Posts Tagged ‘Russia’





Two great powers with authoritarian or semi-authoritarian political systems should really attend seminars of Dale Carnegie on how to win friends and influence people. Or on how not to help your ‘frenemies’.

I am referring to China and Russia. Due to their heavy-handedness and hard-ball approaches, they manage to augment the ranks of their adversary’s (the US) allies and friends.

China single-handedly pushed the Philippines further into the Americans’ embrace due to its aggressive activism in the South China Sea. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) of 2014 is the latest (most likely not the last) agreement strengthening US-Philippine strategic ties. Furthermore, Chinese territorial aggressiveness in Northeast Asia is further driving South Korea and Japan into the ‘tacit’ US-led anti-Chinese front. Japan in fact offered a strategic alliance with the Philippines (obviously versus China) last year after ‘gifting’ the Philippine navy with some nifty and spankingly-new fast craft (an obvious improvement over the decades-old US hand-me-downs). Vietnam and the Philippines cozied up to each other again due to Chinese heavy-handedness.




Sealing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)

Sealing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)



Elsewhere, Ukraine responded to Russia territorial incursions by firmly siding with the West. Admittedly, Russia was simply a reactor to West-sponsored ouster of a pro-Russian government in Kiyev. However, hardball tactics versus a pro-West successor goverment will only alienate the latter. What it feared–an anti-Russia and pro-West Ukraine–actually came to pass.

Should Ukraine aspire for and gain admission into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after clinching EU membership, the Russian nightmare of a hostile ‘near abroad’ will materialize. That Western sanctions over the Ukraine question are helping push the Russian economy to a crisis is ‘salt on an open wound’.

Strategically, China and Russia will most likely get drawn together. Partnerships within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and with the rest of the BRIC (i.e., India and Brazil) and Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American governments with a left-leaning social policy and an anti-US foreign policy orientation will be strengthened or cultivated. Chinese carrots will continue to be available for pariah African states (over such issues as Darfur).

In Asia, China appears to have finessed with its tack with its billion-dollar funded Asian infrastructure bank and the proposed new Silk Road. However, these new carrots are on offer while consolidation (hardening and construction of new and improved infrastructure) proceeds apace in its newly-‘acquired’ SCS territories.

Meanwhile, the US is smelling like a bed of roses. Notwithstanding the partisan blindness of the Republicans and die-hard Tea Party zealots, the US economy is slowly recovering and all other economic indicators are doing quite well. Of course,the 1%-99% divide remains a serious socio-political thorn.



(Photo from

(Photo from




On the global front the US earned a lot of brownie points with the on-going normalization of ties with Cuba. Kudos to Pope Francis for brokering the bilateral preps. On the other hand, the Americans cannot seem to realize their government’s continued support for isolated Israel’s does not help their war effort against international terror.

I will continue to monitor these global developments and post my observations in this page and elsewhere.



Prof. Andrei Tsygankov

Prof. Andrei Tsygankov



Andrei Tsygankov, a professor of political science and international relations at the San Francisco State University, believes Obama does not have a Russia policy. “That US strategic thinking is impotent;” the world has changed since the end of the Cold War but US thinking has not.

Tsygankov argues that the US cannot return to Cold War strategies of containment and ideological struggle. He believes the proper approach is to help Russia become stronger in a future and a more secure multipolar world. Otherwise, the alternative is a dangerous bipolar world dominated by US and China with Russia firmly on China’s side.

The confluence of events after the end of the Cold War had led to Obama’s current predicament. Russia became so weak and supine the West almost got everything from it thanks to the drunkard Yeltsin.


Russian President Boris Yeltsin

Russian President Boris Yeltsin


And yet, the West did not give anything of consequence to Russia. Instead, it brought the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an anti-Soviet military alliance that should have disbanded after the Cold War’s end, right up to Russia’s doorsteps and subverted pro-Moscow regimes through the so-called color revolutions.


Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin


One does not need to be a rocket scientist to know that post-Yeltsin leaders of a different breed like Putin cannot accept such further diminution of Russian power and the embedding of existential threats at its very borders. Looks like the American have not heard of Napoleon and a guy named Adolf Hitler.


China President Xi Ping

China President Xi Ping



At this point, China found it opportune to repair its relations not only with Russia through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) but also with India. If the US is dreaming of containing China in the East Asian littoral through another containment strategy, the SCO may make it easier said than done. China’s cultivation of Thailand and Myanmar and normalized relations with India can afford it access not only to the Indian Ocean but to new sources of energy.



Furthermore, the ASEAN connectivity projects specially in mainland Southeast Asia will have positive spillover effects for China’s economy.



Putin can then decide which state will butter the Russian bread. Or could even have both buttering up to the Russian bear. And supply the bread to boot!



Of course, in some way, an incoherent power is more harmful than one with a carefully crafted strategy.

Sir Paul McCartney may have supported them.

Madonna, Franz Ferdinand, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers may have asked that they be set free.

These artists may have just be few among many who either expressed support or asked that they be set free.

The Pussy Riot 3 in a glass cage during court proceedings

However, Moscow Judge Marina Syrova found three members of a punk-rock band, Pussy Riot, guilty for hooliganism–a ‘blasphemy incited by religious hatred’.  The three women were meted a 2-year jail sentence; the prosecutors wanted 3 years; while legally, they could have been jailed for seven years.

Tolokonnikova: A still defiant Pussy Riot-er

Sentenced were Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, a philosophy student described by the prosecution to be ‘evil genius’ behind Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, 24, a student of journalism and creative writing   and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, a computer programmer.  Two of them were young mothers.  They have been in jail since early March this year after they staged an anti-Vladimir Putin prayer at the nave of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow’s most important church.  Putin is the current prime minister of the Russian Federation and the Pussy Riot declared they were opposed to Putin’s policies and the close ties between the Putin government and the Russian Orthodox Church.

A pensive Yekaterina Samutsevich

The Guardian reported that in her opening statement, read by a lawyer, Tolokonnikova apologized for those who were insulted by Pussy Riot’s performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. “We had no intentions to offend anyone,” she said. “We wish that those who cannot understand us can forgive us.”  She spelled out the group’s intent: “The words we spoke and our entire punk performance aimed to express our disapproval of a specific political event: the patriarch’s support of Vladimir Putin, who has taken an authoritarian and anti-feminist course. Our performance contained no aggression towards the audience, but only a desperate desire to change the political situation in Russia for the better.”

For Tolokonnikova’s full profile, see

The political is personal: Maria Alyokhina smiles as she is led by police to a court in Moscow.

Before the sentencing, Moscow was rife with talk that the PS3 will indeed be sent to jail for hooliganism instead of being slapped on the wrist for committing a mere misdemeanor.  There was likewise talk that even if they will be jailed, the sentence will be less than the full seven years.

While Prime Minister Putin asserted that the case was off his hands, many believed that the court hearing the case was not truly independent of the Kremlin.

Across the English Channel and the Atlantic, pundits pontificated that the PS3 decision will be a test of the Russian judicial system and could affect the flow of Western investments into the Federation.

Everybody seems so ‘het up’ save the three.   Look at them.  Nadezhda is defiant.   Maria is smiling.   And Yekaterina is at peace.  I guess the three are satisfied they have made their (strong) point at the Cathedral and in court.  I believe they also knew they could not get away with their punk prayer lightly.

So they’re jail-bound.  I hope they will find more time to rehearse their acts and write new material.

As someone who was also jailed for my beliefs and political activities, I salute Nadya, Katya, and Masha.

Viva Pussy Riot!



Author’s note: See my earlier post on the Pussy Riot (  Thank you.

Self-immolation and prosecution: Israel and Russia.

Republicans’ foreign affairs ‘expertise’.

As I have noted earlier, death is an ordinary occurrence.  For instance, two days of fighting in Syria since Friday left more than 470 people.
Death through self-immolation, however, is extra-ordinary.  
On 11 June 1963, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, burned himself to death on a busy Saigon street to protest

Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation

the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government of President Ngo Dinh Diem.    Duc’s courageous act triggered international pressure on Diem to reform.  However, Diem simply temporized and continued to terrorize the monks.  Several monks followed Duc’s example, also immolating themselves. Eventually, a military coup toppled Diệm, who was assassinated on 2 November 1963.

The most famous self-immolation in 2010 was that of Mohamed Bouazizi, the despondent vegetable vendor, whose death led to the ouster of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.  Tunisian protests inspired similar actions throughout the Arab world–a phenomenon known as the Arab Spring. 

Mohamed Buoazizi

The Arab Spring overshadowed protests which begun in July 2011 in Tel-Aviv, Israel collectively known as the ‘social justice’ protest movements.  Soon, the protests spread to Jerusalem and other major Israeli cities.  The political actions involved hundreds of thousands of protesters from diverse religious and socioeconomic backgrounds opposing the continuous rise in the cost of living (especially housing) and worsening public services (health and education). 
The Israel protest movements were soon weakened by a split.   As a result, two separate social justice demonstrations were held in Tel-Aviv on July 14, 2012, to commemorate the first anniversary of the movement.

Moshe Silman in Haifa

Yesterday, Israel was rocked by news that J14 activist, Moshe Silman from Haifa, finally succumbed to his second- and third degree burns after setting himself on fire last week.  Silman was once  a small business owner who got suffocated by a grinding debt, to the point of homelessness.  Apparently, Silman burned himself to mark the anniversary of the protest movements. 
According a Sunday afternoon report of PressTV, Iran’s television network, another Israeli man has set himself on fire in the city of Yehud, two days after Silman died of burns.  The 45-year-old disabled man self-immolated at a bus stop in Yehud, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Tel Aviv.  The identity and circumstances of the man are unknown as of this writing.
It may be too early to predict how these two self-sacrifices will affect the Israeli protest movements.  However, it may be safe to say that the movements cannot be unaffected by the developments.  Already, many Israelis are carrying posters which read “We are all Moshe Silman”,  a copy of a familiar meme from the Tahrir Revolution last year.  
In Moscow, meanwhile, three young women belonging to the all-women punk-rock group naughtily named Pussy Riot, had been ordered to stay jailed for six more months.

Pussy Riot in an outdoor performance




The three–Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nnadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alekhina–together with an unidentified Pussy Riot member performed in Pussy Riot’s signature miniskirts and balaclavas a raucous song against Russian President Vladimir Putin on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow’s most important church, last February 2012.  The three were arrested after the performance and had been held in custody since then.  If sentenced, they could sent to prison for seven years.




Samutsevich, Tolokonnikova, Alekhina

The criminal prosecution of the three women rests on the notion that their performance incited religious hatred.  Witnesses were presented in court and said they have suffered moral damage as a result.  A cathedral security guard claimed he had trouble sleeping after the Pussy Riot performance.  Lawyers for the witnesses also claimed that the Pussy Riot performance unleashed a wave of extremism.

Pussy Riot three behind bars






Today’s The Guardian report that supporters of the three believe that the Russian Orthodox Church, which is close to Putin, is behind the campaign to keep them in jail.  Another prominent dissident warned of some kind of ‘Orthodox Taliban’.





So, is it a case of religious desecration or an assertion of the freedom of political expression?



The answer is crystal clear.



The monk Duc, the vendor Bouazizi, the impoverished businessman Silman, and the Pussy Riot three–all wanted to communicate what was in their hearts and minds.  


They may have done so in dissimilar ways.   We may not approve of self-immolation and raucous performances on church altars.

Still, we must salute their courage and pray for the departed.