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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 04:46 PM
Number of posts: 18,289

Journal Archives

Those election monitors from Europe's far-right are back. This time in St Petersburg.

They did such a fine job in Crimea that they are back for an encore.

Russian daily Novaya Gazeta reports that far-right EU parties sent monitors to local elections in St Petersburg this weekend. The monitors, many of whom blessed the Crimea referendum in March, came from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Poland. They said the St Peterbsurg vote was fair despite NGO complaints.


These election observers from far-right political parties in Europe are certainly popular with the Russian government. If they don't mind foreigners coming to observe their elections, there are more objective and experienced election observers including those at the Carter Center's Democracy Program.

Perhaps folks are a little too liberal at times in St Petersburg, so trustworthy election monitors were needed for the vote.

The new Putinism: Nationalism fused with conservative Christianity

Vladimir Putin meets with Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill

Two recent stories offer a revealing -- and, to some, unsettling -- view of Russian President Vladimir Putin's emerging state ideology. The new Putinism, you might call it, seems to be a fusion of two older Russian ideas: nationalism, sometimes with an anti-Western tinge, and conservative interpretations of Orthodox Christianity. Both stories portray the coalescing, Kremlin-pushed ideology as a response to rising dissent and, more broadly, an effort to fill an ideological vacuum that has to some extent remained since the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago.

The Financial Times' Charles Clover chronicles the new ideology's emergence in the typically vibrant city of St. Petersburg, "long regarded as Russia's liberal window to the west" but now "the testing ground for a new wave of conservative, Orthodox church-going, pro-Kremlin patriotism that has gripped much of Russian officialdom." Clover cites recent censorship of classic Russian works by Vladimir Nabokov and Sergei Rachmaninoff, as well as new law that forbids "yelping" and "stomping" at night, possibly aimed at curbing protests.

Through the previous 12 years of his hegemony, Mr. Putin observed a balance between liberals and conservatives in the ranks of the elite, catering to each group in an effort to play one off against the other.

Today, that balance appears to have been jettisoned after liberals deserted him, with protesters taking to the streets last December and high-ranking figures – such as his finance minister – joining the dissenters.

The Kremlin has turned to the more conservative elements of society. More rural, older and less educated, they respond well to Mr Putin’s nationalist and slightly paranoid rhetoric as defender of the Orthodox faith from blasphemers and protector of the nation against foreign plots.


Good point. Norwegians have the freedom of movement, trade and work within Europe that

citizens of EU countries have because Norway belongs to the European Free Trade Association and the Schengen Agreement. And they don't have the obligations that the French or English or Swedes have towards the Moldovas of the continent.

Of course, Norway is very generous with foreign aid anyway but that is a voluntary thing not something mandated by the EU.


Perhaps Yanukovich made a wise choice but he was reversing a campaign pledge. People cared.

From my understanding of the deals on offer, I can understand that Yanukovich may thought that Russia's offer was better for Ukraine. Russia had made it clear that there was a big downside if Ukraine chose a trade deal with the EU and Russia terms were indeed more favorable, at least in the short terms - which is all politicians care about.

The real problem he had was that he had campaigned for president on a platform of seeking closer integration with Europe rather than with Russia. Did he really mean that during the campaign or was he just saying something that he thought people wanted to hear? (He would not be the first politician to say something that he did not believe just to get elected.)

He had every 'right' to change his mind about a policy he had campaigned on, just as Obama and all politicians and political leaders seems to think they have. Of course, citizens had every right to express their discontent about his policy reversal, just as our voters do. Either voters felt more deeply about the issue than Mr. Yanukovich understood or he simply did not do a good job of explaining why the Russian offer was superior and he was reversing his previous pledge.

The massive crowds of protesters were not just Western-backed protesters unless you assume that Ukrainians don't care enough about their country to protest political decision they don't agree with. They protested in Kiev throughout a Ukrainian winter - which is not an endeavor for the faint of heart.

And they did not stage a coup. Mr. Yanukovich did not have to leave but chose to do so and flee to Russia with his money. (Perhaps coincidentally, his departure for Russia provided the pretext for the chain of events that led to Russian annexing Crimea. Funny how that worked out.) He still controlled the army and security forces, including the Berkut, when he left. The demonstrators had none of the tanks, mortars, artillery, anti-aircraft missiles and other military equipment that the separatists in eastern Ukraine have. He was in no danger and could still be in Kiev governing until December elections which is what he had agreed to do.

Who would issue loans? Any country looking for a good investment. China eg. We are indebted to China, why not Ukraine?

In December 2013:

China has already given Ukraine $10 billion in loans, Reuters reported, citing Volodymyr Fesenko of Ukraine’s Penta think-tank.

Although Russia has repeatedly warned Kiev it will end trade benefits if it signs an association deal with the EU, Ukraine remains caught between Russia and the EU. Ukraine will send delegations to both the EU and Moscow “to restore economic trade relations,” Prime Minister Azarov said Tuesday.


Ukraine has borrowed $10 billion from China as of last December. They weren't getting any more.

In February 2014:

China sues Ukraine for breach of US$3b loan-for-grain agreement

China is seeking compensation of US$3 billion from Ukraine for the breach of a loans-for-grain contract signed in 2012, Russian media reported yesterday


It looks to me like China was not likely to loan Ukraine any more money. So it probably came down to Russia or the EU/IMF.

Equalizing salaries across the globe (more equality) would be a good thing. Lowering them would not.

I don't think there are many liberals who support LESS equality in global salaries. (That sounds like a republican/conservative goal.) We want our standard of living to improve even if poorer countries improve faster and eventually catch up with us.

Most of the income gains in the past 25 years have gone to the bottom 70% and the top 5% on the global income scale. Those who have suffered have been the bottom 5% and the 80-90 percentile in income.

There should be a way to reign in the top 5% with their exponential increase in income and redistribute it to the bottom 5% and the 80-90% people. (The folks in the 10%-70% range have had even greater percentage increases in their income than the top 5% has had.) We should be able to do this without jeopardizing the progress made by the lowest 2/3 of the world's population.

The key to help the American middle class while those of poorer countries rise. It can be done as evidenced by many progressive countries with progressive taxes, good safety net, strong unions and effective regulation. These countries have much stronger middle classes than we do. It takes smart legislation on taxes, union, regulation and the safety net. Without such legislation (and we are nowhere near passing anything of the sort), our middle class will continue to suffer.

Amnesty International: Ukraine: Mounting evidence of war crimes and Russian involvement

Ukrainian militia and separatist forces are responsible for war crimes, Amnesty International said today. The organisation accused Russia of fuelling separatist crimes as it revealed satellite images indicating a build-up of Russian armour and artillery in eastern Ukraine.

Despite a fragile cease-fire, the situation on the ground remains fraught with danger and Amnesty International calls on all parties, including Russia, to stop violations of the laws of war. “All sides in this conflict have shown disregard for civilian lives and are blatantly violating their international obligations,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, who travels to Kyiv and Moscow in the coming days.

“Our evidence shows that Russia is fuelling the conflict, both through direct interference and by supporting the separatists in the East. Russia must stop the steady flow of weapons and other support to an insurgent force heavily implicated in gross human rights violations.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in the fighting in Ukraine, but satellite imagery and testimony gathered by the Amnesty International provide compelling evidence that the fighting has burgeoned into what Amnesty International now considers an international armed conflict.


Finally something more than the "he (Russia) said, she (Ukraine) said", along with the "No we are not doing that and you can't prove that we are" denials from both sides, that we usually get.

Here's my response to your 4 points.

1. The neocon push for a regime change in Ukraine under the auspices of the CIA is successful with cookies and right wing militia etc.

Cookies? Right wing militia? Let's just say that the Ukrainian military has dealt with much, much better armed and much more numerous militia in eastern Ukraine. I suspect they would have been able to handle security had Yanukovych decided to stay put and let them do their job.

On February 20 the chairman of the Supreme Council of Crimea Vladimir Konstantinov traveled to Moscow where he announced that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea will secede from Ukraine if there would change of power.

On February 21 President Yanukovich signed an agreement to remain as president until elections were held in December. He has full control of the military and security forces. A few hours later he decides to take his money and run - to Russia. There's the "change in power" that Putin and Konstantinov were looking for 24 hours earlier. Within a month Russia has annexed Crimea.

2. Russia, not wanting to lose the bases in crimea, annexes it as a logical reaction - whether you like it or not.

In 2010 the Kharkiv Pact was "a treaty between Ukraine and Russia whereby the Russian lease on naval facilities in Crimea would be extended beyond 2017 by 25 years (to 2042) with an additional 5 year renewal option (to 2047) in exchange for a multiyear discounted contract to provide Ukraine with Russian natural gas."

There was no threat to Russia's bases in Crimea. That is a pretext.

Now Russia has a better deal. They have the bases forever and they don't have to provide Ukraine with the discounted natural gas that was their part of the agreement.

If Japan decides the it no longer wants to renew the lease on the US base in Okinawa, the US has no right to invade Okinawa to prevent the loss of an important naval base.

3. Russia, in order to destabilize the CIA installed government in Ukraine creates unrest.

"We certainly agree that Russia in order to destabilize ... creates unrest."

If it is a "CIA installed government" in Kiev, Russia had better arrest Yanukovich for cooperating with a CIA plot. If he had not left and gone to Russia - asylum in exchange for Crimea? - he would still be in office and the country would be preparing for elections in December. Of course, Crimea would still be part of Ukraine so I can see the downside for Russia if Yanukovych had not decided that life would be better in Russia.

4. There is a propaganda war trying to discredit Russia at every step.

There are propaganda wars discrediting the government in Kiev, the separatists in the East, the Russian government, the US government, European governments and everyone else.

I don't excuse excuse the actions of any government or group simply because someone else is spouting propaganda about them.

The NGO's report may be accurate. It may not. Any government does not have the right to classify an NGO as a 'foreign agent' just because it releases information that the government would like to keep hidden. If the information they release is inaccurate, counter it with the facts. Don't try to silence them.

Politifact: Contrary to claims, the United States did not spend $5 billion to incite the rebellion

in Ukraine.

(In the December 2013 speech) She (Nuland) described how American taxpayer money has supported Ukraine’s democratic development despite the country’s challenges.

"Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance, all of which are preconditions for Ukraine to achieve its European aspirations," she said. "We have invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine."

Our ruling

Contrary to claims, the United States did not spend $5 billion to incite the rebellion in Ukraine.

That’s a distorted understanding of remarks given by a State Department official. She was referring to money spent on democracy-building programs in Ukraine since it broke off from the Soviet Union in 1991.

We rate the claim Pants on Fire.


The $5 billion was spent over 22 years in Ukraine as it has in many countries. It did not spend $5 just to "engineering a coup in Ukraine that overthrew the elected democratic government".

As is yours. Though I appreciate you not defending the "I'm leaving because I want to" coup.

on the first day, the new government initiated a political attack on Russian-speaking populations

Indeed the parliament passed a law eliminating Russian, Romanian and Hungarian (not just Russia) as an official languages in certain regions. Of course, the prime minister vetoed it and it never became law but the issue would never go away.

prompting the secession of Crimea a couple of weeks later.

Leader of the Party of Regions, Oleksandr Yefremov, travelled to Luhansk to meet with local leaders and law enforcement agents to discuss the possibility of the south-east of Ukraine declaring independence, and seceding from the state. The chairman of the Supreme Council of Crimea Vladimir Konstantinov traveled to Moscow where he announced that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea will secede from Ukraine if there would change of power.


On February 20 Konstantinov got back from Moscow and announced that Crimea would secede if there were a change in power.

While Yanukovich was still in power the "recently-returned-from-Moscow" leader of Crimea warns that if there is a change in power, Crimea will secede. Surprise, surprise! Within 24 hours the "I'm leaving because I want to
"coup" happened and there was a change in power. Makes you wonder if Yanukovich did not receive a phone call from a Moscow area code at some point to let him know what Moscow and Konstantinov had worked out for what was going to happen.

The pro-Russian Ukrainian Front organisation announced a meeting to be held on 22 February among representatives from southern and eastern Ukraine. Andriy Kluyev is an organiser of the event and the group intends to discuss the federalisation of the country into semi-autonomous regions. Following the agreement with the opposition and measures made in parliament, President Yanukovych then flew from Kiev to Kharkiv to attend the Ukrainian Front congress; sources also indicated that Berkut forces had been amassed in Kharkiv in anticipation of the event. As Yuriy Lutsenko reported, past midnight on 22 February, the SBU opened criminal proceedings against Kharkiv governor Mikhail Dobkin and mayor Hennadiy Kernes for advocating separatism.

At the Congress of the Southern and Eastern regions in Kharkiv on 22 February, the deputies passed a resolution, declaring that they are ready to take responsibility for protecting constitutional order in their territory. They stated that the recent events in Kiev led to paralysis of the central power and a destabilisation in the country. They also signed a statement rejecting the authority of Parliament.


I think it is safe to say that elements in Eastern Ukraine were working on secession while events in Kiev were still underway.

Sounds like fascism to me. From wiki:

Fascist movements shared certain common features, including the veneration of the state, a devotion to a strong leader, and an emphasis on ultranationalism and militarism. Fascism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve national rejuvenation, and it asserts that stronger nations have the right to expand their territory by displacing weaker nations.

Fascism borrowed theories and terminology from socialism but replaced socialism's focus on class conflict with a focus on conflict between nations and races. Fascists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky to secure national self-sufficiency and independence through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.

The Nazis said that homosexuality was degenerate, effeminate, perverted, and undermined masculinity because it did not produce children.


Veneration of the state (Mother Russia) - check
devotion to a strong leader - check
emphasis on ultranationalism and militarism - check
politcal violence, war and imperialism - check
strong nations (Russia) have a right to expand their territory by displacing weaker nations (Ukraine) - check
focus on conflict between nations (Russia vs. US/EU) and races (ethnic Russian in Ukraine) - check
protectionist and interventionist economic policies - check
homosexuality is forbidden by the state - check.

ISIS "has spent most of the past 18 months avoiding actually fighting the Syrian government,

concentrating instead on destroying its rivals, the Jabhat al-Nusra (Succor Front), other radical groups, and the more secular-minded Free Syrian Army."

When IS comes after its rivals among the rebels, it is vicious, mowing them down without conscience. Even classic al-Qaeda under Ayman al-Zawahiri has condemned IS and kicked it out of al-Qaeda.

Abu al-Miqdad of the Islamic Front, which has fought both the regime and IS, said he supported the American intervention against IS because of the latter’s bloodthirstiness. “They don’t distinguish between civilians and combatants and they kill people with knives,” he said. “Who kills people with knives?” He said he hoped the US bombed every last one of them to smithereens. “They are not Muslims,” he said, “but infidels.” He said that real Muslims would never have done what they did to civilians and to the Free Syrian Army.

Jaber, head of the Islamic Front’s ad hoc military police in Aleppo, agreed that the US air strikes would be welcome. He said that fighters were facing a de facto alliance of the regime of Bashar al-Assad with IS, since the two avoided fighting each other and concentrated on the other rebels.

Meanwhile, the UN has issued a report condemning both the Baath and IS/ ISIL for war crimes.


Syria jets hit Islamic State targets in Raqqa

Regime planes bombard Islamic State positions as fighters close in on Tabqa air base in northern Raqqa province. Activists say Syrian jets have bombarded positions of the Islamic State group in the northern province of Raqqa as the self-declared jihadists close in on the last army base in the region.

Government forces have previously held off from targeting the Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIL - a strategy that has aided the group's battle against other rebels such as the Islamic Front coalition, the Free Syrian Army and al-Qaeda's affiliate in the Syrian war, the Nusra Front.

Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, has long painted the uprising in Syria as a foreign-backed conspiracy and his enemies say he has allowed the Islamic State to grow to promote that idea.

The attacks come after the Islamic State group on Thursday captured the headquarters of Syria's 17th Division, based in the Raqqa area. It posted a video online of its operation.

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