Propaganda in the Western Press I Can Finally Get Behind
1. NYT: U.S. Is in No Shape to Give Advice, Medvedev Says
MOSCOW -- Russia's new president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, less swaggering than his predecessor but as touchy about criticism from abroad, said in an interview that an America in "essentially a depression" was in no position to lecture other countries on how to conduct their affairs.
With soaring oil revenues bolstering the Russian economy and Kremlin confidence, Mr. Medvedev brushed aside American criticism of his country's record on democracy and human rights. He also said that a revived Russia had a right to assume a larger role in a world economic system that he suggested should no longer be dominated by the United States.
"The Group of 8 exists not because someone likes or dislikes it, but because objectively, they are the biggest world economies and the most serious players from the foreign policy point of view," Mr. Medvedev said. "Any attempts to put restrictions on anyone in this capacity will damage the entire world order."
He added, "I am sure that any administration of the United States of America, if it wishes to succeed, among other things, in overcoming essentially a depression that exists in the American economic market, must conduct a pragmatic policy inside the country and abroad."
Mr. Medvedev said world leaders should realize that the credit crunch and a gathering global recession signaled that the worldwide economic architecture needed to be overhauled. He did not specify how this should be done, but indicated it should entail a reduction in the influence of the United States.
Sargon, how do you say, Schadenfreude in Russian?
The FP Passport blog headlines this article with the following oh-so original silliness: "In an interview with the New York Times, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sounded a lot like you-know-who." <---Everything that is wrong with journalism today.
2. AFP: Medvedev eyes 'rational' democracy for Russia
MOSCOW (AFP) -- President Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged Thursday that domestic political competition was critical for Russia's development but said it must be "rational" and overseen by a strong executive leader.
In an interview with media outlets from G8 countries, the new Russia leader also called for creation of a "multi-currency" world economic system relying less heavily on the United States and its dollar.
"To ensure that our country remains competitive on a global scale, we must have political competition" at home, Medvedev said in the wide-ranging interview ahead of next week's G8 summit in Japan.
"But it must be rational," he added. "It must be competition built on the law."
Medvedev's Kremlin predecessor, Vladimir Putin, was heavily criticised in the West for rolling back democratic freedoms and Russia's G8 partners are watching closely for signs that Medvedev could take a different approach.
The new Russian leader, Putin's hand-picked successor who will make his debut on the G8 stage next week, has made clear that he may differ from Putin in form but that there was little daylight between them on policy substance.
Like Putin, Medvedev insisted that Russia was a country that required a strong executive leader and cautioned that introduction of a parliamentary system of government here "would mean the death of Russia as a country."
"Russia must remain a presidential republic for decades or even hundreds of years to come in order to stay united," he said.
So, it looks like we've moved from "Sovereign Democracy" to "Rational Democracy." Er, I think we were kinda hoping the "rational" bit was implied in "democracy." Crazy brainiac Russian, deconstructing everything and thinking about old concepts in new ways.
IHT Op-Ed Pages Have Field Day with Reason and Sanity
1. Wrong on Russia, by Stephen Cohen
Oh, you've already read this article a zillion times in my previous diaries. That fact, however, should not prevent you from reading it again. This is what I like to call "Good Old-fashioned Brainwashing." Go on. Read it again. Nabokov, you know, said, "there is no reading, only re-reading." I'll wait.
2. Global security and propaganda, By Dmitry Rogozin
As the official representative of Russia to NATO I have to deal with what NATO representatives give as arguments, which are in fact fusty propaganda rhetoric of the Cold War. These dogmas threaten both progress in Russia-NATO relations and the prospects for global security, and even the process of cementing democracy in Russia.
Dogma No. 4 also resembles propaganda: NATO pursues an "open-door policy."
Russia cannot enter these doors - unlike, for example, Albania or Croatia. That means the enlargement of NATO diminishes the political weight of old European democracies in favor of the United States and to the prejudice of a security environment in Europe that could address real threats.
On the issue of the American plans to deploy elements of strategic missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic: We are reassured again and again: "Russia is not our enemy"; "The missile defense is an umbrella to protect us against bad guys from Iran who threaten the good guys in America and Israel."
In fact, nothing consolidates and compromises opposition better than an outside enemy. As one who lived a significant part of his life under the Soviet regime, let me tell you that if it had not been for the Cold War, democratization would have begun in the USSR decades earlier.
Secondly, plans to intercept Iranian missiles over the Czech Republic and Poland is a joke. Even if we assume Iran is ready to produce these missiles, wouldn't it be more logical to deploy defenses in Turkey, Bulgaria or Iraq? Yet Washington persists in reiterating its arguments, which gives us grounds to believe we are not being told the whole truth.
Then there are the references to the famous Munich speech made by President Vladimir Putin and other claims that Russia is getting more aggressive.
What, did Putin reveal some dark secret? The secret that NATO is enlarging, opening new military bases and establishing division lines in Europe? Is it a secret that NATO has been challenging the UN and ignoring international law?
It's just that Putin said these things in an open and honest manner, as befits a leader meeting with foreign colleagues, urging them to share his concern.
Smackdown. I can't wait until they take over the world.
3. Unconventional wisdom about Russia, by Kissinger
With respect to the long term, ever since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, a succession of American administrations has acted as if the creation of Russian democracy were a principal American task. Speeches denouncing Russian shortcomings and gestures drawn from the Cold War struggle for pre-eminence have occurred frequently.
The policy of assertive intrusion into what Russians consider their own sense of self runs the risk of thwarting both geopolitical as well as moral goals. There are undoubtedly groups and individuals in Russia who look to America for accelerating a democratic evolution. But almost all observers agree that the vast majority of Russians consider America as presumptuous and determined to stunt Russia's recovery. Such an environment is more likely to encourage a nationalist and confrontational response than a democratic evolution.
It would be a pity if this mood persisted because, in many ways, we are witnessing one of the most promising periods in Russian history. Exposure to modern open societies and engagement with them is more prolonged and intense than in any previous period of Russian history - even in the face of unfortunate repressive measures. We can affect it more by patience and historical understanding than by offended disengagement and public exhortations.
This is all the more important because geopolitical realities provide an unusual opportunity for strategic cooperation between the erstwhile Cold War adversaries. Between them, the U.S. and Russia control 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. Russia contains the largest landmass of any country, abutting Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Progress toward stability, with respect to nuclear weapons, in the Middle East and in Iran, requires - or is greatly facilitated by - Russian-American cooperation.
Confrontational rhetoric notwithstanding, Russia's leaders are conscious of their strategic limitations. Indeed, I would characterize Russian policy under Putin as driven in a quest for a reliable strategic partner, with America being the preferred choice.
Russian turbulent rhetoric in recent years reflects, in part, frustration by America's seeming imperviousness to that quest. Two elections for the Duma and the president also have given Russian leaders an incentive to appeal to nationalist feelings rampant after a decade of perceived humiliation. These detours do not affect the underlying reality. Three issues dominate the political agenda: security; Iran; and the relation of Russia to its former dependents, especially Ukraine.
Issues with Henry aside, I think "ever since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, a succession of American administrations has acted as if the creation of Russian democracy were a principal American task" may be one of the most spot-on things I've ever read in any paper in my whole life.
Like Access Hollywood, only for Russian Politics Junkies
They say politics is Hollywood for ugly people. That's because "they" were thinking only of American politics.
So, if Medvedev is running the joint, what is Vovochka up to these days?
1. Reuters: Putin calls for bobsleigh site to be moved
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for the transfer of a proposed Olympic bobsleigh site over ecological concerns, Russian media reported.
The planned Sochi-2014 Winter Olympics venue, next to a mountain nature preserve above Russia's summer resort city on the Black Sea, was criticized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) last month as "environmentally unfriendly".
"I consider it necessary to move these venues to another site, as agreed with the International Olympic Committee," Putin said at a meeting with Russian Olympic officials in Sochi, news agency RIA said.
In a nine-page summary of its April inspection, UNEP said Grushevy Ridge, where the bobsleigh course and competitors' accommodation had been due to be built, is home to endangered flora and fauna.
As the official consultant to the International Olympic Committee for environmental protection up to and through the 2014 Olympic Games, UNEP visited Sochi's proposed venue sites at the invitation of the Russian government.
A source close to the Russian government told Reuters: "They have taken the environmental concerns very seriously, including the U.N. report, particularly when it comes to Grushevy Ridge."
Russian and international environmental organizations had also been calling for the bobsleigh site to be moved from Grushevy Ridge, and Greenpeace said it had proposed 16 alternative sites.
Greenpeace Russia hailed Thursday's announcement.
Why, moving bobsleigh sites and saving the environment. When he's not secretly running the country and stealing innocent civil rights from the Whos of Whoville, of course.
RIA Novosti: Putin to continue televised Q&A sessions
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has confirmed during his meeting with the United Russia leaders late last week that he would continue his televised question and answer sessions.
The Kremlin and the government are considering ways to divide public addresses between President Dmitry Medvedev and the prime minister, according to sources there.
Medvedev is unlikely to use the forms Putin has used, said a Russian official. It would be logical to create a new medium for public functions for the new president, such as online conferences. Medvedev is comfortable with the Internet because he has used it for discussing national projects.
Putin has held annual televised Q&A sessions and major press opportunities since 2001. He has held only one online conference, in 2006, and the net users were disappointed with censoring by moderators and with the president, who answered the most pointed questions only after the conference was over.
Political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said online conferences were not Putin's cup of tea, and that he looks better on television.
Are you kidding? He looks better anywhere.
So very very excited to hear his Q&A shows will continue. That is some serious Must See TV.
2. Kommersant: Medvedev Accepts Abramovich's Resignation
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree on the early release of Chukotka Autonomous Area Governor Roman Abramovich from office, Interfax reports. The text of the decree, which has been released by the Kremlin press service, indicates that Abramovich had submitted his resignation. "The resignation of Chukotka Autonomous Area Governor R.L. Abramovich is accepted at his desire," it affirms. The president has appointed Roman Kopin temporary acting governor of Chukotka until Abramovich is replaced. The decree goes into force on the day it is signed.
This sucks, as that was the only reason I ever liked the guy. I have Chukchi-philia, convinced they are my people. But I guess Roman wants to spend more quality time with his ... boat...s. Considering how many people these things can accommodate, I bet owning one is not entirely unlike governing a whole republic.
3. MN Weekly: Liberal Yabloko gets New Leader
A massive overhaul of Russia's oldest democratic party, Yabloko, has lead to the replacement of its founding leader, Grigory Yavlinsky, with Sergei Mitrokhin, a deputy in the Moscow City Duma that some members of this oppositionist party have described as a hardliner.
"We are going to keep a single team, one in which the roles have changed," Mitrokhin told The Moscow News Tuesday, when asked what kind of relationship he would maintain with Yavlinsky.
Yabloko emerged in 1993 as a public organization with a social-democratic and liberal-democratic ideology. Its name, which means "apple" in Russian, comes from the first initials of three founders: Yavlinsky, who was an economic advisor to President Boris Yeltsin in the early 1990s, Yuri Boldyrev, and Vladimir Lukin.
Yabloko faired relatively well as a parliamentary force in the early 1990s, winning 27 seats in the Duma in 1993 and 45 seats in 1995. But by 2003, it gained just four seats, and failed to pass the 7 percent threshold in the latest parliamentary elections in December.
While the party has blamed its failures on a flawed vote, observers have pointed to its repeated failures to form a bloc with Russia's other liberal party, SPS (Union of Right Forces), an oppositionist movement that supported liberal economic reforms, although Yabloko contends that notion.
Negotiations to merge had appeared hopeful ahead of the 2003 vote, but by 2007 seemed to have turned into a mere formality. It was argued, meanwhile, that Mitrokhin would be the hardest to persuade to accept concessions that would allow for a bloc.
When asked about the possibility of merging with SPS, Mitrokhin said his party has a "wider goal."
"We want to unite all... forces under one platform," he told The Moscow News. "This platform must be democratic, and it must accept the mistakes that were made by... movements during the 1990s."
Mitrokhin said his party has the "moral right" to speak about the "mistakes" because it did not support the decisions that were behind them. Among some of the "mistakes" supported by liberal forces in the 1990s, the Yabloko leader singled out "loan for shares" auctions, under which state companies were privatized in exchange for a loan to the cash-strapped government; privatization reforms that led to inflation and left many people without their savings; and policies that led to the economic crisis of 1998.
"These mistakes have discredited... movements" amongst the population, he said.
What? You didn't know there was a liberal democratic party in Russia? That's because you only listen to the moronic Western journalists who think "you-know-who" is the devil, or else they would not be so afraid to say-his-name. Or the lackeys of United Russia. Speaking of which, you-know-who, who heads up the United Russia party, gave them all a stern talking to recently. I guess he's going all Howard Dean on their asses. As UR is about as competent as the Democratic Party.
Here's more on Yabloko:
Ivanov: Yabloko: The Beginning Of The End?
Attempts to explain Yavlinsky's resignation by succumbing to the pressure of the "opposition" -- led by Maxim Reznik, the head of the St. Petersburg branch -- ignore the fact that Mitrokhin has won 75 of the total 125 votes of the Yabloko top brass (to Reznik's 24). Given that margin, there is no doubt that had Yavlinsky decided to stay, he would have been re-elected in a landslide.
The key to understanding Yavlinsky's decision and his future -- and, by implication, the future of the party -- is his early March meeting with Putin. Reportedly, Putin offered Yavlinsky "a position in the executive branch of government", something Yavlinsky neither confirmed nor denied. However, now that his protege Mitrokhin is taking over day-to-day operations, Yavlinsky can do something else, while still retaining control of the party. Tellingly, a newly adopted amendment to the Yabloko charter allows its members to participate in "state structures."
"Izvestiya" has reported that Yavlinsky may become Russia's Ambassador to Ukraine. Also possible, however less likely, is that he will join a (state-controlled) commercial structure and spend the next few years earning big bucks.
As for Yabloko itself, I suspect that Yavlinsky's departure signals the beginning of its end. My prediction is that within a year or so, Yabloko will merge with Just Russia.
Jerome: remind me again, is Just Russia Medvedev's or Putin's? Robert Amsterdam has something up about Surkov and a possible split in the Tandemocracy. I only mention this because I'm absolutely obsessed with Surkov and his nefarious hotness:
Uhm, speaking of that...
4. BBC: Yukos boss faces new fraud claims
Former Yukos chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky is facing new charges of embezzlement and money-laundering.
Russian prosecutors have accused the former oil tycoon of misappropriating 350 million tonnes of oil and laundering billions of US dollars.
Lawyers representing Mr Khodorkovsky have dismissed the charges as absurd.
Mr Khodorkovsky is currently serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion and fraud in a case critics of the Kremlin have said was politically-motivated.
Russian authorities have always denied such claims.
News of the latest charges have dampened hopes that the Kremlin may have been planning to pardon Mr Khodorkovsky.
Misha! They will never let you go! They cannot handle the fabulousness your freedom would unleash on the world! ... There are several seriously odd things about this story. First off, everyone thought Medvedev would pardon him. Secondly, er, no one can find anything new in the new charges. All very Double Jeopardy. Alex, I'll take Misha for $1000.
And this is sad:
MT: Khodorkovsky Faces 15 More Years
At our last meeting, he looked bad. Some kind of blotches have appeared on his face," she said, after a three-day visit to the far eastern city to mark Khodorkovsky's 45th birthday last week.
This Week In Russian Affronts to Media Freedoms
1. RIA Novosti: Russian parliament rejects controversial media bill
MOSCOW, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's parliament voted down on Friday a widely criticized bill that would have allowed the authorities to close media outlets prosecuted for libel.
The amendments to the current law were proposed by Robert Shlegel, a member of the dominant, pro-Kremlin United Russia faction and a former radical youth group leader. They were overwhelmingly passed by the State Duma in their first reading on April 25.
Media representatives slammed the bill, initiated under then-president Vladimir Putin, as aimed at further strengthening control over the media.
The editor-in-chief of the popular tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets, Pavel Gusev, was reported to have called the amendments "an extra tool for shutting down the media and fighting free speech."
President Dmitry Medvedev later also gave a negative assessment of the amendments.
Earlier reports said U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin had approached Medvedev over the bill, urging him to stand up for free speech in Russia.
Vladimir Putin was accused in the West of stifling media freedoms during his eight-year presidency, when leading television channels were taken over by the state or Kremlin-connected businessmen.
Speaking after the vote, Oleg Shein from the Just Russia faction called it "an unarguable success for democracy in Russia."
Under the current law, media outlets can be shut down for publishing state secrets and the statements of extremist groups.
LOL. Having a parliament act as a rubber stamp for the President is baaaad when Vovka's President, and a "success for democracy in Russia" when Medvedev is. Face it. We don't give a crap how you are running your countries so long as the outcome is that You Agree With Us.
2. S-P Times: Cyrillic Web Sites Approved
MOSCOW -- Russia will be able to create its first Internet addresses using the Cyrillic alphabet next year, communications ministry official Vladimir Vassiliev told Interfax news agency on Sunday.
The move follows a decision by the organisation that regulates the Internet to deliver a radical shake-up to the domain-name system.
Russia, which currently uses two top-level domain names .ru and .su, will be able to create a third in Cyrillic by the second quarter of next year, Vassiliev said.
Some Russians have trouble using the Latin alphabet and being able to surf the web entirely in Russian would lead to an increase in the number of users, he said.
At the beginning of June, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, an internet enthusiast, said it was very important for Russia to have domain names in Cyrillic, mainly to reinforce the role of the Russian language in the world.
Because right now it's just far too easy for the whole entire rest of the world to understand Russia...
Additions to the Blogroll in my Mind, and to the Birdhouse in my Soul
1. Peter Lavelle's new blog
Thomas Jefferson said that, "Every new generation needs a new revolution." Pasha might have said, "Every new thought needs a new blog." Or maybe he didn't. Anyway, one more incarnation of Untimely Thoughts. Because how can you ever get enough of those tortoise-rimmed specs?
2. Natalia Antonova
Here's a post from her gig at Feminste: Cover up, woman!
It bugs me when "women as sex objects" gets trotted out to make me feel ashamed. Men rarely get shamed like this, even though the lucrative romance novel genre tells me that women frequently see men as sex objects too, not to mention men seeing other men as sex objects as well. There's a reason Fabio has had a lucrative career, and it doesn't have to do with his revolutionary post-modernist thought.
Having said that, I do not deny the damage and danger that befalls women when they are defined strictly in terms of their bodies and their desirability level. There are double standards at work here, and women get the short end of the stick. I still remember how, in 2003, Tara Reid complained about being ridiculed for her free-wheeling ways and displays of sexuality, while Colin Farrell was being lionized for the same damn thing. Five years later, not a whole lot has changed. And Hollywood isn't even the worst of it. Do people make fun of Michael Bernard Mukasey's looks like they did of Janet Reno's? Do conservative clerics make "uncovered meat" statements about men?
This is beside the endless litany of "she was wearing object X, hence she asked for it"-type comments that immediately crop up whenever a rape case is mentioned. I mean, just look at the post below mine.
If you're a woman, you can't win. If you're seen as attractive, you're probably a slut, and deserve to be treated accordingly. If someone thinks you're unattractive, well, you hardly count for a human being, and deserve to be treated accordingly.
I do believe that telling women that they have the responsibility to make sure that no man within a 10-mile radius "gets the wrong idea" about them (whether this idea involves sexual availability, level of intelligence, level of confidence, etc....) is misguided. First of all, it allows the assholes to set the standard. Second of all, it, once again, allows for the perpetuation of the idea that men are animals guided solely by instinct (funny how that "animal" label is immediately jettisoned when we start talking about, say, male achievement in the realm of physics as a means to prove that women are intellectually inferior - just which one is it, guys? Are you all Einsteins? Or Neanderthals?).
In feminist circles, there can be pretty harsh disagreements over appearance. While many of us will readily admit that submitting to the pressure to look conventionally attractive is certainly understandable, enjoying an attractive aspect of one's persona is often seen as the result of brainwashing, or immaturity, or irresponsibility. It's an interesting subject for me, because I identify strongly with a certain beauty culture that's practiced in my family. Now, I'm not going to pretend that beauty culture in general, and Ukrainian beauty culture in particular, is all hunky-dory. It's a complicated subject, and it has both obvious and not-so-obvious dark sides.
But having examined it, I have not outright rejected it, and the issue here was more than just fitting in for the sake of convenience. I think this goes for a lot of feminists. It's like acknowledging the sorry nature of most of mainstream programming, yet refusing to toss out your TV set because hey, "Lost" is on.
Living in Jordan has given me a whole new perspective on this, because you tend to watch what you wear here, and what is acceptable in a private gathering isn't at all acceptable for a stroll down the street. While I sincerely wish to refrain from offending people I come across, it is hard to conform. You can feel defensive. Or you can feel like a fake. In these moments, you start clinging on to those strappy high-heeled shoes of yours (and this is coming from a person who prefers flats) with trembling fingers, as if they are a holy relic. It's a freakishly weird situation, for me, but it's what happens when your choices become even more potentially problematic than usual.
Ultimately, I don't pretend to have the answers. I'm not here to tell anyone what to do with themselves. I just want to say that if someone who barely knows you tells you how you really feel about yourself and how you ought to look and dress and behave (regardless of whether you're wearing overalls, a cocktail dress, or a cyborg costume), probably the best comeback line for that was once sung by Madonna:
"I'm not your bitch, don't hang your shit on me."
Oh, yes. Preach it, Natasha!
And from her personal blog: I am working on a new essay, so check out the Beautiful Men, Euro 2008 Edition
From Russia, my Russia: Roman Shirokov (who looks like he should be in the Marines).
From Italia: Luca Toni (smile for me, Cheshire Kitty).
From France: Thierry Henry.
From Spain: Iker Casillas (rocking my face off since 2002) and, since I can't resist, Fernando Torres.
From Portugal: Helder Castiga and... OK... OK... I trash him in my column, but he's hot and talented... OK? Happy now? HAPPY NOW? Here he is, Mr. Cristiano "Ferret Grin" Ronaldo.
From Germany: Piotr Trochowski.
I don't need to explain to you why I am a fan. What? I mean of Natalia Antonova. Sheesh.
Sometimes, I am famous.
Check out the SRB post, as I get into it with a buch of Western men about who is stereotyping whom when it comes to women and Russia.
OK, I gotta run. I'll be away relaxing for the holiday.
Thanks for reading & recommending & have a lovely weekend, mes amis!