Monday, May 29, 2006

Over 1,200 children adopted in Russia dead since 1991

RIA Novosti - Russia - Over 1,200 children adopted in Russia dead since 1991

Taking time out from my Las Vegas honeymoon to write a short blurb on a news article that caught my eye this morning - an interesting addition to the Russian adoption story. While many Russians have been outraged at deaths and abuse of foreign adopted Russian children in recent years (especially by Americans) - Galina Semya is reporting via RIA Novosti that abuse of adopted children within Russia is at least as bad, if not worse. This appears to be a lightly reported topic for comparison, as it is just much easier to blame outsiders. It is a characteristic of human nature - but appears to be especially so within Russia these days.

A Moscow children's rights expert said Monday that 1,220 Russian children adopted by Russians had died since 1991, including 12 killed by their foster parents.

Galina Semya said that 116 cases of serious physical abuse had been registered in the same period, with 23 cases of serious physical abuse by foster parents.

Adoption has been in the political spotlight recently following a string of high-profile abuse cases involving Russian children adopted by foreigners that have prompted calls to tighten up regulation of adoption procedures.

"Since 1991, five children adopted by foreigners have been killed, and 16 have died in accidents," Semya said, adding that another 119 children had been returned to Russia.
A quick search for "галина семья" reveals that she works for "Дети-сироты" (Orphan Children) in Moscow. Her last name Sem'ya would appear to be an adopted name, as it means "family" in Russian.

Recent changes in Russian adoption laws will prohibit the independent adoption of Russian children, beginning in 2007. This would seem to be a reasonable measure and would require adoption agencies to be certified and regulated by the state. However, other articles have suggested that these organizations are no better at screening potential parents than via independent adoptions.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cursiv.ru Shut Down - "Putin as Phallic Symbol of Russia" Prompts Government Retaliation

Committee to Protect Journalists - Story Satirizing Putin's Birth Goal Prompts Government Retaliation
The Ivanovo regional prosecutor’s office in central Russia has opened a criminal libel investigation against Vladimir Rakhmankov, editor-in-chief of the news Web site Kursiv, for allegedly insulting President Vladimir Putin, according to Russian press reports.

On Thursday, Kursiv published an article headlined, “Putin as Russia’s phallic symbol,” in which Rakhmankov satirized the president’s goal to boost the country’s birth rate as outlined in a May 10 address to the Federal Assembly, independent radio station Ekho Moskvy said. Rakhmankov used data from a recent report by the Ivanovo city administration, which pointed to an increase in the population of certain species in the local zoo.

He commented that the animals “immediately responded to the president’s appeal,” the business daily Kommersant reported.

The next day, investigators from the Ivanovo regional prosecutor’s office raided the newsroom, seized the paper’s computers, and sealed the premises. Investigators also searched Rakhmankov’s apartment and confiscated his personal computer. “My article is nothing more than a harmless satire of the presidential address,” Rakhmankov told Kommersant.
Vladimir Rakhmankov is not a stranger to stirring up trouble with his supposedly satirical website, Cursiv.ru. His particular strain of satire appears to be coarse enough to offend those of moderate to delicate sensibilities. In 2004 he was cited by Jewish leaders in Russia for writing anti-Semitic articles. From antirasizm.ru :
At the end of April the Ivanovo Cursiv Ivianovo on-line newspaper published the article of its editor Vladimir Rakhmankov “Peculiarities of the Russian Yidness” – article of explicit anti-Semitic nature that also includes derogatory remarks about other nations. The Jewish community of the city turned to the regional prosecutor’s office requesting to bring criminal charges against the newspaper for ethnic strife kindling. Regional prosecutor’s office accepted the petition but later refused to bring an action. On April 26 the on-line newspaper published materials interpreting Jewish community petition to the prosecutor’s office as blackmail. In June yet another anti-Semitic material was published at this web-site.
For the purposes of discussion, the original satirical article by Владимир Рахманьков was obtained via Google's cache and quoted below.
Путин как фаллический символ России
За что журналисты любят пресс-службы казенных контор? Вы думаете, за оперативность и достоверность изложения того, что в этих конторах происходит? Нет! Журналисты их любят за талант и очень правильное понимание исторического момента!

Вот вам неимоверно жизнеутверждающее сообщение пресс-службы ивановской мэрии. Это ж просто какой-то праздник жизни, буйство гормонов и ликование весны. Гимн деторождению! Итак, дословно.

«В семействе лошадей Пржевальского в ивановском зоопарке пополнение. Эти животные занесены в Красную книгу, в неволе размножаются довольно редко. Это уже второй жеребёнок, появившийся в зоопарке спустя 6 лет после того, как там поселились лошади. Новорождённый чувствует себя хорошо, пока питается только маминым молоком. Им он будет питаться около полугода, а потом постепенно перейдёт на взрослую пищу.

Совсем недавно появилось потомство у лис. Лисят пока посетители не увидят, их бережно охраняют мамы.

В ближайшее время ожидается приплод у пони, рысей, волков, многих птиц (фазанов, павлинов, декоративных кур).

Впервые на кладку яиц сели канюки-курганники. Пара этих птиц в зоопарке живёт уже 3 года. В этом году птицы сами свили гнездо и сделали кладку. Готовятся к размножению полярные совы, филины, неясыти».

***

А я то думал, что президент России Владимир Путин просто решил превратиться в фаллический символ страны, выступив с этим полубредовым посланием народу и федеральному собранию: плодитесь и размножайтесь, а то границу защищать некому, а мы вам от нефтедолларов отстегнем по четверти миллиона за каждого второго ребенка, но только не сейчас, когда я президент, а в течение лет десяти, или позже…

Вообще, Путин действительно похож на фаллический символ страны — во всех смыслах. Так отчего же ему было не закрепить этот символизм официально? В послании? Как говорится: уж послал, так послал. Сам на себя, так сказать, всю страну зациклил. Теперь можно смело фигурки соответствующие лепить и продавать — президентская голова в виде головки. Новый народный промысел.
Вся властная и околовластная сволочь, конечно, немедленно изобразила из себя поток сперматозоидов, орущих: да, да, давайте размножаться, а то границу защищать некому.

От этого, разумеется, человеческая рождаемость в России не увеличилась, поскольку и фаллос, и его сперматозоиды — не более чем символ. А бабы — они не дуры. Контрацептических средств завались, так что можно и еще десять лет с возрождением нации подождать.

Но вот ивановские лошади Пржевальского, а также канюки-курганники и павлины на призыв президента откликнулись незамедлительно! Заметьте, до этого в неволе они размножаться не хотели. И вообще — в Красной книге находятся. Вот вам и окончательный символизм происходящего. Добро пожаловать в зоопарк!

© Курсив www.cursiv.ru
I haven't fully translated the original text, if I get a chance before our Las Vegas trip, I'll put together an English translation. In Katja's opinion, the article is more insulting than satirical, due to the authors use of language. This is a subtlety that will likely be lost on me, with my limited Russian skills.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Russia's Energy Sector Hides Weaknesses Behind Powerful Facade

Russia's Energy Sector Hides Weaknesses Behind Powerful Facade

Interesting commentary by Dr. Stephen Blank, professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA. He has authored multiple papers on Russia and Central Asia for the Jamestown Foundation.

The article here is also available in Russian via the link at the bottom of the page. It would appear, based upon Stephen Blank's opinions and information, that Central Asia's more cheaply produced natural gas is a key element of Russia's own energy infrastructure - and thus plays a critical role in allow Gazprom to further develop and bring to market Russian natural gas resources.
In late April, representatives of Russia’s Kremlin-controlled gas conglomerate, Gazprom, threatened to reduce exports to Europe after the EU blocked the company’s attempts to obtain several European energy entities. EU officials dismissed the threat, believing that the Russian energy industry could not survive without generating a hefty European cash flow. They were right. Behind its mighty facade, Russia’s energy sector, which the Kremlin has used in recent months to bully its neighbors and expand its geopolitical reach, suffers from a decaying infrastructure and a dependence on Western technology and cheap Central Asian energy.

Russian exporters are able to ship large quantities of energy to Europe and Asia today only because of its unique relationship to Central Asian oil and gas producers. And the future of this relationship is crucial to understanding the global energy game.

The Kremlin has significantly enhanced its control over Central Asian energy in recent years, book-ended by a 25-year natural gas supply deal with Turkmenistan in 2003 and a massive oil supply agreement with Kazakhstan last month. To many outside observers, the Russian energy sector has assumed an aura of a juggernaut. Statistics seem to support this impression: Russia has been responsible for fully half of the increase in global crude oil supplies over the past five years. The image has also been fueled by the Kremlin’s use of conglomerates as instruments of geopolitical policy.

Appearances can be deceptive, however, at least when it comes to Russia’s energy sector. There are numerous signs that Russia is in danger of overextending itself, while dawdling on investing in its energy infrastructure. The overextension problem is most noticeable in Moscow’s dealings with Asia. Russia has made an array of commitments to China and Japan to meet those countries’ voracious energy appetite. For example, President Vladimir Putin in March indicated that Russia by 2011 would be in position to deliver upwards of 80 billion cubic meters of gas annually to China via two pipelines. Meeting that goal will be difficult, however, as the pipeline linking China and western Siberia has yet to be built. In general, questions continue to hover over virtually all of Russia’s oil & gas-related deals with China and Japan. And even if the energy flows eastward as anticipated, Asian officials are already expressing doubts about whether the amounts pledged by Russia are sufficient to meet projected needs.

Beyond the question of Russia trying to export more than it can pump, the country will have to contend in the coming years with growing domestic demand, along with the need to repair existing infrastructure and tap into new energy fields. Both of these latter tasks are enormously expensive, given the difficulties of working in Siberia’s uninviting terrain and weather conditions. Experts say that the significant increase in Russia’s energy production in recent years would not have been possible without the use of Western technology and techniques, including hydrofracturing, a process in which steam is forced into a well to ease the pumping of oil. Likewise, Western equipment and know-how will be needed to develop new energy sources in the Arctic, as well as off the country’s Pacific coast.

Despite the need for outside investment, Russian policies seem calculated to prop up closed domestic monopolies, and thus repel foreign capital and technology. In addition, foreign investors continue to face enormous risks when doing business in Russia: although foreigners can buy minority stakes in Russian energy firms, the concept of shareholder rights remains poorly developed, leaving outsiders vulnerable to the whims of a non-transparent and notoriously corrupt system.

For now, Central Asian energy is helping Russia mask both current energy problems and future dilemmas. Until recently every export pipeline for oil and gas produced in Central Asia was routed through Russia, enabling the Kremlin to import energy at exceedingly low cost. Putin sought to maximize Moscow’s leverage by creating a gas cartel led by Russia. Kremlin control over Central Asian energy reached the point that in late 2005, Russia felt secure in imposing dramatic price increases on its CIS neighbors, including Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia.

Central Asian governments are not content with existing arrangements, however, and are turning to China in order to break Russia’s pipeline monopoly. A 1,000-kilometer-pipeline linking Kazakhstan to China, opened last December, became Central Asia’s first export route not to cross Russian territory. Now the authoritarian-minded leaders of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, along with Kazakhstan, are exploring the feasibility of building more pipelines that parallel the Kazakhstani-Chinese route. The possible construction of a trans-Caspian pipeline, which would enable Central Asian energy to hook up with Azerbaijani-Turkish routes, could further weaken Russia’s grip on regional exports.

Much of Russia’s neo-imperial designs in Central Asia are connected with the fact that the Kremlin’s global economic strategy is dependent on Moscow’s continued access to cheap Central Asian energy. Central Asian energy is far cheaper to extract than Russia’s, thus the Kremlin uses it for Russian domestic consumption, which is heavily subsidized, while shipping Siberian production abroad. The ensuing price manipulation is the source of enormous revenues that helps sustain the government and overall Russian economy.

It is easy to see how the loss of control over Central Asian energy exports and production would severely damage Russia’s political and economic interests. If Central Asian states start pumping oil to China and Azerbaijan, Russia would likely have to use its own production to meet domestic needs. This, in turn, would dash Moscow’s export plans for Europe and Asia. At the very least, the availability of other export options would force Moscow to pay considerably higher prices for Central Asian oil and gas – a development that could have ruinous consequences for the Russian economy. Two analysts, Vladimir Paramonov and Aleksey Strogov wrote in 2004; "should energy prices in the domestic market reach the world level, it will spell the end for virtually all Russian enterprises. Even if world fuel prices remain high, fuel production will become uneconomic in Russia."
My opinion has been that the Putin/Gazprom "energy security" agenda is equivalent to energy blackmail. Gazprom/Russia hopes to lock Europe into long-term price contracts now, when petroleum and natural gas are at all time highs. The supposed selling point to Europe would be a "secure energy source" - Russia promises not to cut off supplies completely or sell to other markets. It seems like pure scare tactics, designed to give a rapid influx of cash now, without foreign investment. Consider if the local gasoline station made a similar deal with you, and what their motives for such a deal might be. This deal likely best serves Russian short-term interests, but would appear to be a difficult idea to sell to any observer of Russian economic warfare of the past year.

As a side note, hydrofracking or hydrofracturing is a somewhat controversial technique that is used to attempt to improve production of wells in fractured bedrock. It involves injecting water or steam into the borehole, under great pressure, in order to further fracture the bedrock, increasing its local permeability (and therefore the connection of the borehole to the groundwater or subsurface petroleum/gas within the bedrock). There are problems cited with the technique; it may produce only short-term gains in production, may contribute to early decline of well production, and may also allow for increased spread of contamination in the subsurface. Theoretically, Russians have been opposed to such practices in the past.

If you care to read more about this topic, consider browsing this somewhat outdated 2002 article from Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections (they cite RusEnergy as a source for their data). That link makes for an interesting read, just to see how quickly and unpredictably things have changed in the Russian energy market in just 4 short years.

Stalin's "monster crabs" bring jobs to Arctic

Stalin's "monster crabs" bring jobs to Arctic

Reuters is recycling a story that originally seems to have gotten the West's attention in 2004. It seems that over 60 years later, Stalin's dream of cheap Russian crab meat for everyone has come to fruition. The Kamchatka or Red King Crabs are native to the Pacific Ocean, and Josef Stalin originally attempted to introduce them to the Bering Sea area in the 1930s. Only in recent years have they really grown to epic numbers. It would be a great tragedy if they didn't taste great with butter:
"The crabs are generating a lot of money among fishermen, but the introduction of the crabs is a gamble with nature," said Lars Petter Oie, a Norwegian diver who catches crabs and serves them as a delicacy for tourists near the Russian border.

On a "crab safari" in a fjord surrounded by snow-covered hills, one of Oie's colleagues plunges into the chill waters from a boat to hunt the crabs, which can grow up to 150 cms (59 inches) from claw-tip to claw-tip.

As nesting kittiwakes squawk from a nearby cliff, he emerges 15 minutes later from the depths with a haul of eight crabs, a mass of flailing giant red arms.

"Keep your fingers away from the claws," advises Oie. He boils the crabs and serves them with bread and mayonnaise on the edge of the fjord.

About 250 km (155 miles) to the west of Jarfjordbotn, Norway has drawn a line in the sand off its northernmost Artic tip to try to halt the advance of the spiny crabs, introduced to the barren Soviet northwest by dictator Stalin to provide food.

West of the line, Norway is allowing a free-for-all to catch the crabs, which cost up to 600 crowns ($98.73) a kilo in Oslo. East of the line, Russian and Norwegian fishermen have a catch limit of 3.3 million crabs for 2006.

Environmentalists, however, say the crabs are an alien species that may decimate other life in the Barents Sea and that Norway should try to exterminate the invaders rather than manage them like cod or herring stocks.

"There is no reason why Norway should accept an alien species introduced by the Russians with unknown and potentially enormous impacts," said Andreas Tveteraas of the WWF environmental group.

He said fishing should be unlimited everywhere.

The king crabs got a foothold in the Soviet northwest in the 1960s after failed experiments to introduce them dating from the 1930s. For reasons nobody understands, the population rocketed to millions in the 1990s, just after the end of the Cold War.

Estimates place the current number of crabs at more than 10 million, and they are slowly advancing further south, dominating other species and eating all available food, with a subsequent "underwater desert" left behind them.

From a 2004 UK Telegraph article:
In a graphic display of the extent of the crab's submarine domination, some photographs of the ocean floor in Kirkenes in northern Norway show a writhing mass of the ugly, spiny animals.

Northern clams and other shellfish, once so numerous that divers could scoop up handfuls, have been all but eliminated.

Lars Petter Oie, a Norwegian diver who lives nearby, has seen the fjord outside his front door taken over by the crabs.

Plunging through a hole in the ice, another diver surfaced within two minutes with a huge specimen. A snap of its claw is enough to remove a man's finger.

Mr Oie said: "I have been to conferences on the crab and one thing the experts agree on is that they have rarely come across a species that is so adaptable.

"It can survive on almost anything: kelp, dead fish, seaweed and fish eggs. It even eats crushed shells to get the calcium it needs for its shell."

More Sources:
National Geographic: "Giant Crab 'Red Army' Invades Norway"
"The bloody things Hoover [vacuum] everything off the bottom of the sea, and all the fish are disappearing," one resident from the town of Kirkenes told the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph.

Yet others welcome the red king crab, saying its delicious taste and size—the crabs can grow to 22 pounds (10 kilograms) and measure 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) across—make it an extremely lucrative catch. In the United States the crab's meaty legs fetch around $25 per pound.


Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs: Management of the Red King Crab in Norwegian Waters
As to the underwater pictures, it must be pointed out that soft bottom sediment (in contrast to hard bottom) often appear to be areas with almost no visible life. This is due to the fact that most animals at this kind of sediment is in the sediment, not on the top of it. Therefore this type of sea bed may, for a non skilled person, look as a desert. Also, it must be pointed out that the large concentrations of king crab that have been observed in the same areas are due to seasonal hatching - spawning mating - behaviour, and do not reflect a permanent situation during the whole year.

Furthermore, so far, there are no basis in scientific studies for such assertions and speculations. Indeed, prelimiary investigations in an area in Norwegian waters where the king crab have been located for at least 20 years, show no significant effects on the fauna, neither on species abundance nor on species composition. At the same time, however, this is far from sufficient to declare that the king crab has no such negative effects at all. Therefore Norwegian marine scientists are continuously doing studies to reveal any such impacts on the bottom ecosystems in the king crab distribution area in Finnmark. Such studies are however complex and any substantial results in short time can not be expected.


Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Red King Crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus
Adults are large, males 227 mm by 283 mm, reddish brown to purple, covered with spines. They range from Barrow and the Chukchi Sea (MacGinitie, 1955), the Bering Sea to the Queen Charlotte Islands, and along the Aleutian Islands to Japan. They have been recently introduced to the Atlantic coast of Russia and Norway (Kuzmin et al., 1996). Adults prefer sand or mud bottoms, ranging from 3 to 366 m. Their diet consists of sea stars, urchins, clams, barnacles, and other benthic invertebrates. The largest crab in U.S. waters, the king crab are very important commercially; in U.S waters, they are presently taken primarily in the Bering Sea and in Southeast Alaska.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Russian Judge: Beslan rebel Nurpashi Kulayev committed terrorism

Beslan rebel Nurpashi Kulayev committed terrorism: Russian judge

In a news article that is hardly news - I can't imagine there was any chance for a different verdict - Nurpashi Kulayev was found guilty by the Supreme Court in Vladikavkaz (North Ossetian capital) on charges of terrorism, hostage taking, and murder.
The prosecutor's office is pushing for the death penalty for the former Chechen carpenter in this case. As stated in the article and elsewhere, Kulayev is thought to be the sole surviving captor from the Beslan tragedy.

Although officially Russia has a moratorium on the death penalty, I would hardly be surprised if an exception was made in the Kulayev case. You have to know that you really are in big trouble when Amnesty International washes their hands of you:
"Formally, Russia has the death penalty, the judge has the right to impose it. He could use this option, if he wants to show how tough our laws are," said Sergei Nikitin, director of rights group Amnesty International's Moscow office.

"But we have a moratorium, so it will not actually be conducted by the court. Then again, we all know the stories about what happens to imprisoned Chechen fighters who suddenly "get ill" and die in prison."
Sergei Nikitin certainly doesn't sound like a bleeding heart in these quotes, does he? I suspect the Russian government may waive the moratorium and no one will complain. Many of the Beslan victims families continue to blame the Russian government for their own role in the tragedy. The sooner they put Nurpashi Kulayev under the knife, the quicker Russians might forget the governments own faults in the outcome of the Beslan tragedy.
An official probe into the tragedy said negligence and incompetence had contributed to the disaster, which was sparked by two unexplained explosions, although it disappointed survivors by failing to name names.

Three policeman went on trial for criminal negligence in March, but survivors' activists say higher officials were passing the buck, and should be made to answer for the disaster.

They have followed Kulayev's trial closely, hoping it will provide details they say were missing from the probes into the unfolding of the tragedy.

"There is hope that he will still tell the truth, and therefore we need him to live," said Ella Kesayeva, head of survivors' pressure group the Voice of Beslan, when asked whether she supported the death penalty for Kulayev.

"The prosecutor has not dug down to the truth, because they have only one motive -- to hide the facts of the security services' crimes ... It is not only the terrorists who are to blame in the Beslan tragedy, but also the Federal Security Service"

Other links regarding Kulayev, his trial, and Beslan:

Beslan Victims Talk to Kulayev
Below is a dialogue between Zarina Muzayev and Nurpashi Kulayev.

Zarina Muzayev: Why do you think Allah saved your life?
Nurpashi Kulayev: I didn't want to die there, that's why I escaped.

Z.M.: Are you glad you did?
N.K.: Now I am not. I'd better die.

Z.M.: Maybe, Allay gave you life, so you tell people the truth?
N.K.: I am telling everything I know. I'll answer any of your questions.

Z.M.: I understand you, you haven't done anything wrong. Trust me, our government will deceive you like it has deceived us. Tell me everything the way you'd tell a friend. Remember my face, my surname is Muzayev, and I swear you I will send all the money I have received to you children's account. I swear, just tell the truth.
N.K.: I won't lie, everything I know you will know. I cannot lie before Allah.

Z.M.: You said once that everyone who is really to blame is now watching all this on TV. Whom did you mean?
N.K.: Everyone knows whom I was talking about. They include the chief one, Basayev.


Whose to Blame for Beslan?
On his first day in court, the accused, a 24-year-old Chechen named Nurpashi Kulayev, was greeted by a crowd of vengeful mothers crammed onto wooden benches and clad in the black skirts and headscarves of mourners. "We'll kill you," the women screamed at Kulayev. "We'll tear you limb from limb."

Now the mothers have made a complete turnaround: They are calling for Kulayev's pardon. They believe that only with immunity can he speak freely. Their reasons are as complicated as the byzantine court proceedings themselves, but they boil down to this: The mothers want answers, and they believe Kulayev is one of the few people who can provide them. In their minds, it's not only militants like Kulayev who are responsible for the deaths of their children. Blame also rests with officials, they say, from the local police, who accepted bribes and let the militants pass checkpoints in the first place, all the way up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.


"Give Us A Gun", Say Beslan Mothers
“Hand him over here and give us a gun,” one woman said.

“The women of Beslan want him for themselves. We’ll take him in our own hands and show him proper punishment,” Rita Sydakova, 44, said, wringing her hands. “We’ll give him what he deserves.”


Day 2 of the Verdict


Washington Post: Blame Assigned in Siege at Beslan


Russian Court Hears Tales of Beslan Horror
But some survivors said prosecutors had failed to pin any specific incidents on Kulayev, who - along with a handful of policemen charged with negligence - is the only person being tried in relation to the tragedy.

"No one has said they saw him kill anyone. If they wanted to do this, they should have just locked him up without this nine-month trial," said Ella Kesayeva, whose Voice of Beslan pressure group argues that the officials who failed to prevent the siege should also be brought to book.

Like many former hostages, she says the chaos that accompanied the siege and the bloodbath that ended it, point to a deep-rooted culture of incompetence among state officials.

"If the conclusion is that the only people to blame are Kulayev, the terrorists and a few policemen, then we will never find out the truth about how this happened. And then terrorist acts will repeat themselves," she said after the session ended.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Back Home - Notes on Living with a Russian Woman

Katja and I arrived back home in quiet Exeter, New Hampshire at about 11:30 pm last night. Our flight back from Charlotte, North Carolina was delayed by approximately 90 minutes, so our return home was later than planned. It was a bit longish as a business trip for me, with our departing Boston at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday morning and late return on Wednesday. Oh yes, and the internet access at the hotel was terrible to non-existent. Basically, I couldn't use my laptop while there. My dependence upon the internet for work and personal business is humbling.

Since Katja's arrival in the US on April 26th, life has kept me away from writing as much for the blog. It will likely remain that way for the next few weeks, at least until our return from Las Vegas after Memorial Day.

Now, as much as I felt I knew about Russian culture, there is really no substitute for living full-time with a Russian for learning about the differences between the US and Russia. I have a list of points from conversations and life over the last few weeks to illustrate some of this:
  • One of the first things Katja and I did together upon her arrival was to go grocery shopping. Lots of suspicion and label reading. I found myself explaining (or attempting to explain) ingredients such as "enriched flour", carrageenan, xantham gum, whey, various hydrogenated oils, etc. I had always considered myself a bit of a whole foods guy and I almost never keep various snack foods or quick foods in the house. If I want pilaf, I cook the rice and flavor it with spices myself. If I want cookies, brownies, or cake, I bake it from scratch and not from a mix. However, since Katja's arrival I've become even more selective in what food items I am willing to buy and eat.
  • Restaurants are incredibly wasteful with the huge portions of food they provide, and deceitful in their ingredients described on the menu. Fast food joints are generally even worse, of course.
  • You really have to look a bit to find suitable bread here in the US. Luckily, Katja and I already had some agreement on this, and we generally like the same sorts of breads.
  • Continuing on this theme, throwing away bread is very bad. You better feed it to the birds instead.
  • Sour cream. Butter. Cheese. Cream cheese. Cottage cheese. Farmer's cheese. Yogurt (at least the stuff that isn't full of food color and sugar and small bits of fruit). Katja doesn't like mayonnaise (this is rare among Russians) and she says that Russian news and TV recommend Russians eat less mayo. However, anything else that is white and made from milk is a staple.
  • Bob Evan's strawberry-banana crepes are ok, although the crepes don't taste 100% authentic (the batter is too sweet, we decided). IHOP cheese-blintzes might have been ok, but there is an over-abundance of "cheese" inside disguising what the blini might actually taste like. Better that we just make them at home - however, when traveling that isn't always an option.
  • Over-the-counter medications are very limited here in the US.
  • No whistling indoors.
  • Scratching a cross on your fingernails will help cure or heal hangnails. Don't ask why it works, she doesn't know.
  • There are white witches and their cures really work. However, it is difficult to find a real one who isn't just a fraud looking to make money - real ones won't take money anyway and you provide them with some gift, perhaps food, in trade for their services.
  • If anyone other than Katja were to speak to me about these topics, I probably wouldn't listen to them very well. I give her lots of room and respect for her beliefs in these areas and see nothing wrong with them. I find the topics interesting when we discuss them.
  • Shoes are filthy dirty and shouldn't be placed on furniture or countertops or tables - ever. I had an old pair of black dress shoes I was tossing, and I momentarily set them upon the countertop next to the front door, as I was taking out the trash. Horrified gasps ensued. The shoes weren't filthy and the countertop can be easily wiped clean afterwards - but somehow the filth of shoes is too enduring. If you haven't actually walked the streets of Russia, you might never understand the horror of dirty shoes in a clean house in the Russian mind.
  • I wear an orthodox cross already, having bought a rather nice silver one in October. Katja has the cross, but also carries a small icon that she has had since she was a little girl. She lost it in the bathroom at Baltimore-Washington International Airport last night (Teminal D) and only realized it once we were onboard the plane. She was very upset - and she doesn't particularly consider herself religious and rarely goes to church.
  • What Katja considers to be fashionable for men's clothing is often what I consider to be metrosexual or borderline G - A - Y. This is much more my problem than hers, although I've tried to explain US male fashion sense (or the lack there-of).
  • Katja thinks "Leave it to Beaver" is great. She found it a bit surprising that American's used to dress so nicely around the home.
  • Suntan lotions are for preventing sunburn and suntans, and not for promoting a good tan. SPF? I had to explain what it is ... the ingredients label wasn't comforting.
  • Despite the fact that US tap-water is perfectly fine, Katja uses the Brita Filter on my faucet and then boils the water before she finds it suitable. She isn't reassured by the presence of flouride and the slight chlorine taste of treated water straight from the faucet is troubling. However, there is no debating that US tap water is generally better than Russian tap water (especially that nasty Yaroslavl water). She doesn't find that water tastes right unless it is boiled first.
  • Dumping a big bucket of cold water on yourself after your morning shower is actually rather refreshing, although I can't say that I am convinced it has health benefits. Russian healthiness is often described in rather vague touchy-feely terms, such as "it is good for the nerves".
There are many other points and topics that occur daily. I'm sure to continue on this theme from time to time, with more focused topics for discussion. My hope for the primary focus of this blog has always been cultural, and these themes certainly allow for some good topics for future articles.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Russian Soldier's Story

I subscribe to The Atlantic Monthly and my June copy landed in my mailbox today. One of the better articles this month was "A Russian Soldier's Story, which I am linking above and reprinting below. The Atlantic Monthly tends to be an enjoyable and interesting read each month, and the article on Vladimir Putin, "The Accidental Autocrat" by Paul Starobin in their October 2004 issue, was part of how I arrived at the name for this blog.

Being a child of the US Army, I find the plight of the Russian Army a very sad condition of life in modern Russia. The Russian government is making some slow attempts at reforming the Russian Army, but I question the effectiveness of their efforts. A smaller all volunteer Army would seem to be one obvious choice, but it seems an unrealistic option for Russia.

I'm posting the entirety of the story below, after weighing several other options. I hope everyone finds it an interesting article, particularly coming only a few days before May 9th.

PS ~ The Atlantic Monthly has written and asked me to crop this reprint of Gregory Katz's article down to a paragraph with a link to the original. I'm doing this as much as I can, while still leaving something of interest to read, and to provide a teaser for the entire text. I encourage everyone to visit The Atlantic Monthly website to read the original and entire text. There is nothing earth-shatteringly new with the story, but it does provide a human face to the problems of
dedovshchina in the Russian Army.

A Russian Soldier’s Story

by Gregory Katz, June 2006, The Atlantic Monthly

Two years in the life of Kiril Bobrov — a parable of the once-proud, now-rotting Russian army

... When Kiril thought of joining the Russian army, he dreamed of excitement, of shooting real guns, of making friends, of being part of something he believed in—even though the army was bogged down in a terrible, endless war in Chechnya. He saw little downside to joining the army. His life was stalled anyway. He wasn’t going anywhere with his education. He had never excelled in school [..] he had tried but failed to learn welding at a trade school. His only marketable skill was preparing food [..] having cooked for his grandmother since he was ten ...

So Kiril stepped forward willingly. In this he was bucking a trend. The draft has become wildly unpopular throughout Russia, in part because of harsh, cruel conditions in the ill-equipped and underfunded army, where conscripts are paid the equivalent of about $3 a month, and in part because of the war in Chechnya, which has sapped the military of the prestige it enjoyed in the Soviet era. [..] Kiril was influenced by a childhood spent near a military base but without a man in his life: his father had left the family when he was seven. For years Kiril had looked out his bedroom window onto the base and watched the soldiers train. He watched them go through their drills, admiring their precision. He watched them play sports and lift weights and joke around in their off-hours.

“From my windows I could see that the atmosphere was really friendly,” Kiril says today in his soft, shy voice. “The soldiers were really friendly. They were not bullying each other, and they were laughing. It was like a family.” He thought they would be his family too.

Kiril’s misery began on the day he arrived, when he made a seemingly minor mistake in military protocol. He addressed an old soldier who had attained the rank of sergeant with the formal term “Comrade Sergeant,” which had been mandated at the Yeysk base. But soldiers at Kamenka had been told to use a more familiar approach—to call their sergeants by name. The sergeant, angry at Kiril’s mistake, pummeled him, hitting him everywhere except on the face (so that no bruises would show). Kiril eventually smoothed things over with the sergeant, but he was beaten for weeks by various old soldiers whose demands he failed to meet. His idea of the military as a family evaporated.

“That first night I realized this was hell,” Kiril says, his eyes going blank as he describes Kamenka.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Russian Bridge to Iran Has Twists

Russian Bridge to Iran Has Twists

I'm falling into the trap of talking about newspaper articles and headlines. It is what happens when time is limited to write more completely on other topics. As Katja and I are traveling to North Carolina Sunday to Wednesday and to Las Vegas for a 6-day trip over Memorial Day, this may be continuing for a while.

Alissa Rubin and Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times has an interesting article discussing Russia and Iran. Certainly the article is less inflammatory than continuing discussions regarding Dick Cheney's words and the reaction in the Russian press comparing it to Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech.

Large portions of the article are quotes from five individuals:
  • Radzhab Safarov, director of the Iranian Studies Center in Moscow;
  • an unidentified European diplomat with "experience in the former Soviet Union";
  • an unidentified senior diplomat in Europe for a Middle Eastern country;
  • Nikolai Spassky deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council; and
  • Gary Samore, head of global security for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Dissecting each individuals comments and quotes pulls the remarks out of the reporters guiding hands and allows for an analysis of what each individual actually said.

From the unnamed diplomat, we have some tacit statements that Russia is willing to accept a nuclear-armed Iran.
"Russia has a bunch of motives…. Coming back as one of the world's superpowers is definitely one — counterbalancing the U.S., but also counterbalancing China and India."

"Even with 25 nuclear warheads, Iran would never be a threat to Russia, which could readily retaliate. So accepting that Iran might have a small nuclear capability and combining that with potential Russian economic successes in Iran and the Russian capability to influence or even to lead Iran — that is really something."
Mr. Samore suggests that Russia doesn't want to see a nuclear-armed Iran, but to Russia's mind there are worst things that could happen:
"Of course the Russians don't want the Iranians to develop nukes, but they are much more concerned about confrontation leading to sanctions and war, and that's much more of a threat to their interests,"
Nikolai Spassky speaks about the Russian officials mantra that Iran should not "violate the nonproliferation regime":
"Our position is always [the same], and it's conditioned by two basic principles, which are the integrity and inviolability of the nonproliferation regime — this is absolutely fundamental, absolutely essential."

"On the other hand, we've got to recognize and to acknowledge the undeniable right of Iran, like any other country in the world, to peacefully pursue its peaceful nuclear program, peaceful nuclear energy. Of course, it's not an easy thing to reconcile these two basic positions, but we do think that it's still possible."
Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful. How do you determine the intent of a nation's leaders? Perhaps by reading their words and watching their actions. Did those Iranians holding vials of enriched uranium look very peaceful to you? Does President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statements that "Israel cannot continue to live" sound very peaceful? I guess they don't show that in the news inside Russia these days.

From Radzhab Safarov's comments and quotes, we see he believes Russia has a choice to make, but the Russian choice is already clear:
This is "a moment of truth for Russia," when the nation will choose whether to throw its lot with the West or keep the U.S. and its allies at arm's length, said Radzhab Safarov, director of the Iranian Studies Center in Moscow. Safarov (further states) that beyond economic concerns, regaining ascendancy on the world stage was paramount for Russia. If Moscow can define itself as the world's broker on Iran, he said, it will be the "go to" country for the West in dealing with the Islamic Republic.

"Russia has a unique and historic chance to return to the world arena once again as a key player and as a reborn superpower. If Russia firmly stands by Iran's interests in this conflict … Russia will immediately regain its quite lost prestige in the Muslim world and on the global arena at large.

Of course, that will result in a serious cooling of relations between Russia and the United States. But Russia and the United States are destined to be competitors and no lucrative proposals from the United States can change this situation strategically."
From the senior European Diplomat in the Middle East, we see a picture that already paints greater cooperation with Iran, than with the West:
"Knowing the Russians and knowing their relationship, I think they are telling Iran how far they are prepared to go. Every step they discuss with the five [permanent Security Council members] is balanced with steps they discuss with Iran. They get a kind of silent agreement with Iran that they might go along … because of their political interests. But they have to talk with Iran — it's in their backyard, and no matter what happens, they have to live with it."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Movement Against Illegal Immigration's xenophobic posters appeared in Moscow metro

Movement Against Illegal Immigration's xenophobic posters appeared in Moscow metro

Short article in Ferghana.ru reporting that Движение против нелегальной иммиграции -ДПНИ (Movement Against Illegal Immigration - DPNI) has a new poster in the Moscow Metro:
"The United Russia is out to have Russia populated with immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia," Ferghana.Ru correspondent saw this poster in Moscow metro. With the following text in small print beneath, "The United Russia suggested amendments to the law on the legal status of foreigners in early March. These amendments permit foreigners to come to our country by the million without any restrictions, and to decide where they want to live and work here. It will lead to fewer jobs for the Russians, traffic, and ethnic crime."

'Hammer & tickle', Prospect Magazine

'Hammer & tickle', Prospect Magazine

After the Russian revolution in 1917, there was this old Russian peasant woman from a small village, who finally was able to visit the Moscow Zoo for the first time. And after walking through many exhibits of different exotic animals, she sees a camel for the first time .. and exclaims "Look what the Bolsheviks have done to that horse!"

The joke is paraphrased from the Prospect Magazine article by Ben Lewis, whose film "Hammer and Tickle: The Communist Joke Book" was playing at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. (Sorry I didn't find this sooner.) It will also be shown on BBC4 in September. It examines the Russian anekdot, which existed not so much as a way of protest, but as a way of coping with the realities of life under communism in Russia. This distinction appears to have been lost on western authorities, a point which the film reportedly examines. It also appears such humore was a way of connecting with your fellow citizens.
There's another factor that reinforces the mode of covert protest in communist jokes—the way former citizens of the communist countries felt about them. I suggested to each interviewee that most of these jokes weren't actually very funny, or at least had dated badly. How could they laugh at so many mediocre and repetitive jokes? They were outraged by the question. "Every week there was another great new joke. The strange thing is that you always asked: where do they come from? You never knew. The author was a collective—the people," said Ernst Röhl, one of East Germany's leading satirists. "I remember, as a student, when we had to gather the harvest and we told jokes incessantly," I was told by Stefan Wolle, the author of Back in the GDR. "Then we sat in the pub until midnight telling jokes. Everyone had his special collection." "Some of these jokes are minor masterpieces," said Doina Doru, a Romanian proofreader who spent ten years checking that Ceausescu's name was spelt correctly in the daily newspaper. "What is colder in a Romanian winter than cold water?" she continued by way of illustration, "Hot water!"
The film also makes the case that humor has dried up in Russia since the fall of communism. I'm rather skeptical of this claim, as I always have found the Russian sense of humor to very much be intact. The targets might now be New Russians, rather than Old Communists, but the tongue is just as sharp and just as funny.

Cheney rebukes Russia

Cheney rebukes Russia
"Cheney also took specific aim at Moscow's use of its vast energy supplies for what Washington says is sometimes the bullying of neighbors.

'No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation,' he said.

Russia, which is trying to harness its position as an energy giant, drew international criticism earlier this year when it briefly turned off its gas taps to Ukraine in a pricing dispute that disrupted supply to Europe.

Moscow has also warned Europe the Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom -- the world's top gas producer -- could divert its supplies to Asia if it is barred from the European retail gas market."
To which Putin was overheard to reply, "Oh yeah? What are you going to do about it, duck-boy?"
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana also addressed the conference and, like Cheney, referred to diplomatic tensions with Russia.

Russia suspects the U.S. policy of promoting global democracy is really an instrument to establish itself as the dominant power in the post-Soviet states.

In the past two years, peaceful revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia have brought pro-Western governments to power.

Solana made clear Europe hoped Belarus, a key Russian ally, would follow suit. "The European Union will continue to support the aspirations the people of Belarus," he said. "One day, I'm sure, they will see a democratic breakthrough in their country."

Cheney called Belarus the last dictatorship in Europe and urged the immediate release of opposition leader Aleksander Milinkevich as well as other opposition members.

"Peaceful demonstrators have been beaten, dissidents have vanished and a climate of fear prevails under a government that subverts free elections... there is no place in a Europe whole and free for a regime of this kind."

He also said Russia had restricted human rights.

"In many areas of civil society -- from religion and the news media, to advocacy groups and political parties -- the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of the people," he said.
To which, VVP was heard to reply, "Iraq, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib"

For better or worse, I don't see the US having the moral high-ground in such discussions (or accusations). That position was forfeit some years ago. In fact, I would say it is a direct result of the Bush administrations policies that has emboldened Russia's own foreign and energy policies, as well as weapons sales to certain Middle East nations.

Further, such public statements without engaging the Russian government directly will only inflame relations between the two nations.

So, way to go Dick! You've proven once again to be a most EXCELLENT diplomat!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Gazprom Hints at Face-Off With Belarus

Associated Press Business News: Gazprom Hints at Face-Off With Belarus

Surely was good of Gazprom to wait until immediately after Lukashenko was elected to press Belarus for a price increase. It couldn't have been political, could it?

Now that Lukashenko will remain in power for 5-years and the smoke has settled from the Belarus elections, we now see the kid gloves coming off.
An official at Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly hinted that a New Year face-off over gas prices with Ukraine, which led to a temporary supply drop to Europe, could be repeated if neighboring Belarus does not agree this year to a threefold price hike.

Pro-Moscow Belarus is the only ex-Soviet republic relying on Russian gas that did not get a gas price hike from Moscow last year. It now pays the rock-bottom price of roughly US$47 (euro38) per 1,000 cubic meters.

Gazprom is asking for a minimum hike to US$145 (euro116) per thousand cubic meters of natural gas for 2007, said Sergei Kuprianov, OAO Gazprom's top spokesman.

"I wouldn't want to celebrate the New Year in a car or in the office," Kuprianov said on the Ekho Moskvy radio station, referring to the spat with Ukraine that escalated through December and ended with supplies being cut to Ukraine on Jan. 1.

"The reason we are starting the talks now (with Belarus) is so that we can complete them in good time," Kuprianov said.
Gazprom negotiation = Pay. Now. Or else.

And again, for those who feel "the West" makes a big deal out of these price increases, it isn't the question of the increases. Russia™ - that is Gazprom - is asking for market prices. Rather, it is the methods and timing that smacks of brute force and political manipulation. It isn't even a subtle sort of thing that leads to conspiracy theories months and years later - it is rather flagrant.

Bloomberg Columnist Matthew Lynn - Resistance is Futile

Bloomberg.com: Bloomberg Columnists

Column today from Bloomberg's Matthew Lynn which suggests it is time for Europe to embrace Gazprom, rather than defend themselves from the state-created and state-owned Russian natural gas giant. His key points:
First, its resources are too big to ignore. Of course, Europe could develop alternatives. It could push for nuclear, wind or water power. It could reopen coal mines. The trouble is, all that costs a lot of money.
[..]
Next, the threat of energy blackmail is overblown. Let's say Gazprom buys Centrica, and maybe some gas retailers in Spain or Germany, as well. After paying for the acquisitions, what would be the point of turning off the supplies? Gazprom is no more likely to stop providing gas than BP is to shut down its filling stations. Or Saudi Arabia to stop selling oil.

Of course, Gazprom is effectively a state-run company. It doesn't do much without the government's approval. And yet, it is hard to take European complaints about that seriously. It isn't as if governments in the region never meddled in the affairs of their companies. BP didn't get the nickname Blair Petroleum by accident. Energy and politics have been mixed up for more than a century. There is little chance of disentangling them now.

Relying on Russian gas is no worse than relying on Middle Eastern oil. And the more closely Gazprom is knitted into the western European economy, the more dependent it will become on keeping it healthy for its own survival. The more Europe embraces Gazprom, the less of a threat it will be.
Perhaps Mr. Lynn hasn't been paying attention. When the Russian president laughs and smiles on New Year's Day that he is shutting off the gas from the state-controlled Gazprom to Ukraine, and state-controlled TV camera's show the staged event of workers turning knobs to turn off supplies in a symbolic gesture ... you have created a situation which never existed with other utility suppliers.

Perhaps Mr. Lynn should read Masha Gessen's most recent column regarding how politics and economics mix in Russia:
... I found it instructive to read the how: the discussion that preceded the Duma’s vote on the ban the week before last.
[..]
Russia’s head hygienist, Gennady Onishchenko, declared that wines originating in Moldova and Georgia contained traces of harmful pesticides and could no longer be sold in Russia. The discovery of the pesticides came at a convenient time to punish Georgia and Moldova for recent political actions and statements that Moscow views as disloyal or hostile. The ban on wine imports, instituted last month and later extended to include brandies and sparkling wines, dealt a huge blow to both countries’ economies as well as to Russian wine importers.

Last week a resolution supporting the ban came up for discussion in the Duma. It was introduced by a United Russia deputy, who made the following statements. Many Russians deaths — roughly 13 percent of the total number — are caused by poisoning by low-quality alcohol. Onishchenko has checked Georgian and Moldovan wines and decided that they are the culprit. The Duma should support Onishchenko.

None of the study results cited by the United Russia representative were distributed among the deputies. And if I were a Duma member, I’d be surprised that relatively expensive imported wines are the cause of alcohol poisoning, which, common sense would suggest, is far more likely to stem from cheap vodka. One of the deputies was surprised, and did ask for documents. The United Russia presenter responded that the Duma had no reason to doubt Onishchenko’s word. It was, then, a matter of trust and loyalty.

Several deputies immediately affirmed their loyalty to and trust in the country’s top hygienist. Then another deputy, an agronomist by training, stood up and, in a roundabout way, suggested that Onishchenko may not be entirely trustworthy, since he claims to have found traces of pesticides that haven’t been used in decades, and indeed have never been used on grape plantations. He got no response at all.

A short while later, a deputy representing the Rodina faction took the floor. “The executive branch made decisions on Georgia and Moldova at the same time,” he noted. “It’s as if the stuff of winemaking went bad in both countries at the same time. And at the same time brandies and mineral water went bad as well. Isn’t that strange? Of course it’s strange. Why are we voting on a resolution that’s all made up of strangeness? ... And no one is even asking us to do this.” This was an important point. There was no indication that the consumer protection service or customs service actually needed a Duma resolution to maintain the ban. But the Duma seemed to need to prove its loyalty and trust to the executive branch.
Perhaps we should point to more examples of how economics and heavy-handed international politics are mixed in Russia. For example, Russia™ is so determined to bypass naughty neighbor's Poland and Lithuania that they are planning to spend over $6 billion to attempt an undersea pipeline. This is $6 billion more than it would cost to build a more conventional pipeline across neighboring countries. Why spend this kind of money to construct something that might not even be feasible? If you ask Poland, it is so Russia can exert economic pressure - in effect, Russia will be able to shut off natural gas to Poland without affecting Germany and other parts of Europe.
"The Russian ambassador to Belarus said last week when the Baltic pipeline is built, Gazprom will be able to cut off Belarus without cutting off Germany. That means Poland too."
One wonders what Germany would think if Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium or France worked out a similar deal with Russia. "Hey, for $10 billion you can have your own gas pipeline, too!"

Europe already has an unprecedented reliance upon imported natural gas and oil. While many newspapers are fond of citing the US reliance upon imported oil - as a percentage of consumption, Europe is far, far more dependent upon imports, having essentially no natural resources.

Articles by Matthew Lynn and others seem to believe that Russia is equally dependent upon exporting to Europe, as Europe is dependent upon natural gas imports. If only that were so - recent remarks from Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller suggest otherwise. Buy our gas - or else - was the message. And while Alexander Medvedev tried to withdraw from such statements, there has always been an element of Russian character and politics that was willing to cut off the nose, to spite the face - in order to demonstrate resolve, strength, and character.

Before Europe continues down this path, perhaps they should ask Moldova about the costs of dependence upon Russian trade. Perhaps they should ask Ukraine. And ask Poland. And ask Georgia. The Russian government has made it clear - the price tag for Gazprom gas will be more than euro's - it will include an oath of fealty.
One of the major factors we use to judge the relations another country has with Russia, Russians and the Russian-speaking population language, one of the most important factors is their attitude towards the Russian language. We consider it this way now, and I am confident that it will remain this way in the future. For precisely this reason attitudes towards Russian language determine the essence of relations that a country has towards Russia in a historical perspective. And it is here that we can see if there is an element of strategic partnership or not, if our relations have a tactical character, are transitory, or are calculated to resolve today's problems.

Monday, May 01, 2006

‘Mission Accomplished’ By The Numbers

Think Progress - ‘Mission Accomplished’ By The Numbers

Only have a few moments at lunch today to post something, and I've chosen a topic that isn't about Russia at all. Still, I found this data from Thinkprogress.org rather interesting and worth sharing.




































May 1, 2003Today
U.S. Troops Wounded
54217,469
U.S. Troops Killed
1392,400
Size of U.S. Forces
150,000132,000
Size of Iraqi Security Forces 7,000-9000
250,500
Number of Insurgents
5,00015,000-20,000
Insurgent Attacks Per Day
875
Cost to U.S. Taxpayers$79 billion
$320 billion
Approval of Bush’s Handling of Iraq75%37%
% of Americans who Believe Iraq War “Worth Fighting”70%41%
Bush’s Overall Job Approval71%38%

I could launch into the tireless debate regarding US energy policy, "empire building", Peak Oil, and the like. I could even write about the unprecedented expansions and abuses of presidential powers under George W. Bush. There are a multitude of pundits and bloggers who already write about these topics daily. Such topics tend to only discuss the measurable costs of the war in Iraq and the attempt at nation building.

However, I believe the immeasurable costs are much higher. I am not sure the United States of America or the President of this nation will ever be viewed in the same light - as the "leader of the free world" ever again. And how does a nation regain credibility in the wake of false alarm (or possible outright deception)?