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The Bizarre World of Thomas L. Friedman

Submitted by on February 28, 2014 – 6:56 am 82 Comments |  
FriedmanMapThe February 26th print edition of the New York Times featured an intriguing opinion piece by columnist Thomas L. Friedman entitled “Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.” Here Friedman invokes a scheme of global geopolitical division that he evidently developed with his former co-author Michael Mandelbaum, a professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins. This three-fold scheme, designed to replace the Cold War vision, is based primarily on the attitudes of ruling elites. Quoting Mandelbaum, Friedman maintains that, “The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today ‘is between those countries who want their states to be powerful and those countries who want their people to be prosperous.’” Friedman does not flesh out a comprehensive division of the world here, as he only places only a select group of countries in each category. Still, what he does mention is both interesting and bizarre.

Friedman’s first category includes Russia, Iran, and North Korea, as well as, presumably, a number of unspecified countries. What they have in common, he claims, is “leaders [who] are focused on building their authority, dignity and influence through powerful states” and their ability to “defy the global system and survive, if not thrive — all while playing an old, traditional game of power politics to dominate their respective regions.” Although these three countries are all authoritarian (to varying degrees), Friedman’s larger argument is highly exaggerated. North Korea is certainly a deeply repressive state that seeks to intimidate its opponents, but is it realistic to claim that it is seeking to “dominate [its] respective region,” which includes China and Japan? Is that really the “game” (Friedman’s term) that its government is playing?

It is Friedman’s second category, however, that is the real problem. Here one finds countries that are supposedly

focused on building their dignity and influence through prosperous people … These countries understand that the biggest trend in the world today is not a new Cold War but the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution. They are focused on putting in place the right schools, infrastructure, bandwidth, trade regimes, investment openings and economic management so more of their people can thrive in a world in which every middle-class job will require more skill and the ability to constantly innovate will determine their standard of living. (The true source of sustainable power.)

That is an impressive list of attributes, and I would certainly cheer on any country so devoted to enhancing the skills and living standards of its citizens – but I am not sure if any exist. Certainly some states do a better job on these issues than others, and I would not object to placing, say, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Finland in such a category. I find Friedman’s list, however, downright delusional.

Here is how Friedman defines his second category: “all the countries in Nafta, the European Union, and the Mercosur trade bloc in Latin America and Asean in Asia.” All the countries of the EU? That seems a bit of a stretch. Can one really argue that the governments of Italy, Greece, and Bulgaria (to name just a few) have been “focused” on building mass prosperity in such a manner over the past decade? If so, they have hardly been successful. Including all of the ASEAN states of Southeast Asia is more problematic still. Burma has recently made some real and important reforms, but it has hardly transformed itself into a mega-Singapore, the only Southeast Asian country that really fits Friedman’s description—and which itself suffers a rather serious democracy deficit. But it is the placement of Mercosur in the same group that really boggles my mind. Argentina and Paraguay are troublesome enough, but to claim that Venezuela is focused on enhancing the prosperity of its people is beyond bizarre. Either Friedman has no idea of what has been happening in Venezuela over the past decade or he has no idea what Mercosur is. Either way, I must question his ability to serve as a columnist for the New York Times, supposedly the “newspaper of record” of the United States.

Friedman’s third category, composed of countries that “can’t project power or build prosperity,” makes more sense, although the question is not so much whether they can “project power” as whether they can maintain internal order—which they can’t. This “world of disorder” includes Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, D.R. Congo and “other hot spots.” But why is Afghanistan not mentioned? And what exactly are the world’s “other hot spots.” Could they include violence-torn Mindanao in the Philippines or the Kachin area of northern Burma? No, they can’t, as these regions have already been placed in the happy world of development and responsible leadership.

Finally, Friedman places Ukraine in a category of its own, claiming that it “actually straddles all three of these trends.” Actually, it does not. Ukraine is not trying to dominate its region; it just tries to avoid being dominated by Russia. Ukraine has not been “focused” on “building dignity and influence through prosperous people,” particularly when it comes to women. And finally, Ukraine is not a “world of disorder,” although unfortunately it might become one.

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  • Independence

    There is no sign concerted effort in Washington, on Wall Street, or in effective mass movements of any stripe to achieve broad prosperity in middle class United States. Income disparity increases steadily, wealth grows steadily more concentrated in a shrinking share of the population, close to a decade’s worth of college graduates struggle to find work that could give them paying their loans, and official measures of employment gains and of unemployment report quantity but not quality (how many middle class jobs are being filled, and how many are being lost; what proportion of those being hired are making more or as much as in their last job?).

    Most principals, teachers, parents, and students can tell you that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have, together, been a bipartisan demonstration of the danger of good intentions coupled with misapplication of corporate incentives, leaving all too many children behind in this, the year when it wall all supposed to have been fixed. Charters? The only viable argument in their favor in terms of the public good was that their freedom from conventional constraints would allow them to try new approaches, identify ones that actually worked, and help them spread into public schools as a whole. Instead they’ve become what many expected: lifeboats. Many are good, many others have spring holes and sunk. Overall their performance is that of non-charter public schools. So much for “the right schools.”

    Job growth is available for those with high-level training the profession of the week, usually some variety of tech and/or finance, corporate America having gone the way of the NFL and NHL in expecting schools to groom their students in the development of skills, abandoning MLB’s model of taking responsibility for turning prospects into pros. It is not available, though, for those whose college work did the most to develop the creative thinking that corporate leaders say they want (but either dread or have failed to tell their HR departments about) and that NCLB has done so much to stifle. How is this supposed to improve the standard of living of a middle class, and a working class, whose real income has been stagnant for decades. This is not a group whose purchasing power is fueling advances of any kind, just the Walmarting of goods made abroad because so few people here can really afford much that’s Made in the USA.

    Tom Friedman has been singing this song for years now. He resembles nothing so much as the emperor with no clothes.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Independence! I have to agree with SirBedevere’s comment below that just because some policies may not have brought prosperity does not mean that that was not the goal of those policies. That’s where the US differs from Russia, for example (and Iran, North Korea, etc., I suspect, though I’ve never lived in those countries). We could definitely benefit from better roads, better schools, faster internet, etc., but the fact that we even recognize the importance of those things (and how lacking they may be at the moment) means that there is a focus on improving them in the first place.

      You may see the difference more clearly if you compare your own comment above to the comments of our reader Alexander to several of our recent posts, which basically reduce to “Yes things are bad in Russia, people are poor and unhealthy, but we are a glorious nation that others should take notice of”—that’s a prime example of the worldview that Friedman ascribes to the “red” countries.

      • Alexander

        I never said people are poor and unhealthy in Russia. Don’t misinterpret my comments. Pleeease.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Sorry, I shouldn’t have phrased it that way. I said in that post that they are unhealthy. You just agreed that there are problems.

  • SirBedevere

    Mr. Friedman’s problem is that he is, for obvious reasons, too focused on foreign policy. The governments of, for instance, North Korea and Venezuela, devote very little attention to dominating their neighbors, since funding anti-government guerillas and firing on boats that get in range are really the most that they can do. The governments of both countries, however, are primarily concerned with asserting control over the interior of the country, where they probably quite sincerely believe foreign powers are at work. That fantasy, though, does point to a way in which I think Messrs. Friedman and Mandelbaum are right, which is in the ideals of these states. National glory, in itself, is really not much of a draw even in such nationalist blue states as France, Brazil, or the US, though I have some doubts about places like Thailand or Greece. Similarly, in all the states in red, with the possible exception of Russia, citizens are called on to make material sacrifices so that the great external enemies can be challenged.

    I think this is also the mistake of Mr. Independence (odd name for someone who sounds like he wants Americans to have less of it). Every speech given in Washington or New York is a call for prosperity and a promise that whatever policy favored by the speaker will bring that prosperity. Just because Mr. Mussolini, for instance, might not have been very good at expansionism does not mean that was not the goal of all his policies. Similarly, just because Mr. Carter’s policies may not have brought prosperity does not mean that that was not the goal of every decision he made.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Great points, James! As for Russia, it may not be as obvious as back in the Soviet days, but indeed a good majority of the folks there are prepared to sacrifice material prosperity and individual freedoms for the glory of the nation—as is often quite transparent even from the comments of Russian readers here on GeoCurrents. It’s all described perfectly by a quote from Yulian Semyonov’s “Seventeen Moments of Spring”: “It is for the benefit of “the people” that you murder individuals” (Ради народа вы убиваете людей). Although in the book/movie, it is refers to the Nazi regime in Germany, it describes all of Friedman’s “red countries” today perfectly.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIzOma9Pyv8

      (Can’t remember which episode this quote is in, so the link above is to the beginning of the series)

      • SirBedevere

        You are always pointing out to me the most interesting writers.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          He wrote historical fiction, but so well-researched that it is more historical than fiction. The other night I was rewatching “Downfall” and I could see many parallels between it and “Seventeen moments”—looks like both were based on the same memoirs, documents etc. (e.g. Speer’s memoirs, Schellenber’s memoirs, etc.). Obviously, those memoirs have a personal angle too, but still…

          • SirBedevere

            If you have any more Soviet spy movies you could recommend, I would love to hear about them.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            They would probably look very obsolete now… Here’s some examples: “TASS Is Authorized to Declare…” (with the same actor as “Seventeen Moments”), “Teheran-43″, “Dead Season”
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TASS_Is_Authorized_to_Declare
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Season

            And if you want a wonderful parody of all the above and the whole genre, try this animation (oldie but goodie):

            Passion of Spies:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_of_Spies

            (If you can’t find it, I can probably make you a CD or something, there isn’t much text there, so subtitles are probably not absolutely necessary)

          • SirBedevere

            James Bond movies look obsolete too. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to watch them, or all of these.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Same here!

          • SirBedevere

            Passion of Spies is one of the most charming things I have seen, but I do have one question. How would you translate счастие in в деньгах–счастие? I do also find it curious that, when the lazy freeloader is reeducated, the music that accompanies him is Yankee Doodle.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Glad you like it! What about “не в деньгах счастье”? I am not sure what your question is.

            As for Yankee Doodle, sure, Americans are always the “bad guys” (were then and are now)…

          • SirBedevere

            “B деньгах–счастие” appears to be the motto of the capitalist enemy, but I was struggling with what that would be in English. “There is good fortune in money”? Maybe very loosely “In money we trust”?

            The lazy freeloader is the Soviet son who is reformed in the end, right? Yankee Doodle is played right before he goes in to his father’s balalaika concert with the Soviet spies. Maybe I did not understand it as well as I thought.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            I suppose it’s a joke. There’s a Russian expression “не в деньгах счастье”, meaning “happiness is not in money” (or more colloquially, “money doesn’t buy happiness”). In the animation, they took out the negation, to mean that for the Westerners “money is everything” or something like that.

            The Yankee Doodle is probably to highlight the difference between “the American” (=bad) and “the Russian” (=good). Because even now most Russians are convinced that Americans are behind opposition in Russia and Ukraine… Complete nonsense but that’s what the propaganda machine is feeding them…

          • SirBedevere

            Happiness, I don’t know why I did not think of that.

            I used to love reading about the latest American авантюризм in Известия. I went to college during the Reagan administration, which was a particularly good time for that. I have a feeling “TASS is Authorized to Declare…” is going to be a wonderful nostalgia trip for me.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Oh now that we talk about it, I too feel awfully nostalgic. I must find “TASS…” and rewatch! I haven’t seen it since it first came out. Weekend project!

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            And for our other readers, here’s the animation we are talking about (with subtitles):
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqjOIq_HuYE&feature=share

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Started watching “TASS is authorized to declare…” last night—totally hilarious in places where it wasn’t meant to be. The thing that had me LOL is when two Americans are discussing a risky plan and one says to another “Spit over your shoulder!”…. Exactly! It doesn’t even mean a thing to an American, but such a Russian superstition!

          • http://www.reticulator.com Reticulator

            I started watching that one once, but didn’t finish. Too transparent an agenda, I thought. Maybe I’ll go back and try again.

            To refer to an earlier point you made, I have long found it interesting that the ratio of American references in Russian movies to Russian references in American movies is something like 1000 to 1. (It’s a rough estimate.)

            Canadians also talk about Americans a lot more than Americans talk about Canada, but it’s not entirely the same thing, at least not on the Canadian side.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Transparent agenda? No doubt. But it’s interesting to see how the Soviets crafted their propaganda. Some acting is not too shabby either… though it doesn’t reach the level of “Seventeen moments” in either historical accuracy or cinematographic artistry.

            Good points about the ratio and about the Canadians—I must concur.

    • Ygor Coelho Soares

      Well, at least as for Brazil I can definitely say “national glory” is probably among the least important and last preoccupations of the average citizen, really… Brazilian nationalism is more attached to culture, language, supposed “values” that make our way of life more interesting or happy or something like that, but with very little of that notion of sacrifice, expansion and, in sum, heroism and glory. I suspect that’s the case in many of the “blue” countries.

    • SirBedevere

      Actually, I was just watching a documentary called “An African Election,” and it makes me think that, if the blue and red were more properly to characterize the rhetoric and intentions of these governments, all of the yellow countries could be colored either red or blue as well, though they might shimmer between red and blue with alarming frequency. I think it very likely that Messrs Friedman and Mandelbaum may have read about these countries, but the probably did not read a great deal from these countries.

  • Ygor Coelho Soares

    Well, putting aside disastrous economic mismanagement, bad economic policies and corruption that is as widespread as always, I don’t think Friedman is that wrong when he points out that Venezuela really did focus its national strategy of external projection by means of enhancing some concept of “prosperity” for its people. Definitely it didn’t promote the kind of sustainable and rule of law-based growth that generates a lot of wealth, but it is a fact that poverty levels, malnutrition and other social data have improved dramatically since the late 1990′s in Venezuela through public services and other means. So, in a way, despite the many woes of the Venezuelan people and its mismanaged and overcentralized government, especially in the last 3 years (until 2010 things were apparently much better till the decline in the prices of oil took their hit in the economy, together with other problems), it did establish the improvement of social issues as its main goal to enhance its legitimacy and clout.

    • SirBedevere

      And the same sort of considerations give me pause about Iran. The rhetoric of prosperity actually dominates the national conversation, so to speak, according to Persian emigré friends. There is a difference that, as I said, I don’t think has to do with expansionism so much as a mythology of siege. Mr Independence above, who I assume is American, blames any failure to achieve prosperity in the United States not on some sort of external enemy, but on American governments themselves. I think that is true of most of the countries colored blue above, but the Venezuelan, Iranian, North Korean, and to some extent Russian governments blame any failings on foreigners that we must remain eternally vigilant against.

      • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

        Well, in Iran prosperity was definitely cast aside in the 1979 Revolution. Shah was all about prosperity (even if it didn’t immediately percolate to the masses), and Khomeini cast that aside. And Iran continues its policy of outsourcing and exporting Islamic Revolution. But you make a great point about blaming failings on foreigners against whom one has to remain eternally vigilant. Why are you downplaying that wrt Russia, I wonder?

        • Ygor Coelho Soares

          However, Asya, since the 1979 Revolution Iran’s social development data have improved dramatically, especially those relating to education (illiteracy, above all). Perhaps it wasn’t the main goal of their Revolution, but I suppose the Shah’s regime wasn’t in practice all that for development (maybe only for wealth, which is something much more restricted than development) if even the Ayatollah’s regime delivered much better results in education, health and overall social issues than the former government. Since 1980 Iran’s HDI increased from 0.443 to 0.742, quite faster than the regional and the world average increase.

          That I don’t mention in order to legitimate the authoritarian regime, but we shouldn’t retain a “glittered” image of the Shah times when in fact Iran by then, despite all the progressive propaganda, was in fact tremendously less developed than the still under-developed Iran of our days.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            I have one word for you: women. Has their position in society improved? And what about freedoms? I asked my Iranian emigre friend who still has relatives in Iran what they think of the new president, and she told me: “This is not a sort of thing we can talk about on the phone”. That sort of thing’s enough for me to place it into a totalitarian category, not the blue one. Another Persian friend of mine, who spent most of her life in the US as well, had to go back to take care of an elderly family member. Her conclusion: not a country to be old, sick or a woman. Anyhow, these are personal anectodes, but the bigger point remains: Iran is not what I call “a user-friendly country”, not a country of and for the people.

          • SirBedevere

            Once again, I am more interested in aims and rhetoric more than results. While this new version of Shi’ism was certainly central to the 1979 Revolution, there was a heavy dose of socialist redistribution and a promise that prosperity for all would follow. Competing promises of prosperity also seem to be at the center of Iranian elections.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Well, every politician promises prosperity: how else would they get people on their side (to vote for them in a democratic regime, or not to rebel too much in a totalitarian one)?

          • SirBedevere

            By promising sacrifice of blood and riches to secure a true rebirth of our nation. That’s all over the speeches of Hitler and Mussolini and it is central to the Juche idea. I think it only lasts so long, usually, so there need to be constant threats from cosmopolitan internal and external enemies that would justify such sacrifices. One thing about those blue countries is that their voters seem to have a rather low tolerance for such sacrifices, but an enticing new ideology may always be right around the corner.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            It seems to be the case that both red and blue countries are more purple than the map suggests—the distinction may be blurred at times. So maybe red countries like Nazi Germany are red-purple, while the US is more blue-purple?

          • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

            excellent points. Open media, I suspect, greatly reduces such tolerance.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Exactly! It would be interesting to compare this Friedman map (taking into account its flaws) and the maps of freedom of the press index:

            http://www.geocurrents.info/cultural-geography/freedom-of-the-press-index-for-2013-the-more-it-changes-the-more-it-stays-the-same

            http://www.geocurrents.info/geonotes/surprising-press-freedom-rankings

        • SirBedevere

          You know, I downplayed Russia, because I was thinking of Putin’s railing a few years back about oligarchs, local leaders, etc., but I guess there has been a great deal more blaming of Russia’s faults on outsiders lately, hasn’t there.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Yes, but with the oligarchs, it’s always been emphasized how many of them are Jewish (i.e. “foreign” to Russia). And don’t forget that Putin’s earliest years were when the Second Chechen War was waged against another group of “foreign enemies”. But yes it’s intensifying greatly of late.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      If only material goods are considered, then the situation greatly improved for an average German in the early years of the Nazi regime. Whether one has a new fridge or a new car is hardly the way to measure what Friedman is trying to assess…

      • Ygor Coelho Soares

        Well, I’m not considering material goods only. Things like infant mortality, illiteracy, access to high college or life expectancy can hardly be considered “material goods” in my book. Anyway, of course those things don’t make up all things that qualify a country as developed or even a more ample concept of social development, however they aren’t irrelevant at all, as well.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Yes, perhaps I didn’t phrase it very well above, you are right. But think about this: Soviet Union had free healthcare (not very good one but free), highest literacy figures and free access to higher education. Was it any less totalitarian regime? Was it a country of the people and for the people? Hardly! The state was the main thing and everything was for its benefit, and it would dole out material goods, healthcare, education etc., sometimes more generously, sometimes less, but it wasn’t a country oriented towards the prosperity and freedom of the people. The fact that anyone who wasn’t too brainwashed tried to escape speaks for itself. Friedman’s “red countries” are like that still today, but the point Martin Lewis has made in the post is that he miscategorized a fair number of countries that should have been “red” as “blue”.

          • Ygor Coelho Soares

            I see. Really we shouldn’t mistake social developments with the real institutional development of what we call – in Brazil, at least – a Democratic Social Law State (Rechtsstaat, in the German doctrine), that is, a rule-of-law-based state whose main aim is the social development of its people exclusively through democratic means. Social and especially economic development can come through undemocratic ways, but hardly we could declare such countries as countries “oriented towards the prosperity and freedom of the people”, rather more like “oriented towards the prosperity and sovereignty of the state/nation itself”, which even in practice means something very different in terms of public policy and especially the relations between the state and the citizenry.

            I suppose that is what happened/happens in the Soviet Union, Iran, even some of the Gulf Kingdoms: they may enrich and develop, but from top to bottom, with little or no control by the people itself on things like how, when and what to do with their wealth and human potential.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Well said!

    • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

      Good points, but the huge rise in the price of oil from the 1900s to the early 2000s had a lot to do with this.

      • Ygor Coelho Soares

        That’s right, though I’m pretty sure the priority given to public services and wealth redistribution – sometimes through questionable means in the long term, but that’s another discussion – in the way that vast ammount of money would be spent was decisive in making Venezuela achieve much better results in social data than other oil-producing developing countries in the same period (e.g Mexico), as well as having enjoyed the largest drop in social inequality and one of the largest in overall poverty in LatAm in the last 15 years. Unfortunately, of course, all that process wasn’t accompanied by the building of long-term institutions that can maintain and guarantee those advances, but the whole picture there is (until now) very distant from the nightmare that part of the Western media pictures. It is actually much less worrisome than, say, the situation in Russia or Ukraine.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          And that’s why there are protesters on the streets?

          • Ygor Coelho Soares

            Well, things are not so simple as to make us believe every time there are protesters on the streets a country is an absolute nightmare. Firstly, huge protests may happen even if only a minority of the population take part in them (even 10% of a country’s population can make a lot of noise and mess, of course). Secondly, economic problems are well known impulses to protests, and we all know these protests have been fueled by the economic difficulties experienced by Venezuela recently together with a more radical movement of the opposition, which believes that the best way to get rid of the leftist government is through mass protests that, through sheer pressure, would force it to move out, instead of the moderate opposition led by Eduardo Capriles, which still works a lot and believes that the opposition can convince the majority of Venezueans and win regularly and democratically in the polls. The biggest problem for the Venezuean protesters now has been exactly how to gain the support from the poorer majority, which has been mostly absent from their movement because it believes their situation is much better than ever even with all the security and economic liabilities. That has been very well documented even by the large Western media (yesterday the NY Times published a very good report on this subject). The opposition leader Eduardo Capriles, more moderate than López, the leader of the more radicalized protests, alerted recently that “We will not be able to win this fight without the participation of people from the slums”. That means a lot and shows how the country is in fact very divided.

            Not every time mass protests happen a country is a complete basket-case, let alone a totalitarian dictatorship. I’m pretty sure the US wasn’t one of those when Occupy Wall Street took over the country a few years ago, just like the United Kingdom wasn’t one when it had violent riots in 2012 (I believe), or even Brazil last year (I’m Brazilian, so I know it). They mean a country is experiencing structural problems and does have a mass of unsatisfied people, but what and how that came to be is more complex and varies a lot from country to country.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Actually, if there are people who are prepared to go under bullets (or whatever arms are used) to protest, it does show that the country is an absolute nightmare. The Occupy movement stood or sat in the streets, it was the sort of violent protests you describe (or what’s been happening in Venezuela as far as I can tell though I haven’t been following it too closely). So if economic and social development was going so well as you said in your earlier comment, why are people prepared to die to change that?

          • Ygor Coelho Soares

            Exactly because, as I said earlier, the vast majority of the protesters are the part of the population who feel they haven’t benefitted from these last years of “Bolivarian regime”, which are mostly the middle and higher middle class and the wealthy class. That is the precise reason why part of the Western media, like the NY Times, has noticed the protests have been failing to grow and really “dominate” the political scenario: they’ve lacked the ability to woo the majority of the population, which is poorer and feels things are not as well as before (the economy is worse, oil prices declined, crime levels increased even more etc.), but they have benefitted a lot in the last decade to risk a sudden political change. Also, being under bullets is much less “scary” and rare in Venezuela, the 2nd most violent country in the world, than elsewhere, so I think the violence of protests alone would make less people flee from them than if they had occurred in, say, Canada or the UK.

            That is the reason why Venezuela is in this paradox: many, many people are willing to protest, because they are really unsatisfied (people who already had health and education services, access to basic products and good income certainly feel the Bolivan regime brought them nothing but economic problems and leftist propaganda, that’s right); but also many, many people feel things are not so bad and the protesters are exaggerating and, in fact, may even be intending to win the government by deposing the current government because they’ve repeatedly failed to win in the polls. Venezuela is now a deeply divided country, so let’s say that the “60%” or so and the “40%” are both right through their own lens by which they see reality. As I said before, the Venezuelan government didn’t establish good, long-term and solid institutions and didn’t generate sustainable wealth that spread throughout the whole society, so a part of the society (mostly the poorer) likes the government, while the other part (the middle-higher classes) think it didn’t gain anything in the last 10-15 years. That certainly generates a lot of mutual hatred, opposition and instability.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thanks for sharing these thoughts. But from what you say, it still follows that Friedman’s placement of Venezuela into the “blue” category is wrong…

          • Ygor Coelho Soares

            You’re welcome.
            Well, yes… The country is pretty divisive to be really “blue”. Maybe purple, in the definition you proposed in another post. lol

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “Purple-red” perhaps… It’s too ideologically driven and too supportive of “red” countries to be “purple-blue”… But indeed, the world is far more complicated than a binary division would presuppose…

      • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

        What will you have: “”oil” or “brains”?
        http://www.geocurrents.info/geonotes/what-will-you-have-oil-or-brains
        This really seems to underlie a lot of the distinction between “red” and “blue” countries. (And that was based on Friedman’s writings as well.)

  • Xezlec

    I don’t know that he’s really trying to replace the Cold War classifications so much as to extend them into the modern era, even if it’s an awkward fit.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      It an interesting situation: from the Western point of view, the Cold War is over, but from the Russian point of view it’s still raging on. That’s the view that Putin and Co are cultivating, as we speak.

      • Xezlec

        I think it depends how you define “Cold War”. It’s not entirely wrong, in the sense that the US and Russia are still very skeptical of each other, and rhetorically hostile toward each other at times too. But in terms of the world still being split between two poles plus a “third world”, I think that’s being too kind to both the US and Russia. Can we still say either country still has a “bloc” following it?

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Probably not a “bloc”, but is it a prerequisite for Cold War? I wouldn’t think so. The point is that the Russian government conducts hostile and agressive propaganda against “the West” and America in particular, and the majority of the people are brainwashed to think like that. There’s nothing like that on the American side. While Russians hate America on a daily basis, most Americans rarely if ever think about Russia.

          • Alexander

            Yeah, like in the US your media are the true saint people (no propaganda at all, duh). Most of people (99%) in Russia don’t hate America or the American people. What people really hate is American foreign policy. They hate American missile defence in Eastern Europe, the Arab Spring, they hate what’s going on in Syria and Ukraine. I think you in America would also hate Russian foreign policy with missile defence in Cuba and military bases in Mexico and a revolution organized for Russian money in Canada, eh? They hate when someone teaches them how to live and what to do. This has nothing to do with the attitude towards common Americans or the US on the whole. As for me, I respect your country and its people. However, all your point of view here is the Cold War Era cliché.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            You say you don’t hate America, but you too are seeing it as the enemy where it is not at all so. What does American have to do with what is going in Ukraine? Please don’t give me the BS that the events in Ukraine have been somehow the fault of “the West” or “America” or whatever. What is happening in Ukraine is that the people there, and not just ethnic Ukrainians, do not want to live by Putin’s rules anymore. They are prepared to die for it too. That you don’t see the obvious speaks only to the sort of propaganda you are sadly exposed to. You are too used to seeing America as the big bad wolf of every fairytale in the book.

            “a revolution organized for Russian money in Canada” — but it’s not happening, I wonder why… Maybe because the truly “blue” countries aren’t interested in the sort of ideological garbage that the “red” countries are peddling.

            “all your point of view here is the Cold War Era cliché.” — can you be more specific?

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig
          • Alexander

            It’s a dumb irony. But what about the western media that call fascists “peaceful protestors”. They aint that peaceful:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZz9jT6fusc

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCPpnPgww6w

            What about this one?

            http://sevenpost.livejournal.com/

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            The LiveJournal link doesn’t work…

            As for the Maidan protesters, I never said they were peaceful. But what do you expect if snipers are shooting them to kill? But what evidence do you have that they are (all) fascists? There may be neo-Nazi elements among them, but a significant group of protesters are not neo-Nazi, many are in fact Jewish:

            http://www.geocurrents.info/geopolitics/protest-movements/strange-bedfellows-emerge-ukraine-protests

            So don’t repeat the propaganda without having facts to support what you say. If anyone is a fascist, it would be Putin and his puppets…

          • Alexander
          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Don’t you see that this is the exact same brainwashing propaganda, based on ignoring the actual facts in the real world, as what I illustrated? Or are you agreeing with me?

          • Alexander

            No, I’m not agreeing with you. All I see is the double standards of “the actual facts of the real world” and thinking. You wrote I believe in some sort of conspiracy, and you said that America wasn’t directly involved in what happened in Ukraine. You say I’m lacking the facts. I’m not to blame you don’t want to see them. All right, how about the video with a little talk with your Secretary of State and American Ambassador I posted above then?

            As for Brzezinski quote – I didn’t want to say that Russia must be an Empire with Ukraine. We’ll survive without them. What Brzezinski really says is that Ukraine is a key country to influence Russia. Ukraine seizure means that you are right on the Russia’s doorstep and it’s not a problem to spread your influence there. I can’t help trusting him; he is not conspiracy theorists, right?

            You call my opinion about Ukrainian dependence on Russia fascist. Do you usually do the same thing when your arguments over? It’s an obvious fact – Russia supported Ukraine a lot. One must be absolutely blind and dumb if he can’t see it. It’s Ukrainian fault they turned their “zhitnitsa”, the most prosperous region of the Soviet Union with the powerful economy, industry and agriculture in one of the poorest and corrupted country in the world, famous for its human trafficking and prostitution. In one of my previous comments in another article I said that if I were Putin, I wouldn’t mind their wish to join the EU. At least they’d get what they want – the onerous conditions of the association and an opportunity to work as waiters in Germany. Although, even Yanukovich had the brains to refuse it.

            Do you have relatives in Ukraine by the way? Primorye is a Russian region formed by Ukrainians for the most of its parts. The names of villages here are Chernigovka, Kievka, Chuguevka, Poltavka, Nikolaevka – just to mention a few. Almost every family has their relatives in Ukraine. My family is not an exception. And guess who are they really afraid of? Not the “fascist” Russia (the country that actually stopped Fascism and sacrificed 30 millions of its people to stop it). They are afraid that youngsters from the west who want to become a real power in the modern European country.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “how about the video with a little talk”— politicians/diplomats discussing various scenarios of how things may play out and what consequences there will be for their country? I’d say they are doing their job. When you video tape them bringing in (American) military units, tanks and the like, let me know.

            re: Brzezinski’s quote, here’s how you cited it: ““Without Ukraine Russia ceases to be empire”. *Russia* ceases to be an empire. Not the US. The only country seizing (part of) Ukraine is Russia. Not the US. So stop assigning blame to another party. На воре шапка горит.

            Re: your opinion of Ukrainians, here’s what you said in an earlier comment (pasting verbatim again): ““Ethnic Ukrainians” might think whatever they want about Putin and Russia, but without Russia they are nothing.” — Hmmm… I’ve read that somewhere before… Ah yes in Goebbels’ diaries! Only he extended that opinion to Russians as well.

            As for Russian having stopped “fascism”, several points need to be made. First of all, if anything, it stopped Nazism (not the same thing). Nor does it prevent Russia from being largely the same type of system. And they didn’t single-handedly stop the Nazis either, though the Russians tend to forget/ignore that little fact.

            Finally, let’s get to “Russia… sacrificed 30 millions of its people”. Two points to be made here. First of all, 30 million? It was under ten million, then over ten million, then 20 million, now 30 million? Sounds like the dead are procreating! I will refer you to Mark Solonin’s work: he shows with documentary evidence that the actual number of military and civilian deaths is less than 10 million if I remember correctly (certainly, way less than 30 million). Those numbers were later gamed in order to hide the losses from the Gulag murders. Point #2: regardless of the exact number, which we can argue about (if you have better documentary evidence than Solonin does, I’d like to see it!), the only reason that the USSR lost that many lives is because its leaders never gave a crap about the citizens’ lives in the first place. Nothing to be proud of, really. But being a fascist state that it is, Russia only cares about sacrifices, not prosperity of its citizens. QED.

          • Alexander

            “Politicians/diplomats discussing…”. It’s not just a discussion. They discuss (appoint is more suitable word) their puppets, decide who is who. One or a couple of week passed after the little dirty talk and guess who is a new prime minister of Ukraine? What a coincidence! The American involvement in this crap is out of question, it’s a fact. But I like your logic, let me follow it. There’s not a single Russian soldier in Crimea, all that polite people with machine guns are the new Crimean police. And our diplomats/politicians are just doing their job. Why is the gay (strikethrough) world community so pissed off?

            All right, you don’t like the Brzezinski quote. Let me bring you another one. “The key point to bear in mind is that Russia cannot be in Europe without Ukraine also being in Europe, whereas Ukraine can be in Europe without Russia being in Europe”.

            You’re trying to provoke me by saying that my country is a fascist state. All right, it’s your chose, it’s your face. Fortunately, I never give up on provocations. So I forget and forgive you this little shameful act. Nevertheless, I’ll never tolerate the revision of WWII and genocide of Russian people during this war. Your Solonin can wipe his donkey with his book. “Dead are procreating”… Dead cells in Solinin’s brain are procreating. Of course I might give you a lot of books which doubt the number of victims of Holocaust or Holocaust itself. But I won’t, because I realize (unlike you) that Holocaust is the same pain for Jewish people as Velikaya Otechestvennaya voina and genocide of Russians for Russian people. No one even knows the exact number of dead people, because it was impossible to count them. The mass graves are still being found. Almost each family has a relative who is missing, who never returned. That’s what various putridity like Solonin can exploit it. In 1993 a study by the Russian Academy of Sciences estimated total Soviet population losses due the war at 26.6 million, including military dead of 8.7 million calculated by the Russian Ministry of Defense. These figures have been accepted by most historians outside of Russia. Honestly I’m surprised to hear your words, because you were born in heroic city of Lenigrad (Saint-Petersburg nowadays). And you say there’s nothing to be proud of. There’s nothing to be proud of in Europe which lay under Hitler and Paris prostitutes had spent a good time with German officers. Obviously, we had to stop our soldiers near our western borders. At least it would prevent the further victims among them and the Europe would taste a bitter piece of rage of amuck Hitler’s thugs who were still strong at the time. Yes, we’ve paid a huge price for our victory (and still are paying actually). Yes, there were crime and stupid decisions. Yes, the value of human life often meant nothing. Ho история не знает сослагательных наклонений. Победителей не судят. So I’m proud of my people who survived and knocked out this dirt out of their territory. And if they come again, we’ll do the same thing. I’m not going to discuss this topic again. However, I must say that Russians are thankful to the American people for Lеnd Lease, which gave us a lot and we still remember this act of bravery.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            If you absolutely must be rude, any further comments will be erased and blocked. You can take your language and your inability to engage actual arguments somewhere else.

            “n 1993 a study by the Russian Academy of Sciences estimated total Soviet
            population losses due the war at 26.6 million, including military dead
            of 8.7 million calculated by the Russian Ministry of Defense. These
            figures have been accepted by most historians outside of Russia. ” — you’ll have to be more specific than that. But my problem is that this methodology you are describing is wrong. Nobody counts war losses by counting dead bodies. So discovering new mass graves change nothing. Nor are they something to be proud of, but a shame. I am ashamed that the Soviet government put people of Leningrad through the seige, not proud of it. I am proud of those who survived, but that’s a different story.

            As for “Победителей не судят.” — that’s exactly what Stalin counted on. He knew his people quite well.

            “And if they come again, we’ll do the same thing.” — they are there and have never left. You still live in Stalin’s USSR, all the new toponyms nonwithstanding. That’s the problem.

          • Alexander

            Okay, I’ll let me leave you alone then, but I want to say my final words. You see Russia through a prism of Russophoby and Cold-War Era rudiments. I’ve given you enough arguments, but it’s you who unable to take them, you ether totally ignore them, or nitpick something which has nothing to do with the discussed topic, trying to humiliate and laugh what I’m trying to bring to you. Actually, I knew I couldn’t change your mind. I’d be happy if other people will try to think more deeply, to see another side of the current problems and events, to hear the different, alternative opinion (not the propaganda they are eating right now).

            You and SirBedevere wanted to see some facts on what’s going on in the Eastern Ukraine. Watch this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jnq3MRLsEU&feature=youtu.be

            There are lots of similar videos on YouTube. But I already know what you’re about to say on this one. You’ll say these are paid actors, all they say is a Putin’s propaganda, right? So don’t bother.

            If you don’t trust what common people say, let’s turn to your media. Sometimes they contrive to show glimpses of common sense. Here’s a link on what of a professor from Princeton University say on the topic. I hope you and SirBedevere will be able read it at your leisure time:

            http://www.democracynow.org/2014/2/20/a_new_cold_war_ukraine_violence

            What I tried to say is that Ukraine is in the middle of collision of two civilizations – Russian and Western and we witness the history right now.

            Now I must leave you, ‘cause I believe I’ve got what I wanted. An author who believe that Solonin is a “historian” who can be trusted, who believes Russian state and people to be fascist well deserves a good work in the American Ministry of Truth (specialization – Russia).

            That’s all. Please, don’t try not to falsify what I wrote here in your further comments. Sincerely yours Alex.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Haha, I am not nitpicking but engaging in a discussion over facts. While you are “venting political or ideological frustrations [and] for pursuing nationalist tussles over mythologized histories” — exactly the sort of behavior that our discussion policy prohibits:

            http://www.geocurrents.info/about

            You can keep your stereotypes, propaganda and ideological cliches to yourself. We are not interested.

          • Alexander

            Speak for yourself, Asechka :))

            Да, и всех не “забанить”, ибо нас может быть много:

            Мильоны – вас. Нас – тьмы, и тьмы, и тьмы.
            Попробуйте, сразитесь с нами!
            Да, скифы – мы! Да, азиаты – мы,
            С раскосыми и жадными очами!

            Для вас – века, для нас – единый час.
            Мы, как послушные холопы,
            Держали щит меж двух враждебных рас
            Монголов и Европы!

            Века, века ваш старый горн ковал
            И заглушал грома’ лавины,
            И дикой сказкой был для вас провал
            И Лиссабона, и Мессины!

            Вы сотни лет глядели на Восток,
            Копя и плавя наши перлы,
            И вы, глумясь, считали только срок,
            Когда наставить пушек жерла!

            Вот – срок настал. Крылами бьет беда,
            И каждый день обиды множит,
            И день придет – не будет и следа
            От ваших Пестумов, быть может!

            О старый мир! Пока ты не погиб,
            Пока томишься мукой сладкой,
            Остановись, премудрый, как Эдип,
            Пред Сфинксом с древнею загадкой!

            Россия – Сфинкс! Ликуя и скорбя,
            И обливаясь черной кровью,
            Она глядит, глядит, глядит в тебя
            И с ненавистью, и с любовью!..

            Да, так любить, как любит наша кровь,
            Никто из вас давно не любит!
            Забыли вы, что в мире есть любовь,
            Которая и жжет, и губит!

            Мы любим всё – и жар холодных числ,
            И дар божественных видений,
            Нам внятно всё – и острый галльский смысл,
            И сумрачный германский гений…

            Мы помним всё – парижских улиц ад,
            И венецьянские прохлады,
            Лимонных рощ далекий аромат,
            И Кельна дымные громады…

            Мы любим плоть – и вкус ее, и цвет,
            И душный, смертный плоти запах…
            Виновны ль мы, коль хрустнет ваш скелет
            В тяжелых, нежных наших лапах?

            Привыкли мы, хватая под уздцы
            Играющих коней ретивых,
            Ломать коням тяжелые крестцы
            И усмирять рабынь строптивых…

            Придите к нам! От ужасов войны
            Придите в мирные объятья!
            Пока не поздно – старый меч в ножны,
            Товарищи! Мы станем – братья!

            А если нет – нам нечего терять,
            И нам доступно вероломство!
            Века, века – вас будет проклинать
            Больное позднее потомство!

            Мы широко по дебрям и лесам
            Перед Европою пригожей
            Расступимся! Мы обернемся к вам
            Своею азиатской рожей!

            Идите все, идите на Урал!
            Мы очищаем место бою
            Стальных машин, где дышит интеграл,
            С монгольской дикою ордою!

            Но сами мы – отныне вам не щит,
            Отныне в бой не вступим сами,
            Мы поглядим, как смертный бой кипит,
            Своими узкими глазами.

            Не сдвинемся, когда свирепый гунн
            В карманах трупов будет шарить,
            Жечь города, и в церковь гнать табун,
            И мясо белых братьев жарить!..

            В последний раз – опомнись, старый мир!
            На братский пир труда и мира,
            В последний раз на светлый братский пир
            Сзывает варварская лира!

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            I speak for myself, with my own words, and I think for myself—which you would be well advised to do as well. My house, my rules!

          • Alexander

            Yep, why should I hate America? I love American culture, respect the American science, I have a few friends there – the nicest people I’ve ever met. They’re not to blame their government screws everything up. Whether you believe or not, do you like it or not, America has a direct benefit from what’s going on in Ukraine. Your belief or disbelief changes nothing here. Your politicians do. Can you call the BS the following recording?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSxaa-67yGM

            The masters of the puppets decide who is who.

            Now let’s turn to what Mr. Brzezinski wrote in his Grand Chessboard: “Without Ukraine Russia ceases to be empire, while with Ukraine –bought off first and subdued afterwards, it automatically turns into empire”. Nice and true point of Mr. Brsesinsky. He wrote a lot in his books on the topic, I’m sure you know it and I don’t have to cite every quote here.

            Yes, the people in Ukraine were sick of their authorities, Yanukovich is theft and dweeb. When the protests began there were adequate and good demands of the Ukrainian people. You know perfectly what happened after. Crowds of ultra nazis from the Western Ukraine were on the front line on what happened next. Who organized them? Who paid them? Who fed them cookies? Yeah, good Uncle Sam I guess. Didn’t you see hundreds of red and black flags of Ukrainian Insurgent Army which folks cut thousands of Poles, Russians and Jews during WWII? It was everything but a peaceful protest. Fascism appeared in the center of Europe again, in the 21 century. What actually Ukrainian authorities did during the protests means absolutely nothing, because the purposes have been set and the money have been paid. Someone turned the situation the way he wanted to (we know who, but won’t mention out loud). Who did shoot protestors in their back? Yeah, of course whoever but the guys from Blackwater or Craft for example. It’s so comfortable to do and to blame it all on police. Look carefully on 0:18-0:19:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np3vfhivyGA

            This is a classical scenario of any orange Revolution. It happened in Georgia, it happened in Ukraine in 2006 and continues to happening right now.

            “Ethnic Ukrainians” might think whatever they want about Putin and Russia, but without Russia they are nothing. Actually they never liked their leaders, even pro-american Yuschenko. Okay, they packed off Yanukovich, what’s next? The country is a disaster, it’s on the verge of starvation. There’s no police, no money in treasury, the production stopped, the country is in absolute chaos, some western areas (not even pro-Russian eastern ones) don’t obey Kiev, because they don’t like the new authorities.

            Did you see these videos? The man who acts like a monkey there is Sashko Biliy, he is a militant from UNA-UNSO, and fought against Russians during the First Chechen War. He is a fascist and he doesn’t try to hide it. He is a new authority in Ukraine, a true Ukrainian:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOgQ6i_9Qbc
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UyXhYnea6s
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaNi1A4bFv0

            It’s laughable and sad at the same time. But Russia is still bad, bloody Putin is to blame. What will Ukraine do without cheap Russian gas and oil, without Russian investments and loans, without Russian market where Ukrainian goods are being sold? Who needs them in Europe? Will Europeans buy Ukrainian goods? No, they need another colony, cheap labor force and market; they are not interested in Ukrainian future.

            For the last and Israeli officer comments on Ukraine:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KswxumWhe2s

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “They’re not to blame their government screws everything up” — this is exactly what you don’t get: yes, they ARE to “blame” for what their government does. Not every single step, that wouldn’t be feasible, except in Switzerland, but in general, yes Americans are responsible for what their government does because they control their government. Whereas in Russia, the government exists separate and above the people. It has been that way ever since the Russians invited the Ruriks to rule over them (read the Primary Chronicle). Just because things are that way in Russia, you shouldn’t assume that they are that way everywhere else. That’s exactly what I’ve been saying all along. But you keep seeing a conspiracy where there isn’t any. Read again the Brzezinsky quote: “Without Ukraine Russia ceases to be empire” Russia! Not US.

            And once again, yes there are ultra-nationalists among the protesters, but then there are regular people who simply don’t like the totalitarian Putin-run show. Calling them ALL fascists is ridiculous. Especially, after the years of the Nashi movement in Russia—that’s where fascism is florishing. Some day I’ll write a separate post on that.

            http://www.geocurrents.info/geopolitics/protest-movements/strange-bedfellows-emerge-ukraine-protests

            ““Ethnic Ukrainians” might think whatever they want about Putin and Russia, but without Russia they are nothing.” — now that is actually a fascist sort of statement. I suggest you stop and think about what you are saying.

            P.S. Please keep your comments to a readable length.

          • SirBedevere

            If the United States were threatening to cut off pipelines to Canada in order to coerce a government there into changing its foreign policy, Americans would have no problem with international support for Canadian political movements. If the Mexicans leased airbases to Russia so that it could help a failed state in Colombia establish a government that could control international terrorists there, that would be fine. I don’t know that the United States has ever objected to missile defense systems anywhere, but if Russia were going to administer a missile defense system in Cuba because the Caribbean basin had several unstable states that had the potential to threaten the entire region, Americans might very well approve. Of course, none of that is the case in Canada, Mexico, or Cuba, while it is the case in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and the Czech Republic.

          • Alexander

            Dear Sir, I’m sorry I can’t write short comments and this one is not an exception.

            The thing is you don’t know what you are talking about. Are there failed states in Europe? I open American news and read “The United States stop reducing its personnel on its German bases”. The D-day came for them, finally making their long-term presence in Europe meaningful. It’s absolutely clear that these bases existed for that very purpose. The United States would never allow any long-term Russian presence near their borders, never. Moreover, the United States can do absolutely everything with almost any country in the world as long as they have the most offensive army and as long as their printing machine works. And the so called rainbow “world community” or namely Golden billion will support every manner of aggression to cut every kind of risk for their fat, stupefied and indifferent society, which only purpose is an endless consumption. That entire gay thing is nothing but Russian phrase “C жиру бесятся”. I don’t know how to translate it, Asya will. Who did American “peacemakers” protect in Yugoslavia or Iraq? I know who we are going to protect in Ukraine – Russian –speaking population there, our brothers and sisters. Who are YOU going to protect in Ukraine, whose interests, why? I can understand the EU, they need a new colony, a new market, a cheap labor force. They will not allow visa-free regime, because the Association gives nothing to a country, but tough obligations and it doesn’t mean that a country is in EU. Moreover, Europeans themselves don’t want anybody else, they sick of Romanians and Bulgarians and now the Ukrainians. And who Obama is going to protect then? The answer is no one. All he needs is missile defense (against Iran, LOL) and a few more military bases there for his soldiery, just because someone imagines himself as the world policeman.

            You mentioned the gas conflicts when Russia had to cut the discount for Ukrainian authorities that came to power in 2004 (a result of another “revolution”). I guess what other country would do in the same situation. Imagine that you are buying water from me and I say, I give you 50% off for that water and you allow me to pass this water to your neighbors with a pipe through your backyard for 4$ per cubic meter. You say all right, that’s a bargain! Few years later you sell your house and a new owner says to me ‘Now you have to pay 6$ and save my discount, otherwise I cut the pipe’. Of course I say “what a BS!” and start building a new pipe outside his yard. That’s what happened.

            Now imagine another situation. Your neighbor married your sister. Everything was quite all right, but your neighbor becomes an alcoholic. He is poor and have no money, and his more successful neighbor says “I’ll give you money for drinking, and you sign the agreement and give me your house. I’m not gonna live there; I will use it as a place for my trash and a booth for my dog”. Your neighbor agrees and in addition he begins beating up your sister on a regular basis. I’d break his muzzle and take my sister back home. What are your actions?

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            The English translation of с жиру бесятся is something like “spoilt silly”. But the way you talk about homosexuality is as if it’s entirely one’s choice—that’s just ignorant.

            Regarding your waterpipe in the backyard analogy, I’d say, yeah if I sell the house, you need to renegotiate with a new owner. I am pretty sure that’s how the law works (certainly how it works in the US).

            Your sister-being-beaten analogy is too far-fetched. Are you saying that poor ethnic Russians in Ukraine are being beaten? Discriminated against? Really? What BS.

          • SirBedevere

            Oh, I agree with you about the difficulty of brevity. That’s why you will never see me on Twitter.

            The thing rarely is one thing. While I do know perfectly well what I am talking about, I will admit that I failed to decrypt the references you were making. I had thought you were talking about the former Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan, but it turns out you were talking about Germany. Germany? Clearly it cannot have failed to come to your attention that those bases date from 1945. At that time, there were US bases, British bases, French bases, and Soviet bases. I believe the French bases closed in 1955, in connection with the official end of the occupation with the Deutschlandvertrag. The Soviets were, of course, asked to leave in 1989. During the 1980s, there were discussions of closing the American bases, but the Germans were very interested in keeping an American armed presence. In contrast, the bases in Japan, for instance, were mostly closed, with the exception of the base in Okinawa. The British, I understand, are planning to close their bases by 2019, but you are right that Mr Putin’s adventurism in the Crimea may have the Germans requesting that they stay a bit longer. The United States has removed any number of military bases at the request of the host country and if, for instance, Venezuela or Cuba chose to host a Russian base, there would be very little the United States could do about it, except voice its displeasure. As to the power of the printing machine, it betrays a very simplistic sense of how economies and currencies function. In order to have a currency that does not plummet in value, one must need that currency to purchase goods or services. Only by creating goods or performing services in high demand can a country develop a large economy.

            If by that golden billion, you mean the wealthiest billion people on the planet, a large number of Russians are in that group. The fat, stupefied, indifferent society produces, as well as consuming, most of the world’s wealth, so could clearly not be sunk into the kind of обломовщина you ascribe to it. As to the indifference of this golden billion of the West, the interventions you decry as well as the fact that those countries are the largest contributors to every private aid organization in the world clearly put the lie to that assertion. Are we gay? Yes, some of us are, as are not a few Russians, but most of us consider it nobody’s business how an individual lives except that individual’s, provided he does not harm another. As to whether membership in the EU provides benefits to members, most voters in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Bulgaria, just to name a few, would disagree with your assessment. What does the United States need from the Ukraine? Nothing. Missile defense or military bases? If the Ukrainians are concerned they will cease to exist without a US military presence, like the South Koreans are, we might consider it, but I doubt it. No, any US involvement has to do with the fact that the US was, like the Soviet Union, from its origin an ideological state. In the wake of the Second World War, the traditional American interests in liberalism and democracy were joined by the United Nations Charter, which forbids aggressive invasions of one country by another. The history of intervention in Yugoslavia and Iraq are too complex to go into even in this rather verbose post. The former was certainly justified in the case of Croatia and Bosnia. I have my doubts about Kosovo, but there was widespread agreement on the existence of genocide, which would justify the action there. Iraq invaded its neighbor, Kuwait. That action festered for a decade, leading to the very costly, probably unwise intervention of the last decade.

            Now, as to gas policy, I have not had to know much about Russian contract law for nearly twenty years, so I do not know how you view supply contracts. In Europe and the United States, however, any alteration of a supply agreement must be negotiated between the parties. As to the new owner, under international law, simple changes of government, even for instance from the Soviet Union to Russia and the other successor republics, does not change the parties’ obligations under international agreements. Actually, the sale of a business is quite similar. If I buy the business, I acquire the obligations and the rights of that business, in general.

            Your final metaphor, I cannot address. I clearly had a difficult time addressing your last set of cryptic metaphors and I don’t want to misinterpret you here. If, however, you are suggesting that the new government in Kiev is “beating up” Russians in any part of the Ukraine, I ask, where is the evidence of this?

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            +1!

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Precisement, mon ami!

      • Alexander

        From the both points of view the Cold War is not over. I’d call it The New Cold War.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          I am afraid it’s not really so. From the American point of view, the Cold War is pretty much over. Politicians and intelligence services may still “play” vis-a-vis Russia now and again (for the lack of a better adversary), but all in all, Russia isn’t front-and-center in American consciousness or public discourse. What is happening in Russia/Ukraine/Crimea is not given the attention it truly deserves. On major news sites, it’s tucked somewhere between the Oscars and the latest snowstorm. For an average American, it probably ranks well below those other “news”. People aren’t afraid of Russia as they used to be, nor hating Russia, nor in fact paying much attention. More generally, despite Putin’s posturing for over a decade, enrollments in Russian studies departments continue to drop, contrary to what was happening during the Cold War.

  • chandra keerthi jain

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