Wednesday, March 02, 2016

What the Russians say...

The now out March 7th edition of "The New Yorker" has a "Talk of the Town" comment about Alexander Litvinenko's death in 2006 in London, and his wife Marina's effort to keep the story of his murder alive, and keep a focus on the F.S.B. agents who poisoned him, as well as their boss Vladimir Putin. At this point the facts are undeniable but Russia ignores requests for extradition and most recently, in 2013, the British Home Secretary rejected requests for a public inquiry into the death, apparently under pressure from Russia.

A New Yorker article from November 7th, 1953, entitled the "The Old Boys" is initially about Chiang Kai-shek and the leading generals of the Nationalist Army who had settled in Taiwan.  As the article moves along it veers into the direction of Russia's influence in China and on the Communists. The former top general of the Nationalists says to the writer, "What you must not forget  is that the Communists have not stopped cheating you.  They never stop cheating."  The conversation continued and as the writer departed the old general yelled after her, "They always cheat."

Bill Browder's book "Red Notice" is about a fund that he created to invest in Russia during the period of privatization under Boris Yeltsin after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  With funds from Edmund Safra and the knowledge he had gained working on the Salomon Russia desk,  Browder became the largest foreign investor in Russia at that time.  The book describes that initial period of chaotic free market capitalism in which the few people with any understanding of how markets worked, and armed with loads of what would be called insider information in any market economy with rules, had great opportunity.  Former Yukos Chairman Mikhail Khodorkovsky was one of those self made oligarchs.

As the markets slightly evolved and Vladimir Putin took power, Khodorkovsky and most of those like him were displaced by friends of and proxies for Putin, and the establishment of the full scale Putin run kleptocracy that exists today was put in place.  "Red Notice" describes this period of Putin dominance, one that led to the beating death in prison of Browder's tax attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, who refused to admit to crimes that he did not commit.  That eventually became a "cause celebre" for many who were trying to bring some accountability to the Putin regime, but, just broadly , sanctions, for many reasons,against Russia have yielded little results.  They lead to the deprivation of the Russian people and despite that 80% of Russians maintain a nationalist fervor supporting Putin.

Today, the "truce" in Syria orchestrated by the U.S. and Russia is fraught with problems due to the Russian's manipulation of Kerry and Obama with their constant lying.  As all know, the ceasefire does not include ISIS or al-Nusra, and what kind of ceasefire is that?  Maybe it would have been valuable, but the week before the starting date the Russians, with their presence near Damascus, bombed rebel held areas in Homs and Aleppo at an unprecedented rate and then honored the exact ceasefire date. The Assad government, who Russia and Iran support, has by all independent accounts paid little attention to the ceasefire.  The Assad regime is even blocking much of the humanitarian aid that was scheduled to be delivered during the ceasefire.  Putin magnanimously suggests, in his that the ceasefire is working and with patience will benefit the region.  There is no comment of consequence from the Obama and Kerry team.  In fact, they seem to be mute.

The Russians may not by name still be Communists, but "they still always cheat."

This never ends, and with Putin it is worse.  What about Putin vs. Trump?  They admire each other.

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