- On Sunday, Putin's party, United Russia, stormed to victory
in the country's parliamentary elections with 63 per cent of the vote.
It was a romp. United Russia now controls 306 of the 450 seats in the Duma,
an overwhelming majority. The balloting was a referendum on Putin's leadership
and it passed in a landslide. Now it's certain, that even if Putin steps
down as president next year as expected, he will be the dominant player
in Russian politics for the foreseeable future.
- Vladamir Putin is arguably the most popular leader in
Russian history, although you'd never know it by reading the western media.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, Putin's
personal approval rating in November 2007 was 85 per cent, making him the
most popular head of state in the world today. Putin's popularity derives
from many factors. He is personally clever and charismatic. He is fiercely
nationalistic and has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of ordinary
Russians and restore the country to its former greatness. He has raised
over 20 million Russians out of grinding poverty, improved education, health
care and the pension system, (partially) nationalized critical industries,
lowered unemployment, increased manufacturing and exports, invigorated
Russian markets, strengthened the ruble, raised the overall standard of
living, reduced government corruption, jailed or exiled the venal oligarchs,
and amassed capital reserves of $450 billion.
- Russia is no longer up for grabs like it was after the
fall of the Soviet Union. Putin put an end to all of that. He reasserted
control over the country's vast resources and he's using them to improve
the lives of his own people. This is a real departure from the 1990s, when
the drunken Yeltsin steered Russia into economic disaster by following
Washington's neoliberal edicts and by selling Russia's Crown Jewels to
the vulturous oligarchs. Putin put Russia's house back in order; stabilized
the ruble, strengthened economic/military alliances in the region, and
removed the corporate gangsters who had stolen Russia's national assets
for pennies on the dollar. The oligarchs are now all either in jail or
have fled the country. Russia is no longer for sale.
- Russia is, once again, a major world power and a vital
source of hydrocarbons. It's star is steadily rising just as America's
has begun to wane. This may explain why Putin is loathed by the West. Freud
might call it petroleum envy, but it's deeper than that. Putin has charted
a course for social change that conflicts with basic tenets of neoliberalism,
which are the principles which govern US foreign policy. He is not a member
of the corporate-banking brotherhood which believes the wealth of the world
should be divided among themselves regardless of the suffering or destruction
it may cause. Putin's primary focus is Russia; Russia's welfare, Russia's
sovereignty and Russia's place in the world. He is not a globalist.
- That is why the Bush administration has encircled Russia
with military bases, toppled neighboring regimes with its color-coded revolutions,
(which were organized by US NGOs and intelligence services) intervened
in Russian elections, and threatened to deploy an (allegedly defensive)
nuclear weapons system in Eastern Europe. Russia is seen as a potential
rival to US imperial ambitions and must be contained or subverted.
- In the early years of his presidency, it was believed
that Putin would comply with western demands and accept a subordinate role
in the US-EU-Israel centric system. But that hasn't happened. Putin has
stubbornly defended Russian independence and resisted integration into
the prevailing system. .
- The triumphalism which swept through Washington after
the fall of the Berlin Wall has been replaced with a palpable fear that
Russia's power will grow as oil prices continue to soar. The tectonic plates
of geopolitical power are gradually shifting eastward. That's why the US
has joined in The Great Game and is trying to put down roots in Eurasia.
Still, it's easy to imagine a scenario in which America's access to the
last great oil and natural gas reserves on the planet--the three trillion
barrels of oil and natural gas located in the Caspian Basin---could be
completely blocked by a resurgent Russian superpower.
- The most powerful of the Washington think tanks, the
Council on Foreign Relations, recognized this problem early on and decided
that US policy towards Russia had to be reworked entirely.
- * * *
- John Edwards and Jack Kemp were appointed to lead a CFR
task force which concocted the pretext for an all-out assault on the Putin.
This is where the idea that Putin is "rolling back democracy"
began. In their article "Russia's Wrong Direction", Edwards and
Kemp state that a "strategic partnership" with Russia is no longer
possible. They claim that the government has become increasingly authoritarian
and that the society is growing less "open and pluralistic".
- Kemp and Edwards provided the ideological foundation
upon which the entire public relations campaign against Putin has been
built. And it is quite an impressive campaign. A Google News search shows
roughly 1,400 articles from the various news services on Putin. Virtually
all of them contain exactly the same rhetoric, the same buzzwords, the
same spurious claims, the same slanders. It is impossible to find even
one article out of 1,400 that diverges the slightest bit from the talking
points which originated at the Council on foreign Relations.
- It's interesting to see to what extent the media has
become a propaganda bullhorn for the national security state. Putin's personal
approval ratings confirm his enormous popularity, and yet, the media continues
to treat him like he's a tyrant. It is utterly incongruous.
- In most articles, Putin is disparaged as "anti democratic";
a charge that is never leveled at the Saudi Royal family even though women
are forbidden to drive, they must be fully-covered at all times, and can
be stoned to death if they are found to be unfaithful. Also, in Saudi Arabia,
beheading is still the punishment of choice for capital crimes.
- When Saudi King Abdullah visits the US, he is not heaped
with scorn for his regimes' repressive treatment of his people. Instead
he's rewarded with flattering photos of he and George Bush strolling arm-n-arm
through the Crawford sage.
- Why is Putin blasted for "rolling back democracy"
when American client, Mikhail Saakashvili, arbitrarily declares martial
law and deploys his truncheon-wielding Robo-cops to beat protesters senseless
before dragging them off to the Georgia gulag? The pictures of Saakashvili's
bloody crackdown appeared in the foreign press, but not in the US. Rather,
the media had all its cameras focused on Garry Kasparov (contributing editor
to the Wall Street Journal and right-wing loony) as he was led off to the
Moscow hoosegow in handcuffs for protesting without a permit.
- * * *
- Putin's real crime is that he serves Russia's national
interests rather than the interests of global Capital. He also rejects
Washington's "unipolar" world model. As he said in Munich:
- "The unipolar world refers to a world in which there
is one master, one sovereign; one center of authority, one center of force,
one center of decision-making. At the end of the day this is pernicious
not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself
because it destroys itself from within.
- "What is even more important is that the model itself
is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations
for modern civilization."
- He added:
- "We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for
the basic principles of international law....We are witnessing an almost
uncontained hyper use of force -- military force -- in international relations,
force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.
I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously
think about the architecture of global security."
- Well said, Vladimir.
- Putin's no saint, but he doesn't deserve the thrashing
he gets from the western media.
- And a final word on Garry Kasparov
- On Sunday, while Putin's party "United Russia"
was screeching to a landslide victory, Reuters News was busy taking mug-shots
of the stony-faced Kasparov holding up Florida-style ballots claiming the
voting was rigged. "They are not just rigging the vote," Kasparov
moaned, "They are raping the whole electoral system. These elections
are a reminder of Soviet elections when there was no choice.....Putin is
going to have a hard time trying to rule like Stalin."
- Stalin? So now Putin is Stalin? First of all, when did
Reuters begin to take such a keen interest in voting irregularities? It
must be a recent development, becuase they were nowhere to be found in
the 2000 presidential election. And when did they start to pay attention
to "political dissent"? They certainly never wasted any video-footage
on the antiwar rallies in the US. Are we to believe that they are more
interested in democracy in Russia than America?
- And why is Reuters so eager to provide valuable column-space
to a washed-up chessmaster who's only interested in making a nuisance of
himself by bellyaching about voter fraud? That's not news; it's propaganda.
- As for Kasparov and his silly accusations; he should
be glad that he lives in Putin's Russia rather than Stalin's or he'd be
in leg-irons right now boarding a northbound train to the Siberian outback.
- What is Kasparov doing in Moscow anyway? And why is this
little man --with virtually no political base -- such a big part of the
western media narrative? Is he only there to discredit the election and
throw a little more muck on Putin or is there more to it than that?
- Garry Kasparov should give up politics and do what he
does best; stand-up comedy. Watching Kasparov traipse around Moscow with
his basket of sour grapes and his entourage of western media-stooges is
like watching "Mr. Bean's Excellent Kremlin Adventure", a particularly
lame performance in a dismal B-rated burlesque. It's painful to watch.
- Kasparov's party, the "Other Russia" couldn't
manage even a 2 per cent rating in the polls. The party is a complete dud.
In fact, Reuters even (reluctantly) admits as much in its article.
- Here's the clip. Reuters: "Kasparov and his "Other
Russia" dissident movement are not standing in Sunday's parliamentary
election because they could not get registered as a party. THEY ENJOY LITTLE
PUBLIC SUPPORT AMONG RUSSIANS BUT HAVE A BIG FOLLOWING IN THE WEST."
(Reuters) "Big following in the West"? Why doesn't that surprise
- So, in other words, Kasparov has no base of support in
Russia, and yet he gets his own camera crew and media team to follow him
around recording every silly he says. That's just great. Who do they think
he is; Nelson Mandela?
- Kasparov is a contributing editor of Murdoch's Wall Street
Journal; so he already has a regular platform for launching his tirades
on the "tyrannical" Mr. Putin. Normally, one doesn't get a spot
on the op-ed page of the WSJ unless their politics are somewhere to the
right of Augusto Pinochet. That's probably the case with Kasparov, too.
In Saturday's edition of the WSJ, Kasparov delivered his latest absurd
soliloquy disparaging Putin and recounting his agonizing 5 day ordeal in
the Moscow poky.
- Although Kasparov has garnered little public support
in Russia, he appears to have a loyal following among the Washington elite.
According to Wikipedia: "In 1991, Kasparov received the Keeper of
the Flame award from the Center for Security Policy (a US think tank),
for anti-Communist resistance and the propagation of democracy. Kasparov
was an exceptional recipient since the award is given to "individuals
for devoting their public careers to the defense of the United States and
American values around the world". Hmmmm...."For devoting their
public careers to the defense of the United States and American values
around the world"? Isn't that a definition of an American agent?
- Again, according to Wikipedia: In April, 2007 it was
asserted that Kasparov was a board member of the National Security Advisory
Council of the Center for Security Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan national
security organization that specializes in identifying policies, actions,
and resource needs that are vital to American security". Kasparov
confirmed this and added that he was removed shortly after he became aware
of it. He noted that HE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE MEMBERSHIP and suggested
he was included in the board by an accident because he received the 1991
Keeper of the Flame award from this organization. But Kasparov maintained
his association with the neoconservative leadership by giving speeches
at think tanks such as the Hoover Institute."
- Here's a list of some of the other fellow travelers who've
been given the "Keeper of the Flame Award": 2007-Senator Joe
Lieberman. 2004-General Peter Pace. 2003- Paul Wolfowitz. 2002- General
Richard Meyers. 1998-Donald Rumsfeld. 1996-Newt Gingrich. 1995-Ronald Reagan.
- Is Kasparov an anomaly or does he fit right in with this
coven of far-right loonies? And who are some of the prominent members of
the Center for Security Policy? Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Frank Gaffney,
James Roche and Laura Ingraham. Oh, boy. The whole front office of the
neocon's cuckoo's nest. Now tell me, dear reader, with friends like that;
what should we really think about Kasparov's performance in Moscow? Is
he really interested in "democracy promotion" as he claims or
is their acting out a script that was prepared in Washington?
- In the US, Kasparov has become the focal point of the
Russian elections - the primary source of "unbiased" analysis.
NPR reiterates his spurious claims every half hour. The other news agencies
are no better. He has become the distorted lens through which Americans
view Russian democracy. This says a lot more about the choke-hold the neocons
still have on the media rather than anything objective about Russia. The
Kasparov fiasco gives us a chance to see the inner-workings of the establishment
media. It's nothing more than a propaganda bullhorn for far-right organizations
executing their bloody imperial strategy. Fidel Castro summed it up best
just days ago when he said: "It is the most sophisticated media ever
developed by technology, employed to kill human beings and to subjugate
or exterminate peoples".
- Amen to that, Fidel.
- Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached
- Russian Elections And The Remaining Oligarchs
- By Israel Shamir
- Mike Whitney is an inspired writer we usually agree with
and share his admiration of Russia's progress. Recently, he enthused over
election victory of Putin's party in Russia's parliamentary elections.
He is right up to a point. Indeed, the Council of Foreign Relations, the
leading think tank of the American establishment, hates Putin because he
does not submit to Washington's will. Indeed, Putin is popular, and he
did many good things for the Russian people. Indeed, the liberal opposition
led by Kasparov, Kasyanov et al is tiny and much disliked.
- Still, our readers deserve a better assessment, not a
Disney-style Tom and Jerry comics. Propaganda is useful to mobilise soldiers,
but it interferes with generals' judgment. Let us begin with something
simple. Mike writes: "Putin removed the corporate gangsters who had
stolen Russia's national assets the oligarchs are now all either in jail
or have fled the country."
- It would be a great achievement, if it were happening.
While two oligarchs, Berezovsky and Gusinsky, indeed fled Russia in very
early days of Putin's rule, and one, Khodorkovsky, who tried to unseat
Putin by using his wealth, is in jail and his acolytes are in running,
the oligarchs' demise is rather overstated. From Norilsk Nickel to oil
and gas resources, these very wealthy individuals Roman Abramovich,
Oleg Deribaska, Michael Friedman still own the bulk of Russian assets and
wealth. Their writ does not run far beyond business matters, they can't
interfere with the state politics. However, Putin had a mandate to get
rid of them all; but he never did it.
- More important, Edinaya Rossia (ER, the ruling party)
has no coherent ideology or attitude. A loose federation of regional blocks,
its members want to be in power, they allegedly paid millions of dollars
for a safe place on the party list; and they can betray Putin as fast as
anybody. Yes, Putin led them to victory over 60% of vote, but what
now? Does it imply they will continue to follow Putin's course? We learned
that Putin decided not to take a seat in the Parliament. He is adamant
in his refusal to run for presidency third term. And the Duma (Russian
Parliament) is anyway quite powerless according to the 1994 constitution.
So the immediate future is far from clear.
- Even more important: reading Mike (or reading Western
media), you get an impression that ER competes for power with the liberals,
that Putin is the alternative to pro-American and pro-Zionist SPS. ER is
opposed (in the Parliament) not by Kasparov and liberals, but by
Communists and Nationalists. Liberals never succeeded to win any sizeable
share of vote, while the Communists won the presidential elections in 1996
and allowed the victory to be squandered as they were afraid of civil
war and repetition of 1993 bloodbath. Putin fought the Communists by means
fair or foul: he blocked their access to TV, he tried to split them and
organised a few parties to draw away the voters from the Communists. After
the elections, the splinter party leaders expressed desire to rejoin the
mother party, CPRF.
- The Western media promote worthless and unpopular liberals
of Kasparov etc, who would not even be heard of in Russia otherwise. Who
cares what the view of Kasparov is? However, this fight against Kasparov
and Yavlinsky is a troublesome sign. I was in St Petersburg at the time
of their demonstration; the demo counted at best about two hundred participants
of orderly behaviour, but the great city was awash with riot troops and
armoured vehicles like Ramallah. A friend of mine, a University teacher,
who just passed by, was arrested; and so were many other bystanders. Why
was it necessary? Is it usual Russian heavy-handedness, or something more
sinister: an attempt to attach importance and promote the liberal opposition
at the expense of the Communists?
- In conditions of perfect democracy, the Communists would
soar to majority or plurality they are quite patriotic, and they
do approve of positive steps by president Putin. But even in the present
setup, the Communists have much to do: they can support the line associated
with Putin and force the government to implement its declarations.
- President Putin is a very good and successful manager,
and he has made many valuable contributions to Russia's well-being. He
needs some critical support from the left; not an automatic yes-saying,
in order to withstand the pressure from the right.
- Small Print
- There was much talk of irregularities in the elections.
The ruling party made full use of Putin's name and reputation in its campaign.
Their huge posters linking ER and Putin were placed in every city and town
of Russia. But it was not worse than in Israel before 1977, or indeed Sweden
in the 60s, when the predominance of social democrats was nearly total.
As for counting, it appears that it was relatively fair, with exclusion
of national republics at the Southern rim of Russia, where they went as
far as they could to ensure their representatives' place in the Parliament.
The Western complaints misfired, because the same bodies, who objected
to irregularities, fully approved of the rigged elections of 1996 and even
of shelling of the Parliament in 1993. Russians had lost their virgin beliefs
in the western fairness.
- It is interesting to compare successes of Putin who run
a flawless election with errors of Chavez and his failed referendum on
the same day - both against the US wishes. While Chavez antagonized the
church, Putin had the church on his side. Chavez entered the campaigning
while media was in the hands of his enemies; Putin took over media and
banks first. Lenin spoke of taking over "banks, telegraph, railway
stations" in case of revolution, nowadays TV has to be the first to
go. Putin, as opposed to Chavez, did not antagonise the Jews either. Though
he ships anti-aircraft weapons to Syria and meets with Hamas, the Rabbis
still adore him and treasure a meeting with him much above that with president
- Israel Shamir