Streetwise Professor

December 10, 2010

Buy Pessimism

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 10:27 am

Russia appears on the verge of acceptance into the World Trade Organization (WTO).  This guest post by Fredrik Erixon on the FT’s Beyond Brics blog pretty well summarizes my views on the subject:

If the Kremlin also decides to follow the WTO rule book, membership will help to constrain Russia’s erratic trade policy, especially its regular descents into protectionism. Naturally, that would be of value for exporters to Russia (and for importers of Russian goods, too, as Russia regularly uses export taxes), but the biggest beneficiary would be Russia itself. The biggest casualty of protectionism is always the country that imposes such measures.

. . . .

But there are also risks and downsides to having Russia as member of the WTO. The biggest risk is that the Kremlin will simply disregard rulings against Russia in the dispute-settlement system, the backbone of the WTO. As the WTO itself cannot enforce rulings that require policy change in a country, the system requires that countries respect the authority of the dispute-settlement body and that bigger and more powerful countries avoid playing power games with smaller nations over rulings.

. . . .

This risk is underlined by Russia’s recent history of flaunting international agreements (and, as in the case of the Energy Charter Treaty, withdrawing from agreements) in the belief that no one would have the courage to fight the Kremlin to the bitter end.

Russian membership will also add a new layer of difficulties for WTO negotiations, like the current Doha Round. Russia will be part of the protectionist wing of the membership and will resist in areas that are central to world trade today and in future, like freeing up services trade, cutting red tape that prevents trade, and limiting the freedom to subsidize domestic firms at the expense of foreign competitors.

It will also enforce the opposition to addressing “old” issues, like reducing or eliminating tariffs on consumer and industrial goods. Russia’s manufacturing sector is weak – it only represents 6-7 percent of Russia’s export – and suffers from the Dutch disease: the heavy reliance on hydrocarbon exports have pushed the real exchange rate to such a degree that the manufacturing sector has suffered. Many industries are saddled with old Soviet technologies, and they survive on subsidies and border protectionism.

There are positive signs that Russia is keen to change its economic model. The new Kremlin rhetoric on modernization and the privatization plans suggest that energy and state-based economic authoritarianism is on a downward trend. The new dawn in its membership bid for the WTO is also a good sign. But the signs are far too few to be upbeat about Russian economic policy. Like before, optimism over the WTO accession can soon shift to pessimism. The old model is entrenched in the Kremlin economic psyche and there are many powerful figures that dislike the idea of being constrained by international agreements or increased foreign competition. President Medvedev has now secured the support from the US and the European Union for its WTO bid. Now he needs to take the fight with Kremlin colleagues and oligarchs. That may become a far bigger problem.

Russia, even more than most countries, tends to look at these sorts of deals as one-way streets; they’ll exploit every right and benefit, and fight every obligation.

Erixon’s point about the decrepitude of the Russian manufacturing sector, plus the fact that imports into Russia are surging, putting pressure on its balance of payments, will test Russia’s willingness to adhere to the obligations of WTO membership.

But the biggest pressure is internal, as Erixon again alludes to in his remarks regarding the “old model entrenched in the Kremlin psyche.”  My only quibble is that this isn’t a psychological phenomenon.  It is a material and political one.  Rule-based, open access orders like WTO are antithetical to Russia’s natural state system.  As I’ve written over the years, Putin uses protectionism as just one of the levers to pull to retain the political equilibrium in Russia.  Natural states like Russia need to keep the distribution of rents in balance in order to maintain political peace.   That requires that the balancer-in-chief–Putin, in Russia–have the flexibility and discretion to respond to economic shocks that upset that balance in order to restore it.  Protectionism has been one of Putin’s most frequently used, and effective tools.  Moreover, protectionism has been a weapon in international disputes (e.g., agricultural trade disputes with Poland and Belarus, not to mention the US).  That’s not something he’s likely to give up any time soon.

Erixon mentions Medvedev.  Like that really matters.  He talks the talk on WTO, but he’s not the one that, in the end, will have to walk the walk.  And that’s true regardless of whether he remains president or not.  The idea of Medvedev “taking the fight” to anybody who really matters is pretty much a joke.  If that’s what those who are optimistic about the effects of Russian WTO membership are counting on, then go long pessimism.

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  1. “The biggest risk is that the Kremlin will simply disregard rulings against Russia in the dispute-settlement system, the backbone of the WTO. As the WTO itself cannot enforce rulings that require policy change in a country, the system requires that countries respect the authority of the dispute-settlement body and that bigger and more powerful countries avoid playing power games with smaller nations over rulings.”

    What, you mean like this?

    That’s only one example among many of the world’s largest national economy shrugging off rulings it doesn’t like. Oh, yes, I know; anything that contradicts the narrative is “whataboutism”. What it really is is “hello-pot-meet-kettleism”. So much for the backbone of the WTO.

    Russia does not really need the WTO, as it is an energy-dominated economy able to sell its products on the international market without worrying about competitive pricing. However, Russophobes constantly sneer at it for being a energy-dominated economy. By that standard of measure, you’d think they’d be delighted to see Russia progress beyond that. Apparently, not so much.

    Instead of making snide remarks about what is and isn’t “pretty much a joke”, you’d be better employed paying attention to your own economy, which slid from 23.7% of World GDP in 2000 to 20.2% in 2010. China is breathing down your neck, and forecast to overtake the U.S. in 2017. They’ll need a dependable energy partner, and having one with which they currently share a border would be convenient.

    Comment by Mark — December 10, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

  2. “Golden Days of Being a Net Saver Are Over” from your link really tells the tale. Anyone who thinks that Russia can just walk away from the devastating consequences of the jaw-dropping 08-09 crash needs to have his head examined.

    This is really one of the most bizarre incidents in modern Russian history. The imposition of WTO judicial participation on Russia, which is already deranged by the strictures of the ECHR, combined with the pressure of moving towards real market economics will be devasating to Russians, yet the Kremlin can’t help trying to get what others would deny it on grounds of morality. The fact is, by any moral measure Russia is not qualified to participate in the WTO, and nobody can dispute that. This is a no-win proposition for the Kremlin, checkmate Mr. Putin.

    Russia’s willingness to flout international law with state-sponsored murder and kidnapping and torture in Chechnya and throughout the Caucasus has been established over and over again in epic convictions by EHCR judges. Whether Russia will do the same as a “member” of the WTO is the mother of all no-brainers. Russia is a lawless, barbaric society, proud of it, and it is headed like the USSR for the ashcan of history. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

    Comment by La Russophobe — December 10, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

  3. What’s that catchy little slogan you sport on your blog? Oh, yes; “You don’t really know Russia unless you read La Russophobe”. Pfffftt. This is the kind of analysis that could have been lifted from Sarah Palin’s Facebook page – what a load of twaddleicious rubbish.

    Russia did indeed take a punch to the gut in the 2008 financial crisis. But who are you to talk? Today Russia is fifth in the world in terms of current account balance, while the USA is at the bottom of the list in 181st place, and the biggest debtor nation in history. So I guess quite a few people need their heads examined, because Russia has already walked away from the consequences of the 08/09 crash.

    The ECHR has nothing to do with admission to the WTO, or retention of membership. The ECHR sanctioned the UK this year under Protocol 14, in Hirst v UK, after the issue was decided 6 years ago and the UK had yet to implement the Court’s directive. Russia was the last nation to oppose Protocol 14, which is largely procedural and reduces the number of judges necessary to make major decisions. However, Protocol 14 is important because it empowers the Court to implement sanctions rather than relying on goodwill and shame. You’d think if Russia were “already deranged by the strictures of the ECHR” (that sentence doesn’t even make sense, by the way), Russia would be the first notch on their gun. Au contraire; it was the UK. The UK has been a member of the WTO since its inception – did they lose their membership? Of course not. Russia’s objection to Protocol 14 was based on the guarantee that Russian judges would be involved in cases against Russia. Is that unreasonable, do you think? Do you think the USA would be happy to have cases against the USA heard by French judges, for example, with no American involvement?

    The ECHR is currently carrying a backlog of 120,000 cases, and a multiyear waiting list. Only about 1 in 20 cases is ruled admissible. The ECHR cannot delay WTO membership for Russia based on cases that are not only yet to be heard, but have not yet even been ruled admissible. There haven’t been any “epic convictions by ECHR judges”, because the ECHR had no power until June of this year to impose sanctions, relying instead on non-binding resolution. In Loizidou v Turkey, the court took 20 years to decide. Of 5 “notable decisions” attributed to the ECHR, 3 were against the UK. Russia was not mentioned at all.

    You don’t know anything about Russia, you don’t know anything about the ECHR and you don’t know anything about the WTO. Zip for three. Shake your head – if it falls off, kick it.

    Comment by Mark — December 10, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  4. WTO? WTF? The Russian government has been exposed for organizing garden variety terrorist acts in Georgia:,_Ministry/

    Comment by Ivan — December 11, 2010 @ 1:42 am

  5. Well, it’s certainly impossible to argue against evidence as solid as that, isn’t it? Hmmm…. a silver Mercedes was seen in the area a few minutes before the explosion. Presumably Major Borisov, whoever he is, owns the only silver Mercedes in Georgia, so it must have been him. Just for fun, though, let’s look at an alternative theory. Maybe it was one of the 44 Mercedes sold in Tbilisi in 2009,

    or one sold before or since then, or hey, what if it was a Mercedes driven by a tourist from somewhere else? I mean, if you’re ready to go to court and suggest you’re sure it was Major Borisov because somebody saw a silver Mercedes near there just before the explosion, I can’t stop you. But if I were a defense lawyer, I’d be laughing. For a long time.

    I notice the opposition says the explosion was in fact perpetrated by the Georgian government. I guess you find that less believable. Maybe the court will, too. Hope nobody in the Georgian government owns a silver Mercedes. Good luck with that.

    Comment by Mark — December 11, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  6. How to Spot a Pathological Liar
    They change their story all the time
    They will exaggerate and lie about everything, the smallest and easiest things to tell the truth about and the big serious things
    What ever you do, they can do it better.
    They often don’t value the truth, and can often live in their own type of reality.
    They will act defensively when questioned or challenged, they see their lies as not hurting anyone
    They lie for sympathy or to seem better
    They usually never own up to the lies
    They contradict what they say, they lose track of the many lies told
    They lie because they are insecure

    The Putin -mobs un- Useful idiot Mark

    “I was told that a bomb must be planted on the fence of the American embassy [in Tbilisi],” Gogita Arkania, one of the suspects, said in his confession, recounting a September conversation with Russian serviceman Yevgeniy Borisov. Mr. Akrania said he was given a satellite image of the embassy and that he cooperated because Mr. Borisov threatened to kill Mr. Arkania’s family, who live in Abkhazia, should he refuse to do the job. Mr. Borisov couldn’t be reached for comment.

    The explosion near the U.S. embassy took place Sept. 22. Mr. Arkania said Mr. Borisov was disappointed to find that the blast didn’t damage the embassy and media coverage of the incident was limited.

    Mr. Arkania and his alleged accomplices said they were also behind two blasts that ripped through Tbilisi on Nov. 28, killing a woman.

    Comment by Oleg — December 11, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

  7. Once again, I’m afraid, not evidence. Mr. Saakashvili goes so far as to say “all the signs” followed by his law enforcement lead them to this individual in Abkhazia, so perhaps he actually does know of some evidence, which perhaps we will see in due course. Meanwhile, all we have is the word of Georgia’s leader, who has shown himself in the past to be none too stable. Remember this, when Saakashvili and his party broadcast a fake attack by Russia which panicked the country and – just coincidentally, no doubt – depicted opposition leaders collaborating with the Russians?

    It’s curious that the six alleged terrorists are still referred to as “suspects”, including Mr. Arkania, when they are said to have already confessed and their confessions have been broadcast. The others are referred to as his “alleged” accomplices; although, again, they have supposedly already confessed. Maybe things work differently in the Georgia judicial system, but typically elsewhere you are no longer a suspect if you have been arrested and have confessed. At that point, authorities are pretty sure you are guilty.

    Given only Georgia now stands in the way of WTO membership for Russia, I can see all kinds of motive for the Georgian government to dream up a scandal which they would use as substantiation. I can see no motive whatever for a lowly Russian Army Major to kick off a one-man terrorism spree that any knothead could see would be seized upon by Georgia for exactly the purpose it is. Not all crimes have a motive, but that’s the way to bet.

    Comment by Mark — December 12, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

  8. Saakashvhili is in a much stronger position in Georgian politics these days for the first time since his Rose Revolution peak During a recent visit to Tbilisi, Thomas de Wall commented that he can appear to ride both sides of many debates. “More than any other politician I can think of, Saakashvili is a magician, who succeeds in being all things to all people. He is by turns Atatürk (the state builder), George W. Bush (the neocon), Zviad Gamsakhurdia (the nationalist) and Vladimir Putin (ruthless centralizer). He also reminds me of Bill Clinton, the natural communicator, and of Boris Yeltsin, who also squared political circles that others never managed to,” De Wall writes. “Consider how Misha (as everyone calls Saakashvili) manages to be the friend of both Senator John McCain and Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko. He still wows Republican audiences in Washington but sets up a visa-free regime with Iran. He is the man who prides himself on his stellar World Bank rating for “ease of doing business” in Georgia but also presides over an economy where monopolies are firmly entrenched.”

    There is no evidence that suggests Saakashvili or his supporters have organized their own “strategy of tension” behind these bombings, but it seems clear that they are the ones to benefit the most from it. Perhaps as more information comes to light, such a wild theory can be handily discarded. I certainly hope so, because as Thailand has shown, these attempts to foment moral panic and rule by fear always end up in a very bad place.

    Comment by Oleg — December 12, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

  9. That’s likely what you’d think if you got your information from Georgian state media. His crackpot appointment of a 28-year-old Economics Minister who has spent less than 6 months as an adult in Georgia has resulted in the lowest first-quarter FDI figures in the last five. Ms. Kobalia has apparently discovered a new way to drive economic indicators, as prices fetched by producers declined an average 7.6% (agricultural) and 8.4% (clothing and footwear), but the prices paid by consumers actually rose by 3.7%.

    It’s quite true there is no evidence – so far – of Georgian government influence in the bombings, although you’re correct it is they who would stand to benefit most. It’s also quite true that there is no evidence – so far – of Borisov’s hand in the bombings, while Russia would stand to benefit least.

    Comment by Mark — December 12, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

  10. Well Mark, you do forget that anything that destabilizes Georgia or provides a situation where Russia could intervene to enforce regime change would benefit Russia and its imperial policy in the Caucasus.

    Russia has repeatedly demanded regime change, and has conducted bombing campaigns before, for example in 2006, when the perpetrators (Russian military intelligence officers) were arrested with the aid of MI6 and the CIA.

    Russia wants to control Georgia to ensure that all alternative pipelines to the EU are firmly under Russian control.

    BTW, the Georgian opposition leaders depicted in that program as aiding Russia were the ones who previously traveled to Moscow to receive the Putin “Seal of Approval”…..

    As for “no evidence – so far – of Borisov’s hand in the bombings”, well given that he is named specifically by those who have admitted to carrying out the attacks would be considered as evidence in most countries, but obviously not in the fantasy world in which you live in.

    Furthermore, even if a person confesses to a crime, they remain a suspect until actually convicted in a court of law. Even a 1st year law student knows that Mark.

    Comment by Andrew — December 13, 2010 @ 12:09 am

  11. Sorry, Andrew, old first-year law professor, but that’s not exactly accurate. When a person who is suspected of having committed a crime is indicted, charged or otherwise bound over for trial, he or she becomes “the accused”. Since there are restrictions – even in Georgia – on how long you may hold someone detained without preferring charges, I am assuming the suspects have been charged with the crime, particularly as they have confessed. But it’s true the original article did not specify the suspects had been charged; that’s merely an assumption on my part. I’d submit, though, that if one or more of the confessions has already been shared with the public but the suspect has not been charged, even a first-year law student could get him off.

    Perhaps it makes sense to you that Russia would stir up a situation just at this moment – precisely when WTO membership is almost in reach – that would require a military intervention in Georgia. I’m bound to suggest, though, that it does not make sense to me. It didn’t make sense to sometime Russophobe Robert Amsterdam, either, who discussed it at length on his blog and offered that the government’s story was very shaky. But perhaps he lives in a fantasy world, too.

    I’m suggesting that as Saakashvili has made up crazy stories before, there’s reason to believe he is doing so again. If there’s evidence, and it hasn’t been tainted by precipitate release of the confessions before the suspects have even been charged, doubtless we’ll hear more about it in due course. If the suspects have been charged, then they are the accused.

    Comment by Mark — December 13, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

  12. Mark, you are assuming that Putin really wants WTO membership, remember he has been doing quite a bit to derail WTO membership, including the customs union, which is technically illegal under WTO rules by all accounts. Then there is the fact that the Russian government is constantly taking actions that are illegal under WTO rules such as unilateral introduction of trade tariffs and other protectionist actions on a massive scale.

    One interpretation might be that Prime Minister Putin shot off with his proposition without taking advice from his officials. But that seems highly unlikely. Putin is generally an assiduous master of detail in whatever he does.
    A second interpretation is that he had received technical advice, but went ahead anyway on the basis of a different political rationale: that he does not want Russia to accede to the WTO. The evidence supporting this interpretation is the fact that the government constantly attempts to adopt trade policy measures that would be ruled illegal or at least seriously contested if it were a member of the WTO. Putin clearly does not want to be bound by international rules. Russia has taken numerous measures in recent years that were either WTO-incompatible or could have been seriously contested and taken to WTO dispute settlement procedures, including the wine sanctions imposed on Georgia and Moldova in 2006, the meat dispute with Poland and the EU in 2007, the timber expert dispute with Finland and the EU in 2008 and the automobile import tariff increases in 2009. The Prime Minister wants to be able to continue to use trade sanctions as a political tool.
    A third interpretation relates to Russia’s wish to advance renewed economic integration with whichever CIS states are willing. Only Belarus and Kazakhstan are currently willing to join Russia in a customs union, although trade sanctions taken in recent months by Russia against milk products from Belarus may make this country think again. However to pull these two countries into a joint WTO application could provide leverage to advance the economic integration agenda of the three countries beyond the tariff unification of the customs union. In addition, the customs union will deprive Belarus and Kazakhstan of the option of proceeding independently to negotiate their own trade agreements with major partners such as the EU or China.
    A combination of interpretations two and three would suggest that Putin spotted this as a smart move to stop any realistic chance of the WTO accession which he does not want, but without having to say so, while at the same time using the manoeuvre to increase Russia’s leverage over Belarus and Kazakhstan. However this turns out to have been not so smart. It has thrown into the open the well-known and deep division within the Russian leadership and elite circles over the real issue: whether it is in Russia’s interest to accede to the WTO or not, or more broadly whether Russia’s modernisation objective would be furthered with increasing international openness and adherence to generally accepted global rules of the game. According to a ‘liberal’ view, WTO membership is an essential precondition for broadening Russia’s industrial base beyond natural resources. The contrary ‘statist’ thinking goes of course in the opposite direction: outside the WTO, it is easier to protect specific industries and foster their development, although economic history is replete with failures of this approach (e.g. Mexico pre-1980s). Putin reveals himself to be against WTO accession with all that this implies, despite the numerous speeches in which he has said he is in favour; Medvedev, on the other hand, appears to be genuinely in favour of WTO membership. There seems to be no other explanation why Medvedev felt obliged to intervene and advertise their most explicit policy difference observed so far.
    In any case this episode throws unfavourable light on the role of Russia as privileged member of the G8, which is meant to be the inner sanctum of the world’s most advanced economies.
    Russia’s presence in G8 alongside the absence of China, which is a WTO member, is already an anomaly. At the same time Russia pretends to play a grand role in reshaping the world order, for example convening recently a meeting of the so-called BRIC group, with Brazil, China and India. Russia is also pretending to lead Europe and the West into a new normative pan-European security order, against the background of having invaded Georgia a year ago, and going on to justify recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with the Kosovo precedent that it had otherwise been using as a tool to criticise the immorality of the West.
    When will Russia’s ruling elite see that their ambition for their country to be a leading international actor, with a branding as promoter of a reshaped normative world order, calls for more consistency, professionalism and credibility for the sincerity of their motives?

    Remember, Russia considers Georgia “It’s territory”, I had a few interesting discussions with a Russian officer on this point, his line was “It belonged to us before, it will again” of course the fact that the locals don’t ever want to be part of Russia again did not seem to enter his calculations, but is fairly typical of the extreme racism that is a central part of Russian culture.
    The fascists that currently run Russia really cannot understand why the west does not think they have the right to do as they like in “their” near abroad.

    Of course any reasonable look at Russian imperialism, and the rivers of blood it has produced and still produces in the Caucasus would show why.

    Comment by Andrew — December 14, 2010 @ 1:07 am

  13. The sources I researched indicate the USA and Russia have reached agreement on the issues that must be resolved in order to achieve WTO acceptance. One of them would likely be the customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. Of course I’m not party to the Russian decision-making process, and have no idea what factors might inform their policies. However, I believe the proposed customs union was merely a signal that Russia had given up on the WTO process, and had resigned itself it was never going to be accepted no matter how many concessions were made. If so, it worked very well, as there was more movement on the WTO issue in the two months following the announcement of the customs union than in the 16 years prior. But Russia may well have been prepared to go through with it, since it was fairly clear it was only being kept out for insult value. The five poorest countries in the world are WTO members, so it can’t be an issue of wealth. Four among the ten most repressive regimes in the world, according to human rights monitoring organizations, are members (Chad, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia) – a list that Russia didn’t make – so it can’t have anything to do with human rights. Bailout kings Ireland and Greece are members, not to mention the biggest debtor nation in history, so it obviously has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility.

    Russia was kept out only because it is the last remaining large nation that is not a WTO member; this carries a lot of weight for mockery value. But, as I’ve suggested before, Russia doesn’t really need the WTO. It is an energy-dominated economy, and world price for its product is guaranteed as it is internationally brokered at a set price regardless its source. That presupposes, though, that Russia wishes to continue being an energy-dominated economy, and it probably does not. Everyone agrees this would not be good for the country – investors who would like to see Russia succeed, and Russophobes who devoutly pray for her collapse. Joining the WTO would force Russia to make a good deal of reforms that would eradicate inefficient Soviet practices, because otherwise they just couldn’t compete. You’d think Russophobes would be overjoyed, because they never tire of snickering that Russia has nothing going for it but oil. As long as they remain out of the WTO, that’s more likely to continue. So, evidently, Russophobes prefer this practice to continue, rather than risk losing their favourite whipping-boy.

    I believe the government would prefer WTO membership to the customs union, and that the veer toward the union was just a “well, fuck you, then” that had the desired effect. It only makes sense long-term, as the customs union was unlikely to result in significant gain for anyone and would encourage antiquated and inefficient practices to continue.

    I’ve read other works by Emerson, and he’s not a fan of Russia, so this tone is no surprise. He seems at his most sympathetic – in a schadenfreude sort of way – when Russia has a serious problem that nobody is interested in helping them resolve, and at his most critical when Russia is at the threshold of a success. According to that pattern, the article you referenced is a positive sign. I see he’s still pounding away on the “Russia invaded Georgia” theme, but nobody takes that seriously any more, not even TIME magazine.

    Georgia has been an independent nation since 1991, which was achieved by a simple declaration of independence. If Russia considered Georgia “its territory”, that would have been the time to put down the rebellion, as Russia was much stronger militarily (conventional) than it is now. The world hailed Georgia’s achievement of independence, and Russia did nothing. Oddly enough, Abkhazia and South Ossetia were autonomous areas well prior to Georgian independence, and announced their own independence in exactly the same manner. World response, not to mention Georgian response, was somewhat less enthusiastic as I remember it.

    Russia would likely be glad to relinquish the Caucasus, and see a big problem go away. But it wouldn’t – not really. Those who supply, fund and encourage Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in the Caucasus would simply step it up to the new border, because it’s a destabilizing problem that requires resources and money to keep under control. The Iraqi resistance to the occupying American forces had much the same effect, as it assisted in bankrupting the country, and it too was financed and supplied by interested parties who wanted the USA to fail. When the U.S. forces razed Fallujah to the last brick, killing more than a thousand, there was never a peep from the world community.

    Comment by Mark — December 14, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  14. Mark, with this comment “Russia would likely be glad to relinquish the Caucasus” you show yourself to be a complete idiot.

    Russian imperial policy sees Georgia as the “key to the Caucasus”, Russia was in no real position to do anything major to Georgia, the Baltics, or Ukraine in 1991 due to the total collapse of its economy and internal political chaos.

    It was however in a position to support ethnic separatism and ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia, and one of the reasons why the world response was so negative to Abkhazian “independence” was that they were only 17% of the population of the province, and had no legal right to independence, unlike the Georgian republic (see constitution of the USSR for details) much the same as why the Chechens did not receive much international support the first time. Then of course there is the small matter of the Russians and Apsua (Abkhazians) killing around 30,000 Georgians and committing ethnic cleansing on the remainder, plus their ongoing apartheid style oppressions of those that have returned to the south eastern Gali region where they make up 97% of the population (and always have done).

    Russia supported the separatists with everything up to and including the Black Sea fleet, which landed separatists and Russian “volunteers” in large scale amphibious assaults, the VVS (Frontal aviation) which bombed Sokhumi, and large elements of the Red Army, which shelled Sokhumi back to the stone age with Grad MLRS and heavy artillery systems.

    Georgia is a fairly important transit route for central Asia and Azerbaijan to gain access to European markets without having to go through Russia, and Russia is not at all keen on this as they have publicly stated.

    Georgia was only partially independent from 1991, until 2004 the Russians appointed the interior, defence, and intelligence ministers of the Georgian government, and maintained several military bases on Georgian territory. They repeatedly interfered in Georgian internal affairs, including during the Georgian civil war and appointed Scheverdnadze as president by supporting him militarily during the fighting.

    They hate Saakashvili simply because he will not do what he is told by “big brother” Russia.

    Oh and talk to most Russians, they will never give up the Caucasus because it is “Russian territory”, we are talking about a “culture” that still sees imperialism as its God given right.

    As Dr Horvath puts it:

    Beware the rise of Russia’s new imperialism

    Dr Robert Horvath
    La Trobe Scholar, Politics
    Email: [email protected]

    First published in the The Age on 21 August, 2008.

    Perhaps the worst thing about the anti-American left is not its prejudices but its parochialism. Fixated upon the evils of US global hegemony, its publicists turn a blind eye to the imperialism of regimes opposed to that hegemony.

    Consider this analysis by Guardian columnist Seumas Milne (The Age 16/8): “By any sensible reckoning, this is not a story of Russian aggression, but of US imperial expansion and ever tighter encirclement of Russia by a potentially hostile power.”

    To deny that Russian imperialism is shaping the events unfolding in the Caucasus is to ignore the public pronouncements of Russian leaders and the climate of nationalist hysteria that permeates the Russian media. Within hours of his arrival in Vladikavkaz last week, Vladimir Putin boasted that Russia “for centuries” played a “positive, stabilising role (as) a guarantor of the security, progress and co-operation” in the Caucasus and “would remain so in the future”.

    That confident affirmation of Russia’s imperial destiny is a tribute to the achievements of a decade of nationalist propaganda in the state-controlled media. No longer is public opinion agitated by the memory of Russia’s 19th-century conquest of the Caucasus, Stalin’s genocidal deportations, and the two brutal Chechen wars. As human rights activist Sergei Kovalev has lamented, the regime’s tribunes “have drummed the values of the imperial state into the social mind”.

    This indoctrination was made possible by the subjugation of the mass media during Putin’s early years in power. As a result of the displacement of liberal journalists by “patriotic” ideologues, Russian television became a forum for the most improbable conspiracy theories, sneering contempt for the West, sycophantic adulation of Putin and the celebration of Russian military power. It also provided a platform for charismatic commentators such as Mikhail Leontev and Vladimir Solovev, vehement converts to the imperial idea.

    The ascent of the new Russian imperialism is exemplified by the philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, who emerged in the radical nationalist underground of the late 1980s. Languishing at the margins of politics during the Yeltsin years, he adopted Eurasianism, an ideology formulated in the 1920s by Russian emigres and popularised in the late Soviet period by the historian Lev Gumilev.

    For Eurasianists, Russia was a unique Slavic-Turkic civilisation of the steppe and the eternal enemy of decadent Europe. In Dugin’s reworking, Eurasianism became a justification for the resurrection of an empire on the ruins of the Soviet Union and for a struggle to the death against the Atlantic democracies.

    Under Putin, Dugin has become a ubiquitous presence in Russia’s circumscribed public sphere. On August 8, he amazed an interviewer on the radio station Ekho Moskvy by accusing Georgia of genocide in South Ossetia, a line that was subsequently taken up by Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Dugin is also the leader of the Eurasianist Youth Union, a militant Kremlin-sponsored youth movement. The authorities apply massive police force to suppress democratic protests, but Dugin’s lads encounter few obstacles when exercising their right to assembly. On August 10, they protested outside the Defence Ministry in Moscow, chanting “Tanks to Tbilisi!” and “Glory to Russia! Glory to Empire!”

    The doyen of the Russian imperialists is Aleksandr Prokhanov, whose novels, set in the battlefields of the Cold War, earned him a reputation as the Rudyard Kipling of the Soviet empire. A radical opponent of Yeltsin’s “occupation regime”, he became respectable under Putin. In his latest editorial in his newspaper, Zavtra, Prokhanov exulted that “we were not defeated by the West in the Cold War, because the Cold War continues. We lost gigantic territories, but we held Moscow. From here we launched our counterattack.”

    Imperialist passions are also being inflamed by influential nationalist clerics. In February this year, Russian television broadcast Demise of an Empire, a visually spectacular documentary narrated by the Orthodox abbot Tikhon Shevkunov, reputedly Putin’s confessor. Ostensibly an account of the collapse of Byzantium, it was really an allegory about Putin’s Russia: a warning against Western subversion and domestic traitors, and a celebration of empire. Enthused by Tikhon’s “fiery imperial, great power rhetoric”, one nationalist reviewer extolled this travesty of history as “a propaganda masterpiece”.

    The effects of this cult of empire extend far beyond the ranks of the nationalist intelligentsia and official patriotic movements such as Nashi. On the evening of Victory Day, May 9, I witnessed an annual spectacle that has alarmed liberals for years: gangs of aggressive, drunken youths marching around the Moscow metro, rhythmically chanting “Ros-siya, Ros-siya!” As Sergei Kovalev has pointed out, these children of the Putin era do not even realise they are behaving like fascists.

    For too long, we in the West have ignored the xenophobic fulminations and the neo-imperial fantasies disseminated by the Russian state media. For too long, we pretended that the Kremlin’s sabre-rattling was nothing more than a benign concession to the resentments of the downtrodden. It is time to confront the reality that we can no longer attribute the behaviour of the Russian state to the effects of Western power. Russian imperialism has become a fact of life.

    Comment by Andrew — December 15, 2010 @ 12:43 am

  15. We cannot allow Russia to enter the WTO, a club reserved exclusively for free and democratic countries like, for example:

    Communist Cuba – since April 20, 1995
    Bahrain – since January 1, 1995
    Communist China – since December 11, 2001
    Kyrgyzstan – since December 20, 1998
    Pakistan – since January 1, 1995
    Rwanda – since May 22, 1996
    Saudi Arabia
    Uganda – January 1, 1995

    and last but not least… drum roll please!…


    We should demand that before entering WTO, Russia must become just like Zimbabwe or Nigeria or Burma or Communist Cuba!

    On the positive side, if Russia is allowed into WTO, USA will then have a right to mount an economic blockade against it, like it does against Cuba… That’s what free trade is all about: economic boycotts!

    Comment by Ostap Bender — December 15, 2010 @ 4:25 am

  16. > We should demand that before entering WTO, Russia must become just like Zimbabwe or Nigeria

    I bet you thought you were joking. A sad fact is, Russia has some work to do to rise to the level of Zimbabwe or Nigeria:

    Comment by Ivan — December 15, 2010 @ 5:55 am

  17. Actually Russia is pretty similar to Zimbabwe, the only differences being nukes and oil.

    Both have a dictatorial government masquerading as a democracy, both are full of racist pigs like Ostap, and both use the police and judiciary to silence all opposition and encourage racist nationalists.

    Both are amongst the most corrupt nations (and peoples) on earth, both have are a police state, and both are hell holes.

    Comment by Andrew — December 15, 2010 @ 5:57 am

  18. Andrew, you’re getting crazier by the moment. You and Ivan sound like brothers, and that’s not a compliment. They hate Saakashvili because he won’t do as he’s told, eh? Couldn’t have anything to do with the way the west panders to him even though he bragged to an international audience that crime in Georgia is so low, people don’t even lock their doors, could it? How about just this past June, when he projected that Georgia would be “as rich as Dubai” in a maximum of 7 years? That’d be annual economic growth of at least 39%. Sound realistic to you? It probably does; that’s the sad part. Well, you carry on marching up and down in front of your life-size picture of Misha. He’s the west’s pet criminal.

    Russia will always be just like Zimbabwe to you, which goes a long way to explaining your Pavlovian salivation at La Russophobe. Do carry on hurling insults from the doorstep of the biggest debtor nation on the planet, and say your prayers that your best buddy – China, one of the most repressive nations on earth, you make a good couple – doesn’t call in its notes. If that happens, you might be washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant for the rest of your life.

    Comment by Mark — December 15, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  19. Mark,

    let me see if I got your point correctly: Russian fascism is good because China is one of the most repressive nations and the US has the biggest debt?

    Comment by Ivan — December 15, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  20. “Fascists believe that a nation is an organic community that requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong”.

    Who does that sound more like – Russia, or the United States? Defend your answer, please, using examples. I’m not interested in what happened 60+ years ago, unless you want to go all the way back to the American Revolution as well. Let’s say, the last 20 years. I’m doing you a favour there, because you won’t have to get tangled up explaining Vietnam – oddly enough, much of the rhetoric used to gain public support was exactly the same as the Iraq war: we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here, and if we back out before the job is done, they’ll follow us home. Looks pretty stupid now, doesn’t it? There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that America left before the job was done, and how many Viet Cong followed the retreating forces home? Anyway, that’s straying from the point, because Vietnam was more than 20 years ago.

    “They oppose liberalism (as a bourgeois movement) and Marxism (as a proletarian movement) for being exclusive economic class-based movements.” Discuss, please, with emphasis on American views of liberalism and the current “Tea Party” movement. While you’re at it, explain how a country that was so recently Marxist could now be fascist.

    Take your time, and give it some thought. Because for one, it’s apparent you don’t know what fascism is, except that people don’t like to be identified with it, so it must be a good insult to use against Russia. For another, you didn’t get anything of my previous point. I never mentioned “Russian fascism”, because I would know better. The comparison between the USA and China was intended merely to stress the way in which America – and not all of it by a long stretch, just the Russophobic element and the Cold War dinosaurs – feels it can swagger around and play the tin god when it’s in hock up to its eyebrows to a nation that its own human-rights organizations describe as among the most repressive on the planet.

    Comment by Mark — December 15, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

  21. Ivan,

    You actually believe these propagandist rankings, designed to badmouth America’s future victim countries? Wow. I am impressed that you can use the internet, despite your severe handicap.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — December 15, 2010 @ 6:40 pm

  22. Andrew wrote: “Actually Russia is pretty similar to Zimbabwe… both are hell holes.

    Let me see. One million Georgians, i.e. 20% of the Georgian population, have run away from Georgia and live in the “hell hole” of Russia.

    If Russia is a “hell hole” and like Zimbabwe, then your Georgia must be 1000 times worse than Zimbabwe.

    One reason for that is that Georgians tend to elect crazy fascists like Gamsakhurdia and Saakashvili.

    But I surmise that another reason why Georgians are so poor is because the Georgian government wastes all its national resources on paying salaries to inept propagandists like yourself. You claim that you work for a construction company, but the readers of La Russophobe know that you spend your entire day posting tens of thousands of lines of spam to her and other blogs. I bet you spend at least 16 hours per day researching and posting. And yet you claim that your “construction” employer pays you very well and is very happy with your construction work. Sure, sure.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — December 15, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

  23. Oh now Ostap, you posted a far greater number of articles on LR than I ever did, before you got banned for lying. If I spend 16 hours a day, you must spend at least 22 little man.

    Of course the fact that you claimed to be posting from a programmers job in California when the time of your posts was around 3 or 4 in the morning PST springs to mind.

    No wonder your wife left you.

    BTW, Putin is a far greater fascist than Saakashvili would ever be. Look at Chechnya, Ingushetia, Daghestan, and the mountain of dead women and kids he is responsible for. Then there is his presiding over ethnic cleansing of course….

    @ Mark, I did not vote for Saakashvili, but he was (especially when compared to your love interest Putin) democratically elected. All politicians make unrealistic promises, look at Putin for example, the war in the Caucasus was over according to him quite some time agao, and what do we have? a 100% increase in violence, Putin claimed that Moscow would be the worlds great financial center by 2010 back in 2004, Putin claimed that he would reduce corruption (which has gotten worse)/ Medvedev promised to reduce corruption (got even worse), Putin and Medvedev promised to catch the killers of Politkovskaya, Estimirova, Markelov and many more murdered or crippled journalists and human rights activists (nothing has been done).

    Meanwhile Saakashvili, for all his faults, has massively reduced corruption in Georgia, greatly improved the financial situation of the majority of Georgians, reformed the Police to the point where they have an 80% approval rating (compared to the 20% of the Russian police), and many other positive developments.

    Comment by Andrew — December 16, 2010 @ 6:25 am

  24. Hi Andrew,

    I recall you claimed that Pushkin loved Russia-haters like you and hated Russia. Well, here is what he wrote 200 years ago to scum like you:

    ?.?. ??????

    ??????????? ??????.

    ? ?????????? ?? ???…
    ?? ??? ?? ????????????; ?? ?? ??,
    ??? ?? ?????????? ???????? ??????
    ?? ?? ???????? ?????? ????
    ????, ??? ??? ??????? ???
    ?? ?? ??, ??? ? ?????? ????????
    ?? ?????????? ??? ????????? ?????
    ? ????? ?????? ????????
    ?????? ?????????, ????? ? ????….

    ?? ?????? ?? ?????? – ?????????? ?? ????!
    ??? ?????? ????????, ???????? ?? ???????,
    ?? ? ????? ????????? ???? ??????????? ????!
    ??? ???????? ???? ??? ????????? ??????
    ??? ??? ? ??????? ??????? ?????
    ??? ??????? ?? ????? ??????
    ??? ???? ???? ??? ?? ????? ?? ???????,
    ?? ??????? ??????? ???? ?? ????????? ???????,
    ?? ???????????? ??????
    ?? ???? ?????????? ?????,
    ???????? ??????? ???????,
    ?? ??????? ??????? ??????…
    ??? ????????? ? ???, ?????,
    ????? ??????????? ?????:
    ???? ????? ?? ? ????? ??????
    ????? ???????? ?? ??????.

    Yes, 200 years later, there is still more coffins room in the Russian fields for the haters of Russia. Come and get them! Hitler did, and look what happened to him… Well, actually, he didn’t need a coffin. He barbequed.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — December 16, 2010 @ 6:25 am

  25. “Of course, I loathe my homeland from head to toe,,,”
    from Pushkin’s letter to Vyazemsky, 1826

    But never mind Ostap, you are almost always wrong so we can safely ignore you.

    And how are your forays into the rainbow underground in Moscow going?

    I notice that you are posting at 6.25am, early finish at the truck stop job night shift if you are in the US.

    PS did you like all the wikileaks that point out how Russia was taking all sorts of illegal actions in Georgia for years before the war?

    Oh by the way, the Russia you love so much is the heart of the Neo-nazi world, old Adolf would be soooo proud.

    BTW, I sincerely doubt that you are the child of Soviet era Jewish dissidents, most likely given the nature of your posts they were relatives of Yehzov or Yagoda….

    Comment by Andrew — December 16, 2010 @ 6:42 am

  26. Oh and Ostap bender boy, the Russian governments official stats for Georgians living in Russia is around 197,000 with maybe 300,000 undocumented workers. Not the 1,000,000 you previously claimed, then again you were saying 4,000,000 in one post on LR.

    Interestingly Georgia does better on pretty much every major index (including life expectancy and birth rates) than Russia, falling behind of course in family incomes. What does surprise me is that they are so much healthier than Russians despite being so much poorer. Of course it could be that the Russians are lying (as usual) and that the fact that around 99% of wealth is held in the hands of Putin’s cronies…….

    Comment by Andrew — December 16, 2010 @ 6:47 am

  27. Mark,

    > I never mentioned “Russian fascism”, because I would know better.

    Of course you don’t mention Russia fascism – you are trying to sweep it under the rug by bringing up irrelevancies like US debt.

    Here is some for you: .

    Take your time, come up with something more creative this time.

    Comment by Ivan — December 16, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

  28. “I did not vote for Saakashvili, but he was (especially when compared to your love interest Putin) democratically elected.”

    So were Putin and Medvedev. International observers did not find enough evidence of fraud to substantiate either election was not democratic, and the Russian elections were no less democratic than those in Iraq under U.S. occupation, when there were thousands of foreign troops to quell any unrest. Most of the OSCE’s complaint with the Putin’s reelection was that he used his influence to pressure Russians to vote for him. So what? The Republicans under Bush did the same thing, also using vote-caging to suppress the minority vote, phone-jamming on Democratic party get-out-the-vote lines and threatening free speech. Remember Bush saying on international TV after the incident featuring the Dixie Chicks that “They can say what they want to say … they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out … Freedom is a two-way street” which almost wrecked their careers, even though they were absolutely right? What else did the OSCE complain about? “Media coverage strongly in favour of the ruling party”. Are you shitting me? Have you ever watched FOX News? Oh, wait – did Boris Nemtsov say the election was unfair? Here’s a tip: the opposition who doesn’t win ALWAYS claims fraud.

    I would not dispute that violence in the Caucasus remains a serious problem, but I believe I addressed that when I mentioned that outside special interests are funding and supporting radical Islamic fundamentalism in the Caucasus because it suits their purposes to keep Russia destabilized and to give them bad press coverage. Russia is spending more in security costs and public image on the Caucasus than the region is worth, but it has little choice because if it granted Caucasian independence, the region would (a) not immediately quiet down and become peaceful, and (b) the violence would move up to whatever was the new Russian border.

    “Meanwhile Saakashvili, for all his faults, has massively reduced corruption in Georgia, greatly improved the financial situation of the majority of Georgians, reformed the Police to the point where they have an 80% approval rating (compared to the 20% of the Russian police), and many other positive developments.”

    Unless Saakashvili has markedly reduced corruption in the past week, he has done nothing of the sort. Recent Georgia news quote Transparency International’s report that Georgian government-appointed state prosecutors have more power than judges. The independent media has shrunk steadily under Saakashvili. In fact, Transparency International issued a rebuke to Georgia in 2009 and asked that they not be quoted as supporting Saakashvili’s assertions regarding alleged reduction of corruption, saying Georgia’s position on the index had hardly moved at all.

    How has Saakashvili greatly improved the financial situation of the majority of Georgians? Minimum wage in Georgia is a tenth what it is in Russia, which by your estimation is just like Zimbabwe with oil and nuclear weapons. Foreign Direct Investment continues to fall

    while the deficit continues to widen

    as the currency is devalued further and interest rates go up.

    But according to you, Georgia does better on pretty much every major index than Russia – except family incomes!! What do Georgian families use to feed themselves; coloured beads? The financial situation is steadily worsening, and the IMF’s forecast for 2011 is another drop in growth rate.

    Comment by Mark — December 16, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

  29. Ivan….Jesus. What are we going to do with you? I carefully explained fascism to you, but you still don’t get it. You figure if you can supply a picture of some people giving a stiff-armed salute or what appears to be such a gesture, it proves the country is fascist. All right – so be it. Russia is fascist. So is Georgia – here’s a cute picture of Saakashvili sporting a Hitler mustache.

    Oh, and the USA is fascist, too.

    It even has a fascist president, although I’m pretty sure no Negroes were allowed in the Nazi party.

    Here’s a preview of next week’s discussion, when we prove Dustin Hoffman is a woman.×700.jpg&imgrefurl=

    Comment by Mark — December 16, 2010 @ 5:33 pm

  30. Mark, you really are a cretin.

    Compared to 2003 when he took office, Georgia has had a major reduction in corruption over the last 7 years.

    I know you are just another lying Russophile or Russian wanker, but here are the facts.

    In 2003 Georgia ranked 133 out of 145 in Transparency Internationals Corruptions Perceptions index. In 2010 it ranked 68 out of 178. Russia meanwhile languishes at 154 out of 178 tied with such paragons of virtue as the Congo.

    And what Transparency International actually had to say about Georgia:

    But in its 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, the corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) says statistical data also attests to the fact that a remarkable transformation has taken place over the past several years in Georgia as the government of Mikheil Saakashvili has pursued aggressive anticorruption reforms in the public service sector.

    “There is no other country at the moment where more people see a decrease in corruption in their country, and where more people say the government is effective in fighting corruption,” says Mathias Huter, a senior analyst with TI’s Georgia office. “I think this is an indication that the Georgian government’s efforts to fight petty corruption have been very successful.”

    Meanwhile in Russia corruption continues to increase causing Transparency international to label it one of the most corrupt nations on earth

    As for your asinine comment that “outside forces” are destabilising the north Caucasus to keep Russia weak and divided, sorry retard, but Russia does not need any help in that regard. Russia’s own racist oppressive policies do that without any help from “outside forces”, and of course the fact that the rebels can simply buy weapons from the local corrupt Military forces does not help either…..

    Comment by Andrew — December 17, 2010 @ 12:32 am

  31. Oh and one other thing Mark, I know you have proven yourself to be, well not too bright, or honest for that matter, but has it occurred to you that maybe one of the main reasons for the reduced investment in Georgia could be the global financial crisis?

    Comment by Andrew — December 17, 2010 @ 1:39 am

  32. Ha, ha, ha – Andrew, if nothing else, you are comical. Your scratching around to find something positive to say is good for a chuckle, and as usual the more untenable your position, the more gratuitous insulting takes place. Clearly you fancy yourself quite an intellectual, as everyone who doesn’t agree with you – regardless how well they can substantiate their position – is “stupid” or “not too bright” or “a retard”. So far, I have yet to get a sense that I’m up against a superior mind, but feel free to keep trying if you wish; in order for your insults to wound, your opinion would have to matter.

    All, every last bit, of Transparency International’s data from Georgia comes from state offices controlled directly by the government. Maybe you think that’s okay, given your touching faith in Misha’s honesty, although I suspect you’d view it differently if all Russia’s Transparency International data came from the Kremlin. But if you’re willing to believe Misha has cleaned house on corruption in a country that has western cash literally poured into it, but the currency value keeps going down while the interest rates go up while the level of FDI sinks, you’d be just as likely to believe that country was run by leprechauns.

    Gee….the global financial crisis. That never occurred to me. It’s odd how the country that was constantly jeered at for being an energy-dependent economy bounced back from the global-financial-crisis bogeyman almost a year ago, while progressive Georgia under the multilingual Misha-39%-growth continues to flounder in spite of frequent pep-talks from Auntie Hillary. Meanwhile Misha 39% continues to beaver away at the Constitution, crafting policies whereby much of the country’s power will devolve to the office of the Prime Minister once he can’t serve any longer as President. Sound familiar? Here’s a hint – you never tire of saying rude things about this country. Have a nice Christmas, Andrew.

    Comment by Mark — December 17, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  33. Meanwhile Misha 39% continues to beaver away at the Constitution, crafting policies whereby much of the country’s power will devolve to the office of the Prime Minister once he can’t serve any longer as President.

    Actually that’s not even comparable to Putin, because unlike Saakashvili he did not seek to increase the formal powers of the PM relative to the President.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — December 17, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

  34. Oh Michael, such a laugh.

    Evidence for your claims please?

    Oh thats right you don’t have any, maybe you forgot the part where Transparency international talks about “Public perceptions”.

    You really are a retard.

    The Transparency international data is gained through surveying the public, businesses and NGO’s and analysts, not through government departments.

    Another epic fail from you old chap.

    Now as for Sublime moron’s comment Actually that’s not even comparable to Putin, because unlike Saakashvili he did not seek to increase the formal powers of the PM relative to the President actually most of that was done at the request of the EU, in order to strengthen the parliament, not just the primeminister. Meanwhile, Putin did not need to transfer powers as he simply installed a puppet, and intends to return to the position of President in the near future according to reports (and his constant undermining of Medvedev on issues like corruption, democratization et all), however he did preside over ensuring the next President (probably himself) will have a far longer term, he has also presided over the destruction of free media in Russia, the destruction of the right to protest (in direct contrast to Georgia, see the 2009 protests in Tbilisi for details).

    As for calling you a liar, retarded, not too bright etc, well call a spade a spade, and a Russophile moron a Russophile moron I say.

    May your Christmas be what you deserve.

    Comment by Andrew — December 18, 2010 @ 12:34 am

  35. Under the new amendments, the president will retain control over the military as commander in chief, though the prime minister will gain greater influence over foreign and domestic policy making. The changes will simplify the procedure for impeaching the president.

    The Council of Europe, through its legal advisory body, expressed support for many of the amendments in comments released Friday, though they suggested that the measures did not go far enough in transferring authority to Parliament.

    Comment by Andrew — December 18, 2010 @ 12:44 am

  36. When the U.S. forces razed Fallujah to the last brick, killing more than a thousand, there was never a peep from the world community.

    Falluja was not razed, not even close, and the assault was covered – and criticised – widely by the press in the UK and Gulf States.

    Comment by Tim Newman — December 18, 2010 @ 3:34 am

  37. Andrew,

    You are the sickest, most infantile and most disgusting man that I have ever come across. I don’t know what mental illness made you make all these fantastic claims that you have poured above, but let me just mention that no, I am not gay. I just got disgusted and shocked by your story that you think that all Russian men are gay and how you stalked a gay bar in Tbilisi and when you saw a blond man leave it, you decided that he was Russian and beat him up, putting him in the hospital. I hope that the next time you try to do this, the police will teach you a lesson that you’ll never forget.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — December 18, 2010 @ 7:09 am

  38. Will Russia join ever WTO?

    Comment by Ostap Bender — March 2, 2011 @ 1:10 am

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