Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Oil as Weapon: Russia Again Threatens Europe

May 22, 2009

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has attacked the European Union for seeking to forge closer relations with former Soviet states.

By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
Telegraph, London

A summit between the EU and Russia designed to promote closer ties failed to disguise a widening rift. Divisions over a new EU partnership with six ex-Soviet states is complicating a drive by Barack Obama, the US president, to seek reconciliation with Moscow.

Highlighting the most visible area of discord, Mr Medvedev claimed it was anti-Russian in its makeup. “We tried to convince ourselves that it was otherwise but in the end we couldn’t,” he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, stand with World War II veterans during the annual Victory Day parade on Moscow's Red Square.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, stand with World War II veterans during the annual Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square.
Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA-Novosti / AP

The EU held its first summit with Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan, the six members of the Eastern Partnership, earlier this month. The project meant to provide aid and support to boost to ex-Soviet nations on Europe’s periphery.

But the partnership has been denounced in Moscow as a contravention of the “Medvedev Doctrine”, laid out by the president last year, which claims that Russia has privileged interests in all former Soviet states.

Jose Manuel Barosso, the president of the European Commission, sought to alleviate Mr Medvedev’s concerns by inviting Russia to participate in the partnership, but the offer is likely to be rebuffed.

Mr Medvedev also gave warning of the possibility of a new European gas crisis by claiming that Ukraine may be unable to meet its payments for Russian energy.

Millions of Europeans were left without heating in January after Moscow cut off gas to Ukraine, which acts as a conduit for 80 per cent of Russian supplies bound for the EU, over a politically-tinged payment dispute.

Read the rest:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/
europe/russia/5367537/Russia-threatens-E
U-with-new-gas-crisis-for-links-to-eastern-s
tates.html

Related:
Russia could deploy missiles near Poland
>
Battles over energy may lead to wars, Russian strategists conclude
.
China Buying Oil, Uranium, Gold, Other Products At Bargain Prices
.
Russia, “Desperate For Cash,” Sells Oil to China In “Very Bad Deal”

Russia could deploy missiles near Poland

May 21, 2009

Russia could deploy its latest Iskander missiles close to Poland if plans to install U.S. Patriots on Polish soil go ahead, Interfax quoted a senior Russian officer as saying on Thursday.

Polish Deputy Defense Minister Stanislaw Komorowski told Reuters on Monday Warsaw wanted U.S. Patriot air defense missiles to be deployed this year regardless of whether President Barack Obama decided to press ahead with missile defense plans in Europe.

Reuters


Russian Iskander

Moscow strongly opposes the missile shield proposed by Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush, which aims to place a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. Russia says the shield is a threat to its security.

“Patriot systems, if they are deployed, will cover future work on installing a unit of the U.S. strategic air defense system with interceptor missiles in Poland,” Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified member of Russia’s general staff as saying.

He said Russia had proposed as a counter-measure “to deploy the tactical Iskander missile in the Kaliningrad region,” which borders NATO member Poland, in response to deployment of the U.S. missile shield, Interfax reported.

“One cannot exclude that the issue of the Iskander will arise again,” he added.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged last November to station surface-to-surface Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if the United States went ahead with its plans.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090521
/wl_nm/us_russia_missiles_1

Obama Told Missile Defense in Europe Not Needed: Iran Years Away from Having Missiles

May 19, 2009

The story below and the report referred to are likely to create a political fire-storm as the Russians have long stated an intention of pressuring Obama to kill the missile defense planned for Europe…..

Related:
Obama Silently Caves in To Russia
.
For Stopping Iran, “It’s late in the game”

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By Joby Warrick and R. Jeffrey Smith
The Washington Post
.
A planned U.S. missile shield to protect Europe from a possible Iranian attack would be ineffective against the kinds of missiles Iran is likely to deploy, according to a joint analysis by top U.S. and Russian scientists.

The U.S.-Russian team also judged that it would be more than five years before Iran is capable of building both a nuclear warhead and a missile capable of carrying it over long distances. And if Iran attempted such an attack, the experts say, it would ensure its own destruction.

“The missile threat from Iran to Europe is thus not imminent,” the 12-member technical panel concludes in a report produced by the EastWest Institute, an independent think tank based in Moscow, New York and Belgium.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy
n/content/article/2009/05/18/AR200
9051803055.html?hpid=topnews

Ready for a Fight: Russia’s New Security Policy

May 16, 2009

Diminishing supplies of oil and natural gas will push countries into violent competition, the Kremlin predicted in a long-awaited national security strategy paper released this week. The document foresees these struggles playing out in the Arctic as well as the Middle East, the Barents Sea, the Caspian Sea and Central Asia — and states that Russia is prepared to fight for its share of the world’s resources.

By John Wendle
Time Magazine

“In the face of competition for resources, the use of military force to solve emerging problems cannot be excluded,” reads the strategy paper, which was signed by President Dmitri Medvedev on Wednesday. It adds: “This could destroy the balance of forces on the borders of Russia and those of its allies.” The paper also addresses the future of NATO and nuclear proliferation, as well as domestic social issues.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, stand with World War II veterans during the annual Victory Day parade on Moscow's Red Square.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, stand with World War II veterans during the annual Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square.
Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA-Novosti / AP

Although it vividly outlines the worsened relations between Russia and the West, the anti-Western rhetoric is tempered with acknowledgment of the beginning of rapprochement with the Obama Administration. “Now there is a viewpoint in the Kremlin that the U.S. can be worked with,” says Nikolai Petrov, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, an independent think tank. “Russia has come out and specifically formulated its foreign and defense policy. However, this paper is not setting out how policy will look; it is setting out the de facto situation.”

The paper was ordered up by Medvedev last August, after Russia’s brief war with Georgia made it clear that a new security policy would need to be drawn up to replace the one set out in 2000, which focused more on playing up Russia’s role in the war on terror while it was fighting a war in Chechnya. The updated paper is meant to be a guide for policy development and implementation until 2020.

Read the rest:
http://www.time.com/time/world/articl
e/0,8599,1899066,00.html?xid=rss-world

Related:
Battles over energy may lead to wars, Russian strategists conclude
.
China Buying Oil, Uranium, Gold, Other Products At Bargain Prices
.
Russia, “Desperate For Cash,” Sells Oil to China In “Very Bad Deal”

Russia to build 12 fighters for Vietnam

May 14, 2009

Russia has secured an order from Vietnam for 12 Su-30MK2 fighter jets worth more than 500 million dollars (368 million euros), the Vedomosti newspaper said, citing top aviation industry officials.

The contract with Russian state arms exporters Rosoboronexport was inked in January, according to the paper.

AFP

Russian jets over the Kremlin in Moscow. Russia has secured ...

Russian jets over the Kremlin in Moscow. Russia has secured an order from Vietnam for 12 Su-30MK2 fighter jets worth more than 500 million dollars, the Vedomosti newspaper said, citing top aviation industry officials

(AFP/File/Alexander Nemenov)

The supersonic fighter jets are to be sold without on-board weapons, and no time frame was given for the deal.

Contracts for missiles and other arms to equip the planes are worth hundreds of millions of dollars more, the daily reported.

Just last month, media reported Russia had sealed a 1.8-billion-dollar deal for the sale of six submarines to the Vietnamese navy.

With these contracts Vietnam becomes one of Russia’s five largest arms clients, alongside India, Algeria, Venezuela and China, Vedomosti said.

The weapons trade has proved one of Russia’s most profitable sectors since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090514
/bs_afp/russiavietnamdefence_20090514065823

Related:
Vietnam Orders Fleet of Russian Subs, Sending Message to China

Battles over energy may lead to wars, Russian strategists conclude

May 13, 2009

A Kremlin policy paper says international relations will be shaped by battles over energy resources, which may trigger military conflicts on Russia’s borders.

The National Security Strategy also said that Russia will seek an equal “partnership” with the United States, but named U.S. missile defense plans in Europe among top threats to the national security.

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer
.
The document, which has been signed by President Dmitry Medvedev, listed top challenges to national security and outlined government priorities through 2020.

“The international policy in the long run will be focused on getting hold of energy sources, including in the Middle East, the Barents Sea shelf and other Arctic regions, the Caspian and Central Asia,” said the strategy paper that was posted on the presidential Security Council‘s Web site.

“Amid competitive struggle for resources, attempts to use military force to solve emerging problems can’t be excluded,” it added. “The existing balance of forces near the borders of the Russian Federation and its allies can be violated.”

A Kremlin policy paper says international relations will be shaped by battles over energy resources, which may trigger military conflicts on Russia’s borders.

The National Security Strategy also said that Russia will seek an equal “partnership” with the United States, but named U.S. missile defense plans in Europe among top threats to the national security.

The document, which has been signed by President Dmitry Medvedev, listed top challenges to national security and outlined government priorities through 2020.

“The international policy in the long run will be focused on getting hold of energy sources, including in the Middle East, the Barents Sea shelf and other Arctic regions, the Caspian and Central Asia,” said the strategy paper that was posted on the presidential Security Council‘s Web site.

“Amid competitive struggle for resources, attempts to use military force to solve emerging problems can’t be excluded,” it added. “The existing balance of forces near the borders of the Russian Federation and its allies can be violated.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090513/
ap_on_re_eu/eu_russia_security_strategy_2

Related:
China Buying Oil, Uranium, Gold, Other Products At Bargain Prices
.
Russia, “Desperate For Cash,” Sells Oil to China In “Very Bad Deal”

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The Next Big War Will Be Over Commodities

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Last year President Bush went to Saudi Arabia to ask his friends there to increase oil production. The White House believed that by increasing supply, the price of gasoline per gallon at your friendly service station would drop. The president was rebuffed.

One month later the United States urged upon the other large users of oil in the world community to join the “produce more” bandwagon.

China, Japan, India and South Korea went along with the U.S. plan.

Cabinet ministers from the five countries, which account for more than half the world’s consumption of energy, agreed that the sharp surge in oil prices was a menace to the world economy, and that more petroleum should be produced to meet rising demand.

The five consumer countries, meeting in Japan before an energy conference of the Group of Eight industrialized nations plus Russia on June 8, 2008, argued that the unprecedented prices were against the interests of both producers and consumers, and imposed a “heavy burden” on developing countries.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries current president, Chakib Khelil, said that the cartel will make no new decision on production levels until OPEC’s September 9, 2008 meeting in Vienna.

So in just a few weeks time, we witnessed the President of the United States pleading for more production and the senior energy ministers from the U.S., China, India, Japan and South Korea joining in a chorus.

We at Peace and Freedom believe that when the engine of the free market jumps the tracks and supply and demand are ignored; one had better get ready for bad blood.

Then we have food. In the Philippines the people took to the streets demanding more rice. In Egypt, the people took to the streets demanding more bread. And some bad blood developed between Thailand, the world’s leading rice exporter, and Vietnam, perhaps the second most important rice exporter.

It seems the Vietnamese had underbid the Thais on contracts to export rice. The Vietnamese saw this as good business. The Thais viewed it as theft. Never mind that Thai rice is of higher quality and thus cists more.

China recently announced that it had “overbuilt” its industry and removed too much farmland from production. China now is instituting new regulations to preserve farmland and it is mapping a strategy to import more food.

Ethanol and other bio fuels seemed like a great idea to help add to U.S. oil stocks. But when all that corn disappeared into your fuel tank, the price of all corn went up. And corn not only feeds people but it is a huge source of livestock feed. So the price of pork and beef and all that other livestock that makes its way to the dinner table went up.

And food and fuels have never been in such demand. Never mind the huge increases in global population; with the combined populations of India and China eight times that of the U.S.

The world, believe it or not, is becoming more “middle class.” That means more people want gas burning cars which suck up a lot of fuel and add to global pollution. These new “middle class” folks also want a higher protein diet.

If one eats rice or corn or other grains the costs are somewhat manageable. But it takes four times more grain (and sometimes as much as six times) to put meat on pork or cattle before human beings eat that meat. So the high protein diet has a huge cost. It sucks up a lot more grain that human grain eaters ever would and it means the eaters need more dollars, rupees euros, yen or other denominations to buy every meal.

Bacon and eggs are more expensive, say, than the traditional rice bowl.

Finally, all these goodies, usually called commodities, are moving around the globe.

The Associated Press had an excellent article by Gavin Rabinowitz out on June 7.

India, China jostle for influence in Indian Ocean

 
China drill at sea

.Mr. Rabinowitz pointed out that looking south from Sri Lanka “just over the horizon runs one of the world’s great trade arteries, the shipping lanes where thousands of vessels carry oil from the Middle East and raw materials to Asia, returning with television sets, toys and sneakers for European consumers.”

That shipping lane is a possible flashpoint between India and China. Add in Japan, which gets just about all of its oil by that sea lane. And don’t forget the U.S. and the U.S. Navy. Those boys don’t want to see that sea lane interrupted by war, terrorism, piracy or any other form of bad blood.

So the bottom line, from our small window of the world is this: The next big war could well be over “commodities.”

We’ve used food and oil here as the most obvious examples of commodities worth fighting for. But it could be over uranium, tin, gold or who knows what. Even fresh water.

California is already starting to limit development due to water shortages. Australia is in the midst of a multi-year drought which has crippled Aussie grain production. And over use of fertilizers and pesticides in China and Vietnam have poisoned much of the ground water.

The next big war could well be over commodities.

Welcome to the new millennium.

Related:
China’s thirst for copper could hold key to Afghanistan’s future

Philippines Enacts Law Claiming Islands also Claimed by China, Others

Obama Silently Caves in To Russia

May 10, 2009

The Pentagon said Thursday it was seeking a $1.2-billion funding cut in missile defense spending for fiscal 2010.

Immediately following Barack Obama’s election last fall, Moscow went on a gigantic public relations campaign to persuade the new administration to cut back on missile defense — including the system planned for Poland and the Czech Republic.

Now Medvedev and Putin must be very proud that they’ve gotten their way…

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Prime Minister Vladimir ...

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attend the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow May 9, 2009. President Medvedev warned against “military adventurism” on Saturday, saying Russia would firmly defend its interests — just as it did during World War Two when the Soviet Union defeated fascism.

REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

By giving only lukewarm verbal support for missile defense, slashing the overall defense budget, and dealing with Russians and others to signal weak support for missile defense, President Obama will curtail the nation’s and allied missile defense efforts drastically without even mentioning the program.

Already he has reportedly offered to eliminate the European missile defense effort in a some kind of deal with Russia in exchange for Russian help with Iran’s nuclear program.

Consequently, many European allies see the U.S. as not really interested in missile defese any more.

And the Administration backed away from military planners who suggested the U.S. should shoot down the last long range North Korean missile test.

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Russia warns foes in Soviet-style show of might

(AFP) — Russia on Saturday sternly warned its foes not to dare attempt any aggression against the country, as it put on a Soviet-style show of military might in Red Square including nuclear capable missiles.

The display to mark the 64th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War IIcame amid renewed tensions with Georgiaafter NATO’s decision to hold war games in the Caucasus country infuriated Moscow.

“We are sure that any aggression against our citizens will be given a worthy reply,” President Dmitry Medvedev said in a speech in Red Square side-by-side with powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Military vehicles move along Red Square in Moscow during the ...

Military vehicles move along Red Square in Moscow during the Victory Day parade May 9, 2009. President Dmitry Medvedev warned against “military adventurism” on Saturday, saying Russia would firmly defend its interests — just as it did during World War Two when the Soviet Union defeated fascism. Medvedev, opening the biggest and most spectacular Victory Day parade in modern Russia’s history, clearly aimed his warning at post-Soviet neighbour Georgia which Russia defeated in a five-day war last August.

(RUSSIA MILITARY POLITICS ANNIVERSARY)KarpukhinREUTERS/Sergei

“The victory over fascism is a great example and a great lesson for all peoples and is still current today when people are again starting military adventures,” he added.

Russia’s war with Georgia in August over Georgian breakaway regions sent Moscow-NATO ties to their worst level since the Cold War and tensions have flared again over the alliance’s decision to go ahead with the exercises.

Moscow, which remains at loggerheads with Georgia’s pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili, angrily condemned the war games that started this week as a provocation that risk stoking instability in the region.

“Protecting the motherland is our holy duty, it is a moral foundation for all generations,” said Medvedev. “The future of Russia will be peaceful, happy and successful.”

Before handing over to Medvedev as president last year, Putin resurrected the Soviet practice — dropped after Communism — of having missiles and heavy tanks rumbling over the Red Square cobbles in front of Russia’s leaders.

Thousands of soldiers and more than 100 items of hardware featured in the Red Square parade, which was matched by similar demonstrations across Russia involving almost 30,000 troops, officials said.

Thousands of soldiers marched past Medvedev and Putin, before dozens of heavy tanks, including the main T-90 battle tank and the Sprut self-propelled anti-tank gun, thundered through Red Square to the sound of martial music.

Read the rest:
http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?i
d=CNG.2bd8acd3958f3504b0e198ea61
d1c3d0.a1&show_article=1

Obama Sounds Death Knell for F-22; New Pentagon Budget Rolls Back Many Big Programs

April 22, 2009

A top executive at Lockheed Martin Corp. indicated Tuesday that it has accepted the Pentagon’s proposal to cap production of the defense contractor‘s F-22 fighter jet, the latest sign the job-heavy program may not be revived.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has proposed that the Pentagon buy 187 of the planes, short of the 20 to 60 more that Lockheed and its supporters in Congress had hoped for. The Gates plan was endorsed last week by to Air Force officials, who previously pushed hard for many more of the technologically advanced but costly planes.

By STEPHEN MANNING, AP Business Writer

F-22 Raptor

As lead contractor on the jets that cost $140 million each, Lockheed has warned in a public relations blitz that capping the F-22 could lead to up to 25,000 job losses at the company and other suppliers working on the program. The F-22 assembly line at Lockheed’s Marietta, Ga., aircraft plant likely will turn out the last plane in 2012 if Gates’ plan, which must be approved by Congress, goes into effect.

Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner said in an investor call that the company has lobbied on the issue, but the Pentagon is “completely aligned on this matter from top to bottom.”

“We are disappointed by the decisions, but we will accept those and go on,” Tanner said.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/200904
21/ap_on_bi_ge/us_lockheed_fighte
r_plane_2

http://hotair.com/archives/2009
/04/22/so-long-f-22/

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Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy wrote that President Obama is gutting an important part of the U.S. defense budget by cutting America’s power-projection capabilities.

The defense budget reductions recently unveiled by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seem to have one thing in common: They will diminish the United States’ ability to extend its global reach for the protection of this country and its interests around the world.

For example, Mr. Obama and Mr. Gates propose to cancel the C-17, America’s indispensable airlifter; the F-22, the world’s best fighter/attack aircraft; and the Army’s Future Combat Systems program, a comprehensive and long-overdue modernization program for that service’s armored forces. They would also truncate the purchase of F-18 E/Fs, the backbone of naval aviation, evidently as a precursor to reducing the number of operational aircraft carriers. Missile defense programs will be ravaged. There will be no modernization, ever, of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. And the industrial base needed to support all of the above will be allowed to atrophy and/or be sold off to foreign powers keen to manufacture the superior weapon systems we no longer will.


Gaffney

Related:
Gaffney on Obama:
First 100 Days: Blame America First, Undermining U.S. Sovereignty, Appeasement

China displays resurgent naval strength
.
China: Military Modernization Continues
.
Russia Rearms

Pentagon cuts are about budget pressure — not what Pentagon really needs for the future


Above: Russia’s Medvedev

Russians Angry With China’s “Copy Cat” Military Hardware, Technology

April 22, 2009

China completes the tests of its latest fighter. Chinese engineers say that J-11BS represents the aviation of the fourth generation. Foreign experts say that the Chinese have actually stolen the idea of the fighter jet from Russia.

From Pravda

China’s latest J-11BS fighter was unveiled on April 10. The development of the aircraft is to be finished by the end of 2009. The serial production is to be launched in 2010.

Chinese engineers have not offered anything new. The J-11BS is a two-seated modification of the J-11B, which appeared in China as a result of an international scandal.

China purchased a batch of Su-27 SKK from Russia in 1992. The country later said that it would like to build its own fighters on the Russian license. Russia then received orders for the two-seated version of the same aircraft – Su-30 MKK.

The miracle of the Chinese aircraft-making company Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) took off in 1998 – the J-11 aircraft, which was actually a licensed product.

China ’s military administration said six years later that it no longer needed licensed fighter jets because their battling capacities did not match the country’s needs, as it was said. China had 95 new J-11 aircraft added to its arsenal; the planes virtually represented Russian fighter jets assembled in China.

However, China proved to be unable to develop the production of aircraft engines, and the country continues to purchase Russian engines for Su-27 MKK and Su-30 MKK, which supposedly do not meet China’s demands.

In February 2007, China represented J-11B, which bore a striking resemblance to Russia’s Su fighters, as US experts wrote.

China is currently working on the deck-based version of the Su-27 aircraft. The country apparently uses its previous experience and copy Russian fighters for it. Therefore, Russia refused to sell deck-based Su-33 to China in 2008.

Sergei Balmasov

Russia: Human Rights, Democracy Only On The Mythical Level

April 20, 2009

If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny to read Russia’s President Medvedev’s recent interview with Novaya Gazeta, in which he said, “Democracy [in Russia] existed, exists, and will exist.”

Human rights still appear to be a luxury in Russia. Recently, Lev Ponomaryov, director of the Moscow-based Organization For Human Rights, and a leader in the new political opposition movement Solidarity, was reportedly beaten by a group of men outside his home . Stanislav Markelov, whom the Wall Street Journal called one of Russia’s top human rights lawyers, was murdered in late January, as was Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old freelancer for Novaya Gazeta, which, according to the New Zealand Herald, is the last major publication critical of the Kremlin. Novaya Gazeta also lost three other journalists in the last decade– Anna Politkovskaya, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Igor Domnikov.

By Anna Borshchevskaya
The Washington Post

When I read about a journalist or a human rights activist hurt or killed because of their work, it hits a little too close to home. My father, who never joined the Communist Party, was a journalist at the Ostankino radio tower in Moscow until the end of 1993, when, after several years of trying to get permission to leave the country, my family and I immigrated to the U.S. with refugee status. I grew up knowing that certain opinions I heard at home were those of the minority and repeating them outside our apartment was not a good idea.

Several analysts have observed that Medvedev’s recent interview with Novaya Gazeta, in addition to meeting with human rights activists in the Kremlin and hosting a new human rights council, is little to celebrate. Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe reported that Vladimir Bukovsky, a prominent Soviet-era dissident, said, “Experts are already telling us that Medvedev is for liberal reform and Putin is the bad guy. This is how politics is played here. Now everybody is placing their hopes in Medvedev. If something bad happens they say it is Putin’s fault. If something good happens, Medvedev gets credit. It is an old game that I have been watching for 40 years, and it is a game that I have grown tired of.”

The problem runs very deep in Russian culture, stemming back centuries with only one person in charge. It is one dilemma that will not be resolved for a very long time. Shortly after our arrival to the U.S., my parents attended several job search skills seminars for recently arrived immigrants. In one of these sessions, the issue of employee rights and how they are treated in the workplace came up. My parents were surprised to discover how much respect for individual employees was emphasized–the idea was so new and foreign.

When I spent a week in Moscow this past March, a journalist, and a friend of my father, told me that I’m lucky because I can say what I think, implying that is still not possible in Russia – at least not without the fear of persecution that could potentially follow. He proceeded to explain how Pushkin would veil certain criticisms of the czar in his poetry, since it was not possible to do so outright.

It is true–a publication like Novaya Gazeta could not have existed during the Soviet era. But the Russian government mainly allows it to exist because it serves certain purposes, such as creating an appearance of free press. In a country that was built, after its last czar was killed, on the idea that everything was “for the person, by the person, and in the name of the person,” as one Soviet slogan went, it seems everything still is indeed “for the person”– the same person whom, according to a Soviet-era joke, one man from rural Russia saw for the first time when he went to the Red Square.