Voices from Russia

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Britain Blamed for Worsening Iceland’s Crisis

Filed under: economy,EU,international organisations,NATO,politics,Russian,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00


Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Hilmar Haarde (1951- )

Iceland’s prime minister accused Britain of “bullying a small neighbour”, as the British government froze the British assets of a troubled Icelandic bank operating in the UK. The immediate effect of the British action was to trigger an almost complete freeze on any banking transactions between Iceland and abroad. There’s no question that Iceland’s economic troubles are largely its own fault. But, in the view of Iceland’s government, its citizens, and even some outsiders, there’s more to the story that meets the eye.

The troubles between Britain and Iceland began about three weeks ago when Britain took the extraordinary step of using its 2001 anti-terrorism laws to freeze the British assets of a failing Icelandic bank. That appeared to brand Iceland a terrorist state. “I admit that I was absolutely appalled”, Icelandic Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladóttir said in an interview, describing her amazement at opening the British treasury department’s home page at the time and finding Iceland on a list of terrorist entities along with al-Qaeda and North Korea, amongst others.

In the panic-prone economic environment rampant these days, being associated with terrorism, however misplaced that notion might be in Iceland’s case, spells immediate trouble. Sure enough, trouble came almost instantaneously. According to Jon Danielsson, an economist at the London School of Economics, “When you’re labelled a terrorist, nobody does business with you”. The immediate effect was to trigger an almost complete freeze on any banking transactions between the island nation and the rest of the world. The British government, alarmed about thousands of accounts held by its citizens, companies, local governments, and charities, froze the British assets of one of the failed banks, Landsbanki. It also seized the assets of another Icelandic bank’s British subsidiary in London. The reaction was immediate and severe, particularly when Mr Brown said recently and inaccurately that London was “freezing the assets of Icelandic companies in the UK” wherever possible.

At a time when Britain and the other western allies of Iceland turned their backs on them, Reykjavik sought financial aid in Moscow, of all places. A delegation from Iceland launched talks in Moscow last month to secure an emergency loan from Russia of as much as 4 billion euros (5.07 billion USD. 137.312 billion roubles. 3.257 billion UK pounds). Thus, Iceland becomes the first NATO member to appeal for Russia aid after the global credit crunch led to chaos in its banking system. Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde complained at the time that his country did not receive financial support from its allies in Europe and North America and was forced to seek aid elsewhere, including in Russia, which showed willingness to help it out.

6 November 2008

yuri-reshetnikov-1Yuri Reshetnikov

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

The idiocy of this is breath-taking. Iceland sits in a VERY strategic location in the North Atlantic, and if Russia gains a foothold in the country due to this loan, it shall be very bothersome to NATO. What were George Bush and Gordon Brown thinking? Or, were they thinking at all? Or, is it simply that there is nothing left in the store-cupboard? The former NATO base at Keflavik could easily be used by aircraft of the AV-MF and VVS-DA in long-range patrols over the Atlantic or as a stopover point on the way to Cuba. No doubt, the Icelanders are going to remember who were their friends in their hour of need. They shall also remember who spat at them… I have one word for the neocons in the US and their European lickspittles:


Either it is hubris on a large scale or it is an impecuniousness that America and its Western allies refuse to divilge, or, more probably, a combination of the two (with the latter predominating). The sum of 4 billion euros is not great in the larger scheme of things. Therefore, the economic meltdown in the West due to the collapse of the credit bubble is far worse than is being reported in the mainstream media. Otherwise, there would be funds to aid Iceland, it is as simple as that.

God help us all.



Barack Obama Facing Serious Problems in Foreign Policy

Filed under: Barack Obama,diplomacy,George W. Bush,politics,Russian,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00


President-elect Barack Obama (1961- )

Democrat Barack Obama won a landslide victory in the US presidential election and inherited a bushel of problems from the Bush administration. Before the results of the election were announced, The Times British edition joked that America’s problems were so grave that it would be surprising to find out that somebody sought the presidency there. First of all, for the third month running, America has been living through an economic crisis. The whole nation suffers from it to some extent or another.

Certainly, Mr Obama has to handle the US financial crisis. The issue can also be viewed as part of the US foreign policy, since many countries see the impact that the US crisis had on their economies. On 15 November, world leaders are meeting for a G20 summit in Washington to focus on what means should they use to help the global economy recover. George W. Bush will formally represent the US at the meetings, although Mr Obama will certainly be the centre of attention. The economic crisis is not the only thing the new Democratic Administration will have to deal with. The Iraqi campaign is another thorny issue on the agenda. Mr Obama promised to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months after his inauguration. Washington and Baghdad are currently holding talks to achieve a bilateral agreement. The newly-elected US president shall require both political will and skill in the art of diplomacy to succeed in the negotiations. The situation in Afghanistan also needs a quick solution. Mr Obama will likely call on his supporters in the international coalition to boost their participation in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which have become only stronger in recent months.

US relations with Iran remain tense and unpredictable. Mr Obama used to say that in settling conflicts he preferred political means rather than force. Now, he has to prove his words. As far as US-Russian cooperation is concerned, there are also some disputable points. Moscow expects the newly-elected US president to thoroughly consider the situation surrounding nuclear arms control. First of all, it is necessary to decide on a new Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which expires in December, 2009. Russia is ready to discuss with the US other issues concerning nuclear security and invites other countries to join the talks. The world expects Barack Obama to reasonably use the credit of trust he had received from his election victory.

6 November 2008

Eduard Sorokin

Voice of Russia World Service


Medvedev Hopes for “Second Wind” With US under Obama


President Dmitri Medvedev said that US-Russian relations could get a “second wind” as a result of Barack Obama’s victory in the American Presidential election. The announcement came during his first State of the Nation Address. President Medvedev started his first State of the Nation Address with an assessment of the current year’s events. He said that in 2008 Russia underwent not only the renovation of key power institutes after the presidential election, but, also a very serious challenge.

South Ossetia and the Global Crisis


Ossetian civilian wounded in the US-backed Georgian invasion in hospital

“A barbaric aggression against South Ossetia and the global financial crisis, two very different problems, which nevertheless have common traits and a common origin, if it could be said so”, he said. “A local reckless enterprise provoked a rise of tensions far beyond the region’s borders, in the whole of Europe, in the whole world. It called into question the efficiency of international security institutions and practically destabilised the bases of the world order”. President Medvedev added that the global financial crisis also started as a local emergency situation in the US, but, being closely linked with all developed countries, “the US economy has pulled down other world markets. Moreover, also, this crisis has become global. The lessons of mistakes and crises of 2008 proved to all the responsible nations that it is the time to act, and it is necessary to radically reform the political and economic system”,  Mr Medvedev said.

He believed that Russia is ready to collaborate with the US, EU, and BRIC countries to make this happen, and also to make the world a fairer and safer place. “Our nation is rich, spiritually and morally. We have things to be proud of; we have things to love, to stand up for, to defend, to reach. That’s why we will not retreat from the Caucasus”, he said. Russia’s actions during the August war in South Ossetia were not directed against Georgia or its citizens, but, at saving the people of South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers. “It was also aimed at providing lasting security for the South Ossetian and Abkhazian people, first of all, from the recurrences of felonious adventurism from the current Georgian régime”, Mr  Medvedev said.

Criticising Double Standards

Mr Medvedev said that the reaction of other countries to the events of 8 August, and to the fact that Russia recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent republics after those events, once again showed a world of double standards. “We acted with responsibility, in order to help restore international lawfulness and justice”, he said. “With all this, the position of our partners looks plainly biased. Not so long ago, these same partners made every effort to facilitate Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, going against international law, recognising this self-proclaimed state as an international entity; and, now, they are criticising Russia as if nothing like that happened”.

Russia-US Relations


US President-elect Barack Obama (1961- ), shall he grasp the outstretched hand of Russia in friendship, or shall he spit in Russia’s face at the urging of the neocons?

President Medvedev believes that when Barack Obama becomes US President, the relations between the two countries will get a “second wind”. “I underline it… we do not have a problem with the American people, we do not have an inherent anti-Americanism, and we hope that our partners, the new US administration, will choose to have a full-bodied relation with Russia”, he said. He hopes that progress in Russia-US relations would be a key factor in solving many international problems. But, President Medvedev also said that Russia will not allow the domination of any single country in any sphere. “Together with all countries interested, we should create a really democratic model of relations. The world cannot be ruled from one capital. Those who do not want to understand that will be only creating problems for themselves and for others”, Mr Medvedev said.

Military Proposals

President Medvedev promised to take concrete measures in response to US missile shield plans in Europe. He said that Russia will not go ahead with plans to take three regiments in the Kotelsk missile division off combat duty. He added that Russia could deploy Iskander missiles in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad oblast, if the need arose. Leaders in European countries are already voicing concern that Russia could deploy missiles in Kaliningrad oblast. The German Foreign Ministry called it a bad signal at a most unsuitable moment. The outgoing US administration also expressed disappointment, saying the bases in Poland and the Czech Republic are no threat to Russia. The Czech Foreign Ministry said this would do nothing to help negotiations.

The Russian Economy

President Medvedev announced that he expects new policies intended to make Russia a global financial centre to be adopted by the end of 2008. “A package of bills forming the basis for the creation of one of the world’s leading financial centres in Russia needs to be passed before the end of this year. This centre should serve as the nucleus for an independent and competitive Russian financial system”, he said. The package is also expected to strengthen the rouble and make it one of the regional reserve currencies. “Practical steps are needed to strengthen the rouble’s role as an international settlement currency and to finally achieve the transition to settlements in roubles for gas and oil, over which we have, regrettably, taken a long time”, he said.

Mr Medvedev said there would be limited state intervention in industry and the financial sector, no matter how hard the crisis may strike the economy. “I want everyone to know… our goals are unchanged. Sharp fluctuations in the political and economic situation, turbulence in the world economy, and even forced military and political tensions will not become the ground to dismount democratic institutions, nationalising industries and the financial system. Political freedom of citizens and their private property are untouchable”. President Medvedev declared that it would be wrong to use the current economic situation to settle old scores or create an environment of unfair competition.

Political Changes


RF Gosduma Chamber

Mr Medvedev also announced a number of incentives that are aimed at strengthening the role of the legislative power as a balance of the executive, changing the principle of forming the Federation Council and broaden its authority, and obliging the government to give reports to legislators. He said the need for change is due to the importance of the institution of the presidency in Russia, it is “key for the country’s development and the course of reforms”. Nevertheless, Mr Medvedev stressed that the proposed changes are a correction of the Constitution, but, not a full-fledged constitutional reform.

He stressed the need to widen participation in politics and give small parties the opportunity to be represented in parliament. “My first proposal is to grant representation guarantees to voters that support so-called small parties”, Mr Medvedev said. “I believe parties that win between 5 to 7 percent of the vote may be able to count on one or two seats”. He also proposed to increase the presidential term to six years and the terms of legislators in the RF Gosduma to five years.

Mr Medvedev said that any infringement of civil rights and freedoms, or any action that worsens the material position of citizens, is immoral and illegal. He sharply criticised Russia’s bureaucratic apparatus, “The state machinery here is the biggest employer, the most active publisher, the best producer, a court in its own right, the party of its own accord, and, eventually, is the people of its own accord. This system is absolutely ineffective and produces only one product… corruption. That in turn gives way to mass legal nihilism”. In his opinion, such a system contradicts the Constitution and slows down the development of an innovative economy and democracy. “A strong state and almighty bureaucracy are not the same thing”, he said. “The first is needed by civic society as a tool for development and to maintain order, for protecting and strengthening democratic institutions. The latter is deadly dangerous for society. That’s why our society must calmly, insistently, and without delay develop democratic institutions”.

Court Reform

Mr Medvedev also called for changes in the court system. He proposed a law that would make it more transparent and mean that access to information on court activities is more widely available.


He also called for a “large-scale and systematic talent search in Russia and abroad. We need to start a ‘head hunt’ and welcome young, talented people to fundamental and applied science”. According to Mr Medvedev, no matter how good the laws and strategies of the state are, their implementation is totally dependent on the people involved. “Their intellectual energy, their creative force, is the main treasure of the nation and the main source of progressive development”, he said.

The State of Nation Address: What’s It All About?


President Dmitri Medvedev (1965- )

The Annual State of the Nation Address is a constitutional duty of the Head of State. The President reports on the current situation in the country, announces his stance on the main domestic and foreign policy plans for the current year, and outlines the important decisions he made in accordance with his constitutional authority. The Address is the country’s main policy document and is intended to give society a guideline on priority problems and solutions. The President personally works on the text of the Address and its content is never disclosed beforehand.

The Address is delivered to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, a joint session of the two chambers of the Russian Parliament. This is the only time when the two bodies hold a joint session. Members of the Cabinet, the chairmen of the Constitutional, the Supreme, and High Arbitration Courts, the Procurator General, the chairman of Russia’s Central Election Commission, the chairman of the Accounts Chamber, members of the State Council, and the main religious leaders also attend the ceremony. The Annual State of the Nation Address was first delivered in 1994 by Russia’s first President, Boris Yeltsin. The tradition was then fixed in the Russian Constitution. Dmitri Medvedev delivered his first Address not in the Marble Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, as his predecessor Vladimir Putin did, but in the St George Hall.

What the Experts Say

The President’s Address is usually broadcast live by the all federal TV channels and attended by numerous Russian and foreign journalists. This year about 300 journalists were expected to attend. “This is the 15th address, but, the first for this president. We will see his personality through his speech and the topics he chooses. That’s when we will really get to know and see the new Russian president”, said Lyudmilla Pikhoya, former speechwriter for Boris Yeltsin. The new president chose a new place and a new time for the address, but, will it be a fresh start? “I’ve witnessed all the addresses. They get tougher every time in terms of the content, as well as the demands. I’m sure this president will stick to the tradition”, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, said.

Many agree this time that the speech will have to look at priorities beyond Russia’s borders. First and foremost is the crisis in South Ossetia. “Definitely the problems of international security will be in focus. The events in the Caucasus were an indicator of the general state of relations in the world”, Sergei Vikto, of the Moscow State University of International Relations, said. Experts agree that world foreign policy shifted the day Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia. “We will not allow the deaths of our citizens to go unforgiven. Those who are to blame for the killings will be punished”, Mr Medvedev said. Russia’s response was widely criticised by the West, but, that didn’t stop Moscow from recognising the independence of the two regions. “Events in the Caucasus dispelled whatever illusions people had remaining from the post-Soviet period. Those illusions were about the world being just and about the current security system being optimal”, President Medvedev said.

The address will define the new lay of the land for Russian foreign policy, but, many expect Mr Medvedev to go further in the realignment of global defences. “Medvedev proposed a new configuration of European security and found understanding within the EU. Now, he has to give an actual recipe”, said Aleksei Mukhin, the Director of the Centre of Political Information.  Moscow’s recent dialogue with the EU has not been an easy one, and relations with Washington are at its worst since the Cold War. “It was a general illusion to believe that one country, even the mightiest country, could take up the role of global government”, Mr Medvedev said. On 5 November, Mr Medvedev will have one more mission, which is “to form a new position with the new leadership of the US”, according to Mr Mukhin. “The Kremlin understands that relations with Washington have to improve”, he added.

The address has already been postponed twice, but, in his video blog, the president made it obvious that he and his team are on top of things. The speech comes at a difficult time with the financial meltdown battering economies around the globe. “A crisis that started in one of the world’s biggest countries, the United States of America, unfortunately spread across the planet, forcing almost every country to search for answers”, Mr Medvedev said. Mr Medvedev is definitely able to give that answer for Russia. “The mechanism to counter the crisis is now clear, so he now knows what to report to the people, what to demand from parliament, so I hope we will hear how he will fight the crisis,” Mr Mukhin said.

Dmitri Medvedev is the first Russian leader with a background in private business, and he has been portrayed as a man who’s well aware of what industry needs. One of the priorities he set as the president is to fight corruption. “We need our law-enforcement agencies and our authorities to stop terrorising business”, he said. But, so far, his words and his bailout plans are yet to improve the market charts, which still appear to like a roller-coaster ride. Mr Medvedev has a unique chance to not only take part in rebuilding the financial markets and international security framework, but, also to initiate these changes. His first address to the Federal Assembly will show whether or not he takes this opportunity.

6 November 2008

Russia Today


Editor’s Note:


President Dmitri Medvedev (1965- ) (right) with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (1952- ) (left), co-rulers of Russia, a very traditional arrangement in the New Roman Empire, the spiritual precursor of the Russian state

Most Western journalists are blinded by their innate hatred of Russia and things Russian to make a proper assessment of Dmitri Medvedev. They see him as a stooge for Vladimir Putin and a puppet. I cannot stress this too highly, it is emphatically not true.

Russia does not operate using the post-Enlightenment shibboleths of the West. Rather, it looks to the inheritance of New Rome, as Moscow considers itself the logical successor of the New Roman Empire. Russia, at its heart, rejects the postulates of the papist/Protestant West, especially its notions and fancies regarding “democracy” (which often are nothing more than the political embodiment of Protestantism). When one realises this, the roles of Medvedev and Putin become clear and focused. Often, a New Roman vasileos would choose a younger co-ruler, often on the grounds of his having character traits that he lacked.

Dmitri Medvedev has many qualities lacking in Vladimir Putin. Mr Putin had the basic humility and understanding to grasp that, so, he chose Mr Medvedev as a co-ruler. Medvedev has training as a lawyer, and he has executive experience after working at Gazprom. He has the abilities necessary to reform the legal system and bureaucratic structures, experience that Vladimir Putin knows that he lacks. In short, it is good not only for Russia, but, for the world as well. It is a manifestation of a sense of duty towards country sorely lacking in recent American presidents.

The world is a better place because Dmitri Medvedev carries out his role as co-ruler of Russia. God willing, the US shall realise that, but, I am not holding my breath. Too much hatred persists in all too may corners of American society, and many of them are unreasoning hatreds carried over with bitter immigrants… May God preserve us all.


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