Stories continue to pour forth about the Russian spy scandal. Everyone seems a bit embarrassed. The Russians pretend to be indignant, but they don't deny that the eleven folks caught with lots of spy equipment, fake identification and other espionage giveaways, were, in fact,....well,....spies.
What really should embarrass the Kremlin is the apparently farcical quality of the spy craft. References have been made to John LeCarre and James Bond. A much more appropriate comparison is to the cartoon characters of Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale in the Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show that was popular from the 60s to the 80s. See, for example, an excerpt from "Boris and Natasha Take Washington."
Some think that all the Kremlin really wanted was what they got, impressions of life in the USA and what people close to government think. If so, it is another example of wasteful government spending. The Russian public need something comparable to the Tea Parties to demand better value for their tax monies. This pitiful excuse for spying is what about we would expect of the American government under Obama. It is the exact sort of soft power intelligence the Left here seems to think is important. Only it is hidden.
The Kremlin would be better off following the Internet, including our own Russia Blog! Given what they appear to be after, the Russian government should sponsor more conferences and exchanges right out in the open where people of different views and experiences from the US and Russia can learn from one another.
That would prove more productive, cost less and lead to fewer arrests.
Presidents Obama and Medvedev enjoying burgers at Ray's Hell Burger in Virginia
Following the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that hosted world's leading CEOs and once again brought together Medvedev and Sarkozy, and the casual lunch in Virginia where Medvedev and Obama ate burgers and split the fries, TIME wrote a refreshing article about Russia. Coincidentally, a week ago, I hosted in Moscow a friend, an American business owner. His conclusion was the following: given a) the demographics of Russia, b) Russia's wealth with natural resources, and c) Russia's central location to the world's fastest growing economies, Russia has no choice, but to grow. The West has no choice, but to participate in that growth.
Steve Jobs gave Dmitry Medvedev the new iPhone 4G. Luckily for Medvedev, his device came unlocked and he has already used it in Russia without any "help" from AT&T.
The children of Russia's baby-boomers grew up and are buying cars, refrigerators, and groceries. They also travel, and learn from their Western counterparts to love stuff. They spend money and learn and earn to spend even more. Russia is gifted with the natural resources. The climate change and advances in technology guarantee that Russia is not going to run out of oil, gas, gold, and timber any time soon. China, India, and Central Asia need Russia. Whether Europe and America like it or not, they need Russia too--in dealing with the Muslim world and expanding personal economies. Furthermore, Americans who tend to be idealistic and sum up things to all-or-nothing (let's say, perceived human rights vs. possible economic gains), in large missed the boat of Russian opportunities: French Ashan took the place of America's Wal-Mart, German Metro Cash and Carry eliminated opportunities for Costco, and Starbucks is shy in stealing customers from Russia's Coffee House and Shokoladnitsa.
Continue reading "TIME: the Road from Western Capitals These Days Leads to Moscow" »
Viktor Vekselberg and Arnold Shwarzenneger signed a historic document in front of Dmitry Medvedev to maintain and protect the U.S. Fort Ross national park
(San Francisco, CA, 22 June 2010) -- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and corporate leader Victor Vekselberg, Chairman of Renova Group -- alongside Russian President Dmitry Medvedev -- sign a historic agreement to support and preserve California's Fort Ross State Park. The site was on the verge of closure given California's ongoing budgetary crisis. The Renova Group of Companies and State of California view their cooperation as fostering deeper cross-cultural relations between Russia and the United States and promoting enhanced understanding and connection between the peoples of the United States and Russia.
An early agricultural supplier to Alaska, Fort Ross was a thriving Russian settlement from 1812 to 1841. The Fort's Russian settlers were the first to introduce to the area shipbuilding and windmills, as well as advances in science, natural studies, agriculture, and conservation. At the forefront of multicultural sharing, Fort Ross was a place where Russians and local Native Americans shared peaceful relations and where innovation and respect for the land were valued highly.
Hearing of the impending closure, the Renova Group, headed by Victor Vekselberg, has committed substantial financial support to the park and will promote long-term solutions to budgetary and other issues through establishment of a public charitable foundation, the Renova Fort Ross Foundation.
Continue reading "Russian Business Leader Saves Historic Landmark from Closure" »
Today, the Kremlin launched two separate Twitter accounts. One in English, and one in Russian language. Aside from tweeting about an outing with President Obama to Ray's Hell Burger in Virginia, President Medvedev posted the following today:
The decision of major American companies to come to Russia and invest shows that we can agree on more than just missiles.
While Western media isn't yet abuzz about the Kremlin tapping into Twitter, the comparisons to other leaders jumping on the popular short message system can't be far behind.
On June 12, 1918, Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich (henceforth Michael) and his secretary Brian Johnson, a Brit, were randomly executed in the outskirts of the far away city of Perm in the Ural Mountains. A year ago, Russia "rehabilitated" both, along with other Romanov-related victims of Soviet repression. The decision followed a similar act about Tsar Nicholas II and his family on October 1, 2008.
However, the Russian media at large failed to single Michael out from among the other Romanovs. Didn't Tsar Nicholas abdicate in favor of Michael, his younger brother? If so, shouldn't he be treated as Michael II, the last of the Romanov tsars?
Yes, he should. So thinks Donald Crawford, the co-author of a 1997 book Michael and Natasha: The Life and Love of Michael II, the Last of the Romanov Tsars. Crawford is a lawyer and the publisher of "Parliamentary Briefs" in London. He is fully aware of deviations from the law in both Nicholas's abdication and Michael's deferring his assumption of power contingent upon the decision of the popularly elected Constituent Assembly. However, Crawford insists that those deviations were necessary in order to save the spirit of the law and Russia herself. He is right in calling Michael "the last of the Romanov tsars." Not for the sake of anybody's vanity, of which Michael had none. But for the sake of extraordinary legacy that Michael bequeathed to Russia. That legacy is worthy of any tsar.
Continue reading "June 12: Russia Day or Remember Tsar Mikhail II Day?" »
Many Westerners know little about the new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Father Kirill. Many Russians know him as a great orator and a host of a weekly TV show "Pastor's Word." However, very few know that Kirill (Vladimir Gundyaev by passport), a billionaire and a former KGB operative, made his fortune in tobacco, alcohol, and oil sales. His activities were among the main reasons why not-for-profits in Russia lost tax-deductible status. The new Orthodox leader is fond of playing with stocks, car racing, downhill skiing, and breeding exclusive kinds of dogs. He owns villas in Switzerland and a penthouse with a view of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.
After Patriarch Aleksiy II died, the Orthodox Synode, made up of spiritual, business, and social leaders, took up the evening news and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to elect a new leader. After Mitropolits Filaret and Kliment withdrew their candidacies, Kirill won the position. When it became too obvious that Aleksiy was at the end of his life, Mitropolit Mephody, who had been considered the strongest candidate for the Patriarch's post, was sent to lead the Orthodox Church in Kazakhstan. Maybe just a coincidence, but rumors and articles in local newspapers suggested a different scenario. I heard all the stories from friends while witnessing the historic events in Moscow. Later, I took time to research whether or not they were true.
Continue reading "Patriarch Kirill: Leader of Orthodox Church and Tobacco Imports" »