“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Paranoid Nostalgia Under the KGB Psycho, Vladimir Putin

The post may be redundant to our previous post, Ultimately, Russia Loses, but the point must be reinforced and understood:
  • Vladimir Putin is a dangerous and deranged man.
  • Russia is a weak and dangerous country.
  • Russia is in serious social decline.
  • Oil wealth is allowing Russia to indulge in the fantasy that it can reconstruct its lost empire.
There are many many examples of the paranoid nostalgia for the past. Probably the most absurd came to my attention while having dinner with an Icelandic friend some months ago. She told me that the Russians were flying forty year old bombers just off Icelandic air space. She wondered why and I replied without hesitation,"because he is nuts". Putin is certifiable. Russia flying strategic bombers next to Iceland in 2008 is the equivalent of an adolescent going to the attic and dressing in his father's camphor-laden army uniform. He is nuts.


From The Times
Richard Beeston
August 13, 2008
Strutting Russia is heading for a fall
Opinion is hardening against the Kremlin. For all its bluster, it is weak and vulnerable

Rarely have Russians had such cause to celebrate their hero. One minute Vladimir Putin was in Beijing mixing with Russian athletes on the opening day of the Olympics. Moments later he reappeared in the Caucasus, sleeves rolled up and directing a victorious counter-attack against his arch-rival Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian President. Fleeing refugees and wounded civilians were comforted. Generals saluted smartly as they were sent off to battle. No one was left in any doubt that Mr Putin, rather than the absent President Medvedev, was still firmly in charge of the country.

In the space of only five days the Russian Prime Minister succeeded not only in smashing the Georgian Army but also teaching all those in the “near abroad”, as Russia refers to its neighbours in the former Soviet empire, a painful lesson about challenging Moscow in its own backyard.

The decisive action was in sharp contrast to the response in the West. The war in Georgia exposed deep divisions in the transatlantic alliance and revealed the impotence of the Bush Administration in protecting its closest friend in the region.

Respect is something Mr Putin and many of his countrymen believe they lost when the Soviet Union broke apart 17 years ago. They may now feel that over the past few days some of that loss has been restored.

For Russians sunning themselves on the Mediterranean or enjoying the long summer evenings at their dachas in the countryside, this is the plausible narrative faithfully repeated by the state-controlled media.

Unfortunately, the conclusions they draw are completely wrong. Russia may have smashed its tiny neighbour but victory will come at a heavy price. The war will reduce rather than increase Russia's stature abroad, where the Kremlin faces growing isolation.

Since the emergence of the modern Russian state during the Yeltsin years in the 1990s, the country has been regarded as chaotic and corrupt but broadly peaceful and certainly no serious threat. Back in 2003 Condoleezza Rice, the Russophile US Secretary of State, famously advised President Bush to “forgive” Russia for its stand against the Iraq war, while France was punished and Germany ignored.

To judge by the language of both US presidential candidates responding to the Georgian war, forgiveness is no longer an option. Democrat or Republican will take a much harder line towards Russia over its aggressive foreign posture, its increasingly autocratic Government and the inescapable conclusion that Mr Putin is determined to remain in power indefinitely.

The Europeans may seem divided, but behind the bland statements calling on both sides to stop the recent fighting something significant has happened. Six European leaders, five of them from the former Soviet bloc, chose to stand side by side with Mr Saakashvili yesterday as he struggled to remain in power. The events in the Caucasus will only serve to harden opinion against Russia at Nato and in the EU.

The mini-war in Georgia may have surprised some Europeans, but it was expected weeks ago by British Intelligence. Thanks to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-KGB officer who was poisoned in London by suspected Russian agents nearly two years ago, Britain has completely reassessed its relationship with Moscow. MI5, which reports that Russian agents in Britain are now back at Cold War levels, regards Russia as the third most serious threat to British security after terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Attempts to rehabilitate relations have faltered and the recent treatment of BP by its partners and the Russian authorities has only reinforced the view that Russia cannot be trusted.

Flush with billions from the sale of oil and gas, the Kremlin may calculate that it does not need allies in the West and would rather be respected and feared than befriended.

That too would be a serious mistake. For all its big-power bluster, Russia is weak and vulnerable. Russian tanks and aircraft may have smashed the fledgeling Georgian Army with ease, but most of the weaponry was Cold War-era and many of the troops conscripts. Anyone who has seen the Russian Army operating in the Caucasus knows that the military will need a generation to modernise. Meanwhile America, and its main Nato allies, are decades ahead in military technology and combat experience.

Russia is also facing a severe demographic crisis. Its population is shrinking by 700,000 people a year. The UN estimates the population will fall below 100 million by 2050, down from around 146 million today.

As for the economy, it is booming thanks to natural resources that account for 70 per cent of the country's wealth. But the oil price is in a state of flux. Russia has failed to diversify. Should energy prices fall sharply, the economy could collapse, as it did a decade ago.

Mr Putin once described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. Trying to resurrect it could be the greatest folly of the 21st.

Richard Beeston is foreign editor of The Times


  1. As usual, Newsweek gets it wrong. It is our fault:

    Pushing Russia’s Buttons
    Putin's invasion of Georgia is unforgiveable. But let's face it: the West helped to provoke Moscow's aggression.

    Aug 12, 2008 | Updated: 10:21 a.m. ET Aug 12, 2008

    "There is no excusing Vladimir Putin's bloody invasion of Georgia (yes, it was Putin; Dmitri Medvedev has been the president since May, but it was now-Prime Minister Putin who flew to a border staging area to confer with Russian generals). Still, we ought to try to understand what is motivating Putin and his fellow Russian revanchists. And, as the West confronts its own weakness in response—Putin well knows that NATO is bogged down in Afghanistan, America is stretched thin in Iraq and Europe depends on his energy lifeline—we should acknowledge that at least some of the blame lies, as it does so often, with our own hubris. Since the cold war ended, the United States has been pushing the buttons of Russian frustration and paranoia by moving ever further into Moscow's former sphere of influence. And we have rarely stopped to consider whether we were overreaching, even as evidence mounted that the patience of a wealthier and more assertive Russia was wearing very thin.

    The proximate cause of what one U.S. official said Monday "appears to be a full invasion of Georgia"—though Medvedev announced a ceasefire today—is the long-festering dispute between that country's ambitious pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and Moscow over two separatist regions. But the seeds of Russia's aggression lie in the sense of humiliation that Moscow's proud power elites have felt at the hands of the West going back to the Clinton administration's unceasing efforts to bring what used to be the Soviet bloc—and post-Soviet Russia itself—into the West's sphere of influence. The policy started with the high-handed (and mostly failed) economic advice we gave to Moscow on free-market economics in the early '90s—the era of "privatization" (the Russians called it "grabitization"), which led directly to the reign of the hated oligarchs."

  2. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Moscow's military operations had jeopardised Russia's integration into international institutions.

    She said: "There are any number of opportunities for Russia to reverse course and to demonstrate that it is trying to behave according to 21st century principles.

    "But I can assure you that Russia's international reputation and what role Russia can play in the international community is very much at stake here.

    Peace Plan

  3. Sec. Rice, what is the US position if Russia attacks Ukraine?

  4. This Guy, Zhirinovsky, Is Nuts For awhile there he was talking about taking back Alaska. Seems to have sort of faded out, maybe drank himself into a stupor, like Yeltsin.

    Putin, not so sure about. He doesn't give raving speeches, for the most part. What he's helping Iran for, I can't fathom. Heck of an opportunist, though, and an evil man.

    Russia ought to be thinking about teaming up with the west.

    Maybe those forty year old planes were the only ones they had to train with. Our B-52's are older than that.

  5. It might be McCain/Lieberman. If it were Obama/Edwards that would make it three democrats in the race, and a republicrat. How far we've fallen.

    Edwards needs to do a Jimmy Swaggart

    Love that name, Swaggart. He was a cousin to that pop singer, can't think of his name.

  6. Jerry Lee Lewis, that's the guy.

    Lewis was born to the poor family of Elmo and Mamie Lewis in Ferriday, Louisiana, and began playing piano in his youth with his two cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart. His parents mortgaged their farm to buy him a piano. Influenced by a piano-playing older cousin Carl McVoy, the radio, and the sounds from the black juke joint across the tracks, Haney's Big House,[3] Lewis developed his own style mixing rhythm and blues, boogie woogie, gospel, and country music, as well as ideas from established "country boogie" pianists like recording artists Moon Mullican and Merrill Moore. Soon he was playing professionally.

  7. Idaho Energy Complex Pushes Ahead--
    (I'm not sure what's happening here, I read the financing might be in trouble)--news release--

    Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. submits application to Elmore County to prepare for nuclear plant
    Application will allow land to be rezoned from agricultural to industrial, paving way for nuclear/biofuels plant 65 miles southeast of Boise

    Release date: EMBARGOED until 4:00 a.m. MST Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    For interviews or more information, contact:
    Martin Johncox, 208-658-9100

    Don Gillispie, President, CEO and Chairman, Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., 208-939-9311,

    Elmore County will receive an application on the morning of Wednesday, August 13, to rezone 1,400 acres of agricultural land to industrial use, the first official step needed in the development of a proposed 1,600-megawatt nuclear power plant.

    “We want the Idaho Energy Complex to become one of the mainstays of Elmore County’s economy and provide low-cost, emissions-free electricity to the Treasure Valley and beyond,” said Don Gillispie, president and CEO of the IEC. “This rezone application is a key step that must be taken to add another profitable, stable industry to Elmore County and to add a plentiful, safe and reliable power source for Idaho and our region.”

    After the rezone is granted, the company’s next step will be to submit a Conditional Use Permit application to the county and to submit a Combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. No dates have been set for those submissions but they will likely happen in the next year.

    In June, the company held public meetings in Mountain Home and Glenns Ferry to gather opinion from Elmore residents; these meetings were not officially required but the company held them to hear from Elmore residents.

    The 1,400 acres is currently farmed with hay and may continue to be farmed until development starts. The NRC approval process will take about three years, which will include public hearings and informational meetings by Elmore County and the NRC. A project time line is available at

    Once the plant is up and running, Gillispie said he will offer the power first to Idaho utilities to meet in-state demand, pointing out that two major employers bypassed Boise last fall because utilities didn’t have power for them. However, Gillispie said 1,600 megawatts is likely more than Idaho customers could purchase for the foreseeable future and that the IEC may sell its extra electricity to neighboring states, just like investor-built Idaho dams, wind farms and geothermal plants already do.

    “The IEC could keep in Idaho the $3 billion we currently send out-of-state to purchase power annually - Idaho could be bringing in money from surrounding states buying our power,” Gillispie said. “Louisiana, Texas and Alaska sell us their oil and we sell potatoes, beef and computer chips to the world – and we need to power our farms and factories. The IEC will help ensure Idaho remains a viable player in the regional, national and global economies. I guarantee you the Idaho Energy Complex will never be outsourced to China.”

    Gillispie said that since investors are building the IEC, neither ratepayers nor taxpayers will be responsible for building or running it.

    “They will only benefit from competitive and abundant electricity, new jobs, employers, and a significant increase in revenue for the county and state,” Gillispie said.

    Highlights of the proposed Idaho Energy Complex

    · The IEC will employ about 500 in skilled technical and administrative jobs when the plant is operational (average wage $80,000) and nearly 4,000 construction jobs a year during the approximately 4 years it will take to build the plant. Additional economic benefits include a new market for crops and farm waste through the biofuels plant and the ability to bring new farmland into production with lower-cost electricity.

    · An economic study by Johnson Gardner found the IEC would grow employment in Elmore and Owyhee counties by 25 percent and produce total annual labor income impacts in Owyhee and Elmore counties of $52.3 million during operation. Permanent IEC operation would single-handedly boost State General Fund revenues by 3.3 percent annually.

    · The proposed Generation 3 advanced reactor will consume just 100,000 gallons of water a day for cooling, compared to the 30 million gallons a day typically associated with first- and second-generation reactor types that use evaporative cooling towers. There will be no effect on surface or groundwater supplies and a complete hydrology report will be prepared as required by the NRC.

    · The proposal complies with the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan, which found Idaho is vulnerable to the economic effects of federal regulation of carbon dioxide and mercury emissions from coal fired energy facilities. The plan calls for “… diversifying the state’s energy production and reducing reliance on imported power”.

    · Western commercial nuclear facilities have gone more than 50 years without any negative health impacts on workers or the public. Nuclear facilities are so environmentally benign they enable endangered species to live and thrive nearby; osprey, peregrine falcons and bald eagles have found a home at nuclear power plants.

    · Nuclear generated electricity supplies about 20 percent of America’s energy and avoids almost 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year in the U.S. This figure is equivalent to the amount of reductions needed to achieve the 1990 levels agreed to in the United Nations Climate Change Treaty signed in Rio de Janiero in 1992.

  8. That should give the Virginians pause in there meandering to the left with wackjob Democrats.