Reading on Russia Roundup #19

Recap of the US Dem/Repub. national conventions. If you ignore the clickbait title, it’s a decent opinon article.

For the media, Russia stole the limelight again. In fact, the extent to which the US and its media rely on McCarthyist tactics and smears has never before been as clear as it has during this election. There is now broad consensus across most major US publications and broadcasters, without evidence, that Russia was responsible for the DNC leaks. Wikileaks, which released the emails, has been labelled a front for the Russian government, and Trump himself accused of being a Kremlin agent.

VTsIOM press release. «Акции» эсеров дешевеют, «акции» коммунистов – дорожают

Russian elite rotation. The Kremlin has once again reshuffled the political elites in the Russian regions – and this time, the moves extended as far as Crimea. President Vladimir Putin dismissed the head of the Federal Customs Service, Andrei Belianinov, and replaced three presidential envoys to federal districts as well as a few governors. Meanwhile, he made the Crimean Federal District part of the Southern Federal District. But why? This Russia Direct article says it’s because Putin wants to consolidate power among those he trusts.

Alexey Mukhin, the director of the Center for Political Infrastructure, is certain that, by doing so, Putin is trying to strike a balance in the power verticals in these particular regions.

“Here, we’re talking of Russia’s strategic regions — Kaliningrad, Crimea, Yaroslavl. Government reshuffles and the coming to power of people from law enforcement and security communities is also understandable,” the analyst said.

“Since the 2000s, this is where Putin has found officers to act as crisis managers.” Mukhin added. “They are capable of doing their job in a battle-like environment, which makes them the most efficient performers. When they have gained political weight, they will be able to run as candidates in the future elections.”

The fourth category includes the dismissal of Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov. He is going to be replaced with another officer from the law enforcement structures, Mikhail Babich, which reflects the general trend: the most problematic regions and countries neighboring Russia require appointees from Putin’s milieu. That is, people whom he trusts the most.

And this article talks about the replacements and sets a historical precedent.

Most of the new replacements are political nobodies. That is to say, they are people who have not been brilliant politicians, and who will not likely have glamorous political futures.

The fact that many of them come from the security services just shows Putin’s personal preference for people “of the system.” In these considerations, qualities such as professionalism and qualifications to perform the job mean little.


All of this is reminiscent of the ministerial reshuffle of the Russian Empire in 1914-1916. In this period alone, the council of ministers witnessed many changes: four chairmen, six interior ministers, four military ministers, and four ministers of justice and land reform.

Before the First World War, though, there was some sort of logic that dictated the replacement of ministers. Each one of them had a particular function: Sergei Witte was charged with calming revolutionary sentiments, Petr Stolypin was charged with reforms, Vladimir Kokovtsov charged with finances. But after 1914 the logic vanished. A person was put in a post, then he was a disappointment, and the process was repeated.

New Cold War at the Olympics. From the CCI/Consortium News.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been under media pressure to ban all Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics. The New York Times has carried many reports and editorials. The Daily Mail in London went so far as to publish a front-page story falsely claiming the “entire Russian team banned from Olympics” — two days before the IOC decision to the contrary.

Ultimately the IOC decided against banning all Russian athletes across all Olympic sports. They decided that that each sporting federation should decide the issue on their own. At the same time the IOC imposed special conditions on Russian athletes which prevent them from competing if they have ever tested positive, even if their suspension has already been served, unlike the rules for other Olympic competitors.

In the wake of this decision, there have been aggressive attacks on the IOC and its president for “failing” to impose collective punishment on the entire Russian team.

How did we get here?



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