Archive for the ‘Putin’ Tag

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“[Putin] started out as something of a normal human being, transitioned into a bit of an eccentric dictator. Somewhere along the way something changed, the goofiness gave way to a darker, more sinister Putin. Much like a young, harmless wizard that got sorted into Slytherin. So after hanging around with some of the bad kids and sleeping in the dungeon-y parts of Hogwarts, Vladimir Putin has turned into Lord Vladimort.” — Jon Stewart

 

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John Oliver “On Friday there was some terrible news.”

Reporter “We are following the breaking story out of Moscow, the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.  The 55 year old opposition politician was gunned down less than two days before he was to lead a large rally against Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Oliver “Wow, that would seem like a shocking coincidence if you knew literally nothing about Russia. Nemtsov is just the latest in a long line of Putin’s enemies to find themselves mysteriously imprisoned or dead.  In fact, just a few weeks ago Nemtsov was asked in an interview if he was afraid that Putin might kill him, and his answer was “yes, a little bit”.  In fact, at the end of that interview the journalist said to him “I hope common sense prevails and Putin will not kill you”, which sounds chilling, but to be fair, “I hope Putin will not kill you” is just how Russian people say goodbye to each other.”

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Over the past two months, we have watched what has looked like a minor version of the Cold War between the West and Russia. Many people are wondering, how did we get here? Was this confrontation inevitable or did the West mishandle Russia from the start?

And the mishandling camp is Jack Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s who watched from Spaso House in Moscow as Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the end of the Cold War and then the end of communism. He argues, as the title of his recent “Washington Post” essay puts it, “The United States has treated Russia as a loser since the end of the Cold War.”

In the years right after the Cold War ended, several American statesmen and writers urged a more generous policy toward Moscow. I was one of them. My logic was fairly simple. We have had two historic experiments with peace settlements after world wars. After World War I, the victors punished Germany and left it outside the new international system. It proved to be a disaster, leaving a wounded and angry Germany pining for revenge.

After World War II, on the other hand, the United States and its allies were magnanimous towards Germany and Japan, integrating those countries into the new global order. That peace, the Peace of 1945, succeeded brilliantly. And so I thought we should do our best to try to integrate Russia into the structures of the new post-Cold War world, give it significant aid and help it rebuild its economy and society.

Now Western countries did provide some help, but not really on the scale that a vast country like Russia needed after the complete collapse it had gone through in the early 1990s. But if the West did not do enough, Russia also pursued policies that made integration very hard. By the early 1990s, Moscow had launched a ferocious war against Chechnya, a part of Russia that had been seeking independence from Moscow for more than a century.

Estimates vary, but many believe that the Russian army killed over 200,000 people in the first and second Chechen wars. Meanwhile in Europe, Moscow was ardently defending Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic as he massacred Bosnians and later Kosovars. This is not how Germany and Japan behaved after World War II as they sought integration.

And at home, Russians were quickly developing a prickly resistance to outside interference, and Russian politicians who urged integration with the West became marginal figures with tiny followings. Looking at this record, the historian Anne Applebaum has argued, also in the “Washington Post,” that the West fundamentally misunderstood Russia. It saw the place as a quasi-Western land. Think of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky. A Western country in the making if only we had put forward the right policies.

In fact, she argues, Russia derives its identity from being a non- Western country, perhaps even from being an anti-Western country in the sense that it is distinct and different from the West.

Perhaps the West could have done more to help Russia, but it does appear to me looking back that the Russia of the late 1980s and early 1990s of Gorbachev and Yeltsin may have been a special conciliatory moment in its history, a time when Russia was weak, its leadership enlightened and its populous worn out by decades of communist failure.

The mood of that country changed quickly as oil prices rose in the 1990s. The Russian economy grew and the Russian state reasserted itself. In Russia there has always been a great debate, at least since the 1840s, between Westernizes and Slavophiles. The Westernizes wanted Russia to become Western, while the Slavophiles felt that its destiny lay in its distinctive Slavic civilization that was different from the West. Today, at least, it looks like the Slavophiles were right.

CNN.com – Transcripts

Posted April 21, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: But first, here’s my take. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought to the fore an important debate about what kind of world we live in. Many critics charge that the Obama administration has been blind to the harsh realities of the world because it believes, as a Wall Street Journal editorial opined, “in a fantasy world of international rules.”

John McCain declared this is the most naive president in history. The Washington Post editorial board worries that Obama misunderstands the nature of the century we’re living in. Almost all of these critics ridicule John Kerry’s assertion that changing borders by force, as Russia did, is 19th Century behavior in the 21st Century.

Well, here are the facts. The scholar Mark Zacher has tallied up changes of borders by force. Something that was once quite common. Since World War I, he notes, it has been on a sharp decline, and in recent decades that decline has accelerated.

Before 1950, wars between nations would result in border changes, that is, annexations, 81 percent of the time. After 1950 that number dropped to 27 percent. In fact, since 1946 there are only 12 examples of major changes in borders using force, and all of them begun before 1976. So Putin’s behavior does in fact belong to the 19th Century.

The transformation of international relations goes well beyond border changes. Harvard’s Steven Pinker, who will be on the show later, points out in a recent essay that after a 600-year stretch in which Western European countries started two new wars a year, they have not started one since 1945, nor have the 40 or so richest nations anywhere in the world engaged each other in armed conflict.

Colonial wars, a routine feature of international life for thousands of years, are extinct. Wars between countries, not just major powers, not just in Europe, have also dropped dramatically by more than 50 percent over the last three decades.

Scholars at the University of Maryland have been tabulating the number of new conflicts that have arisen across the world. They find that the past decade has seen the lowest number since World War II.

This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine national interest-based foreign policy that would be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression, to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008.

That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery. Hundreds were killed. Nearly 200,000 people were displaced. Yet the response from the West was essentially nothing.

This time the response has been much more serious. Some of this difference is the nature of the stakes. But it also might have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such.

This is what leadership looks like in the 21st Century. There is in fact an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare. We should strengthen, not ridicule it.

Yes, there are some places that stand in opposition to this trend: North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they’re charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/30/fzgps.01.html

Posted March 31, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first, here’s my take. Whatever happens in Ukraine over the next few months and years, the crisis has reminded me that there are really two kinds of rulers around the world, those who think about the past and those who think about the future. And if it weren’t abundantly clear already, it is now.

Vladimir Putin is the first group and his country will be the poorer for it. We’ve all learned some lessons in Russian history. Crimea was the first great prize for Russia, wrested from the Ottoman Empire and a mark of Russia’s rise to great power status.

It also gave the Russians something they never had, a warm water port with direct access to the Mediterranean and thus the wider world. Russia held onto the region even though it lost the Crimean War in the 19th century. Almost a century later it maintained its grip on the region after reclaiming it from the Nazis in early 1944.

Then came the strange and fateful twist in 1954 when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gifted Crimea to the Ukraine, an internal transfer within the Soviet Union. Why Khrushchev did that remains somewhat unclear. Whatever the cause, the consequences are lasting and dramatic.

That is the history. But history is bunk, as Henry Ford said. By that he did not mean that it was unimportant but rather that people should not be trapped by it, that they should not think backward but rather forward.

His exact words were, “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”

The history that leaders make today has much less to do with geography or constraints from the past. When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965, the experts said that the small, swampy town in the middle of nowhere could not survive as an independent country. It is now one of the world’s great trading hubs with a per capita income higher than that of its erstwhile colonizer, Great Britain.

That’s because its founder, Lee Quan Yu (ph), thought less about the disadvantages of history and more about the advantages of the future.

When the Nationalist Chinese were abandoned by the world on a tiny island after the Communist Revolution in mainland China in 1949, most assumed the place would not survive. Yet in the most precarious position with zero natural resources, Taiwan became one of the world’s fastest growing economies for over four decades.

That’s because it didn’t worry about geography. It obsessed about competitiveness.

When Paul Kagame took over Rwanda, the country was more deeply ravaged by history than almost any nation. Scarred by a genocide of a speed never seen before in the past.

Rwanda’s also landlocked with no geographic advantages at all and a bloody war in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. But Kagame looked to the future, not the past. The result is a small African miracle, a country that is healing its wounds.

There are those who are still trapped by history and geography; think of Pakistan’s generals, still trying to establish strategic depth in their backyard while their country collapses.

Or think of Putin, who is, as Secretary of State John Kerry said, playing a 19th century game in the 21st century. What has he achieved? Ukraine has slipped out of his grasp, its people suspicious of Moscow even in Crimea the 40 percent who are non-Russian are probably restive and resentful.

Moscow’s neighbors are alarmed and once warming relations with Poland will be set back, trade and investment with Europe and the United States will surely suffer. Meanwhile Russia continues along its path as an oil dependent state with an increasingly authoritarian regime that has failed to develop its economy or civil society or foster political pluralism.

But no matter, Moscow controls Crimea. In today’s world, is that really a victory?

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/23/fzgps.01.html

Posted March 24, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST:But first, here’s my take. The crisis in Ukraine was produced by two sets of blunders, neither emanating from Washington. The European Union’s vacillations and most significantly, of course, Russia’s aggression produced the problem.

But it will now be up to President Obama to show the strength and skill to resolve it.

For years now, the European Union has had an ambivalent attitude towards Ukraine which produced instability in that country and opposition from Russia. Ukraine is the most important country in the post-Soviet space that Russia seeks to dominate politically. If Europe wanted to help Ukraine move west it should have planned a bold, generous and swift strategy of attraction. Instead, the EU conducted lengthy, meandering negotiations with Kiev.

But let us not persist in believing that Moscow’s moves have been strategically brilliant. Vladimir Putin must have watched events unfold in Ukraine in February with deep frustration, as a pro-Russian government was swept out of power, because the Sochi Olympics were under way, which limited what he could do.

When the Olympics ended, he acted quickly, essentially annexing Crimea. But it was a blunder. In taking over Crimea, Putin has lost Ukraine. Since 1991, Russia has influenced Ukraine through pro- Russian politicians who were bribed by Moscow to listen to its dictates. But that path is now blocked, as Princeton’s Steve Kotkin has pointed out on this program last week, without Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority no pro-Russian politician could hope to get elected president of Ukraine.

Remember, Ukraine is divided but not in half. Without Crimea, only 15% of Ukraine is ethnically Russian.

As important as losing Ukraine, Putin has triggered a deep anti- Russian nationalism around his borders. There are 25 million ethnic Russians living outside of Russia and countries like Kazakhstan with significant Russian minorities, must wonder whether Putin could foment secessionist moments in their country as well and then use the Russian army to protect them.

Beyond the near abroad, Russia’s relations with countries like Poland and Hungary, that were once warming are now tense and adversarial. NATO, which has been searching for a role in the post- Cold War world has been given a new lease on life.

Moscow will face some sanctions from Washington and almost certainly from the European Union as well. And in a rare break with Russia during the discussions at the UN security council, even China refused to condone Russia’s moves into Crimea.

Now I have generally been weary of the calls of American intervention in any and every conflict around the world, but this is different. The crisis in Ukraine is the most significant geopolitical problem since the end of the Cold War. Unlike many of the tragic ethnic and civil wars that have bubbled over the last three decades this one involves a great global power, Russia, and thus can and will have far-reaching consequences. And it involves a great global principle — can national boundaries be changed by brute force?

If this becomes acceptable, what happens in Asia where there are dozens of contested boundaries and several great powers that want to redraw them. So President Obama must rally the world, push the Europeans, and negotiate with the Russians. In this crisis, America truly is the indispensable nation.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/16/fzgps.01.html

Posted March 17, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST:  Inevitably, the crisis in Ukraine is being discussed in Washington largely through the lens of political polarization. It seems like any and every topic is fodder for partisan dispute these days, even the weather — actually, especially the weather.

Many Republicans are arguing that Vladimir Putin intervened in Crimea because of President Obama’s weakness. Putin saw that Obama didn’t want to go to war in Syria, for example, and this emboldened Putin.

Well, who knows, right? It’s tough to know what would have happened in an alternative universe. Imagine that we still had Putin around in charge of Russia but imagine he faced a different president, one who was tough, aggressive, who had no compunctions about invading countries.

Oh, wait, we ran that experiment in 2008. Putin faced George W. Bush, a president who had invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, for good measure, in the latter case, defying massive international pressure and opposition, and yet, Putin invaded Georgia.

And not as he did this time in a stealthy way with soldiers who were already there who switched their uniforms, he sent in Russian tanks roaring into Georgia, and without any referendums, simply annexed two pieces of that country.

Does this prove that Bush was a wimp after all? No, it doesn’t. You see, there has been some very good and careful scholarship by Daryl Press and Jonathan Mercer, among others, that looks at historical cases to figure out whether having a reputation for toughness actually deters your opponents from doing bad things like invading countries.

In general, the answer is no. Countries make these decisions based on many factors, but the most important ones seem to be a careful analysis of the power dynamics of the specific case.

So in Ukraine, Russia would ask, is this a vital interest of the United States? And what is Washington’s capacity to act in this particular situation? In other words, Putin would look at his cards, Washington’s cards, and the specifics of the situation in Ukraine, rather than assuming that because Bush invited Iraq he would defend Georgia, or that because Obama didn’t invade Syria he would do nothing about Ukraine.

Politicians in Washington are convinced that Putin was encouraged by Western weakness. But it’s actually quite possible that he, Putin, felt he was acting to stop the West’s growing strength.

Look at the situation from Russian eyes. In 1991, Moscow gave up its 75-year-old Soviet empire. It also gave up large parts of its 300-year-old Russian Empire, including Ukraine.

Since then, its historical rival, NATO, has expanded closer and closer to Moscow’s borders. And then the West encouraged Ukrainians to take to the streets and depose their president who had close ties to Moscow.

Now none of this excuses aggression or justifies Putin’s thuggish response, but if we’re going to find a political solution in Ukraine that will stick, we need to recognize that the issues at stake are not personal, and that they are larger than Obama’s weakness and Putin’s paranoia.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/09/fzgps.01.html

 

Posted March 10, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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