Wednesday, December 22

To the ramparts, fellow billionaires! Save Russian Democracy!

"Pundita! Do you and your foreign policy team get TV reception in your cave? I just read your last post. What do you mean Bush wants to put democracy before expediency? Did you see him dodging all over the place about Putin in yesterday's press conference? Putin has announced he's going to appoint 80 governors instead of allowing them to be elected.

"There's no more democracy in Russia, just a show. Look at Putin's so-called election. Look at Russian interference in the Ukraine election. They can't hold an election there or anywhere in a former Soviet satellite without half a million outside observers and even that doesn't stop the ballot stuffing!
[Signed] Not Born Yesterday"

Dear NBY:

Let me see if I understand this correctly. All Russian elections are fixed. Ergo, Putin destroys Russian democracy by appointing governors instead of allowing elections.

My memory may be faulty here, but I seem to recall that Khodorkovsky was arrested on one of his rare visits to Russia, on his return from Sun Valley. Yes, this is the same Sun Valley in America where billionaires such as George Soros schmooze. In any case, Khodorkovsky is part of the Sun Valley crowd -- or he was, until his arrest.

And I seem to recall that at the time of Khodorkovsky's arrest, an American was president of Yukos. Let me see if I can come up with an appropriate analogy here....this would be something like a Russian citizen being president of Boeing.

Dear reader, it's time for Americans to wise up about our dear allies across the Pond. It was Vladimir Putin who warned the Bush administration that the Belgium Faction of the EU and Saddam Hussein were plotting petrocurrency war against the USA.

Out of a survey of corruption in 90 countries, Russia comes in at around 8. But most Americans can't appreciate the meaning of that statistic because the corruption in this country is of a different order. Or to be more precise, Russia has types of corruption that long ago disappeared from this country -- to the extent that such corruption existed here.

Russia not only has political and business corruption; the country also has administrative corruption, and of an order that is mind-boggling. Can you imagine having to pay a bribe just to register your child for public school? Or to get any kind of license, including a driver's license? This on top of license and registration fees.

And Russia has something called verticalization of corruption. That kind of corruption is distinct from the corruption represented by the financial clout of the Oligarchs, although both kinds of corruption intersect. But the Oligarchs had so much power when Putin came into office that it's misleading to think of it as corruption. It was an oligarchical government, which formed the woof of the tapestry of governments in Eurasia. That government is not gone yet, and the remanants are fighting tooth and nail to retain power.

Putin has the backing of the Russian public in his fight against corruption and his struggle to wrest power from the Oligarchs. As to his report card -- well, by coincidence, the more Putin has gone after corruption, the more trouble he's had from terrorist attacks. All of which supposedly carried out by Chechen separatists.

Much has been made of Putin's KGB background. If not for that background, he would have been dead of "natural causes" within a week of launching his anti-corruption campaign. This is because the big players are aware that Putin knows the corruption in Russia inside out, thanks to his KGB background. If anyone can take down the big players, it's Putin.

We can do our part by making sure that American oil interests stop using the war on terror as an excuse to meddle in former Soviet countries. We can also prod the state department to stop using every excuse to push Russia back into the Cold War posture.

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