Russia Archives

New Poll: The Russo-Georgia War

As I write this, Russian forces are within 35 miles of Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, and the UN has been unable to come to any agreement about it. What do you think the U.S. should do about this, if anything? Pick your top 1 or 2 choices at the right, and comment on this post about it. For example, if you pick the military option, how would you see that being able to work? (I personally don’t see how, but feel free to let me know your thoughts.) If you say we should not intervene at all, why not?

As this is a quickly changing situation, the polls close Wednesday night. Let us hear from you. Thanks.

Update: Added the “Economic sanctions” option this Tuesday morning.  Sorry, those of you who already voted who would have liked to choose this option.  But hey, it’s just a poll.  It’s not, like, news or anything.  :)

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    Mr Sandefur claims in response to my allegation that he completely misconstrued my first essay, with an essay in which he thinks that a state has “no rights.” And to be honest, I agree with him on that point … it’s just that neither do people. However in the context of his own question:

    This is interesting because this really is the very center of the dispute between libertarians and conservatives. Does the state itself have rights valid against its own citizens, to act for its own preservation at their expense?

    On this question, Mr Sandefur has five “objections” to that notion that the “state has rights”. So does a state have a right to craft laws which it believes will lead to its continuance? Clearly virtually every state does so and believes it is right in doing so. Clearly as well, that some states craft laws which belie an incorrect assumption about what will allow them to continue … and they ceased to exist. But, it might be interesting to examine Mr Sandefur’s arguments in the light of those I’d propose. Mr Sandefur’s arguments are, I think, derived from classical Libertarian positions … mine are not classical anything, conservative or liberal. Mine largely derive from recent digestion and assimilation of Jouvenel and Solzhenitsyn viewed in the context of modern and ancient historical events.

    I’ll examine those five and attempt a response … below the fold.

    Read the rest of this entry

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      What Stifled Dissent Really Looks Like

      Those who protest that civil liberties are being eroded or at least being chilled don’t know how good they have it. First, Hugo Chavez calls those who vote against his constitutional changes “traitors”, and now this.

      The Kremlin is planning to rig the results of Russia’s parliamentary elections on Sunday by forcing millions of public sector workers across the country to vote, the Guardian has learned.

      Local administration officials have called in thousands of staff on their day off in an attempt to engineer a massive and inflated victory for President Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party. Voters are being pressured to vote for United Russia or risk losing their jobs, their accommodation or bonuses, the Guardian has been told in numerous interviews with byudzhetniki (public sector workers), students and ordinary citizens.

      Doctors, teachers, university deans, students and even workers at psychiatric clinics have been warned they have to vote. Failure to do so will entail serious consequences, they have been told.

      Analysts say the pressure is designed to ensure a resounding win for the United Russia party and for Putin, who heads its party list. The victory would give him a public mandate to maintain ultimate power in the country as “National Leader” despite being unable to stand for a third term as president in March.

      I love my civil liberties as much as the next guy, but when the hyperbole comes out against Bush, let’s just remember what real curtailing and threats look like. Fight for those civil liberties, but just keep your perspective.

      [tags]Vladimir Putin,Russia,United Russia Party,dissent,civil liberty[/tags]

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        Russia, Venezuela, and Global Warming: Catching Up

        I’ve been on an extended Thanksgiving vacation, but I didn’t completely ignore the news. Here are some of the things I noted during the past week:

        * Russia’s Vladimir Putin lashed out at the West for allegedly meddling in Russian politics. But he didn’t stop there.

        He accused unidentified Russians of planning mass street protests, like those that helped usher in pro-Western governments in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine in 2003 and 2004.

        “Now, they’re going to take to the streets. They have learned from Western experts and have received some training in neighboring (ex- Soviet) republics. And now they are going to stage provocations here,” he said.

        Putin seemed to refer to anti-Kremlin demonstrations planned for this weekend in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Police have used force to break up several marches and demonstrations, beating and detaining dozens of protesters.

        Putin doesn’t seem to value democracy all that highly. Even if his vague charges are true, aren’t protests part of the process? Yes, even in the US we have problems when protests get out of hand, but read the whole article. It’s rather disconcerting.

        * This weekend, the referendum in Venezuela will determine the fate of Hugo Chavez’s constitutional “reforms”. Recent polls show that support is coming up short, so Chavez is ratcheting up the rhetoric, calling those who vote against it “traitors”. An article on the liberal site AlterNet is predictably in favor of this power grab, and on a point-by-point basis makes its case for the reforms. The problem is the big picture, and how it matches up with autocrats from history. Chavez may be getting these changes by a popular vote, but he’s doing it by buying those votes. He grabs all the oil industry profits, and gives back a smidgeon to the people so that they’ll keep him in office, and give him the power to stay there a long, long time. Each thread of his proposal looks reasonable, but the tapestry is instead a straightjacket, woven by a paranoid nut.

        * The whole idea of tying global warming to hurricane activity has been dealt another blow.

        Despite alarming predictions, the U.S. came through a second straight hurricane season virtually unscathed, raising fears among emergency planners that they will be fighting public apathy and overconfidence when they warn people to prepare for next year.

        I think those that are most fearful are the ones that made those “alarming predictions” in the first place. Their government funding is at stake, dontcha’ know?

        [tags]Russia,Vladimir Putin,Venezuela,Hugo Chavez,global warming,climate change,hurricanes[/tags]

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          Ain’t No Pleasing Them

          Sanctions — so the story goes with the anti-war Left — should’ve been allowed to work in Iraq, and the invasion should have been a last resort. OK, let’s put aside for the moment that the sanctions weren’t working, were instead enriching Hussein, and were being actively undermined by our “allies” France and Russia. Let’s just focus on sanctions in and of themselves. You’d think that installing sanctions on organizations that the US has labelled terror groups would meet with approval by this crowd.

          You’d think wrong.

          Several Democratic presidential candidates, though not front-runner Hillary Clinton, said they were worried the White House had begun a march to war.

          “I am deeply concerned that once again the president is opting for military action as a first resort,” said Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a long-shot Democratic candidate.

          How much of a long-shot do you have to be to require labelling sanctions “military action”? How desperate must you be to find something, anything, to complain about that you stoop to this level?

          Perhaps as desperate as a Russian President.

          It is the first time the United States has sought to take such punitive measures against another country’s military. Russia and some other U.S. allies believe dialogue rather than more punishment or military action is the way forward.

          “Why should we make the situation worse, corner it, threatening new sanctions?” Putin said in Lisbon.

          Sure, because dialogue has made things so much better already, with Iran utterly ignoring the sense of the international community. They know they’ll at least have France and Russia on their side, eh?

          What military options there are must be considered, as a last resort, because to not consider them does two things. First, it catches us off guard if we turn out to need it and have not prepared for it. Second, it shows that, during such dialogue, we are serious about what we are saying. Any country not willing to back up its words with actions, and to prepare for those actions should they become necessary, will simply not be listened to by any rogue state. Instead, said rogue state will simply keep the international community at the “bargaining table” until such time as they’ve done what they wanted anyway.

          Which is the course this is taking already. Iran has showed no signs whatsoever that diplomacy is working on them. Think it’ll be easier to bargain with an Iran backed by a nuclear bomb? But in the meantime, the anti-war Left is whining about sanctions being put in place. I’ll bet if this was a Democrat doing it, they’d be extolling the diplomatic process.

          [tags]sanctions,Iran,Revolutionary Guard,Vladimir Putin,Christopher Dodd[/tags]

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            Putin’s Paranoia

            I’m sorry, but even if you believe that Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were the one and only source of Iranian paranoia, or increased attacks on Israel, or whatever ills you want to attribute to it, this is simply pure paranoia.

            President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to build a new generation of nuclear weapons after accusing the United States of harbouring an “erotic” desire to invade Russia and steal its natural resources.

            Delivering one of his most belligerent anti-Western tirades, Mr Putin also suggested that America and its allies had concocted a fake assassination plot to prevent him from visiting Iran this week.

            Casting himself as a pugnacious but benign defender of national sovereignty, the president told his people during a live television phone-in that only Russia’s military prowess had prevented the country from suffering Iraq’s fate.

            Puh-lease. This is simply over the top. Putin would have come up with any reason to bolster his military, whether or not the US was in Iraq. As evidence, he’s bipartisan in his paranoia.

            The subject of Western plots was first raised by Alexander, a mechanic in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. Was it right, Alexander wanted to know, that certain American politicians considered Russia’s refusal to share its natural resources “unfair” – claims he bizarrely attributed to Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state.

            “I know that such ideas are brewing in the heads of some politicians,” Mr Putin replied. “I think it is a sort of political eroticism which maybe gives some pleasure but will hardly lead anywhere.

            Of course, this was all carefully planned political theater. Nothing like a US Presidential press conference.

            Not once was an unsettling or controversial question asked – a fact that drew scorn from the Kremlin’s dwindling band of critics. “It was unbearably boring and openly narcissistic,” said Yevgeny Kiselyov, a political commentator.

            “It was all staged from beginning to end. If he is a president and not the Tsar, why don’t we hear the opinion of those who don’t vote for him?”

            Russia’s already rapid rearmament would be stepped up even further, Mr Putin promised. Ambitious plans to bolster the country’s nuclear arsenal – as well as its conventional military hardware – were well underway.

            They include new missile systems, modernised nuclear bombers and submarines. “We have plans that are not only great, but grandiose,” he boasted.

            To drive home this message, the broadcast was interrupted to show a test launch of Russia’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile.

            “The anti-western rhetoric is aimed at voters, philistines who like to believe that Russia is surrounded by enemies intent on keeping the country on its knees,” Mr Kiselyov said.

            “For them, Putin is the only man who can defend us from these vicious enemies.”

            Indeed, enemies that exist only in his own mind.

            [tags]Vladimir Putin,Russia,Madeleine Albright,Yevgeny Kiselyov,military,missiles,nuclear bombs[/tags]

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