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John McCain

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In response to Putin’s (in)famous NYT op-ed, McCain told CNN he’d love to reciprocate on Pravda. He was probably surprised when they agreed to it – but he may not have gotten quite what he expected, according to Pravda.ru’s chief Vadim Gorshenin.

“McCain Looked for a Kremlin Mouthpiece, and was not Mistaken”

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Pravda.ru Internet-media holding Vadim Gorshenin on why the American Senator published his article on his site, and not in the “Soviet newspaper.”

On Thursday, the site Pravda.ru published an article by Senator John McCain, in which he replied to Russian President Putin’s publication in The New York Times. Initially, McCain promised to publish an article in Pravda, but he later changed his mind. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Pravda.ru Vadim Gorshenin sat down with an Izvestia correspondent to tell us how it all happened.

Mikhail Rubin: Who suggested you publish McCain’s article, and when?

Vadim Gorshenin: It was a Foreign Policy journalist, he reads us and even writes lots of nasty things about us. When he heard McCain on CNN saying that he wanted to speak out at the Pravda newspaper, he wrote the following to the editor of our English-language version Dmitry Sudakov: “Could you refute the idea that you have no freedom of speech, and publish McCain’s text?” He replied that yes, of course he could. After this, the American journalist contacted McCain’s press secretary, who said that they’d follow through with all this. And it all ended up just as Mikhail Dvorkovich wrote on Twitter – the very fact of publication proves that everything that McCain wrote is a lie. If all the Russian media is controlled by the Kremlin, then how could such an article have appeared on what everyone calls a pro-Kremlin site?

MK: Did they understand, that Pravda.ru and the newspaper Pravda are two different publications?

VG: Yes, of course they understood. There have even been articles in the American MSM that analyzed the nature of the newspaper Pravda today. When this entire scandal flared up and Zyuganov got the impression that McCain was going to write something for his newspaper, McCain’s aides asked us whether we were somehow associated with the newspaper Pravda.

MK: Well, are you?

VG: There is a ten year old court judgment to the effect that we have the same rights to the symbols and the name “Pravda” as the Communist Party newspaper. But the most important thing is that we have an English-language version, which has the second highest visitors’ numbers after Russia Today out of all Russian English-language MSM. Furthermore, our daily traffic is at 200,000, whereas the newspaper Pravda’s circulation is at 100,000 – and it only comes out a few times per week.

MK: And why did the article first appear on the feeds of the world’s news agencies, and only later at your site? They weren’t satisfied by your traffic numbers?

VG: They sent us their article today at 6am. And they gave it to the agencies under an embargo until 8am, in fact McCain’s people didn’t even warn us of this. They believe that Russians get up at 6am and immediately go to work under a barrage of whiplashes. We only managed to finalize everything by 10am.

MK: The Americans weren’t discomfited by the ideological component? You were, after all, Dmitry Medvedev’s confidante in the 2008 elections. And you are a Putin supporter.

VG: Yes, I’m a Putin supporter. But I wasn’t a confidante, I just worked in Medvedev’s HQ in 2008, for which he awarded me something, and in Putin’s HQ in 2012 – he too sent me a thank you letter. But this didn’t give the Americans any unease, to the contrary in fact.

MK: Why? McCain wanted to publish an article on a site that supporters Putin?

VG: McCain still lives in that era. What do they remember about Soviet times? “Pravda” and “Izvestia,” that’s what. In fact Izvestia was less well-known, because it was released for internal consumption, while Pravda was the Kremlin’s mouthpiece. And McCain wanted an article in a newspaper that was a Kremlin mouthpiece. Because Putin had published an article in The New York Times, the newspaper of the Democratic Party – they President now rules the US. McCain wanted the same, and in this sense, he was not mistaken.

Reader comments

Alexander Bocha: Everybody, calm down. McCain is a very old person – he is 77 years old, and he DOESN’T speak for all America!!! Many people in the US appreciate, love, and respect Russia – let’s stop the hysteria and extremism, ladies and gentlemen!

Андрей Карпиловский: While Putin quite accurately threw a philosophical rock at Obama, McCain just emptied a pail of dirt willy-nilly either on Putin, or on Russia, or on himself. And these people want to ban us from fingering our noses? I don’t think they’ll succeed at anything. They work stupidly.

сергей евсеев: What else can you expect from someone who was imprisoned for a year in a hole up to his neck in excrement. Even the article reeks.

Альберт Сыроежкин: McCain is a Cold War dinosaur who has lost his bearings and repeats the ramblings of cheap agitators of CIA-inspired nonsense of the 1960s and 70s.

(Republished from Russian Spectrum by permission of author or representative)
 
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My latest for VoR/US-Russia Experts panel. Hope you like the title. :)

The political fragmentation of the Soviet Union was one of the major contributing factors to the “hyper-depression” that afflicted not only Russia but all the other constituent republics in the 1990′s. The Soviet economy had been an integrated whole; an aircraft might have its engines sourced from Ukraine, its aluminium body from Russia, and its navigational ball-bearings from Latvia. Suddenly, border restrictions and tariffs appeared overnight – adding even more complexity and headaches to a chaotic economic situation. Although the region was in for a world of hurt either way, as economies made their screeching transitions to capitalism, disintegration only served to further accentuate the economic and social pain. In this respect, Putin was correct to call the dissolution of the Soviet Union one of the 20th century’s greatest geopolitical tragedies.

It is no longer possible – and in some cases, even desirable – to restore much of the productive capacity lost in that period. Nonetheless, renewed economic integration across the Eurasian space – with its attendant promise of less red tape (and hence lower opportunities for corruption), significantly bigger markets offering economies of scale, and the streamlining of legal and regulatory standards – is clearly a good deal for all the countries concerned from an economic perspective. There is overwhelming public support for the Common Economic Space in all member and potential member states: Kazakhstan (76%), Tajikistan (72%), Russia (70%), Kyrgyzstan (63%), Belarus (62%), and Ukraine (56%). The percentage of citizens opposed doesn’t exceed 10% in any of those countries. A solid 60%-70% of Ukrainians consistently approve of open borders with Russia, without tariffs or visas, while a further 20% want their countries to unite outright; incidentally, both figures are lower in Russia itself, making a mockery of widespread claims that Russians harbor imperialistic, “neo-Soviet,” and revanchist feelings towards “their” erstwhile domains.

This I suppose brings us to Ariel Cohen, neocon think-tanks, Hillary “Putin has no soul” Clinton, and John “I see the letters KGB in Putin’s eyes” McCain. They studiously ignore the fact that the Eurasian Union is primarily an economic association, and not even one that insists on being exclusionary to the EU. They prefer not to mention that the integration project has strong support in all the countries involved, with Russia not even being the most enthusiastic about it – which is quite understandable, considering that as its richest member it would also be expected to provide the lion’s bulk of any transfer payments. In this respect, it is the direct opposite of the way the Soviet Union was built – through military occupation, and against the will of the vast majority of the Russian Empire’s inhabitants. Though expecting someone like McCain, who one suspects views the “Tsars” and Stalin and Putin as matryoshka dolls nestled within each other, to appreciate any of that is unrealistic and a waste of time.

Enough with entertaining the senile ramblings from those quarters. Integration makes patent economic sense; it enjoys broad popular support throughout the CIS; and there are no global opponents to it – official China, for instance, is supportive – barring a small clique of prevaricating, anti-democratic, and perennially Russophobic ideologues centered in the US and Britain. Neither the West nor any other bloc has any business dictating how the sovereign nations of Eurasia choose to coordinate their economic and political activities.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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My latest for Experts Panel/Voice of Russia:

The Panel states, “On future occasions, Russia might well require Washington to cooperate in similar circumstances; and if such is the case, its handling of the Snowden affair could prove decisive as to how Washington chooses to respond.”

Well, let’s imagine this scenario. One fine day, an FSB contractor named Eduard Snegirev takes a flight out to Dulles International Airport and proceeds to spill the beans – though as with PRISM and Boundless Informant, it’s pretty much an open secret anyway – on SORM-2 and how the Russian state spies on its hapless citizens. Would Immigration and Customs Enforcement turn him away? Would the FBI rush to honor a Russian extradition request on the basis of his violating Article 275 of the Criminal Code “On State Treason”? It is impossible to even ask this question without a smirk on one’s face.

Don’t get me wrong. It is entirely reasonable to agree to and honor extradition treaties covering “universal” crimes such as murder, rape, or – shock horror! – financial fraud (even if official London would beg to differ). But this approach breaks down when we get to “crimes” such as those of the real Snowden or the hypothetical Snegirev because it is not universal, but asymmetric and relational: Asymmetric because a traitor in one country is a hero (or at least a useful asset) in another, and relational because a traitor to some people is a whistle-blower to others.

Sergey Tretyakov, otherwise known as “Comrade J,” betrayed his sources and fellow agents in the SVR when he defected to the US in 2000. Yet on his death, many of the people discussing his life at the blog of Pete Early, his official biographer, called him a “patriot.” Not just an American patriot, mind you, but a Russian one as well – as if he had done his motherland a favor. They are free to think that but it will not change the fact that in his homeland about 98% of the population really would think of him as a traitor through and through. Or take Vasily Mitrokhin. In the West, he is overwhelmingly considered as a heroic whistle-blower, risking his life to chronicle the crimes committed by the KGB abroad. But he neither concealed the identities of Soviet sources and existing agents – unlike Snowden or Assange, nor did he reveal his documents to the entire world – opting instead to give them wholemeal to MI6. Nonetheless, demanding the repatriation of either one would be inherently ridiculous and only make Russia into a laughing stock – which is why it never even thought of doing so. No use crying over spilt (or should that be leaked?) milk.

The US, too, was usually reasonable about such matters, quietly accepting that their espionage laws have no weight outside their own territory and the territory of their closest allies – as has always been the case in all times and for all states since times immemorial. This is why the hysterics this time round are so… strange. While John “I see the letters K-G-B in Putin’s eyes” McCain is a clinical case, it’s considerably more puzzling to see similar fiery rhetoric from the likes of Chuck Schumer or John Kerry (although the latter soon moderated his tone). Such attitudes probably proceed from official America’s tendency to view itself as a global empire, not beholden to the normal laws and conventions of international politics. Now while its closest allies (or clients) might humor it in such delusions, even its “third-class” allies like Germany do not* – not to mention sovereign Great Powers such as China and, yes, Russia.

In any case, as far as the Kremlin concerned, it is now almost politically impossible to extradite Snowden even if it so wishes. Though they have been no official opinion polls on the matter, online surveys indicate that Russians are overwhelmingly against expelling Snowden. 98% of the readers of Vzglyad (a pro-Putin resource), and even 50% of Echo of Moscow’s readers and listeners (one of the shrillest anti-Putin outlets), support giving him political asylum. Apart from that, it would also destroy Russia’s incipient reputation as a sanctuary for Western dissidents – a great propaganda boon against the legions of Western commentators who vilify it every day as a ruthless autocracy.

To his credit, Obama seems to more or less realize this: He knows that he can’t issue orders to Russia or even Ecuador, and that it is not worth threatening sanctions or “scrambling jets” just to “get a 29-year-old hacker.” While the neocons and “American exceptionalists” will get their 15 minutes of blowing hard on TV and the op-ed pages, the episode is – and has been from the get go – likely to end in just one way: A quiet and untrumpeted retirement for Snowden in Quito, Caracas, or Barvikha.

* So what on Earth’s up with that anyway? Here is the most worrying theory I’ve been able to come up with:They actually take George Friedman seriously.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Mark Adomanis thinks Russia should extradite – or at least expel – Edward Snowde n because… get this, it’s current stance (i.e. leaving him in at Sheremetyevo Airport, an international territory) constitutes “trolling” of the US.

This is, to be quite frank, a rather strange argument. Would the US extradite a Russian Snowden? To even ask the question is to mockingly answer it. Said Russian whistleblower would not only be sheltered by any Western country, but awarded with all kinds of freedom medals and lecture tours. It is commonly expected for defectors from not entirely friendly powers to get sanctuary and both Russia and Western countries regularly practice this. If anybody is trolling anybody, it is the UK which gives refuge to Russians who are patent economic criminals so long as they bring some money and claims of political repression with them.

Furthermore, he believes (a faint and vague) promise of improved Russia-US relations is worth sabotaging Russia’s incipient reputation as a sanctuary for Western “dissidents” – a status that is extremely valuable in international PR terms. It is a lot harder to argue with a straight face that West – Russia disagreements are a standoff between democracy and autocracy when for every Russian political exile there is an Assange or a Snowden. But Adomanis would like Russia to forego this advantage and betray the trust of any future exiles or defectors just to please a gaggle of perennially anti-Russian blowhards in D.C.

This is not to mention the fact that many other countries are peeved off by Snowden’s revelations, so if anything it is the US that is internationally isolated in demanding his extradition. Even ordinary Americans are somewhat split on what to do about him, with 49% believing his leaks to be in the public interest and 38% against prosecuting him. The Chuck Schumers not to mention the McCains (does Adomanis seriously think that John “I Saw the Letters K-G-B in Putin’s Eyes” McCain would suddenly become well-disposed to Russia if it were to extradite Snowden?) do not even have the overwhelming support of their own constituents.

Adomanis’ argument ultimately boils down to “might is right”:

But a country like Russia, a country that is less than half as populous as the United States and which is much, much poorer, can’t afford to deal with the US as an equal because it isn’t. You can fulminate against that fact all you want, but in the world as it exists in mid 2013 Russia simply can’t afford to go all-in on confrontation with the United States because that is a confrontation it is guaranteed to lose. The Russians usually do a reasonable enough job of picking their battles, but they’ve suddenly decided to go 100% troll for no obvious reason. As should be clear, Russia doesn’t actually gain anything from helping Snowden,* all it does is expose itself to the full wrath and fury of every part of Washington officialdom. Unless you’re defending a national interest of the first order, exposing yourself to the full wrath and fury of Washington officialdom is a really stupid thing to do.

Here is what La Russophobe wrote in her interview with me, on another matter in which Russian and American interests (in her opinion) diverged:

Now please tell us: Russia has risked infuriating the world’s only superpower and biting the hand (Obama’s) that feeds it. … Are you suggesting that you believe Russian power is such that it can afford to act however it likes regardless of the way in which its actions may provoke the USA and NATO?

When you are starting to sound like La Russophobe, it’s probably a good time to stop and reconsider.

The answer to this objection – apart from the entirely reasonable one that kowtowing to the demands of a foreign power is a contemptible thing to do period – is that the Russia doesn’t need the US any more than the US needs Russia. And clumsily attempts to equate “need” with economic/military beans-counting (Adomanis: “Someone just commented on my blog saying “the West needs Russia as much as Russia needs the West.” Yeah, that’s definitely not true… The West, taken together, is so much more wealthy and powerful than Russia it’s actually kind of a joke… You can dislike the West as much as you want, but if you think Russia and the West are equally powerful then you are simply wrong… And if Russia creates policy based on the assumption that it’s equal to the West in power and influence it will fail catostrophically”) isn’t going to fool many people. Because, you know, the level of a country’s “need” for another isn’t a direct function of how much GDP and tanks it has relative to the other. And yes, while I am a realist, it’s a position tempered by the observation that today’s world is a wee bit more complex than it was in the days when the guy with the biggest club set the rules for everybody.

The US is of course a lot more wealthy and powerful than Russia. Nobody is arguing the reverse; it’s a strawman set up by Adomanis himself. What is however of some relevance is that the US has real need of Russia on some issues (e.g. Iran and nukes; transportation to Afghanistan) while Russian economic dependence on the US is actually very small (trade with the US accounts for something like 5% of its total). Both countries benefit from anti-terrorism cooperation. I think it is ridiculous to believe that US politicians will torpedo all that in a hissy fit over Snowden. I give them more credit than that.

UPDATE: Just recalled that Mark Adomanis works for Booz Allen Hamilton, the same consultancy that employed Snowden – and which happens to get 99% of its business from official DC. So it may well be that Adomanis’ opportunities for saying what he really thinks on the Snowden affair may be… rather limited. While I am not saying this necessarily influenced his articles – as regards this, we can only speculate – it would have probably been appropriate for him to mention this considering the obvious conflict of interest.

UPDATE 2: This article was translated by Inosmi.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Standing up to Putin.

Standing up to Putin.

Over the years, I have come across my fair share of liars and incompetents writing about Russia in major Western media outlets. But rarely have I encountered such heights of self-righteous arrogance and clownish, pathetic ignorance as Edward McMillan-Scott displays in his latest screed for The Guardian: “David Cameron must stand up to Putin“, where he uses Elena Bonner’s recent death to argue for a harder line against Russia.

Time to go grenade fishing again, i.e. fisking Russophobe articles – it’s as easy as it is ultimately pointless. As I’m banned from the Guardian‘s pond (for drawing attention to its mendacity and plagiarism) it will have to take place on my own blog.

Assume we’re discussing, let’s pick a totally random scenario, a British humanitarian intervention in 2014 to liberate Venezuela’s oil reserves oppressed citizenry from Hugo Chavez’s dictatorial regime. (Somewhat implausible true, as Britain will have the aircraft carriers but not the planes, but let’s indulge ourselves a bit). Activists are planning protests in London. Then an MP in the Duma’s ruling party, Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, writing on the necessity of standing up to Cameron for a national Russian newspaper, argues that only George Osborne will decide whether there will be kettling and preemptive arrests of demonstrators. Now considering that Osborne is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, responsible for economic and fiscal matters, would you retain much respect for the paper or Mr. Ivanov after this?

Because this is precisely analogous to what Edward McMillan-Scott writes: “Russia’s justice minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, is the puppet who will announce this week whether or not the Putin regime will allow any opposition parties to put up candidates in December’s parliamentary elections and the presidential poll next March.” As anyone who knows anything about Russian politics can tell you, Anatoly Serdyukov is the Defense Minister and has nothing to do whatsoever with approving opposition candidates.

A secondary, very minor point, but kind of relevant to the article, is that the “liberal group led by former premier Mikhail Kasyanov”, i.e. the PARNAS Gang of Four, has no public support (c. 2% approval) and is currently blocked because some of its signatures were falsified. Now if the true Russian opposition, the Communists (c. 20% approval), were to be blocked, now that would be a major cataclysm that would truly transform Russia into a one-party regime. (However, that would no doubt sit just fine with Mr. McMillan-Scott, given his approval for Elena Bonner’s thug-like support for Yeltsin’s shelling of elected representatives of the people in 1993).

“However, since the beginning of the Putin era in 2000 the slide towards autocracy has accelerated.” This is a common trope of the Russophobes, and a pretty hilarious one at that. In their world, Russia is always sliding into the neo-Soviet Union or some such. It was sliding there in 2000 (KGB, Putin, Chechnya). It was sliding in 2003 (Khodorkovsky: true Western democracies only imprison poor people, dammit!). It was sliding in 2006 (Litvinenko). It was sliding in 2008 (Georgia, New Cold War!). It continues sliding to this day (Medvedev, puppet of Putin). When will it finally get there? If Mr. McMillan-Scott can participate in a conference at “Metropol Hotel just off Red Square” where he and other members of the liberal mutual admiration society spend their time uttering platitudes about human rights and condemning “European leaders’ comments on the regime as the sort of mumbo-jumbo used by magicians” it must be sliding awfully slow.

Then he approving cites the efforts of US senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain on introducing a “resolution calling on Russia to register opposition political parties, allow free media, respect freedom of assembly and permit international and domestic monitors for the coming elections.” The idea that cold warrior John McCain and Joe Lieberman, who pushes for the introduction of Chinese-style censorship onto the US Internet, are motivated by their concern for human rights in Russia is utterly bizarre; not when they both so feverishly work to further undermine human rights (and deny any that do happen) in the US, Israel, and other Western countries. But as Eugene Ivanov notes, it is also a gross violation of national sovereignty that will be laughed off into utter irrelevance by any minimally self-respecting country: “Nice! The only thing that the future resolution is missing is obliging President Medvedev to have all his orders and decrees first approved by the Lieberman’s and McCain’s offices.”

In the next paragraph, McMillan-Scott recommends more EU/Russia cooperation – but only under the condition of “ending “politically motivated court decisions” against various figures, most recently Mikhail Khodorkovsky, removing curbs on press freedom, pulling its troops out of Georgia and allowing gay parades.” Let me note that in one of the above conditions, he will be going against a court opinion of a core EU institution, the European Court of Human Rights, which recently ruled that there is no evidence Khodorkovsky’s arrest and trial were politically motivated.

As for gay prides, the decisions of some municipal authorities, e.g. Moscow’s, to ban them is of course a bad thing; but one that does not come under the purview of the federal administration. Under that logic, some EU countries like Latvia have had cities banning gay pride parades as late as 2009. I don’t remember McMillan-Scott condemning them or urging them to be kicked out of European institutions, but then again – as is common for people of his ilk – human rights abuses only happen in non-Western countries, especially those that reject Western imperialism.

There is no point even in addressing the Georgia issue, in which Russian troops and Ossetian civilians were ruthlessly attacked in the dead of night (especially coming as it does from a country that has fought two interventionist wars of its own choosing in Iraq and Libya in the past decade). Likewise with the media, where in Britain if you want to watch TV at all, you have to pay taxes to support the British Brainwashing Corporation, otherwise known as the BBC, whose head was sacked in 2004 for arguing that the government “sexed up” the case for the Iraq War.

But the pièce de résistance is yet to come. The small stewed cherry to the incarnadine whipped cream and compote: “The Arab spring, which has sprinkled its magic as far as China, has had no reflection in Russia. We were told that this was because Putin had so distorted the Russian economy that incomes continued to rise in a false boom.” Well, that’s certainly news to me. The 6% annual growth rates of the last decade (as reported by any international economic organization), the skyscrapers going up in Russian cities, the fast proliferating cars, computers and aifonchiki – they must have all been a mirage; Putinist distortions; products of our collective delusions. Alternatively, we can accept reality and wish Britain the same “distortions” that Putin inflicted on Russia – they would be clear improvements over its economic stagnation and a fiscal deficit topping 13% of GDP.

Mr. McMillan-Scott rounds up by making one final appeal for Britain to speak truth bullshit he makes up to power (not that the strategy has met with much success of late). Consider the number of mistakes, outright lies or inaccuracies he manages to make in the mere 855 words of his article. Consider also that the UK (like Russia) also commits innumerable human rights violations, abroad as well as at home, and that (unlike Russia) it increasingly resembles an economic basket-case with no growth, declining North Sea hydrocarbon reserves and unsustainable finances. Now you be the judge of the wisdom of McMillan-Scott’s recommendations.

Yeps, that’s right. For nowadays whenever fools like him try to do stand-up, to Putin or anyone else, they fall flat on their faces to general laughter.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Watching the US presidential candidate debate this Friday has only further confirmed my belief an American would have to be either a moron or a traitor to vote for him.

What he would do as President:

1) Stay on in Iraq

And leave Russia (and every other competitor) a free hand. Even the success of the Iraqi campaign depends on the continued quiescence of the Sunni tribes that were bribed into becoming America’s friends. If relations further deteriorate, it would not be unimaginable to envisage Russia selling Iran S-300′s, which in turn could escalate anti-US attrition in Iraq from under that umbrella.

Obama plans to send more combat brigades to Afghanistan. I am not sure about the wisdom of this, considering the historically-based chances of long-term success in that region of the world are around zero. I also don’t think hunting down Osama is worth tens of billions of dollars. If I were a US policy-maker I would reduce military spending and global over-extension to focus on a) preserving the nuclear deterrant, b) intensively developing the RMA, c) maintaining a small expeditionary force so as to be able to protect national interests in small, weak countries and d) spend more on cultivating positive perceptions of the US. But since I’m not in the running to be President the choice is between Obama and McCain, and on that note a planned withdrawal from Iraq to focus on terrorism is somewhat better than continuing massive, costly deployments in Iraq and “muddling through” in Afghanistan.

Of course, given the current financial crisis which by some measures rivals the one preceding the Great Depression, questions have to be asked whether even Obama’s more modest imperial ambitions are sustainable in practice, and on that note…

2) Refuse to raise taxes

As house prices and the derivatives tied to them continue to plummet, bank liabilities soar and we are seeing bankruptcy after bankruptcy. Considering that there’s still plenty of distance before they hit the ground with a thud, things will get worse before they get better. And this isn’t just a financial problem. Faced with liquidity problems, the credit system have gone into cardiac arrest, with interbank lending drying up and “Main Street” businesses facing difficulties borrowing. Portents of recession are sprouting up all over, the latest indication being a 4.5% drop in durable goods orders for August, declining home sales and rising unemployment. If I were to guess, this is going to be comparable to Sweden’s severe recession in the early 1990′s (albeit if energy prices continue rising as fast as they have been during the past 7 years, there appears the spectre of a long depression).

Now generally speaking raising taxes during a recession is not a good idea, but with the budget deficit, debt levels and international confidence in the dollar as they are, there is little room for manouvre. (Not to mention the potential cost of the bail-out and falling revenues due to the looming recession). Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on the super-rich and closing corporate tax loopholes is far better than McCain’s potentially catastrophic continuation of the Bush-Cheney line. Aggressive investments into revitalizing the decrepit infrastructure and modernizing the energy system is costly, but vital for long-term strength and cannot be avoided any longer. McCain’s proposal to drill in Alaska is nothing but a populist gimmick, which will only make a pinprick upon US dependency on foreign oil, and even that only in a decade or so. Meanwhile the confrontational foreign policy and dearth of investment into alternative energy sources under a McCain Presidency would help contribute to soaring oil prices, and we all know who that will benefit.

3) How to lose friends and alienate people

The same qualities that induce moronic rednecks to vote for McCain repel America’s West European partners, its most important allies. And I don’t even want to think about what Sarah will get up to. Without them firmly on board, all it has left to counter Russia are the likes of The Medvedev Doctrine and American Strategy, the US now faces four geostrategic choices:

1. Attempt to make a settlement with Iran that would guarantee the neutral stability of Iraq and permit the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces there. Iran is the key here. The Iranians might also mistrust a re-emergent Russia, and while Tehran might be tempted to work with the Russians against the Americans, Iran might consider an arrangement with the United States — particularly if the United States refocuses its attentions elsewhere. On the upside, this would free the U.S. from Iraq. On the downside, the Iranians might not want —or honor — such a deal.

2. Enter into negotiations with the Russians, granting them the sphere of influence they want in the former Soviet Union in return for guarantees not to project Russian power into Europe proper. The Russians will be busy consolidating their position for years, giving the U.S. time to re-energize NATO. On the upside, this would free the United States to continue its war in the Islamic world. On the downside, it would create a framework for the re-emergence of a powerful Russian empire that would be as difficult to contain as the Soviet Union.

3. Refuse to engage the Russians and leave the problem to the Europeans. On the upside, this would allow the United States to continue war in the Islamic world and force the Europeans to act. On the downside, the Europeans are too divided, dependent on Russia and dispirited to resist the Russians. This strategy could speed up Russia’s re-emergence.

4. Rapidly disengage from Iraq, leaving a residual force there and in Afghanistan. The upside is that this creates a reserve force to reinforce the Baltics and Ukraine that might restrain Russia in the former Soviet Union. The downside is that it would create chaos in the Islamic world, threatening regimes that have sided with the United States and potentially reviving effective intercontinental terrorism. The trade-off is between a hegemonic threat from Eurasia and instability and a terror threat from the Islamic world.

McCain basically wants all of the above – the war against terrorism, the war against Iran, the war against Russia (and against drugs, against China, against Chavez and Castro, etc). Obama shows signs of being able to compromise with Iran to reinforce positions in eastern Europe (i.e. No.1 and No.4).

Granted this essay makes simplistic assumptions, namely that Russia is intent upon reclaiming an empire, and I’m not really sure how the presence of US forces in eastern Europe are going to hinder Russia if it indeed is. (Even Yushenko is against foreign bases, including NATO/American, on Ukrainian soil, at least for now, and in any case the war there is fought via the media). But it does demonstrate well how cringeworthily McCain’s bark is much worse than his bite

In conclusion, McCain’s blustery toothless rhetoric can be laughed off, and even should he succeed in kicking Russia out of a few international institutions would be no great injury. Meanwhile, his neglect of investment in improving infrastructure and human capital and pathetic attempts to “muddle through” America’s geopolitical problems are going to supercharge US relative decline and should pave the road to the tombstone of American power on the Eurasian World Island within another decade.

As such, and rather paradoxically, Russia’s hawks are actually McCain’s best buddies. And they have the WMD to help him win. They can proclaim support for Obama.

Granted, I predicted in my other blog that Obama will almost certainly win. But of late I’ve been having my doubts. The whole sordid Palin affair has led to me believe that I have overestimated the intelligence of the American electorate. Obama may well be crushed between the Scylla of the Republican propaganda machine and the Charybdis of the Bradley effect. By praising Obama and condemning McCain, Putin, Medvedev and their buddies (Ahmadinejad, Chavez, etc), could tighten that vice on longterm American power even tighter.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Georgia’s glorius leader will surely go down in the annals of history alongside other great men of his calibre like Dubya…

Aug 13 (Reuters) – Following are some of the various statements made on Wednesday by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili:

TO CBS TELEVISION

“In Georgia’s far region of South Ossetia… Russian tanks are going through villages inhabited by the Georgian population and throwing people out of the houses, pushing people into concentration camps that they are setting up in those villages and separating men and women and doing worse kind of atrocities I’ve heard of since the Balkans or the war in Chechnya.” “…Several hundred kilometres or miles removed from south Ossetia, where (villages) are again inhabited by Georgians, they are throwing out every single Georgian man or woman and children.”

“…They moved into the town of Gori and they ransacked the town, looted the town. These are regular Russian troops, they go into houses, they destroy houses, there is all this documentary footage around that can prove it….they are taking things like furniture, toilet seats, killing people, terrorising people.”

He compared the situation with the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and appeasement.

“This is freedom in general at stake. This is not about some far away remote country about which we know little.”

TO CNN TELEVISION

Saakashvili lashed out at a suggestion that Georgia started the conflict by entering South Ossetia last week.

“I’m sickened, sickened of this cynical and absolutely unfounded allegation.”

“We only responded after 150 Russian tanks moved into Georgian territory and started open aggression.”

“You know what? Germany told the world they were attacked by Poland in 1939. The Soviet Union was attacked by Finland in 1939. Soviet Union was attacked by Afghanistan in 1979.”

“Didn’t the world learn enough? I am really sickened that there are people in the West asking these questions because that’s exactly what the Russians want. It’s our territory for God’s sake. They’re killing our people.”

ON THE CEASEFIRE

“The Russians never meant any ceasefire. This is a kind of ceasefire that I don’t know they had with Afghanistan in 1979 or that Germany had with Poland in 1939. There is no ceasefire. They are moving.”

ON WASHINGTON REACTION

“Frankly, some of the first statements from Washington were perceived by the Russians almost as a green light for doing this because they were too soft.”

“Everything the Americans had achieved from the Cold War is being undermined and destroyed right now.”

“America is losing the whole region.”

“I know America is overstretched. I know there are many other things. But realise what we are heading toward now. Russians have been very brutal, very deliberate, and they been showing everybody, ‘We don’t give a damn.’”

(He said Russian bombs bear inscriptions that say “This is for President Bush, this is for the United States, this is for NATO”).

“They are by proxy trying to fight war with the West.”

ON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MCCAIN COMMENTS

“Yesterday I heard Senator McCain say we are all Georgians. Well very nice … but of course it’s time to pass from words to deeds.”

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Read these two posts by Krugman at Conscience of a Liberal, here and here.

1. A looming recession, after seven years of stagnation in the US median wage, means that the likelihood of positive income growth this year is very small. Even assuming it’s 0% would mean that the incumbent party’s nominee, McCain, can be expected to lose by an 8% margin in the straight line fit below. To break even income needs to grow by around 2%, which looks more unlikely with every new financial breaking story.

More likely, it will be around 0% or worse and McCain would be facing a landslide defeat, as in 1980.

2. Q1 growth was at 0.9% (practically all of it down to improvement in the balance of trade), although a slight amelioration is expected this summer due to the tax rebate coming into effect. But after that, with the housing bubble still far from popped, hundreds of banks facing the spectre of insolvency and the full ramifications of 130$+ oil coming online, it is hard to see the US avoiding a recession. So let’s say first half growth will be at 1%.

This would imply McCain getting 45-51% of the vote. And this is the part on which he performs best

3. According to opinion polls, Bush’ approval hovers around 30% and disapproval around 65%, giving a net approval of -35%. As the graph below shows, this is a record.

Going from this graph, McCain would do well to scrape 45%.

4. To add to McCain’s woes:

Also, a number of models find that there’s an 8-year itch: voters tend to turn against the incumbent party if it has held the White House for two or more terms.

In conclusion,

Right now, GDP is flat (falling in the monthly estimates); Bush has a negative net approval of 30 percent or more; and people are tired of Republicans. So it ought to be a smashing Democratic victory. When I plug current numbers into the Abramowitz model (making a guess about 1st-half GDP and assuming that Bush approval in June will be about where it is today), it says 57-43 Democrats.

Despite Obama’s numerous gaffes (Wright, gun-toting Bible-bashers, etc), even in (usually unreliable) pre-election opinion polls he is getting a lead over McCain. Of course there’ll also be a few third part candidates who’ll hack off 3-4%, and McCain has taken care to distance himself from Bush. Perhaps the Democratic win will be 44-52. Nonetheless, still crushing. Political science might be full of uncertainties, but those uncertainties must reveal miracles for McCain to have a chance.

This is why Obama will almost certainly win. I have put my money where my mouth is and bet 100$ on Obama (too bad the bookies are certain Obama will win too, lol). And I congratulate Americans for their good sense.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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These are the results of our first poll (running from January 11 to March 19).

I am pleased to see that the number of people thinking it’s brilliant decisively outnumber those who think it should be deleted. (So I’ll remain on the blogosphere.) Otherwise, don’t bother with digressions, aesthetics or more features, but concentrate more on regular news and editorials. Well, I’ll try. I’m not really the kind of person who loves pumping out stuff at constant intervals, but I’ll have a go at making updates more frequent (and posts smaller). As for Core Articles – well, we have a juicy one coming up tomorrow – Top 10 Russophobe Myths, as well as a finished News 19 March.

The next poll asks the question Which President would be best for US-Russia relations? (Feel free to interpret best as least worst).

Osama Hussein sounds reasonable.

Sen. Obama (D-IL) has said Russia is “neither our enemy nor close ally,” and said the United States “shouldn’t shy away from pushing for more democracy, transparency, and accountability” there. He has focused much of his discussion of Russia on diminishing the possibility of nuclear weapons use. In a July 2007 Foreign Affairs article, Obama said the United States and Russia should collaborate to “update and scale back our dangerously outdated Cold War nuclear postures and de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons.” In an October 2007 speech in Chicago, Obama said if elected he would work to “take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert, and to dramatically reduce the stockpiles of our nuclear weapons and material.” He said he would seek a “global ban on the production of fissile material for weapons” and an expansion of “the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles.”

In 2005, Obama traveled with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) to nuclear and biological weapons destruction sites in Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. Obama and Lugar then introduced legislation to eliminate nuclear stockpiles throughout the former Soviet Union. That law was enacted in 2007.

Reasonable, dry and technical. A few meaningless platitudes about transparency and stuff. Excellent you say, crossing your fingers and smiling like an old billionaire creep? Not so fast…the eXile fears his Cabinet.

So, who are Obama’s advisors? This is where it gets a little scary. Obama has surrounded himself with a combination of the cream of Bill Clinton’s foreign policy team, a few gold-medal liberal hawk fanatics, and, worst of all, the obsessively Russophobic Zbigniew Brzezinski plus Zbig’s power-lawyer son, Mark.

Brzezniski pere is a Polish refugee who like so many East European immigrants brought his Old World bigotries to the New World as a guiding principle. That bigotry is a hatred of Russia and a desire to see it destroyed, no matter what the consequences. Indeed Brzezinski recently revealed his Dr. Evil plot from the late 1970s: as Carter’s National Security Advisor, he had personally overseen an operation to incite the Soviet-Afghanistan war, to draw Russia into invading in order to bleed his nemesis dry. Considering that the policy eventually led to the Taliban and 9/11, it’s a rather odd bragging right to claim. Unless you don’t give a shit about biting your host America’s nose off to spite your old enemy Russia’s face….in the 1990s, he led the charge for rapid NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, stood for pulling Ukraine into NATO as a way of weakening Russia, and pushed for control of Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea oil even at the cost of ignoring Azerbaijan’s anti-democratic regime. (Meanwhile Brzezinski worked for a consortium that allowed him to personally profited from Azeri oil). Most sinister of all, Brzezinski is a charter member of the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, a creepy NGO featuring an A-List of Islam-bashing neocons like Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney and James Woolsey, who found a ray of Islamic pity in their Clash of Civilization hearts for just one Muslim people–the Chechens, who just happened, by coincidence, to conveniently be at war with Russia.

This leads to Brzezinski’s greatest livelong obsession: the idea (and the policy) of breaking up the Soviet Union along ethnic lines, an obsession going back to his college Master’s Thesis. It was an idea first trumpeted by Poland’s fascist intra-war dictator Jozef Pilsudski, and it fulfills every Polish nationalist’s dream of seeing Russia’s permanently confined to a wheelchair.

Brzezinski’s agenda should jibe perfectly with another all-star on Obama’s foreign policy team, Samantha Power, who is cut from the same liberal hawk cloth as all the Michael Ignatieffs, David Rieffs and Thomas Friedmans, not to mention the Anthony Lakes and other Clinton A-listers on Obama’s staff.

Furthermore, when he has taken on Michael “Myth of the Academic Model” McFaul as his Russia advisor; when Kim Zigfeld, the eponymous La Russophobe, thinks he has seen the Light; when Khodorkovsky henchman Robert Amsterdam claims:

It is interesting however to imagine how it could be possible to reconcile support of Barack Obama and support for Vladimir Putin. Such an inherent contradiction must rob one of sleep.

One does get a new appreciation for Bush’s diplomatic finesse when dealing with Russia. Are those years really going to become the Golden Age of US-Russian relations? With Obama, all bets are off.

So what about the Hildebeast, then?

Sen. Clinton (D-NY), like most of her fellow Democrats, favors diplomacy toward Russia with the goal of promoting democracy there and reducing nuclear stockpiles. In a November 2007 Foreign Affairs article, Clinton pledged to “negotiate an accord that substantially and verifiably reduces the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.”

She also called for engagement with Russia on “issues of high national importance,” including Iran, loose nuclear weapons, and the status of the Serbian province of Kosovo. She said Washington’s “ability to view Russia as a genuine partner depends on whether Russia chooses to strengthen democracy or return to authoritarianism and regional interference.”

Still, she told the Boston Globe in October 2007, “I’m interested in what Russia does outside its borders first. I don’t think I can, as the president of the United States, wave my hand and tell the Russian people they should have a different government.”

Awfully kind of her, deigning to allow Russians to choose their own government. But doesn’t sound too bad overall.

But then again, she is someone who can go on and on in detail about the failures of Russian democracy, yet manages to garble the name of one of the most important leader’s she’ll be working with for the next four years (if she gets elected), essentially calling him a woman. Most analysts are far from worked up by the prospect of President Hillary and Russia. And that’s on top of lame rip-offs from the McCainiac.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q55SxoaiJjw&w=425&h=355]

Well, at least Putin put her in her place. And talking of places, is the Presidency the right place for her? Unfortunately, yes. At least the other two have already made their Russophobia explicitly clear. There’s hope yet that she’ll be more reasonable once the pandering to the Russophobes (who make up 46% of the US population) bit is done.

Could it even be McCain? Granted,

Sen. McCain (R-AZ) has strongly criticized Putin, whom he has called “a dangerous person.” In an October 2007 Republican debate, McCain expressed support for President Bush’s plan to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. “I don’t care what [Putin’s] objections are to it,” he said.

In a November 2007 Foreign Affairs article, McCain called for a new approach to what he called a “revanchist” Russia. In that piece, he advocated Russian exclusion from the G-8, and said the West should send a message to Russia that NATO “is indivisible and that the organization’s doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom.” He also said the United States should promote democracy in Russia.

However, the folks over at the eXile have another perspective on The McCainiac.

But presidents don’t make policy alone, and to the extent that we know who’s advising McCain on foreign affairs, the picture is less clear. McCain takes advice from his neocon friend William Kristol, but also his close friend Henry Kissinger, the corpulent doyen of realpolitik, who is the honorary co-chairman for McCain’s presidential campaign in New York.

A recent New York Times profile of McCain mentioned other “realist” advisors unlikely to push him into confrontation with Moscow unless serious red lines are crossed, such as Richard Armitage, Colin Powell, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Brent Scrowcroft. Other names that have popped up in recent months include ex-drug war czar Barry McCaffrey and Harvard historian Niall Ferguson. Ferguson, who has no problem with empires so long as they are Anglo-American, has predicted that Russia will attempt to reconstitute a capitalist, Christian version of the “evil empire.”

Another issue muddying up McCain’s Russophobic credibility was revealed in a recent Washington Post article exposing McCain’s friendly links to (and vacation getaways with) Kremlin oligarch Oleg Deripaska. More importantly, the piece revealed cozy ties between McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis and the Russian power elite more generally, from Deripaska to pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovich, who battled against the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004.

But then again, this is a guy who sees the letters “K-G-B” in Putin’s eyes. Considering that that only happens to me when I’m real drunk, I’d be real careful about electing him to office.

In conclusion, these are the best US Presidents for US-Russian relations.

  1. Clinton
  2. McCain
  3. Obama

This poll will run until the Democrats and Republicans confirm their party nominations.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.