bought into that. In fact I was never exposed to it, all the WWII-themed books in our school library were from the times when they had to pass censorship by the CPY. The history of war shelf was full of books on the Vietnam War written by the Vietnamese. There was one penned by an American, it was the infamous Mark Lane’s collection of interviews with American soldiers where they speak how they committed wanton crimes against the Vietnamese people.

                  Something to keep in mind the next time I try to put a nuance on some aspect of the Soviet WWII experience.

              • Misha says:

                You keep downplaying certain otherwise key comparative points Wanderer.

                Early into WW I, Russia launched an offensive into Germany – something the USSR didn’t and couldn’t successfully do in the early stages of WW II.

                On the matter of “bungling”, note the Soviet aid shipments going to Germany after the Nazi attack on the USSR. The Nazis were deep into Russian territory much unlike the German experience in WW I.

                As I believe I noted above, people can tend to rally a greater resistance when faced with greater odds. The Russian WW II experience was a people’s victory despite and not because of Stalin. Pre-Soviet Russian history serves as a precedent on this point.

                With retrospection especially in mind, Russia in WW I shouldn’t not have attacked early on into Germany. WW I Germany had a much wiser policy when it came to manipulating discontent in the Russian Empire. Nazi ideological idiocy and brutality severely hindered a similar effort in WW II.

                A comparison of WW I and WW II troop numbers should accurately consider per capita variables. On a related matter, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman forces faced by the Russian Empire were arguably more significant than the non-German allied Nazis the USSR faced.

                • Misha says:

                  Note that the Russian Empire militarily fared well against the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary in WW I.

                • wanderer says:

                  “You keep downplaying certain otherwise key comparative points Wanderer.”

                  You keep glossing over the fact that Russia faced 20 times as many German troops in 1941 than she did in 1914. And did a far better job fighting them.

                  “Early into WW I, Russia launched an offensive into Germany – something the USSR didn’t and couldn’t successfully do in the early stages of WW II.”

                  Imperial Russia launched an offensive against the 150,000 Imperial German troops in East Prussia in the beginning of WWI, and bungled it decisively due to stunning incompetence.

                  In 1941, the Soviet Army counterattacked against 3,000,000 German troops on the first day of Op. Barbarossa.

                  Are you really willing to ignore that the Germans had 20 times more troops against Russia in 1941 than Germany did in 1914??

                  “On the matter of “bungling”, note the Soviet aid shipments going to Germany after the Nazi attack on the USSR.”

                  The alternative to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Mike, was watching Nazi Germany conquer all of Poland, occupying the Baltic States, and launching Op. Barbarossa against the 1938 Soviet border, with no prospect of support from Great Britain or France.

                  “The Nazis were deep into Russian territory much unlike the German experience in WW I.”

                  Ever hear of tanks, Mike? They sped things up considerably.

                • Misha says:

                  Wanderer, the Soviet fighting ability against the Nazis really kicked in at the latter part of the Nazi invasion. Once again, the USSR didn’t launch an early strike force into Nazi Germany on account of its difficult position at the time of its becoming involved in WW II. On this last thought, keep in mind your selective tank point.

                  Your point on M-R doesn’t serve to cover Stalin’s bungling of the time of the Nazi attack as previously noted above, in addition to the points that you don’t address.

                  As for M-R, I see the practicality of that pact, which shouldn’t be confused with celebrating it.

                • wanderer says:

                  “Wanderer, the Soviet fighting ability against the Nazis really kicked in at the latter part of the Nazi invasion.”

                  Wrong Mike. The Soviet Army inflicted almost half of the total casualties the Germans suffered in 1941 by mid-August 1941.

                  “Once again, the USSR didn’t launch an early strike force into Nazi Germany on account of its difficult position at the time of its becoming involved in WW II.”

                  Wrong Mike. The Soviet Army conducted a general counteroffensive against 3,000,00 German troops *on the first day* of Operation Barbarossa.

                • Misha says:

                  A not so smooth diversion from the tremendous amount of land the Nazis took upon their initial entry into the USSR, during a period which involved tremendous damage to on ground Soviet airplanes in the area taken, as well as the many surrendered Soviet army personnel.

                  Then again, you had earlier linked a hail Mary of a air bomb the Soviets aimed on Germany, which was of little significance in terms of damage it caused.

                  Check how many Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian POWs were taken by the Russian Empire in the early stages of WW I.

                • wanderer says:

                  “A not so smooth diversion from the tremendous amount of land the Nazis took upon their initial entry into the USSR, during a period which involved tremendous damage to on ground Soviet airplanes in the area taken, as well as the many surrendered Soviet army personnel.”

                  Again. Mike, tanks. In WWI, the Germans never got to Paris. In WWII, they got to the freakin’ Spanish border, in six weeks!

                  “Then again, you had earlier linked a hail Mary of a air bomb the Soviets aimed on Germany, which was of little significance in terms of damage it caused.”

                  Mike, I am talking about the general ground counteroffensive the Soviet Army conducted against 3,000,000 German troops on the first day of op. Barbarossa.

                  “Check how many Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian POWs were taken by the Russian Empire in the early stages of WW I.”

                  Mike, both The Ottoman and A-H Empires were backwards, ramshackle, collapsing empires, just like Imperial Russia (the Ottomans a little more so, the A-H empire maybe a very little bit less so.) The Germans however were near the top in terms of industrial and technical development in both WWI and WWII.

                • Misha says:

                  In WW II, the Soviets had tanks, which didn’t get them to Germany earlier than the Russian drive into that adversary in WW I.

                  The Russian Empire military was obviously not so “ramshackle” (as you put it) to that of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, as evidenced by the former’s success against the latter.

                • wanderer says:

                  “In WW II, the Soviets had tanks, which didn’t get them to Germany earlier than the Russian drive into that adversary in WW I.”

                  In 1941, the Germans had more practice using them in wars, crushing the 1.5 million man Polish Army in a month in 1939, and crushing the 4 million man Western Allied armies in six weeks in 1940. But when the Russians did drive into Germany in 1945, they had a victory parade through the streets of Berlin, and Red banners flew over the ruins of the Reichstag.

                  Imperial Russia didn’t manage that in 1914, did she, Mike?

                  “The Russian Empire military was obviously not so “ramshackle” (as you put it) to that of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, as evidenced by the former’s success against the latter.”

                  Um Mikey, both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires outlived Imperial Russia.

                  And not because of Lenin, either.

                • Misha says:

                  Wandy, the bottom line is that the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian forces didn’t outlive (as you put it) Imperial Russia’s by any significant amount, while not having been successful against Imperial Russia. regardless of their shortcomings, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian forces were per capita wise, arguably more important than the non-German Nazi allied fighting the Soviets.

                  Further up this thread and in some prior ones, I address the differences between WW I and II, which you don’t offer a direct reply. BTW, Russian troops had previously been (to 1945) victorious on German soil – something a good number don’t know on account of the Sovokian mindset that’s out there.

  2. Alex says:

    I’ve posted following comment on VOA site – still awaiting moderation:
    – Industrial investment to diversify from dependency on natural resource exports; Germany has more to offer…
    – A boycott-free 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics; Remember Moscow 1980 – did boycot any good?
    – Support in countering the spread of Islamic radicalism from Afghanistan into Central Asia; USA is the major force facilitating the same Islamic radicals they prononce to be their main foe. As soon as there is enemy of US – Al-Queda is there fighting for US (Chechnya, Lybia, Syria, Yemen…)
    – Continued access for Russian exporters to the world’s largest economy; Russian export to States is pennies comparing to trade with Europe and Asia
    – Continued easy access for Russian tourists to the United States – It’s not that easy anyway…
    – Continuation of the pax americana where the US Navy has guaranteed freedom of world shipping since World War II. No shipping at all would greatly benefit Russia as a landbridge between Europe and Asia

    Boy, you are living in a fantasy land!

    • marknesop says:

      I’ll be interested to see if it gets published. It’s unfortunate that ordinary hardworking, decent Americans get penalized – by anti-Americanism – for the boasting and strutting of some of their ignorant countrymen. I’m quite sure most people who are reasonably content with their lives, wherever they are, feel they live in the best country in the world, and it would take some marvelous incentive to convince them to make an international move. But the small subclass of journalists who make it their business to wave the flag everywhere they go and rub everyone’s nose in the apple pie seems unique to America.

  3. kirill says:

    The ratio of US GDP to Russian GDP is a reflection of manipulated US inflation statistics and even wrong at face value. Only idiots use nominal GDP figures for comparison. The only physically valid comparison is PPP GDP. If an ICBM in Russia costs 10 times less than in the USA then that does not mean that the Russian ICBM has 1/10 of the functionality. Same goes for any other manufactured item or service in Russia. If he is going to use the nominal GDP for comparisons then he should use the nominal GDP growth rate for comparison and not the real growth rate ( Russia’s GDP went from $259 billion in 2000 to $1.479 trillion in 2010, which translates into an average annual growth rate of 19%.

    Then we have US shenanigans with CPI and PPI which is detailed at and this translates directly into the real US GDP growth rate since the GDP deflator is a composite of CPI and PPI. Following the still relatively reasonable definition of inflation from 1990, the CPI should be 4% higher today than the official one (see So the US economy has actually been shrinking when growth is claimed since official US GDP growth is under 4%. This is not surprising given that the USA has been shipping its manufacturing off shore. It is a fact that service sector jobs are low paying and all the downsizing and rightsizing since before 1990 has led to a fall in the standard of living of the middle class.

    Another indicator is the massive unemployment of nearly 20% in the wake of the 2008 meltdown and the subsequent worst-since-WWII jobs recovery:

    The empirical evidence indicates to me:

    1) Russia’s GDP is understated. The massive annual nominal growth rate is not merely Pancho Villa style ruble printing. The Russian economy is in the process of transition to monetization and away from the distorted voucher pricing of the Soviet era and the barter economy of the 1990s. It is rather clear that the Russian Central Bank did not fudge inflation figures. In fact, it was being too conservative and lumped structural adjustment with regular inflation. This process is now saturating and the inflation rate is now around 6% which is the same as in the USA (without the post 1990s manipulations such as hedonics).

    2) You can’t take the US GDP at face value as if there is no inflation of the dollar. It is clear that the dollar inflation is around 6% in CPI terms (I am not sure what the US PPI is but I have seen official figures where it is almost the same as CPI). For example, take (1.02)^10 vs. (1.06)^10 if we use the second number to adjust the US GDP growth over 10 years then it would be two-thirds (2/3) the size if we used the first number. The US GDP was $9.951 trillion in 2000 and $14.660 trillion in 2010 according to official statistics. The 2010 figure should have been $13.1 trillion but that is only assuming the 2000 figure is correct and it is suspect. The US GDP in 1990 was $5.8 trillion and this is likely a realistic value. The same CPI nonsense was prevalent during the 1990s so the the 2010 US GDP figure should have been about $9.9 trillion.

    3) The ratio between Russia’s GDP and US GDP in real terms is about four and adjusting for population size is it is about two. This ratio is falling.

    • marknesop says:

      I used GDP PPP as a comparator for Russia only because I searched for a reference describing Putin’s raises to pensions and wages and found only pages and pages of “Putin promises increases to pensions” and “Russia fears pension rollbacks under Putin” and nonsense of that nature which implied it was all phony. It is a matter of record that wages over the entire period have increased by a factor of 10. I just couldn’t find a decent reference that said that, not in the time I was prepared to devote to it.

      • kirill says:

        There is some misunderstanding, I am not aiming my comment at you but the piece that was written by Mr. Brook. There is nothing to criticize in your piece. It is good that there is some part of the blogosphere where you can find analysis that does not toe the party line.

        • marknesop says:

          No, that’s fine; I wasn’t reacting to criticism. I’m just pointing out why I did not compare PPP with PPP for both countries. It was not my intention to use PPP at all, but even though it is acknowledged – usually grudgingly – that Putin raised the standard of living for average Russians by a factor of somewhere between 8 and 10, all the stories in the English-speaking press refer to “Putin’s promises” without ever acknowledging whether they were fulfilled or not. The graph looked like the next-best way to show increases in average income.

          • kirill says:

            The western media information space is a stream of rubbish when it comes to Russia. There is no attempt at using subtle distortion, it is just outright lying and cheesy caricatures.

            A point I forgot to mention is that the GDP accounting is subject to cumulative error. If the wrong inflation rate is used to adjust the growth rate, then even if the correct one is used in the future the size of the GDP will remain inflated or deflated.

            There is something broken in the Russian GDP accounting as done by the Russian statistics agency. Clearly the nominal growth rate averaged 19% between 2000 and 2010. Yet even though the inflation rate (CPI) averaged about 13%, the real growth rate was below 6%. In Russia, the PPI is higher than the CPI and this is where the accounting breaks down. It is in the producer price structure that there will be the most real adjustment as the economy normalizes. I can see the CPI reflection “greed inflation” in that some food items in Russia are priced higher than in the US but I doubt that inter-enterprise pricing is just greed inflation. After 1991 and even before, consumer goods were never priced substantially below cost. The same cannot be said for producer prices. So it is wrong to treat the PPI as it it was real inflation and not price normalization and the real inflation rate is what the CPI indicates.

            But even the CPI is distorted in Russia. It includes price changes for “communal services” (costs such as garbage collection and housing) which are subject to the same normalization aspect as producer prices. Does anyone seriously believe that some service that was offered for next to nothing under the old order and is now being charged a fair market rate has undergone a nearly infinite inflation? Mathematically it has, but in real economics terms it has not. The monetization rate of the economy has to be subtracted from the inflation rate.

  4. Dear Mark,

    This is a very good article dealing with a point that is often made.

    On the subject of comparisons between population and size of economies, it is important to remember that in 1991 Russia “lost” population and territory that had previously belonged first to the tsarist empire and then to the USSR. I remember reading bizarre articles by various Russian liberals in the early 1990s saying that Russia would remain a superpower even without this population and those territories because supposedly the vast bulk of the USSR’s scientific centres and strategic industries were located on Russian territory. We can now see the total absurdity of those claims.

    However we are not comparing relative wealth or power. We are discussing the extent to which the US and Russia “need” each other. To the extent that both have largely self sufficient continental economies the short answer is that neither “needs” the other and both can in theory develop quite well independently of each other. Whether it is in their interest to do so is another matter. The important point to understand is that Russia is not limited to the US as a trading partner. If the US does not want to trade with Russia then there are other countries that Russia can trade with. To the extent that the US economy is more dependent on world trade than Russia’s and to the extent that it is the US and not Russia which is at the centre of the world economic system it is the US that is losing economic opportunities by refusing to trade with Russia, which always has other trading partners and other options.

    In terms of geopolitical calculus the situation is different. The US is a superpower that aspires to a dominant role in world affairs. Russia by contrast is a country that is heavily focused on its economic development. Russia does not therefore “need” the US to achieve a global role since it does not aspire to one. Nor does Russia “need” the US to achieve its global objectives since it does not have such objectives. It is impossible to see however how the US can successfully perform the global role it aspires to or achieve the extraordinarily ambitious, even grandiose, objectives it sets itself without taking account of Russia. Quite simply Russia is too big and impinges on the US interests in too many places be they in Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia or the Fast East for the US to ignore it whether the US wants to ignore it or not. As the superpower and aspirant global hegemon it is the US therefore that “needs” Russia far more than it is Russia that “needs” the US.

    That the claim that Russia “needs” the US more than Russia “needs” the US is bogus is shown by US actions. The reality is that far from ignoring Russia it is the US that goes on giving Russia a totally disproportionate amount of attention. When a minor public order case such as the Pussy Riot case becomes the focus of editorials in US newspapers and when the US Congress passes a law because a Russian citizen accused of tax fraud dies in a Russian prison it is silly to say that Russia is more obsessed with the US than the US is obsessed with Russia.

    • Misha says:


      That attention is partly motivated by a seeming urge to seek something to conveniently bash. The other part has to do with Russia still being a fairly major player in a number of instances.

      In the US, i periodically run into people who say the Cold War isn’t over. I follow-up by saying that it’s over, unlike the lingering Cold War attitude, which a good number of folks stll erroneously still cling onto.

      On foreign policy matters, I don’t find Lavrov and Churkin to be more imperialist minded in attitude than H. Clinton and S. Rice.

      So there’s no misunderstanding, I’m pro-American in a way that sees a benefit for imporoved Russian-American relations. Without meaning to get personal, a portion of James Brooke’s commentary, as well as that of some others like Michael Bohm work against that mindset.

      For the benefit of improving the coverage, it’s worthwhile to remain critical of some of the go to source material that’s regularly promoted to give a more Russia sympathetic point of view. One example includes a certain NY based pundit who (in The Moscow Times) wrote that Khodorkovsky couldn’t become Russian president because of his Jewish background. Another example includes an uncritically stated Hrushevskyesque leaning point of view on Russian-Ukrainian history that was featured in the Voice of Russia, as opposed to the Voice of America or Kyiv Post. There’re other examples as well.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Alex, and you have as usual done a very good job of framing the issues. The one point I would add is that while Russia can – and has done – ban U.S. products such as meat imports over various concerns, the U.S. cannot ban Russian energy imports. Oil is specifically set up to be stateless and traded in the form of futures, and no matter how bent out of shape the U.S. gets about Russia, it cannot isolate Russian oil from the world supply to a sufficient degree that it could ban it. Since the USA itself does not get any oil directly from Russia anyway, it would not likely have any success trying to get its European allies to ban Russian energy imports either. The USA knows this well, which is why the I-don’t-care-what-it-costs efforts to develop shale gas in Europe so as to cut off Russia from its markets.

      America will just have to stick with shitting all over Russian products in the trade magazines and hoping its influence can prevent others from buying them.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I don’t recall ever buying any US manufactured product in Russia.

        Oh yes, I remember one now!

        I bought an iPad 6 months ago.

        On its packaging it said “Product of California” though.

        And the small print said “Made in China”.

        • kirill says:

          Is that some Russian labeling issue? I don’t recall this sort of misdirection on electronics goods here in Canada.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            My mistake: it says on the box: “Designed in California” and “Assembled in China”.

            See: Why Apple’s products are ‘Designed in California’ but ‘Assembled in China’

          • Jen says:

            In Australia, it’s possible for an item to be “Made in Australia” if it was assembled here by either foreign or local workers using components of which some or even all were imported from overseas. In many cases, even just packaging the item imported from overseas is enough to earn the “Made in Australia” label.

            There is a difference between “Made in Australia” / “Australian-made” and “Manufactured in Australia” (where the minimum required is that the product has undergone transformation in packaging, form and nature so that it differs from what it was when imported, with at least 50% of production costs occurring in Australia) on the one hand and on the other “Product of Australia”, this referring to a product whose significant ingredients originate in Australia, and whose manufacturing and processing must be done in Australia.

            • marknesop says:

              I have a 1994 Fender Stratocaster which is identified as the “American Standard” model. It was made in Mexico, and is so identified on the headstock. This was common practice for a brief period, although I don’t believe it’s still going on. It was only assembled in Mexico by Mexican labour; all the parts are Fender, and originated in the USA. It has a Fender serial number, and the product data is duly recorded in company records in the USA. To me it sounds and plays just as well as an American Standard assembled in the USA. I think I paid a little over $400.00 for it, brand new. An American-made American Standard would run about twice that in Canada.

              • Jen says:

                Wasn’t there an outcry years ago about Gibson Les Paul guitars with their parts being assembled in Mexico but the parts designed in the US and the labelling implying that the guitars were made in the US? Of course Gibson Les Paul guitars are more iconic than Fender guitars so details of their manufacture are always going to attract a lot of interest. I believe though that Eric Clapton has always used a Fender Stratocaster so you’re in good company. That’s about the extent of my guitar knowledge.

                • marknesop says:

                  Actually, Gibson and Fender are about equally iconic; British heavyweights like Led Zeppelin and T Rex’s Marc Bolan mostly used Gibsons, while American acts favoured Fenders. There were notable crossovers, of course: you mentioned Eric Clapton, and I read in his autobiography he bought something like a dozen Strats all at once after trying his first one, some as gifts for musician friends, because he liked the action and because they were so cheap (maybe then, if you were a rich rock star). Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple nearly always played a Stratocaster, and Keith Richards favoured the Telecaster although it is most often associated with country music. Both, of course, are American-made. Gibson was sold in the late 60’s, and it was basically only the Les Paul which kept them afloat because their quality really fell off. Both companies are now privately-held corporations; Leo Fender died in the 90’s.

                  A few years ago, both companies introduced “bargain brands” which would have a tenuous connection with the principal company and use some of the same parts, with the obvious intent of luring buyers who could not afford the real thing. Fender’s was Squier, while Gibson went with Epiphone. At about the same time, both companies began having some of their popular models made in foreign countries using the company’s parts, and – at least in theory – the entire assembly was overseen by company representatives. Both, obviously, were measures to increase profit and market share. I have an Epiphone Les Paul Special II, and it’s a nice-playing little guitar; it has a very shallow neck, and I like that because I have shortish fingers. My third guitar is an Ibanez Saber, and it’s my favourite; the Saber, like the Yanagasawa saxophone, is a triumph of Japanese instrument makers’ patience and determination to make world-class instruments despite early failures.

                  Japan started making electric guitars for the western market in the early 60’s, and they were horrible – they are now collector’s items purely for their sheer freakishness. The Japanese plainly did not understand concepts like scale length or intonation, and they apparently designed some of the parts purely on how they thought they should look rather than function. The finish was sloppy, as if they had slapped three heavy coats of varnish on and then laid the guitar flat to dry, you could feel the variations on the back of the neck like a cob of corn. And the necks! My God, it was like playing your own leg, they were so thick and cumbersome; many of them lacked truss rods, so they had to make the neck thick so it wouldn’t bow – it was just solid wood.

                  The Saber is a beautiful instrument in every respect; light for its size, perfectly balanced, quality throughout and a finish as good as any made. The neck is shallow and fast, and the pickups are what you would expect from Japanese electronics. Japan got there in the end, and now their share of the market is quite solid.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Another point often forgotten concerning the lost populations and territories of the USSR is that after having declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian Federation became the successor state of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Russia was recognized as the continuing legal personality of the USSR and accepted, therefore, all responsibilities for the debts incurred by that state.

      That was Gorbachev’s doing.

      Gorbachev, of course, was another darling of the West.

      And that is why you get such demands as made only a few days ago by the Latvian government that the Russian president apologize for the invasion and occupation of the Baltic States by the USSR and that Russia pay them billions of dollars in compensation.

      The “Russians” are “Soviets”, see, and Russia is “the former Soviet Union”; the rest were captive nations and had nothing to do with the USSR – most especially that creation of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, whose territory is now known as “Ukraine”.

      Likewise, the Baltic regiment known as the Latvian Rifles had nothing to do with the Bolshevik seizure of power and the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War that followed.

      Anyway, Russia paid off those debts, much to the chagrin of the USA I suspect.

      The Ukraine, however, having over 20 years ago dodged the debts incurred by the Soviet Union, finds itself near bankrupt.

      Must be the doings of those wicked Soviets!

      • marknesop says:

        “The Ukraine, however, having over 20 years ago dodged the debts incurred by the Soviet Union, finds itself near bankrupt.”

        Must be why they can’t (or won’t) pay their gas bill.

      • kirill says:

        Everyone has forgotten how Russia took on the USSR’s debts. You even had some disputes about soviet consular property by statelets that renounced any of the USSR’s liabilities. It’s always a one way street: Russia has to give and everyone else just gets to take.

        • cartman says:

          There should be insistence that the rest of the UK accepts all debts of Scotland and any other region that separates from the union. What goes around comes around.

          Of course Spain has their own separatist problems, though they have been consistently opposed to dividing other countries (like Kosovo from Serbia).

        • Misha says:

          I understand that Serbia has done likewise vis-a-vis Yugoslavia. At last notice, the Serb government continues to budget with Kosovo debt in mind.

          • hoct says:

            Which Yugoslavia do you mean?

            • Misha says:

              The two that existed in the post-WW II era with different borders.

              Again would’ve to check for sure.

              • hoct says:

                Foreign debt and property of the second Yugoslavia abroad were divided in 2001 among FR Yugoslavia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and BiH. FRY took on 38% of the debt.

                Serbia is the sole successor of Serbia and Montenegro (FRY up to 2003), and held onto all its debt after secession of Montenegro.

                • Misha says:

                  Back-tracking –

                  Between two world wars royalist Yugoslavia was essentially replaced by the Communist variant.

                  Your stated division of the one regarding the Yugoslavia with Slo, Croat and BiH gone seems right. Thereafter, “rump Yugo” essentially renamed Serbia & Montenegro and thereafter has seen Serb involvement with Kosovo’s debt as is my continued understanding.

      • Misha says:

        I recall some Ukrainian nationalist in The NYT op-ed suggesting that the USSR permanent UN Security Council seat not go exclusively to Russia – instead be rotated among former Soviet republics.

        He didn’t address the debt issue or the per capita relevance differences among the Soviet republics. This point touches on the apparent differences Belarus (specifically Lukashenko) has with Russia on the union state concept. Treating Belarus as an equal or close to equal to Russia in such an arrangement isn’t realistic. Ditto how Montenegro (specifically Djukanovic) was willing to consider maintaining Serbia & Montenegro as one entity.

        • kirill says:

          That’s an important point, which has been borne out by the developments of the past 21 years. The FSU central Asian republics are underdeveloped. Only the Baltic states had the development level to integrate into the EU quickly. Ukraine has been a major disappointment. It’s achievement appears to be the embarrassing perpetual bitching about natural gas prices.

          • marknesop says:

            Still, I don’t think many would disagree that Ukraine has tremendous potential; in that I agree even with the rabid nationalists who constantly advocate against people speaking Russian in the country, never mind the joint establishment of a Russian culture there. Ukraine could be so much more than it is. Its biggest drawbacks are that far too much of its GDP remains in the hands of oligarchs, and that it is run by those who are incapable of governing, owing to a combination of incompetence and the vagaries of the democratic system, which allow the blocking of broadly-sensible initiatives for political advantage.

            Ukrainian expats who are critical of the Yushchenko government say that the huge amounts of money that were poured into the country were mostly wasted on broad, sweeping boulevards that would bear 20 times the traffic that uses them, and gas stations every couple of miles when many Ukrainians cannot afford to drive, as well as other poorly thought-out vanity projects. However – and stop me if I’m being unfair, here – western involvement in Ukraine largely stopped with the successful installment of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. Foreign investment did not crank up to screaming levels. Soviet-era factory employers were shut down in the name of progress, and import/export companies that employed a bare handful of people moving Chinese-made goods took their place. Western guidance largely ceased at teaching the government how to apply for handouts. Now all those Orange-era handouts have to be repaid, and the oligarchs are not going to let their own accounts be tapped if they can help it. Therefore the crushing weight of debt is being borne by the ordinary people.

            If those who cheered so enthusiastically for the Orange Revolution, and moved heaven and earth to get Yushchenko inaugurated, really intended to get the wheels of commerce moving in Ukraine in a way that would benefit ordinary workaday Ukrainians, you’d never know it from the current situation. That’s stupid, because it offers Russia a tremendous opportunity. And the poorer and more decrepit Ukraine gets, the less attractive it looks to the European Union.

            • kirill says:

              Since Ukraine is fundamentally not too different from Russia, it is a tragedy that the last 12 years at least have been squandered. Perhaps we are seeing the essential role of Putin (and his support structure) in lifting Russia out of the post-Soviet morass. A Ukrainian Putin was not around to put the oligarchs into place.

              I think Teddy Roosevelt was the US version of Putin. As posted by Moscow Exile, the USA was not all that in 1905. WWI and the reining in of the trusts put it on the right path. The current yapping from the US media about Putin is truly obscene.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                I have visited the Ukraine and the Crimea on a few occasions in order to holiday there on the Black Sea coast with my family. I like both places and the people.

                It saddens me greatly, however, to see the economic straits in which Ukrainians find themselves. It is potentially an abundant and wealthy land: the fields of sunflowers and wheat, fruit and vegetables are a sight to behold, but whenever the train on board of which we have travelled to the Black sea has stopped at a station in the Ukraine, the platforms swarm with men, women and children begging you to buy their wares: home made pies, local fish caught in the rivers and smoked, crayfish, peaches and apples by the bucket-load, pastries, local beers.

                This happens all over Russia as well, but in the Ukraine the numbers that appear on the platforms appear to to me to be at least fivefold greater – and they look poor.

                They are poor!

                And the EU keeps on beating its drum about Tymoshenko.

                • Misha says:

                  Filed under the characterization of Ukraine as a more extreme version of Russia.

                  Even after Yushchenko’s defeat, some keep up the thought of Ukraine as a positive role model for Russia. I’ve run into my share of American based Ukrainian born ethnic Ukrainians who see that notion in reverse. That last view gets downplayed in English language mass media and English language mass media influenced venues like the Kyiv Post.

                • marknesop says:

                  Disgraceful. The principle reason I keep hoping Ukraine will join the customs union is the possibility that Russia will help restore it to a semblance of prosperity – for all its prating about freedomfreedomfreedom, the Anglosphere is plainly uninterested in improving it other than making it a debtor nation. Yanukovich looks more and more an indecisive fool, although restoration of an Orange-style western toady would be a thousand times worse. But two things which would have an immediate salubrious effect on Ukraine would be yanking its oligarchy into line as was done in Russia, so that if they chose to remain they must invest in Ukraine, and the employment of the local populace in rebuilding and improving it. This is eminently doable. It just requires the proper leader and selfless, unwavering commitment. Perhaps debt writeoff could be arranged a la Iraq and others, in exchange for investment opportunities, but investors would have to understand they were not going to gain a controlling interest, or it would only lead to the creation of more useless oligarchs.

                • Misha says:

                  In part, Yanukovych appears to be representing Ukrainian oligarch interests.

                  BTW, Yushchenko has leaned towards the PoR view of Tymoshenko making a questionable gas agreement with Russia.

            • rkka says:

              “If those who cheered so enthusiastically for the Orange Revolution, and moved heaven and earth to get Yushchenko inaugurated, really intended to get the wheels of commerce moving in Ukraine in a way that would benefit ordinary workaday Ukrainians”

              Anglosphere politics since Reagan/Thatcher have largely been about the imposition of plutocracy. “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, 1776.

              F.D. Roosevelt put the plutocrats in a box. Reagan let them out.

              Why anyone would be suprised at this outcome for the West-backed Orange Revolution is a mystery.

              • marknesop says:

                Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but it is Roosevelt’s America I always think of when I refer to America the benevolent world citizen, that managed to look out for its own interests without subjugating and/or offending everyone on the planet. That should not suggest America has done nothing good since, because it most certainly has – occasionally great things, or those which everyone else had tried and failed – but its politics have grown steadily more centralized on self-interest.

                • Misha says:

                  A “self interest” that arguably contradicts America’s best interests.

                • marknesop says:

                  Well, maybe. I wouldn’t want to suggest foreign policy is not complicated, because it is, but there seem to be an awful lot of relationships which are established with countries that have to do a lot of hard work for American friendship who don’t really get much of anything in return. Similar to Ukraine’s impossible hoop-jumping as established at Leos’s blog, in order to attain membership. That’s the EU, of course, and not the USA, but I’m talking about the same kind of thing. And in that case there seem to be several “must do’s” that look written specifically with freeing Yulia Tymoshenko in mind.

      • AK says:

        In fairness Russia also inherited all the debts which were due to the USSR, which outnumbered its liabilities (although many of them were to crappy economies like North Korea or Iraq which were never repaid).

    • rkka says:

      “That the claim that Russia “needs” the US more than Russia “needs” the US is bogus is shown by US actions.”

      And in more sense than one.

      It should be abundantly clear at this point that the US government will never help Russia with any serious problem, be it population decline, brain drain… whatever.

      Further, as can be seen in the Baltics, USG ‘solutions’ to population decline and brain drain would likely make Russia’s difficulties far worse.

  5. marknesop says:

    Just as a curiosity, I realized that because I am using an older browser at work (because it’s the standard), my original comment at VOA is still visible, although it still shows as “Awaiting Moderation”. Here it is:

    Mark says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    February 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm
    I doubt the risk of being rude ever had much deterrent value in this instance. Where Russia is concerned, rudeness is pretty much a prerequisite in the James Brooke playbook. If I were in charge in Russia, I would have kicked you out long ago.

    Oh, God save us, another true believer who thinks the western world can just thumb its nose at Russia because of – wait for it – shale gas.

    That’s what Poland thought, too, but the excitement over there appears to have died down a little of late.

    Shale gas and what the trendy like to refer to as “tight oil” are subject to rapid fall-offs in production, as a relatively high rate of return at first is common. However, all the oil that is easy to extract is customarily gone quite quickly, and costs of extraction mount rapidly after that. Returns from the legendary Bakken Shale, which is supposed to make America the world’s largest oil exporter in a generation, are already in the neighbourhood of $80.00 – $90.00 per barrel. That is just not economically viable.

    The United States will become a big oil producer only if it can figure out how to do it cheaply. Hey, I know a way!! Don’t take any profit!! Ha, ha… I was just kidding.

    Most people would already have noted the effects of deliberate rudeness and ignorance after the Magnitsky Act was passed – there was no need for it; plenty of legal elbow room was already in existence for the USA to ban the entry of anyone it chose and to seize in-country assets. But America chose to go for the thumb in the eye…and the systematic severing of ties that took decades to build is the result. So laugh it up, Brooke, and crow about how shale gas makes it possible to be an international boor and get away with it. A great deal of evidence would appear to contradict that assessment, but don’t let that stop you.

    • kirill says:

      The media typically mixes oil and natural gas (because it uses gas for both natural gas and gasoline, I guess). The only frakking revolution is in natural gas. The frakking of oil in the Bakken formation is not extracting something trapped in the shale itself but rather going through shale to get a dolomite formation which is basically a conventional reservoir. Dolomite and sandstone are related and porous. Shale has very small pore spaces.

      People are confused by the word “tight” in “tight gas”. It means less volume and not just low flow rates that require frakking. As I posted before, more sober estimates of the frakked natural gas reserves have been produced by Art Berman and there not more than 20 years of them assuming current demand levels. Any sort of visions of massive exports and never ending growth of production out of these deposits is delusion.

  6. yalensis says:

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Navalny’s enemies are trying to disbar him and strip him of his license to practice law:

    Summary of article:
    One issue is that Navalny (they claim) did not fulfill the required number of years of “residency” (or whatever the legal equivalent is in his field), i.e., 2 years doing para-legal work while studying for the bar..
    Navalny received his law degree and supposedly passed the bar exam in Kirov Region in 2009. During this time he was BFF with Kirov Governator Nikita Belykh. Navalny wrote on his resume that he had performed legal work for the company “Allekt” from 1998-2005. However, “Allekt” did not actually exist in 1998, and even when it did exist, it was never a real company, just a shell.
    Secondly, Denis Dvornikov (one of Navalny’s detractors) claims that Navalny gave a fake address for his residence in Kirov. He listed his place of residence as “Black Lake”, which is actually a top secret Governator’s mansion where Belykh resided. (Well, maybe Navalny lived with Belykh at the time.)

    Due to these questions (about his years of service and his legal residency), Navalny’s detractors want to disbar him for technical reasons.

    • marknesop says:

      All of which, as usual, will feature in the Anglospheric press as “continued harassment of the opposition leader” by a “Kremlin that fears him”. It took about two seconds to convince the same press organs that Pekhtin is a dirty mansion-owning crook, another notch on the gun for “Navalny’s long campaign against official corruption“. But when it comes to Navalny himself, it is impossible to imagine he might actually be guilty of some or all of the things he is accused of having done. He just has to say ruefully, “The Kremlin hates me”, and they all go “Awwwwww….”, like he has thrown magic dust into their eyes. Ditto Sergei Magnitsky; as far as the west is concerned, the whole boiling, heaving morass of Russian commerce and law is peopled with Faustian evildoers and shady crooks – except for Magnitsky, whose purity set him apart from his fellows, until in their jealousy and bitterness they struck him down. It is literally inconceivable to them that he might have been a crook himself: his bona-fides, as vouched by an even bigger crook – William Browder – are good enough for them and no alternate narrative will be entertained. Yet the west loves to pride itself on its detachment and impartiality.

  7. marknesop says:

    Another couple of points made by James Brooke with which I would like to take issue, since they suggest he just makes things up because they would please him if they were the genuine state of affairs; “With energy self-sufficiency looming and low gas prices a reality, the United States is re-industrializing. In contrast, Russia faces falling gas export revenues.”

    In fact, gas prices have risen for 35 straight days, so therefore were rising when Brooke wrote the article, and the U.S. manufacturing sector hit a 3-year low in November, while “Manufacturers also sharply reduced their stockpiles, indicating companies expect weaker demand.” Perhaps he was talking about natural-gas prices, although if so they offer little reason for optimism either, having risen fairly steadily throughout 2012 and falling only slightly in 2013 while the trend remains upward.

    According to MIT, Russian gas exports are forecast to grow steadily, from the current 7 Tcf (Trillion Cubic Feet) to 10-12 Tcf in 2030 and 15-18 Tcf in 2050. Share of the Asian market for Russian exports is forecast likewise to grow to 30% by 2030 and 50% by 2050. A quote from the report: “In addition, while in the model we account for monopoly rents in resource markets, an experience of natural gas markets so far has shown that economic decisions are heavily influenced by political considerations. In the long run, though, it is difficult to maintain policies based on political goals without appropriate economic fundamentals.” Are the economic fundamentals in the U.S. conducive to the belief that the USA is going to become the world’s largest energy exporter by 2035? It would appear not, if it is relying on shale gas as the vehicle.

  8. Moscow Exile says:

    Targamadze spouts off in a radio interview, as reported in today’s Moskovskaya Komsomolets:

    Targamadze has given his first interview since being put on a wanted list.

    The subject of an “Anatomy 2” programme has said, “The decision of a Russian court will not prevent my movements”

    Georgian MP Givi Targamadze says the criminal case pending against him in Russia is a “myth” created to destroy the Russian opposition. In his view, the statement that he has been put on an international wanted list is part of a “show” and is only words: in reality no one is looking for him. He also does not intend to cooperate with Russian law enforcement agencies.

    In an interview with the Georgian radio station “First Radio FM 106.4”, the politician said that he excludes cooperation with Russian investigators because, in his own words: “Russia is an occupying country and the enemy of Georgia.”

    According to Targamadze, the case against him is being personally supervised by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. When asked where he was right now, Givi Targamadze replied briefly: “I am where I think I should be at this moment”, and then he added that no decision of a Russian court interferes with his movements.

    Targamadze also expressed confidence that the new Georgian government would not hand him over to Russia. “Whoever it may be that is in power in Georgia, the Constitution protects me; so I do not see there being any threat against me here”, said the Georgian deputy. According to him, if there is “some speculation” by the Georgian authorities – for example, if they declared that he would not be surrendered but that they could examine the case and have him interrogated there, he would not cooperate.

    In general, he said that the reason why he has been declared as a wanted man by Russian law enforcement agencies has been fabricated with one purpose: to arrest “one of the most radical oppositionists in Russia”.

    “The goal has been to apprehend this man and all further actions that we have seen – this story on NTV and the Investigative Committee statements – have been designed to meet this objective”, said Targamadze.

    In his opinion, public belief in Russia as regards matters of this nature that have appeared on NTV is “zero”.

    The fact that his name is associated with the Russian opposition, he said, is a deliberate attempt to damage the reputation of the opposition in Russia.

    “Why have they chosen me? Well, probably because they know that in various countries I have been involved in actions that have taken place during a revolutionary period: in the Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and other countries. It is obviously easy to prove this”, said Targamadze.
    He pointed out that the Russian government may choose to exercise a kind of preventative action against him.

    “But, I want to say that one of two things is happening: either the Russian investigative committee is trying to implement Putin’s actions, but cannot fulfil its promises as long as I’m wanted in name only and in reality there is no such manhunt under way, or the Investigation Committee and Putin are deceiving their people, having created a myth about me in their announcement of a mythical search which is not yet under way. I maintain that the fact remains that if they are really searching for me, let them carry out such actions that need be taken; otherwise, it’s just all show and no action “, said Targamadze.

    [Interesting: he does not deny his being involved in the overthrow of governments in other lands and he didn’t appear in person at the radio interview. When asked during the interview where he was, he simply replied: “I am where I think I should be at this moment”.

    The US embassy in Tbilisi perhaps?]

    • marknesop says:

      I guess, “Why have they chosen me? Well, because I’m the guy in the film” might have sounded incriminating. Instead, he went with his ubiquitous presence at colour revolutions. Look, they’re persecuting me because I just love democracy.

      • yalensis says:

        Way it could probably went down: FSB asked their colleagues in MInsk KGB to keep an eye out for those nogoodniks, Udaltsov-Razvozzhaev-Lebedev. Belorussian KGB follows them around the city, notices something highly interesting, phones back: “Holy shit! They’re meeting with Givi Targamadze!” Agents are scrambled, a camera phone is placed conveniently on the table to record the meeting…
        That’s why they picked on Givi. Because somebody with sharp eyes happened to notice that he was there!

        • Dear Yalensis,

          This is most interesting. Did Targamadze actually deny in this interview that he is the person in the video? I am sorry to harp on this point but there’s nothing in your summary of what he said to suggest that he did. As I have said already, the video is the key piece of evidence against him. If he is the person in the video and if he did say the things that the person in the video says then contrary to what Targamadze says there most definitely is a clear case against him. If Targamadze is not denying that he is the person in the video then all his other denials together with his various speculations and theories have no value.

          • yalensis says:

            Dear Alexander: The short answer is NO, Givi never actually denies that he is the person in the video.

            I re-read the interview very carefully, to be sure of this. In fact, I re-read it twice. Givi blows so much smoke that it takes a couple of readings. Amongst all the B.S. he is spouting – technicalities, procedural issues, conspiracy theories (this whole thing was ordered by the FSB to nail Udaltsov), etc. etc., he only tangentially touches on the videotape.

            В целом дело, по которому он объявлен в розыск российскими правоохранительными органами, он считает сфабрикованным с одной целью – задержания «одного из самых радикальных оппозиционеров в России».

            In above paragraph he claims that the “whole matter is fabricated”, and one thinks at first that he must be talking about the tape, but then it turns out he is talking about “the matter as a whole” by which he has been put on international wanted list. See, it’s all this giant vast conspiracy against him and Udaltsov.

            Then he goes on to say that the NTV expose was “ordered” by the authorities, withh the goal of implicating Udaltsov.

            «Была поставлена цель задержать этого человека и все дальнейшие действия, что мы увидели, а это сюжет на НТВ и заявления Следственного комитета, это уже было направлено на выполнение этой цели», – отметил Гиви Таргамадзе.

            Well, yeah, duh, of course the NTV expose was ordered by the authorities. Even a child can see that the “authorities” gave the surveillance tapes to NTV and gave them permission to air, no doubt to further their own agenda. But did they have the real goods? Are these tapes real or forgeries, that is the actual question?

            I mean, if my enemies published a videotape of me lolling around on a comfy sofa like Jabba the Hutt, I would pipe right up and say, “No way was that me! I totally deny it. I never saw that sofa, I was never in that room. I’m not that fat! It’s all a fake!”

            Does Givi respond with such a resounding denial? No. He fudges a bit saying that “Russian public opinion” shows “zero” credibility to such efforts on the part of NTV:

            По его мнению, в самой России доверие общественности к сюжетам такого характера, какой вышел в эфире НТВ, «нулевое».

            Well, who cares what public opinion believes, Givi? What do YOU believe, Givi? Is the tape a forgery, or did they really catch you in flagrante cookie jar with chocolate sprinkles all over your face?

            • Dear Yalensis,

              Thanks for this essential clarification. I think I mentioned before the BBB expression lawyers use: Bullshit Baffles Brains. What we have here from Targamadze is a supreme example of this. He talks about everything except the one thing that matters, which is the video. For that he has no explanation at all. In the absence of such an explanation the rest is Bullshit.

            • marknesop says:

              “Is the tape a forgery, or did they really catch you in flagrante cookie jar with chocolate sprinkles all over your face?”

              You have a way with words, Yalensis, not to mention a way of making me blow breakfast oatmeal in a conical spray. Fortunately I am an early riser (by necessity rather than choice) and no innocent family members were injured. That was funny.

  9. yalensis says:

    Welcome to Midland, Texas, in the center of the “Texas Permian Basin”:

    A town whose culture is based on oil, gas, cattle, and Jesus:

    I looked through their “Health Department” home page, but I am not sure they have much in the way of child protective services there. And I am not sure that such a small rural town is equipped to handle a big international case like the Maxim Kuz’min case, so it would have to be kicked up to the state level, I guess. I don’t recall reading where they were going to perform the baby’s autopsy, or if it has been done yet.

    • Swoggler says:

      You forgot football. Hm…where should football go in the list? Before or after oil? Before Jesus certainly.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Depends on how good a quarterback this Jesus is.

      • yalensis says:

        You’re right. Football is way up there. Maybe even #1!
        I also forgot the Sex Offenders Lookup Map, it’s a vital part of the urban culture:

        I know, I know… I’m really not picking on Texas. Texas people are (mostly) actually kind of great. You can’t find friendlier people anywhere. The thing about Texas that I dislike the most is that it’s so FLAT. No mountains at all. Well, a few mesas, but that’s not the same thing…

        • yalensis says:

          Actually, the Sex Offenders Lookup Map gave me an idea, I wanted to compare the addresses of the local sex offenders with the addresses of the Shatto family to see if there might have been a sex offender in the area at the time who could have strolled by and killed Max. I know that sounds crazy, but I am thinking about the Jon Benet Ramsey case, that’s the little girl who performed in child beauty pageants, she was strangled, and the case is still unsolved. Most people think her mother killed her, but there was also a lot of evidence that there was a sex offender in the area who might have intruded into the house and killed the child.when nobody was looking. It does happen that way sometimes.
          Also remember the case of that Australian woman, Lindy Chamberlain, who was convicted of killing her baby girl. The public was completely against her, people spat on her on the street. Then, 32 years later, new evidence came to vindicate her, and the coroner ruled that the baby had actually been killed by a pack of dingos.
          So, the moral of the story is: don’t rush to judgement. Wait for the investigation before getting out the pitchforks.
          (But, on the other hand, the Russian government has a duty to insist that there really is an investigation and not just sweep everything under the rug for political reasons.)

          Anyhow, all I could find out on the internet is that the Shatto family live in a small suburb called Gardendale, technically it is part of Odessa, Texas, not Midland.
          I looked at the Odessa police department website, and there is an eerie coincidence. Max died on January 21, and just week or so earlier, on January 10, another 3-year-old boy was killed in exactly the same manner, i.e., blows to the abdomen.
          In this case, the boy was ethnic Mexican, and the mother and stepfather have been arrested.
          I am not a social worker, and I really don’t know much about child abuse, I have heard about people shaking babies, but is it common for angry parents to punch their babies in the stomach? Or do they maybe throw them against something? What’s up with that?

          • Jen says:

            The thing about the Jon Benet Ramsay case and the Azaria Chamberlain case is that both sets of families were a bit unusual compared to the standards of the time. Jon Benet’s parents liked entering JB into children’s beauty contests and the Chamberlains were fairly strict Seventh Day Adventists who didn’t smoke or drink (in those days, it was a deadly social sin for Australians not to smoke or drink) so people judged them as whacky and by implication sinister. Also at the time Azaria Chamberlain disappeared, there was a bit of a trend for black baby dresses at the time in Australia and it so happened that some of AC’s clothes were black and that set off rumours about the parents killing her.

            The prejudice against the Chamberlains was so bad that a forensic scientist even manipulated some materials taken from the family car to make them appear as if they were stained with foetal blood and this tampering helped to convict the Chamberlains. It was only much later when a new inquest was held after fresh evidence appeared under unusual circumstances (an English tourist fell off Uluru rock in 1988 and near where his body lay, investigators found the remains of baby clothes) that the samples were re-examined and found to contain traces of sound-deadening chemicals used on the car during manufacture.

            There was something strange too about the way JB’s parents initially reported the child’s death and JB’s dad apparently tampered with the body and contaminated the evidence by picking it up. That could have been due to the police not informing him fully that he was not to touch the girl but I am not sure if he touched the body before calling the police or after.

            Can’t answer that question about angry parents hitting babies but infants are very delicate and floppy and should never be punched anywhere or handled roughly. Even doing chest compression when giving first aid has to be done gently: it’s two or three fingers on the chest pressing down instead of two palms, one atop the other, when doing resuscitation.

            • yalensis says:

              In the Ramsay case, a lot of prejudice against the Ramsays accrued from that whole child-beauty-pageant thing. People kept bringing it up. The reasoning was: what kind of sickos would put their 6-year-old daughter in a glitzy gown with adult hairstyle and make-up and parade her in front of the whole world?
              Things have changed a lot since then in American culture. Child beauty pageants are more and more accepted as an integral and harmless aspect of (primarily) southern American culture. Babies as young as two are given false teeth and hair extensions (to cover their baldness, LOL!) so that they can look like grown-up ladies.


              Anyhow, the fact that Jon Benet competed in beauty pageants should not be held as having any relevance as to who killed her, unless it so happened that a sexual predator happened to notice her at a pageant and followed her home. That’s a possible theory. But not likely. Pageant organizers are very very careful as to whom they permit inside the competitions. Usually it’s just the parents and families.

              On the other hand, If her parents killed the girl, it would have had nothing to do with the beauty pageants.
              I read a statistic somewhere that a lot of parent-child murders occur after the child wets the bed or has some other incontinent episode. Or throws a tantrum, and the over-stressed parent just loses it.
              In Maxim’s case, he was three. His foster parents were probably trying to potty-train him. Something could have gone wrong. Investigators should make a note of whether or not he was still in diapers.

              • Jen says:

                That last part is interesting because JonBenet Ramsey apparenlty had a history of bed-wetting and she died close to the end of the Christmas season when people are often at their most stressed. Patsy Ramsey was supposed to be unhappy about her upcoming 40th birthday. These became part of bizarre theories about her killing the girl. One thing though that worked against these theories was that JB’s brother had also been a bed-wetter and the parents accepted that bed-wetting in children ran in their family.

                In both the JB Ramsey and Azaria Chamberlain cases, the police initially were convinced of the parents’ guilt and their investigations proceeded on that bias. To this day, in spite of the evidence demonstrating that the baby was taken by a dingo, the Chamberlains have never received an apology from the Northern Territory government and police under whose jurisdiction the disappearance occurred so the belief that they were responsible still lingers.

          • Jen says:

            Quite a lot of ex-Soviet gymnasts settled in the US and either set up their own coaching schools as in the example of WOGA or joined others but from what I can recall, not that many settled in Texas. The only ex-Soviets I can think of who live in Texas are Valery Liukin (the WOGA co-owner) and Svetlana Boginskaya. Both competed in the 1988 Olympics as did also Vladimir Artemov and Dmitry Bilozerchev (and those guys are also now in the US). It’s these ex-Soviets plus the Romanian expat gymnastics folk who have made the US one of the strongest countries in gymnastics.

  10. kirill says:

    It’s in French but it brings up the fate of Montana’s oil extraction from the Bakken. It has gone down by 38% from its 2006 peak. Today most of the Bakken extraction is happening in North Dakota and it *will* experience the same sort of collapse.

    BTW, it is popular for western analysts to grossly underestimate Russia’s economy. The don’t even bring up the fact that Russia’s GDP growth is driven by domestic demand and not banana republic style resource exports. (China’s GDP growth is also driven by domestic demand and not trinket exports to the west). Even if the west managed to place sanction on Russia’s oil and natural gas exports as they did for Iran, there would not be the collapse of Russia’s economy they wish for. Thing will be rough, for sure, but not as bad as the 1990s.

    Imposing fossil fuel export sanctions on Russia would be suicide for the west. Europe would lose over 25% of its natural gas supply and the world would lose about 10% of conventional crude supply. Perhaps during the 1980s this would not matter, but today the supply is so tight that the price for oil would jump higher than 2008 and stay high. This would be instant recession for the global economy. So the west will not touch Russia’s oil and gas exports.

  11. JLo says:

    I had a good go at Jim Brooke on his Facebook page (I have the misfortune of knowing him personally) when he originally posted this article, but it was nothing like this. It eventually descended into strictly ad hominem with him accusing me of having Stockholm Syndrome (???). Would it be okay if I posted a link to this post on that thread?

    • Moscow Exile says:

      So Brooke reckons that long-term Western residents of Russia, such as you and I are, have an irrational empathy with our Russian hosts, who are really our captors and bear us ill will?

      • kirill says:

        What does that make me: an obvious cold war sleeper agent? Perhaps some of us pay enough attention to notice the BS. And I am actually a bit surprised by expats such as yourself and your view of Russia. I would have expected the culture shock and the “bardak” of the last 30 years to have been more than a bit of a turn off. I have no rosy delusions about Russia. It has a long way to go. When I was in St. Petersburg several years ago my impression was that it would take another 20 years of improvement to “normalize”. But then I may have been more of a western tourist than I would like to believe.

        • JLo says:

          Well, I can’t speak for ME, but for me the pace of change is incredibly stimulating. I could write a whole book on why Russia appeals to me, but “bardak” is a large part of it. It seems to me to be more real, more sincere, closer to the human condition. As for St. Pete, it is a great place to visit and a magnificent city in many ways, but still strikes me as rather provincial in its roots. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Moscow is a truly international, cosmopolitan city.

          • marknesop says:

            “I could write a whole book on why Russia appeals to me…”

            Could you write a whole post? Say, around 3000 words? If you’d like to do that, I’d be delighted to post it here: it’d be a great discussion topic, as the authenticity of Russia commentators who don’t live there is often disputed.

            • JLo says:

              I’ll give it a shot Mark, will just need a little time and some editing help. I’ve certainly had the discussion hundreds of times, mostly with Russians. They think I’m crazy at first but when I explain it to them it seems to get through. Americans are a different story, even when presented with purely objective reasons they don’t get it.

              • marknesop says:

                Excellent! I’ll drop you a line by email, and I doubt you will need much editing, you’re very well-written and seem to have an eye for what’s going on around you in terms of both business and pleasure. Guest posts have enjoyed great success, and I only edited Kovane’s because English is not his first language. Most of the editing consists of dropping the Uncle Volodya shot into the top-left corner, and a short introduction, which always makes me feel smart because I have already read the post before everyone else.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            You’ve hit the nail right on the head as regards the “bardak” nature of this land and my sentiments towards it as well!

            I first arrived here in 1989 after having lived and studied in Germany – West Germany, that is: the German Democratic Republic (where I also had lived) was referred to as “die Sowjetische Besatzungszone” (the Soviet Occupation Zone) by German nationalists of that time.

            Having arrived from that state of immaculate civil order and its citizens’ sometimes smug contentment with the “Wirtsschaftswunder” (economic miracle) and its associated materialism that I had experienced in Germany into the state of chaos that Gorbachev’s USSR was, I felt strangely liberated. I had grown weary of the West and felt that big changes were afoot in in the Soviet Union – a new start. Most of all, however, I immediately empathized with the Russians. Maybe it’s because of the part of the UK I come from.

            I noticed that my fellow countrymen in Russia fell into two distinct categories: those that liked Russia and Russians and those that loathed them both. The latter category were the majority. However, I also noticed that those that liked Russia and its people were almost always from the North of England (as I am), Scotland, Ireland (UK province thereof!) and Wales: it was those fellow countrymen of mine that hailed from the smug and contented South of England that mostly looked down their collective noses at the inhabitants of the USSR and the “bardak” of a land in which they lived.

            Perhaps coming from a Northern English “bardak”, a depressing post-industrial wasteland of closed coal mines, steel mills and their derelicted ancillary industries – not to mention the high unemployment associated with such an economic decline – tuned me into the Russian mindset.

            Nobody at that time, of course, forecast the imminent downfall of the USSR – remember, it was the “Evil Empire” then (and clearly still is for many), whose slave-like population was ruled by a black malevolence from the Kremlin – although plenty have since “forecast” the demise of the Soviet Union in retrospect – whilst all around the former Soviet satellite states were collapsing like a house of cards.

            I left the USSR 18 months before it had ceased to exist, only to return after I had graduated in the UK and 18 months after the birth of the Russian Federation.

            I’ve been here ever since.

            • JLo says:

              Yes, I also first came to Russia when it was still part of the USSR, back in 1990 as a teenager on a school exchange program. I lived in Petrozavodsk. It really got under my skin from the very beginning. There was something about the sophistication without materialism that was incredibly refreshing. Those kitchen conversations, weekend dacha trips, relationships – that was what you had, that’s what there was, so they really had meaning.

              I came back in 1994 on a semester abroad program and then again in 1995 to live permanently. While I had a few brief stints living in the States between then and now, they really only served to reinforce how much I wanted to live in Russia. Anyway, I could go on but I will try and put it into a post per Mark’s request.

          • yalensis says:

            I am more of a Petersburg fan, but I do love the old Moscow…

            Решительно скажу: едва
            Другая сыщется столица, как Москва.


            По моему сужденью,
            Пожар способствовал ей много к украшенью .


            Не поминайте нам, уж мало ли крехтят!
            С тех пор дороги, тротуары,
            Дома и всё на новый лад.


            Дома новы, но предрассудки стары.
            Порадуйтесь, не истребят
            Ни годы их, ни моды, ни пожары.

      • yalensis says:

        Back in the day they used to call it “going native” !

      • JLo says:

        Yes, that is apparently what he was getting at. Of course, the analogy is completely irrelevant for reasons I think the rational among us here need no further explanation. Had he accused me of “going native” I would have replied that I was largely guilty as charged. Indeed, I feel at home in Russia and awkward in my native US.

        What’s strange to me is why someone like him, who obviously disdains the country he lives in and the people who live in it, chooses to continue living here. There’s some kind of self-hate going on, or at least serious denial. Although, a common acquaintance of ours recounted an interesting story during a few beers with Brooke. After a long anti-Russian tirade my friend asked why he lives here if he feels that way. He said, well, it’s “freer” in Russia. Moment of truth!

        In fact, this is a challenge I make to my Russian white ribbonist acquaintances rather often. I point out, when (often) appropriate, that they have money, speak English and are generally capable, so why not just up and leave and go live somewhere else if they are so miserable. The mental convolutions they put themselves through to avoid the honest answer is always good for a show. Just admit it, I say, you want to have your cake and eat it too. You want the economic opportunity you can only get here but with the living standards you observe in the Western countries where you holiday. But they don’t admit this to themselves so they can’t admit it to me.

        • Moscow Exile says:


          A flat rate 13% income tax here.

          Tell them to go and live in Denmark or Sweden!

          And I’ve heard that reluctant admission off expats about their feeling freer in Russia several times before.

          As regards the likes of Brooke and why they persist in staying in a land that they openly despise: I sometimes think that the simple explanation of their apparent perversity is that they feel so superior living in Russia whilst venting their scorn and derision on the primitives and their ramshackle society.

          • Dear Moscow Exile and JLo,

            I don’t know whether either of you have read or are familiar with a recent British novel set in Russia called Snow Drops. It was given to me around Christmas by someone who thought I might value it as a present (I can’t imagine why). I couldn’t read it then because of my eye problems but I have dipped into it since.

            What I found utterly bizarre about this book is that the author (who is a former British journalist based in Moscow) simultaneously loathes the country with an intensity that I found frankly sick and yet at the end of the book when he has escaped back to Britain admits that he can’t get over the place and longs to return there. This despite the fact that the book is an unending catalogue of criminality and nastiness that goes on for page after page without relief or interruption. There isn’t a single positive or happy moment in the whole book. In passing I should say that to the extent that the book is autobiographical (which it obviously is) the author clearly got himself into trouble by choosing some very odd company and looking for some very strange “adventures” (of a sexual nature need I add) of the sort that would have got him into trouble pretty much anywhere. Certainly I have never had experiences in Russia of the sort the author describes and nor have any British friends I know some of whom have actually lived there for long periods.

            Anyway my point is that this book serves as a perfect example of a very peculiar western attitude about Russia which I cannot understand at all. This is to hate the place with a passionate and irrational intensity whilst being completely obsessed with it at the same time. Time after time one comes across this syndrome. Brooke suffers from it and our old friend Ed Lucas has it to an extreme degree. What the reason for it is I have no idea. What I can say is that this syndrome exists and does immense harm. It’s bad enough that some people hate the place without cause. It’s even worse when they can’t stop writing bad things about it.

            • marknesop says:

              I think Moscow Exile hit upon it perfectly a few comments back, when he said people like those you mention plus others such as Tin-Tin stay in Russia because, although they hate the place, it makes them feel so superior to be from a foreign country they fancy to be all Russia could never be; so that anytime they go anywhere in public, the yokels are whispering among themselves about them, “There he is! That’s the foreigner!!” as if they were some sort of visiting dignitary. It makes them feel special, like rock stars or somebody important, and I imagine they have frequent conversations with longing, hungry-eyed liberal white-ribbonists which validate that feeling of superiority.

              • Misha says:

                Re: My 2/24 751 PM comments

                Pardon my oversight in not seeing the earlier 608 PM post.

                As a follow-up, it’s easy to understand the mindset of some of the propped sources – a point which can be used to further question their elevated status in some circles.

            • Misha says:

              The aforementioned Brit author could very well exhibit a human trait that’s especially evident with some.

              This matter has to do with the seeming need to have a target to ridicule, which brings to mind the title of Mark’s post: “The Voice Of I’m Better Than You”

              Russia is a convenient target. There’s no influential Russia lobby out there, along with the understanding of what is and isn’t preferred in English language mass media.

          • JLo says:

            Yes, very true and terribly pathetic.

    • marknesop says:

      Absolutely. Post some choice quotes from it as well, as teasers, if you like. I get what he was trying to say, but a better accusation to hurl at expats who have adapted to the local culture and move comfortably within it is that they have “gone native”. Stockholm Syndrome implies a prisoner-captor relationship.

      You and Moscow Exile are more unusual than you know, as it is the instinct of most to search out the familiar and cling to it rather than embracing the strangeness to search out one’s own comfort level within it. From a lifetime of traveling the world I noticed sailors on a run ashore in Auckland, Tokyo, Saigon, Shanghai or Bordeaux make a beeline for the closest McDonalds, and belly up to the counter for essentially the same burger they could buy within a quarter-mile of their home. Trying the local dishes and making the first tentative stabs toward speaking the language are the beginnings of understanding and a step away from clannishness.

      • yalensis says:

        Oh my, I posted my comment about “going native” just 2 seconds before I read your comment. Once again I am being derivative and behind the eight-ball.
        Or… could it be that great minds think alike?
        When I alluded to “going native”, I was thinking in my mind of something glamorous like Lawrence of Arabia riding a camel and wearing a turban, or something like that.

        • marknesop says:

          “I was thinking in my mind of something glamorous like Lawrence of Arabia riding a camel and wearing a turban, or something like that.”

          Sounds as good a way of spending Saturday afternoon as any prospects I had.

          • yalensis says:

            Three other popular ways to “go native” (besides the camel and turban one):

            1. Be a white English boy raised by apes in central Africa, go on to rule over local native tribes.
            2. Do it like Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness”; You go mad, but you still get to rule over natives.
            3. Travel to a distant unfamiliar planet, where the inhabitants are so primitive, you expect to rule over them, but then you come to find out that the apes are really the bosses, but you still go native because you really don’t have a choice at that point:


            • Misha says:

              “Man is evil.” – Dr. Zais

              • yalensis says:

                “Take your stinkin paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” — (Charleton Heston, in a politically incorrect retort against Dr. Zais)

                • Misha says:

                  “Look mom, it’s a man.”

                  That series of movies had its moments.

                  Like the Godfather, it went down a bit (at least IMO) after II.

            • Jen says:

              @ Yalensis: You forgot “Gilligan’s Island”. The seven people marooned are of different social classes: upper class (the millionaire couple), aspiring upper middle class (the Hollywood actress), the intelligentsia (scientist guy), the lower middle class (Mary Ann) and the proletariat (Gilligan and the skipper), but they all manage to co-exist peacefully, create a mini-civilisation, refrain from fighting over the women and even throw off the odd spy or two.

              • Misha says:

                Gilligan’s Island and Lost in Space are among the silliest of 1960s era half hour American TV series.

                IMO, F Troop and Get Smart were a notch above.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                This monstrosity I first saw many years ago at the Tret’yakovskaya Gallery, Moscow.

                I wanted to spit at it and tear it down: it is an absolute mockery of art and metaphorically spits in the faces of those who look at it.

                It is Kasimir Malevich’s so-called work of art known as the “Black Square”.

                In fact, he “created” four of them at different times. It was Malevich’s third “Black Square” that I saw in the Tret’yakovskaya.

                An arty type whom I know once defended the artistic merit of the “Black Square” by saying to me that if one stares at it long enough, one can see anything one wishes to see.

                I told him that if I stood long enough staring closely at a blank wall, the same thing might happen; although I should think that long before that happened, men in white coats would have taken me away.

              • yalensis says:

                Ha ha! I don’t know if Gilligan’s Island would be considered “going native”, though. Because there weren’t any actual natives on the island into whose culture the new arrivals would aspire to assimilate. Instead they were forced to build their own utopian, classless culture…. based on the technology of coconuts?

                • Misha says:

                  Recall the episode with the Soviet space capsule and cosmonauts that crash landed on Gilligan’s Island.

                  If I’m not mistaken (could be confused with another show), another episode featured a Japanese soldier who didn’t know that WW Ii had ended.

                • yalensis says:

                  I have never seen a single episode of Gilligan’s Island, and yet strangely I know exactly what this show is about.
                  So…. what happened with the cosmonauts, did they eventually get rescued (or fix their space capsule and turn it into a boat), but then leave Gilligan and the others behind on the island, and then also forget to tell the authorities that tthere were some castaways who needed to be rescued? LOL…

                • Misha says:

                  These kind of shows are such easy reads aren’t they?


                  Like some of those covering the FSU, it’s not so difficult to figure out in advance what will be said.

                • Misha says:

                  Regarding half hour 1960s half hour TV American sillyness, McHale’s Navy is another series up (or should I say down) there.

                  Didn’t like the Rat Patrol because it suggested being serious in a not so serious way. Five Allied personnel in a jeep mowing down scores of Germans in the desert.

                  Hogan’s Heroes was IMO more agreeable – although some didn’t like the idea of a comedy series involving a Nazi POW camp. To offset that charge, I suspect the show’s production people welcomed a noticeable Jewish cast, inclusive of one actor who (if I’m not mistaken) is (I believe he’s still living) a concentration camp survivor.

                  From that decade, the orginal Star Trek is classic.

                • Jen says:

                  I don’t remember much of “Gilligan’s Island” actually apart from the characters. That’s the thing with a lot of these old shows: I remember the characters but don’t remember what they actually did! (Exception is some of the old Doctor Who adventures from the 1970s.) I thought there was an episode in which a Japanese spy in a submarine encroached on the island and decided the shipwrecked survivors were all spies themselves.

                  I think it was “The Six Million Dollar Man” that had the episode about the Japanese soldier hiding in a jungle who didn’t know WW2 had ended. That was based on a real Japanese soldier (name was Hiroto Oda, I think) found in the Philippines in the mid-1970s. He refused to surrender until his commanding officer was found in Japan and brought to the guy to relieve him of his duty. The soldier handed in his sword, President Marcos pardoned him for his crimes and gave the sword back. The soldier returned to Japan but didn’t like the changed society and he eventually emigrated to Brazil.

                  Thought I’d better look up the guy on Google and I did find him – his name is Hiroo Onoda (so my memory wasn’t too far out, just rusty):

                • Misha says:

                  I remember that story of the Japanese WW II soldier. There might’ve been more than one such story. Would’ve to ck. I think that Gilligan’s might’ve had that scene as well as the 6 million dollar dude. In the Russian fareast back in the 1970s, there was one or some folks who didn’t know the USSR came in existence.

      • AK says:

        I’m always up for reading a flame war too.

    • Misha says:

      Without meaning to get personal, Mr. Brooke has said some things that haven’t been stated by the likes of Lucas and RFE/RL regular on staff folks.

      One might be tempted to think he could be mocking some misguided slants. given the (put mildly) questionable basis of these views. He’s apparently not mocking his expressed views.

      As previously noted, Latynina, Brooke, Motyl & Co. are a minor quality control issue in contrast to those promoting them. That thought goes for the better funded of venues that purportedly offer something different, while falling short from what they could be otherwise doing.

      • marknesop says:

        I’m not familiar with a lot of his work; I might have seen one or two of his pieces before, and I read the one which immediately preceded that which was the subject of this post. I didn’t like that, either. He fires off a lot of statistics, such as that on any given day in Moscow this many people will eat at McDonalds (which is, of course, a signal of covert approval for American values and foreign policy), that many people will travel to the USA as tourists, and so on, without citing any references, as if it’s all stuff he just “knows”. That’d be fine if he showed any sign of having a true sense of what is happening in the world, but he keeps getting behind happy-talk concepts – like shale gas gonna whip the world – which have already been reported as nothing of the kind. According to him, Michael McFaul is some kind of rock star in Moscow, he can’t take three steps without some awestruck Russian grabbing his hand to shake it and beg for a photo with the great man. The message seems to be that “the right sort” of Russians are onboard with The Last Superpower, and the rest are just a bunch of bitter losers. The liberal intelligentsia, of whom the state has always been suspicious precisely because they are such shameless lapdogs and whom the west has always stroked and flattered, have always liked getting a snap for posterity of themselves with American dignitaries – the more notorious, the better – but they represent the same tiny proportion of the Russian public they always have done. Nothing has changed, and Brooke’s vision of America keeps backing the same losing horse, while chuckling that America is making big inroads on Russia at last. He seems to believe what Russians respect is naked exhibitions of power, and all you have to do is show them the big stick to make them cower and tug their forelocks. He would have been totally at home in linen shorts and a pith helmet in 19th century In-Jah, or putting down coolie rebellions with colonial muscle.

        The one thought-provoking point he did make is that in the years he was Prime Minister, Putin never once visited the USA. I never noticed that, but he’s right. I wonder why? Perhaps he was never invited, or perhaps he didn’t feel comfortable in a country where the entire populace despises him, or so you would imagine from reading the western press.

        I see comments for that VOA post are finally up.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Yeah, well I could throw back the fact that Tsar Aleksandr II sent a Russian fleet to the eastern seaboard of the USA in 1863, when the Union was at its lowest ebb during the Civil War, having suffered a string of defeats by the Confederates and before the turn around in its fortunes at Gettysburg.

            At that time France had already installed a puppet king in Mexico and many in France and the UK where relishing the oncoming fragmentation of the USA. The tsar’s action was a clear warning to the European powers to keep its nose out of a US internal affair.

            See also this and this

            • Misha says:

              Thanks. Well aware of that past as well as Catherine refusing George III’s inquiry on using Cossacks. True, she was having some problems of her own – but not enough to have prevented her from supporting the Brits in the colonies.

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, you’re right; I remember now how annoyed it made me at the time. That was quite likely my introduction to James Brooke. A lot of his writing seems to reflect a belief that nothing has changed much in the last 60 years – that Russia is still the reclusive, brooding cold-war enemy, and America is still Roosevelt’s New Deal, a benevolent horn of plenty with an abundance of friends who are willing allies because they admire its values and altruism.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I remember when Nikita Khrushchev first visited the USA to speak at the UN and how he was heckled constantly by well organized mobs, one of which consisted of New York longshoremen on board of boats that followed the vessel on board of which Khrushchev was cruising on a sight-seeing tour along the Hudson. This was the time when Khrushchev uttered in the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art that such art was “shit”, which utterance was dutifully reported by the hacks that accompanied him, just to show, of course, what an uncultured slob the First Secretary was. I should imagine, however, that many US citizens were, at the time, of the same opinion as he.

          • yalensis says:

            Khrushchev was totally right about that. 99% of the art in the Gugenheim is total bullshit.
            How these people can pass this garbage off as art is beyond my comprehension!

            • Dear Yalensis,

              As someone who generally likes modern art I agree with you (and Khrushchev). The building of the Guggenheim Museum is marvellous but its collection is very thin and disappointing and certainly not up to the standard of the building. A fact by the way that is not well known is that the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright who designed it was a great admirer of things Russian and Soviet. He was highly impressed by the Moscow Metro for example.

              Incidentally the same criticism can be made of Tate Modern in Britain. It too is housed in a spectacular building but though it does have some fine paintings most of its permanent collection is a huge disappointment. By contrast the modern art musem in Moscow (I forget its name) is the exact opposite. It is housed in a totally nondescript 1970s Soviet building but the collection is exceptional.

              • Jen says:

                There might be a lesson here to administrators of public museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions: never allow the building to outdo the works inside!

                Curious, I went to the Guggenheim museum website to look at some photographs of highlighted works but I found the Robert Mapplethorpe collection featured uninteresting, one-dimensional and self-absorbed. I’d rather look at Keith Haring’s work or even Leigh Bowery, vulgar though it might appear to some folks.

                BTW the CIA used to promote abstract expressionism in American art galleries so if you go to museums of contemporary art and see works of the last fifty years and find most of them lightweight and meaningless, you know whose taste you can blame.

                • yalensis says:

                  Yeah, I used to laugh at the “conspiracy theory” that the CIA invented “modern art”, but then it turned out to be true!
                  I guess CIA’s reasoning was: “We’ll blow people’s minds with utter bullshit, until they don’t even know what is good or bad any more. We’ll get our snooty experts to tell them that good is bad, and bad is good. Eventually the masses will be so confused that they will collapse into mental jelly, and then we will be able to control them. Mwa ha ha ha ha!”

                • yalensis says:

                  P.S. and the prize for “worse Guggenheim painting” goes to that one which consists of a blank white canvas with a red comma right in the middle. It’s worth a million dollars and was painted by — whom? I don’t recall, probably a mentally ill rhesus monkey.

                • Dear Jen and Yalensis,

                  As someone who grew up through the Cold War I can very well remember the way in which abstract art was actively promoted as a response to Soviet “realism”. What it basically amounted to was that because the Soviets favoured (or were believed to favour) realism, realism was “authoritarian” and abstraction was “democratic”. The same happened in classical music where tonal music (eg. Shostakovitch) was the expression of authoritarianism whilst atonal music (eg. Schoenberg) was freedom loving and democratic. In classical music this caused real damage so that for example the important German composer Berthold Goldschmidt was excluded from radio broadcasts and sound reproduction for almost 50 years because his music was tonal. He was only rediscovered a few years ago when he had the pleasure of hearing his music finally performed and broadcast on the eve of his centenary and death. Needless to say an atonal composer who was treated in this way in the USSR would be considered a victim of political repression though as it happens the USSR post Stalin did not treat its atonal composers such as Schnittke and Gubaidulina in this way.

                  Anyway, it is now no longer controversial that the CIA was heavily involved in supporting atonal and abstract music and art. The result is that western high culture has for decades been stuck in a debased version of the Modernism of the early Twentieth Century with little sign of it being able to progress beyond it. When Malevich and the Suprematists carried out their artistic experiments in the period just before and after the First World War they were doing something that was genuinely new. The same was true of such iconic works as Duchamp’s urinal. A century later it makes no sense to refer to Malevich and Duchamp as “modern” and the endless copies of their work (like the blank space with the red comma) has devalued it and robbed it of meaning. In the process their original ideas which were the reason for their work have been completely forgotten. Malevich for example was a radical anarchist with some very odd mystical ideas. His paintings (which Moscow Exile objects to) make absolutely no sense without some understanding of his beliefs. Needless to say those who copy them today or who pretend to admire them have no understanding or interest in his beliefs. What they pretend to admire and copy is an empty form shorn of all meaning or sense. In the process these people do more harm to the reception of Malevich than the Soviets ever did. The Soviets after all at least took him and his ideas seriously.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                The thing that I found most irritating about “Black Square” was the place where I first saw it hung: the State Tretyakov Gallery.

                Whoever decided to hang that abomination there wants his arse kicking!

                I’m quite sure there wouyld be a large number of people willing to do this.

        • Jen says:

          Not his business as Prime Minister for Vladimir Putin to visit the USA, that would have been Dmitry Medvedev’s business as President. My impression is that being Prime Minister of Russia is not the same kind of job as being Prime Minister of Canada, Australia, India, the UK or any other country that has the Westminster or similar style of government. I presume that while Putin was Prime Minister, Medvedev was not exactly faffing about; the Western media reporting only made him look that way.

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, that could be, too. I’ll have to look at Putin’s visits to the USA, but I have the impression they were very few, in any capacity. Medvedev had far more of a USA-friendly profile, which I imagine was the point Brooke sought to make, since neither Obama nor Bush were what you would call regular visitors to Moscow. It was just one of those things I never thought about, so that when I saw it, I thought, Hey, that’s right – is it important?

  12. kirill says:

    A developing case of death in custody. I bet there will be no outcry in the western media and for sure no Magnitsky acts. Instead I will hear the usual: some Pali terrorist deserved it. The western MSM is about schoolyard trash talk and not about journalism.

    • marknesop says:

      I don’t know why they would bother with an investigation; deaths due to heart attack while being questioned are as common as muck among 30-year-olds. Happens all the time.

  13. marknesop says:

    In Syrian news, the opposition’s largest coalition, the SNC, has walked out of international talks, announcing it will not participate in the “Friends of Syria” meetings in Rome next week because of continued western inaction. Get rid of Assad for us, damn it!!! This is a further sign that things are far from going the opposition’s way in Syria, and that it cannot win without a western intervention. Perhaps this burst of childish spite will be seized upon as an excuse for the west to extricate itself from this lose/lose situation.

    The Syrian opposition is said to be particularly incensed at Russia for supplying Assad’s government with Scud missiles, which they say he is using against Aleppo. I have to suggest they waited one hell of a long time to get upset about it; the last Scud deliveries to Syria were in 1992 – more than 20 years ago.

    • R.C. says:

      Can anyone imagine what the outrage would’ve been had this happened in Israel and Russia blocked the resolution? Since the US has already recognized these thugs as “the official representatives of the Syrian people” and given them material support, they’ve dug themselves a hole and can’t backtrack at this point. The British response was the silliest of them all: They called for Assad to step down after the bombing!? if I’m not mistaken, I don’t think I know of any government on earth that would step down after a brutal assault on its capital like this. The Brits are out of their minds.

      • Misha says:

        Reminded of another double standard concerning a global terrorism TV series aired on the American based Military Channel.

        The show on the Moscow theater siege presents the image of Russian brutality in Chechnya. In contrast, the Entebbe raid makes little if any mention of the Palestinian and their supporters view of Israeli actions.

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, that’s a piece of work, isn’t it? Strikingly similar to the resolutions condemning actions against the Palestinians by Israel, which the USA similarly and reliably blocks, as you suggest.

        • The point that needs to be made clear about the Syrian conflict is that the Syrian government has been willing to negotiate with its opponents since the summer of 2011 when it was forced to agree to this under Russian pressure. What has been driving the conflict is the intransigent refusal of the Syrian rebels supported by the US and the western powers to negotiate with the Syrian government. Instead they demand a precondition to “negotiations” that Assad and his “inner circle” step down. In effect what they want is the Syrian government’s surrender with any negotiations that take place being simply a procedural device to transfer power to them.

          Recently I watched a video of an interview on the US internet magazine Znet with a French based Lebanese academic who is heavily involved with the Syrian opposition. It was essentially a long whine about the “betrayal” of the Syrian opposition by the west because of the west’s supposed refusal to arm it. What obligation the west was under to arm the opposition which it had “betrayed” was never explained. There was an ugly element of blackmail with warnings that unless the west arms the Syrian opposition so that it can “quickly” overthrow Assad and seize power Syria will be destroyed and Al Qaeda will come to power. The alternative of talking with the Syrian government to avert these eventualities was never considered. Overall the whole interview left a very bad taste. Behind a veil of elegant talk about “the right of the people to self determination” etc the sense of entitlement and the cynicism were chilling.

      • yalensis says:

        Yeah, by the same logic George W. Bush should have been asked to step down and relinquish power to Osama bin Laden, once the latter achieved his successful attack against the World Trade Center.

        • marknesop says:

          Which makes me wonder – if the Assad government is to step down before any negotiations can take place, who will the “rebels” negotiate with?

          The longer this story drags on, the more notoriety accrues to the Syrian opposition, and they must surely sense this.

          • Misha says:

            Theer has been talk of some Syrian government folks staying on after Assad’s desired departure. US admin folks are included in this preference.

            IMO, this is another example of over-personalizing/trivializing a dispute. Such has been done elsewhere,

            • Dear Mark,

              “…the more notoriety accrues to the Syrian opposition, and they must surely sense it”.

              There have in fact been the first signs over the last few weeks that some of them at least are beginning to sense it. The Syrian opposition seems to have split between a group that is trying to find some way to begin genuine negotiations and another group that is sticking to the absolutist position that Assad and his “inner group” must go before any negotiations can begin.

              You are by the way absolutely right. What the second group and its western backers is demanding is a formula that makes negotiations pointless. One does not choose in a negotiation one’s negotiating partner and to demand the right to do so is surreal. When the second group with western support make this demand what they really mean is that they don’t want negotiations at all but want (and expect) to be handed power on a plate. All the angry talk of “betrayal” that I discussed previously and which was made by the pro opposition academic in the interview is because these people are beginning to worry that western support for them is flagging and that they are not going to be handed power on a plate as for some reason they think they are entitled to.

              As for what Misha says, he too is absolutely right. The personalisation and trivialisation of this conflict around the person of Bashar Al Assad is completely ridiculous. To listen to some of the things said about him Assad is a cross between Hitler and Stalin with something of Pol Pot thrown in for good measure. The result has been to provide specious justification for the opposition’s refusal to talk with him even though he has repeatedly offered to talk to them. The result is that the war has been prolonged unnecessarily and many thousands of people have died to no purpose but in a way that puts the blame on Assad, who has been trying to end it, and not the opposition, who are actually responsible for it.

              I would add by the way viz a comment Misha made that the academic whose interview I saw was every bit as hostile to the idea of talks with the regime if Assad goes as he was to the idea of talks with the regime if Assad stays. In other words the whole subject of Assad going or staying is completely bogus. If Assad were to go and be replaced by say his Vice President it would not lead to negotiations or an end to the war. It would simply mean that the opposition would escalate its demands for an immediate handover of power to them, which is of course what they actually want and what this is all about.

              Anyway I am beginning to get the impression that with Hillary Clinton and Petraeus gone the new more realistic team round Obama (Kerry, Hagel and Panetta) are having second thoughts and are looking for a way out. Unfortunately the momentum behind the earlier policy is now so strong that it is going to be very difficult to effect a change of course without this having (for Obama) damaging political repercussions. Quite apart from the fact that the US may no longer have complete control over the opposition (as it did back in 2011) Hillary Clinton, John McCain and the rest are all still there ready to shout “appeasement” and “betrayal” if the policy is changed. The one thing no US President wants is to be called “weak” and I am afraid that if for Obama the price to avoid this is more Syrian lives then it is a price he will pay.

              • marknesop says:

                Syria had the great misfortune – from an opposition standpoint – to come right after Libya, and the obvious intent was to roll straight from one to the other with no loss of momentum. But Libya dismayed quite a few people by turning out exactly as the detractors of “liberation” had forecast it would; the secular regime was wiped out by NATO, and the flip-flop brigade just sort of trotted in to mop up, get the photo-op and claim the credit. Even though Gadaffi’s military was somewhat disorganized and patchwork compared with Syria’s, there was no hope in hell the “rebels” would ever have overthrown it unassisted, and in fact they were struggling to hold on to Benghazi when NATO came on the scene and opened up Santa’s ammunition locker. Since a secular regime was deposed in favour of a radical Islamist one, and there was plenty of recognition throughout that this is what was happening, it must have been deliberate on NATO’s part. There was every indication the same thing was set to happen in Syria, with even many of the same combatants. And the enthusiasm train just ran out of steam.

                It will be interesting when this is all over to see how many actually died, because the UN is simply reporting uncritically the figures it is fed by that nutjob who calls himself the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and he is in England. He gets all his numbers over the phone from activists who have a direct interest in a high body count, and they were caught several times spinning the narrative, by the Arab League’s mission.

                • Dear Mark,

                  This is a very perceptive comment.

                  The pro opposition academic whose video interview on Znet I discussed, openly said that one of the reasons the rebellion happened in Syria was because the opposition assumed after Libya that the west would ride to its rescue. He spoke of the anger and bewilderment on the part of the opposition that this has not happened.

                  Again for me what these comments show is the sense of entitlement and lack of reality of these people. By the academic’s own admission the opposition launched a rebellion in the knowledge it lacked the strength to win on its own. Anyone who starts a war he knows he cannot win by himself is a fool. Doing so whilst gambling that outsiders will help you win is criminally reckless and given that outsiders even when well intentioned always have their own agendas it is irresponsible and arguably treasonable as well. Going on to demand that you be handed victory which you lack the strength to win through battle as a reward for not fighting is frankly monstrous.

  14. yalensis says:

    I was thinking about the actual topic of the blog (whether Russia needs USA more than vice versa), and this is my opinion: I don’t think either side needs the other. They don’t trade that much. America doesn’t need Russian gas, and Russia can live without American goods. If America invents something cool (like iPads, or something), then Russia can still get it second-hand, from China or elsewhere. Russia can live without America, so long as they are friends with China.
    In turn, the only thing America really needs from Russia is that supply route to Afghanistan. And I really think Russia should cut that off immediately and leaving the Americans without a way to supply their troops.

    The only other thing America wanted from Russia was white babies, and that is being taken care of with the adoption ban.

    In summary, since the two countries hate each other so much (not at the people level, of course, but at the official level), then I think it makes sense to cut off diplomatic relations to the minimum and have as little to do with each other as possible. It’s like with people: there are some people who simply cannot stand each other, and they should be kept apart, withi minimum contact.

    • marknesop says:

      America needs to be able to control all the sources of the world’s energy, and it has long been an American dream (at the official level, as you say, not at the people level) to have exclusive control over a major oil producer such as Iraq, so as to be able to manipulate world oil price. Currently only Saudi Arabia has surplus capacity and can bring prices down by pumping more oil or let them rise by cutting back. But the Saudis are not always sympathetic to American demands or entirely cooperative, and in the last couple of years have arbitrarily increased their capacity because they needed the revenue to distribute in their own country, to quiet rumblings that might have brought an Arab Spring style revolution to their own door. As long as a major producer – and Russia is the largest – remains outside American influence, the Last Superpower cannot regulate energy prices, and is itself helpless in the face of price variations that wreak havoc on its economy. The USA does not buy any oil from Russia directly, and Canada is its biggest foreign supplier – but the amount of oil available globally determines the price in the form of futures. So America’s foreign oil purchases cost more, because the price is set by factors outside its control. If oil was not a globally-traded commodity with a worldwide price structure based on global supplies, it would be possible for the USA to negotiate a reduced price with its suppliers in exchange for, say, increased American investment or something else the oil supplier desired. But that’s not the way it works. Gas is different, and I’m not sure why, because both are or can be supplied directly by pipeline – maybe somebody can tell me. Gazprom, as Adomanis is currently discussing on his blog, charges different prices to its customers that do not seem to be based on any stable set of rules.

      Anyway, that was the main reason for the western jubilation over shale oil discoveries and initial indications that it could be a great “game-changer” – the game they spoke of was Russia being able to use energy for leverage, and a new ability to laugh at it and just open the shale-oil tap a little wider. America, either directly with its own supply or by being able to manipulate its ally, Poland, would be able to control Russia’s development and money supply by reducing world energy prices and thereby the amount of income Russia would receive from energy sales. Currently, it cannot.

      • JLo says:

        The reason that gas is different is largely due to the reason that transport infrastructure is much more cost intensive. Most of it is transported by pipeline which require long term commitments by both buyers and sellers to insure that the cost of building the pipeline is covered. There are currently a few LNG terminals, and projects underway for more LNG terminals to be constructed, allowing the gas to be compressed and shipped via tanker.

        Oil, on the other hand, can simply be loaded onto tankers, or trains, and shipped to pretty much anywhere. That makes it much more fungible as a commodity than natural gas. As it is, though, WTI oil, which is the oil America consumes, trades at about a 20% discount to Brent and Urals, which Asia and Europe buy. This has to do with increased US and Canadian production and a supply bottleneck at Cushing. This is a relatively recent phenomenon and, indeed, is really the only tangible result of the great shale oil boom that everyone wants to tout as the second coming. Chances are, though, that Brent and WTI will eventually converge to a tighter spread once the cheaper shale oil is extracted. As it is, they are already operating on very tight margins.

        Certainly, shale gas has had a huge affect on prices in the States, especially relative to Europe. Currently, there is a big debate underway as to whether the US should build an export infrastructure to take advantage of the abundance of gas. Opponents cite the competitive advantage to US industry as the result of cheap energy since domestic prices would surely rise sharply as a result. Shale gas in Europe is a non-starter as it is too densely populated. Indeed, one of Europe’s largest formations happens to sit directly under Paris!

        • kirill says:

          LNG costs consumes 30% of the liquified gas to produce. That is a serious penalty and LNG terminals are disaster waiting to happen. Qatar is a big LNG player but somehow this export industry is not going as far as all the forecasts from several years ago.

          The EU is also trying to make piped natural gas to be subject to the same trading system as oil. This is a clear attempt to screw Russia over. Based on some BS trading in “futures” in London, Russia would have to sell its natural gas at a deep discount as if the EU could source its gas from anywhere at any time. Russia has already been subsidizing the EU with cheap gas for years, selling for less than Norway several years ago (about $240 per thousand cubic meters). Only recently has the Russian natural gas price become reasonable when compared to oil. Why should natural gas be much cheaper than oil per energy unit? Who decides this? You can make fertilizer and plastic with natural gas and you don’t have to refine it like oil.

          Long term contracts are not bad at all. Over a span of 20 or 30 years the world can change dramatically. It has been clear since the 1980s that fossil fuel discovery rates are collapsing. The tight gas deposits are an example of desperation and not cornucopia. Nobody bothered to touch them decades ago when frakking technology already existed.

          • JLo says:

            Yeah, I don’t disagree with any of this, nor do I think what I wrote contradicts it. Indeed, Russia is about a reliable a supplier of natural gas as Europe is going to find. For all their hemming and hawing about finding alternate supplies, there really are none. North Africa is a huge fuster cluck and Qatar has to either build a pipeline through Africa or ship through the Persian Gulf.

            • JLo says:

              Oops, I meant build a pipeline though Syria.

              • yalensis says:

                Yeah, I think Qatar’s ambition is to build the pipeline through Syria (once conquered by Sunni Rebs) and Turkey. But, looking at the map, they also have to go through Saudi Arabia. I suppose that is not a problem, since Saudi and Qatar are friends.
                If this mythical pipeline would ever get built, then Qatar would become a major player in international market. But highly dubious that it will ever get built.

                • kirill says:

                  I hope it gets blown up all the time if it is built. The blood of thousands will have been shed to build it.

            • kirill says:

              No negativity aimed at you was intended, my writing style leaves something to be desired.

              All the talk about Nabucco had the logical conclusion that Iran was going to be Europe’s alternate supplier. Azerbaijan is no longer what it once was. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are simply not significant natural gas producers. Kirghizstan is not on the map. Turkmenistan produces a lot but it has over-committed itself to China and was a big source of gas sold to Ukraine. There is no possibility of Turkmenistan supplying Nabucco with viable gas amounts. This leaves only the middle east and the biggest reserves in the world after Russia are in Iran. Perhaps this explains all the anti-Iran hysteria. It’s an effort to enact regime change to fill Nabucco.

              • JLo says:

                Oh, I think this most definitely explains the anti-Iran hysteria. Their nuclear program is a red herring, the real goal is to force regime change via sanctions that only hurt and anger the general population. At one point, the powers that be even dreamed of a military campaign but I think reality has hit home on that idea. Of course, the ridiculousness of it all is the assumption that some Western friendly regime would replace the current one. Iran has been through hell being used as a Western pawn, they’re not stupid and they remember.

          • cartman says:

            Where do you find that information about how much natural gas is consumed in the liquefaction process?

            Are you sure Anne-Marie Slaughter is not sniffing those gas fumes herself?

            • marknesop says:

              I don’t think very much natural gas is consumed in the liquefaction process – there’s a handy explanation of the process here – in which the gas is concentrated by a volume reduction of 600:1. However, the same reference points out that on a journey of several thousands of miles a fairly substantial amount, about 15%, is allowed to “boil off” to reduce the refrigeration requirement and to power the ship.

              I used that reference in a comment on Mark Adomanis’s blog, so I may have neglected to point out here as I did there that Russian gas is still forecast in 2015 to be in excess of the LNG supply to the UK by almost 10 Billion Cubic Feet (Bcf). A very interesting article that I highly recommend, it introduces factors not often considered in supply discussions, such as how much the British pound will be worth in 2015 and whether the UK’s trade deficit can absorb the possibly large additional expense. At some point, some countries are just going to start going broke the way Greece did. But what’s going to happen when some of them are the countries that normally engineer the bailouts of struggling countries? Germany is the only really solid economy in Europe. Additionally, the comments on posts at The Oil Drum are frequently as interesting and informative as the posts themselves.

              • kirill says:

                The LNG plant eats up to 15% of the natural gas for energy. Shipping contributes to most of the rest of the loss (see Figure 9 in the link I posted for cartman)

            • kirill says:

              I confused the LNG plant efficiency with total efficiency:

              Click to access jrc_reference_report_200907_liquefied_natural_gas.pdf

              see page 14 and Figure 9. The average is total cost is 25% but some plants and routes have costs near 30%.

        • marknesop says:

          Thanks for a very comprehensive and sensible explanation.

          • Dear Kirill and JLo ,

            The only thing I would add to this utterly fascinating and very informative discussion is that behind the economics there always politics. What the EU is unhappy about is not that a quarter of its gas comes from Russia but that Russia controls its supply. What the EU wants is to control the gas it gets from Russia whilst deciding for itself the price it pays. This is especially important given the drift towards using more gas as part of the energy chain (coal having been largely abandoned – perhaps prematurely – for ecological reasons, oil being too expensive and uncertain in supply and nuclear power simply not available in sufficient quantity). This is what is behind the endless criticisms of Gazprom and the attempts to impose on Russia things like the Energy Charter (remember that?) and the current competition action the EU Commission is bringing against Gazprom.

            Similarly we have had a seemingly endless succession of over complicated and expensive devices to try to get round the reality that Gazprom represents. There’s been Nabucco (which appears to be melting away into the mists), liquified natural gas (about which one used to hear a while ago euphoric claims not so very different to the claims made about shale gas now), north African gas, Norwegian and British gas and now shale gas. In the end when all these devices and expedients are exhausted the balance of supply remains much as it is today and if anything gradually shifts in Gazprom’s favour for reasons which any glance at a map or perusal of worldwide natural gas reserves will explain.

            • kirill says:

              This highlights the anti-Russian pathology of the EU. Even if Russia was all that bad, which it clear is not by any current or historical measure, then it is still the responsibility of the EU to secure itself from potential blackmail. The EU has to grow up and adopt nuclear en masse like in France. But it has to be fast neutron breeder reactors with molten metal, passive cooling. This way all the Chernobyl/Fukushima style risk is simply not there and the so-called waste problem is basically solved.

              Instead we have Germany getting out of nuclear energy altogether. Sure it is investing lots into solar and wind, but it has a very long way to go and is using coal in the meanwhile. The problem with coal is its large CO2 output per unit of energy and climate change is an existential threat to humanity (no, this is not hyperbole, it is science). Natural gas is a CO2 emitter even if lower than coal per unit energy, it is not a solution either.

              • Dear Kirill,

                It is not just a question of anti Russian pathology, though that certainly exists. It is also about what is called energy security. The EU basically wants to control its own energy supply. The trouble is that this is an unachievable ambition. In its absence the most effective way for the EU to achieve energy security is for it to have good relations with Russia. However that in turn cuts in to the obsessions of all the powerful forces within the EU that have anti Russian agendas. The result is that the EU is not willing to have good relations with Russia except on its own (impossible) terms, which by the way include the EU deciding the price it pays for its gas. Since relations with Russia are then damaged energy security is not achieved, the EU worries (unnecessarily) about its energy supply and the wholly sorry tangle takes shape.

                • JLo says:

                  Hence Russia’s divide and conquer energy policy in regards to Europe. You want our gas at a reasonable price? Easy, just be nice!

              • yalensis says:

                Kirill: could you please elaborate on the issue of the nuclear waste problem being solved?
                Please give me some hope, I am trying very hard to evolve into being pro-nuclear, but emotionally and psychologically I just can’t get my mind around that whole “waste” issue, and the idea that this toxic waste has to be buried deep underground for thousands of years. That just seems insane to me. But you say there is a technological solution for that?

                (Other than putting the waste in a rocket ship and shooting into the sun?)

              • marknesop says:

                Russia already has substantial experience with liquid-metal reactors; it was a revolutionary liquid-metal design which powered the Alfa Class submarines (lead-bismuth). They were also covered in titanium, so that they could descend to previously unheard-of depths (titanium is incredibly hard, although that also makes it a bastard to weld), and they were so fast that if they were able to detect a torpedo launch in time to react, they could outrun it until it ran out of fuel (assuming they were far enough away from the launch platform to get up to speed). Drawbacks were that they were very, very noisy – and noise is death for a submarine – and they must have had a heat signature like Jennifer Lopez. I was interested to learn, from the reference I cited, that the reactors had to be kept running constantly, even when the boats were in harbour.

                Anyway, that was a long time ago, and there must have been many advances since then. I don’t know enough about the subject to say the Soviets invented the liquid-metal reactor, but I do know everything the USA was using at the time ran with a conventional pressurized-water reactor. Ditto the Brits, and anyone who had nuke boats. You probably could run such a reactor ashore. They run hot, but if you could run one in a tiny submarine like that (the original project requirement was for a 1,500-ton boat, and even at double that they were very small; a Type 209 Diesel-Electric boat is almost 2000 tons) you could certainly control the temperature, and perhaps it could even be bent to making extra steam for electricity.

                Many nuclear accidents are caused by stupidity. Chernobyl is a classic example, so stupid I can hardly bring myself to say it. One of the reactors – the one that blew – was being shut down for maintenance, and an experiment was underway to see if they could recover waste heat from a dormant reactor so that they could maximize its efficiency by still using it to generate power while it was shut down. In the process, they had disabled every one of the automatic fail-safe systems, and were running the plant in hand control. You have to remember, even a reactor that is shut down is incredibly hot for a long, long time, and this one was still being shut down. There would be quite a wide variation of temperature gradients across the surface, and all it would take would be a spike to start a reaction. That’s what happened, a spike so violent it blew the bricks right off the inner surface of the tower. Anyone who thought the human mind could react quickly enough should have been straightaway taken out and shot; by the time anyone reacted and tried to ram the control rods back in to stop the reaction, they were so distorted they wouldn’t match up.

                It’s hard to imagine anyone ever doing anything so stupid as that again. The used core rods are a problem, but I’m afraid a disposal technique that’s safer than what they do now is far outside my experience.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear Mark:
                  That is interesting about the liquid-metal reactors. So, they produce no solid waste and run as hot as Jennifer Lopez? That’s pretty hot! Should this technology be brought onto land and used to heat cities in winter?
                  Also, now that the Higgs-Boson particle has been isolated, I think we are not too far away from inventing some kind of anti-matter energy source. Up until now, all human technology has been based on leptons, but maybe now is the time to give the bosons a chance.


                • marknesop says:

                  Liquid-metal reactors must have been water-cooled, in this case by the outside sea temperature. Pressurized-water reactors also are water-cooled; there’s always a cooling pond near the towers, and that water is pumped through either a jacket or a system of piping to cool the reactor. Kirill would know more about it than I do; I used to be a fervent oppositionist of nuclear power and am still what many would call a tree-hugger, I suppose, although I was totally ignorant of the damage conventional energy sources do to the environment. If nuclear energy could avoid that scale of pollution and we were confronted every few years with how to get rid of used control rods – and there were a safe way of doing it that did not involve terrible cumulative damage – I might be on board with it. But yes, there’s no reason a liquid-metal reactor could not be used ashore, it would just need the proper cooling which could be done in much the same way it is now.

                • kirill says:

                  I am a tree huger too. But nuclear (plus whatever solar, wind and tidal) energy is the only way to stave off the AGW apocalypse without exterminating 90% of humanity and going back to the farm. Call me a humanitarian, but I would rather the world population declined as it develops. But development based on fossil fuels is not sustainable and actually a death sentence.

                • kirill says:

                  Molten metal is a vastly superior heat carrier compared to water. For example, lead boils at 1740 Celsius. With passive radiator coils the hot lead, lead-bismuth or sodium will circulate and dump heat away from the rods until it runs out of heat. This is good old thermodynamics in action. You do not need pumps to prevent meltdowns.

                  Water is a horrible coolant for what amounts to magma. If you lose power and the pumps fail, then it starts to boil and you are f*cked. This is what happened at Fukushima. A molten metal reactor would NEVER experience the failure seen at Fukushima. And this failure mode is actually the most likely for all conventional reactors. The heat loss via the metal is so fast the rods would never get a chance to overheat and deform. So they can maintain their all-important neutron regulation geometry and the worst case of fuel bundles collapsing as slag heaps at the bottom of the reactor vessel is avoided. Once the fuel bundles lose integrity you get increased fission cascades and more heat released. If things go just right (wrong) then you can get a dirty nuke type scenario. However, it is unlikely and the detonations you saw at Fukushima were hydrogen explosions. At the high rod temperatures the coolant water breaks down. It’s physically impossible for lead to break down and become an explosive gas.

                • marknesop says:

                  Ironically, when there was damage to the Japanese reactors in the recent typhoon, the bulk of the radiation release was from used fuel rods stored in a containment room which was breached…and the reaction was to flush them with seawater. I commented on another site at the time that it was evident the world had learned nothing from Chernobyl, and that in the end the Russians had filled tower 4 with sand, which had finally stopped the billows of highly-radioactive steam. Eventually the whole thing was concreted over. A few days later, the Japanese did exactly that.

                • Jen says:

                  @ Mark and Kirill: Do you know what’s the problem with the Monju fast breeder nuclear reactor? My understanding is that it’s sodium-cooled and sodium as a coolant is unstable. There was an accident there in 1995 involving sodium coolant though there was some human error as well. I heard one of the senior managers was forced to lie at a press conference about the incident and he later committed suicide. There have been other problems at Monju since then and there is now talk of decommissioning it.

                  I thought South Korea was building a fast breeder reactor and India was building thermal reactors that would use thorium (since India has most of the world’s thorium supplies).

                  Thanks, guys!

                • marknesop says:

                  Indeed, it is a fast-breeder, and development of fast-breeder reactor technology is “a pillar of Japanese energy policy”, according to Bloomberg. Yes, there was an accident in ’95, and while there was no radiation leakage, plant operators later admitted they had edited videotape in order to conceal the extent of the damage. The article says Japan hopes to have a fast-breeder reactor running commercially by 2045, which seems awfully far out to me considering their only fast-breeder was shut down for 15 years and only restarted in 2010. But the concept is extremely interesting – a fast-breeder can use spent fuel from other reactors, which is the biggest source of radiation concerns now; spent fuel rods. This holds out the potential to remove one of the biggest barriers to nuclear energy, which is exciting.

                  You’re also right that South Korea is interested in fast-breeder technology; you’re certainly up on this subject. But that raises another point of which I was unaware; the USA seeks to regulate – insomuch as its influence allows – the development of fast-breeder technology because reprocessed spent fuel can be used in nuclear weapons. For some reason the USA appears totally unconcerned about India’s reprocessing capabilities, although India is not a signatory to the NPT. Iran is, but of course they’re not even allowed enrichment, this is well-plowed ground.

            • JLo says:

              I tend to think that Europe isn’t completely foolish (well, at least France and Germany) and realizes it is stuck with Russia as a gas supplier whether it likes it or not. All of these attempts at resistance, whether it’s the Energy Charter, Nabucco, or now the anti-trust suit are merely negotiating tactics taken from a very weak position They have to be very careful because Russia has the option, looking more and more attractive by the day, to send their supplies East. The Chinese drive a hard bargain but bring the advantage of not giving a tinker’s damn about things like “democracy” and “human rights”. So, it’s an interesting little game of energy geopolitics with Russia holding the better cards.

              I am a bit skeptical about nuclear, solar and other forms of alternative energy, but that’s just my personal, very non-expert view. My guess is that energy prices are in the early stages of a super cycle and will continue to rise, the current shale gas anomaly notwithstanding.

              Everybody talks about peak oil production having passed only recently, but even more significantly, peak oil production per capita was passed way back in the 1970’s. Granted, efficiencies have led consumption per capita to remain relatively flat since then, but demographic trends are pretty clear and both China and India are at stages in their development right before oil consumption goes ballistic. There’s still no viable alternative to oil.

              • marknesop says:

                “You want our gas at a reasonable price? Easy, just be nice!”

                Seems so simple, right? And then you get a headline like, “Russia-USA: Why Be Nice?”

                Obviously, some people are not getting it. Just because the USA doesn’t buy any gas directly from Russia is no reason to poison the well for its Euro-allies, and once upon a time – before it fell out of the tree of arrogance and hit every stick on the way down – the USA used to follow a policy of being nice to everybody, even its enemies. Something about being the bigger person, and demonstrating self-discipline, and the Golden Rule and all that.

                • JLo says:

                  I don’t think one needs to be an American Russophile to recognize the tragedy of lost opportunity in US-Russia relations. What should really be a win/win situation has been turned into lose/lose. Why, and to what end? The only reasons I can see are simply momentum and a dysfunctional US political system which is hamstrung by corrupt special interests that don’t allow for bold political decisions.

  15. Moscow Exile says:

    So here’s the Guardian latest on that dastardly Monsieur Depardieu who has dared to take Russian citizenship:

    “But he [Depardieu] is unlikely to see Mordovia’s large network of prison colonies for which the region is notorious. The most famous inmate is Pussy Riot singer Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who was sent to the area last year to serve a two-year sentence”.

    Hands up all who knew of Mordovia’s prison notoriety before they had been told of it by the truth-seeking Guardian Moscow correspondent?

    I wonder how the number of prisons in Mordovia compares with the number of prisons in Texas, which state is apparently in a league of its own in the USA as regards the number prisons situated there, as pointed out in this indictment against the US penal system entitled “Prisons, Jails & Probation – Overview”, wherein it is stated:

    “57. (States with Greatest Prison Growth) ‘… the top 10 states ranked from the highest growth to the lowest growth. They are Texas, Florida, California, New York, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, and Missouri. The magnitude of prison growth in these 10 states is remarkable. Between 1979 and 2000, the number of additional prisons ranged from 19 prisons in Missouri to 120 prisons in Texas. The growth in Texas equates to an extraordinary average annual increase of 5.7 additional prisons per year over the 21-year period. As a group, the 10 states were operating more than three times as many prisons in 2000 as in 1979—increasing from 195 facilities to 604 facilities. Figure 6 shows the relative growth in each state in addition to the absolute growth. In all 10 states, the number of prisons increased by more than 100 percent over the two decades. States with the lowest relative growth are Florida, which grew by 115 percent, and New York, which grew by 117 percent. Texas is again the clear leader growing by 706 percent over the 21-year period. Indeed, Texas is in a league of its own, as it added the most prisons (120), currently has the largest number of prisons in operation (137), and experienced the largest percentage increase (706 percent)’ “.

    Not that I suppose a Guardian hack would ever label Texas as notorious with regards to the number of prisons situated there.

    So if Depardieu had decided to take US citizenship and set up home in, say, Houston, I think it hardly likely that any Western journalist would have commented on that state’s 706% increase in the number of prisons between the years 1979 and 2000.

    Furthermore, I should imagine that all those Texan penal institutes provide plenty of work for law abiding Texans. In fact, I might even be tempted to conclude that the prison “business” in Texas might even be such a major employer there, as it apparently is in the notorious Republic of Mordovia.

    But hey, I’m not making a fair comparison here! How the hell can anyone compare squeaky clean, state of the art Texan gaols with the penal shitholes in Mordovia? Why, they don’t even have hot running water there, do they?

    In many instances, I should think, probably not.

    Another thing that they don’t have in Mordovian prisons is the death penalty.

    They certainly have that in Texas – and in trumps!

    • yalensis says:

      When rebuked about Mordovia or Pussy Riot, I think Russia could make a lot of tit-for-tat counter-propaganda about American prison system, god knows there is plenty of material there to work with. In fact, American prison system is so egregious that there is way more tit than tat.

      A recent scandal in the American “for profit prison” system is this story about GEO getting a football stadium named after them, in return for a generous donation. In this case, the state is Florida. GEO Group is the second-largest operator of for-profit prisons in the U.S. They are notorious for running hellhole prisons in which inmates receive substandard nutrition and are routinely subject to physical and sexual abuse:

      CEO of GEO, George Zoley reportedly earned a $1,145,000 salary in 2012, received a $1,334,498 bonus, and with stock options, earned about $5,734,949. And in 2011, GEO posted a $284 million profit, despite the fact that GEO prisons have been investigated for “horrendous conditions.”

      GEO no longer operates any prisons in Mississippi after it was discovered that prison staff had sex with incarcerated youth; guards brutally beat youth and used pepper spray excessively as a first response; the prison showed “deliberate indifference” to prisoners possessing homemade knives that were used in gang fights and inmate rapes; and some of the guards had gang affiliations.

      • kirill says:

        Not surprising that the USA is world leader in per capita and absolute prison population. Yeltsin managed to make Russia number two until Putin stopped the insanity with legal and prison reform. I am quite sure that Pussy Riot will not get sexually violated during their stay. There is more risk of that in squeaky clean USA.

      • marknesop says:

        Wow. Top that, Mordovia. Perhaps Tolokonnikova should be transferred to Florida; the climate would likely be more to her liking, and it will make her eventual inevitable book more gritty. She can still blame Putin.

        • Jen says:

          She could volunteer for the all-female chain gang at Estrella Jail in Maricopa County in Arizona if she wants that stark Cormac-McCarthy-Western-desert-desolation flavour in her autobiography (which I presume will be ghost-written). Clean up waste or bury dead folks with no names in paupers’ graves in near-40C heat, sleep in old Army tents out in the open on tarmac with below-freezing temperatures and eat food that could kill you if the extremes of day-time heat and night-time cold don’t:

          All-powerful Putin will still get the credit … oops, the blame, I mean.

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, I think it’s clear that prison life as she knows it can hold little horrors in terms of deprivation considering her previous life as an artistic anarchist who eschews human comforts in favour of living in abandoned houses and stealing from supermarkets to feed herself and fellows of their “collective”. Those who moan about how terrible it is for her to be separated from her child should recall she did not settle down and keep house in cozy fashion when she had her baby, either, but continued her vagabond life pretty much as before.

            To be fair to her, a large part of the complaining about the horrors of prison life is being done on her behalf by journalists, and by extrapolation – she is in prison, prison would be terribly uncomfortable for them, so it must be terrible for her. We won’t know what she really thought about it until she’s out and free to tell everyone, by which time I imagine an agent will have glommed on to her and asked her, why tell everyone for free? Write a book, anyone can do it. That poses an interesting dilemma for an artist – does she stick with her artistic beliefs, and put out the story, or does she go for commercial stardom? Because the western media will make her a star – at least for awhile – if she lets them.

    • marknesop says:

      Once again, we must shoulder the burden of taking the lead, and henceforth when Texas is mentioned (as I think it should be a good deal this week, since the Kuzmin autopsy results and toxicology reports are due), it shall be obligatory to add “famous for its more than one hundred prisons”. Those mavericks who don’t like to follow the herd may vary it from time to time with “famous for its nearly two hundred prisons”.

  16. marknesop says:

    “The pro opposition academic whose video interview on Znet I discussed, openly said that one of the reasons the rebellion happened in Syria was because the opposition assumed after Libya that the west would ride to its rescue. ”

    Even at that, he was being disingenuous, because he knows full well the Syrian opposition – at least the mercenary part of it – is the Libyan opposition.

    Moreover, Belhadj keeps turning up like a bad penny, reportedly in consultation with now-deceased U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on how to get more advanced weaponry for the “Free Syrian Army” and funneling money to them from undisclosed sources. There was also reportedly a shipment of 400 tons of light-anti-air weaponry which was plundered from Gaddafi’s stockpiles, delivered by ship to Turkey. The author of this piece sounds a bit of a flake – I’m hard put to explain how one could reconcile dual careers of journalism and stand-up comedy, although on reflection much of the work of the former profession looks as if it was generated by the latter profession – but her source on that one was the Times of London.

    Fed up with working in the shadows and perhaps not getting credit for being Johnny-on-the-spot in virtually everything to do with the al Qaeda-Libya-Syria triangle, Belhadj (the “Military Governor” of Tripoli, when he’s not freelancing) has since openly assumed command of the aforementioned “Free Syrian Army”.

    • kirill says:

      Nauseating alliance between the jihadis and western kafirs. I still can’t figure out what the west and Israel will gain out of this.

      • yalensis says:

        Most people who have followed Belhaj career believe that he was “turned” by CIA during their torture sessions with him. Since then he has behaved impeccably like CIA agent and helped to consolidate strategic alliance between America/Israel/Qatar/Al Qaeda/Sunni jihadists.

        • kirill says:

          That may as well be true in the case of Belhaj, but what does fundie Islam have in common with western democracy? Maybe all of these turncoats will form banana caliphates? I guess we have the Saudis as an example.

          • Jen says:

            The fear that Western govts and corporations had in the past is if you give democracy to Arab people, they’ll pressure their politicians to jack up oil prices so the West would be paying for all their education, health and social services, infrastructure, civil reforms, shopping malls and consumer electronics toys. So keep ’em poor and keep the prices low so oil companies can continue to cream off profits. Problem is that the poor turn to fundamentalist religion for relief when they see what their politicians are doing to them. Western govts then decide to curry favour with the fundamentalists to maintain the curbs on their flocks.

            Curious thing of course is that Iran has been a theocratic Muslim state (Shi’ite, supposedly the most fanatical denomination) for over 30 years yet it’s the most technologically advanced country in western Asia (after Israel I presume) and the literacy rate among people aged 15-24 years is at least 97%.

            • kirill says:

              I should be more specific and single out Sunni Salafism and not Shi’ite. The Shi’ites are not the ones active in Lybia, Syria and even Chechnya. It’s Wahabbism exported by Saudi Arabia that is agitating the Sunni populations. Iran is quite advanced and is getting over its fundie mode, but slowly.

          • yalensis says:

            They don’t have much in common, but they do have common geo-strategic interests.
            Local Jihadi elites are willing to cede world domination to Pax Americana, in return they get to rule over their own little roosts, impose shariah law, and boss their own people around.
            Both sides share a common enemy, i.e., strong-state secular regimes which threaten American hegemony and keep the jihadis at bay. It’s actually fairly logical, when you think about it. Remember that Al Qaeda was created by the CIA, during the era of Carter-Reagan, and continues to function almost like a paramilitary wing of NATO. Everywhere American soldiers invade, there pops up Al Qaeda too. Just like magic.

            • kirill says:

              So banana caliphates it is then. Since the lapdog Saudis are exporting the Wahabbism agitating the Sunnis then that makes sense.

              • yalensis says:

                Yeah, although reality can get complicated sometimes (allude to certain events like 9/11 and Ambassador Stevens assassination), I do think the “banana caliphate” model is the best overall fit for the geo-political reality of the America-Al Qaeda relationship.
                I like that term “banana caliphate”, did you invent it? From now on I will feel free to use it.

                Anyhow, here is how it works:
                To target a particular goverment, excuse me, I mean regime:

                On the 1970’s the Saudis originally provided the ideology (=Wahhbism) and lot of money.
                Team Qatar then stepped up to the plate, with a slicker more West-friendly version of the ideology (=Al Jazeera), also tons of money and even trained mercenaries. (Libya was a mostly Qatari operation.)
                NATO provides additional mercenaries, officers, Intel and an air force to assist the flipflop Wahhabists and get them into power in the target country.

                In the end, if everything works out for them (like in Afghanistan or Libya), then some local jihadist thug gets to come to power in his own little banana caliphate. He has to cede all the oil, cash, and foreign policy to his American masters. But that’s a small price to pay for the all-consuming, all-important strategic goal of forcing the local girls to cover their arms and ankles and stop going to school.

                • yalensis says:

                  P.S. and it just goes without saying that the Israelis are thick into this “banana caliphate” process too. So people who appeal to their Jewishness (as in “O how can you guys support Arabs who hate your guts?”) are wasting their breath. Israel, like Qatar, has staked her position as Junior Partner of Pax Americana. So they are in it full deep.

                • kirill says:

                  I will claim credit for inventing it in this thread. But it is possible many other people have come up with it. One always thinks of jihadis fighting for Islam, but they could be Contra type scum as well, hiding behind the Islam fig leaf.

            • Jen says:

              @ Yalensis: Don’t forget that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain got a boost from the British who were the dominant power in the Middle East before the 1950s. The British backed Ibn Saud, the founder of the dynasty and after whom the country was named. When Iraq rebelled against British rule and won independence, the British punished Iraq by carving out Kuwait, giving it to a local family to rule, and effectively denied Iraq a proper coast-line and port. If you look at a map of Iraq, you see Kuwait is like a wedge between Iraq and Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s southern border shifts very abruptly north when it meets Kuwait.

              The Al Khalifa family that rules Bahrain has been doing so since 1783 but during the 20th century it had a fair amount of help from Britain. From the 1970s to 1998, Bahrain relied on a police officer, Ian Henderson, as security advisor and during his time, state torture of Bahrainis became normal practice. In spite of his odious record in Kenya (he had some involvement in torturing people there during the Mau Mau uprising) and Bahrain, Henderson received several awards in the UK and Bahrain.

              • yalensis says:

                Good historical points, Jen. I think the British must have invented all the modern techniques for controlling colonies. (Or maybe they learned from Roman Empire?) Like the manipulation of the borders, rivers and ports, pitting ethnic groups against each others, etc.
                Things seem to happen in cycles, because the end of WWII was followed by a wave of colonies gaining their independence. But now, with the turning of the screw, we seem to be entering an era of neo-colonialism. Where many of these former colonies get re-conquered by their old masters. Like Libya. Mali is a recent example too. Mali is also part of the blowback from defeat of Libyan Jamahiriya.
                BTW, I may have mentioned before, but I highly recommend the movie, “Lion of the Desert”, which is about the Libyan struggle for independence from Italy, led by tribal leader Omar Mukhtar (played brilliantly by actor Anthony Quinn): Gaddafi was pesonally inspired by the story of Omar Mukhtar and saw himself as his successor in the anti-colonial struggle. (So his government helped finance the film, which has good Hollywood-type production values and top-level actors.)


  17. Moscow Exile says:

    Harding of the Guardian reports that tomorrow (Tuesday, 26th February 2013) media groups will challenge “what they describe as a ‘deeply troubling’ attempt by the government to withhold evidence from the inquest into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko”, it being a foregone conclusion, in Harding’s mind at least, that Litvinenko was indeed murdered.

    He also describes Litvinenko as a “former Russian spy”.

    Goldfarb, Berezovsky’s old sidekick, is quoted at length in the article:

    “I recognise that Mr Hague has a well-founded interest not to rock the boat with [Vladimir] Putin. He’s afraid. He’s afraid Putin will not vote the way he wants in the UN or squeeze Britain’s interests”.

    Goldfarb describes Putin as being “vindictive” as in: “Bring me the head of that bastard Litvinenko!”

    Harding further quotes Golfdfarb:

    “The inquest is a balance between the interests of international relations and justice. The bottom line is how far do you compromise with your own justice and decency, and the benefits from doing business with arrogant, murderous and dictatorial foreign states?”

    Goldfarb, he who acted as Berezovsky’s ringmaster at the time of Litvinenko’s death and who read out the deceased party’s “j’accuse” so-called death bed statement, has said that forensic evidence and reports from Scotland Yard had already been disclosed to interested parties.

    However, he fails to mention that one very important interested party to whom no such forensic evidence has been presented is the Russian state via the the Russian State Prosecutor’s offices.

    And as his former boss Berezovsky does, Goldfarb refers to Aleksandr Litvinenko as “Sasha”, using the special diminutive form of endearment of the dead man’s name just to show how close he was to him.

  18. Misha says:

    Marc Bennetts from not so long ago on the Sochi nay saying:

    Offhand and without further back checking, gotta wonder about his “most historians” bit on the stated 400,000 casualty number:

    Does he really mean Oliver Bullough, who suggests himself as being a lone voice (at least as far as English language circles go)?

    This isn’t a matter of quibbling over numbers in a disrespectful way to those who died. Consider the trumped up rape and death toll numbers propagandistically stated in regards to 1990s Bosnia.

    As stated in his piece, Bennetts isn’t clearly acknowledging this point, while not making mention of some other particulars about the 19th century conflict in question.

    • Misha says:

      Pardon for double linking Bullough’s piece in the above set of comments.

    • kirill says:

      Without giving any citations he is basically talking out of his a**. After the Soviet archives were opened up around 1990, it became clear that the numbers of Stalin’s “genocide” victims were grossly exaggerated. Things like claiming the annual death rate in the gulags was 20% when in fact that number was approached only in 1942 when the whole country was starving. I have seen figures of less than a million of total repressed and not the 30 million thrown around during the cold war.

      It is interesting how the cold war western propaganda kept bringing up the 1930s and Stalin. I guess it could not find much to bitch about, aside from some dissidents, in the USSR during the 1960s and later. The attack was (and still is) rather perverse. Should I attack Spain for the Inquisition? How about the USA and its land grab from the aboriginal inhabitants. Quite a few million aboriginals died at the hands of European colonizers in North America (let alone the rest of the new world).

      • Misha says:

        How did we get to Stalin from the matter of the 19th century Caucasus war in question?

        This excerpt relates to the selectivity stated on holding of the winter Olympics in Sochi:

        The attack was (and still is) rather perverse. Should I attack Spain for the Inquisition? How about the USA and its land grab from the aboriginal inhabitants. Quite a few million aboriginals died at the hands of European colonizers in North America (let alone the rest of the new world).

        • kirill says:

          Because Bennets is engaging in cold war propaganda.

          You can read and note that the Circassians were expelled into Turkey and not exterminated. There are supposed to be 4 million Circassians in Turkey today. Let’s take 400,000 and apply the population growth rates common until the advent of urban society, 2%. That’s 2.9 million people after 100 years. Let’s say there were 3 million Circassians in Turkey in 1964. This would imply half of the Circassians died during the ethnic cleansing. So there were 800,000 Circassians in 1864 in their homeland. (BTW, 2% is an average and the population growth would be closer to 1% in the early 1960s assuming Turkish Circassians were not distributed in rural areas and mostly lived in the cities.)

          According to UNPO ( there are actually 2+ million Circassians in Turkey so is fluffing numbers. There are about 709,000 in Russia, 150,000+ in the Middle East and about 50,000 in the west.

          At they claim there were 1.2 million originally and 800,000 of them survived the expulsion (now we know where Bennets got his 400,000, he did some googling). If we apply 2% to 800,000 then we have 5.6 million in 1964.

          So it’s not adding up. Between 400-500,000 must have survived to produce current population figures. And about 25% of them remained in the Russian Empire (there has not been much migration from abroad). is claiming 1/3 died due to the expulsion. Taking this at face value we have up to 750,000 original inhabitants and up to 250,000 who died.

          Wikipedia ( there were up 1.5 million deaths and 800,000 survivors. I think 200-250,000 is probably more accurate. The fact that there are 709,000 Circassians in Russia today implies that this was not genocide as claimed.

          The history of Turkish Crimea is complex and the regular slave raids on Slavic lands was one of the reasons for the expulsion of Turkey from there. I do not think back then there were modern ethnic sensibilities. Even after WWII, millions of Germans were driven from their homes in present day Poland and elsewhere.

          • Misha says:

            The last point relates to what I recently thought of in relation to Russia’s southern flank.

            The Tatar established Khanate in Crimea (they came there after the Slavs, contrary to what has been suggested by some) was a violent threat to the Slavs of Rus/Russian Empire, among others.

            Later on in the Caucasus, there were periodic raids against Russian/pro-Russian groups, by folks with a lean towards Ottoman Turkey. At the same time, there were caucasus based people who favored Russia over Turkey.

            There have been some questionably high and low figures given on the Circassians. In his 1944 A HIstory of Russia, Vernadsky states 200,000 of them leaving for Ottoman Turkey. A noticeable Circassian element continued to exist in the Russian Empire, followed by the USSR.

            These Circassians included trusted subjects of the Russian Empire until its very end (who served in such roles as border patrol guards), inclusive of some pro-White Circassians during the Russian Civil War.

            In understanding this period, the key is to deal with that era (20th century) as opposed to Stalin.

            Timothy Snyder, an American establishement academic acknowledges the Ukrainian famine figure of the 1930s is much lower than what some in the West have claimed.

            Something like the “Circassian genocide” isn’t as well known – something that Bullough acknowledges, with Bennetts seemingly suggesting the same in the above linked RIAN piece of his.

          • Misha says:

            Your point of Germans in Poland at around the time of WW II’s end applies to Germans in present day Czech territory.

            Pro-British Loyalists were also intimidated off their land in colonial America.

            The post-WW II era has seen violent ethnic population shifts in Africa, Europe and Asia.

            I don’t recall much said about the Inquistion, Franco, Basque and Catalon qualms regarding the Barcelona summer Olympics.

            Perhaps it’s time to formally and substantively piece something together which offers something different from Bennetts and Bullough.

            Ioffe, Adomanis and the JRL court appointed Russia friendlys have lacked on this particular, as well as some others.

          • Jen says:

            One thing too with the numbers involved is that when Circassian and other Caucasian refugees arrived in Ottoman Turkey, they were shunted to desert areas in the Levant. The development of Amman in Jordan as a city apparently only really took off when Circassians and Chechens were settled there. Overall the refugees were not treated too well by the Ottomans and some (many?) refugee communities actually petitioned the Russian govt to take them back.

            Some refugees also left Russia by boat across the Black Sea. The boats were not always seaworthy and there were many drownings. Not really sure of the figures though. There were at least hundreds of drownings. The only sources I can find are anti-Russian sources.

    • yalensis says:

      I didn’t know what Marc Bennetts looked like before seeing this photo of him.
      The man has quite a fine head of hair.

      • marknesop says:

        “The man has quite a fine head of hair.”

        Unsurprising considering it is growing atop a mound of purest manure. I imagine it was a shock to some other readers, as it was to me, to learn that the United States might have gotten the 2014 Olympics, if only Obama had shown up in Guatemala City. But Putin one-upped them all; when the panel asked itself, any presidents here? and the answer came back, well, Putin’s here – that was the end of the voting process, because everybody knows whoever has their president physically present at the time of the vote, well, they get the games.

        He must have been powerfully impressed by Julia Ioffe’s article on how many inches deep of expensive stuff you could pave the road to the Olympic site from Sochi with for the money Russia spent. It did not take into account that the price includes a parallel railroad alongside and several bridges for both vehicle and rail traffic. Marc Bennetts briefly alludes to “blasting through the mountains”, but manages to invest it with the kind of maudlin comedy which suggests it is like blasting your way through marzipan.

        Anyway, in honour of Ms. Ioffe’s avant-garde article on paving the road to Sochi with Louis Vuitton handbags and chocolate and God knows what else, because only the idiot Russians would spend that kind of money on just 48 km of road, I resurrect my comment at Julia’s now-defunct True/Slant blog. This would have been just a couple of weeks after I started The Kremlin Stooge. As you see, I was then more polite and reserved than the jaded, profane wretch I have become.

        “It absorbs money at hitherto unheard of rates.”

        Well, not quite. In fact, a very similar situation has been hitherto heard of. Known as the “Big Dig”, the project to reroute the central artery of Interstate 93 into a 3.5 mile tunnel in the heart of Boston

        took years to complete and cost, all in, $22 Billion USD. You could pretty much pave it a couple of yards deep in saffron for that, I’d wager.

        Corruption? I guess there might have been a bit. So as not to be a linkpig, I haven’t included the links, but if you follow the one above you’ll find links on the sidebar to “Contractors plead guilty in Big Dig fraud scheme” (falsifying qualifications of apprentices to overbill the project – cha-ching!! $300,000.00) and “Father and Son Plead Guilty in Big Dig Fraud Case” (falsifying vehicle weights to make it appear more material was hauled away, to the tune of a quarter-million bucks). I wouldn’t go so far as to say roadbuilding projects in the United States are as corrupt as those in Russia; that’s certainly not the case. But it’d be hard to reconcile a cost of $22 Billion for 3.5 miles of road by saying asphalt isn’t cheap. I’d point out here that these enormous costs meant other highways that desperately needed repair went begging, just as they are in Russia. Just before I finish pointing out stuff, I’ll point out that the cost of Big Dig project was not mentioned at all in Russian news or by Russian bloggers.

        I’m not looking to piss you off, because I admire and enjoy your work. I’m also not looking to make an argument that Russian roads are in fine shape, because that’s not the case in general and some of them are beyond awful. However, continuous criticism and nitpicking over how much the Medvedev/Putin government spends on the Sochi Olympics is not particularly productive in the great scheme of things. They’ve got the money, and if that’s how they choose to spend it, so what? When the locals that have to use the roads start running people out of office because the roads are impassable, then things are more likely to change.”

        Note: the link originally included with that comment is broken now, although it worked at the time, but it still takes you to the Boston TV link, and from it you can do a search for “Big Dig” which will give you all the info you want.

        • Misha says:

          Given some of the establishment preferred dreck that they’ve written, the hyping of Ioffe and Adomanis, among some others, is counterproductive from a quality control point of view.

  19. JLo says:

    As requested, here is the FB thread from Jim Brooke’s page after the above mentioned article was published, slightly edited, and with no “sic”s. It’s very light on content compared to Mark’s more comprehensive takedown, but good for a chuckle anyway. I imagine most of you will be able to figure out who “EK” is…

    JV – Excellent article; clear, concise, with loads of facts and fine analysis.
    JB – thanks EZ to stay home and write in Moscow’s whiteout blizzard…
    Ellen Barry – What about Ulyanovsk?
    JB – Ulyanovsk, as you know is for now just a back up, that has not been used yet… and if it is, it will be a huge money maker for Volga Dnepr air cargo co… the privatization of foreign policy
    JD – Thanks Jim Brooke for s other excellent article!
    JB – right — and just a few hours ago, Russian health authorities banned all imports of American turkey meat — about $650 million in sales in 2012 — since US officials ghost-wrote Russia’s WTO application, they should know how to use it get redress…
    MB – foreign agent! : )
    JB – I just want my Turkey next November…
    JH – when are they going to ban imports of all foreign beef? I can’t wait!
    JLo – That checklist of what Russia needs from the US is pretty damn “short” indeed. Considering it contains nothing of substance, it’s pretty much zero. So you essentially proved yourself wrong in your own article. Also, your understanding of both energy and geopolitics is laughably amateurish. Try reading a little Stratfor or something, along with some financial research. And, finally, I can tell you where to get organic, free range and locally grown (Moscow Region) turkey in Moscow. It’s much better than the hormone and antibiotic pumped up third rate garbage America dumps on Russia.
    PS All the meat bans are perfectly legal under WTO rules. Doh!
    JLo – Link from Stratfor “The Consequences of Intervening in Syria”
    EK – actually, the Russians have found an excellent means of saying thank you to Brother Wolf… the banning of hormone-treated meat is totally legal under WTO. There is not a damned thing the Americans can do about it!
    EK – truly laughable – the list of what Russia “needs” from America – the answer is – essentially – nothing. Previously, what they did get was extremely harmful. Witness the Yeltsin years. He seems to miss the fact that the US may still be the world’s largest economy, Russian trade with China is ten times their trade with America – mostly import of agricultural goods which could easily be bought from Brazil, France… or produced locally, and trade with China is growing by some 20% per annum. Now Russia’s largest trading partner. He also seems to miss the fact that American influence in Russia’s near abroad has been massively rolled back – the Orange Revolution is a mere memory and since China is going to be the key power, Russia might as well align herself.
    JLo – By his own crude metrics of economy, population and military China is indeed the US’ main potential rival. So the wisdom of agitating Russia to the point where it is forming and alliance with China is… what, exactly? Sorry, Jim, you should listen to your colleagues. They don’t have “localitis”, they simply have a much better grasp of the issues.
    MB – …Jim, while I know many veteran foreign Moscow residents whom I might accuse of “localitis” as you call it, 90% of the ones I know are symptom free; keep taking your vitamin C and don’t lose your “objectivitis”…
    JB – So, EK, the Yeltsin yeas were an American creation?
    JB – And, JLo, as you know from your years in Russia, the best negotiating tactic here is to be really nice, maybe we should throw in some Japanese-style apologies..
    JLo – According to you, Jim, America doesn’t need anything from Russia so what’s the incentive to negotiate at all? Leaving aside this cognitive dissidence, I know from my years as a trader that a variety of negotiating tactics can be effective, including being really nice. Generally, I’ve found Russians to be reasonable, fair and sincere as long as you are not condescending and also reasonable. And, yes, if you have wronged them an apology will go a long way. You might want to consider that you resort to confrontational negotiating tactics not out of some inherent cultural qualities of the Russians, bbut because of your own ethnocentricity and complexes.
    JB – JLo — turkey, pork, beef, boeings, adoptions == gee, I just don’t know where Washington should start apologizing — self-flagellation is not my thing — nor Stockholm Syndrome — and as far as being ethnocentric, I speak five foreign languages and have spent most of my ‘adult’ life reporting overseas, out of 60 countries at last count… it therapeutic to get outside the MKAD once in a while..
    JLo – Gee, Jim, where to start? Perhaps with just the latest, the Magnitsky Act, a gross violation of diplomacy, respect for sovereignty, and due process, the latter of which America claims to hold so dear (well, okay, not if you’re an inmate at Gitmo, but you get my drift)? Meat, boeings, adoptions, etc. were all retaliations for what now looks like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or maybe go all the way back to the beginning and apologizing for reneging on its promise not to expand NATO to former Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet Republics after the fall of the Berlin Wall? Or just pick any one of a long established list in between? Self-flagellation – you should really try it some time, figuratively speaking of course. You of all people seem to need it. And speaking foreign languages and living abroad don’t necessarily remove your ethnocentricity. Indeed, in your case, they seem to only have reinforced it.
    JB – Jag talar svenska (I don’t speak Swedish) “Stockholm Syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstrog robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstrog in Stockholm, Sweden, in which several bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault from August 23 to August 28, 1973. During this situation, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors…”
    JLo – JB, what ARE you on about? Have you been kidnapped?
    JB – haha — enjoy the fresh snow — too bad no mountains around here!
    EK – I suspect mr. Brooke has been held hostage by the Empire for so long he is beginning to sympathise with it…hopefully, someone will think to liberate him – if only as an after-thought

    • Misha says:

      Suspect MB to be either of 2 people associated with a certain Moscow based English language venue.

      Intellectually, neither come across as being so impressive to warant a legitimately greater propping over some others, regularly getting the shaft in English language mass media and English lanuage mass media influenced venues.

      • Dear JLo,

        Congratulations on a brilliant and witty and utterly deadly demolition of Brookes. It is interesting that he has nothing to say in response to you other than to bring up the Stockholm Syndrome. That by the way tells you an awful lot about what he thinks both of Russia and of Russians.

        On the subject of an apology, I cannot think of any single thing that would better clear the air in US Russia relations than some formal recognition from Washington that the 1990s were a disaster and that US support for Yeltsin and support for NATO’s eastward expansion were wrong and a mistake. Of course it’s never going to happen – at least not in my lifetime. Notice that Brookes says that he doesn’t believe in giving Russians apologies even apparently when he or the US are in the wrong.

        Incidentally I would say the same thing about the Russian liberals. They will never be taken seriously in Russia until they finally admit that the 1990s were not a golden age for Russia but were for the overwhelming majority of Russians a disaster and until they also provide some explanation of what if they ever again come back into power they would do differently this time. Needlless to say they not only do not do that. They do the opposite.

        • marknesop says:

          I agree, and couldn’t but note there are a couple of others in there who seem to share your views. In fact he was beginning to get outnumbered there towards the end. Did I see Ellen Barry in there, or was she just mentioned by someone else? she also is about as Russophobic as you could get, and also reports from Moscow although she and her hubby hate the place, or so you would think from their regular castigation of it.

          Those beliefs admit no criticism, and recognize no wrongdoing: American actions in Russia in the 90’s were meant to drag the Russians kicking and screaming into the modern world and, well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. Now the Russians prefer to sink back into barbarism rather than learning by example. Disappointing, to say the least.

          Brooke does indeed seem to be from that my-country-right-or-wrong mindset. But while nobody expects him to be disloyal, he’s not only judging Russia by American standards – they’re not even real standards. They’re those of the Saturday-Evening-Post, Norman Rockwell America that hasn’t been around for decades. He and his cronies apparently don’t do timelines, either; it should be clear to everyone that the present systematic severing of ties all came after the Magnitsky Act, and Russia tried to stop that from happening by perfectly ordinary diplomatic efforts of persuasion. You might be seeing hardball now, but that wasn’t true a year ago.

          • Misha says:

            On top of that, he’s employed by a media organ that’s (if I’m not mistaken) directly affiliated with the US government.

            Based on that understanding: at one time, a RFE-RL and VoA comparison served as an example of how less government affiliation in media doesn’t by default mean a better media in terms of objectivity.

            Where’s the diversity at VoA in terms of someone being a hard hitting opposite of Brooke?

          • JLo says:

            Yes, Ellen Barry commented at the beginning. I wrote her full name, without fully naming others on the thread, because I have no mercy for journalistitutes and she has no shame anyway. I was actually hoping she would engage more in the conversation but to no avail.

            • Misha says:

              Presstitutes is a term that has been utilized out there.

              I shy away from using it on the basis of trying to keep things as clean as possible, which isn’t easy.

        • JLo says:

          Thank you very much Alexander! I completely agree that no apology from, let alone a recognition of mistakes made by, the US will be forthcoming, however unfortunate and disheartening that is. And your observation about the white ribboners is spot on. They simply will not be taken seriously with notoriously corrupt individuals like Kasyanov and Koch, or the bumbling Nemtsov, among their ranks. The smarter among them should realize this, but it seems like their numbers are so few they figure that the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.

          There is a political commentator in Russia, the economist Mikhail Khazan, who has made some interesting observations along these lines. Firstly, he said that the liberals will not be a viable political movement until they come out and openly admit that the privatizations of the 1990s were criminal and unjust to the large portion of the Russian public. Just the acknowledgement itself is important. He also says that there is a recognition from abroad (Washington) that the old generation of liberals is incompetent and ineffective and that a new generation, with less of a Western orientation, will have to come of age before they will have the chance to reach any levers of power.

      • Misha says:

        MB could also be someone discussed at this thread.

      • JLo says:

        It wasn’t Michael Bohm, unfortunately. If it was I would have written his full name and taken the opportunity to tell him what I think of him. This MB is not someone I know personally but is a friend of many of my friends. I’m pretty sure he works in finance.

    • yalensis says:

      Wow! That is a really great exchange. JB got very defensive when accused of ethnocentrism, that was when he started spouting off his linguistic credentials. “I speak five foreign languages blah blah blah…”

      My favorite retort: “What AREyou on about? Have you been kidnapped?”
      That was perfect!

      • Misha says:

        Multi-linguistic proficiency is a great asset to have.

        Having or not having it doesn’t serve as a definite determining factor for a great analytical mind.

      • JLo says:

        Glad you enjoyed it!

        • yalensis says:

          Is like a disturbing peek inside the smug colonialist mindset that some of these folks have. I think it is good that you and some others are questioning this mindset. It is probably the first time for some of these people that anyone from within their own group (or so they think) has ever questioned their assumptions. And you did it with humor and panache, which is really cool.

    • kirill says:

      Yet more evidence that professional Russia haters have no substance with which to prop themselves up. If they are so right then it should be easy to list off substantial points. This is clearly a major challenge none of them are able to overcome, which speaks volumes.

  20. Misha says:

    Just saw this feature, which is of interest for for propaganda study purposes:

    This particular show concerns the influence of bloggers in Russia. It starts off with promise, with a gradual decline.

    No surprise that a good number will buy into it. Successful propaganda is the kind that has a degree of validity. Others will be able to see thru it.

    Some nice shots of the Moscow and Chelyabinsk scenes.

  21. yalensis says:

    Today a legal development in the Razvozzhaev case:

    Oppositionist Ilya Yashin (“Solidarity” Party) Tweeted that he has been summoned to Prosecutor’s office to be interviewed on 5 March at 13:00 (Moscow time), by Investigator Nikitin.

    Recall that Razvozzhaev is being charged in connection witn the Givi Targamadze case after NTV transmitted that famous episode (“Anatomy of a Protest II”) showing Raz, Givi, Udaltov, and Konstantin Lebedev, chatting it up on that comfy sofa in a Minsk flat, begging for money and plotting various nefarious deeds. Their inept conniving was captured on a strategically placed device (=camera phone?) and the videotape handed over to NTV for another hilarious episode of their popular show, “Russia’s funniest treasonous videos.”

    After which, when he saw himself on TV, Raz got spooked and did a runner, he tried to escape to Europe, but was nicked by Russian coppers in Kiev, and now spends most of his time behind bars.

    After returning to Russia, Raz was put in chains and shipped off to Angarsk , to face some old grand robbery charges dating from 1997. (There was where he took the bullet.)

    Fortunately for Raz, this past January 10 the statute of limitations ran out on the alleged Angarsk caper, so he gets a pass on that one. Whatever happened in Angarsk stays in Angarsk. So, now Raz is on his way back to Moscow to face the music on the so-called “Jabba the Georgian” caper.

    What is Yashin’s relationship with Raz? That I do not know, and article does not explain.
    In summary, Investigator Nikitin needs to ask Yashin some questions about Razvozzhaev.
    Stay tuned…

  22. Moscow Exile says:

    So Udaltsov has got the green light to hold a March this Saturday, but not a “March of a Million” this time: it’s going to be called a “Social March” – and he won’t be there of course. Komsomolskaya Pravda reports:

    A march will be held on March 2 from Pushkin Square to Sakharov Prospect.

    The opposition has agreed to the city authorities’ proposed route for a “Social March” to take place on March 2 from Pushkin Square to Sakharov Prospect. This was announced by the “Left Front” leader, Sergei Udaltsov.

    “The March 2 “Social March” organizers have agreed on a route from Pushkin Square to Sakharov Prospekt. The Moscow mayor has been informed of this”, Udaltsov has twittered . He also said that the decision was taken after serious negotiations with the city authorities and consultations with groups of Muscovites who had initiated the action.

    Earlier, opposition members said they did not want to hold the rally on Academician Sakharov Prospect, because this area was too large for the event.

    The march will be held on the initiative of “Left Front” and social activists, including State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev. At its meeting in February, the Opposition Coordinating Council decided to “provide supportive information on the march as regards the social rights of Muscovites”.

    That’s rich!

    Not so long ago they demanded march routes and venues other than those proposed to them by the city authorities in order to publicise the huge numbers of white ribbonists that they always said would appear (millions?) but never did.

    Now they are not happy with the venue because it will make their “millions” appear as insignificant as a pea on a drum.

    • kirill says:

      The world is a sad place when you have these inane demonstrations to reestablish the oligarch order of the 1990s (they all just love Khodorkovsky) and not a single march to do something about global warming. The freedom of some maggot billionaire to be immune from crimes such as murder is really not as precious as avoiding the end of days for humanity.

      But there’s no money in climate change demonstrations.

      BTW, Russia needs some climate change activism since it is one of the countries where you have active denial.

      • marknesop says:

        Agreed. And the oil industry is said by those involved in it in Russia – remember Tim Newman? He sparked some heated exchanges, but he seemed to know what he was talking about on engineering issues – to be very inefficient and ramshackle, although there’s no denying it’s functional. Initiatives to replace pumping gear and update technology would not only result in more oil recovered for sale, it would reduce environmental damage and possibly provide an avenue for international cooperation, provide it wasn’t just another spearhead for destabilization and takeover.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Well TNK-BP (soon to be Rosneft), where I spend a great deal of time, although having been in the not too distant past seriously criticized over environmental issues, has, according to this report, increased of late its spending on its Orenburg oilfield ecological programme by over 40% as compared with what it invested there in 2011. Furthermore, this TNK-BP statement further trumpets the ongoing positive activities of the firm as regards pollution issues.

          • marknesop says:

            Good for them! It’s nice to see some positive news about the energy industry in Russia for a change, as opposed to the constant predictions from the latest Moscow School of Higher Economics Flavour of the Month that it is due to collapse any moment, or how Killer Putin is using it to starve children in Europe. But I emphasize I am not a fan of petroleum dominance, and would much rather see a cleaner energy policy for the world even if both Russia and Canada lost their energy clout thereby.

    • marknesop says:

      I love how they keep referring to the Russian “homosexual propaganda” bill as an “anti-gay” bill, and chunnering on about “international obligations”. Stop mealy-mouthing around, Catherine Ashton, and stand up tall and say what’s on your mind – I want Russia to allow homosexuals to pitch lifestyle material to kids 15 years old or less. The age of consent for sexual activity in Russia, of whatever orientation, is only 16. So what we’re really talking about here is pressure from EU countries for Russia to permit gays to introduce the gay lifestyle to Russians at age 15.

      Oddly enough, in the England of Baroness Ashton of Upholland – AKA Catherine Ashton – the “Obscene Publications Acts of 1959″ remain in effect, and under that reference, while ” the Crown Prosecution Service will not normally advise proceedings in respect of material portraying the following:

      actual consensual sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal)
      oral sex
      mild bondage
      simulated intercourse or buggery fetishes which do not encourage physical abuse”

      “…The principal factors influencing whether a prosecution under section 2 is required are: (excerpted)

      whether publication was made to a child or vulnerable adult, or the possibility that such would be likely to take place;

      where children are likely to access material of a degree of sexual explicitness equivalent to what is available to those aged 18 and above in a licensed sex shop, that material may be considered to be obscene and subject to prosecution. This applies to material which is not behind a suitable payment barrier or other accepted means of age verification, for example, material on the front page of pornography websites and non-commercial, user-generated material which is likely to be accessed by children and meets the threshold. see R v Perrin, [2002] EWCA Crim 747;

      where publication took place, especially if material can be readily seen by the general public, for example in a newsagents or market, or websites easily accessible to children.”

      It is quite clear here that if you attempt to interest a child – defined as a person aged 17 or less – in sexual propaganda, you are liable for prosecution under the Obscene Publications Acts. But Catherine Ashton joins the pack baying for Russia to open up its children’s minds to the gay lifestyle at 15, or less.

      I have nothing personal against homosexuals. I personally do not care what you do for gratification. Whatever gets you through the night, as they say. What I object to is this being constantly, non-stop, referred to as an “anti-gay bill” when most or all of the countries advocating the pitching of gay material to kids aged 15 or less in Russia have anti-obscenity laws to prevent anything like that happening in their own countries, liberal as they like to portray themselves.

      • kirill says:

        The ignorance or malice is breathtaking. This the same BS as the demonstrations law and the foreign agents registration act. The bloody west has the same freaking laws on the books. And don’t you, western media, give me that BS that it is just outdated lint of no consequence. Repeal them all if you want to have credibility and “moral authority”.

      • yalensis says:

        Great Britain is the country that took 55 years to apologize to Alan Turing. British “justice” system chemically castrated an OBE medal holder and one of the greatest mathematicians who ever lived. Because he was gay.

        Now they are so concerned about Russian gays? Bloody Hypocrites!

      • apc27 says:

        I do not think the Western officialdom per se are concerned about homosexuals in Russia, but they do come under great pressure from their own internal gay lobbies and, anyway, are always ready to blame Russia for anything, no matter whether its true or not.

        Russia does have a problem with gay groups because its government and its people, in general, do have a sensible (in my opinion) view on homosexuality. For them it is not a separate cultural phenomenon, something to be protected, cherished and even encouraged, as happens in the West. In Russia it is just a sexual preference, on par with other LEGAL sexual preferences like BDSM and such, a private matter and a private personal choice, not discussed in public.

        Most people do not approve of homosexuality and do not want to see it popularized, but they also do not wish to take that choice away from gay people or see them punished for it. Public opinion had remained pretty much the same on this matter for a long time, yet somehow Western gay lobbies managed to convince themselves that Russia is the great next battleground on this issue… how it happened is quiet frankly a mystery to me, when even some members of West-worshiping liberal opposition, not to mention Communists, nationalists and United Russia, have been known to very vocally oppose pro-gay measures.

        • yalensis says:

          The real danger is that Western cultural intereference on this issue will provoke within Russia a backlash of intolerance against homosexuals. That’s already happening, and I think this legislation (which is anti-sex education legislation) is partly a result of such a backlash. Many Russians are already convinced that the gays, like the liberals, are simply agents of Western influence. Hence the derogatory term “liberast”, which is a conflation of “liberal” and “pederast”.
          Homosexuality started to become more accepted in the West when gays proved that they were just normal schlubs who fit into their society. If gays had been seen as, say, exotic Comintern agitators, then things would have gone differently.
          Western propagandists know damn well what they are doing when they keep pushing this issue in Russia’s face: They WANT to provoke Russian government to do or say something intolerant, so that they can jump on this and keep on harping.
          Russian response, as always, should be to calmly point out any and all manifestations of anti-homosexual prejudice or violence in Europe and U.S. and then accuse these countries of hypocrisy. I showed them the way with the Alan Turing example. They could also allude to Oscar Wilde and many other more recent events.
          Advice to Russian gays: you need to bend over backwards (ha ha! no pun intended!) to prove to the masses that you are patriotic and not foreign shills. Form a patriotic NGO or club, for example, it could be called “The Tchaikovsky Society”, it could promote Russian art and culture, also lobby for gay rights in Russia while also vigorously criticizing Western foreign policy towards Russia.

          • yalensis says:

            P.S. What is this “BDSM” sexual preference that you allude to? I am not familiar with that particular perversion… Is that the one where people dress up in furry animal costumes and lick each other all over?

            • marknesop says:

              It is a polyglot of Bondage/Dominance/Sado-Masochism.

            • apc27 says:

              Strange how you do not know what BDSM is and yet are aware of “people dress up in furry animal costumes and lick each other all over”, eh? Or is it another influence of that infamous uncle of yours, we hear so much about?

              • yalensis says:

                Yes, sadly, it is true, my Uncle Vanya sometimes likes to dress up as a bear and go on drunken binges, charging down the street and doing unspeakable things to whomever he encounters.

                So I thought maybe BDSM stood for “Bear-faced Drunken Sex Maniac” ?

                (Quote from Nastenka: “Every time I meet a man, he is either gay, or a bear.”)

          • apc27 says:

            You are correct and yet the West remains completely oblivious to its own “poisonous” embrace. It is already almost impossible to be a liberal in Russia without being considered a Western bootlicker by normal people.NGOs, even those who are doing good work, are being damaged by that association. It looks like homosexuals will suffer the same fate.

            • marknesop says:

              “It looks like homosexuals will suffer the same fate.”

              Not necessarily, because Russia has such a small population for its size that it cannot afford to alienate such a large group. However, the chances of it happening are directly proportional to the degree with which the group embraces western support and does what is expected of it, which is to gear up with big street protests.

        • marknesop says:

          Very well said, and if you don’t mind, I will use your comment as the closer to my next post, which is on that subject and well under way.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          It’s the same with the proselytising of “feminism” USA style in Russia. Most Russians, both men and women, think militant Western feminist activists belong to some ludicrous cult. Yes, Russians are well aware that there are many evil bastards in their midst that use and abuse women, that drunken criminals murder their wives/partners to a shameful extent in Russia. But militant feminism such as that displayed by “Femen” is, in my opinion, regarded by most Russians, both men and women, with repugnance. Yet Western agitators love to stick the label “feminist” onto their activities in order to lend themselves airs of moral superiority over the Russian bydlo, hence not just “Punk Band Pussy Riot”, but “Feminist Punk Band Pussy Riot”.

          Soon it will be “International Women’s Day”, which though “international” is, I should imagine, only really observed in Russia, some former Soviet republics, Cuba and possibly
          Vietnam and China. I well remember the first time I witnessed the handing out of roses to unknown women by various men on the Moscow streets on March 8th, 1990, and my companion, an English “feminist”, began to rant away about how bogus these gestures of affection displayed by Russian men to their womenfolk were and how Russian women were such fools to be gulled so by men who only had one thing on their minds.

          No one offered her a rose.

  23. yalensis says:

    First meeting of John Kerry (since his appointment as Secretary of State) with Sergei Lavrov, takes place in Berlin:

    According to Lavrov, Kerry admitted to him that there truly was a problem with this whole adoption thing, and he will look into it and see what he can do.

  24. kirill says:


    Sodium leaks and fires have occurred at French and Soviet/Russian breeder reactors as well. But this is not anything like the catastrophic conditions that form in water cooled designs. Molten metal reactors are basically unpressurized vats in which the fuel bundles sit. These vats cannot be drained of the metal coolant by some leak, but that requires the proper design.

    Sodium is peculiar in that it burns on contact with air but this is not a runaway detonation process and is no big deal. The BN-600 has been the most successful breeder reactor with sodium coolant with a capacity factor of over 80%. It is an experimental reactor. The BN-800 is in the final stages of construction at Beloyarsk and should have a higher capacity factor (.

    Lead is a better and safer coolant but there are no large scale lead cooled reactors being built. The lead-bismuth reactors used in Soviet submarines are being commercialized as small scale reactors ( Lead has the issue of wearing down the iron in pipes but this has supposedly been fixed with continuous iron oxide formation.

    The Monju case is strange given the experience of France and the USSR/Russia. For an advanced technological culture, Japan seems to have some major gaps. The deployment of Fukushima was idiotic as they kept the backup generators in the basement and did not do the obvious and put them on the hill about 300 feet behind the plant. They basically did a copy and paste of the American layout (these were GE reactors from the 1960s).

    The Monju reactor is a loop type design and not a pool (vat) type design. So leaks can be more catastrophic. It is really laid out like a water cooled design and requires pumps to achieve sufficient cooling. This article goes over the details:

    Click to access 20604782938.pdf

    I don’t know who decided to follow this design philosophy. France led the way with the pool type design. Perhaps the Japanese wanted to do it their own way.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks very much for the explanation, Kirill. I think the problem in Japan might be their management culture: people do as they’re told, can’t question authority, can’t adapt original nuclear reactor site plans to ones that would better suit the location and take advantage of its features. Also Japan’s loop design sounds a little like cutting corners and using Band-Aids over gaps.

  25. Alex says:

    Just a small factual note:
    There is no city of Beloyarsk. Белоярская атомная станция (Beloyarskaya Nuclear Power Plant) is located in the place called Zarechniy (город Заречный). The name of the station came from nearby municipality called Beloyarskiy (поселок Белоярский).

  26. Moscow Exile says:

    Harding is still at it in today’s Guardian: talking about Litvinenko’s “murder”.

    Does he not know that the purpose of the inquest into Litvinenko’s death is to determine amongst other things whether, in fact, a murder had taken place.

    That Litvinenko was murdered, it seems, is a foregone conclusion of Tin-Tin’s.

    And he still peddles the line that Litvinenko’s alleged murderers tipped polonium-210 into his tea.

    “Litvinenko died in November 2006 after meeting two Russians, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, in the Pine Bar of London’s Millennium hotel. The pair are alleged to have slipped radioactive polonium-210 into Litvinenko’s tea. The Kremlin has refused to extradite Lugovoi and Kovtun. Both deny murder”.

    Another of the plagiarist’s interesting lines is that the British Foreign Secretary is attempting to put the lid on available evidence in the Litvinenko case so as to safeguard British trade interests with the Evil Empire:

    “William Hague has been accused of putting Britain’s trade interests with Moscow above justice after the foreign secretary sought to withhold evidence from the inquest into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko”.

    Interesting that!

    If it is true, as some maintain, that the USA needs very little, if anything, off Russia as regards trade, whereas Russia needs far more off the USA, then what, I wonder is the UK so desperately in need of trading with the Land of the Orcs and what are the Orcs so desperate to import from Britain?

    Harding reports that “Litvinenko died in November 2006 after meeting two Russians, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, in the Pine Bar of London’s Millennium hotel”, ergo: it was
    Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun that killed him?

    I remember reading that a lap-dancing joint was amongst the many places across London where traces of the deadly if ingested isotope were found after Litvinenko’s death .

    Why has no one reported, therefore, that Litvinenko died after watching a stripper or after his having visited Berezovsky’s office for that matter, as traces of polonium-210 were found there as well.

    Ah, but you see, he drank tea with the dastardly Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who are Russians of course, and so they must have dosed his tea with the isotope and he never noticed any reaction that occurred in the tea pot after the two agents had Micky Finned it.

  27. Moscow Exile says:

    Navalny a fake!

    From RIANOVOSTI today:

    MOSCOW, Feb. 27 – RIA Novosti. Investigators have come to the conclusion that the oppositionist Alexei Navalny, who is under investigation, received the status of lawyer illegally, said spokesman for the Investigative Committee (SK) Vladimir Markin in his microblog on Twitter.

    “The investigation has revealed the illegal acquisition by Navalny of lawyer status”, he wrote.

    • kirill says:

      Does anyone have evidence of him studying law in Russia? His six month stint at Yale hardly merits a certification.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Well, Magnitsky didn’t graduate in law or served as an articled clerk in a law firm: he graduated in bookkeeping and accountancy; nevertheless he was a lawyer, wasn’t he?

        A whistle-blowing one as well, who was on the side of freedom and justice and democracy and all that is honest and true.

        He was a lawyer…wasn’t he?

      • yalensis says:

        Navalny studied law at Patrice Lumumba University.

        He didn’t study law at Yale, he just audited a one-semester course in “How to make colour revolutions” – not kidding.

    • marknesop says:

      Mmmmm…the whistle-blowing accountant, and the anti-corruption lawyer-impersonator. The west sure knows how to pick ’em. This promises to be interesting, and if true, it will save the alleged efforts to have him disbarred.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Nope! Kirov Lawyers’ Association has said that the Basketweaver is Kosher.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          The BBC, however, reports that the qualification that the IC claims is absent as regards Navalny having the status of lawyer does not concern his passing of law exams, which Kirov Lawyers’ Association states he has done and has the papers to prove it, but that the IC claims that in the paperwork provided by him in his application to be a lawyer, he said he had the necessary two years’ work experience as a legal specialist.

          According to investigators, that was not an accurate statement.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            I don’t know how it works in Russia, but in the UK, having a degree in law does not make you a lawyer: you have to work “articled” to a legal firm for a certain period of time and gain experience in the courts and go through the daily drudgery of bread-and-butter legal paper work such as conveyancing before you can practise law. You do this from the bottom up, so to speak, like moving up the ranks in the army, studying as an articled clerk and gaining qualifications as you go; or you can get a degree in law and try to find a law firm that will take you on board. There is huge competition to become a lawyer in the UK and very many that get a degree in law do not become lawyers. Now if there is a similar system in Russia, which there may well be, Navalny could indeed have studied law and passed his law exams, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is qualified to practise law.

            Alexander Mercouris can perhaps wise us all up on this matter if he should think fit…

            • Moscow Exile says:

              This is how РБК reported the reason why thee IC has stated that Navalny is not qualified to practise law:

              По закону, чтобы вступить в адвокатуру, нужно отработать по юридической специальности не меньше двух лет. Однако, как утверждают в СК, ООО “Аллект”, в котором А.Навальный, согласно предоставленной им справке, получал свой стаж, с начала нулевых подавала нулевые балансы – проще говоря, это была “пустышка”, которая никакой деятельности не вела, а значит, и стажа по юридической специальности у А.Навального тоже не было.

              В СКР утверждают, что не все в порядке у А.Навального было и с регистрацией. Он сдавал квалификационный экзамен в 2009г. в адвокатской палате Кировской области, для чего ему было необходимо зарегистрироваться в этом регионе. Однако следователи выяснили, что оппозиционера “прописали” по несуществующему адресу.

              By law, in order to qualify as an advocate, you need to work in the legal profession for at least two years. However, according to the Investigatory Committee, Navalny, in the light of information provided by him in documentation that he has given the committee, was articled to the legal firm “Allekt”, whose work from the very beginning to the end was a big fat zero. in other words, it was a “dummy” organization in which no [legal] activities were undertaken by him and hence Navalny spent no period of time active in the legal profession in legal matters.

              The IC maintains that all was not in order as regards Navalny’s [legal] registration. He passed a Kirov Bar Association qualifying examination in 2009 and to receive said qualification it was necessary for him to be registered in the Kirov region. However, the investigators found that the oppositionist was “registered” at a non-existent address.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Not right what I wrote above as regards “Allekt” being a legal firm where he undertook legal work!

                That firm “Allekt” was Navalny’s shell firm of course!

                The the key point in the IC argument against Navalny’s claim to be a qualified lawyer is that “Allekt” was Navalny’s off-shore scam firm and it was at “Allekt” that Navalny stated in a document presented by him to the Kirov Region Law Association that he had worked for several years as Deputy General Director on “legal matters”.

                By law, before he could take the exam at Kirov that would allow him to practise law, Navalny had to prove that had worked for two years in law. However, the CEO of “Allekt” was Navalny himself: Navalny had appointed himself as both the director of this firm and its legal specialist. This claim to have undertaken 2 years legal work, thereby enabling him to sit a bar exam at Kirov is, therefore, a bogus one according to the IC because “Allekt” did zilch legally.

                See “Charge of Document Falsification Threatens Navalny” in MK:

                Напомним, что 27 февраля утром представитель Следственного комитета Владимир Маркин заявил в пресс-релизе: «Навальный представил в адвокатскую палату Кировской области справку о том, что он являлся на протяжении нескольких лет заместителем генерального директора ООО «Аллект» по правовым вопросам. При этом следует отметить, что генеральным директором этой компании также являлся Навальный. То есть он сам себя назначил и руководителем, и своим заместителем». Добавив, что «Алексей Навальный от дачи показаний по этому факту, как впрочем и по всем остальным фактам, отказался, сославшись на ст. 51 Конституции, позволяющую не свидетельствовать против себя»

                [Recall that on the morning of February 27 an Investigative Committee representative, Vladimir Markin, said in a press release: “Navalny presented in the Kirov Region Advocates’ Chamber a certificate stating that he had been for several years Deputy General Director of ‘Allekt’, where he had dealt with legal matters. It should be noted that the CEO of this company was also Navalny. That is, he appointed himself both as the director and his deputy”, adding, “Alexei Navalny has refused to testify to this matter as well as all other matters in this case, citing the article. 51 of the Constitution, which allows him not to incriminate himself”.

            • Dear Moscow Exile,

              That’s quite right. A law degree in Britain does not make you a lawyer. It is a purely academic qualification. By no means do all lawyers have law degrees. If you have another sort of degree you do however have to do a 1 year course in law before you can become a lawyer.

              However all lawyers, regardless of whether they have law degrees or not, have to do ann additional 1 year professional training course known as the Legal Practice Course (for solicitors) or the Bar Vocational Course (for barristers). Once they have done that in order to qualify in Britain as lawyers they have to be articled at a law firm for 2 years to become a solicitor or at a barristers’ chambers for 1 year to become a barrister.

              Training requirements differ in different countries. I understand that in Russia it is necessary to have an actual law degree to become a lawyer.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Dear Alexander Mercouris,

                Thanks for enlightening me, and, no doubt others, as regards how one becomes qualified to practise law in the UK.

                So Navalny graduated in law from the People’s Friendship University (formerly known as Patrice Lumumba University): that is incontestable.

                However, in order to practise at law, Navalny had then to undertake the Russian equivalent of being articled at law in the UK. In Russia, that meant he had first to undertake two years of legal work before he could apply for permission to take an exam that would allow him to practise law as a “defence lawyer”.

                It is as a “defence lawyer” Navalny is described in the Russian press, and it is his claims that he is suitably qualified to be such a defence lawyer that is being contested.

                In the UK, I believe that the regulatory body that sets a vocational route to legal qualification is the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) . Furthermore, Chartered Legal Executives in the UK need to have 5 years of qualifying work experience to become lawyers.

                The regulatory body to which Navalny applied in order to take examinations that would allow him to practise as a defence lawyer was the Kirov Region Law Association. In order to qualify as a defence lawyer by passing examinations at that association, one first has to have undertaken two years activities in legal matters and to be registered as a resident of the Kirov region.

                On the first point, according to the Investigatory Committee, Navalny’s declaration that he had undertaken two years’ activity in legal matters was a sham: his “legal activity” allegedly took place in his shell firm “Allekt”, in which he had appointed himself as director and also as assistant director in legal matters; on the second point, his registered address in the Kirov region was also a sham: it does not exist!

                Oh yes! And while he was involved in legal matters as Assistant Director (legal dept.) at “Allekt”, where he was also self-appointed CEO that had appointed himself as his own assistant director in matters concerning law, he also had time to take himself off to Yale University, USA, where he studied for 6 months, majoring in “Colour Revolutions”.

          • marknesop says:

            Leave Alyosha aloooooonnnnne!!!! One thing you Russophile animals will never be able to take away from him *sniff* is his status as an “Opposition Leader”, even though he was “elected” using an online voting system which was hacked six ways from Sunday and involved a proportion of the electorate that would be deemed statistically insignificant under even the strictest guidelines.

            • yalensis says:

              Poor L’okha. He goes through all the torments of Job. One day it is raining boils on him, the next day locusts. And it’s all the fault of that damned Czech spy, Bastrykin!

          • yalensis says:

            Yeah, what they are trying to nail him on is a technicality that he supposedly did not have the 2-year “residency” requirement and that he somewhat gilded the lily on his resume.

    • yalensis says:

      Oh, I’m all over this story too. Like cockroaches on Tolokonnikova. Here is Izvestia version of this story today.

      According to Izvestia, if it could be proved that Navalny obtained his law degree under false pretenses (faking references, forging signatures, etc.) then things could happen to him that are way worse than than just being disbarred or even jailed:

      For every case that he lost, his clients could sue him for compensation on the grounds that he was practicing law under false pretences. (Same as somebody pretending to be a doctor and accidentally harming his patients.)

      I think Bastrykin has found Navalny’s achilles heel: maybe Navalny is not afraid of going to jail, but he would be horrified at the possibility of being fined so much money.

      Oh, and typical of the Izvestia commenters, they have to keep bringing up that old gag from “Beregis” and taunting Navalny with “teba poSODut”

  28. kirill says:

    “A recent survey by the VTsIOM state pollster showed about 58 percent of Russians consider housing and utilities problems to be their main concerns, far ahead of corruption or human rights.”

    I am so sorry to hear, English RIAN, that Russians are on the ball as to what matters in their lives. The “human rights” must be those of Saint Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot. So Russians are supposed to believe such unadulterated rubbish? They are supposed to worry about these propaganda lies above *real* issues in their lives, right? What a joke!

    BTW, it’s nice to see a democratically elected leader getting things done. Here in Canada every level of government is secure in their shell games and pass the buck excuses. Your only hope is to vote the f*ckers out but the 4 year election cycle makes it easy for people to forget with enough pre-election propaganda and bribes. At the end of the day, more and more money keeps leaving your pocket every year for less and less actual services.

  29. JLo says:

    Garbage from Piontkovsky:

    Of course he can make all kinds of wild predictions because he has no skin in the game. I wonder how much money he’d be willing to bet that Putin will leave the Presidency this year. Because I’ll double it.

  30. yalensis says:

    Turns out this (Navalny = fake lawyer) thing is old news. “Expose” video posted below is from November 2011. Politrash posted the video back then, along with some hacked Navalny emails from as early as 2008, dealing with the “residency” issue in regard to Navalny’s right to practice law in Kirov.

  31. Moscow Exile says:

    By the way, what’s happened to the recent posts indicator at the top right of a new page and which indicated from whom the latest comments had come? They’ve gone from my page. Is this just a Russian glitch or what?

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, about that; I was working on that last post from a different computer, and when it saved the edit I was working on it saved in a very odd format; the photo in the top left didn’t appear as a photo, for example, but as its computer-language placeholder. But everything looked normal when I previewed it, so I just went ahead with it. It now looks like the Recent Comments footer was a casualty of that edit. I think I’ve fixed it; we’ll see.

      Nope, that didn’t do it. It shows as being correctly formatted. Perhaps it’s because I am over my limit on free allowable space, and it’s just minusing features until I upgrade.

  32. Misha says:

    From someone who has been a fairly regular panelist at the VoR:

    Another example of why the coverage continues to lack at venues which include the VoR and RT.

    At Leos’ blog, someone posted a defense for not being historically accurate. It’s at the thread under the recent post with the title of “Ignorance”.

    In actuality, a con game of sorts is pursued, which simultaneously encourages more anti-Russian inaccuracy, while failing to win over the nationalist anti-Russian leaning crowd.

    Instead of pusuing that route, the VoR could’ve someone offering the valid and censored view which substantively rebukes the nationalist anti-Rusisan leaning position.

    Limiting the Club Lavochka situation serves to improve things.

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