Monday, March 02, 2015

Just How Furious Is The US Surveillance State At Russia Over Ed Snowden's Asylum?


Early in the third season of House of Cards, Russian President Victor Petrov has the Russian security police arrest American gay rights activist Michael Corrigan in Moscow, which causes a disturbance in U.S. domestic politics (and international relations). It would have been far more complex for Beau Willimon to write Ed Snowden's sojourn to Russia into the series instead.

There are people who believe the CIA aggression in Ukraine was, at least in part, pay back for Putin's grant of asylum to Snowden. In his book, The Edward Snowden Affair, Michael Gurnow doesn't get into that specifically, only that "the fallout was catastrophic."
After declaring on July 19, “We [the White House] call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption, and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech and assembly, are protected and respected,” Press Secretary Jay Carney produced the U.S. government’s first official response to Snowden’s asylum shortly after Russia granted the whistleblower his freedom. Washington’s fatigue and exasperation was obvious. Carney issued the subdued statement, “[ ... ] we are extremely disappointed by this decision by Russian authorities” before glibly inserting, “This move by the Russian government undermines a longstanding record of law enforcement cooperation.”

Various U.S. senators went on record. Charles Schumer announced, “Russia has stabbed us in the back.” Former presidential candidate John McCain proclaimed, “We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions.” Lindsey Graham stood by his previous call to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, if Snowden wasn’t returned to the United States. The latter two congressmen also suggested ignoring America’s nuclear disarmament agreement with Russia. They called for the completion of the last phase of America’s European missile-defense program. In anticipation of Russia providing Snowden safe harbor, several politicians had already begun to pressure the president to cancel his meeting with Putin, which was scheduled to take place before the commencement of the G20 Summit in Moscow on September 5 in Saint Petersburg. Carney reported that the White House was now “evaluating the utility” of a pre-summit conversation.

Last House of Cards episode I watched-- #5-- UN Ambassador Claire Underwood had quietly moved from targeted financial sanctions against Russian officials to threatening to blow up planes and trucks and ships. The Obama Administration is still primarily sticking to sanctions-- even if their efficacy are still much-debated.
Economic sanctions, which most forecasts assume will continue this year, are having less impact that many in the West would like to believe. Sergei Tsukhlo of the Gaidar Institute estimates that the sanctions have affected only 6 percent of Russian industrial enterprises. "Their effect remains quite insignificant despite all that's being said about them," he wrote, noting that trade disruptions with Ukraine have been more important.

Granted, there's no avoiding a significant drop in Russians' living standards because of accelerating inflation. The economics ministry in Moscow predicts real wages will fall by 9 percent this year-- which, Aslund wrote, means that "for the first time after 15 years in power," Russian President Vladimir Putin "will have to face a majority of the Russian people experiencing a sharply declining standard of living." So far, though, Russians have taken the initial shock of devaluation and accompanying inflation largely in stride. The latest poll from the independent Levada Center, conducted between Feb. 20 and Feb. 23, actually shows an uptick in Putin's approval rating-- to 86 percent from 85 percent in January.

It's time to bury the expectation that Russia will fall apart economically under pressure from falling oil prices and economic sanctions, and that Russians, angered by a drop in their living standards, will rise up and sweep Putin out of office. Western powers face a tough choice: Settle for a lengthy siege and ratchet up the sanctions despite the progress in Ukraine, or start looking for ways to restart dialogue with Russia, a country that just won't go away.

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At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Western powers face a tough choice: Settle for a lengthy siege and ratchet up the sanctions despite the progress in Ukraine, or start looking for ways to restart dialogue with Russia, a country that just won't go away. "

OR Western powers (as opposed to Austin Powers) could confess they trumped up the Ukrainian coup against the democratically elected government, and in a diabolical bonus used powerful historically/current neo-nazi groups to do so.

AND confess they've pushed monopoly capitalist/IMF strangulation onto every conceivable eastern Europe nation against the Western powers' agreement with Russia not to do so after the Soviet Union was dissolved.

AND confess that overall they've been using economic extortion, exclusion, and boycott against Russia all along to significant and lesser degrees during the same period, with the specific intent to foment unrest that would lead to a coup against Putin.

AND that if Russia or any country tried that hostile war-by-any-other-name nonsense against the Western powers (ok, it's the U.S.), then the Western powers would have showed far, far, far, far, far, far, far less constraint than Putin has.

AND Western power leadership is so dishonest, cowardly, deceitful, amoral, and murderous it makes Putin look almost good.


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