Putin Sworn in as Russian President…

Again. Like, for a third fucking time.

For those not in the loop, you kept seeing Putin with his shirt off when he wasn’t president because he went from president to prime minister(Over some bullshit technicality that doesn’t mean much to a BAWSE). Now he’s president again, and if he cares to make the land west of the Ural mountains fruitful for his oligarch buds then it’s necessary that he does something about the Caucasus region and the Central Asian population. By do something, I don’t mean cave in to the demands of racist assholes(a considerable chunk of protesters the media talks about), I’m talking about providing real opportunities to for a decent living. The Kremlin could do a lot better than put Russia’s fate in the hands of an old and dying population. Migrants and people of the Caucasus have stayed put in Russia at a time when many young people with skills took flight, along with Russia’s once impressive FDI.

None of this may matter outside of Russia, because the media’s approach to Moscow after the Arab Spring and OWS has been a delirious one. Massively exaggerated protest numbers, failure to point out xenophobic elements in the opposition, every piece is Russia just being an overall pain in the ass for democracy. We don’t want the opposition to vanish, it needs to exist because Putin is no angel, but  this is the route NYT and FP will take the majority of the time instead of providing substantial coverage detailing what is actually going on. Where are the stories on guys like Doku Umarov? What’s going on with Russia and the WTO? Customs agreements with the Stans? What will Russia’s relationship with Germany and France look like without Merkel and Sarkozy?  How’s the ruble performing? They were talking about replacing the dollar with the ruble(bullshit, I know) when making energy transactions at one point. It’s been almost three years since I used to read about Russia regularly, and the current state of their economy is a complete mystery to me now. Part of this is because no one outside of experts buried under sites I don’t frequent cared to talk about it since 2009, and I’m not digging that deep anymore. Lets hope the journalists, politicos and wonks do a better job talking Russia for Putin’s third term — that’s just about the only way to make next couple of years bearable.

I’m also gonna come out and say us young folks really need to stop fetishizing this dude like he isn’t a monster. At least until the next photo-op.


Sports Diplomacy

What’s going on in the EU/Ukraine is definitely not the first recorded case of sports diplomacy.

European Commissioners yesterday joined Dutch and Belgian officials in refusing to attend matches in the former Soviet state in protest against Tymoshenko’s incarceration, while the German and Czech presidents are among leaders to pull out of a summit in the Black Sea town of Yalta.

It actually occurs quite often, enough to warrant a Wikipedia article. There’s also a few articles out there on the subject, so imagine my surprise when Ukraine is baffled by the EU decision to politicize a couple of soccer games. The Ukraine should have seen this as a logical outcome of the brutal elbow bombs to Yulia Tymonshenko’s stomach. If you want to work on easing tension, you send high-profile people to a sporting event hosted by your belligerent other. If you want to increase tension, in an act of low-level coercion to gain concessions(Releasing Yulia or letting her receive treatment outside of Ukraine) you stain their event with the public removal of high level officials from the host country. Ukraine has now missed out on a very rare chance for it to bolster its position on the international stage. It’s extremely important to non OECD member countries to host events like the UEFA. In Ukraine’s case, it would remind us of their autonomy, make a case for the identity they would like to be accepted by others, one where they are a separate entity from Russia. With the removal of Angela Merkel and others, I’m not sure if this will be possible during UEFA. The next opportunity may never arise, because they could be too far up Russia’s ass by then or locked into the role of hopelessly dysfunctional AIDS riddled ex-Soviet republic with a sham democracy.

The EU might realize some of the long-term consequences of their actions(Nobody wants Ukraine back in the Kremlin lap) and think Yulia isn’t worth the trouble, but brinksmanship may be the best course of action here. I doubt both parties have the stomach for it, so I’m sure this issue will be solved before June. Bet on that.

“Vladimir Putin is talking about this all the time. Either he is strongly misguided or he’s looking for reasons to say nasty things”

Unlike Putin, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, doesn’t need a reason to say nasty things. Our guy will let no opportunity to slander the Kremlin go by. If Mikheil has proven anything over the years, it’s that he’s a master at sick burns. This isn’t to say that the Putin and his cronies are undeserving of criticism or immediate Apollo Sandman removal from the world stage. What makes this particular case interesting, is Saakashvili’s super shady record when dealing with his own opposition.

From Human Rights Watch

In scenes not dissimilar from the Arab world in 2011, people in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan took to the streets demanding fair elections and political reform. But the experience of the so-called color revolutions of 2003 to 2005 is a sobering reminder that popular uprisings do not automatically or necessarily lead to good human rights outcomes.

Now, I don’t believe Saakashvili will need anything close to an arab spring for his ousting. The Georgian people will flush this turgid turd soon enough. Maybe then they can get the reforms Sakaashvili skimped on – during his journey towards becoming the US water boy in Asia. All I’m saying is, next time Saakishvili decides to stick it to the bear, just meet two requirements:

Not be a difficult situation for press freedom.

Try not to be only partly free.

Until then, don’t worry about what Putin is saying all the time. Do like the rest of us, ignore it and check out his cool photo ops.

As far as Russia’s stance on Syria(mentioned in the interview) goes – lets see if another nation decides to take in the Circassian community that will almost certainly want to be repatriated to Moscow should intervention happen. This would be a major step towards changing Putin’s mind on Syria. His country’s currently dying population is xenophobic enough, do we really need them to give us another sad example? The Circassian issue is as good a reason as any for Russia to abstain. Putin isn’t afraid of intervention, R2P, R2D2, U2, MMORPG,  the fuck ever, providing the blueprint for replacing him. There isn’t a head of state out there not concerned about a popular rising in their own country. What’s happening in the Middle East in no way make’s China or Russia’s demise any more imminent. It’s a conflict of interests, plain and simple.