Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Obama-Putin: Now It’s Personal?

01 Lavrov Clinton Reset Button


US President Obama’s 7 August decision to cancel his meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reflects the need for a pause in such summits. However, the words the American leader chose to use could provoke a tit-for-tat that’d make it hard for the two countries to cooperate, even on issues of mutual interest. You didn’t need a crystal ball to predict that Obama would cancel the summit in Moscow pencilled in for next month. My August 1 column argued that the two leaders simply lacked the deliverables that’d justify a two-day meeting, and that not even the signing of another strategic declaration on bilateral relations (similar to what Putin and George W Bush inked in Sochi in 2008) would save the putative 3-4 September summit from flopping. Therefore, I said, Obama and Putin should avoid “meetings for the sake of meetings” and instead instruct their negotiators to work on developing tangible deliverables.

Therefore, I wasn’t exactly astounded when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced on 7 August, “There isn’t enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a US-Russia Summit”. That said, I admit I was somewhat taken aback by how close my column came to predicting the American side’s arguments for cancellation, after reading the statements by Carney and by Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin J Rhodes, who said, “We weren’t going to have a summit for the sake of having a summit”. Neither was I surprised to read subsequent revelations by Russian diplomats in Kommersant, saying that they’d actually drafted five documents to be unveiled at the summit, including a comprehensive “statement on the development of bilateral cooperation”, which made me remember that grand declaration inked by Putin and Bush in Sochi.

However, what rather astonished and disappointed me were Obama’s own comments on his relations with Putin, delivered at a news conference as the Russian defence and foreign ministers departed for Andrews Air Force Base after meeting their American counterparts on 9 August. The first three questions Obama took during the press conference that day were on Russia and NSA leaker Edward Snowden, to whom Russia granted temporary asylum. Obama’s initial remarks were reserved and shrewd, as he said, “It’s probably appropriate for us to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia’s going, what our core interests are, and calibrate the relationship so that we’re doing things that are good for the USA, and, hopefully, good for Russia as well”. Obama also noted that he and Medvedev “made a lot of progress” during Medvedev’s presidency and that he later “encouraged Mr Putin to think forward, as opposed to backwards, on those issues… with mixed success”.

However, rather than stop after delivering what was undoubtedly an anti-Putin diatribe, albeit one couched in diplomatic terms, Obama went further… offering his assessment of Putin, not just as a state leader, but as a person, saying, “He’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom”. My immediate reaction to Obama’s newly-unveiled view of Putin “the man” was, “Now it’s personal”. My second thought was that Putin almost never misses a chance to reciprocate, especially if offended. After all, this was a man who in 2000 reportedly quipped, “Whoever offends us won’t last three days”. Yet, there’s still a chance that Putin won’t take it personally, or, at least, will refrain from returning fire. After all, three days have passed since Obama’s 9 August remarks, and Putin has… so far… managed to hold his tongue.

Putin’s silence makes me hopeful that the Kremlin would prefer to avoid a confrontation. I also took heart from the conciliatory tone that Russia’s foreign and defence chiefs struck after meeting their American counterparts last week, asserting that the current chill in the bilateral relationship won’t lead to even a mini-Cold War. I hope that both leaders realise that a vicious circle of rhetorical tit-for-tat would harm both sides. Obama may be genuinely disappointed that the reset, which he made a central pillar of his foreign policy, fizzled out after Putin’s return to the Kremlin. Although any Russia-watcher worth his salt would say that, without painful compromises from both sides, the reset was destined to stall after Obama and Medvedev picked all the low-hanging fruit.

However, leaders’ personal grievances shouldn’t antagonise the relationship between the two countries, which need each other’s assistance to advance their vital interests in such spheres as counter-terrorism and preventing failed states. Such cooperation falls short of the deep strategic partnership proponents of US-Russian rapprochement so hoped for. Selective partnership on particular issues is better than the comprehensive confrontation that hawks on each side hope for, especially given the two countries’ spoiler potential vis-à-vis each other. As the Russian saying goes, “Better a bad peace than a good quarrel”.

14 August 2013

Simon Saradzhyan





Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev: The USA Acts as “International Executioners”, Sacrificing Muslims and Christians in Syria

00 Syrian Church 2012


Speaking to AsiaNews, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, head of the MP DECR, condemned threats of NATO intervention without a UN mandate. As a Western military intervention against the régime of Bashar al-Assad appears increasingly likely, He expressed “strong concern” about possible developments of the crisis, following American charges that the Assad government used chemical weapons against civilians. Metropolitan Hilarion said, “Once again, as was the case in Iraq, the USA is acting as an international executioner”. Speaking to AsiaNews, he strongly criticised the American position, calling it “completely one-sided”. He went on to say, “Without the endorsement of the UN, they want to decide the fate of a whole country of millions of inhabitants. Once again, they’ll sacrifice thousands of lives on the altar of an imaginary democracy; first of all, Christians, about whose fate no one cares. They’re at risk of becoming hostages to the situation and the main victims of radical extremist forces, who, with the help of the USA, will come to power. The international community must do everything to avoid that events develop in this direction”.

27 August 2013



Editor’s Note:

Orthodox Christians have a choice… to support the US government…. or, to oppose it if it tries to launch aggressive war against Syria on flimsy grounds. It’s our choice… oh, yes; the Republican Party and the rightwing are loudly calling for war. Am I being catty by mentioning that Victor Potapov and Alexander Webster are paid minions of the US government (along with their running dog, Paffhausen, who yips for approval in all the proper Radical Right circles)? I think not… remember, their advocacy and support of war in foreign parts contributed to the Golgotha of Iraq’s Christians. Don’t let them do it again in Syria. Follow the money… it’ll tell you who’s naughty and who’s nice…


Muhammad’s Letter to the Christian monks at Mt Sinai

01 Muslims and Christians protest attack against church in Egypt



One issue often discussed on news site and blogs over the last several days is the many attacks on Egypt’s Christian communities. Several outlets reported that violence by supporters of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi Isa al-Ayyat left dozens of Christian churches and Coptic-owned businesses and properties burnt. Fears of widespread sectarian strife seem to be growing among Egypt’s Christian minority.

The violence against Egypt’s Christians reminds me of the important symbolism of the Prophet Muhammad’s letter to the Christian monks at St Catherine Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai in 628 AD. In his letter, Muhammad championed universal peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims. Not only did he outline how Muslims should treat Christians, but Muhammad also touched upon human rights, including freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, and the right to protection in war.

Here’s an English translation of Muhammad’s letter:

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who profess Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily the servants, the helpers, my followers, and I defend them, because Christians are my citizens, and, by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are you to remove their judges from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they’re my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it can’t take place without her approval. No one is prevent her from visiting her church to pray. You shall respect their churches. You shall neither prevent them from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey this covenant until the Last Day (end of the world).

The attacks by some Egyptian Muslims on their fellow Egyptian Christian citizens is deplorable, for the simple fact that the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, would’ve condemned any violence towards Christians and people of non-Muslim faiths. One has to wonder if the Egyptian Muslims involved in these attacks can even call themselves “Muslims” with any sense of integrity or legitimacy.

Please, visit Craig Considine’s excellent blog where this was originally posted here. You’ll find many such inspirational articles.

18 August 2013

The American Muslim



Hasan Gets the Drop for Fort Hood Mass Slaying

00 Ft Hood shooting. cartoon. Nidal Hasan. 28.08.13

I wonder if the rightwing bloviators are going to put the Army’s feet to the fire? Perspirin’ minds wanna know… after all, they claim that they’re waging a “Global War on Terror“… so, Fort Hood WAS the front-line, kids…


The Austin American Statesman reported that a court-martial found US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan guilty of all charges and sentenced him to death for his murder of 13 people at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center in Fort Hood (near Killeen TX) in 2009 after deliberating for two hours. At the time of the incident, he opened fire, killing 13 fellow soldiers and wounding more than 30. Witnesses testified that Hasan, an American-born Muslim, screamed Allahu akbar (“God is great” in Arabic) as he sprayed bullets with a laser-sighted handgun. Ranked by the number of victims, this crime was the largest of all such incidents at American military bases.

During the trial, the defendant refused the assistance of legal counsel. He clashed with all the defence attorneys assigned to him. According to lawyers who worked with Hasan, he provoked the court; he didn’t hide the fact that wanted the death penalty. He didn’t even try to defend himself and behaved provocatively. He refused to speak to the court. The media called Hasan’s trial a “revolting spectacle”. Previously, he stated repeatedly that he committed the mass murder, which is equivalent in the USA to terrorist attack, in retaliation for the wars fought against his fellow Muslims by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hasan wanted to be executed, in order to “die as a hero”, as a man sacrificing his life for his ideals.

The last time that an American military court martial handed down a death sentence was in 1961. Hasan now becomes the sixth man on death row at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth (north of Leavenworth KS). The death sentence sets off an automatic and lengthy appeals process, typically lasting a minimum of four years. For it to take place, a military execution would require the approval of the Fort Hood commanding general and the US President.

28 August 2013

Voice of Russia World Service



Editor’s Note:

This crime is one of the few that merits the death penalty. Hasan killed more than one person, furthermore, he did it on a military installation targeting American soldiers, and thus, it was an act of violence against the American state. Too bad, it’ll take forever for all the mandatory appeals. He’ll be a martyr to the Islamists, but for no one else in the Islamic world… don’t forget, just as “Born Agains” don’t represent the bulk of real Christians, the Islamists aren’t in sync with the majority of those in the Ummah. That’s the way it is…


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