"Those who went to Sparrow Hills this morning to stir up the trouble were simply wasting their energy. The world's biggest gay parade took place right here, at the Olympiysky [stadium in Moscow]" said Andrey Rybak, the 2009 Eurovision's winner, a Norwegian by passport and a Belarusian by birth.
I was in Moscow to witness the Eurovision the first two weeks of May, this year's most exciting European music event. The annual contest continues a tradition launched in 1956. It brought ABBA to light, along with many other talented (and not so talented) performers. The winning country gets to host the event, and last year's winning performance by Russia's Dima Bilan brought the festival to Moscow this month. Russia seemed to treat the occasion as a rehearsal for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, pouring a staggering $150 million into the song contest, and, according to all 42 voting countries, setting the bar so high, that no other European country can rival it for years to come.
Three interesting observations came to my mind after witnessing the glamorous event in person: the sexual orientation of its participants, the event's coverage in the Western media, and the lingual diversity (or lack thereof) among the participating countries.
Continue reading "World's Biggest Gay Parade... in Moscow!" »
Russia Today, a 24/7 news network and website inspired by Al-Jazeera that was launched in 2005 to tell Russia's story to the world in the English language, has recently remodeled its main web page. In addition to the complete change of website layout, RT added several bloggers to its stable of writers, including an American from Virginia named Doug Wead. This is an interesting development, because Mr. Wead brings a "compassionate conservative" Republican voice to an otherwise apolitical or left-leaning collection of bloggers.
In the past, Russia Today has been criticized in the Western media for allegedly being too pro-Kremlin in its reporting and commentary. Russia Today features a commentary show and blog by Peter Lavelle, an American who has lived in Russia since the early Nineties who also contributes his commentary to Radio Free Europe/Liberty. Mr. Lavelle has been harshly critical of U.S. foreign and economic policies, which he blames for triggering the current global financial meltdown and the Georgia War that left hundreds of civilians dead last August.
Continue reading "Russia Today Goes John Galt
RT Hosts Tea Partying Blogger" »
Michael Averko addressing the guests of the World Russia Forum in Washington D.C.
Last month's parliamentary election and political demonstration in Moldova led to greater attention focused on that country. A few relatively high placed articles on the subject have been followed up on.
Appearing shortly before the vote and protest, Vlad Spanu's March 20 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) commentary "Backroom Deals Can't Solve Transdniester Dispute" acknowledges the popularity of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in Moldova, where they have respectively run 1-2 in popularity among politicians worldwide. This point relates to the simultaneous desires of wanting good relations with the West, without being so against Russia and its leadership.
Continue reading "Follow-up on the Former Moldavian SSR Commentary" »
After a brief break in posting new articles, we're back to offer you unique and exciting commentary on Russia's politics, economy, and culture. Russia Blog proudly notes that since 2005 we have published over 1,000 original posts and 7,000 original reader comments. We sincerely welcome your readership and your financial support. Thank you for reading us all these years!
- The Editors
This week at Russia Blog: world's biggest gay parade... in Moscow; commentary on the opposition in Moldova; a photo essay of the recent World Russia Forum in Washington D.C., coverage of Moscow's 2009 Victory Day Parade, and much more.
By E. Wayne Merry
This article originally appeared in The New York Times. E. Wayne Merry was a speaker at the World Russia Forum which was recently held in Washington, D.C. by Discovery Institute and the American University in Moscow.
The Obama administration has offered to "reset" relations with Russia. But what is really needed is a change of operating system.
A reset seeks to restore a previous relationship, which for former officials of the Clinton administration now back in office means the Yeltsin years. This will fail because Moscow views that period as emblematic of Russian weakness and exploitation by the West, and especially by the United States.
Relations with Moscow deteriorated under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The U.S. neo-liberal project of the '90s not only failed but deeply alienated Russians. The bilateral nadir was the Kosovo war, a worse episode than last year's Georgia conflict. A new opportunity after 9/11 was frankly squandered. Washington regarded Russia as a loser and treated it as such. It forgot that Russia would not be weak forever, and would remember.
Continue reading "A 'Reset' Is Not Enough " »
This article originally appeared in The Washington Times
Only a couple of short months after the United States and Russia exchanged encouraging remarks about resetting troubled relations, the two countries find themselves again at odds over Georgia. Last week, NATO began monthlong military exercises in Georgia that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has called an "open provocation."
It's unfortunate that these current NATO exercises have the capacity to disrupt much broader strategic interests that the United States and Russia have in common, most notably the mutual fight against al Qaeda. At stake are strong U.S.-Russian cooperative efforts in defeating al Qaeda and stopping its encroachment into the Central Asian and Caucasus regions.
Continue reading "Is NATO Disrupting Russia 'Reset'?" »
Russian troops entering South Ossetia last year after a Georgian offensive to retake the secessionist territory was repulsed by Russia.
The Russia-Georgia War in August 2008 has seriously exacerbated Russia's already damaged relationships with the West. If the Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, had won last November's election in the United States, the two countries might have moved to the next level of confrontation -- possibly of a military nature.
Few people in the U.S. political class have been more ardent in advocating U.S. ties with the small Georgia at the expense of relations with Russia. Some of McCain's advisers are also known to have worked as paid lobbyists for Georgia's membership in NATO. Clearly they are not concerned that, had Georgia been a member of the alliance when the violence erupted in South Ossetia, the United States would have been in a state of war with Russia.
Continue reading "Preventing a New Crimean War" »
The new U.S.-Russia arms race...bailouts and printing money?
In its May 2009 issue The Atlantic Monthly published an article featuring the provocative title, "Is the U.S. Becoming Russia?". The author, Simon Johnson, is an academic economist at MIT's Sloan School of Management and former director of the International Monetary Fund from 2007 to 2008. Prof. Johnson is intimately familiar with inner the workings of the IMF, the same Washington-based multinational agency that once extended billions in loans to Russia when Russians experienced hyperinflation and a banking system collapse in the 1990s. Regardless of whether one agrees with Johnson's thesis -- that the U.S. is rapidly starting to resemble the emerging market economies, such as Russia, that it once advised -- his article is well worth a good read.
Continue reading "The Atlantic Monthly Asks:
"Is the U.S. Becoming Russia?"" »
Workers protest a crisis-shortened four day work week and pay cuts at a Ford plant in Russia (Photo by: The St. Petersburg Times)
In case you hadn't noticed, Russia's culture, whether the subject is politics or business, doesn't always mesh as nicely with the traditions of the West as one might suppose. The recent arrests of gay rights demonstrators in Moscow--they say they were denied any kind of demonstration permit--illustrate a continuing difference in traditions of free speech on public issues. Regardless of their stance on any given issue, such as gay rights, almost all Americans and Europeans support the right to peaceful protest. In the economic realm, the same is true. However, in the case of a demonstration in Russia against Ford Motor Co., there was no official objection to the protest demonstration, but one does wonder what really was being protested.
In the U.S., it is commonplace for companies under financial pressure to cut back employment or, in certain circumstances, to reduce the work week in order to conform to production reductions. If the company lacks orders for cars, it can't afford to build them, can it? But the work week cut still must seem novel to Russians who are more used to a general social contract that accepts low wages in return for security. In the old days of the U.S.S.R., companies just kept making products, often regardless of market acceptance. It was one reason socialism failed.
Continue reading "Anti-Ford Demonstration Shows Culture Clash" »
William Burns, U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs, addressing the World Russia Forum
William J. Burns
Under Secretary for Political Affairs
April 27, 2009
Remarks As Delivered
I'm delighted to be here today. I want to thank Ed Lozansky for organizing this very timely forum.
The joint declaration issued by President Obama and President Medvedev at their first meeting in London on April 1 reaffirmed that Washington and Moscow share common definitions for many of the threats and opportunities that we see in the world today. The declaration recognized that more unites us than divides us. And it reflected the commitment of both Presidents to move beyond Cold War mentalities and to chart a new course in relations between our countries. The task is now to translate that sentiment into actual achievements as we look ahead to a July summit in Moscow.
Continue reading "U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns
Remarks to the 2009 World Russia Forum" »