My article in The New Republic, “Is Russia Suffering From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?”
In Collapse of an Empire, Yegor Gaidar, the Russian economist and 1990s shock therapist, wrote that “the identification of state grandeur with being an empire makes the adaptation to the loss of status of superpower a difficult task for the national consciousness of the former metropolis.” Gaidar likened the loss of the Soviet empire to Germany’s defeat in WWI and warned, like Weimar Germany, Russia could thirst for a strong national leader to right the wrongs of the Soviet collapse. Empire, after all, was “an easy-sell product, like Coca-Cola” to a parched population. Gaidar turned out to be premature though prescient. Only now, with the crisis in Ukraine, is the opportunity for Russian revanchism—and the collective trauma that serves as its foundation—fully revealed.
Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea is a reaction to a trauma experienced by millions of Russians: In his speech to Russia’s Federation Council, Putin called Nikita Khrushchev’s 1954 transfer of Crimea to Ukraine a robbery that made Russians on the peninsula feel “they were handed over like a sack of potatoes.” Crimean Russians simply “could not reconcile themselves to this outrageous historical injustice.” This trauma redoubled when the Soviet Union collapsed. “Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former Union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders,” he said.
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By Sean — 8 years ago
I have little love for Russian liberals. Readers of this blog probably know that well. Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov in particular, as one can sense from my take down of their 2008 anti-Putin screed for the now defunct and sorely missed The eXile. I even giggled when Nashi threw piss in Nemtsov’s face.
The dynamic duo is back with a new Putin obsessed treatise, elegantly entitled Putin. The Results. Ten Years. So much for creativity. It is sure to get more media attention than it deserves. I have yet to read it, and probably won’t. I’m sure my eXile piece applies just as well to this one. According to reports in the Russian media, the text evaluates Putin’s decade long run and the tandem’s two year performance. Vedomosti writes that Nemtsov characterized the text this way on his blog:
In Russian society there are persistent myths imposed by official propaganda. There are many: the myth that Putin pacified the Caucuses and defeated terrorism, the myth about the increased birth and decreased mortality rates, the myth that he defeated the oligarchs and successfully solved the social problems of society. In our report all of these false claims are debunked with figures and facts from available sources.
Boring. Somehow I can’t help thinking that I’ve heard this song before. But, hey, I’ll let you be the judge. A million copies have been printed up and shipped off to Moscow and Petersburg.
Well, make that 900,000 copies. The Russian news is reporting that police seized a shipment of 100,000 copies in a traffic stop in St. Petersburg, for, get this “irregularities in the documentation for cargo.” Reports Gazeta, citing the police:
A truck with the MAN make with Smolensk plates was stopped by traffic police at 9:30 am on Shpalernaya Street (a Yabloko branch office is located there). The cop issued a ticket for the violation of the article 16.12 of the Administrative Code (the violation of traffic signals or road markings): Heavy vehicles are prohibited from entering the center of St. Petersburg without the proper permits,” the police department stated. “When the inspector went to check the load, it became clear that the invoice on the copies stated a Smolensk printing press, while the publishers imprint on the actual books was a the Moscow press. The goods will be temporarily detained and checked.
Not sure why the discrepancy between the invoice and the copies matters. Nevertheless, it was enough for the cops to pinch it. I can see tomorrow’s headlines: “Putin Impounds Critics.” Yep, because no one gets pulled over for traffic violations in Russia. Or harassed for not have the million stamps and forms needed to do anything. And, well, opportunists always have their shit together because they are, like, honest and principled just like us in America. One would think they would have their papers in order considering the big target Russian liberals have on their back. They do, after all, live in Russia. Despite how silly all of this sounds, we should score one for Nemstov and Milov. The cops just gave them the best advertising in town: claims of repression.
It’s funny how things become clearer in just a few hours. Now Gazeta.ru is reporting that the cops have finished their check of the 100,000 copies of Putin. The Results. Ten Years and dutifully shipped them off to the MVD’s Center “E” for inspection. For those who don’t know, Center “E” is the outfit devoted to combating “extremism.” Nemtsov and Milov may be a lot of things, but being extremists is definitely not one of them.
This means that my above cynicism is now dashed, making me actually think that something is indeed rotten in St. Petersburg. I hate it when the Russian authorities’ sheer idiocy and paranoia make me sympathize with the liberals. I just hate it.
And if you need more proof that this seizure is convenient, not to mention downright suspicious, check this out: It comes a mere day before the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Over the next few days, Medvedev is set to hobnob with businessmen from around the world to ensure them that Russia is worth their bucks. Apparently the chance that one of Nemtsov and Milov’s pamphlets falls into an unsuspecting businessman’s hands and they learn there’s mass corruption (shock!) in Russia is just too risky. As Dr. Smith used to say in Lost in Space, “Oh the pain. The pain.”
This whole incident also proves that Nemtsov can be right every once in a while. “In his opinion,” says Gazeta, “now the report will be read by more than a million people.” All too true. Score: Team Solidarity 2 : 0 Putin.Post Views: 247
By Sean — 11 years ago
The US has rejected Russia’s offer to cooperate on the missile shield. Kommersant reports that in the an interview with CNBC, Secretary of State Rice stated that “I think the Russians, after a period now of just saying no, no, no to what we intend to do in terms of missile defense, decided to come up with some of their own ideas. Now, we don’t agree; we believe that we still need to continue to move forward with the Czech Republic and with Poland.” The response comes in regard to the proposals Putin offered when he and Bush met in Kennebunkport. During a joint press conference Putin blindsided Bush with the following:
“We support the idea of consolidating our forces with regard to the Gabala radar station. And the idea is to achieve this through the Russia-NATO Council. But our proposal is not limited to this. We propose to establish an information exchange center in Moscow… A similar center could be established in one of the European capitals, in Brussels, for example. This could be a single system that would work in real time… In this case, there would be no need to place any more facilities in Europe – I mean, those facilities in the Czech Republic and the missile base in Poland. And if need be, we are prepared…to modernize the Gabala radar station. And if that is not enough, we would be prepared to include in this system a newly built radar station as well, an early warning system in the south of Russia.”
According to Kommersant Bush met these words by staring at Putin “in surprise and even let his smile fade for the first time throughout the entire first 15 minutes of the press conference.” It seems that Putin failed to mention any of these during their talks leaving Bush “to have been caught flat-footed again.” Bush bounced back by reasserting that Poland and Czech Republic should be part of a missile system no matter what the outcome.
Rice’s announcement is simply a reiteration of that opinion though she conceded that “U.S.-Russian cooperation could make a gigantic leap forward.”
The announcement also came on the cusp of “Sea Breeze 2007” in Odessa. The operation is the 10th of its kind. Last year’s was canceled when war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah. The U.S. and Ukraine along with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Greece, Canada, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Germany, Romania, and Turkey are staging military exercises in the Black Sea. The maneuvers feature a personnel of 2,500, 22 naval ships and numerous airplanes. The U.S. and Ukraine are providing the bulk of the personnel. About 1,000 are Ukrainian while the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are providing about 700. The exercises last until 22 July.
But Sea Breeze 2007 was met with a chill from the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU) and the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) joined by the Black Sea Cossacks and United Fatherland. A few hundred protesters at two separate rallies voiced opposition to the presence of NATO members in Ukrainian territory. While PSPU members shouted slogans of “We Don’t Need NATO” and “NATO, get lost”, at the joint KPU, Black Sea Cossack, and United Fatherland rally speakers regaled their members with visions of inter-Slavic war. “We oppose the deployment of foreign troops on our soil, because that could lead to war between Slavic peoples,” prophesied Black Sea Cossack leader Oleg Dryanin.
The only violence was a small scuffle between police and PSPU members who refused to take down their tents despite a court order. The cops were unleashed to clear the area.
There is no doubt that tensions between the U.S. and Russia are going to make some see year’s Sea Breeze far more ominous than year’s past.Post Views: 93
By Sean — 10 years ago
Ditch the dollar. That’s what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged his fellow OPECers to embrace. It’s a move that makes the Financial Times‘ editorial board think that Iran’s strategy is to hit the United States’ “soft underbelly”: the dollar. “They get our oil and give us a worthless piece of paper,” Admadinejad told reporters after the summit.
It’s a good thing this man is pulpit puppet. He would have the get the Saudis to turn the key. That would be like asking them to cut off the leg that’s still holding their kingdom up: American power. So says the FT. Because,
Iran can invoice its oil customers in cowrie shells if it likes, but that would not change the underlying value of the product. Shifting oil markers to other currencies would only make for inefficient markets. It could potentially hit the dollar, though only through secondary effects: by knocking confidence and spurring diversification of global foreign exchange holdings.
The Saudi’s delimma:
It would have to weigh the temptation of a wholesale riyal revaluation or dumping of dollar assets against the risk of destabilising the economy of the US, which is simultaneously the world’s largest oil consumer and ultimate guarantor of Saudi’s security.
Don’t hold your breath.
Perhaps feeling left out, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez also snipped at the States. “If the United States is crazy enough to invade Iran or attack Venezuela once again, then the price of oil will not stay at 100 dollars a barrel, but may rise to 200 dollars,” he declared.
Whether it’s dump the dollar or not, silence about the potential dollar/oil crisis seems a bit dated. Crude is now bubbling at a cool $100 a barrel. And OPEC is refusing to pump more. Like or not one can’t deny the dollar’s slide next to the rise in the price of oil. It all makes sense really. The two most valuable things on this planet are oil and U.S. bills. One drops as the other rises. Having the Euro displace the dollar could start a global dollar sell off.
And then there’s Russia. Kommersant tells us via Interfax that Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is ready to jump on the dump the dollar bandwagon. He said it was possible to move to selling Russian oil in rubles in five years. Kudrin better sit down before he falls down. As of today, one rubles are 24 for a dollar. Euros are selling for a $1.48 each. And the dollar’s drop has given the Russians a case of inflation. Even Kudrin knows this. Read his lips: “In the short and middle term, the ruble has manifested sufficient stability and even appreciation, but we are the country yet impacted by high risks of capital movement, changes of current account, other capital indicators capable of affecting the exchange policy.”
So while “Dump the Dollar” is a good slogan for OPEC, its bad news for Russia. That said, Kurdin’s quip about joining the “D the D” club will certainly make for a nice political slogan.Post Views: 126