So far it’s just a short clip . Hopefully, CNN will make the whole interview available. But this clip contains what everyone is talking about. Namely, Putin’s suggestion that the Bush Administration provoked this war to help John McCain. I think Putin made a big PR blunder. His words will be sent through the American spin cycle so fast that I’m sure by tomorrow pundits will be calling for blood.
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- By Sean — 11 years ago
No one likes to be over edited. Least of all Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. So much so that he pulled his article “Containing Russia: Back To The Future?” [Part One and Part Two] from publication in Foreign Affairs because, according to a statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry:
The Editors, with reference to their own standards, substantially edited the article, if not censored it. It was cut by 40%, losing a considerable part of its original meaning. Some editing even meant that Sergey Lavrov was to subscribe to certain Foreign Policy positions of the present US Administration, to which Russia objects on grounds of principle. Having gone through that all and motivated exclusively by the interests of strengthening US-Russian relations, we had to face an utterly artificial and unacceptable demand by the Editors. We were required to supplement the article’s title “Containing Russia: back to the future?” with a subtitle which read “averting a new Cold War” or “a conflict between Russia and America.”
FA editor James Hoge, speaking in an interview with RFE/RL, rejected “all suggestions of censorship” and that Lavrov’s retraction “was a total surprise” and was “kind of baffling.”
The editorial dispute according to Hoge concerns his request that Lavrov provide a subheading for the article, which is standard practice for FA articles. But Lavrov “balked at presenting one. We then said, we really have to have it, all the essays have it, it’s really a format formality, you can choose the wording you want, if you want a few suggestions, we’ll make them, which we did. And the next thing we know, he just sends us an email withdrawing the piece with no explanation.” In regard to Lavrov’s claim the edited version would aggravate US-Russian relations, Hoge replied, “Well that’s nonsense. The piece — you can see because the Russian Embassy thinks it is so aggravating they have put it on the wire (newswires), which we would have done too, but we didn’t want to violate his copyright — it’s a very tame piece.”
The thrust of the piece is a reply to Yuliya Tymoshenko’s May/June 2007 article “Containing Russia.” That article, which opens with a reference to George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” raises the specter of Russia’s “age-old imperial designs,” this time fueled by its oil-gas empire, and argues that “the West must seek to create counterweights to Russia’s expansionism and not place all its chips on Russian domestic reform.” Basically it seems to me with her arguments about the need to create a “collective energy market” i.e. the EU should negotiate energy deals collectively rather than on a state by state basis, while at the same time promoting “democracy and free markets” amount to a new form of containment policy. Yet, despite all these, Tymoshenko maintains that “I do not believe that a new Cold War is under way or likely.” You could have fooled me.
The article is also a plea for Western European and American backing of Ukraine. “By strengthening our independence,” Tymoshenko writes, “we can shape Europe’s peace and unity as we roll back the crony capitalism and lawlessness that are now the norms of the post-Soviet world.”
My favorite line is “Russia’s leaders deserve understanding for their anguished struggle to overcome generations of Soviet misrule.” As if Russia’s leaders are wounded children that need nurturing, understanding, but also a bit of tough love. I doubt infantalizing Russia’s leaders will hardly garner their cooperation.
If anything, Tymoshenko’s article makes it crystal clear where she stands in all this: Save us from the Russians because your future is tied with ours.
Lavrov, of course, sees right through this ruse. “The mere posing of the question [of whether or not to contain Russia],” he writes, “suggests that for some almost nothing has changed since the Cold War.” Lavrov never mentions Tymoshenko or Ukraine specifically and mostly addresses the US as if the former is merely a puppet of the latter. So despite all his claims that the Cold War is anachronistic and “it is time to bury the Cold War legacy and establish structures that meet the imperatives of this era,” Lavrov nevertheless speaks in terms of a West-East binary. Still he does well to draw attention to the “limits of force” (a direct shot at Washington) in dealing with some of the crisis that plague the world. But his scope for those problems are limited to those which directly affect Russia’s interests: Iran, Kosovo, and NATO expansion. While serious issues for sure, but besides nuclear proliferation, the real crises are yet to come.
If Russia wants to be a partner in global cooperation in dealing with the world’s problems it needs to take stock of how many of its current domestic problems are also global ones: the increasing gap between rich and poor, migration/immigration of redundant populations, the rise in ethno-religio-nationalist radicalism, the increasingly collapse of secular political movements as vehicles for political change, the rise of low intensity political violence by groups that lack state power, and the “balkanization” of the Middle East and Central Asia as a result of all this.
It seems to me that no binary can encompass the totality of these processes. Not East-West, nor North-South. Because when you look at the topography of the world, conditions previously relegated to the former are now found in the latter, and vice versa. Such is the bequeathal of globalization.Tags: Putin|Russia|Foreign Affairs|US-Russia relations|Sergei Lavrov|media|democracy|globalization|Cold War|Ukraine
- By Sean — 11 years ago
As Duma and presidential elections approach in Russia, the Kremlin and its supporters like Nashi have amplified their charges that the United States is funding Russian opposition movements. In his 26 April “Annual Address to the Federal Assembly,” Putin added his own take about the increased influx of foreign money into Russia’s political system. “There has been an increasing influx of money from abroad being used to intervene directly in our internal affairs,” he stated. “Looking back at the more distant past, we recall the talk about the civilizing role of colonial powers during the colonial era. Today, ‘civilization’ has been replaced by democratization, but the aim is the same – to ensure unilateral gains and one’s own advantage, and to pursue one’s own interests.”
Given Putin’s own democratic record many have panned his analysis as just another means to justify his authoritarianism. The logic is simple: discredit the opposition by linking it to larger Western, particularly American, machinations at world domination. After all, Western NGO support of opposition movements in Ukraine and Georgia are often cited as crucial factors in those countries “colored revolutions.” The thing is whether one wants to believe him or not, Putin does have a point.
The truth is, as Putin states, American rhetoric about “spreading democracy” is a resounding echo of imperialist powers’ “civilizing mission in the 19th century. Just compare the following quotes;
In carrying out this work of civilization we are fulfilling what I believe to be our national mission, and we are finding scope for the exercise of those faculties and qualities which have made of us a great governing race.”—British Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain in a speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Colonial Institute, March 1897.
From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.—President George W. Bush, Inaugural Address, January, 2005.
Only the most na?ve would believe that the spread of “civilization” by the British was and “democracy” by the US is altruistic. Global hegemony is not waged by force alone. As the Cold War proved, ideology is also major weapon. In addition, as Putin well knows, since 1991, post-Soviet space has been one of the focuses for the US’ strategy of “spreading democracy” and “assisting” democratic movements. However, unlike during the Cold War, as Gerald Sussman has argued in the Monthly Review, the State Department relies less on the CIA and more on both public and private organizations. Allen Weinstein, one of the founders of the National Endowment for Democracy, noted: “A lot of what we [NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
Russians got a taste of American meddling in the 1996 Russian Presidential elections. Then a barely surviving Yeltsin defeated KPRF candidate Gennady Zyuganov through a combination of theft, voter manipulation, scare tactics, and funds from the International Monetary Fund and the American, German, and French governments. And while Putin’s political career has certainly benefited from Yeltsin’s victory, now that he’s vilified in the West, there is no doubt in Putin’s mind that foreign governments will attempt to exercise influence over who will be his successor.
The question is how much and what kind of “assistance” the US government is giving. Moscow’s claims of foreign governments’ meddling have sparked some digging. Writing in a recent article in the Moscow Times, Nabi Abdullaev states that the Kremlin’s accusations are purely to whip up “hysteria.” An analysis of US funding conducted by the Moscow Times found that “for the past four years . . . Washington seems to have given up trying to effect democratization in any significant way, steadily cutting its spending to pennies of what would be needed to foster a change in government.”
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) spent $84.27 million in Russia in 2006 but only $60.97 million is allocated for this year (a breakdown of USAID’s 2007 budget for Russia can be found here). This is compared to the $94 million the agency spent in 2004. The decrease of funding for Russia has prompted the NGO Freedom House to recommend in their recent report “Supporting Freedom’s Advocates?” that the Bush Administration restore the $25 million it struck from the 2007 Budget for “civil society” and the $3 million for “human rights.” In a recent interview with RFE/RL, Amanda Abrams, Freedom House’s director of communications, said that “We’re seen an increase in democracy funding around the world, which is great, and we’re also seeing increases in certain regions, but the former Soviet Union isn’t one of the regions that’s really receiving an increase, I’d say, generally speaking.”
However, when the figures are looked at closely, there is an ample increase in the percentage within the budget for democratic assistance programs. And it’s no coincidence that this has occurred on the eve of the Russia’s two big elections. “Combined spending on democracy and governance has grown from 41 percent of the total budget in 2004 to 72 percent this year,” Abdullaev writes. It is also telling that in 2004 and 2005 no money was in the USAID Russia budget for “Strengthening Democracy,” while the 2006 and 2007 budgets saw $3.1 million and $2 million respectively to “Strengthen Democratic Political Parties.” According to USAID’s data sheet, strengthening democratic parties means:
USAID will enhance organizational capacity of democratically-oriented parties, encourage and intensify coalition building efforts for the 2007-2008 elections, and promote cooperation with NGOs. Community-based initiatives in selected regions will teach Russian youth to apply democratic principles and pursue civic initiatives. New partnerships will strengthen Russian policy institutes capacity to analyze campaign and policy issues. Principal partners: National Democratic Institute (NDI), International Republican Institute (IRI), Project Harmony, TBD.
How or who USAID defines as “democratically-oriented parties” isn’t stated. Yet, despite the explicit statement about helping intensifying coalition building efforts for the 2007-2008 elections, the Moscow Times maintains that USAID programs are hardly threatening. Most of them focus on “judge exchange programs, leadership lectures by local professors, finance classes for regional officials, and journalist training.”
Moreover, USAID repeatedly claims that their funding is “non-partisan” and doesn’t go to any political parties in particular, but to strengthening the “democratic process.” This has allowed some unlikely groups to benefit. Not only have activists from Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces attended USAID funded training seminars, lectures, and conferences, so have activists from United Russia, its youth organization Young Guard, and Nashi. All three groups have taken advantage of US funds despite their vehemence about US meddling. When asked about this, spokespeople from both Nashi and Young Guard stated that they were not in control of what their individual members did. And though Nadezhda Orlova, Young Guard’s coordinator for political training programs, thought “it reprehensible to participate in U.S.-financed training sessions after we have accused The Other Russia of taking money from Washington and turning into American puppets,” she herself admitted to accepting a US government grant to study public relations at the University of North Carolina.
Whether any of these US funded programs actually have any influence over politics is difficult to access. Yabloko youth leader Ilya Yashin told the Moscow Times that the seminars were “dull stuff” anyway, adding that “We know the situation on the ground better than any Western expert.”
Still, even if NGOs flooded Russian opposition parties with cash, few think that it would make any real difference. As Gleb Pavlovsky, former editor of the Russian edition of the Journal of Democracy in the 1990s, (JoD Russia was published by the US Congress and funded by the National Endowment of Democracy), told the Times, “U.S. money in Russia is not enough to unhorse Putin” anyway. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told the Financial Times the same last month. “The economic and political situation in Russia today is very stable. There could be attempts, but this will be money thrown into the wind. It will be spent in vain. There will be no dividends” he said. The one thing that made “democratic assistance” a success in Ukraine and Georgia was that social discontent with the ruling governments was already present. With a 70% approval rating, such mass discontent doesn’t exist in Russia, regardless of what Other Russia signifies (I should note that the April issue of the Journal of Democracy has an article by none other than Garry Kasparov titled, “Battling KGB Inc.” as well as other articles critical of Russian democracy.) The only thing is, if all this is true and figures like Ivanov are exuding such confidence, then why the crackdown on such a weak and insignificant opposition?
The issue might just be less about opposition parties and more about sovereignty. Also in his interview with FT, Ivanov stated that “when the [US] state department publicly says, “We will disburse money to NGOs,” this is practically interference in our internal affairs.” And while western governments lambaste Russia for restricting NGOs, it is not like any Russian money would be tolerated in their countries. As Ivanov told FT in response to whether Russia could fund NGOs in the United States,
No it can’t, because of the laws of the US. We haven’t been able to open a radio station there for the last ten years. They won’t let us. Mayak, I think, wanted to. But their laws won’t allow us, or any broadcasts by foreign media. And I know the laws of France on NGOs, there is such a big tax – almost 80 percent of funds transferred for fighting diseases, for humanitarian purposes. And there’s a check every month on whether it is being used properly. If just one centime did not go towards buying medicine then it is immediately closed. We have normal laws. They are democratic laws. But when [foreigners] begin to finance the political process – imagine if foreign capital financed any US political party, or in Britain, how this would be seen. You would say you don’t like this. And we don’t like it either.
Ivanov words essentially echo most Russians’ complaint about the US and Europe rhetoric about Russian “democracy”: hypocrisy. For centuries, the West has claimed it was spreading “civilization” to the dark masses. The result was to the detriment of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The current prevalence in the West to speak about democracy and freedom, to borrow a phrase from Homi Bhabha, “in a tongue that is forked, not false” is what makes its efforts so disingenuous, not their supposed results.
- By Sean — 10 years ago
The BBC aren’t the only ones still sorting out South Ossetia. Mark Ames dismantles the NY Times coverage in “The Cold War that Wasn’t“. Like most American media, the Times was fully on board with the Russia = bad, Georgia = good crusade. That is until facts made it too difficult to blindly sustain that line. Even then, the Times made no overt self-criticism, and instead opted for articles showing that maybe Georgia wasn’t the glowing democracy that we all were made to believe it was. A good correction, though horribly academic when it was published two months after the conflict was over. Taking this as a cue, Ames rhetorically asks, then answers:
It’s interesting that the Times published this exactly two months after Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia–a military decision so off-the-scale idiotic that to call it a “gamble” is an insult to struggling addicts like Bill Bennett.
The real question, then, is why the Times waited until this late to question its own position–why wait until the war was long off the front pages, to publish an article about what everyone with an ounce of journalistic curiosity already knew–that Saakashvili was about as much a democrat as he was a military genius?
The push in the West by outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post to get a new cold war on hinged on two major fallacies: (1) that Russia invaded Georgia first, totally unprovoked, because Georgia is a “democracy”; and (2), that Georgia is a “democracy.”
Justin Raimondo over at Antiwar.com tackles the Georgia issue by focusing on the fact that Saakashvili’s little war got him a big payout in return, proving the profitability of being recognized as a Western-style democracy. The World Bank donors’ conference in Belgium has $4.5 billion in Western money coming to the rescue to rebuild the Caucasian nation’s “infrastructure.” That’s about a billion more than the World Bank’s initial target. Though not intended for the Georgian military, one only assume that much of those funds will find its way weapons purchases. In more honest times, the US and its European allies would have just given weapons to Georgia. However, in these politically correct, “humanitarian” times, militarism must be shrouded in the facade of aid. And the fact that none of this money will go to the real victims, the South Ossetians, is a no brainer. As Raimondo concludes, the donor’s money will most likely slither its way
through Saakashvili and his cronies, who would rather leave the shattered infrastructure of bombed-out Tskhinvali as it is today, a stark reminder of what may very well reoccur should the Ossetians persist in going their own way. If anyone rebuilds, it will have to be the Russians. The private sector aid will be used to buy up Georgian assets on behalf of Western corporate interests. The difference between the World Bank figure and the number announced in Brussels – nearly half a billion – will cover bribes, covert action operations carried out by Western intelligence agencies, and other incidentals.When challenged, proponents of foreign aid programs invariably reply: yes, but look at the minuscule numbers! Why, foreign aid is less than one percent of the total overseas budget, including, one supposes, military expenditures – but so what? The point is that these programs do real harm, in most cases achieving the exact opposite of their intended purpose. And in this particular case, the entire package is premised on a lie, and a freshly debunked one at that. What’s really going on here is that the West is rewarding Saakashvili for his recklessness, and inciting him to commit fresh assaults. This course guarantees war.