Category Archives: Russia

Putin’s Annual Q&A Session 2015

Editor’s Note: Last night RT aired Putin’s annual marathon Q&A session. You can watch the full four hours, or you can read selected highlights in the links below (I’d go with this option). 

They Have “Propaganda,” US Has “Public Diplomacy” – and a Servile Private Sector

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

The Red Menace movie posterThe New York Times headline (4/15/15) paints a dire picture: Turmoil at Voice of America Is Seen as Hurting US Ability to Counter Propaganda

But wait a second–isn’t Voice of America itself a propaganda outlet? Not in the New York Times stylebook, apparently. The piece, by Ron Nixon, describes VOA as “the government agency that is charged with presenting America’s viewpoint to the world.” Later on, the Times refers to what it calls “America’s public diplomacy.”

The US’s enemies, on the other hand, have “sophisticated propaganda machines that have expanded the influence of countries like China and Russia and terrorist groups like the Islamic State.” The difference between “propaganda machines” and “public diplomacy” is never explained in the article, but the former appears to be what “they” do while the latter is what “we” do.’

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US, Russian War Games Rekindle Cold War Tensions

Jari Tanner and David Keyton report for the Associated Press:

[…] The four-week drill is part of a string of non-stop exercises by U.S. land, sea and air forces in Europe — from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south — scaled up since last year to reassure nervous NATO allies after Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. U.S. and Russian forces are now essentially back in a Cold War-style standoff, flexing their muscles along NATO’s eastern flank.

The saber-rattling raises the specter that either side could misinterpret a move by the other, triggering a conflict between two powers with major nuclear arsenals despite a sharp reduction from the Cold War era.

“A dangerous game of military brinkmanship is now being played in Europe,” said Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network, a London-based think-tank. “If one commander or one pilot makes a mistake or a bad decision in this situation, we may have casualties and a high-stakes cycle of escalation that is difficult to stop.”‘

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Putin: No one has ever succeeded in intimidating or pressuring Russia and no one ever will

Jonathan Steele Reviews ‘Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands’ by Richard Sakwa

Jonathan Steele writes for The Guardian:

When Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s prime minister, told a German TV station recently that the Soviet Union invaded Germany, was this just blind ignorance? Or a kind of perverted wishful thinking? If the USSR really was the aggressor in 1941, it would suit Yatsenyuk’s narrative of current geopolitics in which Russia is once again the only side that merits blame.

When Grzegorz Schetyna, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, said Ukrainians liberated Auschwitz, did he not know that the Red Army was a multinational force in which Ukrainians certainly played a role but the bulk of the troops were Russian? Or was he looking for a new way to provoke the Kremlin?

Faced with these irresponsible distortions, and they are replicated in a hundred other prejudiced comments about Russian behaviour from western politicians as well as their eastern European colleagues, it is a relief to find a book on the Ukrainian conflict that is cool, balanced, and well sourced. Richard Sakwa makes repeated criticisms of Russian tactics and strategy, but he avoids lazy Putin-bashing and locates the origins of the Ukrainian conflict in a quarter-century of mistakes since the cold war ended. In his view, three long-simmering crises have boiled over to produce the violence that is engulfing eastern Ukraine.’

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War with Russia More Possible Than Ever? Interview with Stephen Cohen

Editor’s Note: Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of ‘Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War‘. You can find more interviews and articles by Professor Cohen here.

Funny How Russian Propaganda, US Free Press Produce Exact Same Mood Swings

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

‘[…] Funny thing, though–the anti-American sentiment in Russia is pretty much a mirror image of anti-Russian sentiment in the United States, which has likewise risen to record heights since polling began roughly 25 years ago. Here’s the polling of Russians about the US:

RussiaPoll

And here’s the polling of Americans about Russia, from Gallup (2/16/15):

Gallup polling of US about Russia

Note that the spikes in hostility occur precisely together. The Post describes these as a “list of perceived slights from the United States”:

The United States and NATO bombed Serbia, a Russian ally, in 1999. Then came the war in Iraq, NATO expansion and the Russia-Georgia conflict. Each time, there were smaller spikes of anti-American sentiment that receded as quickly as they emerged.

But they could just as easily be described as a list of perceived slights by Russia toward the United States. On both sides, the population seems to object about equally to the rival nation using violence against a smaller country and the rival nation failing to endorse one’s own nation’s use of violence.’

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Rumours Claim Russian President Vladimir Putin has been ‘Neutralised’ by Coup

Editor’s Note: #WheresPutin mania has swept the internet over the past few days. The image to the right of the featured article pretty much highlights the lack of difference at times when it comes to the tabloid media and outlets that regard themselves as engaging in “serious” journalism in the online world of click-bait content.

Johnlee Varghese reports for the International Business Times:

‘It’s been over 10 days since Russian President Vladimir Putin was last seen in public, sparking several rumours, including the most recent being that he has been neutralised.

Amid claims that Putin has not been keeping well, Daily Mail, citing pro-Kremlin Islamic Committee chairman Geydar Dzhemal, reported that former Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev staged a stealthy coup in Moscow.

Further backing the rumour that Putin has been taken out in a coup, social media reports claimed that several tanks were spotted outside Kremlin after a three-hour power outage.’

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The very scary reality behind the silly rumors of Putin’s death

Amanda Taub writes for Vox:

‘[…] University of Pittsburgh research fellow Sean Guillory explained via email that the rumors “say a lot” in that “they excite both the desire and fears of many people, likely at the same time.” Some Russians may want Putin gone — but fear that “if he is, what comes next?”

Thoburn agreed. The rumors, she said, “get to the problem with having only one central figure” in the Russian government. She noted that if the US president or the German chancellor were to suddenly take ill or have a stroke, there would be other means of succession and other instruments of government to fill that void while a replacement was found. But in Russia right now, “you don’t have that. That does expose a certain fragility in the system that scares Russians a little bit.”

That’s very serious. “If both the system and the integrity of the nation state are so centered on one person, whether it’s a czar or whether it’s Putin or some other leader,” Thoburn said, “it becomes very dangerous.” And if the system is so centralized but there is no system set up for succession, “the system itself is not viable in the long term.”‘

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Putin Keeps Changing His Story About the Annexation of Crimea

Joshua Keating writes for Slate:

‘In a forthcoming Russian television documentary, President Vladimir Putin states for the first time that plans were in the works to reabsorb Crimea into Russia weeks before a referendum on the issue was held.

As reported by the BBC, Putin tells the interviewer that an all-night meeting with his senior officials was held on Feb. 22, 2014, to plan the rescue of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who had just fled Kiev after weeks of protest.

Putin says, “We finished about seven in the morning. When we were parting, I told all my colleagues, ‘We are forced to begin the work to bring Crimea back into Russia.’ ”’

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Russia’s Ghost Army in Ukraine (Documentary)

‘VICE News travels to Russia to investigate the mysterious deaths of dozens — possibly hundreds — of active-duty Russian servicemen who are believed to have been killed in Ukraine. Accounts gathered from soldiers’ families, human rights workers, and government officials cast doubt on the Kremlin narrative, revealing the unacknowledged sacrifices borne by Russia’s ghost army.’ (VICE News)

Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine

Der Spiegel reports:

‘[…] The pattern has become a familiar one. For months, Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove’s numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America’s NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO.

The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove’s comments as “dangerous propaganda.” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove’s comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

But Breedlove hasn’t been the only source of friction. Europeans have also begun to see others as hindrances in their search for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict. First and foremost among them is Victoria Nuland, head of European affairs at the US State Department. She and others would like to see Washington deliver arms to Ukraine and are supported by Congressional Republicans as well as many powerful Democrats.’

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The Meaning of International Women’s Day

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated 102 years ago by Russian revolutionaries.The following article was originally written by Alexandra Kollantai  for Pravda on March 8, 1913:

A March 8, 1917 demonstration led by Alexandra Kollontai and other organizers.‘What is “Women’s Day”? Is it really necessary? Is it not a concession to the women of the bourgeois class, to the feminists and suffragettes? Is it not harmful to the unity of the workers’ movement?

Such questions can still be heard in Russia, though they are no longer heard abroad. Life itself has already supplied a clear and eloquent answer.

“Women’s Day” is a link in the long, solid chain of the women’s proletarian movement. The organized army of working women grows with every year. Twenty years ago the trade unions contained only small groups of working women scattered here and there among the ranks of the workers’ party…’

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Why the rise of fascism is again the issue

John Pilger writes:

ukraine_obama_nobel.JPGThe recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.

“To initiate a war of aggression…,” said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, “is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened. Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today; and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery. They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.’

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Kremlin Funded Media Sees Cuts as Russian Economy Slows

Delphine d’Amora reports for The Moscow Times:

Pro-Kremlin broadcaster RT and news agency Rossiya Segodnya will have to slash spending by 50 percent or more and likely give up on expansion plans as the steep devaluation of the Russian ruble hits their margins, news reports said.

“The ruble’s devaluation means that our budget is already cut almost in half,” RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan was quoted as saying by the Vedomosti newspaper last week.

State-controlled RT, whose mission statement is to “acquaint an international audience with the Russian viewpoint,” will likely have to cease broadcasting in many countries and give up on plans to create French- and German-language channels, Simonyan said. About 80 percent of the network’s expenditures are in dollars and euros, she added.’

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Britain’s Media Regulator Again Threatens RT for “Bias”: This Time, Airing “Anti-Western Views”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] That RT is “biased” is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far at all. It is expressly funded by the Russian government to present a Russian viewpoint of the world. But all media outlets composed of and run by human beings are “biased,” and that certainly includes the leading British outlets, which rail against Russia (and every other perceived adversary of the West) at least as much as RT defends it.

All of this underscores the propagandistic purpose of touting “media objectivity” versus “bias.” The former simply does not exist. Revealingly, it is British journalists themselves who are most vocal in demanding that Her Majesty’s Government bar RT from broadcasting on “bias” grounds: fathom how authoritarian a society must be if it gets its journalists to play the leading role in demanding that the state ban (or imprison) journalists it dislikes. So notably, the most vocal among the anti-RT crowd on the ground that it spreads lies and propaganda — such as Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm — were also the most aggressive peddlers of the pro-U.K.-government conspiracy theories and lies that led to the Iraq War.

That people like this, with their histories of pro-government propaganda, are the ones demanding punishment of RT for “bias” tells you all you need to know about what is really at play here. What’s really driving this is illustrated by the edict issued today by one of the High Priests of U.S. Foreign Policy, Brookings President and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hollywood and the New Cold War: Interview with Ted Rall

‘We know a media information war is in full swing. But where does it stop? Hollywood? Where Pussy riot meets Vladimir Putin on Netflix’s “House of Cards”. Where Russian cyber terrorists are pushed into surrendering by threats of rating Pussy Riot and Putin on to their desktops in CBS’s “The Good Wife”. And then there’s just blatant remembering of colder times with FX’s “The Americans”. Political Cartoonist Ted Rall breaks it down.’ (In The Now)

Who Killed Boris Nemtsov?

Justin Raimondo writes for Antiwar:

Practically no one in the West doubts the murder of once-rising reform politician Boris Nemtsov was the work of Vladimir Putin, and/or his allies in government. If Putin didn’t give the direct order, the pundits say, the Russian leader created the “atmosphere of hatred” directed at the Russian opposition, of which Nemtsov was a half-forgotten yet still active leader. This obviates the need for evidence, while giving the accusers ample room to back off if and when facts to the contrary are uncovered – evidence which can then be easily discounted, because, after all, everyone knows a real investigation is impossible in Putin’s Russia. Thus freed of the facts, our new Cold Warriors can elaborate their conspiracy theories without fear of contradiction.

Funny how political murders in the US – the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King – are invariably the work of a “lone nut,” but in Russia it’s always the Putin government. When Dr. David Kelly, a prominent weapons expert and critic of the evidence Whitehall had publicized to justify the Iraq war, committed “suicide” just as he was about to reveal how the British government had doctored up its brief, there were suspicions but these were dismissed as a “conspiracy theory.” An entirely different standard is applied to Russia, and yet, aside from Anglo-American exceptionalism, perhaps there are some good reasons for this. Russia, after all, is a country where contract killings were once a staple of doing business: where gangsterism is widespread, and oligarchs, gorging on the riches of “privatized” companies, are in deadly competition for spoils in a system where government, and not the market, rules.’

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Was Boris Nemtsov killed because in Russia opposition figures are deemed traitors?

Shaun Walker writes for The Guardian:

Flowers were laid at the spot where Russian politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on Friday.[…] Nemtsov frequently appeared on lists of “traitors” published online by extremist groups, and given that many radical Russian nationalists have been fighting a war in east Ukraine for the past six months, there have long been fears that the bloodshed could at some point move to the streets of Moscow.

The well-organised hit, in one of the most closely watched parts of Moscow, of a man who was undoubtedly under state surveillance just two days before a major opposition march, does not smack of an amateur job. Assuming a jealous lover or angry fellow liberal would not be able to organise a drive-by shooting in the shadows of the Kremlin towers, the remaining options are disturbing.

If, as Peskov says, it was senseless for the Kremlin to kill someone who posed very little threat, that leaves another option that is perhaps even more terrifying: that the campaign of hate that has erupted over the past year is spiralling out of the control of those who manufactured it.’

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Boris Nemtsov Funeral: Mystery Surrounds Russian Politician’s Death

Scale of racism in World Cup host Russia a threat, report says

Rob Harris reports for AP:

‘Russian football is plagued by a racist and far-right extremist fan culture that threatens the safety of visitors to the 2018 World Cup, according to a report provided to The Associated Press.

Researchers from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the Fare network, which helps to prosecute racism cases for European football’s governing body UEFA, highlighted more than 200 cases of discriminatory behavior linked to Russian football over two seasons.

“It shows a really quite gruesome picture of a domestic league which is full of aspects of racism, xenophobia: The far-right play a significant role in the fan culture,” Fare executive director Piara Powar said in an interview with the Associated Press.’

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Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Carl Schreck writes for Voice of America:

With the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, gunned down on a Moscow street, the fiercest critic of President Vladimir Putin has been removed from the political stage.  But it remains to be seen whether, in death as in life, Nemtsov will remain a threat to Putin’s rule.

Already, city authorities have approved a mass march for up to 50,000 people in central Moscow on Sunday. The march, expected to be far larger than the scheduled protest rally it replaces, will provide a powerful platform for Kremlin critics who suspect a government hand in Nemtsov’s death.

Even officials in Putin’s government seem to sense the danger that the former first deputy prime minister’s martyrdom might pose, hinting darkly that Friday night’s drive-by shooting may have been an deliberate “provocation” ahead of the planned weekend rally.’

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Nemtsov Murder: Multiple Lines of Inquiry to Be Pursued

Nemtsov’s murder ‘meticulously planned’ – Investigative Committee

AFP reports:

‘The murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was carefully planned, investigators said Saturday, pointing to details of the weapon used and the killers’ knowledge of his movements.

“There is no doubt that the crime was meticulously planned, as well as the place chosen for the murder,” the powerful Investigative Committee, which has been put in charge of the probe, said in its first detailed statement on the drive-by shooting of the 55-year-old politician.’

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Nemtsov Ally: “It’s a provocation that is clearly not in Putin’s interests, it’s aimed at rocking the situation.”

There are certainly no shortage of “who dunnit? Putin dunnit!” theories flying around the internet at the moment in regards to who is responsible for the killing of Russian opposition figure, Boris Nemstov. Here’s an interesting perspective from one-time close ally of Mr. Nemstov quoted near the bottom of an article published by Talking Points Memo:

Irina Khakamada, a prominent opposition figure who co-founded a liberal party with Nemtsov, blamed a climate of intimidation and warned that the murder could herald a dangerous destabilization.

“It’s a provocation that is clearly not in Putin’s interests, it’s aimed at rocking the situation,” she said in remarks carried by RIA Novosti news agency.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE…

‘Night Wolves’ motorycle gang: We will die for Putin

Meet The Forces That Are Pushing Obama Towards A New Cold War

Christian Stork writes for Medium:

‘[…] Moscow’s national-security interests are clear. Washington’s are as well, albeit unrelated to the security of the nation in any meaningful sense. Given the stakes, the hard line being pushed against Russia can’t solely be attributed to “Great Game” strategy — the long-running chess battle to control global energy flows.

Different players have different motives. At times they overlap; elsewhere they diverge.

As for those in the K Street elite pushing Uncle Sam to confront the bear, it isn’t hard to see what they have to gain: Just take a look at the history behind their Beltway-bandit benefactors.’

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One year on: Where are the far-right forces of Ukraine?

Channel 4 News reports:

Activists fly the flag of the Azov Battalion (Reuters)‘The presence of far-right Ukrainian nationalist groups in the Maidan protests that toppled the pro-Russian former president in February 2014 remains controversial.

While Russia has past form smearing opponents as fascists, experts on right-wing extremism did immediately raise concerns about the influence of radical ultra-nationalist groups like Svoboda and Right Sector last year.

Other commentators said the number of rightwing radicals involved in the popular uprising against Yanukovych were small, and dismissed concerns about a neo-Nazi fringe as Kremlin-inspired paranoia.

Ukraine has countered that neo-Nazis are backing pro-Russian separatists.

Certainly, Moscow repeatedly refers to those fighting separatists in eastern Ukraine on behalf of the Kiev government as “fascists” and has warned of a rise of antisemitism in the country.

Is this just propaganda, or does Russia have a point?

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UN Security Council calls for Ukraine fighting to stop

Al Jazeera reports:

The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a Russian-drafted resolution that endorses the new ceasefire agreement on Ukraine as battle rages between pro-Moscow rebels and Ukrainian forces for the control of a key town.

The vote on Tuesday came as Russian President Vladimir Putin told Kiev to let its soldiers surrender to the separatists who fought their way into the town of Debaltseve, encircling thousands of government troops.

The UN resolution was not expected to have a significant impact on the peace deal that was reached in the Belarusian capital Minsk last week with both sides failing to begin pulling back heavy weapons as required.

[…] The United States and other council members supported the resolution, but spoke with scorn.’

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Americans consider Russia their greatest enemy, according to new poll, and the feeling is mutual

Elena Bobrova reports for Russia Beyond The Headlines:

‘Eighteen percent of respondents named Russia when asked the open-ended question: “What one country anywhere in the world do you consider to be the United States’ greatest enemy today?” North Korea came in second with 15 percent, followed by China (12 percent) and Iran (9 percent). Three years ago, only 2 percent of respondents named Russia when asked a similar question; that number increased to 9 percent in 2014 as tensions between Russia and the U.S. rose over the crisis in Ukraine.

[…] Despite the increase in negative perceptions of Russia, most Americans still consider other international challenges as bigger threats, including terrorism generally, ISIS specifically, and Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

[…] At the same time, the results of a recent Russian survey show the feelings are mutual. According to a poll on U.S.-Russian relations published by the independent Levada Center on Feb. 9, only 13 percent of respondents viewed U.S. positively, while 81 percent have negative views.’

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