Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: Is Putin Reasonable in Dealing with the Arab World?
The new elections in Egypt have proven that Democracy works. People's wish for a new leadership came true, and the Muslim Brotherhood is in charge of the strongest Islamic nation, a former ally of the West. The new government may rewind the hard-earned achievements of cooperation with the West and basic human rights by 500 (if not 1,000) years. And America, Russia, Britain, France and other prominent U.N. members will be simply watching the historic tragedy from the sidelines. The democracy has flourished indeed, and the Egyptians--not Russian or American intelligence operatives--are in charge of their nation, just as Palestinians and Hamas are in charge of theirs.
The change of government is yet to occur in Libya, but chances are high that the African nation--who enjoyed the fruits of the Arab Spring as well--will cast a vote for a similar leadership as the one Egyptians did (or the extremists, amid the chaos, will seize the power bypassing official protocols). This leaves the world at large with a question: is al-Assad really that bad? Or is he just evil, but the lesser of the available devils raging through the Muslim world? At the end of the day, Russia may not have only its own interests in mind, but also the interests of the overall stability in the region and the world. The death of 10,000 protestors is a tragedy. However, would the persecution of all non-Muslims, pushing the women to the sidelines of society, harboring terrorists, and--possibly--killing hundreds of thousands be a worse tragedy? The answer should be clear, unless some of the involved parties who advocate the protection of the human rights, in reality have a particular interest in destabilizing the region; such scenario borders with a conspiracy theory and, I hope, isn't true.
Realpolitik of Russia (and China) is weathered by 1,000 years (and 5,000 years respectively) of history. They may see the difference between the implausible wishful thinking and the unpleasant harsh reality. My own long trip to Washington D.C. is coming to an end, and sipping the Starbucks double-shot espresso on ice and thinking of the Founding Fathers and the French toast at the Kramer Books in DuPont Circle makes me wish the world were filled with peace and respect. However, Afghan, Libyan, Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Iranian villages do not have a Starbucks and do not serve French toast. Furthermore, they haven't heard of the Founding Fathers, and, quite often, do not know how to read or write. What they do know, is that Allah is the one and only God, who promises a pass to heaven and multiple virgins, a woman is less valuable than a horse, and the West and Israel are the enemies who need to be converted or erased from the face of the Earth.
Replacing the warm-and-fuzzy imaginary picture with a reality snapshot makes White House attitude look like the sentiment of a Seattle tree-hugger who cannot understand why some trees will have to get cut when the Jersey Pike is expanded. After all, Putin may have a valuable advice that Obama should consider. Americans have their own saying: Be careful what you wish for.
"We wish not to meddle with the internal affairs of any country..."
- President Thomas Jefferson
On Thursday, June 7, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will convene a hearing at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs which she chairs. However, instead of using her committee's significant resources to conduct the People's business, she will take up the Magnitsky Bill, a controversial issue that may hinder U.S.-Russia relations outside of logic and reason.
The name of this H.R. 4405 bill references the death in 2009 in Russia of Sergei Magnitsky who died while in pre-trial detention on a tax fraud case after being refused medical treatment for his illnesses. President Dmitry Medvedev at the time dismissed a number of top local and federal prison officials over it. Prime-Minister Vladimir Putin called the death a "tragedy." The investigation into Magnitsky's mistreatment and the whole case of alleged tax fraud by his employer - the Hermitage Fund - is still going on. So is there a role here for U.S. Congress to play? The short answer is "No."
Mr. Trololo Dies at 77 -- Rest in Peace, Eduard Khil
Eduard Khil (Mr. Trololo) performing at a St. Petersburg dance-music festival in summer 2011
Forgotten for a long time, popular Soviet artist Eduard Khil, achieved the worldwide stardom as "Mr. Trololo" in 2010; he died last night in a St. Petersburg hospital at age 77. His 1976 vocalized song "I'm so Glad I'm Finally Coming Back Home" became a YouTube sensation, scoring millions of views within days. His new fame put him back on the stages of Moscow and St. Petersburg hottest dance clubs, where he performed remakes and remixes of his old hits. Last April, he suffered a stroke, and his newly-found world-wide fans started collecting donations for an advanced heart surgery. Unfortunately, Eduard never got a chance to use the generous gift. However, doctors who spent the last minutes of his life with Mr. Trololo, said that he died happy.
The best gift of his life was the last-minute international stardom. What a way to end a long career for a retired Soviet singer! He was just another Soviet musician, who faced the hardships of the Nineties with the rest of the nation, and left Russia for Paris, where he sang at restaurants to make the living. He was old, and returned home in 2000-s to quietly retire and live the last days of his life in his old Soviet-built apartment; just another "old man." The 2010 YouTube phenomenon could have been taken as a prank or as a prompt to get back on the stage. He took it as the latter, and, despite his age, reconquered the hearts of millions. Eduard Khil experienced what no other Soviet singer could have ever dreamed of - an international fame, spanning across the continents and generations. In the last days of his life, he smiled and entertained the young crowds, who fell in love with his sincere love for life, appreciation of all genres of music, and enjoyment of Internet humor. He even hoped to make it to the States with the Mr. Trololo Tour...
You lived a full life and will be remembered far beyond the Soviet Union and its old generations. Today, the whole world will smile, listening to your 1976 hit. Rest in peace, Mr. Trololo.
As long as President al-Assad's regime causes instability, oil prices stay high; the Russian budget is balanced and Chinese gain the competitive advantage. This situation is the result of a series of decisions that stretch as far as 2005...
In a recent interview with the Business Insider, I said that "problems in Iran and Syria are 'wonderful for the Russian economy.'" I meant it. Mark Taylor's article "For all the bluster, these three reasons show Russia's position on Iran may be surprisingly sane" explores well why Russia is interested in the ambiguity around Iranian nuclear program. In brief, two things to keep in mind: the unstable region means higher oil prices (good for Russia), and Iran as a neighboring Islamic nuclear power means an imminent threat to Russia beyond any American's imagination (bad for Russia). However, after all, world economics and politics are a fine art of balancing, and that's what Russia is doing; playing a dangerous game, that's paying off well so far with Putin's balanced federal budget.
The new unstable player of the region is Syria, and many Americans, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, cannot wrap their mind around Russian and Chinese stance of non-involvement. The situation is similar to the one with Iran and Libya, but if one takes a closer look, it is different and only "better" for Russia and China. Suffering and dying of innocent people are bad things; however, they are bad only for the people experiencing them. The Russian Orthodox Church, led by former Putin's colleague, would condemn the violence, but would also remind you that there is a lot of suffering in the world, and the best immediate thing we can do is just pray for the victims. Gadhafi was a stabilizing force in his country, and NATO's help to the Libyan rebellion meant instability (higher oil prices, better budget in Russia). Gadhafi was a Russian ally, and Russia faced the loss of a $4 billion weapons contract. However, that monetary loss was offset by the significant increase in oil prices, and Gadhafi's old age helped Russia shape its decision to control the timing of his imminent "departure."
Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad (coincidentally born on September 11) is a different animal. His leadership means instability in the region, for which American farmers are paying at the gas pumps, and with which Russian members of parliament are balancing the books. So, if the case of Syrian nation's slaughter is monetarily good for Russia, why would the Chinese go along? After all, they import oil as well. That's where many reporters (and Secretary Clinton) forget a small detail of a very large transaction that took place seven years ago.