Tag: Vladimir Putin

LEST WE FORGET

Yesterday marked a somber anniversary. 25 years ago on 7 April 1994, the nation of Rwanda exploded in a paroxysm of genocide in which 800,000 Tutsi people were slaughtered by the majority Hutu population in a matter of 100 days.

Today, 25 years later, Rwanda has a new light, says its leader, President Paul Kagame.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, center, gestures as he and first lady Jeannette Kagame, center-left, lead a “Walk to Remember” accompanied by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, far left, Prime Minister of Belgium Charles Michel, second left, France’s Herve Berville, third left, and Governor General of Canada Julie Payette, fourth left, from the parliament building to Amahoro stadium in downtown Kigali, Rwanda Sunday, April 7, 2019. Rwanda commemorated the 25th anniversary of the worst genocide in recent world history. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

There is a powerful message here that should chasten people in every land, for a hard-line strain of populist nationalism is growing once again in many parts of the globe. It is not an inconsequential trend.

Whether it’s the Brexit battle in Great Britain – in or out of the European Union? – what’s called “authoritarian capitalism” in China, or the expanding populist nationalism of Vladimir Putin in Russia, Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and, yes, Donald Trump in the USA, everywhere we look we see nations pulling back from a democratic globalist agenda as long-held systems come under strain from the twin poles of advancing technology and retreating opportunity.  

Yet there is another trend which plays against that troubling movement, the trend in movement itself.  (more…)

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PUTIN V. TRUMP: WHO’S PLAYING WHOM?

Former FBI agent Clint Watts testifies before Senate Intelligence Committee

In yesterday’s first Senate Intelligence Committee hearings into Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Senator James Langford (R-Okla.) asked former FBI agent Clint Watts, “Why did he (Putin) think he could get away with it this time?  This isn’t new for the Russians, they’ve done this for a long time across Europe. But it was much more engaging this time in our election. Why now?”

Why now?  Because it worked!  Why else?  That’s essentially what the ex-FBI guy said. Trump and his people actually picked up Russian conspiracy stories like ‘the election was rigged’ and passed it along to the American public during the campaign like it was a relay baton.

Now, that may cause some to think Mr. Trump to be an unwitting stooge, or even Putin’s puppet. But let’s gives our president more benefit than doubt.  Perhaps there is another way to see it, nothing any less unsavory, mind you, just different.

All we have to do is go back and look at patterns.  We all fall into them, racers do, and we rely on them as long as they keep working to our advantage. And just as election meddling falls into a Putin pattern, so does ‘the false promise’ indicate to Trump. The examples are legion, especially among tradesmen working his building sites, but you might remember this story from before the election as well. (more…)

RETURNS FOR PEACE

WARNING: POLITICS

The long knives are out, of that there is no doubt. Which is why for President Trump to have any chance at all to fulfill his campaign promises and deliver on his upset election win, he will need to get in front of the nagging Russian election hacking scandal that continues to hobble his administration’s early agenda.

As we know, President Trump is a man sensitive to bad press. But simply complaining about the criticism his administration is receiving – “total witch hunt!” – won’t scabbard the blades he faces. For him there is only one way to put this behind him, and it is that most awful of solutions from his standpoint, the full release of his tax returns.

It has been the pebble in his shoe since that first ‘Rude Descending Escalator’ moment in June 2015 when he announced his candidacy.  Yes, he won the Republican nomination and the general election without tax transparency, but as he is finding out running is one thing,  governing in a tripartite system quite another – think three-legged race.

Questions of a Russian connection linger due in part to the opacity of his business dealings in conjunction with the rather genteel nature of his Putin pronouncements in the face of the Russian election meddling.  And his stubborn non-disclosure will only increase the drag on his administrative goals, even with both houses of congress in hand. (more…)

A TIME FOR HEROES

The marathon is an event designed for heroes, as the long grind strips away all our defenses, leaving only the nub of a person by its end. It’s why feelings are so raw, because the carefully constructed artifice that we’ve erected, that we’ve come to believe is the real us, like a chrysalis, has been shed, even as a glistening new me emerges in the bonhomie of the chutes.

That stripping away and revelation is part of what attracts people to the event. And for those who watch the final stretch from the sidelines, it isn’t the pain that inspires, it’s the feelings they see on display, those looks of inner satisfaction that transcend place and time, looks that plant the seeds for their own subsequent entry.

The long internal battle from first training days to final exultant step is also why grace and humility seem like an integral part of every marathon champion. It is also why every competitor, regardless of their time, can relive their journey with any other finisher with appreciation and empathy. (more…)

NO BAN, NO JUSTICE

Leaking pipes, electrical problems and stopped up toilets found at the Rio Olympic athletes village by early arriving Aussies seem a perfect metaphor for the state of the Olympic movement in the summer of 2016. Today, just two weeks before the Games are scheduled to begin, the International Olympic Committee took the cowards way out in dealing with the Russian state-supported doping scandal by deciding not to issue a blanket ban on the entire Russian Olympic team.

“We had to balance the collective responsibility and the individual justice to which every human being and athlete is entitled to,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.

The IOC pronouncement was made despite a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling last week upholding the IAAF ban on the Russian track and field team, which the IOC said they would use as a guideline in their larger decision. 

Thus, rather than proof of a state-supported doping program across a wide spectrum of both winter and summer Olympic sports leading to serious consequences, the IOC went all wobbly in their moment of crisis management. Instead of issuing a ban themselves, the IOC said it will leave the decision up to the individual sports federations, while at the same time placing a thumb on the scales by declaring the “presumption of innocence” cannot be applied to Russian athletes in any of the 28 Summer Olympics sports.

This muddled, middle-ground decision seems intended specifically to assuage Russian President Vladimir Putin who had intimated repercussions if a total ban was handed down.  It also calms the IOC’s international sponsors for whom scandal is the ultimate deal breaker. By pushing the responsibility down to the individual sports’ federations, the IOC is using Pilate’s sink to wash its hands of any political responsibility and potential retribution.   (more…)

TO BAN OR NOT TO BAN

The International Olympic Committee is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place as it comes to its decision on the potential Russian Olympic ban for Rio 2016.  It’s one thing for the U.S. to lead a multi-nation boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980, and for the Soviet Union to reciprocate four years later in L.A. But it is quite another for the IOC itself to say, you’re out, because who knows what may come from that?

Yet the likelihood of just such a decision was given impetus today when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the IAAF banishment of 68 Russian track and field athletes not implicated in a state-supported doping program uncovered in a series of independent investigations. The International Olympic Committee said earlier this week that it would use Thursday’s CAS ruling as a guideline on a total Russian Olympic banishment from Rio.

There is no easy solution here, and the IOC is trying to thread the needle between who it is and who it was, between just desserts and just money (cynical me). In a last ditch move Russian President Vladimir Putin entered the scrum yesterday.

‘Now we’re observing a dangerous relapse into the interference of politics in sport,” he said in a statement.  “Yes, the form of that interference has changed but the essence is the same, to make sport an instrument of geopolitical pressure and the formation of a negative image of countries and peoples.  The Olympic movement, which plays a colossal unifying role for humanity, could again wind up on the edge of schism.”

Really?  The old KGB operative is interested in a unifying movement?  Who knows. His recent annexation of Crimea sure unified some folks. But there is certainly no self-reflection about the mind-numbing corruption in his Sports Ministry, just indignity once they’ve been caught.

There are so many competing interests at play here. From a purely moral standpoint banning the entire Russian Olympic team for their uber-cynical doping program in Sochi 2014 and beyond seems like a no-brainer. Come on, let the punishment fit the crime.

But who amongst nations is innocent?  One would have thought, too, that some executives involved in the financial collapse of 2008 might have been brought before the bar and their institutions appropriately down-sized to avoid another such meltdown in the future. Yet as we soon found out too-big-to-fail meant just that. So how much weight does Russia still have left to push back with?  (more…)