Russia

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Diplomats Discuss Bashar al-Assad’s Future as Syria Fights Rebels – NYTimes.com.

 

This is an important article on the stage we find ourselves in of the Syrian revolution. Russia’s defense to the last of the Assad regime is a significant political reality that points much more deeply to the problem and challenge of global, that is, Security Council consensus on matters of global governance when massive human rights abuses are occurring. We are still at a kind of Cold War impasse when it comes to the spheres of influence of the United States, Europe and Saudi Arabia on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other. The United States political narrative on such matters, and in such crunch times, runs something like this:

We the United States stand for human rights and democracy, and Russia and China only care about defending illiberal states and their sovereignty because …

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Gershon Baskin’s provocative title is absolutely right, it does not appear to matter anymore which coalition will rule Israel next. The fact is that Olmert had a bigger mandate than Livni or Netanyahu to pursue the peace process, freeze the settlements, and uphold all the commitments Israel made in Annapolis. And he failed at all of them, and instead unleashed a horrifying set of wars in Lebanon and Gaza that have left Palestinians utterly shell shocked. So why not add fuel to the fire with a Lieberman-inclusive government that traumatizes the rest of the Palestinian people who have resided in Israel since 1948, who never left the land, and who have been isolated by everyone ever since, despite their absolutely peaceful resistance to injustice? Despite the fact that by a vast majority of 75% the Arabs of Israel would support a democratic constitution for Israel that also kept it a …

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Hello readers, welcome to my first videoblog. Please excuse the moon-like effect. I appear to be on the other side of the galaxy because I used a webcam. My lips catch up with the sound usually in few minutes. Pretend this is a podcast and give me your feedback!…

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An Icon of Stalin

by mgopin on December 5, 2008 · 4 comments

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Stalin as Saint?

Stalin as Saint?

AN ARTICLE BY KATRIEN HERTOG:

A rather bizarre episode has unfolded in a little church 20km outside St. Petersburg. Not just an icon, but an icon with the picture of Stalin was hung up in the church of the Holy Olga in Strel’na and presented to the parishioners for worship. Although it is officially an icon dedicated to the Blessed Matrona of Moscow (1885-1952), who was canonized despite significant protest, Matrona is seen only in the background, while Stalin is centrally depicted in full posture. The icon pictures an episode from one of the legends that were created around Matrona, according to which Stalin came to see her for advice related to the German invasion in 1941.

Apparently, the local priest Evstafij, who is a distant relative of Lenin, regards Stalin not just as a believer, but also as the savior of Russia. “I commemorate Stalin

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Georgia and Russia

Georgia and Russia

David Ignatius has a sympathetic read on American involvement in Georgia’s decision to attack South Ossetia. Is he right? Not sure. He seems to believe that Georgia’s behavior was not based on American prodding, and that, on the contrary, the Administration was telling him to keep the brakes on. David is an astute, centrist observer with an intelligence background. The problem now is one of radical distrust by any of our allies of a Republican Administration. David writes:

The signal Bush is said to be sending Saakashvili is: “We’re with you. We take your survival and interests seriously. But be smart. Don’t give Russia a pretext.” This go-slow message is in part a reflection of the administration’s frustration that Saakashvili ignored repeated advice over the past two years not to provoke Russia over the disputed regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Having promised Moscow that the United

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Mark Mardell’s Euroblog about the EU’s response to Russia at the Avignon retreat, and the string of comments in response, represent a good window into how Europeans are struggling with the question of Russian intervention in Georgia and its consequences. Here is an excerpt:

In EU jargon this meeting is a “Gymnich”, named after the German castle where the first one took place. It’s an informal meeting, which means it can’t issue conclusions. But in reality it’s likely they will decide whether to go along with the plan of the German foreign minister to launch an investigation into the beginning of the war.

Mr Miliband was not against this “It is important to make sure false stories about the origions of the crisis do not become holy writ ..but equally that serious allegations are followed through.”

They will also look at the plan to send EU monitors to report on

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 An abandoned guard tower in one of hundreds of gulags (prison camps) across the Soviet Union, remains as a symbol of profound human suffering. First instituted by Lenin to imprison priests, political opponents, and common criminals, Stalin was then responsible for sending 12-15 million people to these camps. The prisoners were used as forced labor to work on massive industrial projects. As more laborers were needed for bigger projects and those falling behind schedule, Stalin justified the arrests of more people to be sent to the gulags. Millions were executed in these camps or perished as they labored on massive modernization schemes. It is said of the Siberian railroad project that the work was never done, nothing was achieved and it went nowhere. (credit: Jonathan Lewis)
An abandoned guard tower in one of hundreds of gulags (prison camps) across the Soviet Union, remains as a symbol of profound human suffering. First instituted by Lenin to imprison priests, political opponents, and common criminals, Stalin was then responsible for sending 12-15 million people to these camps. The prisoners were used as forced labor to work on massive industrial projects. As more laborers were needed for bigger projects and those falling behind schedule, Stalin justified the arrests of more people to be sent to the gulags. Millions were executed in these camps or perished as they labored on massive modernization schemes. It is said of the Siberian railroad project that the work was never done, nothing was achieved and it went nowhere. (credit: Jonathan Lewis)

It continues to amaze me how destructive it is for we as humans to confuse good and bad with who is a representative of …

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PROVOKING FEAR OF A NEW COLD WAR

by mgopin on August 21, 2008 · 13 comments

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It is hard to know what in this piece is designed to drive a wedge in the new Israeli/Syrian dialogue and what spells real trouble in terms of a rapidly deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia. We may be seeing the undermining of the real possibility of peace between Syria and Israel. There is a march of folly, from Georgia’s move on South Ossetia, to Russia’s naked aggression, to the successful neo-conservative strategy of alienating everyone and anyone for eight years, including Russia (Did Poland really need an ABM defense right now? Is that what is going to make them safer?). It seems that reactionary forces in the United States may get their wish for a world in conflict that will push frightened American voters–and Israeli voters–in their direction once again. It is true that Russia has been headed in an anti-democratic direction for a long time, but …

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Tom Friedman is worth reading on sharing the blame for Moscow’s aggression:

If the conflict in Georgia were an Olympic event, the gold medal for brutish stupidity would go to the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin. The silver medal for bone-headed recklessness would go to Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and the bronze medal for rank short-sightedness would go to the Clinton and Bush foreign policy teams.

Let’s start with us. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, I was among the group – led by George Kennan, the father of “containment” theory, Senator Sam Nunn and the foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum – that argued against expanding NATO, at that time.

It seemed to us that since we had finally brought down Soviet communism and seen the birth of democracy in Russia the most important thing to do was to help Russian democracy take root and integrate Russia into Europe.

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ENGAGING RUSSIA–AGAIN

by mgopin on August 19, 2008 · 9 comments

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I have a friend, Bryan Hamlin, who has been an amazing citizen diplomat all his life, who helps entities in conflict understand each other, especially at critical hours. What I mean by ‘citizen diplomat’ is a person who takes it upon himself to build relationships between enemy groups, or between his own culture and a culture with which he or his country is in conflict. My next book, To Make the Earth Whole, will deal at great length with citizen diplomats because I believe they are the hope of the future, inching the globe toward greater integration, cooperation, and community.

The image “http://www.rhodora.org/Images/Hamlin.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Bryan had two great pre-occupations of his career as a citizen diplomat, the Palestinian/Jewish relationship, and the Russian/Western relationship. He chose wisely, for these remain the deepest challenges to the future of humanity. What we have seen in Georgia proves this.

One of the most exhilarating moments …

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