Dienstag, 11. Dezember 2007

Putin continued / Путин - продолжнение

Things move quickly - so it looks like it will be variant 2)?
If you want more from me on Russia, go to this board - it belongs to a blog that you ought to read if you don't just want to sit and wait for history to happen, but want some intelligent guesses at what the next millennium or so will bring.

Кажется, всё уже решено, и Рутин станет премьером, а не Белорусско-Российским президентом? А жаль, мне эта идея нравилась...
Здесь обсуждают не только Московскую политику, а также главные черты настоящего и даже будущего.

Montag, 10. Dezember 2007

How Putin can become president again - Как Путин опять сможет стать президентом

Everybody and their dog is speculating about how Putin will remain in power after his presidential term expires. He consistently has ruled out a third term, for which the Russian constitution would have to be changed. The main versions currently discussed by the pundits are:
1) Despite what he's saying, he will have the constitution changed if he's asked enough by the masses (I think this can be finally ruled out now that he's announced his support for Medvedev becoming his successor)
2) He'll become Prime Minister and either have the constitution changed to move power from the office of president to that of prime minister or have his successor step down in favour of himself after a fig leaf period, technically avoiding a third consecutive term.
3) He'll rule from behind the scenes, maybe taking over the management of an influential company like Gazprom.

The snag of both 2) and 3) is that he has to rely on his sucessor to adhere to whatever agreement was struck in advance and not to stab Putin in the back as soon as he passes on the keys of the Kremlin.

So, today I read something that made me think that Putin may consider a different option:

Pavel Lyohki, a spokesman for President Lukashenka, on December 7 denied media reports that Lukashenka and Russian President Vladimir Putin will sign the Constitutional Act of the Belarusian-Russian Union State during their mid-December meeting in Minsk, Belapan reported. Lyohki's statement contradicts reports aired by Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio that the presidents will soon sign the Constitutional Act. "This obscure information came as a surprise to Belarus," Lyohki said. "Since it appeared in the Russian media, I advise you to approach the Russian side for comment," he added. Pavel Borodin, Russia's state secretary for the Belarusian-Russian Union State, earlier said that the meeting between Lukashenka and Putin will focus on a draft of a Constitutional Act for the proposed union state.

In the twilight years of the Yeltsin administration, Belarussian president Lukashenko promoted the Belorussian-Russian Union; not only to save his economically declining country from bankruptcy, but also with the ambition to become Russian president by stealth. Putin never was a fan of this Union, although the Kremlin kept paying lip service to the Union as a final goal, and some Union institutions exist, largely unnoticed by the world.
So any movement here could be an indicator that Putin took a leaf out of Lukashenko's script - becoming Russian president again through the backdoor of the Union presidency.
After this idea came to me, I googled a bit and found a denial distributed by RIA - so if there's smoke, there may as well be a fire?


Вкратце (предполагаю, что вы все знаете версии насчёт того, как В. В. сможет оставаться у власти, "от и до"), я прочитал вышеуказанную заметку и думал - может быть, он пойдёт другим путём? У Александра Григорьевича с этим вариантом в своё время не получилось, но Путин, конечно, это - другое дело.
РИА уже отвергает этот вариант - значит, не один я набрел на эту мысль...

Dienstag, 27. November 2007

Primakov & King Hussein

In my Primakov review I noted:
I was surprised about his positive assessment of Binyamin Netanyahu and his negative assessment of Shimon Peres, as this is the opposite one would have expected from a Soviet / Russian diplomat based on their political positions.

Now I find in an Economist review of a biography of the late Jordanian King Hussein that he had a similar assessment of these politicians:

Mr Shlaim concedes that the king was occasionally naive and impulsive, and could put too much store on personality and too little on ideology. On this score, his most grievous misjudgments were briefly to prefer the right-wing Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he seemed to back (perhaps even tipping the scales) against Shimon Peres, whom he did not trust, in the Israeli election of 1996;

As Primakov claims to have counted himself a friend of King Hussein, that similarity may not be accidental. It would be interesting to know who influenced whose opinion in that matter.

Samstag, 24. November 2007

Harry Potter Epilogue

Many people seemingly didn't like the Epilogue of HP 7. If you're among them, here's help courtesy of our shop - print out the letter quoted below, rip out JKR's epilogue, and glue this in:

Malfoy, Griphook, and Blair
Attorneys at Law
Accredited at the Wizengamot
League Alley
Attn: Draco Malfoy

The Burrow, August 29th, 2016

Dear Draco,
As Harry and I told you on the occasion of our last encounter at the meeting of the Hogwarts Board of Trustees, I have a legal matter for your firm. You may be astonished that we turn to you with a muggle discrimination case, and not to our usual partners at Weasley, Wood, Dursley, & Lupin, especially as we haven't always seen eye-to-eye on muggle issues.

But this is a special case - the claimant is a relative of Harry's, and the claim is against Hogwarts, so we would like to avoid the possible conflict of interest. As you know, we're currently already having a sufficiently bad relationship with the Daily Prophet since we exposed that they still employ unpaid house elves in their cafeteria; they are only waiting for a chance to throw mud back at us.
Anyway, it's not just the experience of working with you on the Hogwarts Board of Trustees that makes me turn to you. We at HEMADL have been really impressed with your work on the Gringotts restitution case - forcing them to release the unclaimed treasures of the Death Eaters' victims to their legal heirs was no mean feat. The fact that you could produce both the original Death Eaters' killings records and the list of vaults belonging to the victims speaks for the thorough groundwork you've done to prepare your case. Of course, we cannot promise you anything comparable to your rumoured 25% commission in the case we want to refer to you.
In fact, this looks more like an ex-gratia case, as the claimant is an elderly lady who only has muggle money, and she wouldn't be able to afford Mr. Blair's rates. I must congratulate you on your success in getting him as a partner - your father's connections went beyond the Ministry of Magic at his time, I assume? In any case, having both a muggle and a goblin as partners evidently ensures that you fulfil our criteria for racial diversity.
Let's get on the case. The claimant had applied for Hogwarts unsuccessfully in her youth, being rejected for being a muggle without any wizarding talent by the late Albus Dumbledore (in accordance with the laws and regulations valid at that time). On hearing about the Muggles Non-Discrimination Act, she applied anew, only to be rejected again by Headmaster Flitwick for age reasons.
In our opinion, this age-based discrimination is in clear violation of the EU anti-discrimination directive. The wizengamot has previously ruled on the applicability of EU law to British wizards; after the U.K. acceded to the charter of human rights of the EU constitution, there is simply no excuse for the Hogwarts by-laws violating the pertinent EU directives.
So I assume that the case in itself will not pose any problems for you. Concerning the remuneration, let me say that I see it as a showcase for further cooperation. Besides our obvious partners like the Sirius Black foundation, you know that since the restitution case, we also have a seat on the Gringotts' board, and, obviously, the support of their new treasurer, so it ought to be possible to make them one of your accounts - actually, this would be positive PR for them, showing that they learnt their lesson and that there are no hard feelings. We also are aware that you have approached the "Quibbler", "Kreacher Katering", "Ollivander & Co.", "Weasley's Wizard Wheezes", and other companies belonging to Potter Holdings for business. Since Riddle Estates ended their business with you after you married a muggle girl, Ginny is ready to consider that (well, you know that Harry doesn't bother himself with business matters - being so busy with keeping the Godric's Hollow team in the Premier League and with the DA Defence Academy at Hogwarts). As you can see, there is potential to further both the goals of our society and your business interests.
I'm currently fetching Rose and Hugo from their vacations at their grandparents, but I'll be in town on September 1st, to accompany them to the Hogwarts train, and I assume you'll be there to accompany Scorpius. If you don't have any other plans, let's meet at "Luna's" for dinner to discuss this matter in more detail. Please also bring Paris - I always like to see her. You know that our side will have a match in Bulgaria, so Ron has to leave for Sofia in the afternoon, to continue his rivalry with Krum even as a coach - I wish they would learn from Harry and you how to get along like grown-ups. I'll bring Teddy Lupin instead - I like my own lawyer along when I'm dining with a lawyer, especially of your calibre!
Looking forwards to hear from you,
Yours truly,
Hermione Weasley
House-Elf & Muggle Anti-Discrimination League
Raddick Alley

Review of Evgenij Primakov, "Konfidendencial'no: Blizhnij Vostok na scene i za kulisami"

In different roles - as journalist, intelligence agent, and on diplomatic missions for the Soviet Union, as foreign minister and prime minister for the Russian Federation -, Evgenij Primakov has observed and participated in shaping Middle East politics over forty years. In the reviewed book, the title of which in translation means "Confidential: The Middle East on stage and behind the scenes", the author shares some of this experience with the reader.
It is not a history of the Middle East or of individual problems. The book is a collection of sketches on factors, problems, players, and events, like Arab Socialist Nationalism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Soviet and American strategies in the region, the Lebanese Civil war, Arafat, Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Kurds, nuclear weapons in the region.
None of these sketches aspire to present a full picture. Besides giving a short historical background, they heavily concentrate on the diplomatic background, especially the backdrop of the US-Soviet rivalry, on the Soviet involvement and positions in individual countries and conflicts, and on the activities of the author. Quite often the author skips a decade or two during which he was not involved and finishes the sketch with an assessment of the current situation, which therefore frequently comes a bit out of the blue, as readers must understand what happened in the meantime from a few sentences or supplement it from their own knowledge of the events.
As anybody who has observed Primakov would expect, the author shows all signs of having grown up and lived in the USSR as a loyal citizen. His terminology is still communist - he uses terms like "left deviation" or "petty-bourgeois revolutionary" without irony, "progressive" means "communist" or "socialist", Arab countries are labelled democracies if the local communist party is in power or at least allowed to be active.
But his communism seems more a case of habit than of ideological conviction. Overall, Primakov is a pragmatist who serves his country - first the USSR, now Russia. In this, he has made the transition to post-communist derzhavnik like many other Russians of his generation.
For that reason, one shouldn't expect too many surprises in this book. The author is still sometimes employed in diplomatic missions in the Middle East, and therefore he is not writing anything that could harm Russia's position in the region. A few bureaucratic scores are settled in the book, e.g. with a circle of people around Podgornyj, who didn't want to recognise that Sadat was turning Egypt from a Soviet client into an American client, but that considers cases at least thirty years ago that have no bearing on contemporary positions any more. Primakov also criticises those in the Soviet Union that wanted to work with the local communist parties to set up local client regimes; again, as the Arab communist parties were a failure almost everywhere, as no Communist regime was ever successfully established except in Southern Yemen, and as the communists were rivals to the Socialist Nationalists that became the usual allies of the USSR in the Arab world, this is not a terribly surprising or controversial point.
As I'm not a specialist on Middle East or on Soviet politics, it is hard for me to assess how much in this book is really new. The materials on the secret diplomatic contacts between the USSR and Israel in the seventies, when officially no diplomatic relations existed between these countries, seem certainly interesting, especially as Primakov, being the emissary, speaks from first-hand experience. At least for me the author's assessment of the Yom Kippur war - that Sadat was goaded into it by the Americans who wanted to improve his position in preparation for the later separate peace with Israel (and who were not amused when the Israelis tripped up their scheme by winning again) - was something I hadn't heard of before, which probably only shows how little I've read on that topic. Primakov's assessment of Saddam Hussein - that he believed until the last moments of his life that the Americans only wanted to teach him lessons, but would always leave him in (or, after his fall, put him back into) power because they needed a strong Iraq led by him as a counterweight to Iran - would explain a lot about his constant brinkmanship, and also would show how far from reality his mind had strayed. On the level of personalities, I was surprised about his positive assessment of Binyamin Netanyahu and his negative assessment of Shimon Peres, as this is the opposite one would have expected from a Soviet / Russian diplomat based on their political positions.
The book is interesting on several levels. It allows some insights into the debates going on inside Soviet foreign policy circles in the sixties to eighties. It shows the continuities between the Soviet and the Russian foreign policy approach in the Middle East. And there are many small stories and anecdotes from Primakov's personal experience that make the book more than a dry political treatise.

Евгений Примаков, "Конфиденциально: Ближний Восток на сцене и за кулисами", Москва, "Российская Газета", 2006

Eröffnung / Opening / Открытие

Der Laden ist eröffnet. Er soll ein Ort sein, wo ich Dinge ausstellen werde, die ich mit anderen teilen möchte. Buchbesprechungen, Links, kleine Artikel - das hängt davon ab, ob etwas mein Interesse weckt und ob die Muse mich küsst. Mal sehen...

The shop is open. It's intended to be a place for showing things I want to share with others. Book reviews, links, short essays - depends on what awakens my interest and whether the muse is in a kissing mood. Let's see...

Лавочка открылась. Она должна быть место, где я могу выставлять вещи, которые я хочу делить с другими. Рецензии, ссылки, маленкие статьи - зависит от того, побудит ли что-нибудь мой интерес и даст ли муза поцелуй. Посмотрим...