Saturday, January 19, 2008

Daily Mail excerpt from New Cold War

Putin: the brutal despot who is dragging the West into a new Cold War

By EDWARD LUCAS - Few things embodied Stalinist terror more than the midnight knock on the door.

For millions of innocent victims it heralded interrogation, torture and a lengthy - and all too often lethal - sentence in the Communist concentration camps of the Gulag.

Now the heirs of Stalin's secret police are running Russia - and there could be few clearer signs of their true nature than the British Council's Russian staff being hauled from their beds to answer for the "crime" of working for a foreign employer.


Naked aggression: Vlademir Putin's Russia is a threat to the West, but he acts with impunity

The harassment of the British Council on transparently bogus charges of tax evasion has prompted a protest even from our supine Foreign Office.

The extraordinary thing is that Vladimir Putin hardly seemed worth a footnote to Russian history when the ailing Boris Yeltsin named him Prime Minister in 1999.

Few realised that the taciturn bureaucrat with a taste for judo was the harbinger of a silent putsch that would put the old KGB in charge of the Kremlin, with chilling consequences not only for Russia, but for the world.

The "siloviki" (literally "men of power"), as the spooks are called, have transformed Russia.

They took over a pluralist country with a lively Press and strong pro-Western orientation, though still reeling from the Soviet economic collapse and the looting and corruption that followed it.

Many at home and abroad hoped that a few years of heavy-handed rule by sinister strongmen would be the price of freedom and security.

They were wrong. The costs of Putin's KGB putsch have been colossal. Russia today is the epitome of bullying and crookedness.

The independent media have shrivelled, with television in particular coming almost completely under the authorities' control.

Almost every channel for complaint and dissent is blocked. Judicial and bureaucratic harassment, as well as physical threats, deter all but the bravest from speaking out. The authorities increasingly use forcible incarceration in psychiatric hospitals, the most loathsome weapon in the Soviet arsenal of repression, against their critics.

No wonder most international rankings no longer count Russia as a "free country"; no wonder they now list it as one of the most corrupt in the industrialised world.

That is a shameful retreat from the hopes of the 1990s.

Yes, living standards in Russia have soared under Putin, and most Russians believe they are living in a golden age.

This is hardly surprising, given that the price of oil - a resource the country has had in abundance - has risen some five times since Putin came to power.

And in a country where the media has been annexed for pro-Putin propaganda, is it not understandable that his regime has popular support?

In truth, Russia is being run by a corrupt, incompetent and despotic regime, and the huge windfall of high oil prices is being squandered.

Now is the time to modernise Russia, using the vast influx of petro-roubles, but there is no sign this is happening.

The oil and gas will not last for ever - their production is flat or falling and Russia is suffering power shortages; public services are a disgrace and the infrastructure pitiful.

Grand plans are everywhere: Russia says it will spend a trillion dollars on public investment projects in the coming years.

But the evidence so far is that this money is at best stolen, and at worst simply wasted.

After eight years of Mr Putin's rule, there is little improvement in roads, railways, power stations and pipelines.

Abysmal standards of public health, dangerous workplaces, endemic alcoholism and dreadful road safety make male life expectancy only 58.6 years - worse than in Laos or Yemen.

The so-called golden age is as phoney as Russia's elections that put Mr Putin and his cronies in power time after time.

When his hand-picked successor Dmitri Medvedev "wins" the presidential election next month, the nameplates on the doors may change, but the political system Mr Putin and his fellow siloviki has created will stay: impenetrable to outsiders, impervious to criticism and lubricated with vast sums of money obtained corruptly.

Mr Putin is reckoned to be worth $40 billion.

One source of this cash - though denied by all concerned - is an extraordinarily profitable Swiss-based oil trading firm that seems to have the miraculous knack of gaining almost limitless supplies of cut-price Russian crude oil to sell on the world market.

The Kremlin, Moscow

Cold War: The Kremlin power house in Moscow

True, the oil and gas have fuelled a remarkable boom in construction and retailing. Glitzy malls and towering skyscrapers are sprouting up across Russia.

But the boom is fuelled by natural riches, not brainpower.

Bright Russians with good ideas need the certainty provided by honest courts and solid property rights, and go abroad to find them.

Mr Putin talks of a "dictatorship of law" - but it is dictatorship, not justice, that has been the reality.

The KGB regime in Russia is more than just a missed opportunity; it is also a direct threat to us.

The best example of this came with a shameless act of nuclear terrorism in the heart of London barely a year ago.

Alexander Litvinenko was a strident London-based critic of Mr Putin, accusing him of everything from mass murder to paedophilia.

Poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope, polonium-210, at a meeting with three Russians at the Millennium Hotel, this British citizen died an agonising death; his last words directly blamed Mr Putin for his murder.

Had the assassins come from any other country claiming to be an advanced European democracy, this would have led to intensive - and successful - cooperation between Scotland Yard and the foreign criminal justice system.

Whether or not the murderer was extradited, he would certainly have been prosecuted.

At the very least, careless handling of toxic radioactive substances is a crime and Andrei Lugovoi, the man British officials have named as their prime suspect, left a trail of polonium in his travels across Europe.

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Despot: Putin can hold the West to ransom because of Russia's huge gas and oil deposits

But Mr Lugovoi enjoys Kremlin protection at the highest level. Despite having endangered scores, if not hundreds, of innocent Londoners with his antics, he has faced no penalty.

Indeed, he has been feted in Russia, becoming a celebrated politician.

The Kremlin scoffed at British concerns: why would London jeopardise important trade relations "for the sake of one man", a foreign ministry spokesman asked.

Some 20 years after Mikhail Gorbachev started dismantling Communism, Russia is reverting to Soviet behaviour at home and abroad.

Thanks to billions of pounds in oil and gas revenues, the Kremlin can afford to be contemptuous of our values.

So far our response has been perilously inattentive and complacent, partly due to greed and wishful thinking, and partly because of distractions.

European countries have been so preoccupied with their distaste for George Bush's "war on terror" that they have all but ignored the threat from Russia.

Those who downplay the threat say that elements of a new Cold War are missing.

That featured a global military and ideological confrontation, when a surprise conventional attack in Europe by the Warsaw Pact could have reached the Rhine within three days, forcing the West to choose between surrender and starting a nuclear war.

Half the European continent was under the ice cap of Communism, with even the most fleeting human contacts constrained by the climate of fear.

That Cold War is indeed over: I remember it when it was alive and - as a correspondent in Eastern Europe as Communism collapsed - I was there at its funeral.

But so too are the rosy sentiments that succeeded it.

The most catastrophic mistake the outside world has made since 1991 is to assume that Russia is becoming a "normal" country.

From this Panglossian viewpoint, any problems that arise are mere bumps in the road that will be left behind in the progress towards Westernstyle freedom and legality.

That idea always seemed optimistic, but now it looks downright fanciful; those who advocate it are deluding themselves and those who listen to them.

Russia still, outrageously, belongs to the G8 club of big rich Western countries and the Council of Europe, a talking shop that also guards the continent's human rights conventions.

But that should fool nobody.

Russia has explicitly abandoned Western values of political freedom, the rule of law and multilateral security, in favour of its own ideology, "Sovereign democracy".

That is a mixture of xenophobia, nationalism, autocracy, self-righteousness and nostalgia for the Soviet - and Stalinist - past.

Gangster capitalism is not international Communism.

But it is still a fundamental threat to our political and economic system.

It is true that despite the colossal increases in its defence budget, the Kremlin is not yet a direct military menace to the West. Russia's newest warplanes may be formidably manoeuvrable, its submarines super-silent, its torpedoes terrifyingly fast, but it has not - yet - been able to produce these weapons in any quantities.

Its surface navy is a pathetic relic, with barely 20 seaworthy big ships. Two-thirds of Russia's nuclear missiles are obsolete.

But the Kremlin is a menace in a different way. It sells advanced weapons to dictatorial and anti-Western regimes.

The Shkval [Squall] torpedo, for example, is an underwater rocket that creates a cone of water vapour enabling it to travel very fast.

It is one of the few weapons that can sink an American aircraft carrier. Russia has sold that technology, Western spooks fear, to Iran.

Its air defence systems are better than America's Patriot missile. As the Kremlin exploits Western disunity and weakness all over the world, arms sales give it teeth.

Yet high explosives, hardened steel and enriched uranium are still a sideshow. The New Cold War is fought with cash, natural resources, diplomacy and propaganda.

Having cast off the dead weight of ideology, the former KGB men in the Kremlin are presiding over a Russian Klondike, a source of irresistible temptation for greedy outsiders.

Russia is exploiting the West's increasingly desperate shortage of energy. We in Europe face growing dependence on scanty and expensive Russian gas, with little chance of alternative supplies.

The Kremlin wields the energy weapon to bully its enemies and bribe its allies, and uses its financial clout to buy friends and influence.

The big strategic worry used to be the Soviet navy's capacity to blockade Europe's sea lanes. Now it is Gazprom's ability to blockade its gas pipelines.

Once it was the Kremlin's tanks thundering into Afghanistan that signalled the West's weakness; now it is Kremlin banks thundering through the City of London.

The growing business and financial lobby tied to Russia represents a powerful fifth column of a kind unseen during the last Cold War.

Once it was Communist trade unions that undermined the West at the Kremlin's behest.

Now it is pro-Kremlin bankers and Western politicians who betray their countries for 30 silver roubles.

Western investment in Russia has already created a lobby for good relations with the Kremlin in the City, in German big business and in the energy industry across Europe.

That is reinforced by the billions of dollars of Russian investment pouring into Western Europe and North America.

When Russian tycoons — who these days run their businesses at the Kremlin's bidding — own big stakes in the West's biggest companies, they are no longer outsiders, but insiders.

Russia is becoming a giant nucleararmed version of Saudi Arabia: a country so rich and powerful that even its support for terrorism does not bring Western disfavour.

The main battleground so far — and one where the West is losing hands down — has been in the once-captive nations between Russia and the rich half of the continent.

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lugovoy litvinenko split

Row: Anglo-Russian relations have deteriorated over Moscow's refusal to extradite ex-KGB officer Andrei Lugovoy, left, wanted for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko (right).

Russia makes no secret of its desire for a dominant say-so in its former empire: it wants to know everything that happens and to have the power to stop what it does not like.

For its neighbours, Russia is like an aggressive man on crutches — no threat to the ablebodied, but still a menacing bully for someone in a wheelchair.

That means a tussle in Central Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus, and particularly in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

They are the Soviet satellites whose loss the Kremlin resents most sharply.

Their thriving economies and lively, open societies are a constant and glaring contrast to the authoritarian crony capitalism across the border.

Russia is putting the Baltic states under an energy squeeze, cutting off oil supplies to Latvia and Lithuania.

It has incited riots in Tallinn, the Estonian capital.

It has abandoned Yeltsin's policy of historical reconciliation.

The Kremlin's line now is that the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states in 1940 — part of the shameful Hitler- Stalin pact — was legal.

That should come as no surprise: Mr Putin, who says the collapse of the Soviet Union was the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century, believes the history books written in the Yeltsin years paint the past in too bleak a light.

The strangest feature of all this is the West's unwillingness to admit what is happening.

Officials and politicians ask haplessly: "If Russia is a political menace again, what on earth are we supposed to do about it?"

The old Cold War imposed a demanding regime of mental and moral toughness on the countries of Western Europe: they knew that if they did not hang together they would hang separately.

Now the Kremlin's central tactic of "divide and rule" has an almost free run.

During the old Cold War, no NATO member would have considered doing private deals with the Kremlin: any overtures from the Soviet Union encountered hard-headed scrutiny, while few in Western officialdom made a career out of being nice to the Soviet bloc.

Anyone in the business world who made a profit out of dealings with Communist countries was an instant target of suspicion, and risked ostracism.

In the New Cold War, such deals are commonplace — most ominously in the big countries of continental Europe. Russian money and influence has reached astonishingly far.

Few would have believed that a former German leader, Gerhard Schröder, would have taken a lucrative post as chairman of a Kremlin-backed gas venture within months of taking [subbing error: should be leaving-EL] office.

It took the West 30 years after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 to realise the threat it faced from the Communists in the Kremlin.

How long will it take us to see the danger now that the most sinister force in the Soviet Union — the KGB — is using our own weapons against us?

38 comments:

ggg said...

What utter nonsense. Putin is no more despot than Bush. The FSB is "running the country" no more than the FBI/CIA is in the US (e.g the Patriot Act). The Russians have more freedom than they can handle. Have a listen to "Ekho Moskvy" radio (broadcast in most Russian cities, podcasts available online). The level of criticism of Putin in Russia is unprecedented in a Western country.

Ask yourself, why do you hate the Russian people and their elected President so much? Maybe the problem is with you and your outdated perceptions and stereotypes...

TErr said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Edward Lucas said...

I will delete comments that use scatological terms.

Russians may well be happy with the contraints on their freedom. But as the issue won't be discussed on television or contested in a free and fair election, we won't know.

Colleen said...

It's funny how many conspiracy theories were listed in this rant.

Good for Weekly World News and UFO blogs.

But embarrassing for The Economist (I understand it's Daily Mail, but the author has an association with former periodical).

andyk said...

All bow before Zaitchik the Prescient of The Exile. For he has proven to accurately review books before reading them.

http://exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=14038&IBLOCK_ID=35

Konrad von Swalwagner said...

I understand you were pounding very nervously on the keyboard as you were writing this article, Mr. Edward "I have to feed my family so I write these hilarious articles for the Daily Mail" Lucas, but you mistyped Vladimir Vladimirovich's name in the caption to the photo showing his naked torso - and I doubt anyone at the Daily Mail, or any of its readers, would notice that.

Giustino said...

What is up with the naked torso thing? Will we have to suffer through cheesecake photos of Medvedev too?

andyk said...

What is up with the naked torso thing?

Journalism is the last holdout of the repressed.

Will we have to suffer through cheesecake photos of Medvedev too?

No, Putin is Russia's official torso-man.

La Russophobe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
La Russophobe said...

It shouldn't go unsaid that history proves Edward is risking his life by writing this book, or unnoticed that few if any of his critics are taking similar (or any) risks to fight for a better future for Russia.

Edward's critics find him especially infuriating because they can't, as their Soviet chromosomes urge them to do, bring out their tired old canard about their critics knowing nothing about Russia. Having spent a prodigious amount of time there, Edwards words are particularly devastating.

So they are reduced to tawdry scatology and, inevitably, threats of physical violence or worse. Little do they realize that such acts only conclusively establish the accuracy of Edward's analysis. As always, Russians would send their true patriots (like Solzhenitsyn, and Edward) to the concentration camps while sending their true traitors (like Stalin, and Putin) to the Kremlin.

TErr said...

O yeah, Ed is "risking his life by writing this book" - smoking too much weed in order to get proper enlightenment is surely dangerous. Maybe he experiments with other substances to get better ideas, who knows?. And you, La Russophobe, probably, do the same, for calling Ed a patriot of Russia and putting him on a line with Solzhenitsin is really cool!

Giustino said...

No, Putin is Russia's official torso-man.

Putin is ... not attractive. Can you please tell him to put his short back on, or at least grow some chest hair.

O yeah, Ed is "risking his life by writing this book" - smoking too much weed in order to get proper enlightenment is surely dangerous.

I think the Russkies have been smoking a bit too much weed if they think Napolean Dynamite is going to make Russia great (at what?) again by flexing his muscles and irritating people.

Why is that the smallest among us try so desperately to project power? Russia is a great country, yet its president/prime minister coupling is not so great in most senses of the word.

TErr said...

Here is another two

http://exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=8450&IBLOCK_ID=35&phrase_id=12881

http://exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=8476&IBLOCK_ID=35&phrase_id=12881

stalker said...

"The New Cold War is fought with cash, natural resources, diplomacy and propaganda."

And, dear Ed, you have surely proved yourself a master of the latter.

I am going to pick a few holes in your article. With a rotten structure like this, the rest should come collapsing down.

"They took over a pluralist country with a lively Press and strong pro-Western orientation, though still reeling from the Soviet economic collapse and the looting and corruption that followed it."

To imagine Russia's media in the 1990's was any freer than today is bizarre. Then it pushed the lines of the oligarchs which owned them; now it pushes the government line.

Nonetheless, Russians can watch cable TV (with channels like Euronews) with a diversity of viewpoints, if they wish to, and the Internet is completely free (in which penetration is now well over 20%). If they want to they can read newspapers like the ralidly anti-Putin Nezavisimaya Gazeta, which they can easily subscribe to. Perhaps the reason they sell so few copies, though, it that Putin is genuinely popular (approval ratings of well over 70%) and criticizing him won't win you a big slice of the media market?

I agree with the foreign policy, though. Putin's job description is to look out for Russia's national interests, not be a pro-Western slave, you know?

"No wonder most international rankings no longer count Russia as a "free country""

Well, if Mad, oops I meant "Freedom" House's 'Freedom in the World' reports qualify as "most" international rankings in your book...

"No wonder they now list it as one of the most corrupt in the industrialised world"

According to Corruption Perceptions Index based on a sample of 'experts'. Now take a look at Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer. The percentage of ordinary Russians reporting having to pay bribes in the past year are typically no higher than in countries like Poland (and lower than in Ukraine). And most certainly in the ranks of countries like Egypt or Pakistan.

"This is hardly surprising, given that the price of oil - a resource the country has had in abundance - has risen some five times since Putin came to power."

Oh right the myth of how Russia's economy is one big oil bubble. Even the publication you worked for doesn't really believe that.

http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=349002&story_id=9354403

Hydrocarbons production has been increasing very slowly in the past 3 years because Russia is reaching its second oil peak.

The majority of growth up to today, especially since 2005, has been in the services sector - indeed, the same kind of growth that the West underwent after the 1950's to reach its current levels of prosperity.

"In truth, Russia is being run by a corrupt, incompetent and despotic regime, and the huge windfall of high oil prices is being squandered."

Saying something is true doesn't make it so, you know?

Windfalls have been pocketed in foreign currency reserves that are now approaching 0.5tn $ (instead of being wasted on populist measures, as a less competent and more self-interested administration might have done).

"Now is the time to modernise Russia, using the vast influx of petro-roubles, but there is no sign this is happening."

There have been investments into healthcare that have halved the infant mortality rate from the 1990's down to 10/100,000 (in comparison with US's 7/100,000). 90%+ of Russia's school have been connected to the Internet. Russia now has one of the world's highest level of tertiary achievement (according to the OECD). Investments are being made into promising technologies.

http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2007/11/russian_nano

A bit later, you admit its a lie yourself...

"Grand plans are everywhere: Russia says it will spend a trillion dollars on public investment projects in the coming years."

Nonetheless, this still has to be "qualified". So....

"But the evidence so far is that this money is at best stolen, and at worst simply wasted."

OK. What evidence? (You fevered imagination doesn't count).

"After eight years of Mr Putin's rule, there is little improvement in roads, railways, power stations and pipelines."

Measured how? My observation is that roads are certainly getting better.

"Abysmal standards of public health, dangerous workplaces, endemic alcoholism and dreadful road safety make male life expectancy only 58.6 years - worse than in Laos or Yemen."

First, what you don't mention is male life expectancy is really just about the worst health statistic possible to dig up in Russia. Female life expectancy is decent, if not amazing, and infant mortality is light years better than in "Laos or Yemen".

Secondly, according to Rosstat mortality rates have been falling since 2003. In particular, death from murder, transport accidents and alcohol poisonings have fallen by 33-50% since their peak. Obviously though this has no place in an analysis of the Putin administration's history - just the legacies they inherited from Yeltsin and the Communists counts.

Thirdly, exactly how is it Putin's, the KGB's or the Flying Spaghetti Monster's fault for the lifestyles that Russians choose to pursue?

"The so-called golden age is as phoney as Russia's elections that put Mr Putin and his cronies in power time after time."

Repeat it long enough and it will become true.

"The best example of this came with a shameless act of nuclear terrorism in the heart of London barely a year ago."

You, like the British government, suffer from a colonialism complex. Britain has declined to reveal the evidence it has against Lugovoi - if any, but nonetheless insists Russia flout its constitution and deport one of its citizens to a country whose media have already unanimously decided he is guilty, raising question marks over the possibility of conducting a fair trial.

"Thanks to billions of pounds in oil and gas revenues, the Kremlin can afford to be contemptuous of our values."

I am also contemptuous of your values (hypocrisy, double standards, etc), and I don't have quite that large a fortune.

"It is true that despite the colossal increases in its defence budget, the Kremlin is not yet a direct military menace to the West."

They have been mostly in step with its economic expansion. The US still spends more on its military as a % of GDP.

"The Kremlin wields the energy weapon to bully its enemies and bribe its allies, and uses its financial clout to buy friends and influence."

Who doesn't?

"The growing business and financial lobby tied to Russia represents a powerful fifth column of a kind unseen during the last Cold War."

Great. Planning to take over McCarthy's mantle?

"The Kremlin's line now is that the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states in 1940 — part of the shameful Hitler- Stalin pact — was legal."

The German-Soviet Non Aggression Treaty. Do at least try to use correct historical terminology when pushing your own interpretation of it.

"It has incited riots in Tallinn, the Estonian capital."

This is your own fantasy. This was an outburst of resentment on the part of local disenfranchised Russophones, to whom Estonia doesn't deign to extend their "lively, open societies".

"How long will it take us to see the danger now that the most sinister force in the Soviet Union — the KGB — is using our own weapons against us?"

But its OK when you use those weapons against others, right?

Anyway, congrats. I spent far too much time replying to this than I planned to.

I'm ready for the accusations of apologising for dictatorship, being a pawn of Russian propaganda and all the other cliches Western commentators use to dismiss the 84% of Russians who approve of Putin's work.

andyk said...

Putin is ... not attractive. Can you please tell him to put his short back on, or at least grow some chest hair.

Tis true, he's no bear. Kasparov has him beat there (chess too).

Why is that the smallest among us try so desperately to project power? Russia is a great country, yet its president/prime minister coupling is not so great in most senses of the word.

For a moment I thought you were talking about Poland.

stalker said...

Just making a few corrections. Sorry.

"If they want to they can read newspapers like the ralidly anti-Putin Nezavisimaya Gazeta, which they can easily subscribe to."

Novaja Gazeta, not Nezavisimaja, is what I meant.

"And most certainly in the ranks of countries like Egypt or Pakistan."

And most certainly not in the ranks of countries like Egypt or Pakistan (as the CPI implies).

Giustino said...

This is your own fantasy. This was an outburst of resentment on the part of local disenfranchised Russophones, to whom Estonia doesn't deign to extend their "lively, open societies".

This reminds me of when Woodstock '99 went up in flames, and some people tried to interpret the rampant un-Hippie-like vandalism and looting as a strike against corporatist culture.

Look, the Russian state-owned media played a huge rule in the Tallinn nonsense. It did so by misinforming the Russophone population of the government's plans for the world's most important war memorial.

To this day I can still read Russian-authored articles about how the soldier was "dismantled" and the jokers from the Duma delegation insinuated that it had been disassembled and then rewelded, all in one night!!!

It also did so by continuing to stoke tensions around the memorial by 24-hour media coverage, that turned the Bronze Soldier into Estonia's very own Terri Schiavo case.

In the end, those rampaging angry youth -- most of them Estonian citizens -- did a disservice to their whole ethnic community.

No one in this country will ever take anyone that was affiliated with the Bronze Soldier extravaganza seriously. No one will support people that threw rocks and police officers or sympathize with those who looted designer jeans and womens' hygienic goods from shops.

Meantime, the prime minister's party gained around 15 percent of the electorates support. In the March 2007 elections, Reform had ~27 percent of the vote. Today around 40 percent of the population say they would vote Reform in the next election.

So what has this taught us? Russian meddling hurts the ethnic Russian minority in Estonia. Groups like Nightwatch diminish any public sympathy or support for those who share their interpretation of history or politics.

Considering that 70 percent of this country and rising are ethnic Estonians, many of whom had their grandparents carted off the Siberia by Stalin's soldiers, it might behoove those who genuinely have an interest in preserving ethnic Russian culture to invest their time more wisely in building cultural institutions, like other minorities in Estonia have -- the Estonian Swedes, Ingrian Finns, Old Believers, Seto, Võru, Jews, etc.

Only cultural institutions can safeguard the existence of a national minority. But the community's best young minds are off fighting the battles of 1944 on YouTube, or smashing shop windows.

What a waste of energy!

stalker said...

"Look, the Russian state-owned media played a huge rule in the Tallinn nonsense. It did so by misinforming the Russophone population of the government's plans for the world's most important war memorial."

Firstly, the information was supplied by Russian protestors (- which is understandable, as drastic situations call for drastic measures. Four of them are now on a show trial for their resistance to Estonian fascism). Some media took their word on face value and voiced their allegations.

Secondly, you illustrate, in your contempt for the media's right to free speech, the totalitarian and hypocritical tendencies latent in the Russophobic mind, which tries to cover this from others and from itself by projecting all the world's ills unto Russia.

"In the end, those rampaging angry youth -- most of them Estonian citizens -- did a disservice to their whole ethnic community."

Firstly, most of those 'rampaging angry youth' had prior convictions and took advantage of the rightful demonstrations, thus hijacking it and allowing the brutal Estonian police to beat up and imprison peaceful protestors.

Nonetheless, the rampage was understandable in the repression and indignities Russophones suffer every day from the Estonian state and population.

Finally, you again reveal your own fascist tendencies by associating a small group of aggrieved people who demonstrate their grievances physically, with the whole Russian community. Baltic Russians are the Jews of the 21st century. Scratch a Russophobe and you wound a Nazi.

"Considering that 70 percent of this country and rising are ethnic Estonians, many of whom had their grandparents carted off the Siberia by Stalin's soldiers, it might behoove those who genuinely have an interest in preserving ethnic Russian culture to invest their time more wisely in building cultural institutions, like other minorities in Estonia have -- the Estonian Swedes, Ingrian Finns, Old Believers, Seto, Võru, Jews, etc."

Your implicit delight at Estonia's cultural genocide of Russians once again lays bare your fascist tendencies.

It might also behoove Estonians to consider that history may repeat itself. :)

Giustino said...

Right, so someone like myself who supports the Estonian Social Democratic Party, supports greater liberalization of citizenship requirements, and is now arguing that people should take advantage of Estonian laws that encourage the building of cultural autonomies and institutions -- like other minorities have done -- is in your words a "fascist" and a "Nazi".

And you wonder why no one takes you seriously.

Kristopher said...

Giustino has fascist tendencies?

OK, I'm game.

Alec Baldwin is a Falangist spy.

Your turn again.

Anonymous said...

I think Stalker's on "hiatus".

Kristopher: Are you saying Giustino is a celebrity?

stalker said...

While I am in a busy period which prevents me from posting regularly, being on 'hiatus' does not mean I don't have time for any posting at all.

I said you have fascist tendenices, not that you're a fascist per se, as evidenced in your contempt for free press (if its views disagree with your own), implicit willingness to apportion blame on a community based on the actions of individuals and your explicit Russophobia.

There are two explanations for the latter - ignorance or wilful Russophobia. You live in Estonia, and as such the media you hear and the people you speak to support a Russophobic slant; nonetheless, by visiting Russia-related blogs you have shown a well above average interest in Russia, and as such the former can be discounted. This only leaves intentional Russophobia, fuelled by an innate hatred of Russia and its people (even if you don't recognize this, or other Westerners, I do, as will many other Russians, by deconstructing the very text that you post).

De Maistre wrote "Scratch a Russian and you wound a Tatar". Well I've got a saying of my own. "Scratch a Westerner and you get a Russophobe". Russophobia united everyone in the West in unanimous condemnation, across the entire ideological spectrum, in a way nothing else does.

"And you wonder why no one takes you seriously."

Neither are most of the great prophets in history.

Dismissal of views based on their popularity are a logical fallacy, btw.

Anyway enough with the rant. If a latent Russophobe like you considers yourself a 'moderate' in Estonia, then it only proves the social repression of Russophones in Estonia is even greater than I imagined.

Kristopher said...

Are you saying Giustino is a celebrity?

No, Baldwin was just the first liberal Long Islander I could think of.

Tel you what. Let me soften my original comment to:

Something about Alec Baldwin cmacks of Falangism.

I didn't mean to interrupt the debate.

Andres Sehr said...

Secondly, you illustrate, in your contempt for the media's right to free speech.

Free speech doesn't mean that the media can say anything they want. There is a level of journalistic integrity that needs to be upheld. The Russian media ran stories from the protesters that were completely unsubstantiated and instead of trying to do any real journalism they played into the fearmongering from Russia, it was akin to yelling fire in a theatre.

Kristopher said...

Remake of Tarkovsky's classic, in the same locations in Tallinn:

Stalker: "And now we come to the Zone, so alien, so bleak how little opportunity, there is no life here and it's a metaphor and I'll tell you how if you want to know, a setting of banks built on the ruins of Soviet industry, ruined because of Russophobes, the steady pushing out of the workforce by DISCRIMINATION- nation-nation

(voice gets more distant down long hallway)

Professor: Omigod, We got ourselves a talker.

Writer: Yadda yadda. Kind of detracts from the hypnotic power thing.

Professor: I think we lost him. Hey, let's go check out the Fahle building up at the cellulose factory on the hill. Good cafe.

Giustino said...

I said you have fascist tendenices, not that you're a fascist per se, as evidenced in your contempt for free press (if its views disagree with your own), implicit willingness to apportion blame on a community based on the actions of individuals and your explicit Russophobia.

I didn't blame the community. I said that looters and Russian meddling *hurt* the community.

If a rural Estonian voter turns on TV and sees young men shouting in Russian and burning the Estonian flag, he will come to the conclusion that the young men are violent and disloyal.

Because of history, Estonians fear invasions from the east. Kremlin meddling stokes this fear, which is then projected on the young men.

The young men are therefore further marginalized in society.

It works the same way when Russians come to the conclusion that all Estonians and their supporters are "fascists" because the government moved a statue.

This only leaves intentional Russophobia, fuelled by an innate hatred of Russia and its people (even if you don't recognize this, or other Westerners, I do, as will many other Russians, by deconstructing the very text that you post).

I actually don't care much about Russia, so long as it stays on the other side of Peipsi järv.

I know a lot of Russophiles who learn the language, but it's not my bag baby. To some extent, I am a Scandinavianist. maybe that's my problem, considering Finland is the most Russophobic country in the world :)

Anton said...

This is perhaps the most negative article about Russia that I have ever come across. A very subjective piece of writing, written by a russophobe.

Reading this actually made me quite angry to be honest. It seems that the author completely ignores the progress that has been made in the last 10 years. I agree that Russia is a corrupt country with vast demographic, economic and political problems BUT it was much worse in the Yeltsin ERA, as far as the average Ivan is concerned, the country has stopped disintegrating, the bloodbath in Checnya has ended and there is confidence in the future!! The Westerners see the 90´s as a missed opportunity for liberal reforms but in reality it was total chaos, the wild west for christ sake.

How can you expect a country that has never had any shape or form of democracy, to turn into a democratic society in less than 20 years. It took the UK several hundred years and two Civil Wars to develop its democratic traditions, look at the wars the US fought to become a democracy!! It is naive of the West to have such expectations of Russia. And who said that democracy is the best form of country management??

It doesn´t apply everwhere... democracy in Palestine resulted in the election of extremists to power!!

How can you directly link this so called `nuclear terrorism`to Putin?? Does the name Boris Berezovsky mean anything to you??

Britain encourages Russia to continue its democratic reforms, yet the UK expects Russia to IGNORE its Constitution, in order to deport Lugovoi, a suspect without any specific evidence... the reasong why Britain made such a scandal out of this case is, because the investigation got nowhere!!!Double standards, so typical of Western Politics!!!

They scream for self-determination in KOSOVO and yet completely blank Abhasia and South Osetia.

Dear Author,
You accuse Russia of agressive gas. oil politics, to me its better to threaten with the PIPE than with missiles. Agreed, Russia uses gas and oil to put pressure on Europe but have you forgotten how America actually invaded an independent nation for OIL??? Without an approval from the UN!!

And please, the problem of human rights isn´t just a problem in Russia, its a global issue!!

Perhaps Russia should be expelled from G8 for its bad h. rights record, but obviously its OKAY for US and British military personnel to torture kidnapped terrorist suspects in Guantanamo. Torture in Iraq prisons and CIA prisons in EU are also not an issue then!

TErr said...

"Dear Author,
You accuse Russia of agressive gas. oil politics, to me its better to threaten with the PIPE than with missiles "

- Actually, Russia never used that factor to press on anybody. It respected the contractural agreements with the Western Europe and never tried to blackmail anyone or bargain political benefits. And all the problems with the ex-soviet countries have purely economic, market, origin

Anton said...

I absolutely agree, the dispute with Ukraine and other several ex-soviet states, was not a political conflict. Why should the Ukraine pay half the price West European nations pay?
Russia was simply cleaning up the mess left by Yeltsin, where several former soviet states enjoyed the benefit of very low tarrif, while persuing anti-Russian politics. Ukraine refused to pay the new tariff, the gas supply was cut off, which resulted in Ukraine actually ´stealing´ some of the gas directed to Europe.
Of course, as it always happens, Russia gets the blame.

´Russia is exploiting the West's increasingly desperate shortage of energy.´

Don´t exactly see how Russia is exploiting this shortage. The country is selling gas to Europe, so that Europeans can keep themselves warm at winter.
I wouldn´t call that an exploitation, Russia sells, Europe buys, simple business. As an average European, I couldn´t care less where the gas is coming from, as long as I can cook my food and my living room is nice and warm.

Would you rather live without the gas and feel safe and unexploited??

(Something the Estonian government preferred, giving up the transit, in order to have nothing to do with Russian totalitarism)

Giustino said...

Is it Russophobic to think that Russians are whiners who blame foreigners or, um, those who don't accept Christ as their personal savior for all their nation's problems? Like Leon Trotsky and Boris Berezovsky?

Just asking.

Giustino said...

Also, is it Russophobic to think Putin should keep his clothes on? Or that parades held by pro-Kremlin youth in honor of the president's birthday are kind of scary, in a 1930s Germany kind of way?

Again, just asking.

Otto said...

The only effective to tame Russia is to break OPEC and bring down the price of oil. It can be done; for example, at the present price of oil, wood-based methanol is a viable alternative (see book "Energy Victory")

Yeltsin was so powerless not because he was nice but because oil was below $20 per barrel. It can be done again.

Anton said...

I agree! Personaly I think that one of the major factors that contributed to the collapse of the Soivet Union, were the very low oil prices in the 80's... perhaps caused by US and Saudi Arabia?!

stalker said...

"Free speech doesn't mean that the media can say anything they want. There is a level of journalistic integrity that needs to be upheld."

Kind a like rags such as the Daily Mail (publishing Lucas' tripe)?

@Giustino,

"Is it Russophobic to think that Russians are whiners who blame foreigners or, um, those who don't accept Christ as their personal savior for all their nation's problems? Like Leon Trotsky and Boris Berezovsky?"

Yes. Because it ascribes negative characteristics to an ethno-national group, which isn't even grounded in any sociological investigation.

"Also, is it Russophobic to think Putin should keep his clothes on? Or that parades held by pro-Kremlin youth in honor of the president's birthday are kind of scary, in a 1930s Germany kind of way?"

Fascists tend to be sexually repressed people. Perhaps Putin's bare torso arouses you?

Less than 1% of Russian youth is in Nashi, where membership is voluntary, and I see no reason why they shouldn't brighten up the day of a person who I and probably history will judge positively in terms of Russia's intests.

"The only effective to tame Russia is to break OPEC and bring down the price of oil. It can be done; for example, at the present price of oil, wood-based methanol is a viable alternative (see book "Energy Victory")"

Sorry to intrude on your sadistic Russophobic fantasies, Otto, but:

1. Oil prices aren't coming down any time soon. These alternatives typically require 40$/barrel+ to break even. Oil will not drop to 20$ in the foreseeable future.

2. Russian growth today has very little to do with the high oil price. If anything a decrease in them, by checking ruble apreciation, will give a boost to domestic industry and exports.

3. Russia has a budget surplus which assumes a low oil price (in the region of 20-30$, IIRC). It also has 0.5tn $ of foreign currency reserves. In the last resort, taxes can be raised from today's low bases.

4. Unlike the late 1980's Soviet Union, which had a dysfunctional economy and gov't expenditures well in excess of revenue.

Otto said...

Anton,

Yes, in 1985 Saudi Arabia, acting under pressure from Reagan's administration, flooded the markets with cheap oil. That cost Soviets one third of their export revenue and sent their economy into tailspin. It also caused Texas real estate to crash ... but it was worth it.

This also explains why electing a Texan as president was not a good idea.

OPEC is today's Standard Oil. Where is Teddy Roosevelt when we need him? Not among the present presidential candidates, who act as if OPEC did not exist.

andyk said...

otto,

Success has many fathers. At the time SA was very much interested in snuffing out all the minnow producers that popped up like mushrooms after the energy crisis. In any case, they no longer have the spare capacity for a repeat performance.

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

I have decided to leave you boys to the vicissitudes of life under managed democracy.

May your imaginary fascist bogeymen be plentiful in order to draw your attention from the tasks at hand.

I will leave the Russia talk to the experts and flame warriors and retreat to my sauna.

Nägemiseni.