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    Bahrainis are calling their government’s intensified repression of all opposition “the Egyptian strategy”, believing that it is modelled on the ruthless campaign by the Egyptian security forces to crush even the smallest signs of dissent. In recent weeks leading advocates of human rights in Bahrain have been jailed in conditions directed at breaking them physically...
  • Are you Sarah Shourd who was imprisoned along with her boyfriend Shane Bauer, and his buddy Josh Fattal in 2010 for spying for Israel?

    Danna Harman writing in Israeli daily Ha’aretz (July 30, 2010) compared the three captured Jews as the ‘three Rachel Corries’. However, we all know Iranian have not crushed these three Jews under a bulldozer as the Israeli Jew did to American-Christian Rachel Alien Corrie 23. The three were pardoned by then president Dr. Ahmadinejad before they completed their 7 year sentence.

    https://rehmat1.com/2010/09/16/espionage-%E2%80%93-the-%E2%80%98innocent-agents%E2%80%99/

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  • The way to stop the government of Bahrain from torturing their citizens is to pressure other countries and businesses from doing business with them. Only then will they see the light.

    Iran is just as bad, if not worse. Their dank prisons are filled to the brim with peace activists, dual citizens, and anyone daring to have a religion outside the state designated one. They kidnap innocents, mostly dual citizens, who come to the country and then demand ransom from the family. They use them as pawns in negotiations with other countries.

    They torture, stone, and even murder innocents who never get a lawyer and are only charged when pressured by an outside source. They are brutal despots and greedy corporations are selling their souls in dealing with them. The people of Iran are in the same situation as us, repressed by a brutal murderous despotic regime. The country is beautiful but know-before-you-go that you may end up in one of their torture chambers. Look up Nazanin Ratcliff. There’s many more. There are no human rights in Iran, Bahrain, North Korea, etc… Do a search with the country name and human rights to find out.

    U.S. holds political prisoners, war on drugs, peace activists, whistle blowers (heroes) and more. The prisons are for profit and they’re filling them with any body. No country holds more. Considering their wars-on-the-whole-world, they’re perhaps the biggest human rights violator on earth.

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  • […] Torture, Imprisonment & Killing in Bahrain […]

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  • It seems you hate to study some object source on Middle East Cockburn.

    1. Who are the Bahrainis asking the government to intensify repression of all opposition? I’m not aware of how many of them live in UK and Israel – but in Bahrain itself, only 30% Sunni brothers of the royal family while 70% of country’s Shi’ite population supports the opposition.

    2. Egyptian military junta is lead by the son of a Spanish Jewish mother, like French Nicolas Sarkozi. The Bahrain’s Sunni ‘royal family’ was installed by the British colonial power over the former province of Persia in 1780s.

    3. Bahrain was as much “liberal” as was UK, France, and Israel in the past. Now, they all turned into Germany under Nazi rule.

    In 2011, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates paid a surprise visit to Bahrain. He told reporters at Manama airport: “I expressed the view that we had no evidence that suggested that Iran started any of these popular revolutions or demonstrations across the region,” said Gates, recounting his talks with the country’s king and crown prince. “But there is clear evidence that as the process is protracted, particularly in Bahrain, the Iranians are looking for ways to exploit it and create problems,” said Gates after he could not control his Zionist itch. “So I told them, in this instance, time is not our friend.”

    Gates’ comments followed renewed violence in Bahrain, home to the US 5th Fleet, when clashes erupted between pro- and anti-government groups just outside the capital of Manama who were demanding an end to monarchy. Gates met with King Hamad and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to reassure the monarchy of the United States’ full support.

    https://rehmat1.com/2011/03/13/gates-us-may-lose-bahrain-to-iran/

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  • @Verymuchalive
    Frankly, my dear, I don't give a shit.
    The purpose of non-places like Bahrain is to produce oil and gas for external consumption.
    Once reserves collapse, the Bahrain economy will collapse too and the place will revert to desert.
    I find Patrick Cockburn's concern for the civil liberties of Bahrainis risible. The vast majority are recent immigrants and, once the oil runs out, they'll quickly hit the road.
    His old dad, Stalin-worshipper Claud Cockburn, would have regarded the populace as useless parasites, preying on the international proletariat.
    Now his son wants the welfare of these parasites prioritised !!

    > Bahrain is to produce oil and gas for external consumption.

    most of it is gone. The island lives on rendering services to Saudis who need booze & nookie and to westerners who need Navy bases.

    The second & third most serious crimes in Bahraini law are: disrupting the flow of vehicular traffic across the causeway which carries the Saudi guys to the hotels every weekend, and smuggling liquor around the King’s tax-revenue checkpoints. The FOURTH worst offense is being a freelance pimp – that trade belongs to the cops. Did you know that Bahraini citizens are NOT allowed to check into a hotel there? Hotels are for presenting booze and pussy to foreigners, my friend.

    By some mysterious process, the rent you are asked for by a Bahraini landlord will always EXACTLY equal the current US DOD monthly housing allowance for a person of your rank.

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  • Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a shit.
    The purpose of non-places like Bahrain is to produce oil and gas for external consumption.
    Once reserves collapse, the Bahrain economy will collapse too and the place will revert to desert.
    I find Patrick Cockburn’s concern for the civil liberties of Bahrainis risible. The vast majority are recent immigrants and, once the oil runs out, they’ll quickly hit the road.
    His old dad, Stalin-worshipper Claud Cockburn, would have regarded the populace as useless parasites, preying on the international proletariat.
    Now his son wants the welfare of these parasites prioritised !!

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    • Replies: @Karl
    > Bahrain is to produce oil and gas for external consumption.

    most of it is gone. The island lives on rendering services to Saudis who need booze & nookie and to westerners who need Navy bases.

    The second & third most serious crimes in Bahraini law are: disrupting the flow of vehicular traffic across the causeway which carries the Saudi guys to the hotels every weekend, and smuggling liquor around the King's tax-revenue checkpoints. The FOURTH worst offense is being a freelance pimp - that trade belongs to the cops. Did you know that Bahraini citizens are NOT allowed to check into a hotel there? Hotels are for presenting booze and pussy to foreigners, my friend.

    By some mysterious process, the rent you are asked for by a Bahraini landlord will always EXACTLY equal the current US DOD monthly housing allowance for a person of your rank.
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  • Pretty good article by the journalist whose initials are PC. Bahrain will retain the UK’s favor as long as the UK’s populist politicians (who all suffered setbacks this week) remain out of power. We’ll have to wait and hope for the collapse of the house of Saud.

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  • The Duke of York will be the keynote speaker at a conference in London this Friday celebrating Bahrain as a place of religious freedom and tolerance of divergent opinions. Speaking during a visit to Bahrain last month, he said: "I believe that what's happening in Bahrain is a source of hope for many people in...
  • […] Prince Andrew Praises Bahrain, Island of Torture […]

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  • The British decision to spend £15m establishing a naval base at Mina Salman Port in Bahrain is being presented as a "symbolic" deal to increase stability in the region, guard against unnamed threats and strengthen Britain's partnership with the states of the Gulf. The agreement will identify Britain as an old colonial power strongly supporting...
  • matt says:
    @Anon

    No, it’s like calling a United Way donor a hypocrite because he’s simultaneously “donating” to the Mafia. Or because he runs the Mafia.
     
    But the Brits aren't building a base in Bahrain to protect the government from internal threats. They're doing it to prevent some neighboring power from overrunning it. It's the same offshore balancer role Britain has played for a while now. The idea being to retain a base of operations in the event that a modern-day version of Muhammad decides to unify the ummah in the Near East under his rule.

    Hypocrisy is actually a pretty difficult charge to pin on anyone, mainly because people have laundry lists of principles, and some of these conflict. One principle of the British government is that it should be for human rights. But another one is that it should represent its citizens and defend their interests. To the extent the majority of British citizens are benefited by preventing the unification of the Gulf's oil deposits under a single ruler (which would theoretically take oil prices to the moon), it's clear that Whitehall's duty is to do what little it can to help the region's rulers ward off foreign aggressors.

    But the Brits aren’t building a base in Bahrain to protect the government from internal threats. They’re doing it to prevent some neighboring power from overrunning it.

    The only “neighboring power” to invade Bahrain in recent history has been Saudi Arabia in 2011 – and that was at the behest of the Bahraini kleptocracy. The greatest threat to the Bahraini people, by fucking far, is their own government, followed closely by the foreign governments (US, UK, Saudi, UAE) that support and prop up their government. There is absolutely zero threat that Isis will reach Bahrain, and besides, the West (particularly Britain) was supporting the Bahraini monarchy long before that clown Baghdadi showed up. And please, do yourself a favor and refrain from mentioning those oh so hyper-aggressive Iranians, who happened to have not gotten around to actually starting a war in over two centuries…

    One principle of the British government is that it should be for human rights

    What is the evidence that this is a principle of the British government, other than public statements from the British government?

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  • Shouldn’t Bahrain pony up a lot of dough, or otherwise make some overt demonstration of fealty, for protection?

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  • Anon • Disclaimer says:

    No, it’s like calling a United Way donor a hypocrite because he’s simultaneously “donating” to the Mafia. Or because he runs the Mafia.

    But the Brits aren’t building a base in Bahrain to protect the government from internal threats. They’re doing it to prevent some neighboring power from overrunning it. It’s the same offshore balancer role Britain has played for a while now. The idea being to retain a base of operations in the event that a modern-day version of Muhammad decides to unify the ummah in the Near East under his rule.

    Hypocrisy is actually a pretty difficult charge to pin on anyone, mainly because people have laundry lists of principles, and some of these conflict. One principle of the British government is that it should be for human rights. But another one is that it should represent its citizens and defend their interests. To the extent the majority of British citizens are benefited by preventing the unification of the Gulf’s oil deposits under a single ruler (which would theoretically take oil prices to the moon), it’s clear that Whitehall’s duty is to do what little it can to help the region’s rulers ward off foreign aggressors.

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    • Replies: @matt
    But the Brits aren’t building a base in Bahrain to protect the government from internal threats. They’re doing it to prevent some neighboring power from overrunning it.

    The only "neighboring power" to invade Bahrain in recent history has been Saudi Arabia in 2011 - and that was at the behest of the Bahraini kleptocracy. The greatest threat to the Bahraini people, by fucking far, is their own government, followed closely by the foreign governments (US, UK, Saudi, UAE) that support and prop up their government. There is absolutely zero threat that Isis will reach Bahrain, and besides, the West (particularly Britain) was supporting the Bahraini monarchy long before that clown Baghdadi showed up. And please, do yourself a favor and refrain from mentioning those oh so hyper-aggressive Iranians, who happened to have not gotten around to actually starting a war in over two centuries...

    One principle of the British government is that it should be for human rights

    What is the evidence that this is a principle of the British government, other than public statements from the British government?

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  • @Anon

    There has always been a strong strain of hypocrisy in the claims of the US and Britain to support secular democracy and civil rights in countries such as Libya and Syria.
     
    Not sure that's fair. That's like calling a United Way donor a hypocrite because he doesn't donate to every other charity in addition to United Way. Resources are limited, so you give to the most critical cases.

    By the time the West intervened in Libya, thousands lay dead. The subsequent chaos in Libya and the rise of Nusra and ISIS in Syria means dumping Assad is on the back burner. The body count in Bahrain comes to less than 100 people.

    Given the cost of these liberal interventions, and the dubious returns on those investments, it's unsurprising that the first ones in the hopper are countries that are openly declared opponents of the West. Are there non-Western governments that spend large sums of money to topple friendly governments in service of some greater good?

    That’s like calling a United Way donor a hypocrite because he doesn’t donate to every other charity in addition to United Way.

    No, it’s like calling a United Way donor a hypocrite because he’s simultaneously “donating” to the Mafia. Or because he runs the Mafia.

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  • Anon • Disclaimer says:

    There has always been a strong strain of hypocrisy in the claims of the US and Britain to support secular democracy and civil rights in countries such as Libya and Syria.

    Not sure that’s fair. That’s like calling a United Way donor a hypocrite because he doesn’t donate to every other charity in addition to United Way. Resources are limited, so you give to the most critical cases.

    By the time the West intervened in Libya, thousands lay dead. The subsequent chaos in Libya and the rise of Nusra and ISIS in Syria means dumping Assad is on the back burner. The body count in Bahrain comes to less than 100 people.

    Given the cost of these liberal interventions, and the dubious returns on those investments, it’s unsurprising that the first ones in the hopper are countries that are openly declared opponents of the West. Are there non-Western governments that spend large sums of money to topple friendly governments in service of some greater good?

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    • Replies: @matt
    That’s like calling a United Way donor a hypocrite because he doesn’t donate to every other charity in addition to United Way.

    No, it's like calling a United Way donor a hypocrite because he's simultaneously "donating" to the Mafia. Or because he runs the Mafia.

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  • Well 15 M isn’t much of a base these days and the Sunni’s won’t be going anywhere soon. It seems the only way to hold power in this region is with an iron fist, everyone thought Sadam was a monster but just look at what replaced him. The Sunni are the money, the brains and the power, right or wrong are you sure you want the rabble to replace them?

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  • There’s something very wrong with this story, but I don’t know what it is. Does Mr Cockburn seriously believe any kind of military anything can be established for the tiny sum of 15 million pounds? The generals will probably spend a few million just on meetings and consultants to come up with a fancy name for their new “Operation”.

    Perhaps someone left off a few zeros? Or maybe their new “base” will be a desk at the existing US naval facilities?

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  • Bahrain has ordered a top US diplomat visiting the island to leave the country after he met leaders of the main Shia opposition party. The government said that the US assistant secretary for human rights, Tom Malinowski, was “unwelcome” and he should end his official three-day visit to Bahrain “due to his interference in its...
  • Is the US waking up to the real world danger that those bloodthirsty monarchirs represent. Really wish this event to be the tipping point

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  • The Duke of York will be the keynote speaker at a conference in London this Friday celebrating Bahrain as a place of religious freedom and tolerance of divergent opinions. Speaking during a visit to Bahrain last month, he said: "I believe that what's happening in Bahrain is a source of hope for many people in...
  • If 1776 has any reality at all – instead of this ridiculous elite-driven infatuation with aristocracy – it means that republicanism is on the side of individual freedom. What Bahrain stands for should be nothing at all for the people of the USA – if it doesn’t mean empowerment for every person there.

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  • Britain should abolish the monarchy. It’s too bad Princess Di is not around. She would be highly critical of Andrew. She was involved in a campaign against landmines. Andrew supports the absolute monarcy of Bahrain, says there’s religious freedom there and they persecute Shias.

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  • Randy Andy should stick to cavorting in his birthday suit.

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  • ‘Touch base with reality’ ? I’m afraid his reality is power and privilege, celebrity, glamour, and self-aggrandizement. If he does so much as pick his nose it will be hailed in the media as a ‘great and noble achievement’.

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  • For the US state department to complain about ” arrest and detention on vague charges” is the height of blind absurdity- Guantanamo, the Iraq war, Libyan soldiers on viagras,the bay of Tonkin, destruction of the Maine ( 1898 the Spanish/American war) I mean seriously

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Ayatollah Qassim’s call for continued non-violent opposition may not be heeded by all…When I read this sentence, I concluded that the article is based on fabricated or concocted pieces of information.
    Qassim is the one who openly declared to attack the security forces. ( Just refer to BBC reports on Bahrain, sometime in 2012?). This needs to be mentioned in the report.The nightly clashes with the police, the attack on expats who have nothing to do with the local politics should also be part of the whole picture. Why shying away?
    Bahrain like all Arab spring countries is not yet ready for an elected government, sectarianism still looms large.Extremists from both sects pull the string in opposite directions. The al Khalifas are the stabilizing force, whether we like it or not.They need to stay in power.

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  • Bahrain a source of hope?!? His Retarded Highness Dandy Andy might want to occasionally touch base with reality. The brutality that the House of Bahrain inflicts on Bahrain’s Shia people is unconscionable. The feckless Andy only highlights the point that ‘aristocracy’ is wholly out of date.

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  • An especially ignorant princeling of aristocratic oligarchy; an advertisement, along with his sponsors, for why decent average Americans overthrew his like over two centuries ago. Would that attitude replace the sycophancy towards royalty of their democratically degraded descendants.

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  • What striking about Syria is how so many people insist on speaking about it in profoundly moralistic, Manichaean terms. This is complete nonsense, given that its civil war isn't a showdown between democracy and dictatorship, but an ethnic and religious conflict. Here's a more realistic guide: The rhetoric: He kills his own people! He is...
  • […] A Game of Homs – “What striking about Syria is how so many people insist on speaking about it in profoundly moralistic, Manichaean terms. This is complete nonsense, given that its civil war isn’t a showdown between democracy and dictatorship, but an ethnic and religious conflict. Here’s a more realistic guide.” – really good stuff from anatoly! […]

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  • @georgesdelatour
    Good point. I seem to remember Wikileaks revealing that it was not Israel but Saudi Arabia which was most eagerly pressing the USA to bomb Iran. But the kind of people who worship Julian Assange don't want to believe that. It doesn't fit with their Weltanschauung. So they tend to talk as if had said what they wanted it to say.

    Anatoly – The French Jewish population is 550,000, about twice as much as the UK and half the U.S. per capita. But that isn’t really the critical factor. The fact is the official Jewish leadership in France (and as in the U.S. one might dispute their representativeness) – such as leading rabbis, “anti-racist” groups (equivalent of the ADL in the U.S.) and many public intellectuals (Bernard-Henri Lévy..) – tend to be systematically and unconditionally “pro-Israel” (irrespective of international law, settlements, French interests). In addition, Jewish-French have been amazingly successful in business, politics and media, and these are very often pro-Israel. (Jewish-French do not make up 1% of media owners, 1% of journalists or 1% of UMP or, especially, Socialist Party apparatchiks.)

    There is no doubt this ethnic bias has an influence and that the Israel lobby has an impact in France, although it is difficult to say how much. (Just as, as multiculturalists have pointed out, a political system that is disproportionately white-male-Christian will find its judgment on a diverse society biased by its prejudices).

    Personally I have a hard time interpreting France’s foreign policy under Sarkozy-Hollande. To some extent they’re sucking up to the U.S. – which is rational for selfish politicians in terms of feeling important, networking, business opportunities, and political jobs (NATO, UN, IMF, WTO…), rational for the State in order to benefit from U.S. intelligence and military power, understandable because of America’s massive soft power (I am convinced U.S. culture/film/TV have made French leaders identify more with the U.S.). But, both in Libya and Syria, France is going *beyond* an (understandably) pretty skittish Obama. So there has to be more to it.

    I think there’s a good deal of compensatory showmanship: after having fought hard to get elected, French leaders find they have no control over economic policy, so they’re job is to just deliver bad news, get attacked and suck it up, they’re castrated, to lash out against the Arabs with a few well-placed bombs and civil wars is a good way for them to feel powerful and as good an attempt as any convince themselves and the world that they’re not completely irrelevant.

    Georges – I think Israel-Saudi Arabia-Gulf States have been mostly on the same side in both Libya and Syria.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    A nice dimension. Thanks for point it out!

    It would influence Obama, surely, however AFAIK the Jewish lobby is far weaker in the UK and practically non-existent in France. So surely there must be some other reason for Hollande's... enthusiasm. What would that be? Genuine conviction? A fervent desire to suck up to the US as with the denial of airspace rights to Morales? The Muslim lobby/constituency? (Most Muslims in France AFAIK vote for the Socialists, and I would imagine the vast majority of them - them being Sunnis - would support intervention).

    Good point. I seem to remember Wikileaks revealing that it was not Israel but Saudi Arabia which was most eagerly pressing the USA to bomb Iran. But the kind of people who worship Julian Assange don’t want to believe that. It doesn’t fit with their Weltanschauung. So they tend to talk as if had said what they wanted it to say.

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    • Replies: @Craig James Willy
    Anatoly - The French Jewish population is 550,000, about twice as much as the UK and half the U.S. per capita. But that isn't really the critical factor. The fact is the official Jewish leadership in France (and as in the U.S. one might dispute their representativeness) - such as leading rabbis, "anti-racist" groups (equivalent of the ADL in the U.S.) and many public intellectuals (Bernard-Henri Lévy..) - tend to be systematically and unconditionally "pro-Israel" (irrespective of international law, settlements, French interests). In addition, Jewish-French have been amazingly successful in business, politics and media, and these are very often pro-Israel. (Jewish-French do not make up 1% of media owners, 1% of journalists or 1% of UMP or, especially, Socialist Party apparatchiks.)

    There is no doubt this ethnic bias has an influence and that the Israel lobby has an impact in France, although it is difficult to say how much. (Just as, as multiculturalists have pointed out, a political system that is disproportionately white-male-Christian will find its judgment on a diverse society biased by its prejudices).

    Personally I have a hard time interpreting France's foreign policy under Sarkozy-Hollande. To some extent they're sucking up to the U.S. - which is rational for selfish politicians in terms of feeling important, networking, business opportunities, and political jobs (NATO, UN, IMF, WTO...), rational for the State in order to benefit from U.S. intelligence and military power, understandable because of America's massive soft power (I am convinced U.S. culture/film/TV have made French leaders identify more with the U.S.). But, both in Libya and Syria, France is going *beyond* an (understandably) pretty skittish Obama. So there has to be more to it.

    I think there's a good deal of compensatory showmanship: after having fought hard to get elected, French leaders find they have no control over economic policy, so they're job is to just deliver bad news, get attacked and suck it up, they're castrated, to lash out against the Arabs with a few well-placed bombs and civil wars is a good way for them to feel powerful and as good an attempt as any convince themselves and the world that they're not completely irrelevant.

    Georges - I think Israel-Saudi Arabia-Gulf States have been mostly on the same side in both Libya and Syria.

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  • @Craig James Willy
    There is of course another factor in Obama's decision-making. As the NYT recently wrote (and later tried to delete, but whatever):
    "Administration officials said the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. In the House, the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, has long worked to challenge Democrats’ traditional base among Jews.

    One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called AIPAC “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, “If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line” against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, “we’re in trouble.”"

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/09/case-new-york-times-missing-aipac-gorilla-has-easy-answer/68985/

    Bearing in mind AIPAC funds most of the big shots in Congress this would not be particularly surprising.

    A nice dimension. Thanks for point it out!

    It would influence Obama, surely, however AFAIK the Jewish lobby is far weaker in the UK and practically non-existent in France. So surely there must be some other reason for Hollande’s… enthusiasm. What would that be? Genuine conviction? A fervent desire to suck up to the US as with the denial of airspace rights to Morales? The Muslim lobby/constituency? (Most Muslims in France AFAIK vote for the Socialists, and I would imagine the vast majority of them – them being Sunnis – would support intervention).

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    • Replies: @georgesdelatour
    Good point. I seem to remember Wikileaks revealing that it was not Israel but Saudi Arabia which was most eagerly pressing the USA to bomb Iran. But the kind of people who worship Julian Assange don't want to believe that. It doesn't fit with their Weltanschauung. So they tend to talk as if had said what they wanted it to say.
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  • There is of course another factor in Obama’s decision-making. As the NYT recently wrote (and later tried to delete, but whatever):
    “Administration officials said the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. In the House, the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, has long worked to challenge Democrats’ traditional base among Jews.

    One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called AIPAC “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, “If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line” against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, “we’re in trouble.””

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/09/case-new-york-times-missing-aipac-gorilla-has-easy-answer/68985/

    Bearing in mind AIPAC funds most of the big shots in Congress this would not be particularly surprising.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    A nice dimension. Thanks for point it out!

    It would influence Obama, surely, however AFAIK the Jewish lobby is far weaker in the UK and practically non-existent in France. So surely there must be some other reason for Hollande's... enthusiasm. What would that be? Genuine conviction? A fervent desire to suck up to the US as with the denial of airspace rights to Morales? The Muslim lobby/constituency? (Most Muslims in France AFAIK vote for the Socialists, and I would imagine the vast majority of them - them being Sunnis - would support intervention).

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  • My latest for the US-Russia Experts Panel and VoR. In this latest Panel, Vlad Sobell asks us supposed Russia “experts” whether Freedom House’s “alarmist stance” towards Russia is justified. Well, what do YOU think? I don’t think you need to be an expert to answer this; it’s an elementary issue of common sense and face...
  • Dear Anatoly,

    Having read all the various contributions to this discussion I want to say that I think yours was certainly the best. It cuts through all the nonsense and exposes the gross partisanship and absurdity of the Freedom House survey.

    The big question for me is why does Russia so consistently come out at the bottom of these sort of surveys (eg. Freedom House, Trasparency International, university rankings, international credit ratings etc) when any impartial consideration of the facts shows how wrong these surveys are? The other question is do these bad rankings cause Russia harm? The short answer in my opinion is that they definitely do. I know at least one British businessman who told me that his company (the big retailer Tesco) has been deterred from investing in Russia because of the violence and corruption there as reported by Transparency International and the like. I told him that this is completely out of date and that Tesco is missing out on Europe’s fastest growing and potentially biggest consumer market but anything I say was hardly going to change his mind or that of his company. It must also make life harder for the Russian government to try to govern a country like Russia against the background of a constant critical chorus about anything it does. Anyone who has tried to work with a hostile critic lurking constantly in the background will know the feeling.

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  • Polity IV is far better than Freedom House, but still have to be taken with a grain of salt. (Plus a 21-point scale from +10 to -10 is just as bizarre–and even more unwieldy for computation than Freedom House’s 7-point scale.) Grr. Ok. Rant over.

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  • “In the meantime, Nemtsov is free to continue writing his screeds”

    Nemtsov actually has more access to the American political system than virtually all American citizens…so much for American democracy.

    http://en.rian.ru/world/20130305/179827057/Russia-Accuses-Magnitsky-Boss-Browder-in-Alleged-Gazprom-Fraud.html

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  • The Reporters Without Borders rated Russia and Ukraine below Tajikistan on press freedom ratings. So much for objectivity of these “bona fide” Western organisations.

    Since it is blatantly obvious that these organisations and their ratings are not objective, one should in my opinion treat them accordingly.

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  • I am back to writing for the US-Russia.org Expert Discussion Panel, which since my hiatus has found an additional home at Voice of Russia. The latest topic was on whether Russia, China, and the West could find a common approach to the challenges of the Arab Spring. My response is pessimistic, as in my view...
  • Dear Anatoly,

    I agree with your article. I think your analysis is correct. I don’t think there is any possibility of common ground being found between the US and China/Russia over the Middle East or with respect to the Arab Spring. Besides the whole thrust of US policy ever since the 1950s has been to keep Russia (and China) out of the Middle East and as we have repeatedly seen the US considers this objective so important that it is even prepared to cooperate with its jihadi enemies to achieve this objective in spite of all the other problems this causes. What is astonishing is that this remains so even after the USSR’s collapse and even after the debacle of 9/11.

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  • @johnUK
    "Democracy and secular liberalism are not the same thing"

    I don't see the difference by definition the US is supporting and exporting liberal democracy and whether it be Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative based NGO’s they are exclusively liberal in nature supporting and promoting Frankfurt School Professor Karl Poppers notion of an Open Society like open immigration, greater minority rights, rights for sexual minorities, multi-cultural societies, etc.

    Dear Robert,

    I completely agree. It is a persistent liberal assumption that democracy automatically results in a liberal outcome. There is always disillusion and anger when it doesn’t together with a strong tendency to say that the system which has failed to produce such an outcome is not a democracy at all.

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  • @Robert
    Democracy and secular liberalism are not the same thing. The classic mistake liberals make is to confuse the democratic process with liberal outcomes. When democracy leads to illiberal outcomes, the liberals start screaming about “populism” and demanding that liberal outcomes be imposed from above.

    So, do you stand for democratic process or liberal outcomes?It does pose a terrible dilemma for those who think it’s the job of imperial armies to go around setting up liberal democracies in every corner of the world.

    Absolutely true about grain prices. If a fragile democracy doesn't put food on the table it's more than likely that the masses will support a Bonapartist figure who promises to sort the problem. In the 2009 Iranian Green rising it's more than likely that Ahmadinejad did win the election because he stood for economic policies that promised to maintain a safety net for the poor and crack down on corruption. Musavi promised to liberalise dress codes but also proposed to cut welfare spending and end overmanning in the bonyad sector which would have cost a lot of people their jobs. Unsurprisingly Ahmadinejad won more votes among the working class. Interestingly Mousavi was responsible for mass executions during the early years of the Iranian revolution. This didn't prevent the Western media supporting him as a reformist as against the bogeyman Ahmadinejad.

    “Democracy and secular liberalism are not the same thing”

    I don’t see the difference by definition the US is supporting and exporting liberal democracy and whether it be Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative based NGO’s they are exclusively liberal in nature supporting and promoting Frankfurt School Professor Karl Poppers notion of an Open Society like open immigration, greater minority rights, rights for sexual minorities, multi-cultural societies, etc.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Robert,

    I completely agree. It is a persistent liberal assumption that democracy automatically results in a liberal outcome. There is always disillusion and anger when it doesn't together with a strong tendency to say that the system which has failed to produce such an outcome is not a democracy at all.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Democracy and secular liberalism are not the same thing. The classic mistake liberals make is to confuse the democratic process with liberal outcomes. When democracy leads to illiberal outcomes, the liberals start screaming about “populism” and demanding that liberal outcomes be imposed from above.

    So, do you stand for democratic process or liberal outcomes?It does pose a terrible dilemma for those who think it’s the job of imperial armies to go around setting up liberal democracies in every corner of the world.

    Absolutely true about grain prices. If a fragile democracy doesn’t put food on the table it’s more than likely that the masses will support a Bonapartist figure who promises to sort the problem. In the 2009 Iranian Green rising it’s more than likely that Ahmadinejad did win the election because he stood for economic policies that promised to maintain a safety net for the poor and crack down on corruption. Musavi promised to liberalise dress codes but also proposed to cut welfare spending and end overmanning in the bonyad sector which would have cost a lot of people their jobs. Unsurprisingly Ahmadinejad won more votes among the working class. Interestingly Mousavi was responsible for mass executions during the early years of the Iranian revolution. This didn’t prevent the Western media supporting him as a reformist as against the bogeyman Ahmadinejad.

    Read More
    • Replies: @johnUK
    "Democracy and secular liberalism are not the same thing"

    I don't see the difference by definition the US is supporting and exporting liberal democracy and whether it be Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative based NGO’s they are exclusively liberal in nature supporting and promoting Frankfurt School Professor Karl Poppers notion of an Open Society like open immigration, greater minority rights, rights for sexual minorities, multi-cultural societies, etc.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • My latest contribution to the US-Russia.org Expert Discussion Panel this one focusing on whether the West foregoes "incalculable benefits" by continuing the Cold War. Unlike previous Panels, on which I aimed for balance, here I make no apologies at pointing a finger straight to where I believe the blame belongs: I recently began reading Martin...
  • [...] Anatoly Karlin on the insanity of the new Cold War. [...]

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  • @Scowspi
    "lengthy article in the New York Post that appeared about a year ago"

    I think you are actually referring to an article from the NY Sun (not the Post), by Edward Jay Epstein, which appeared around 2008 or so. This one perhaps?:

    http://www.nysun.com/foreign/specter-that-haunts-the-death-of-litvinenko/73212/

    Thanks Scowpsi,

    This is indeed the article I was referring to though it is older than I remembered.

    As the article shows the journalist was given access by the Russians to the extradition file and there is no reason to think he has not described it accurately. On the contrary the information that has coming out of the inquest shows that he has described it entirely accurately. One does not have to accept the rather farfetched theory of a smuggling operation the journalist theorises and I don’t,

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  • Saw this from a reblog, looked at a lot of your blog. Will definitely be back later, love your posts!

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Anatoly,

    As I am sure you know the Guardian has deleted your very mild and polite and reasonable response to this editorial. A British friend of mine to whom I had earlier read the comment was horrified and upset when she saw it had been deleted. She contrasted it with the licence given to some highly aggressive trolls who regularly post comments on Comment is Free and said she found deletion of your comment sinister.

    “lengthy article in the New York Post that appeared about a year ago”

    I think you are actually referring to an article from the NY Sun (not the Post), by Edward Jay Epstein, which appeared around 2008 or so. This one perhaps?:

    http://www.nysun.com/foreign/specter-that-haunts-the-death-of-litvinenko/73212/

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Thanks Scowpsi,

    This is indeed the article I was referring to though it is older than I remembered.

    As the article shows the journalist was given access by the Russians to the extradition file and there is no reason to think he has not described it accurately. On the contrary the information that has coming out of the inquest shows that he has described it entirely accurately. One does not have to accept the rather farfetched theory of a smuggling operation the journalist theorises and I don't,

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Reblogged this on The Russia Watch and commented:
    Very much recommended.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Back to irrational hostility - another Guardian editorial on Putin and Russia.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/28/vladimir-putin-russia-crackdown-protest

    I have not bothered to keep a count but I sort of get the feeling that the Guardian has published more editorials about Putin and Russia over the last 12 months than it has about Obama and the US even though this is a US Presidential election year. The only word for this single minded coverage is obsessive.

    As to the editorial itself all I would say is that behind all the fire and thunder one detects a grudging admission that the protest movement has fizzled out and that Putin is popular and secure in his post. On the subject of the editorial itself note the implicit admission (the first so far as I know that the Guardian has made) that Pussy Riot do not enjoy widespread support and that many (most?) Russians disapprove of them. If Ravzozzhaev was kidnapped in Kiev (as I believe he was)in order to bring him back to Moscow so that he can stand trial I would treat this as an act of what the French call raison d'etat which most states engage in and which given the nature of the charges and the evidence against Razvozzhaev I would consider acceptable. I say this though I consider the plot he was apparently involved in so ludicrous as to be frankly insane. I do not consider torture or threats to kill Razvozzhaev's children remotely acceptanble - quite the contrary - in this or any circumstances but I would want to see much more evidence than there is at the moment that anything of that sort took place. If it did I would of course condemn it unequivocally.

    For the further record I do not see any sign of the supposed "crackdown" that is being talked about. There has been some slight tightening up of legislation in a manner I broadly welcome and a number of prosecutions have been brought based on what looks to me credible evidence of actual crimes but to call this a crackdown and to invoke the USSR in the way the editorial does is reckless hyperbole. The protest leaders meet without hindrance, conduct rallies (even if ever fewer people attend them), participate in elections though with complete lack of success (see Chirikova in Khimki - unmentioned in the editorial) and have apparently even conducted debates with each other on Drozhd TV. To see the tidying up steps as the editorial does as evidence of some great behind the scenes Soviet style Kremlin power struggle is beyond farfetched..

    Dear Anatoly,

    As I am sure you know the Guardian has deleted your very mild and polite and reasonable response to this editorial. A British friend of mine to whom I had earlier read the comment was horrified and upset when she saw it had been deleted. She contrasted it with the licence given to some highly aggressive trolls who regularly post comments on Comment is Free and said she found deletion of your comment sinister.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Scowspi
    "lengthy article in the New York Post that appeared about a year ago"

    I think you are actually referring to an article from the NY Sun (not the Post), by Edward Jay Epstein, which appeared around 2008 or so. This one perhaps?:

    http://www.nysun.com/foreign/specter-that-haunts-the-death-of-litvinenko/73212/

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear John,

    1. Information Offensive Inaction

    On this point we agree. The Russians remain wretched at aggressively arguing their case or rebutting false stories circulated about them. You are completely right for example that they have hardly even bothered to explain themselves over Chechnya. Over the last decade the emergence of RT has minimally improved the situation but the impact is miniscule since in my experience people who watch RT tend to do so not for its Russian coverage but for programmes like the Keiser Report or Assange's interviews that barely touch on Russia at all.

    2. Impunity of persons connected to United Russia

    To be honest I feel that tyour answer here is something of a loaded answer since it assumes (1) corruption on the part of people connected to United Russia and (2) impunity for those people. With some reservations I am going to concede the first though I would say (1) that my personal contacts in the Russian business community make me doubt that corruption is anything like as pervasive as many suppose and (2) that one must be careful not to use unsubstantiated allegations of corruption as a vehicle for a political witch hunt in the way that Navalny for example has been doing.

    Anyway, I am less ready to concede the second. There have been people connected to United Russia who have lost their positions and/or who are being prosecuted for corruption. Only a few days ago a United Russia deputy was stripped of his parliamentary mandate because of his business interests. Perhaps the most notorious recent case of a prominent United Russia politician losing his position and facing prosecution for corruption is that of Yury Luzhkov and his wife. The trouble is that invariably when this happens it is reported not as a corruption case but in purely political terms as a political struggle which the person who has lost his position or is being prosecuted for corruption has lost and in which the prosecution for corruption is simply another political weapon.

    In my opinion this assumption of a political motive is at least in Russia nearly always unwarranted. The result of making it however is that when steps are taken to deal with corruption they are scarcely ever recognised as such. The Khodorkovsky and Luzhkov affairs are perhaps the outstanding examples of this. Another good example this time from China is the Bo Xilai affair. The western media and western China pundits take it for granted that Bo Xilai's fell because he lost a power struggle with Wen Jiabao who, surely not coincidentally, is now also the target of corruption allegations in the New York Times. In fact I have no doubt that Bo Xilai fell for exactly the reason the Chinese authorities and the Chinese media say, which is that he tried to cover up for his wife who murdered a British businessman with whom she had become involved. This would be more than sufficient reason in any western country for the destruction of a prominent politician's career. However because the Bo Xilai affair has happened in China it is reported and understood in a completely different way.

    3. Independence of the Russian judicial system

    Again I have to say that I think this is something of a loaded answer since it rather presupposes that the Russian judicial system is not independent. However do the Russian authorities prove it is independent if it is?

    As I said before Russia is a signatory of the European Convention of Human Rights which means that all Russian court judgments are theoretically subject to review by the European Court of Human Rights, which is not a Russian court or under Russian influence. Unlike in Britain there is no campaign in Russia to withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. In its recent report the World Bank confirmed that Russian courts are as effective in enforcing contracts as courts in western Europe and that Russian taxes are administered in an effective and impartial way (better it seems than in the United States). At the recent Valdai forum a former Russian official who now teaches at the Higher School of Economics again said that the poor state of the Russian legal system is a deterrent to western investment in Russia. However the only case he felt able to cite was the Pussy Riot case, which is not a commercial case involving businesspeople and where as you probably know I believe and the emerging consensus amongst jurists now believes that justice was done.

    3. The Litvinenko Affair

    All the points you have made about the Litvinenko affair have in fact been made by the Russian authorities or by the Russian press. The Russian authorities took the unprecedented though entirely correct step of making available to the international press all the documentation the British authorities provided them in support of the request for Lugovoi's extradition. This exposed how meagre the information provided by the British in support of their request for Lugovoi's extradition was. Many of the points people today make about the Litvinenko affair arise from Russian publication of these documents.

    As for the Russian authorities "acting like Columbo", a point often overlooked is that Russia did try to conduct its own investigation of the Litvinenko case but this ground to a halt when the British authorities withdrew all cooperation from Russian police and security agencies on the grounds that Russia had refused to extradite Lugovoi. This happened after Russian investigators informed the British of their wish to interview certain persons involved in the Litvinenko case who are resident in Britain. Apparently these include Berezovsky and Litvinenko's widow. The Russian investigators would presumably have also wanted to interview Goldfarb but he is most of the time in the United States. Where I think the Russians are at fault is in not making this more widely known or in also making known suggestions they made to the British to break the impasse in the case, which I understand included a suggestion that Lugovoi and Kovtun be tried in Russia but in a court presided over by a British judge and observing British procedure and law. There are precedents for this but the British rejected the suggestion outright.

    Dear John,

    To answer your two questions briefly, I have no idea whether RT will cover the trials but of one thing I am sure and that is that the trials in so far as they concern Chechnya and Russia will receive minimal international attention whether RT covers them or not. .

    On the Litvinenko affair, when I said documents I was in error since there is apparently only one document. The entire extradition file that was sent by the British Foreign Office to Russia in support of the demand for Lugovoi’s extradition apparently just consists of a brief affidavit by an official of the Crown Prosecution Service that states that in her opinion there is sufficient evidence to charge Lugovoi for Litvinenko’s murder. The affidavit has as an attachment a report from a police officer that describes the so called “polonium trail”, which is basically a list of places where polonium traces were found, with an attempt to correlate them to Lugovoi’s known movements together apparently with a brief discussion of Litvinenko’s various publishing activities, which supposedly provide the motive for his killing. Notably absent are any statements from witnesses or the autopsy report. The British refused Russian requests for release of the autopsy report (it has not been released to this day) and rejected Russian requests to interview witnesses including the staff at the bar of the Millenium Hotel where the poisoning is supposed to have taken place.

    I don’t know whether this document has been published on the internet – there may be legal reasons why it cannot be – but the Russians have shown it to various journalists including notably one from the New York Post. The Russians also gave details to the same journalist and apparently to other journalists as well of some of the questions they put to the British, which appear to be the origin of some of the lines of enquiry you see mentioned and which you touch on in your earlier comment.

    The New York Post journalist wrote up the details of his visit to Moscow and the details of the document he saw in the extradition file in a lengthy article in the New York Post that appeared about a year ago, which I am sure you can find on the internet somewhere (I can’t be bothered to look for it). He also expounded in the same article on his own I thought rather farfetched theory that Litvinenko was involved in some sort of arms smuggling operation. As I remember it the fact that polonium was a material used in triggering devices for first generation atomic bombs featured heavily in this theory.

    Personally I have no fixed views about the Litvinenko affair. I think there is a case to be made against Lugovoi and Kovtun though I don’t think it is a particularly strong one. I also think that it is possible but far from proved that if Lugovoi and Kovtun did murder Litvinenko they were doing so on behalf of the Russian state. If that were to turn out to be the case I would not be particularly shocked or upset since it is what powerful governments always do. The US has recently passed a law permitting itself to murder US citizens abroad without trial if they are deemed to pose a threat to national security and in just the last few days the latest James Bond film has opened to enormous acclaim here in London celebrating the fictional feats of a British secret agent who is “licensed to kill”. In saying this I want to make it clear that I am not saying that Lugovoi and Kovtun or the FSB or the SVR or the GRU or whatever killed Litvinenko, merely that I would not be especially disturbed or horrified if they did though I would urge them to go about such assassinations in a less complicated and public way in the future.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear John,

    1. Information Offensive Inaction

    On this point we agree. The Russians remain wretched at aggressively arguing their case or rebutting false stories circulated about them. You are completely right for example that they have hardly even bothered to explain themselves over Chechnya. Over the last decade the emergence of RT has minimally improved the situation but the impact is miniscule since in my experience people who watch RT tend to do so not for its Russian coverage but for programmes like the Keiser Report or Assange's interviews that barely touch on Russia at all.

    2. Impunity of persons connected to United Russia

    To be honest I feel that tyour answer here is something of a loaded answer since it assumes (1) corruption on the part of people connected to United Russia and (2) impunity for those people. With some reservations I am going to concede the first though I would say (1) that my personal contacts in the Russian business community make me doubt that corruption is anything like as pervasive as many suppose and (2) that one must be careful not to use unsubstantiated allegations of corruption as a vehicle for a political witch hunt in the way that Navalny for example has been doing.

    Anyway, I am less ready to concede the second. There have been people connected to United Russia who have lost their positions and/or who are being prosecuted for corruption. Only a few days ago a United Russia deputy was stripped of his parliamentary mandate because of his business interests. Perhaps the most notorious recent case of a prominent United Russia politician losing his position and facing prosecution for corruption is that of Yury Luzhkov and his wife. The trouble is that invariably when this happens it is reported not as a corruption case but in purely political terms as a political struggle which the person who has lost his position or is being prosecuted for corruption has lost and in which the prosecution for corruption is simply another political weapon.

    In my opinion this assumption of a political motive is at least in Russia nearly always unwarranted. The result of making it however is that when steps are taken to deal with corruption they are scarcely ever recognised as such. The Khodorkovsky and Luzhkov affairs are perhaps the outstanding examples of this. Another good example this time from China is the Bo Xilai affair. The western media and western China pundits take it for granted that Bo Xilai's fell because he lost a power struggle with Wen Jiabao who, surely not coincidentally, is now also the target of corruption allegations in the New York Times. In fact I have no doubt that Bo Xilai fell for exactly the reason the Chinese authorities and the Chinese media say, which is that he tried to cover up for his wife who murdered a British businessman with whom she had become involved. This would be more than sufficient reason in any western country for the destruction of a prominent politician's career. However because the Bo Xilai affair has happened in China it is reported and understood in a completely different way.

    3. Independence of the Russian judicial system

    Again I have to say that I think this is something of a loaded answer since it rather presupposes that the Russian judicial system is not independent. However do the Russian authorities prove it is independent if it is?

    As I said before Russia is a signatory of the European Convention of Human Rights which means that all Russian court judgments are theoretically subject to review by the European Court of Human Rights, which is not a Russian court or under Russian influence. Unlike in Britain there is no campaign in Russia to withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. In its recent report the World Bank confirmed that Russian courts are as effective in enforcing contracts as courts in western Europe and that Russian taxes are administered in an effective and impartial way (better it seems than in the United States). At the recent Valdai forum a former Russian official who now teaches at the Higher School of Economics again said that the poor state of the Russian legal system is a deterrent to western investment in Russia. However the only case he felt able to cite was the Pussy Riot case, which is not a commercial case involving businesspeople and where as you probably know I believe and the emerging consensus amongst jurists now believes that justice was done.

    3. The Litvinenko Affair

    All the points you have made about the Litvinenko affair have in fact been made by the Russian authorities or by the Russian press. The Russian authorities took the unprecedented though entirely correct step of making available to the international press all the documentation the British authorities provided them in support of the request for Lugovoi's extradition. This exposed how meagre the information provided by the British in support of their request for Lugovoi's extradition was. Many of the points people today make about the Litvinenko affair arise from Russian publication of these documents.

    As for the Russian authorities "acting like Columbo", a point often overlooked is that Russia did try to conduct its own investigation of the Litvinenko case but this ground to a halt when the British authorities withdrew all cooperation from Russian police and security agencies on the grounds that Russia had refused to extradite Lugovoi. This happened after Russian investigators informed the British of their wish to interview certain persons involved in the Litvinenko case who are resident in Britain. Apparently these include Berezovsky and Litvinenko's widow. The Russian investigators would presumably have also wanted to interview Goldfarb but he is most of the time in the United States. Where I think the Russians are at fault is in not making this more widely known or in also making known suggestions they made to the British to break the impasse in the case, which I understand included a suggestion that Lugovoi and Kovtun be tried in Russia but in a court presided over by a British judge and observing British procedure and law. There are precedents for this but the British rejected the suggestion outright.

    A quick note on Chechnya.

    6 British terror suspects have been extradited to the US to stand trial half of which have provided support for Chechen terrorists groups including Basayev and Khattabs webmaster Babar Ahmad who ran various recruitment and fund raising websites that included qoqaz.net whose former field commander and qoqaz.net correspondent Masood Al-Benin links to 20th hijacker Moussaoui lead to the pre-9/11 investigation into 9/11 that just the tip of the iceberg regarding Chechen links to 9/11.

    http://www.americansagainsthate.org/MinnaSite.htm

    http://www.investigativeproject.org/case/107

    Do you think RT America or the Russian media will cover the trials?

    “The Russian authorities took the unprecedented though entirely correct step of making available to the international press all the documentation the British authorities provided them in support of the request for Lugovoi’s extradition.”

    Where are these documents? If they were made available to the public/press then surely copies would be available online?

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  • Back to irrational hostility – another Guardian editorial on Putin and Russia.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/28/vladimir-putin-russia-crackdown-protest

    I have not bothered to keep a count but I sort of get the feeling that the Guardian has published more editorials about Putin and Russia over the last 12 months than it has about Obama and the US even though this is a US Presidential election year. The only word for this single minded coverage is obsessive.

    As to the editorial itself all I would say is that behind all the fire and thunder one detects a grudging admission that the protest movement has fizzled out and that Putin is popular and secure in his post. On the subject of the editorial itself note the implicit admission (the first so far as I know that the Guardian has made) that Pussy Riot do not enjoy widespread support and that many (most?) Russians disapprove of them. If Ravzozzhaev was kidnapped in Kiev (as I believe he was)in order to bring him back to Moscow so that he can stand trial I would treat this as an act of what the French call raison d’etat which most states engage in and which given the nature of the charges and the evidence against Razvozzhaev I would consider acceptable. I say this though I consider the plot he was apparently involved in so ludicrous as to be frankly insane. I do not consider torture or threats to kill Razvozzhaev’s children remotely acceptanble – quite the contrary – in this or any circumstances but I would want to see much more evidence than there is at the moment that anything of that sort took place. If it did I would of course condemn it unequivocally.

    For the further record I do not see any sign of the supposed “crackdown” that is being talked about. There has been some slight tightening up of legislation in a manner I broadly welcome and a number of prosecutions have been brought based on what looks to me credible evidence of actual crimes but to call this a crackdown and to invoke the USSR in the way the editorial does is reckless hyperbole. The protest leaders meet without hindrance, conduct rallies (even if ever fewer people attend them), participate in elections though with complete lack of success (see Chirikova in Khimki – unmentioned in the editorial) and have apparently even conducted debates with each other on Drozhd TV. To see the tidying up steps as the editorial does as evidence of some great behind the scenes Soviet style Kremlin power struggle is beyond farfetched..

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Anatoly,

    As I am sure you know the Guardian has deleted your very mild and polite and reasonable response to this editorial. A British friend of mine to whom I had earlier read the comment was horrified and upset when she saw it had been deleted. She contrasted it with the licence given to some highly aggressive trolls who regularly post comments on Comment is Free and said she found deletion of your comment sinister.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @johnUK
    For the rest I am not sure what you mean when you speak of Russia’s “inaction”?

    I should have stated information offensive inaction where they have made zero effort on every conceivable level on issues regarding Russia and Russian aligned interests especially the Balkans that are all intertwined in post Soviet policy western policy towards and against Russia.

    We are not even given the most basic information like who is promoting and financing western journalistic pieces and information both inside and outside of Russia regarding Russia and their connections?

    What happened to the billions of dollars trafficked out of Russia during the 90’s that includes the YUKO’s/Mentep money laundering network and the western financial and other networks established in Russia during the 90’s especially in 96?

    Don’t even get me started on Chechnya.

    To take just one example, what action do you think Russia should take to combat corruption which would solve the problem and which it is not taking?

    They could start by eliminating a cultural of immunity that lets corruption flourish that if you are aligned with the state and United Russia political party than you are largely immune from prosecution.

    There is also the question as to how independent such bodies like the Russian court system and criminal investigative bodies are from Kremlin influence?

    “PS: I have not commented on Litvinenko because the case is currently being examined by the Coroner. However given that the Russian Constitution precludes Lugovoi’s and Kovtun’s extradition to Britain again what exactly is it that you propose Russia should do?

    It could start by acting like Columbo and start investigating and asking some basic question towards British authorities making it very public PR spectacle holding press conferences just like Berezovsky has done.

    Here are some basic points that Russia should be publically asking that I can think of, of the top of my head.

    -What were Litvenenkos activities prior to his death both travel and contacts as a confirmed MI6 agent including meeting former YUKO shareholder Nevzlin in Israel?

    -Where’s the CCTV footage?

    -Why did Litvenenko initially accuse Scaramelo of the poisoning and why and with what evidence was Lugavoi declared the main suspect?

    -Why were traces of Polonium 210 found in areas including Berezovskys office before the alleged poisoning meeting took place between Litvenenko and Lugavoi?

    This one I am not completely sure is true that’s why I will separate it from the rest.

    -Why did they wait 25 days from Litvenenko’s initial poisoning to contact British police and launch a criminal enquiry?

    In fact come to think of it is there even a coherent timeline of events including that of Berezovsky and co of how Litvenenko was alleged to have been poisoned?

    Dear John,

    1. Information Offensive Inaction

    On this point we agree. The Russians remain wretched at aggressively arguing their case or rebutting false stories circulated about them. You are completely right for example that they have hardly even bothered to explain themselves over Chechnya. Over the last decade the emergence of RT has minimally improved the situation but the impact is miniscule since in my experience people who watch RT tend to do so not for its Russian coverage but for programmes like the Keiser Report or Assange’s interviews that barely touch on Russia at all.

    2. Impunity of persons connected to United Russia

    To be honest I feel that tyour answer here is something of a loaded answer since it assumes (1) corruption on the part of people connected to United Russia and (2) impunity for those people. With some reservations I am going to concede the first though I would say (1) that my personal contacts in the Russian business community make me doubt that corruption is anything like as pervasive as many suppose and (2) that one must be careful not to use unsubstantiated allegations of corruption as a vehicle for a political witch hunt in the way that Navalny for example has been doing.

    Anyway, I am less ready to concede the second. There have been people connected to United Russia who have lost their positions and/or who are being prosecuted for corruption. Only a few days ago a United Russia deputy was stripped of his parliamentary mandate because of his business interests. Perhaps the most notorious recent case of a prominent United Russia politician losing his position and facing prosecution for corruption is that of Yury Luzhkov and his wife. The trouble is that invariably when this happens it is reported not as a corruption case but in purely political terms as a political struggle which the person who has lost his position or is being prosecuted for corruption has lost and in which the prosecution for corruption is simply another political weapon.

    In my opinion this assumption of a political motive is at least in Russia nearly always unwarranted. The result of making it however is that when steps are taken to deal with corruption they are scarcely ever recognised as such. The Khodorkovsky and Luzhkov affairs are perhaps the outstanding examples of this. Another good example this time from China is the Bo Xilai affair. The western media and western China pundits take it for granted that Bo Xilai’s fell because he lost a power struggle with Wen Jiabao who, surely not coincidentally, is now also the target of corruption allegations in the New York Times. In fact I have no doubt that Bo Xilai fell for exactly the reason the Chinese authorities and the Chinese media say, which is that he tried to cover up for his wife who murdered a British businessman with whom she had become involved. This would be more than sufficient reason in any western country for the destruction of a prominent politician’s career. However because the Bo Xilai affair has happened in China it is reported and understood in a completely different way.

    3. Independence of the Russian judicial system

    Again I have to say that I think this is something of a loaded answer since it rather presupposes that the Russian judicial system is not independent. However do the Russian authorities prove it is independent if it is?

    As I said before Russia is a signatory of the European Convention of Human Rights which means that all Russian court judgments are theoretically subject to review by the European Court of Human Rights, which is not a Russian court or under Russian influence. Unlike in Britain there is no campaign in Russia to withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. In its recent report the World Bank confirmed that Russian courts are as effective in enforcing contracts as courts in western Europe and that Russian taxes are administered in an effective and impartial way (better it seems than in the United States). At the recent Valdai forum a former Russian official who now teaches at the Higher School of Economics again said that the poor state of the Russian legal system is a deterrent to western investment in Russia. However the only case he felt able to cite was the Pussy Riot case, which is not a commercial case involving businesspeople and where as you probably know I believe and the emerging consensus amongst jurists now believes that justice was done.

    3. The Litvinenko Affair

    All the points you have made about the Litvinenko affair have in fact been made by the Russian authorities or by the Russian press. The Russian authorities took the unprecedented though entirely correct step of making available to the international press all the documentation the British authorities provided them in support of the request for Lugovoi’s extradition. This exposed how meagre the information provided by the British in support of their request for Lugovoi’s extradition was. Many of the points people today make about the Litvinenko affair arise from Russian publication of these documents.

    As for the Russian authorities “acting like Columbo”, a point often overlooked is that Russia did try to conduct its own investigation of the Litvinenko case but this ground to a halt when the British authorities withdrew all cooperation from Russian police and security agencies on the grounds that Russia had refused to extradite Lugovoi. This happened after Russian investigators informed the British of their wish to interview certain persons involved in the Litvinenko case who are resident in Britain. Apparently these include Berezovsky and Litvinenko’s widow. The Russian investigators would presumably have also wanted to interview Goldfarb but he is most of the time in the United States. Where I think the Russians are at fault is in not making this more widely known or in also making known suggestions they made to the British to break the impasse in the case, which I understand included a suggestion that Lugovoi and Kovtun be tried in Russia but in a court presided over by a British judge and observing British procedure and law. There are precedents for this but the British rejected the suggestion outright.

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    • Replies: @johnUK
    A quick note on Chechnya.

    6 British terror suspects have been extradited to the US to stand trial half of which have provided support for Chechen terrorists groups including Basayev and Khattabs webmaster Babar Ahmad who ran various recruitment and fund raising websites that included qoqaz.net whose former field commander and qoqaz.net correspondent Masood Al-Benin links to 20th hijacker Moussaoui lead to the pre-9/11 investigation into 9/11 that just the tip of the iceberg regarding Chechen links to 9/11.

    http://www.americansagainsthate.org/MinnaSite.htm

    http://www.investigativeproject.org/case/107

    Do you think RT America or the Russian media will cover the trials?

    "The Russian authorities took the unprecedented though entirely correct step of making available to the international press all the documentation the British authorities provided them in support of the request for Lugovoi’s extradition."

    Where are these documents? If they were made available to the public/press then surely copies would be available online?

    , @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear John,

    To answer your two questions briefly, I have no idea whether RT will cover the trials but of one thing I am sure and that is that the trials in so far as they concern Chechnya and Russia will receive minimal international attention whether RT covers them or not. .

    On the Litvinenko affair, when I said documents I was in error since there is apparently only one document. The entire extradition file that was sent by the British Foreign Office to Russia in support of the demand for Lugovoi's extradition apparently just consists of a brief affidavit by an official of the Crown Prosecution Service that states that in her opinion there is sufficient evidence to charge Lugovoi for Litvinenko's murder. The affidavit has as an attachment a report from a police officer that describes the so called "polonium trail", which is basically a list of places where polonium traces were found, with an attempt to correlate them to Lugovoi's known movements together apparently with a brief discussion of Litvinenko's various publishing activities, which supposedly provide the motive for his killing. Notably absent are any statements from witnesses or the autopsy report. The British refused Russian requests for release of the autopsy report (it has not been released to this day) and rejected Russian requests to interview witnesses including the staff at the bar of the Millenium Hotel where the poisoning is supposed to have taken place.

    I don't know whether this document has been published on the internet - there may be legal reasons why it cannot be - but the Russians have shown it to various journalists including notably one from the New York Post. The Russians also gave details to the same journalist and apparently to other journalists as well of some of the questions they put to the British, which appear to be the origin of some of the lines of enquiry you see mentioned and which you touch on in your earlier comment.

    The New York Post journalist wrote up the details of his visit to Moscow and the details of the document he saw in the extradition file in a lengthy article in the New York Post that appeared about a year ago, which I am sure you can find on the internet somewhere (I can't be bothered to look for it). He also expounded in the same article on his own I thought rather farfetched theory that Litvinenko was involved in some sort of arms smuggling operation. As I remember it the fact that polonium was a material used in triggering devices for first generation atomic bombs featured heavily in this theory.

    Personally I have no fixed views about the Litvinenko affair. I think there is a case to be made against Lugovoi and Kovtun though I don't think it is a particularly strong one. I also think that it is possible but far from proved that if Lugovoi and Kovtun did murder Litvinenko they were doing so on behalf of the Russian state. If that were to turn out to be the case I would not be particularly shocked or upset since it is what powerful governments always do. The US has recently passed a law permitting itself to murder US citizens abroad without trial if they are deemed to pose a threat to national security and in just the last few days the latest James Bond film has opened to enormous acclaim here in London celebrating the fictional feats of a British secret agent who is "licensed to kill". In saying this I want to make it clear that I am not saying that Lugovoi and Kovtun or the FSB or the SVR or the GRU or whatever killed Litvinenko, merely that I would not be especially disturbed or horrified if they did though I would urge them to go about such assassinations in a less complicated and public way in the future.

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  • @Pat Gunn
    Maybe he was be, maybe not; it's a dangerous habit to be in though, as it begins to represent the defense made by one of our senators, Jon Kyl, who made a deeply incorrect statement about a nonprofit in the US, and when fact-checkers called him out on it, his spokesman said that his claim was "not intended to be a factual statement"; in general, if it's not obvious when your claims are sloppy and irresponsible versus "being funny", you should probably not say it. Factuality is a pretty good standard to aspire to, and we don't want to damage the standard by allowing people to slink away from their stupid claims.

    You're right that our political class is not super representative of the American public at large, although that's mostly because most Americans are relatively apolitical, and people affiliated with the smaller parties overestimate the degree to which their views are widely held because they associate mainly with subcultures with those views. It'd be great to have more widely developed views with more intelligence behind them, but we'd need more education for that to work. The standard I'm suggesting is at least moderate motion of roles between people who represent reasonable opposition on a range of issues between each other, and ideally not too much entanglement of media to politics. The US has that. Many western nations do. We can imagine better bars that they might meet, but those bars (which most of them have met) still have value.

    As far as I can tell, there is at least some truth to both of those claims you mention of Russia; state enterprises were sold off without adequate controls in great haste, and there is a worrying centralisation of power in the hands of a few; the political corruption that the late Soviet Union suffered continues in capitalist form. Nothing metaphorically akin to the 9/11 claim though. I would be shocked if Putin did not have immense personal wealth squirreled away somewhere, and if knowing him personally does not open doors to business opportunities. I would have a tough time substantiating these things though, and maybe that's the problem; even if "everyone knows" and if it's true, factchecking is important and circumstantial evidence is not good enough. I try not to depend too much on these things I believe to be true in discussions because I can't prove them. The nature of great power is that it's often invisible, but it's hard to reliably distinguish that from it not being there.

    Al Jazeera did a piece on Putins hidden wealth using wikileaks documents and investigators in Russia.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh_vYB-go-0

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  • @Pat Gunn
    Maybe he was be, maybe not; it's a dangerous habit to be in though, as it begins to represent the defense made by one of our senators, Jon Kyl, who made a deeply incorrect statement about a nonprofit in the US, and when fact-checkers called him out on it, his spokesman said that his claim was "not intended to be a factual statement"; in general, if it's not obvious when your claims are sloppy and irresponsible versus "being funny", you should probably not say it. Factuality is a pretty good standard to aspire to, and we don't want to damage the standard by allowing people to slink away from their stupid claims.

    You're right that our political class is not super representative of the American public at large, although that's mostly because most Americans are relatively apolitical, and people affiliated with the smaller parties overestimate the degree to which their views are widely held because they associate mainly with subcultures with those views. It'd be great to have more widely developed views with more intelligence behind them, but we'd need more education for that to work. The standard I'm suggesting is at least moderate motion of roles between people who represent reasonable opposition on a range of issues between each other, and ideally not too much entanglement of media to politics. The US has that. Many western nations do. We can imagine better bars that they might meet, but those bars (which most of them have met) still have value.

    As far as I can tell, there is at least some truth to both of those claims you mention of Russia; state enterprises were sold off without adequate controls in great haste, and there is a worrying centralisation of power in the hands of a few; the political corruption that the late Soviet Union suffered continues in capitalist form. Nothing metaphorically akin to the 9/11 claim though. I would be shocked if Putin did not have immense personal wealth squirreled away somewhere, and if knowing him personally does not open doors to business opportunities. I would have a tough time substantiating these things though, and maybe that's the problem; even if "everyone knows" and if it's true, factchecking is important and circumstantial evidence is not good enough. I try not to depend too much on these things I believe to be true in discussions because I can't prove them. The nature of great power is that it's often invisible, but it's hard to reliably distinguish that from it not being there.

    Unless Putin is “Mandrake the Magician” then there’s no hidden $40 billion dollar wealth. If he were that wealthy, he would literally be one of the ten richest individuals on the planet! How in hell can you hide THAT much wealth in this high-tech age without there being evidence somewhere? Did Putin dig a hole in the backyard of his home and chuck it all down there for safe-keeping? Forbes magazine could not find this imaginary wealth and they are notorious for finding this sort of thing if it exists. I think it’s another one of those lies that’s taken on a life of its own, because much of the oppositions propaganda was that he was enriching himself and stealing from the Russian people. If Putin does not have this hidden wealth—and this certainly appears to be the case, then that would cause their entire argument to collapse. This is why it prudent to never invest in rumors like this (especially coming from political opponents) without evidence.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear John,

    Like Pat and I think RC I don't see Putin's comment as bellicose at all. Critical certainly but then why should the US be immune from criticism? It's not as if the US doesn't criticise Russia and Putin.

    For the rest I am not sure what you mean when you speak of Russia's "inaction"? Russia defeated Chechen separatism. It faces a continuing and intractable jihadi terrorist threat in the northern Caucasus but is coping with it reasonably well. You can read thoroughly researched articles about it By G, Hahn on Russia other Points of View. We discussed the number of journalists killed in Russia earlier this year on this blog and the numbers outside the conflict zone in the northern Caucasus are in steep decline. Stories about Russian organised crime and the Russia mafia are fantastically exaggerated. Russia is a reliable energy supplier, the gas wars as is now generally admitted being the fault of the disastrous political culture in the Ukraine. Corruption is an intractable problem but one the Russian government takes very seriously. It has just carried out a major police reform and passed further legislation to combat it. Contrary to what is said there is a wide diversity of opinions in the Russian media - debate in the elections to the opposition Coordinating Council were carried by Drozhd TV. On human rights Russia is a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights and is bound by and implements decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. By way of example the European Court of Human Rights only this month found that there had been certain procedural violations in the trial for murder of a Yukos official called Pichugin and awarded him 10,000 euros in compensation.

    What precise "action" do you suggest that Russia take on these questions which it is not already taking? I ask this question because your criticism is one I often hear made to the Russian government. It was on full display again at the recent Valdai Conference for example. All too often it is either made of problems which either do not exist (state control of the media, organised crime) or of problems which are very complex and intractable (corruption, jihadi terrorism) and where a simple and quick solution is not available. In relation to the latter it always seems to me that those who make this kind of criticism rarely provide precise, practical explanations of what they would do differently without which such criticism is unconstructive and cliched. To take just one example, what action do you think Russia should take to combat corruption which would solve the problem and which it is not taking?

    PS: I have not commented on Litvinenko because the case is currently being examined by the Coroner. However given that the Russian Constitution precludes Lugovoi's and Kovtun's extradition to Britain again what exactly is it that you propose Russia should do?

    For the rest I am not sure what you mean when you speak of Russia’s “inaction”?

    I should have stated information offensive inaction where they have made zero effort on every conceivable level on issues regarding Russia and Russian aligned interests especially the Balkans that are all intertwined in post Soviet policy western policy towards and against Russia.

    We are not even given the most basic information like who is promoting and financing western journalistic pieces and information both inside and outside of Russia regarding Russia and their connections?

    What happened to the billions of dollars trafficked out of Russia during the 90’s that includes the YUKO’s/Mentep money laundering network and the western financial and other networks established in Russia during the 90’s especially in 96?

    Don’t even get me started on Chechnya.

    To take just one example, what action do you think Russia should take to combat corruption which would solve the problem and which it is not taking?

    They could start by eliminating a cultural of immunity that lets corruption flourish that if you are aligned with the state and United Russia political party than you are largely immune from prosecution.

    There is also the question as to how independent such bodies like the Russian court system and criminal investigative bodies are from Kremlin influence?

    “PS: I have not commented on Litvinenko because the case is currently being examined by the Coroner. However given that the Russian Constitution precludes Lugovoi’s and Kovtun’s extradition to Britain again what exactly is it that you propose Russia should do?

    It could start by acting like Columbo and start investigating and asking some basic question towards British authorities making it very public PR spectacle holding press conferences just like Berezovsky has done.

    Here are some basic points that Russia should be publically asking that I can think of, of the top of my head.

    -What were Litvenenkos activities prior to his death both travel and contacts as a confirmed MI6 agent including meeting former YUKO shareholder Nevzlin in Israel?

    -Where’s the CCTV footage?

    -Why did Litvenenko initially accuse Scaramelo of the poisoning and why and with what evidence was Lugavoi declared the main suspect?

    -Why were traces of Polonium 210 found in areas including Berezovskys office before the alleged poisoning meeting took place between Litvenenko and Lugavoi?

    This one I am not completely sure is true that’s why I will separate it from the rest.

    -Why did they wait 25 days from Litvenenko’s initial poisoning to contact British police and launch a criminal enquiry?

    In fact come to think of it is there even a coherent timeline of events including that of Berezovsky and co of how Litvenenko was alleged to have been poisoned?

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear John,

    1. Information Offensive Inaction

    On this point we agree. The Russians remain wretched at aggressively arguing their case or rebutting false stories circulated about them. You are completely right for example that they have hardly even bothered to explain themselves over Chechnya. Over the last decade the emergence of RT has minimally improved the situation but the impact is miniscule since in my experience people who watch RT tend to do so not for its Russian coverage but for programmes like the Keiser Report or Assange's interviews that barely touch on Russia at all.

    2. Impunity of persons connected to United Russia

    To be honest I feel that tyour answer here is something of a loaded answer since it assumes (1) corruption on the part of people connected to United Russia and (2) impunity for those people. With some reservations I am going to concede the first though I would say (1) that my personal contacts in the Russian business community make me doubt that corruption is anything like as pervasive as many suppose and (2) that one must be careful not to use unsubstantiated allegations of corruption as a vehicle for a political witch hunt in the way that Navalny for example has been doing.

    Anyway, I am less ready to concede the second. There have been people connected to United Russia who have lost their positions and/or who are being prosecuted for corruption. Only a few days ago a United Russia deputy was stripped of his parliamentary mandate because of his business interests. Perhaps the most notorious recent case of a prominent United Russia politician losing his position and facing prosecution for corruption is that of Yury Luzhkov and his wife. The trouble is that invariably when this happens it is reported not as a corruption case but in purely political terms as a political struggle which the person who has lost his position or is being prosecuted for corruption has lost and in which the prosecution for corruption is simply another political weapon.

    In my opinion this assumption of a political motive is at least in Russia nearly always unwarranted. The result of making it however is that when steps are taken to deal with corruption they are scarcely ever recognised as such. The Khodorkovsky and Luzhkov affairs are perhaps the outstanding examples of this. Another good example this time from China is the Bo Xilai affair. The western media and western China pundits take it for granted that Bo Xilai's fell because he lost a power struggle with Wen Jiabao who, surely not coincidentally, is now also the target of corruption allegations in the New York Times. In fact I have no doubt that Bo Xilai fell for exactly the reason the Chinese authorities and the Chinese media say, which is that he tried to cover up for his wife who murdered a British businessman with whom she had become involved. This would be more than sufficient reason in any western country for the destruction of a prominent politician's career. However because the Bo Xilai affair has happened in China it is reported and understood in a completely different way.

    3. Independence of the Russian judicial system

    Again I have to say that I think this is something of a loaded answer since it rather presupposes that the Russian judicial system is not independent. However do the Russian authorities prove it is independent if it is?

    As I said before Russia is a signatory of the European Convention of Human Rights which means that all Russian court judgments are theoretically subject to review by the European Court of Human Rights, which is not a Russian court or under Russian influence. Unlike in Britain there is no campaign in Russia to withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. In its recent report the World Bank confirmed that Russian courts are as effective in enforcing contracts as courts in western Europe and that Russian taxes are administered in an effective and impartial way (better it seems than in the United States). At the recent Valdai forum a former Russian official who now teaches at the Higher School of Economics again said that the poor state of the Russian legal system is a deterrent to western investment in Russia. However the only case he felt able to cite was the Pussy Riot case, which is not a commercial case involving businesspeople and where as you probably know I believe and the emerging consensus amongst jurists now believes that justice was done.

    3. The Litvinenko Affair

    All the points you have made about the Litvinenko affair have in fact been made by the Russian authorities or by the Russian press. The Russian authorities took the unprecedented though entirely correct step of making available to the international press all the documentation the British authorities provided them in support of the request for Lugovoi's extradition. This exposed how meagre the information provided by the British in support of their request for Lugovoi's extradition was. Many of the points people today make about the Litvinenko affair arise from Russian publication of these documents.

    As for the Russian authorities "acting like Columbo", a point often overlooked is that Russia did try to conduct its own investigation of the Litvinenko case but this ground to a halt when the British authorities withdrew all cooperation from Russian police and security agencies on the grounds that Russia had refused to extradite Lugovoi. This happened after Russian investigators informed the British of their wish to interview certain persons involved in the Litvinenko case who are resident in Britain. Apparently these include Berezovsky and Litvinenko's widow. The Russian investigators would presumably have also wanted to interview Goldfarb but he is most of the time in the United States. Where I think the Russians are at fault is in not making this more widely known or in also making known suggestions they made to the British to break the impasse in the case, which I understand included a suggestion that Lugovoi and Kovtun be tried in Russia but in a court presided over by a British judge and observing British procedure and law. There are precedents for this but the British rejected the suggestion outright.

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  • @Jen
    Dear Alex,

    You can group Australia with the US and UK as a country in which political parties and mainstream news media are out of touch with the range of political opinions among the population. All major political parties in Australia (the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party / National Party coalition, the Green Party) are seen to be out of touch with people's concerns over day-to-day issues like the cost of living, the decline in education and health services, privatisation of services that people believe should remain public (services such as water, electricity) and poor public transport provision; and with public opinion on sending troops to Afghanistan, the levels of refugee intake, and the extent to which the mining industry influences political and economic decision-making.

    Mainstream news reporting on commercial TV stations is limited to local news and sports reporting. Local news reports are limited to whatever happens in one's immediate city or town. I live in New South Wales and if something unusual and newsworthy happens in other Australian states I need to read deep inside Sydney newspapers (as in the middle of The Daily Telegraph where few people venture after the headlines or the sports pages) or even British newspapers online to find out. Most Australians would be aghast to learn for example that male farmers and rural men have some of the highest suicide rates of any group in the country in spite of the huge publicity depression gets in the news here as a mental health issue and the romantic images most Australians tend to have of farming as a relaxing, stress-free occupation and farmers as stoic, hard-working and uncomplaining.

    I've heard the same emphasis on immediate local news reporting and lack of knowledge or interest in whatever goes on in other parts of one's country let alone overseas exists also in the US.

    We get very little news about Russia and Russian politics and what comes is mainly filtered through British news services.

    Dear Jennifer,

    I have actually got to know recently two Australians, one an academic historian and one a lawyer both of whom live in London. They have told me many of the same things that you tell me. I have never visited Australia and I admit that like many British people I had a perhaps overly rosy picture of the country (by which I do not of course mean that it is bad). Anyway they (and you) have put me right.

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  • @Pat Gunn
    Maybe he was be, maybe not; it's a dangerous habit to be in though, as it begins to represent the defense made by one of our senators, Jon Kyl, who made a deeply incorrect statement about a nonprofit in the US, and when fact-checkers called him out on it, his spokesman said that his claim was "not intended to be a factual statement"; in general, if it's not obvious when your claims are sloppy and irresponsible versus "being funny", you should probably not say it. Factuality is a pretty good standard to aspire to, and we don't want to damage the standard by allowing people to slink away from their stupid claims.

    You're right that our political class is not super representative of the American public at large, although that's mostly because most Americans are relatively apolitical, and people affiliated with the smaller parties overestimate the degree to which their views are widely held because they associate mainly with subcultures with those views. It'd be great to have more widely developed views with more intelligence behind them, but we'd need more education for that to work. The standard I'm suggesting is at least moderate motion of roles between people who represent reasonable opposition on a range of issues between each other, and ideally not too much entanglement of media to politics. The US has that. Many western nations do. We can imagine better bars that they might meet, but those bars (which most of them have met) still have value.

    As far as I can tell, there is at least some truth to both of those claims you mention of Russia; state enterprises were sold off without adequate controls in great haste, and there is a worrying centralisation of power in the hands of a few; the political corruption that the late Soviet Union suffered continues in capitalist form. Nothing metaphorically akin to the 9/11 claim though. I would be shocked if Putin did not have immense personal wealth squirreled away somewhere, and if knowing him personally does not open doors to business opportunities. I would have a tough time substantiating these things though, and maybe that's the problem; even if "everyone knows" and if it's true, factchecking is important and circumstantial evidence is not good enough. I try not to depend too much on these things I believe to be true in discussions because I can't prove them. The nature of great power is that it's often invisible, but it's hard to reliably distinguish that from it not being there.

    Dear Pat,

    “…,most Americans are apolitical!.

    ….and so are most Russians. In any country the number of people who take an active interest in politics is small. For the rest there is a much greater diversity of parties representing a much wider range of opinions in Russia than there is in the US and frankly I think the same is true of the Russian press. What Russia does not have as I said before is anything remotely resembling a “reasonable opposition”. I don’t however see how that is the government’s fault. The Russian government comes in for a great deal of criticism, some of it merited but much of it not. If more criticism were addressed to the opposition it might achieve more.

    On the subject of Putin’s immense wealth, I researched the subject in detail about a year ago and came to the conclusion that it doesn’t exist. I don’t understand why that fact would shock you. Even an investigation headed by Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition politician intensely hostile to Putin, appears to have recently concluded that talk of Putin’s muti billion dollar private fortune is exaggerated whilst Stanislav Belkovsky, the Russian opposition politician who first aired the claims about Putin’s multi billion dollar fortune, has now broken with the opposition and appears no longer to be making these claims.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Pat.

    Anatoly will if he wants explain himself but I thought he was simply being funny.

    I would make one brief observation about your thoughtful comments. As I understand your criticism of Russian democracy is that power is over concentrated in its elite.

    Isn't this however a criticism that can be made of many if not most countries that are considered democracies? As an American socialist I am sure you would agree with me that both the political class in Washington and the mainstream US media do not reflect the very great diversity of opinion that exists in the US. There has been a recent devastating analysis of the extent to which the political class in Britain has also become disconnected from the life of the country (Peter Oborne: the Rise of the Political Class). French people that I know tell me that the same is true in France whilst in Italy and Greece last year government changed was engineered externally by the EU when the Italian and Greek Prime Ministers, Berlusconi and Papandreou, balked at carrying out further EU dictated austerity, in Papandreou's case without seeking democratic consent by way of a referendum?

    For the rest I don't think Russian democracy is a "Potemkin village" but I do think it is a matter of concern that there is no obvious alternative to the present government. This is not because of any lack of criticism. On the contrary there is far too much criticism of the wrong sort. Unless you follow Russian political culture closely (which you will do if you continue to read this blog) it is impossible to imagine the sheer vituperative quality of much of what passes in Russia for political debate and criticism. Economic and social policies are rarely discussed a whilst the most monstrous allegations are freely and noisily banded about without the slightest effort at substantiation. Imagine for example a situation where the Republicans in the US made their main election slogan that the Democrats are the "the party of thieves and scoundrels" or where the Democrats publicly said that Bush carried out 9/11 and abused his office to amass a multi billion dollar fortune. In Russia the first was said of the government party United Russia in the 2011 parliamentary elections and the second is regularly said of Putin in relation to the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings and his supposed amassing of personal wealth.

    Needless to say what all this does is drown out real debate and discredit the people who say these sort of things, which is why most Russians don't vote for them. This works to the advantage of the present government and prevents a viable alternative to it from emerging. The problem Russia has is not with its government, which since 2000 has been disciplined and intelligent, but with its opposition, which is neither.

    .

    Maybe he was be, maybe not; it’s a dangerous habit to be in though, as it begins to represent the defense made by one of our senators, Jon Kyl, who made a deeply incorrect statement about a nonprofit in the US, and when fact-checkers called him out on it, his spokesman said that his claim was “not intended to be a factual statement”; in general, if it’s not obvious when your claims are sloppy and irresponsible versus “being funny”, you should probably not say it. Factuality is a pretty good standard to aspire to, and we don’t want to damage the standard by allowing people to slink away from their stupid claims.

    You’re right that our political class is not super representative of the American public at large, although that’s mostly because most Americans are relatively apolitical, and people affiliated with the smaller parties overestimate the degree to which their views are widely held because they associate mainly with subcultures with those views. It’d be great to have more widely developed views with more intelligence behind them, but we’d need more education for that to work. The standard I’m suggesting is at least moderate motion of roles between people who represent reasonable opposition on a range of issues between each other, and ideally not too much entanglement of media to politics. The US has that. Many western nations do. We can imagine better bars that they might meet, but those bars (which most of them have met) still have value.

    As far as I can tell, there is at least some truth to both of those claims you mention of Russia; state enterprises were sold off without adequate controls in great haste, and there is a worrying centralisation of power in the hands of a few; the political corruption that the late Soviet Union suffered continues in capitalist form. Nothing metaphorically akin to the 9/11 claim though. I would be shocked if Putin did not have immense personal wealth squirreled away somewhere, and if knowing him personally does not open doors to business opportunities. I would have a tough time substantiating these things though, and maybe that’s the problem; even if “everyone knows” and if it’s true, factchecking is important and circumstantial evidence is not good enough. I try not to depend too much on these things I believe to be true in discussions because I can’t prove them. The nature of great power is that it’s often invisible, but it’s hard to reliably distinguish that from it not being there.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Pat,

    "...,most Americans are apolitical!.

    ....and so are most Russians. In any country the number of people who take an active interest in politics is small. For the rest there is a much greater diversity of parties representing a much wider range of opinions in Russia than there is in the US and frankly I think the same is true of the Russian press. What Russia does not have as I said before is anything remotely resembling a "reasonable opposition". I don't however see how that is the government's fault. The Russian government comes in for a great deal of criticism, some of it merited but much of it not. If more criticism were addressed to the opposition it might achieve more.

    On the subject of Putin's immense wealth, I researched the subject in detail about a year ago and came to the conclusion that it doesn't exist. I don't understand why that fact would shock you. Even an investigation headed by Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition politician intensely hostile to Putin, appears to have recently concluded that talk of Putin's muti billion dollar private fortune is exaggerated whilst Stanislav Belkovsky, the Russian opposition politician who first aired the claims about Putin's multi billion dollar fortune, has now broken with the opposition and appears no longer to be making these claims.

    , @R.C.
    Unless Putin is "Mandrake the Magician" then there's no hidden $40 billion dollar wealth. If he were that wealthy, he would literally be one of the ten richest individuals on the planet! How in hell can you hide THAT much wealth in this high-tech age without there being evidence somewhere? Did Putin dig a hole in the backyard of his home and chuck it all down there for safe-keeping? Forbes magazine could not find this imaginary wealth and they are notorious for finding this sort of thing if it exists. I think it's another one of those lies that's taken on a life of its own, because much of the oppositions propaganda was that he was enriching himself and stealing from the Russian people. If Putin does not have this hidden wealth---and this certainly appears to be the case, then that would cause their entire argument to collapse. This is why it prudent to never invest in rumors like this (especially coming from political opponents) without evidence.
    , @johnUK
    @R.C.

    Al Jazeera did a piece on Putins hidden wealth using wikileaks documents and investigators in Russia.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh_vYB-go-0

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Pat.

    Anatoly will if he wants explain himself but I thought he was simply being funny.

    I would make one brief observation about your thoughtful comments. As I understand your criticism of Russian democracy is that power is over concentrated in its elite.

    Isn't this however a criticism that can be made of many if not most countries that are considered democracies? As an American socialist I am sure you would agree with me that both the political class in Washington and the mainstream US media do not reflect the very great diversity of opinion that exists in the US. There has been a recent devastating analysis of the extent to which the political class in Britain has also become disconnected from the life of the country (Peter Oborne: the Rise of the Political Class). French people that I know tell me that the same is true in France whilst in Italy and Greece last year government changed was engineered externally by the EU when the Italian and Greek Prime Ministers, Berlusconi and Papandreou, balked at carrying out further EU dictated austerity, in Papandreou's case without seeking democratic consent by way of a referendum?

    For the rest I don't think Russian democracy is a "Potemkin village" but I do think it is a matter of concern that there is no obvious alternative to the present government. This is not because of any lack of criticism. On the contrary there is far too much criticism of the wrong sort. Unless you follow Russian political culture closely (which you will do if you continue to read this blog) it is impossible to imagine the sheer vituperative quality of much of what passes in Russia for political debate and criticism. Economic and social policies are rarely discussed a whilst the most monstrous allegations are freely and noisily banded about without the slightest effort at substantiation. Imagine for example a situation where the Republicans in the US made their main election slogan that the Democrats are the "the party of thieves and scoundrels" or where the Democrats publicly said that Bush carried out 9/11 and abused his office to amass a multi billion dollar fortune. In Russia the first was said of the government party United Russia in the 2011 parliamentary elections and the second is regularly said of Putin in relation to the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings and his supposed amassing of personal wealth.

    Needless to say what all this does is drown out real debate and discredit the people who say these sort of things, which is why most Russians don't vote for them. This works to the advantage of the present government and prevents a viable alternative to it from emerging. The problem Russia has is not with its government, which since 2000 has been disciplined and intelligent, but with its opposition, which is neither.

    .

    Dear Alex,

    You can group Australia with the US and UK as a country in which political parties and mainstream news media are out of touch with the range of political opinions among the population. All major political parties in Australia (the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party / National Party coalition, the Green Party) are seen to be out of touch with people’s concerns over day-to-day issues like the cost of living, the decline in education and health services, privatisation of services that people believe should remain public (services such as water, electricity) and poor public transport provision; and with public opinion on sending troops to Afghanistan, the levels of refugee intake, and the extent to which the mining industry influences political and economic decision-making.

    Mainstream news reporting on commercial TV stations is limited to local news and sports reporting. Local news reports are limited to whatever happens in one’s immediate city or town. I live in New South Wales and if something unusual and newsworthy happens in other Australian states I need to read deep inside Sydney newspapers (as in the middle of The Daily Telegraph where few people venture after the headlines or the sports pages) or even British newspapers online to find out. Most Australians would be aghast to learn for example that male farmers and rural men have some of the highest suicide rates of any group in the country in spite of the huge publicity depression gets in the news here as a mental health issue and the romantic images most Australians tend to have of farming as a relaxing, stress-free occupation and farmers as stoic, hard-working and uncomplaining.

    I’ve heard the same emphasis on immediate local news reporting and lack of knowledge or interest in whatever goes on in other parts of one’s country let alone overseas exists also in the US.

    We get very little news about Russia and Russian politics and what comes is mainly filtered through British news services.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Jennifer,

    I have actually got to know recently two Australians, one an academic historian and one a lawyer both of whom live in London. They have told me many of the same things that you tell me. I have never visited Australia and I admit that like many British people I had a perhaps overly rosy picture of the country (by which I do not of course mean that it is bad). Anyway they (and you) have put me right.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @AP
    A thoughtful comment. A note: although the post-2000 Russian government has been far more effective and better than the one that preceded it, I wouldn't idolize the extent to which it has been disciplined and intelligent; there is still much horrible corruption.

    Dear AP,

    Thank you and I take your point. Of course there is corruption and I am not idolising the Russian government. It would surely be more intelligent and more disciplined and more effective if it was faced by an intelligent and credible opposition. As it is, precisely because there is no such intelligent and credible opposition such debate about policy as takes place in Russia all too often happens within the government itself, which of course makes for indiscipline and incoherence.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Pat.

    Anatoly will if he wants explain himself but I thought he was simply being funny.

    I would make one brief observation about your thoughtful comments. As I understand your criticism of Russian democracy is that power is over concentrated in its elite.

    Isn't this however a criticism that can be made of many if not most countries that are considered democracies? As an American socialist I am sure you would agree with me that both the political class in Washington and the mainstream US media do not reflect the very great diversity of opinion that exists in the US. There has been a recent devastating analysis of the extent to which the political class in Britain has also become disconnected from the life of the country (Peter Oborne: the Rise of the Political Class). French people that I know tell me that the same is true in France whilst in Italy and Greece last year government changed was engineered externally by the EU when the Italian and Greek Prime Ministers, Berlusconi and Papandreou, balked at carrying out further EU dictated austerity, in Papandreou's case without seeking democratic consent by way of a referendum?

    For the rest I don't think Russian democracy is a "Potemkin village" but I do think it is a matter of concern that there is no obvious alternative to the present government. This is not because of any lack of criticism. On the contrary there is far too much criticism of the wrong sort. Unless you follow Russian political culture closely (which you will do if you continue to read this blog) it is impossible to imagine the sheer vituperative quality of much of what passes in Russia for political debate and criticism. Economic and social policies are rarely discussed a whilst the most monstrous allegations are freely and noisily banded about without the slightest effort at substantiation. Imagine for example a situation where the Republicans in the US made their main election slogan that the Democrats are the "the party of thieves and scoundrels" or where the Democrats publicly said that Bush carried out 9/11 and abused his office to amass a multi billion dollar fortune. In Russia the first was said of the government party United Russia in the 2011 parliamentary elections and the second is regularly said of Putin in relation to the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings and his supposed amassing of personal wealth.

    Needless to say what all this does is drown out real debate and discredit the people who say these sort of things, which is why most Russians don't vote for them. This works to the advantage of the present government and prevents a viable alternative to it from emerging. The problem Russia has is not with its government, which since 2000 has been disciplined and intelligent, but with its opposition, which is neither.

    .

    A thoughtful comment. A note: although the post-2000 Russian government has been far more effective and better than the one that preceded it, I wouldn’t idolize the extent to which it has been disciplined and intelligent; there is still much horrible corruption.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear AP,

    Thank you and I take your point. Of course there is corruption and I am not idolising the Russian government. It would surely be more intelligent and more disciplined and more effective if it was faced by an intelligent and credible opposition. As it is, precisely because there is no such intelligent and credible opposition such debate about policy as takes place in Russia all too often happens within the government itself, which of course makes for indiscipline and incoherence.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Pat Gunn
    I hope the community here, including our generous host, are living up to the same standards they suggest of those who would criticise, rather than attempting to simply be a counterbalance to what they (rightly or wrongly) see as sloppy thining on the other side of however they define themselves. If, for example, AK can't substantiate his recent claims on twitter that the justices who sentenced Berlusconi to prison for tax fraud, I would hope he'd withdraw that claim with an apology to the community; identifying some "bad guy" and trying to always take the opposite side of that is a pretty lousy way to think about these things, and I get the feeling that AK's chosen ideal of offering contrarian analysis sometimes (not always; he's sometimes insightful) strays into that territory.

    Dear Pat.

    Anatoly will if he wants explain himself but I thought he was simply being funny.

    I would make one brief observation about your thoughtful comments. As I understand your criticism of Russian democracy is that power is over concentrated in its elite.

    Isn’t this however a criticism that can be made of many if not most countries that are considered democracies? As an American socialist I am sure you would agree with me that both the political class in Washington and the mainstream US media do not reflect the very great diversity of opinion that exists in the US. There has been a recent devastating analysis of the extent to which the political class in Britain has also become disconnected from the life of the country (Peter Oborne: the Rise of the Political Class). French people that I know tell me that the same is true in France whilst in Italy and Greece last year government changed was engineered externally by the EU when the Italian and Greek Prime Ministers, Berlusconi and Papandreou, balked at carrying out further EU dictated austerity, in Papandreou’s case without seeking democratic consent by way of a referendum?

    For the rest I don’t think Russian democracy is a “Potemkin village” but I do think it is a matter of concern that there is no obvious alternative to the present government. This is not because of any lack of criticism. On the contrary there is far too much criticism of the wrong sort. Unless you follow Russian political culture closely (which you will do if you continue to read this blog) it is impossible to imagine the sheer vituperative quality of much of what passes in Russia for political debate and criticism. Economic and social policies are rarely discussed a whilst the most monstrous allegations are freely and noisily banded about without the slightest effort at substantiation. Imagine for example a situation where the Republicans in the US made their main election slogan that the Democrats are the “the party of thieves and scoundrels” or where the Democrats publicly said that Bush carried out 9/11 and abused his office to amass a multi billion dollar fortune. In Russia the first was said of the government party United Russia in the 2011 parliamentary elections and the second is regularly said of Putin in relation to the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings and his supposed amassing of personal wealth.

    Needless to say what all this does is drown out real debate and discredit the people who say these sort of things, which is why most Russians don’t vote for them. This works to the advantage of the present government and prevents a viable alternative to it from emerging. The problem Russia has is not with its government, which since 2000 has been disciplined and intelligent, but with its opposition, which is neither.

    .

    Read More
    • Replies: @AP
    A thoughtful comment. A note: although the post-2000 Russian government has been far more effective and better than the one that preceded it, I wouldn't idolize the extent to which it has been disciplined and intelligent; there is still much horrible corruption.
    , @Jen
    Dear Alex,

    You can group Australia with the US and UK as a country in which political parties and mainstream news media are out of touch with the range of political opinions among the population. All major political parties in Australia (the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party / National Party coalition, the Green Party) are seen to be out of touch with people's concerns over day-to-day issues like the cost of living, the decline in education and health services, privatisation of services that people believe should remain public (services such as water, electricity) and poor public transport provision; and with public opinion on sending troops to Afghanistan, the levels of refugee intake, and the extent to which the mining industry influences political and economic decision-making.

    Mainstream news reporting on commercial TV stations is limited to local news and sports reporting. Local news reports are limited to whatever happens in one's immediate city or town. I live in New South Wales and if something unusual and newsworthy happens in other Australian states I need to read deep inside Sydney newspapers (as in the middle of The Daily Telegraph where few people venture after the headlines or the sports pages) or even British newspapers online to find out. Most Australians would be aghast to learn for example that male farmers and rural men have some of the highest suicide rates of any group in the country in spite of the huge publicity depression gets in the news here as a mental health issue and the romantic images most Australians tend to have of farming as a relaxing, stress-free occupation and farmers as stoic, hard-working and uncomplaining.

    I've heard the same emphasis on immediate local news reporting and lack of knowledge or interest in whatever goes on in other parts of one's country let alone overseas exists also in the US.

    We get very little news about Russia and Russian politics and what comes is mainly filtered through British news services.

    , @Pat Gunn
    Maybe he was be, maybe not; it's a dangerous habit to be in though, as it begins to represent the defense made by one of our senators, Jon Kyl, who made a deeply incorrect statement about a nonprofit in the US, and when fact-checkers called him out on it, his spokesman said that his claim was "not intended to be a factual statement"; in general, if it's not obvious when your claims are sloppy and irresponsible versus "being funny", you should probably not say it. Factuality is a pretty good standard to aspire to, and we don't want to damage the standard by allowing people to slink away from their stupid claims.

    You're right that our political class is not super representative of the American public at large, although that's mostly because most Americans are relatively apolitical, and people affiliated with the smaller parties overestimate the degree to which their views are widely held because they associate mainly with subcultures with those views. It'd be great to have more widely developed views with more intelligence behind them, but we'd need more education for that to work. The standard I'm suggesting is at least moderate motion of roles between people who represent reasonable opposition on a range of issues between each other, and ideally not too much entanglement of media to politics. The US has that. Many western nations do. We can imagine better bars that they might meet, but those bars (which most of them have met) still have value.

    As far as I can tell, there is at least some truth to both of those claims you mention of Russia; state enterprises were sold off without adequate controls in great haste, and there is a worrying centralisation of power in the hands of a few; the political corruption that the late Soviet Union suffered continues in capitalist form. Nothing metaphorically akin to the 9/11 claim though. I would be shocked if Putin did not have immense personal wealth squirreled away somewhere, and if knowing him personally does not open doors to business opportunities. I would have a tough time substantiating these things though, and maybe that's the problem; even if "everyone knows" and if it's true, factchecking is important and circumstantial evidence is not good enough. I try not to depend too much on these things I believe to be true in discussions because I can't prove them. The nature of great power is that it's often invisible, but it's hard to reliably distinguish that from it not being there.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @R.C.
    It's simple: There will not be any meanigful "cooperation" with Russia until Putin (or someone else) turns it into a client state. Besides, the US needs "enemies" to justify the obscene amounts of money it spends on their bloated military presently garrisoning (so tell me again WHY they need a missile shield around Russia?) up the planet, so Putin with his so-called "bellicose" (sounds to me like he plainly told the truth) statements serves as an excuse (one of many). The same program goes for Venezuela, Iran, Ecuador & any other country who believes it should have its own independence on the global stage. The words "cooperation" means "roll over and do not as we do, but what we tell you to do." Putin has said in the past that he has no problem dealing with the US as long as it's one of mutual respect--- but they're not interested in that. I'm an American and live around this "everyone must bow to us" mentality pimped daily throughout the media discourse in this country.

    Dear John,

    Like Pat and I think RC I don’t see Putin’s comment as bellicose at all. Critical certainly but then why should the US be immune from criticism? It’s not as if the US doesn’t criticise Russia and Putin.

    For the rest I am not sure what you mean when you speak of Russia’s “inaction”? Russia defeated Chechen separatism. It faces a continuing and intractable jihadi terrorist threat in the northern Caucasus but is coping with it reasonably well. You can read thoroughly researched articles about it By G, Hahn on Russia other Points of View. We discussed the number of journalists killed in Russia earlier this year on this blog and the numbers outside the conflict zone in the northern Caucasus are in steep decline. Stories about Russian organised crime and the Russia mafia are fantastically exaggerated. Russia is a reliable energy supplier, the gas wars as is now generally admitted being the fault of the disastrous political culture in the Ukraine. Corruption is an intractable problem but one the Russian government takes very seriously. It has just carried out a major police reform and passed further legislation to combat it. Contrary to what is said there is a wide diversity of opinions in the Russian media – debate in the elections to the opposition Coordinating Council were carried by Drozhd TV. On human rights Russia is a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights and is bound by and implements decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. By way of example the European Court of Human Rights only this month found that there had been certain procedural violations in the trial for murder of a Yukos official called Pichugin and awarded him 10,000 euros in compensation.

    What precise “action” do you suggest that Russia take on these questions which it is not already taking? I ask this question because your criticism is one I often hear made to the Russian government. It was on full display again at the recent Valdai Conference for example. All too often it is either made of problems which either do not exist (state control of the media, organised crime) or of problems which are very complex and intractable (corruption, jihadi terrorism) and where a simple and quick solution is not available. In relation to the latter it always seems to me that those who make this kind of criticism rarely provide precise, practical explanations of what they would do differently without which such criticism is unconstructive and cliched. To take just one example, what action do you think Russia should take to combat corruption which would solve the problem and which it is not taking?

    PS: I have not commented on Litvinenko because the case is currently being examined by the Coroner. However given that the Russian Constitution precludes Lugovoi’s and Kovtun’s extradition to Britain again what exactly is it that you propose Russia should do?

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    • Replies: @johnUK
    For the rest I am not sure what you mean when you speak of Russia’s “inaction”?

    I should have stated information offensive inaction where they have made zero effort on every conceivable level on issues regarding Russia and Russian aligned interests especially the Balkans that are all intertwined in post Soviet policy western policy towards and against Russia.

    We are not even given the most basic information like who is promoting and financing western journalistic pieces and information both inside and outside of Russia regarding Russia and their connections?

    What happened to the billions of dollars trafficked out of Russia during the 90’s that includes the YUKO’s/Mentep money laundering network and the western financial and other networks established in Russia during the 90’s especially in 96?

    Don’t even get me started on Chechnya.

    To take just one example, what action do you think Russia should take to combat corruption which would solve the problem and which it is not taking?

    They could start by eliminating a cultural of immunity that lets corruption flourish that if you are aligned with the state and United Russia political party than you are largely immune from prosecution.

    There is also the question as to how independent such bodies like the Russian court system and criminal investigative bodies are from Kremlin influence?

    “PS: I have not commented on Litvinenko because the case is currently being examined by the Coroner. However given that the Russian Constitution precludes Lugovoi’s and Kovtun’s extradition to Britain again what exactly is it that you propose Russia should do?

    It could start by acting like Columbo and start investigating and asking some basic question towards British authorities making it very public PR spectacle holding press conferences just like Berezovsky has done.

    Here are some basic points that Russia should be publically asking that I can think of, of the top of my head.

    -What were Litvenenkos activities prior to his death both travel and contacts as a confirmed MI6 agent including meeting former YUKO shareholder Nevzlin in Israel?

    -Where’s the CCTV footage?

    -Why did Litvenenko initially accuse Scaramelo of the poisoning and why and with what evidence was Lugavoi declared the main suspect?

    -Why were traces of Polonium 210 found in areas including Berezovskys office before the alleged poisoning meeting took place between Litvenenko and Lugavoi?

    This one I am not completely sure is true that’s why I will separate it from the rest.

    -Why did they wait 25 days from Litvenenko’s initial poisoning to contact British police and launch a criminal enquiry?

    In fact come to think of it is there even a coherent timeline of events including that of Berezovsky and co of how Litvenenko was alleged to have been poisoned?

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Scowspi
    Pat - Certainly there's room for that. My impression (based on living in Russia for the last several years) is that people support the "conservative status quo" because their lives have gotten better in material terms, and because the collapse of Russia was stopped and partially reversed. That's a lot to be grateful for, considering how bad things used to be. In short, nothing irrational about their support.

    That said, there remains a lot of criticism and indeed cynicism under the surface regarding persistent problems there. Nothing wrong with speaking up, but it should be based on reality, not rumors, prejudices, or lazy assumptions.

    I hope the community here, including our generous host, are living up to the same standards they suggest of those who would criticise, rather than attempting to simply be a counterbalance to what they (rightly or wrongly) see as sloppy thining on the other side of however they define themselves. If, for example, AK can’t substantiate his recent claims on twitter that the justices who sentenced Berlusconi to prison for tax fraud, I would hope he’d withdraw that claim with an apology to the community; identifying some “bad guy” and trying to always take the opposite side of that is a pretty lousy way to think about these things, and I get the feeling that AK’s chosen ideal of offering contrarian analysis sometimes (not always; he’s sometimes insightful) strays into that territory.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Pat.

    Anatoly will if he wants explain himself but I thought he was simply being funny.

    I would make one brief observation about your thoughtful comments. As I understand your criticism of Russian democracy is that power is over concentrated in its elite.

    Isn't this however a criticism that can be made of many if not most countries that are considered democracies? As an American socialist I am sure you would agree with me that both the political class in Washington and the mainstream US media do not reflect the very great diversity of opinion that exists in the US. There has been a recent devastating analysis of the extent to which the political class in Britain has also become disconnected from the life of the country (Peter Oborne: the Rise of the Political Class). French people that I know tell me that the same is true in France whilst in Italy and Greece last year government changed was engineered externally by the EU when the Italian and Greek Prime Ministers, Berlusconi and Papandreou, balked at carrying out further EU dictated austerity, in Papandreou's case without seeking democratic consent by way of a referendum?

    For the rest I don't think Russian democracy is a "Potemkin village" but I do think it is a matter of concern that there is no obvious alternative to the present government. This is not because of any lack of criticism. On the contrary there is far too much criticism of the wrong sort. Unless you follow Russian political culture closely (which you will do if you continue to read this blog) it is impossible to imagine the sheer vituperative quality of much of what passes in Russia for political debate and criticism. Economic and social policies are rarely discussed a whilst the most monstrous allegations are freely and noisily banded about without the slightest effort at substantiation. Imagine for example a situation where the Republicans in the US made their main election slogan that the Democrats are the "the party of thieves and scoundrels" or where the Democrats publicly said that Bush carried out 9/11 and abused his office to amass a multi billion dollar fortune. In Russia the first was said of the government party United Russia in the 2011 parliamentary elections and the second is regularly said of Putin in relation to the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings and his supposed amassing of personal wealth.

    Needless to say what all this does is drown out real debate and discredit the people who say these sort of things, which is why most Russians don't vote for them. This works to the advantage of the present government and prevents a viable alternative to it from emerging. The problem Russia has is not with its government, which since 2000 has been disciplined and intelligent, but with its opposition, which is neither.

    .

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Pat Gunn
    Is there room in your analysis for legitimate criticism/deep unhappiness? I get the impression that you're saying that people naturally support the conservative status quo there and if they speak up there must be something wrong with them.

    Pat – Certainly there’s room for that. My impression (based on living in Russia for the last several years) is that people support the “conservative status quo” because their lives have gotten better in material terms, and because the collapse of Russia was stopped and partially reversed. That’s a lot to be grateful for, considering how bad things used to be. In short, nothing irrational about their support.

    That said, there remains a lot of criticism and indeed cynicism under the surface regarding persistent problems there. Nothing wrong with speaking up, but it should be based on reality, not rumors, prejudices, or lazy assumptions.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Pat Gunn
    I hope the community here, including our generous host, are living up to the same standards they suggest of those who would criticise, rather than attempting to simply be a counterbalance to what they (rightly or wrongly) see as sloppy thining on the other side of however they define themselves. If, for example, AK can't substantiate his recent claims on twitter that the justices who sentenced Berlusconi to prison for tax fraud, I would hope he'd withdraw that claim with an apology to the community; identifying some "bad guy" and trying to always take the opposite side of that is a pretty lousy way to think about these things, and I get the feeling that AK's chosen ideal of offering contrarian analysis sometimes (not always; he's sometimes insightful) strays into that territory.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Janet
    Like others have mentioned, I read the Western Press RE: Russia and it's all the same propaganda: Putin evil, Orthodox Church corrupt, Russian police corrupt, Putin billionaire, Russian infrastructure rotting, demographic crisis, Poland about to be invaded, Stalin worse than Hitler, Gazprom monopoly, Chechen genocide, brain drain, etc. etc. etc.

    My simple question is are the reporters or editors behind the stories agents of Western government's or are they themselves crazy Russophobes.

    Here's what I think (I follow Russia a lot):

    Are Western agents: Miriam Elder, Luke Harding, Nikolaus Von Twickel, Simon Shuster

    Have a screw loose: Edward Lucas, David Satter, Michael Weiss (who I know personally growing up Queens, NY), Paul Goble, Jennifer Rubin, Ariel Cohen, Brian Whitmore, Robert Coalson, Leon Aron, Vladimir Socor and everyone at the Jamestown Foundation

    Russian Russophobes like Kasparov, Golts, and Nemtsov would be categorized differently. I guess people like Kasparov have a screw loose, people like Golts are either self-hating or doing it for the money, and people like Nemtsov are doing it so they can steal more from Russia than they did in the 90s. Of course, among the Russian opposition (not really opposition -- they are supported by 2%, but you know what I mean), there are those who might be double-agents. I have my guesses about who's who there.

    It's interesting to wonder imho.

    Is there room in your analysis for legitimate criticism/deep unhappiness? I get the impression that you’re saying that people naturally support the conservative status quo there and if they speak up there must be something wrong with them.

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    • Replies: @Scowspi
    Pat - Certainly there's room for that. My impression (based on living in Russia for the last several years) is that people support the "conservative status quo" because their lives have gotten better in material terms, and because the collapse of Russia was stopped and partially reversed. That's a lot to be grateful for, considering how bad things used to be. In short, nothing irrational about their support.

    That said, there remains a lot of criticism and indeed cynicism under the surface regarding persistent problems there. Nothing wrong with speaking up, but it should be based on reality, not rumors, prejudices, or lazy assumptions.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Some very interesting ideas there, Alex.

    I do not claim to have an answer. Your theory is about as good as it gets. And very good point re-China, though I would say that it's definitely in the demonized category too.

    If I had to estimate a list of how much perceptions misalign with reality (aka Demonization Index), I'd say:

    1. Russia - a mediocre democracy, certainly not worse than Turkey's, which is painted as a neo-Stainist Mordor.
    2. Venezuela - a good democracy in which Chavez is painted as a dictator.
    3. Iran - nasty government but far from exceptionally so by ME standards.
    4. China - nasty government but far from the tyranny it is claimed to be, plus lots of other MSM lies about it.
    5. Ecuador/Bolivia - mitigated by fact that lefties like them, only crazy neocons hate them too.

    Being a bit more embedded in American culture and having (probably) seen more of the country than you have, I’d probably say that you’re mostly right on American perceptions and media portrayal of China. American perceptions of Russia have, as far as I can tell, an age gap; people who reached adulthood retain an irrational dislike of Russia, while those who are younger didn’t get much of the propoganda and are fairly neutral towards it. Media portrayal of Russia is generally cursory at the level most Americans are exposed to, while lightweight political magazines are moderately hostile. Most Americans I’ve met have large misconceptions of Iran, and the media rarely go into specifics of their political system unless there’s a crisis going on. It has been exceptionally rare that I’ve spoken with anyone who has an opinion on Bolivia or Ecuador or read any commentary on them; most Americans probably are unaware that they are even countries.

    My analysis of Russia is that its democracy is little more than a Potemkin village; it has the formal institutions needed for democracy, but neither civil society nor news media nor the party system are healthy enough for it to manage regular transitions of power. There is too much power in the hands of a few collaborating parties for the democratic form to be realised. Until it develops enough strong inner criticism and has some transfers of power between opposing parties, it will be in the shadowland between democracy and oligarchy.

    We probably mostly agree on China, although I don’t see it as being particularly nasty (although definitely not democratic). I confess a bias here; I’m an American socialist (of the Eduard Bernstein flavour who also likes some Menshevik/Trudovik thinkers), and the relative lack of concentration of power in China, compared to Russia, balances against Russia’s pro forma democracy in my eyes.

    I probably see Iran as being much better than you do; their democracy is healthier than Russia’s (by no means perfect), and while there is political repression over views, the people seem remarkably and laudably willing to express themselves anyhow and face the consenquences. The Iranians I’ve met who are travelling outside their country have been likewise very frank and fearless with their views, and stunningly well-read. Iranian society and government is something I find deeply fascinating for that reason.

    I am highly critical of Chavez; not of everything he’s done (I don’t mind the nationalisation of industry or the dismantling of privileges for the very wealthy), but rather because he appears to be trying to build a cult of personality; that in my eyes is an unforgivable sin in a politician. I would like to see Chavez go, but ideally replaced with another socialist who has a much smaller ego who will continue the socialist experiment there.

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  • @Pat Gunn
    I don't see that statement as particularly bellicose; it is an attempt to whitewash, by pretending all criticism of Russia is about power (rather than ideals), but his comment about the interventionism of the west should inspire further discussion rather than dismissal; specifically we'd want to separate foreign intervention that's self-serving from intervention that is not.

    And it's at least a more intelligent (albeit not to the level required to really discuss the matters fully) statement than what we typically see from American politicians; a fair subset of Americans and their politicians have a "good guy vs bad guy" mentality, or a "friends vs enemies" one, and unfortunately see Russia as being an enemy because their worldview doesn't work without an enemy. Small kudos to Putin for having a higher bar of political discourse, and it'd be nice if he'd take it the rest of the way to being fair and deep enough to be adequate.

    It’s simple: There will not be any meanigful “cooperation” with Russia until Putin (or someone else) turns it into a client state. Besides, the US needs “enemies” to justify the obscene amounts of money it spends on their bloated military presently garrisoning (so tell me again WHY they need a missile shield around Russia?) up the planet, so Putin with his so-called “bellicose” (sounds to me like he plainly told the truth) statements serves as an excuse (one of many). The same program goes for Venezuela, Iran, Ecuador & any other country who believes it should have its own independence on the global stage. The words “cooperation” means “roll over and do not as we do, but what we tell you to do.” Putin has said in the past that he has no problem dealing with the US as long as it’s one of mutual respect— but they’re not interested in that. I’m an American and live around this “everyone must bow to us” mentality pimped daily throughout the media discourse in this country.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear John,

    Like Pat and I think RC I don't see Putin's comment as bellicose at all. Critical certainly but then why should the US be immune from criticism? It's not as if the US doesn't criticise Russia and Putin.

    For the rest I am not sure what you mean when you speak of Russia's "inaction"? Russia defeated Chechen separatism. It faces a continuing and intractable jihadi terrorist threat in the northern Caucasus but is coping with it reasonably well. You can read thoroughly researched articles about it By G, Hahn on Russia other Points of View. We discussed the number of journalists killed in Russia earlier this year on this blog and the numbers outside the conflict zone in the northern Caucasus are in steep decline. Stories about Russian organised crime and the Russia mafia are fantastically exaggerated. Russia is a reliable energy supplier, the gas wars as is now generally admitted being the fault of the disastrous political culture in the Ukraine. Corruption is an intractable problem but one the Russian government takes very seriously. It has just carried out a major police reform and passed further legislation to combat it. Contrary to what is said there is a wide diversity of opinions in the Russian media - debate in the elections to the opposition Coordinating Council were carried by Drozhd TV. On human rights Russia is a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights and is bound by and implements decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. By way of example the European Court of Human Rights only this month found that there had been certain procedural violations in the trial for murder of a Yukos official called Pichugin and awarded him 10,000 euros in compensation.

    What precise "action" do you suggest that Russia take on these questions which it is not already taking? I ask this question because your criticism is one I often hear made to the Russian government. It was on full display again at the recent Valdai Conference for example. All too often it is either made of problems which either do not exist (state control of the media, organised crime) or of problems which are very complex and intractable (corruption, jihadi terrorism) and where a simple and quick solution is not available. In relation to the latter it always seems to me that those who make this kind of criticism rarely provide precise, practical explanations of what they would do differently without which such criticism is unconstructive and cliched. To take just one example, what action do you think Russia should take to combat corruption which would solve the problem and which it is not taking?

    PS: I have not commented on Litvinenko because the case is currently being examined by the Coroner. However given that the Russian Constitution precludes Lugovoi's and Kovtun's extradition to Britain again what exactly is it that you propose Russia should do?

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  • @johnUK
    Frankly I think Russia's own inaction when dealing with situations whether it be war in Chechnya, journalists killed, organised crime and corruption, state influence in media and politics, reliable energy supplier, human rights and the Litvenenko affair among other things and some of Putin’s bellicose statements towards the US is a big factor against any meaningful cooperation with Russia and the US.

    "Our Western friends seem to think that war is the key to saving their economy. When their constant thirst for war is what is partially wrong with their economy, the other part is they have outsourced almost their entire economy and industry out to foreign powers. They wish to sit like a Queen and rule the world and desire to live up on a pedestal from reality, Russia does not bow down and kiss the feet of anyone or country and certainly not to a country that sits knee deep in blood of children from Countries that can not defend themselves. So to answer your question, No Russia does not want to be like America, we are going to be like Russia."

    ~ Vladimir Putin, 10/13/2012

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1hLtFn4CLU

    I don’t see that statement as particularly bellicose; it is an attempt to whitewash, by pretending all criticism of Russia is about power (rather than ideals), but his comment about the interventionism of the west should inspire further discussion rather than dismissal; specifically we’d want to separate foreign intervention that’s self-serving from intervention that is not.

    And it’s at least a more intelligent (albeit not to the level required to really discuss the matters fully) statement than what we typically see from American politicians; a fair subset of Americans and their politicians have a “good guy vs bad guy” mentality, or a “friends vs enemies” one, and unfortunately see Russia as being an enemy because their worldview doesn’t work without an enemy. Small kudos to Putin for having a higher bar of political discourse, and it’d be nice if he’d take it the rest of the way to being fair and deep enough to be adequate.

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    • Replies: @R.C.
    It's simple: There will not be any meanigful "cooperation" with Russia until Putin (or someone else) turns it into a client state. Besides, the US needs "enemies" to justify the obscene amounts of money it spends on their bloated military presently garrisoning (so tell me again WHY they need a missile shield around Russia?) up the planet, so Putin with his so-called "bellicose" (sounds to me like he plainly told the truth) statements serves as an excuse (one of many). The same program goes for Venezuela, Iran, Ecuador & any other country who believes it should have its own independence on the global stage. The words "cooperation" means "roll over and do not as we do, but what we tell you to do." Putin has said in the past that he has no problem dealing with the US as long as it's one of mutual respect--- but they're not interested in that. I'm an American and live around this "everyone must bow to us" mentality pimped daily throughout the media discourse in this country.
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  • Frankly I think Russia’s own inaction when dealing with situations whether it be war in Chechnya, journalists killed, organised crime and corruption, state influence in media and politics, reliable energy supplier, human rights and the Litvenenko affair among other things and some of Putin’s bellicose statements towards the US is a big factor against any meaningful cooperation with Russia and the US.

    “Our Western friends seem to think that war is the key to saving their economy. When their constant thirst for war is what is partially wrong with their economy, the other part is they have outsourced almost their entire economy and industry out to foreign powers. They wish to sit like a Queen and rule the world and desire to live up on a pedestal from reality, Russia does not bow down and kiss the feet of anyone or country and certainly not to a country that sits knee deep in blood of children from Countries that can not defend themselves. So to answer your question, No Russia does not want to be like America, we are going to be like Russia.”

    ~ Vladimir Putin, 10/13/2012

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1hLtFn4CLU

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    • Replies: @Pat Gunn
    I don't see that statement as particularly bellicose; it is an attempt to whitewash, by pretending all criticism of Russia is about power (rather than ideals), but his comment about the interventionism of the west should inspire further discussion rather than dismissal; specifically we'd want to separate foreign intervention that's self-serving from intervention that is not.

    And it's at least a more intelligent (albeit not to the level required to really discuss the matters fully) statement than what we typically see from American politicians; a fair subset of Americans and their politicians have a "good guy vs bad guy" mentality, or a "friends vs enemies" one, and unfortunately see Russia as being an enemy because their worldview doesn't work without an enemy. Small kudos to Putin for having a higher bar of political discourse, and it'd be nice if he'd take it the rest of the way to being fair and deep enough to be adequate.

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  • Journeyman pictures posted a documentary on Edward Lozansky during the USSR that actually looks pretty old from the early 90′s or 80′s.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkJftblAnMo

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  • @AP
    We,, Russian liberals are often intelligent, know Russia quite well, (obviously) speak the language and have traveled all overit. Many of them don't hate Russia, but they have a very pessimistic view of Putin and of Russia's future. Perhaps your friend was in their circles.

    That should have been “well”, not “we,,” in the comment above. I am not a Russian liberal, alhough I am close to some of them.

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  • @Scowspi
    When I was still in Moscow, I knew a correspondent for a prominent Western newspaper. He was a nice fellow, and had genuine knowledge of Russia; yet his judgments and predictions about the country were way off. Early in 2009 he predicted to me that the Russian economy would collapse by the end of that year. He bought into the rumors about Putin's hidden $40 billion without any skepticism. All his predictions about Russia were dire - he basically thought the country had no future.

    Yet he actually knew something about the place, spoke the language, had traveled all over it, and couldn't be dismissed as an ignoramus or primitive Russia-hater. It's people like him who puzzle me the most.

    We,, Russian liberals are often intelligent, know Russia quite well, (obviously) speak the language and have traveled all overit. Many of them don’t hate Russia, but they have a very pessimistic view of Putin and of Russia’s future. Perhaps your friend was in their circles.

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    • Replies: @AP
    That should have been "well", not "we,," in the comment above. I am not a Russian liberal, alhough I am close to some of them.
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  • @PvMikhail
    I can't really see these "moderate" critics in the press... My question would be: why should Russia converge to those states who criticize it? Russia is a historical civilization itself. Why should Russia care about these personal opinions? In these criticism I see only double standards and self-righteousness on the part of the lecturers.
    Russia has the right to decide about these things. Of course there are clearly negative aspects as corruption and such, but there are questions like the church's role, which are not unambiguous. Russia is a more socially conservative society, than western countries. For example why should it lessen the role of church in the society? People can decide whether they believe or not, whether they follow the church's instructions or not. Of course this doesn't mean, that they have the right to offend those believe. It is a miracle how the orthodox church came back from years of persecution. Christian churches everywhere on the World officially promote values like family, patriotism and such. I don't see any problems with that as Europe badly needs these values to stay on the historical map.

    Why should those who level the criticism care if Russia cares? Everyone has a position and a status, and might criticise others either for their ideals or their status. I am unwilling to accept a nation as being fully civilised if it protects religions from being offended.

    That said, I’m not hostile to Russia, I’d just like it to improve along those lines, and ideally remain free of American control. Other nations have flaws too, from Germany to the US, and I’d like them to improve as well. I’m not rooting for a team (anywhere; patriotism of any sort is despicable), I’m rooting for a goal.

    That “Is a deeply conservative society” thing cannot be an excuse. It’s a fault. Deeply conservative societies can improve by becoming less so.

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  • @Janet
    Like others have mentioned, I read the Western Press RE: Russia and it's all the same propaganda: Putin evil, Orthodox Church corrupt, Russian police corrupt, Putin billionaire, Russian infrastructure rotting, demographic crisis, Poland about to be invaded, Stalin worse than Hitler, Gazprom monopoly, Chechen genocide, brain drain, etc. etc. etc.

    My simple question is are the reporters or editors behind the stories agents of Western government's or are they themselves crazy Russophobes.

    Here's what I think (I follow Russia a lot):

    Are Western agents: Miriam Elder, Luke Harding, Nikolaus Von Twickel, Simon Shuster

    Have a screw loose: Edward Lucas, David Satter, Michael Weiss (who I know personally growing up Queens, NY), Paul Goble, Jennifer Rubin, Ariel Cohen, Brian Whitmore, Robert Coalson, Leon Aron, Vladimir Socor and everyone at the Jamestown Foundation

    Russian Russophobes like Kasparov, Golts, and Nemtsov would be categorized differently. I guess people like Kasparov have a screw loose, people like Golts are either self-hating or doing it for the money, and people like Nemtsov are doing it so they can steal more from Russia than they did in the 90s. Of course, among the Russian opposition (not really opposition -- they are supported by 2%, but you know what I mean), there are those who might be double-agents. I have my guesses about who's who there.

    It's interesting to wonder imho.

    When I was still in Moscow, I knew a correspondent for a prominent Western newspaper. He was a nice fellow, and had genuine knowledge of Russia; yet his judgments and predictions about the country were way off. Early in 2009 he predicted to me that the Russian economy would collapse by the end of that year. He bought into the rumors about Putin’s hidden $40 billion without any skepticism. All his predictions about Russia were dire – he basically thought the country had no future.

    Yet he actually knew something about the place, spoke the language, had traveled all over it, and couldn’t be dismissed as an ignoramus or primitive Russia-hater. It’s people like him who puzzle me the most.

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    • Replies: @AP
    We,, Russian liberals are often intelligent, know Russia quite well, (obviously) speak the language and have traveled all overit. Many of them don't hate Russia, but they have a very pessimistic view of Putin and of Russia's future. Perhaps your friend was in their circles.
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  • @AM
    Good commend. I sometimes wonder why critics expect more of Russia than of, say, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is member of the council of Europe and Kazakhstan is being lauded in the media by the likes of Tony Blair, but plainly they are both pretty much mafia states. On the other hand Russia is sometimes called the most disapointig country in the world.
    Is it hypocrisy – Russia is severely criticized and being picked on because it’s big and threatening, or is it genuine belief that Russia is “European” and therefore it is hoped that Russia will adhere to European standards, whereas countries like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan or China are simply not expected to, hence they don't dissapoint.

    Russia is perceived as a threat because it has a large ethnic sphere of influence that is opposed to British interests that Britain and its imperial institutions in North America and Europe that still operate to this day via US proxy are driving an anti-Russian policy as well as within Russia itself with British agents like Kudrin and the other shock therapists.

    This is why they immediately set about after the collapse of Communism to re-arrange the map of Europe against Russia via economic sabotage and warfare, support of terrorist and separatist factions in Russia and Russian aligned states, form regional alliances and NATO expansion against Russia and sabotage Russian energy export routes to Europe while creating alternative Turkish backed ones.

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  • @Hunter
    Well the "snow niggers" insult fits in well with other denigrating names developed in the US such as "sand niggers" (referring to Arabs) and to the original meaning of "white niggers" (which originally referred to the Irish).

    You should read H P Lovecrafts writings who denegrated pretty much everyone who was not of Anglo-saxon heritage.

    “In the matter of politics—I don’t go much with the younger crowd. I’m more interested in keeping the present 300-year-old culture-germ in America unharmed, than in trying out any experiments in “social justice”. Smith, to my mind, is a direct exponent of the newer-immigration element—the decadent & unassimilable hordes from Southern Europe & the East whose presence in large numbers is a direct & profound menace to the continued growth of the Nordic-American nation we know. Some people may like the idea of a mongrel America like the late Roman Empire, but I for one prefer to die in the same America that I was born in. Therefore, I’m against any candidate who talks of letting down the bars to stunted brachycephalic South-Italians & rat-faced half-Mongoloid Russian & Polish Jews, & all that cursed scum! You in the Middle West can’t conceive of the extent of the menace. You ought to see a typical Eastern city crowd—swart, aberrant physiognomies, & gestures & jabbering born of alien instincts”

    http://www.scottedelman.com/2008/12/26/stunted-brachycephalic-rat-faced-cursed-scum/

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  • Like others have mentioned, I read the Western Press RE: Russia and it’s all the same propaganda: Putin evil, Orthodox Church corrupt, Russian police corrupt, Putin billionaire, Russian infrastructure rotting, demographic crisis, Poland about to be invaded, Stalin worse than Hitler, Gazprom monopoly, Chechen genocide, brain drain, etc. etc. etc.

    My simple question is are the reporters or editors behind the stories agents of Western government’s or are they themselves crazy Russophobes.

    Here’s what I think (I follow Russia a lot):

    Are Western agents: Miriam Elder, Luke Harding, Nikolaus Von Twickel, Simon Shuster

    Have a screw loose: Edward Lucas, David Satter, Michael Weiss (who I know personally growing up Queens, NY), Paul Goble, Jennifer Rubin, Ariel Cohen, Brian Whitmore, Robert Coalson, Leon Aron, Vladimir Socor and everyone at the Jamestown Foundation

    Russian Russophobes like Kasparov, Golts, and Nemtsov would be categorized differently. I guess people like Kasparov have a screw loose, people like Golts are either self-hating or doing it for the money, and people like Nemtsov are doing it so they can steal more from Russia than they did in the 90s. Of course, among the Russian opposition (not really opposition — they are supported by 2%, but you know what I mean), there are those who might be double-agents. I have my guesses about who’s who there.

    It’s interesting to wonder imho.

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    • Replies: @Scowspi
    When I was still in Moscow, I knew a correspondent for a prominent Western newspaper. He was a nice fellow, and had genuine knowledge of Russia; yet his judgments and predictions about the country were way off. Early in 2009 he predicted to me that the Russian economy would collapse by the end of that year. He bought into the rumors about Putin's hidden $40 billion without any skepticism. All his predictions about Russia were dire - he basically thought the country had no future.

    Yet he actually knew something about the place, spoke the language, had traveled all over it, and couldn't be dismissed as an ignoramus or primitive Russia-hater. It's people like him who puzzle me the most.

    , @Pat Gunn
    Is there room in your analysis for legitimate criticism/deep unhappiness? I get the impression that you're saying that people naturally support the conservative status quo there and if they speak up there must be something wrong with them.
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  • I sometimes wonder whether we learn too much history or learn it in a way that distorts our understanding not only of the past but also the present and the future.

    I’ve seen books and articles that used to draw parallels between ancent Athens and Sparta on the one hand and the US and the Soviet Union on the other, in that order. I presume a generation of people in the West who studied military history in the past were taught that model. The Soviet Union may have gone but is it possible that, for all the political and economic changes that have occurred since 1990 and despite what Alex Mercouris said earlier about the US accepting former WWII foes Germany and Japan as allies, the US and UK governments still see Russia as Sparta and all that Sparta traditionally represents? (Never mind that women had more freedom in ancient Sparta than in ancient Athens and both Sparta and Athens worshipped the goddess Athene as their protector among other inconvenient truths!) Plus it’s easy to accept changes, even changes such as former enemies becoming friends and allies, if they can be made to fit a prevailing mental paradigm. With Germany and Japan suffering total defeat at home as well as in war after 1945, they were vulnerable to a complete transformation in culture and ways of thinking.

    The other historical rivalry that’s been used to compare US – Soviet/ Russian rivalry is the rivalry between the Western Roman empire / Western Christianity (Roman Catholic Church and its Protestant offshoots) and the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire / Orthodox Christianity.

    Likewise the obsession with Iran may be an updated version of the antipathy the ancient Greeks held towards Persia and which the Roman empire might have inherited. When the Zac Snyder film “300″ came out several years ago, not only the Iranian government objected to it but also people in the Iranian diaspora in the West complained about the demonisation of Iran they saw.

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  • @Scowspi
    Yes, "Africa begins at the Pyrenees" and all that. (Attributed to A. Dumas, who was part African himself.)

    Interestingly, while googling that phrase, the auto-complete also suggested "Africa begins at Rome" and "Africa begins at Calais."

    The British racist expression that referred to all except God’s chosen ones, namely the British – more exactly, the English – was, or perhaps still is amongst some: Wogs begin at Calais.

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  • @AP
    Insultingly referring to eastern neighbors as Asiatic barbarians is a longstanding European tradition. During World War I, the Western Allies referred to the Germans as Huns, the Germans had traditionally often felt that Europe ended on the Elbe, the Poles thought of themselves as the last eastermost bastion of the West, Ukrainian nationalists refer to themselves that way and to the Russians as Mongol hordes, etc. I think a similar phenomenon exists in the Balkans, with respect to Turks.

    There is an interesting parallel not mentioned here between modern Western Russophobia and traditional English Spanish-phobia (from the days when Spain was a world power). Spain was the land of the evil Inquisition (by reputation the "KGB" of the 16th-18th century, even though probably 10 times more people were killed as witches in ngland than were killed by the Inquisition) , half-European and half-Moorish,a global inhumane barbaric menace.

    Re-Spain. The Black Legend.

    “We have chosen a different path, which I think is the right path – five and seven-star hotels instead of tranches; the best aqua parks in Europe instead of land mines; this beautiful amphitheater with its dance club and very beautiful football fields and new spa resorts instead of new military bases,” he said.

    “On that side there is barbarism and on this side here is a civilization; on that side there is Mongoloid ideology and holdovers of that [ideology] and on this side here is a genuine, ancient Kolkhidian Europe, the ancient civilization so we will always prevail,” Saakashvili said.

    He also said that Anaklia alone would host 200,000 tourists by 2013 and about 400,000 by 2015. He said that Anaklia would turn into “the largest resorts on teh Black Sea.”

    - Saakashvili

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  • @AP
    Insultingly referring to eastern neighbors as Asiatic barbarians is a longstanding European tradition. During World War I, the Western Allies referred to the Germans as Huns, the Germans had traditionally often felt that Europe ended on the Elbe, the Poles thought of themselves as the last eastermost bastion of the West, Ukrainian nationalists refer to themselves that way and to the Russians as Mongol hordes, etc. I think a similar phenomenon exists in the Balkans, with respect to Turks.

    There is an interesting parallel not mentioned here between modern Western Russophobia and traditional English Spanish-phobia (from the days when Spain was a world power). Spain was the land of the evil Inquisition (by reputation the "KGB" of the 16th-18th century, even though probably 10 times more people were killed as witches in ngland than were killed by the Inquisition) , half-European and half-Moorish,a global inhumane barbaric menace.

    Yes, “Africa begins at the Pyrenees” and all that. (Attributed to A. Dumas, who was part African himself.)

    Interestingly, while googling that phrase, the auto-complete also suggested “Africa begins at Rome” and “Africa begins at Calais.”

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    • Replies: @Moscow Exile
    The British racist expression that referred to all except God's chosen ones, namely the British - more exactly, the English - was, or perhaps still is amongst some: Wogs begin at Calais.
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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Actually, this "Asiatic" insult is far more beloved of self-loathing Russian liberals (who as a rule know very little about social conventions in the West they idolize) than Western Russophobes.

    Among Westerners it became non-PC and kind of went out with Patton. :)

    Insultingly referring to eastern neighbors as Asiatic barbarians is a longstanding European tradition. During World War I, the Western Allies referred to the Germans as Huns, the Germans had traditionally often felt that Europe ended on the Elbe, the Poles thought of themselves as the last eastermost bastion of the West, Ukrainian nationalists refer to themselves that way and to the Russians as Mongol hordes, etc. I think a similar phenomenon exists in the Balkans, with respect to Turks.

    There is an interesting parallel not mentioned here between modern Western Russophobia and traditional English Spanish-phobia (from the days when Spain was a world power). Spain was the land of the evil Inquisition (by reputation the “KGB” of the 16th-18th century, even though probably 10 times more people were killed as witches in ngland than were killed by the Inquisition) , half-European and half-Moorish,a global inhumane barbaric menace.

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    • Replies: @Scowspi
    Yes, "Africa begins at the Pyrenees" and all that. (Attributed to A. Dumas, who was part African himself.)

    Interestingly, while googling that phrase, the auto-complete also suggested "Africa begins at Rome" and "Africa begins at Calais."

    , @Anatoly Karlin
    Re-Spain. The Black Legend.

    "We have chosen a different path, which I think is the right path - five and seven-star hotels instead of tranches; the best aqua parks in Europe instead of land mines; this beautiful amphitheater with its dance club and very beautiful football fields and new spa resorts instead of new military bases," he said.

    "On that side there is barbarism and on this side here is a civilization; on that side there is Mongoloid ideology and holdovers of that [ideology] and on this side here is a genuine, ancient Kolkhidian Europe, the ancient civilization so we will always prevail," Saakashvili said.

    He also said that Anaklia alone would host 200,000 tourists by 2013 and about 400,000 by 2015. He said that Anaklia would turn into "the largest resorts on teh Black Sea."

    - Saakashvili

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  • @Anonymous
    There are also people who see Russia as less-far-along in various aspects of political development who don't want it to become a client-state of Washington, but who would be happy to see it improve; a better record of political pluralism, meaningful changes in hands between multiple political parties, better respect for various kinds of minority rights, a drastically smaller role for the church, and a few other things don't entail obedience to Washington (which is itself imperfect, but less so). Even if you're not providing a false choice between just two options, your analysis is incomplete because it neglects the possibility of reasonable principled criticisms of Russia (that still apply, to lesser extents, to western nations).

    Good commend. I sometimes wonder why critics expect more of Russia than of, say, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is member of the council of Europe and Kazakhstan is being lauded in the media by the likes of Tony Blair, but plainly they are both pretty much mafia states. On the other hand Russia is sometimes called the most disapointig country in the world.
    Is it hypocrisy – Russia is severely criticized and being picked on because it’s big and threatening, or is it genuine belief that Russia is “European” and therefore it is hoped that Russia will adhere to European standards, whereas countries like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan or China are simply not expected to, hence they don’t dissapoint.

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    • Replies: @johnUK
    Russia is perceived as a threat because it has a large ethnic sphere of influence that is opposed to British interests that Britain and its imperial institutions in North America and Europe that still operate to this day via US proxy are driving an anti-Russian policy as well as within Russia itself with British agents like Kudrin and the other shock therapists.

    This is why they immediately set about after the collapse of Communism to re-arrange the map of Europe against Russia via economic sabotage and warfare, support of terrorist and separatist factions in Russia and Russian aligned states, form regional alliances and NATO expansion against Russia and sabotage Russian energy export routes to Europe while creating alternative Turkish backed ones.

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  • @Moscow Exile
    And there is also the barely hidden racist attitude of the Western media towards Russians, in that they are "different", not Europeans, are Asian, outsiders, barbaric, cruel, not to be trusted, dirty (the "Moscow metro stinks" is a regular Russian meme), drunkards, degenerates, lazy, idiotic, sexually perverted etc., etc. One can, it seems, say anything about "Russians" without any censure whatsoever. I have heard them on more than one occasion being referred to by US citizens here in Moscow as "snow niggers".

    Well the “snow niggers” insult fits in well with other denigrating names developed in the US such as “sand niggers” (referring to Arabs) and to the original meaning of “white niggers” (which originally referred to the Irish).

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    • Replies: @johnUK
    You should read H P Lovecrafts writings who denegrated pretty much everyone who was not of Anglo-saxon heritage.

    "In the matter of politics—I don’t go much with the younger crowd. I’m more interested in keeping the present 300-year-old culture-germ in America unharmed, than in trying out any experiments in “social justice”. Smith, to my mind, is a direct exponent of the newer-immigration element—the decadent & unassimilable hordes from Southern Europe & the East whose presence in large numbers is a direct & profound menace to the continued growth of the Nordic-American nation we know. Some people may like the idea of a mongrel America like the late Roman Empire, but I for one prefer to die in the same America that I was born in. Therefore, I’m against any candidate who talks of letting down the bars to stunted brachycephalic South-Italians & rat-faced half-Mongoloid Russian & Polish Jews, & all that cursed scum! You in the Middle West can’t conceive of the extent of the menace. You ought to see a typical Eastern city crowd—swart, aberrant physiognomies, & gestures & jabbering born of alien instincts"

    http://www.scottedelman.com/2008/12/26/stunted-brachycephalic-rat-faced-cursed-scum/

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Anatoly,

    An excellent article.

    The great difficulty I have explaining or even understanding US and western policy towards Russia is precisely that it is irrational. How to explain or understand what is not rational? I am going however to make a few very tentative points:

    1. Like most people I assumed for much of my life during the Cold War that western hostility to Russia had an ideological cause. The fact that this hostility has actually intensified since the Cold War makes me doubt this. At this point I want to second a comment recently made by the US historian Stephen Cohen in his now famous diatribe against the US media (and Luke Harding). Western media coverage of Russia is actually worse and more hostile than it was during the Cold War. Also during the Cold War there were some leftwing people in the western media who had some residual sympathy with the USSR. There are no such sympathisers for Russia in the western media today.

    2. I do not really know or understand why this hostility to Russia has increased or even intensified since the end of the Cold War. I have to say that I doubt that it is because of the inertia of Cold War thinking. Western policy makers know perfectly well that they are confronting Russia not the USSR and western nations have previously shown flexibility and willingness to accomodate other foes as shown in the quick transformation in attitudes towards Germany and Japan after the end of the Second World War.

    3. I think one reason may be that Russia is simply too big and potentially too rich and too powerful to fit comfortably into the western family. The US does not want Russia in NATO because such a large and powerful country with its own nuclear deterrent would be a challenger to the US's unquestioned leadership of NATO. The US cannot bully Russia in the UN Security Council. Imagine if it had to deal with Russia in NATO! The European countries for their part do not want Russia in the EU because as by far the biggest European country and also potentially the richest and the one with by far greatest supplies of energy, food and raw materials Russia would ulltimately come to dominate it far more completely than Germany has now done. Since Russia cannot be included in the western family it therefore has to be kept outside. Since there is however no real philosophical or ideological justification for excluding Russia given the extent to which Russia is a "European" "Christian" country (and is much more "European" and "Christian" than countries like Albania and Turkey, which are members of NATO and supposedly future members of the EU) Russia inevitably has to be demonised in order to justify its exclusion.

    4. Excluding Russia however also poses a special set of problems for the US and the west given the extent to which Russia is a "European" "Christian" country. The NATO/EU combine is supposed to bring together all the major "European" "Christian" (in a cultural sense) "democracies" in north America and Europe under US leadership. However Russia apart from the US is by far the biggest "European" "Christian" country. A Russia that achieves prosperity and worse still democracy and social justice outside this combine therefore represents an existential threat to US leadership of the "democratic" "European" and "Christian" world. Arguably it is precisely because Russia poses an existential threat to the US in a way that China as a non "European" non "Christian" and non "democratic" country does not that Russia comes in for so much more hostility than China.

    Some very interesting ideas there, Alex.

    I do not claim to have an answer. Your theory is about as good as it gets. And very good point re-China, though I would say that it’s definitely in the demonized category too.

    If I had to estimate a list of how much perceptions misalign with reality (aka Demonization Index), I’d say:

    1. Russia – a mediocre democracy, certainly not worse than Turkey’s, which is painted as a neo-Stainist Mordor.
    2. Venezuela – a good democracy in which Chavez is painted as a dictator.
    3. Iran – nasty government but far from exceptionally so by ME standards.
    4. China – nasty government but far from the tyranny it is claimed to be, plus lots of other MSM lies about it.
    5. Ecuador/Bolivia – mitigated by fact that lefties like them, only crazy neocons hate them too.

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    • Replies: @Pat Gunn
    Being a bit more embedded in American culture and having (probably) seen more of the country than you have, I'd probably say that you're mostly right on American perceptions and media portrayal of China. American perceptions of Russia have, as far as I can tell, an age gap; people who reached adulthood retain an irrational dislike of Russia, while those who are younger didn't get much of the propoganda and are fairly neutral towards it. Media portrayal of Russia is generally cursory at the level most Americans are exposed to, while lightweight political magazines are moderately hostile. Most Americans I've met have large misconceptions of Iran, and the media rarely go into specifics of their political system unless there's a crisis going on. It has been exceptionally rare that I've spoken with anyone who has an opinion on Bolivia or Ecuador or read any commentary on them; most Americans probably are unaware that they are even countries.

    My analysis of Russia is that its democracy is little more than a Potemkin village; it has the formal institutions needed for democracy, but neither civil society nor news media nor the party system are healthy enough for it to manage regular transitions of power. There is too much power in the hands of a few collaborating parties for the democratic form to be realised. Until it develops enough strong inner criticism and has some transfers of power between opposing parties, it will be in the shadowland between democracy and oligarchy.

    We probably mostly agree on China, although I don't see it as being particularly nasty (although definitely not democratic). I confess a bias here; I'm an American socialist (of the Eduard Bernstein flavour who also likes some Menshevik/Trudovik thinkers), and the relative lack of concentration of power in China, compared to Russia, balances against Russia's pro forma democracy in my eyes.

    I probably see Iran as being much better than you do; their democracy is healthier than Russia's (by no means perfect), and while there is political repression over views, the people seem remarkably and laudably willing to express themselves anyhow and face the consenquences. The Iranians I've met who are travelling outside their country have been likewise very frank and fearless with their views, and stunningly well-read. Iranian society and government is something I find deeply fascinating for that reason.

    I am highly critical of Chavez; not of everything he's done (I don't mind the nationalisation of industry or the dismantling of privileges for the very wealthy), but rather because he appears to be trying to build a cult of personality; that in my eyes is an unforgivable sin in a politician. I would like to see Chavez go, but ideally replaced with another socialist who has a much smaller ego who will continue the socialist experiment there.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Scowspi
    "not Europeans, are Asian,"

    I'm wondering why this should be construed as an insult. Should one assume that being European automatically makes one superior? Also, in this day and age when Asia is the most dynamic part of the world, what's wrong with being Asian?

    Personally I've always thought of Russians as Eurasian - a fitting designation for a country which has most of its population in Europe and most of its land in Asia, which as far as I know makes it unique in the world.

    Actually, this “Asiatic” insult is far more beloved of self-loathing Russian liberals (who as a rule know very little about social conventions in the West they idolize) than Western Russophobes.

    Among Westerners it became non-PC and kind of went out with Patton. :)

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    • Replies: @AP
    Insultingly referring to eastern neighbors as Asiatic barbarians is a longstanding European tradition. During World War I, the Western Allies referred to the Germans as Huns, the Germans had traditionally often felt that Europe ended on the Elbe, the Poles thought of themselves as the last eastermost bastion of the West, Ukrainian nationalists refer to themselves that way and to the Russians as Mongol hordes, etc. I think a similar phenomenon exists in the Balkans, with respect to Turks.

    There is an interesting parallel not mentioned here between modern Western Russophobia and traditional English Spanish-phobia (from the days when Spain was a world power). Spain was the land of the evil Inquisition (by reputation the "KGB" of the 16th-18th century, even though probably 10 times more people were killed as witches in ngland than were killed by the Inquisition) , half-European and half-Moorish,a global inhumane barbaric menace.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Moscow Exile
    And there is also the barely hidden racist attitude of the Western media towards Russians, in that they are "different", not Europeans, are Asian, outsiders, barbaric, cruel, not to be trusted, dirty (the "Moscow metro stinks" is a regular Russian meme), drunkards, degenerates, lazy, idiotic, sexually perverted etc., etc. One can, it seems, say anything about "Russians" without any censure whatsoever. I have heard them on more than one occasion being referred to by US citizens here in Moscow as "snow niggers".

    “not Europeans, are Asian,”

    I’m wondering why this should be construed as an insult. Should one assume that being European automatically makes one superior? Also, in this day and age when Asia is the most dynamic part of the world, what’s wrong with being Asian?

    Personally I’ve always thought of Russians as Eurasian – a fitting designation for a country which has most of its population in Europe and most of its land in Asia, which as far as I know makes it unique in the world.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Actually, this "Asiatic" insult is far more beloved of self-loathing Russian liberals (who as a rule know very little about social conventions in the West they idolize) than Western Russophobes.

    Among Westerners it became non-PC and kind of went out with Patton. :)

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Anatoly,

    An excellent article.

    The great difficulty I have explaining or even understanding US and western policy towards Russia is precisely that it is irrational. How to explain or understand what is not rational? I am going however to make a few very tentative points:

    1. Like most people I assumed for much of my life during the Cold War that western hostility to Russia had an ideological cause. The fact that this hostility has actually intensified since the Cold War makes me doubt this. At this point I want to second a comment recently made by the US historian Stephen Cohen in his now famous diatribe against the US media (and Luke Harding). Western media coverage of Russia is actually worse and more hostile than it was during the Cold War. Also during the Cold War there were some leftwing people in the western media who had some residual sympathy with the USSR. There are no such sympathisers for Russia in the western media today.

    2. I do not really know or understand why this hostility to Russia has increased or even intensified since the end of the Cold War. I have to say that I doubt that it is because of the inertia of Cold War thinking. Western policy makers know perfectly well that they are confronting Russia not the USSR and western nations have previously shown flexibility and willingness to accomodate other foes as shown in the quick transformation in attitudes towards Germany and Japan after the end of the Second World War.

    3. I think one reason may be that Russia is simply too big and potentially too rich and too powerful to fit comfortably into the western family. The US does not want Russia in NATO because such a large and powerful country with its own nuclear deterrent would be a challenger to the US's unquestioned leadership of NATO. The US cannot bully Russia in the UN Security Council. Imagine if it had to deal with Russia in NATO! The European countries for their part do not want Russia in the EU because as by far the biggest European country and also potentially the richest and the one with by far greatest supplies of energy, food and raw materials Russia would ulltimately come to dominate it far more completely than Germany has now done. Since Russia cannot be included in the western family it therefore has to be kept outside. Since there is however no real philosophical or ideological justification for excluding Russia given the extent to which Russia is a "European" "Christian" country (and is much more "European" and "Christian" than countries like Albania and Turkey, which are members of NATO and supposedly future members of the EU) Russia inevitably has to be demonised in order to justify its exclusion.

    4. Excluding Russia however also poses a special set of problems for the US and the west given the extent to which Russia is a "European" "Christian" country. The NATO/EU combine is supposed to bring together all the major "European" "Christian" (in a cultural sense) "democracies" in north America and Europe under US leadership. However Russia apart from the US is by far the biggest "European" "Christian" country. A Russia that achieves prosperity and worse still democracy and social justice outside this combine therefore represents an existential threat to US leadership of the "democratic" "European" and "Christian" world. Arguably it is precisely because Russia poses an existential threat to the US in a way that China as a non "European" non "Christian" and non "democratic" country does not that Russia comes in for so much more hostility than China.

    And there is also the barely hidden racist attitude of the Western media towards Russians, in that they are “different”, not Europeans, are Asian, outsiders, barbaric, cruel, not to be trusted, dirty (the “Moscow metro stinks” is a regular Russian meme), drunkards, degenerates, lazy, idiotic, sexually perverted etc., etc. One can, it seems, say anything about “Russians” without any censure whatsoever. I have heard them on more than one occasion being referred to by US citizens here in Moscow as “snow niggers”.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Scowspi
    "not Europeans, are Asian,"

    I'm wondering why this should be construed as an insult. Should one assume that being European automatically makes one superior? Also, in this day and age when Asia is the most dynamic part of the world, what's wrong with being Asian?

    Personally I've always thought of Russians as Eurasian - a fitting designation for a country which has most of its population in Europe and most of its land in Asia, which as far as I know makes it unique in the world.

    , @Hunter
    Well the "snow niggers" insult fits in well with other denigrating names developed in the US such as "sand niggers" (referring to Arabs) and to the original meaning of "white niggers" (which originally referred to the Irish).
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Anatoly,

    An excellent article.

    The great difficulty I have explaining or even understanding US and western policy towards Russia is precisely that it is irrational. How to explain or understand what is not rational? I am going however to make a few very tentative points:

    1. Like most people I assumed for much of my life during the Cold War that western hostility to Russia had an ideological cause. The fact that this hostility has actually intensified since the Cold War makes me doubt this. At this point I want to second a comment recently made by the US historian Stephen Cohen in his now famous diatribe against the US media (and Luke Harding). Western media coverage of Russia is actually worse and more hostile than it was during the Cold War. Also during the Cold War there were some leftwing people in the western media who had some residual sympathy with the USSR. There are no such sympathisers for Russia in the western media today.

    2. I do not really know or understand why this hostility to Russia has increased or even intensified since the end of the Cold War. I have to say that I doubt that it is because of the inertia of Cold War thinking. Western policy makers know perfectly well that they are confronting Russia not the USSR and western nations have previously shown flexibility and willingness to accomodate other foes as shown in the quick transformation in attitudes towards Germany and Japan after the end of the Second World War.

    3. I think one reason may be that Russia is simply too big and potentially too rich and too powerful to fit comfortably into the western family. The US does not want Russia in NATO because such a large and powerful country with its own nuclear deterrent would be a challenger to the US's unquestioned leadership of NATO. The US cannot bully Russia in the UN Security Council. Imagine if it had to deal with Russia in NATO! The European countries for their part do not want Russia in the EU because as by far the biggest European country and also potentially the richest and the one with by far greatest supplies of energy, food and raw materials Russia would ulltimately come to dominate it far more completely than Germany has now done. Since Russia cannot be included in the western family it therefore has to be kept outside. Since there is however no real philosophical or ideological justification for excluding Russia given the extent to which Russia is a "European" "Christian" country (and is much more "European" and "Christian" than countries like Albania and Turkey, which are members of NATO and supposedly future members of the EU) Russia inevitably has to be demonised in order to justify its exclusion.

    4. Excluding Russia however also poses a special set of problems for the US and the west given the extent to which Russia is a "European" "Christian" country. The NATO/EU combine is supposed to bring together all the major "European" "Christian" (in a cultural sense) "democracies" in north America and Europe under US leadership. However Russia apart from the US is by far the biggest "European" "Christian" country. A Russia that achieves prosperity and worse still democracy and social justice outside this combine therefore represents an existential threat to US leadership of the "democratic" "European" and "Christian" world. Arguably it is precisely because Russia poses an existential threat to the US in a way that China as a non "European" non "Christian" and non "democratic" country does not that Russia comes in for so much more hostility than China.

    “Also during the Cold War there were some left-wing people in the western media who had some residual sympathy with the USSR. There are no such sympathizers for Russia in the western media today.”

    You can say that again Alex. The so-called progressive organs in the western media have been more hostile to Russia than their right-wing brethren. I’ve been banned (Just as Mark & Anatoly have from The Guardian) from common-dreams.org for defending Putin/Russia. Also, they absolutely WILL NOT publish articles that question the Pussy Riot meme, whom the common-dreams editors see as heroes standing up to a tyrant. They also scoff at the notion that the NGO’s in Russia are anything other than well-meaning groups promoting “democracy” and “human rights.” Edward Hermann last week published an article on the NY Times and their demoization of Putin, Chavez, etc; he also talked about them giving front-page coverage to Pussy Riot by pointing out how inconvenient facts were left out of what transpired and that the western press turned it into a “free-speech” crusade, which it isn’t. Though Commondreams has carried many of Edward Hermann’s article before, they opted not to carry this one…true to form.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Dear Anatoly,

    An excellent article.

    The great difficulty I have explaining or even understanding US and western policy towards Russia is precisely that it is irrational. How to explain or understand what is not rational? I am going however to make a few very tentative points:

    1. Like most people I assumed for much of my life during the Cold War that western hostility to Russia had an ideological cause. The fact that this hostility has actually intensified since the Cold War makes me doubt this. At this point I want to second a comment recently made by the US historian Stephen Cohen in his now famous diatribe against the US media (and Luke Harding). Western media coverage of Russia is actually worse and more hostile than it was during the Cold War. Also during the Cold War there were some leftwing people in the western media who had some residual sympathy with the USSR. There are no such sympathisers for Russia in the western media today.

    2. I do not really know or understand why this hostility to Russia has increased or even intensified since the end of the Cold War. I have to say that I doubt that it is because of the inertia of Cold War thinking. Western policy makers know perfectly well that they are confronting Russia not the USSR and western nations have previously shown flexibility and willingness to accomodate other foes as shown in the quick transformation in attitudes towards Germany and Japan after the end of the Second World War.

    3. I think one reason may be that Russia is simply too big and potentially too rich and too powerful to fit comfortably into the western family. The US does not want Russia in NATO because such a large and powerful country with its own nuclear deterrent would be a challenger to the US’s unquestioned leadership of NATO. The US cannot bully Russia in the UN Security Council. Imagine if it had to deal with Russia in NATO! The European countries for their part do not want Russia in the EU because as by far the biggest European country and also potentially the richest and the one with by far greatest supplies of energy, food and raw materials Russia would ulltimately come to dominate it far more completely than Germany has now done. Since Russia cannot be included in the western family it therefore has to be kept outside. Since there is however no real philosophical or ideological justification for excluding Russia given the extent to which Russia is a “European” “Christian” country (and is much more “European” and “Christian” than countries like Albania and Turkey, which are members of NATO and supposedly future members of the EU) Russia inevitably has to be demonised in order to justify its exclusion.

    4. Excluding Russia however also poses a special set of problems for the US and the west given the extent to which Russia is a “European” “Christian” country. The NATO/EU combine is supposed to bring together all the major “European” “Christian” (in a cultural sense) “democracies” in north America and Europe under US leadership. However Russia apart from the US is by far the biggest “European” “Christian” country. A Russia that achieves prosperity and worse still democracy and social justice outside this combine therefore represents an existential threat to US leadership of the “democratic” “European” and “Christian” world. Arguably it is precisely because Russia poses an existential threat to the US in a way that China as a non “European” non “Christian” and non “democratic” country does not that Russia comes in for so much more hostility than China.

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    • Replies: @R.C.
    "Also during the Cold War there were some left-wing people in the western media who had some residual sympathy with the USSR. There are no such sympathizers for Russia in the western media today."

    You can say that again Alex. The so-called progressive organs in the western media have been more hostile to Russia than their right-wing brethren. I've been banned (Just as Mark & Anatoly have from The Guardian) from common-dreams.org for defending Putin/Russia. Also, they absolutely WILL NOT publish articles that question the Pussy Riot meme, whom the common-dreams editors see as heroes standing up to a tyrant. They also scoff at the notion that the NGO's in Russia are anything other than well-meaning groups promoting "democracy" and "human rights." Edward Hermann last week published an article on the NY Times and their demoization of Putin, Chavez, etc; he also talked about them giving front-page coverage to Pussy Riot by pointing out how inconvenient facts were left out of what transpired and that the western press turned it into a "free-speech" crusade, which it isn't. Though Commondreams has carried many of Edward Hermann's article before, they opted not to carry this one...true to form.

    , @Moscow Exile
    And there is also the barely hidden racist attitude of the Western media towards Russians, in that they are "different", not Europeans, are Asian, outsiders, barbaric, cruel, not to be trusted, dirty (the "Moscow metro stinks" is a regular Russian meme), drunkards, degenerates, lazy, idiotic, sexually perverted etc., etc. One can, it seems, say anything about "Russians" without any censure whatsoever. I have heard them on more than one occasion being referred to by US citizens here in Moscow as "snow niggers".
    , @Anatoly Karlin
    Some very interesting ideas there, Alex.

    I do not claim to have an answer. Your theory is about as good as it gets. And very good point re-China, though I would say that it's definitely in the demonized category too.

    If I had to estimate a list of how much perceptions misalign with reality (aka Demonization Index), I'd say:

    1. Russia - a mediocre democracy, certainly not worse than Turkey's, which is painted as a neo-Stainist Mordor.
    2. Venezuela - a good democracy in which Chavez is painted as a dictator.
    3. Iran - nasty government but far from exceptionally so by ME standards.
    4. China - nasty government but far from the tyranny it is claimed to be, plus lots of other MSM lies about it.
    5. Ecuador/Bolivia - mitigated by fact that lefties like them, only crazy neocons hate them too.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Anonymous
    There are also people who see Russia as less-far-along in various aspects of political development who don't want it to become a client-state of Washington, but who would be happy to see it improve; a better record of political pluralism, meaningful changes in hands between multiple political parties, better respect for various kinds of minority rights, a drastically smaller role for the church, and a few other things don't entail obedience to Washington (which is itself imperfect, but less so). Even if you're not providing a false choice between just two options, your analysis is incomplete because it neglects the possibility of reasonable principled criticisms of Russia (that still apply, to lesser extents, to western nations).

    I can’t really see these “moderate” critics in the press… My question would be: why should Russia converge to those states who criticize it? Russia is a historical civilization itself. Why should Russia care about these personal opinions? In these criticism I see only double standards and self-righteousness on the part of the lecturers.
    Russia has the right to decide about these things. Of course there are clearly negative aspects as corruption and such, but there are questions like the church’s role, which are not unambiguous. Russia is a more socially conservative society, than western countries. For example why should it lessen the role of church in the society? People can decide whether they believe or not, whether they follow the church’s instructions or not. Of course this doesn’t mean, that they have the right to offend those believe. It is a miracle how the orthodox church came back from years of persecution. Christian churches everywhere on the World officially promote values like family, patriotism and such. I don’t see any problems with that as Europe badly needs these values to stay on the historical map.

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    • Replies: @Pat Gunn
    Why should those who level the criticism care if Russia cares? Everyone has a position and a status, and might criticise others either for their ideals or their status. I am unwilling to accept a nation as being fully civilised if it protects religions from being offended.

    That said, I'm not hostile to Russia, I'd just like it to improve along those lines, and ideally remain free of American control. Other nations have flaws too, from Germany to the US, and I'd like them to improve as well. I'm not rooting for a team (anywhere; patriotism of any sort is despicable), I'm rooting for a goal.

    That "Is a deeply conservative society" thing cannot be an excuse. It's a fault. Deeply conservative societies can improve by becoming less so.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    There are also people who see Russia as less-far-along in various aspects of political development who don’t want it to become a client-state of Washington, but who would be happy to see it improve; a better record of political pluralism, meaningful changes in hands between multiple political parties, better respect for various kinds of minority rights, a drastically smaller role for the church, and a few other things don’t entail obedience to Washington (which is itself imperfect, but less so). Even if you’re not providing a false choice between just two options, your analysis is incomplete because it neglects the possibility of reasonable principled criticisms of Russia (that still apply, to lesser extents, to western nations).

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    • Replies: @PvMikhail
    I can't really see these "moderate" critics in the press... My question would be: why should Russia converge to those states who criticize it? Russia is a historical civilization itself. Why should Russia care about these personal opinions? In these criticism I see only double standards and self-righteousness on the part of the lecturers.
    Russia has the right to decide about these things. Of course there are clearly negative aspects as corruption and such, but there are questions like the church's role, which are not unambiguous. Russia is a more socially conservative society, than western countries. For example why should it lessen the role of church in the society? People can decide whether they believe or not, whether they follow the church's instructions or not. Of course this doesn't mean, that they have the right to offend those believe. It is a miracle how the orthodox church came back from years of persecution. Christian churches everywhere on the World officially promote values like family, patriotism and such. I don't see any problems with that as Europe badly needs these values to stay on the historical map.
    , @AM
    Good commend. I sometimes wonder why critics expect more of Russia than of, say, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is member of the council of Europe and Kazakhstan is being lauded in the media by the likes of Tony Blair, but plainly they are both pretty much mafia states. On the other hand Russia is sometimes called the most disapointig country in the world.
    Is it hypocrisy – Russia is severely criticized and being picked on because it’s big and threatening, or is it genuine belief that Russia is “European” and therefore it is hoped that Russia will adhere to European standards, whereas countries like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan or China are simply not expected to, hence they don't dissapoint.
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  • I really can't figure what this Economist editorial reeks more of: Hypocrisy, mendacity, or pure delusion? Being anti-Western is "negative", even for daring to oppose Western-backed Islamist crazies who will back-stab their handlers as soon as they're able to. Note how "liberalizing" and "pro-Western" are conflated, because one can't possibly liberalize without kowtowing to Western...
  • @Bob
    Not just the Economist. Felgenhaur has also lost the plot:

    Internal crisis shapes Putin's Syrian stand

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/NF23Ag01.html

    He was always a ropey russian military analyst at best, but he has impressed with the depths he plumbs!

    Felgenhauer indeed lost the plot a long, long time ago.

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  • Not just the Economist. Felgenhaur has also lost the plot:

    Internal crisis shapes Putin’s Syrian stand

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/NF23Ag01.html

    He was always a ropey russian military analyst at best, but he has impressed with the depths he plumbs!

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Felgenhauer indeed lost the plot a long, long time ago.
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  • But not to pick on one fellow too much. The idea lingers that ‘the big time’ is in D.C. or New York and if you’re outside the big polished buildings down the street from the TBTF banks (or in the D.C. case, their lobbyists) you’re nobody. But as hyperfractured and fragmented as the real, alternate online media landscape is that’s no longer the case. Alex Jones probably has ten times the daily audience as Chris Matthews, putting it conservatively. And I mean daily audience who actually either listens to his show online or on YouTube, not audience as measured by people who’ve clicked on at least one YouTube video (I think by that score RT is headed for the billion clicks mark or has already surpassed it since 2005).

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  • I agree Alexander. and unlike certain other fellows, Cohen and Adomanis don’t waste time whining about how much more attention others get at certain venues or taking shots at each other with bald photos. As I have told the complainers, if they’d put 10% of the effort spent commenting/emailing into a serious YouTube channel with a HD web cam and lotsa appearances all over web talk radio, they’d be bigger than all of the commenters/Russia Watchers mentioned above. There’s so much alarmist nonsense combined with curiosity about Russia out there (think TruNews.com or Steve Quayle’s predictions of some massive Red Dawn type deployment of Russian troops on U.S. soil) that a dose of sanity or even Orthodox Christianity could be welcomed.

    AK: Re-”I agree Alexander…” Mr. X, could you please consult Rule #3 of the Comments Policy. Thanks.

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  • I don’t think “hesitation” has been exactly a problem with McFaul. If Western countries insist on following The Economist’s advice, the correct response would be symmetrical: Have Russian ambassadors meet up with Occupy leaders, pirate groups, Muslim rights activists, etc and channel a few million dollars their way to “improve” democracy and civil rights in the West. What sauce is good for the goose is good for the gander after all.”
    Nicely put.

    Indeed @CraigWillyJames, there are almost entire Twitter feeds obsessed with the notion that the Kremlin is massively interfering in Western and U.S. politics through “agitprop”, an army of RT as it were. See @ReginaldQuill. Reggie even goes so far as to complain that Ron Paul supporters have been enlisted in the vast dark conspiracy to overthrow the existing Western order and reinstitute the Confederacy. Which in a bizarre way, is a more Igor Panarin view of the U.S.’s alleged imminent USSR-style collapse than Panarin himself. Reggie himself seems to be a one man agitprop machine as he churns out turgid tweet after tweet alleging a vast conspiracy every bit as elaborate if not even less logical than that posited by Brother Alex Jones (another Russian ‘dupe’ or ‘agent’ in Reggie’s mind simply for his frequent guest appearances on RT). When Reggie and his tweep cohorts went over the line and started calling for violence against the Russian port of Tartus or violent piracy on the high seas against Russian ships, I reported the punk to Twitter to see if he likes his account getting suspended.

    As for the other liberast tweeters, it appears @LibertyLynx’s nearly 60,000 tweets have overwhelmed Twitter, like a backed up toilet.

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  • @Anonymous
    I think the meaning of the article is simple -- return to cold war means also return to cold war stereretypes. See
    http://www.thenation.com/article/168460/us-returning-cold-war-russia

    Obama’s reset was all but doomed from inception because it was based on the same bipartisan, winner-take-all triumphalism that had guided US policy toward post-Soviet Russia since the 1990s. As before, Obama’s “new” policy meant “selective cooperation”—that is, concessions from Moscow without US reciprocity.

    Until the US-Russian conflict over Syria erupted this year, the Obama White House wanted three major concessions from the Kremlin as part of the reset:

    -- support in the US confrontation with Iran (new negotiations are under way in Moscow this week);

    -- assistance in supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan;

    -- and then withholding Russia’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution for a “no-fly zone” over Libya.

    The Obama administration got all three concessions. In return, Moscow wanted a compromise on the administration’s plan to place missile defense installations near Russia’s borders; an end to NATO expansion in the direction of Ukraine and Georgia; and a curtailment of US interference, known as “democracy promotion,” in Russia’s internal politics. The Kremlin got none of these.

    In short, another chance for expansive cooperation in US-Russian relations, even the partnership possible after the Soviet Union ended in 1991, has again been squandered in Washington, not in Moscow.

    That the historical and political analyses set out in my 2011 article, as well as the concerns expressed there, have been amply justified by events gives me no satisfaction. Nor to add that a year later, things have only gotten worse. The three US policies to which Moscow reasonably objected before the reset have become more aggressive, and indeed, in the Kremlin’s view, have been supplemented by Washington’s policy of selective military “regime change” in the Middle East.

    In response, as I also warned, anti-American forces in Russian politics have continued to grow, along with the possibility of “another escalation of the arms race,” about which both Putin and former Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, on whom Obama unwisely based the reset, warned.

     

    Dear Kievite,

    I agree with you. As to Stephen Cohen he is beyond question the best US commentator on US Russian relations with access to the mainstream US press though I also am developing a high regard for Mark Adomanis.

    As for Stephen Cohen’s article, his point again reminds me of a comment once made by the great British historian AJP Taylor, that the west always wants to use Russia like a tap, which it can turn on and off whenever it likes.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I think the meaning of the article is simple — return to cold war means also return to cold war stereretypes. See

    http://www.thenation.com/article/168460/us-returning-cold-war-russia

    Obama’s reset was all but doomed from inception because it was based on the same bipartisan, winner-take-all triumphalism that had guided US policy toward post-Soviet Russia since the 1990s. As before, Obama’s “new” policy meant “selective cooperation”—that is, concessions from Moscow without US reciprocity.

    Until the US-Russian conflict over Syria erupted this year, the Obama White House wanted three major concessions from the Kremlin as part of the reset:

    – support in the US confrontation with Iran (new negotiations are under way in Moscow this week);

    – assistance in supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan;

    – and then withholding Russia’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution for a “no-fly zone” over Libya.

    The Obama administration got all three concessions. In return, Moscow wanted a compromise on the administration’s plan to place missile defense installations near Russia’s borders; an end to NATO expansion in the direction of Ukraine and Georgia; and a curtailment of US interference, known as “democracy promotion,” in Russia’s internal politics. The Kremlin got none of these.

    In short, another chance for expansive cooperation in US-Russian relations, even the partnership possible after the Soviet Union ended in 1991, has again been squandered in Washington, not in Moscow.

    That the historical and political analyses set out in my 2011 article, as well as the concerns expressed there, have been amply justified by events gives me no satisfaction. Nor to add that a year later, things have only gotten worse. The three US policies to which Moscow reasonably objected before the reset have become more aggressive, and indeed, in the Kremlin’s view, have been supplemented by Washington’s policy of selective military “regime change” in the Middle East.

    In response, as I also warned, anti-American forces in Russian politics have continued to grow, along with the possibility of “another escalation of the arms race,” about which both Putin and former Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, on whom Obama unwisely based the reset, warned.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Kievite,

    I agree with you. As to Stephen Cohen he is beyond question the best US commentator on US Russian relations with access to the mainstream US press though I also am developing a high regard for Mark Adomanis.

    As for Stephen Cohen's article, his point again reminds me of a comment once made by the great British historian AJP Taylor, that the west always wants to use Russia like a tap, which it can turn on and off whenever it likes.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • A very fine article indeed Anatoly. There are just two points about the language the editorial uses that I would like to draw attention to:

    1. When discussing Medvedev’s anticipated “pro western” and “liberalising” policies it precedes these words by way of describing them with the word “sound”. The use of this word in this context is very difficult to define and explain to someone who is not a native English speaker. However in upper class British English it conveys a strong sense of moral propriety. In other words by implication “pro western” and “liberalising” policies are moral and policies that are not pro westernising and not liberalising such as Putin’s are immoral.

    2. When citing the killings of Litvinenko and Magnitsky as examples of the “government’s egregious behaviour” the editorial is saying that the government killed Litvinenko and Magnitsky and has therefore committed murder.

    On the subject of the Magnitsky List, any country has the right to refuse admittance to any person from a foreign country either by denying them visas or by declaring them persona non grata. That is a simple exercise of state sovereignty. It is completely different from a situation where the parliament of one country passes a law that effectively declares the citizens of another country guilty of mistreatment and murder in their own country. A parliament that acts in this way has usurped the functions of the court of the other country where it has no jurisdiction. That is a gross infringement on the state sovereignty of the other country and amounts to open interference in its system of justice and in its internal affairs. I am not an international lawyer but on the face of it, it looks to me to be contrary to international law. It is also of course a gross violation of the human rights of the people named in the list, who have been effectively declared guilty of serious crimes without trial.

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  • “I don’t think “hesitation” has been exactly a problem with McFaul. If Western countries insist on following The Economist’s advice, the correct response would be symmetrical: Have Russian ambassadors meet up with Occupy leaders, pirate groups, Muslim rights activists, etc and channel a few million dollars their way to “improve” democracy and civil rights in the West. What sauce is good for the goose is good for the gander after all.”
    Nicely put.

    “More than anything this really demonstrates far better than I could ever describe myself how The Economist is most definitely NOT a publication you want to read for facts, insights, etc.; instead, it is a barometer of Western elite opinion, or literary soul food for Western chauvinists.”
    Even better.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    The Man without a Face. Yes, I haven't even bothered searching that book out. I will only get depressed. The New Cold War by Lucas is the last raving Russophobe book I intend to read...

    As regards a history of Putin, that would indeed be a good idea. But there are several conditions that first have to be met IMO:

    (1) It's too early. I don't buy Zhou Enlai's theory that it was "too early" to assess the impact of the French Revolution, nonetheless, I still think that Putin has to retreat from direct politics into history before a proper book like this can be written. In the interim, the best one could do would be simply to refute myths, the best Anglo effort on which is Treisman's The Return (which has been 10x less successful than crap like Lucas', Gessen's or Harding's Mafia State despite being 10x more footnoted and scholarly).

    (2) Such a Putin biography is one of my life ambitions, however realistically speaking to be able to work on it well I will need either (a) an academic position - something I'm not interested, given my expanding loathing for academe; or (b) a lot of independent wealth, on which I'm working.

    By academic position or independent wealth, you mean as in having the wherewithal to fund the book and devote all your time on it?
    Because as with your example of Treisman vs Harding/Gessen, I’m a bit pessimistic whether quality itself ultimately leads to success or even public recognition. You need a prior reputation and to get that having a Phd and a position in some prestigious university, being a journo in some leading newspaper or holding a job in an influential institute or think tank, etc…seem to be the only way. Oh and appearing on leading TV channels can help, too.
    Otherwise even if you write the best biography ever, I’m afraid it may pass unnoticed except in small circles.

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  • I realized that Western MSM’s descriptions of Russian politics were propaganda, disinformation immediately after I came in touch with them. I knew a lot more about Russia than about America back then (this was 20 years ago), and it was clear as day to me that what they were writing about Russia wasn’t true. As I learned more and more about American reality over the years, I realized that US media’s descriptions of America itself, of its politics, were just as dishonest.

    A large percentage of Americans know that their media lies to them about America, but they still overwhelmingly assume that it’s telling them the truth about other countries. It’s a passive, default assumption. Humans are gullible by nature.

    To me at this point these publications are guilty until proven innocent on all topics that have any bearing on money or power anywhere. For example, I don’t know anything about Burma, but if the NYT praises Aung San Suu Kyi, then I suspect her of things. If the NYT disapproves of the Burmese government, that alone is a positive recommendation to me.

    First-hand knowledge is always preferable, but you can’t know everything. Generalizations, rules of thumb have their use. At some point I’ve made the generalization that the NYT, the Economist, etc. are for thievery, disorder, debauchery, ugliness (abstract “art” vs. real art), etc. everywhere they see them. I don’t have as many eyes as they do, so if they praise something I’m clueless about, I take note.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    The Man without a Face. Yes, I haven't even bothered searching that book out. I will only get depressed. The New Cold War by Lucas is the last raving Russophobe book I intend to read...

    As regards a history of Putin, that would indeed be a good idea. But there are several conditions that first have to be met IMO:

    (1) It's too early. I don't buy Zhou Enlai's theory that it was "too early" to assess the impact of the French Revolution, nonetheless, I still think that Putin has to retreat from direct politics into history before a proper book like this can be written. In the interim, the best one could do would be simply to refute myths, the best Anglo effort on which is Treisman's The Return (which has been 10x less successful than crap like Lucas', Gessen's or Harding's Mafia State despite being 10x more footnoted and scholarly).

    (2) Such a Putin biography is one of my life ambitions, however realistically speaking to be able to work on it well I will need either (a) an academic position - something I'm not interested, given my expanding loathing for academe; or (b) a lot of independent wealth, on which I'm working.

    Didn’t you promise us a review of that Treisman book? I saw it in the bookstore today and was intrigued by it.

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