For the second month in a row, I have to use an adjective to describe the Post's coverage of Russia. In April, it was "bland." This month's adjective is "anemic": for the whole month of May, the Post has published a meager eight Russia-related articles and op-eds.
On the reporting side, Philip Pan continued doing a good job of writing about real events in real Russia populated with real Russians. On May 26, he wrote about the hardship faced by Russia's officer corps being laid-off from the service as a result of the ongoing military reform. Pan's article on May 28 suggested that Russia was apparently losing its patience with North Korea after the latter tested a nuclear device on May 24. Pan also reported about the opening of a plant in Siberia to destroy a stockpile of about 2 million chemical munitions. Conceived in 1999 as part of the Nunn-Lugar program, the project has received $1 billion in U.S. aid.
Mary Beth Sheridan reported, on May 8, on the formal start, in New York, of talks aimed at renewing the START treaty — and of the struggle by the State Department "to expand its team of arms-control specialists, depleted by retirements and the departure of several senior officials who felt politically sidelined."
On May 19, Joby Warrick and R. Jeffrey Smith wrote about a report issued by a team of U.S. and Russian non-proliferation experts. According to this report, "it would be more than five years before Iran is capable of building both a nuclear warhead and a missile capable of carrying it over long distances." Warrick and Smith further quote the report as saying that "if Iran were to build a nuclear-capable missile that could strike Europe, the defense shield proposed by the United States could not engage that missile."
Sarah Schafer's article on May 31 expressed fear that the economic crisis may put an end to Russia's souvenir industry, including the production of legendary matryoshkas. One line in the article made me smile:
"A beloved children's toy in the Soviet era, when the state economy provided consumers with few choices, the matryoshka became less popular in Russia after the economy opened up."
As a child of "the Soviet era", I remember my toy box filled with toy soldiers, pistols, rifles, and cars of various sizes, colors, and degree of ugliness. But never in my life did I have a matryoshka or see a Russian kid playing with one.
Only two articles were produced by the Post's editors and op-ed contributors. (This is compared to 10-12 per month in January-March and 8 in April).
On May 7, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) used the Post's pages to announce their intention to introduce a non-binding resolution calling for a free-trade agreement with Georgia. So? Congress stamps out non-binding resolutions by the dozen. Why an op-ed in the Post? It seems that Kerry and Dreier just wanted to say that the free-trade agreement between Georgia and the United States must not be considered as Russia-unfriendly. Moreover, Kerry and Dreier called on Russia — and I happen to support them on that — to follow suit and lift the embargo on Georgian agricultural products:
"Economic prosperity has a way of spreading throughout both sides of a trading relationship and may offer the best long-term solution to forging some form of reconciliation between Georgia and Russia."
Exactly! And the more the United States tries to penetrate Georgia's economy, the more reasons Russia has to do the same.
As a general who lost his troops, the editor of the editorial page, Fred Hiatt, was the only warrior to drum the topic that is becoming central to the Post's coverage of Russia: the "deteriorating" situation with human rights. In his May 11 article, "Dangerous Work in Moscow", Hiatt profiles a human rights activist in Moscow, Tanya Lokshina. I'm not even sure that Hiatt was interested in Lokshina herself, because all he seemed to want to say was this:
"As the Obama administration prepares for a July summit at the Kremlin, the nature of the Russian regime and the possibility of constructive cooperation with it are very much up for debate. Pessimists note that the regime is more opaque than ever — outsiders do not know even whether the president, Dmitry Medvedev, wields real power — while its army is illegally occupying parts of neighboring Georgia. Optimists say that recent official statements indicate an eagerness for better relations with the United States."
There is obviously little doubt about which side the Post is on in this "debate."