Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 in Review

As we’re quickly approaching the end of December, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look over the last year.

2011 was a hectic year. 2011 was a year of turmoil, from revolutions in the Middle East and fiery turbulence in London to milder outbursts against Netflix price increases or the Hershey warehouse’s student working conditions. Even Time Magazine selected ‘The protester’ as the Person of the Year. Much agitation and latent discontents which erupted, generating many questions and few answers, many uncertainties and few clarifications. And if I said few answers, I not means to the aggressive responses of law of enforcement against protesters, used from the United States to Russia, and from London to Damascus or even to Beijing.

This year 42 journalists, more or less known, have lost their lives while trying to do their job professionally. Among those who left shockingly and prematurely included the British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington, renowned photographer and co-director with Sebastian Junger of the documentary Restrepo (2010). Tim Hetherington was killed near town Misrata, during the civil war between opponents of the Gaddafi regime and its supporters.

Year of political and economic crisis

The eurozone’s future hung in the balance, the US saw its credit rating downgraded, Japan’s earthquake rocked financial markets and fiscal failings forced out two prime ministers. Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Greek counterpart received “read card”. Also, many political players from Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Jordan), Europe and Russia received “yellow card” for low efficiency of crisis management and it is possible that the debt maturity to come in 2012. In spring, with the world looking for firm financial leadership, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on sexual assault allegations, forcing his resignation as the head of the International Monetary Fund (the charges are subsequently dropped). Later the charges were withdrawn. The episode remains controversial. In autumn, the tension between the US and China over international trade escalates when Beijing imposes additional duties on cars imported from the United States. In change, Russia was admitted into the World Trade Organisation on Friday after 18 years of negotiation, finally binding it into the global economy two decades after the Soviet Union collapsed. EU leaders agree a “fiscal compact” after David Cameron vetoed a revision of the Lisbon treaty. And the year ends with a happy new year message from the IMF: the world, warns Lagarde, is at serious risk of sliding into a 1930s-style slump. But I think that it will keep happening and each time it will get worse and worse, because there is no answer to this present crisis if we continue with the failed economics of Milton Friedman and the free market gang. More, everything we have seen from 2008 to present was just the socialization of financial risk, but not profits too, and the politicians are «shy» when it comes to discussion about the bankers, those that support their political adventure.

Some dictatorship breakdown – the global police stat rises

But 2011 was also a year when humanity has escaped to some dictators. True, it remains questionable the lack of principles and functional hypocrisy of the same countries that have contributed to the fall of Egypt – Mubarak and Libya – Gaddafi regimes, after decades when they accepted the two dictators because it suited their interests.

Unfortunately, the democratization of these countries started with the left and the first results prove to be disastrous. Will see, in 2012 and beyond, how will be build a democracy with representative government, a free press, and an independent judiciary? Unlikely. More, Libyan “soap-opera” has provided opportunity to the regime in Damascus to justify unspeakable abuses against Syrian protesters. It’s still hard to discern between the repression of a criminal regime and the «help» received to destabilize Syria and justification for external intervention. In addition, after  Libyan adventure more and more shadows seem to imply in relations between major political actors  U.S., Russia and China.

At the end of the year, North Korea finally escaped to Kim Jong-Il. Natural. But how appear the things in space of communist – monarchy in Pyongyang, only to replace one dictator with another.

Watching the images of the funeral of Kim Jong-Il, any Western citizen wondered how such a thing possible. The answer has several components: time, fear, limits of human and citizen rights, ideological indoctrination. Basic tools of any police and dictatorial state. And if you think that this can happen only in Korea or Iran, I say to you, think again. Let′s speak a little about police stat, first step of any authoritarian regime. In fact, Syria is the leading exponent of the police state. But the same type of reaction (it is true to a lower level) can be seen in all countries where the authorities are facing with the discontent of the population. Take a look to the authorities of your country ! When they are no solutions, they will hide their incompetence under various pretexts – all generating fear and insecurity: the fall of the euro, the nuclear threat, terrorists, national security (basically just the security of their own pockets), unemployment, austerity. Team Obama’s press briefing about the ongoing saga of the Nigerian underwear bomber. Obama’s is clearly trying to cultivate a fear of Al-Qaeda while simultaneously building blind trust in his government. After the President’s remarks, his Homeland Security Secretary and Deputy National Security Advisor took the stage to unveil a series of proposals to ‘improve security’. After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq (in a lost battle, despite the official statements), President Obama needs a new enemy on which to focus the attention of his voters. It could be Iran, Al-Qaeda or whatever. All what it is important is to cultivate your fear and deflect you attention from the disaster produced by the fat cats on Wall Street. In the same times, according The Moscow Times, the top three individual words used by mass-media from Russia in 2011 are полиция (police), рокировка (castling, job swap at the top) and альфа-самец (alpha male). And Russia has a favorite enemy meant to scare and to justify the cost of weapons: American anti-missile shield. The examples could continue. Therefore, 2012 will be a year when many countries will have parliamentary and presidential elections and I think it is good to think seriously about who you give your vote. Perhaps it is time to remind politicians that we want to live in a world of normal, healthy principles and values​​. According FT, in politics field, “2012 will be driven by tactics and electoral timing. The great revolt will come later. Next year, tactically adept incumbents may survive by offering stability at a time of chaos. Their chances are particularly high if they can identify with the pain of their citizens more effectively than weak challengers”. I think that the chance of citizens is to think. It does not cost. Not yet !

Russia’s President Medvedev names Kremlin strategist Surkov deputy PM

The continuous moving within the Presidential Administration of the Kremlin and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin subordinated team.

A Kremlin aide who played a key role in helping Vladimir Putin craft his tightly controlled political system was moved to a senior government job on Tuesday by President Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev appointed Kremlin first deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov as a deputy prime minister, and appointed Deputy Prime Minister Vyacheslav Volodin in his place, Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalia Timakova said. Remember that the last week Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov was appointed Head of Presidential Administration.

Surkov’s appointment was preceded by the return on Russian politics stage of the Russian ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin. The duty of Mr Rogozin as vice-premier will be the management of Russian military-industrial complex.

PS: Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) chief, Colonel General Alexander Shlyakhturov, has stepped down on grounds of age. His successor is Major General Igor Sergun.

The Russian opposition is trying to test a Slavian Spring

The parliamentary election last Sunday, when United Russia party won only a slim majority in the State Duma lower house, showed growing discontent regard the return of Vladimir Putin to Kremlin and also discontent with the political system he has dominated for 12 years. The protests come three months before Putin, who was president in 2000-2008 and effectively remained the country’s leader while prime minister, is to seek a third term in office. The public outpouring challenges his image, supported by state-controlled TV channels, as a man who won the affection of most Russians.

“The falsifications that authorities are doing today have turned the country into a big theater, with clowns like in a circus,” said (for AP journalists) Alexander Trofimov, one of the early arrivals for the protest at Bolotnaya Square, on an island in the Moscow River adjacent to the Kremlin. “I don’t think any citizen of the country can say he is very happy with anything. We don’t have an independent judiciary, there is no freedom of expression — all this combined creates a situation where people are forced to protest,” said demonstrator Albert Yusupov, who was dressed in civilian clothes but identified himself as a member of the Russian army.

According Reuters, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev conceded this week that election law may have been violated and Putin suggested “dialogue with the opposition-minded” — breaking from his usual authoritarian image. The Kremlin has come under strong international pressure, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling the vote unfair and urging an investigation into fraud. Putin in turn criticized Clinton and the United States for allegedly instigating protests and trying to undermine Russia.

The protesters have permission to stage a big rally in Moscow. But police, whose show of force doused protests after a rally on Monday turned into the biggest opposition rally in the capital for years, have vowed to stamp out any illegal actions. Police said there were at least 25,000, while protest organizers claimed 40,000. I talked online with some of protesters and they have approximated that it would be up to 30,000 people. Ilya Yashin, an leader of Russian opposition spoke about 60,000 participants. He added that : “It is a really victory !” Finally, is less important if they are 25,000…or 30,000, or 60,000…important is their message !

If Saturday’s protests are a success, the activists then face the challenge of long-term strategy. Even though U.S. Sen. John McCain recently tweeted to Putin that “the Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood near you,” things in Russia are not that simple. The popular uprisings that brought down governments in Georgia in 2003, in Ukraine the next year, and in Egypt last spring all were significantly boosted by demonstrators being able to establish round-the-clock presences, notably in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the massive tent camp on Kiev’s main avenue. Russian police would hardly tolerate anything similar.

Update: 18.00 Moscow Time

The ambulance service says their services were not required at Bolotnaya Square. Three emergency crews were on standby at the rally. Russia’s human rights ombudsman praises police professionalism in handling the opposition rally at Bolotnaya Square, says the event is a lesson in democracy. The Moscow rally at Bolotnaya Square is over. Organizers have called for another protest gathering on December 17 and 24 at the same location. I think that Russian authorities gave a proof of wisdom and abstained from provocative counter-actions. Also, subscribe to the observation of Alexey Venediktov (editor of Moscow Echo) that was a protest rally rather ethical and not political. This means a good sign for civil society in Russia.