Expert: Warning West about Russian threat, East Europeans were right

BhqJIgoCQAAt9TyA British expert on Russian problems Edward Lucas spoke about unchanging character of the age-old aggressive Russia. In his article in Politico, he wrote:

“During the Cold War, Eastern Europe comprised the captive nations of the Soviet empire. Some of them resented the “eastern” tag (Prague, the Czechoslovak capital, is hundreds of miles west of “Western” capitals such as Helsinki, Vienna or Athens).

Some felt abandoned after the West acceded to the surrender of Eastern Europe at Yalta and did nothing to counter the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

When the Berlin Wall came down, the worries changed. How quickly would “new Europe” integrate into “old Europe”? Would democracy take root and capitalism flourish?

First, because it was clear that the “transition economies” of the “east” had weathered the storm rather well: Poland, the largest of them, was the only country in the European Union that did not experience a recession at all. And, second, because it was clear that the biggest problems were elsewhere: in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Cyprus.

But now there are new concerns – verging from mere worries to outright fears of a new generation of abandonment by the West provoked by Russia’s land-grab in Ukraine and the Western weakness it has exposed. The old assumptions of NATO and EU solidarity, in the eyes of the countries most at risk, are being tested as never before.

Some are privately wondering about new regional security relationships and arrangements to deal with the Russian threat. The existing Nordic defense cooperation, Nordefco, is gaining weight; it includes Sweden and Finland which are not NATO members.

The Baltic states and Poland are eyeing it closely, and it also enjoys American and British backing. Russia by contrast regards this with deep disfavor.

The countries of the region between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea have never been sanguine about Russia. Even during the Yeltsin era in the 1990s, when the Kremlin was ostensibly a friend and partner for the United States and Western Europe, these countries fretted.

They noted the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle tricks of Russian diplomacy. They noticed that Russian spies were numerous, active and all too effective.

Western countries tended to patronize and ignore the easterners. Russia was nothing like the threat of the Soviet Union, or so went the line in Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin and Washington. It was silly to pretend otherwise. The West thought the east Europeans – particularly the Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and Czechs — were traumatized by their historical experience and prone to scaremongering.

That continued during much of the Putin era. Europe’s territorial defense as an issue was not just a non-subject; it was a career-killer. The conventional wisdom crystalized around the idea that Russia was not and would not be a threat.

Even as Vladimir Putin adopted a more confrontational stance, NATO and the EU insisted that all was well.

American policymakers failed to see that the planned missile-defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, though directed against a putative Iranian threat, were of vital importance as a symbol of continuing American commitment to the region. When the Obama administration cancelled those plans — clumsily and abruptly on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 — it seemed not to realize that the “reset” of relations with Russia needed to be coupled with a big dose of reassurance to its most loyal European allies.

Western policy-makers are now reluctantly facing up to the fact that the people who knew the Russians best, those scaremongering Eastern Europeans, have been right about them all along.

Russia has sent its military spending soaring – nearly doubling it in real terms in ten years.

The economy, for all its corruption, bottlenecks and narrow base on natural-resources, has proved remarkably resilient. Russia has bought allies and influence in the West, and promoted economic interdependence, to the point that implementing serious sanctions is difficult”.

It is to be mentioned in this connection that Kavkaz Center has been writing about the Russian threat for 15 years already. And the first president of independent Chechnya, who was murdered by the Russians, Dzhokhar Dudayev, warned about it in 1991, but world democracy leaders arrogantly ignored his warning, considering Mr Dudayev’s statements as meaningless political rhetoric.


Ready For WW III?

Ready For WW IIIWhile analyzing Vladimir Putin, our latest foreign devil, I wonder if many of our born-again Russian experts could pass a simple exam evaluating and explaining the possible impact of Russia’s past on him? How many know enough about Russian history to know about Mikhail Bakunin, Alexander Herzen, Nicholas I, Nestor Makhno, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, Anton Denikin, Serge Witte, P.N. Wrangel, A.V. Kolchak, or even perhaps U.S. General William Graves on their relevance to current Russian history? Would they know anything about Nicholas Danilevsky, who dreamed up Pan-Slavism, a principle based on the hypothesis that a common cultural tie and language formed a brotherhood, or ought to form one, among Slavic people?
My guess is that few will. Most are instant experts. What we now see and read are how my friend, a longtime reporter, once described journalism: the first draft of journalism rather than the first draft of history. Our media chatter is of another Munich, a new Cordon Sanitaire, or encirclement, of Russia, spheres of influence, the Crimean Anschluss (memories of the Nazis marching into Vienna in 1938 and being hailed by Austrians) even the unthinkable possibility of Cold and nuclear wars.The Times and our major media are filled with frightening commentaries, some evoking 1914. Roger Cohen’s nightmarish recollection of Gavrilo Princip, the 19- year-old Bosnian supposedly selected by Voya Tanksovich, the head of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Black Hand, to kill an inconsequential Austrian archduke and his blameless wife in Sarajevo in June 1914 and proceed to spoil everyone’s summer holiday and the rest of the bloody century. Cohen, in a later column, ridicules CNN’s “breaking news” obsession with that missing Malayan airliner, concluding, rather frantically, that, as we all remained fixated on trivia, Putin could “invade” Estonia and WW III begin.Peter Baker’s lengthy piece in the newspaper tries understanding through the experiences of Clinton, Bush I, Gates, Obama and Cheney (sic). Still, perhaps the most plausible comment came from Fiona Hill, who once worked in the Bush II administration and co-wrote a book about Putin, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. “He’s not delusional, but he’s inhabiting a Russia of the past, a version of the past that he has created. His present is defined by it and there is no coherent vision of the future.”From Moscow, Shaun Walker, the Guardian’s reporter, asks “What is Putin thinking?” and describes his and Russia’s “deep-seated sense of injustice of unfair victimization from the west” because of “an unwillingness to take Russia’s interests into account. About Crimea, Russians “close to the Kremlin” told Walker that Putin “simply snapped, and decided it was time to act unilaterally.” It may have been an ad hoc choice, but Walker goes on to describe the thinking of Russia’s elite: “This ideology envisions Russia’s emergence as a conservative world power in direct opposition to the geopolitical hegemony and liberal values of the west” a hint of a Romanov-like restoration?The New Yorker’s David Remnick, who once covered Russia, concluded that Russia’s move against the Crimea “demands condemnation” but the comedian-commentator Bill Maher asks why, given that 58% of Crimeans are Russians happy to rejoin Moscow. Why? asks Remnick? Because “Ukraine is a sovereign state”—though so too was Spain, Mexico in 1846, Spain in 1898, Haiti and Nicaragua, pre-WWI Mexico, Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua again, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, North Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, drone-drenched Pakistan,, our neo-liberal politicians are at it again, as many initially did when they celebrated Vietnam and Iraq. Hillary has compared Vladimir to Adolf and Kerry, once the leader of anti-war veterans, keeps vowing—as he did against Syria and Iran—that “all options are off the table.” Does that mean biological, chemical and nuclear war? In the meantime, our ubiquitous Vice-President tells Estonians that, Article 5 of NATO mandates that, if attacked (by Putin’s Russia?), the U.S., a charter member, will be required to spring to its defense and then presumably President Obama will have to take to the Oval Office and solemnly urge Americans to once again instruct their kids to hide under their school desks.Whatever the eventual outcome, Kiev, Crimea and eastern pro-Russian Ukraine are in fact worrisome problems. If there is to be a resolution some Russian interests will have to be taken into account. Like it or not, their neighbors are in their historic and geographic sphere of interest.“The U.S. has treated Russia like a loser since the end of the Cold War,” wrote our former ambassador to Moscow, the non-conforming and shrewd Jack Matlock, Jr., in the Washington Post. When NATO moved eastward and dangled membership to Russia’s neighbors Moscow objected, interpreting the moves as nothing less than encirclement. Putin worked with the U.S. when it invaded Afghanistan and also abandoned its bases in Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam and Cuba, Matlock reminds us. In return, NATO reached into the Balkans and Baltics, invaded Iraq without Security Council endorsement, involved itself in the “orange revolutions” of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan and hinted that it also might include Georgia and Ukraine, former SSRs. With little or no historical knowledge “Americans, heritors of the Monroe Doctrine, should have understood that Russia would be hypersensitive to foreign dominated military alliances approaching or touching its borders.” Crimea, he warns, worsens the break between east and west, a situation where “there would be no winners, only losers, most of all Ukraine itself” plus, and I add, an angry, isolated nuclear Russia.Thanks to George Mason University’s History News Network, I turned to historians who, while certainly not defending recent Russian moves, are trying to understand, even if our domestic hawks equate “understand” with “Munich.” Diplomatic historian Sheldon Stern’s “Putin Didn’t Seize Crimea Because Obama is ‘Weak’,” tells us that “It would be surprising if Putin did not intervene in the Crimea after Yanukovych’s overthrow threatened Russia’s access to its warm water base in Sevastopol and its dominant political influence Kiev. Only in the ahistorical world of pundit-land chatter would Putin be restrained by who happened to be president of the United States –as demonstrated by Russia’s actions in 1948, 1956, 1962 and 2008.” He then cites Daniel Larison, a historian and blogger for the paleo-con The American Conservative: “Russia behaved the way that it has because it already thought that western interference in Ukraine was too great.”
Mark Sternberg has just edited the eighth edition of Nicholas Riasanovsky’s definitive A History of Russia and is now writing a history of the Russian Revolution. In “Putin’s Russia is Far More Complicated than A Mere Autocracy,” he draws attention to what he views as a serious misinterpretation drawn from Churchill’s famous Westminster College speech in 1946, when he warned the west about his former ally Stalin.“Winston Churchill famously called Russia ‘a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’ –a phrase that makes me cringe when it shows up in contemporary journalism…. Part of the problem is that we forget Churchill’s point: there is a key. “Russian national interest”.Dreams of national self-importance or ego are natural in the West. Putin went out of his way in his St George’s Hall speech to deride American pretensions “in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world that only can ever be right.”Western “demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one” said the cynical, often realistic Henry Kissinger in the Washington Post. He suggests the U.S. goal should be to seek a way for the two Ukraines to work together, and not favoring the dominion of one side or the other. “We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction.”Western/American policy remains unknown and confusing. Perhaps the U.S. has been too naïve about Post-Soviet Russia, or conversely, dismissed its anxieties and interests too hastily. Still, the best outcome of the complex Crimean mess is to take it slow, very slow. I don’t always agree with Ross Douthat, the Times’ brainy and conservative Op Ed columnist, but he’s on to something. Bismarck managed to keep the peace in Europe after a series of wars, and handed down to us his pithy reminder that his generation’s Balkan crises weren’t worth the bones of a Pomeranian Grenadier. Echoing the great conservative and unlike some crazed neocons and neoliberals, Douthat widely and rightly repeats the thought that, with “even the most bellicose U.S. politicians aren’t ready to say that South Ossetia or Simferopol is worth the bones of a single American marine” –not even Joe Biden’s Estonia or any other minuscule state he and his bosses care to add.Where Douthat is right is in recognizing that our treacherous tit-for-tat contest with potentially unmanageable turns and devastating crashes ahead has to slow down before someone shoots another Austrian Archduke. In a genuine conservative mode, Douthat properly calls for “Balance,” that, in dealing with an [allegedly] weak and [potentially] treacherous Russia, the U.S. “has been both too naïve about Putin’s intentions and too incautious in its commitments and that a new containment need not require a new Cold War.” Then he comes to his main and sensible point. “When illusions are shattered, it’s easy to become reckless, easy to hand-wring and retrench. What we need instead is realism: to use the powers we have, without pretending to powers that we lack.”It’s as far as we dare go in a nuclear age. And that goes for( Moscow,) Washington, Kiev and all the rest.


Was This Man Framed by Vladimir Putin?

Was This Man Framed by Vladimir PutinBy Marc Bennetts

Sergei Udaltsov has leftist politics in his blood—his great-grandfather was a Lenin ally. But did he really plot to overthrow Russia’s president using railway explosions, prison riots and teams of Chechen fighters?

Last spring, before the winter snows had yet to melt, several dozen leftist activists gathered outside a Soviet-era apartment block in southeast Moscow to wish a happy 36th birthday to a gaunt, shaven-headed protest leader named Sergei Udaltsov, who had just become the first-ever Kremlin critic to be placed under house arrest.
Bearing gifts and trailing red balloons behind them, the activists—most from Udaltsov’s Left Front socialist movement—burst into a raucous round of “Happy Birthday.” From that point on, the scene rapidly descended into chaos, as waiting riot police moved in to disperse the “unsanctioned demo.”

“Freedom!” shouted one young leftist, as an officer dragged him away. Udaltsov, observing from the glassed-in balcony of his apartment, gave the “V for Victory” sign and shook his head at the commotion his birthday celebrations had triggered.
A year later, the leader of Russia’s hard-left remains under strict house arrest, without access to the Internet, telephone or postal service. When the Sochi Winter Olympics are finally over, and the world’s attention has shifted away from Russia, he will stand trial on charges linked to a seemingly far-fetched plot to topple President Vladimir Putin. He faces 10 years behind bars.

“We are under no illusions. There is no chance that Udaltsov will be acquitted when his case goes to court,” says Violetta Volkova, the gruff opposition lawyer who also defended Pussy Riot and spoke to me earlier this month. “We’ll do all we can, but he is looking at a long sentence.” Volkova’s pessimism is more than justified: Less than 1 percent of criminal trials in Putin’s Russia result in acquittals, even fewer than during Stalin’s Great Terror.Udaltsov has leftist politics in his blood. His great-grandfather was a Bolshevik ally of Lenin who still has a street in south Moscow named after him, while his uncle and great-uncle were Soviet ambassadors. A lawyer by profession, Udaltsov first became seriously involved in anti-Kremlin protests in 1998, when he helped form the radical Red Youth avant-garde movement, whose emblem was a Kalashnikov rifle.Udaltsov later co-founded the Left Front, an umbrella organization for leftist groups, whose slogan is “The land to the peasants! The factories to the workers! Power to the soviets!” Udaltsov’s politics are as alternative as his musical tastes: A big fan of the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, he is also into “really heavy, fast underground stuff.”

With his buzz-cut, black clothes and willingness to rough it up with riot cops, Udaltsov cut a distinct figure amid the more cautious middle-class activists who powered the anti-Putin protests that rocked Russia in 2012. He thrived on confrontation with the authorities, once famously “occupying” an ice-covered fountain in central Moscow for the opposition, another time gleefully incinerating a Putin portrait. “‘It’s good to be irrational sometimes,” Udaltsov said after I asked him about his tactics. “It keeps your enemy on their toes.”

Udaltsov also injected humor into the protests. Responding to state-run media allegations that vote-fraud protesters were all wealthy Muscovites, he leapt onto a stage at a February 2012 demonstration and snarled: “I’ve been wearing this jacket for the past three years! It’s you in the Kremlin who are wearing mink coats!” At another demonstration later that year, he turned up in dark glasses and yelled to the crowd: “Let’s all wear sunglasses to the next protest! Black reflects my mood—I’m angry!”But there was more to Udaltsov’s political activities than noisy rhetoric and political theater. Ahead of the March 2012 presidential polls, his Left Front movement signed a cooperation deal with the Communist Party, the country’s second-largest parliamentary faction after Putin’s ruling United Russia. The agreement sparked brief speculation that the Communists and their veteran leader, Gennady Zyuganov, were moving closer to outright, genuine opposition, shaking off years of tepid, token resistance to Putin’s rule. Rumors quickly spread that Zyuganov, pushing 70, had offered Udaltsov leadership of the party.

If they are willing to put this trust in me, then I’d accept it,” Udaltsov commented. “What we are after is rev-o-lu-tion,” he growled, his eyes aflame as he enunciated the word.

Zyuganov later denied he had made the offer, but just the prospect of the streetwise and uncompromising Udaltsov leading the party that had ruled the largest country on earth for seven decades was surely the stuff of nightmares for Putin. Startling wealth inequality and a lingering nostalgia for the social safety nets that the Soviet system provided mean there is a real hunger in Russia for a leftist party with the desire to challenge for power. Tellingly, shortly after the Communists and the Left Front had inked their deal, well-connected sources reported that the authorities had resolved to remove Udaltsov from the scene.

In October 2012, the state-controlled television channel NTV, notorious for its smear campaigns against opposition figures, aired grainy footage that purported to show Udaltsov and other leftist activists meeting in Belarus with an influential Georgian politician named Givi Targamadze to plot Putin’s violent downfall. The poor quality of the video meant it was impossible to identify with any certainty the figures in the clip.

“I’ve got this outrageous idea, but I like it,” laughed the rotund figure named as Targamadze, as he outlined an apparently far-fetched plan involving Chechen fighters, the criminal underworld, explosions on the Trans-Siberian Express and prison riots. The documentary also alleged the men had organized clashes between police and protesters in central Moscow on the eve of Putin’s May 2012 presidential inauguration.

The aim of the plot described by the figures in the video was to seize power simultaneously in Russia’s eastern and western extremes—the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad (squeezed between Poland and Lithuania) and the Pacific port of Vladivostok—creating what was described as a “logistical” nightmare for Putin. “He’ll have to get permission to send Russian troops through NATO states, yeah?” cackled the figure identified as Targamadze. “And, by the time he’s got that, it’ll be too late.”

The footage was aired some four years after Russia and Georgia had gone to war over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, which Georgia’s fiercely pro-American president, Mikheil Saakashvili, had long vowed to recapture. Tensions between Russia and Georgia, a tiny, former Soviet republic on the Black Sea, had also been raised by Saakashvili’s drive to achieve NATO membership for his country, adding to the Kremlin’s fears of encirclement by Western forces. It would not have been worse for Udaltsov’s reputation if he had been accused of conspiring with the devil himself. And the devil was unlikely to pay so well. The NTV documentary alleged Udaltsov was being paid $35,000 a month for his part in the plot.

Right after the documentary had aired, I called Udaltsov to get his reaction. “I never watch that disgusting channel, and I never will,” he said. “But from what journalists have been telling me, it seems NTV gave us some good publicity,” he joked. He dismissed the allegations as “lunacy,” and suggested it was a frame-up by the security forces.

Independent media and opposition activists alleged the involvement of the Russian security services. They also pointed out that identical footage of “Udaltsov” and his comrades had been used to accompany two completely different sections of dialogue. Later that month, an NTV journalist told a Moscow court that he had been handed a disc containing the footage by “some Georgian,” while walking in the street. Court records did not note if the NTV man was smirking as he made the claim.

Targamadze, the former chairman of the Defense and Security Committee in the Georgian parliament, repeatedly denied ever meeting Udaltsov. “The Russian law enforcement authorities identified a goal: to arrest Udaltsov,” he said. “Then, with this goal in mind, they began gathering together a collection of absurdities.”

The day after the film was shown across Russia’s vast territory, the Investigative Committee, an FBI-type agency answerable only to the president, launched a probe into the footage. Within days, its stern spokesperson, Vladimir Markin, would declare the video was “genuine” and showed no signs of doctoring. Time was running out for the Left Front leader.

“The film shown on NTV is a montage,” Udaltsov insisted when I met him later in central Moscow, after he’d had a chance to study the footage. “They are trying to accuse us of organizing mass disorder. Which implies action. Action,” he repeated, for emphasis.

“We could sit here, drink some tea or something stronger, and say anything,” he went on. “Like, it would be good to organize an uprising, or whatever. And, if they are recording us, they can use this for whatever purpose. There was no meeting with Givi Targamadze. I don’t know how they put that footage together, if they took fragments of real conversations from wherever or however. But I can say one thing: Neither I nor my friends planned any mass disorder with Georgian or Western special services.

“Putin got afraid after the first big demonstrations, and when the protest movement started to lose momentum, he took his revenge,” he continued, angry now. “I’ve heard he said after the demo on the eve of his inauguration, ‘Those people ruined my big day, now I’m going to ruin their lives.’ I can believe it—our president is a very vengeful man.”

Less than two weeks after the NTV documentary had been aired, masked police officers raided Udaltsov’s apartment. As police hustled him into the headquarters of the Investigative Committee, the leftist leader tweeted the details of his arrest: “Stay strong and kick things off to the max! They are putting me away!” Then, later: “Don’t stay quiet!” But, to everyone’s surprise, including his own, Udaltsov was released later that evening on bail after being charged with planning mass disturbances.

Konstantin Lebedev, one of the other two leftist activists alleged to have featured in the NTV clip, was taken in for questioning the same day that Udaltsov was charged. Unlike Udaltsov, however, Lebedev was taken into police custody. The third suspect, a 30-something Siberian named Leonid Razvozzhayev, fled to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, where he applied for political asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. During a break in lengthy discussions, he stepped out to buy some food. He did not return. UN officials were perplexed. Razvozzhayev had even left some of his possessions behind.

Some 48 hours later, Razvozzhayev turned up in Moscow, in police custody. But how had he gotten there?

Two strikingly different versions of what had happened to the Left Front activist after he vanished in Kiev soon emerged. According to Russian investigators, Razvozzhayev had been stung by pangs of guilt over his “betrayal” of his homeland, jumped into a taxi and rode 530 miles to Moscow, where he turned himself in and wrote a 10-page confession implicating himself and other key protest figures in the alleged Georgia-funded plot.

Razvozzhayev had a somewhat different explanation.

“Tell everyone they tortured me! For two days!” he shouted to a waiting journalist and film crew as he was led out the back door of a Moscow courthouse by police. “They abducted me in Ukraine!” he said, leaning back to speak, before he was bundled into a police van. Footage of Razvozzhayev’s outburst went viral, and sent a chill through the protest movement.

Meanwhile, Udaltsov had been continuing his opposition activities, taking part in demos and attempting to revive the flagging protest movement in the face of Putin’s crackdown. But his mood was growing darker. “It’s hard for me to operate now,” he said when I met him in February 2013, just days before he was placed under house arrest at the request of investigators. “I’m barred from leaving Moscow and my friends are in jail. We are facing a long winter of political terror.”

Udaltsov’s prospects grew even dimmer in March 2013, when fellow suspect Konstantin Lebedev filed a guilty plea. Lebedev will also, his lawyer says, be testifying against his former “comrades”—Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev. A trial was quickly arranged, and Lebedev was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in a penal colony.

“I wasn’t tortured,” said Lebedev, in a courtroom interview. “I admitted organizing mass riots with Udaltsov, Razvozzhayev and Targamadze. I also confessed to organizing future unrest with them. I don’t feel like a traitor. The people involved in this knew the scale of things. They also knew the possible scale of the consequences.”

Lebedev’s testimony gave rise to speculation that he was a Kremlin agent who had infiltrated the new left. His background was extremely suspicious. A former member of the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together, Lebedev had been press secretary for the group from 2001 to 2004. He then apparently experienced a complete transformation in his political views, going over to the opposition.

Intrigued, I dug into Lebedev’s past. But, despite rumors that Lebedev had continued to report to the pro-Kremlin youth movement during his time in the opposition, no one would say much. “Look, this is a very dangerous subject right now,” a leftist activist said.

Udaltsov continued to maintain that he had never met Targamadze. But his allies in the protest movement were increasingly of the opinion that Lebedev had introduced the Left Front leader to the Georgian politician with the aim of getting him to incriminate himself on tape.

“I am certain that Lebedev was an agent from the beginning,” said Alexei Navalny, the opposition figurehead and anti-corruption blogger. “He brought Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev to the meeting with Targamadze and recorded it all himself.”

In a further twist, late last year, Georgia’s outgoing president, Mikheil Saakashvili, told Buzzfeed that he had ordered Targamadze to meet the leftist activists. The purpose of the meeting, Saakashvili clarified, was to encourage a peaceful, popular uprising in Russia. Top Saakashvili allies confirmed the conversation had taken place, but insisted there had been no talk whatsoever of bombings, riots or criminal activity. Targamadze again denied having spoken to Udaltsov and Co., and expressed surprise at Saakashvili’s comments. It was a development that created almost as many questions as answers.

One thing is clear, however. Even if the plot to overthrow Putin was genuine, it had absolutely no chance of success. Russia may have a long history of revolution, but a tiny band of leftist activists, even armed with Georgian cash, would have stood no chance against the might of the modern-day Kremlin’s security forces. Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev would have known this all too well.

So did the authorities simply seize on the opportunity presented to them by Udaltsov as talked himself into a hole, riffing—incautiously, naively—on his revolutionary fantasies with his activist friends, perhaps even with Targamadze? “We don’t judge people for words, right?” Udaltsov told me, just before he was placed under house arrest last spring. Unfortunately for Russia’s new left, it appears the Kremlin does just that.

“I’m getting some bad ideas behind these four walls,” Udaltsov told a judge at a rare public appearance late last year, as his lawyers unsuccessfully appealed for an end to his house arrest. The hearing over, Udaltsov was marched out of the courtroom. Turning back briefly, he rasped, “Stay strong! Don’t give up!”

And then he was gone.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Saccsivdotcom. editorial policy.


As he touched down in St. Petersburg on Thursday morning, President Obama greeted his host Vladimir Putin with a handshake and a smile.

But the cordial greeting belies the tinderbox the two leaders are sitting on, as they posture and deliberate over a potential U.S. strike on Syria — one of Russia’s closest Mideast allies.
Putin escalated concerns about the fallout from any strike when he indicated in an interview published Wednesday that his country could send Syria and its neighbors in the region the components of a missile shield if the U.S. attacks.(

U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified this week that the Russians might even replace any military assets the U.S. destroys in a strike.

The warnings raise the possibility of a supposedly “limited” strike on Syria turning into a proxy tit-for-tat between Russia and the U.S.
Rep. George Holding, R-N.C., went further during a hearing on Syria on Wednesday, pressing military officials on what the U.S. would do “if Russia decided to strike at us in that theater.”

( )

“We can certainly say that Russia would have options to strike us in that theater in retaliation for us striking their ally,” he warned.

Dempsey declined to engage in that discussion, saying only that “Russia has capabilities that range from the asymmetric, including cyber, all the way up through strategic nuclear weapons. And again, it wouldn’t be helpful in this setting to speculate about that.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, though, said the Russians have made clear they don’t intend to go to war over a strike on Syria.

Perhaps more likely is that Putin’s government would continue to aid and prop up the Assad regime, undermining any gains made by a U.S. strike.

“Putin will live up to what he says,” Fox News military analyst retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters said.” If we destroy Syrian military technology, Putin will replace it.”
Putin said in a published interview this week that he’d reconsider the status of a suspended S-300 missile defense contract.

“We have a contract for the delivery of the S-300s. We have supplied some of the components, but the delivery hasn’t been completed,” he said. “We have suspended it for now. But if we see that steps are taken that violate the existing international norms, we shall think how we should act in the future, in particular regarding supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world.”

The possibility for Russia stepping up its role in the region makes Obama’s visit to Russia all the more critical. Though the president has nixed a formal one-on-one sitdown with Putin during the G-20 summit, he is expected to speak with the Russian leader on the sidelines. Though he said Wednesday that U.S.-Russian relations have “hit a wall,” he said he’d continue to engage Putin.

“It is not possible for Mr. Assad to regain legitimacy in a country where he’s killed tens of thousands of his own people,” Obama said. “So far, at least, Mr. Putin has rejected that logic.”

Obama added: “I’m always hopeful, and I will continue to engage him.”

Obama’s challenge to change Putin’s mind comes as China warns that any military action against Syria will push up oil prices and hurt the world economy.

Speaking in St. Petersburg Thursday, Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said that “Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price — it will cause a hike in the oil price,” before citing estimates that a $10 rise in oil prices could push down global growth by 0.25 percent. Guangyao also urged a U.N.-negotiated solution to the chemical weapons standoff. Like Russia, China is a major arms supplier to Syria and holds veto power over any Security Council resolution.

The White House went out of its way to say Obama would not hold bilateral discussions with the Russian leader while in St. Petersburg. Instead, Obama will formally meet on the summit’s sidelines with the leaders of France, China and Japan, though a senior administration official said the two presidents will have a chance to speak.
Russia’s resistance is a key reason why the U.N. Security Council so far has not gotten on board with U.S. calls for action in response to the alleged chemical weapons strike against Syrian rebels on August 21.

Putin has been among the loudest critics on the international stage of Obama’s push for a military strike in Syria. He reportedly blasted the push on Wednesday as an “act of aggression.” He has said in recent interviews that a strike would be illegal if the United Nations does not support it.


Russia and Iran Warn Against Intervention in Syria

Originally posted on World:

As a Western-led military strike on Syria appears increasingly likely in the wake of an alleged chemical-weapons attack last week, the Syrian government’s friends are warning the West that any attack could prove disastrous for the region.

According to the office of British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Cameron on Tuesday to tell him there was no evidence that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons. And Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich warned in a statement the same day that military intervention in Syria without a U.N. Security Council resolution would have “catastrophic consequences.” U.N. political-affairs head Jeffrey D. Feltman, in Tehran for a regional security meeting, got an earful from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who warned: “The use of military means [against Syria] will have serious consequences not only for Syria but for the entire region,” according to an account by Iranian…

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Putin confirms Snowden in Moscow airport but denies extradition – as it happened

• Vladimir Putin says Snowden is in Moscow airport transit zone and has committed no crime in Russia
• Russian president says NSA Welcome to our live blog coverage of NSA surveillance activities and the contractor who exposed them, Edward Snowden.

Russia has responded sharply to warnings by US officials that Moscow must turn over Snowden. “I would like to say right away that we have no relation to either Mr Snowden or to his relationship with American justice or to his movements around the world,” foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.

He chose his route on his own, and we found out about it, as most here did, from mass media,” Lavrov said during a joint press conference with Algeria’s foreign minister. “He did not cross the Russian border.”

On Monday US secretary of state John Kerry suggested that Russia’s failure to deliver Snowden – whose whereabouts are unknown – could be a violation of the rule of law. “We have returned seven prisoners to [Russia] in the last two years that they requested,” Kerry said. “I think its very important to them to adhere to the rule of law and respect the relationship.”
Guardian Moscow correspondent Miriam Elder analyzes what Lavrov may have meant when he said Snowden “did not cross the Russian border:

Lavrov, and Russian officials in general, are good with wordplay, but at the end of the day, they do tell the truth and are sticklers for following the letter of the law. It just means you have to read their words carefully.

When Lavrov goes around repeatedly saying that Russia is not selling S-300 weapons systems to Syria, it’s technically true – they’re not selling new ones, but fulfilling rolling orders concluded in the past.

So now everyone is trying to pick apart what Lavrov meant when he said that Snowden “did not cross the Russian border”. Was he whisked away from the Hong Kong-Moscow flight to another plane, without going through passport control before getting to the transit area? Was the black car on the tarmac spotted by passengers a diplomatic vehicle waiting to take him to an embassy?

Lavrov didn’t say “Snowden is not in Russia and has never
been in Russia”. Until he says that, we will be trying to figure out exactly what he meant.


A Violent Russia

Russian families are under siege in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and they are getting hit from every conceivable front.( Putin’s )response is the typical Soviet answer: lies and coverup rather than reform.

Even state-sponsored propaganda mouthpiece (Russia )Today admits that domestic violence is out of control. One Russian woman is murdered by her spouse every hour on the hour, adding up to a ghastly total of 14,000 such killings every year, more than ten times the number the U.S. has, even though the U.S. population is twice the size of Russia’s. Even more are physically brutalized without being killed, and the so-called “stable” and “law and order” regime of KGB( spymaster ) Putin does nothing to stop it. If Russia Today is willing to go that far, dare we imagine the extent of the actual truth?

But women are not just victims in Russia, they are also (perpetrators. )Their victims are their children.

Seasoned Russia scribe Irina Titova reports that there were 268 (reported ) cases of newborn babies being murdered by their mothers in 2010-2011, and writes that “Russian media have carried regular( reports ) of babies found in garbage containers, forests, or snowdrifts.” Such data is always vastly underreported by the Russian state, but even as stated Russia has roughly the same number of newborn murders in two years as the USA has in ten. Basically, a Russian mother kills her newborn at least once every other day, year in year out. Russia’s overall rate of infant mortality is more than double that of the United States, on par with Sri Lanka.

Infanticide has gotten so bad, Titova writes, that Russians have adapted something called a “baby box” to deal with it, and are implementing the system as fast as they can. The “baby box” allows a woman to drop her baby anonymously at a care agency, no questions asked, by dropping it through a slot as if it were parcel post.
It’s an appalling reality that motivates such a terrifying mechanism: Every two days in Russia, almost fifty women are killed by their spouses and one newborn is killed by its mother.

“We have to pay attention to why some parents are so aggressive and heartless toward their own children,” head of the Public Chamber committee on citizen safety, Anatoly Kucherena, told RIA Novosti. “This is a question for the society in which we live, we need to dampen aggression, which has increased a lot of late,” he warned. But he does not offer any ideas for how to actually do it.

Another Russian, Irina Ratushinskaya, advises however that the Russian state is no better a caretaker of children. The barbaric conditions imposed by Russian orphanages are well-documented, with the only hope often being to flee the country, and Ratushinskaya explains the horrifying consequences:

Kristina Serganova, 15, was taken from her mother together with her younger sisters in the Arkhangelsk region. Why? The family was considered “socially inadequate,” or, to put it bluntly, too poor. Kristina preferred poverty with her mother to state care. She escaped from the children’s home several times but was recaptured and returned. Finally, she hanged herself [Russian-language link] in January. Children can be seized right now by social workers for, say, their parents’ debts for municipal services. “Pay your bills, and we’ll return your children,” social workers told [Russian language link] Vera Kamkina in St. Petersburg when they took away all four of her children in 2010. Unfortunately, there are quite a few similar cases.

The solution chosen by the teenaged Kristina Serganova is far from uncommon in Putin’s Russia, which has the tenth-highest suicide rate on the planet, double that of the United States, and its young people are particularly likely to pursue the option: Russia leads the world in teen suicides, with a rate nearly four times higher than America’s.

Domestic violence and suicide are just two of the many indicators of Russia’s looming demographic crisis. At present, Russia is a stunning #112 on the list of 194 world nations ranked by life expectancy of their populations. In every category, from road fatalities to cigarette smoking to alcoholism to home fires, Russia is among the world leaders.

News of this crisis may come as a surprise to those Westerners who have swallowed the Kremlin’s propaganda and don’t realize the perilous weakness of the Russian economy and the incredible pressure that Russian families are under. A stunning recent report in the Daily News shows how Putin’s paid Western PR agents are seeding our media (including left-wing outfits like Huffington Post and CNBC) with fields of lies about Putin’s performance as an economic leader. For more than a decade now, Putin has relied on these lies to justify his merciless crackdowns, and the crackdowns have led to higher and higher levels of economic failure.

In other words, it’s exactly the same thing that happened when Russia was the USSR.

How could any reasonable person ever possibly have believed that Putin, a lifelong KGB spy with no credentials or training in market economics or democratic politics, might be capable of transforming Russia into a state vastly different from the USSR, and less of a failure? From the beginning, Putin has done exactly what his resume would indicate. He has confronted the United States, he has rolled back freedoms, and he has wallowed in corruption.
Indeed, Russian social violence is merely a reflection of its national leader. The ink was barely dry on Putin’s appointment as KGB head back in the 1990s when a leading Kremlin critic, legislator Galina Starovoitova, was murdered. Then came the gunning down of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, followed by that of human rights activist( Natalia Estemirova. )Putin hasn’t hesitated, in the classic Soviet tradition, to murder, jail, or expel from the country anyone who dares to challenge his authority. It’s even believed in many circles that he had two apartment buildings in Moscow blown up, at the cost of hundreds of lives, so he could blame it on Chechen terrorists and justify invading that war-torn breakaway region.

A regime like this can no more survive the long haul than could the USSR. But before Putin’s dictatorship collapses, both his fellow citizens and the world community will be in for very bumpy night.