Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

An In Depth Expert Analysis of the Russian Elections,

by poemless Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 03:26:40 AM EST

or,  a case study in narcissism.

Yes, it is a true and sad fact: I have become the very person for whom I have the deepest disdain: The Russia Expert.  On what grounds do I make this bold assertion?  Well, because Jerome said so.  And in case there is anyone here who does not take Jerome's word as gospel truth (after his "yes, you should contact Sergei," I'm inclined to count myself among those people), there is also the fact that Peter Lavelle let me join his "expert" discussion group.  So right there are two facts in support of my audacious claim.  And that, my dear readers, is twice as many facts as you're bound to find in anything you'll ever read in anything calling itself an expert analysis of anything having to do with Russia.

Now, on to the analysis:

from the diaries. The best commentary on the net on all things (and men) Russian! -- Jérôme.


1.  Was Dima rocking the presidential couture or what?!  

Nice jacket!

2.  Obviously those who have only not very nice things to say about Russian politics ("sham elections" "dictatorship" "a country run by KGB-types who eat babies, alive, and want to turn off your -yes, you- gas.") are just jealous of or intimidated by the sheer rockstar coolness of Vovka and Dima.  This would explain why "Russia Experts," when actually given the opportunity to address Russia's leaders directly, suddenly turn into bumbling teenage-esque fools.  For example, did you see Rupert Wingfield-Hayes (of whom I am a huge fan, as you know) on the BBC asking Dima at his press conference, "The one question all foreign leaders are asking themselves right now is, who will decide Russian's foreign policy, you or Mr. Putin?" (to paraphrase...)  Now, anyone with the reading comprehension skills of a 10 year old and access to the Internet knows fully well that according to the Russian Constitution, these powers lie with the President, not the Prime Minister.  Duh.  So Rupert, dear dear Rupert, was either 1) unaware that Dima had just been elected President, 2) does not have the reading comprehension skills of a 10 year old or access to the Internet or 3) was suffering a momentary bout of brain-turning-to-mushness in the presence of such hipster leadershipdom.  Of course, I can't rule out the first two...

(Seems like the people over at Roget's have been paying attention to Russian politics, as "autocratic" is now listed as a synonym for "cool.")

Interestingly, this intimidating, unearthly coolness is the very same explanation my girlfriends give when I ask why I don't have a date.  Because I share this rare trait with Russia's leaders, I believe I am able to garner keen insight into their behaviour and style, insight which is lost on everyone else in the Russia-Expert-o-Sphere.

3.  My local news must have been too intimidated by my mind-blowing expertise, so they invited the less formidable and much more available characters of Ahmed Chala...,  I mean, Garry Kasparov, and (drum roll...) Edward Lucas! to provide analysis of the Russian elections.  So reliable, so willing and ready, these two.  Do they ever say, "no?"  They are like that girl in high school of the Russia-Expert-o-Sphere.  Which makes me kinda sad.  Maybe, if they'd just had better role models and more support at home...  better self-esteem...  Well, it must attest to my own expertiseness that at the very moment I was watching Lucas under the bleachers with some anchor-person, I was also reading this fabulous article about Lucas and the New Cold War(s), in the Exile.  It's brilliant, insightful, and totally hi-larious.  Alexander Zaitchik and Mark Ames rock my world.

Quoting extensively:

Lucas isn't an idiot. He's just a bit of a fruitcake (and folks, we say that knowing that if this newspaper calls you a "fruitcake," you are no mere slice of raisin bread). Being fairly bright and totally mad, Lucas realizes he might seem to be overdoing the Russian Threat a bit. Again and again, he shrieks that he is not being hysterical and historically obtuse and just plain wrong! Absolutely not! The book at times seems to be written by two men, a Doctor Strangelove howling for a NCW, and a Doctor Jekyll trying to give him a sedative.
On one page, Lucas berates Russia apologists for failing to see the massive threat over the eastern horizon. On the next, he retreats from the implications of his own rhetoric. After suggesting that the Russian threat is more sinister than that posed by Al Qaeda, he takes care to stress that Russia is "not a military menace to the West." Rather, the problem is one of "bombast, bullying, and bribery." (Ah, the three "B"s! Apparently both of our featured authors are fans of alliteration.) Russia, he explains, "has dropped three Soviet attributes from its foreign policy: a messianic ideology, raw military power, and the imperative of territorial expansion." In its place it has embraced trade and investment, exactly as the West has always argued it should. Instead of nuclear weapons and massive heavy tank divisions, the NCW is "fought with cash, natural resources, diplomacy and propaganda... The new cold war is in part a struggle for market share."

If most people find the thought of a suitcase nuke in lower Manhattan more frightening than a growing Gazprom portfolio of downstream German energy assets, well, they obviously haven't spent enough time hanging out in the Polish foreign ministry cafeteria listening to Western-educated bureaucrats griping about Russia's imperial intentions, the way Lucas has.

More extensive quoting, because, as a Russia expert, I'm better at regurgitating what others say than at thinking for myself:

Europe's hopeless lust for the Russian energy-whore is so horrifying to Lucas that he is forced to find comfort in scenarios predicting the imminent exhaustion of Russia's vast oil and gas reserves. Indeed this is another running feature of NCW russophobia: "Yeah, well, just wait till Russia's resources run out/the price of oil drops! It's gonna happen too, just you wait. That's what Tony says, at least, dontcha Tony? 'Raw Dloc! Raw Dloc!' See? Tony says they're gonna run out of gas in about 200 years, and that's good enough for me!"

It's true that 43 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves won't last forever, or even the century. Some studies show that as early as 2020, Russia could need to keep all of its gas for domestic use. But if these numbers are accurate, there's not much use in getting so riled up, is there? Why not just write a book about alternative energy? Answer: it ain't scary enough. And if it ain't scaring John Q Public, then John Q Public ain't gonna lay down $20 bucks to buy it. Besides, free market nut cases get nervous talking about that hippie stuff. Every time they bring it up they can see their hero Cheney sneering at them, and it makes them feel faint.

So Lucas's only idea for fighting Russia's massive resource advantage is a kind of "Better Stone-Aged Than Sovereign Democracy" policy, the Episcopalian equivalent of suicide bombing: he argues that we stop buying Russian fuel altogether. If frozen toes and cold baths once a month are good enough for us Brits, they're good enough for the rest of you softies!

But that sort of talk goes down better in North Korea than in free-market countries, as poor Lucas realizes. "Now the fellow travelers are capitalists," writes Lucas, speaking about accountancy firms, individual investors, and public relations officials. Although he doesn't use the word, he implies strongly that they are traitors. Lucas has an ally in this view in Tony Blair, who left office with a Eisenhower-esque exit warning in which he urged Western firms to stay away from the Russian werewolf. Don't believe it when you see profits to be made and resources to be traded: when there's a full moon out, those natural gas reserves and IPOs turn into werewolves, and they... KILL YOU! Raw Dloc! Raw Dloc! Tony, no!

4.  "Medvedev."

I suppose if foreign leaders and journalists all over the world can't be bothered to Google to see whether the President or Prime Minister is in charge of foreign policy under Russia's Constitution, I should not hold out any hope that they'll learn how to say "Medvedev."  In fairness, it does not roll effortlessly off the English tongue.  But if I hear "Mehvdehv" one more, time I'll scream.  For the love of god, there is even a little doo-dad on Dima's Wikipedia page where you can hear how it's meant to be pronounced.  Do foreign leaders and journalists all over the world know what "Wikipedia" is?  Izzy was recently bemoaning the overuse of nicknames in the Russian language.  Personally, given the choice, I'll take "Dima" over "Medvedev" any day.  "Deem-ah."  How hard is that?  I've actually read commentary by "Russia Experts" asserting that the Western Media's refusal to accept that Putin is going to step down is a projection of their own desires.  They finally got a Russian leader with a name they could say and don't want to give this up.  Who with an American education can pronounce "Medvedevology?"  !!!

In Memorium

5.  My own refusal to accept that Putin is going to step down is a little different.  As you all know.

God.  I'm so effing depressed!  I just can't comprehend life without him.  I can't believe he's leaving!  What the hell am I going to write/swoon about?  I mean, Dima can work a leather jacket and all, but the fishing trips, the smart-ass remarks, the great sweaters, the general curiously appealing nuttiness of Vladimir Putin...  No one can replace that rare combination of cheeky hooliganism, cut biceps and shockingly effective -if evil- governance!  Sniff...  Don't go, Volodya... Please... Sniff...  I mean, I saw this coming, but I guess I, sniff, just wasn't prepared, ya know, for, sniff ...  (Excuse me a moment while I collect myself.  Deep breath ...  Ok.)  I just can't ...  It's just hard, you know.  I know.  I know.  I'll get over him.  Somehow...  It's, sniff, just going to take a lot of time and support.  And wine.  Lots of wine.  

Damn it.  That's it!  I'm giving up this terrible habit.  No, not smoking, J.  Russian men.  (Apologies to my wonderful readers who fall into this demographic.  I absolutely adore you, of course.  Well, that's the whole problem, isn't it?)  These men will kill me before cigarettes.  Men who place the good of their county and rule of law before my needs as a writer.  Thanks, Vlad.  Men who have a wife in Minsk, but it's Minsk, so it doesn't count.  Thanks, "Alexei, but you can call me Alex."  Men who, tears streaming down their face, won't let me get on that plane, but who now cannot even be bothered to check their facebook acct., or, are dead(***).  Thanks, Sergei/Sergueï.  I give up.  Never again.  In fact, I'm just going to include all men in this, so as not to be accused of being anti-Russian by lana or something.  Sorry, that includes you too, LEP.  Seriously.  I'm going to go adopt 10 cats, buy some comfortable shoes, get one of the rabbit things and write Gothic novels...

Wait.  This is a diary about the Russian Elections.  Sorry about that.  Kinda got off topic there for a minute...

6.  Medvedev will be the next President of Russia.  No one knows what it means.  And that is the full extent of my expert analysis.  Believe me when I say to you, this is the most honest analysis of the subject you are going to find anywhere on the Internets.  

Ciao! & Thanks for reading!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

p.s. I really should add that, despite his being a "Russia Expert," I actually like Peter Lavelle and find him smart, gracious and charming in a nerdy kinda way, if a bit sensitive.  Unfortunately, he's also male, so I'm harboring some completely irrational and, Dai Bog, fleeting animosity toward him.

p.p.s. Nothing to do with the Russian elections, but I've developed a new Obama Theory.  Americans are miserable, anxious, depressed, generally freaking out.  However, because of our sham health care system, no one can afford a prescription for Paxil, Vicodin or Valium.  Obama is like the human Vicodin.  He makes you feel all blissed out even though whatever is causing your pain is still there.  Treats the symptoms, not the underlying causes.  Not a long term solution.  ...  I just wanted to throw that brilliant observation out there.

(***) ok, not dead. whew.

Display:
European Tribune - Comments - An In Depth Expert Analysis of the Russian Elections,
However, because of our sham health care system, no one can afford a prescription for Paxil, Vicodin or Valium.  Obama is like the human Vicodin.  He makes you feel all blissed out even though whatever is causing your pain is still there.  Treats the symptoms, not the underlying causes.

So how long till the drug companies band together and go legal on his ass for undermining their profits?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 02:34:44 PM EST
How long until they realize that you can't profit from people who will not buy your drugs because they are too expensive?  

Anyway, I need some paxil or valium or Obama or something at the moment.  Seriously depressed.  Maybe I'll go see if Nomad wants to have a pity party...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 02:48:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
poemless:
Anyway, I need some paxil or valium or Obama or something at the moment.

Is the world that bad?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 02:51:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ahh, poemless, I agree with everything you write. Just to remind us what it is we will be missing:

I realize that this perhaps does not serve to easy your plain at this difficult moment. But sometimes it is better not to let go too soon. Stay of the valium and the obama and wallow in your pain! Such sweet sorrow comes but rarely. One must it treasure copiously.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 03:05:27 PM EST
lol!  

I'm afraid I've created a bit of a monster around here...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 03:18:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or will be missing this perhaps?

by The3rdColumn on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 10:25:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Speak for yourself...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 11:45:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hehheh! Don't be so sensitive -- t'was just a toy.
by The3rdColumn on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 04:26:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having been on Lavelle's list, you must have seen this link, but still, election posters from the previous years from the Expert .

1 is Yeltsin's "people's deputy into people's president".

Other notable mentions are: # 4 Gorbachev's  slogan is "the president we've lost... The only one who did not hold into power for the power itself." This catchy one earned him 0.5% in 1996 elections.

#7 is "ultra-nationalist" Zhirinovsky in Hellraiser T-shirt and "I'm one of you" slogan. T-short says "no brain, no pain".

#9 is General Lebed' with his "give me twenty".

#10 Yavlinksy attempts to scare people with freedom he was going to impose on unsuspecting populace. 7.3% were intimidated into voting for him.

#11 demonstrates that back then negative campaigning was allowed. #12 expands on the theme with anti-Zuganov poster "buy some food one last time".

There are a lot of jokes being made about "Putin's plan", and #14 shows that in 2000 there was a "Putin's formula" - he was promising a dignified life for the people. There are more to quality of life than just money, in particular, reading Russophobes like Lukas can affect it negatively, but looking back seems that "Putin's formula" worked: official average salary in Russia increased from 77$ in 2000 to 598$ in the beginning of 2008.

Speaking of Russophobes, here is a nice blurb from Exile:

I can not find Lukas's predictions for 1999 Russia in English, so let me do a reverse translation of the Russian text:


1999 will be a year of Russia disintegration. It will not be final and dramatic. Everything will be decided outside of Kremlin. Foreign intervention, in the peaceful and humanitarian form - is what Russian regions really want. Foreign companies and governments find it already easier to deal with regional powers and not the central government. Russian disintegration is fueled by the economy, not nationalism. The dead hand of the center will be replaced by the same meddling by the local powers. Competition between regions will be a force for the better management. Small and resourceful bits of the country will be pushed to ten or so reach regions.

The next phase of  disintegration - the external political guarantees. The foreign governments now are busy in talks with regional leaders like M. Prusak in Novgorod. We can expect new consulates and a number of contacts on a high level after the world starts to look differently on the political map of Russia. Russia's neighbors Japan, USA and Scandinavian countries will be the most involved in trade, investments and democracy development. The middle Russia risks to be forgotten. The infrastructure disputes will emerge ("I have a pipeline, and you have oil").

BTW, Russophobia does seem to run in families. Or think tanks are becominga family business? Lukas's wife once quipped in the article on London RE:

Xenophobia is unacceptable, and inexcusable. But Russophobia? Can you blame us, when all we want is a home of our own? Nyet.

Feeling your pain, Cristina, feeling your pain.

You mention Russian Chalabi, Kasparov, but he was oddly out of the news lately. Man sure needs pick a fight with a few policemen, get arrested, that kind of thing. Not controlling the message and slipping off the new cycles is just bad use of USG money.

by blackhawk on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 04:11:05 PM EST
I actually saw those old posters on EnglishRussia - quality source for hard-hitting news. ;)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 05:28:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Gazprom Reduces Gas Supply to Ukraine

Europe draws about a fifth of its gas from Ukrainian pipelines so that any reduction of gas pressure there can deflate the whole, continent-wide natural network. Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine feud often over prices and conditions. It is a weakness for the European Union that critics have compared with the United States' over-reliance on the unstable Persian Gulf for oil.

"It's the same old disputes coming up again and again," Jerome Guillet, a French banker and expert on Gazprom, said in a telephone interview from Paris. "The real disputes are about sharing the rents of gas sales to Ukraine through the traders, who control this income."

I've given your phone number to the NYT journalist, too.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 04:14:13 PM EST
LOL!  I can assure you they do not want MY expert advice, which would consist of explaining where they should insert their newspaper.  

But congrats anyway. :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 05:24:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you consider Russian culture to be more or less bizarre than American culture?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 05:36:11 PM EST
In my expert opinion, Russian culture is more entertainingly bizarre, while American culture is more terrifyingly bizarre.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 05:52:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There, I said it.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 05:58:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]

This is actually one of my favorite songs, ever.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 06:13:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am the biggest Akvarium fan!  In fact, they're playing on my iTunes as I write (in the line-up after Bob Dillon).

I am by no means means a Russian expert, at least anymore.  So much has changed.  But my bachelors degree from Uni Michigan was in Russian and Eastern European Studies and I spent three semesters at the now-defucnt Moscow Institute of Social and Political Studies in 94-95.

There I had the pleasure of lectures by Yavlinski, Zhirinovsky, Yuganov, Gaidar, and others.  I met my ex-wife there, to whom I was married for eight years, and though I divorced her, I regret my mistake as she truly loved me but time goes on.

My ex-mother-in-law was a die-hard Stalinist and loved FDR and Reagan as her favorite US presidents.  At that time, the time of the first Chechen War when Russian paratroopers guarded the metros, we were in favor of Putin as a leader.  Knowing the particular Russian history and in discussion, not always in agreement with my ex-Mother-in-law, we uneasily agreed on Putin as at that time I tended to agree that perhaps Russia needed a benevolent dictator for a full democratic transition.  So many conflicting factors in that opinion, not in the least that they never experienced the Enlightenment.

14 years later, I was wrong, of course.  But so much has changed since that time and I have not kept up.  Including my language - I scored as just under native speaker on my Navy language proficiency exam, but since I started German, I search for words though I understand what I hear in Russian.  That is degrading too, unfortunately.

But I do know the importance of International Woman's Day!

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 09:51:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No.  I am the biggest Akvarium/BG fan.  :)

Sorry to hear about your doomed Russian romance.  But it makes me feel better about my own.  lol.

I bet that Zhirinovsky lecture was a riot...  

Are you going to send me some flowers on Saturday?  Do you need my address? ;)  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 11:42:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
sorry, Saturday is filled with cleaning the bathroom and massaging feet, no free time for male slaves!

It was only doomed because I deemed it so, after going through therapy for PTSD, I see the failures that I made.

Yea Zhirinovsky was a riot, all about pepsie and snickers as our downfall.  But he was kind enough to autograph a bottle of Zhirinovsky vodka that I bought at a kiosk for me - then declare to his staff that every student should have one.

Funny, his office in the Duma had a Bose speaker system and luxurious leather chairs, exactly the opposite what I saw in Zioganov's office.

And "Укравший Дождь" is playing as I write.  Ah, fair queens and white fleets!  A wonderful love story!

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 12:08:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Укравший Дождь"

Oh, man, that seriously takes me back.  Brilliant!   Are these things available on iTunes or something?  Almost everything I have is on -gasp- tape.  And copied tapes at that!

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 03:32:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I bought CDs while I was there.  Kino and Alicia as well.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 09:17:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are just rocking my day, Jerome!

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 06:25:03 PM EST
I'm sorry, but Medvedev looks like a complete dork. It's no wonder the western media is desperately clinging on to Putin, he pulls off menacing much better. But, uh, you know, sexy menacing.

Seriously, given the sheer dorkiness of the guy, how bad could he possibly be?

Oh. We're fucked.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 at 06:44:24 PM EST
Yes, he is truly dorky.  That's an undeniable fact.  But there is a huge difference between collecting Deep Purple records or wearing 1999's must have black leather zip-up sportscoat, and having the IQ of a slug, a drinking problem and penchant for invading other countries.  I think Dima's safe on those counts.  Worst case scenario, I'd suggest it's better to have Putin as the man behind the curtain than, uhm, Dick Cheney.  Actually, you could probably replace "Putin" in that sentence with any other person, and it would still be true.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 11:36:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You know nothing... you are from barcelona?

Precisely...

Ei.. you forgot to mention the guardian article..e ven though Dimahhhh was goign to win anyhow.. for some reason Putin and KGB were rigging the election so that the number 65% would be the one in the foreign press....

And teh Russia media... what about the media... it is all in bed... with sexy Putin.. or dima...

A pleasure


I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 03:44:18 AM EST
You are really sweet, but sometimes I wonder if you read anything I write...

I'll chalk all this up to your head cold.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 11:29:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
my cold.. I really did not read anythign about the guardian.. geee.. i wanted you to comemnt on it... ( I eman in this diary)

and all I get is this lousy t-shirt.. ej ejej well not t-shirt.. but I know nothing.. which is probably correct in todays Russia.

And finally about the meida.... there is no meta-media analysis of he russian media... we are very used to them here.. but it is my cold... but your meta analysis of the meta-emdia anlayis in the west should be followed with the meta anlayisi of the meta analyis in the west of the meta analyisis in Russia.

Meta of the meta of the meta is the best... but too mcuh to ask for...

A pelasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 12:33:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This last comment was a self-parody :) .. obviously.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 12:35:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'll need to find someone actually living in Russia for that.  I can only see through Western eyes.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 02:05:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You must have loved the guardian then... :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 02:41:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you have a link, because I don't quite know what you're referring to.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 02:48:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the fans of Kavkazskaya plennitsa here is new dubbing for the restaurant segment (sorry, in Russian) where Medvedev is Shurik, 3 crooks are other presidential contenders:

by blackhawk on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 04:42:13 AM EST
If you think that's a cool jacket, I won't take the rest of your analysis serious either.

But seriously, you seem to suggest that Medvedev might really have independent power. If so, and Putin is really stepping down because of the rules, why in heaven's name is he going to be prime minister?

by GreatZamfir on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 09:44:58 AM EST
I don't think anyone has said Medvedev will have complete independence from Putin(s plan).  But the way the government is set up, the President takes care of foreign policy and the Prime Minister takes care of domestic issues.  The two positions and two responsibilities are not completely independent of each other, and Medvedev has said he will continue on the same path Putin has been on.

Noteworthy are the following:

1. Putin could have altered the Constitution to stay on as President, but did not.  I think it would have been very detrimental to his credibility if he had done that, but I'm not convinced that's the only or primary reason for his decision to step down at the end of his term.  I'm inclined to agree with Vilhelm Konnander's comments:

At the news conference Putin said: "Throughout all these eight years I have toiled like a slave in the galleys, from morning till evening and, have done so with the full devotion of my strength." This is most probably a very sincere statement, and is also in line with what Putin has previously said repeatedly. Also, people working in the Kremlin has let it be no secret that the Russian president has been quite tired and weary of his duties in recent years. So, being a slave to power does not in Putin's case have to be a fixation to power, but an actual slavery of duties. Still, media have failed to see this.

So if he has not stayed on as Prime Minister as a result of some lust for power and megalomaniacal paranoid control-freakism, why has he?  Ok, listen, I am not an expert.  Obviously.  But I do read a lot, and there appears to be a great deal of consensus among those for whom russophobia has not compromised their capacity for critical thought.  And that is : he doesn't feel his work is done.  Especially on the domestic end of things.  He's re-established Russia's place on the international stage, but inflation, corruption, gap between the rich and poor, birthrates, etc. remain problems, and I suppose he imagines he's best suited to address them.  We'll see.  But what it boils down to is that he knows his legacy -and that's what all of this is about- hinges on the success of the country.  Ensuring Russia's success, and that no one comes along and tramples on, reverses, ruins whatever accomplishments or "reforms" he's implemented = ensuring his legacy.  

2.  Everyone said Putin, when personally chosen by Yeltsin, would be a puppet of Yeltsin's regime/people.  He was specifically chosen for his loyalty, after all.  Well... we saw how well that worked out, didn't we? :)  Fact is, and I re-iterate, there is no sense in trying to predict the future, esp. when it comes to Russia.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 11:27:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nicolai N Petro's take on Medevedev:


A careful reading of his more than 2,000 public pronouncements over the past seven years, however, suggests that neither of these descriptions is accurate. His record indicates that Medvedev will indeed pursue a concerted liberalization of Russian politics, not as an alternative to the Putin Plan, but as the next logical stage in its evolution.

Rather, it appears that most observers simply underestimated the Russian government's ability to conceive of and carry out its own strategy of democratic modernization, now commonly referred to as the Putin Plan, and also completely missed its purpose, which Medvedev sums up as "an effective civil society ... composed of mature individuals ready for democracy".

On separation of duties between Prime Minister and the President, there is Presidential Administration which can direct a Cabinet when Prime Minister is not politically strong enough. There were precedents when in weak President - strong PA - strong PM trio PM was running the entire show (Primakov).

Yeltsin/Putin dichotomy is a useful frame to distinguish two epochs, but note how elites remain the same: with few exceptions, oligarchs are allowed to remain at large, people close to Yeltsin family got to keep all the billions, the cabinet (Kasyanov's) for the first Putin term was put together by Yeltsin's people.

For all the rhetoric of the last few years regarding a clean break with Yeltsin's regime, Chubais (universally  hated) is still "reforming" the energy grid, Kirienko (fall boy PM in 1998 default) is busy reorganizing nuclear infrastructure and names like Yakunin, Primakov and Voloshin are still showing up on a short list of candidates for either PM or head of PA posts, not to mention regional feudals ramaining mostly the same.

by blackhawk on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 04:23:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nick's always reliable for a reality check and bit of pro-Russia feel-good cheerleading.  I generally really appreciate his articles, but I'm still hesitant to believe anyone's psychoanalysis of Medvedev.  And as for this 3rd way (won't be a puppet, won't be at odds with Putin's "plan") arguing that he's just a pragmatist ... this is probably true, but I think one could argue the same about Putin.  Neither of them are ideologues, and that's what the whole West can't get past.  They want to know who is the Democrat and who is the Stalinist, and there is no evidence that either Putin or Medvedev think in those terms.   Probably Petro is right about Medvedev being more "flexible" and economically liberal, based on past performance.   But who knows what he will become once in the highest office?   As you pointed out, Putin did go along with the old guard for a while after becoming President.   But eventually there was a break, it just wasn't in 2000.  The people who have stuck around have been able to do so because of their loyalty to Putin, not to Yeltsin.  Also, the incestuousness and perpetuity of the power elite is quite normal in many countries all over the word - America included.  

Primakov the Strong PM...  Well, he wasn't PM for very long, and when the President is chronically ill (or hungover...) it's hard for anyone not to appear strong in comparison.

It will be interesting to see how long Putin remains PM.  No one has talked about that.  It's been a job with a high turnover rate.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 04:55:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I noted in last Thursday's salon that a Finnish analyst at Helsinki University thinks Putin won't be around for more than a year. Her reasoning being that Medvedev would be unable to take on the role of a strong leader if Putin were to continue in too prominent a role beyond a transitional phase.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 05:08:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That makes perfect sense.  
That also makes ... me sad. </sniff>

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 05:11:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]

It will be interesting to see how long Putin remains PM.  No one has talked about that.  It's been a job with a high turnover rate.

Seems to be one of those trademark Putin things when everyone keeps guessing and Putin manages to surprise everyone in the end. President still has a power of a pink slip over the PM and Parliament can nudge a President into using this power.

by blackhawk on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 05:54:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
one of those trademark Putin things when everyone keeps guessing and Putin manages to surprise everyone in the end...

...and always by doing the most obvious thing.

I bet he wins a lot at poker.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 06:13:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
poemless:
I bet he wins a lot at poker.

If he did the western media would be reporting that everyone was scared to beat him.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 06:29:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, shouldn't you be our resident Russia Expert?  I think you should fill out an application for the position.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 05:00:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I spend a perverse amount of time dragging the BBC over the coals for its Russia coverage.  I should probably be nice and point out when they say something intelligent:

The Putin circle calls the new Russia a sovereign democracy - a democracy defended against hostile foreign meddling.
But the odd - and very Russian - paradox is this: that this retreat from the democratic experiment in the 1990s seems genuinely popular.

Russians have voted to endorse it, and so it carries a democratic - or at least a popular - legitimacy of its own. And so the big question "Is Russia a democracy?" remains open.

More than half a century ago, America's greatest Soviet analyst, George Kennan, wrote a letter to the US state department from Moscow.

In it, he said that ever since the Bolshevik revolution, American diplomats had been trying to answer the question: "How has Bolshevism changed Russia?"

It was, he had concluded, the wrong question. It was more important to consider how Russia had changed Bolshevism.

Perhaps we should similarly invert today's question and ask not how democracy has changed Russia, but how Russia - eternal, enduring, long-suffering - is changing democracy.




"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 12:08:48 PM EST
Still, it's BBC writing about Russia, so in the rest of the piece they can not restrain themselves from stupid and false frames, the usual BS on backsliding on democracy, number of factually false statements, and all this peppered with trademark insecurity and paranoia of British elites shining through the piece.

Statements like this one


But Moscow - with its architecture of defensive seclusion from the world, its remoteness from the European mainstream - makes it better suited to today's Russia, too.

makes me wonder, if he is indeed in Moscow, does he even suspect that there is whole another world outside of his alcohol-soaked apartment?

by blackhawk on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 03:53:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know, I know...  But overall, he doesn't seem quite as mad as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes or dear Edward Lucas...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 04:06:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Oh, looks like he indeed does get out, just unable not to tow the party line.
by blackhawk on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 04:40:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]

(How do you say first lady in Russian?)

First lady steps out of Medvedev's shadow

First lady steps out of Medvedev's shadow Before he became president this week, Dmitri Medvedev and his wife Svetlana Medvedeva rarely appeared together inpublic. But since Svetlana showed up in her stilettos to vote in Sunday's elections, Russia's glamorous new first lady has been making quite an impression.

While Medvedev is known as a shy and uncomfortable bureaucrat, his childhood sweetheart Svetlana is the opposite: a gregarious blonde socialite described in Russia's weekly business magazine Expert as being "strong and imperious". She is frequently spotted at parties, counts pop singer Alla Pugachova and fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin among her friends, and knows how to make sushi, the Moscow elite's food du jour. An economics graduate, she is also a devout Orthodox Christian and heads a special commission set up by Russia's Patriarch Alexi II to promote spiritual values among Russia's youth.

Svetlana's exact age is guarded like a state secret but she is thought to have been born in 1965, the same year as her husband. The couple first met at school when both were just seven years old; they were 14-year-olds when their romance blossomed. "Dima [Dmitri] was just one of several suitors," an ex-classmate told Sobesednik magazine. "He was quite shy and there were more aggressive guys chasing after her."

by The3rdColumn on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 06:15:21 PM EST
LOL

первая леди apparently.

The first word is the Russian word for ... "first", and the second word is the transliteration of the English word "lady".  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 06:26:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh dear... that's a bit more difficult than Mev... whatever!
by The3rdColumn on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 08:27:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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