Thursday, December 30, 2010

What is Khodorkovsky doing his time for?

Part 1


Case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky — not long ago, one of the wealthiest men in Russia — broke not just Russians but rather an entire world apart. Khodorkovsky — still being quite a young man — seemingly became the most famous prisoner in the world. Some people believe him to be a prisoner of conscience who got into jail for his political views; others treat him as thief who robbed a giant country. Russians, just like citizens of any post-communist state, don’t favor wealthy, but for part of the nation Khodorkovsky became a banner of the opposition, which pickets the court building and demands to liberate their idol. I also have an opinion on that matter and I’d like to share it with my readers. Khodorkovsky’s case is too complicated to give a short and unequivocal answer to the question: “What for?” Let’s try to look into Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s past and figure out “how a person could have become an oligarch during the time of Russian transformation?”

Saturday, December 25, 2010

«Elections» in Belarus. Drama replaces farce

Turns out you only used those eyes.  Simply to sell me all those lies

In October this year Polish and German Foreign Affairs Ministers Radosław Sikorski and Guido Westerwelle visited Minsk. They’ve tried to persuade Lukashenko to hold fair elections, having offered him €3 billion instead. The last European dictator has slyly used the visit of two EU ministers in order to demonstrate the voters that he’d be able to make a deal with the West. Simultaneously with that he “stung” Russia, so that Kremlin wouldn’t think that he’s way too interested in the solid relationship with the Eastern Brother. Things that happened on the 19th of December seemingly crushed illusions of everyone who attempted to make a deal with Batka[1] — it turned out that not everything in Byelorussia can be bought even for €3 billion. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wikileaks banner was taken up by the Richard Nixon’s Presidential Library

                     
Even had Soviets strangled all of their Jews in the gas chambers, it wouldn’t be a matter of any concern to us” — Henry Kissinger used to say in 1973.
   
The world is yet to realize the consequences of Wikileaks-bound scandal. Whatever is to come our way, international diplomacy would never be the same as before the Cablegate. No matter what will the further destiny of Julian Assange be, trust to the U.S. State Department representatives in the world has been undermined once and for all. It also doesn’t matter how hard would Washington and other world capitals try to put a good face on bad news, hardly any diplomat (and not just them) would have the courage to exchange confidences with American partners anymore. After the first wave of shock, connected with the Wikileaks publications, world is beginning to understand that Assange’s persecution doesn’t quit fit the liberal values that the United States worship so much — including the First Commandment to the U.S. Constitution, which secures the freedom of speech and free access to the information.
            At the height of the scandal, banner that fell off Julian Assange hands (who was arrested in London) was taken up by the Richard Nixon’s Presidential Library and the State Museum of California. According to the American legislation, right by the expiration of classified period these respectable institutions have published the tape records, containing 256 hours of President Nixon’s (1969–1974) conversations with his employees right before he left his post due to the notorious Watergate scandal.
            It is his conversations with Henry Kissinger[1] in February of 1973 — right after the meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir — which are of peculiar interest to us. Israel then asked the USA to exert some pressure upon the USSR regarding the issue of allowing the Jewish immigration.
            “American diplomacy has no particular interest in the exit of these people” — said Kissinger. “Even had Soviets strangled all of their Jews in the gas chambers, it wouldn’t be a matter of any concern to us. At most that would be a humanitarian catastrophe and that’s it”. This terrible approach found surprising understanding of American President: “We certainly cannot blow up an entire world because of that”. During another conversation Nixon speculated on “specific” Jewish features. At that, he divided Jews into two categories: Israeli Jews, whom he admired, and American Jews whom he liked much less:
            “Jews are very bellicose and annoying. They’re simply disgusting. All of them suffer from the inferiority complex, which they try to compensate with their behavior. American Jews are cowards, they fled to Canada just not to be drafted by the military and avoid fighting in Vietnam. I didn’t notice any Jewish names in the lists of American soldiers, who died in Vietnam”.
            Last year Nixon’s Library already published some of his reflections on the Jewish issue. In the beginning of 1973 American President enriched the anti-Semitic folklore with the words that Jews are only to blame themselves for being persecuted everywhere: 
            “This is sad but it has already happened in Spain, Germany and it would be just the same in America if these people don’t start behaving themselves properly”.
            Today these publications seemingly have strictly historical — or at most, educational — value. After all, now it’s not that important whether Nixon was an anti-Semite or not. Alas, it is not that plain and simple.
            It was exactly Richard Nixon’s presidentship (1974) when the U.S. Congress adopted the famous Jackson-Vanik amendment to the U.S. Law on Commerce — it imposed certain restrictions upon the trade with socialistic countries, preventing their citizens from immigration. In regards to the USSR this meant the decisive protest of American authorities against the limitations applied to the Jewish would-be-immigrants of the time. Jackson-Vanik amendment prohibited the most-favored trade treatment, issue of loans and loan guarantees for the countries, which violated or seriously restrained the immigration rights of their citizen. It also stipulated the discriminatory tariffs and fees for the goods, exported to the USA from the countries with a non-market economics. Nominally this regulation was adopted because of the Soviet immigration restrictions, but it was also applied to the other countries — PRC, Vietnam, Albania.
            It’s true that in 1972 a certain regulation existed within the Soviet legislative framework — according to it, would-be-immigrants having a higher education were to compensate the state tuitions costs (Decree of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium dated the 3rd of August, 1972 — “Regarding the compensation of state tuition costs for the Soviet citizens willing to depart for the permanent residence of another country”). From the USSR Supreme Soviet register, 1972, issue #52, page 519.
            For the MSU[2] graduates compensation made up 12.200 rubles (mind that the average salary at that time was nearly 130-150 rubles a month). This decree was cancelled only on the 20th of May, 1991. This was a mean of plugging the “brain leak” — immigration of the intellectual elite (mostly Jewish) from the Soviet Union to the Western countries. This decision of Soviet authorities met a wave of rebuff in the West. 21 Nobel Prize winners stood up with the public speeches, accusing Soviet leadership of “massive human rights violations”. Soon enough the monetary fee was cancelled, but it was replaced with some additional restrictions, which in fact meant pretty much the same — ban on immigration, even for the sake of family reunion. Visas and Registration Departments (VRD[3]) could have reviewed the immigration applications for years — the most common reason for rejection of exit visas issue to the so-called “refuseniks” was the “access to the state secrets”.

 By now, Jackson-Vanik amendment has been cancelled for four ex-USSR countries:
2000  Kyrghizstan. Due to its decision to join the 1998 American initiative on “Restoration of the Great Silk Way”, aimed at creation of the Eurasian transit corridor roundabout Russiam Iran and Iraq;
2000 — Georgia. Due to its «movement towards democracy» and decision to join the “Great Silk Way” project;
2004 — Armenia;
2005 — The Ukraine. Amendment was cancelled right after the victory of the “orange revolution”.

This “amnesty” however wasn’t applied to Russia, alhough today even Senator McCain wouldn’t have the heart to accuse the Russian Federation of interfering with the immigration rights for any of the 180 nations, inhabiting our country. Jackson-Vanik amendment still remains the pain spot of Russo-American relationship. All assurances of George Bush and Barack Obama to remove this discriminatory piece of American legislation are still unfulfilled. Last year, during the Russo-American business-forum that took place in Moscow, Sergey Lavrov — Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated the following:
            “U.S. President Barack Obama admitted that this is a problem on their side. He told me that he understands the entire awkwardness of the situation and that cancellation of the amendment would be one of his administration priorities”.
            Given the background of sensational Nixon’s Library publications, this awkwardness aggravates all the more. 



[1] Richard Nixon’s aide on the national security issues (afterwards — U.S. State Secretary)
[2] Moscow State University
[3] Russian abbreviation is “OVIR” which stands for “Otdel Viz i Registraziy”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Brand-new war for America

Barack Obama submitted new plan of war on terrorism for the Congress consideration. This time it is to take place in Africa and the USAF are to fight not just some trifle Al-Qaida but Joseph Kony himself — Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander-in-chief.

Joseph Kony
                                  

43-year-old Joseph Kony, wanted by the international tribunal is considered to be the most terrifying criminal in Africa. He can hold public speeches for hours, read thoughts of his interlocutors, predict the future and to reincarnate into various people and even beasts. That’s why he’s invincible and would never be caught.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trouble in Moscow

Due to the Moscow Directorate of Internal affairs, on the 11th of December more than 10.000 football fans participated in the turmoil at Manege Square in the centre of Moscow. Few days prior to that one of the "Spartak" (Moscow football club) fans was killed by the citizen of Kabardino-Balkar Republic. As the murderer claims, he used a non-lethal weapon to defend himself, but the outcome turned out to be fatal. Nationalists, yelling the motto "Russia for Russians" joined the protesting fans. Several people were injured. 

And that's how it looked like.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Students as the touchstone of civilization’s development



Recent protests of British students, which had developed into the mass disturbances, attracted the attention of various commentators, trying to figure out the reasons of what happened and link these events to the political-economic situation in Europe.

Events that took place in Great Britain this November have their own history, linking the British protests with events in other European (and not just European) countries. Besides the memorable students’ turmoil in Greece, Italy, France and Serbia, 19th century brought the wave of youth protests in Canada and Latin America. All of them were bound by the same reasons, rooted in the economic life of these countries. Rebellion of the “One and a half grand euro” generation is a hopeless attempt of the youngsters to find a decent place in the structure of consumer society, coming into the crisis stage of its development. €1.500 is an average salary of young specialists, graduated from the European university. In Europe young man can make both ends meet, being paid like this — but he’d hardly be able to afford decent apartment, car and live up to the European life standards. Global economic crisis hit the youth pretty hard, having deprived it of hopes to find their own place in the European establishment. Members of the European Union are having huge problems in the economic sphere — the most attractive sector of the European project. Young men — sharply feeling the social unfairness — were the first to hit the streets. While two years ago lack of opportunities to get a decently-paid job after graduation was the incentive for the student’s rebellion, today the very possibility of getting a higher education is under threat — college fees are gradually becoming a prohibitive bar for the young men from not too wealthy families. Economic injustice gives birth to the social and political unfairness — and the latter pose threat to the political system itself.     
            If we’d remember 1968, which figured in history of the 20th century as the year of youth riots, the difference between today’s situation and the events that took place 42 years ago become obvious. French and Polish events make up the most vivid example. Parisian Sorbonne was lightened by the flames of the burning cars, which students set to fire. Warsaw University became an arena for the strong-arm clashes between students and Polish militia. At that time economics had nothing to do with the riots. European youth, being very estranged from the inside, protested against the political systems of their own countries. In France it were lefts (including Trotskyites), in Poland — applying the contemporary political classification — it were rights, protesting against the communist-like totalitarianism. Despite all these seemingly fundamental differences, both of them fought against the ruling political regimes that they treated as unfair, judging from pretty much the same positions. How did it end? There is no socialistic Poland anymore, that’s how. Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuroń — in 1968, leaders of the Polish students — became the detonators of famous Lech Wałęsa’s “Solidarity” that eventually crushed not just Polish socialism itself, but an entire socialistic bloc along with the Berlin Wall. Leaders of the French rebellion made up the establishment of contemporary Europe. They include former FRG Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Daniel Cohn-Bendit — leader of the Euro-Parliament “Greens”. These people have changed Europe, unified it and completely altered the scale of social and political values in their own countries.
      Will today’s rebels repeat their destiny? I don’t know. We may be confident of the only thing: student protests clearly show us the development vector of European civilization. Modern leaders of the student movements, whose names we don’t even know today would change the face of Europe in the next 30–40 years. We may only guess how this face would look like

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wikileaks and liberal values


Recently Julian Assange seemingly became the most popular person in the world. In any newspaper and language one may read whom did French President talk to and what did he say; one may also find out what book is the Azerbaijani President’ favorite, how Putin can be stronger than Medvedev and why we should immediately bomb North Korea. Assange, in the meanwhile, just fulfilled the duty of any journalist — he published information obtained from the source, which he has a right to keep secret (that’s how the legislation of civilized world treats this situation). He deserves a monument right by the U.S. State Department headquarters in Washington. Perhaps, this would make diplomats of the country that considers itself to be the leader of the free world to remember the famous Gospel phrase “what is done by night, appears by day”.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Russia arms the Afghani government

Better to see once, than to read a hundred times

Il-76, belonging to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, on the 12th of November at the internationl Kabul airport. It carries the cargo with a consignment of AK-47s and ammunition for the Afghani Ministry of Interior. 
 Afghani Ministry of Interior received 20.000 AK-47 machine guns and 2.500 000 ammo.
 Andrey Avetisyan — Russian ambassador to Afghanistan — greets the crew of Il-76 that brought weapons to Kabul.
Gulam Ali Wahdat — Afghani Minister of  Interior Deputy — awards the Il-76 crew and representatives of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
He also presents them these lazurite handicraft.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kaczyński' casus.

Division of Poland according to Prof. Radoslaw Markowski

The most difficult and most important part of the political weather forecast for Poland is the PiS further destiny, as well as the domestic and foreign policy of that party. Division of the PiS policy into domestic and foreign has the same reasoning as such division of policy for the state. The thing is that Kaczyński — for the first time in Polish and perhaps in the European history of politics — attempts to conduct his own international policy (contradicting the official policy of governing coalition), being in the opposition to an acting government. However, we’d still start our analysis and prediction of the PiS policy from the internal state of affairs both in the party and in the country.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kaczyński' casus. Part 7

Forecast for tomorrow
     

Changes in the Polish politics that took place during last six months are too great to forecast the future from the scratch even for me, although I have been watching after the polititical situation in Poland for years. In order to project the political development of the country I need to analyze the realignment of the Polish political forces once again, estimate their prospects and attempt to figure out what may come out from their competition. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Georgia begins to miss Russia

   
                   Mikhail Saakashvili is being interviewed by "Le Figaro"
     
On the 22nd of November Le Figaro” published an interview with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili with a title “Georgia stretches its hand to Russia”. The next day Saakashvili held a speech at Euro-Parliament, having reported his readiness to start the negotiations with Russia “at any given place and time, on any level and without any preconditions whatsoever”.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New security architecture, born at the safe haven of Lisbon.



In antique Phoenician language “Lisbon” meant the “safe haven”.  This beautiful city has already been a cradle of one historical agreement — the Lisbon Treaty, which revived the European Union. Now we may say that Lisbon also became a place of birth for the new European security configuration. New Strategic Concept of the Northern Atlantic Alliance — accompanied by the new configuration of partnership with Russia — has without doubt become a main achievement of the NATO summit, which took place this weekend. From now on, NATO and Russia are the strategic partners.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Homework for the Summit in Lisbon



Meeting in Baku

Today’s NATO summit in Lisbon is so important for its participants that each side — having expected certain results — didn’t hesitate to do its part of the homework in order to demonstrate their true intentions to their partners. American President publicly given his Russian colleague to understand that he remembers all of their preliminary oral arrangements. He gathered some sort of an Advisory Council and — in the presence of his aides, including Henry Kissinger (creator of the „shuttle diplomacy” term) — held a speech regarding the START treaty. Railroading the latter through the Congress after his failure at the mid-term elections wouldn’t be a piece of cake this time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Georgia puts up…Russian WTO membership for an auction


Mr. Lawrence Summers

Negotiations over the Russian entry into World Trade Organization have been dragging on  since 1995, which seems to be record term for that. Not a single country in the world had struggled for the membership in this international club longer than Russia. Discussion among Russian economists on whether Russia needs WTO or not is still on and will seemingly last forever. It seems, though that those who oppose it are actually right. Mutual cancellation of customs tariffs will lead to the increase of margin on traditional Russian export goods, i.e. mostly raw natural resources (oil, gas, metals and fertilizers) but due to the traditional Russian export-trade model, these profits would still never leave various „tax havens” and would never get back into country

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kaczyński' casus. Part VI

The first blood was drawn today. Whats next?



On the 19th of October Polish civil war stopped being a cold one. The first blood was drawn. 62-year-old taxi driver Ryszard Z. (Polish legislation prohibits publishing criminals’ last names before the court ruling to become effective) broke into the PiS office in Łódź, having shot one of the employees and heavily wounded the second one with a knife. This has never happened in the contemporary Polish history before. First political murder in the post-communist Poland has blown up already electrified Polish society. Most part of Poles has treated this incident in a rather adequate manner.  Every sane person understood even clearer that the PiS-inspired policy of hatred eventually hit those who were imposing it on the country.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Japanese defense abilities. Part 2


Evolution of Japanese army
With the end of the Cold War and decreased tension at the East-West line, Japan started to revaluate its defense concept. Previous system of defense against ground invasion ceded to BMD system and special military and navy operations. Due to that, amount of armored vehicles in Japanese army was reduced from 900 to 600. At the same time, in 2011 new Type-10 tank is to go into service. Japanese also plan to reinforce the Central Readiness Force (CFR) and set up the submarine patrols of Japanese and Eastern-Chinese seas.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Japanese defense abilities. Part 1


Recently emerged tension in the Russo-Japanese relationship brought us to the idea to analyze the defense abilities of Japan and other Asian-Pacific countries. But let’s start with Japan.
Pacifism constitution
Article 9 of the Japanese constitution states: “Japanese people forever denounce war as a sovereign right of the nation”. Thus, having been adopted in 1947, Constitution reflected an act of national penitence for the aggressive expansion policy that eventually brought Japanese people to unleashing of the Japanese-Chinese war of 1937-1945 and its participation in the Second World War alongside with Nazi Germany. During almost ten years Japan hasn’t even got its own army, although the Cold War logic made Japanese create the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). Today they make one of the most advanced and well-equipped armies of the world. According to the Japanese Constitution, this army can only be used for the sake of defense of its own territory and only up to degree, necessary to repel the direct attack. Due to the same reason, Japanese military is not allowed to have intercontinental ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers and strategic bombers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Temptation of Europe. Part II


Russian concept of the European security

During the last ten years Russia has dramatically changed its public image and now it doesn’t look like a “poor cousin” that humbly awaits his turn in the European reception room anymore.
The “upgrading” model of the state progress, proclaimed by Dmitry Medvedev, inevitably leads to the increasing role of Russia in a new global society.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Temptation of Europe



Deauville summit and Dmitry Medvedev’s promise to take part in the NATO summit in Lisbon makes us take a seriously different view of his initiative to create a new European security system

Security system that emerged after the Second World War was based on confrontation of two competing military-political alliances: NATO and the Warsaw Treaty — these agreements were personifying the bipolar system of the Cold War period. After the collapse of the USSR and, consequently, the Warsaw Treaty, there was a short period of the mono-polar U.S. dominion.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The first currency war with an unpredictable outcome. Dollar versus yuan.


In September Congressmen from House of Representatives adopted the bill on measures of counteraction to the low yuan exhange rate. In particular, this bill allows American companies to file the claims for imposition of import duties for the Chinese goods in order to compenste the effect of low exchange yuan-dollare rate.
In fact the wealthiest country in the world owes great amounts of money to China, which owns 20% of all American state securities.
Chinese are holding the detonator, capable of exploding an entire American financial system in their hands. U.S. Department of Finance bonds are just the loan securities, which American government is obliged to pay up with an interest — that’s actually what governments of other countries and various financial institutions are buying them for. Why then — despite the U.S.-born financial crisis — investors from all over the world are still buying up these securities?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kaczyński' casus

Part V

Poland: yesterday, today, tomorrow.

      

Secret of today’s face-off among the Polish elite lies in the whole of yesterday.

Things that happen in today’s Poland were seemingly impossible to imagine merely a years or two ago. How could have cozy, comfortable and quiet country turned into a battlefield and become an arena for the cold civil war, gradually mutating into a real one? In order to answer these questions we would have to go few decades back in the past.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kaczyński' casus


Part IV

 

Who are you, pan Kaczyński?

 

                                 

           That’s how brothers looked like in 1962 (scene from the “The Two Who Stole The Moon[1]” motion picture) and 

how they look 45 years after that

 

 

Jarosław Kaczyński, having stepped over the borders of not only Polish but the European political culture as well, created a new model of political behavior, based not on the politically correct depersonalized attitude to the political struggle — as it is common for the countries with firm democratic traditions — but rather on a passionate, deeply personal attitude to the politics (frankly speaking, a lot more characteristic of the Latin America[2] rather than Europe). In order to understand the incentives and algorithms — according to which Kaczyński acts — we have to have a closer look at his person. That is the only way to understand the transformation of a Democrat, fighting against totalitarian communist regime, into the furious populist, fiercely defying the very same democratic values he once used to fight for.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kaczyński' casus

Kaczyński' casus

Part III


Christian Knights
      

Fuss around Palikot’s party and the first “piping hot” public opinion polls have indicated 2-3 percents of public support for the rowdy politician right on the day of constituent convention. He became personal enemy of Kaczyński (mind that he seized these modest percents from PiS electorate, gradually depriving Catholic fundamentalists of the moderate voters’ support) and made PiS chairman to strike back.