Monday, 13 August 2012
and support the Russian Judo team in the Olympics Putin
gave a brief interview on the plight of the three woman who
call themselves Pussy Riot. Their 'Punk Prayer' stunt in one
of Russia's holiest sites has sharply divided public opinion.
When Putin stated that had they performed the same act
of desecration in a Muslim or Jewish house of worship they
would have been dealt with mob justice he was right.
Moreover it struck a chord with western christians who
believe that the pendulum has swung too far in favour of
attention seekers to whom nothing is sacrosanct. There is
also a feeling that christianity, given it's tolerance is given little
or no protection by so called christian leaders of western
However in the politically charged atmosphere of Russian
politics where the Orthodox Church seems to be on the side of
Putin these young women have become a cause celebre for
the pro-democracy movement. most opposition leaders
realise that many true believers are horrified by their actions
but at the same time don't want to lose the opportunity to
lay into Putin and his autocratic ways.
Here in the west the shock threshold is so high that the shock
blasphemists often end up scoring an own goal. When the likes
of Madonna start backing them she is probably doing their case
more harm than good. The prevailing sentiment has been that
they are young and given that two are mothers they should be
given a very strong ticking off. The verdict in this trial,
however will be interesting in showing Putin's alleged strangle-
hold on the russian judiciary and how much perceived political
capital he has made among conservatives at home and abroad.
Monday, 11 June 2012
and Russia over the Assad regime has come under renewed
criticisms. Unfortunately for the people of Syria they have been
caught right bang in the centre of two major confrontations. Firstly
the stand off between the United States with Russia and China.
There is also a stand off between Assad's regional ally Iran and the
Sunni states of Saudi/Qatar as well as Israel. This is a recipe for a
perfect storm i.e. civil war. As there has been no clear resolution to
the current crisis Assad's regime seems to have been getting as much
killing in as possible. All the while there has been an increase in the
supply of arms to the Sunni majority population.
The defiant Assad regime, unfortunately for their suffering
population, has built some strong relationships over the years.
Through their defiant stance on Israel and their support for Iran
during the bitter Iran-Iraq war they have the guaranteed support of
the current regime in Iran. They also have historical links with
Russia through allowing the use of their naval bases.
The US is widely distrusted throughout their support for long
serving dictators which has been the main source of public rage in
the Arab spring. Also this is one area of the world where the USA
have got things spectacularly wrong namely in Iraq. Coupled with
the lack of appetite from Obama during an election year, Putin with
the backing of China, can flex it's superpower biceps. It suits Putin's
image, it is a distraction from his own domestic worries and avenges
the betrayal that he has felt over the missile sites NATO plans to park
in his backyard. For China it seems to be an economic message of
non-interventionism which bodes well for all the regimes they are
currently doing business with.
The UN is left with the unenviable job of putting a brave if
somewhat dejected face on a seemingly intractable situation as more
atrocities continue. The wild card it seems is Iran. Currently the
sanctions imposed by the US are biting and the ruling hegemony are
keen to back off their nuclear program without losing face. China and
Russia have asked Iran to be included in the six party talks to resolve
the situation in Syria. The US has rejected this plan and it seems
Putin has politically outmanoeuvred Clinton. With talks over Iran's
nuclear program due to resume in Moscow next week there is a
blindingly obvious solution to the impasse. The Israel lobby and
Netanyahu not always acting in the best interests of Israel in recent
years are powerful enough to handcuff US foreign policy flexibility
on Iran. It is likely they will, despite the wishes of the doves in Israel.
After all everyone wants to be on the right side of the next Syrian
leader let's hope that sanity will prevail in both Washington and
Tel Aviv to include Iran in the talks while they are in a relatively
cooperative juncture. Putin has been willing to trade off it's proxy
allies (namely Iran) before but once bitten by the USA he is twice
shy to do it again. Ultimately it may be Obama's intransigence to
look weak over Iran in an election year that costs more lives in Syria.
What is for certain the current status quo must not be allowed to
continue and Putin must be accommodated for the Syrian situation
to be resolved.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Thursday, 2 December 2010
will make the Prime Minister wonder if the Americans are not mischief making to scupper his popular image of a man fighting corruption whilst reigning in oligarch power. It will be seen as a deliberate attempt to undermine his power. This does not bode well for US-Russia ties.
Monday, 8 June 2009
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
powers western democracies have had to give themselves in order to deal with the
credit crunch. As unrest among dissatisfied workers spreads in Russia there will be increasing interest in how such uprisings are quelled. Take the UK for example we have a case where the import of 300 Italian and Portuguese workers has sparked off
wild cat strikes across the country. Autocracies can nip what starts off as dissent and turns to panic in the bud. Their control of the media both in Russia and China is also very important for as we all know confidence is one of the key factors in getting people to start spending. Another potential bonus is you don't have to deal with nasty opposition parties
that may scupper bailouts that are economically sound but are politically very unpopular. The lack of accountability means that the foreign currency reserves Russia built up during the high oil price months may be dipped into for stimulus packages here and there. Essentially this is a political extension of the old Monopoly versus free competition argument found in most economic textbooks. The
conclusions are probably the same. It is wrong to assume that free competition and democracy is better in every instance but in the long term the efficiencies they yield must be the aspiration for economic and political systems.
Friday, 29 February 2008
Friday, 26 October 2007
Putin's visit to Iran.In the new Cold War it is a standoff between Israel and Iran.
Israel's sponsor in chief,the united states has lost much credibilty and increasingly the finger of blame is being pointed at the israel lobby who essentially hijacked anti al qaeda sentiment post 9/11 to neutralise Iraq,what they
anticipated was at that time their biggest threat.Now they have set their sites it seems on Iran.despite wayward media speculation about Iran's nuclear capabilities
estimates span from they acquired weapons in '98 to they won't have it till 2016.
one thing is clear both israel and iran have the delivery systems to annihilate eachother certainly through nastier biological and chemical weapons.what is interesting is that in Iran's failing economy,sanctions will have the negative response of emboldening a failing government as anger will turn to the west.Putin used colorful language to describe american policy of sanctions as a lunatic with a razorblade running around haplessly slashing at anything.Putin should be applauded in recognizing that this policy does not serve the global economy ,israel or the aspirations of millions of Iranians who want to live in a more democratic Iran.
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alternatively visit our channel at youtube.com/ukpolitics.
Sunday, 10 June 2007
Putin made his name in the KGB as an expert in economic espionage in Germany.However after the G8 summit in
Germany he has overnight gained a reputation for economic cabotage among those who campaign against global poverty.
he was complicit,with Bush and other members of the G8 in essentially failing to live upto the promises made at Gleneagles and allowing many millions of
Africans to be deprived of the economic aid required to save their lives.His main detractors to date have been internal opposition forces who have accused him of anti-democratic behaviour.
He has also come under criticism for allowing a handful of Oligarchs to asset strip Russia's state owned companies and siphon billions of Russian money abroad.although most of the asset sripping happened under the Yeltsin regime,Putin has only taken action aginst those who he has
seen as a political threat.This has been a source of bitterness to many ordinary russians.the fact that the majority of thes new russian billionaires are of Jewish origin has led to a wave of anti-semitic feeling throughout Russia.one of these oligarchs,Boris Berezovsky,who has since converted to the Russian Orthodox faith is one of Putin's most vocal critics.Now based in the Uk
he uses his wealth to undermine the legitimacy of the Putin's reign and attack another open wound ,the continuing conflict with the people of Chechnya.The smokescreen of the Azerbaijani missile crisis aside,Putin's failure to recognize that with increasing wealth comes increased Global responsibility means that much of Russia's internal politics has become externalized.While much of Global anger has thus far been reserved for George W Bush,we will see a shift to other leaders of the world's richest countries including Putin.
Friday, 8 June 2007
She has been poisoned by men she suspects worked for Russia's secret service and held in a pit in Chechnya for three days by men she knows for certain worked for the successor of the KGB.
But Anna Politkovskaya, Russia's most famous investigative journalist and the most outspoken member of the country's increasingly enfeebled media establishment, has not buckled under the pressure.
Yesterday her most searing critique of the Russian government to date, a book entitled Putin's Russia, was published in the UK. Its contents are likely to send the Kremlin's spin doctors into paroxysms of anger for she paints her main subject, President Vladimir Putin, in a devastating light.
Deploying her legendary blunt prose to great effect, she savages the man she calls "a KGB snoop," and warns that he is moving the country back to a Soviet-style dictatorship. She also does what Moscow has so far miserably failed to achieve: present a roadmap for peace in Chechnya.
At a time when the Russian media is falling over itself to fawn over Mr Putin and sustain a Soviet-style cult of personality around him, her work provides a lone dissenting voice and a voice that cannot be heard in Russia - at least outside the pages of her liberal newspaperNovaya Gazeta.
Politkovskaya does what few other Russian commentators dare and steps over an invisible line, mocking Mr Putin in an intensely personal way; comparing him to Soviet leader Josef Stalin, to a pathetic literary creation of Nikolay Gogol's and to a bland, over-promoted spy who should never have been elevated to the dizzy Kremlin heights. She paints a relentlessly bleak view of the state of Russia today chastising those in the West whom she says the status quo "suits" and, depressingly, holds out little or no hope for improvement.
In a frank interview with The Independent yesterday she said she was fearful for the future of a country she loved, and hoped against the odds that a viable form of democracy might take hold one day.
"Under President Putin we won't be able to forge democracy in Russia and will only turn back to the past. I am not an optimist in this regard and so my book is pessimistic. I have no hope left in my soul. Only a change of leadership would allow me to have hope but it's a political winter. The Kremlin is turning the country back to its Soviet past."
Admitting that her book is staunchly anti-Putin, she claims that the Russian leader rues the day in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and is in the process of rebuilding his own version of the USSR which has already started to seriously impinge upon people's basic freedoms.
"My heroes are those people who want to be individuals but are being forced to be cogs again," she said. "In an Empire there are only cogs."
Describing how Mr Putin has been careful to sideline any viable opponents, she argues, however, that Russia's liberals, thrashed at the ballot box and discredited in the eyes of many Russians, are still a force to be reckoned with. "There are many people in Russia who would be strong leaders," she said. "You might think they have their faults but nothing could be worse than Putin."
Aligning herself strongly with the country's liberal forces, she argues that Russia cannot leave Mr Putin at the helm until 2008 and says that fresh elections need to be held before then.
"Because Putin, a product of the country's murkiest intelligence service, has failed to transcend his origins and stop behaving like a lieutenant-colonel in the KGB. He is still busy sorting out his freedom-loving fellow countrymen; he persists in crushing liberty just as he did earlier in his career."
"We no longer want to be slaves, even if that is what best suits the West. We demand our right to be free." Poking fun at Mr Putin, she compares him to the humble Tsarist clerk, Akaky Akakievich, a famous literary creation of Russian author Nikolay Gogol. The wretched Akakievich believed the key to being successful and popular lay with his expensive overcoat. He was concerned only with his own image but when the overcoat was stolen he discovered that his own soul was empty. Politkovskaya told The Independent: "Putin is like Gogol's Akaky Akakievich. He is a small grey person who really wants not to be grey. Putin had a historic chance to be great and not to be grey but he is still grey."
More dangerously she is convinced that Mr Putin has only contempt for ordinary Russians and democracy. "During the presidential pre-election campaign (this year) he behaved exactly like Stalin. He destroyed the democratic opposition, pulled the wool over people's eyes, refused to even debate and constantly lied about Chechnya and about social reforms. They say we have a happy country but we do not. It is a poor country. Putin doesn't respect people and repression will follow just as it did with Stalin."
Elaborating on a personally harrowing experience earlier this year she describes how men she suspects were Russian secret service agents prevented her from getting to Beslan on 1 September where pro-Chechen extremists were holding some 1,200 hostages in a school. Politkovskaya had played a role in negotiations with Chechen rebels in 2002 during an ultimately tragic hostage situation in a Moscow theatre and felt her neutral status could come in handy once again.
On 1 September she phoned her rebel contacts and pleaded with them to allow Aslan Maskhadov, former Chechen president and rebel leader, to journey to Beslan and persuade the hostage-takers to release their captives. Having agreed to fly to Beslan and negotiate a safe passage for Maskhadov she set off for the airport. "My last contact with Maskhadov's people was ten minutes before I got on the plane. I suppose I did more than a journalist normally does. I then got on the plane and drank some tea and then ... nothing."
Politkovskaya had been poisoned, she said: "I don't remember anything else. I don't know but can surmise what happened. 'They' had decided that I needed to 'be dealt with' though not killed. A decision was taken and a middle-ranking (FSB) officer fulfilled it."
The veteran reporter's voice tightened when asked how she felt the authorities handled the Beslan siege in which 344 people, over half of them children, died. "I didn't see what happened because I was unconscious but I believe the presidential administration, which was pulling all the strings, was cowardly.
"One and a half days passed and nobody went to negotiate with the bandits because the presidential administration opposed such a move. It was a tragedy."
Politkovskaya has had some unpleasant tangles with the authorities in the past. In 2000 her life was threatened by a Russian police officer because she had spoken out about an individual being kidnapped; she was forced into hiding.
In February 2001 there was worse to come. Accused of being a spy for Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, the man who claims he masterminded Beslan, she was held in a pit for three days by the FSB without food or water.
Chechnya and its complex vortex of hatred and violence have fascinated Politkovskaya since 1999 when she first started reporting from the breakaway region. She has been back countless times since documenting in minute detail the terrible suffering of ordinary Chechens and the state of the demoralised, brutalised Russian forces. She said yesterday she took no sides in the conflict and had no truck with the likes of Basayev whatever the Kremlin may or may not think.
"He (Basayev) asked me to come and interview him once but I refused. After Budennovsk (in 1995 when Chechen rebels took 1,600 people hostage in a hospital in southern Russia) I thought there was nothing to talk about. There are no heroes and no angels in Chechnya. The war there has been going on for so long that there are only people who are interested in continuing it ... And then there are the people, stuck in the middle."
After Beslan, Politkovskaya says she wrote a letter to Mr Putin with her ideas for a peaceful settlement of the Chechen problem, urging the Kremlin to turn its back on Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Moscow-backed deputy prime minister.
Politkovskaya's peace plan involved demilitarisation, international peacekeepers, a crack-down on corruption and the creation of a federal commission to govern the region. "It would be made up of non governmental organisations and civil society groups who have worked in Chechnya through the two wars and who are trusted. Of course I didn't get a response to my letter." Politkovskaya concedes she is afraid, but has no intention of shutting up. "Of course I'm afraid (of speaking out). Everyone is afraid in the current situation. I would be delighted if the Kremlin reacted to my book. It would mean that someone had got through to them but I think there will only be a deafening silence."
The book is not published in Russia.
'WHY I DISLIKE PUTIN'
The return of the Soviet system with the consolidation of Putin's power is obvious.
It has to be said that this has not only been made possible by our own negligence, apathy and weariness after too much revolutionary change. It has happened to choruses of encouragement from the West, primarily from Silvio Berlusconi, who appears to have fallen in love with Putin. He is Putin's main European champion, but Putin also enjoys the support of Blair, Schröder and Chirac, and receives no discouragement from the transatlantic junior Bush.
So nothing stood in the way of our KGB man's return to the Kremlin, neither the West nor any serious opposition within Russia. Throughout the so-called election campaign, from 7 December 2003 until 14 March 2004, Putin openly derided the electorate.
The main token of his contempt was his refusal to debate anything with anyone. He declined to expand on a single point of his own policies in the last four years. His contempt extended not only to representatives of the opposition parties but to the very concept of an opposition. He made no promises about future policy and disdained campaigning of any kind. Instead, as under the Soviet regime, he was shown on television every day, receiving top-ranking officials in his Kremlin office and dispensing his highly competent advice on how to conduct whichever ministry or department they came from.
There was, of course, a certain amount of tittering among members of the public: he was behaving just like Stalin. Putin too was simultaneously "the friend of all children" and "the nation's first pig-farmer", "the best miner", the "comrade of all athletes" and the "leading film-maker"...
Why do I so dislike Putin? Because the years are passing. This summer it will be five since the second Chechen war was instigated. It shows no sign of ending. At that time the babies who were to be declared shaheeds [martyrs] were yet unborn, but all the murders of children since 1999 in bombardments and purges remain unsolved, uninvestigated by the institutions of law and order. The infanticides have never had to stand where they belong, in the dock; Putin, that great "friend of all children", has never demanded that they should. The army continues to rampage in Chechnya as it was allowed to at the beginning of the war, as if its operations were being conducted on a training ground empty of people.
This massacre of the innocents did not raise a storm in Russia. Not one television station broadcast images of the five little Chechens who had been slaughtered. The Minister of Defence did not resign. He is a personal friend of Putin and is even seen as a possible successor in 2008. The head of the air force was not sacked. The commander-in-chief himself made no speech of condolence. Around us, it was business as usual in the rest of the world...
Why do I so dislike Putin? This is precisely why. I dislike him for a matter-of-factness worse than felony, for his cynicism, for his racism, for his lies, for the gas he used in the Nord-Ost siege, for the massacre of the innocents which went on throughout his first term as President.
"Putin's Russia" by Anna Politkovskaya (The Harvill Press, Random House), £8.99, supported by English Pen