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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

10 Reasons Why Russia Can’t Trust Uncle Sam

26/07/2007 Moscow News – By Robert Bridge - //The West says that it is perplexed by Russia's "aggressive" behavior of late, and suggests that Moscow is desirous to regain its past superpower status, and even a little empire. But if cashing in on oil is imperialism, how do we explain the following U.S. moves:
10. Scrapping the Anti-Ballis­tic Missile Treaty -
In Decem­ber 2001, three months after 9/11, U.S. President George W. Bush told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. was pulling out of the 1972 ABM Treaty, a Cold War-era document that specifically forbade the development and deployment of anti-missile defense systems. The treaty ensured that signatory nations adhere to the mutually assured destruction (MAD) concept - if you destroy us we will destroy you formula. Yes, it was certainly MAD, but it kept the peace for 30 years. Former Defense Secre­tary Donald Rumsfeld attempted to reassure Moscow that the decision was nothing personal. "It [the treaty] failed to recognize that the Soviet Union is gone and that Russia is, of course, not our enemy." Putin called the move "a mistake."
9. "Mission Accomplished" - On March 20, 2003, the United States - without a mandate from the United Nations, and against the heated objections of France, Germany and Russia - invaded Iraq on the pretext that the secular Baathist state of Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was a proud sponsor of terrorism. Both accusations were proven wrong. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the BBC in an interview that the attack was a violation of international law. "From our point of view and the UN Charter point of view, it [the war] was illegal."
8. Pentagon Spending Spree - The United States, which just put the finishing touches on a $583 billion dollar shopping trip for 2008, accounts for about half of global expenditures (or the next 14 nations). However, as Robert Higgs of the Inde­pendent Institute argues, "the trillion-dollar defense budget is already here." Higgs calculated that U.S. military-related spending in 2006 was actually $934.9 billion if we figure in Home­land Security ($69.1bln), the Dept. of Energy, which oversees nuclear weapons ($16.6 bln) and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs ($69.8 bln), as well as other juicy pork chops. In May, the Democrat-controlled House and Senate approved almost $95 billion for the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through September (Go Dems!). Meanwhile, "aggressive" Russia, with a 48 percent increase in military spending since 1996, still spends ‘just' $85 billion annually on military expenditures.
7. NATO XXL - As Dan Simpson, a retired U.S. diplomat argued in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "The United States and other NATO members have taken some actions along the way to lull the Russians into acquiescence as NATO expanded to include the former Warsaw Pact na­tions... The argument was that these countries wanted to join NATO and that their membership posed no threat to Russia. That line prevailed as NATO membership grew to include also Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, former republics of the Soviet Union. Now the Russians see the same argument being advanced for Georgia and Ukraine. That's getting close to home."
6. New Military Bloopers - As the Pakistani government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf struggles to contain the fallout of an 8-day battle against militants at the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), a U.S. official turned up the heat by telling CNN that if the U.S. "had actionable targets, anywhere in the world," including Pakistan, then "we would pursue those targets." Meanwhile, talk about a possible attack on Iran, a nation that ranked on America's axis of evil hit parade, continues.
5. Think-Tank Saber Rattling - Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press write an article in the prestigious U.S. journal Foreign Affairs entitled "Nuclear Primacy" (March/April 2006), which argues, in a nutshell, that "It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike." Is this the sort of article that America should be supporting if it wants Russia to believe that elements of the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Poland and... oops! Don't want to spoil the plot! Anyways, Moscow ‘responds' with very accurate penmanship one year later as it test-fires its new RS-24 ballistic missile that it said could "overcome any potential missile defense systems developed by foreign countries."
4. Cheney Comfort - One month after the above love letter hit newsstands, Vice President Dick Cheney, during a trip to Vilnius, Lithuania, assuaged Moscow's fears by reiterating, once again: "Russia has nothing to fear and everything to gain" by ‘democratic activity' on her borders.
3. Gates' Gated Community - In early 2007, Pentagon chief Robert Gates urged viligance when he warned, "We don't know what's going to develop in places like Russia and China, in North Korea, in Iran and elsewhere." Was this a simple case of mistaken identity by a former White House Russian analyst? Whatever the case, it certainly helped to provoke Putin's heated Munich speech in February, where he admonished the world's "one master, one sovereign."
2. EU Culpability - As the War on Terror continues, Europe is losing its Snow White innocence. As the German magazine Der Spiegel reported, "On July 19, 2002, a Gulfstream business jet took off from Frankfurt am Main bound for Amman, Jordan. The flight received an AFTM exempt [pilot code for ‘extreme situation'], although it carried neither patients nor politicians. Instead, the jet was carrying a CIA team that took a Mauri­tanian terrorism suspect... to Guan­tanamo." Der Spiegel reported that this "camouflaging of an illegal kidnapping as a rescue flight" was not an isolated event: There were 390 such takeoffs and landings in Germany between 2002 and 2006. And considering Eastern European hotels, it's just too scary to consider those secret terrorist prisons that allegedly exist in Poland and Romania.
1. Don't Worry, These anti-Missile Missiles won't Hurt You, Really - Washington is now incredulous, shocked, mortified that Moscow has the nerve to suggest that there could be less than good intentions involved in the construction of an anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, even though there are no bad-guy technologies on the horizon that such a system could intercept. Go figure!

10 Things to Know about Moscow

23/08/2007 Moscow News By Robert Bridge
//Okay, without further ado, here is a list of 10 things to know while in the Russian capital.
10. Do not waste your time in Moscow trying to understand the line (queue) system. The very best anthropologists and sociologists have failed to make sense of Russian lines and you probably will too. It is only necessary that you understand the protocol for standing in lines. In the grocery stores, for example, things have become relatively sane, with people lining up single file with their shopping carts just like in the West. But if you must visit a doctor, a lawyer, or god forbid a bureaucrat, you will feel like you have just landed on Mars. When Russians enter a place that demands a line, they ask in a loud voice, "Kto posledniy?" (Who is the last fool here?). Russians hate lines more than anybody, I would guess, so there has evolved an elaborate system of leaving lines to attend to other things, like maybe to go stand in other lines. But before Russians exit the line, they ask the person immediately behind them to save their spot. Do you follow me? So when you enter the visa registration office with a pile of papers to be signed, you may think there are only 30 people ahead of you, only to discover 10 hours later that there is actually triple that amount. This curious phenomenon tends to make people who don't understand what is going on outright violent, because nothing bothers us more than line cutters - especially at the visa office.
9. Zebra Crossings are for Zebras. Do not assume that cars, trucks, scooters, commercial jets or other wheeled modes of transportation will stop, or even slow down, in the zebra pedestrian walks. If you are a zebra, for example, or any other animal that weighs more than the approaching vehicle, the driver may actually apply the brakes. Otherwise, ‘zebra walks' are still largely an optional affair for drivers. Note: Moscow just passed strict road regulations for drivers, but still, better to play it safe.
8. Use the underground and aboveground passages. Never, ever attempt to cross a 4-lane road in Moscow without the benefit of a traffic light, or perekhod, that is, an underground or aboveground passageway that takes pedestrians out of harm's way. The Moscow authorities seem to be aware of the massive traffic problems in the city and are constructing these passages everywhere. The latest one straddles 8-lane Leningradsky Prospekt, the eternally clogged artery that goes to Sheremetyevo Airport.
7. Bring your gold with you. An American friend of mine, after spending a few days in Moscow, asked his tour agent why they advised him not to wear his gold watch when strolling the streets of Moscow. When they told him it was not safe here, he replied, "The fruit sellers in the bazaars have more gold in their teeth than I've got in my safe!" I guess that sums it up.
6. The Russians will not eat you; they generally prefer chicken. Moreover, many Russians these days have become sophisticated vegetarians. Russians - despite the lingering stereotypes that took root during the Cold War years - are friendly, intelligent, and may even want to strike up a conversation if they discover that you are an exotic inostranets (foreigner). The chances are extremely high - knock on wood - that you will live to tell fabulous stories about your trip to Moscow. Just use common sense, as anywhere.
5. Before visiting Moscow, brush up on your native novelists. For example, Jack London, Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway. The Russians are (still) voracious readers, and I am ashamed to admit that the first time I heard of O. Henry was in Moscow. At the same time, be prepared to utter some niceties about the famous Russian writers - Tolstoy, Dosto­yevsky, Bul­gakov and Nabokov. And don't even think of visiting Russia unless you are somewhat acquainted with the works of Alexander Pushkin (His statue, which has become the most popular meeting place in the capital, sits on Pushkin Square across from one of the largest McDonald's franchises in the world and the first to appear in Russia. Ask to pay your respects to Pushkin first before requesting a Big Tasty. Big bonus points if you lay a flower on his pedestal). 4. Always remove your shoes when entering a Russian household. Unlike in glorious nation America, there are germs and - despite new dog-walking regulations - even the occasional pile of doggy-doo on the streets. Furthermore, female horse riders get supreme satisfaction by trotting their beasts of burden through the center of the city, creating masterpieces on the sidewalks that even Great Danes envy.
3. Lack of bears on Red Square. It is true; I have seen it with my own eyes: there are no bears on Red Square (!). The most dangerous thing you will experience here are the persistent and occasionally hairy souvenir sellers.
2. Russians are super superstitious. Here is the short-list: Do not present a person with an even amount of flowers - yes, odd; do not present any sort of cutlery or handkerchiefs as gifts; do not shake hands with a person through a doorframe; do not whistle indoors; do not make toasts to babies that are not yet born; do not place an empty bottle on the table top; do not celebrate anniversaries early; do not celebrate your 40th birthday. But go ahead and open your wet umbrella indoors!
1. Do not miss a trip to the Kremlin grounds. Many people make the long trek to Moscow yet never see Cathedral Square, with its 5 fantastic churches, or the Armory Museum. There is only one entrance into the Kremlin, and that is over the old brick bridge that is situated in Alexander's Garden, which is also worth a visit. Enjoy your stay, and don't worry, you'll love it here!

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