Streetwise Professor

August 7, 2009

Yermak Putin?

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:40 pm

In my post discussing the latest Putin Village People tryout pix, I mentioned that as bizarre as it seems to most Americans, Russians eat this stuff up.  A couple of articles discuss this phenomenon.

This one is from AP:

But the most astounding image was of 56-year-old Putin riding a horse through the mountains, his bare chest on full display.

While Americans may think of the Marlboro man, for Russians the more powerful association is the warrior heroes of Russian fairy tales who rode horseback and defended Russia from foreign invaders.

“They are trying to play on Russian folk traditions,” said Yevgenia Albats, editor of the political magazine New Times.

“The message is: I am the master of the Russian universe,” she said. “I go to our roots, to nature, the land that is not occupied by anyone. I am the one and only warrior in these lands.”

The shot of Putin posing in the tree drew comparisons to Nightingale the Robber, a character from a popular Russian folk epic who lives in a nest and has mystical powers. It was this picture that the Kremlin-friendly newspaper Izvestia put on its front page Wednesday, with more inside.

Or, Putin as Russian folk hero Yermak Timofeyevich, warrior conquerer of Siberia.

This part is pretty funny:

The latest photographs reignited discussion on Russian blogs about gays in Russia, with much of the debate devoted to whether the shoot presented Putin as something of a gay icon.

His 2007 camping trip with Prince Albert was satirically compared to the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” a love story about gay cowboys.

Ya think?

This article is from the St. Petersburg Times:

Surveys from the Levada Center, an independent polling agency, show that Putin’s approval ratings shot from zero to more than 70 percent in 1999 and have never dropped below 40 percent for any prolonged period since then. Recent polls provide ample evidence that Putin’s popularity has not suffered from the economic downturn that has hit the country hard since last fall. In fact, the figures may serve as a crushing defeat to predictions that the crisis could bring down or weaken his reign.

. . . .

For Russians, politics traditionally takes precedence over the economy, said Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist with the Russian Academy of Sciences. “The political factor is far more important — and Putin is not just perceived as the one who is in power but as the one who controls the siloviki,” she said, referring to the powerful clan of military and security service officials in the government.

Russians also harbor a lasting desire for strongman leadership as opposed to multipolar democracy, said Yekaterina Yegorova, head of the political consulting firm Nikkolo M and a veteran insider of the country’s political scene. “The notion that you take to the streets when you can no longer afford to buy meat does not correspond to the Russian psychology,” she said.

Yegorova argued that a much broader “unspoken contract” exists between a majority of the population and the leadership. “They want a type of father figure — a strong leader who takes responsibility and who makes important decisions for their lives — and in exchange they accept living according to certain rules,” she said.

Both articles suggest that Putin’s appeal is deeply atavistic.  Putin as the mythical hero.  Putin as the  Ð±Ð¾Ð»ÑŒÑˆÐ¾Ðº of the big Russian peasant household.

This is just another manifestation of the personalization of politics in Russia, and is of a piece with former fondness of figures like Stalin, and before that, the Tsars. It testifies to the weakness of impersonal institutions in Russia. In its atavism, its personalization, its anti-institutionalism, it reveals the immaturity of the Russian polity. This immaturity will not change soon, especially given the assiduous efforts of Putin and the siloviki to stoke the personality cult. And by strengthening the personalized, a-institutional nature of Russian state, Putinism will delay yet again Russia’s transition into a mature civil society and passably democratic polity.

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  1. As noted, Albats, Ryzhkov and Felgenhauer are modern day Russian versions of the Cold War era American views of Gus Hall and Angela Davis.

    Patriotically inclined people the world over have different and more positive views of their respective nations. Of this grouping, I agree on the need to support the patriotically responsible over the chauvinistic.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 7, 2009 @ 11:02 pm

  2. Cult of personality is the highest stage of democracy.

    (I’m actually semi-serious here).

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 8, 2009 @ 2:54 am

  3. […] still fretting over something the Russian Prime Minister had uttered during that engagement. Yermak Putin? – 08/08/2009 In my post discussing the latest Putin Village People tryout […]

    Pingback by Ладушки.Net » Blog Archive » Posts about Putin as of 08/08/2009 — August 8, 2009 @ 2:55 am

  4. I think Putin eats better than this:

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 8, 2009 @ 6:12 am


    I think I’d like to nominate your “comment” for the single stupidest ever added to a blog in human history.

    If you’d put down your vodka bottle a minute, you might realize Gus Hall and Angelea Davis were not Russians. Albats, Ryzhkov and Felgenhauer are the modern day Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and Sharansky, you hopelessly benighted idiot.

    If anyone is the modern day Hall and Davis, that would be the likes of YOU, cretin (it WOULD be, that is, if anyone in their right mind knew who the hell you are or cared — even Hall and Davis did more than leave bird-dropping-like comments on other people’s blogs).

    Try to think just a little before you write. Things will work out a lot better, I assure you.

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 8, 2009 @ 6:43 am

  6. An example of someone not practicing what they preach to some others.

    Hall and Davis were uncritically cited by America’s adversaries in a similar way that Ryzhkov, Albats and Felgenhauer appeal to individuals/entities like LR.

    Ryzhkov, Albats and Felgenhauuer aren’t at the level of Solzhenitsyn. If anything, the gap between LR (on the downside) and yours truly (significantly better) is even greater.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 8, 2009 @ 7:35 am

  7. Cutie Pie–

    I am willing to accept your premise. But to do so is to affirm my hypothesis that Russia is politically atavistic and illiberal, and doomed for the foreseeable future to its autocratic, underdeveloped (socially, politically, economically) equilibrium. For I would agree that liberal (in the classical sense) voices in Russia are as unrepresentative and marginalized (and, indeed, scorned) as the the illiberal voices of Hall and Davis were in the US. So much the better for us: so much the worse for Russia.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 8, 2009 @ 7:56 am

  8. I’ve come to understand that this is your premise Professor. You’re probably aware that a good number seem to consider Putin as a liberal.

    Among some others, I take a more upbeat look at the situation. McFaul and Brzezinski have said that in the long run, Russia will be okay. For them, the issue is what happens between now and the next 20-75 years. I concur with one difference. Unlike M & B, I don’t see Russia as so at fault with the overall status of that country’s realtionship with the West (the US in particular).

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 8, 2009 @ 8:06 am

  9. SP, I read your blog and you never give Putin/Medvedev any credit but at least give them credit for being fiscally responsible. Paying off the debt. Accumulating massive f/x reserves. etc

    Eleven years after Russia defaulted, investors want less to insure its debt than California’s… “If California is issuing their own dummy currency in the form of IOUs, that’s not a good sign,” said Augustus’ McNamara. Russia has an “extremely low” debt-to-GDP ratio of about 10 percent which is attractive to “any type of bond investor,” said Luis Costa, an emerging-market debt analyst at Commerzbank in London. “For as long as U.S. municipal and state governments are in trouble, I think this trend will continue.”

    Comment by lisa — August 8, 2009 @ 8:24 am

  10. Uhm, Lisa: I just wrote a post yesterday quoting the same article. Moreover, that is just one of several points going back over months criticizing the fiscal irresponsibility of the US, particularly under the current administration. Moreover, although I appreciate your reading the blog, I would point out that I have made the point that you raise in several posts going back to the very beginning of the crisis. I admit it hasn’t been a major theme, but I have made the point more than once. In particular, I’ve given Kudrin high marks for his fiscal probity. Further, I have pointed out that there was a change in the tenor of Putin’s policy: relatively enlightened early on (esp. re-tax reform), then becoming increasingly retrogressive, esp. post-2003, with Khodorkovsky being the watershed. My main criticism of Putinism is not on its macroeconomic/fiscal aspects, but on its microeconomic/institutional aspects, most notably its blatant hostility towards property rights and individual rights generally. In my view, although macroeconomic policy is important, the long run prospects of the country are far more dependent on its development of a stable, constructive institutional structure that protects individuals and their wealth and property from the predations of the state. And on this ground, Putin has been an abject failure.

    Cutie Pie. That “good number” is delusional. Or, perhaps, by comparison to other siloviki and assorted knuckle-draggers in Russia, Putin is liberal. Again, so much the worse.

    I am not sure of the specific M & B writings you refer to. Given the demographic situation alone, I could hardly credit anyone who took a rosy view of Russia’s “long run” prospects. And if takes the next 75 years to get to the long run, Keynes comes to mind: in the long run, we are all dead. Certainly, it is quite safe for 50+ year olds to make predictions about conditions in 75 years, as by then Keynes’s long run will have arrived for them, and they need not fear hearing any criticism. Even over the 20-75 year horizon, I find it hard to be sanguine. The “bad equilibrium” theory–the path dependence–that I have emphasized is self-reinforcing, and will be very hard to escape; indeed, I think even you and rkka and S/O have agreed to that diagnosis. Looking at Medvedev is perfect proof. From time to time he says sensible things, re legal nihilism, the need to encourage entrepreneurialism, and just this week, the questioning of the dominant role of state corporations. Yet, nothing changes. Nothing. The President of the Russian Federation talks, and it’s as influential as blah, blah, blah. This is because all of these things are antithetical to the entire politico-economic structure. So Medvedev can speak, but I wouldn’t lay any odds on Medvedev’s political–and perhaps personal–survival were he to dare to act on these words.

    Re Russia’s fault. If you can’t see how Russia’s truculence, its all-gall-no-sugar approach to dealing with every fricking nation on the planet, has undermined its relationship with the West and about everybody else, you need a new prescription. Russia has the best friends money can buy. And only them.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 8, 2009 @ 9:03 am

  11. S/O–there is a sense in which personality cults–demagogy–are the acme of a certain type of democracy. This has been a criticism of democracy back to Greek times. And, it continued through to the time of the Founding, which is why most founders were republicans, not democrats, in the philosophical meanings of the terms. And it’s why I’m not a “democrat” in the strict sense.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 8, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  12. Professor

    Well, “friends” are often the result of $ clout. There’s also the somewhat famous line about Britain not having “friends” but “interests.” (without checking, Disraeli?)

    You might recall a comment an American UN diplomat said a few years back to a Yemeni official after the latter’s country didn’t support a US proposed agenda at the Security Council (The comment noted how such a Yemeni stance would limit US aid to Yemen).

    Russia’s $ clout has limits in addition to not always having been correctly placed. This goes for some Russian policies not exclusively related to $ as well.

    Saying all this, shouldn’t overlook the fault-lines of others.

    My M & B reference refers to what they’ve said on the talking head pundit shows.

    In the Russian political sense, Putin has been referred to as a liberal. The “liberals” you seem to like have that element regarding my reference to Angela Davis and Gus Hall. On the other hand, people like Alexi Arbatov and Vladimir Lukhin show liberal instincts, while not appearing so hostile to Russia. The same can be said of Anatol Lieven.

    Seeking a progression in Russia’s development with biased tweaks against that country is counter-productive – especially when it includes a displayed preference for folks fitting that image.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 8, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  13. Cutie Pie–Please don’t be so obtuse. I added the sentence “And only them” (referring to friends money can buy) for a very specific reason. It is inevitable, that when dealing with the Yemens of the world, that cultural and political affinity, and a shared set of ideals, don’t mean squat. Those kind of friends can only be bought–or I should say, rented. The United States, however, also has a broad and deep set of friends and allies whose affinity extends beyond the mercenary. These friendships and alliances are based in part on interest, but they are also built on a foundation of shared values and ideals, and a cultural affinity. Russia has nothing like that. Nothing. That’s the difference, and it’s as plain as day.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 8, 2009 @ 11:25 am

  14. LISA:

    Though you don’t realize it, your comment is far harsher on Russians than anything that SWP has said.

    You search for a way to praise the Putin regime, and the best you can come up with is that they didn’t throw the oil windfall into the garbage. Not that they invested it well, not that they managed the economy to avoid the need to blow through the surplus like wildfire, just that they didn’t spend the WHOLE surplus on beer and skittles.

    That’s about as damning as it gets. In fact, there are many allegations that Putin has stolen billions from the treasury, and elaborate economic analysis by very serious people has shown that the Russian economy would be FAR better off without Putin.

    Even about Hitler you can say things like “he made the trains run on time.” Sheer random chance, even if Russia were having decisions made by a monkey, would produce SOME good outcomes SOME times.

    But Russia still doesn’t rank in the TOP 150 nations of the world for adult lifespan, it still doesn’t have ANY friends in the civilized world, it’s still HATED by its neighbors, Russians still work for $3/hour and the men don’t live to see 60. That’s failure any way you cut it, and your statements only help to rationalize rather than reform that failure. Shame on you.

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 8, 2009 @ 12:35 pm

  15. PS. Speaking of Gus Hall, I had a look at his Wiki entry:

    On July 22, 1948 Hall and 11 other Communist Party leaders were indicted under the Smith Act on charges of “conspiracy to teach and advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence,” although his conviction was based on Hall’s advocacy of Marxist thought. He spent eight years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.[1] The U.S. Supreme Court later reversed some convictions under the Smith Act as unconstitutional.

    This despite that he volunteered for and served in the Navy during WW2. Not exactly a bright side of US history. Post-late 1980’s no Russian was imprisoned, not for eight years anyway, “advocacy” of any ideology, AFAIK.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 8, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

  16. For I would agree that liberal (in the classical sense) voices in Russia are as unrepresentative and marginalized (and, indeed, scorned) as the the illiberal voices of Hall and Davis were in the US.

    Who are you, (or I), to judge who is liberal and who is illiberal? Does not this process of judgment and labeling make us ourselves illiberal? And do those we label “illiberal” deserve to be repressed, while those we label “liberal” ought to be lauded (the question being, why do you point this out? as justification?)? Do not these authoritarian attitudes in fact make you illiberal?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 8, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

  17. The last part of the above post on “immaturity” can be critically followed up on as well.

    Suggesting a greater maturity while
    – making references to the Russian FM as a “tarantula”
    – looking at differences from an overly tilted perspective
    – which include downplaying provocative acts against Russia

    is chutzpa galore.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 8, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

  18. S/O. Oh God. You’re going all POMO again on me. No. As a matter of fact rendering judgment does not imply illiberality. Non-judgmental political correctness is NOT liberal in the classical sense, only in the modern, and decidedly illiberal, “progressive” mind.

    Get out of Berkeley while there’s still time. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

    And no, those who are illiberal do not deserve repression, nor have I EVER advocated it, unless it is necessary to constrain them from repressing others, and then not on the basis of thought or word, but on the basis of repressive acts–acts that deprive others of their lives, liberty, property, or expression without their consent. It is that issue of consent that is the true essence of liberalism. I have every right to judge someone’s conduct, but I have no right, based on that judgment or anything else, to compel him to do anything against his consent. And even if said person trespasses against another’s rights, neither I nor that individual have the unilateral right to exact punishment. Which is why classical liberals place high value on due process and constraining the ability of the state or individuals from depriving others of life, liberty, property, etc.

    Cutie Pie. I call ’em like I see ’em. You may not like it. Oh well. Breaks me all up. I don’t know if I can go on.

    FYI, Making harsh judgments that you happen to disagree with is not coterminus with immaturity. I think you’re completely wrong most of the time; that doesn’t mean I think you are immature.

    I find it quite hilarious that you have such a bee in your bonnet about the Lavrov thing. You know what they say. If you can’t take a joke . . .

    If you’ll notice, I’m quite scathing, sarcastic, etc. about people in authority generally. Lavrov gets off easy compared to Geithner, for example. The powerful especially need to be cut down to size, and sometimes sarcasm, satire, and black humor are the best ways to do that.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 8, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

  19. Professor

    Putin’s recent vacation footage isn’t so radically different than the shots of Reagan on horse, Ford swimming, Ike golfing and a number of other examples.

    It seems to me that many Americans and Russians prefer that image of a leader, which explains why we see such shots.

    You seem to yearn to radically change Russia. In a number of ways, Russia is like us. You seem to like sports and so do they. You seem to feel that America has the right to throw its weight in some instances around and they feel that they can do likewise.

    On a somewhat related point, I received a note that Pat Buchanan said the following on this weekend’s McLaughlin Group:

    “Russians are our natural allies…. We should stay out of their backyard.”

    Before jumping all over him, keep in mind that Russia counterattacked against the Georgian government strike on South Ossetia. Russia didn’t attempt to overthrow Saakashvili. In its counterattack, Russia justly took out Georgian military assets.

    On referring to diplomats by other species, some people who’ve served in American government have privately referred to Holbrooke, Solana, Albright and some others along the lines of termite, jackass, cockroach, swine and slug.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 8, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

  20. Sissy Pie

    Russia didn’t attempt to overthrow Saakashvili.

    You cannot be serious.

    Comment by peter — August 9, 2009 @ 3:47 am

  21. Note that the “Sissy Pie” comment comes from someone who at another SWP thread presented a disingenuous display of civil etiquette advocacy.

    The 2008 Russian counterattack was limited to replying to (as opposed to initiating) an armed attack. Thereafter, Russian forces took out Georgian militaty assets and within a short period withdrew back to their previous position.

    They didn’t enter the Georgian capital.

    After the Russian counterattack, it was the Georgian government which decided to break relations with Russia and leave the CIS.

    The objective of the Russian counterattack was in opposition to an existing military action and not a calculated effort to overthrow an existing government. This manner is similar to the 1991 war concerning Iraq’s attack on Kuwait and the 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. In all three of these conflicts, the stated intention and actual military action wasn’t for the purpose of overthrowing internationally recognized governments.

    For accuracy sake, this point shouldn’t be confused with the hope that the involved governments (Milosevic, Saddam and Saakashvili) would soon be out of office.

    BTW, if the Georgian government didn’t intiate an attack on South Ossetia, there’s good reason to believe that the Russian independence recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia wouldn’t have occurred shortly after the Georgian counterattack.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 9, 2009 @ 5:11 am

  22. Oops Mike, I forgot you don’t understand a word of Russian. The English version of the Kommersant article I linked to is here.

    Comment by peter — August 9, 2009 @ 6:00 am

  23. Cutie Pie–Your revisionist tripe (and I cleaned that up–don’t want be be immature, dotcha know) is exceedingly tiresome. As I wrote in a variety of posts during and after the war, all of these Russian narratives that you parrot so faithfully start at the end, not at the beginning, leaving out myriad Russian provocations in the years leading up to 8/8/8 (or 8/7/8, depending on your perspective) and considerable evidence of Russian planning aforethought. And to deny any Russian intent to displace Saakashvilli is beyond belief. What about “hang him by his balls” don’t you get? (Is Putin immature? Inquiring minds want to know your opinion!)

    And answer this one question, please: If Russia was intervening merely to protect South Ossetia from a Georgian invasion, why did it invade Georgia via Abkhazia. Using, I might add, recently reconstructed rail lines that one of your betes noir Pavel Felgenhauer accurately predicted would be used for exactly that purpose.

    And about that screen name. Did Putin give it to you? That would explain a lot.

    Re your earlier comment, let’s all join in a chorus of Sting’s “The Russian’s Love Their Children Too.” They like sports, we like sports–Kumbaya!

    I have no desire to change Russia radically. I think the world would be a better place if it did change in certain ways, but also recognize that when it comes to Russia radical change is usually a change for the worse, as hard as that is to believe.

    No, I am not so presumptuous as to think that I can change Russia one way or another by an iota. It is in a stable equilibrium. (Death is a stable equilibrium too; the difference being that there could be shocks that could displace Russia to another equilibrium; it’s just that my writing ain’t one of them.) I just (a) find it a fascinating case study of the role of institutions, or lack thereof, in contributing to the development of a healthy, vibrant society, and (b) want to contribute, if only in a small way, to making Americans and others who might stumble across this blog aware of the malign nature of the Russian polity.

    And speaking of the malign–thanks for the Pat Buchanan quote! Always enjoy a good laugh on a Sunday morning. It’s very revealing to know that Russia’s most vocal backers in the US include anti-Semitic authoritarians.

    And, Mr. Buchanan appears to be confused as to what constitutes a “backyard” and the rights associated therewith. I own my backyard. That’s why its MY backyard. Mr. Buchanan appears to be unclear on the concept of ownership, when he asserts that independent countries are Russia’s backyard, implying its ownership or sovereignty. My neighbors backyard borders mine, but it’s HIS backyard, not mine; proximity does not confer ownership, and I have no business telling him what he can do there or whom he can befriend just because of said proximity.

    Finally, the anniversary of Moltov-Ribbentrop is coming up in about 3 weeks. How are you going to celebrate?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 9, 2009 @ 8:47 am

  24. The same way you “celebrate” the Western appeasement of Czechoslovakia.

    Your troll pal “Peter” has been unable to refute the reality presented. Hence the troll like antics. Once again, hoping for someone to leave the scene isn’t the equivalent of actively engaging in an overthrow. The Russian counterattack drove back a Georgian government strike and then took out a good portion of the attacker’s military assets. This manner fell short in seeking to overthrow Saakashvili.

    I don’t think that Pat Buchanan suggests himself as being more “anti-Semitic” than La Ruusophobe (who you link) shows herself/himself/whatever as being anti-Russian. I get the impression that I’m more consistent than yourself on issues of intolerance.

    Encouraging hostility towards Russia has its limits as public opinion polls in Ukraine show.

    So what if Russia attacked via Abkhazia as well. This was done after the Georgian government strike on South Ossetia.

    Your suggestion that I 100% parrot a Russian government line is absurd.

    Have fun uncritically citing Felgenhauer, Ryzhkov and Albats.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 9, 2009 @ 9:49 am

  25. Re: “Re your earlier comment, let’s all join in a chorus of Sting’s ‘The Russian’s Love Their Children Too.’ They like sports, we like sports–Kumbaya!”


    The above reflects a partial excerpt on how the discussed photo shots of Putin aren’t radically different from how American leaders have revealed themselves to the public.

    It’s not off base to balasnce the discussion by noting the similarities which some seem to deemphasize while trumping up differences.

    It has been said that in general, Russians resemble Americans in a way that others don’t.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 9, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  26. “Albats, Ryzhkov and Felgenhauer are the modern day Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and Sharansky, you hopelessly benighted idiot.” Why does LR love the young Solzhenitsyn and despise the old Solzhenitsyn who vigorously opposed forcing NATO membership down the throats of Ukrainians?

    “You search for a way to praise the Putin regime, and the best you can come up with is that they didn’t throw the oil windfall into the garbage.” Actually LR, Kudrin invested a lot of the oil windfall into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paper, a point the Professor and all other right thinking Americans (including your likely bosses in respectable think tank D.C.) prefer not to discuss. Lest LR have to admit that Russian companies and central bankers lost money on their American investments, particularly in the steel industry.


    “My neighbors backyard borders mine, but it’s HIS backyard, not mine; proximity does not confer ownership, and I have no business telling him what he can do there or whom he can befriend just because of said proximity.” When the Chicom “advisors” start arriving in Venezuela in droves to help Chavez ‘secure’ his pipeline to pump heavy crude to Peru, I’ll watch for your response. I doubt you’ll say that every government is free to pick its allies and military alliances then.

    Comment by Steve J. Nelson — August 9, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  27. The ape-like ignorance of SUBLIME DURAK regarding basic facts of Russian history is really quite breathtaking, but not at all suprising. Most of Russia’s so-called “friends” know nothing about the country.

    Solzhenitsyn was expelled by Russia as a traitor, in his time condemned exactly as Albats, Ryhzhov and Felgenhauer are condemned now, recognize only in the West. He was later proved right and rehabilitated when the government he attacked collapsed and disappeared. Isn’t it quite possible that Albats, Ryzhkov and Felgenhauer will meet the same fate (that is if Russia doesn’t kill them first as it has killed so many other patriots)? SUBLIME DURAK cannot admit of it, since he doesn’t know the facts upon which such a conclusion would be reached.

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 9, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  28. Expanding on Steve’s comment I would suggest that the oil revenue windfall went right into the siloviki pig trough over the years. It sure didn’t go towards infrastructure – highways construction or bringing internet access to the 80% that don’t have it – nor to diversifying the economy away from being held hostage to commodity cycles nor to advancing private property rights and the rule of law nor to cleaning up the courts and systemic corruption. Those little civil society touches do take spending money on. The Russian healthcare system is pretty crappy too. That’s not just a garbage can, it’s a landfill.

    And Sweetie, Pat Buchanan is a marginalized nothing in mainstream American politics, you get no points for inserting him.

    Photo-ops at Reagan’s or Bush’s ranches were in an appropriate context as they actually did own ranches before becoming President and by golly could ride a horse. Stud muffin macho poseur Pootie striped to the waist flexing his flab, please, that is equivalent? You are pathetic. And, with every utterance looking more like a mindless shill, paid or otherwise.

    Poor Pootie, in ’03 BBC readers in the majority thought he looked like Dobby. Pootie threaten a lawsuit against the filmakers for the “alleged misuse of Putin’s image”(if that was indeed the basis of the suit, it is even more hilarious):

    I suggest it left permanent scars, Dobby must now do Rambo. By the way, most of the Russian LJ comments I read think he was playing to gays. Another miss for Pootie with Russia’s educated.

    Comment by penny — August 9, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  29. Sissy Pie

    … This manner fell short in seeking to overthrow Saakashvili.

    That’s the third time you’re saying the same thing, simply ignoring the fact that everybody (including ever-careful Kommersant) thinks just the opposite. It’s called argumentum ad nauseam or — in language you understand — a broken record argument.

    Comment by peter — August 9, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

  30. Cutie Pie–Here is a call out. You are a liar. Lima. India. Alpha. Romeo. I have NEVER celebrated appeasement. In fact, if you look at every G.D. post I wrote about M-R, and every comment I wrote–most in response to your drivel–I said that appeasement was a shabby, disreputable, dishonorable, and ultimately self-defeating act. And I also pointed out that this is the near universal judgment of every Western historian–with the possible exception of Pat Buchanan, your buddy (though calling him a historian is a joke)–to demonstrate the difference between the self-critical Western historical community, and the all-too-often uncritical Russian one.

    The ONLY issue that I debated was whether the dishonor of Munich was a sufficient justification for Stalin to join with Hitler to conspire to split eastern Europe between them. I never defended Munich.

    You, conversely, repeatedly (and tediously) defended Molotov-Ribbentrop.

    You want to talk that trash, back it up. Now.

    And, b/t/w, you choose Buchanan, I’ll gladly choose Felgenhauer et al any day of the week.

    “It has been said that in general, Russians resemble Americans in a way others don’t”–by whom? The lunatic living under a bridge wearing his underwear outside his pants that I pass from time to time? Give me some names, some quotes, and some specific examples. And then let the ridicule begin!

    By admitting that the Russian effort “fell short” of deposing Saakashvilli, you concede, contrary to your earlier representations, that it was attempting to do so.

    And the attack through Abkhazia is directly relevant to determining motives b/c merely protecting South Ossetia from a Georgian attack would not require an attack through Abkhazia.

    Steve–as it is on other subjects, your knowledge of economics is pitiful. Oil is a fungible commodity. Pumping it to Peru won’t have any appreciable impact on the price of oil in the US. Moreover, heavy crude like that in Venezuela is very difficult to refine, and in fact requires very specialized refinery investments. Like those in some US refineries. Where, pray tell, in Peru are they going to refine that oil? Or are they going to use it to fertilize the coca crop or something? And even if they (even with the aid of the “ChiComs”) spend billions to build the refineries, it won’t have any big impact on the price of refined products in the US, as refined products are also a fungible product traded in a global market. Such insanity would only involve Chavez cutting off his nose to spite his face. In other words, of things I worry about, that is on the order of about 10E9 on the list.

    Along similar lines, I don’t really care if the Russians help the Cubans drill for oil. Increasing the world supply works for me.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 9, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

  31. Troll Peter

    The “broken record argument” is on your part. You haven’t provided anything which substantively refutes my fact based stated overview of the Russian counterattack.

    For reference sake:


    On another recent point raised at this thread, Buchanan is by no means the only one in the US second guessing some core neocon/neolib views of the former USSR.

    On the more trivial, Putin is considerably less flabby than the jogging Bill Clinton.

    Some might also recall the apparently approved shot of Clinton and his wife hugging wearing swim wear. This was no doubt done in part to play down Bill’s rep.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 9, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

  32. @SWP,

    And no, those who are illiberal do not deserve repression, nor have I EVER advocated it, unless it is necessary to constrain them from repressing others, and then not on the basis of thought or word, but on the basis of repressive acts–acts that deprive others of their lives, liberty, property, or expression without their consent.

    Gus Hall was repressed (i.e. more than “marginalized” or “scorned”) on the basis of thought and word, i.e. advocating Marxism in McCarthy-era America. He was explicitly non-violent, saying “Socialism in America will come through the ballot box”. (That is quite understandable, of course. The US was afraid of the Soviet ideological threat and was willing to forsake classical liberal ideals to defend against itself from an alien poison. But that should not prevent us from recognizing it happened.)

    That is my first issue with your views – Hall and other commies were treated far worse in 1950’s America, than “liberals” are treated in Russia today.

    The second issue is that I cardinally disagree with you that those who say they are “liberals” are actually such in Russia, be it in the classical, progressive, or any other sense. – particularly recommended

    Tragically however, many Russian liberals in the 1990s—through the policies they supported and the arrogant contempt they showed towards the mass of their fellow Russians—made liberals unelectable for a generation or more across most of Russia; and to judge by these and other writings of liberals like the ones under discussion, they have learnt absolutely nothing from this experience. They think that they form some kind of opposition to the present Russian establishment. In fact, they are such an asset to Putin in terms of boosting public hostility to Russian liberalism that if they hadn’t already existed, Putin might have been tempted to invent them.

    Two aspects of their approach are especially noteworthy. The first is the profoundly illiberal—even McCarthyite—way in which Piontkovsky tries to disqualify views with which he disagrees by suggesting that they are motivated purely by personal financial gain, rather than conviction. Where, one wonders, would this leave all those Russian liberals, and U.S. think tanks, which took money from Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other Russian oligarchs in the past? Where would it leave those U.S. officials linked to leading U.S. private financial companies whose shares benefited so magnificently from the plundering of Russia in the 1990s? Where, indeed, does it leave Russians—like two of the writers under discussion—who draw their salaries from U.S. think tanks? Actually, I do believe that most are motivated by sincere conviction—but all the same, they would do well to remember the old adage about people who live in glass houses.

    The other is the intellectual sleight of hand by which Shevtsova, Gudkov and the others suggest—without arguing or substantiating the suggestion—that the desire of ordinary Russians for greater democracy and the rule of law equates both with hostility to the present Russian administration tout court, and to acquiescence in U.S. foreign-policy goals in Georgia and elsewhere. According to every opinion poll I have seen, it is entirely true that most Russians would like to see more of certain elements of democracy in Russia, including, as the authors mention, the rule of law and a freer media.

    But, according to the same polls, this certainly does not add up to approval of “democracy” as it was practiced under the Yeltsin administration, and praised by some of the authors. Georgy Satarov was, in fact, a top official in Yeltin’s political machine with direct responsibility for some of the undemocratic practices of that administration. What is also absolutely certain according to the same polls is that whatever their feelings about Russian domestic policies, the overwhelming majority of Russians support the basic foreign-policy line of the present Russian administration and oppose that of the United States vis a vis Russia. This is not to say that every American policy decision has been wrongheaded and Russia remains justified in all of its positions, but rather that people who blindly back a U.S. democracy-promotion line are doing an injustice to the very liberalization they seek.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 9, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

  33. comment swallowed

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 9, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

  34. Oops.


    In answer to your “call out,” you’re the liar for calling me such. I have never celebrated Molotov-Ribbentrop. Rather, I made analytical observations in what you term (when applied to yourself) as: I call it as I see it.

    My latest reply was an appropriate response to the rhetorical drivel you levied at me. When dishing out that kind of prose, expect to get the kind of response I gave.

    In a more lucid moment of yours, you wrote a post saying I raised a “cogent” point on the matter of M-R and Munich. Perhaps you’re a bit Jekyll and Hyde and/or at times influenced by the histrionics of some others who you’ve been soft on.

    Legendary (at least in some circles) talk radio host Barry Farber (an anti-Communist for sure) among others have said that Russians generally resemble Americans more than many other peoples. There’s a melting pot concept similarity in America and Russia when compared to some of the more ethnically homogenous countries out there. American patriots have come from different ethnic backgrounds. One can find this patriotic aspect in the Russian experience as well. Both countries have been major powers for lengthy periods in their respective existence. This has created a certain approach which has many Russians and Americans believing that their respective country has a key role to play in world affairs. On this point, I would add that the overall Russian attitude in recent times is in relation to its so-called “near abroad” as opposed to taking significant action farther away (a point acknowledging the limits of Russian clout). While being a major power that have attracted people from diverse backgrounds, Russia/Russians and America/Americans have been criticized by some smaller others for similar reasons.

    When counterattacking, there’s no rule saying you can’t do so from any number of areas.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 9, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  35. On the Russian and American similarity issue, besides Barry Farber: if I’m not mistaken, the late Paul Robeson is another person making the same observation – which has been expressed by some others over the years. The instances of Farber and Robeson involve individuals who otherwise reflect different views from each other.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 10, 2009 @ 12:13 am

  36. Not economics Professor, power, and projecting power is what we’re discussing. I don’t know what the ChiCom or Russian equivalent of the Jamestown Foundation is (or as I call them, the wannabe CIAers/ex-Sov defector old farts and pipeline obsessed wonks who might be paying for La Russophobe’s trash), but I suspect if they get active in America your buddies will be the first people screaming about it.

    This “every nation has the right to choose its own alliances” hypocrisy was my point, and has been my point from day one. There is simply no reciprocity in the Russophobe’s worldview. We Americans would never tolerate this type of crap on our borders (ditto for putting a missile defense radar/interceptors in Cuba). Why would we expect the Russians, regardless of who is in the Kremlin, to behave differently? Yeltsin also vigorously opposed the bombing of Serbia which was probably opposed by 70% of the Russian population and at least 65% of Ukrainians, and similar majorities in other Eastern Orthodox nations like Bulgaria. Just like Cutie Pie, I don’t expect Russians to be less patriotic than Americans.

    “By admitting that the Russian effort “fell short” of deposing Saakashvilli, you concede, contrary to your earlier representations, that it was attempting to do so.”

    This is gotcha lawyerese. Everyone here, save perhaps for peter, agrees that the road to Tblisi was wide open last August, despite Max Boot’s best efforts to advocate a quick transfer or anti-tank and (in my view, what would have become) anti-airliner missiles. The Russians chose not to march on the capitol and hang Saakashvili by the balls. The latter would have fled, probably back to NYC and Columbia where he started as a Soros protege before skedaddling to his friends in Washington, rather than stay and fight to the bitter end with all ten of his true followers after the rest of the cabinet fled. And please note, I am not denigrating the bravery of the Georgians, since rationally there was no reason for them to die for Saako — especially once it became clear Russia would protect South Ossetia and they would not be dying to defend their capitol either.

    As for the Professor’s repetitious point regarding Abkhazia: yes, Saako did order an attack on some border posts in 2006-2007 and openly told his cabinet ministers that he was considering moving the Georgian capitol to the “breakway province” (I guess Saako could see the appreciating value of Black Sea real estate too). In other words, Russia had strong evidence that the Georgians would have attacked Abkhazia next if they had not responded to the attack on Tskinval.

    Comment by Steve J. Nelson — August 10, 2009 @ 3:08 am

  37. And Cutie Pie is right about another thing — nothing shows the spectacular failure of all Western/Sorosian/Bzerzinskite efforts since the early Nineties to detach Ukraine from Russia better than the polling data showing Putin as the most popular politician in Ukraine, while Yuschenko is in the mid single digits. Putin remains the most popular politician in Ukraine in spite of public suffering during the gas cutoffs. Ouch.

    Maybe by 2100 when Mexico is a Chinese colony you’ll be able to detach Ukraine from its Russian-speaking majority. The Asia Times Spengler (really some guy named David Goldman) is the only Washington conservative with the cujones to point out to his Russophobic peers that Ukraine’s projected population decline is even worse than Russia’s (mostly due to emigration to the EU, not necessarily people dying off). In the meantime, I’d rather not have American boys dying in a Ukrainian civil war or fighting to save sorry ass Soros-made pols like Saako. No thanks LR, that is not a pro-American position. Regardless of Pat Buchanan’s misguided views on WWII and flirtations and anti-Israel (I won’t quite say anti-Semitic) views, he’s dead right about that one. A broken clock can be right twice a day.

    Comment by Steve J. Nelson — August 10, 2009 @ 3:14 am

  38. BTW, some Russians have argued that Russia should’ve gone after Saakashvili in conjunction with last year’s Russian counterattack. This position is similar to how some Americans and others felt vis-a-vis Saddam in the 1991 war against Iraq.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 10, 2009 @ 4:08 am

  39. Mike “Sissy Pie” Averko

    … my fact based stated overview of the Russian counterattack.

    As Professor already noted, your “overview” merely faithfully parrots the official Kremlin line. At your advanced age, you should know better than to buy anything Russia Today puts out — and while we’re at it, I too think that “Cutie Pie” is a rather distasteful nickname for a sixty years old egg-headed freak.

    Comment by peter — August 10, 2009 @ 4:33 am

  40. Steve J. Nelson

    … the road to Tblisi was wide open last August…

    Yes it was until Kouchner’s arrival. What exactly is your point?

    Comment by peter — August 10, 2009 @ 5:27 am

  41. Troll Peter

    In terms of your recent barrage of misinformative sleaze, let’s see the Professor live up to his recently stated advocacy.

    Regardless, in relationship to your incessant trolling at this and other venues, you reveal yourself as an extremely low form of life.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 10, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  42. Cutie-Pie. You defended M-R. Repeatedly. And you are still, wrong about it.

    OK, “Barry Farber”, whoever the hell that is.

    Steve–Nice way to try to wipe the egg off your face. After revealing your economic ignorance, you tell us that it wasn’t about economics at all. Whatever. Just how does your inane strategy of pumping Venezuelan oil to Peru (!) to be refined by what, llamas?, enhance anybody’s power? In fact, such a crack-brained scheme would actually be quite desirable for undermining Chavez.

    As for the rest of your tirade–blah, blah, blah And just who are “my buddies” anyways? And why do you and Ganske sound like twins separated at birth? Reading your stuff gives me deja vu from Ganske’s cameo back here in May. I’m sure that the DI connections have nothing to do with it.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 10, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  43. ….”incessant trolling on this”….

    And, the final score is Cutie Pie with 13 posts versus peter with 4 on this thread.

    Sweetie Pie, that comment isn’t working out for you.

    Comment by penny — August 10, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

  44. Professor

    I’ve clearly taken a Dr. Spock like approach on M-R, which analytically seeks to understand that agreement, while not celebrating it.

    In what I construed as a tongue and cheek manner on your part, you asked how I’d celebrate M-R. I rhetorically shot back with “celebrate” in quotes. You don’t agree with my take on M-R. At the same time, it’s inaccurate to say that I “celebrate” it having happened. This is true of contemoprary Russia as well.

    In the meantime, what happened to your recently stated advocacy of supporting people seeking a confidential standing as discussion participants? Note your recent use of the word “liar.”

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 10, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

  45. @SWP,

    I think my comment vanished c. #32-33. Is it in Akismet’s spam?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 11, 2009 @ 1:30 am

  46. Rewriting history isn’t something exclusively relegated to some Soviet and/or the categorized (whether real or imagined) neo-Soviet types.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 11, 2009 @ 2:22 am

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