05 May 2006

Demonizing Russia

Lifted straight from Konstantin's Russia Blog.  Good point well made.  Does the current Energy Spat fit the bill?

Demonizing Russia:
I couldn't help but post this comment made by Patrick Armstrong, analyst for the Canadian government, from Untimely Thoughts (Peter Lavelle's project).

There's always a standing bill of indictment against Russia, although the details continually change. In 2001 the Washington Post warned that Russia would default on debt repayments; the Kursk sinking prompted reflections on the “callous disregard for human life” of Russia's leadership (Knight 2000); in 1997 Kissinger was complaining about Russia's “refusal” to demarcate its borders; no Russian leader had ever left power voluntarily and neither would Yeltsin, warned Stephen Cohen in 1994. Most charges prove ephemeral or false - nuclear tests in Nova Zemlya, the Security Council as the “new Politburo”, war over the Black Sea Fleet - but others come up again and again. Some charges have validity. The war in Chechnya was certainly very brutal. Putin has centralized power and tightened control over the media. But, when these charges appear on the bill of indictment, they appear without context. The Russian army is brutal in Chechnya not necessarily because it wants to be, but because bad armies are brutal. And, despite “fabricated rumors of a Chechen-al Qaeda nexus” (Washington Times, 2002), we know better. Nor do we hear as much about “unresolved” (Guardian, 2000) apartment bombings when there have been so many jihadist bombings of nightclubs, railway stations, tourist resorts and mosques. Putin is centralising because he (and, be it clear, most Russians) agree that the 1990s were frighteningly chaotic. A centralised media is not desirable but neither was the media of the oligarch wars. Too many governors were the pawns of local hoods. Putin does have reasons, good or bad, for what he does: saying “tight-lipped 47-year-old KGB staffer” (Guardian, 2000) or “Andropov redux” (Gaffney, 2000) is not an explanation. When Brzezinski last year stormed that Moscow refused to repudiate the Hitler-Stalin pact, it wasn't just “nostalgic efforts by Vladimir Putin to restore Moscow's control”: no country will assume responsibility for historical malfeasance when it knows the next step will be reparations claims.

While charging Putin with bringing back the “Soviet anthem” (Wall Street Journal, 2000), the fact that all the other state symbols were lifted straight from the Tsars was not mentioned. This is not argument, it is advocacy. The essence of the charge sheet style is that the conclusion determines the evidence. Take the everlasting assertion that Russia is naturally imperialist: this is the oldest of the charges - experts “knew” that Gorbachev would never leave Germany - and as time moves on, the accusation remains. The format is the same: Russia's so-called nostalgia for empire is asserted (Jonathon Eyal in 1993, Pipes in 1994 and 1998, George Tenet in 1997, Paul Goble 2000) and examples are filled in as needed: “democratic Georgia” today, the Baltics yesterday, Germany the day before. As the troops leave one country, another place is found to prove the point. The “energy weapon” is deployed against contumacious neighbors like Ukraine (but be careful not to mention that Gazprom is raising the price for “friends” like Armenia and Belarus, too). The charge predates Putin ЁC in 1993 The Economist decided that Georgia's independence had been already snuffed out and the energy wars have been going on since 1991.

Rarely, however, is it pointed out that Russia's neighbors are more independent each year and that Russian troops are leaving them too. Or that while Ukraine needs Russian energy, Russia needs Ukrainian pipelines to move its gas to those who actually pay for it. The boot here is actually on both feet. “Imperialist Russia”, it is clear, is a premise, not a conclusion. The repetitive bills of indictment have a cumulative effect - people forget the alarums that never came to pass but remember the underlying message that Russia is a menace. Why try to take an objective look at the whole of Russian reality when “traditional Russian imperialism” (Kissinger, 1997) is all you need to know? A great deal of opinion in the USA and the West has been shaped by the continual drum roll of warnings, accusations and indictments. Eventually the message gets stuck in: Russia is an enemy.

Putin hires a Western PR company to help improving Russia's image in the world. Absolutely hopeless. I think it's better to forget about “image problems” and go our own way. Собака лает - караван идет.

[composed and posted with ecto]


[composed and posted with
ecto]


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5 comments:

RC Administrator said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RC Administrator said...

But surely having a organization which killed millions of people and instilled fear in the minds of Russians to run the country is demonic?

Surely playing with a totalitarian mode of governing which is responsible for the dark ages in Russia for centuries must attract criticism?

Would you agree?

The Poster said...

My reading of the article is that it refers to Russia post collapse.

There are undoubtedly links between the mindset of the current (and previous) government(s) and the Communist set. But then I believe that there are links between the current management mindsets and those of their Soviet brethern.

Those mindset links do not however, extend as far as the murder, intimidation etc that was started by Stalin and continued by the KGB until they were shown to have failed in (pick a date but the collapse occurred in) 1992. Though the failure to acknowledge that they happened is in itself a problem.

I would agree that the government is today trends more towards ineffective control as practised and epitomized by the Brezhnev era than the ineffective control it practiced under Yeltsin and the early Putin era. As an investor I miss nothing about the Yeltsin era (too old to party that hard again anyway) and a lot about the early Putin years. It is trend which is worrying but not inevitable.

MSM is not fed, and does not relay, a nuanced message. Russia is not good and therefore it is bad.

Here, they say, are all the things that make it bad.....(except they have not come to pass). The opening from the Economist which you posted today - "NO TAPS were turned off nor prices hiked; no Russian bids for European assets were blocked." - highlights the demonization which occurs on both sides.

The Economist would have me as a panglossian - but one who understands that GAZP is an arm of a not always rational state.

RC Administrator said...

Did you know that any Russian person (of certain age of course) will find it difficult to come outside and shout "KGB" into thin air? That is how it has imprinted on the mindset of the countries people.

Anyway, how far does the KGB of old reflects the KGB of new? If a Russian person criticises Putin, then his life becomes difficult. This probably does not carry onto foreign people, seeing as though Brewer kicked up such a storm for just being not let in. As I have posted just below you in the FT.com poll, failure of the senior management to enter United Russia party will likely lead to them being fired or worse. This worse, how far can it go? Should we care that he will be murdered? Do we know that he will not be murdered? Not being funny but should Jewish people trust the German neo-nazis because *maybe* *perhaps* they will not be sent to gas cameras anymore? KGB has not had ANY reform whatsoever. In fact they have more much more power now. And as you will know (I hope not)they have entered the world of business. A few months ago I have witnessed a peaceful raid on an organization where one phrase was said: "you are not working here anymore". I don't know whether you have spent enough time in Moscow, but before them it was the Chechens.

I hope this does not sound like a personal attack on you, just wanted to hear the opinion of someone *from outside* which is far more valuable. My old history teacher used to say that he trusted a certain historian because "he was foreign".

The Poster said...

Alex,

I am more than aware of the historical impact of the KGB and of their current impact on business in Russia. One of my earliest (1994) friends and business partners worked for both the KGB and Soyuzneftexport until being a founding member of LUKoil and other Russian businesses. He resigned in 1988 - but you never really leave. We together (and with others) created an oil company which is now listed on LSE at around $2bn.

A current business partner resigned from the same organization in 1991 (i.e. pre-coup) and is the founder of two businesses where I am investor - neither in this case nor the one above have we had any assistance from the KGB past or present.

I have posted previously on the mother of a CEO of another business who to this day will not open the door to strangers because her husband was twice arrested and sent to the gulags.

So there are good and bad guys who have left and too many bad guys left, particularly in what I refer to as the 5th Directorate, VVP's alma mater, who were not sharp enough to get up and make cash for themselves.

I am concerned that some very (economically) stupid people rising to the top of Russia politics and therefore business. I am very concerned by the latent racism that is very evident in even the most educated and well-travelled of my friends. I am more concerned that racism is state sponsored.

I am not hugely concerned that United Russia is an attempt to recreate the Party - other than by the shere stupidity of recreating a failed institution. I am more concerned that 30 something Russians who have little or no memory of the failure of the state are not willing to call a spade a spade. My justification is that whilst people are making money and watching the world change around them it is not in their best interest to rock the boat. The current Government, which includes VVP's Presidential Administration, is failing to provide a reasonable form of government (increased bureaucracy, corruption); the world looks good if your measurement is IPO's. It looks less good if you live in Moscow and are trying to get by on less than $1.5k/month and aren't living with your parents.......Inflation is clearly way above the official number (in Moscow) and for everyone in business opex is growing faster than it is possible to pass on to consumers.

It will end in misery at some point - just not for the 5th Directorate thugs who by then will be living next door to Gusinsky in Spain.

05 May 2006

Demonizing Russia

Lifted straight from Konstantin's Russia Blog.  Good point well made.  Does the current Energy Spat fit the bill?

Demonizing Russia:
I couldn't help but post this comment made by Patrick Armstrong, analyst for the Canadian government, from Untimely Thoughts (Peter Lavelle's project).

There's always a standing bill of indictment against Russia, although the details continually change. In 2001 the Washington Post warned that Russia would default on debt repayments; the Kursk sinking prompted reflections on the “callous disregard for human life” of Russia's leadership (Knight 2000); in 1997 Kissinger was complaining about Russia's “refusal” to demarcate its borders; no Russian leader had ever left power voluntarily and neither would Yeltsin, warned Stephen Cohen in 1994. Most charges prove ephemeral or false - nuclear tests in Nova Zemlya, the Security Council as the “new Politburo”, war over the Black Sea Fleet - but others come up again and again. Some charges have validity. The war in Chechnya was certainly very brutal. Putin has centralized power and tightened control over the media. But, when these charges appear on the bill of indictment, they appear without context. The Russian army is brutal in Chechnya not necessarily because it wants to be, but because bad armies are brutal. And, despite “fabricated rumors of a Chechen-al Qaeda nexus” (Washington Times, 2002), we know better. Nor do we hear as much about “unresolved” (Guardian, 2000) apartment bombings when there have been so many jihadist bombings of nightclubs, railway stations, tourist resorts and mosques. Putin is centralising because he (and, be it clear, most Russians) agree that the 1990s were frighteningly chaotic. A centralised media is not desirable but neither was the media of the oligarch wars. Too many governors were the pawns of local hoods. Putin does have reasons, good or bad, for what he does: saying “tight-lipped 47-year-old KGB staffer” (Guardian, 2000) or “Andropov redux” (Gaffney, 2000) is not an explanation. When Brzezinski last year stormed that Moscow refused to repudiate the Hitler-Stalin pact, it wasn't just “nostalgic efforts by Vladimir Putin to restore Moscow's control”: no country will assume responsibility for historical malfeasance when it knows the next step will be reparations claims.

While charging Putin with bringing back the “Soviet anthem” (Wall Street Journal, 2000), the fact that all the other state symbols were lifted straight from the Tsars was not mentioned. This is not argument, it is advocacy. The essence of the charge sheet style is that the conclusion determines the evidence. Take the everlasting assertion that Russia is naturally imperialist: this is the oldest of the charges - experts “knew” that Gorbachev would never leave Germany - and as time moves on, the accusation remains. The format is the same: Russia's so-called nostalgia for empire is asserted (Jonathon Eyal in 1993, Pipes in 1994 and 1998, George Tenet in 1997, Paul Goble 2000) and examples are filled in as needed: “democratic Georgia” today, the Baltics yesterday, Germany the day before. As the troops leave one country, another place is found to prove the point. The “energy weapon” is deployed against contumacious neighbors like Ukraine (but be careful not to mention that Gazprom is raising the price for “friends” like Armenia and Belarus, too). The charge predates Putin ЁC in 1993 The Economist decided that Georgia's independence had been already snuffed out and the energy wars have been going on since 1991.

Rarely, however, is it pointed out that Russia's neighbors are more independent each year and that Russian troops are leaving them too. Or that while Ukraine needs Russian energy, Russia needs Ukrainian pipelines to move its gas to those who actually pay for it. The boot here is actually on both feet. “Imperialist Russia”, it is clear, is a premise, not a conclusion. The repetitive bills of indictment have a cumulative effect - people forget the alarums that never came to pass but remember the underlying message that Russia is a menace. Why try to take an objective look at the whole of Russian reality when “traditional Russian imperialism” (Kissinger, 1997) is all you need to know? A great deal of opinion in the USA and the West has been shaped by the continual drum roll of warnings, accusations and indictments. Eventually the message gets stuck in: Russia is an enemy.

Putin hires a Western PR company to help improving Russia's image in the world. Absolutely hopeless. I think it's better to forget about “image problems” and go our own way. Собака лает - караван идет.

[composed and posted with ecto]


[composed and posted with
ecto]


Technorati Tags:

5 comments:

RC Administrator said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RC Administrator said...

But surely having a organization which killed millions of people and instilled fear in the minds of Russians to run the country is demonic?

Surely playing with a totalitarian mode of governing which is responsible for the dark ages in Russia for centuries must attract criticism?

Would you agree?

The Poster said...

My reading of the article is that it refers to Russia post collapse.

There are undoubtedly links between the mindset of the current (and previous) government(s) and the Communist set. But then I believe that there are links between the current management mindsets and those of their Soviet brethern.

Those mindset links do not however, extend as far as the murder, intimidation etc that was started by Stalin and continued by the KGB until they were shown to have failed in (pick a date but the collapse occurred in) 1992. Though the failure to acknowledge that they happened is in itself a problem.

I would agree that the government is today trends more towards ineffective control as practised and epitomized by the Brezhnev era than the ineffective control it practiced under Yeltsin and the early Putin era. As an investor I miss nothing about the Yeltsin era (too old to party that hard again anyway) and a lot about the early Putin years. It is trend which is worrying but not inevitable.

MSM is not fed, and does not relay, a nuanced message. Russia is not good and therefore it is bad.

Here, they say, are all the things that make it bad.....(except they have not come to pass). The opening from the Economist which you posted today - "NO TAPS were turned off nor prices hiked; no Russian bids for European assets were blocked." - highlights the demonization which occurs on both sides.

The Economist would have me as a panglossian - but one who understands that GAZP is an arm of a not always rational state.

RC Administrator said...

Did you know that any Russian person (of certain age of course) will find it difficult to come outside and shout "KGB" into thin air? That is how it has imprinted on the mindset of the countries people.

Anyway, how far does the KGB of old reflects the KGB of new? If a Russian person criticises Putin, then his life becomes difficult. This probably does not carry onto foreign people, seeing as though Brewer kicked up such a storm for just being not let in. As I have posted just below you in the FT.com poll, failure of the senior management to enter United Russia party will likely lead to them being fired or worse. This worse, how far can it go? Should we care that he will be murdered? Do we know that he will not be murdered? Not being funny but should Jewish people trust the German neo-nazis because *maybe* *perhaps* they will not be sent to gas cameras anymore? KGB has not had ANY reform whatsoever. In fact they have more much more power now. And as you will know (I hope not)they have entered the world of business. A few months ago I have witnessed a peaceful raid on an organization where one phrase was said: "you are not working here anymore". I don't know whether you have spent enough time in Moscow, but before them it was the Chechens.

I hope this does not sound like a personal attack on you, just wanted to hear the opinion of someone *from outside* which is far more valuable. My old history teacher used to say that he trusted a certain historian because "he was foreign".

The Poster said...

Alex,

I am more than aware of the historical impact of the KGB and of their current impact on business in Russia. One of my earliest (1994) friends and business partners worked for both the KGB and Soyuzneftexport until being a founding member of LUKoil and other Russian businesses. He resigned in 1988 - but you never really leave. We together (and with others) created an oil company which is now listed on LSE at around $2bn.

A current business partner resigned from the same organization in 1991 (i.e. pre-coup) and is the founder of two businesses where I am investor - neither in this case nor the one above have we had any assistance from the KGB past or present.

I have posted previously on the mother of a CEO of another business who to this day will not open the door to strangers because her husband was twice arrested and sent to the gulags.

So there are good and bad guys who have left and too many bad guys left, particularly in what I refer to as the 5th Directorate, VVP's alma mater, who were not sharp enough to get up and make cash for themselves.

I am concerned that some very (economically) stupid people rising to the top of Russia politics and therefore business. I am very concerned by the latent racism that is very evident in even the most educated and well-travelled of my friends. I am more concerned that racism is state sponsored.

I am not hugely concerned that United Russia is an attempt to recreate the Party - other than by the shere stupidity of recreating a failed institution. I am more concerned that 30 something Russians who have little or no memory of the failure of the state are not willing to call a spade a spade. My justification is that whilst people are making money and watching the world change around them it is not in their best interest to rock the boat. The current Government, which includes VVP's Presidential Administration, is failing to provide a reasonable form of government (increased bureaucracy, corruption); the world looks good if your measurement is IPO's. It looks less good if you live in Moscow and are trying to get by on less than $1.5k/month and aren't living with your parents.......Inflation is clearly way above the official number (in Moscow) and for everyone in business opex is growing faster than it is possible to pass on to consumers.

It will end in misery at some point - just not for the 5th Directorate thugs who by then will be living next door to Gusinsky in Spain.