Friday, September 30, 2005

Theatre of Cruelty

RFE/RL presents a review of a new play that proved a box-office hit at this week's New Drama Festival in Moscow. Its subject is the Beslan siege. The play's author and director, Mikhail Ugarov, explains some of the background to his involvement with the subject:
Ugarov himself admits he has no clear position on the war. He describes himself and his audience as Russians who feel sympathy neither for Chechen rebel separatists nor for the government bent on destroying them.

He says his aim is to convey that the war has long spilled out of Chechnya and is slowly breeding fear and hatred in the hearts of ordinary Russians:

"Everybody in the country pretends that there is no war, that we all live peacefully and the war is only on television. But the war penetrates everywhere, into the family, the relations with children. People become more aggressive. The war starts provoking a kind of social paranoia. We wanted to show this paranoia, when everyone is an enemy: Chinese, Vietnamese, Jews, Caucasians, Muscovites," Ugarov said.

Conflict in the Air - III

From today's RFE/RL Newsline:


Lithuania's Defense Ministry stated on 29 September that Russia has intentionally misinformed Lithuanian specialists investigating the crash of the Russian Su-27 near Kaunas on 15 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2005) and is providing them with incorrect technical data, Russian media reported. Defense Ministry chief of staff Vitalijus Vaiksnoras said on 29 September that Russia gave his investigators information on black boxes related to different aircraft, RosBalt reported. And Lithuanian Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said that "there is increasingly the impression that the pilot of the aircraft was insufficiently trained and hadn't had enough flight time." Major General Sergei Bainetov, the head of the Russian Air Force safety service, admitted that the jet that crashed was 20 years old and some of its parts were replaced with parts from other aircraft and that caused confusion. Russia's Defense Ministry also denied accusations that pilot Valerii Troyanov was not qualified enough, NTV reported. All of Troyanov's actions in the air were absolutely correct, it added. VY


Russia's Defense Ministry also rejected reports that appeared in the Russian and Western media that Lithuania's military managed to get secret codes from the Russian aircraft, including a top-secret "friend or foe" recognition code, reported. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, so many Su-27s remained in the former Soviet republics that everything NATO wanted to know about it it already knows, the ministry said. As for the "friend or foe " code, it has a triple-duplicated self-destruct procedure and simply cannot remain intact after a crash, an unnamed source in the Defense Ministry told VY

The Ambiguity

Toute sa vie durant, Camus allait être désormais invité et incité à se ranger du côté du christianisme, mais il ne céda jamais. Après sa mort, des croyants déposèrent des croix sur sa tombe (qui, sinon, est singulièrement dépouillée). Des articles et même des livres ont été écrits sur Camus chrétien, et ils ont dû être faciles à écrire car Camus lui-même semait les ambiguïtés. Il se retenait en général d'attaquer le christianisme ou l'Église, tout en critiquant la politique de l'Église - dans l'Espagne de Franco, par exemple. En dépit de l'inimitié presque naturelle qui se fit jour entre Camus et celui qui aurait pu être son allié politique, François Mauriac, Camus coexistait sans difficulté avec le catholicisme.

-Herbert Lottman

Koivisto: the Debate Continues

Helsingin Sanomat's International Edition has a feature about the ongoing debate between Finnish Parliament Speaker Paavo Lipponen and Professor Juhani Suomi on the subject of Mauno Koivisto's presidency.

See also: Koivisto - Dismantling the Myths

Conference: After Maskhadov

The American Committee for Peace in Chechnya has posted some information about a forthcoming conference on Chechnya, to be held in London, U.K.:

Conference: Chechnya After Maskhadov

London, United Kingdom

25 November 2005, 08:45-18:00 GMT

Medical Aid and Relief for the Children of Chechnya (MARCCH) will host a conference on political and humanitarian conditions in Chechnya. Speakers will include Lord Rea, Lord Judd, Akhmed Zakaev, Ibragim Arsanov, Oksana Antonenko, Khassan Baiev, and others.

At chechnya-sl, Jeremy Putley has posted further details given by one of the conference organisers, Satanay Dorken:

The Conference which our charity, Medical Aid and Relief for Children of Chechnya, (MARCCH),is hosting will take place on Friday 25th November 2005. Both Professor George Hewitt, Head of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at SOAS and myself are organising it.

It will be called Chechnya: After Maskhadov.

Registration starts at 8.45 and the Conference starts at 9.15. and lasts until 6 p.m. The aim of the Conference is to raise awareness of Chechnya and the often forgotten tragic consequences of the recent wars on the civilian population and especially its children.

The speakers we hope will reflect a wide range of views and will cover a range of themes of issues both socio-political and humanitarian.

The Conference will be opened by Lord Rea and the other speakers are:
Lord Judd, ex- EU Rapporteur on Chechnya.
Jeremy Corbyn, MP
Ahmed Zakaev, ex European envoy to the late President Maskhadov
Andrew Jack, Financial Times
Ibraghim Arsanov, The Russian political magazine Glotch
Isabelle Barras, Head of East European Desk, International Red Cross, Geneva
Medina Megamedova, Mothers of Chechnya
Chris Langdon, Military Historian
Professor Bill Bowring, Professor of International Law.
Dr Khassan Baiev, Chechen surgeon and author of the Oath. (Had to
flee his country for wanting to treat both sides when arriving
injured at his hospital and now living in Boston.)

All the above are confirmed speakers but there may be one or two others to be confirmed.

Location: School of Oriental & African Studies, in the great hall of the Brunei Building, London University

Entrance fee: £15 and £5 for students

Two-Term Presidents and Crises of Confidence


Two-Term Presidents and Crises of Confidence

By George Friedman

Stratfor does not normally concern itself with the domestic politics of countries, except when political shifts might affect the behavior of nations internationally. We are doubly disinclined to concern ourselves with domestic politics in the United States: We have to live here, and whatever we say will be interpreted as partisan. Nevertheless, this is a moment at which American domestic politics bear examination. The Bush administration -- whose ratings had been slipping already due to the situation in Iraq and rising oil prices -- came under intense attack for its handling of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and approval ratings a month after the storm are still hovering near a critical low.

We note this now because the domestic strength of any administration determines, at least in part, its ability to execute foreign policy and the shape of that policy. At this moment, there are very real policy challenges not only in Iraq (where a critical vote approaches on the constitution) but in the former Soviet Union (where Russia is making moves to reclaim control of its near-abroad) and China -- to name only a few areas where the appearance of a weakened presidency could have far-reaching implications for the United States. Therefore, the political condition of the Bush administration has a direct impact on geopolitics.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the fundamental issue at stake for George W. Bush was whether the economic fallout from the storm -- and the political savaging he experienced over response efforts -- would hurt him so badly that, in due course, his support would erode to the degree that he no longer would be able to govern effectively. In the context of foreign policy, this would mean that he no longer would be able to make decisive moves because of severe preoccupation with domestic problems and lack of political support. Such things have happened before: For example, Richard Nixon -- and his successor, Gerald Ford -- lost the ability to respond to North Vietnam because of Watergate. Lyndon Johnson, his support crumbling, became paralyzed while waiting for his term to end. If such an extremity were to become the case for the Bush presidency, it would mean -- as an example -- that Bush would lose the ability to unilaterally decide strategy in Iraq. Therefore, understanding the president's political condition is critical.

After Bush's reelection, we made the observation that two-term presidents tend to run into political trouble during their second terms -- frequently over foreign policy, and at times to such a degree that they cannot continue to govern effectively. In examining the question of Bush's political fate, that observation bears closer scrutiny now.

Two-Term Presidents: A Review

During the 20th century, six presidents were elected to a second term: Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Wilson's second term ended in congressional reversal of his policies on the League of Nations, something that changed dramatically history's perception of his presidency. During Roosevelt's second term, he was hammered first over his attempt to pack the Supreme Court and then, toward the end, by isolationists over what they claimed was his pro-British foreign policy. Had his career ended with his second term, Roosevelt would have been viewed quite differently by history. Eisenhower encountered a serious second-term scandal concerning his chief of staff, Sherman Adams. Later in his term, he was bitterly criticized over the apparent failure to counter Soviet successes in space and missiles. Nixon, of course, was drummed out of office by Watergate and never finished his term. Reagan was hit hard during his second term when the Iran-contra affair, much of which happened in his first term, broke into public view. And though Clinton did not have a foreign policy problem, he was impeached in his second term over Monica Lewinsky and was hammered on Whitewater.

Of these presidents, Eisenhower fared the best, but all were faced with serious problems that were not anticipated when they won re-election.

An historical review of two-term presidents is somewhat muddied by a class of leaders who came into office after the death of a president and then were elected to a single, final term. These presidents included Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Roosevelt and Coolidge chose not to run for a second term of their own, and Truman and Johnson simply could not run. They would have lost the election and, toward the end of their terms, they had lost the ability to act decisively.

Looking at the 10 presidents as a whole, therefore, we can divide them into three classes. First, there were those who could be said to have successful second terms: Theodore Roosevelt and Coolidge (who both were elevated vice presidents). Second, there were those whose second terms were worse than their first, but who ultimately remained in control until the end: Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton. Third, there were those who experienced catastrophic failure in their second terms. Four of them -- Wilson (who was also ill), Truman, Johnson and Nixon -- lost the ability to govern as a result.

Of the four presidents who faced catastrophic outcomes, all had serious foreign policy problems. Wilson had the League of Nations, Truman had Korea, Johnson and Nixon had Vietnam. For one of these presidents, Nixon, Vietnam was not the primary cause of failure, but it was an element in the problem. Of the four who weathered a troubling second term, three -- Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan -- were plagued by foreign policy problems, but none lost control of their foreign policy. And Clinton's problems were rooted more in perceived personal failings than in any clear policy issues.

Patterns of Failed Presidencies

The question we are coming to is this: Bush at this point clearly is not going to wind up in the Theodore Roosevelt-Calvin Coolidge group. The question is whether he eventually will join the class of failed presidents (Wilson, Truman, Johnson, Nixon) or whether he will belong to the relatively successful group who simply had problems along the way (FDR, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton)? We should point out that the question is not how they look in retrospect. Many would argue that Truman was a successful president in retrospect. That may or may not be the case, but he certainly would not have been re-elected president given the perceptions of his performance at the time. The question is whether, at the time, these "failed" presidents had lost public confidence so fully that they no longer could govern.

Turning our attention, then, to the presidents who by the end had lost control of their situations, we see that three lost control because of foreign policy issues -- or, to be more precise, because of wars that had outcomes unsatisfactory to the public. Only one -- Nixon -- lost control primarily because of personal scandal, and one could make the case, which we won't, that he also had a foreign policy/war problem. None of the four presidents who weathered their second-term storms were dealing with an extended state of active war during their second terms. FDR, obviously, complicates this profile, since he had a war in his third and fourth terms, but he did not wage an unsatisfactory war in the public's view.

At this point, we can see a first pattern: Presidential failure in the second term consistently has been the result of unsatisfactory wars or perceptions that the president was a criminal. Wilson fought the First World War successfully but tried to bring it to an unacceptable conclusion at Versailles. Truman could not terminate the Korean War; Johnson could not terminate the Vietnam War. All were perceived, by the end of their terms, as having entangled themselves in a war with unrealistic goals. It was not always the war itself that damaged the presidents' service, but the growing sense that these presidents did not have a strategy in the war that served the national interest.

The issue, however, is more complex than this. All four failed presidents were reviled by the end of their second terms. But so were FDR, Reagan and Clinton. Even Eisenhower, though it is hard to recall now, was treated with extreme contempt by the press and others for his perceived personal, intellectual failings -- however, the level of animosity was neither as deep or as broad as with the others. The intensity of feeling against all eight men during their second terms was enormous: All faced a substantial group of vitriolic, irreconcilable opponents. At various points, this group expanded to constitute a majority. But the core issue -- the key differentiator between the two groups of "failed' or "troubled" presidents -- was this: Among the troubled presidents, at no point did their own base of support crack. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton were reviled and at times on the defensive, but at no point did their own core supporters waver significantly.

The failed presidents, on the other hand, all failed not because their opponents reviled them or even because those opponents became a majority, but because their own base of political support lost basic confidence in them. Wilson had suffered a revolt among the Democrats. Truman no longer could get the Democratic nomination. It is doubtful that Johnson could have won his party's nomination had he sought it. Nixon collapsed when Republican senators turned on him. On the other hand, no matter what attacks were launched against FDR, Eisenhower, Reagan or Clinton, their base held like a rock. Even when FDR was outgunned by the isolationists, he held his base, and he was never broken.

Bush's problem, therefore, is the war in Iraq. But the issue is not his Democratic opposition, nor even whether his opponents swell to become a majority. The threat to Bush's presidency will come if, and only if, his own political base breaks. By all polls, that base -- which historically has been at about 40-42 percent -- is holding. If that continues to be the case, he will be able to execute foreign policy effectively. If that base is shattered, he fails.

Will Bush's Center Hold?

There is no evidence at this time that the situation in Iraq is cutting into Bush's base of support, but the controversies he weathered following Hurricane Katrina brought attention to his ratings -- which remain soft -- at an extraordinarily early point in his second term.

The charges being leveled by Democrats over Katrina were the same charges that always have been leveled at Bush. First, that he isn't smart enough to be president -- and, in the case of Katrina, that he was too dumb to realize what was happening and too slow to respond. Second, that he is hostile to the interests of the poor and minorities -- that if the hurricane had struck a predominantly white, well-to-do city, he would have been more responsive. Both arguments have been tried by the Democrats on all issues. The visceral impact from Katrina, we would expect, will energize and expand the Democrats' base, but it will not expand at the expense of the Republicans' support. In fact, it will secure the support base for the GOP.

There is one caveat. If Bush's base of support decides, of its own accord, that the president really did not understand what was going on in the hurricane zone until late in the week -- days after Katrina struck -- Bush will reach a crisis point. The storm passed weeks ago, but the danger from public opinion still lingers: Given the numbers of people who were displaced by Katrina and the enormous, long-term need for aid, there is plenty of room for mismanagement and backlash. And if that backlash begins to come from Bush's core supporters, they inevitably will begin to examine their own views of the Iraq war, which is built around the assumption that Bush is effectively executing a difficult and necessary war, in the face of Democratic slander.

There has been confidence in Bush's character. But if it is determined that Bush failed in the Katrina crisis because of a failure of character, then all bets will be off.

In the four failed presidencies, it was the sudden, wrenching realization among core supporters that the president they were defending was unworthy of defense that made all the difference. The fact that Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton never reached that moment with their own supporters is what made them successful.

Why does this moment come with wars and in second terms? There is a simple, obvious reason that is utterly human and understandable: a combination of exhaustion, self-confidence and boredom. By the second term, a president is tired: The demands of the White House create a brutal life. He is also self-confident, often to the point of arrogance: He has, after all, survived his enemies and clearly has mastered his office. He has reached the point where he has seen and done everything, and tends to view all matters through the prism of his experience -- including the things that he hasn't experienced. He starts making mistakes, takes too long to correct them, is in denial that he has made a mistake and doesn't want to hear arguments.

If a president has surrounded himself with an inner circle that has both enclosed him and been with him from the beginning, they will be in the same condition. They are all tired. By the middle of the second term, everyone is punchy. Significantly, there is a tendency -- particularly after a successful re-election bid -- to keep the successful team. It is interesting to note that Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton all moved their teams around in their second term; the "failed" presidents tended to go with their permanent inner circle.

In Bush's case, that inner circle made a mistake on Katrina. One can argue the details, but the fact was that it appeared to the public that Bush didn't move fast enough. And in a national catastrophe, the president's job is, at the very least, to appear to be doing something -- to lead.

Bush's support base is forgiving, until the point that they shred. In looking at the polls, it does not appear that any shredding is occurring: His support base appears to be holding, with approval ratings around the low 40s -- removing any immediate fears of danger to his presidency. But the steadiness of that base now depends on Bush's ability to do what Wilson, Truman, Johnson and Nixon could not manage to do: give the sense that they were in control of the situation. Those presidents' inability to adjust rapidly and publicly -- the fact that they froze when they needed to be decisive -- created a crisis of confidence among their support base that led to irredeemable failure.

It does not appear to us at the moment that Bush has reached this point. But it is not inconceivable that he will. There's not a great deal of give in Bush's approval ratings at the moment, and only weeks ago -- between late August and mid-September -- he was in a definite "red zone", with only 38 to 40 percent of Americans approving of his performance. The public remains concerned not only with the war in Iraq but with high energy costs -- which will begin to pinch more in some parts of the country, with the need for heating fuel coming on -- and emerging fears of a possible recession. The challenges for Bush, both foreign and domestic, are many, and another crisis could begin to eat away at his core support.

The next few weeks, in our view, could be decisive in determining whether the United States is going to go through one of those crises of confidence it has experienced in the past. Those spasms have created opportunities for international opponents of the United States to take advantage of the paralysis -- and that, when it occurs, is a geopolitical, not just a political, problem.

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Out of Control?

Masha Gessen has been reading the transcript of President Putin's three-hour question-and-answer call-in show on Tuesday, and has some reflections on the curiously passive and impersonal quality of the language used by the president. This leads her to some further speculation:
The only time Putin used the first-person singular with confidence and even gusto was when he answered a question about his frequent forays into the armed services -- all those plane-flying and submarine-commanding shenanigans.The rest of the time he sounded meek, evasive and even scared. I first noticed this tendency in Putin in May 2003, when he gave an address that launched his second presidential campaign. I thought his strategy was to frighten people by conveying a picture of a country very close to being out of control. But after his telethon, I am starting to suspect something else: Maybe it is out of control.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Koivisto - Dismantling the Myths

Tuesday saw the publication of a controversial new book by Finnish academic Juhani Suomi, called Pysähtyneisyyden vuodet - Mauno Koiviston aika 1981-1984 [The Years of Stagnation - the era of Mauno Koivisto, 1981-1984] (Otava). Suomi challenges the generally accepted view of Koivisto as a bringer of change to Finland in the post-Kekkonen period, and presents the view that in many ways Koivisto merely continued the old Paasikivi-Kekkonen line, acting as an errand boy for the Soviet Union in its relations with the West. Suomi also takes issue with the notion that Koivisto was an enthusias for constitutional reform in Finland - in his view, the president was only interested in maintaining and strengthening the president's powers in matters of foreign policy. Relations with Sweden also suffered during the period of his presidency, mainly because of his suspicions of Swedish efforts to monitor Soviet submarine activity in the Baltic. Responsibility for Nordic nuclear security and the Nordic nuclear-free zone was thus foisted onto Sweden, when Finland could and should have taken a more active part, Suomi considers.

The debate about the book has already begun: tomorrow Finnish Parliament Speaker Paavo Lipponen (who was Koivisto's secretary during Koivisto's second term of office as Prime Minister in 1979-82) will present an attack on Suomi's study and a defence of the former president in the columns of Suomen Kuvalehti.

Conflict in the Air - II

Several Russian media sources are reporting that the data in the black box handed over by Russian specialists to the Lithuanian authorities contains the parameters of a different aircraft - not the Su-27 that crashed. See, for example, this link. The Lithuanians have accused the Russians of disinformation.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Conflict in the Air

Over at Estland, Jens-Olaf has some acerbic comments on coverage of the crash of the Russia Su-27 fighter in Lithuania, noting that this serious incident, involving an encounter between German fighter planes and a Russian military aircraft, and the apparent deliberate crash of that aircraft on the soil of a NATO member, has received remarkably little attention in the world's media.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Socor, writing in EDM, continues to examine the incident, noting how its ramifications grow more complex with each day that passes.

The original BBC report on the crash and its aftermath is here.

Homeless in the New World

One tends to think of New York City as a place that has always and invariably been a staunch protector and shelterer of the cultural heritage of Europe. In the course of the 20th century so many European writers, artists, thinkers, composers and others active in the arts and sciences found refuge there that a story like that of the Dvorak House - the house that contained the New York home of the great 19th century Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (who for three years towards the end of his life lived and worked in New York and elsewhere in North America) - seems unexpected and somehow cruel.

Steven Richman has done much to propagate and conserve the memory of Dvorak's American years, showing in essays and papers how important Dvorak's legacy was for the development of American music. Dvorak not only supported the cause of African-Anerican and Native American music, but also encouraged the admission of black and female students to the National Conservatory. While his influence on later American music was indirect, he none the less taught the students who would later become the teachers of composers like Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. In New York, Dvorak composed some of his best-known works, including the New World Symphony, the Sonatina for Violin and Piano, and the E flat major String Quintet op. 97. Many of these works incorporated elements of indigenous American music.

It's sad to read of what eventually happened to the composer's home. Richman writes, apropos of a Music & Arts CD celebrating Dvorak's life and work:
In 1941, on the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth, a plaque was placed on the facade of the Dvorak House by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Among those who attended the dedication were violinist Fritz Kreisler, conductor Bruno Walter, Czechoslovak Foreign Minister-in-Exile Jan Masaryk, soprano Jarmila Novotná, Dvorak’s secretary J.J Kovarík, and the aforementioned Harry T. Burleigh, who, since his youthful association with Dvorak, had achieved eminence as a composer, pioneering arranger of spirituals (his versions were sung by Enrico Caruso, John McCormack, and Marian Anderson), a noted church and concert baritone (he was soloist at the very same St George’s Church, not missing a performance for 52 years!), founding member of ASCAP, and an editor for Ricordi.

Half a century later, in February 1991, the facade was designated a landmark on cultural grounds by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Yet, unfortunately, according to the new city charter, the City Council could overturn the landmarking, and did so under pressure from the [Beth Israel] hospital in June, 1991, ignoring thousands of letters from around the world from such musicians and music lovers as violinist Josef Suk (Dvorak’s great-grandson), Kurt Masur, Yo-Yo Ma, Rudolf Firkusny, Rafael Kubelík, myself, arts patroness Alice Tully, film director Milos Forman, President of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel, Mercer Ellington, critic Harold Schonberg, the Archbishop of Prague, the Czechoslovak Minister of Culture, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, and AIDS activists, all to no avail. The hospital was intransigent, resisting efforts to save even the facade, and the house was summarily destroyed for an AIDS facility in late August-early September, 1991, within days of Dvorak’s 150th Birthday. Fortunately, I myself was out of the country, and was spared the awful reality of its demise. (However, a cellist friend had the foresight to preserve a brick from the site, which he has saved as a keepsake.) A newly elected City Council later renamed the street Dvorak Place, but it was small recompense.
(Hat tip: Gayle Dixon)

Never Again

Speech by Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam
in the debate on the 25th anniversary of "Solidarnosc" and its message to Europe

Strasbourg, September 26, 2005.

25 years ago in Poland a historic break-through was accomplished when Polish workers and intellectuals succeeded to create a democratic civic alternative to the rigid Communist structures. "Solidarnosc" started the process of East-European nations becoming genuinely free from totalitarian enslavement. "The other lung of the same European homeland" - to quote John Paul II - started to breathe, to convey oxygen and self-respect to tens of millions of East-Europeans. The birth of "Solidarnosc" generated hope that the tragic division of Europe could be overcome.

Poland is a symbol of Europe. It was the first victim of the criminal alliance of Hitler and Stalin who together launched the Second World War. Polish nation experienced the worst of both of these dictatorships. Perhaps it is not a chance that the victory of "Solidarnosc" opened the channel to reunification of Europe.

The most significant achievement of "Solidarnosc" was its ability to unite all sectors of Polish society. This was not possible without a moral revival, without a spiritual dimension, of which the Polish pope became an embodiment, reminder and inspirer.

The important message of "Solidarnosc" victory remains - how to discover both strength and balance in a passionate quest for justice and in the everlasting spiritual values of Europe. Listening to this message could help us to overcome the crisis of European identity about which there was talk today in this hemicycle. Because "Solidarnosc" has already became part of our European identity - it is up to us to fully realize the impact of this transformation.

This week, we have the opportunity and duty to decide about starting to celebrate August 31 as the "Day of Freedom and Solidarity" in Europe. I fully support this initiative. In addition, there is a need for another date to be remembered on the European scale: on August 23 (the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact) the victims of both Communism and Nazism should be commemorated. Only then the famous appeal "Never again!" would become valid also for the victims of Communism.

(via MAK)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A New Poland?

Commenting on the left's crushing defeat in Sunday's Polish elections, TOL has some observations and tentative predictions about the likely future development of Polish politics and society. The magazine's editorialists express the opinion that the left-right division in post-communist Polish politics was never very clearly marked, as it seemed to depend less on a division of policies than on one of cultural preferences and outlook. Poland's future, they believe, will continue to be mapped not only by economic concerns but also by such cultural considerations:
...if a “Fourth Republic” or a post-post-communist era is to emerge and survive, it needs to go beyond history and style. For that to happen, these elections suggest it will need several things. One is a strong economy, competently and fairly run. Only a disbelief in the SLD’s economic ability (Poland’s unemployment rate currently runs at about 18 percent) and doubts about its real interests (following a string of corruption scandals) can probably explain why so many former left-wing voters voted for Civic Platform and Law and Justice or simply did not vote (turnout was a dismal 39 percent, down even on the lowly 46 percent recorded in 2001). Put bluntly, a Fourth Republic – if it emerges – means neither left nor right, but better.

But, to last, a Fourth Republic government also requires something else: it somehow needs to bridge Poland’s deep, albeit temporarily hidden cultural cleavage. Secular Poles will surely not mutely watch a social drift to the right and back a “moral revolution” if that revolution means a more intrusive Catholicism. To contain or coopt secular Poles, the liberalism that Civic Platform talks up and the solidarity that Law and Justice invokes will surely have to have a cultural dimension. A Fourth Republic, then, probably needs to be neither Catholic nor non-Catholic, and at least a little “liberal.”

On a day of such an overwhelming victory, Poland’s right can be excused for dreaming dreams. But perhaps only once a government has survived four years and only if it somehow spans the cultural divide can there really be any meaningful talk of a Fourth Republic. Something has ended, nothing wants to begin, perhaps it has already begun, the Polish poet Tadeusz Rozewicz wrote about the early transition days of Poland’s Third Republic. For the time being, it is perhaps enough to say that something has ended, something wants to begin – and perhaps it has already begun.

Brodsky Essays

On a literary note: as I discovered last week, there's a most useful Russian-language collection of essays by Joseph Brodsky here. The essays have in the majority of cases been translated from the English originals to be found in volumes such as Less Than One (1986). Not all the translations are authorised, but there's a very fine authorised translation of "On Tyranny" made by Lev Losev.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Prague Watchdog Weekly Newsletter, No. 39


1) THE WEEK IN BRIEF (September 19 - 25)

September 17-24 - Alu Alkhanov, the Moscow-backed leader of the Chechen Republic, made an official visit to Jordan and Syria.

September 20 - Three policemen were shot dead in Ingushetia's village of Karabulak.

September 21 - Representatives of several dozen Chechen public organizations established in Bern, Switzerland, the Chechen Civil Society Forum in order to consolidate Chechen civil society and enable Chechen NGOs direct access to European institutions.

September 22 - Chechen lawyer and human rights defender Lida Yusupova was awarded the 2005 Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize "in recognition of her brave and unrelenting efforts to document human rights violations and act as a spokeswoman for the forgotten victims of the war in Chechnya."

September 22 - Former Chechen guerrilla commander Magomed Khambiyev, who surrendered to the Moscow-backed Chechen authorities under unclear circumstances in March 2004, will take part in the November 27 parliamentary elections, annouced Ramzan Kadyrov, First Vice-Premier of the Moscow-backed Chechen government.

September 23 - Dozens of local and Chechen students of the Kabardino-Balkarian State University clashed in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria. The Chechen students were supported by Chechen policemen, who used their firearms.


September 29 - Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia / Russia): The North Ossetian parliamentary commission of inquiry into last year's Beslan massacre should familiarize the republic's Parliament with its report on the causes and circumstances of the tragedy.

October 3 - Stockholm (Sweden): Arsen Sakalov, coordinator for the Russian Justice Project (formerly Chechnya Justice Project), will receive the Per Anger Prize for his efforts to bring justice to victims of human rights abuse connected to the conflict in Chechnya.

For more upcoming Chechnya-related events go to


Museum-preserve in Chechnya under threat of complete destruction (by Lecha Sadayev, September 20)
Relics of Chechnya’s medieval architecture may be completely destroyed, fears Ismail Munayev, head of the Chechen office of the Rosokhrankultura agency.

Chechen election campaign picks up speed (by Lecha Sadayev, September 21)
Among those who expressed a desire to fight for parliamentary seats are Salambek Kunchalov, former member of the parliament of independent Chechnya.

Two corpses discovered in Grozny district (by Lecha Sadayev, September 22)
According to criminology experts, their deaths were caused by multiple bullet wounds.

One policeman killed, another kidnapped in Chechnya (by Lecha Sadayev, September 24)
The body of a Chechen police officer was found in Grozny with gunshot wounds to the head and body.


After 15 years of "depression," people of Kabardino-Balkaria long for change (Caucasus Times, September 26)

Results of a survey conducted in Nalchik by "Caucasus Times"

Monitoring attacks on the rights defenders whose work is connected with the Chechen conflict.



Society for Threatened People (Switzerland) -
The Swiss NGO that helped Chechen NGOs to establish the Chechen Civil Society Forum in Bern this past week.

For more Chechnya-related links go to our Links library ( ), which is being continuously updated.

Prague Watchdog Weekly Newsletter is a publication of Prague Watchdog. If you wish to subscribe (unsubscribe) to it, please send us an e-mail to The newsletter is usually sent out on Monday evenings.

Prague Watchdog launched its website in August 2000 and its aim is to collect and disseminate information on the ongoing conflict in Chechnya, focusing on human rights, media coverage, political situation and relief aid.

Visit us at For the Russian version, go to

The Failure of Pragmatism

The Chechenpress website has published an article by Salamu Talkhigov, entitled Samoubiystvennyi "pragmatizm" zapada (The West's Suicidal Pragmatism), which roundly condemns the world public for backing Russia in Chechnya:

The world public, either by its indifference or its direct support for the actions of the Kremlin in Chechnya, is encouraging the Russian occupation forces to take an even more savage attitude towards the Chechen population. In response to this cruelty, the Chechen people are carrying out actions which the international community describes as "terrorist" and through the mouths of its leaders voices its support for the "fight against terrorism" which Russia is allegedly waging. The result is a vicious circle of hypocrisy, lies and increasing mutual hatred.

Chechnya sacrificed for the sake of cooperation with Russia

Of course, only an incorrigible idealist would today try to appeal to the conscience and morality of eastern or western politicians. In politics conscience and morality serve as a fig leaf which from time to time covers up a brutal and cynical pragmatism. "When it comes to the situation in Chechnya," notes Gabriel Juen of the Brussels office of Amnesty International, "we can see that some influential states, members of the European Union, have decided to take Russia's side for the sake of their own supreme strategic objectives." He could have added that all countries, and not just the countries of the European Union, are behaving in this way.

Each state or community of states has its own "pragmatic" reasons for sacrificing the Chechen people for the sake of cooperation with Russia. France relies on its alliance with Russia to create in the UN Security Council a counterweight to the Anglo-American alliance, which often ignores the political-economic interests of the west European countries. The British leaders, who are being subjected to increasing criticism from the British public for their participation in the war against Iraq, have been forced to justify their close alliance with the USA by the presence of an "international terrorist network", of which Chechnya is, allegedly, one of the cells. And that being the case, [Prime Minister] Tony Blair, in order to preserve his reputation as a "fighter against terrorism", is resolutely supporting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's "anti-terrorist operation" (albeit artificially protracted) in Chechnya. Germany has a vested interest in Russian oil, gas and the market of investment and consumers of German goods.

The USA, having declared its "anti-terrorist alliance" with Russia, has consolidated its military presence in Central Asia and South Caucasus in two of the most important strategic and energy centres of Eurasia.Iran, which invariably blocks any, even the mildest condemnation of Russian policy in Chechnya adopted by the League of Islamic Countries is clinging with all its might in the hope of Moscow's help in gaining access to nuclear technology.

The Arab regimes are counting on the Kremlin's support in opposing the American-Israeli tandem in the region. China, India, Pakistan, and so on and so forth - all these countries are weighing up the situation on the "political scales" on which the huge nuclear power of Russia clearly outweighs tiny Chechnya.

The so-called "CIS countries" or, more broadly, the countries of post-Soviet space, the majority of whom have scarcely repulsed Russia's military blackmail and the subversive activity of its special services, not only do not support the liberation struggle of the Chechen people, but are themselves, in trying to "placate" the Kremlin, conducting a repressive policy in relation to the Chechen refugees on their territory, submissively and fully aware of their mendacity repeating after Russia's propaganda the rubber stamps of "Chechen terrorism". And all this, despite the fact that in these "young countries" the Chechens have not carried out any "terrorist acts" or serious crimes whatsoever.

Humanitarian principles or support for Russia

As we can see, the reason for the world community's support for Moscow in the Russian-Chechen confrontation has nothing to do with "Chechen terrorism"; on the contrary, this notorious "Chechen terrorism" is a means of escape which enables the democratic countries to violate those very principles, to protect which, allegedly, all these structures were established: the UN, OSCE, NATO, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, EU and so on and so forth. And one can easily understand that faint touch of relief, with which the New York Times newspaper states: "At the same time, the restrictions imposed by Russia on the work of foreign journalists in Chechnya have led to a reduction in the amount of video footage shown in Europe depicting the suffering of the Chechen people."

But, paradoxical as it may sound, it is precisely those "pragmatic considerations", for the sake of which the West turns a blind eye to the methodical annihilation of the Chechen people, declaring it to be "Russia's internal affair", which already make the Chechen tragedy one of the world's most acute international problems.

In the first place, given the whole scarcity of information reaching the West from Chechnya, Western politicians are invariably faced with a dilemma: humanitarian principles or support for Russia. Chechnya has become the touchstone on which the whole reputation of Western civilization is subjected to a fierce examination, and it will not succeed in putting off the ultimate verdict year after year.

Secondly, it is precisely because of the monstrous terror unleashed by the Kremlin against the Chechen people that the hopes for Russia's integral incorporation into the system of Western democracies are becoming more and more illusory. There cannot be a democratic whole, if part of it is anti-democratic and totalitarian. Totalitarianism is so called precisely because it is all-embracing in the social and political aspects.

The genocide of the Chechens, the torture, the bloody activities of the "death squadrons", the extra-judicial executions and the system of hostage-taking and collective responsibility cannot be legalized by means of democratic laws. What is more, these crimes cannot be committed if there is a free and democratic press in the country. Therefore, the crimes of the Russian military in Chechnya inevitably introduce into domestic political life the true elements of totalitarianism. And totalitarianism, in turn, can be based only on a corresponding ideology. Such ideologies can be of only three types: "class", nationalistic and radically religious. For historical reasons (the discrediting of the ideas of communism and the weak religious nature of Russian society), totalitarian trends in the evolution of the Kremlin regime can only be backed up by a nationalist ideology, of which the state-owned church and marginal communist cells have become servants. It is precisely nationalistic ideology, as all independent political scientific research both in the West and in Russia itself proves, that has today become the dominating world outlook of Russian society.

And third and finally, nationalistic ideology, which is the natural outcome of the long years of the war in Chechnya, cannot for long be preserved within the framework of the Chechenophobia established by the Kremlin. Nationalism always generalizes its "enemies", forms them up, as Hitler recommended, "into one line", so as not to complicate propaganda and to concentrate the hatred of the "popular masses" in one direction.

West driving Russia into "bloody swamp of totalitarianism"

Who will be Russia's "enemy" after Chechnya? The answer to this question is obvious: the Islamic peoples, since the Chechens are Muslims, and the West, since it is precisely the West which will absorb the spaces which for a long time were Russia's imperial possessions. But the best "fuel" for nationalism is, as we know, hurt pride and thirst for revenge. Thus, if the East (the "Islamic world") and the West condemn the Chechens to destruction, trying to justify this genocide by "pragmatism", then one has to accept that this "pragmatism" amounts to nurturing and setting a
fascist monster in the shape of Russia armed with a nuclear bludgeon against oneself.

Nationalism, unlike the West's "rational democracy", is an emotional ideology, which does not recognize "pragmatic" restrictions. This means that a nationalistically minded society easily starts a war if even a "pragmatic calculation" shows the suicidal nature of such a war. Germany and Japan in World War II proved this formula by their own fate. Therefore, if the lack of morality of Western politicians and leaders in relation to the Chechen tragedy is absolutely beyond question, then it is time to ask the question: are these politicians and leaders so pragmatic from the point of view of really following their interests? After all, by gaining geo-strategic and economic benefit in supporting the carnage in Chechnya, the West by this support is driving Russia more and more into a bloody swamp of totalitarianism in its nationalistic version. Consequently, Western politicians are thinking in terms of tactical advantages, sacrificing for the sake of these the strategic future of democratic freedoms - the very foundations of Western civilization. And in politics this is called not "pragmatism", but dilettantism, shortsightedness and failure.
(Via chechnya-sl and BBC Monitoring)

Quixote at 400

Leopoldo writes that "Spain is all frantic with the 400 years. Lots of new editions - at very reasonable prices - of Don Quixote with excellent footnotes and commentaries," and cites a recent IHT article by C.J. Moore about the author and the anniversary:
Here is the other face of the modern world as we know it. Following the new humanism of Lazarillo de Tormes, Cervantes brings up the complex issues arising from self-consciousness, the dimension of irony, even self-deprecation. In the person of Don Quixote himself, this self-consciousness shows as melancholy, the mood in which the ingenioso hidalgo approaches his end.

Yet Cervantes rescues us from a potential and terrible pit of cynicism through finding his characters' redemption as individuals. Neither Don Quixote nor Sancho Panza is truly mad, but they are human, noble, absurd, caring, confused, often mistaken, like ourselves, in a real world governed by the facts of life. This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of that literary redemption of humanity.

Rogue Intelligence

Retired intelligence officers often make a minor career out of giving newspaper interviews, so it's no surprise to find ex-KGB general Leonid Shebarshin expounding his views on such topics as September 11, rogue agents, and Al Qaeda in the pages of the Russian periodical Argumenty i fakty. What does seem mildly surprising (though not if one has read previous statements by the gentleman) in view of the much-touted "U.S.-Russian co-operation in the fight against terror" is the eagerness General Shebarshin shows to implicate U.S. intelligence forces in the planning and execution of 9/11:
[Shebarshin] I believe the Al-Qaeda terrorist acts in New York and Washington on 11 September 2001 were a provocation by American special services. Moreover on such a colossal scale that it is mind-boggling. Can one believe, for example, that Bin-Laden, hiding somewhere in Afghan mountains and without electronic means of communication, organized the simultaneous seizure of five aircraft? Yes, you try and organize a meeting of 10 people in Moscow, without using the telephone.

The provocation of 11 September was so crude that, at one of the airports, "hot on the trail" the FBI allegedly found a parked car in which there were Arab passports, the Koran and manuals for flying a Boeing, written in Arabic . The whole absurdity was that, firstly, there are no manuals in any other language but English, secondly, can one fly a Boeing after just reading the manuals and, thirdly, how can one board an aircraft without a passport?

It seems, having realized the whole stupidity of its "find", the USA never mentioned it again. Only one thing is clear: we shall never know the whole truth about 11 September.

The USA stood to gain from 11 September

[Question] Who needed such an enormous provocation?

[Shebarshin] In order to find who is behind it, one can use the method used in Ancient Rome and ask oneself a question: who stands to gain from it? And the belligerent group of neoconservatives in the US leadership stood to gain from 11 September. They used it as an excuse for occupying Afghanistan and searching for terrorist gangs there that Afghanistan never had. But Afghanistan is a bridgehead for establishing control over Central Asia with its oil and gas deposits and the routes of their transportation.

Besides, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries are a bridgehead for a possible war with China.

Furthermore, on an excuse of fighting terrorism, the USA occupied Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein, although it is known that Saddam could not stand terrorists and did not let them into Iraq. Thus, "thanks" to 11 September, the USA established control over the world's largest oil deposits located in Iraq. In addition, Pentagon, whose budget reached astronomical figures, and agencies dealing with domestic security gained as a result. That was the price the 3,000 people, who were killed in the terrorist acts of 11 September 2001, had to pay.
There's a lot more in this vein. In the second part of the interview, Shebarshin changes tack a bit, and starts pooh-poohing the idea, for example, that the CIA was involved in the break-up of the Soviet Union. He also talks a bit about "rogue agents", and refers to Noriega as an example. He sees Bin Laden as another such rogue agent, and considers that "had the Americans wanted, they would have arrested him very quickly. But Bin Laden and Al Qaida he is in charge of are a myth created and whipped up by the USA in order to frighten the world with the threat of terrorism. Although both Bin Laden and Al Qaida may exist in reality, the scale of their activities is microscopic."

The interview concludes with some philosophical musing about what makes people commit treason - is it money, or antagonism to the established order, or both?
If a person is in conflict with his management or in conflict with his environment, if a person cannot express himself, this is where we, intelligence employees, step in. One can talk to us like to a doctor about anything. We shall always understand, support and... [newspaper parenthesis] recruit.
It's interesting to note that there are currently 345 comments on this article at the AiF website.

Of course, one can't exclude the very tiny possibility that Shebarshin's latest outing may just be one more routine attempt to discredit ex-KGB intelligence officers (Gordievsky, Litvinenko and others) who talk too openly to the press...

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I stand in the backyard of the Shali food factory among the starving crowd of people who are struggling for the cherished containers, and recall Putin's well groomed assistant Sergei Yastrzhembsky announcing that a humanitarian disaster does not exist.

Aishat Junaidova, the head of the Shali regional migration services (there are almost sixty thousand refugees registered here) says:

"Call Moscow's attention to the fact that this government handout is not enough to live on. Many of our refugees are for all intents and purposes condemned to starvation."

Of course, I promise to tell them this. But I promise very quietly. I don't even actually promise, but just nod and whisper something. And I don't explain anything either. It's hard to tell the condemned that, first, the Kremlin doesn't give a damn about my report and, second, the situation in Moscow regarding the war in the Caucasus is very complicated, and no one knows anything about it, because they don't want to. Third, even close friends don't believe my stories after my trips to Chechnya, and I have stopped explaining anything, and just sit silently when I'm invited anywhere. And finally, not even my newspaper, which opposes the current party line, is eager to print my reports from Chechnya. And if they do, they sometimes cut out the toughest parts, not wanting to shock the public. There are fierce arguments within the editorial staff over this issue, and it is more difficult than ever for me to publish the whole truth.

But I am silent about this, simply because for the people around me, who have suffered so much, I am the first civilian from there, from the other, nonwar world. No journalists come here. There's no one else they can tell what's going on.

To tell me about the starvation, Aishat has to shout over the howls of some women who are out of their minds with hunger and are cursing and ripping a three-day ration out of each other's hands. I also see some people in the crowd spitting at others. They are tubercular. Out of eternal bitterness toward the world, they're trying to infect those who are not yet coughing up blood. Or perhaps they're hoping that the healthy ones will jump aside out of fear and let them through to the boxes of canned goods.

A cordon of soldiers surrounds the trucks with G-4. With their automatic weapons tilted forward, they try to establish some kind of order among the exhausted people. But they have a strange expression on their faces too. Not of sympathy, but not of dumb cruelty either. It's more like a stupor from the kind of war they have to fight, against a crowd of hungry people. Later, month after month, I would see this many more times; most of the soldiers' faces in the second Chechen war would be just like these.

- Anna Politkovskaya, Chechnya: Dispatches from a Small Corner of Hell, 2003

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Grabovoy: Mothers of Beslan Appeal

We, members of the North Ossetian public organization Association of the Victims of Terror Acts, The Mothers of Beslan, appeal to public opinion and to the entire world community apropos of the recent events connected with the visit of the leadership of our organization to the so-called healer – but in reality, charlatan - Grigory Grabovoy.

We categorically declare that this visit was a provocation, the purpose of which is to discredit and, as a result, to neutralize our movement. It is just one more plan devised by the authorities and special services in order to liquidate our organization by means of psychological action and pressure on the leadership of the committee headed by Susanna Dudiyeva. However, our public organization has many more members than the 10 people whom it was possible to brainwash [zombirovat’ = “turn into zombies, zombify”].

The overwhelming majority of the victims have remained in possession of their senses. We do not intend to reject our purposes and tasks in the reaching of the truth. We also declare: those who organized this provocation did not attain and will not attain a split in our ranks. Despite the fact that Susannah Dudiyeva took this step, she and all those who participated in the sectarian’s seances will remain with us.

We condemn the openly criminal and cynical repression of women who have survived terrible grief - the death of their children - and are fighting for justice.

We appeal to the Attorney General of the Russian Federation to give a legal opinion and to take appropriate legal measures with regard to the criminal activity of the charlatan Grigory Grabovoy.

22 September 2005

[my tr. - Russian text is here]

For background on the Grabovoy provocation, see this link.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Le Muezzin

Sous l’impulsion de Max-Pol Fouchet et de Camus, d'interminables duscussions se déroulaient, bien souvent au coeur de la Casbah, dans un café d’angle qui s'appelait le Fromentin, où l'on disait qu'Eugène Delacroix venait volontiers s'asseoir au XIXe siècle -- puis, lors de ses visites a Alger, plus tard, leur intellectuel préferé, André Gide. Its sirotaient du thé à la menthe cependant que le muezzin appelait les fidèles a la prière, du haut du minaret de la petite mosquée située juste en face. Fouchet observa que Camus était particulièrement touché par cet appel à la prière, car il lisait les mystiques, Ruysbroek, sainte Thérèse d'Avila et, sous l’influence de Grenier, la Bhagavad-gita.

-- Herbert R. Lottman

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Nuclear Poker


The Value of a Nuclear Program

By George Friedman

This was a week of nuclear weapons. The North Koreans seemed to promise that they would abandon their nuclear weapons program, while the Iranians made it clear that they had no intention of abandoning theirs. The confluence of these events causes us to raise a fundamental question rarely addressed: Why would small nations want to spend their national treasure on developing a handful of nuclear weapons that would be difficult to deliver to a target and that could be destroyed by another country -- like the United States -- almost at will, if the United States chose to use their own enormously more plentiful weapons?

The answer is not as obvious as it might seem. One of the concerns normally expressed about the North Korean nuclear program is that Pyongyang might one day choose to destroy Tokyo. That is not a trivial concern, but it is not clearly a realistic one. Assume that North Korea developed four or five fission bombs. Assume also that they fired some of those weapons at Tokyo. Obviously, Tokyo would be destroyed. But what would North Korea gain? The most likely outcome -- certainly one that the North Koreans would have to assess as the most likely response -- would be a massive counterstrike by the United States. The intent would be not only punitive, but would be to destroy any remaining nuclear weapons and capabilities.

In this scenario, then, Tokyo would be lost, but so would North Korea. Thus, for the original equation to work, it has to be assumed that the North Koreans are crazy or that the Iranians have reached such a level of religious intensity that the destruction of Tel Aviv would be worth the rain of destruction that would be brought against Iran by Israel's much larger nuclear capability. The standard analysis, therefore, begins with the assumption that nuclear weapons in the hands of smaller nations -- particularly North Korea or Iran -- are dangerous because these countries have non-rational calculations of their national interests. They are religious fanatics, ideological fanatics or simply nuts. Therefore, the possession of nuclear weapons in their hands poses a tremendous danger. The mere desire to develop nuclear weapons is a sign of instability (among anyone other than large nations who already have them, of course).

Before buying into the lunatic theory, let's consider what happened this week. North Korea, for example, took part in a six-power conference -- meeting with representatives of South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States. Absent nuclear weapons, North Korea has the intrinsic geopolitical weight of Ethiopia. For it to be noticed by any of these nations, except perhaps South Korea, would require a natural disaster. But here the North Koreans were, hanging with the big dogs, all because they might be in the process of developing a few small nuclear devices -- the deliverability and reliability of which were completely unclear.

Iran is a much more substantial country than North Korea in every respect. It is not, however, a great power, let alone a superpower. Nevertheless, the United States is focused obsessively on Iran's capabilities, while Germany, France and Britain stand ready to mediate and deliver stern warnings. Russians send messages to the United States via their relations with Iran, while the Chinese buy oil and happily fish in muddy waters. Iran would always have international attention, but certainly not on the order that it receives every time it rattles its nuclear development program.

The possession of a nuclear weapons development program has one obvious result: international attention is drawn to the country developing the weapon. It really doesn't matter much how well the country is doing in developing the weapon; it is only necessary that the intent be known and their ability to build the weapon uncertain. The question is, therefore, what the value is of being noticed, when one of the consequences of being noticed might be a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

There has been only one pre-emptive strike against a nuclear capability, and that in itself wasn't a nuclear strike -- it was Israel's attack against Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Other than that, nuclear programs have not been attacked. The reason is simple: Those who might choose to attack are loath to use nuclear weapons. It is not in their interest to break the effective taboo that has been in place since Nagasaki. A conventional strike is uncertain at best. After Iraq, countries have learned to disperse and harden their nuclear programs. Preemptive strikes, barring massive provocation or imminent threat, have simply not been practical or desirable.

The normal response by world leaders has been to find levers that are persuasive to the country developing nuclear weapons. Once you get past the "stiff diplomatic note" stage -- i.e., hot air -- the options are penalties and rewards.

There are usually a range of penalties, economic and political. The problem is that -- as with all international sanctions -- they require unanimity, at least among major powers. Since at least one power invariably finds it in its interest to circumvent the sanctions for political or economic reasons, sanctions usually turn out to be useless. Indeed, sanctions have the mild benefit of making the country involved appear to be the victim of great-power bullying. There is always some value in that.

The real benefit occurs, however, when the carrot is used. Since military action is not desired, since stern warnings embodied by U.N. resolutions don't carry as much weight as they might and since sanctions rarely work, all that is left is the carrot. At a certain point, if the United States or some other country becomes convinced that the North Koreans, for example, are really developing a bomb -- and simultaneously become convinced that they might, for whatever perverse reason, use it -- a game of "Let's Make a Deal" begins. Whether it is money, food, technology, politics or season tickets to the Dallas Cowboys, the discussion usually comes around to a payoff.

North Korea, which pioneered this model, learned that in order to carry this out successfully, three things were needed:

1. It was imperative for the world to know North Korea had a secret program under way. A truly secret program would have no value; therefore, it is important to permit international inspections long enough to confirm that you are building a weapon, and then to expel the inspectors in order to frighten everyone around you.

2. It is vital that you adopt a political culture in which foreigners believe that the total annihilation of your country is a matter of monumental indifference to you, so long as you get to destroy part of some other country. At the very least, you must appear crazy enough to raise questions in the minds of foreign diplomats as to whether you might do something crazy.

3. You must never actually do anything really crazy, like make it appear that you are about to launch a nuclear attack with your three weapons. Since you're not really good at this yet, it will take time to move the weapon, load it on a missile or plane, and launch. During that time, someone might conclude that you really have weapons and that you really have lost your mind and nuke you. Don't do anything that actually appears to make you an immediate danger -- just create the impression that you are almost posing an immediate danger. It's probably best to spend ten years almost ready to be a threat.

Now, this entire strategy rests on one key assumption: that your country is situated in a sufficiently strategic locale that great powers should care whether you have nuclear weapons or not. Otherwise, you might find yourself following the Libyan model -- making all the right poker moves and not exciting anyone, because there is nothing really important within reach of your potential weapons. This might also explain why other small countries, such as Argentina and South Africa, simply gave up their pursuit of nuclear programs. In the game of nuclear poker, as in geopolitics, "place" matters.

The geographic location of both North Korea and Iran is, however, important, and for the past decade or so, the North Koreans have been giving a clinic on how to extract maximum value from almost having a nuclear weapon and appearing to be nuts. They have gotten money, food, technology. Most of all, they have been treated as the equal of the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. This has tremendous value domestically, in that it legitimizes the regime. It also creates a bargaining situation that not only allows Pyongyang to extract benefits, but achieves the ultimate political goal.

That goal is regime survival. With the end of the Cold War, North Korea's survival was in serious jeopardy. It had survived by being of some value to the Soviets or to the Chinese. By the early 1990s, however, North Korea no longer was of value to anyone. The probability of the regime in Pyongyang surviving appeared minimal. But developing and publicizing its nuclear program made North Korea a wild card: It was too dangerous to attack or even to undermine. Its nuclear program was in an uncertain state -- and the regime, feeling threatened, might choose to go nuclear. There was, therefore, a consensus that the survival of the North Korean regime was less of a problem than its fall.

Which is just the consensus North Korea was after.

Iran has learned a great deal from the North Koreans. It has learned that it is extremely important for the world to know it has a nuclear program, and Tehran has been quite content to allow inspectors in -- and then jerk them around after they have confirmed everyone's worst fears. The Iranians have learned to display a political culture that forces other nations to believe they are quite capable of using nuclear weapons, even at the price of national catastrophe. They have learned to be extraordinarily cautious in not crossing a line that would bring down a pre-emptive strike. It makes no sense to do what Saddam Hussein did, which was to spend a fortune on a nuclear facility that the Israelis then blew up.

The Iranians have used their nuclear program in a far more sophisticated manner than have the North Koreans. The North Koreans engaged in very skillful quid pro quos, with the only complexity being that they just about never kept their word after they got what they wanted. The Iranians are not nearly as concerned about regime survival as the North Koreans. Their regime is going to survive. Iranian leaders are concerned with a range of regional issues, the most important at this moment being Iraq.

The Iranian interest in Iraq is profound. Tehran wants to see the creation of an Iraq that, at the very least, poses no threat to Iran -- and which would be, at most, an Iranian satellite. The Iranians and Americans are engaged in a dizzyingly complex game in Iraq, and Tehran needs every lever it can find. The nuclear card increases the Iranians' leverage and gives them something with which to bargain. They also managed to skillfully draw in the British, French and Germans as mediators in an effort to drive another wedge between the United States and the Europeans. They have not been fully successful at this, but so long as the ultimate threat is recourse to the U.N. Security Council -- where any resolution permitting military action will be vetoed -- they have channeled the process in harmless directions.

The value of a nuclear program for a small country is not that it provides a military option. It does not. The value is not even in possessing nuclear weapons, which might actually turn out to be too dangerous. The value of a nuclear program is that it exists and is known to exist. That very fact redefines its possessor's place in the international system and provides it with opportunities to extract concessions. So long as the country does not push its position in such a way that anyone is convinced of an imminent threat -- or, to put it differently, so long as the line between potential threat and "ready to launch" is never crossed -- great powers will sooner make concessions than take risks.

In other words, North Korea and Iran are very rationally engaged in appearing to be irrational risk-takers. It is interesting to note that, aside from its pursuit of nuclear weapons, North Korea has taken few strategic risks since the end of the Korean War, while Iran -- willing to underwrite any number of covert groups -- has been very careful, since the end of the Iran-Iraq war, with its own military adventures. If we forget the rhetoric, these are countries that have prudently managed risks. Possessing a program to develop nuclear weapons is, therefore, part of a prudent portfolio for managing their position in a dangerous world. It only appears to be risky. In practice, it reduces risk by limiting the threats others pose against them and by increasing the willingness of others to make concessions.

When playing poker, the cautious player always hides his caution behind a mask of recklessness. That is the prerequisite for bluffing effectively and getting people to call into full houses. The development of nuclear programs -- not the weapons themselves -- is a useful part of the mask of recklessness. Until, that is, someone calls the bluff -- telling North Korea to go develop all the weapons it wants, save that if it deploys a single one on a launcher, it would be nuked. But the North Koreans are betting that that is too much for the United States to push into the pot, as is Iran.

They are probably right.

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The Plagues

"We know evil exists. We have established that fact beyond all doubt. The important question is: `Is there reason to hope?" Then Camus quoted the words of Dr. Rieux in The Plague:

Since the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn't it be better for God if we refuse to believe in Him and struggle with all our might against death without raising our eyes toward the heaven where He sits in silence.

"You know these lines of The Plague.... I have quoted them to you before, but do you know what I had in mind when I wrote them?"

"My impression was that you were concentrating on the suffering of the innocent. One would expect fear and terror in Oran in the face of the plague, but instead we find only longing for loved ones. As you said, `Reunion is only the exception and happiness only an accident that has lasted.'"

Camus seemed amused by my interpretation. I wondered if I had perhaps given the wrong answer, so I asked, "How would you describe what you were trying to say?"

"I was trying to say that there are at least three responses humanity can make to the plagues of human experience. First, a man may commit philosophical or physical suicide. That is, a person may simply yield to the sheer impossibility of the situation. Second, he may develop a nihilistic posture, characterized by the asthmatic old Spaniard who spends his days transferring dried beans from one pot to the other. (That alternative doesn't make life any better or any worse.) Last, and possibly most important, I tried to present the alternative of revolt, represented by the sanitation squads who go out and bury the dead bodies. Even around the collective funeral pyres, man responds to the inner flame of comradeship in the service of human survival.

"To me this is all there is – simply going on living. The only hope that I can offer is simply to live. Repetition, grilling each day with the pure act of living. Starting over again until death, that is all there is. Yet, Howard, I sense deep within that something is missing. Is there more?"
Howard Mumma, in Albert Camus and the Minister (2000)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A New Beginning

Israeli president inaugurates Estonian synagogue

TALLINN, Estonia, Sept 19, 2005 (AFP) - Israeli President Moshe Katsav inaugurated the construction of a new synagogue in Tallinn on Monday, the first to be built in the Estonian capital since World War Two.

"I am very grateful to the local Jewish community for building the new synagogue," Katsav told Jewish leaders and schoolchildren at a packed Jewish school hall.

"The synagogue is very important, and I appeal to all of you to continue keeping the Jewish traditions alive here," the Israeli president said, after watching a concert of traditional Jewish songs and dances by the school's students.

Katsav presented a sacred stone to be placed in the foundation of the synagogue.

Jewish synagogues in Estonia were destroyed in World War Two. Currently,only a small makeshift synagogue operates in the school.

Estonia has about 3,000 Jews, down from a pre-war figure of 4,400.

Following a meeting with Estonian President Arnold Ruutel on Monday, Katsav said he was happy there was no anti-Semitism in Estonia, while expressing concern over rising extremism and anti-Semitism in Estonia's neighour Russia.

"I am really concerned over the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and in Russia," Katsav said.

"I hope the Russian authorities will struggle against anti-Semitism by education, by enforcing laws, by influencing public opinion."

Katsav also attended a ceremony of laying a wreath at a monument to Holocaust victims near Tallinn. The 1,000 Jews who remained in the country after the start of World War II perished in the Nazi death camps.



In Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal, political correspondent Alexander Golts writes (Russian, my quick tr.):
The work of a political journalist in Moscow increasingly resembles the work of the Western kremlinologists of Soviet days. It was built on the fact that not even the Soviet propaganda apparatus was able to falsify the entire flow of information about the country. The kremlinologist’s task consisted in endlessly correlating data and restoring the truth by following indirect signs… In this connection I highly recommend (the official presidential site). Its editors do not rest at allowing themselves to correct the speeches of the American resident. They also boldly correct the interviews given by Vladimir Putin himself. To take just one recent example – the interview given to the American television company Fox News. The American journalists were trying to put what for them was the most important question in such a way that Putin would have to give a perfectly straight answer. Presenter Chris Wallace reminded Putin of the American President Sherman, who said that if he was nominated for the presidency he would not take part in the election campaign, and that if he was elected then he would refuse to work.

"Can you say the same thing about your presidency in 2008?", asks the presenter.

"You want me to give a blood oath and repeat for the hundredth time what I’ve already said 99 times. I think I formulated my answer to the previous question rather clearly. That is enough," says Putin, trying to avoid answering, and showing irritation.

"So you won’t run for election?" - says Wallace, trying to make the most of this.

And in reply gets what he wants: “I’ve already given you my answer. I will not.”

But now, take note. The presidential site gives a completely adequate translation of the interview. With the exception of one moment. Putin answers "I will not" to a question which Wallace did not put. "So you won’t run for election for the next term?" – this is how the question appears in the Kremlin transcript.

You must agree, this correction, if it was made consciously, may tell us many things. For example, about Putin’s intention of Putin return to power with the aid of some trick. Let us say, to let someone else be elected, and then find (or create) a pretext for holding elections and to be elected himself - and formally that will not be for the next term. After all,Vladimir Vladimirovich is so very fond of holding on to the literal meaning of words. For example, he promised not to bankrupt YUKOS - and did not make it bankrupt. But not to sell the company’s most profitable asset to a certain one-day firm: that he promised no one.

In any other country the liberties which the editors of the presidential site permit themselves would not pass unnoticed – there would be a scandal. The President would be forced to state unambiguously, once and for all, whether he was going to remain in power (whether in the post of the President or in some other capacity, it doesn’t matter) or not. Only not in Russia. One additional similarity between Russian journalists and Western kremlinologists consists in the fact that no matter what sensational facts they reveal, it will in no way change public opinion in the country.

And Golts concludes:

[Putin’s] reputation in the foreign press (with one or two exceptions) cannot be damaged any further. Everyone is certain that he is an authoritarian leader. But Putin is safe in the knowledge that this has absolutely no effect on the ceremonial side of his relations with Western leaders. They haven’t kicked him out of the G8, they will go on buying the oil and gas. Well, and they will wash their hands immediately after the handshake – but we are not that proud. At spy school we were taught all kinds of things.

Alternatives - II

The discussion continues on the IAJEStrings list.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Planes Behaving Badly

Vladimir Socor, on yet another incident that calls into question the still received wisdom that the Cold War ended 16 years ago:

At 15:20 local time in good flying weather on September 15, a Russian air force Su-27 fighter jet crashed into a field in western Lithuania. The plane was part of a convoy of seven fighter jets (Mig-29 and Su-27) and an A-50 radar plane en route over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea from Russia's Leningrad region to the Chernyakhovsk air base in Kaliningrad region. Earlier in the day, the convoy had crossed Estonia's flight information area with signals switched off, thus jeopardizing flight safety there.

The plane strayed almost 200 kilometers from the prescribed route, which passed approximately 20 kilometers off Lithuania's Baltic shore (just over the 12-mile limit of territorial waters). The crash site is located approximately 170 kilometers inland. The pilot, Major Valery Troyanov, ejected safely and is being held for questioning by the Lithuanian Prosecutor-General's Office in for the duration of investigations into the incident.

For two days, Russia's ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs were claiming -- as did the pilot initially -- that the plane was unarmed. On September 17, however, the Lithuanians found that the plane was armed as if for a wartime operation. They recovered the flight recorder (black box) as well as two air-to-air missiles and the machine gun with its ammunition box from the plane's wreckage. They are looking for the other two missiles that the Russian side now admits the plane was carrying and might possibly have dropped elsewhere before crashing. Most of the plane's fuselage is buried 4 to 5 meters deep in the ground and must be recovered manually for fear of explosives inside.

The pilot and Moscow blame the incident on a malfunction of the plane's navigation equipment, which caused the pilot to lose orientation and eventually to crash land when his fuel ran out. The plane's identification friend-or-foe (IFF) system self-destroyed while in flight, as it is programmed to do in the event of a failure of navigation equipment. Further, according to this version, the Russian pilot could not contact Lithuanian civilian air control or NATO's radar in Lithuania because he does not speak English.

Questioning this version, experts note that the plane, if disoriented, was not assisted by the other Russian planes in the convoy; ran out of fuel too soon if at all; it did not contact Kaliningrad air control on the Su-27's emergency radio with emergency frequencies; and could have contacted Lithuanian air controllers, both for civil aviation and with NATO's radar in Lithuania, who are fluent in Russian as well as English. Lithuania's ace pilot, Colonel (ret.) Stasys Murza, is among those asking such questions.

According to the Russian side, when fuel ran out the pilot crashed the plane deliberately into the empty field to avoid damage to lives and property. The investigation, however, does not rule out the possibility that the deep intrusion may itself have been deliberate, as part of an intelligence mission or practice of an operation. This theory gained currency when Lithuanian journalists identified Troyanov in film footage aired in October 2004 by Belarus state television, about a joint training simulation of a deliberate intrusion into Belarus air space.

Officials and the public also consider the distinct possibility that the flight may have been a planned operation to test NATO's air defense system and response capability in the Baltic states. Radar in Lithuania did not register the deep intrusion because the plane was flying low. Two NATO planes based at Zokniai in north-central Lithuania -- they are German air force F-4s in the current rotation -- spotted the Russian plane just after it had nosedived and while the pilot was parachuting.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov apologized to his Lithuanian counterpart, Gediminas Kirkilas, by telephone on September 15 and offered compensation for any damages. Since that date, however, Russia's ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense claim that the pilot and plane are legally immune. Moscow demands that the pilot and the plane's wreckage including the black box be handed over to Russia.

Lithuania's Prosecutor-General's Office and Defense Ministry are conducting a legal and a military investigation, respectively, into the incident. Troyanov's status was changed as early as September 16 from witness to suspect of violating international flight regulations. He is being questioned in the presence of a Lithuanian lawyer and in contact with the Russian embassy in Vilnius. From September 17 on, the Lithuanians have allowed Maj.-General Sergei Baynetov, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's flight safety service, with a group of Russian officers to observe the investigations as bystanders. Lithuanian authorities rule out any parallel Russian investigation or a Lithuanian-Russian joint investigation.

Estonia was affected by the first phase of this incident. While passing through Estonia's flight information area, the Russian planes deactivated their transmitters that should provide airspace controllers with data about the flight. Inasmuch as Estonia's Defense Ministry had granted permission for the flight in advance, it was all the more justified in issuing a protest against the action of "Russian air force planes switching off the transmitters, thereby posing a threat to the safety of civil aviation." Russia's First Deputy Defense Minister, Col.-General Alexander Belousov, in a public reply, denied outright that the planes were required to send flight-path data to air controllers while over flying international waters. However, such provision should be required in order to verify that the planes adhere to the flight path. Russian air force planes sometimes deviate from it, violating Estonia's air space and over flying Estonian islands.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania form an integral part of NATO's air space. Such incidents should generate discussion at NATO headquarters on improving the alliance' air policing mission in this region.

(ELTA, BNS, Lietuvos Rytas, Interfax, Russian Television, September 16-19)

(via EDM)


At IAJEStrings, there's a discussion on the subject "Alternative Strings". This label - intended to cover non-classical genres of string-playing - has come to be accepted in recent years, but some have questioned its appropriateness. I tried to present my own take on the topic in the following post:
I like Gayle Dixon's suggestion of World Strings as a "catch-all" title for diverse non-classical genres of string playing. But I also wonder if it's good for strings to keep isolating themselves from the rest of the currents of music. After all, genres such as Folk, Fusion, Latin, Gypsy, Klezmer and so on are not exclusive to strings, though strings may often be involved. What I mean is that perhaps it isn't necessary to have a special term or category for non-classical string playing. When strings play jazz, that is precisely what they do - play jazz, along with other non-string instruments. And when they play the various kinds of folk music, they again play folk music -alongside, or in awareness of, other instruments or voices. The same is true when strings play classical music.

I think the categorisation/classification issue is an important one, because it has far-reaching implications for the role of string instruments in jazz music in particular. If string instruments are divided off as being somehow "special" or "alternative", it makes it all the harder for them to be integrated within a jazz context.

While recently listening to some of the Quartette Indigo recordings from the late 1990s, I became pleasantly aware that while several musical traditions are interwoven in this playing - jazz, classical, gospel, blues, African music, to mention just a few - Akua Dixon's music is above all a jazz expression, with plenty of scope for improvisation and "free" playing. But as music played by strings, it also has numerous points of contact with things that are usually played on other instruments. The quartet arrangements by pianist Sonelius Smith and trombonist Steve Turre, and Gayle Dixon's violin performance of a John Coltrane solo and her arrangement of Monk's Ruby My Dear are particularly interesting from this point of view.

To my ears, the music of Quartette Indigo points both inward, to the sounds and timbres and colorations of strings, and outward, to the orchestral and vocal palette of a much larger range of genres, interests and ensembles beyond the string section or quartet. Just as the classical string quartet or string orchestra constantly reminds the listener of a wider range of instrumentation, so does the jazz string chamber ensemble, when conceived in this way. And in QI, there's also a clear link to the classical and even the symphonic tradition, a link of the kind that's found in the music of Duke Ellington, for example.

I think there are lessons to be drawn from this - not least the perception that while classical music and jazz can happily co-exist, so can classical music and other genres of musical expression. It would be a shame to think that the non-classical styles and genres represent some form of rebellion against or denial of the classical ones. Instead, perhaps we need to look for forms of music-making, composition, improvisation and listening that enable all the genres to communicate with one another. That's what I hear, for example, in Tanya Kalmanovitch's experiments with Bartok improvisations (on compositions for 2 violins) and her work on South Indian music.

If strings are to make real headway in a jazz context, I submit that they need to opt in to all the richness, diversity and variety of which they have historically proven themselves to be capable, rather than opt out into some uncertain "alternative" or "contemporary" musical future. And perhaps that's a question that needs to be considered in the field of string music education.

I don't know how much sense this makes, but thought I'd say it anyway.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Talking Terrorism


The huge gathering of world leaders under the UN flag last week was generally disappointing, but for Russian President Vladimir Putin it worked out just fine. Moscow is quite content with the unreformed format of the Security Council, where it has one of the five permanent seats, so Putin spared no compliments for the work of the organization, which has grown used to undiplomatic criticism (Izvestiya, September 16).

Russia also finds no reasons to feel upset about the lack of agreement on non-proliferation. Putin received his greatest international media attention when he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. An awkward overlap in Putin's schedule caused the postponement of that meeting from Wednesday to Thursday, but his counter-part appeared quite satisfied with the outcome (Kommersant, September 16). Discussing the Iranian nuclear program with U.S. President George W. Bush the next day, Putin insisted, "The potential of diplomatic solutions to all these issues is far from exhausted," effectively blocking the prospect of increasing international pressure on Iran (, September 17).

The embarrassing inability of the UN to agree on a definition of terrorism is also a non-issue from Moscow's point of view, since it makes it perfectly possible for the Kremlin to stick to its own interpretation (, September 16). In his genuinely forgettable speech before the General Assembly, Putin even offered a new take on this phenomenon, calling it the "ideological successor of Nazism" (Kommersant, September 17). It is not entirely clear what he implied with this parallel – but it is rather clear that it is hardly applicable to the kind of terrorism that is a daily reality in the North Caucasus.

During Putin's visit to New York and Washington, tensions increased in the North Caucasus. Ingushetia experienced a series of explosions targeting railways, military convoys, court buildings, and police stations (, September 16). Those were low-yield "improvised explosive devices" and, miraculously, there were no fatalities. It is well known that such attacks are performed neither by trained professionals nor by ideological extremists but by locals, often teenagers or even kids, for whom it is just a way to earn little money for their families (Ekho Moskvy, September 10). In Dagestan, meanwhile, police cars and patrols come under fire every week, but this deadly hunt is just a form of competition for power between local clans (, September 15). Dmitry Kozak, Putin's special envoy in the Southern Federal District, warned that this republic was teetering on the brink of explosion, but Putin, when paying a surprise visit to Makhachkala in July, confirmed his full confidence in its leadership (Ezhednevny zhurnal, July 18).

On September 2, the first anniversary of the massacre in Beslan, Putin invited to the Kremlin a group of mothers whose children were murdered in the school. Under a barrage of their angry questions, he admitted that he was not fully informed about the circumstances of that mismanaged operation (, September 15; see EDM, September 9, 16). This forced confession explains many deficiencies in Russia's domestic war on terror: the Commander-in-Chief prefers not to know about the real scale of the problem and the true causes of terrorism. Policymakers in Moscow are convinced that any problem could be solved by money, which – thanks to the exorbitant oil prices – they have aplenty. The republics of the North Caucuses have received massive subsidies and direct budget transfers – but stability has been eroded rather then enhanced. The ruling elites have become entirely dependent on Moscow, and the "angry young men," for whom there are no prospect of meaningful employment, blame them for the neglected social problems (, September 8). All normal channels of protest are carefully blocked, so anger brews in the tightly knit communities – and extremism finds an expanding pool of recruits.

By comparing terrorism to Nazism, Putin pretends not to know that it is his own carefully built system of power that generates the social tension and anger against rampant corruption that shape the environment in which terrorism flourishes. Moscow is always eager to score some cheap points by condemning – but when it comes to practical cooperation in counter-terrorist operations, the drive dissipates. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, meeting with NATO counterparts last week, accused them of giving too much attention to the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan and neglecting the drug problem (Vremya novostei, September 15). He established the link between the narco-business and terrorism, asserting that the violent May uprising in Andijan, Uzbekistan, was in fact a terrorist attack organized from bases in Afghanistan that NATO had failed to eradicate. What he did not mention was the transformation of Tajikistan, Russia's closest ally in Central Asia, into a drug-trafficking state where the 1300-km long border along the Panj River has become a profitable gateway, rather then a barrier, for delivering heroin to European markets (Nezavisimaya gazeta, September 15).

Talking about terrorism has become Moscow's topic of choice when it discovers the need to hide its lack of a relevant and constructive agenda. Many in Putin's inner circle would probably agree with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka who lashed bombastically against U.S. unilateralism and "aggressiveness" while speaking at the UN (Vedomosti, September 16). It is much wiser, however, to take a cooperative attitude – and duly receive praise from President Bush as a "strong ally in the war on terror." As for those angry teenagers in Ingushetia and heartbroken mothers in Beslan, they do not quite fit into the acceptable counter-terrorist discourse and only distort the cozy mutual understanding. The problem is that they know the brutal and bloody truth about terrorism, about which Putin does not want to be informed, but that truth can break through all protective layers of hypocrisy.

--Pavel K. Baev