Monday, October 29, 2007

diary day one

In Russia's shadow

The Kremlin's useful idiots

Oct 29th 2007
From Economist.com


Our correspondent meets yet another bearded Brit


Get article background

THE Old Theatre at the London School of Economics is a hotspot for demagoguery. Fiery student orators have honed their rhetoric there before going on to jobs in investment banking; mobs denouncing dictatorship have hounded hapless visiting speakers from the podium.

Notoriously poorly ventilated, the air can be thick with everything from the smell of wet clothes (LSE is too cramped to provide a convenient cloakroom) to flurries of paper darts directed at speakers that the audience finds boring or annoying. On one memorable occasion, a gigantic inflated condom came floating down from the gallery to disconcert a notoriously adulterous politician who was trying to give a talk on privatisation.

In 1980, when your diarist arrived there as an undergraduate, it was gripped by the issue of Soviet beastliness at home and abroad. At one end of the political spectrum were the ardent anti-communists, soon to be reinforced by refugees from martial law in Poland. They denounced the persecution of Soviet Jews, collected signatures for Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77, and celebrated the West’s renaissance under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

At the other end were the Spartacists, a weird group of Stalinist Trotskyists (yes, you did read that correctly), whose slogans included “Workers’ bombs are bombs for peace! Capitalist bombs are bombs for war!” and “Smash NATO, defend the Soviet Union!”

A slightly less bonkers approach by the Kremlin’s useful idiots was to match every Soviet crime with a real or imagined western one. It was called “whataboutism”: “So you object to Soviet interventions in eastern Europe? Then what about the American assault on the Nicaraguan Sandinistas?” “You mind about Soviet Jews? Then what about blacks in South Africa?”

AFP
AFP

Reports of Litvinenko's death “greatly exaggerated”, say Russians


So an evening debate on the death of Russian press freedom (where your diarist was putting the case for the prosecution) produced a sense of déjà vu. Two Russian journalists, putting the case for the defence, centred their case not on the rights and wrongs of Russia’s laws on extremism, but on the shortcomings of the British media for superficiality, double-standards, and craven obedience to its political and commercial masters. How dare we criticise Russian public broadcasting after the way the BBC had bowed to government pressure on so many occasions? Had not the newspaper coverage of the Litvinenko murder been a farrago of exaggeration, misunderstanding and hypocrisy?

Well perhaps it had. But the debate was about Russia. The shortcomings of the British press are widely discussed, not least by its own journalists; though it gets most things wrong most of the time, the errors are not directed by weekly meetings at Number 10, Downing Street at which a prime ministerial aide lays down the line to take in the comings days.

Soviet propagandists’ overuse of “whataboutism” provided the punchline for subversive jokes. For example: A caller to a phone-in on the (fictitious) Radio Armenia asks, “What is the average wage of an American manual worker?” A long pause ensues. (The answer would have been highly embarassing to the self-proclaimed workers’ paradise, which was proving to be lots of work and no paradise). Then the answer comes: “u nich linchuyut negrov” [over there they lynch Negroes]. By the late 1980s, that had become the derisive catchphrase that summed up the whole bombastic apparatus of the Soviet propaganda machine.

Yet “whataboutism” attracted vocal support from some parts of the audience. A student from Pakistan passionately denounced democracy as a sham. Someone from Malaysia praised the Kremlin for standing up to America. A bearded Brit came up with a predictable, “Who are we to judge?”.

Others, including what seemed (from their accents) to be a good sprinkling of Russians, disagreed, denouncing the Kremlin line and bemoaning the loss of media pluralism (not quite the same as freedom, but still worth having) since the Yeltsin years. Most did not give their names before speaking. “The embassy is watching us” explained one of them afterwards. Plus ça change.

30 comments:

r.harneis said...

“But the debate was about Russia. The shortcomings of the British press are widely discussed, not least by its own journalists; though it gets most things wrong most of the time, the errors are not directed by weekly meetings at Number 10, Downing Street at which a prime ministerial aide lays down the line to take in the comings days”.

The point is that the whole debate is absurd because the Western press delivers a grossly censored result – particularly in foreign affairs. It does not matter whether it is literally dictated by number 10, the result is what matters and of course it irritates the hell out of the Russians. E.g. ludicrously inadequate press coverage of events in Kosovo (Operation Mass Appeal), Iraq, Afghanistan, any number of Latin American countries. The Economist in particular has published articles on Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya that totally disregard any sort of journalistic balance. There are now all sorts of well documented sources confirming the extent to which the secret services, particularly the US, have distorted news for years. It is not possible just to brush this aside and say “But the debate is about Russia”. The debate is really about or ought to be about whether press freedom is important at all or can exist in the real world. Obviously, many Russians would say, it cannot be, otherwise its high priests in the West would actually practice it. The only place where there is a real discussion, however inadequate, is on the Internet. The mistake the Russians have made is to have fallen into the trap of pretending that they think a “free press” is important, which a large majority of them do not. On the contrary, in the still fragile state of their society they think it would be a positive menace. A judgement that would have been widely shared, for example, in Britain in 1940. Why for example, has it taken all this time for it to be “revealed” that Litvinenko was a spy in the pay of the UK government, which any fool could have guessed but scarcely a journalist would say?

Edward Lucas said...

The difference is that we know how the Kremlin controls the media in Russia, whereas you just infer control of the anglo-saxon media (or at least some of it) because you don't like what we write. I suggest you look at the Independent and Guardian where you will find plenty of critical comment on the subjects to which you refer.

Secondly, I can't see how you can compare wartime Britain with Russia now? What's the existential threat facing Russia that justifies the clampdown on free media?

Thirdly, just because the Daily Mail says something doesn't mean that it is true.

andyk said...

Thirdly, just because the Daily Mail says something doesn't mean that it is true.

Does that also apply to your articles?

Giustino said...

The Economist in particular has published articles on Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya that totally disregard any sort of journalistic balance.

I don't think any journalist can maintain fictive 'objectiveness' in the Politkovskaja case. When one of 'your own' is murdered, you feel it. Western journalists are raised knowing that the only place they might legitimately be in danger is in war zones. Seeing 'one of your own' murdered in a stairwell in Moscow -- a wealthy city full of Western capital -- is disconcerting.

The debate is really about or ought to be about whether press freedom is important at all or can exist in the real world.

That's pure bunk, and a standard FOX News propaganda tool. "The debate isn't about whether George W. Bush served in the National Guard in 1972, it's about what kind of typewriters were being used by the military in 1972 ..."

Spare us the appeals to broaden the subject matter so that it becomes so vague that it cannot be discussed.

If I held a debate on China, it would be about China, not Russia. If I held a debate about Italy, it would be about Italy, not China. And if I held a debate about Russia, it would be about Russia.

What is consistently funny to Westerners is the contortionists act Russians do to not talk about their country.

I am an American, I can admit my country has flaws. I don't need to say, 'well things are worse in China' and change the conversation. Maybe they are. Who cares? Because if you want to talk about America, we'll talk about America, not about China, and not about Russia. No 'whataboutisms' are needed.

Does that also apply to your articles?

Everyone who is a journalist knows that 'objectivity' is wishful thinking. The point of the marketplace of free ideas is that you read Mr. Lucas' columns then go read some bearded Brit at the Guardian and then go read whatever the Conservative Party is printing and make up your own mind based on the mosaic of information you have digested.

This concept of the journalist as impartial, truth giving God is routed in the 1950s newsroom. It wasn't true then and it is obviously not true now.

r.harneis said...

“The difference is that we know how the Kremlin controls the media in Russia, whereas you just infer control of the anglo-saxon media (or at least some of it) because you don't like what we write. I suggest you look at the Independent and Guardian where you will find plenty of critical comment on the subjects to which you refer”.
I do not “dislike” what you write. I think and I hope made clear that I thought you were missing the point. In fact I agree with you that the “you’re as bad as us’ argument is a dead end. I do not infer the fact that the Anglo-Saxon media is controlled. It is an undeniable fact. How could Clinton et al seriously have accused Serbia of genocide without the complicity of the Western media? Let us not forget that the Kosovo intervention was notable for a totally false story that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. The CIA have admitted that 30% of their budget is spent on influencing the media. We do not know what the CIA budget is but we know that the total spending of the US intelligence services is an astonishing 44 billion dollars at least. That leaves plenty of scope and billions for influencing the media. The Anglo-Saxon media is also self-censored. Anybody who wants to have serious career in it must avoid saying certain things. This is why so much is said on the net and not in the press.

”Secondly, I can't see how you can compare wartime Britain with Russia now? What's the existential threat facing Russia that justifies the clampdown on free media?”
I am surprised that you do not think that there is an existential threat to Russia. Of course it is not as dramatic as 1940 but it exists because particularly in the US, there is pressure to do a Yugoslavian job on Russia and we all know why – energy. As is well-known a society that is immediately post dictatorship is particularly vulnerable to destabilisation.

”Thirdly, just because the Daily Mail says something doesn't mean that it is true”.
Of course but first the story has not been denied as far as I know. Second I have myself asked the Home office why Litivinenko was given fast track British citizenship when they themselves state that to be awarded British citizenship at all, it is necessary “to be of good character”. Litvinenko “of good character”?

andyk said...

The point is, higher standards are demanded of Russia than the West demands of itself. Yet the West is prepared to look the other way, when it suits it. Like when Yeltsin shelled the parliament in '93 and created the hyper-presidential constitution now so derided in the West. Like when Yeltsin stole the '96 election, setting a nasty precedent.

Just because fringe politicians do not get aired on public TV, does not mean that all information is controlled by the state. There are plenty of papers and websites writing some pretty outrageous things about the government in Russia in Russian. All easily accessible. Well, maybe not to babushkas. But they would never vote for "reformers" anyway. Just how much air time do Nader and LaRouche get in the States?

Colleen said...

Well, at least the "Kremlin" doesn't stage press conferences with fake reporters.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gaRIQb-KAAib21U9us628_gmg9lwD8SH510O1
http://www.abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=3782176&page=1
http://www.reuters.com/article/americasCrisis/idUSN26619054
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7064909.stm

I follow the Russian press a bit, so just a few comments:

- Russian press manipulation was greater during Yeltsin's era, yet few complained then
- Criticism sounds like "sour grapes" by those who think that Siberia's oil and gas wealth shouldn't only belong to one country
- Criticism also appears like being of a "colonialist mindset" (luckily Russia has never been a British colony). Seriously, the west does not have any moral authority and it's only trying to influence Russian domestic politics
- If Kasparov had any popular support he would be getting press coverage. Same for Lyndon LaRoche (mentioned above), Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and the other even-more-out-of-the-mainstream presidential "hopefuls" out there
- FYI, Putin's course is irreversible because it's not just "Putin's course." It is the course of the Russian people, who genuinely believe it and [wisely] crave it
- Perhaps, legitimate analysis of Russia in the future should at least accept the notion that "Putin's course" is a popular given and that cowardly slandering will lead nowhere
- By the way, it looks like Russia no longer cares about what western analysts think of it (I guess someone blew their cover)

Arguably, the Russian people have never had it this good. Both in terms of freedom and prosperity. And hope for the future. It's funny how some people don't like this turn of events.

Giustino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Giustino said...

r.harneis wroteThe Anglo-Saxon media is also self-censored. Anybody who wants to have serious career in it must avoid saying certain things. This is why so much is said on the net and not in the press.

The Internet is part of the media spectrum. To think that the media is only a grouping of TV channels and newspapers is false. Secondly, to assume that it is only “Anglo-Saxon” is misleading as well. If you read Helsingin Sanomat, Aftonbladet, Le Monde, or Die Welt, they are all showing the same image of Russia.

The Litvinenko and Politkovskaja murders have been given similar treatment in most media outlets. It’s not just an Anglo-Saxon thing. In Germany they too called Putin a murderer. In Finland they too lit candles for Politkovskaja. Trying to cut Europe out of it is misleading.

I am surprised that you do not think that there is an existential threat to Russia. Of course it is not as dramatic as 1940 ...

In 1940, the Soviets were allied with the Nazis. So I guess the existential threat then was Allied democracy? Wasn't that always the existential threat to communism?

But it exists because particularly in the US, there is pressure to do a Yugoslavian job on Russia and we all know why – energy. As is well-known a society that is immediately post dictatorship is particularly vulnerable to de-stabilization.

I think it’s a tad naive to believe that the US was the only power behind the war in Yugoslavia.

Gerhard Schroeder’s government supported that intervention, sent its troops and its Luftwaffe, and played its role. And yet Mr. Schroeder is now on the board of Gazprom. Or is that just another one of the West’s stealth plans to take over Russia?

Andyk wrote:
The point is, higher standards are demanded of Russia than the West demands of itself.

You mean our governments could be cynical and hypocritical? You don’t say ... But does that mean we can't discuss developments in a large country and how they affect us? No.

Just because fringe politicians do not get aired on public TV, does not mean that all information is controlled by the state.

But when the state owns most of the TV news media, it *does* mean that all the information is controlled by the state ...

Colleen wrote:
Criticism sounds like "sour grapes" by those who think that Siberia's oil and gas wealth shouldn't only belong to one country

And European energy companies shouldn’t belong to Russian ones. I am sure Russia agrees? Or are they too hypocrites?

Criticism also appears like being of a "colonialist mindset" (luckily Russia has never been a British colony). Seriously, the west does not have any moral authority and it's only trying to influence Russian domestic politics

Nor does Russia. Then why does it tell Finland not to join NATO? Because what moral authority could a country that once attacked Finland and stole a tenth of its land have to tell it not to join a Western defense alliance?

Russia interferes in other countries' domestic politics all the time. Which would make them hypocrites, right?

Arguably, the Russian people have never had it this good. Both in terms of freedom and prosperity. And hope for the future. It's funny how some people don't like this turn of events.

Russia is still eons behind Poland in terms of reform. Poland just had a competitive election. Russia is telling us that it may take an unlimited time until the middle class is deemed ready by Leader Putin to have a real competitive election.

Like Russia, Poland was once tsarist. Like Russia, Poland was once communist. Yet, unlike Russia, Poland now has competitive elections.

So my question would be, Why is Russia incapable of having transparent, competitive elections if other former communist, former tsarist countries can have them?

Why are the Russians so afraid of transparency? Is it just the big bad NATO that is keeping real democracy away from the Russians?

Or is it the “fascist” governments in Ukraine and Georgia? What makes Russia so special that it gets to be a democratic failure and still belong to the clubs of democracies like the G8?

Is it just because they have nukes? Or is it because they are such spectacular whiners? Or maybe it really is just the oil?

Care to share? I am genuinely interested.

La Russophobe said...

ANDYK:

"The point is, higher standards are demanded of Russia than the West demands of itself."

No sir!

The point is that about 1 million people are lost from the Russian population every year, that they work for an average wage of $4 or less per hour, and that the average man doesn't reach the age of 60.

The point is that Russia chose a proud KGB spy to lead it after the KGB was responsible for the worst episode of state-sponsored murder in human history and destroyed the USSR.

The point is that Russia has no debates between rival candidates and no rival party has ever held power in its history, unlike UK and USA.

The point is that you are helping to enable this failure, which amounts to genocide, by helping to deflect attention from the urgency of reform, and you are using exactly the same tactic brilliantly exposed by Edward in this post, the one the USSR used. The same USSR that totally failed and disappeared.

As such, you're far more dangerous as Russia's so-called "friend" than any enemy possibly could be.

cabrero said...

“The point is that about 1 million people are lost from the Russian population every year, that they work for an average wage of $4 or less per hour, and that the average man doesn't reach the age of 60”

- all that is not a fault of Putin’s government but a direct consequence of wild capitalism and avalanche privatisation of 90-ies, started on a weak economic basis of the decaying USSR.



“The point is that Russia chose a proud KGB spy to lead it after the KGB was responsible for the worst episode of state-sponsored murder in human history and destroyed the USSR.”

- KGB concentrated a great number of honest, intelligent and honourable pepople, sincerely devoted to its country (not regime). Only 2% of it’s activities during the SU can be really condemned as HR violations. Yes Putin was KGB officer, so what? George Bush Sr. was a CIA director, CIA was not much better than the KGB. You can not blame person and judge him because of belonging to that organisation.

“The point is that Russia has no debates between rival candidates and no rival party has ever held power in its history, unlike UK and USA”

- they do not deabate because they are not rival - russian people do not give credit to the “opposition”.


And it is not correct to apply the same principles to different countries and cultures. Big entities have their own laws of development. Russia is big in all aspects and can not be judged as Poland.

r.harneis said...

La Russophobe said...
ANDYK:

"The point is, higher standards are demanded of Russia than the West demands of itself."

”No sir!”
Yes Sir! As the western powers blunder about Iraq and Afghanistan leaving a trail of death and destruction behind them they preach democracy and human rights. But as agreed above that is not the point.

”The point is that about 1 million people are lost from the Russian population every year, that they work for an average wage of $4 or less per hour, and that the average man doesn't reach the age of 60.”
There is bad news for you on this front. The Russian population figures are the best this year than for the last fifteen. Worse still, the death of people over 60 as the Japanese found after the war is a huge economic advantage – not of course for the over sixties themselves.

”The point is that Russia chose a proud KGB spy to lead it after the KGB was responsible for the worst episode of state-sponsored murder in human history and destroyed the USSR”.
This is about as relevant, in so far as it is true, than that the United States chose a bunch of draft dodging oil crooks.

”The point is that Russia has no debates between rival candidates and no rival party has ever held power in its history, unlike UK and USA.”
There is very little sign that the people who finance US elections will allow a real debate in the US either.

”The point is that you are helping to enable this failure, which amounts to genocide, by helping to deflect attention from the urgency of reform, and you are using exactly the same tactic brilliantly exposed by Edward in this post, the one the USSR used. The same USSR that totally failed and disappeared.”
The USSR has indeed totally failed but how is it genocidal to believe that western attitudes and broken promises to Russia over NATO expansion are self defeating – as I do?

”So my question would be, Why is Russia incapable of having transparent, competitive elections if other former communist, former tsarist countries can have them? Why are the Russians so afraid of transparency? Is it just the big bad NATO that is keeping real democracy away from the Russians?”
Russia is not incapable of having transparent competitive elections it is just that the vast majority of the Russian political class and population believe that they have gone too far down the democratic road bearing in mind the potential instability of their society and the threats presented by the aggressive western powers lead by the US who want to control their passport to prosperity – energy. They believe the Chinese were right and that Gorbachev was wrong. Prosperity has to come first then maybe (and probably inevitably) more political freedom.
Giustino said...
The comparison with Poland is interesting but false. First Poland is a homogeneous society and therefore much less prone to fall apart. Second free enterprise was never completely destroyed there under Communism. Third Russia is the only country infected by the communistic disease imported from western Europe that suffered the experience for so long. When the USSR finally collapsed in 1989 there was no one left alive who actually remembered what a economically free society was like. Poland only had 44 years of it and only partially. Fifth Poland had the advantage of having no choice but to join the EU with all the compulsory reforms that that entailed. Finally as Marshall Goldmann points out in his must read “Piratization of Russia”, Poland reformed after seeing the doubtful benefits of the shock treatment reforms in Russia. They learnt from Russia’s mistakes. As to whether Poland is eons ahead of Russia in terms of reform time will tell but clearly in post communistic Poland there was not much left to steal, so it was Moscow that benefited from Larry Summers and his chums.
The reason Russia is run by secret service men is that during the disaster of 1998 they were the only part of the state infrastructure left standing and capable of dealing with the robber barons like Khordovsky who would have sold his granny for a dollar and was about to sell a large chunk of his country’s vital assets for billions of dollars.

Colleen said...

@giustino

- With Siberia I was referencing an issue that was recently in the news pertaining to some crazies who envy Russia's sovereignty over Siberia. As for whether or not Russian companies should purchase European energy companies and vice versa, Putin said recently that the same people who convinced Russia to open its markets and privatize in the 90s are practicing protectionism today (lol). It's funny how the tables have turned.

I'm confident that one way or another Russia will prevail - its oil and gas is much needed and it has alternative customers to its east. If I were the E.U. I would recognize that I had a weak hand and look to cooperate.

- "Colonialist mindset" like when the British Ambassador ordered Russia to violate its Constitution and extradite Lugovoy. Or how about when the U.S. reprimanded Austria's defense minister for speaking-up against BMD in Eastern Europe? http://winthrop77.blogspot.com/2007/08/united-states-said-thursday-that.html

There are more examples of American and British "colonialist mindset" than there are Russian (by a long shot). And notice how Russia is primarily concerned about its "neighborhood" and according to the logic of the Monroe Doctrine this concern is legitimate. America and Britain obnoxiously try to impose their political/economic might and make demands upon the whole world, lecturing at will.

- The rise of the middle class in Russia is real. Look at all the retailers scrambling to get there, for example:
http://winthrop77.blogspot.com/2007/10/russia-tops-european-ranking-of-new.html

It is fully transparent economically (gold currency reserve balances released weakly). You can read all of Putin's speeches on his web site. Public opinion is STRONGLY in favor of the current regime. Just because you are against it, does not immediately make it illegitimate, believe it or not.

@La Russophobe

- Cabrero and r.harneis covered it, but just to repeat. The "demographic crisis" is a direct result of the chaos of the 90s. "Roughly half as many children were born in 1993 as in 1987":
http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article2357.html
http://countrystudies.us/russia/29.htm

Due to the policies of the current government, the situation is being rectified and quickly. "Since January, more than one million children have been born in Russia. This is the highest birth rate in 15 years according to first deputy PM Dmitry Medvedev."

- Surprise, but simply saying "KGB" doesn't spook one anymore lol. Putin has proven to be a competent President and many Russian's consider him a God's-sent. Domestically we see stability and prosperity. A rising middle class. A turnaround demographically. The development of the regions. Large-scale infrastructure projects virtually everywhere. Internationally, Russia has forged alliances with India/China, France, Italy, Austria, and Germany among others. It has secured the Caspian, made-up with Hungary and Latvia, and forged economic deals in the Middle East, Latin America, Australia, and Africa. It has become a necessity again to cooperate with Russia in all international issues.

George H.W. Bush and Robert Gates are former CIA chiefs, btw.

- Well, the convenient "two-party system" in the U.S. has allowed the same policies to pass on from one administration to another for generations. Bill Clinton bombed Iraq, George W. Bush invaded it, and Hillary Clinton voted to allow it. Last election, we had one Skull and Bone member up against a fellow member. There is as much "choice" in the U.S. as there is in Russia, face the facts. Political debate in the U.S. is a "ruse," much like professional wrestling where they beat each other in the ring and laugh about how the fans were into it backstage.

cabrero said...

My respect and gratitude to Coleen and r.harneis for and objective and open-minded vision and analisys of the things. It's not a matter of being pro/anti- russian/american, but being able to look at the situation without prejudice.

Besides that many of the "russophobes" are loosing the main point, that now the world is on the treshhold of a conflict between christian and, lets say, non-christian civilizations and cultures. Russia is eager to be on your side and serve, when nessesary, as an intermediate, as a bridge. But no, everything is being done to push it further away from the West. Well, as you wish, we'll see what will happen then. We are on the tap at least...

Giustino said...

Colleen
As for whether or not Russian companies should purchase European energy companies and vice versa, Putin said recently that the same people who convinced Russia to open its markets and privatize in the 90s are practicing protectionism today (lol). It's funny how the tables have turned.

I don't see any reciprocal investing. I see Russians wanting to own European energy interests but not allowing Europeans to access their interests to the same extent. Which is in Russia's interests I guess, but if the Russians want to whine when Europe protects its interest then let them whine ... it's what they're good at anyway.

I'm confident that one way or another Russia will prevail - its oil and gas is much needed and it has alternative customers to its east. If I were the E.U. I would recognize that I had a weak hand and look to cooperate.

The EU has quite a strong hand. It has the money (the wealthiest political entity in the world) and the brains. Russia needs both and to get access to both it needs to play nice. Because in the EU they have democracies. Their leaders come and go and their Russia policies fluctuate.

There are more examples of American and British "colonialist mindset" than there are Russian (by a long shot).

What does that have to do with Russia's lack of moral authority with dealing with neighbors?

Are you saying that other countries lack moral authority too? How is that news to anybody?

And notice how Russia is primarily concerned about its "neighborhood" and according to the logic of the Monroe Doctrine this concern is legitimate.

Russia never had a president named Monroe who rendered any kind of doctrine on its behalf.

Still, most countries in Russia's European neighborhood view Russia as a security threat. Why is that? Why is it that the Finnish defense minister said his country's three main threats were "Russia, Russia, and Russia"?

America and Britain obnoxiously try to impose their political/economic might and make demands upon the whole world, lecturing at will.

Sounds like Russia.

Public opinion is STRONGLY in favor of the current regime. Just because you are against it, does not immediately make it illegitimate, believe it or not.

I didn't say I was against it. But I do live next to Russia, and yes, I get scared when I see parading youths celebrating the leaders birthday.

I also believe that autocracies are doomed to fail because democracies are more flexible.

You see, next year we'll get rid of George W. Bush. But you'll have more Putin and more Putin and more Putin. And there won't be any real choice in the matter. A Russian diplomat recently said Putin could stay in power for the next 17 years.

Yeltsin gave the throne to Putin at a time when things were bad. Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, Stalin, and Lenin all died. Gorbachev and Khruschev were forced out.

So it appears Colleen that we'll have to wait for the one-party state to run itself into the ground again before there's a real change of power in Moscow.

As a European resident, that makes me nervous. But that's Russia. Condemned to repeat the same mistakes, over and over and over again.

If only Russians could learn how to share power and Americans and Brits could figure out that Iraq is never going to work ... what a splendid day that would be.

cabrero said...

“I don't see any reciprocal investing. I see Russians wanting to own European energy interests but not allowing Europeans to access their interests to the same extent. Which is in Russia's interests I guess, but if the Russians want to whine when Europe protects its interest then let them whine ... it's what they're good at anyway.”

- Funny, what I see is that Europeans limit Russia’s investments in their economy and still criticize us for doing the same with theirs. And for the reference: EU investments into Russia count 30 bln. EUR, Russia’s in EU - 3 bln. And smbd. says we are not opened enough.


“The EU has quite a strong hand. It has the money (the wealthiest political entity in the world) and the brains”

- sorry to disappoint you, but we have the money too, at least 410 bln. USD in reserves. And strange thing, but brains we have also, as well as gaz, oil and many stuff that shoots and explodes.


“Why is it that the Finnish defense minister said his country's three main threats were "Russia, Russia, and Russia"?”

- because he wasn’t responsible enough for his words. Their prime minister took that words back on behalf of Finland and made the defense minister to take it back too.

Giustino said...

Colleen,

I just visited your website and read some of the regurgitated nonsense about northern Europe and Russia.

You, and others, might benefit from a few history books about the Baltic region.

The general point would be that there always have been different powers competing for economic dominance in northern Europe.

Up until the 18th century, the strongest powers were Sweden and Poland-Lithuania (Rzeczpospolita). From the 18th century through the 20th century Russia was ascendant, as well as Germany.

In the first World War, the Baltic rim countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland achieved their independence with the help of Western powers.

The Germans helped the Finns. The Brits and Finns helped the Estonians. The Estonians helped the Latvians, et cetera.

During the interwar period, Poland was allied with France and the UK. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania maintained neutrality. It obviously did them no good in the face of the Soviet-Nazi Pact of 1939.

When the Baltic rim governments went into exile they fled West -- to Sweden and Norway, Germany, the UK, and also the US, Canada, and Australia. The thousands of refugees that fled the Soviet and Nazi terror also wound up in refugee camps in those countries, bringing them even closer together.

Now that independence among the Baltic rim countries has been restored, why would it be any shock that they ally themselves with their traditional allies?

Should we really be shocked that NATO "gobbled up" Poland, when Poland was an allied country in the 1920s and 1930s? And would be really see the actions of the Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians as "obnoxious" when they choose to join the same military alliance to which other small northern European countries, like Iceland, Denmark, and Norway, belong, especially when their neutrality policies failed?

If you see the hand of Great Britain in eastern Europe right next to the hand of the Russian Federation, you shouldn't be surprised. That's the way it's always been.

Giustino said...

- because he wasn’t responsible enough for his words. Their prime minister took that words back on behalf of Finland and made the defense minister to take it back too.

He was just being honest. And I think everyone appreciated his candor, even if Vanhanen had to chicken out. The Estonians get in trouble all the time for saying what everybody else knows. Tact isn't a national trait.

Giustino said...

Ok kids. I have had my fill of this quaint "democracy is a failure, authoritarianism is good and the people like it" debate. It makes one nostalgic for 1920s Italy. I am sure they said the same thing back then too.

In the words of Mussolini, "ciao".

cabrero said...

Wake up son, we are in the 21st century, and look around, the world is bigger than Estonia and it has it's center somwhere else, not in Baltics or in Poland.

Colleen said...

Seriously, Russia is busy making political and economic deals with China and India, creating a multipolar world, exploring space, acting as a peace broker in Korea and Serbia and the Middle East, and experimenting in nuclear fussion and nanotechnology. It could care less what Estonia wants or thinks.

If you want to talk about history then look at Russia.

No people suffered more in the 20th Century than native Russians. Yet, they don't seek vengeance against Germany for the crimes of Trotsky and the Bolsheviks, or Georgia for the crimes of Stalin (most of which were committed against guess who? Russians), or Germany again for the crimes of Hitler (I think it was more than 20 million dead Russians that time), or the other countries that invaded Russia on 6/22/41 (Romania, Finland, Italy, Hungary, and Slovakia all sent invading armies into Russia), or even the Americans and Brits for steering Russia to chaos, poverty, and despair in the 90s (the effects of which still linger!).

In fact, after 9/11, it has been written many times that Putin was the first foreign leader to telephone Bush and offer support. He went on to allow American bases to be stationed in Central Asia.

My point is that Russia has learned to move forward and cooperate with nations that broke promises, made wars, and conspired against it.

So if Estonia or Poland or whoever wishes to retain grievances over crimes that may or may not have been committed in the past and pursue a hate-mongering foreign policy toward Russia, don't expect them to be rewarded. Neither by Russia nor the international community, which Russia has overwhelmingly won over due, in part, to American hubris.

However, if Estonia or Poland choose to cooperate with Russia, they can expect to be treated as partners in a symbiotic relationship.

The choice is theirs.

Giustino said...
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Giustino said...

Colleen, as a New Yorker, you should be ashamed of yourself for embracing autocracy. You live in one of the freest cities in the world that was founded on the principles of the Dutch Republic.

It was in that city -- where I am from too -- that supporters of autocracy killed thousands of New Yorkers for daring to attempt and establish liberal democratic rule.

And now you sit in the center of that success and applaud oligarchy and autocracy half way around the globe?

I am glad we in New York still have democratic rule. I am sad to see you betray our city.

La Russophobe said...

GIUSTINO:

What she should be ashamed of is not having the guts renounce her foreign citizenship, move to a Russian province and live like a Russian, while at the same time pontificating like a buffoon about how wonderful life in Russia is compared to where she actually chooses to live.

As for her treachery, she's no doubt quite proud of that, as all filth of her ilk always is, right up until the time they destroy themselves with it.

La Russophobe said...

R. HARNEIS:

You are deeply deranged, and a boldfaced liar. Russia's mortality figures have not improved at all (it still has one of the world's highest murder rates) and you don't even attempt to give a link to the contrary. You simply invent "facts" just as they did in Soviet times, and you will follow in the USSR's footsteps right into oblivion.

cabrero said...

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

The crisis and planned government measures to halt it was a key subject of Vladimir Putin's 2006 state of the nation address.[4]. As a result a national programme was developed to reverse the trend by 2020. Already a new study published in 2007, shows, on the whole, that the rate of population decrease has stalled: Thus if the net decrease in January-Agust 2006 was 408.200 this year in the same period was 196.600. The death rate accounted for 357 thousand, that's 137 thousand less than in 2006. At the same time in 2007 period, there were 1.0456 million births in Russia (981.6 thousand in 2006 period), whilst deaths decreased from 1.475 million to 1.4023. In all the death:birth ration dropped from 1.5 to 1.3. 18 of the 83 provinces showed a natural growth of population (in 2006: 16). The Russian Ministry of Economical Development hopes that by 2020 the population stabilises at 138-139 million, and by 2025, to increase it again to its present day status of 143-145, raising the life expectancy to 75 years. [5]

paul2i said...

I was there, in the Old Theater at the LSE (I'm a student there and I come from a former Communist country). I left before the Q&A because I had too much of the Russian journalist's propaganda. After seeing that I'm even happier that in my country we have a free press.

La Russophobe said...

CABRERO:

You do realize you're quoting the Kremlin's own statements, right? Are you suggesting that they'd admit the truth if it was bad for them?

You statement would offend the intelligence of a turnip.

cabrero said...
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cabrero said...

What I quoted is the same Wikipedia link I provided...

Get a life, there is a world outside. There are better things to do then insulting people for not being agree with you. Find some other applicaion to your spear. It has a non-sharp end - enjoy it then!!