Recent Posts

Russian Socialists in the Struggle for Democracy

For the past few weeks, protests for fair elections in upcoming municipal polls have become weekly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as thousands have defied authorities to attend unsanctioned rallies. The police crackdown has been particularly harsh in Moscow. Protests on July 27 and August 3 resulted in over 2000 detentions. Images of police in riot gear wrestling citizens to the ground and beating peaceful protesters were reminiscent of the mass protests against election fraud in 2011-2012.

Members of the Russian Socialist Movement, a small Marxist, anti-Stalinist organization active in the Russian left, have been participants in local electoral campaigns and in the protests. Two RSM activists, Valeria Kovelishina and Ilya Budraitskis talk about the Russian Socialist Movement, their electoral work, the protests for democracy in Russia and what they might mean for the future.

Witnessing the Collapse of Communism

Roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Participants include Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall, and Jens Reich.

The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

The Azeri Option

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President Bush and Putin appeared to come to some agreement over the placing of missile defense systems in East Europe. The United States has claimed that any missile defense system would be aimed at preventing attacks from “rouge nations” like Iran and North Korea. Russia has repeatedly rejected this explanation instead arguing that the systems were against a non existent threat and the American’s real intention as to further contain Russia.

Well it seems that despite the cooling relations between Russia and the US, Bush and Putin’s personal relationship seems to go a long way. According to news reports, the two presidents were able to come to some understanding during their hour long talks in the German Baltic resort town of Heiligendamm. Reports RIA Novosti:

The discussions lasted around one hour, and also involved White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. After the talks, Bush did not give a specific response to Putin’s proposal, but said his Russian counterpart had made some “interesting suggestions.” However, Hadley went a step further, saying Washington was willing to study the offer.

The Russian leader said: “We have thoroughly studied the U.S. [missile defense] proposals. We have our own ideas and I have explained them to the U.S. president.”

“The first idea is to jointly use a radar that Russia leases from Azerbaijan in Gabala,” he said, adding that the joint use of the Gabala radar would allow Russia to avoid aiming its missiles at Europe.

One wonders if anyone bothered to ask the Azeris about what they think of the idea. Given that the site Putin proposes is on a Russian base, I doubt there was or is much consulting to do.

The White House has yet to make any formal response to Putin’s suggestions, but it seems that Bush’s people took Putin’s statements that he would drop objections to the missile shield if radar systems were put in Azerbaijan as a “welcome surprise.” Given the intransigence on both sides, I have to say that I share that surprise.

As of now, I guess we will have to wait and see if the US overtures about US-Russian cooperation will bare any fruit.