Voices from Russia

Friday, 16 November 2012

USA Awaits Possible Russian Retaliation for Magnitsky Act

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The White House was less than enthusiastic about proposed legislation in the US Congress linking normalised trade relations with Russia to the so-called “Magnitsky Act,” a bill aimed at punishing Russian officials suspected of corruption. However, with the US House of Representatives expected to pass the combined bill on Friday… and the US Senate likely to give its stamp of approval after that… most anticipate that President Barack Obama will sign it into law anyway. The question in Washington now is… “What’s Russia going to do about it?”

American officials, lawmakers, and business lobbies have a broad and united consensus that enacting Permanent Normalised Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia would provide a boost for American exporters. However, the decision to link PNTR to the Magnitsky Act, named for Sergei Magnitsky, a whistle-blowing lawyer who died in a Moscow jail three years ago, angered top Russian officials, who accuse the USA of meddling in their country’s internal affairs. On Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs vowed to “react toughly” to this “this unfriendly provocative act”, but it remains unclear exactly what this reaction will be and what impact it might have on bilateral ties.

Cliff Kupchan, head of the Russia and CIS team at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy in New York City, said, “The most unfortunate outcome would be a Russian response that disrupts American-Russian economic relations. If Russia responds with some proportionate blacklist of its own, my view is that the issue will be contained. If Russia responds with an extremely-expansive bill based on multiple criteria, it’d negatively affect relations”.

The bill to go before the House of Representatives on Friday would deny visas to… and freeze the assets of… officials suspected of involvement in Magnitsky’s death and other alleged human rights abuses. The Obama administration maintained that the American government already has mechanisms in place to punish such individuals, and has tried in vain to keep the Magnitsky bill separate from the PNTR issues. Russia joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in August, and, as a fellow WTO member, the USA must normalise trade relations with Russia in order to allow American businesses to capitalise on opportunities in the Russian market.

Carroll Colley, a Washington-based analyst for Eurasia Group, wrote in an essay published Thursday on the Foreign Policy website, “These advantages could be diminished by punitive bureaucratic measures targeting American companies doing business in Russia as a response to the Magnitsky Act. The measures could include unannounced tax inspections of American companies, delayed or denied licensing or registration procedures, and other bureaucratic complications”. James Collins, a former US ambassador to Russia under President Clinton, told RIA-Novosti, “Human rights have long been an issue in American relations with the USSR and Russia, and it’d be unrealistic for anyone to expect this to change anytime soon. The real question is whether the two governments can find reasonably effective ways to manage both the places where we agree and where we disagree. Or, they don’t, and, instead, let this become a disruptive part of the relationship”.

16 November 2012

Carl Schreck

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/world/20121116/177503608.html

Editor’s Note:

What do you think would happen if Russia made a list of the American states where labour organisers are routinely brutalised and killed? What do you think that the Republican Party would do if Russia blacklisted Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas for their racially-based efforts to restrict voting by blacks and Mexican-Americans? What do think that the USA would do if Russia barred Rick Perry, Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Joe Arapaio, and Sean Hannity from Russia on the grounds that they foment and spread extremism (although they DO such and aren’t ashamed of it, no siree)? (Orthodox people… what do you think would happen if Russia banned JP, Potapov, Rod Dreher, and Josiah Trenham for supporting Hard Right causes and for being religious kooks?) Why, there’d be a hellacious stink! You could smell it all the way from the banks of the Potomac to the Arbat!

In short, this is arrogant Anglo posturing. The people who brought you Wounded Knee, Hiroshima, and Guantánamo should know better. THIS is why the world despises the USA. It isn’t envy… its disgust. We should grow up and act like adults… but shall we?

BMD

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Separated States of America

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A petition campaign for secession launched in several American states is gaining momentum. A day ago, Texas succeeded to collect more than the 25,000 signatures needed for the petition to receive a go-ahead. Now, there are already seven states where the number of signatories has exceeded the needed threshold… besides Texas, they’re Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. Although in any foreseeable future any secessionist move by the above states (and an unknown number to follow) is unlikely to bear fruit in terms of real secession, one should regard the move as a signal that the question is being included on the American political agenda.

The US Constitution doesn’t allow the possibility for any state to secede from the Union. The memories of the Confederation of 11 Southern states and the Civil War that followed are still fresh in the national memory. Probably, no one in the USA would like to repeat that experience, although in regional popular perception (most overtly expressed in Gone with the Wind) the southerners have the reputation as people of honour defending the core values of a free society.

The only state that has a formal exemption from the constitutional provision banning secession is Texas, which joined the Union as an independent state, and is still nicknamed the “Lone Star State”. It’s hardly surprising that the deeply-conservative state was the pioneer of the current secessionist campaign and was the first one to exceed the 25,000 threshold. It’s collected more than 100,000 signatures. However, even Texas, legally speaking, is highly unlikely to be granted independence… as far back as 1868, the US Supreme Court ruled in Texas v White case that states lacked the power to unilaterally secede from the Union.

Some critics of the petition campaign point out that the underlying reason for it is purely political and that this is nothing more than just a reaction of Romney supporters to their electoral defeat. In this sense, one can compare the campaign to the proclamation of the Confederation in 1860 as a reaction to Abraham Lincoln’s election. Nevertheless, one should not only note that Barack Obama is far from being a second Lincoln, but one should consider another small fact. Amongst the seven states that have so far collected 25,000 or more signatures, Obama defeated Romney in Florida on 6 November.

Other critics say that the secession of the states seeking it would serve the Union well and badly affect the states themselves. According to this point of view, the states seeking secession are amongst the weakest in terms of economy. “The Confederation of Takers” is what the Washington Post commentator Dana Milbank called the possible (or, rather impossible) future composition, writing, “If Obama were serious about being a good steward of the nation’s finances, he’d let them” secede, further including into the Confederation such relatively-poor states as Alaska, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Well, the above states may be relatively poor, but amongst them, only Tennessee is among the seven that have collected the needed amount of signature. Definitely, the label of “poor state” can’t be applied to states like Florida, and even less so to Texas, whose economy is booming due to vast oil reserves, and who would become the world’s 15th ranking economy in case it succeeded in gaining full independence.

Again, for the time being, such considerations don’t constitute anything more than wishful thinking. Still, the very idea of secession may not be ripe, but they’ve definitely sown the seeds for it. Back in mid-90s, I saw a map published in one of the American newspapers depicting the country in 2017. Apart from the Lone Star Texas as an independent, it showed sovereign entities like the Dixieland Confederation, Theocratic Kingdom of Utah, the Wild West and New England Republics, and some others.

However, seriously, even if one may disregard the idea of secession for the time being, one shouldn’t exclude it altogether. Do you remember what enthusiasm surrounded the enlargement of the EU some eight years ago, in May 2004? What’s become of European integration now? It’s best if we didn’t dig deeper into it, in order not to frighten the Americans. Lastly, supporting secessionist movements in countries that aren’t eager to follow American policy has become one of the basic principles of Washington‘s attitude towards global issues… from Kosovo and other parts of former Yugoslavia, to Baloch separatists in today’s Pakistan. Maybe, Washington strategists should remember the old maxim… “One who lives in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones?”

15 November 2012

Boris Volkhonsky

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_11_15/The-Separated-States-of-America/

Editor’s Note:

Texas isn’t “rich”… it has one of the most pronounced gaps between the Affluent Effluent and the rest of us in the USA. Its labour laws are laughable and union organisers are beaten and killed in the state regularly, with the perps never found. If the federal military bases and the federal government apparat were to leave Texas, it’d fatally harm its economy, and the Texas Grand Old Perverts know it. The other states of the Old Confederacy are even deeper at the federal slop chute. You see, the “conservatives” who scream about “rugged individualism” would be sunk if they weren’t sucking off “libtards” in New York, New Jersey, California, Washington, and New England. If we didn’t have to support the rightwing parasite states, we’d be in far better shape. Such is the TRUTH of America…

I say, “Let the bastards secede! Go! It’ll destroy the rightwing in what’s left of the USA”. Besides that, we could erect trade barriers against the “New Republic” (as they wish so badly to be “rugged individualists”). (sigh) Let’s be honest… these thieving holier-than-thou sanctimonious mofos aren’t going to leave us… their leaders realise that if they left, their personal finances would be affected, and that’s paramount to the greedy and godless (especially those who maintain a “religious” veneer).

BMD

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