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.