Thursday, January 17, 2008
S Novom Godom!
Я желаю Вам хорошее здоровье, удачу и успех в новый год!
Now back to business. I went silent for a little while. Very, very silent. Largely because my day job has been all-consuming of late, what with President Bush's tire-spinning visit to my current home, the Middle East.
That said, I'm off to Baku tomorrow for a weekend of pure relaxation by the Caspian Sea. The thought of returning to even the edge of the old USSR has me thinking:
Candidate Kasyanov - He's got the two million signatures. Does the Kremlin have the courage - and the barest commitment to democracy - to let him run against their man, Dmitriy Medvedev? Or are we going to see another "falsified signatures" charge in the coming days that will again prove that Russia is not inching towards democracy, but sliding back towards authoritarianism.
While we're at it, will Yavlinsky, Nemtsov and co. have the good sense to put their egos aside and back the only man with a hope of giving the Kremlin machine a run for its oil money?
Oleg Kozlovsky - His story is a warning, not only about fading freedom of speech in Russia, but about the biggest peril that many talented young Russians face - the draft. Many of my Russian friends spent most of their 20s doing anything - anything - to avoid being sucked into the dark and dangerous pit that is the Russian army. I've seen kids press-ganged off the streets of St. Petersburg while out walking with friends, and met soldiers in Chechnya whose parents didn't even know they were in the army, let alone stationed in Grozny. I'll wholeheartedly sign on to the Free Kozlovksy campaign, but add a note that there are thousands more like him, leading lower-profile lives, who also deserve our concern.
Much More Misha - Four more years of Saakashvili starts off with his government laying charges against tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili. Patarkatsishvili's no saint, but neither are Vladimir Gusinsky, Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky. If this was Putin laying charges against another oligarch, wouldn't we all be asking questions about whether the President isn't really just trying to quash all political opposition?
British Council tomfoolery - If the Russian government thinks the British Council is a den of spies, it should produce the evidence and expel those it no longer wants in the country. Otherwise, it should sending spooks to follow Council staff around St. Petersburg. It's an embarrassing saga, and not for the British.
Kosovo: I've asked the question before: why is the West so insistent that Serbia is divisible, but not Kosovo? (And not Georgia or Moldova?)
Azerbaijan 2016 - C'mon, really? This what President Ilham Aliev wants to spend all the oil money on? An expensive, sure-to-fail Olympics bid? What about the hundreds of thousands of Azeris who live in poverty, just outside the Baku bubble?
February 5: If it was the $26.95 that was keeping you from buying The New Cold War, never fear. The paperback edition hits bookshelves Feb. 5.