26 August 2008

The West and Russia: Moral Hierarchy or Equality?

Apparently, undermining some generic Western media source's earlier prediction/speculation/wild guess that Russia would not want to undermine its own position vis-a-vis the Chechens by recognizing South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence, it has done exactly that. So much for the civilizing force of hypocrisy? (Just imagine a third party attempting to secure an agreement by Russia to the "non-use of force" with the Chechens, which is what the Russians have insisted on the Georgians doing with regard to their breakaway regions.)

Meanwhile, the West finds itself continuing to stand by "the independence, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Georgia." Two sides playing at the same hypocrisy game?


20 August 2008

Right on, Mr. Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev himself in the NY Times on the crisis over Georgia. The thrust of his warning:

In recent days, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush have been promising to isolate Russia. Some American politicians have threatened to expel it from the Group of 8 industrialized nations, to abolish the NATO-Russia Council and to keep Russia out of the World Trade Organization.

These are empty threats. For some time now, Russians have been wondering: If our opinion counts for nothing in those institutions, do we really need them? Just to sit at the nicely set dinner table and listen to lectures?

Indeed, Russia has long been told to simply accept the facts. Here’s the independence of Kosovo for you. Here’s the abrogation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and the American decision to place missile defenses in neighboring countries. Here’s the unending expansion of NATO. All of these moves have been set against the backdrop of sweet talk about partnership. Why would anyone put up with such a charade?

There is much talk now in the United States about rethinking relations with Russia. One thing that should definitely be rethought: the habit of talking to Russia in a condescending way, without regard for its positions and interests.

Our two countries could develop a serious agenda for genuine, rather than token, cooperation. Many Americans, as well as Russians, understand the need for this. But is the same true of the political leaders?


Welcome to the Palmerston Conservatory

As I write on the computer, there is one double bass practice in the room directly above me and a separate unrelated double bass practice in the room at the opposite end of this floor. While the two perhaps cannot hear each other, both are quite audible from the computer, leading to an interesting new postmodern composition.