Sunday, February 16, 2014

How Perfect Anti-American Campaign In Russia Should Look Like



Mr Michael McFaul, outgoing American ambassador in Russia often complained about anti-American campaign waged by state-run Russian media.
I disagree with him as I didn’t see such campaign in Russian media despite random anti-Western bias of some journalists, politicians & most of all Russian people commenting news stories.

Here is my take on hypothetical anti-American campaign how it should look like if it was indeed waged.


It started with a crash, brakes of Michael Hastings car malfunctioned and he suffered terrible death. Suspiciously Feds already were on him, interviewing relatives and friends and in the last moments he was chased by US security forces.

The next day leading Russian newspapers, Izvestia, Kommersant, tabloids MK & KP published front page articles & fiery editorials denouncing hostile to journalists & whistleblowers US regime of President Barack Obama.

Russian media cited sentence to 35 years behind bars of Bradley/Chelsea Manning as proof of inherent hostility of US regime to journalists of Wikileaks and Manning, their source.   

Russian journalists & editors demanded from President Putin’s administration to take actions against US, punishing erring American officials with denial of Russian visas and freezing their assets in Russian banks. it should be called Hastings List.

RBK, Kommersant and other business dailies publish detailed reports on how successive Republican and Democratic administrations with rubber-stamping Congress authorized multitrillion dollar bailouts of Wall Street fatcats and ailing autoindustry, in the process socializing private debts and who knows what bribes American politicians took for such favors.

In weekend shows Russian opposition politicians Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky labeled Obama as thug and his regime as gigantic kleptocracy. Former minister of defence Serdyukov, himself witness in case of budget improprieties under his watch, published tell-all memoirs where he criticized Kremlin but most of all Barack Obama, “who is bad for Americans”.

Same sense of pity & anger pervades Russian news coverage out of US, for example Duck Dynasty sudden demise was widely covered and discontinuation of popular show was widely attributed to the White House and “Obama’s allies” in media.

Obama’s private life ridiculed and pitied in Russian tabloids like Tvoy Den and MK. They published hoary stories about his dark past as gay hustler citing Republican sources in Fox News who knew Obama in youth. His current marital status and why Obamas sleep in different bedrooms also discussed in great detail.  

Outraged Russians post comments to such articles: “Obama is thug, plutocrat, not trustworthy”.

Serious newspapers started writing articles about chilly winds of New Cold War between US & Russia.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Wall Street Journal's instruction on US foreign policy



You don’t read The Wall Street Journal but you’re interested in current thinking of American establishment? You should read this newspaper well known not only for being a mouthpiece of Wall Street fatcats, obnoxious, often filled with untruths and propaganda Op-Ed pages and much better researched news analyses gathered by large corpus of its foreign correspondents.

In the first edition of this year, on January 2, the newspaper published interesting memo, “Global Disorder Scorecard”. It is list of current or anticipated conflicts of 2014, presented with descriptions of antagonists of these conflicts and whom American officials, politicians, journalists should “root for”.

WSJ scorecard photo WSJ.jpg

Here is this scorecard with my commentary

 • In the Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening and bribing to pull authoritarian Viktor Yanukovych away from Europe and into Moscow’s orbit. Street protestors and the opposition want to join the West with its rule of law and greater democratic transparency.

Whom to root for: The opposition. Without Ukraine, Russia can’t become a new empire, and a democratic victory in Kiev might have a useful demonstration effect in Moscow.

No surprise here, hostility to Russia is very well entrenched in psyche of US elite so WSJ urges readers to route for everything damaging for Moscow.
My comment: Ukrainian protesters are very naïve bunch of people, elderly babushkas hope to get 1000 euro a month pension from European Union, youngsters want visa free regime with EU that they can find work there, but I am afraid such dreams won’t be fulfilled in any scenario in foreseeable future. Presently they’re being exploited by not less crookish than Yanukovich opportunistic opposition composed of ex-gas princess Timoshenko, ultranationalists and Jewish circles. Russians naturally support Yanukovich but I have little hope he will use Moscow’s money wisely to break out of vicious circle between bankruptcy and anarchy.

• Thailand used to be one of Southeast Asia’s more stable nations. But the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra is under assault by opposition protestors who refuse to contest new elections and are openly begging for another military coup. The military has stayed neutral but may be tempted.

Root for: The Yingluck government. The opposition Democrat Party last won an election in 1992, and another coup would further destabilize a country that ought to be emerging as a beacon of Asian prosperity.

It’s only surprise for me as US before supported Thai royalist cliques, Bangkok middle class in form of Thai Democrats party and Thai military which ruled the country with short breaks since 1932.
Contrary I have been supporter of populist Thaksin policies since he was in office, he seemed to me visionary leader albeit flamboyant and immodest. Thailand lost its privileged position in South East Asia after the end of Vietnam war and now fiercely competes for tourists and investments with neighbors first of all Vietnam and royalist self-destructive antics only hold back the country.  

• China is increasingly assertive in its dispute with Japan over control of the small islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkakus (Diaoyus to the Chinese). With nationalism rising in both countries, especially China, this is the world’s most dangerous flashpoint outside the Middle East.

Root for: Japan, with the caveat that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stop worshiping at the shrine of World War II criminals. The U.S. is treaty-bound to defend Japan if it is attacked, and the best way to deter Chinese aggression is to let Beijing know that it will be resisted by both countries.

I don’t have any priorities here and I suspect American elite also divided in sympathies to US two largest foreign creditors.

• South Sudan, a new nation the U.S. helped to midwife over two decades, is descending into civil war. The main causes are personal rivalries and enmity between the Dinka and Nuer tribes over who will benefit from the East African country’s oil riches.

Root for: U.N. peacekeepers. Neither side merits Western support, so the goal should be to protect civilians. Some 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers will patrol land half the size of Western Europe, and they could use U.S. support as the two sides try to kill each other.

Vicious internecine conflicts in Africa will be very much mainstay of violence-addicted TV reporting in 21st century but as it’so far from the Far East I have little knowledge of what’s going on there, who kills whom and why. Still I strongly disagree with American scientific racists (and Francis Fukuyama) who argue that blacks genetically incapable of good governance citing random research of black children adopted in white families.

• North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un eliminated an internal political adversary when he had uncle Jang Song Thaek put to death in early December. But that may not have ended the internal threats to the crazy nephew’s consolidation of power, as the regime’s elites brawl over who gets the cash from their businesses and Western bribes.

Root for: More regime feuding and collapse. No amount of bribery will make the baby-faced despot give up nuclear weapons. The West should keep squeezing the North, denying the money it needs to buy domestic support, and heightening the internal contradictions, as the world’s last Marxists like to say.

North Korea is not far and baby-faced dictator who eliminated relative for not clapping enthusiastically enough on party forums is very scary figure. When I heard news of Jang Song Thaek’s execution by machine gun I said maybe it’s time to apply some calibrated pressure on the regime.

• The Syrian civil war will soon enter its fourth year, with President Bashar Assad and his Iranian protectors making gains against the divided opposition. With President Obama’s refusal to help moderates, and now his de facto alliance with Assad over chemical weapons, the opposition has become a breeding ground for Islamist fighters.

Root for: Some American strategists want a hundred year’s war, but as the conflict goes on the damage escalates. Lebanon is teetering, al Qaeda is spreading from Syria to Iraq, Jordan must cope with nearly a million refugees, and a region-wide Sunni-Shiite war is possible. With the U.S. on the sidelines, the least bad option is that the conflict burns itself out. Perhaps the country will split into de facto Shiite (Alawite), Sunni and Kurdish enclaves. The worst outcome is a victory for the Assad-Iran-Hezbollah axis.

Putin soon will be part of Shia axis of Russia-Syria-Iran but I hope he will held back as these regimes have nothing in common with Russian Federation. However as Saudi and Qatari funded terrorists continue to strike Russia with impunity I support some help to Damascus and Teheran in order to apply pressure on KSA.

• In Egypt, the military government has banned the Muslim Brotherhood and is rewriting the constitution to enhance its power, but this has bred a domestic terror campaign that may cost thousands of civilian lives.
Root for: An enlightened military leadership. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi views this as a fight for survival with the Brotherhood, and at this stage he’s probably right. The U.S. has squandered whatever influence it had with its inconstancy since the protests began against former strongman Hosni Mubarak. Let’s hope General Sisi leaves enough space for a more normal politics to develop over time and not leave Egyptians to choose only between two kinds of dictatorship—Islamist or military.

Probably Egypt is most terrible disappointment for the West. I don’t have much sympathy for Sisi who sold out to Saudis while clamping down on Muslim Brotherhood but understand he has to feed hungry mobs

• The greatest threat to world peace is Iran’s nuclear program, and President Obama seems determined to strike a diplomatic deal in the New Year that will let Iran retain much of its nuclear capacity and even to keep enriching uranium.
Root for: Political intervention from a bipartisan majority in Congress that opposes any deal short of dismantling Iran’s program and ending its enrichment capacity. It probably won’t happen as the White House pressures Senate Democrats to bend, but it’s the last hope other than Israeli military action for stopping the Iranian bomb.

I don’t have any trust in US Congress and even less in Iranian ayatollahs but I think US and Iran should civilize their rocky relationship and heal the past traumas. Threat to Israel from Iran is greatly exaggerated.

What is missing in this scorecard?

First of all Russia herself. WSJ probably rooted for ultranationalist Navalny but Bolotnaya protests dissipated.

Bangladesh. US hostility to Hasina became muted as American interest in the region has waned.

Iraq which became battleground for Iran who dominate Maliki’s regime and Iraqi Al-Qaeda financed by Saudi Arabia (just other day Maliki claimed he has evidence of $150 mln Saudis gave to one group).

Overall Wall Street Journal's scorecard is comic-book style with cartoonish black and white good guys vs bad guys that is why American foreign policy often than not faces fiasco around the world.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Devyani controversy and what it says about India's foreign policy


I don't like writing just for the sake of writing and thank god have no need  to attract visitors to my blog all the time to get traffic for ads. I write only if I have something interesting  to say on certain subject, to argue with some point of view, to comment on outrageous articles and so on. Usually I'm content with posting short comments in my twitter feed @FarEasterner  and I open my blog just to express in length fresh ideas.

A case of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade arrested and strip searched in New York attracted my attention immediately after arrest happened and I raised alarm in my twitter. Thankfully I was not alone who felt  humiliated by treatment of Indian diplomat, my tweets pressurizing UPA government to take retaliatory actions  against US were retweeted 100s times.

India took largely symbolic steps which brought about partial satisfaction today as Devyani was declared persona non grata by US and thrown out of the country. She was expected to arrive in New Delhi few hours ago late Friday.

Devyani case in nutshell is very simple and mundane, about domestic dispute between employer and servant. Publicity-seeking New York attorney Preet Bharara gave a touch of originated overseas  vicious intra-Indian affairI spilling over US noble shores. If US didn't take rude and unnecessary step of arresting and strip-searching Devyani there would not be public outcry in India and no damage to important bilateral relations would be done.

Observers, commentators and indeed public on both sides of the story had their say and covered all aspects of the case, including personas of Devyani Khobragade, Sangeeta Richard, her maid, South Manhattan attorney Preet Bharara & US/Indian diplomats, politicians who took active part in mutual recriminations.

My questions regarding the case concern with character of India's foreign policy and extent of damage done to US-India relations by the affair and what it means for the world.

Let's start with Indian foreign policy which dissatisfied many Indians who think it's too shy, too toothless, too pliable to concerns and wishes of more powerful players in the world, Indian policy seem to them as weak, not assertive and unsuitable for the great power which India strives to be.

 I'd disagree with such opinions of ultrapatriotic Indians because I believe that India has independent foreign policy based on her perceived national interests. Often it seems reluctant, parochial & short-sighted, even arrogant in relation to smaller neighbors (and I harshly criticized Indian diplomats in the past), nevertheless it's independent.

That's why I disagreed with charges made by Prakash Karat & Communist comrades as well as by some in BJP like Yashwant Sinha that Manmohan Singh' government sold out to America on much-touted nuclear deal. I thought the deal itself was nothing to worry about, India wishes to have more electricity to fuel economic growth, what's the problem. Of course, both US/India sides read too much into it, tasting newly found bonhomie but I knew from my experience with Indians that Manmohan Singh government is not sold out to US, and maintains independent foreign policy inherited since Nehru's non-alignment  movement.

Indians always seem to me very nationalistic, not in a sense of "India for Indians" but in patriotic sense, and legacy of long rule by foreigners, first Muslim emperors, then British colonizers is sitting firmly in Indian public memory shaping and determining the country's foreign policy.

Indians are very tolerant, welcoming, easy-going people but they will not tolerate insults to national pride from anybody, be it Russia, US or China and unfortunately for  Western strategists who cherished dream of turning India into cat's paw in South Asia it was clumsy Washington who put foot on Indian pride first like elephant in china shop. Former undersecretary PJ Crowely admitted this, citing bureaucratic and diplomatic negligence behind Devyani's mistreatment for minor crime.

So what will be consequences for India-US relations after Devyani incident? I think they will be two-fold, on practical side I don't see any immediate negative effects, because it's initially was diplomatic brawl, however mutual trust & nuclear deal bonhomie evaporated in the process of strip-searching Devyani by US marshals. Public and press on both sides feel other side was confrontational and it's not going to change in near future. Considering Obama's preoccupation with Snowden scandal it seems unlikely he will launch new far-reaching initiatives with indian lame-duck government. Expected victory of Narendra Modi who was repeatedly denied US visa will make things worse.

As Washington Post said today in editorial rosy view of India-US relations was shattered by Devyani affair.  Maybe crisis in bilateral relations happened timely as both sides and first of all Western media need to be realists, not propagandists, replacing sober assessment  with rosy views and wishful thinking.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Deciphering NYT’s “Russia’s homophobic turn”



New York Times in last edition of December 28 published article “Russia’s homophobic turn” which I will quote here extensively as newspaper is under sort of paywall and for commenting purpose.



There may have been only a few prosecutions, but Russia’s antihomosexual law has begun to bite, Mark Gevisser writes.
The Russian port city Arkhangelsk (population 350,000) is on the White Sea, 1,230 kilometers north of Moscow. A key Allied supply line to the Soviets in both world wars, it was also the departure point for the first Soviet gulag. The city is a paradox: inaccessible for most of the year, but historically a point of contact between Russia and the world. Still, it is grim, and visiting it gives a glimpse of what Soviet deprivation must have felt like. The lumber industry that once supported the city all but collapsed in the post-Communist era.
Recently, as a blizzard whipped through the city, I met a 22-year-old bus conductor named Varya. Her hair style was Gothic, shaved on top and hanging on her shoulder in a crimson curtain. She had a toddler, and lived with her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s daughter in the kind of family arrangement that some lawmakers allied with President Vladimir V. Putin want to eradicate. They have put forward a proposal — shelved for now — that would let the government remove children from homosexual parents. Most of her friends are unemployed, Varya told me, and she felt lucky to have a job. She showed me a sticker she had found on her route that morning: ‘‘Stamp out faggots,’’ it read, depicting a jackboot squashing the head of a pinkhaired youth. ‘‘It’s the neo-Nazis,’’ she told me. ‘‘The stickers are everywhere. They can do what they want because they know the authorities will not stop them.’’ Six months ago, Russia adopted a nationwide ban on ‘‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,’’ which makes it a crime to so much as mention homosexuality around minors. 
This is not true as author of the law Mizulina said: "In final text of the law we have chosen clear language that, for example, if a person shows life of gays, it is not propaganda, it is not aimed at developing such attitudes in children, it's just information . News stories - also just information, it's not propaganda. If two people of the same sex hold each other hand in hand - this is not propaganda. And if the child is looking for some information, if he needs it, it is also not propaganda, because there is no purposeful formation of non conventional attitudes of children to sex".

In other words, news stories about gays is OK, showing gays embracing each other is OK, if child discovers on web information glorifying gay life it's OK.
The ban was piloted in two provinces: Ryazan, southeast of Moscow, in 2006, and then Arkhangelsk, in the north, in 2011.
There have been only a few prosecutions,

prosecutions really happened or it was just for literary purpose? Where are facts, NYT?


but the law has begun to bite in other ways. In Arkhangelsk, it has been used to refuse authorization of street demonstrations. And the father of Varya’s child, heretofore absent, had begun using it to threaten a custody case. Varya contacted Rakurs, the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, and after they sent a letter, the man backed off. ‘‘But something else will happen,’’ she told me. ‘‘We know we are vulnerable.’’ There are many reasons for Russia’s dramatic tilt toward homophobia. The country has always sought to define itself against the West. Now the Kremlin and the nationalist far right

this is again not true as Russian neonazi led by pro-Western Yale educated Alexey Navalny



are finding common ground in their view of homosexuality as a sign of encroaching decadence in a globalized era. Many Russians feel they can steady themselves against this cultural tsunami by laying claim to ‘‘traditional values,’’ of which rejection of homosexuality is the easiest shorthand. This message plays particularly well for a government wishing to mobilize against demographic decline (childless homosexuals are evil) and cozy up to the Russian Orthodox Church (homosexuals with children are evil).
Yet one often ignored cause for this homophobic surge is perhaps the most obvious: backlash. Whatever else it is, Russian homophobia is a direct, even violent, reaction to the space created by a minority that has only come into the open over the last decade. This is certainly the case in Arkhangelsk, where Rakurs was denied registration as a nonprofit organization in 2010 on the grounds that it promoted ‘‘extremism.’’ Rakurs managed to get this judgment overturned, but soon after, the ‘‘gay propaganda’’ ban was passed. ‘‘The law was clearly designed to limit our activities,’’ Tatiana Vinnichenko, the director of Rakurs, told me. ‘‘And in many ways it has succeeded. We cannot hold protests of more than one person. And any attempts to help young people are stifled.’’ Ms. Vinnichenko, a 40-year-old professor of Russian language at the local university, is undeterred. She showed me the community center she has established. I had expected to be led to a basement on the edge of town. Instead, I found myself on an upper floor of a tall building in the middle of Lenin Square, the statue of the Soviet leader gesticulating across the river port and the snowy woodlands. City Hall was on one side, the State Duma on the other. Rakurs (the name means ‘‘Perspective’’) might be on the defensive, but no one can say it has been marginalized — yet. At Rakurs, I met with the resident psychologist and lawyer, an openly bisexual woman who had run for municipal office, and a sailor and his wife who were trying to start a support group for parents of lesbian and gay kids. I also met Varya’s friends: Vadim, who planned to leave for Moscow to begin the process of becoming a woman, and Sergei, who recently held a spontaneous one-man protest, yelling ‘‘Arrest me! I am propaganda!’’ to a passing patrol car. The police officers obliged, but decided to charge him only with littering. They seemed more interested, he said, in his involvement in the alt-music scene, or nefor (‘‘neformaly’’ means ‘‘alternative’’), than in his sexuality. Varya, Vadim and Sergei had met through the music scene a few years earlier. They would gather at a local graveyard. ‘‘It was the only place where nobody bothered you,’’ Vadim explained. Flipping through their timelines on VKontakte, a social-networking site, they showed me photos of themselves with dramatic goth hair and makeup and androgynous black clothing. The alt-music scene made space for kids who felt different, which is why so many ‘‘L.G.B.T.’s’’ — the acronym has become part of the Russian vernacular— were attracted to it. Later, in Moscow, I met a young blogger who called himself Harry. He was part of the alt-music scene in the capital, and had found other queer kids in online communities who shared an interest in Japanese animation. ‘‘We didn’t even know the words ‘gay’ or ‘ lesbian,’ ’’ he told me. ‘‘We used Japanese anime terms to describe ourselves: ‘yaoi’ for homosexual men, ‘yuri’ for homosexual women. There were hundreds of us!’’ Once the propaganda laws came into force, ‘‘I sent out a message calling for the establishment of an L.G.B.T. youth group,’’ Harry said. Between 20 and 50 kids met regularly last summer, in a park where many nefor groups hung out. Harry’s group started flash mob actions: On Valentine’s Day, for example, they gathered on historic Arbat Street and handed out messages with same-sex themes.
An online initiative called ‘‘Deti-404,’’ or ‘‘Children 404’’ (‘‘404’’ being the error code that appears when a web page can’t be found), gathers testimonies from queer youth all over Russia — precisely the minors the propaganda ban is meant to protect. The accounts of these isolated kids are harrowing. But, like Harry’s activism, they are shot through with such purpose that they suggest an inevitable dynamic: Even as the rise of a queer rights movement provokes a backlash, the backlash undermines itself — by strengthening the resolve of the movement and by publicizing (even if through hate) the existence of a group of people who were so long invisible. ‘‘The government tells us that Russians are homophobic,’’ Ms. Vinnichenko told me, ‘‘ but our experience is that this is really a small minority. Arkhangelsk is a tolerant city. But of course the state’s actions can have the effect of rendering it less tolerant.’’ While the state-controlled national media is relentlessly hostile, Rakurs has found some unexpected support in the local press.

this is a again lie, Moscow-based and regional media in Russia are free unlike Western media to discuss any topic and criticize or even smear ruling establishment though more open in internet and in print than on TV.



Ms. Vinnichenko introduced me to a journalist, Aleksey Filatov, who has been covering Rakurs for a local news website. He saw no reason the issue should not be covered ‘‘objectively, just like any other subject.’’ He added: ‘‘Whatever one’s personal feelings, one must acknowledge that the world is changing.’’ Everyone I met at Rakurs was emphatic that Western activism on their behalf should be escalated before the Winter Olympics start in February in Sochi, if only to shine a light on their predicament. Still, actions like mass boycotts against vodka or Coca-Cola (an Olympic sponsor) carry a double edge: They reinforce the official line that lesbian and gay rights are an obsession of the decadent, commercialized West, from which Russian values must be protected. There is only one way out of this bind: for Russians themselves to speak out in support of the rights of sexual minorities. What is most inspiring about groups like Rakurs, in far-flung communities like Arkhangelsk, is the counterpoint they give, by their very existence, to the official narrative that homosexuals are dangerous outsiders or, worse, child molesters.
In Arkhangelsk, Varya and her friends have graduated from the altmusic scene. ‘‘We’re adults now,’’ she said. ‘‘We have kids, we have jobs.’’ She held up the hateful sticker she had found on the bus, and kept: ‘‘And we have this to fight.’’
I don’t know whether heroes of NYT article (without surnames) are real people but I believe they are real because on Livejournal.com and diary.ru and other social networks there are plenty of Russian LGBT bloggers who can say and do similar things but NYT heroes don’t say anything which is little more than their irrational fears not real persecution or limits to their activities.

Hence my verdict: besides hypocrisy as NYT doesn't write about gays routinely executed in Muslim countries, they concocted charge of Russia turning homophobic and try every trick to prove unprovable because persecution of gays is not happening in Russia. In effect NYT advocates repealing so-called Mizulina law which limits access of children to pornography which I consider as NYT turn into voice of pedophiles.