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Khodorkovsky: Western Realpolitik Big Mistake

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The West has paid too little attention to the human rights situation in Russia, the former head of the now defunct YUKOS oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said. Speaking in a written interview with four Western newspapers — The Wall Street Journal, Le Figaro, Il Mondo, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, — Mr Khodorkovsky blamed the West for passivity in monitoring the respect of human rights in Russia. Such a position will cost dearly to both Russia and Europe, he warned.

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Indict KGB, Blacklist Putin!

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We, the undersigned, urge that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Prime Minister, be placed on a “No Entry List” in the European Union and the United States. Strong sanctions by the West are vital and urgently needed in order to stop the threat coming from Putin’s KGB clique. Putin and his cronies are not above international law. His abuse of human rights in Russia is not just a Russian problem.

Under Putin’s rule, Russia has become a “sovereign democracy” and a “controlled democracy.” Putin has turned Russia into a kleptocracy. Putin and his cronies are above the law. Is it purely coincidence that hundreds of the sharpest and well-informed critics of the regime (politicians, journalists, human rights activists) have been murdered over the ten years of Putin’s autocracy?

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Where Is Russia?

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“We are not a member of the EU, but we are a European country,” said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in an interview with Western journalists on the eve of the G-20 summit and a key meeting with President Barack Obama in Toronto. His words are worth thinking about.

The Russia we know today has been looking for its place in the world ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Stripped of the shell of Soviet empire, the country’s identity has been in flux. The search is at once geopolitical, philosophical and profoundly psychological.

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Reset: Russia’s New Foreign-Policy Doctrine

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In a confidential report, Russia outlined a shift toward a more pragmatic foreign policy aimed at building closer ties with the United States and Europe to help modernize its outdated industries. The program detailed a shift away from the more confrontational line the Kremlin had taken in past years. It singled out the Obama administration for praise for its more cooperative approach to Moscow. A Russian official confirmed the authenticity of the document, which was addressed to President Dmitry Medvedev by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. It was first reported by Russian Newsweek, which ran the document’s full text on its website.

A Kremlin spokesman said the program has not been officially approved. But some elements, such as a deal with the US to reduce nuclear weapons, have already been implemented. Its spirit was reflected when US and European troops for the first time marched alongside Russian forces during Moscow’s annual military parade marking the end of World War II. The report also includes insights into Moscow’s relationships with former Soviet republics. It calls for taking advantage of the global financial crisis to acquire industrial and energy assets in the Baltics, Belarus, Ukraine and Central Asia — all areas where Russian influence is a sensitive political issue.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703565804575238291897667152.html

US Congressmen decry Surkov’s role

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A group of 71 US congressmen, mainly Republicans, have sent a letter to President Barack Obama demanding that the administration withdraw from the working group on civil society of the top-level Russian-American Commission until the Kremlin replaces the group’s Russian coordinator, first deputy head of Russia’s presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov.

While supporting the setting up of the Commission, Russian human rights defenders expressed discontent with Surkov’s appointment as the coordinator of the working group on civil society, associating him with measures to “curtail the freedom of the press, to stifle free competition within the political system, and to build barriers against the development of civil society.”

http://eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/12252/

US considered strikes to save Georgia

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As Russian tanks rumbled into Georgia in August 2008, a post-Cold War turning point was at hand. George W Bush’s national security team considered launching air strikes to halt the invasion, according to Ronald D Asmus’s absorbing account of the five-day clash in the Caucasus, “A Little War That Shook the World.”

Four days after the war started on 7 August 2008, Bush cut off the discussion. A top-level White House meeting produced “a clear sense around the table that almost any military steps could lead to a confrontation with Moscow,” Asmus writes. In the end, neither the administration nor NATO could do much to save Georgia.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=anp.wBWKJBGY

Russia in an Era of Uncertainty

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Moscow was able to consolidate its domestic authority and assert itself globally during Russia’s economic boom, but economic, security, and governance crises have shaken the regime's confidence, according to a policy paper by Sam Greene and Dmitry Trenin of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"As the Kremlin centralized power, leaders cut themselves off from public feedback, leading to a disconnect between realities and several disastrous policy initiatives. While the Kremlin is slowly opening to outside opinions, it must rebuild trust among officials and nongovernmental experts if it is to revive a true dialogue," the authors contend.

http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=24658