Pravda On The Potomac-11 (What The Washington Post Wrote About Russia In November 2009)

The Post's coverage of Russia in November was more like a miss than a hit.  Only Philip Pan put up some real effort, whereas the Post's editors and op-ed contributors went MIA (as far as Russia was concerned), focusing instead on President Obama's health-care reform and Afghanistan policy.  Besides, not too much negative has occurred in Russia in November, and absent any bad news, the Post sees little reason to write about Russia at all.

Pan began on November 6 with reporting on the arrests of two suspects in the murder of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova.  When reading the article, one can almost sense Pan's disappointment with the fact that the alleged suspects reportedly belong to a neo-Nazi group.  That's understandable: Pan's bosses would much prefer suspects with direct links to the Russian security services. 

Mary Beth Sheridan and Walter Pincus reported, on November 7, on a trip to Moscow of President Obama's national security adviser Jim Jones.  The trip was said to have provided a breakthrough in the START treaty negotiations, allowing both sides to hope that the new agreement will be signed until before the year's end.  (On November 10, though, the ever vigilant Robert Kagan and Dan Blumenthal reminded us that "Moscow needs [arms-control agreements] more than Washington does.")

Pan continued on November 12 with a profile of the president of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, and the next day, he covered President Medvedev's annual address to the Federal Assembly

The Post's editorial board was visibly shaken by Medvedev's address, calling it, in a November 14 editorial, "a spectacle of Russia's president speaking the truth about his country."  The editorial went on to add: "We couldn't have said it better."  That's a telling admission.  The Post's editors seems to believe that they have a monopoly on "speaking the truth" about Russia and now, they're troubled with the presence of a competitor.

The editorial didn't neglect to mention that "[Prime Minister] Putin…looked unhappy in his front-row seat as Mr. Medvedev spoke", with the same point having been made by Pan ("Prime Minister Vladimir Putin…sat without smiling in the audience").  A more perfect sign of the "growing rift" within the Putin-Medvedev tandem, anyone?

(I saw a great number of addresses of U.S. presidents to Congress, but don't remember many smiling, happy looking, faces in the audience.  U.S. legislators express their emotions differently.  For example, by verbally insulting the president.)

Andrew Higgins and Anne Kornblut described, on November 15, a meeting between president Obama and Medvedev on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

Pan returned to familiar turf by reporting on the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer representing the Hermitage Capital Management, on November 18, and apparent terrorist attack on the Nevsky Express train, on November 29.  Pan concluded his coverage with describing Russia's position, on the eve of the climate-change summit in Copenhagen, on credits for greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Post's editorial board reacted to Magnitsky's death with another editorial, on November 24.  It's not clear why it took the Post six days to publish what looked like an abbreviated version of Pan's article.  Perhaps, they planned to wait a bit and then lambaste the Kremlin for inattention to the Magnitsky case (Pan, on November 18: "Neither Prime Minister Vladimir Putin nor President Dmitry Medvedev have commented on the case.")?  Unfortunately for the Post, President Medvedev has ordered a full investigation into the circumstances of Magnitsky's death.  Do I need to say that the editorial failed to mention this fact?

The only November op-ed piece worth speaking of was an article, "Russia's search for an identity", by Moscow Carnegie's Masha Lipman.  Her topic was President Medvedev's videoblog entry made on the day of commemoration of political prisoners, in which Medvedev called Stalin's repressions "one of the greatest tragedies in Russian history."  (I wonder if this line by Medvedev will be quoted nearly as often as Putin's allegedly calling the collapse of the Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century").   

Having made the obligatory cheap shots at Medvedev ("Medvedev's often well-intended rhetoric has not been matched with policy"), Lipman nevertheless called his videoblog address a "speech…in the right direction."  

Lipman ought to be very careful when praising, however timidly, the Russian president.  She must be aware of what happened to opposition figure Marina Litvinovich.  Litvinovich committed a deadly sin of voicing support for Medvedev's modernization initiatives.  After which the Russian Uber-Democrat, Garry Kasparov, immediately fired her from the position of Executive Director of his United Civil Front.  

Besides, as a Post contributor, Lipman should always remember this in-house rule: "About Russia, either bad or nothing."

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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3 Responses to Pravda On The Potomac-11 (What The Washington Post Wrote About Russia In November 2009)

  1. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Anatoly for your nice comment. Yes, I find it ironic when people pretending to be democrats suppress decent in such a rude way. But let’s be fair to Kasparov: he isn’t the only “democrat” well familiar with dictatorial management style. Grigory Yavlinky, too, ran his Yabloko with an iron hand mercilessly kicking out anyone questioning his authority.
    As for the WP: I’d love to cover more sources, but cannot given the amount of time I can spend on my blog. Besides, following the same people’s writings over time is actually quite interesting. What IS boring is the nonsense about Russia they keep publishing over and over again.
    Best Regards,

  2. Eugne & Co.
    As a follow-up:
    I want to stress appreciation for what this blog has concentrated on and note how it has provided insight on some other topics as well.
    Regardless of slant, it’s not off base to advocate an across the board constructive criticism.
    This shouldn’t be confused with trolls, who taunt in a calculatingly off topic manner, that likely delights some of the “responsible” status quo.

  3. Hi Eugene
    When considering some of the source material getting propped, I feel obligated to state such. This is in line with my having been called (among other things) a crusader.
    For sure, Ames didn’t start the game. His opening thought on Applebaum’s approach since joining The WaPo hits on an issue that (as I noted) can be further delved into from the perspective of analyzing the way the former Communist bloc is covered.

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