BackChannels acknowledges the book in which it first encountered the term:
Soldatov, Andrei and Irena Borogan. The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB. New York: Public Affairs, 2010.
However, this post is not going to be about powerful and self-enriching KGB/FSB spies and their bureaucracies.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán, and Donald J. Trump seem to this blogger more the “New Nobility” that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have had also in mind as he launched his revenge on the western world for the demise of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991 — a very good Christmas morning indeed for the United States of America and in the defunct godless realm then represented by the Kremlin a not very special day at all.
In the 26 years that have passed since that morning (for political purpose, it was over at noon), Russia and her leadership have had to think about what it has meant to be “Russian”.
Formed of conquest, contracting and expanding through the brutality of feudal wars, unable ever to police — mere civil policing — its territorial writs, Russia has been a state that has better known barbarism and the depths of inhumanity through violence (give a nod for the extra special dose brought by the Mongols) than civility through accommodation and trade. In that regard, the “Vory”, the once brutalized mafia within, may in their inglorious legend represent the pure expression of the heart of the state.
Backing the tyrant in Syria?
Invading a settled Ukraine and baldly lying to the world about its purpose?
Pursuing feudal absolute power — unquestionable ownership of persons as things — with the Assahola in Tehran?
All of the above: true.
So what good new things has Russia brought to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?
BREXIT: While Great Britain has been happy to pile on “Asian” labor, it has not been so happy with grooming gangs, suspect neighborhoods, and “Allahu Akbar” explosions, much less the impositions posed by the refugees of war in Syria. Response: the Newest Nationalism expressed in renewed insularity and refreshed Anglican pride.
While it’s good for a state to recall what it’s about, some among the most zealous should factor in how they have been played by Moscow.
Erdogan: Prime Minister, President, and now, apparently, President for Life has never encountered serious resistance for his taking apart what Mustafa Kemal Atatürk bequeathed in bureaucratic and military legacy. The empire’s back, baby, and dig the symbolic significance of the leaders new crib.
Dig this cool new statistic on press freedom in Erdogan’s new estate (italics added).
The 2018 index ranking marked Turkey’s 58 point-decrease over the past 13 years, lagging just behind Rwanda, Belarus and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nonetheless, the American President’s behavior, personal as well as political, has left him also, as with the Erdogan and Orban, associated with the terms “autocratic”, “narcissistic”, and “nationalist”. While it’s good to take pride in one’s nation and defend her interests with tough negotiations, it may not be so good for the head of a modern democratic state to promote the image of himself as a feudal lord, securing prizes for family and friends on the basis of loyalty, and doing out favors (“You all just got a lot richer”) to surrounding nobility.
President George W. Bush also made light of the “have and have mores”, but for Americans struggling with fixed retirements, healthcare premiums, perhaps the full suite of basic and complex costs of survival, and, for the young, jobs that fail to deliver even a modicum of financial independence and pride, much less security, the implied further reduction to peonage must sting.
Greater awareness of the Soviet Era history of the Far Left may help make greater sense of Hassan Akkad’s recent experience.
In relation to yesteryear:
According to Stanislav Lunev, GRU alone spent more than $1 billion for the peace movements against the Vietnam War, which was a “hugely successful campaign and well worth the cost”. Lunev claimed that “the GRU and the KGB helped to fund just about every antiwar movement and organization in America and abroad”.
Lunev, Stanislav and Ira Winkler. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: Russia’s highest ranking military defector reveals why Russia is more dangerous than ever. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998.
Vladimir Putin’s fascist nationalist revanche — that thing once again anchored by secret police, the adulation of a Great Leader, and the reappearance of deeply patronized (and compromised) aristocracy — appears to have proven George Orwell as relevant today as back when.
Have another look at the silencing of the one lone protester for Syrian lives at the British “Stop the War UK” event:
After a video of the encounter video was shared widely online, Mr Akkad told the BBC: “I didn’t see them protesting against the chemical attacks, I didn’t see them protesting against Putin bombing Syria for the last two years.
“I wanted to go to that protest and I wanted to observe.
“I went to the protest and I saw a group of 30 people with placards, not a single mention of Assad.
“All the placards are against Donald Trump and they’re repeating baseless slogans with their megaphones.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was poised to ride this momentum into Northeast Asia last week, but instead sustained a series of self-inflicted wounds. Before even departing Washington, he broke tradition by not inviting the State Department press corps on his plane, needlessly damaging relations with the media and forgoing the opportunity to better explain the contours of his mission. (“I’m not a big media press access person,” he said later, as if the only purpose of talking to reporters would be to serve his own agenda. “I personally don’t need it.”)
“People knew that he represented various countries, but I don’t think he represented Russia, but represented various countries,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference in February. “That’s what he does. People know that. That’s Mr. Manafort, by the way, a respected man, a respected man, but I think he represented the Ukraine or Ukraine government or somebody, but everybody knew that.”
BackChannels thought the comment obfuscating and vague, the verbal equivalent of a bully’s shrug (“I don’t know nothin’ about it; I didn’t do nothin'”).
Here’s the source of the quotation:
And here is a little bit more about the very respected Paul Manafort:
If you click on the link — or either of the links in this section — you may soon know more about Paul Manafort than the dissembling President of the United States a) either knows or b) cares to share with the public.
Here’s a potential positive spin: could Manafort have been urging his clients away from “political absolutism” and toward the graces of the modern democratic and rule-of-law world?
Anything’s possible — but how would the public know with the curtain drawn closed with mumbles?
Let’s move on to something thornier.
In its apprehension of geography and history, where is America’s voting public?
How ignorant a people are we?
How well informed?
Should the public know so many of the details of deals — like “Uranium One”, which took years to form during a period in which Moscow and Washington appeared to be at peace and not running headlong into a Cold War sequal — and policies that well may not be so much a part of its daily cultural (and intellectual) experience?
Or is the public sufficiently active and informed in all of the dimensions of public interest and well deserving of engagement with its Administration by way of responsible 24/7 press coverage?
If the ignorance proves vast, well then perhaps Americans deserve the development of a “privatized government” in the hands of “people who know best” and who need not be forthcoming as regards their goals, ideas, strategies, or tactics.
In fact, is there anything wrong with the idea of a paternal government packed with powerful actors — CEOs and generals — that within its own ranks chooses to operate with autonomy behind a curtain of increasing silence?
The question is trick: ask Orwell — there’s a lot wrong with the notion of government left to unchecked elites, and it’s that thought prompted the title of this post (and as generally true around here, a title a little larger than the content intended to support it). Sigh.
Back to Tillerson’s comment at the top of the post — here’s another tack and one especially appropriate to relations between Moscow and Washington, both nerve centers attached to the prospect of nuclear war: perhaps for Tillerson and others, private no-access space is of necessity for national security as well as consideration and quiet. After all, the press appears welcome to hound officials at their destinations. Getting cozy, getting the scoop, getting the inside skinny in flight — do the “journos” or public need that unknown moment so badly?
Give it break, guys and gals, and let the real “Fake News!” people, the writers of fiction, have their turn.
Journalism affords practitioners flexibility in methods of attribution. The most general options involving acquisition or interview for information are these:
On the record (for dissemination) / off the record (for background only)
For attribution (use the name) / not with attribution (use “official” or “spokesman”)
For a sophisticated businessman to complain that that a news item lacked a named source would seem not only disingenuous but contemptuous of the audience as well.
Another suggested BackChannels question: who is — who was — “they”?
And when will we know that “they” have cleaned up their respective acts?
BackChannels readers may keep in mind that the editor interprets America’s political polarization with the model “Brown v Red-Green” and with that division between Republican “New Nationalists” and Democratic “Old Comrades and Neo-Islamists”, the use of so much polemic would seem of equal opportunity.
Most likely, elements in the press would have dogged Clinton too, and she would have bit back.
It so happens, the “New Nationalist” won, and what he’s doing in the above video is not slamming lowly bloggers cutting and pasting cyberspace junk from remote shores but calling out CNN and similar others and thereby degrading confidence in the reporting and opining of the strongest part of the Fourth Estate.
Medieval Political Absolutism v Modern Democratic and Checked Distribution of Power
Medieval Dissimulation v Modern Integrity
President Putin’s feudal Moscow has set the new low standard for the obliteration of human conscience, empathy, and reason. His state has defied the open democracies of the west by perverting their politics into a polarized circus with the help of “Allahu Akbar Terrorism”, and to the extent that the open democracies have turned reflexively toward Right / Far Right Nationalism, that may be the measure of Putin’s success with the installing of a new feudalism in the once free and secure states of the post-WWII political order.
President Trump’s Drift Toward Feudalism
Posted by YNN February 16, 2017.
To be asked of President Trump: Still campaigning? Still defensive? Still bending the questions to yourself? Still missing policy?
Glaringly clear in the above video clip (now making rounds the in the “fake” — major, established, institutional, high-integrity — media, e.g., CNN’s take as alluded to in the above video) is President Trump’s refusal to offer assurance to Americans regarding the Jewish Community and with it the general security of America’s minority communities (that’s how equality works) or to offer insight into related domestic security policy.
To be asked of you: how far back toward feudalism — the rule of the strong, not the rule of law; the law of the absolute, not the law of the compassionate and reasoning; the way of the criminal in the death of conscience and consideration for others, not the way of the righteous in the embrace of human consciousness and conscience and related promotion of care for the dignity, freedom, and security of others — do you now wish to travel on your journey into the future?
What part of the civilizational past — absolutism, barbarism, caprice in the possession and application of political power — should we wish today to have looming before us?
Those who believe they have been fighting Islam have been fighting the medieval signatures of the religion, e.g., the tirades against the infidel; the differentiation between believers and unbelievers; the subjugating of Christians and Jews to Muslim political will; and a reprehensible raft of barbaric punishments (like “contralateral amputation” for thievery) and repugnant misogynist and rigged legal precepts.
Should you happen to be Muslim bent on the destruction of Greco-Roman Judeo-Christian post-Enlightenment western civilization and its now representative democracies, for how long should you wish to wallow in the dismal blood-soaked pools of the feudal past?
And is feudalism the best you can do?
In BackChannels opinion, it is no accident that Moscow, Hezbollah, and Hamas (and Moscow and the New Nationalists — for a start: Erdogan, Le Pen, Orban, perhaps Trump — appear to have a relationship plus stakes in shared authoritarian narcissistic psychology.
To only the simple minded should it appear that the Ummah of Islam presents a unique destructive challenge to the modern world when in fact it is the entire feudal assembly of autocratic regimes — never forget what applies to dictatorships worldwide: “Different Talks — Same Walk!” — that serve to undermine the naturally progressive (and progressing) modern democracies of the world.
Various of the world’s Muslim-majority states have suffered mightily themselves from Islamist attacks. Pakistan especially has had to weather mass murdering attacks against its Frontier Corp and other military targets, including an elementary school, also against numerous mosques, countless businesses, and tribal organizations. These days, one may find at least one article 🙂 like this one in Pakistan’s premier defense publication:
Call it a start or look for more article like it (for the sake of focus on this post, BackChannels will demur on the topic of Muslim states in or entering a transition toward a more globally cooperative peace and prosperity).
Medieval Signal: Anti-Semitism
On the left sidebar of this blog, BackChannels maintains a statement about anti-Semitism:
Caution: The possession of anti-Semitic / anti-Zionist thought may be the measure of the owner’s own enslavement to criminal and medieval absolute power.
There are many tropes today but here favored among them and in relation to the tension between the feudal world and the modern one, this one applies well: “What starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews”.
Here’s another example, which BackChannels may have to retract but will dare the reprinting because the message is so applicable to understanding the barbarism of the feudal mode and the role played by “authoritarian” leaders — dictators in fact or resemblance, essentially — in bringing that excess of egotism and idolatry to full and cruel realization.
In the feudal mode, one may like and defend the Jews — see BackChannels on Putin’s “anti- anti-Semitism” — or excoriate the Jews (revisit Moscow’s relationships with Hamas, Hezbollah, Tehran), but the main thing is that the Jews be separated from others and deemed useful (usually because they’re perceived as being good with money for the realm of interest, or because they’re easy — and considered lucrative — targets for plunder and murder).
Feudalism and Rebellion
What soul not directly profiting from feudal (and unconscionable) behavior in any given institution would fail to rebel — or, worse, fail in spirit — against the iron fist of a modern fascism?
For that, installing conflicts around the world for the benefit of one’s own Big Defense Economy might turn out a great business!
Russia is growing its military budget by roughly $10 billion next year, even as tumbling oil prices and sanctions from Europe and the United States will see Moscow slash its welfare spending by $6 billion in 2017, the Gazeta.ru news website reported Tuesday, citing a government source.
The Kremlin announced Monday it would decrease its welfare spending from $210 billion to $203 billion dollars. Alexandra Suslina, an economic analyst, said Russia has made defense and social spending its priorities, while all other spending would receive “whatever is leftover,” the Moscow Times reported.
Defense aside, feudalism dampens the spirit for creating, purchasing, living. The state, or the corrupt and powerful of the state, may take all of whatever one has created.
As much related to mafia, then state mafia, and related skimming or “take” has damped capital investment in Russia while for many years also adding to the encouragement of capital flight. The too centralized a state and its power plus the “kleptocrat” at the controls ruins the exuberance produced by freedom and the concomitant dreaming and effort that produces cool and desirable new everything.
For souls who may come to believe — or worse, know — the “fix is in”, how great may be their effort to swing into the marketplaces confident in their own powers and the promise of rewards?
For the nominally Communist Soviet Union, methods had to be produced to keep people watched and inside the state (talk about an “open air prison”!) and in today’s uncertain ultra-nationalist imperial Russian Federation, something similar may be noted in the immense poverty spreading through a region with ample natural resources for producing basic industries and an affluent middle class throughout.
All that has gone wrong?
Idolatry of another “Great Leader” bent on looking good — more: heroic! — in state-controlled / state-inhibited press.
What follows: excerpts or remarks related to the “charms” of feudal authoritarian control (of “the masses”).
At present, the authoritarianism business is booming. According to the Human Rights Foundation’s research, the citizens of 94 countries suffer under non-democratic regimes, meaning that 3.97 billion people are currently controlled by tyrants, absolute monarchs, military juntas or competitive authoritarians. That’s 53 percent of the world’s population. Statistically, then, authoritarianism is one of the largest — if not the largest — challenges facing humanity.
POPULIST parties of both right and left, many pro-Russian, did well in last May’s European elections, taking between them a quarter of the seats. This has raised fears of a coherent pro-Russian block forming in Strasbourg.
In Greece, the now-ruling radical-left Syriza party leans towards Russia. On February 11th Nikos Kotzias, the new foreign minister, went to Moscow—his first visit to a foreign capital outside the European Union. Syriza is cool on sanctions against Russia, and opposed to expanding them. Another left-wing, broadly pro-Russian upstart is Podemos in Spain, which leads in the polls. Its leader has accused the West of double standards in dealing with Russia.
… As the Kremlin has spearheaded anti-gay and anti-abortion legislation, and as Putin has made moves to formalize the supremacy of the Russian Orthodox Church within Russia, so, too, have myriad members of far-right social conservative movements in the United States praised Putinist policy. Thankfully, such linkages have seen further coverage than the relations between the “alt-right” and secessionists — see, for instance, research from the University of South Florida’s Christopher Stroop — but it remains worth noting a few highlights of this relationship. For instance, according to Bryan Fischer, one of the most well-known faces of American Christian fundamentalism, Putin is the “lion of Christianity.” Paleoconservative politician Pat Buchanan, meanwhile, has alluded that God may be on Putin’s side. And Franklin Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and perhaps America’s foremost remaining televangelist, recently visited Russia to praise Putin for remaining “steadfastly against the rising homosexual agenda” in Russia.
This tripartite blend, of white nationalists, of secessionists, of social conservatives, have all formed some of the primary bulwarks of the Trump campaign over the past few months, and there is little reason to believe they’ll refrain from supporting Trumpian policies moving forward. Moreover, all three have seen their leading proponents — those within the “alt-right,” most especially — construct rhetorical, organizational, and financial links with the Kremlin and Kremlin-financed groups over the past two years.
Widely referred to as Putin’s Rasputin, Dugin has also elaborated a Russian version of Manifest Destiny known as Eurasianism. Eurasianism is a totalitarian political ideology that “rejects the view that Russia is on the periphery of Europe, and on the contrary interprets the country’s geographic location as grounds for a kind of messianic ‘third way’,” according to a report released by the Wilson Center.
Aleksandr Dugin is a radical, Trump supporting, self-proclaimed philosopher from Russia. Traditionalism and cultural purity are two of his most valued philosophical tenets. And while his influence may be overstated in Russia, his ideology has infiltrated white nationalist circles in the United States and parts of Europe.
At a security conference in Munich on Friday, Mr. Poroshenko warned the West against “appeasement” of Russia, and some American experts say offering Russia any alternative to a two-year-old international agreement on Ukraine would be a mistake. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals about the conflict in Ukraine.
But given Mr. Trump’s praise for Mr. Putin, John Herbst, a former American ambassador to Ukraine, said he feared the new president might be too eager to mend relations with Russia at Ukraine’s expense — potentially with a plan like Mr. Artemenko’s.
On Tuesday the Anne Frank Center released a statement denouncing Trump’s response to the anti-Semitic string of attacks as inadequate.
“The President’s sudden acknowledgment of Anti-Semitism is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration,” the statement said. “His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Anti-Semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record. Make no mistake: The Anti-Semitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have seen from any Administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, President’s Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Anti-Semitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this president has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”
One might agree with the sentiment in “BDS is mainly the invention of self-hating Israelis and Jews” but the truth is it’s mainly the invention of historic Russian anti-Semitism ported through the Soviet Union to the “comrade networks” that today have morphed into the New Old Now Old Far Out and Lost Left.
Here’s one of their portals, and I think a glance at the names still on the marquis, as it were, tells of the “longer game” being played on the world stage.
In the wings, imho, but not without cause: the Russo-Syrian effort to sustain their systems of feudal absolute power far into the 21st Century. As KSA realigns westward, or follows its massive investments in the west, Moscow and Tehran may remain committed to installing in the west greater chaos, dissension, and threat.
It’s a big picture view, but the connections between so-called “liberation movements” (add the Far Right New Nationalists like Viktor Orban to the mix) seem to me unmistakable. Possibly, Obama and his subaltern Shapiro are giving signal, whether lip service or sincere, back to Moscow, as the Palestinians remain incapable of challenging the PLO / PA (set up by the KGB way back when) and Hamas (whom Moscow today refuses to designate a terrorist organization).
By contrast, Cockburn takes a generous view of the regime’s belated and brief confrontation with ISIS. He has pronounced Assad’s army its “main military opponent,” deserving of Western support. But facts tell a different story. According to a Carter Center study, the regime has spared ISIS in 90 percent of its attacks; and an IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC) study finds that in 2014, the regime targeted ISIS in only 6 percent of its attacks. (ISIS in turn directed its fire on the regime in only 13 percent its operations.)
Since Aboud Dandachi laid out the shaping of the battle by Assad forces in his refreshingly honest and entertaining history and polemic, The Doctor, The Eye Doctor and Me: Analogies and Parallels Between the World of Doctor Who and the Syrian Conflict (2014), the feudal perversion of a modest pro-democracy protest in 2011 into a brutal epic one might title “Assad vs The Terrorists” has been apparent but the statistics on how it was done never so well relayed.
BackChannels (oh the bias!) commonly invokes the term “Putin-Assad-Khamenei” in place of Bashar al-Assad alone to play up the axis, its Russo-Iranian core, and define the conflict in Syria as other and greater than “civil war”, a mere internal dispute, the greater dispute being that between medieval absolute power and modern democratic distributed or popular power.
Arms trafficking, money laundering, personal enrichment, protection for gangsters, extortion and kickbacks, suitcases full of money and secret offshore bank accounts in Cyprus and Switzerland: the cables unpick a dysfunctional political system in which bribery alone totals an estimated $300 billion a year, and in which it is often hard to distinguish between the activities of government and organized crime.
Snowden’s father, Lon, also expressed his gratitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin for protecting his son from the legal consequences of having violated his NSA confidentiality obligations.
Human Rights Watch analysts also took note of the irony of the Kremlin coming to the defense of a self-styled champion of privacy and free speech rights.
“He cannot but be aware of the unprecedented crackdown on human rights that the government has unleashed in the past 15 months,” Rachel Denber, the rights group’s expert on Russia and other former Soviet states told the Associated Press by email.
Throw away God; give up on one humanist ideology or another: what’s left?
Are governments businesses?
Who do they serve?
Among those served, what are they serving?
* * *
In the capitalist democracies, most expect private businesses to keep proprietary the business processes, relationships, and technologies that enable their sales, investment strategies, and accumulations of wealth distributed back to stakeholders or to the public in the form of consumer spending. As regards governments, they may be expected to keep secret fundamental military and security edges involving security intelligence and operations. These days, whether with billions networked through criminal pacts or blacked out for “black ops” budgets, governments, known criminal or not, would seem to be transitioning into deeply feudal empires — not of, for, or by The People but of, for, and by Some (Very Enriched) People.
Spanish police arrested four people Friday suspected of laundering large sums of money from Russian criminal gangs as part of a network they said may be linked to Semion Mogilevich, one of the FBI’s ten most wanted fugitives.
The arrests took place in the Mediterranean coastal town of Lloret de Mar near Barcelona, which has a large Russian community and is popular with tourists from the country, police said in a statement.
The four are suspected of tax fraud, document falsification and money laundering.
MOTHERBOARD: Let’s start with public perception. People believe the Taliban is fueling the drug trade in Afghanistan. To what extent is this true, and why is it so widely believed?
The Taliban are players in the Afghan drug trade, but minor ones in relative terms. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this is to look at the value of the annual drug trade within Afghanistan, which is about $3 billion. The Taliban capture only about 5 to 10 percent of those profits. The bulk of the profits is appropriated by other groups, such as traffickers, government and police officers, as well as warlords.
Web searched first-page reference to data on the Taliban’s narcotics trafficking seems to trail off for 2013, but relayed at the bottom of this post, there’s combat footage from early 2013 posted just six days ago.
No pun intended here either: the impression as regards the latest admixtures of crime and politics is getting rich.
According to American national intelligence watcher Tim Shorrock (reference: Spies for Hire), the annual bill for U.S. security-oriented intelligence efforts approximates $52 billion, not that the distribution is known. The social integration of the state’s population with its defense and security sectors may suffice for trust — are we going to trust our neighbors or not? — but the informational dark space created by the development of a large population of government-employed or contracted secrets keepers may not bode well for democracy.
Who is getting that intelligence budget?
On what basis?
To what end?
Shorrock’s sturdy journalism illuminates many paths in the national security intelligence complex, but as seems true today in Russia, the public may be told that it’s being served, but given the enormity of the spooky business and its continuing growth in its institutional aspect, public also has room – more cause – to suspect otherwise.
This is not to impugn the American intelligence community: by and large, we still trust our neighbors.
With help from books like Spies for Hire, the privileges known to the free press and more affirmed than not (so far as I know — and infringements by government gets play in the press pretty damned quick), and the web, it’s not that hard getting a glimpse of the cobbling developed to counter the narcotics trade, the terrorism business, and other contributors to international crime.
Still, the more a government privileges a class with secrets-keeping powers, the more paranoia it may inspire in those who are not of it.
* * *
But, without naming names, Medvedev said Russia should be careful about freeing people convicted of crimes like hooliganism – the charge in the Pussy Riot case – and theft, which was the indictment against Khodorkovsky.
“Our people really are not much inclined, for example, to conduct acts of amnesty for individuals involved in violent crimes, for individuals who committed crimes against society, including hooliganism,” Medvedev said in a TV interview.
In political Russia, it appears deflection has become a high art.
The Khodorkovsky case has become legend and no realist expects more from the Kremlin then in its realpolitik the continued expression of absolute power that has dogged the matter from before the arrest stage and forward.
I’ve chided Pussy Riot (no, children, we do not take bawdy shows into churches without a big, friendly invitation) but most watchers feel the Kremlin’s punishment back-to-the-gulag! vulgarity bespeaks itself of criminal callousness.
In Medvedev’s above cited statement, the infantilizing of the Russian people by way of a paternalist stance should be as clear to neutral onlookers as the heightened projections of criminality. “Pussy Riot” may indeed be a vulgar noun, but the girls are not the evil ones; as for Khodorkovsky, he appears to have leaned westward with Yukos and in the direction of integrity (gasp!).
Since the late 1990s, Khodorkovsky had taken steps to transform Yukos along the lines of western business models. These steps included the introduction of corporate transparency, the adoption of western accounting standards, the hiring of western management, the creation of an independent board of directors with a corporate governance subcommittee, corporate growth through mergers and acquisitions, and increased western investments. These actions had marked Khodorkovsky as an outspoken leader who was pro-western and challenged the non-transparent means by which government and business operated in the Russian energy sector. These practices, along with the possibility of Yukos selling a major stake to Exxon Mobil or Chevron, deeply unsettled the Kremlin.
With Russia as with Syria as with, not so oddly, Islamic Jihad in large part, one may expect the patina of legitimate cause to wear away before the eyes of a widening and more profoundly comprehending global public. Even so obvious, so visible, however, one wonders about the better options available to that same public.
One may note that Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has survived decades in power without a shred of statewide legitimacy left intact, but the crowds of those patronized, the money involved (for himself and those to whom he distributes spoils) has proven sufficient to lead him into his 90s with probably a fairly good night’s sleep.