Vladimir Putin is a Goddamned Liar!

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Two pairs of articles give profound insights into the state of the new cold war between the United States and Russia.

First, Putin launched a wave of hundreds of Stalin-like raids on human rights organizations including such internationally respected outlets as Amnesty International, Transparency International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the leading Russian outlet Memorial.  When questioned, Putin claimed that these were “routine events.” It was an absolutely brazen neo-Soviet lie.  In fact, records clearly show that Putin’s actions against the NGOs are totally unprecedented in Russian history.  Just as in Soviet times, the Russian government simply doesn’t care about facts and has no respect whatsoever for the people of Russia, much less for other countries.

Then, even as a major article in the Wall Street Journal exposed the “axis of evil” being fomented by Russia across the globe, a shocking story from Reuters reported that there are members of the Obama administration who argue that it would be better to antagonize members of the U.S. Congress than to antagonize Putin. For that reason they want to serve Putin’s interests rather than follow the Magnitsky law and ban Russian human rights offenders from U.S. soil. There’s only one word for such behavior, and that word is treachery.  In Russia, they’d surely jail such venal traitors.

If you want to get  really deep insight into the way Russians see the world, check out a truly crazy diatribe by Vladislav Inozemtsev, the director of the Moscow-based Center for Post-Industrial Studies, in the Moscow Times.   Inozemtsev calls for the U.S. to give Russia “more respect” and to “treat it as an equal.”  His hypocrisy is breathtaking, because Russia certainly doesn’t treat countries like Ukraine and Georgia as equals, and he doesn’t call for it to do so. While claiming that Russia should be treated as an equal, he says 100% of the burden for changing the relationship lies on America’s shoulders, a pretty weird definition of equality to say the least. And he ignores the fact that America’s population is double that of Russia and its economy is ten times larger, making it difficult to see exactly how the two countries could ever be considered “equals.” An avalanche of reader comments expose Inozemtsev’s crazy neo-Soviet propaganda for what it is.

Or check out a recent piece in the MT by Georgy Bovt, showing how Russians delude themselves into imagining that China is treating them like an equal when in fact the Chinese see Russia as nothing but a potential vassal state, a lackey, a barrel of oil into which China can dip its pump.

We are right back where we were at the height of the first cold war. Russia is run by the KGB, and it is descending into a truly bizarre world of self-deception and lies,cut off from the truth after wiping out real journalism and real opposition politics.  Russia fumes with anti-American hatred and spends money it does not have on arms racing and ideological confrontation. The USSR was driven to collapse by these crazed policies. Russia is asking to meet the same fate.

Another Spectacular Sharapova Implosion

They say she's one of the most beautiful women in the world but . . .

They say she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world but . . .

What happens when the world’s best American female tennis player meets the world’s best Russian? It’s not pretty, we can tell you that.

In the semi-finals of the WTA tour event in Miami, Florida last week, so-called “Russian” tennis player Maria Sharapova, the #3 seed, should have had to face the #6 seed, Angelique Kerber. But not only did Kerber get eliminated from Sharapova’s half of the draw before Sharapova could face her, so did the #11 and the #15 seeds, meaning that in her semi-finals match Sharapova only needed to beat the lowly #22 seed, journeywoman Jelena Jankovic, which she easily did. To reach the semis, Sharapova only needed to beat the #8 seed.

By contrast, American Serena Williams needed to beat the #4 seed, Agnieszka Radwanskaya in her semi-finals contest, and she had to beat the #5 seeded player to reach the semis.

After lucking into the finals with Williams, Sharapova’s dumb luck continued as she raced out to an amazing lead against the American.  In the middle of the second set, she was up set and a break and then . . . she spectacularly and completely fell apart. She lost every single game after that, dropping the second set 3-6 and getting bageled in the third 0-6.  By the time the smoke had cleared, Sharapova had lost a stunning ten games in a row.

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We Told you So!

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Over on the powerful and influential American Thinker website, Kim Zigfeld shows how darkly neo-Soviet Russia has already become and says a big:  We told you so!

And on the mighty Pajamas Media website, she decries the outrageous Chamberlainian appeasement being practiced by Twitter, in giving in to the dark neo-Soviet forces in Russia by censoring tweets on demand from the Kremlin.  Google has fought back against these measures with a lawsuit, but Twitter is eager to curry favor with the Kremlin.

If you want to demand that Twitter reverse its outrageous policy of anti-democratic censorship, you can do so by signing this petition.  You can also sign a petition to demand that the Obama administration speak up for U.S. human rights organizations under assault in Putin’s Russia. That one is here.

Even as these pieces were appearing, as if to put an exclamation point on our perspicacity, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was recklessly plunging his country into a full-blown new cold war.  In precisely the manner of Stalin, Putin launched a wave of assaults by Gestapo-like goons on the offices of human rights organizations across the country. Heedless of the consequences, he attacked such lofty rights bastions as Human Rights Watch, Transparency International and Amnesty International.  When his forces moved against two German NGOs, the response from Berlin was swift and furious.  The German state department all but declared cold war.

Putin’s foreign and domestic polices are dragging Russia backwards in time, into its failed Soviet past.  Though even weaker than the USSR was, Putin asks for brutal cold war with much stronger countries, exactly what the USSR did.  Though he knows the consequences of brutal domestic repression, Putin cannot help but seek to liquidate dissent just as was done in the USSR.  The USSR now lies rotting on the ash heap of history. How can anyone expect any other fate for Russia?

Teflon Putin, by the Numbers

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Levada Center polling data (Russian-language link) shows that for quite some time now Russians have been deeply ambivalent about their country’s future.

According to Levada, Russia’s most respected polling agency, more Russians have felt the country was on the “wrong track” than the right one in seven of the past 26 months, or roughly 25% of the time — this includes the most recent polled month, February 2013, where 42% of Russians felt the county was on the wrong track compared to 41% who believed it was on the right one.  A fact that ought to disturb the Putin regime is that three of those seven months occurred in the past half year. Only once in the past 26 months did more than half of the respondents believe Russia was on the right track.  In other words, even when Russians think the country is on the right track, they’re not too sure of it (it’s worth mentioning that a consistent fifth of the Russian population has no idea what track the country is on, they’re clueless).

It’s not surprising that Russians think so, given that for instance GDP growth has fallen precipitously in each of the last two years and in each of the last two quarters of the current year, with recession on Russia’s horizon.

But Putin is a Teflon president, and doesn’t receive much blame for Russia’s wrong direction. That one month when a majority of Russians felt the country was on the right track was March 2012, when Putin was reelected to a third term as president  in a landslide.

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There is No Truth in Pravda

Is there a more ridiculous publication on the face of the earth than the Russian “newspaper” Pravda? You be the judge.

There is an old Soviet joke.  “Pravda” is the Russian word for “truth” and there is was also a newspaper in Soviet times called Izvestiya which is the Russian word for “information.” The joke was:  “There is no truth in Izvestiya and there is no information in Pravda.” These publications were instruments of the Soviet state, reporting lies and propaganda to the people of the country so they could be better controlled and managed, like sheep.

On March 20, 2013, the Pravda.ru website published an op-ed piece from Oleg Artyukov. No information of any kind is supplied by Pravda about Mr. Artryukov’s background or qualifications.

In the article, Artyukov stated: “Noteworthy [sic], there was not too much controversy about Brewington in U.S. media not to mention the fact that he was not represented as a victim of political persecution.”

This was an out-and-out lie.

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Bleak Despair for the Russian Economy

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In a stunning concession, the state-sponsored propaganda outlet Russia Today has reported that Renaissance Capital, the leading Russian broker of equities, has predicted that Russia could enter a recession in 2013.

The reason for this gloomy outlook is clear: Russia’s growth rate has plummeted from 4.3% in 2011 to 3.4% in 2012 to a projected 2.5% this year; but the latter figure is being handed out by the Russian government itself, and is clearly self-serving.  Renaissance Capital doesn’t find it convincing, and believes that Russia could slip into negative territory before the year is out.

That’s because Russian growth in the first quarter of this year was just 1.4% and this fell to a mere 1% in the second quarter. If this pattern continues through the end of the year, Russia will be flirting with or in recession.

A second stunning admission came from another state-sponsored propaganda outlet, Russia Beyond the Headlines.  It reported:  “Energy prices were the only reason why Russia avoided a recession trough. Despite all the promises, or, to use the government’s rhetoric, ‘strategic plans’ to reduce oil sales proceeds to 5.6 percent of GDP, its share is still at least double that.”

And the Financial Times completes the picture, noting that even 4.3% growth is far below the level promised by the Kremlin, namely 5%.  So even according to its own data, in the best case scenario the Kremlin will be at a level of economic progress by the end of this that is half what it targeted. In the worst-case scenario, Russia will be mired in catastrophic recession.

And the only thing that will stop recession will be oil prices over which Russia has absolutely no control. That is, Russia’s economic fate is held in the hands of foreigners, not Russian hands.

And the reason for all this is simple:  Vladimir Putin.  Putin has totally failed to wean Russia off what Dmitri Rogozin has called the “needle” of fossil fuel dependence, and he has failed to generate significant growth in any other major sector of the economy. In fact, many areas are a major drag on Russian growth.

The dramatically straight black line shown in the graph above depicts the Russian GDP rate in freefall, descending at the constant rate of nearly 1 point per year. That’s a 20% loss in growth from 2011 to 2012 and a 25% loss from last year to this one.  Even under the government’s own projection, based on this trend next year would be even worse, with growth well under 2%, and recession would be inevitable, particularly if world oil prices decline. If the latter happened severely enough, Russia would instantly head into a major depression.

If not one but two Russian propaganda outlets are willing to admit things are this bad, do you dare imagine how bad they really are?

The Evil Empire

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In her latest installment on the powerful and influential American Thinker website, Kim Zigfeld commemorates the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech by showing how little Russia has changed since Reagan’s time and how pathetic America’s current leadership looks by comparison.

Meanwhile, Kim’s newest piece on the massive Pajamas Media site focuses on opposition to the Putin dictatorship from a very unexpected source: The beauty pageant runway! Beauty and the Russian beast named Putin.

Barbaric Russians Remain the Enemies of Liberty

“The attitude of Russians to the abolition of the propiska was more neutral-to-negative than positive.”

That’s according to Russian journalist and novelist Mikhail Loginov, in a long essay for Open Democracy explaining in horrifying detail how the Soviet system of the propiska is being reestablished under the dictatorial rule of Vladimir Putin.

That’s right: Russians actually want their government to tell them where they can live.

In Soviet times, a citizen could not leave the country or even move from one city to another without the Kremlin’s permission.  In those times, ignorant Westerners were led to believe that Russians were civilized people who loved freedom and democracy as much as anyone and who were as much victims of their repressive government as were the people of the West.

Time has shown this belief was totally without basis in fact. Given the chance, Russians have warmly embraced the rule of a proud KGB spy, indeed have given the KGB formal power to an extent never granted in Soviet times, and they have applauded as he took steps to recreate the Soviet state in Russia.  A devastating essay by Russia scholar Leon Aron in Foreign Policy lays out the horrifying detail.

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The Icy Fingers of Virulent, Barbaric Russian Anti-Americanism

On Valentine’s Day, the Russian newspaper Vedemosti wrote a tough-love letter to the people of Russia. It pointed out that one-fifth of the Russian urban population has no hot water in its homes, and that one third of the population, nearly 50 million people, have inadequate hot water supply.  More than 20 million Russians have inadequate heat, and over 13% rely solely upon their stoves for heating (a massive fire hazard, one reason Russia has one of highest fire fatality rates in the world).

These facts are reflective of Russia’s continuing backwardness compared to the Western nations with which it would compete. Russia ranks #130 in the world for life expectancy of its citizens, right behind Bangladesh and Philippines.  It ranks #53 in the world for per capita nominal GDP, behind Uruguay and Equatorial Guinea.

So why is this backwards, impoverished nation declaring war on the United States, the world’s only superpower? The evidence shows conclusively that is exactly what is happening.

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Elena Milashina, Russian Superhero

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La Russophobe congratulates Novaya Gazeta reporter Elena Milashina on receiving the International Women of Courage Award this year.  Her fearless reporting on human rights atrocities in Chechnya as one of the successors to Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova  shows her to be one of Russia’s greatest living patriots.