Voices from Russia

Thursday, 1 January 2015

ITAR-TASS Presents… Uncommon Holiday Trees From All Over the World

00 New Year Trees 01. Gorky Park Moscow. 01.01.15                           

New Year tree in the shape of an ice-cream cone, at Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure (TsPKiO Gorkogo) in Moscow (Federal City of Moscow. Central Federal District) RF


00 New Year Trees 02. Tbilisi Georgia. 01.01.15

A statue of St George the all-Victorious decorated like a Christmas tree in the centre of Tbilisi (Tbilisi Capital Region) GEORGIA


00 New Year Trees 03. Kaunas Lithuania. 01.01.15

Christmas Tree made of plastic cups in Kaunas (Kaunas City Municipality. Kaunas County) LITHUANIA


00 New Year Trees 04. Paris France. 01.01.15

An inverted Christmas Tree in the Galeries Lafayette in Paris (Département de Paris. Région Île-de-France) FRANCE


00 New Year Trees 05. Colombo Sri Lanka. 01.01.15

Colourful Christmas illumination in Colombo (Colombo District. Western Province) SRI LANKA


00 New Year Trees 06. Seoul ROK. 01.01.15

21-metre-high (69-feet-high) Christmas Tree at Seoul City Hall Plaza, Seoul (Special City of Seoul) ROK


00 New Year Trees 07. Rio de Janeiro Brazil. 01.01.15

World’s highest floating Christmas Tree in Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro State. Southeast Region) BRAZIL


00 New Year Trees 08. Beijing PRC. 01.01.15

Installation of a New Year Tree outside a shopping mall in Beijing (Beijing Municipality) PRC


00 New Year Trees 09. Beirut Lebanon. 01.01.15

30-metre-high (99-feet-high) Christmas Tree covered with 2,500 gold-coloured metal leaves in Byblos (Jbeil District. Mount Lebanon Governorate) LEBANON, 40 kilometres (26 miles) north of Beirut


00 New Year Trees 10. Sydney Australia. 01.01.15

Lego Christmas Tree made of colourful interlocking toy bricks created by The Lego Group in Sydney (Sydney District) NSW AUSTRALIA


00 New Year Trees 11. Moscow Russia. 01.01.15

New Year Tree made of colourful illuminated balls in Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure (TsPKiO Gorkogo) in Moscow RF


00 New Year Trees 12. Islamabad Pakistan. 01.01.15

Pakistani Christian boy decorates a tree in preparation for the upcoming Christmas holiday in the slums of Islamabad (Islamabad Capital Territory) PAKISTAN


00 New Year Trees 13. Vilnius Lithuania. 01.01.15

People stroll around a Christmas Tree in the Old City of Vilnius (Vilnius City Municipality. Vilnius County) LITHUANIA


00 New Year Trees 14. Moscow Russia. 01.01.15

A metal New Year Tree outside of a commercial enterprise in Moscow RF


00 New Year Trees 15. Kuala lumpur Malaysia. 01.01.15

Christmas tree near Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) MALAYSIA


Countries around the world start preparations for the Christmas and New Year holidays from late November. The main symbol of the celebration is the decorated tree. Although most people prefer traditional designs, some do extraordinary decorations such as ice-cream cones, Legos, plastic cups, and other uncommon ideas.

26 December 2014



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Russia’s Successes: A Likely Trap?

00 Russia and USA. Syria. 31.08.13


Editor’s Note:

One of the best things that I’ve read lately, with little wasted verbiage. It’s a read n’ heed. It beats anything available from the American spin machine (eat shit and die, CNN and Fox). Good stuff…



One can only marvel at how quickly things change. Just a short while ago, Russia seemed to be retreating on all diplomatic fronts. An attack on Syria was just around the corner, with Iran likely to fall victim next. The Ukraine was rushing full tilt towards association with the EU. All Russia’s efforts were failing. Three months later, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rides confidently in post, there’s been an unexpected diplomatic breakthrough in relations with Iran, whilst the EU summit in Vilnius, which was conceived as a triumph for a United Europe, whose powerful appeal couldn’t be resisted by the two prospective associated members… Armenia and the Ukraine… ended in a flop.

What changed? Nothing. The circumstances are the same, as is the overall alignment of forces. All the main characters behave as they did before. Then, why does Moscow, the putative former number one loser, unexpectedly look like the most skilful player in the tactical, if not strategic, field? It turns out that the linchpin of success in a world in which nothing is clear, no rules are in effect, and where former mainstays crumble away, is adherence to a consistent principle… maybe, any principle, as long as the stance is firm enough. Principles aren’t EU-style values, nor are they Soviet-style ideology. Behavioural principles are a system of views on what the world is all about, and how you should act to conform to norms that may not necessarily exist in written form.

The accepted view on Russia in general, and on President Vladimir Putin’s Russia in particular, is of a country pursuing an archaic foreign policy, reliant on an old-fashioned arcane armamentarium. Its representations hinge on national sovereignty‘s inviolability, which prevails over all new tidings regarding “responsibility to protect”, which implies the right of outside forces to interfere in the internal affairs of a state. This stance exemplifies a legalistic approach, which means that all global players must respect international law, provided that the prime principle, sovereignty, doesn’t require that you deviate from the former for the sake of its assertion. This is why Russia, which normally reveres the UN and its institutions, is so blasé about the ruling of the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea with regard to the Greenpeace ship.

In the last analysis, Russia believes that… no matter what people say about various new types of power… good old “hard power” will always prevail. Moreover, there isn’t even any need to use it. As a rule, it’s enough just to show resolve. Finally, relations between countries amount to an unending fight for power and prestige, as Hans Morgenthau, a classical author of the political realism school, used to say. Thus, it’s inadmissible to let incantations that there are no winners in the “zero-sum game” in the modern world delude you. Inherent in the Russian tradition, these views attained their purest and most consummate form under Putin, particularly, after his recent return to the Kremlin. He’s convinced that only a firm mainstay… a real one, if available, or an intellectual construct, if everything were falling apart… would help a nation survive amidst growing chaos. The classical approaches to international relations are supposed to perform precisely this function.

Current results show that this approach works, because this persistence in a certain method sets Russia apart from other major players. The EU talks about values and applies this yardstick to different situations from the Middle East and North Africa to Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. Without analysing the causes, one can only state that it’s a failure everywhere. No one sees the EU as an influential actor in the Middle East, nor is it getting on with SNG countries, where, seemingly, it should be able to enjoy every advantage. The USA prefers an ideologically-consistent approach, dividing participants in conflicts into “progressives” and “retrogrades”. However, the Mideast reality can drive everyone to despair. As developments forge ahead, they’re less and less amenable to fitting into this simple framework. Hence, one sees them thrashing about in search of the “right side of the story”.

Russian policies led to Moscow’s growing prestige, but in itself, this fact can become a trap because it generates growing expectations. Incoherent American behaviour in the Middle East and its attempts to play down its presence and activity are leading to a vacuüm, with everyone habitually looking at Russia as someone best fit to fill it. Who else can do it, if you think about it? The memory of the role played by the USSR there is still alive and there aren’t any other candidates in sight. China shies away from liabilities as if they could burn its fingers. Paradoxically, Russia has no intention whatsoever to come back to this part of the world as the main outside force. Neither was this the aim of its Syrian policy, which, properly speaking, it didn’t directly aim at the Middle East itself. The important thing for Russia was to make everyone realise the above principle… interference with the aim of régime change is inadmissible because it’s a path to all-out ruin.

Largely, this comeback materialised because others made blunders, but now Moscow isn’t sure how it should capitalise on this achievement. Of course, Moscow isn’t averse to signing more arms contracts, but people expect something else… on a grander scale. Yet, Russia isn’t ready to get embroiled in the largely-hopeless affairs of the region. The Ukraine, it’d seem, is another matter. Russia’s stake is obvious. Nevertheless, the spirit of rivalry will fizzle out, leaving questions about what to do with so close a neighbour. After all, Kiev didn’t make a choice in favour of Moscow. Once again, it simply bowed out of choosing in the hope that it’d be in a place to extort benefits from both parties. Riding the crest of a wave of success, Russia might launch a stick-and-carrot offensive to inveigle Kiev into its institutional embrace, but there’s a high risk that all inputs would go down the drain without any visible effect and that relations with the Ukraine would stagnate. When all the tumult dies down, the drift towards the West continues regardless of the vacillating priorities of the authorities. It’s an odd situation.

The Russian leadership feels the world’s instability better than others do, and it uses this knowledge to its advantage. However, the more success that they achieve, the less it’s clear what they should do about it. Russia doesn’t know what it’d like to be in the future, what role it should play, and what priorities it should set. This is the most important thing. It’s developed a view of the world that helps it get tactics right, but it lacks an equally systemic view of itself, which should decide its strategy. However, tactics alone are a short-term asset.

01 Fyodor Lukyanov RIA-Novosti2 December 2013

Fyodor Lukyanov




Saturday, 23 November 2013

“From the Very Beginning, the EU insisted that the Ukraine Couldn’t have Joint Membership in a Free Trade Zone with the EU and in a Free Trade Zone with Russia”



Ricardo Young

Big story about the Ukraine’s possible membership in the EU… it’s now suspended. What’s the story behind the story?

Dmitri Babich

Well, we need to clarify several things. First, at the Vilnius summit of the EU, which takes place on 28 November, the Ukraine planned to sign a so-called association agreement. It doesn’t mean that the Ukraine would become an EU member; it just means that the Ukraine would become a part of a free economic zone, a free trade zone with the EU. This is a tricky issue.

I’d like to stress that it’s important for the USA, because they invested billions of dollars into persuading the Ukraine to turn its back on Russia and snuggle up to the EU. Pro-American President Viktor Yushchenko lost the Ukrainian presidential election in 2010, but then, the new President, Viktor Yanukovich, also said that he wanted the Ukraine to associate itself with the EU. That was the cause of many scandals and disagreements between the Ukraine and Russia, because, from the beginning, the EU insisted that the Ukraine couldn’t have joint membership in a free trade zone with the EU and in a free trade zone with Russia.

Right now, the problem is that Russia and the Ukraine have a de facto free trade zone. Large amounts of Ukrainian goods enter Russia customs free. Therefore, Russia’s fear was that if the Ukraine joins the EU economic space, if it joins the Russian free trade zone, then, European goods would just flood the Russian market, from the Ukrainian-Russian border all the way up to Vladivostok, and that’d destroy Russian domestic industry. Consequently, Russia made it very clear to the Ukraine that if it joined a free trade zone with the EU, then, Russia would create a real border with the Ukraine, with customs, taxes, and all the things associated with border crossing. At the last moment, the Ukraine, just days before the Vilnius summit, announced that it was suspending measures that’d make it eligible for association membership with the EU.

Of course, Ukrainian society is badly split, because much of Ukrainian society is nationalistic and anti-Russian, which says that Yanukovich stole Europe from us. Already, they use terms like it being treason against the European dream of the Ukraine. Of course, the US State Department already expressed its disappointment with the Ukrainian move. In fact, it’s very funny, because for many years the USA said that it wanted to protect Ukrainian sovereignty, that the Ukraine is an independent state, that no one should interfere, especially Russia. Now, when the Ukraine took a sovereign decision, we have American and EU diplomats expressing viewpoints, in essence, insulting the Ukraine for its choice.


Is there anything to allegations that Russia didn’t want the Ukraine to go westward, that it wanted it to go eastward in its political and economic ties? Russia does supply much energy to the Ukraine. Is there any sign that it might affect the flow of energy to the Ukraine if they indeed pursued associate membership in the EU?


I think when you see a partner reorienting its industry to another part of the world, it’s natural for any country to pursue its own interests. This is true for the West. This is true for the East. It’s a question of words. Of course, you can use expressions like, “Russia wants the Ukraine to go eastward, not westward. Russia wants the Ukraine in the same economic space with Russia, to trade with Russia, to develop its industry together with Russia”. I wouldn’t say that this is anti-European, because, as Mikhail Gorbachyov once said, “We should build Europe from the east and from the west”.

Why do we think that all the nice things necessarily come from the West alone? We have the fascinating cultural phenomenon of Eastern Europe, which comprises Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, possibly, I’d say Poland and the Baltic states. Yes, these countries have a close relationship; they’ve been part of the same economic space, of the same civilisation, for a long time. I don’t see why these countries are worse than France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Greece. Some of these Eastern European countries are actually doing better economically than Greece or Italy. So, Russia wants the Ukraine to stay with Russia, to be with Russia, Russia doesn’t want the Ukraine to build a wall, separating itself from Russia, and Russia supplies natural gas and oil to the Ukraine, and what Russia did was to say that if that Ukraine continues to turn its back on Russia, then, Russia would charge the market price for its oil and gas. The Ukraine has no other source of cheap oil and gas other than Russia. Therefore, indeed, it’s a just requirement. We should say, “If you want to trade with us, if you want us to give you trade privileges, be polite. Don’t say things like, ‘We’re Europeans, and you aren’t Europeans, we’re anthropologically superior’”. When I say “anthropologically superior”, I’m quoting official documents from one of the nationalist Ukrainian parties, which unfortunately, has support from many EU politicians. Accordingly, indeed, Russia made it very clear to the Ukraine that we’re brothers, we’re related in all respects, but you must be polite if you want us to be nice to you in economic terms.


Is the issue of Yuliya Timoshenko, is her situation in any way related to the EU situation with the Ukraine?


Right now, I think its losing relevance, but I think it played an important role during the last few weeks. The problem was that as Yanukovich braced up for this Vilnius summit, he expected the EU to be more lenient to him and not demand him to release Timoshenko for medical treatment in Western Europe, but the EU leaders, before they made it a sine qua non, said that if Timoshenko wasn’t released, the Ukraine isn’t going to get association membership, then, the situation became very blurred during the last few weeks. It looked like the EU would sign the deal, even if Timoshenko was still in prison, then, just days before the signature, EU Commissioner Štefan Füle came to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, and Yanukovich asked him, “What are you going to give to the Ukraine to compensate it for the economic losses that we’ve already suffered, economic losses from severing our ties with Russia?” Füle just said something about democracy, and rule of law, and being in the same space with the most-civilised countries in the world, then, he demanded Timoshenko’s release again. Probably, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, for the next day, Yanukovich said that he wouldn’t refuse in future to join an association agreement with the EU, but that, for now, he postponed this decision. Most likely, no one will take it at the EU Summit in Vilnius. Actually, the Ukrainian representative in the customs union with Russia officially said that he’d love to see the Ukraine, the EU, and Russia come to some sort of deal that’d make it possible for the Ukraine to trade freely with both entities, with Russia and the EU. However, I think it isn’t possible, primarily, because of the EU’s position, which is, “It’s either us or Russia”.

23 November 2013

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

The only groups in the Ukraine that are gung-ho for the EU are the Uniates and schismatic Orthodox (and here). Don’t forget, Yanukovich inherited the EU association process from the pro-American running-dog collaborator, Yushchenko. He spun it out as long as he did for two reasons. Firstly, he wanted to see what the West had on offer. They had nothing… they, in fact, expected him to fuck ordinary Ukrainians with massive rent and utilities increases. With “friends” like that, no one needs enemies! Secondly, it gave him “cover” in appealing to “moderates” (he knew that, whatever he did, the Uniate and schismatic nutters would oppose him). “See, I gave the EU every chance, but the Germans wanted me to raise your rental and utility rates, and I wouldn’t do that! I won’t hurt my people at the behest of Germans”.

Reflect on this… the Uniates have always been a Fifth Column for the Germans in the Ukraine (as one saw in their enthusiastic support for the SS in the VOV). It’s time for the Ukraine to cut Galicia loose… it doesn’t deserve to have such traitors in its midst. Let the Galician Uniates go hat in hand to their Vatican, American, and German paymasters. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. Why do ordinary Uniates put up with their collaborationist clergy? After all, they’re not bad people at base (they’re family members torn away by intolerant papist rulers)… they’re merely misled and brainwashed. It’s a crank world, isn’t it?



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