Monday, June 04, 2007

President Putin speaks again

There seems to be a lot of kerfuffle around because President Putin has made some more hard-sounding statements in preparation to the G-8 meeting this week-end in Germany. His target, if one may use that expression, is the proposed missile defence system, which is likely to include several former Soviet colonies, with the Czech Republic standing first in line.

As Pravda reports, the testing of new missiles to overcome or destroy the NATO defence systems has begun. Then again, it is fairly useless to ask Pravda whether they have been successful. Just like old times, really.

As President Putin knows all too well, this is a defence shield, not rockets. Therefore, it is, at the very least, disingenuous of him to talk about Russia seeing this as an offensive act. Nor do I find myself particularly impressed by his threats of another Cold War (for most of us that started some time ago) or of pointing Russian missiles at Europe. Were they every pointed anywhere else? Well, I assume there must be some pointing at China but apart from that?

The big questions are how good are those missiles still and how stable. In other words, would they get off the ground and are they leaking nuclear material?

Of these, the second is a far greater danger to all, especially the people of Russia. In the first flush of Russia’s friendship with the West there were several projects to decommission nuclear instalments in the former Soviet Union and to make them safe. The plans came to very little.

In fact, the famous Court of Auditors report about corruption in ECHO and other Commission institutions that eventually led to the resignation (for a couple of hours) of the Santer Commission, used the Russian and Ukrainian decommissioning programme as one of the examples. The money had disappeared even before it arrived in Russia. Any amount that may have made its way there from other sources was never accounted for.

Interestingly enough, Putin was supposed to have promised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that he would tone down the anti-Western rhetoric, though possibly she merely demanded that he stop referring to the United States as a Nazi state. (That sort of thing is done only by left-wing bloggers such as the various contributors to the Daily Kos.)

Clearly, Putin does not see fit to tone down his rhetoric as far as the West in general is concerned. Prime Minister Blair has expressed disquiet, pointing out that the West needs Russia in a more constructive mood. President Sarkozy is promising that he will have a "frank" discussion with President Putin this week-end. Let us hope that they will have a press conference afterwards.

Meanwhile RIA News has reported [link in Russian] that the demonstration by “The Other Russia” for June 11 (day before Russia Day) will not be allowed to go down the Tverskaya (one of Moscow’s main streets, known in the Soviet period as Gorky Street.) They will be allowed to hold a meeting but not to march.

So, as we have said before, Putin continues to whip up fear and hatred in his own country. Russia, according to the Putin doctrine is surrounded by enemies who wish to destroy her, presumably by moving bronze soldiers around and building defence shields against such countries as North Korea and Iran. They want to undermine Russia’s faith in herself and her destiny by asking for the extradition of people accused of murder and – this is the crunch point – by supporting oppositional forces who are, by definition, traitors to the government.

With parliamentary and presidential elections coming up, the ever stronger sound of that old slogan, “La Patrie en Danger” is becoming more and more sinister.


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