O homem do ano, não da década, não do século…

Vladimir Putin foi eleito o homem do ano na Rússia. A importância disto? Foi a décima quinta vitória consecutiva do presidente russo. Até quando?

Vladimir Putin, o colosso do hóquei no gelo

Enquanto a Europa estava preocupada com as consequências dos referendos em Donetsk e em Luhamsk, no leste da Ucrânia, Vladimir Putin acrescentou mais um feito às suas proezas desportivas (que já incluem a prática de judo, mergulho, equitação e muitas outras): hóquei no gelo. O presidente russo passou a noite de sexta-feira, dia 10, a liderar a sua equipa durante um jogo de exibição em Sochi. Ao todo marcou seis golos e fez cinco assistências numa vitória por 21-4. Os pontos altos de um jogo que parecia não ter defesas estão aqui.

Foto: AP

Foto: AP

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: Putin, o mestre do xadrês

Na véspera do referendo à adesão da Crimeia à Rússia, é interessante ler uma perspectiva diferente das dominantes: a de que o Ocidente não tem sido capaz de reagir, nem antecipar, as jogadas de Vladimir Putin, um presidente que defende a preponderância russa no mundo e que está a acabar com a ordem mundial instituída desde o final da guerra fria. Por Lília Shevtsova, na The American Interest.

Foto: Platon Antoniou

Foto: Platon Antoniou

Falling into Putin’s Trap

Until now, stunned and appalled, the West has been merely reacting to the Kremlin’s moves, however belatedly or inadequately. But now, heading into the March 16 referendum, the liberal democracies seem prepared to accept the Russian annexation of Crimea as a fait accompli.

Published on March 10, 2014

Inever expected so many intelligent, perceptive, and influential media and political personalities to so easily fall into Vladimir Putin’s trap. After the initial shock to the world, and especially to the West, following Moscow’s announcements about the possible use of Russian armed forces in Ukraine, and then after being forced to acknowledge that Russia has already occupied Crimea, the West breathed a collective sigh of relief upon hearing Putin’s March 4 press conference, where he suggested Russia doesn’t have any plans to seize eastern Ukraine. I intentionally waited a while to make sure that this would indeed be the prevailing Western reaction after the dust settled—and it was. Western capitals felt encouraged by Putin. In the New York TimesPeter Baker confirmed that “American officials took some solace” after hearing Putin’s explanations. One may suppose that the Europeans, who are much more inclined to forgive Putin than is Washington, have felt more than just relief, but actual satisfaction, at the news.

When it became apparent that Moscow was hurriedly attempting to annex Crimea through a “referendum” scheduled for March 16—in the presence of thousands of Russian troops—some in the West have grown nervous once again. They’re wondering why the Kremlin is in such a hurry, and why it is acting so crudely, without even pro forma attempts to clothe its naked aggression. But they needn’t wonder. By now it’s obvious that both Europe and the United States, unable to reverse the course of recent events and unwilling to pay the price for restraining Russia, are ready to participate in Putin’s gamble. Until now, stunned and appalled, the Western capitals have been merely reacting to the Kremlin’s moves, however belatedly or inadequately. But now the liberal democracies seem prepared to accept the new status quo—that is, to recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea as a fait accompli, since they do not dare force Russia to back down. They are now focused on stemming Russia’s expansion to Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions, apparently fearing that anything but acceptance of the new geopolitical reality will result in a much more dreadful outcome. Let us clarify what this reality is all about.

First, it is about the destruction of the post-Cold War world order. This order was based on the premise that Russia and the West are not in the business of “containing” each other anymore, and that both support the principle of the territorial sovereignty of the independent states that emerged from the break-up of the Soviet Union. Moscow began to destroy that order as early as its 2008 war with Georgia, followed by the virtual annexation of Georgia’s breakaway territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. No less than President Nicolas Sarkozy, during France’s term of presidency of the European Union, ratified and legitimized the Russian occupation of Georgia’s territories. And Moscow’s interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs and its use of force in dealing with Kiev dates back to the Kremlin’s trade war against Ukraine in August 2013. So there’s nothing new or strange in the West’s inability to find a convincing way to react to Russia’s moves. Moscow concluded some time ago that it was free to take additional steps toward establishing the new order.

Second, it is about more than just setting a precedent allowing the Kremlin’s direct interference in the affairs of a sovereign state. Not only did its behavior validate the presence of Russia’s spheres of influence, thanks to the lack of meaningful Western reaction, but the Kremlin also reintroduced the “doctrine of interference” under the pretext of protecting the “Russian-speaking population.” Since Russian speakers live in most of the newly independent states, this “doctrine” threatens the stability of the entire post-Soviet space. Even Russia’s willing partners—Belorussian leader Lukashenko and Kazakh leader Nazarbajev—understand the looming threat to their countries’ territorial integrity, and so have stubbornly refused to support the Kremlin “solution” for Ukraine.

Third, it is about paving the way for the second stage of Moscow’s plans, which is to bring southeastern Ukraine under Russian control. This would make Ukraine a failed state and zone of instability, which will serve as an invitation to Moscow to “stabilize” it. One should even expect there to be Western supporters of Russia’s “moderating” role. Indeed some have already hinted that Moscow has its “interests” in the regions that have to be “accommodated.” And Moldova is likely the next target. In short, Eurasia is entering a period of instability.”

Pivot da Russia Today demitiu-se em directo por causa da invasão da Crimeia

Os avós da jornalista Liz Wahl foram para os Estados Unidos para fugir à invasão soviética da Hungria. Ela acabou por trabalhar para a televisão Russia Today. Mas como não podia mais trabalhar para uma estação que branqueia as acções de Vladimir Putin, decidiu demitir-se com estas palavras:  “I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why after this news cast, I am resigning.”

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: Bush e Putin, tão amigos que eles foram

O jornalista Peter Baker foi o chefe da delegação em Moscovo do The Washington Post. Agora é o principal correspondente na Casa Branca do The New York Times. O seu novo livro chama-se Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House e estes excertos, publicados na revista Foreign Policy contam como George W. Bush olhou Putin nos olhos e viu a sua alma – e como uma amizade surpreendente acabou por gelar.

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The Seduction of George W. Bush

How the president of good and evil bromanced Vladimir Putin. And how a warm friendship turned to ice.

BY PETER BAKER

In the summer of 2006, President George W. Bush was relaxing at Camp David with the visiting prime minister of Denmark when the conversation turned to Vladimir Putin. It had been five years since Bush memorably peered into the Russian leader’s soul. But now hope had been replaced by exasperation.

Bush regaled his guest with stories of aggravating private dealings with Putin that underscored their growing rift. Bush was astonished that Putin had tried to influence him by offering to hire a close friend of the president’s and he found Putin’s understanding of the world disconnected from reality. “He’s not well informed,” Bush groused. “It’s like arguing with an eighth grader with his facts wrong.”

Putin was on his mind because Russia was about to host the annual summit of the G-8 powers for the first time and Bush feared that the session would be dominated by questions about why an undemocratic nation was hosting a gathering of democratic nations. Bush had been trying to get Putin to relax his authoritarian rule to no avail. “I think Putin is not a democrat anymore,” Bush lamented a few weeks later to another visitor, the prime minister of Slovenia. “He’s a tsar. I think we’ve lost him.”

Whether Bush or anyone else ever actually “had” Putin in the first place is debatable at best. But the story of Bush’s eight-year pas de deux with the master of the Kremlin, reconstructed through interviews with key players and secret notes and memos, offers lessons for President Obama as he struggles to define his own approach to Putin and shape the future of the two nuclear powers. The last few months have become another dramatic juncture in the volatile Russian-American relationship, with Moscow defying Washington by offering shelter to national security leaker Edward Snowden, Obama becoming the first president to cancel a Russian-American meeting in more than 50 years and then, suddenly, improbably, the Kremlin throwing the American leader a lifeline when his confrontation with Syria took a wrong turn.

Looked at in the context of time, Obama’s own dashed aspirations to build a new partnership with Moscow seem to echo his predecessor’s experience. Bush thought he could forge more meaningful ties with Russia in his early years, particularly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and for a time seemed to make significant headway with a nuclear arms treaty and cooperation on Afghanistan, only to become frustrated as the two countries diverged, eventually coming into overt diplomatic conflict during the Georgia war of 2008. Obama likewise came into office intent on pushing the “reset” button and similarly saw early progress with a nuclear arms treaty and cooperation on Afghanistan, only to find his efforts increasingly thwarted by the same Putinist revanchism. Whether the recent Russian-American collaboration to disarm Syria’s chemical stocks will turn out to be a more enduring foundation for change remains to be seen.

If Obama were to look back at his predecessor’s experience, though, he might recognize how easy it is to misjudge Moscow’s intentions by superimposing American ideas of what Russian interests should be rather than understanding how Putin and his circle of KGB veterans and zero-sum-gamers actually see those interests. Again and again, Bush and Obama have assessed Russia through an American prism and come away disappointed that the view from the Kremlin looks different than they thought it ought to.

* * *

Bush came to office wary of Putin — “one cold dude,” he called him privately — but he was interested in forging a working relationship if only because at the time he saw the real threat to the United States elsewhere. When he met with Russia scholars before his first encounter with Putin in 2001, Michael McFaul, then a Stanford University professor and later Obama’s ambassador to Moscow, told him that keeping Russia “inside our tent” was the best course.

Bush agreed. “You’re absolutely right,” he said, “because someday we’re all going to be dealing with the Chinese.”

So when he sat down with Putin in a 16th-century castle in Slovenia in June of that year, he was predisposed to find a partner in the former KGB man even before his counterpart told him about saving his Orthodox cross from a dacha fire, a story appealing to Bush’s faith. Bush’s later public comment noting that he had gotten a “sense of his soul” disturbed many inside his own team. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice stiffened even as he said it, worried that the answer might be too effusive — but she said nothing. Back in Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff were even more bothered. “A lot of us were kind of rolling our eyes about that,” Eric Edelman, then the vice president’s deputy national security adviser, recalled later. Every time Cheney saw Putin, he privately told people, “I think KGB, KGB, KGB.”

Bush nonetheless stepped up his courtship, inviting Putin to his ranch outside Crawford, Texas, and later to Camp David. Putin liked to brag that he was the first foreign leader to reach out to Bush after the World Trade Towers fell and that he had overruled his own hardliners to allow American troops into former Soviet-controlled Central Asia as a jumping off point for Afghanistan.

Even when Bush abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty over Russian objections, the two tamped down the dispute and agreed on significant reductions in their respective nuclear arsenals. Cheney resisted codifying those cuts in a treaty, but Bush decided to sign one anyway, because Putin insisted. “Putin is at huge risk,” Bush told aides, “and he needs to fight off his troglodytes.”

Then as later, Bush would attribute Putin’s demands or paranoia to those around him, essentially exonerating the Russian president himself. During a trade dispute when Russia cut off imports of American chicken drumsticks (known colloquially within Russia as “Bush legs”), Putin in a private conversation with Bush asserted that Americans deliberately sent bad poultry to Russia.

“I know you have separate plants for chickens for America and chickens for Russia,” Putin told Bush.

Bush was astonished. “Vladimir, you’re wrong.”

“My people have told me this is true,” Putin insisted.

If Bush was willing to blame that misinformation on Putin’s advisers, he could hardly have missed the fact that it was the Russian president who fought him publicly and powerfully on the Iraq War, joining his counterparts in Paris and Berlin. Even then, Bush was forbearing, intent on preventing a broader rupture in the relationship. Rice at the time privately summed up the policy this way: “Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia.”

O artigo completo está aqui.

Vladimir Putin, o homem providencial que protege os russos do caos

O lema dos partidos da oposição nas últimas eleições presidenciais russas era “Russia sem Putin”. Pouco antes do sufrágio, os apoiantes do então candidato Vladimir Putin lançaram um vídeo de 4m30s em que imaginavam o que seria o país se esse slogan se tornasse realidade.

O filme foi divulgado no You Tube e acabou por chegar a um canal de televisão pró-Kremlin. Agora, pela primeira vez, foi traduzido para inglês. Como se esperava, Putin é apresentado com o salvador sem o qual o país mergulharia no caos. Mas não seria apenas isso. Começava com inflação, desemprego, crime generalizado, manifestações, violência policial e eclosão de nacionalismos. Terminava com a desagregação do país, submissão ao ocidente, ocupação estrangeira, fome, guerra civil e catástrofe humanitária. Querem um exemplo de propaganda totalitária dos tempos modernos? Está aqui: 

Uma imagem que vale mesmo por mil palavras

Barack Obama e Vladimir Putin reuniram-se durante a cimeira do G8, na Irlanda do Norte. O tema principal foi a guerra na Síria. Esta imagem da Reuters  diz tudo sobre as divergências e o desconforto entre os dois.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque