Archive for December, 2009

30
Dec
09

Ten years later: Happy anniversary Mr. Putin!!!

Vladimir Putin is about to celebrate his tenth anniversary since his designation by Boris Eltsin to become his successor. Of course, Vladimir Putin has not been president and officially head of state for ten years. But who cares? Putin’s longevity proves the world that one can be hated outside his country and remain the best option for the citizen. And for some reason, I think we’ll see Putin in ten years to celebrate his twentieth anniversary…

A short reminder of this past decade…

Cast your mind back to 31 December 1999. In Moscow, it is the last day of a century that has seen revolution and the collapse of communism.

Everyone in the Russian capital is waiting for reassurance from regions further east, where the new millennium has already started, that Russia’s nuclear power stations are still safe – now that the date on their computers has changed to 2000.

He is a street boy turned into a very sophisticated political functionary and manipulator
Sergei Karaganov
Moscow Higher School of Economics

The main news of the day comes as a surprise.

Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first post-Soviet leader, announces his resignation.

Vladimir Putin takes over as acting president.

There is war in Chechnya.

The economy is still reeling from Russia’s defaulting on its debt a year earlier.

Tough, and rough

Mr Putin “came into a virtual failed state”, says Sergei Karaganov, a former advisor to Mr Yeltsin, and now dean of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

Mikhail Kasyanov, file pic from 2005
He was, and is, an old KGB officer who leads, or tries to evaluate all events and future from that angle: how to control society
Mikhail Kasyanov
Former prime minister

He has watched both Mr Putin, and Russia, change.

“He is bright, even brilliant, very tough, sometimes rough. He is a street boy turned into a very sophisticated political functionary and manipulator.”

This description sums up Vladimir Putin’s great versatility as a politician: he can seem equally comfortable wearing an expensive suit and discussing economic issues with world leaders, or sharing a joke with soldiers and speaking their slang.

He has divided the opinion of those who have lived through his 10 years at the top.

Many ordinary Russians – and, of course, Russia’s new super-rich – thank him for bigger paycheques. Others see this as having come at too high a cost to political and press freedom.

Calm after chaos?

One of Vladimir Putin’s first moves was to appoint Mikhail Kasyanov as his prime minister. Today, Mr Kasyanov is Mr Putin’s implacable opponent.

“He was, and is, an old KGB officer who leads, or tries to evaluate all events and future from that angle: how to control society, how not to allow people to directly participate because that brings risks,” says Mr Kasyanov of his former boss.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, disagrees.

Vladimir Putin in Kozmino, eastern Russia, 28 December 2009

Versatile as a politician, Vladimir Putin has divided the opinion of those who have lived through his 10 years at the top

 

He puts Mr Putin’s political success down to an electorate fed up with the chaos it associated with Russia’s immediate post-Soviet democracy.

“[They] believed… that one needs to have a strong leader. And then Mr Putin appeared, and he was immediately supported by very many Russians who still had expectations for life changing for the better.

“This is how Mr Putin from the very beginning of his era received very strong support from society, from the Russian citizens.”

At times he has needed it – dealing with incidents like the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000; the Moscow theatre siege two years later; the killings of Beslan schoolchildren in 2004.

The arrest, and subsequent jailing, of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was once Russia’s richest man, has been one of the most controversial cases of the Putin era.

Tense relations

In 2006, Russia held the G8 presidency. Vladimir Putin welcomed world leaders to his home town, St Petersburg.

The country felt it was reclaiming the superpower role it had lost with the demise of the Soviet Union. Still, under Mr Putin, Russia’s relations with the West have at times been tense. The eastward expansion of Nato has infuriated Moscow.

Russia’s war with Georgia saw the United States and many European politicians support Georgia.

“Russia has emerged for the West as something very alien, and it’s not really a partner, it’s not a threat, and the relationships are very ambiguous,” says Oksana Antonenko, a Russia expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

She believes, though, that Mr Putin has already done enough to guarantee his legacy.

Putin swims in a lake in the Siberian Tuva region

Images of Putin swimming in a Siberian lake this summer seem aimed at promoting his macho image

 

“Putin certainly has already assured himself a very favourable place in Russian history,” she suggests.

“Fifty, 100 years, 200 years from now he will be seen in Russian history as the man who saved Russia from the brink of collapse.”

Sergei Karaganov sees a more complicated picture.

“The cost of progress became higher and higher: blatant corruption, over-centralisation, and a decrease of incentives for economic growth,” he argues.

“If that is reversed somehow in the next several years, he will be seen as a controversial, but a great politician.

“If not, we will be facing a decline, and he will then be seen as a person who was relatively successful but then failed.”

16
Dec
09

US-Russia continue to discuss over arm reduction

Russia and the United States will continue talks on a successor deal to the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) in Geneva later this week. Exciting talks I guess between nationalist Russia and Peace Nobel Price America… 

“The talks are expected to continue next week” in Geneva, Russian news agencies quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying.

Moscow and Washington have been in intensive nuclear disarmament talks since July. Officials from both sides have recently expressed confidence in striking a new arms cuts agreement soon.

The START-1, signed in 1991 between the Soviet Union and the United States, obliged both sides to reduce their nuclear warheads to 6,000 and delivery vehicles to 1,600.

A follow-up agreement concluded in Moscow in 2002, known as the Moscow Treaty, envisioned cuts to 1,700-2,200 warheads by December2012.

President Dmitry Medvedev and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama announced at their first meeting in April that the two countries would find a replacement for the START-1 as part of their efforts to “reset” strained ties.

The new treaty’s outline agreed by the presidents at a July summit in Moscow included slashing nuclear arsenals to 1,500-1,675operational warheads and delivery vehicles to 500-1,000.

04
Dec
09

Train bombing: Chechen separatists claim responsability

who said war and civil unrest were over in Chechnya. Certainly not me. The situation in chechnya has much improved these past years, but until the very roots of the conflicts are settled, we’ll continue to see bombings such as this one.

Funny how Americans, so quick to fight terrorism, remained silent… Are there different types of terrorism? 

Chechen separatists took responsibility on Wednesday for the bombing of a luxury train last week that killed 26 people in Russia, but the authorities gave no indication that the claim was credible. The separatists said in a letter to a Web site, kavkazcenter.com, that they were seeking to strike at economically important targets in Russia. It was not clear why, if they were responsible, they delayed in making their claim. They wrote that they were loyal to a Chechen militant leader, Doku Umarov, who wants an Islamic state in Chechnya, a Muslim region in the Caucasus. Chechen extremists carried out several terrorist attacks in Russia outside the Caucasus earlier in the decade.