Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Playing with Fire: Destabilizing Russia

The two days after Russia's parliamentary elections of December 4 have seen the Project Democracy networks of George Soros, Mikhail Gorbachov, and other London-linked enthusiasts of "regime change" take aim at Russia and at the prospective return of Vladimir Putin to its Presidency, in particular. Western officials piling on in the attacks against Russia's Putin-Medvedev tandem include British Foreign Minister William Hague, who proclaimed his "serious concerns" after an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) report charged the United Russia party with ballot box-stuffing; U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who toed the "serious concerns" line on behalf of the Obama Administration, adding that "Russian voters deserve a full investigation of all credible reports of electoral fraud and manipulation, and we hope in particular that the Russian authorities will take action"; and Sen. John McCain, who issued a Twitter message addressed to Putin: "Dear Vlad, The Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood near you."

Ex-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachov went on the liberal radio station Echo of Moscow to call for "changes in the Russian political system."

In the elections to the State Duma, the United Russia slate headed by current President Dmitri Medvedev was credited with just fewer than 50% of the vote, retaining a simple majority of 238 seats in the 450-member parliament — a loss of 70-some seats. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, with almost 20%, doubled its representation to 92 seats. The party led by former Federation Council head Sergei Mironov, A Just Russia, got 13% (64 seats) and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia received 11% (56 seats).

The people being described in the Western media as "the opposition" are not from those parties. The extra-parliamentary Solidarity movement took to the streets on Monday to charge United Russia with vote fraud. Several thousand people showed up for a demo, for which they had a permit for 500 people. The crowd was whipped up by Alexei Navalny, a lawyer who has become famous as an online crusader against corruption, who shouted, "Putin is a thief," and led chants of "Russia without Putin," and "We shall not forgive!" At a certain point, according to Russian press accounts and amateur video clips posted online, Ilya Yashin of Solidarity called on the crowd to march on the headquarters of the Central Electoral Commission, at which point they moved into areas for which they did not have a permit, and were stopped by OMON special police forces. Some 200 to 300 people were arrested, including Yashin and Navalny.

Navalny has become an Internet celebrity over the past year, since launching exposes of the siphoning of millions of dollars and rubles out of major government-funded projects such as the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline. He has also been heavily cultivated in the West: in 2010 he was a fellow in the Yale World Fellows Program, a project created by Yale University President Richard C. Levin with input from former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo (who has his own long history of collaboration with Soros in the "Drugs and Democracy" pro-dope legalization project), to "create a global network of emerging leaders." The participants are trained by the likes of UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown (famous for creating the Saakashvili project, with Soros, in Georgia), Aryeh Neier, who heads Soros's Open Society Institute, and Tom Scholar, the UK Executive Director at the World Bank and IMF.

Upon Navalny's return to Russia, he was featured in a highly unrepresentative mock Moscow mayoral election, run online by the financial daily Kommersant. Navalny "won", with 45% of the 67,000 votes cast. Another paper, Vedomosti (co-owned by the Financial Times of London), named Navalny "Person of the Year" in 2009. He was the subject of an April 2011 puff piece in The New Yorker on "one man's cyber-crusade against Russian corruption." He famously dubbed United Russia "the Party of Crooks and Thieves." In 2005, he and Maria Gaidar, daughter of the architect of the disastrous neoliberal 1990s economic policies, formed a group with the neurolinguistic programming-style name of "Da!" ("Yes!"), but he has also linked up with the anti-immigrant Russian March movement.

Today the liberal and Gorbachov-linked media were in ecstasy over the arrest and 15-day detention of Yashin and Navalny. Alexei Venediktov, the owner and editor of Echo of Moscow radio, proclaimed that the arrest of Navalny would prove to be Putin's fatal mistake. Liberal journalist Yulia Latynina wrote in the Moscow Times that Dec. 4 will have been Putin's last election; that he will not be elected President in March. Liberal politician Boris Nemtsov attempted to visit Navalny and Yashin in prison. Amnesty International declared them "prisoners of conscience," while Nicola Duckworth, AI's Director for Europe and Central Asia, declared that "these shameful arrests once again demonstrate the inability of the Russian government to respect the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression and assembly."

Medvedev held a nationally televised meeting with Vladimir Churov, head of the Central Electoral Commission, who reported to him that some international observers had complained that not enough parties were on the ballot in the election. Medvedev replied brusquely that Russia's political system is its own affair, and "not their business." Medvedev said he had watched video clips of the Monday demonstrations, which he said consisted mostly of "incomprehensible" shouting.

Putin, meanwhile, met Tuesday with United Russia activists who represent him, as UR leader, in communications with the population in the regions. He said that UR had achieved a "stable majority." "Yes, there were losses, as is inevitable for any political force, especially one that has assumed the burden of responsibility for the situation in the country for more than just one year. "You and I can see, and we know what is happening in countries whose economic and social situations seemed more stable: millions of people are in the streets." "Yet," he continued, "Russia has raised wages and pensions." He pledged a renewed and upgraded fight against corruption.