Last week, the New York Times wrote:
Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, proposed a new way to help resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program during an extraordinary meeting with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the country’s chief nuclear negotiator on Wednesday.
The negotiator, Ali Larijani, told reporters that Mr. Putin, who was granted an audience with Ayatollah Khamenei on Tuesday evening, “offered a special proposal.” Neither the Iranians nor the Russians would disclose any details, but Mr. Larijani said the Iranian side was studying it.
“One of the issues he brought up was his view on the nuclear issue,” Mr. Larijani said, according to the ISNA news agency. “We are reviewing it now.”
Like the above says, neither said gave details as to what Putin proposed. And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied that Putin made any such proposal despite its announcement by Larijani and its reporting on IRNA, Iran’s official state news agency. But today, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani up and resigned. Larijani’s resignation, says the LA Times, “will likely be viewed in Western capitals as a major setback for Iranian moderates attempting to forge a compromise over Iran’s nuclear program.” This couldn’t have been what Mr. Putin had in mind. But if there was something on Putin’s mind, I assume we’ll find out soon.
Update: On the Informed Comment Global Affairs blog, Farideh Farhi discusses the background and significance of Ali Larijani’s resignation and the appointment of the less experienced but closer to Ahmadinejad, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for European affairs. Larijani’s resignation seems to have a connection to Putin. She writes, “The straw that broke the camel’s back was probably Larijani’s assertion that Putin had a special message about Iran’s nuclear file and Ahmadinejad’s public rejection of that assertion.”
You Might also like
By Sean — 12 years ago
Diederik Lohman, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and former director of its Moscow office (1997-2002) has an editorial in the Moscow Times on the issue of dedovshchina and conscript abuse in the Russian military. Lohman is the author of HRW’s October 2004 report on hazing, “The Wrongs of Passage.” This report is a must read for anyone concerned about the issue. I wrote about it months ago and you can find it here. What is good about Lohman’s editorial is that it does more than just condemn the prevalence of hazing in the Russian forces and its negligence by the government. He actually offers some solutions. They include:
- The Defense Ministry should implement zero tolerance for officers who fail to carefully monitor their troops for evidence of abuses and address abuses. Officers who fail to do so should be consistently punished, including through demotion or dismissal. The Defense Ministry and other ministries should mobilize resources to monitor the conduct of officers in this respect.
- The vast majority of soldiers who flee their units do so to escape abuses, but the military responds by returning these men to their units or punishing them for going absent without leave. No effort is made to document and address the abuse that drove them to flee. The joint working groups of the Defense Ministry and Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office should monitor not only problem units but should also investigate all cases of absence-without-leave to determine the reasons for flight. Officers in cases where soldiers fled to escape abuses should be properly punished.
- The government should establish civilian oversight mechanisms that allow representatives from ombudsman’s offices, nongovernmental groups and the Public Chamber to monitor military bases. Information collected by these civilian monitors should be used in assessing whether officers are appropriately enforcing discipline in their ranks.
- Professional noncommissioned officers should receive thorough training on preventing abuses. Their efforts to stop abuses should be closely monitored, and punitive measures should be imposed whenever they fail in this duty.
Lohman, like many, are doubtful that these changes will be made as long as the Ministry of Defense denies the fact that the root of the problem exists in the military itself. The most recent evidence of this denial is Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov’s speech on February 15.
Here is some of what Ivanov said:
Now on the causes of so-called “dedovshchina” and the measures the Ministry of Defense proposes for the eradication of this negative phenomena.
I purposefully turn your attention to the crimes (prestupleninie) which are connected to prohibited relationships (neustavnie vzamootnosheniia). As a general rule, they do precise damage to the prestige of the Military forces and provike outside social resonance.
Naturally, incidents of “dedovshchina” appear as objective and also subjective factors.
Here within there is no doubt that in its foundation as well as any other sort of military crime, rests, if I could apply such a definition, in the moral pathology of our society.
How is it expressed in it?
First, [it is expressed] in the crisis of objective ethical guidelines of a sizeable part of out population in a number of our servicemen.
Second, in legal nihilism which is institutionalized owing to the still considerable gap between the laws of the State and the real relations of our citizens to law and order.
Third, in the devaluation of traditional worth of the ideas of national culture in the mass social consciousness.
For evidence of the last thesis it is enough to simply look at the programs shown on many television channels.
Ivanov then described this culture of “catastrophe and blood” and its effects on the generation of soldiers who joined the military. While I have to agree with Ivanov that the culture of the Russian military exists within and feeds off of a wider culture, the relationship is not a simple one way street. The institution of the military and military culture plays a substantial role in Russia. Some, like historian Joshua Sanborn in his Drafting the Russian Nation, argue that the Russian nation was forged in partly through the beginning of mass military conscription in the 19th century and the experience and consequences of WWI and the Civil War. One need not also be reminded of the cult of the military and war that has developed since WWII.
Some might reject this idea of the military’s negative influence on Russian society with the argument that the military instills discipline and pride in the nation. That is true, but to a certain extent. This tends to work better in volunteer armies and in armies that don’t thoroughly exploit their soldiers. And I would argue that dedovshchina is not contradictory to the military’s overarching goals of instilling patriotism and discipline. In fact, I think that it helps foster them.
But still another thing is missing from all analyses I’ve read on the problem of dedovshchina—the culture of masculinity that all military cultures and predominately male institutions foster. It seems that the cult of masculinity needs commentary. One of dedovshchina’s “functions” is that it creates a right of passage where new recruits are transformed into soldiers. Put simply, it makes men out of boys. All one needs to do is look at the categories new and older soldiers are placed in. In addition, it reproduces the hierarchy that the military is predicated on.
So while Ivanov is correct to place the military in the context of a wider culture, the military’s culture has elements that are wholly separate from wider society. It acts, to follow someone like Foucault, as a technology of discipline at a micropolitical level. The problem is that this discipline is not always one which leaders like Ivanov desire.
Post Views: 241
By Sean — 10 years ago
The Russians say they’ve pulled out of Georgia. George Bush and Nicholas Sarkozy charge they didn’t pull out. All this talk of pulling out sounds like they’re arguing whether Russia knocked up Georgia.
Well something is certainly gestating in Georgia. And the Russia-Georgia love child appears to be occupation. Russia’s gradual pull out has left a string of posts along the border of South Ossetia as part of a plan to leave 2500 peacekeepers inside a security buffer zone. The zone, according to Deputy Commander Anatoly Nogovitsyn, will be 6 to 18 kilometers thick, and will effectively allow Russian troops to occupy Georgia. The Guardian reports that Russian troops were seen digging trenches 7 km. outside of the port city of Poti. Hundreds or thousands of Georgians (it depends on who you listen to) demonstrated against the presence of twenty Russian troops yesterday, shouting at them to go home. You gotta love the protest signs in English. What a publicity stunt.
The Russian security zone and beefed up peacekeeping force will certainly pour gasoline on the theories about how Russia planned all of this from the beginning. The main proponent of the master plan thesis is none other than Pavel Felgengauer. Felgengauer agues, first in Novaya gazeta and then in the Eurasian Daily Monitor, that Russia’s war against Georgia was concocted as far back as April. Why did the Russians “provoke” this war? Why Georgia’s aspirations to join Nato and geopolitical positioning, of course. Felgengauer writes,
It seems the main drive of the Russian invasion was Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO, while the separatist problem was only a pretext. Georgia occupies a key geopolitical position, and Moscow is afraid that if George joins NATO, Russia will be flushed out of Transcaucasia. The NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, last April, where Ukraine and Georgia did not get the so-called Membership Action Plan or MAP to join the Alliance but were promised eventual membership, seems to have prompted a decision to go to war.
According to Felgengauer, the goal of the Russian invasion was to knock out Georgia’s military and maintain a permanent military presence in Georgia. Medvedev and Putin must really love it when a plan comes together. It happens so rarely. Most of them time they can’t get anything right, let alone effectively rule their own country. Now the diarchy are master manipulators of not only the hotheaded Saakashvili, but the world. I can imagine Putin explaining to Medvedev his role in the whole plot like Ed Wood did to Bela Lugosi (played brilliantly by Martin Landau) in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994):
Bela/Medvedev: Eddie/Vanya, what kind of movie is this?
Ed/Putin: Well, It’s about how people have two personalities. The side they show to the world, and then the secret person they hide inside.
Bela/Medvedev: (delighted) Oh, like Jekyll and Hyde! Ah, I’ve always wanted to play Jekyll and Hyde! I’m looking forward to this production.
(Ed/Putin stops typing. He pours Bela/Medvedev a drink.)
Ed/Putin: Ehh, your part’s a little different. You’re like the God that looks down on all the characters, and oversees everything.
Bela/Medvedev: I don’t understand.
Ed/Putin: Well… you control everyone’s fate. You’re like the puppetmaster.
Bela/Medvedev: (getting it) Ah, so I pull the strings!
Ed/Putin: Yeah. You pull the strings — (he suddenly gets a look) “Pull the strings”… hey, that’s pretty good!
(Ed/Putin quickly starts typing again.)
That is the real beauty the Russians. When we need them to be incompetent bunglers who are mired in perpetual backwardness, they’re there to play the part. When we need them as conniving, master plotters with their evil claws ready to “pull the strings,” they play that role too. You gotta love their dramaturgical range.Post Views: 423
By Sean — 10 years ago
Russian Election Day has come and gone. Finally. Nevertheless, the mandarins of the American media are dutifully filling column inches with reports about Russia. Sadly, like most reporting on the Slavic nation, one you read one, you’ve pretty much read them all. The Washington Post is a typical example of how little American newspapers editors understand about Russia. Here are a few examples:
The Kremlin has rounded up a collection of three losers for Mr. Medvedev to run against, including the head of the Communist Party and a buffoonish ultranationalist, while disqualifying the most serious opposition candidate, a liberal former prime minister.
By “liberal former prime minister,” they mean Mikhail Kasyanov, or as they call him in Russia “Misha 2%.” The editors from the Washington Post can’t get it through their thick skulls that the “head of the Communist Party” and the “buffoonish ultranationalist” are the only serious opposition simply because they actually have political constituencies. To suggest otherwise would be like saying Ralph Nader is the only serious opposition in the American election. The real sad part is that instead of allowing Kasyanov to run openly and uninhibited to show the world that Russians don’t care about him, the Kremlin’s minion in the Central Election Commission disqualified him for allegedly faking signatures. I believe this claim. But the election is all bullshit anyway so the way I see it you might as well let all bullshitters play. At least that way the whole process won’t be so goddamn boring.
So the benighted slag and drag is piling up highthis Russian Presidential election day. It’s no wonder that when Tim Russert asked Hillary Clinton “Who the next Russian President will be?”, she garbled her answer with “Med . . . um . . . Medeveda . . . Mededevda . . . whatever.” No matter Bush didn’t know who Pervez Musharaf was when he was running the first time. Hopefully for her, if she wins, which looks unlikely, she won’t discover Medvedev’s name in a similar context in which Bush had to learn Musharaf’s. You can see a clip of of Hillary’s verbal stumbling on Siberian Light. (Btw, Andy has also be doing some live blogging on the election.)
Luckily, there is one diamond amid the pundit zirconia, and even more surprisingly it’s from the chief mandarin of them all, the New York Times. Rather than turning to their editorial board to make yet another dull comment, the Times has enlisted Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin to give his assessment of Russia via a book review of Anders Aslund’s Russia’s Capitalist Revolution. More important than what Kotkin thinks of Aslund’s book is what he says about the election. “Dmitri A. Medvedev will be anointed president of Russia today thanks to the political handiwork of Vladimir V. Putin. But maybe the real winner is economic globalization.” Agreed. And this is what many Russopundits should understand. Putin may not be a liberal in the political sense, but he’s certainly one in the economic sense. This is the secret of the success of Putin’s Plan. Russia’s increasing integration into the global economy has produced enough trickle to enough Russians to build a middle class. Once you have that class as your political back pocket, how the poor live doesn’t matter. Especially since the uppity middle class despises them anyway. As Kotkin writes,
Most Russians do not love Mr. Putin per se, but they love Mr. Putin’s Russia. They love being middle class. They love planning for the future. It is no comfort to the politically persecuted, but average wages in Russia are leaping 10 percent a year, in real terms.
The growing millions of Russian homeowners, vacationers and investors may seem inclined to authoritarianism or just apolitical. But they certainly value a strong ruble, moderate inflation, affordable mortgages, access to higher education, satellite television, Internet connections, passports, foreign visas and — above all else — no economic shocks.
So as much as people like Aslund want to argue that Putin had nothing to do with Russia’s economic resurgence, the truth is that he and his circle are reaping the political benefits. Enough Russians see that things are good now and the man in office is Putin. This makes Medvedev’s win a no brainer even if the election was a shining example of the democratic process. Given this, perhaps the real farce would be holding an actual democratic election. That would certainly be the worst thing for Russia’s “liberals” because it would expose them for the politically bankrupt “opposition” that they are. Putin has unwittingly done the liberals a great favor. His Plan has all but buttressed their their self deluded right to exist.
Plus why pretend there is a contest when there actually isn’t one in real political terms? Dima is Putin’s man, so by that simple fact he’s also most Russians’ man. So instead of harping again and again on the obvious–Russia is not the democratic, liberal nation we all pray for–we need concentrate on why Russians may not love Putin, but they love Putin’s Russia. As Kotkin rightly says, quoting Dmitri Trenin, “There is a Russia beyond Putin’s.” True enough, though Mr. Trenin does not detail that Russia. Almost no one does.” True that.Post Views: 2,222