Pravda On The Potomac-25 (What The Washington Post Wrote About Russia In March 2011)

As I pointed out on numerous occasions, the Washington Post's coverage of Russia normally picks up when Russia is struck by natural or man-made disasters.  Those being absent in March, the coverage was low in volume; yet — due perhaps to the lack of an overriding theme — diverse, informative and even entertaining.

The coverage began with a March 1 piece by Katrina vanden Heuvel celebrating Mikhail Gorbachev's 80th anniversary.  One could agree or disagree with vanden Heuvel's description of Gorbachev as potentially "the greatest reformer in… [Russia's]… tormented history", but it's difficult to accept her point of view that "…the parliamentary and presidential elections… [Gorbachev]…introduced from 1989-91…remain Russia's freest and fairest to this day."  Everyone with a first-hand memory of both events remembers that the elections to the Congress of People's Deputies were a Communist Party's orgy.  As far as Gorbachev's presidential bid is concerned, he wasn't elected by the citizens.  Instead, he was voted into presidential office — unopposed! – by the Congress Deputies. 

On March 8, Kathy Lally set out to prove that Russia was being engulfed by a "new wave of emigration," with professional Russians fleeing "an authoritarian system" and "dead-ending career opportunities."  (As a proof of the trend, Lally quotes a "political analyst" as saying: "Everyone is asking me if it's time to leave."  Wow!  What a jewel of evidence!)  To show a human face of the new "brain drain", Lally features a Artyom Borychev who is moving to Bali, Indonesia "for an administrative job at a Russian-run surfing school."  To be sure, a loss of even a single gifted surfer is a tragedy for the country; yet, the Artyom Borychev case is hardly the one for which the term "brain drain" was invented.

On March 20, Lally reported from Grozny, going to great length to show her disdain for Chechnya's "roughshod leader", Ramzan Kadyrov.  She continued, on March 29, writing about the differences between the United States and Russia over strategies to fight Afghanistan's opium trade.  Lally's piece-of-the-month came the next day and was devoted to the performance of the American Ballet Theatre in Moscow.

Will Englund's two articles, on March 9 and March 10, covered the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Moscow.  Biden's trip was also the subject of the only Russia-related Post's editorial, on March 13, which praised Biden for criticizing Russia — yawn — for its alleged human rights violations and rampant corruption.  In another March 10 piece, Englund decided to take a hard look at the increasing price of Russian oil.  First, he repeated the nonsense of his Post colleague, Anne Applebaum, who claimed, back in January, that Russia's "bad behavior" correlates with rising oil prices.  Englund then proceeded with a long sermon on the danger of high oil prices to Russia's long-term economic health.  (A Russian would  describe Englund as "breaking through an open door.")

On March 21, Craig Whitlock discussed the delicate status of negotiations between Russia, on the one hand, and the U.S. and NATO, on the other, over the future of anti-ballistic missile defense in Europe.

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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7 Responses to Pravda On The Potomac-25 (What The Washington Post Wrote About Russia In March 2011)

  1. Appreciate the summation Eugene. With only 24 hours in the day, one has balance what they spend their time on reading. Katrina vanden Heuvel’s comments come as no surprise.
    There’re other and better options than The WaPo. The latter does serve as a gauge on how some key people spin. They’re an easy read. Note how they often go unopposed. If substantively challenged in a relatively level playing field, we (I’m taking some license) know what the result will be, thereby explaining what likely motivated Richard Perle from not sticking around for an extended follow-up after his recent World Russia Forum appearance.
    Certain cherry picked preferences evident at venues like The WaPo and RFE/RL serve as a further basis for having Vladimir Belaeff and some others as especially valid options:
    On the matter of biased media and heavy handed government efforts (touched on by Belaeff), I came across this matter, just before the release of the above linked Russia Profile panel:
    An excellent radio show has been taken off the air in Serbia as a result of politically motivated government intervention.
    In Serbia, there’re numerous outlets that are noticeably biased and run counter to the views expressed on the recently cancelled Atlantida radio show, which aired on Radio Belgrade. It’s not hyperbole when some refer to the Serb government as having Quisling like attributes. At the above link on Atlantida, note the referenced criticism of Atlantida. Imagine a US official criticizing RFE/RL for bias, followed by the American government cancelling its funding of that station – said to be primarily responsible for RFE/RL’s continued existence.
    On a comparative point: in Russia, there’re a good number of media outlets which provide criticism of the Russian government and Russia at large. Such venues include RIA Novosti, Novaya Gazeta, Ekho Moskvy and The Moscow Times. At times, the stated criticism isn’t fair.
    In a truly democratic Serbia, it’s within reason to not see the politically motivated end of Atlantida. When covering Serbia, The WaPo and RFE/RL don’t seem to offer anything coming close to these points.
    On former Yugoslav matters, they’re prone to not running commentary like these recent pieces:
    As I noted at Mark Chapman’s blog The Kremlin Stooge, criticizing folks like Paul Goble is limited when it doesn’t include criticism of the high profile venues propping certain sources over some others.
    It’s no small wonder why the coverage continues to lack.

  2. On the subject of what does and doesn’t get propped and cancelled, a very interesting and agreeable (IMO) commentary on Glenn Beck leaving Fox News:
    I prefer Cockburn over Hitchens.

  3. Eugene says:

    Hi Mike,
    I can only agree on the points you’re making in the first two comments. As far as the coverage of Russia and Serbia in the Western MSM goes, we’re on the same side.
    As to the point of emigration, let’s state a couple of things. Russia is open country now, allowing its citizens to go wherever they want and then come back — and this is a huge progress. Second, Russia is the a country with second largest (after the U.S.) immigration — and this also means something.
    Now, there is no question that the best and brightest young Russians will ALWAYS find better opportunities elsewhere. This, however, doesn’t mean — as Lally tries to make us believe — that Russians leave the country en masse for political reasons.
    There are plenty of capable Americans living happily around the world — including in Russia — without any desire to return. Do we call this American emigration?

  4. Hi back Eugene,
    I’ve no disagreement with what you say, adding that:
    – some bright folks choose to remain in Russia, or return after an extended stay elsewhere
    – that country would be in a considerably more difficult situation, were this not true
    – can’t help the comparative point on other countries which see many of their brightest leave.

  5. Mark says:

    Ah, Zhenya; that razor wit twinkles shyly in the darkness once again – “To be sure, a loss of even a single gifted surfer is a tragedy for the country…” I laughed out loud, which earned me a few startled looks. Pure comic gold.
    I’ve argued elsewhere that Russians alive today are likely to see an energy-dominated economy for the rest of their lives, even though Russia is currently pumping flat-out at full capacity; sloppy and inefficient extraction procedures are acceptable now because the oil just keeps on coming. But as it slackens, which it must, greater efficiencies in extraction as well as new discoveries (assisted by BP and Exxon) should spin out the life of the oil economy. That’s not meant to suggest Russia would be wasting time and money on reforms now, because that would be wise.
    Saudi Arabia relies more or less exclusively on oil for its economy. Where’s the helpful and supportive WaPo pieces suggesting they have all their eggs in one basket? More to the point, if the west is piqued about Russia financing itself on oil profits, it need only stop invading oil-producing countries to see the price fall to a level that oil is significantly less a compelling profit vehicle.

  6. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Mark,
    Absolutely, I share with you your sense of historic perspective. It’s only idiots and Russian “liberals” who can believe that a modern Russia can be created by a single decree of the Russian president — especially if this president is one of their own.
    As for the Russia/oil thing, can you imagine for a sec that Russia has already “modernized” to such extent that it cuts dramatically oil outputs — and oil prices go up? The WP will immediately accuse the Kremlin in using the “energy weapon.”

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