Sunday, August 31, 2008

More violence in the Caucasus

Ingushetia is a small republic (the smallest republic in the country) squeezed between N. Ossetia and Chechnya, with which it has a troubled relationship. This death, at the hands of Russian police, of a quasi-journalist (a blogger, I guess you'd call him) will likely not make the evening news, but it's another sign of the troubles in the Caucasus. Yevloyev is the latest in a long, sad list of journalists who have died under questionable circumstances in Russia. Owner Shot Dead

01 September 2008
By Nabi Abdullaev / Staff Writer

The owner of the embattled opposition web site was killed Sunday after being detained by police, and his supporters promised massive protests that could lead to a sharp escalation in violence in the restive region.

Magomed Yevloyev, a prominent opposition member and staunch critic of Ingush President Murat Zyazikov, was detained in Ingushetia's main city of Nazran as he stepped off a plane from Moscow, his lawyer and friend Kaloi Akhilgov said by telephone.

He said Yevloyev had flown in business class with Zyazikov, a retired general from the Federal Security Service, and suggested that the two might have quarreled during the flight.

Ingush police said they had wanted to question Yevloyev in connection with an investigation into an explosion in Nazran earlier this year, Interfax reported.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And watch this one ONLY if you have a really good sense of humor...

This routine made me laugh so hard...

If you have a low threshold for ribald humor, I wouldn't recommend watching this... But, boy, let me tell you, you'll remember what a hard sign looks like... (It's all in Russian, but I think you'll get the jokes and recognize the letters.)

Русский алфавит...

For the firsties, learning their азбука, their ABCs. This isn't really an ABC song that I've ever heard sung in Russia (Frere Jacques, isn't it?), but it's good to listen to.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friction With Russia May Spell Trouble for U.S.

The more things change...

Friction With Russia May Spell Trouble for U.S. -

"Still, although the confrontation over Georgia had been building for years, the outbreak of violence demonstrated just how abruptly the international scene can change. Now Russia is the top focus in Washington and some veteran diplomats fret about the situation spiraling out of control. “Outrage is not a policy,” said Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state under Bill Clinton and now is president of the Brookings Institution. “Worry is not a policy. Indignation is not a policy. Even though outrage, worry and indignation are all appropriate in this situation, they shouldn’t be mistaken for policy and they shouldn’t be mistaken for strategy.”"

Ilves, the president of Estonia, said it best last week: For the past fifteen years, NATO's strategy has been predicated on Russia's continued passiveness. It's as though the West has forgotten Russia's history. But, unsurprisingly, Russian never forgot.

Oil shot up five bucks a barrel today, largely on concerns that Russia could monkey around with deliveries. Russia is just behind Saudi Arabia in daily oil production, though a fair amount of that oil goes to domestic use, which makes Russia the number two oil producer. (Its reserves are probably far smaller than Saudi Arabia's.) It holds far and away the largest natural gas reserves in the world -- something like fully 1/3 of the natural gas on the planet is beneath the Russian Federation.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gates and Rice on the Russian-Georgian conflict

Talking Points Memo is, hands-down, the best politics blog on the web. One useful thing they do is to aggregate the teevee appearances of political figures on particular themes. Check out what Robert Gates (Defense) and Condi Rice (State) have to say about a misbehaving Russia. (Rice and Gates are both professional Russianists, not that it's apparent from these interviews.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Georgia conflict: Screams of the injured rise from residential streets - Telegraph

I don't know what "tacit support" means, but if Saakashvilli said, "We're going to assault Ossetia" and someone in the Bush department replied, "OK, you know the score"... If that really happened, then our State Department is even more inept and criminally incompetent than I'd thought... And I've thought pretty poorly of it.
Georgia conflict: Screams of the injured rise from residential streets - Telegraph: Mr Saakashvilli may also have banked on support from his closest ally, US president George W Bush, whose administration is said to have given tacit support for a Georgian assault on South Ossetia in the believe that the territory could be recaptured within 48 hours.
This article in the Telegraph is one of the better that I've seen. It correctly conveys the importance of Ossetia (not at all important, no one wants it, a mountainous, land-locked den of thieves and instability) and Abkhazia (much more important as a port and wealthier). It also correctly points out that NATO will be all the more willing to accept Georgia into the alliance if 1) there are no further territorial disputes between Russia and Georgia; 2) Russia proves itself to be resurgent, aggressive and imperialistic.

I don't see how anyone comes out of this a winner.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia Fight Spreads, Moscow Issues Ultimatum

The Times has this mostly right...
Georgia Fight Spreads, Moscow Issues Ultimatum - "The fighting raised tensions between Russia and its former cold war foes to their highest level in decades. President Bush has promoted Georgia as a bastion of democracy, helped strengthen its military and urged that NATO grant the country to membership. Georgia serves as a major conduit for oil flowing from Russia and Central Asia to the West.

But Russia, emboldened by windfall profits from oil exports, is showing a resolve to reassert its dominance in a region it has always considered its “near abroad.”

The military action, which has involved air, naval and missile attacks, is the largest engagement by Russian forces outside its borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union."
What's missing is the obvious elephant in the corner: Iraq and Afghanistan (but mostly Iraq). Russia's petro-wealth has emboldened it, but even more enabling has been the deep rifts in traditional alliances caused by our misadventures in the Middle East, not to mention the fact that Russia can act with complete impunity, knowing that the United States cannot possibly engage militarily on another front. In fact, do not doubt for one moment that Russia's misbehaving spree (North Korea, Iran, Ukraine, now Georgia) can be directly tied to our own spree in Iraq.

Although I don't see what Russia has to gain from it--nowadays, who wants to support a puppet government, especially one in a nation that loathes Russia?--given the "incommensurately aggressive" response to Georgia's gambit in South Ossetia, it's entirely possible that Russia will march on to Tbilisi.

Really, why stop now?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Georgia and Russia Nearing All-Out War

Remember when we were all just going to be one, big, happy family... making fortunes selling services on the Internet?

Most of my students this year were born in, what, 1980 or 1981? They don't even REMEMBER the Cold War! Well, fortunately, it's in re-runs...
Georgia and Russia Nearing All-Out War - "The fighting, and the Kremlin’s confidence in the face of Western outcry, had wide international implications, as both Russian and Georgian officials placed it squarely in the context of renewed cold war-style tensions and an East-West struggle for influence on Russia’s borders. The East and West were stuck in diplomatic impasse, even as reports from both sides of heavy civilian casualties indicated that the humanitarian toll was climbing."