Wars often start for seemingly absurd reasons connected to tendentious issues of honor, perceived military commitments and, most of all, erroneous expectations that escalation can be limited and managed. No one anticipates a war now between Russia and NATO. That is what is worrying. Only when a nuclear exchange is imaginable does controlling one become truly feasible. Even if the chances of a larger war are small, the stakes are stupendous and ought to give leaders and opinion leaders a pause.
Please pause. The hot rhetoric could start an unnecessary fire.
Remember that World War I, the granddaddy of 20th century folly, was triggered by the act of an anarchist in the Balkans. When forces already are poised for confrontation, as they were then, it doesn't take much to launch hostile actions, and often the fuse is lit by a minor figure.
In retrospect, it is clear that Russian-Western tension before the Ossetia debacle was much greater than almost anyone realized. This dispute is not just about ethnic rivalries and boundary lines in the Caucasus, but rather the whole post-Soviet relationship and "New World Order." It is bigger even than Russia's fear of "encirclement" or the fears of its near neighbors that Russia wants to swallow them up. Both sets of fears are genuinely held, but it is likely--as good diplomacy could show--that neither set is justified.
Continue reading "Russia and the West Are Entering the Danger Zone" »
Many Americans blame George W. Bush for the disastrous state of U.S. foreign policy in the region, but to be fair, the blame should go to the older Bush and Clinton as well...
It looks like the Western leaders, and especially two U.S. Presidential hopefuls, Barack Obama and John McCain, are trying to outdo one other in condemning Russia's recognition of independence for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Meanwhile, an impressive armada of U.S. and NATO military ships is docking in the Georgian port of Batumi or is on the way to the Black sea while Russia also sent three missile boats to show the flag. At the same time, British foreign secretary David Milliband has arrived to Ukraine to promote the idea of building some kind of anti-Russian coalition, and other EU leaders are making very tough statements too.
There is a great danger that if this verbal war continues at some point the inflammatory rhetoric will get out of control. To save face the West might be forced to follow words with deeds and we would arrive not just at the new edition of the Cold War but to something much hotter, perhaps close to 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, or even worse.
Continue reading "Is the West Ready to Fight Russia
to Preserve Stalin's Legacy?" »
Download the PDF version of the report
"Behold the Bear: Ten Reasons Americans Should Care About Russia"
The war in South Ossetia and Georgia, though appalling, resulted in fewer deaths and damage than originally reported. It is still not "over" and probably won't be for some time. Meanwhile, it definitely did serious damage to Russia's relationship with the West. In some ways, relations are worse than at any time since well before the collapse of the USSR--in other words, in roughly a quarter century.
We are going to say a lot more on this, and we are not inclined to be particularly laudatory to any of the players. The war has not made any country look good.
Meanwhile, before the war we wrote a report on Ten Reasons Americans Should Care About Russia. It follows, and, as you will see, it remains valid. Perhaps as tempers cool, people of good will can consider what is at stake; what there is to gain, and what there is to lose.
Download the PDF version of the report, or proceed to the extended post to read the online version of the publication.
Continue reading "Behold the Bear:
10 Reasons Americans Should Care about Russia" »
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (left) and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev
Russians and Georgians fight it out--in print. The Financial Times has scored by publishing articles by both Dimitri Medvedev and Mikheil Saakashvili. (P.R. firms representing both sides must be working overtime.) Obviously, both presidents are biased, but their points of view could have not been presented more clearly. Medvedev's "Why I had to Recognise Georgia's Breakaway Regions" and Saakashvili's "Moscow's Plan Is to Redraw the Map of Europe" in the order of their appearance in the FT:
Why I had to Recognise Georgia's Breakaway Regions
By Dmitry Medvedev
August 26, 2008
On Tuesday Russia recognised the independence of the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It was not a step taken lightly, or without full consideration of the consequences. But all possible outcomes had to be weighed against a sober understanding of the situation -- the histories of the Abkhaz and Ossetian peoples, their freely expressed desire for independence, the tragic events of the past weeks and interÂnational precedents for such a move.
Continue reading "The Battle of the Dueling Presidents:
Take Your Pick or "None of the Above"" »
Russia's Natalia Paderina and Georgia's Nino Salukvadze hugged after winning Olympic silver and bronze medals, respectively, in the women's 10-meter air pistol competition.
The Beijing Olympics 2008 set a high standard for the next Olympics hosts, Canada (Vancouver 2010). Then comes Britain (London 2012), and Russia (Sochi 2014). Undoubtedly all will be daunted by the precedence of extravagance that China displayed, while there also will be new security concerns for future events. Not everyone will want to, or be able to, crack down on dissent the way the Chinese did, either. Just one thought: Sochi is only a few miles from the Georgia frontier and the Sochi winter games are only four years away.
While the Russian team didn't do well in the beginning of the 2008 games, lagging behind other nations at the eighth and sometimes 12th places in the total medal count, the country caught up towards the end and finished in a solid third place with 72 medals behind America (110 medals) and China (100 medals). Americans earned more medals than ever before, however China ended in the first spot with the most gold medals.
Overall, Russia's performance was admirable. Two and three decades ago many nations were united under one Soviet flag, representing a larger population and therefore more athletes to draw from. It's interesting to note that in 2008 Ukraine ended in 11th place with 27 medals, an impressive display for a relatively small nation, and Belarus surprised us with its 16th spot and 19 medals, ahead of such countries as Poland or Canada. Georgia came in 27th place with six medals, and Kazakhstan secured the 19th position with 13 medals. Those who followed the Olympics closely noticed that the former Soviet nations performed best in their historically strong areas. Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus did well in boxing, wrestling, weight-lifting, and other "manly" activities. Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia secured best spots in women's gymnastics. Overall, Russian women looked stronger and more confident in their disciplines than the men did.
Please visit the extended post to see the table of medals for the team of the Russian Federation.
Continue reading "Russians, Happy Over Olympics,
Look to Sochi, 2014" »
There is a certain game-playing going on in the Caucasus that is not very confidence-inspiring.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Dallas at Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008. The Dallas, had originally been slated to dock at the Black Sea port of Poti, which is still controlled by Russian forces. (Photo and story by AP)
US, Russia Anchor Military Ships in Georgian Ports
By Sergei Grits and Jim Heintz
BATUMI, Georgia (AP) -- A U.S. military ship loaded with aid docked at a southern Georgian port Wednesday, and Russia sent three missile boats to another Georgian port as the standoff escalated over a nation devastated by war with Russia.
The dockings came a day after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recognized two Georgian rebel territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, prompting harsh criticism from Western nations.
Continue reading "Suddenly it's a Georgia "Standoff"?" »
Download the PDF version of the report Russia's Forestry Industry Overview
John Deere service center in Syktyvkar, the Republic of Komi
The Russian Federation has experienced significant changes since the volatile years of the 1990s. Nine straight years of consistent GDP growth along with political stability, high commodity prices, and a great influx of foreign direct investment have transformed Russia into a modern country with the 9th largest economy in the world. (1) The country's newfound wealth is driving the modernization of all major industries in the country and especially in the forestry sector.
With the passing of the 2007 forest code and continuing modernization in equipment and techniques, Russia's forestry industry has the potential to increase wood products output by 4 times its current rate. (2) Considering that Russia contains one quarter of the world's forests, industry experts proclaim that "the potential of the national timber industry is no less than that of the oil, iron, and steel industries." (3) According to some experts, the economic potential of Russia's forestry industry can be estimated at more than 100 billion US dollars(!). (4)
Continue reading "Weekly Market and Industry Report:
Russia's Forestry Industry Overview" »
The Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera
When Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, spent $45 million a few years ago to build a mansion on the east side of Lake Washington, near Seattle, it was thought to have been the most expensive house ever. Regardless, it was a carefully thought out space for man who was the richest person in the world -- at least until he gave most of his fortune away. Gates is the individual who did more than anyone to help put a personal computer in every office and home. Then he and his wife turned to helping save lives around the world through their new foundation.
In any case, the honors for Big-Spender in the home category just keep going up and up. And wouldn't you know that the folks who sold off Russia's assets in the 1990s would be the leading contenders what has become a spectacular new conspicuous consumption sweepstakes?
When the $750 million house on the Riviera went on the market recently, many just assumed that the buyer--if any--would turn out to be a Russian. And so it is, according to Fox News.
Just who is the happy new home owner? Is he someone who, like Gates, made his money improving life for others while making a fortune for himself? Did he, too, set up a prestigious foundation to help the sick and unfortunate? Or is he one of the notorious kleptocrats?
Continue reading "Russian Conspicuous Consumption
Reaches New Heights" »
It may take 50, 100, or even more years before historians acquire a proper understanding of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's legacy. For his contemporaries, however, he is first of all the literary giant who almost single-handedly delivered the most powerful weapon in the East -- West ideological confrontation with his works. This weapon helped the West to defeat the "Evil Empire" with the collateral result of crushing the Communist International and "reeducating" the European Left, which to some extent was sympathetic to the Soviet experiment.
History knows other cases when words were more powerful than guns. Without going into dangerous religious waters one could point to Karl Marx, who published a powerful indictment of a capitalist system which eventually led to the enslavement of nearly half of mankind. And it took Solzhenitsyn to undo the work of Marx. For this, the world and especially Russia should be forever grateful to this man. However, when it comes to modern times, Solzhenitsyn's ideas of rebuilding his native land did not find too many followers, at least so far.
Continue reading "Alexandr Solzhenitsyn Street
The Legacy Begins to Clarify" »
A scene from the movie with Vera and her father
A Driver for Very (Ð’Ð¾Ð´Ð¸Ñ‚ÐµÐ»ÑŒ Ð´Ð»Ñ Ð’ÐµÑ€Ñ‹) is a fine romantic drama from director Pavel Chukhraj. Set during the summertime on a secret Soviet naval base in the Crimea of the early 1960s, the movie uses the height of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis as the backdrop for its human drama. The heroes of this Russian movie are a Red Army general and a young soldier, and the villains are KGB agents.
The plot revolves around General Serov (Brogdan Stupka), who has a physically disabled and troubled daughter named Vera (Yelena Babenko). Vera walks with a noticeable limp but also drinks and smokes and wears glamorous clothes. When Viktor (Igor Petrenko), a young Red Army soldier, is recruited from the Kremlin Guards to work as the General's chaffeur, he is immediately attracted to Vera, in spite of the teasing advances of the General's pretty young maid Lida (Yekaterina Yudina, not so believable in this role).
Continue reading "Voditel Dlya Very
(A Driver for Vera) Reviewed" »
Valery Gergiev performing in South Ossetia
Who would have imagined that barely after the guns stopped in South Ossetia, the principal conductor of the London Symphony, Valery Gergiev, who also is lead guest conductor of the New York Metropolitan Opera, would appear out of the smoke to lead a classical musical requiem for the war dead?
Gergiev, it seems, is a native of Ossetia, and his performance of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Shostrakovich's Seventh Symphony was surely one of the few propaganda coups--and the classiest--that Russia has had in the current international crisis. One can note that the numbers of war dead are turning out to have been exaggerated in early reports, and one can hope that people will find a resonance in their hearts for all of them--on both sides. That might cause reasonable men of good will to seek real peace.
Continue reading "Surprising High Notes Struck in Ossetia" »
Best Buy is coming to Russia
Many have wondered whether the conflict in U.S.-Russian relations over Georgia was going to affect business relations between private corporations of the two countries. Tentative indications are "no." Last week, reports Reuters, Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N), the leading U.S. retail electronics chain, expanded into Russia, having registered its Future Shop trademark to operate in the fast-growing market. Victoria's Secret, owned by Limited Brands (LTD.N), and Japanese retailer Muji have also registered trademarks in Russia this month, Kommersant reported, as a decade of economic growth continues to boost wages and demand for high-end goods.
Vedomosti newspaper, citing the government patent agency Rospatent, said Best Buy had entered its license application for Future Shop, a Canadian subsidiary, in 2006, but has never voiced any intentions of opening stores in Russia. Rospatent has registered the Future Shop brand and is still reviewing the application for the Best Buy trademark, Vedomosti reported. Kommersant also reported that Best Buy had this month been granted Russian trademark rights for Future Shop. The move of Victoria's Secret, Bes tBuy, and Rospatent, most likely, has no relationship to the ongoing conflict, but is a great indicator that the American-Russian business has a bright future.
Continue reading "While Conflict Deepens, Business Goes On" »
Download the PDF version of the report Russia's Retail Market: Trends and Opportunities
Entrance to an IKEA store in Rostov, Russia.
Summary of contents
- Russia's economic outlook
- Russia's retail sector
- Case studies
Russia's economic outlook
Since 1999 Russia has experienced outstanding growth rates, constantly improving macroeconomic conditions, and growing involvement in the global economy. These achievements, together with high world oil prices, political and economic stability, and skyrocketing foreign direct investment have all contributed to the growth of the country's economy.
Continue reading "Crisis in Georgia or Not --
Weekly Market and Industry Report:
Russian Retail Market" »
To be published in the International Herald Tribune.
Like the heroes in Leo Tolstoy's short story, Russia and America have become "Prisoners in the Caucasus," their options constrained by the irreconcilable positions of protagonists whose hostilities dates back centuries.
But while Russians have more than two centuries of historical, political, cultural and military experience to guide them in this crisis, the Bush administration is a novice to the region.
It shows. The administration's main argument for supporting Georgian sovereignty seems to be that Georgia has a rare combination of two virtues: 1) a staunchly pro-American strongman, Mikheil Saakashvili, whose lapses into martial law and seizure of opposition television stations are quickly forgiven; and 2) the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which connects the Caspian oilfields to the Black Sea.
Continue reading "Prisoners of the Caucasus Unite" »
By Mike Wussow and Bruce Chapman
A Russian gas rig in Siberia. Russia currently produces over 9 million barrels of oil per day and has the world's largest proven reserves of natural gas, giving Moscow significant geopolitical clout
(Note: Some of the issues described in this post - particularly U.S. oil dependency and energy security - will be the focus of a major conference hosted jointly by Discovery Institute's Cascadia Center and Microsoft on September 4-5, 2008. Participants will include Anne Korin and James Woolsey, both of whom are also referenced in this post. Details are available here.)
The Russia-Georgia conflict brings uncomfortably to the surface the question of energy security. Like much of the rest of the world, America is addicted to oil, most of it now imported. We rely on petroleum to fuel just shy of 100 percent of our transportation. America imports from its neighbors, Canada and Mexico mainly, but almost as much from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria. Russia supplies 762,000 barrels each day to the U.S. according to numbers released by the U.S. government in June.
Continue reading "To Reduce Russia Stand-off,
Reduce Western Oil Dependence" »
"Russians in Georgia: Behind the harrowing individual tales of destruction and want, analysts see a clash between the US and Russia reminiscent of old Cold War divisions," reports BBC News.
The Washington Post has perhaps the best report so far on how the war in South Ossetia and Georgia got started. It is astonishing how this episode ignited a torrent of abuse and prejudice, second guessing and histrionics on both sides.
Link to the recommended article
Continue reading "Classic "What Were They Thinking?"" »
On June 17, 2008, we opened Orange Golf Driving Range in the village of Yablonovsky in New Adigeya. The driving range is a first step as we continue to move forward with our project to build Krasnodar's first private country club community.
Since the actual golf course will not be open for another two years, we built Orange Golf as a place for people to learn golf now and improve their skills. We hope that many Krasnodarians will use our facility to learn the basics of golf and then on their next trip abroad try the game at the resort where they might be staying.
Continue reading "Krasnodar Discovers Golf" »
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, look on during a news conference at the presidential residence in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, on Friday, Aug. 15, 2008.
Listen to my interview about the Russian-Georgian conflict on Seattle 710 KIRO AM's Dave Ross Show from August 14, 2008 by downloading this file. For an easy download, please, click on the link with the right button of your mouse and choose an option "save target as." After the podcast file is uploaded, you can open it with Windows Media Player or any other free media software.
"George Bush's Administration is promoting interests of candidate John McCain," said Dr. Markov. "Defeated by Barack Obama on all fronts, McCain has one last card to play yet - the creation of a virtual Cold War with Russia..."
Wild rumors somehow still make the news. The silly efforts in Moscow to link the outbreak of war in Ossetia/Georgia to the U.S. Presidential race effectively treats this whole tragedy as farce. Does this mean it also is not being taken seriously?
From The Times (London)
By Charles Bremner in Moscow
August 15, 2008
Link to the original article
Kremlin dusts off Cold War lexicon to make US villain in Georgia
Russians were told over breakfast yesterday what really happened in Georgia: the conflict in South Ossetia was part of a plot by Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, to stop Barack Obama being elected president of the United States.
Continue reading "Treating War as Political Farce" »
Map of the conflict region
The BBC is reporting this on the US Secretary of State's visit to Tbilisi:
"Ms Rice will present President Mikhail Saakashvili with a European Union-brokered ceasefire deal, but he has said he would need 'a closer look' before signing. The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has demanded that Georgia sign the deal immediately - but said only Russia could guarantee peace in the region."
But we were told several days ago, and everyone has assumed, that President Sarkozy, when he arrived in Tbilisi with the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan, already succeeded in getting President Saakashvili's signature on the document. Now it seems to remain an open option.
If the BBC report is true, there is no ceasefire between the Russian and Georgia forces.
Continue reading "Has Georgia Signed the Ceasefire?" »
President George Bush, flanked by Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, and Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, announced that he is sending Rice to Georgia and directed Gates to start humanitarian missions. Later on Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he sees no need to invoke American military force in the war between Russia and Georgia. (EPA/Times Online/AP)
The precipitating event in the war in South Ossetia and Georgia was the Georgian shelling of Tskhinvali. That either provided an "excuse" for the Russians to invade or a justifiable "reason". Either way, without that shelling the outbreak of war was unlikely.
How did it happen? Why were the Georgians so reckless? Some Russians say it was part of a plan to annex South Ossetia by force. Georgians say it was in response to provocations (the Russians supposedly set the Georgians up).
There also are different views of what America's role was at that time. Some Russians suppose that the United States knew and approved of the attack.
Continue reading "Intelligence Failure on Georgia:
Open an Investigation" »
Georgian troops fleeing under attack from Russian forces.
The scene on the ground would have been very different today if Georgia had been able to move past Tskhinvali after they shelled the city last week. Of course, it is not known if moving forward was the plan.
The route by which Russian troops, weapons and humanitarian supplies came south while thousands of refugees went north is a single narrow road from the Roki Tunnel built in 1985. Readers are invited to "drive" this road on Google Earth. If one does so, one comes to a large bridge where the road turns south in a defile at 42Â°21'29.61"N 43Â°54'2.58"E. This location is about 25 kilometres from the South Ossetian border.
Continue reading "Could the Georgians Have Done Better?" »
Relatives of Oleg Golovanov, a Russian soldier killed during the fighting between Georgia and Russia, mourned during his funeral in Vladikavkaz, Russia. (Photo by The New York Times)
International reporting is definitely improving, but the holes are still major. For example, it is said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the Russians tried to bomb the Georgian oil pipeline, but there is no actual reporting to sustain this claim. Likewise, there is a reporting lacuna on what exactly precipitated the Georgian shelling of Tskhinvali. What exact provocations were they responding to? Their own story on this deserves to be heard. Was it something specific or general, or what? Did the Russians agitate the Ossetian militia; if so, how?
So, when did the "war" begin?
Meanwhile, there is no doubt that we have seen a serious diplomatic and political debacle for Georgia, the U.S. and even Russia, and to an extent, the European Union. Gratefully, the war--once it had been engaged--does not seem to have realized the extent of killing feared early on. It could have been worse. Of course, if you or someone you know is one of the statistics, that is no consolation.
Continue reading "Continuing Fact Dearth in Ossetia/Georgia" »
President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, left, with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in Tbilisi (photo by The New York Times)
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has two valuable video clips worth noting: the first is the South Ossetia/Georgia chronology of fighting, the second the rally of Eastern European leaders in Tbilisi three days ago.
The chronology is useful because it shows the confusion about whom provoked whom first, though there is no doubt that the Georgians did start the shelling, giving Russia reason to invade. This, along with the US government failure to figure out what was going on in time to stop it, has to constitute the disaster's precipitating blunder.
Continue reading "Some Context Before It Is Lost" »
Russia Blog's editors found this article informative and interesting.
Vladimir Putin's Mastery Checkmates the West
Russia has been biding its time, but its victory in Georgia has been brutal - and brilliant
By Michael Binyon
August 14, 2008
Link to the original article
The cartoon images have shown Russia as an angry bear, stretching out a claw to maul Georgia. Russia is certainly angry, and, like a beast provoked, has bared its teeth. But it is the wrong stereotype. What the world has seen last week is a brilliant and brutal display of Russia's national game, chess. And Moscow has just declared checkmate.
Continue reading "The London Times:
Vladimir Putin's Mastery Checkmates the West" »
When Russian army was advancing, Georgian troops, police, and city officials ran in disarray, leaving military equipment, cities, and citizens behind. (watch the Times Online video)
It is very difficult to understand exactly what is happening in Gori but it is clear that it is bad and getting worse.
The BBC is there and, looking at their reports (also this link) it seems clear that the civil authorities have fled and that people are being murdered and robbed. My suspicion is that, apart from the usual criminal elements who take advantage of power vacuums, it is probably Ossetians seeking revenge.
On the Russian side, Interfax reports:
"Deputy chief of the headquarters of the peacekeeping force Maj. Gen. Borisov today travelled to Gori especially to discuss questions of Georgian troop withdrawal with the local administration and law enforcers. Unfortunately, he did not discover any local leaders in the city".
Continue reading "War in Georgia:
Power Vacuum in Gori " »
President Sakozy (left) and President Medvedev (right). "President Nicolas Sarkozy has shown a flair for the high-profile diplomatic intervention," reports BBC. (Photo by AFP). Russia and Georgia declared today, August 13, 2008, a Day of Mourning for the victims of the conflict.
France, which currently holds the Presidency of the EU, in the persons of President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner, has induced President Saakashvili to sign the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement.
According to both President Medvedev's office and a French news agency the terms are as follows:
1. Tbilisi must make a commitment not to use force to settle its secessionist problems.
2. Georgian armed forces must cease fire.
3. Georgian armed forces must return to their barracks.
Continue reading "War in Georgia:
Now Comes the Hangover" »
The Wall Street Journal offers good coverage of the events from the heart of the conflict.
Russian Troops Still Pour Into South Ossetia
Scarred Area Vents; Anger at Georgia; Death Toll Unclear
By ANDREW OSBORN and MARC CHAMPION
August 13, 2008; Page A8
Link to the original article
Russian soldiers sit atop military vehicles in South Ossetia
TSKHINVALI, Georgia -- The Kremlin said Tuesday that it was suspending military action in the separatist enclave of South Ossetia inside Georgia, but huge Russian military convoys still snaked toward the scarred capital, Tskhinvali.
After five days of fighting -- Russia's biggest use of force outside its borders since the 1991 Soviet collapse -- a victorious Russian army offered a small group of foreign journalists a carefully controlled glimpse of the territory it went to war over.
Continue reading "War in Georgia:
Interesting Reporting by WSJ" »
Ossetian civilians, just like the teenagers in Seattle and politicians in Washington, are trying to understand what is going on. It is just as hard to get the facts at the "ground zero" of the conflict as it is thousands of miles away.
True story from Seattle: Two teen-age girls were overheard at lunch yesterday:
"Did you see that the Russians have attacked Georgia?"
"No! Where? Atlanta?"
"I'm not sure!
"Like, why would they DO that?"
Well, those girls are not much far behind the mentality of the political and media--and think tank--classes these past few days. People should be wary about the lack of information, let alone perspective. But that hasn't stopped the opinion classes from offering their dire analyses and even more dire recommendations. We could link to literally hundreds of opinion pieces about the significance of what has happened in the "war in Ossetia and Georgia."
But before we opine further on this here, some questions:
Continue reading "War in Georgia:
Too Many Arguments, Not Enough Facts" »
Edward Lozansky leaning on piano at the Russian Cultural House in Washington D.C. during the World Russia Forum (May 2008).
Edward Lozansky, senior advisor to Discovery Institute's Real Russia Project and the President and Founder of the American University in Moscow, participated yesterday on the discussion panel "Are the US and Russia Heading for Another Cold War?" on the National Public Radio's program "To the Point." Other program participants were: Paul Rimple (Reporter, Christian Science Monitor), Janusz Bugajski (Director of the New European Democracies Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies), and Steve Clemons (Director, New America Foundation).
We encourage our readers to listen to the podcast of the show.
Listen to the show (streaming audio)
Download the full show (audio file)
Original link to the show (NPR webpage).
Russian troops crossing the Russian-Georgian border.
"Truth is the first casualty of war," as is always said about now, because that statement is almost always right. And the second casualty is surely civilized restraint. Wars are easy to start, hard to contain, let alone end.
Right now, the surprising events in South Ossetia and Georgia represent a clash of information and interpretations. This is getting sorted out, but slowly. However, the events themselves are moving with agonizing speed.
For a couple of years now Discovery Institute's Russia Blog has been almost unique in representing otherwise ignored news about Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Often we provide access to news about business, culture and social developments that are occurring in a region that the West--including the USA--has tended to neglect since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now we are faced with a war in Georgia that is as big a surprise to most people (diplomats, too, it appears) as it is an obvious catastrophe for the peoples involved and a historic setback for Russian/Western relations. The complications for other regions will soon develop.
Continue reading "Discovery Institute and
the War in Ossetia and Georgia" »
By John C. Wohlstetter (special to Russia Blog)
Georgian soldiers helping an injured comrade. Georgian troops are wearing U.S. Marine camouflage uniforms; the only difference - the Georgian flag badges.
Ethnic separatism once again has further destabilized world geopolitics, with the outbreak of military conflict between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia & Abkhazia; Russia also attacked Georgian targets in Abkhazia--and as of midday Monday has invaded Georgia and occupied Gori (Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's birthplace), just 55 miles from the Georgian capital of Tblisi.
While President Bush, out to lunch in China, watches swimming, basketball & baseball in Beijing, here is what one Georgian farmer told a British reporter: "Why won't America and NATO help us? If they won't help us now, why did we help them in Iraq?"
Four lessons come immediately to mind:
(1) the risk minor powers pose to major-power relations;
(2) the risk of excessive compartmentalization in policy;
(3) the risk from grossly misplaced strategic focus;
(4) the risk of making a fetish of democracy promotion--especially in the form of volatile multi-ethnic states.
Continue reading "Russia v. Georgia: Four Painful Lessons" »
Ossetian survivors of Georgian army attacks on Tshinvali are hiding in the basements of destroyed buildings without food and water
This article will ask and attempt to answer three questions:
1. War in Georgia: Russian aggression against an independent country or an indiscriminate Georgian assault against Ossetians overlooked by the U.S. media?
2. What would the United States have done if a bordering country (let's say Mexico) slaughtered 1,400 U.S. citizens and 10 U.S. soldiers overnight, leaving U.S. citizens by the tens of thousands without food and water?
3. If ethnic cleansing on Russian borders is none of Russia's business, and should not result in a Russian military response against the aggressor, how can one explain NATO's bombing and occupation of Serbia in 1999, a country that did not share a common border with the U.S. or other NATO members?
Continue reading "War in Georgia:
Putting Things in Perspective" »
Georgian army rocket batteries firing on Ossetian cities and villages Friday, August 8. As the result of this bombardment, 1,400 civilians, including women and children, and 10 Russian peacekeepers died the first night of the Georgian attack. Hours later, Russian troops responded to protect Russian citizens and soldiers in the region.
Mr. Charles Johnson, of the influential conservative weblog Little Green Footballs, has noticed our site:
"In addition to promoting the anti-science hoax of 'intelligent design,' the Discovery Institute runs a pro-Russian site called 'Russia Blog,' and today they come out in favour of Russia's brutal assault on the breakaway republic of South Ossetia".
As a contributor to this blog, I want to answer Mr. Johnson's guilt-by-association allegation. I personally have no use for "intelligent design" or other claims against evolution, but one would search Russia Blog's website in vain for any mention of this topic. And Mr. Johnson's characterization of "Russia's brutal assault on the breakaway republic of South Ossetia" gets it exactly backwards. Chronology is the key: it tells you here, as it so often does (in evolution as well) what is actually happening.
Continue reading "War in Georgia:
Misreading Ossetia -- Chronology Matters" »
Russian peacekeepers at an anti-aircraft gun in the disputed region of South Ossetia
Yesterday, after Russia sent reinforcements to back up its peacekeepers under seige by the Georgian army in the tiny disputed territory of South Ossetia, Arizona Senator and Republican Presidential candidate John McCain denounced the move as "Russian aggression" against Georgia. Nevermind that it was the Georgian army which launched the offensive that ignited the present round of fighting, and thousands of refugees have been streaming out of South Ossetia into Russia in the last few days.
The reported death toll of over 1,400 is the worst the region has seen since 1992. In that year, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both regions with strong ethnic ties to compatriots in Russia, were ceded to Georgia within their Soviet-drawn borders. After the U.S. and NATO countries recognized the independence of Kosovo in early 2008, the South Ossetians and Abkhazians decided that they could declare their independence from Georgia, which has sparked the recent violence.
UPDATE - August 10, 2008 Welcome, Instapundit and Little Green Footballs readers! Please click here to read Russia Blog contributor Patrick Armstrong's excellent post responding to LGF blogger Charles Johnson. Click on the extended post to read the author's response to some of the questions and comments written elsewhere about this post.
Continue reading "War in Georgia:
Yawns and Kneejerks in America" »
by Paul J. Saunders and Brooke Leonard
A t-shirt celebrating Senator Barack Obama's recent speech in Berlin
Senator Barack Obama loves hope and change. And it's easy to understand why--hope is a powerful motivator and change can often bring important improvements to America or to the wider world.
But turning hope into change isn't easy. Among other things, it requires considerable realism in assessing current realities, understanding what is simpler or more difficult to change, who needs to be involved to create change that sticks, and how change in one area might affect others. This is where Senator Obama comes up far short of what the United States needs in a President.
Continue reading "McCain's Wrong on Russia
...And So Is Obama" »
Follow news of the Russia-Georgia conflict as its develops with the Newswire headlines on the top left side of this website.
Russian tanks surge into South Ossetia to protect Russia's citizens and peacekeepers after the Georgian Army attacked the breakaway region this week, killing over 1,400 civilians. Georgia has claimed South Ossetia as its territory since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1992, while South Ossetian separatists have sought independence and perhaps union with North Ossetian compatriots in Russia.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: "In accordance with the constitution and federal law, I, as president of Russia, am obliged to protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are located. We won't allow the deaths of our compatriots to go unpunished."
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin: "War has started after a well-planned invasion." Putin appealed to world leaders for help.
Spokesman for President George W. Bush: "Russia and Georgia should cease hostilities and hold talks to end the conflict."
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili: "Most decision makers have gone for the holidays. Brilliant moment to attack a small country."
Russia Blog: Our view is that it's not polite to start a war during the Olympic Games - a tradition that has celebrated peaceful athletic competition between nations since ancient times. The Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili decided to send his army into South Ossetia while major world leaders were attending the opening ceremony of 29th Olympiad in Beijing - after reassuring European Union chief envoy Javier Solana on Thursday that he had called for a unilateral ceasefire.
If Saakashvili and his advisors believe that being a strong U.S. ally means that they have a "green light" from Washington for these rash moves, they are sorely mistaken. A few hours after the fighting started, President Bush and Prime Minister Putin were discussing the crisis face to face at the Olympics.
Continue reading "War in Georgia?
Caucasus Violence Took Europe by Surprise" »
Czar Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918
Editor's note: In the fourth part of his masters thesis, "The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism", St. Petersburg University graduate Kevin Cyron examines the history of political and economic reforms in Russia from the 19th century Czars to Mikhail Gorbachev and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Click on the links to read previous installments in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Click on the extended post to read part four of this extended essay.
Continue reading "The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism:
Part 4 - From Reformist Czars to Gorbachev " »
Five generals have been found guilty on corruption charges, and 757 criminal cases have been opened against legal officials in the government's fight against the corruption.
Solzhenitsyn. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a man of unshakeable integrity and courage, who did more to kill Soviet Communism than anyone else, died on Sunday. His body lay in state at the Academy of Sciences and Putin and Gorbachev paid their respects. He was buried yesterday at the Dmitriy Donskoy Monastery in Moscow and Medvedev attended. Lately he had begun to sound rather out-of-date but I suspect his influence will endure for many years.
Corruption. Medvedev signed his national anti-corruption plan and the Russian text is up on his website. A number of laws and amendments are expected to go to the Duma next month. Some features are restrictions and regulations for disposal of state assets and a provision by which companies can be responsible for the corrupt actions of employees. Speaking of which, the labor in the Augean Stables continues: so far this year, the military prosecution office says that five generals have been found guilty on corruption charges and the Investigative Committee states that 757 criminal cases have been opened against legal officials.
Continue reading "Russian Federation Situation Report
August 7, 2008 " »
This article was inspired by Barack Obama's speech in Berlin.
(Photo by The New York Times)
President Dmitry Medvedev's plan to redesign Europe's security system with Russia as its integral part, followed by the Russian foreign ministry's tough statements aimed at America and intended for McCain and Obama's consumption, show that the new Kremlin administration is serious about becoming a global player on the international geopolitical arena.
Interestingly, practically at the same time Pentagon came out with its new military doctrine which mentions Russia as a potential security threat. Here is a direct quote from the June 2008 National Defense Strategy report: "Russia's retreat from openness and democracy could have significant security implications for the United States, our European allies, and our partners in other regions.... Furthermore, Moscow has signaled an increasing reliance on nuclear weapons as a foundation of its security. All of these actions suggest a Russia exploring renewed influence, and seeking a greater international role."
Continue reading "The Looming Crisis" »
by Paul J. Saunders
If you were running the largest newspaper in the capital city of the world's sole superpower, which foreign-policy issues would you select as your top priorities? The war in Iraq? Terrorism? Nuclear terrorism, something that could change the American way of life forever? Energy policy, which is already severely affecting many Americans' lives? If you don't like these, what about China, India, Iran, North Korea, the Middle East peace process or climate change?
The Washington Post's answer to this question may surprise you: it's Georgia (the one ruled from Tbilisi, not Atlanta). In barely more than five months since the beginning of January, Lexis-Nexis shows that the Post's editorial pages have carried at least nineteen separate contributions focused on Georgia and its relations with Russia--almost one per week--if one combines editorials (seven) and opinion pieces (twelve). The vast majority of these (but not all) have the same thesis: that Georgia, under grave threat from Russia, must be rescued by the United States, usually through accelerated membership in NATO and American pressure on weak-kneed Europeans.
Continue reading "The Washington Post
...or Tbilisi Post?" »
Download the PDF version of the report Russia's Construction Equipment Market
Gazprom Building To Be Constructed In St. Petersburg (Photo by The Design Blog)
Eastern Europe and Russia, in particular, is currently home to one of the most dynamic and attractive construction equipment markets in the world. The tremendous growth of Russian businesses, sustained high price of oil and gas, political and economic stability, as well as growing foreign direct investment and international trade have all contributed to the growth of Russia's construction equipment industry. As the construction boom continues across the country, considerable demand for Western made heavy construction equipment continues to grow.
Fueled by rapid economic growth over the last seven years, Russia is now one of the most rapidly growing construction equipment markets in the world. With an average of 10 to 25 percent growth in the market annually, Russia offers Western construction equipment companies enormous opportunities for growth and expansion. (1) The construction and mining machinery market in Russia is expected to continue to grow strongly for at least the next 3-5 years. The market for construction machinery was worth $2.1 billion in 2006, and is estimated to reach as much as $2.6 billion in 2007. (2)
Continue reading "Market and Industry Report:
Russia's Construction Equipment Market" »
President Putin presenting the State Prize to Alexander Solzhenitsyn at the author's home outside of Moscow, June 2007 (Photo by: Getty Images)
The life of Alexander Solzhenitsyn can be described as a series of great miracles which could eventually earn him the status of the Saint in his Slavic Orthodox religion. Surviving Stalin's Gulag where millions perished, recovering from a deadly cancer disease, and, most importantly, achieving a great moral victory over his Soviet tormenters and, moreover, Communist ideology should certainly qualify him for this honor.
One need only compare the headlines of major Soviet newspapers calling him a shameless and sold-out traitor to his Motherland and CIA lackey with the praise from former KGB officer and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who came to Solzhenitsyn's house last year and thanked him "for the great work you do for our country" to see that many of his ideas have miraculously materialized.
Edward Lozansky is President of the American University in Moscow.
Solzhenitsyn (right) with the late Fr. Alexander Schemann
Just over thirty years ago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (ÐÐ»ÐµÐºÑÐ°ÌÐ½Ð´Ñ€ Ð˜ÑÐ°ÌÐµÐ²Ð¸Ñ‡ Ð¡Ð¾Ð»Ð¶ÐµÐ½Ð¸ÌÑ†Ñ‹Ð½), who passed away at his home outside of Moscow last weekend at the age of 89, was greeted warmly by a group of students at the commencement for Harvard University's class of 1978. The Harvard graduates likely expected to hear some typical words of inspiration before going out into the world, or an analysis of Solzhenitsyn's novels, or the progression of the Cold War. What they received instead was a sermon, a jeremiad hurled against the very society they were about to join as adults, as well as against the dying Soviet system that had exiled Solzhenitsyn to the West. On the audio recording of the speech, many graduates can be heard applauding loudly, while others murmur, probably wondering when this old man they regarded as a crazy, reactionary Russian would finally shut up.
To read excerpts from one of Solzhenitsyn's final interviews, click here.
Click on the extended post to find more thoughts on Solzhenitsyn, and to read a transcript of his most famous speech.
Continue reading "Remembering Solzhenitsyn: A World Apart" »
Solzhenitsyn in Vermont near his U.S. home in exile
Yesterday The New York Times and National Review offered contrasting profiles of the great Russian dissident and writer, who passed away at his home outside Moscow on Sunday. Russian Orthodox funeral services will be held tomorrow at the Dimitri Donskoy Monastery in Moscow, where Solzhenitsyn requested to be buried. The Donskoi necropolis houses the tombs of many prominent families and liberal scholars from 19th century Russia, the graves of Red Army soldiers who died defending Moscow from the invading Nazis, and anonymous victims of the NKVD buried by the Church. Solzhenitsyn, who fought his way into East Prussia in 1944-45 as a Red Army artillery officer, wanted to be buried close to his comrades.
Continue reading "Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Age 89, Passes Away" »
Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears - or in a reasonably priced cup of coffee
Forbes is reporting for the third straight year that Moscow is the most expensive city in the world according to a cost of living survey of expatriate professionals conducted by Mercer, a UK-based global human resources firm. Expats who have lived like native Muscovites for a long time may argue that prices in London and Tokyo are worse (and indeed, when it comes to rent for a luxury apartment, Tokyo still takes the cake) but Forbes leaves Moscow at the top of this dubious category. A cup of black coffee costs $10.83 in Moscow, but a latte with an hour of Internet access at Kafe Haus or Chocolatnitsa will could cost you considerably more.
Although around the clock traffic jams, high food and housing costs, low entry level salaries in return for long hours, air pollution and snow turning to muddy slush five months out of the year may keep many talented Russians and foreigners away, the city still has its charms; 24-hour shopping and restaurants, street musicians performing for a few rubles in the Metro, reliable if crowded mass transit, wild night life, fine arts and culture, and beautiful women.
Click on the extended post to read "the rest of the story".
Continue reading "The World's Most Expensive Cup of Coffee:
The End of an Era for Expats?" »
Solzhenitsyn: In June 2007, then President Vladimir Putin (r.), who presented Alexander Solzhenitsyn with the State Prize, Russia's highest humanitarian award, visited the writer at his home on the outskirts of Moscow. (Photo by RIA Novosti)
One writer among the Soviet dissidents did the most to force Western awareness of the true nature of the Communist regime during our complacent years of the Sixties and Seventies. He was the same writer who did a huge service to the West in 1978 when, accepting an honorary degree at Harvard, he had the courage to tell the truth about Western materialism and spiritual decay. Solzhenitsyn was sage yet again in his characterization of the Russian Federation in recent years. He was a stern but enormously good prophet.
Solzhenitsyn's last interview, with Der Spiegel, was discussed on Russia Blog just a year ago.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn's death at 89 was just announced.
Audio of Solzhenitsyn's "A World Split Apart" address to graduates at Harvard University, June 8, 1978
Solzhenitsyn broke taboos, shook Soviet empire (by Associated Press)
Russian stores on Brighton Beach in New York
"I think this will hurt immigrants' long-term assimilation into American society, both socially and economically," predicts Russian Ã©migrÃ© Yuri Mamchur, director of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Real Russia Project. "Most workplaces require them to speak English. This policy does them no favors."
By Deroy Murdock
August 2, 2008
NEW YORK - If you like bilingualism, you will love septalingualism.
Big Apple Mayor Michael Bloomberg's latest brainstorm outstrips his notorious war on trans-fats, both for its audacity and sheer senselessness. America's largest municipality soon will conduct official business in English and Spanish - which would be bad enough - plus five other foreign languages: Russian, Chinese, Korean, French Creole and Italian.
Continue reading "New York City Says It - Officially - in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, French Creole and Italian" »
Here are some pictures that a friend in Moscow took in June 2008. Some photos include the Mirax Group's gargantuan Moscow City complex, and other pics highlight torrential downpours, sunsets, and rainbows in the city.
In addition to the usual summertime fare of un-air conditioned heat, bigger traffic jams to get out of town to dachas on Fridays and shorter skirts, Moscow has also experienced a bizarre number of people getting struck by lightning this summer, with multiple fatalities. Many of the victims were talking on their cellphones in the middle of thunderstorms, and one man talking on his mobile was struck by lightning even while sitting in a grounded car (he survived). The authorities have advised Muscovites to turn off their cellphones during electrical storms - not a simple request in my experience, as many Muscovites won't even turn off their "handies" at the movies or the opera.
Enjoy the photos!
Continue reading "Summer Skies in Moscow" »
It's a rainy Saturday morning (July 26, 2008) and I'm killing some time while my wife gets her nails done. I'm sitting in the Europa Cafe on Severnaya Street drinking some coffee and writing this blog post.
Europa Cafe is one of the best places in Krasnodar to have a business meeting. The location is very convenient to the center of Krasnodar and perhaps most importantly, there's a parking lot just meters from the front entrance.
Click on the extended post to read more.
Continue reading "Europa Cafe, Krasnodar, Russia" »
Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) depicted after murdering his own son in a famous painting by 19th century Russian artist Ilya Repin
Editor's note: In this third part of his thesis, St. Petersburg University master's program graduate Kevin Cyron examines the history of U.S.-Russia relations and of Russian representative government from medieval times to the 18th century.
Click on these links to read Part 1 and Part 2
Click on the extended post to read Part 3 in the series.
Continue reading "The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism:
Part 3 - The Roots of Russian Democracy" »