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Author Topic: Russian Leaders (Putin, Medvedev, Oligarchs, etc)  (Read 1820 times)
Russ
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« on: December 11, 2007, 08:47:15 AM »

Heavy Metal Fanatic To Succeed PUTIN As Russian Leader

Russia's RIA Novosti reports: The man backed by Vladimir Putin for next year's presidential election is a heavy-metal-loving 42-year-old whose surname comes from the Russian word for 'bear'.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was nominated by the ruling United Russia party and three other smaller pro-Kremlin parties on Monday afternoon. President Putin later said on national television: "I have known Dmitry Medvedev well for over 17 years, and I completely and fully support his candidature."

The man who may well become leader of the largest nation on Earth said he had spent much of his youth compiling cassettes of popular Western groups, "Endlessly making copies of BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN and DEEP PURPLE."

All these groups were on state-issued blacklists during Medvedev's Soviet-era schooldays.

"The quality was awful, but my interest colossal," he said.

Medvedev went on to boast of his collection of DEEP PURPLE LPs, saying that he had searched for the albums for many years.

"Not reissues, but the original albums," he added, concluding that, "If you set yourself a goal you can achieve it."

Read more RIA Novosti.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 02:15:11 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged

C-Bad Dog, Lakan Guro DBMA
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2007, 09:31:31 AM »

Woof Russ:

That is some fascinating personal data on the new man.

Here's Strat on the big picture as they see it:

Marc
---------------

Geopolitical Diary: The Course of Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ended the mystery by formally endorsing First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev as his successor. Given Putin's genuine popularity with a majority of the population, along with his hammerlock to the levers of power, his endorsement is tantamount to Medvedev's election. Now the speculation has turned to precisely whether Putin will continue to pull the strings, and if so how he will do it.

We suspect that Putin will continue to pull the strings and that he is smart enough to figure out how he will do it. These are interesting but ultimately not important questions. The reason is that the process Putin initiated when he replaced Boris Yeltsin was inevitable. If Putin had not done it, someone else would have. And given the dynamics of Russia during that period, the only place that person would have come from was the intelligence community. To take control of the catastrophic reality of Russia, you had to be closely linked to at least some of the oligarchs, have control of the only institution that was really functioning in Russia at the time -- the security and intelligence apparatus -- and have the proper mix of ruthlessness and patience that it took to consolidate power within the state and then use state power to bring the rest of Russia under control.

The Soviet Union was a disaster. The only thing worse was Russia in the 1990s. The situation in Russia was untenable. Workers were not being paid, social services had collapsed, poverty was endemic. The countryside was in shambles. By the end of the 1990s Russia was either going to disintegrate or the state would reassert itself. The functional heart of the Soviet system, the KGB, now called the FSB, did reassert itself, not in a straight line. Much of the FSB was deeply involved in the criminality and corruption that was Russia in the 1990s. But just as the KGB had recognized first that the Soviet system was in danger of collapse, so the heirs of the KGB had recognized that Russia itself was in danger of collapse. Putin acted and succeeded. But it was the system reacting to chaos, not simply one man.

Which means that while the personal fate of Putin is an interesting question, it is not an important one. The course has been set and Medvedev, with or without Putin, will not change it. First, the state is again in the hands of the apparatus. Second, the state is in control of Russia. Third, Russia is seeking to regain control of its sphere of influence. Medvedev, or any Russian leader who could emerge, is not going to change this, because it has become institutionalized; it became institutionalized because there was no alternative course for Russia, the fantasies of the 1990s notwithstanding.

It is important to remember one of the major factors that propelled Putin to power -- the Kosovo war. The United States went to war with Serbia against Russian wishes. Russia was ignored. Then at the end, the Russians helped negotiate the Serb capitulation. Under the agreement the occupation of Kosovo was not supposed to take place only under NATO aegis. The Serbs had agreed to withdraw from Kosovo under the understanding that the Russians would participate in the occupation. From the beginning that did not happen. Yeltsin's credibility, already in tatters, was shattered by the contemptuous attitude toward Russia shown by NATO members.

It is interesting to note that on the same day Putin picked Medvedev, the situation in Kosovo is again heating up. NATO is trying to create an independent Kosovo with the agreement of Serbia. The Serbs are not agreeing and neither is their Russian ally. Putin, who still holds power, is not going to compromise on this issue. For him, Kosovo is a minor matter, except that it is a test of whether Russia will be treated as a great power.

Whether Putin is there, Medvedev is there, or it is a player to be named later, the Russians are not kidding on Kosovo. They do not plan to be rolled over as they were in 1999. Nor are they kidding about a sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. They are certainly not kidding about state domination of the economy or of the need for a strong leader to control the state.

The point is that the situation in Russia, down to a detail like Kosovo, is very much part of a single, coherent fabric that goes well beyond personalities. The response that Russia made to its near-death experience was pretty much its only option, and having chosen that option, the rest unfolds regardless of personalities. Putin has played his role well. He could continue to play it. But the focus should be on Russia as a great power seeking to resume its role, and not on the personalities, not even one as powerful as Putin, and certainly not Medvedev.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2007, 11:07:44 AM »

I just noticed that this is NOT the Russia thread embarassed 

I have locked this thread and posted its contents on the Russia thread.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2014, 02:14:30 PM »

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1990285-how-russian-president-vladimir-putin-changed-one-mma-fighters-life?utm_source=cnn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=editorial&hpt=hp_t2
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2014, 12:24:42 PM »

thread now unlocked.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2014, 12:48:02 PM »

OK, NOW it should show up.


BTW, this could be a good thread for those humorous comparison fotos of Putin and His Glibness.
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ccp
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« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2014, 01:01:38 PM »

Works now.  I was going to note 50 of the 150 K is tax money.  It is amazing.  Guy gets 150 K and the government moves in and says 50 of them is "mine".

To think these guys fight like this for a measly 6K.

If any athletes deserve a big payday for a days work it is these people.

For certain many will wind up like Jerry Quarry.

It is amazing how much these guys can take.  The only way to stop them is to knock or strangle them unconscious or break or nearly break an arm or leg.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2014, 03:02:06 PM »

With his speech annexing Crimea and saying Russia had no more territorial ambitions, the markets breathed a sigh of relief. But don't get your hopes up in the long run. Vladimir Putin needs conflict with the outside world, specifically the United States.

He has lived a more dangerous political life than is appreciated. His first two elections were manipulated but not entirely unfree. He felt obliged to honor the Russian constitution to step down in 2008, though he managed to install a flunky in the presidency and then win the office back in a 2012 election widely seen as fraudulent, bringing thousands of protesters into the street.

President Putin hails the treaty making Crimea part of Russia, March. 18. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

At any point had these machinations gone wrong, he would have been out and the sine qua non of legitimacy for any successor government almost certainly would have been to bring him up on murder charges, the most serious involving the 1999 apartment bombings that killed nearly 300 ordinary Russians, blamed at the time on Chechen terrorists. Few believe that story anymore.

Mr. Putin long ago gave up the option of happy retirement from politics.

Which brings us to the oligarchs. Mikhail Prokhorov owns the Brooklyn Nets. Alexey Mordashov owns a Pennsylvania coal mine and steel mills in Michigan and Mississippi. Vagit Alekperov and Leonid Fedun own the LUKoil chain of U.S. gas stations. Dmitry Rybolovlev owns Donald Trump's former palace in Miami.

Russia's oligarchs own even more property in Europe, from London mansions to European football clubs to large industrial complexes and airlines, not to mention yachts and personal aircraft and bank accounts. These assets are also assets for Western leaders looking to corral Mr. Putin, but they are wasting assets given the direction Russia is heading.

Mr. Putin is using the Ukrainian crisis to crack down on the last of the independent media at home. He has jailed or intimidated dissenters and potential political rivals. He sent out word years ago to his entourage to reduce their overseas holdings to reduce foreign leverage over his regime.

If the West wants to do more than just go along for the ride—the policy of the past 15 years—the time to act is now while some semblance of an independent elite still exists. Block Russia's energy exports. Freeze its overseas holdings. Piecemeal actions just play into Mr. Putin's hands, giving him a cost-free Great Satan to justify his deepening dictatorship.

Forgive a Hitler analogy. In November 1941, engineer Fritz Todt, whom Hitler greatly admired, told the führer the war no longer could be won militarily and must be ended politically. As Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw tells it, Hitler listened carefully and then answered: "I can scarcely still see a way of coming politically to an end."

He meant he could scarcely see a political solution that wouldn't be an end to Hitler. Luckily for Hitler, by the time Todt spoke, German society was fully militarized. The secret police were everywhere. All media were under Nazi control. The only elite left were an elite fully compromised by their own participation in Nazi crimes.

As far as we know Hitler has not been reincarnated in Vladimir Putin. Indeed, part of Mr. Putin's dialogue with the West has been a sotto voce claim to be a bulwark against a greater evil. In his press conference the other day, he might have been speaking of Russia, not Ukraine, when he warned-slash-pleaded: "This kind of chaos is the worst possible thing for countries with a shaky economy and unstable political system. You never know what kind of people events will bring to the fore. . . . Some upstart nationalist or semi-fascist lot [will] sprout up."

But look for the ride to get increasingly bumpy from here on. Mr. Putin faces election in 2018—and it's hard to believe he won't try to avoid it. Too many indicators are headed the wrong way: a decline in Russia's energy clout, capital flight and a failure to create a modern economy welcoming to global investors. He will also likely try to negate the constitution that would end his rule in 2024.

He can't kid himself that the apartment-bombing mystery will not at some point reignite, despite the murder or disappearance of Russian officials and dissidents who insisted on investigating an alleged ex-KGB role. And don't overinvest in talk of Russia's "legitimate interests." Russia's regime has interests but those interests are dictated by the nature of its regime. Its neighbors would not clamor for NATO membership if Russia were not ruled by an unpredictable kleptocracy. Mr. Putin would not fear his neighbors becoming prosperous and modern if he didn't fear his own citizens' demands for the same.

Even the most hard-headed (and forgiving) realist by now must suspect that Mr. Putin is destined to become increasingly a source of instability rather than of stability.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2014, 01:15:32 PM »

From the previous post, WSJ:  "Even the most hard-headed (and forgiving) realist by now must suspect that Mr. Putin is destined to become increasingly a source of instability rather than of stability."

Interesting POTH today: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/world/europe/3-presidents-and-a-riddle-named-putin.html?_r=0  
"3 Presidents and a Riddle Named Putin"

I would note that it was not one of the three Presidents, but a VP named Cheney who got him right from the start.

Pres. Reagan said: Mr. Gorbchev, if you seek peace, prosperity... open this gate... Tear Down.This Wall!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjWDrTXMgF8

Pres. Obama said: We who lead the United States and the free world are committed to unilateral disarmament and drawing meaningless, rhetorical lines in sands.  Mr. Putin, I will have more flexibility after my reelection.  Have At Our Allies!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsFR8DbSRQE
« Last Edit: March 24, 2014, 01:18:21 PM by DougMacG » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2014, 06:20:00 PM »

http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/pre-and-postmodern-poseurs/?singlepage=true
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2014, 10:16:48 AM »

One thing I learned covering the Middle East for many years is that there is “the morning after” and there is “the morning after the morning after.” Never confuse the two.

 The morning after a big event is when fools rush in and declare that someone’s victory or defeat in a single battle has “changed everything forever.” The morning after the morning after, the laws of gravity start to apply themselves; things often don’t look as good or as bad as you thought. And that brings me to Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

The morning after, he was the hero of Russia. Some moronic commentators here even expressed the wish that we had such a “decisive” leader. Well, let’s see what Putin looks like the morning after the morning after, say, in six months. I make no predictions, but I will point out this. Putin is challenging three of the most powerful forces on the planet all at once: human nature, Mother Nature and Moore’s Law. Good luck with that.

Putin’s seizure of Crimea certainly underscores the enduring power of geography in geopolitics. Russia is a continental country, stretching across a huge landmass, with few natural barriers to protect it. Every Kremlin leader — from the czars to the commissars to the crooks — has been obsessed about protecting Russia’s periphery from would-be invaders. Russia has legitimate security interests, but this episode is not about them.

 This recent Ukraine drama did not start with geography — with an outside power trying to get into Russia, as much as Putin wants to pretend that it did. This story started with people inside Russia’s orbit trying to get out. A large number of Ukrainians wanted to hitch their economic future to the European Union not to Putin’s Potemkin Eurasian Union. This story, at its core, was ignited and propelled by human nature — the enduring quest by people to realize a better future for themselves and their kids — not by geopolitics, or even that much nationalism. This is not an “invasion” story. This is an “Exodus” story.

 And no wonder. A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek noted that, in 2012, G.D.P. per person in Ukraine was $6,394 — some 25 percent below its level of nearly a quarter-century earlier. But if you compare Ukraine with four of its former Communist neighbors to the west who joined the European Union — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania — “the average G.D.P. per person in those nations is around $17,000.” Can you blame Ukrainians for wanting to join a different club?

 But Putin is also counting on the world doing nothing about Mother Nature, and Mother Nature taking that in stride. Some 70 percent of Russia’s exports are oil and gas, and they make up half of all state revenue. (When was the last time you bought something that was labeled “Made in Russia”?) Putin has basically bet his country’s economic present and future on hydrocarbons at a time when the chief economist of the International Energy Agency has declared that “about two-thirds of all proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will have to be left undeveloped if the world is to achieve the goal of limiting global warming at two degrees Celsius” since the Industrial Revolution. Crossing that two-degrees line, say climate scientists, will dramatically increase the likelihood of melting the Arctic, dangerous sea level rises, more disruptive superstorms and unmanageable climate change.


The former Saudi oil minister, Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, once warned his OPEC colleagues something Putin should remember: “The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” It ended because we invented bronze tools, which were more productive. The hydrocarbon age will also have to end with a lot of oil, coal and gas left in the ground, replaced by cleaner forms of power generation, or Mother Nature will have her way with us. Putin is betting otherwise.




How do you say Moore’s Law in Russian? That’s the theorem posited by Gordon Moore, an Intel co-founder, that the processing power of microchips will double roughly every two years. Anyone following the clean power industry today can tell you that there is something of a Moore’s Law now at work around solar power, the price of which is falling so fast that more and more homes and even utilities are finding it as cheap to install as natural gas. Wind is on a similar trajectory, as is energy efficiency. China alone is on a track to be getting 15 percent of its total electricity production by 2020 from renewables, and it’s not stopping there. It can’t or its people can’t breathe. If America and Europe were to give even just a little more policy push now to renewables to reduce Putin’s oil income, these actions could pay dividends much sooner and bigger than people realize.

The legitimacy of China’s leaders today depends, in part, on their ability to make their country’s power system greener so their people can breathe. Putin’s legitimacy depends on keeping Russia and the world addicted to oil and gas. Whom do you want to bet on?

So, before we crown Putin the Time Person of the Year again, let’s wait and see how the morning after the morning after plays out.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2014, 12:04:27 PM »

"The morning after the morning after."  A cliche on a cliche.  I can't read NYT Thomas Friedman from the old neighborhood without wondering if this column is really his or from this random generated Friedman column site:  http://thomasfriedmanopedgenerator.com/about.php  Go back and click Generate column more than once to get the humor in it.

"How do you say Moore’s Law in Russian? ... solar power, the price of which is falling so fast that more and more homes and even utilities are finding it as cheap to install as natural gas. Wind is on a similar trajectory, as is energy efficiency."  

Moore's law involved a doubling of price-performance every 18 months.  There is no similarity here.  Most (all?) solar manufacturers in the US are bankrupt while gas and oil producers are growing by leaps and bounds.  It was the surge in natural gas production that brought down US CO2 emissions!  A little irony for the global warming crowd.

Europe needs gas.  Ukraine needs gas.  Natural gas from Russia is Ukraine's no. 1 import.  Russia escalates the price and we give the difference in financial aid.  Our money goes to Russia and finances cross border tyranny.  Sound familiar?!





Ukraine Sees Gazprom (Russian energy) Charging 37% More for Gas in Q2
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-09/ukraine-sees-gazprom-charging-37-more-for-gas-in-second-quarter.html

Let's just replace that with solar panels and windmills.  The weather forecast in Kiev is cloudy with a light wind diminishing during the coldest part of the night.  Good luck cooking your meals and heating your homes with wishful thinking.

How does such a great thinker, 3 time Pulitzer Prize winner, not see the leverage Russia has right now over Europe with energy?
« Last Edit: March 26, 2014, 12:57:28 PM by DougMacG » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2014, 11:22:54 PM »

A few of these are cheap shots but overall rather potent:

http://www.tomatobubble.com/putin_obama.html
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G M
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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2014, 11:53:05 PM »

A few of these are cheap shots but overall rather potent:

http://www.tomatobubble.com/putin_obama.html


Heh.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2014, 10:19:07 AM »

The Putin Temptation
Admiring a demagogue because he looks 'decisive' is dangerous.
By
Daniel Henninger

April 9, 2014 7:31 p.m. ET

The most dangerous word in human discourse is "but." What lies on the other side of "but" can be a place one doesn't want to be. So it is with some of the post-Crimea thinking about Vladimir Putin.

Nigel Farage is the leader of the United Kingdom's Independence Party. Speaking of Russia's Putin recently, Mr. Farage said: "I don't like him, I wouldn't trust him and I wouldn't want to live in his country. But compared to the kids who run foreign policy in this country, I've got more respect for him than our lot."

It is a view one hears, often sotto voce, among sophisticated people in the U.S. and Europe. "I don't approve of what Vladimir Putin is doing in Crimea and Ukraine, but . . . he is decisive."

Was there ever an indecisive demagogue?

Others go further: Mr. Putin's decisive seizure of Crimea was "understandable." This is the view expressed by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

The Putin temptation is a toxic but familiar political virus that is infecting reactions to the crisis in Ukraine. The virus often appears when it looks like the democracies have become too disorganized or weak to . . . make decisions. Hitler and Mussolini, after all, had admirers in the U.S. and England in the early stages of their resolute careers. That was before their centrifugal aggressions passed beyond the realm of manly respect.


The temptation to admire a Vladimir Putin for what looks like decisiveness reflects a tension between the performance limits of democratic systems and those governments that are no longer answerable to their populations.

It is easy to appear to be a decisive national leader if, like Mr. Putin, the head of state is able to tell those who disagree with him to shut up or get beaten up or imprisoned or killed. Ignoring the crude truths of political life in Moscow today, or Berlin and Rome back then, is another variant of the same temptation to admire a demagogue's monomania.

Further evidence of Mr. Putin's fantastic leadership skills is also found in the results of independent polls, which report that his illegal annexation of Crimea and threats against independent Ukraine have the overwhelming support of the Russian people. And that they also admire Mr. Putin, who is restoring "respect" for Russia.

The weight of public opinion in Russia is no accident. Mr. Putin's decisive actions on behalf of his imperiled, Russian-speaking victims in Crimea, Ukraine, Moldova, and soon the Baltics are being supplemented in Moscow by a sophisticated, Goebbels-like brainwashing operation.

Over the years, Mr. Putin has put virtually all media, especially television, under his effective control. What the Russian people read, hear and see is a nonstop river of anti-U.S. and anti-European propaganda. People who have lived in Russia recently say there has never been anything like the virulence of this invective, not even during the Cold War years.

No one in the free world should want to be party to such massive falsity.

Still, there is the reality: The demagogues show up when the democrats become weak. Since the end of World War II, the traditional political leader of the Western democracies has been the president of the United States. Policy differences aside, U.S. presidents from Truman through George W. Bush have been willing to lead, period. Now comes Barack Obama.

The famous oxymoron, "leading from behind," emerged from the White House foreign-policy shop during the Libyan crisis. This notion is sometimes attributed to Mr. Obama's leadership idiosyncrasies. That's wrong. It summarizes the explicit, thought-out strategy of the Democratic Party's current generation of foreign-policy intellectuals.

The U.S. "leads" by stepping aside and letting others—the Europeans, the United Nations—organize major foreign-policy initiatives. The Obama administration assigned Europe the task of weaning Ukraine away from Russia and bringing it into the European Union. The non-result was predictable: Western Europe's leadership didn't do it because they can't.

They are too militarily weak, and too economically selfish and politically disorganized to lead as one. So no one leads. Now, instead of fashioning a substantive response to the threat Vladimir Putin poses, the Western democracies are blaming each other for their failure to respond.

Yes, no serious person actually admires a country that is run with thugs, a controlled media and opponents in prison, but. . . .

But nothing. There are two systems of government available: some version of ours or some version of propagandized authoritarianism—Mr. Putin's system. If you want to live in a country with one foot in both systems, move to Turkey. For the rest of us, the answer is: Elect a democratic leader more appropriate to the times we live in.

The reality remains that only one country's people elect a leader in no small part for the role he will play beyond its borders—the United States. For a frustrated world grasping at desperate solutions, the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to succeed Barack Obama can't start soon enough.
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« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2014, 04:21:29 PM »

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/05/15/vladimir_putin_and_his_judo_cronies_russia_martial_arts
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« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2014, 12:56:55 PM »

http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/22441
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DougMacG
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« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2014, 02:20:19 PM »


Spoiler alert.

" It’s better not to argue with women. But Ms Clinton has never been too graceful in her statements. Still, we always met afterwards and had cordial conversations at various international events. I think even in this case we could reach an agreement. When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman."
...
"Someday I will indulge myself and we will laugh together at some good joke. But when I hear such extreme statements[comparing Russia now to Hitler in the 1930s], to me it only means that they don’t have any valid arguments."
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« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2014, 08:30:44 AM »

Can Putin survive?
Russia's strongman is far from finished, but events in Ukraine have weakened his position.
George Friedman | 23 July 2014
comment 6 | print |

There is a general view that Vladimir Putin governs the Russian Federation as a dictator, that he has defeated and intimidated his opponents and that he has marshaled a powerful threat to surrounding countries. This is a reasonable view, but perhaps it should be re-evaluated in the context of recent events.

Ukraine is, of course, the place to start. The country is vital to Russia as a buffer against the West and as a route for delivering energy to Europe, which is the foundation of the Russian economy. On Jan. 1, Ukraine's president was Viktor Yanukovich, generally regarded as favorably inclined to Russia. Given the complexity of Ukrainian society and politics, it would be unreasonable to say Ukraine under him was merely a Russian puppet. But it is fair to say that under Yanukovich and his supporters, fundamental Russian interests in Ukraine were secure.

This was extremely important to Putin. Part of the reason Putin had replaced Boris Yeltsin in 2000 was Yeltsin's performance during the Kosovo war. Russia was allied with the Serbs and had not wanted NATO to launch a war against Serbia. Russian wishes were disregarded. The Russian views simply didn't matter to the West. Still, when the air war failed to force Belgrade's capitulation, the Russians negotiated a settlement that allowed U.S. and other NATO troops to enter and administer Kosovo. As part of that settlement, Russian troops were promised a significant part in peacekeeping in Kosovo. But the Russians were never allowed to take up that role, and Yeltsin proved unable to respond to the insult.

Putin also replaced Yeltsin because of the disastrous state of the Russian economy. Though Russia had always been poor, there was a pervasive sense that it been a force to be reckoned with in international affairs. Under Yeltsin, however, Russia had become even poorer and was now held in contempt in international affairs. Putin had to deal with both issues. He took a long time before moving to recreate Russian power, though he said early on that the fall of the Soviet Union had been the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. This did not mean he wanted to resurrect the Soviet Union in its failed form, but rather that he wanted Russian power to be taken seriously again, and he wanted to protect and enhance Russian national interests.

The breaking point came in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution of 2004. Yanukovich was elected president that year under dubious circumstances, but demonstrators forced him to submit to a second election. He lost, and a pro-Western government took office. At that time, Putin accused the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies of having organized the demonstrations. Fairly publicly, this was the point when Putin became convinced that the West intended to destroy the Russian Federation, sending it the way of the Soviet Union. For him, Ukraine's importance to Russia was self-evident. He therefore believed that the CIA organized the demonstration to put Russia in a dangerous position, and that the only reason for this was the overarching desire to cripple or destroy Russia. Following the Kosovo affair, Putin publicly moved from suspicion to hostility to the West.

The Russians worked from 2004 to 2010 to undo the Orange Revolution. They worked to rebuild the Russian military, focus their intelligence apparatus and use whatever economic influence they had to reshape their relationship with Ukraine. If they couldn't control Ukraine, they did not want it to be controlled by the United States and Europe. This was, of course, not their only international interest, but it was the pivotal one.

Russia's invasion of Georgia had more to do with Ukraine than it had to do with the Caucasus. At the time, the United States was still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Washington had no formal obligation to Georgia, there were close ties and implicit guarantees. The invasion of Georgia was designed to do two things. The first was to show the region that the Russian military, which had been in shambles in 2000, was able to act decisively in 2008. The second was to demonstrate to the region, and particularly to Kiev, that American guarantees, explicit or implicit, had no value. In 2010, Yanukovich was elected president of Ukraine, reversing the Orange Revolution and limiting Western influence in the country.

Recognizing the rift that was developing with Russia and the general trend against the United States in the region, the Obama administration tried to recreate older models of relationships when Hillary Clinton presented Putin with a "restart" button in 2009. But Washington wanted to restore the relationship in place during what Putin regarded as the "bad old days." He naturally had no interest in such a restart. Instead, he saw the United States as having adopted a defensive posture, and he intended to exploit his advantage.

One place he did so was in Europe, using EU dependence on Russian energy to grow closer to the Continent, particularly Germany. But his high point came during the Syrian affair, when the Obama administration threatened airstrikes after Damascus used chemical weapons only to back off from its threat. The Russians aggressively opposed Obama's move, proposing a process of negotiations instead. The Russians emerged from the crisis appearing decisive and capable, the United States indecisive and feckless. Russian power accordingly appeared on the rise, and in spite of a weakening economy, this boosted Putin's standing.

The Tide Turns Against Putin

Events in Ukraine this year, by contrast, have proved devastating to Putin. In January, Russia dominated Ukraine. By February, Yanukovich had fled the country and a pro-Western government had taken power. The general uprising against Kiev that Putin had been expecting in eastern Ukraine after Yanukovich's ouster never happened. Meanwhile, the Kiev government, with Western advisers, implanted itself more firmly. By July, the Russians controlled only small parts of Ukraine. These included Crimea, where the Russians had always held overwhelming military force by virtue of treaty, and a triangle of territory from Donetsk to Luhansk to Severodonetsk, where a small number of insurgents apparently supported by Russian special operations forces controlled a dozen or so towns.

If no Ukrainian uprising occurred, Putin's strategy was to allow the government in Kiev to unravel of its own accord and to split the United States from Europe by exploiting Russia's strong trade and energy ties with the Continent. And this is where the crash of the Malaysia Airlines jet is crucial. If it turns out -- as appears to be the case -- that Russia supplied air defense systems to the separatists and sent crews to man them (since operating those systems requires extensive training), Russia could be held responsible for shooting down the plane. And this means Moscow's ability to divide the Europeans from the Americans would decline. Putin then moves from being an effective, sophisticated ruler who ruthlessly uses power to being a dangerous incompetent supporting a hopeless insurrection with wholly inappropriate weapons. And the West, no matter how opposed some countries might be to a split with Putin, must come to grips with how effective and rational he really is.

Meanwhile, Putin must consider the fate of his predecessors. Nikita Khrushchev returned from vacation in October 1964 to find himself replaced by his protege, Leonid Brezhnev, and facing charges of, among other things, "harebrained scheming." Khrushchev had recently been humiliated in the Cuban missile crisis. This plus his failure to move the economy forward after about a decade in power saw his closest colleagues "retire" him. A massive setback in foreign affairs and economic failures had resulted in an apparently unassailable figure being deposed.

Russia's economic situation is nowhere near as catastrophic as it was under Khrushchev or Yeltsin, but it has deteriorated substantially recently, and perhaps more important, has failed to meet expectations. After recovering from the 2008 crisis, Russia has seen several years of declining gross domestic product growth rates, and its central bank is forecasting zero growth this year. Given current pressures, we would guess the Russian economy will slide into recession sometime in 2014. The debt levels of regional governments have doubled in the past four years, and several regions are close to bankruptcy. Moreover, some metals and mining firms are facing bankruptcy. The Ukrainian crisis has made things worse. Capital flight from Russia in the first six months stood at $76 billion, compared to $63 billion for all of 2013. Foreign direct investment fell 50 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. And all this happened in spite of oil prices remaining higher than $100 per barrel.

Putin's popularity at home soared after the successful Sochi Winter Olympics and after the Western media made him look like the aggressor in Crimea. He has, after all, built his reputation on being tough and aggressive. But as the reality of the situation in Ukraine becomes more obvious, the great victory will be seen as covering a retreat coming at a time of serious economic problems. For many leaders, the events in Ukraine would not represent such an immense challenge. But Putin has built his image on a tough foreign policy, and the economy meant his ratings were not very high before Ukraine.

Imagining Russia After Putin

In the sort of regime that Putin has helped craft, the democratic process may not be the key to understanding what will happen next. Putin has restored Soviet elements to the structure of the government, even using the term "Politburo" for his inner Cabinets. These are all men of his choosing, of course, and so one might assume they would be loyal to him. But in the Soviet-style Politburo, close colleagues were frequently the most feared.

The Politburo model is designed for a leader to build coalitions among factions. Putin has been very good at doing that, but then he has been very successful at all the things he has done until now. His ability to hold things together declines as trust in his abilities declines and various factions concerned about the consequences of remaining closely tied to a failing leader start to maneuver. Like Khrushchev, who was failing in economic and foreign policy, Putin could have his colleagues remove him.

It is difficult to know how a succession crisis would play out, given that the constitutional process of succession exists alongside the informal government Putin has created. From a democratic standpoint, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin are as popular as Putin is, and I suspect they both will become more popular in time. In a Soviet-style struggle, Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov and Security Council Chief Nicolai Patryushev would be possible contenders. But there are others. Who, after all, expected the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev?

Ultimately, politicians who miscalculate and mismanage tend not to survive. Putin miscalculated in Ukraine, failing to anticipate the fall of an ally, failing to respond effectively and then stumbling badly in trying to recoup. His management of the economy has not been exemplary of late either, to say the least. He has colleagues who believe they could do a better job, and now there are important people in Europe who would be glad to see him go. He must reverse this tide rapidly, or he may be replaced.

Putin is far from finished. But he has governed for 14 years counting the time Dmitri Medvedev was officially in charge, and that is a long time. He may well regain his footing, but as things stand at the moment, I would expect quiet thoughts to be stirring in his colleagues' minds. Putin himself must be re-examining his options daily. Retreating in the face of the West and accepting the status quo in Ukraine would be difficult, given that the Kosovo issue that helped propel him to power and given what he has said about Ukraine over the years. But the current situation cannot sustain itself. The wild card in this situation is that if Putin finds himself in serious political trouble, he might become more rather than less aggressive. Whether Putin is in real trouble is not something I can be certain of, but too many things have gone wrong for him lately for me not to consider the possibility. And as in any political crisis, more and more extreme options are contemplated if the situation deteriorates.

Those who think that Putin is both the most repressive and aggressive Russian leader imaginable should bear in mind that this is far from the case. Lenin, for example, was fearsome. But Stalin was much worse. There may similarly come a time when the world looks at the Putin era as a time of liberality. For if the struggle by Putin to survive, and by his challengers to displace him, becomes more intense, the willingness of all to become more brutal might well increase.

George Friedman is the founder and CEO of Stratfor, the global intelligence website. This article has been republished with permission of Stratfor.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2014, 11:04:52 PM »

Reliability of this site completely unknown:

http://larussophobe.wordpress.com/putinmurders/
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