Putin Presidency, Part Dba

(That’s “part two” fer all you furiners.)

Says The Telegraph, that fine British rag:

“Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he could run again for the Russian presidency next year, just one day after Dmitry Medvedev, the country’s current president, also made a renewed pitch for the job.

Perhaps he can borrow a slogan from President Obama, apply it only to himself, and say <<Да я могу!!>>
Fans of the Russian constitution, and/or people who have read this blog in September 2009 will know that the Russian constitution allows the president of Russia to serve two consecutive terms in a row. However, it does not explicitly forbid said president from serving again after another president has held the office for four years. In other words, it clears the way for Putin to nudge Medvedev aside.
Curiously, this would fulfill the “chrome dome syndrome” that has been seen in Russo-Soviet leadership for most of the past century. I’ve talked about that here before too. Witness:
Russian Chrome Dome Syndrome

Two two rows are the Communist era leaders: Lenin (bald), Stalin (not), Khrushchev (bald), Breshnev (not), Andropov (receded), Chernenko (not), and Gorbachev (bald).

In the bottom row showing the post-Communist Russian Federation. We have Yeltsin (not bald), Putin (bald, yet so badass), Medvedev (with a fine haircut), and presumably Putin (the badass baldy) once again.

History repeats itself…

The Dark Side of the Sunspot

Surely by now you’ve heard that Ron Johnson, the not-self-made-man who’s running for the U.S. Senate, believes that global warming is caused not by a human-caused overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. No, no, it’s sunspots. Those black dots on the surface of the sun are causing Earth’s atmosphere to heat up, causing Russia to burn, and one-fifth of land-locked Pakistan to be underwater. Or the two 100-year-floods we had within two days of each other back in 2008, or the 700-year-flood we had two weeks ago.

My astronomy instructor at UWM said the same thing two years ago.

As I recall it, my dear instructor was of the conservative bent. He could be loud-mouthed at times, but used it well for chewing out people whose cell phones rang loudly during lecture.

A rare less-than-shining moments came when he told us he thought global warming was happening due to—yes!—sunspots. Or maybe shifts int he Earth’s magnetic field.

Funny thing is, solar activity has been decreasing, and there have been very few sunspots on the surface of the Sun in recent years. Even if sunspots do or do not cause more energy to be released form the sun, their correspondence to temperatures on the surface of the Earth falls apart. There isn’t one. Solar activity has been dropping for the past decade, while the atmospheric temperatures here on Earth has been rising the whole time.

I doubt very many people in our class bought it when he said that sunspots were causing global warming. At least he didn’t deny that it was happening.

Proving my point: Prior to Obama, there was a new Cold War afoot

For the duration of the George W. Bush administration, I argued that the foreign policy tactics being pursued were leading to a new Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. In particular, Bush’s love for dropping billions on ineffective missile defense technology while he dismissed hard-earned nuclear arms treaties made me think this was afoot.

I wasn’t the only one thinking this. Blogs by respected people at the Columbia University Press blog said much the same. Edward Lucas, the Central and Eastern Europe correspondent for The Economist magazine has a book out arguing that it was Putin as much as Bush that was provoking the new Cold War. (Remember how Bush said he looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul? That was Putin playing Bush like a fiddle.)

Finally, I saw this in The Guardian tonight:

Despite the recent thaw in relations, the US and Russia continued to spy on each other, said Mark Urnov, dean at the political science department of Russia’s Higher School of Economics.

“This [spy scandal] is an issue dating from previous years,” he said. “The security services can’t stop their activities immediately. Until recently, there was a semi-cold war between US and Russia. [Emphasis added.] So why not spy?”

Even if this does not prove my point, at very least it provides very strong support for it. A new Cold War was in the making, or even happening. And I would also argue that President Obama has effectively defused it. He’s not letting this spy ring bust get in his way of doing it.

Was Tina Fey (as Sarah Palin) aping Nikita Khrushchev?

Look at this! In the 21 September 1959 issue of the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev is quoted as saying,

“San Francisco is a neighbor. You live very close to Russia and we look in each other’s windows.”

Of course it was in Tina Fey’s parodying of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live that she had this classic exchange with Amy Poehler playing Hillary Clinton:

FEY AS PALIN: “You know, Hillary and I don’t agree on everything…”

POEHLER AS CLINTON: (OVERLAPPING) “Anything. I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.”

FEY AS PALIN: “And I can see Russia from my house.”

Art continued to imitate are imitating life, when I extended this in a 2008 live action interactive murder mystery production, in which I played a Russian oil executive who wanted to “dryeill ze Bay” here in Bay View. When someone asked my character what I thought of Sarah Palin, I said, “You know, ven I go home to Vladivostok, and look out my bedroom veendow, and I see… Sarah… Da, Sarah, ona otchen korosho!”

Yeah, you pretty much had to be there. And while it is unlikely that Ms. Fey knew that obscure quote from Nikita Khrushchev, who knows? Art imitating life imitating art in the strangest ways.

Deep Russian spy ring in U.S., Canada broken up by FBI

Wow. At least ten Russian secret agents operating under long-term deep cover have been arrested by the FBI. According to the English newspaper The Guardian:

In an indictment that might have been taken from the plot of a cold war thriller, the FBI alleges that the Russian intelligence service, the SVR [never heard of that one before! – JH], sent spies to live in the US under false names with the intent of becoming so Americanised they could build relationships with sources and gather information without raising suspicion. Some of the agents lived as married couples and had children who have grown up as Americans unaware that their parents are Russian.

And as the children were born here in the States, they are American citizens. Too bad about their parents…

The Montreal Gazette says that some of the spies posed as Canadians. Don’t know if they had children and bought houses, too.

So there you have it. A real Russian spy ring seeking secrets on American nuclear projects, elections, and finance. Wow! Tom Clancy, eat yer heart out!

Ukraine agrees to rid itself of weapons-grade nuclear material

Mark another point on President Obama’s scorecard. In the past month, he has gotten health insurance reform passed after 70 years of failure by anyone to do so; signed a new nuclear weapons treaty with Russia; and laid out a new policy for the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S.

The latest achievement came today shortly after the start of President Obama’s nuclear summit. The White House announced this morning that Ukraine “would by 2012 get rid of enough highly enriched uranium to build ‘several weapons’.” [BBC]

President Obama has long made it clear that nuclear disarmament and containment of nuclear materials is a centerpiece of his American defense policy. This would serve several important goals, one of which is working to ensure that fissile materials don’t fall into the hands of terrorists. Ukraine’s action will remove “enough [uranium] to build several nuclear weapons” from the world stage.

According to the disarmament group NTI, Ukraine currently possesses no nuclear weapons, having transferred those back to Russia in 1996. But during the Cold War, the Soviet state had “176 Soviet SS-19 and SS-24 ICBMS with a total of 1,240 warheads (!!!) and 44 strategic bombers, as well as an unspecified number of tactical nuclear warheads placed on its territory.” After the Cold War, the bombers were converted to other uses or disassembled, and the nukes returned to Russia, and the missile silos that once could have rained fire upon us were destroyed.

Even with the reduction in deployed nukes, there was still a large amount of highly enriched uranium in different facilities about Ukraine. This morning’s announcement directly addresses that problem. It’s great news, and another achievement by our president. After a year of seeming inaction, Barack Obama has proven himself to be a leader who can positively change both our country and our world.

Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan engulfed in flames and rebellion

Most people in the States probably don’t know where Kyrgyzstan is. Even me, Mr. Russo-Soviet History Guy, had to check exactly where it is. It’s north of India and Pakistan, south of Russia and Kazakhstan, and west of China (mostly). Here’s a map of the country. It was part of the Soviet Union, the U.S.’s last Hated Enemy, until the U.S.S.R. disintegrated in 1991.

CNN and the New York Times both have lengthy reports on what’s happening on the ground there.

Personally, I had no idea that there was such extensive political instability in Kyrgyzstan that it could or wood burst into flame as it has done. I don’t think it’s got that much to do with the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan that was being used to fuel the war in Afghanistan. Though that must have been part of it, as the country was under pressure from Russia to close the base. Naturally, there would be American counter-pressure. Who knows?

Not sure of what it means. Just hope it settles okay.

Also. it seems there is a prominent uranium processing and reprocessing plant in Kyrgyzstan. What do you bet the States and Britain have invested some money in protecting that facility? I sure hope they have, anyway.