Pravda On The Potomac-22 (What The Washington Post Wrote About Russia In December 2010), Part 1

The Washington Post's coverage of Russia in December was dominated by the U.S. Senate ratification of the New START treaty.

On December 1, Will Englund reported on the interview that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave to CNN's Larry King in which Putin warned that the failure to ratify the treaty will force Russia to expand and update its nuclear arsenal.  Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev didn't mention the ratification of the treaty in his annual state-of-the-nation address, but as Kathy Lally wrote the same day, he cautioned that a new arms race could be triggered by the inability to reach an agreement on missile defense cooperation in Europe.   

On December 2, the creme of the GOP foreign policy establishment, former Secretaries of State for the past five Republican administrations — Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Colin Powellurged the Senate to ratify the treaty.  Although the authors of the op-ed diplomatically pointed out that they were not making recommendations about "the exact timimg" of the Senate vote, they nevertheless stressed that after having "had initial questions about New START" themselves, they now believed that the "administration officials have provided reasonable answers."  And in a slighly veiled reference to the charged atmosphere of the Senate deliberations, they encouraged Senators to focus on "national security" when debating the treaty. 

Jim Hoagland came out of his semi-retirement to argue, on December 10, that the treaty's benefits "outweigh its shortcomings."  Hoagland went as far as to claim that "New START doesn't go far enough" and called for further U.S.-Russia-led nuclear arms control negotiations possibly involving China, France, Britain, India, and Pakistan.

A December 17 editorial called the ratification of New START an "unfinished business in Congress" and reiterated the Post's support for the treaty. 

The only dissenting vote was provided by George Will.  Will's criticism of the treaty wasn't novel, much less original: all he did was to parrot the arguments of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) whom Will interviewed over the phone.  It appears, however, that the treaty itself wasn't the primary reason Will had penned his opus; rather, he used the opportunity to display, yet again, his rabid Russophobia.  Otherwise, it's hard to understand why a piece supposedly devoted to nuclear arms control was interspersed with the lines like this:

"Russia needs psychotherapy.  It longs to be treated as what it no longer is, a superpower…"

Or this:

"…Russia is a perverse miracle of arrested development.  It is receding because it still has an essentially hunter-gatherer economy…Aside from vodka, what Russian-manufactured export matters?"

I won't question Will's expertise in Russian vodka: he sounds like he knows the subject quite well.  But has it occurred to him that Russia is a major supplier of uranium fuel for U.S. nuclear power stations?  Or, if this topic is too complicated, has Will at least heard about the AK-47?

It was Mary Beth Sheridan who did the heavy lifting of describing the  twists and turns of the New START ratification saga.  She began on December 12 by listing all the challenges posed to the Obama administration by the treaty's critics.  On December 15, Sheridan and Felicia Sonmez reported on the Senate vote to open debate on the treaty.  Two days later, Sheridan pointed to the growing anger among Senate Republicans at the administration's attempts to bring other pieces of legislation — in addition to New START — to the lame-duck session of the Senate, the anger that was complicating the ratification process itself.  Sheridan's December 19 piece desribed a letter that President Obama sent to the Senate in which he pledged to fully develop a U.S. missile defense system in Europe, something that some Senate Republicans have asked him to do as a condition of their support of the treaty.  The same day, Sheridan reported that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that he would vote against the treaty.

On December 21, Sheridan teamed up with Sonmez and William Branigin to describe the crucial precedural vote in the Senate to close debate and proceed to a final vote.  The same day, Sheridan published a compressed factsheet outlining major features of the treaty along with some arguments of the treaty's critics ("New START for Dummies", so to speak).  Finally, on December 22, just hours after the Senate vote, Sheridan and Branigin reported that the New START treaty has been ratified "by a vote of 71 to 26, easily clearing the threshold of two-third of senators..."  Sheridan has wrapped up her excellent job with a fascinating piece describing the sequence of behind-the scene actions, by President Obama and senior members of his Cabinet, to ensure the president's major foreign policy victory. 

There was some quick reaction to the event.  Robert Kagan hailed the ratification as a demonstration of national unity "to those who are finding themselves once again in need of a strong and capable United States."  He also argued that the ratification of the treaty would help the U.S. to pressure Russia on "continued illegal occupation of Georgia" and "its brutal treatment of internal dissent."  Hmm. OK.

Charles Krauthammer was unhappy with New START because it re-established "the link between offensive and defensive weaponry", the link whose destruction, by withdrawal from the ABM treaty, Krauthammer considers "one of the great achievements" of the Bush administration.  (I wonder which other actions of the Bush administration Krauthammer considers as its "great achievents.")

Walter Pincus predicted that the Senate Republicans will begin actively pressing the administration on the issue of what he called "Russia's overwhelming advantage in tactical nuclear weapons."   

Another topic featuring prominently in the Post's coverage of Russia in December has been the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.  (I emphasize this "and" as the Post's authors almost never acknowledge the fact that Khodorkovsky has a co-defendant.  One can only guess why a guy with a typical Russian surname — serving the same term as Khodorkovsky and accused exactly in the same crimes — fails to attract the attention of the Post's crowd.)  On December 15, Lally wrote about a letter sent to President Medvedev by more than 50 world leaders and intellectuals, in which they suggested that "if Khodorkovsky is convicted yet again and Magnitsky's case goes unpursued, the world's confidence in Russia's commitment to justice will suffer."  The same day, Lally reported that the reading of the trial verdict was posponed until December 27.  On December 30, Lally described the judge's decision to sentence Khodorkovsky to 14 years in jail as a sing that "Prime Minister Vladimir Putin intends to keep a firm grip on power and is unwilling to bend to American and European concerns about the quality of Russian justice."

Reacting to the guilty verdict, a predictably harsh editorial repeated the usual nonsense about Khodorkovsky ("the price of…funding of liberal political parties and civil society groups is seven years…in a Siberian prison camp") and called to "punish" Russia in general and Putin personally by withdrawing U.S. support for Russia's membership in WTO and keeping on the books the Jackson-Vanik amendment

On December 30, Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, suggested (but of course!) "denying visas to those responsible for Khodorkovsky's prosecution and freezing their foreign accounts."  Poor Judge Danilkin: he will now have to keep his money in Moscow and cancel a long-planned vacation in the U.S!

 

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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10 Responses to Pravda On The Potomac-22 (What The Washington Post Wrote About Russia In December 2010), Part 1

  1. Happy New Year Eugene and readers of your blog.
    I sense George Will to be a bigoted individual.
    I remember his frantic rant from years ago about the Russians (not Soviets) being culturally inferior on the PBS aired Agronsky & Company. When the host of that show second guessed him with reason, Will simply repeated his rant. He’s better off sticking to other issues like baseball commentary.
    During the wars of the last decade in former Yugoslavia, Will exhibited an anti-Serb bias, which included seeking a return of the Habsburg Empire (the birth place of two WW I era corporals in Hitler and Tito).
    The not so Russophile historian John Lukacs among others acknowledges that as a part of the Rusisan Empire, Finland had the greatest autonomy of any future European state that was part of an empire. The WW I period run Austro-Hungarian concentration camp at Talerhof brutally housed Habsburg subjects (as opposed to POWs) reasonably suspected of pro-Russian sentiment.
    So Will can take his implied cultural chauvinism and shove it you no where.
    Figure I’ll start off the new year with a bang.
    Best,
    Mike

  2. That’s: you know where.
    Something running counter to the anti-Russian/anti-Serb Habsburgite Will:
    http://www.cafepress.com/+russian_empire_flag_sticker,13342019

  3. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Mike,
    Happy New year to you too!
    To show Will his place isn’t a bad way to start the new year, if you ask me:)
    Take care and keep up the excellent job of yours!
    Best,
    Eugene

  4. Thanks Eugene. Among some other sources, your work serves as a great motivator, as do the cheers, boos and BS of trying to blot out some contributors, by not giving them any formal acknowledgement.
    It’s easy to lob cheap shots under an anonymous name, while ducking a live appearance with opposing views at the world’s leading media outlet. One wonders about the true value of folks favoring such individuals.
    On a more upbeat note, Russia and Canada will play for gold in this Wednesday night’s IIHF World U-20 IIHF championship game.
    http://www.iihf.com/channels1011/wm20/news/news-singleview-wm20/article/russia-wins-4-3-in-shotoout.html?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=4272&cHash=403cb1619ahttp://www.iihf.com
    American viewers can watch it on the NHL Network:
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2010/12/world-junior-championship-nhl-network.html

  5. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Mike,
    Whatever reaction this blog could elicit, I know that it’s going along due to people like you with your intelligent comments and friendly referrals elsewhere. I do appreciate that.
    As for the hockey, Russia has been limping along and barely survived the semifinal game. It’s beating Canada will be nothing short of “Miracle on Ice-II”.
    Best,
    Eugene

  6. Thanks again Eugene.
    Ice hockey is a game with a noticeable luck of bounces and positioning factor – somewhat similar to football (soccer) – but even more so.
    From what I’ve seen, Canada has been the best team throughout the tournament. However, Russia shows signs of getting better while gaining confidence. Your mention of 1980 (Miracle on Ice…) has merit in that regard. The last two Russian wins have been against quality opponents in Finland and Sweden.
    From what little I saw of the opening game, Russia hung out with Canada going into the third period tied at 3. I didn’t see the third period, when the Canadians scored three unanswered goals.
    Likely safe predictions IMO:
    1 – Canada wins a close to relatively close game
    2- Russia wins a close contest, or Canada wins by more than two goals
    Will be shocker if Russia wins by more than 2 goals.
    Upon jotting down these thoughts, I see that they jive with what has been said elsewhere (As of this posting, there’re some video interview clips on the subject at the right of the home page.):
    http://www.tsn.ca
    Best,
    Mike

  7. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Miracles do happen, do they not, Mike?
    I didn’t watch the game (would have perhaps been dead by the end of the second period), but even reading a report game me goosebumps.
    Cheers,
    Eugene

  8. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Miracles do happen, do they not, Mike?
    I didn’t watch the game (would have perhaps been dead by the end of the second period), but even reading a report game me goosebumps.
    Cheers,
    Eugene

  9. It was a thriller Eugene.
    The Canadians looked strong after the first period up 2-0.
    After falling behind 3-0, the Russian coach made a goalie change, which was apparently done to stir his team up. Bobkov played well the rest of the game between the pipes.
    What sometimes happens in these games is one team will go all out in a way that tires them in the end. Kind of like the runner in a middle to long distance race who goes out too fast.
    The Canadian announcers noted how Russia was relying on a few of their key players by giving them added ice time. This reminded me of the 1987 Canada Cup in the way Tikhonov played the KLM line and the defensive pairing of Fetisov and Kasatonov on defense. This kind of over-reliance on a few choice players requires excellent conditioning.
    Traditionally, the Canadians have a comparatively deeper talent pool, allowing them to better balance the ice time.

  10. It was a thriller Eugene.
    The Canadians looked strong after the first period up 2-0.
    After falling behind 3-0, the Russian coach made a goalie change, which was apparently done to stir his team up. Bobkov played well the rest of the game between the pipes.
    What sometimes happens in these games is one team will go all out in a way that tires them in the end. Kind of like the runner in a middle to long distance race who goes out too fast.
    The Canadian announcers noted how Russia was relying on a few of their key players by giving them added ice time. This reminded me of the 1987 Canada Cup in the way Tikhonov played the KLM line and the defensive pairing of Fetisov and Kasatonov on defense. This kind of over-reliance on a few choice players requires excellent conditioning.
    Traditionally, the Canadians have a comparatively deeper talent pool, allowing them to better balance the ice time.

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