Russia

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Part I: The Failure of the Military Option

Syria Peace Sign ImageIt may seem odd to speak of nonviolence in the same sentence as Syria, one of the bloodiest and most tragic destructions of a state and a culture in contemporary history. But the fact is that we are inching closer to a mainstream and politically realist understanding of nonviolence as a legitimate course of political change. This is very significant, because if in fact the major powers are beginning to acknowledge the futility of armed conflict, at least in places of a geopolitical standoff, such as Syria, then we can expect more Western support may to nonviolent resisters in the future. This in turn may inch the globe a bit closer to a nonviolent system of social change.

Why has the military option become increasingly futile in the Syrian case? Because Russia and Iran will not back down in their support of …

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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/world/middleeast/15nuke.html

What is missing from the endless debate about Iran, about sanctions, and about military action, is the role of global consensus, and the real facts of what it would take to find any nonviolent way for the global community to prevent the leaders of Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Consistently the United States argues for sanctions and Russia and China veto such sanctions. What is less stated is that Iran is a critical economic partner of Russia, whereas the United States has its sphere of influence as Saudi Arabia. Well, it seems simple to me. If the United States really wants the world to isolate Iran in terms of fossil fuel exports (the only truly effective boycott) then resource sharing and resource access must be completely re-negotiated between the great powers and the oil producing nations. How else can there be global consensus? And if there cannot be, …

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Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery, in his regular column for Gush Shalom, has an important analysis of the Israeli elections that is well worth reading. I will react to his comments in the coming days. Here are excerpts:

The results of the elections are not as clear as they might seem. The victory of the Right is not so unambiguous.

Central to the election campaign was the personal competition between the two contenders for the Prime Minister’s office: Livni and Netanyahu (or, as they call themselves, as if they were still at kindergarten, Tzipi and Bibi.)

Contrary to all expectations and all polls, Livni beat Netanyahu. Several factors were involved in this. Among others: the masses of the Left were terrified by the possibility of Netanyahu winning, and flocked to Livni’s camp in order to “Stop Bibi!” Also, Livni – who was never identified with feminism – remembered at

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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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