Enemy at the door, continued

A few weeks ago, I wrote that Russia’s foreign policy wasn’t an issue during the Dec. 4 Duma election campaign; however, I predicted that it may become such in the run-up to the March 4 presidential election.  No, I didn’t expect Russian voters to suddenly fall in love with the complicated issue of European missile defense.  Yet, it wasn’t beyond imagination to see politicians invoking the specter of the foreign enemy at Russia’s door to score “domestic” points.

The trend was initiated by Russia’s leading presidential candidate, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  On Dec. 15, during his televised “town-hall” meeting, Putin accused U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in inciting the protest actions that erupted in the wake of announcing the Duma election results.  Putin hasn’t repeated this accusation since, but in the recently released election manifesto, he made it clear that he considered the United State unfriendly (“destructive”) force guilty of “democracy promotion” through the barrel of the gun.

In Russia, as everywhere else, the word of the boss is the law for subordinates.  Following Putin’s suit, the Prosecutor General Yury Chaika made a claim that the December protest actions had been financed from the abroad.  No specific evidence in support of the claim has been presented, though.

Obviously, the very idea of finding “foreign hand” at the origin of bad things appeared attractive to some Russian officials.  The head of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, Vladimir Popovkin, attempted to present the recent failure of the unmanned Phobos-Ground probe as a result of sabotage by foreign forces.  Russian space officials later elaborated that powerful radar located at a U.S. installation in the Marshall Islands might have zapped the probe.  Eventually, however, it was concluded that the crash was likely due to “a software mistake.”

It’s easy to dismiss the Phobos-Ground story as a funny joke.  It’s more difficult to treat the same way the statement made by the chairman of the Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, Alexei Pushkov, who suggested that the United States was keenly  interested in destabilizing Russia and would make every effort to weaken its government.  Characteristically, this was Pushkov’s first official statement in the capacity of the Duma new foreign policy tsar.

Andrei Isaev, a high-ranked United Russia party’s official, went even farther.  On Dec. 30, while congratulating compatriots with approaching New Year, Isaev told them that in 2012, they will face “new battle for the freedom and independence of Russia against attempts by the United State of America to establish control over our country.”  Isaev then assured his audience that United Russia was at the forefront of this battle.

It’s hard to believe that the image of American radars shooting down Russian space probes – or Mr. Isaev in military fatigue defending Russia’s freedom and independence – can win but a handful of “patriotic” votes switching from Zhirinovsky to Putin.  Yet, exaggerating the foreign threat to Russia’s security may deflect the voter attention from such pressing domestic issues as a widening gap between rich and poor and pervasive corruption.

But the real danger is that the “us against them” spirit will outlast the election season and begin affecting policy decisions by the future Putin administration.  To me, surrounded by “enemies” Russia looking for “stable development” doesn’t look like attractive combination.

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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27 Responses to Enemy at the door, continued

  1. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear Eugene,

    A number of points to make here.

    First, playing the foreign card is an obvious election tactic. It has been used in many places and at many times. It was repeatedly used here in Britain against the Labour party in elections during the Cold War. It would be little short of astonishing if it were not used in elections in Russia now.

    Secondly, a point I have made at length in Mark Chapman’s blog, the trouble is that the US government works hard to make this tactic credible by funding organisations like Golos, whether in whole or in part, by keeping up a running commentary on Russian political developments that is heavily slanted against the government, by ostentatiously making known its sympathy for the government’s political opponents, by spreading what to me look like frankly malicious stories about the government and about Putin in particular and not least by its role by supporting (to put it no higher) the colour revolutions that happened around Russia’s periphery.

    • Alexander Mercouris says:

      Dear Eugene,

      A number of points to make here.

      First, playing the foreign card is an obvious election tactic. It has been used in many places and at many times. It was repeatedly used here in Britain against the Labour party in elections during the Cold War. It would be little short of astonishing if it were not used in elections in Russia now.

      Secondly, a point I have made at length on Mark Chapman’s blog, the trouble is that the US government works hard to make this tactic credible by funding organisations like Golos, whether in whole or in part, by keeping up a running commentary on Russian political developments that is heavily slanted against the government, by ostentatiously making known its sympathy for the government’s political opponents, by spreading what to me look like frankly malicious stories about the government and about Putin in particular and not least by its role in supporting (to put it no higher) the colour revolutions that happened around Russia’s periphery. Nor for its part has the US shown any ability to recognise the disastrous consequences of its interference in Russian affairs during the 1990s.

      As I have also argued on Mark Chapman’s blog this meddling damages the political process in Russia precisely by calling into question the loyalty of at least part of the opposition, which is always open to the accusation that (in the old English phrase used of Mary Tudor’s attitude to Spain) it “prefers another realm to this”. It also has the entirely malign effect of encouraging at least part of the opposition to address itself more to opinion in the US than to opinion in its own country and to take an absolutist position on political issues that is more impressive in the west than it is in Russia.

      Generally speaking on the subject of the reset, I am frankly a pessimist. There have been so many cases of attempts to achieve lasting improvements in US Russian relations in my lifetime that I have lost count. In my opinion what invariably causes them to founder is not Russian hostility to the US but US inability to accept Russia as a long term partner with legitimate interests that it has a right to have taken seriously.

  2. marknesop says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Alex. It does not help U.S.- Russian relations when the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia ostentatiously arranges and hosts a meeting with opposition leaders before meeting with the Prime Minister – what sort of message is that supposed to send? If the Russian ambassador to the USA hosted a meeting with Occupy Wall Street leaders and organizers, what would be the American reaction? Right; Russia is trying to destabilize the USA and jeopardize the economic recovery. That might not necessarily be the case, but I’d be willing to bet it wouldn’t be a tough story to sell, and people would be right to be suspicious. Why is it silly to be suspicious in this case? The inherent goodness of U.S. international relations?

    Media is often a war of extremes, and mocking a particular point of view serves to suggest that nothing of the kind is going on. American interference with the Mars Probe is indeed a silly and laughable improbability – but it’s being used to make the point that the USA is in no way interfering in Russia’s affairs and that to imply that is so is to make oneself ridiculous. A brief review of completed colour revolutions suggests that foreign meddling with exit polls and lopsided glorification of opposition figures has been influential in toppling the government, and it is not difficult to establish a connection between foreign democracy-advocacy NGO’s funded by western money and backed by western press connections, and noisy demonstrations and assailing of the government.

    Russia does indeed have its problems, and deserves to have them highlighted by countries that can rightfully assume the moral high ground. With respect, in the field of income inequality, the USA is in no such position. Measured by GINI coefficient for family income distribution, Russia was in a significantly better position in 2000 than the USA. The lower the figure, the closer the rich are to the poor in terms of income distribution, and 100% would suggest the rich have everything while the poor have nothing. In 2000, Russia’s GINI coefficient was about 37.5%.

    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/russia/gini-index-wb-data.html

    The GINI coefficient in the USA at the same time was just over 46%.

    http://www.ruralvotes.com/thebackforty/?p=4222

    Apologies for the references; Wikipedia actually has pretty good comparative tables, but it’s offline today in protest of the ongoing anti-piracy dispute. Anyway, we’ve established that a high figure is bad, and a high figure that consistently gets higher is obviously worse. The Russian GINI coefficient has gone from 37.5% in 2000 to 42.7% in 2008, the last year for which I was able to get figures. The Russian GINI coefficient in 2008, after years of climbing, was still lower in 2008 than the USA’s GINI coefficient was in 2000. The USA’s GINI coefficient in 2008 was 46.69%. You could perhaps make an argument that Russia’s situation is alarming because the rate of change is more rapid, but the gap between rich and poor in Russia is still significantly narrower than it is in the USA.

    Jesse Heath’s blog refers to the Moscow demonstrations as the “revolution of the satisfied” because it has at its heart discontented elites who are probably better off now than they have ever been. It also points out that the most likely beneficiary of an anti-Putin crusade would be Zyuganov and his Communists, who might even be put within striking distance of forming the government by such a crusade. I can’t believe the USA actually thinks a Communist Russian Federation is in its and the world’s best interests.

    • Eugene says:

      Mark,

      Why on earth should McFaul meet with Putin in the first place? Ambassadors present their credentials to president. A Freudian slip, ah?:) And let me assure you that should Kislyak meet with OWS folks, no one in US media would even blink. I realized long ago that disproportionally more attention is being paid by Russian media to the actions of U.S. Ambassador to Russia than by US media to the actions of Russian Ambassador to the US. One day, I’ll write about this cultural phenomenon: Russians’ obsession with the US…

      I’m going to cover the McFaul/opposition meeting for RBTH, so I’ll keep some powder dry. But let me say this. McFaul did what he came to Moscow for: to advance his credentials as “democracy promoter” (and to cover a bit of Obama’s ass as the Russia policy of the latter is concerned). So he did his job, and I have no grudges against him. But I do have grudges against the “opposition” folks who came to the Embassy. By doing so they disgraced themselves and betrayed their own cause. Period.

      I didn’t say that Russia’s GINI coefficient was the highest in the world and that Russia had the highest level of corruption. But I picked up these two particular subjects because a number of Russian pundits, whom I respect, consider income inequity and corruption the two most important social-economic problems facing the nations. And I see no reason why Russians can’t ask Putin to address these two particular aspects of his record as president and PM.

      Best,
      Eugene

      • marknesop says:

        You may well have me there, Zhenya; much of the diplomatic niceties are beyond me, and I was unaware that was the purpose of McFaul’s meetings; he was named ambassador some time ago, and I imagined he had presented his credentials long since. Yes, he would indeed meet with the President, but in a country in which the Prime Minister wields the kind of power he does, it appeared to me a deliberate insult to meet first with opposition leaders. It’s very likely you’re exactly right.

        There are indeed no reasons why Russians cannot criticize the government for perceived shortfalls in addressing corruption and income inequality. The point I attempted to make is that it is perhaps not as appropriate for the American press to adopt such a sanctimonious tone when the United States has a worse problem in the same category. It’s a little like Bill Frist telling Russia that the United States was having a hard time supporting Russia’s practically-forever application for acceptance into the WTO because of its horrible human-rights record, about 6 months after the photographs of Iraqi prisoners tortured at Abu Ghraib were all over the internet. The American press is tone-deaf, and sees nothing untoward in lecturing other countries for their performance in fields in which its own is dismal. And if that were a two-way street, I would say nothing. But it’s not. Russia very seldom indulges in gratuitous criticism of the USA, and absorbs a great deal of provocation without reacting at all.

        Neither country is perfect, of course. But one is pretending to be.

        Warmest regards,
        Mark

        • Eugene says:

          Mark,

          One country is perfect: France. Just kidding, kidding, kidding…

          I practically stopped reading what US media says about current events in Russia: so much great stuff in Russian media; why waste time on crap? However, when I come across “analysis” of what’s going on in the US in Russian media, I rapidly close the page too…

          Best,
          Eugene

          p.s. My understanding of the diplomatic protocol is that the highest Russian official McFaul can get to is Lavrov. But on the day-to-day basis, it’s Ryabkov, Lavrov’s deputy.

      • hoct says:

        “I realized long ago that disproportionally more attention is being paid by Russian media to the actions of U.S. Ambassador to Russia than by US media to the actions of Russian Ambassador to the US. One day, I’ll write about this cultural phenomenon: Russians’ obsession with the US…”

        The fact that American ambassador is paid attention does not prove Russians are obsessed with the US. American ambassadors are paid attention in every country where they exercise or try to exercise influence over the political scene of the host country. They are paid attention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, etc, etc. In such countries they are well known personalities, with a name recognition that rivals that of domestic politicians.

        Recently American ambassador was paid attention in Slovenia (where he was not a known figure before at all) when he invited a number of leading political figured (who 2-3 months after the election have not jet formed a government) to attend a consultation meeting with him. The party leaders flatly declined, and the president and the media reacted with shock calling his move unappropriate. Does this show Slovenians are a small insecure, nation obsessed with the US, or does it mean the American ambassador was being delusional and did in fact go overboard and they did a good job in showing this joke his place?

        Obviously enough the Russian ambassador in Washington and the American ambassador in Moscow can not be compared, precisely because the former has no desire or intent (or indeed the ability) to exercise any influence in American politics, while the latter clearly at least deludes himself that he could wield influence (possibly informed by the Yeltsin era when that was indeed the case). So who is obsessed with whom, the Russia who has a laissez-faire ambassador in America, or America who has an ambassador who is a wanna-be meddler? Who is trying to interfeare with whom?

        Would you say that Iraq is obsessed with the US, or the other way around? After all an average Iraqi probably knows the name of the American ambassador in his country, as well as a host of other facts about United States and the history of its foreign policy in the Middle East? But actually Iraq was content to leave the US alone, whereas the US kept on attacking and torturing Iraq for over 25 years. If Americans are not obsessed with Russia they are welcome to prove it by adopting a policy of domestic non-interference and appoint ambassadors free of colonial delusions, refrain from surreal democracy lectures, shut down propaganda war instruments like RL/RFE…

        • Eugene says:

          Dear Hoct,

          Thanks for your comment. You’re making a number of EXTREMELY good points. A couple of mine in response.

          First, Russia isn’t Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro or even Slovenia. It’s a great nation (or at least is supposed to be), the 6th largest economy in the world and UNSC permanent member — and should conduct itself appropriately. It’s authorities are expected to establish a rapport with the citizens in such a way that a social drink of US ambassador with a bunch of opposition leaders is not considered as a specter of the Orange Revolution and a threat to the national security.

          Second, I have no problem with Popovkin: he has his ass to save. Nor do I have any problem with Pushkov: he’s a novice politician and, as a TV personality, is prone to exaggerations. But when The Boss throws away the mantle of a “national leader” and gets in a petty squabble with FM of another country, something is wrong. Reflects bad on him, reflects bad on the country.

          Best Regards,
          Eugene

  3. Eugene says:

    Dear Alexander,

    I’m only vaguely, if at all, familiar with Golos and its activities, so I trust your opinion here. I’m kind of surprised, though, that they’re spreading “malicious stories” about Putin: I always believed that their specialty is election monitoring.

    My point of view isn’t very different from yours: I don’t think that NGOs should accept foreign money. However, the Russian law does allow that. If so, government ought to treat equally all NGOs with foreign finding and not to concentrate its fire on organizations like Golos. This gives bad aftertaste of politically motivated revenge.

    As for using the foreign card in election games, I’m old enough to be used to that. As I said, my primary concern is that this anti-West spirit wasn’t carried over into post-election era.

    Best,
    Eugene

    • Alexander Mercouris says:

      Dear Eugene,

      I apologise but it seems I was unclear. I did not mean that GOLOS was spreading malicious rumours about Putin. I meant that the US GOVERNMENT is. What I had in mind was the Wikileaks cables which shows that US diplomats were active in spreading stories about Russia being a gangster state, about Putin being personally corrupt etc.

      Whilst on the subject of Golos, the State Department has admitted that it has received US government funding. As I pointed out on Mark Chapman’s blog the effect of this is to harm not help Golos. Even if Golos is an entirely reputable agency operating with the best of intentions and to the highest standards the very fact that it gets funding from a foreign government, in this case the US government, is inevitably going to make it suspect in some people’s eyes. Again in comments I made on Mark Chapman’s blog I pointed out how this sort of thing damages the whole Russian political process and makes Russian society’s political evolution more complex and more protracted than it otherwise would be.

  4. Eugene says:

    Dear Alexander,

    We’re completely on the same page. I find it unacceptable, when an NGO — especially involved in political issues, such as election monitoring — accepts foreign money.

    But it’s the same story as with the opposition political parties: everyone knows that the Kremlin hates when business gives money to them. People are naturally afraid. And GOLOS is even not a political party, but just an NGOs dealing with a subject many Russians still consider nonsensical. Lacking foreign funding, they’re out of business tomorrow.

    Best,
    Eugene

    • marknesop says:

      I’m afraid I tend to view it in the context of how it would appear to me were I in the same position. I grant you, that’s not the best way to be objective. But if I were the leader of the Russian government, it would infuriate me to think that there were foreign-funded organizations operating in my country who were dedicated to my overthrow, and that they saw nothing wrong in supplying these agencies with money for that purpose – and that my expected reaction was simply to tolerate it in the name of democracy. It’s the deliberate insult of it that would bother me. If you’re going to plot to bring me down even though my rule has resulted in significant gains in my citizens’ standard of living and capable stewardship of the national economy, the least you can do is do it from outside the country. And don’t pretend you’re not when you’re caught, as western leaders indignantly did in the case of that British intelligence op in 2006 that they denied from that time right up until this week.

      Best,
      Mark

  5. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear Eugene,

    Two things I wanted to say:

    1. On the subject of McFaul’s meeting with the opposition leaders, as I have said on Mark Chapman’s blog in my opinion this is not inappropriate behaviour. Ambassadors are expected to keep their governments informed of political developments in their host country and meeting with opposition politicians is part of that task. The Russian ambassador here in London does this on a regular basis. I gather that one of the opposition politicians at the meeting with McFaul made some comments about the fact that he had chosen to meet with the opposition leaders before he met with Putin. However Putin as Prime Minister does not have a direct foreign policy role and there is no protocol reason why the US Ambassador should meet him first. On the contrary doing so might be seen as insulting to the President who has that role and who at the moment unlike Putin is also the titular leader of the main government party, United Russia.

    So far as I can see McFaul has so far observed protocols properly. First he met Lavrov who as Foreign Minister will be his main interlocutor. Then he met with various members of the opposition but significantly not with the party leaders themselves or with the opposition Presidential candidates (Zyuganov, Mironov, Zhirinovsky, Yavlinsky and Prokhorov) for what looks to me like a courtesy meeting whatever spin the other participants in the meeting choose to put on it. Lastly he will meet with Medvedev to whom he will present his credentials. At some point he will obviously meet with Putin as well.

    2. Going back to your article, I doubt that whatever is said in the election will have much impact on what happens in US Russian relations after the election. Whatever else he is Putin is a tough and clever man and by now a very experienced one and one who moreover is fully in control of the government. He will make hay during the election on the way some sections of the opposition and the US support each other (he was at it again yesterday in his criticisms of the Moscow Echo station), which as I said before given the circumstances is inevitable, but after the election is won it will be business as usual. It is in the US that the danger to the reset lies.

    • Eugene says:

      Dear Alexander,

      To your first point: I completely agree. Had McFaul missed a meeting with Medvedev because he was meeting with the opposition, that would have been different story. Besides, some of these people (Nemtsov, Ryzhkov) seem to be his friends. He ALWAYS meets with them when in Moscow. Sure, I understand that he was sending a “message.” OK, retaliate in kind, send Kislyak to meet with OWS.

      To your second point, my favorite: we shall see. If you believe that Putin makes all major foreign policy decisions by himself, you’re mistaken. He needs to talk to the elites. There is a strong “pro-China” lobby in the Russian political establishment advocating closer ties with China at the expense of US-Russia relations. I won’t be surprised if these people organized the leakage of the Golos materials. Otherwise, how would he know? By his own admission, he doesn’t read newspapers, doesn’t watch TV and doesn’t browse the Internet.

      Best,
      Eugene

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Eugene,

        Of course I accept your point that Putin does not have complete control of foreign policy. Also there is no doubt that there is a strong pro China lobby now in Russia. However I would make a few points:

        1. In any major capital there will be differences of opinion about the particular foreign policy direction the country should take. Moscow is no exception and nor of course is Washington. There are opponents of the present reset policy in Washington such as Senator McCain just as there are people in Moscow such as Rogozin who lean to a more strongly anti US view. Any leader in any country has to balance out these groups. Putin has up to now managed to do this with some skill whilst always in the end being able to impose his view.

        2. I think the improvement in relations between Russia and China is a long term trend that will probably continue to strengthen since it is sought at various levels by the elites of both countries. Each country is the other’s biggest neighbour and their economies in some ways compliment each other. For example I am fairly sure that the present oil and gas talks however complex and protracted will eventually come to fruition and that China will become for Russia a major market for Russia’s energy and raw materials exports and (who knows?) possibly even at some point for some heavy industrial goods such as helicopters and aircraft. For China there is also a political advantage in good relations with Russia. I think US analysts often overlook the extent to which Russia is from China’s point of view the only seriously important ally and friend that it has. By way of example without Russia China might easily find itself isolated on the Security Council.

        3. Having said this, I do not see why the development of Russia’s relations with China if it takes place should be at the expense of Russia’s relations with the US. I accept that there may be some people in Moscow who think in these either/or terms but I suspect that they are a small minority and that most of Russia’s elite who support a strengthening of relations with China also want an at least stable relationship with the US. Indeed I would not be at all surprised if there were even some people (Lavrov for example?) who might see the strengthening of relations with China as a means towards better relations with the US on the basis that by improving Russia’s position it will put Russia in a better position vis a vis the US.

        4, In fact stability in US/Russian relations has in my opinion been what the Russian foreign policy elite has been seeking throughout all the twists and turns of foreign poicy that have happened in my lifetime and beyond. I am convinced that that is what Putin wants and I am sure that if a future US administration were to pursue that goal consistently in the way that the Nixon administration did in the 1970s then results would quickly follow. The trouble is that I do not see any US administration pursuing that goal with consistency and there is also always the concern that in the US a succeeding administration would reverse it..

  6. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear Eugene,

    Completely off topic (forgive me!) I notice that you have taken your photograph from Press TV. This is the news channel whose licence the British authorities have withdrawn and which cannot therefore any longer broadcast in the UK (though it is still accessible by internet). I have never paid much attention to it up to now but judging from its website it hardly deserves a ban. Given the pretty monolithic character of foreign news reporting in the UK where the range of opinion extends all the way from A to B (and seems to me to be much less than in the US) it does seem to me at times as if the British authorities are keener on promoting a diversity of media opinion in places like Russia than they are in their own country. Incidentally though I am guessing I suspect that Putin’s comments about Moscow Echo will receive far more international attention than the British authorities’ withdrawal of the licence to broadcast from Press TV.

  7. zed244 says:

    Hi, Eugene
    On your “the real danger is … “us against them” spirit…” I would say that, unfortunately the US -Russia relations history has always been “them against us [Russians]” – and there are no real signs whatsoever that this is different now or is going to change in the future. So, in the speculations about the American radar interfering with the Russian probe (stuffed with foreign-made electronics, btw) , I am personally, more concerned about the Russian “radars” not interfering with the American satellites..

    Cheers

    • Eugene says:

      Hi Alex,

      The question is not whether Russian “radars” should or shouldn’t interfere with the American satellites. The question is: can they? Russia is becoming increasingly incapable of producing new military equipment — and increasingly dependent on buying sophisticated foreign weaponry: Mistrals from France, drones from Israel, etc. Sure, they now have Rogozin to fix it…

      As for the “them against us” spirit, the problem is not that Russians stop liking Americans (and/or being obsessed with them:)). The problem is that this mood is contagious: today, they don’t like Obama, tomorrow Merkel, and the day after tomorrow Sarkozy. And by the end of the week, who is left: Nazarbaev and Bat’ka?

      Cheers,
      Eugene

      • Alex says:

        Hi, Eugene
        I thought I said exactly the same thing as you did in your first para : )
        Not arguing with the second para either,, but it is hard not to be obsessed with a nation which wrought more damage to the Russians than did Hitler – and which still tries to do more. And it is fine – to be obsessed with them – as long as the Americans are not mistaken for “friends”, because to be a friend one needs to be able to care about others.(funny but it just occurred to me that if there is a “western” nation which can be “friends” with Russians – which has a compatible culture – , then it is most likely, Germans )

        All this of course, is not to say that the UR /whatever-Front attempts to extend this new Russian zastoi for another 10 years should be greeted with joy. But not everything they offer is wrong.

        • Alex says:

          just in case – above “compatible” does not mean “the same” or even “similar”

        • Eugene says:

          Alex,

          “…a nation which wrought more damage to the Russians than did Hitler – and which still tries to do more. ”

          Please, you can’t be serious. However, if you’re talking about bringing McDonalds in Russia, well, you may have a point:)

          I agree on Germany, though, and, after having lived for 2 years in France, I’d add France, too. Americans are widely hated in France, BTW.

          Cheers,
          Eugene

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Dear Alex and Eugene,

            Let us maintain a sense of proportion. By no conceivable stretch of the imagination can one say that the US has done more harm to Russia as Hitler. The US is many things but Nazi Germany it is not.

            That is not by the way a defence of US policy towards Russia, which in my opinion has been almost entirely misconceived going back all the way to the start of the Cold War.

            Touching on a number of points:

            1. I gather that Isaev and Zhirinovsky have joined in the fun concerning the opposition’s meeting with McFaul. They have been assisted in their criticisms by a host of foolish comments made by Yevgenia Chirikova who attended the meeting and who has given it a greater significance than it deserves. I have discussed Chirikova’s comments on Mark Chapman’s blog but suffice to say that she has either said or come very close to saying that it is legitimate to enlist the help of the US in the overthrow of the present Russian government, a comment which can only cause McFaul embarrassment. The KPRF by contrast has sensibly commented on its website that the meeting was simply a routine affair.

            2. I do not take very seriously the Phobos Grunt affair and I do not pretend to have followed it closely. However for what it’s worth the impression I got was that the claim that has been made is that US radar signals may have inadvertently interfered with the probe’s control system not that the US deliberately sabotaged the probe. I am sure by the way that this also is nonsense but again it is the sort of bilge that appears in the popular press in most countries and it is surely a mistake to attribute any great significance to this claim.

            • Eugene says:

              Dear Alexander,

              In defense of Ms. Chirikova, I can only say that she’s young (around 35) and was never involved in real politics before. Besides, I suspect that her new-acquired stardom made her a bit dizzy…

              However, she’s got charisma, will, undeniable organizing skills and even some diplomatic touch, as the way she handled the “Nemtsov tapes” story would suggest.

              Hopefully, she’ll grow up fast.

              Best,
              Eugene

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear Eugene,

                Interesting comments. I agree with all of them, If you on to Mark Chapman’s blog you will see that I described Chirikova as an intelligent and attractive young woman who started with good intentions but who looks to me to have got drunk with all the attention she is receiving and who is being manipulated by people who are cleverer and more ruthless than she is. Let us indeed hope that she matures into a serious politician because she is not one yet.

  8. Pingback: What foreign policy do Russians want? |

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