Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What makes a person of the year?

I guess you can name anyone a "person of the year", if you define the award in just the right way. My conception of the honor, or the ignomy, would be a person who has enhanced greatly his or her position -- especially in the face of rivals. It is a sign of our times that the contenders for this position are not close allies of the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin would be a far better selection than "You" as a person of the year.

Political dissent

Numerous media organizations have been brought into the fold of the government. The Committee to Protect Journalists states that the three major television networks are now under the control of those loyal to the Kremlin. Similar consolodation of influence has occurred in the energy sector.

Journalists who have reported on events portraying the Kremlin in a negative light have been killed, the most noteable perhaps is Anna Politkovskaya.

The dramatic death of Alexander Litvinenko, still under investigation, has the hallmarks of a Moscow-based assassination attempt.

Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times:
The identity of his murderers is likely to remain unknown, but in all probability Litvinenko was poisoned because of his campaign against Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and the KGB's successor, the FSB. He is only the latest to pay with his life for offending Russia's ruling clique. The list of prominent people murdered in the last few years includes crusading journalists such as Anna Politkovskaya (whose death Litvinenko was investigating), politicians, executives and government officials. Others, such as Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, have narrowly survived assassination attempts or have been exiled or silenced with threats of violence or legal charges.
Natural resources and a sphere of influence

Russia began 2006 with a controversy concerning the Ukraine. Gas deliveries were suspended on the first day of January and were restored three days later, Russia-Ukraine gas dispute. Allegations for Russia's actions include a method of punishing the then Western-leaning government, or to influence elections in the Ukraine. However, Putin recently concluded a trip to the Ukraine to visit the formerly poisoned Viktor Yushchenko, Kremlin.ru.

Belarus is now under the proverbial energy gun with a deadline looming and no new contract. Reuters:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday a new round of talks with Belarus on gas prices for 2007 had yielded no results, but Europe was safe as Moscow had stockpiled enough gas in Germany and Austria to guard against possible cuts.

Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom said it still hoped for a deal before the New Year to allow Belarus to receive gas in 2007 and Gazprom to transit gas smoothly via the ex-Soviet state to customers in Poland and Germany.
Azerbaijan's contract is also frozen, Novosti.

Actions such as these have lead Richard Lugar to include Russia as a potential energy enemy, in a speech he delivered in August:
Third, adversarial regimes from Venezuela, to Iran, to Russia are using energy supplies as leverage against their neighbors. We are used to thinking in terms of conventional warfare between nations, but energy is becoming a weapon of choice for those who possess it. Nations experiencing a cutoff of energy supplies, or even the threat of a cutoff, may become desperate, increasing the chances of armed conflict, terrorism, and economic collapse.
Short lived pressure from the United States

In February, the Washington Post reported that Vice President Dick Cheney had begun to gather information on the Russian president. One insider was quoted as saying, "He's basically in the more critical camp," said one person familiar with the vice president's thinking ... "You have this tension between the Putin lovers and the democracy lovers in the administration. And the president himself and Condi seem to be balancing between these forces."

In May, Cheney lashed out at Putin stating that he was an enemy of democracy in Russia, the London Times. In July, President Bush was far more conciliatory.

Popular support

Vladimir Putin's popular support was reported at 60 percent "full confidence" in the summer of this year.

The Times of London:
Boris Gryzlov, the Duma Speaker and Interior Minister, who is seen as a siloviki sympathiser, said yesterday that Mr Putin might be elected for a third term, but not in 2008. “It would be wrong to amend the Constitution to suit a particular person,” he said. “In line with the Constitution, he can become President for a third term, but not a third term in a row.” His comments lent credence to the theory that Mr Putin would allow a protégé to take over for four years, before returning to power in 2012.


Blogger Publia said...

A very interesting post.

11:40 PM  

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