Feb 19, 2007 11:17 am


Putin may indeed try to shape his legacy but Brett Stephens is right. Putin certainly has Chutzpah and I predict his target audience, the Europeans listened to as stone faced as Angela Merkel. For the non-subscribers, I am posting the two articles in their entirety below.

Moscow Times February 13, 2007 A President Looks to Shape His Legacy By Simon Saradzhyan Staff Writer President Vladimir Putin's strongly worded speech in Munich on Saturday raised hackles in the West, but its primary purpose may have been to set out a new direction in Russian foreign policy for his successor, analysts said Monday. The president's speech contained his most comprehensive and blunt criticism of the United States yet."With this speech Putin began the process of shaping his legacy," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs journal."We will be hearing more programmatic statements like this." Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed that Putin was"laying a market down for his successor." He noted that Putin's remarks were more in line with recent pronouncements by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov than those of First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, both considered leading candidates for the presidency in 2008."We do have to take seriously the fact that Putin's speech is much closer in tone to that of Ivanov than Medvedev, who was much more conciliatory" when addressing the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month, Kuchins said. In his speech, Putin not only berated Washington, but also touted Russia's resurgence as a major player on the international stage capable of standing up to the United States on a number of issues -- a stance that may reflect the ruling elite's overestimation of the country's long-term strength, analysts said."There was nothing really new in Putin's speech, but I suspect that in retrospect we may regard this as the most important foreign policy speech of his tenure as president," Kuchins said."The speech reads like a greatest-hits list of Russian grievances toward the West, and especially the United States, over the past 15 years on security issues," he said. While attacking the United States and NATO, Putin refrained from singling out any European country for criticism -- an indication of his desire to develop ties with the European Union after his post-Sept. 11 overtures toward Washington failed to yield results."The relationship with Europe is central for both Putin and Russian foreign policy in general," Lukyanov said. If Russia and Europe can reach a compromise on energy security policy,"the EU's interest in guaranteed energy supplies will outweigh everything else, and the EU could eventually begin to lobby on Russia's behalf in Washington," he said. Putin's speech, in which he charged that the United States had"overstepped its borders in every way," seemed to come in response to recently announced U.S. plans to put a missile-defense system in Europe and to increasingly hostile rhetoric coming out of Washington. Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress that the United States could not predict developments in countries such as Russia, North Korea, China and Iran."Gates' testimony was not the biggest straw, but it was certainly the last," said Ivan Safranchuk, director of the Moscow office of the Washington-based World Security Institute. The Foreign Ministry said Monday that it had asked Washington to clarify Gates' remark. Safranchuk said the Kremlin's displeasure with U.S. policy had been building for several years, but Putin had avoided open confrontation because he did not want to"frame" his friend, U.S. President George W. Bush. He relied instead on quiet diplomacy to make his point."Putin finally decided to put his cards on the table when he realized that no one but the president could sort out the strategic issue of relations with the United States," Safranchuk said. The president decided to make his feelings public as part of an effort to compel Bush to take a stand on Russian-U.S. relations before the presidential campaigns in both countries heat up, analysts said. Putin is seeking to ensure an open dialogue with Washington to resolve problems in public, given the long list of private assurances that were not honored, including the tacit assurance that NATO would not expand to the east, Safranchuk said."This will either produce an open dialogue that reduces mutual suspicions, or the next round of the Cold War," he said. Other analysts interviewed for this article disagreed that Putin's speech might herald a new Cold War, but most agreed that relations between Moscow and Washington would cool significantly as elections near, since most presidential hopefuls in the United States -- apart from Democrat Barack Obama -- have been critical of Russia. In his speech, Putin expressed not just Moscow's frustration with what it perceives as U.S. indifference to Russia's national interests, but also to its increasing confidence that economic growth will continue in the medium term."The speech does reflect the confidence that Russia's recovery is long term," Kuchins said."The point that Putin makes about the emergence of a real multipolar world is very significant, as is his emphasis on the role that the large emerging economies, known as BRICs [Brazil, Russia, India and China], will play." Putin makes clear that these countries' economic power"will undoubtedly be reflected in growing political power, and the United States had better wrap its mind around dealing with that," he said. Russian economic growth continues to depend largely on high world prices for energy and other natural resources. Analysts said Moscow's brinkmanship in its relations with Washington could therefore backfire if its global ambitions were to exceed its economic capacity. Analysts cited the cases of China and India, which have reined in their foreign policy ambitions and refrained from openly challenging the United States despite the fact that their economies are already more diversified than Russia's."Russia underestimates its weaknesses and vulnerabilities and is too focused on positive factors. It could be headed for a serious blow," Safranchuk said, adding that Russia might have been better off following China's example and pursuing a more measured foreign policy. Wall Street Journal
February 13, 2007
Russian for Chutzpah
By Bret Stephens
Bret Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.

The nearest equivalent the Russian language has for the word chutzpah is naglost. In you, Vladimir Putin, the Russian nation has found the embodiment of naglost.

Naglost: During the question-and-answer session following your speech on Saturday to the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, you were asked about the Oct. 7 murder (your birthday, Mr. President) of muckraking journalist Anna Politkovskaya. You never quite got around to uttering her name. But you did helpfully point out that in the past 18 months "the largest number of journalists were killed in Iraq."

True. But Moscow is not a war zone. And next to Russia Iraq has a reasonably free press. Thirteen journalists have been murdered contract-style since you took office, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In not one of these cases has a suspect been convicted. Politkovskaya herself complained of "the weekly summons to the prosecutor general's office to sign statements about practically every article I write (the first question being, 'How and where did you obtain this information?')." Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev described her murder as "a blow to the entire democratic, independent press." You chose to eulogize her by noting her influence "was minimal."

naglost: Your speech in Munich contained a curious broadside against the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which you denounced for "imposing a regime that determines how these states should live and develop."

That may not have been the most eye-catching of your comments, but it was the most revealing. Among its other benign functions, the OSCE bureaucracy monitors elections among its 56 members. That never raised an eyebrow until the OSCE raised a red flag over the Ukrainian election of November 2004, which had been rigged in favor of your preferred candidate, Viktor Yanukovych. The OSCE's verdict was crucial to having the results overturned and a new election called. You've never forgiven it. Since then, the OSCE's election-monitoring office has come under a relentless barrage of criticism from your foreign ministry and from other former Soviet republics with questionable democratic credentials, all with the view to putting the monitors under your political control.

naglost: So now you tell the Munich conferees that "no one feels safe" in the face of America's military, economic, cultural, political, legal and educational assertiveness. That's one way to look at it.

Then again, some four million Georgians didn't feel especially safe when unaccounted explosions -- reliably attributed to your security services -- disrupted fuel supplies to Tbilisi in the dead of last winter. Nor did hundreds of thousands of Georgians living in Russia feel safe after you imposed trade, travel and even postal bans on the country last fall, following Tbilisi's expulsion of four of your spies. As to your question about NATO's enlargement -- "we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended?" -- the answer, of course, is you. You don't bully the Baltic states the way you do Georgia, Ukraine and even Belarus because the former are members of the European Union and have an American security guarantee at their back.

naglost: Speaking of feeling unsafe, a recent item in the Daily Telegraph reports that a Russian court in the southern city of Novorossiysk condemned nine members of the ethnic minorities-rights group Froda for having an "unsanctioned" tea with two German students. "We were told that, under the new law [on NGOs], any meeting of two or more people with the purpose of discussing publicly important issues had to be sanctioned by the local administration three days in advance," Froda director Tamara Karastelyova told the Telegraph. New legislation also requires NGOs to receive official clearance for any planned events months in advance.

At Munich, you airily dismissed any suggestion that Russian NGOs operate under repressive conditions by claiming your registration requirements are "not that different from registration systems in other countries." Just what other countries did you have in mind?

Naglost: "In the energy sector Russia intends to create uniform market principles and transparent conditions for all," you said on Saturday. "It is obvious that energy prices must be determined by the market instead of being the subject of political speculation, economic pressure or blackmail."

Perhaps you define the words "market principles," "transparent" and "blackmail" differently in Russia than we do in the West. In December, the Russian government offered transparently phony environmental reasons -- "unauthorized tree felling" -- to force Royal Dutch Shell to relinquish control of its $20 billion Sakhalin-2 oil-and-gas project. In January, state-owned Gazprom used the threat of supply disruptions to gain control over Belarus's gas-pipeline network. This month, state prosecutors filed new charges against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky that will keep him in a Siberian gulag past the 2008 elections. Could you tell us just what might be in store for March?

naglost: You savaged the U.S. for "an almost uncontained hyper-use of force" in international relations and a "greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law."

That's funny, because when it comes to the hyper-use of force it's hard to top what your men did in Chechnya. "During 'Satchistkas' [clean-up operations], I killed all men," one returning Russian soldier told the American journalist Maura Reynolds. "I did not feel the least bit sorry for them. They deserved it. I didn't listen when they begged for their lives or when their wives cried and begged to have mercy on their husbands." There are many other testimonials like this.

And then there is the unsolved killing of Alexander Litvinenko, British subject. Not much of a mystery anymore as to where that polonium trail leads: Scotland Yard has found traces of it everywhere Moscow businessman Andrei Logovoi went in London. So why do you refuse British authorities a chance to question him?

A man who knows you and your friends well observes that the world has seen monarchies, dictatorships, military juntas and democracies, but "we have it only in science fiction stories of a secret service coming to power." Until now. Its defining characteristic: naglost.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Alex Park - 4/17/2008

Reading this story reminded me of a character of The Golden Calv by Ilf & Petrov called Fimochka Sobak.
She was considered a very well educated girl because her vocabulary contained the word "homosexualist".

Alex Goldstein - 2/21/2007

For the past ninety years Kremlin became home for Criminals in Law (translation of Russian "vor v zakone") and currently Putin is their leader aka PAHAN. That is a good answer to the question "Who is Mr. Putin?". His speech in Munich and, more importantly his deeds, have nothing to do with naglost; it's his mentality. Mentality of brutal rule (associations and imprisonments), nowadays covered with a fig leave of democracy with a mix of lies and "change of subject". Well, that’s what his training and KGB experience was about.