10 Reasons Why Russia Can’t Trust Uncle Sam - 2007

Is Russia Democratic? Yes – but so what?


Russians cast their votes in parliamentary elections on Sunday, with an overwhelming victory widely expected for Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party – and yet we already knew what we were supposed to think of the whole process, with Western governments and media outlets (or do I repeat myself?) having already decided the whole thing was a farce well before a single vote was cast. How did they know this? Well, because Putin is supposedly the reincarnation of Joseph Stalin – in spite of the fact that he hasn't jailed a single person on account of their political opinions, and the Russian gulag has long since disappeared into history. Yet the accusations against Putin have grown louder, even as Russia grows more prosperous and ordinary Russians are more supportive of their president – and therein lies a tale.

Not since the run-up to war with Iraq has Western media coverage of a country been so completely and unreasonably one-sided: take, for example, this CBS News report. It features an interview with one Robert Amsterdam, described as "an expert on Russian politics," who gives his view that the election is just a pro forma exercise in which the outcome is predetermined. What they somehow neglect to tell you is that Amsterdam, far from being a disinterested "expert," is in reality a partisan of the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky – he's Khodorkovsky's lawyer. Amsterdam has spent much of the past few years making the case for his client, who is up on charges of embezzlement, fraud, and murder, and whose vast holdings were essentially a gift from the notoriously corrupt regime of Boris Yeltsin, the perpetually drunk Russian leader who died in 2006. The crux of Khodorkovsky's case against his prosecutors is that they represent an authoritarian state out to get him, and, in the process, re-Sovietize Russian political life as well as the economy. I won't waste any more words on the infamous oligarch, whose fortune is the result of crony capitalism at its worst rather than laissez-faire, and whose career is best characterized as a cross between Tony Soprano and Wesley Mouch. You can read all about it here.

Amsterdam is an "expert," all right – at obfuscating the facts. He decries a change in the election rules requiring parties represented in parliament to get 7 percent of the vote, up from 5 percent. Yet the Russian system is far more democratic than, say, the American system, where a party that gets 7 percent – or even 10 or 20 percent – is by no means guaranteed a single seat in Congress. That is, if they even manage to get on the ballot. Parties other than the state-sanctioned and state-subsidized Democrats and Republicans face almost impossible hurdles to achieve ballot status – and, even if they do, these "third" parties operate at a tremendous disadvantage not only legally, but in terms of being taken seriously by the "mainstream" media. Is this any better than in Russia? One could make a convincing case that it is far worse.

The CBS report shows footage of an opposition demonstration supposedly being "broken up" by the Russian cops. What our intrepid reporters fail to mention, however, is that the demonstrators were given a permit to hold a rally, but instead insisted on marching through the streets – a course that, in, say, security-conscious Washington, D.C., would earn them a few nightstick blows on the head and at least one day in jail. A breakaway march was led by members of the neo-fascist National Bolshevik Party (NBP), whose crazed leader, Eduard Limonov, addressed the crowd alongside more "respectable" opposition figures such as chess champion Gary Kasparov. Both were arrested when they followed the violence-prone NBP on a mad run through the streets. Kasparov is lionized in the West, yet in Russia he is considered a marginal figure, partially on account of his association with the "Other Russia" grouping, which is essentially controlled by the lunatic NBP.

The reality is that Putin is wildly popular, which Amsterdam is forced to admit even as he spins this against the contention of an alleged "crackdown" on the opposition by claiming that the election is all about "legitimacy." Putin, it seems, is determined to cement his unchallenged authority by racking up a huge majority. According to Deutsche Welle, the plan is for Putin – constitutionally constrained against running for a third term as president – to reappear in some other office, where he will run the show from behind the scenes. The Western powers – who hate and revile the revival of Russia's fortunes – are determined to delegitimize not only Putin, but the Putin-era prosperity and stability that is the source of the Russian president's enormous popularity. Under the Yeltsin regime, the oligarchs were free to loot and otherwise abuse the Russian economy, with former Communists who used their political connections to amass obscene wealth draining the nation's lifeblood like a flock of vampires on the hunt. The jailbird Khodorkovsky is one, and another is the infamous Boris Berezovsky, who has declared his intention to overthrow the Russian government – by force if necessary – and who is financing much of the opposition, both in country and in exile.

Berezovsky – wanted in Russia on charges of theft, extortion, and murder – was the patron of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent turned anti-Putin activist supposedly poisoned by the Russian secret service using an exotic and scary radioactive substance. This case caused a sensation in Britain, where Litvinenko succumbed, yet questions remain about the real cause of his death. I've covered it in this space, in depth, here, here, here, and here. Suffice to say that the semi-official story – Litvinenko was killed by the neo-Stalinists in the Kremlin, much like Trotsky was found with an icepick in his head – is in considerable doubt, as evidence emerges that he may have been part of a smuggling ring that secreted radioactive polonium into Britain. Now more evidence that the mainstream media narrative of Litvinenko-the-martyr is very far from the truth is coming out, with Britain's Daily Mail revealing for the first time what everyone in Russia has been saying since the case broke: "The former Russian spy poisoned in a London hotel was an MI6 agent, the Daily Mail can reveal. Alexander Litvinenko was receiving a retainer of around £2,000 a month from the British security services at the time he was murdered."

Citing "diplomatic and intelligence sources," the paper goes on to aver that this was the real reason for Litvinenko's alleged assassination. By leaking what we all knew to be true in any event, the spooks behind the departed spy have managed to divert attention away from the more likely death-by-self-contamination scenario – in which the polonium poisoning is due to a botched smuggling operation – and back in the direction of a plot directed or implicitly sanctioned by Putin. Very slick – as the entire anti-Putin propaganda campaign has been from the beginning. The real purpose behind the anti-Putin campaign – which, at its most frenetic, is designed to convince us that the Russians are coming once again, posing the dire prospect of a reborn Soviet threat – is to topple a leader who challenges American hegemony in the world. The Russian president won't go along with the American plan to "transform" the Middle East into a "democratic" pile of rubble, nor will he countenance "regime change" on his periphery, helped along by generous dollops of U.S. tax dollars and the enmity of George Soros. If Kosovo is to be independent, he avers, well then, why not Abkhazia, or Ossetia, or any of the other Russia-friendly breakaway republics with close ties to the Motherland?

Putin is no saint, but neither is he the devil depicted in the Western media, which regularly presents such representatives of the exiled Russian oligarchs as Mr. Amsterdam and Boris Berezovsky as credible critics and misses no opportunity to portray Putin as a "dictator." The Russian media is neither state-owned nor is it more concentrated in terms of ownership than our own: it is about as friendly to the opposition as America's mainstream media is to, say, Ron Paul. Opposition parties, including the Communist Party of Russia, exist and are free to organize, stand for election, publish materials, and conduct campaigns, including the distribution of propaganda. What they are not allowed to do any longer is accept subsidies from foreign governments and other overseas entities, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID (a U.S.-government-funded propaganda agency), and any one of a number of Berezovsky-supported-and-funded front groups, including Western-based "support groups" for Chechen terrorists.

This "restriction" on foreign funding – which is also the law in the U.S. – has the U.S.-government-supported opposition in a tizzy, because it has hit them where they really live – in their pocketbooks. No longer on the take, these "dissidents" on the make are furiously denouncing Putin's government as a "dictatorship." Yet Russia hasn't been this free since the overthrow of the Kerensky government and the Communist coup of 1917, and it hasn't been this prosperous ever. Luxuriating in oil and national gas reserves that may be among the biggest in the world, the Russians are coming out of their long post-Soviet funk – and reasserting their place on the world stage. That is Putin's real "crime." He is making Washington very nervous, as the would-be hegemonists of the West eye the emerging Russo-Iranian alliance and chafe as Putin arms the Syrians with missile defenses against the increasing likelihood of an Israeli (or American) attack. And it isn't just his actions but his words that sting. In a widely quoted speech at a recent Munich Security Conference, the Russian president took on the Americans quite openly:

"It [the U.S.-dominated unipolar world] is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within. "And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority. "Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves." I especially appreciate that bit about how the hubris of our rulers "destroys itself from within" – this is precisely what the domestic critics of the rising American Empire have been saying for years, and it's gratifying to see that America's true friends abroad see this, too. To anyone who admires the U.S. and is not the captive of a crude "anti-Americanism" – a woefully overworked catch phrase that has been shamelessly utilized by our government and its overseas amen corner to smear anyone who opposes American imperialism – it is no doubt sad, indeed, to witness the sight of the freest country on earth succumbing to its own worst instincts. Putin isn't insulting us: he's reminding us of who we are – or, rather, who we used to be.

Unfortunately, the interventionists in the media, and the War Party that has hijacked American foreign policy, are not inclined to listen, either to Putin or those here at home who agree that America is getting too big for its britches. What are we doing getting in Putin's face, insulting him and his people by insisting that the OSCE send "observers" to make sure Russia's election is sufficiently "democratic"? What would we have thought if Putin had sent observers to, say, Florida, where the drama of the "hanging chads" and the intricacies of the Electoral College denied the White House to the candidate who got the most votes? It's outrageous – especially when we're giving full military, political, and diplomatic support to real dictators like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, who is now in the process of setting up a hereditary "presidency" and has taken to locking up bloggers for violating political and cultural "norms." And what about Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is beating the crap out of his opponents in the streets of Islamabad, arresting the Supreme Court, and installing himself as "president" of Pakistan in a procedure that is a cruel mockery of democracy?

The difference is that these dictators meet the "pro-American" test, which consists of kowtowing to Washington when it comes to the conduct of foreign affairs, and particularly when it comes to providing full access to American economic and military interests. In the case of Russia, the Americans and especially the British are still smarting over the expulsion of Western companies from the lucrative Russian oil and natural gas fields, which is going to benefit the people of Russia rather than overseas investors and the usual gang of ruthless Russian oligarchs, who are little more than gangsters in business suits. Russia for the Russians – the slogan has energized the pro-Putin parties and given the Russian president more power and prestige than any Moscow-based ruler since Peter the Great. It's also a sentiment Western elites can't and won't abide, since they consider Russia to have been properly defeated in the Cold War and therefore fair game for economic colonization. Their reaction to Putin's pushback has been an aggressive campaign to encircle Russia, starting with the ill-fated "Rose Revolution" in Georgia, followed by the various Western-engineered attempts at "regime change" represented by the so-called "color revolutions," from Ukraine to Kyrgyzstan, nearly all of which have since been rolled back.

The neoconservatives were early agitators for a more aggressive stance toward Russia: it was Richard Perle, you'll recall, who led a neocon hue and cry over Putin's alleged misdeeds, calling for Russia to be thrown out of the G-8. This was soon followed up by a full-scale denunciation of Putin by none other than Dick Cheney, who railed that the Russian president was ushering in a new Cold War by engaging in economic "blackmail" and "intimidation" against its neighbors. This attack was occasioned by the freeing up of Russian energy prices, which had long been kept artificially low by government decree: apparently, this move toward a free market in energy was considered a hostile act by Cheney and his fellow "big government conservatives."


Source: http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=11996

In related news:

Russia’s Knockoff Democracy

THE Russian people, Dostoyevsky once said, believe so fervently in an all-powerful czar that this ideal “is bound to influence the whole future course of our history.” And so it was that the heir to this tradition, President Vladimir V. Putin, went before the cameras last week to show that he had in fact broken with the old ways and was as progressive as any leader in the West. The scene, though, left a different impression. Heads of four political parties (supposedly independent, but all creatures of the Kremlin) sat before Mr. Putin and revealed to him their choice for president. Mr. Putin accepted the decision (though he himself had clearly made it). He praised the candidate (his longtime lieutenant) and suggested that the nomination reflected the views of a broad variety of Russians (none of whom had been given any say in the process).

Artifice plays a role in politics everywhere, yet Russia seems to have adopted a kind of imitation of democracy. It is as if a veneer of legitimacy has been put on a variation of the strongman rule present here for centuries — whether under Peter the Great, Lenin or Mr. Putin himself. A parliamentary election was held this month in which many parties took part, but only Mr. Putin’s, United Russia, received glowing television news coverage and other government favors; it won in a landslide. Over in the executive branch, the Kremlin on Monday orchestrated the nomination for president of Mr. Putin’s aide, Dmitri A. Medvedev, who is all but assured of winning the March election. The endorsement lets Mr. Putin say that he is abiding by term limits, just like an American president. Yet a day later, Mr. Medvedev announced that he wanted Mr. Putin to be his prime minister. While the rules are being followed, Mr. Putin seems, at least for now, to be retaining control.

Hovering over all these events is the question of why Mr. Putin and others in the Kremlin even bother with the democratic trappings. Given that Mr. Putin is highly popular, that the Russian public has long clung to a potent chieftain, why not just pack the Parliament, amend the Constitution and stay another term? Mr. Putin appears in part motivated by a need to be seen on the world stage as a lawfully elected leader as genuine as his partners in the Group of Eight. There is an element of Russian pride in this sentiment. Having purportedly embraced democracy, the Kremlin cannot tolerate being told it does elections any less properly than the West. Nor does Mr. Putin care to be lumped with the presidents-for-life reigning in some other former Soviet republics. “He still has this desire to look like a civilized Russian modernizer,” said Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Moscow office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The Russian political elite, including Mr. Putin, would like to be personally integrated into the Western structure, the Western community.”

(This impulse, by the way, is not new. Dostoyevsky, who praised the Russian people’s love for their czar, also bemoaned what he said was the Russian elite’s longing to be in the West’s good graces.)

Mr. Putin may also have concluded that he can spurn the spirit of the law only so much before governance turns into a free-for-all that might put him more at the whims of the Kremlin’s competing clans. Some analysts speculate that Mr. Putin and his associates fear making overtly autocratic moves, lest the West retaliate in ways that could hurt Russia’s economic revival. This view is not entirely satisfying; American and European companies do plenty of business with Saudi Arabia, China and other authoritarian countries. But there could be a more personal wrinkle: senior Kremlin officials may worry that they would be personally banned from traveling to the West and that their personal finances might be imperiled. For their part, the Russian people have shown no great hunger for Western-style democracy. Polls indicate that if Mr. Putin stayed on for another term, he would be greeted with little dissent and something akin to relief or applause.

Still, it would be a mistake to say that Russians yearn for authoritarianism, or that the country is generally reverting to Soviet-style repression. While the Kremlin dominates television and has cracked down on the opposition, a diversity of voices flourishes in newspapers, where criticism of Mr. Putin is not uncommon, not to mention on the Internet. It could be argued that Mr. Putin, in declining to become a full-blown, constitution-shredding autocrat, is demonstrating that he is more democratically oriented than most Russians. This contrast was noted even by one archfoe, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the billionaire who was arrested after publicly challenging the Kremlin. In a 2004 letter from prison, where he is still being held, Mr. Khodorkovsky lamented: “Putin certainly is no liberal and no democrat, but nonetheless, he is more liberal and democratic than 70 percent of the population of our country.”

The turmoil after the fall of Communism seems to have deepened Russia’s tendency to be drawn to a strong leader, leaving it with a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. Russians these days crave stability, consumer goods and travel — the things they were denied before. Vyacheslav A. Nikonov, president of the Politika Foundation, a Moscow research institute, said political structures are still developing, the rule of law is shaky and people in power do not have accountability. As a result, the government’s shape and character are molded, to a large extent, by the leaders’ instincts about what the people expect and will bear. “Every country has a genetic code,” Mr. Nikonov said. “In many societies, the patterns of government last for centuries, or last for a millennium, and I think that Russia is the same. There is quite a strong tradition of undivided government. There is only one thing that Russians do not like in their leaders. That is weakness.”

“The institutions are still not here, they are immature,” Mr. Nikonov said. “Still, for a 15-year-old democracy, Russia is doing well. In Germany, they elected Hitler exactly on the 15th year of democracy.” Mr. Putin himself, while regularly praising what he says are the strides Russia has made in recent years, occasionally seems to be pleading for patience, as if he were acknowledging that the democracy Russia has put in place is not the real thing. “This road is not simple,” he said in September. “It takes time and the right groundwork and conditions. We need to ensure that our economic transformations bring about the growth of the middle class, which is to a large extent the standard bearer of this ideology. This is something that takes time and cannot be achieved overnight.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/we...html?ref=world

10 Reasons Why Russia Can’t Trust Uncle Sam

The West says that it is perplexed by Russia's "aggressive" behavior of late, and suggests that Moscow is desirous to regain its past superpower status, and even a little empire. But if cashing in on oil is imperialism, how do we explain the following U.S. moves:

10. Scrapping the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - In December 2001, three months after 9/11, U.S. President George W. Bush told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. was pulling out of the 1972 ABM Treaty, a Cold War-era document that specifically forbade the development and deployment of anti-missile defense systems. The treaty ensured that signatory nations adhere to the mutually assured destruction (MAD) concept - if you destroy us we will destroy you formula. Yes, it was certainly MAD, but it kept the peace for 30 years. Former Defense Secrextary Donald Rumsfeld attempted to reassure Moscow that the decision was nothing personal. "It [the treaty] failed to recognize that the Soviet Union is gone and that Russia is, of course, not our enemy." Putin called the move "a mistake."

9. "Mission Accomplished" - On March 20, 2003, the United States - without a mandate from the United Nations, and against the heated objections of France, Germany and Russia - invaded Iraq on the pretext that the secular Baathist state of Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was a proud sponsor of terrorism. Both accusations were proven wrong. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the BBC in an interview that the attack was a violation of international law. "From our point of view and the UN Charter point of view, it [the war] was illegal."

8. Pentagon Spending Spree - The United States, which just put the finishing touches on a $583 billion dollar shopping trip for 2008, accounts for about half of global expenditures (or the next 14 nations). However, as Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute argues, "the trillion-dollar defense budget is already here." Higgs calculated that U.S. military-related spending in 2006 was actually $934.9 billion if we figure in Homeland Security ($69.1bln), the Dept. of Energy, which oversees nuclear weapons ($16.6 bln) and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs ($69.8 bln), as well as other juicy pork chops. In May, the Democrat-controlled House and Senate approved almost $95 billion for the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through September (Go Dems!). Meanwhile, "aggressive" Russia, with a 48 percent increase in military spending since 1996, still spends ‘just' $85 billion annually on military expenditures.

7. NATO XXL - As Dan Simpson, a retired U.S. diplomat argued in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "The United States and other NATO members have taken some actions along the way to lull the Russians into acquiescence as NATO expanded to include the former Warsaw Pact nations... The argument was that these countries wanted to join NATO and that their membership posed no threat to Russia. That line prevailed as NATO membership grew to include also Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, former republics of the Soviet Union. Now the Russians see the same argument being advanced for Georgia and Ukraine. That's getting close to home."

6. New Military Bloopers - As the Pakistani government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf struggles to contain the fallout of an 8-day battle against militants at the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), a U.S. official turned up the heat by telling CNN that if the U.S. "had actionable targets, anywhere in the world," including Pakistan, then "we would pursue those targets." Meanwhile, talk about a possible attack on Iran, a nation that ranked on America's axis of evil hit parade, continues.

5. Think-Tank Saber Rattling - Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press write an article in the prestigious U.S. journal Foreign Affairs entitled "Nuclear Primacy" (March/April 2006), which argues, in a nutshell, that "It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike." Is this the sort of article that America should be supporting if it wants Russia to believe that elements of the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Poland and... oops! Don't want to spoil the plot! Anyways, Moscow ‘responds' with very accurate penmanship one year later as it test-fires its new RS-24 ballistic missile that it said could "overcome any potential missile defense systems developed by foreign countries."

4. Cheney Comfort - One month after the above love letter hit newsstands, Vice President Dick Cheney, during a trip to Vilnius, Lithuania, assuaged Moscow's fears by reiterating, once again: "Russia has nothing to fear and everything to gain" by ‘democratic activity' on her borders.

3. Gates' Gated Community - In early 2007, Pentagon chief Robert Gates urged vigilance when he warned, "We don't know what's going to develop in places like Russia and China, in North Korea, in Iran and elsewhere." Was this a simple case of mistaken identity by a former White House Russian analyst? Whatever the case, it certainly helped to provoke Putin's heated Munich speech in February, where he admonished the world's "one master, one sovereign."

2. EU Culpability - As the War on Terror continues, Europe is losing its Snow White innocence. As the German magazine Der Spiegel reported, "On July 19, 2002, a Gulfstream business jet took off from Frankfurt am Main bound for Amman, Jordan. The flight received an AFTM exempt [pilot code for ‘extreme situation'], although it carried neither patients nor politicians. Instead, the jet was carrying a CIA team that took a Mauritanian terrorism suspect... to Guantanamo." Der Spiegel reported that this "camouflaging of an illegal kidnapping as a rescue flight" was not an isolated event: There were 390 such takeoffs and landings in Germany between 2002 and 2006. And considering Eastern European hotels, it's just too scary to consider those secret terrorist prisons that allegedly exist in Poland and Romania.

1. Don't Worry, These anti-Missile Missiles won't Hurt You, Really - Washington is now incredulous, shocked, mortified that Moscow has the nerve to suggest that there could be less than good intentions involved in the construction of an anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, even though there are no bad-guy technologies on the horizon that such a system could intercept. Go figure!

Source: http://mnweekly.ru/columnists/20070726/55263769.html

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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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