In (Post) Soviet Russia, Putin Battles YOU.

by matttbastard

Sometimes even snark is superfluous.

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Yappy MacKay: Nipping at the Heels of the Russian Bear

by matttbastard

Oh FFS:

Canadian fighter jets scrambled to intercept a Russian plane approaching Canadian airspace shortly before U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ottawa, the defence minister said Friday.

Peter MacKay said he wasn’t accusing Russia of deliberately timing the flight to coincide with the visit — when Canadian security was focused in Ottawa — but he did call it a “strong coincidence.”

“It was a strong coincidence which we met with … CF-18 fighter planes and world-class pilots that know their business,” said MacKay.

“[The pilots] sent a strong signal they should back off and stay out of our airspace.”

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that Peter MacKay is trying to overcompensate for possessing a teeny-tiny penis by swinging around Canada’s “CF-18 fighter planes and world-class pilots that know their business” like a pasty-faced Mr. Marcus clone.  But it’s certainly a strong coincidence.

Perhaps someone should ask his dog for confirmation.

Cough.

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Der Spiegel: Former Peace Negotiators Call for End to Hamas Boycott

by matttbastard

This is big:

They were part of the peace settlements in Cambodia, Somalia and Bosnia, they negotiated with militant groups like the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka or the IRA in Northern Ireland and a few of them were also engaged in the Middle East peace process. Fourteen elder statesmen from Europe, Australia, South America, Africa and Asia are calling in an open letter for the Mideast Quartet, comprised of the European Union, United Nations, Russia and the United States, to end their diplomatic boycott against Hamas.

The signatories of the letter, which is being published exclusively by SPIEGEL ONLINE in Germany and the Times of London on Thursday, include former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami; Alvaro de Soto, who served as the UN envoy for the Middle East Quartet from 2005 to 2007; Lord Chris Patten, the former British governor of Hong Kong and European Commissioner; and Lord Paddy Ashdown, who served as the High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina and oversaw the implementation of the Dayton Accords.

[…]

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Ben-Ami told SPIEGEL ONLINE the letter was directed equally at the European Union and the United States, but also at Israel. “Israel has to start thinking outside the box. I can recall the case of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO didn’t recognize Israel as a precondition, but as a result of the Olso process. The same should happen with Hamas.”

The letter (PDF format)

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Quote of the Day: Imperial Nostalgia

by matttbastard

…Even after the fiasco in Iraq, the bloody failure in Lebanon, the downward spiral in Afghanistan and, now, the futile posturing in Georgia, there’s absolutely no evidence the US foreign policy elite is inclined to moderate its ambition to re-organize the world along American lines. Nor is there any sign the political class (including, unfortunately, Barack Obama) is rethinking its lockstep support for that agenda. The voters, meanwhile, don’t seem to care much one way or another – as long as gas doesn’t get too expensive and the military casualties aren’t too high (or can be kept off the TV). If anything, it looks like bashing the Russians is still good politics, if only for the nostalgia value.If you caught Andrew Bacevich on Bill Moyer’s show the other night, you may have noticed that his biggest complaint was not that US foreign policy is misguided and destructive (although he clearly thinks it’s both) but that it is being conducted in a democratic vacuum — despite all the florid rhetoric about promoting democracy. We may still go through the motions of a republican form of government, Bacevich says, but the fabric has gotten pretty thin: or, in the case of our national revival of the Great Game in the Caucasus, damned near invisible.

How long before it tears completely?

– Billmon, Anatomy of A(nother) Fiasco

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Conflict in the Caucasus: Four Perspectives

by matttbastard

Greg Djerejian:

What’s needed now, rather critically, is rather a large dose of humble pie by Mr. Saakashvili (let Solana visit him to hand-hold some, and perhaps then send our own Condi-the-Great too, as face-saver, if she’s not too busy showcasing our incompetence elsewhere), with an understanding that the main objective is an immediate cease-fire with the goal of returning to the status quo ante, which is to say, de facto Russian control of the provinces in question. We could do far worse (indeed Putin may be minded to just have them go ahead and declare their independence under Russian control, or simply annex them), and bloviating about the death of the Rose Revolution in far-flung Abkhazia and Ossetia, while doubtless fun cocktail chit-chat among the grandees of our favorite editorial pages, well, Putin might have an idea or two where to put such talk, and it won’t save any lives at this urgent juncture either. Put differently, let’s stop our fanciful reverie from points removed (and where the ramifications don’t include rampant lost of life, say) in favor of trying to dampen back a bloodbath that is looming today in the Caucasus, especially should Saakashvili delude himself some quasi-cavalry might be in the offing, and push back on the Russians even harder. For there is no cavalry coming, save if cavalry can be construed as ‘we must respect Georgian sovereignty’ soundbites that will blanket around clueless anchors striving mightily to pose intelligible questions on the cable news circuit that might be overheard at the Tbilisi Marriott.

Yulia Latynina (h/t Joshua Rouse Foust):

{A}ll the recent actions of Eduard Kokoity, the leader of the breakaway South Ossetian government, have run counter to the interests of Russia in the Caucasus — beginning with his embarrassing Russia in the eyes of the international community and ending with his ratcheting up the tensions in the very region where Russia might begin to come undone. South Ossetia is not a territory, not a country, not a regime. It is a joint venture of siloviki generals and Ossetian bandits for making money in a conflict with Georgia. For me, the most surprising thing in this entire story is the complete lack of any strategic goals on the part of the South Ossetians.

As soon as Russia tamped down the war in Abkhazia, tensions in South Ossetia started rising. South Ossetian forces start shelling Georgian villages, and as soon as Georgia returns fire, the airwaves are filled with accusations of “Georgian aggression.” No one pays attention to the fact that when this happens, Kokoity is not on the front lines or visiting the injured in a hospital — he’s 1,000 kilometers away in Abkhazia, apparently offering the Russian siloviki his people as hostages, as another card to be played to inflame the situation and make a few more dollars.

Again — nothing that is going on in South Ossetia makes any sense from the point of view of strategy. It only makes sense as a means of making money. And we aren’t talking about small sums. Running a gas pipeline through the mountains from Russia — a precaution in case Georgia decides to cut off the 70,000 residents — cost $570 million. And then there is the secret budget Russia has allotted for the struggle — estimated at somewhere around $800 million. And don’t forget the pensions and wages for state-sector workers, who officially number some 80,000 but whose actual numbers are not more than 30,000.

James Sherr (h/t The Parasite):

Unlike Georgia, Ukraine has no territorial conflicts, but it has a potential territorial dispute, Crimea. What is more, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet – and along with it, its intelligence services – is authorised to remain there until 2017. In 1997, Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea was recognised by a treaty signed by Presidents Yeltsin and Kuchma. Yet after Nato’s summit in Bucharest last April, President Putin let it be known that Crimea and other questions long regarded as settled could be reopened if Ukraine ceased to be a “friendly” (ie, non-Nato) state. After the events of last week, Ukraine is even more concerned about Russia’s wish to destabilise it.

Russia’s regional objectives are therefore straightforward. It aims to show its neighbours, by means of the Georgian example, that Russia is “glavniy”: that its contentment is the key to “stability and security”, and that if Russia expresses its discontent, Nato will be unwilling and unable to help. It aims to show Nato that its newest aspirant members are divided, divisible and, in the case of Georgia, reckless. It aims to show both sets of actors that Russia has (in Putin’s words) “earned a right to be self-interested” and that in its own “zone”, it will defend these interests irrespective of what others think about them. For Russia, the broader implications are also becoming straightforward. To its political establishment, to the heads of Gazprom and Rosneft, to its armed forces and security services and to their advisors and “ideologists”, the key point is that the era of Western dominance is over.

Far from rejecting “globalisation”, as Westerners might suppose, their view, in Foreign Minister Lavrov’s words, is that the West is “losing its monopoly over the globalisation process”.

Natalia Antonova:

Ultimately, the nations who have encouraged Georgia to join Nato will wash their hands of this conflict. When it comes to what matters more, Tbilisi or Moscow, Moscow will win out. It’s expedient to kick smaller nations to the curb in favour of the big guys, and I say this as someone who has a hell of a lot in common with the Russian Federation and its interests.

Who knows? Perhaps this entire conflict will serve to benefit Russian-American relations. On Air Force One, high above the toils of ordinary life and death, people who will benefit from this disaster can toast each other while the dead are being buried.

It’s not fair. It’s politics. And the only thing left for those not directly involved may be simply to turn away. As one of my Russian friends put it: “I don’t give a s—. It’s summer. Beautiful women in light dresses and sandals are about. I am young enough to pay attention to beautiful women, and old enough to not be interested in f—– up political games.”

More links at my Delicious.

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Who Killed Anna Politkovskaya? – Steve LeVine

by matttbastard

Author Steve LeVine discusses the 2006 murder of acclaimed Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, arguing that her death, and the failure to find her killer, are indicative of Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.

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