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Tag: Russia

The Genghis Khan way: Russia’s neo-imperialism

Wednesday, 22 January, 2014 0 Comments

On Monday, in a Neue Zürcher Zeitung article titled “The Third Empire,” Ulrich Schmid looked at how the Russian culture scene is being exploited by Putin’s authoritarian state for its imperialistic propaganda goals. “Largely unnoticed by the world press, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was awarded the ‘Imperial Culture’ prize in January 2012 for his ‘resistance to Western expansion’. The patrons of the honour were the Russian writer’s guild, the Russian literature foundation and several Orthodox organizations.”

Schmid notes as well that the steppes of Russian cinema have been experiencing something of a Mongolian invasion of late. Films such as Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007), The Secret of Genghis Khan (2009) and The Horde (2012) have been big hits. All of them portray the image of strong ruler who created a gigantic empire thanks to his unconditional demand for discipline. The not-so-subtle message is that Mongolian harshness and the Russian capacity to endure suffering are the perfect platform for empire building. This interpretation of history, writes Schmid, hews close to the ideology of Eurasianism. Seen through that prism, the Western model of the market economy plus representative democracy appears alien to a Russia that was, in parts, dominated by the Mongols for more than 300 years. Eurasianism claims that Russian culture is different its European counterpart due to this Asian impact and that Russia, therefore, must follow a separate path. The popular enthusiasm for all things Mongol plays into Putin’s hands as he’d like to create a Eurasian Union, which in terms of economic power and political weight, would act as a counterbalance to the European Union.

He’s got big dreams, that Vlad.

The Horde


Snowden deserves life in Russia

Monday, 20 January, 2014 1 Comment

For an entire swathe of useful idiots, Edward Snowden is a hero. In fact, however, he’s a thief. password Worse still, he’s a traitor. In an eye-opening account of Snowden’s amorality, Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball of Reuters reported that he gained access to his cache of documents by persuading some 25 of his fellow employees to give him their logins and passwords, saying he needed the information to help him do his job as systems administrator. Most of these colleagues were subsequently fired. It should be noted also that Snowden signed an oath, as a condition of his employment as an NSA contractor, not to disclose classified information, and he was well aware of the penalties for violating that oath. But he stole an estimated 1.7 million documents, anyway.

Then there’s Snowden’s admiration for the enemies of freedom, which became public in a statement he made in Moscow last July, soon after Vladimir Putin granted him asylum. He thanked the countries that had offered him support. “These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, have my gratitude and respect,” he declared, “for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful.” Earlier, Snowden had said that he sought refuge in Hong Kong because of its “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.”

The man is either naïve or evil. Take your pick.

On Friday, President Obama limited Snowden to two mentions in a more than 5,000 word speech as he criticized his “unauthorised disclosures.” There was no suggestion of clemency, and there will be none. “It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard, and the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating,” said President Obama. “No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take the privacy concerns of citizens into account.”

Edward Snowden has sentenced himself to life in Russia, which is ruled by an unpleasantly authoritarian regime. He deserves his fate.

This just in: “The heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees suggested on Sunday that Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, may have been working for Russian spy services while he was employed at an agency facility in Hawaii last year and before he disclosed hundreds of thousands of classified government documents.” The New York Times

Note: It’s telling that Snowden has not released any documents detailing the cyber-operations of Russia or China, even though he must have had access to the NSA’s reports on the hundreds or thousands of hacking campaigns that they have carried out over the years.


Black and white in the pre-PC days

Tuesday, 5 November, 2013 0 Comments

Back in March 2006, Garry O’Connor of the Scottish football side Hibernian agreed a £1.6 million transfer to Lokomotiv Moscow. He was not, however, the first Scot to play football in Russia. Robert Bruce Lockhart won the Moscow league championship in 1912, playing with Morozov — a textile factory team. But all this was a cover for his real profession: espionage. And if one believes the conspiracy theorists, he was at the centre of a plot to assassinate Lenin.

British Agent Robert Bruce Lockhart was Acting British Consul-General in Moscow when the first Russian Revolution broke out in early 1917. Working for the Secret Intelligence Service, he had been given £648 worth of diamonds to fund the creation of an agent network. Diamonds are said to be a girl’s best friend and it was almost inevitable that Moura Budberg, the beautiful widow of Count Johann von Benckendorff, became his mistress. With all the dramatis personæ in place, Lockhart was ready to strike, but Felix Dzerzhinsky, the cunning head of Cheka, struck first. Lockhart and fellow British agent, Sidney Reilly, were arrested, but instead of being shot, they were exchanged for the Russian diplomat Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov. Lockhart wrote about his experiences in Memoirs of a British Agent — a bestseller that was made into the film British Agent in 1934.

Spy, author and broadcaster Robert Bruce Lockhart was a talented, prolific diarist with an eye for detail and an ear for anecdote:

5 November 1928: “Heard a very good story on Mussolini and crown Prince [Wilhelm of Germany]. Latter had been to Tripoli and his father asked him what he thought of the natives. He replied, ‘I prefer dealing with black men in white shirts than the white men in black shirts.'” Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart

Tomorrow, here, Cesare Pavese, the Italian writer and diarist, who once said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”


The Andropov Apprentice

Tuesday, 17 September, 2013 0 Comments

Yesterday, here, we mentioned Radek Sikorski, Poland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, who claims he was the first to suggest that Moscow should assume responsibility for Syria’s chemical weapons stocks. It’s worth noting that Sikorski is married to the American journalist Anne Applebaum, a long-time observer of Vladimir Putin and his philosophy of power. In February last year, Applebaum gave a talk at the London School of Economics titled Putinism: The Ideology in which she detailed the autocrat’s suffocating dogma:

“Applebaum identifies the central tenet of Putinism as the carefully managed elections that ensure there are no accidental winners because there are no accidental candidates. Putin very carefully maintains the appearance of democracy — building up a campaign atmosphere during elections despite doing little actual campaigning and allowing fringe opposition parties to exist — but Russian voters are at no stage allowed to genuinely intervene in the democratic process.”

Anne Applebaum has spent many years developing her theory of Putinism. On 10 April 2000, the Weekly Standard published an article by her titled Secret Agent Man in which she revealed that Vladimir Putin tried to join Yuri Andropov’s KGB “at the tender age of 15”. Yuri Andropov Eventually, Putin fulfilled his dream of Soviet espionage and when he came to power in the Russian Federation that succeeded the USSR he enacted a tribute ceremony that was truly revelatory. “He chose the site with care: the Lubyanka, once the headquarters of the KGB and its most notorious jail prisoners once exercised on its roof, and were tortured in its cellars — and now the home of the FSB, Russia’s internal security services,” wrote Applebaum. “He also took heed of the date: December 20, a day still known and still celebrated by some, as ‘Chekists Day,’ the anniversary (this was the 82nd) of the founding of the Cheka, Lenin’s secret police. In that place and on that day, both so redolent of the bloodiest pages of Russian history, Vladimir Putin solemnly unveiled a plaque in memory of Yuri Andropov.”

Andropov’s apprentice is flying high now, but his repressive agency, the FSB, is not having it so easy. You see, Will Cochrane stands in its way. Never heard of Will Cochrane? He’s the “Spycatcher” and we’ll meet him here tomorrow.


That Syrian, er, surrender. Whose idea was it?

Monday, 16 September, 2013 0 Comments

“This is a victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends.” Who speaks there? None other than Ali Haidar, leader of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, whose business card is embossed with the surreal title of “Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs”.

Speaking about the Kerry-Obama diplomatic triumph in Geneva, Haidar told the Russian state news agency Ria Novosti that it was “the achievement of the Russian diplomacy and the Russian leadership.” Given that Syria is now a Russian protectorate, he would say that, wouldn’t he? But a less partisan observer might be disinclined to agree. Rainy Day has identified three non-Russian contenders for the “Syrian surrender” prize. Let’s start with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Last Monday in London, Kerry was asked by a reporter whether there was anything the Assad regime could do to avoid a US military strike. “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week — turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting [of it], but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done,” said Kerry.

“If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, gleefully running with the Kerry remark, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem toadfully piped up that his government “agreed to the Russian initiative,” adding that Syria did so to “uproot US aggression.”

Clearly, the Russians were playing opportunist here and Kerry was speaking off-the-cuff so the prize goes to neither. Step up, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and cue Twitter:

Sikorski told reporters that he had “proposed the ultimatum” to John Kerry after getting the support of the European People’s Party during a meeting in Vilnius, and he had also tweeted at the end of August that “Russia can possibly prevent war be declaring that she will secure Syria’s chemical arsenal, which the USSR created.”

Our final contender for the Syrian-surrender prize is The Economist. In its leader of 31 August, Hit him hard, it concluded: “Mr Obama must give Mr Assad one last chance: a clear ultimatum to hand over his chemical weapons entirely within a very short period. The time for inspections is over.” This was read, no doubt, by Kerry, Lavrov, Sikorski, Mr al-Moallem and Mrs al-Assad. The result was a carefully planted “gaffe” in London, an instant follow-up in Moscow, pre-programmed agreement in Damascus and a “breakthrough” in Geneva. Coincidence? Unlikely.

Finally, let’s return to Ali Haidar, the Syrian “Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs”. How’s that working out? In today’s Washington Post, Liz Sly writes, “At close of a week hailed as diplomatic triumph, more than 1,000 die in Syria.”


Putin and the New York Times Pravda/Izvestia

Thursday, 12 September, 2013 0 Comments

The Soviet Union had two main papers, Pravda and Izvestia. Pravda, which means “truth”, was the official voice of the Party and Izvestia, which means “news”, was the official voice of the Government. This gave rise to the witticism: “There is no Pravda in Izvestia, and there is no Izvestia in Pravda“.

Today, the New York Times decided to go Pravda/Izvestia by inviting Vladimir Putin to grace its pages with an opinion piece titled A Plea for Caution From Russia. This has given rise to much Twitter mirth. Here’s a sample:


Obama and that Chamberlain feeling

Thursday, 12 September, 2013 1 Comment

Sir Henry “Chips” Channon was an American-born British Conservative politician, author and chronicler. Here’s his diary entry from 12 September 1938:

Chamberlain “Towards the end of the Banquet came the news, the great world-stirring news, that Neville [Chamberlain], on his own initiative, seeing war coming closer and closer, had telegrapher to Hitler that he wanted to see him, and asked him to name an immediate rendezvous. The German Government, surprised and flattered, had instantly accepted and so Neville, at the age of 69, for the first time in his life, gets into an aeroplane tomorrow morning and flies to Berchtesgaden! It is one of the finest, most inspiring acts of all history. The company rose to their feet electrified, as all the world must be, and drank his health. History must be ransacked to find a parallel.

Of course a way out will now be found. Neville by his imagination and practical good sense, has saved the world. I am staggered.”

A year later, the situation was very different. No way out had been found, the world had not been saved and the name of Neville Chamberlain became eternally synonymous with that dreadful term, appeasement.

“I believe it is peace for our time,” said the hapless Chamberlain upon his return from the despot’s Alpine eyrie, and one could not but feel a shiver of déjà vu while listening to the awful speech delivered by President Obama on Tuesday night. Here was a leader who casually drew a red line in the sand, and then found he had to do something about it. Faced with a humiliating defeat in Congress, he has now decided to let the Russians, steadfast allies of Assad, set the agenda on the international stage. And he admitted all this with an air of boredom. “It is hard to believe such a chill man has such warm feelings about the sad end of strangers far away,” wrote Peggy Noonan. “I think this has been one of his big unspoken problems in the selling of his Syria policy.” With her “sad end of strangers far away,” Noonan was deliberately echoing Chamberlain, who said: “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

Knowing that the US president will grasp at any straw to avoid taking military action against Damascus, Vladimir Putin, now writing op-eds for the New York Times, is thrashing Obama in this global PR game. Having presented Obama with the meaningless option of weapons inspection, Russia has saved Syria from immediate attack and ensured that Assad can continue merrily upon his murderous way. It’s all very Chamberlain like.


Rotten Russia: Snowden in; Altunin out

Thursday, 29 August, 2013 0 Comments

In his devastating New Yorker takedown of the traitorous Edward Snowden on 10 June, Jeffrey Toobin wrote: “Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent… As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government — which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?” But worse was to come. Snowden went from one ghastly tyranny to another: Russia. And there he found asylum at the hands of the tender Vladimir Putin.

That’s the same Putin who was depicted this week by the Russian artist Konstantin Altunin wearing women’s undies and fondly arranging the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. For this “crime”, the Russian authorities removed four of Altunin’s satirical depictions of Russian politicians from St Petersburg’s Museum of Power and shut down the exhibition. Konstantin Altunin has fled Russia and is said to be seeking asylum in France. Meanwhile, in a perverse gesture of solidarity with the quisling Snowden, a group of cretinous German academics, the Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler, has decided to award him its “Whistleblower 2013” prize and €3,000. The real hero in this rotten Russia-centred drama, however, is Konstantin Altunin.

Putin on the style


The horror of Putin’s realm

Friday, 19 July, 2013 1 Comment

While the American traitor Edward Snowden eagerly seeks political asylum in Russia, the real face of Vladimir Putin’s police state has been exposed by the show-trial of protest leader Alexei Navalny. Yesterday, thousands took to the streets following his conviction on embezzlement charges. Navalny — a vocal critic of Putin — had denied the charges, saying the trial was politically motivated.

Scuffles broke in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities in protests that continued late into the evening. Reports said dozens were detained by police.

That most useful site, The Interpreter, which translates important articles from Russian, offers Navalny’s last and very emotional blog post before yesterday’s sentencing. In it, he appeals to every single person in the country, with the exception, perhaps, of Edward Snowden. From “Before the sentence…“, a snippet: “No one is in a position to resist stronger than you. It is your duty to the rest, if you realize it; it is the sort of thing that it is impossible to delegate to someone else. There is no one else, except you. If you are reading this, then you are in fact the resistance.”


How Cyprus was robbed

Tuesday, 26 March, 2013 0 Comments

Reuters: “As new President Nicos Anastasiades hesitated over an EU bailout that has wrecked Cyprus’s offshore financial haven status, money was oozing out of his country’s closed banks.”

All those TV and newspaper images of Cypriots standing in line to get their daily €100 from the ATM show the real victims of the bailout/bailin. The reality is that the big money has left the island and the Brussels PR campaign that the real pain would be felt by the “rich” is exposed as just another Big Lie. Check this out:

“The two banks at the centre of the crisis — Cyprus Popular Bank, also known as Laiki, and Bank of Cyprus — have units in London which remained open throughout the week and placed no limits on withdrawals. Bank of Cyprus also owns 80 percent of Russia’s Uniastrum Bank, which put no restrictions on withdrawals in Russia. Russians were among Cypriot banks’ largest depositors.”

And who’s left holding the can? We’ll see real suffering at the end of this week when Cypriot firms are scheduled to pay their workers.

When the euro was launched, its most ardent defenders used to argue that monetary union would eventually require political union. Their moment came, they thought, with the Greek nightmare. However, instead of being the expected catalyst, it turned out that the “cure” of forcing bitter economic medicine down reluctant throats in Athens generated hatred, not gratitude. The Cyprus crisis has exacerbated the situation and the thing that was meant to unite is now becoming the great divider. What we’re left with is an increasingly unhappy marriage of totally incompatible partners.


‘Tis very warm weather when one’s in bed

Monday, 25 March, 2013 0 Comments

So said the Anglo-Irish writer and satirist Jonathan Swift (1667 — 1745). Coming right up to date, “Extreme cold weather hits Europe” is the headline on a Big Picture photo feature about the deadly climate change that’s been killing people from Vladivostok to Glasgow. In Poland, the interior ministry said 20 people had died in the past 24 hours because of the freezing weather, bringing the toll there so far this year to at least 100. In Serbia, which declared a state of emergency last week, 19 people have died of cold. And for the first time in decades, parts of the Black Sea has frozen near its shores, while the Kerch Strait that links the Azov Sea and the Black Sea has been closed to navigation. According to NASA, the weather pattern is called a “Russian Winter” because the intense cold is triggered by a strong Siberian anticyclone hovering over northern Russia.

A man pushes a bicycle on a snow-covered road near the village of Cotorca, 70km northeast of Bucharest

A man pushes a bicycle on a snow-covered road near the village of Cotorca, 70km northeast of Bucharest