KACZYNSKI DEATH. Medvedev’s address to the Polish people; Putin and Tusk (and Sergey Shoygu) at the crash site; RIAN’s roundup of coverage; mourning in Russia. There was a very similar crash in Poland in 2008 in which a lot of the Air Force’s leadership was killed. There are assertions that Kaczynski had failed (or succeeded) in overruling his pilot once before. The joint Polish-Russian investigative team promises a conclusion soon.
CONSPIRACIES. Some in the Rightosphere were quick to look for a conspiracy. Some reacted almost hysterically foretelling: “new, perhaps irresistible, pressure on Poland to toe the Kremlin line” (piece savaged here). Others were more subtle about looking in Moscow’s direction. Some flatout accused Moscow of engineering the crash. In these cases the beginning and the end of their accusation was cui bono? Moscow benefits (but they never quite spell out how it benefits, other than their assumption of an omni-directional malevolence); therefore Putindunnit. Connect the dots, there are no accidents. Ridiculous and revealing.
THE TEAM. In the US Medvedev said “I therefore believe very strongly that Russia now requires several decades of calm and stable effort to build an effective political and economic system”. This appears to be in accordance with the wishes of the population. A poll shows 72% of respondents prefer order to democracy (although a closer look at the results shows rather more nuance: “order” includes rule of law and individual rights. “Democracy” has acquired a rather bad odour in Russia what with the corruption and chaos of the 1990s and the attribution of the adjective to people like Saakashvili and Bakiyev). At any rate the population and its rulers set a very high value on stability. Not surprisingly, given the course of Russian history since 1905. Of course the trick is to prevent the stability from becoming stagnation.
JUDGE MURDERED. Federal judge Eduard Chuvashov was murdered in Moscow on Monday. The opinion is that the murderers were from Russia’s racist gangs against which he had been active.
PLUTONIUM. Medvedev ordered the last Russian reactor producing plutonium to be shut down today.
PEOPLE POWER. The well-organised and effective Federation of Russian Car Owners has launched a nation-wide campaign against “blue lights”. In theory, only certain official vehicles are allowed the flashing blue lights that order all opposing traffic to part allowing them to drive as fast as they care to. In practice – and this has been going on for years, despite half-hearted attempts to cut them back – plutocrats and hoods can easily acquire the lights. It is important to remember – before these activities are fitted into Procrustean tropes about a Medvedev-Putin rivalry or the inner bankruptcy of “Putin’s Russia” – that the Federation’s aims are fully in step with Medvedev’s: everything it does is directed against “legal nihilism”. Luzkov, Mayor of Moscow where the “blue light” abuse is worst, in fact believes that only the President, Prime Minister and Patriarch should have one. The combined pressure from both top and bottom is more likely to produce results than pressure from one direction only. Just for fun, for those who think Medvedev and Putin have opposing aims, here’s Putin in 1999 enumerating the characteristics of “strong state power in Russia”: “creating conditions beneficial for the rise in the country of a full-blooded civil society to balance out and monitor the authorities”.
STALINSHCHINA. A road-building crew in Vladivostok has uncovered a mass grave,
SUICIDE BOMB. A suicide bomber failed to kill the Nazran police chief and blew herself up (or was blown up – it is not clear whether these women actually possess the trigger).
KYRGYZSTAN. The former government has folded. After trying unsuccessfully to hold his rallying speech in Osh, Bakiyev went to Kazakhstan and latest reports say he has resigned. His Defence Minister has been arrested. Moscow and Washington have promised financial aid. The latter after Otunbayeva promised to honour agreements on the Manas base. Ten days – remarkably quick: obviously lots more to learn about it.
GEORGIA. Again the Europe-US divide. The UK Foreign Secretary criticised Saakashvili for harassing the opposition and controlling the news media; meanwhile a US warship arrived in Georgia for joint exercises. Of course, Tbilisi is making a “significant contribution to the international effort in Afghanistan”; Obama also “appreciated President Saakashvili’s continuing commitment to democratic and economic reforms in order to fulfil the promise of the Rose Revolution.”
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)