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The people of the countries bordering Russia need to think long and hard if they are feeling nostalgic about becoming Russian again. In South Ossetia, there was euphoria at that area finally becoming Russian again back in 2008. But now, that area is totally forgotten. Aid that is earmarked for improving peoples' lives is instead spent lining the pockets of local politicians instead of going for the common good. Third world conditions abound. And families are being separated by a fence that is separating South Ossetia from Georgia. And people can be arrested for protesting.

In Russia, the government is tightening the screws on peaceful protests. Police are violating Russian law to detain people. Protestors are being dragged along the ground, sent to administrative detention for up to 15 days, fined hundreds of dollars, and denied medicine that they need in order to live.

“Many wondered what a post-Sochi crackdown might look like,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These detentions, the crackdown under way on the media, and violent attacks against dissenters by unidentified assailants paint a stark picture of what is going on in Russia right now.”
Some people are being kidnapped and others are being assaulted as well. All this has been documented by Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 people between March 6 and 11 who participated in various protests, all of whom had either been detained or witnessed detentions. Based on their statements, as well as videos and photos Human Rights Watch examined, the police appeared to detain people without due cause and frequently resorted to unnecessary and excessive force by dragging and pushing unresisting protesters.

These measures are designed to create a chilling effect on protest. But they only serve to trigger more dissent.

In a March 4 statement, Russia’s ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, called the mass detentions groundless and random and noted the police failure to wear identification badges. Lukin said that police citations were in many cases “identical” and “written up in advance,” and expressed concern about the fairness of the administrative court hearings that have already taken place.

The chief lawyer for Public Verdict, a nongovernmental Russian group that provides legal assistance to victims of police abuse, told Human Rights Watch that she provided legal advice to over 150 of those detained in Moscow. She said the problems raised in Lukin’s statement and that Human Rights Watch identified were relevant in all of the cases she dealt with.

Hundreds of people are protesting outside of hearings, meaning that there is a core group of protestors who aren't going anywhere. Expect this to be replicated if the Crimean Tartars or ethnic Ukrainians take to the streets there. If, say, the Estonian Russians decide to reunite with Putin's Russia, expect this sort of behavior to happen there as well.

The New York Times went to Georgia and South Ossetia to document what life could be like for Crimea now that it has joined with Russia. What they found was 3rd world living conditions, families being broken apart, and massive corruption.

Some towns have never really been rebuilt from the war.

Its political system is controlled by elites loyal to Moscow, suddenly wealthy enough to drive glossy black cars, though many roads are pitted or unpaved. Dozens of homes damaged in the 2008 war with Georgia have never been repaired. Dina Alborova, who heads a nonprofit organization in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, said her early hopes “all got corrected, step by step.”

“During the first winter, we still thought, ‘The war just ended,’ ” she said. “By the second winter, frustration had taken root. When the third winter came, everything was clear.”

So much for Putin's claims that this was a humanitarian effort. As the promised money to reconstruct South Ossetia never came, conditions got worse and worse.
But within a few months of Russia’s recognition, shivering through the winter behind windows made of plastic sheeting, people began to wonder when the billions of rubles of aid pledged by Russia would reach them. The answer seems to have been that much of it was stolen: Mr. Malashenko said he estimated that 30 percent of the aid pledged by Russia had reached its target.
And as soldiers are building fences creating boundaries separating South Ossetia from Georgia, people are starting to realize that they may never see family members again.
Zemfira Plieva, 43, who grew up inside South Ossetia and now lives just outside it, once crossed the boundary several times a week to sell vegetables or visit her sister, and she watched the spiky fence rising with dismay. When her mother died, three years ago, she was so afraid of being arrested that she did not attend the funeral. When asked what would happen if South Ossetia were formally annexed by Russia, she started to cry.

“I will never again see anyone from my family,” she said. “I don’t even want to think about it.”

Expect all this to happen in Crimea as well. Part of the problem is that Putin believes that a lot of the protestors are really in the employ of the US similar to Venezuela, Iran, Chile, and other governments that we have overthrown through covert means in the past. Putin, in his recent Duma speech on Crimea, suggested that the US would try and undermine his government by covert means. If the US is serious about respecting International Law, then they have an obligation to renounce the weapon of covertly overthrowing foreign governments. None of this justifies any of Putin's human rights abuses. But the solution lies in the hands of the Russian people, not in the hands of the US or any other foreign government.

The US has treaty obligations to defend NATO allies in the event of an attack. But it is better to prevent such attacks from happening in the first place. The US has an obligation to insist that NATO allies do their part by strengthening laws against discrimination. That way, Putin will not be able to ferment unrest in the first place. And the US should insist on an end to the draconian austerity measures that have led to some of the worst European unrest since World War II. The more unrest and discrimination that there is in NATO countries, the more that Russia can ferment unrest similar to what they did in Crimea.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cold War nostalgia: State Capitalist Realism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, Eternal Hope, isabelle hayes

    like the Olympic opening ceremonies memorializing the post-Great Patriotic War period, a longing for a more stable period not really secure but with a clarity brought on by a singular state capitalism rather than the culture of multiple kleptocrats since the "Fall"

    Socialist realism is a style of realistic art that was developed in the Soviet Union and became a dominant style in other socialist countries. Socialist realism is a teleologically-oriented style having as its purpose the furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism.
    Vladimir Lenin notably described the economy of Russia as state capitalism. Socialists of a libertarian or anarchist persuasion, such as Noam Chomsky, use the term "state capitalism" to refer to economies that are nominally capitalist, such that the decisive research and development is performed by the public sector at public cost, but private owners reap the profits...
    Most current Communist groups descended from the Maoist ideological tradition still adopt the description of both China and the Soviet Union as being "state-capitalist" from a certain point in their history onwards—most commonly, the Soviet Union from 1956 to its collapse in 1991, and China from 1976 to the present. Maoists and "anti-revisionists" also sometimes use the term "Social-imperialism" to describe socialist states that they consider to be actually capitalist in essence—their phrase, "socialist in words, imperialist in deeds" denotes this.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 07:50:17 PM PDT

  •  Some people have to learn the hardest possible (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope

    way -- if at all.

    'Stop looking for an easy way and learn to endure along the narrow way.'

    Now those people in South Ossetia have no way forward.

    Good Post and reminder.

  •  I don't think Crimea will be similar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alhambra, isabelle hayes, unfangus

    Russia has the naval base at Sevastopol and there is considerable prestige involved here to make it a show piece as it was during the Soviet Union. The Ukraine was so corrupt since it left the Soviet Union it will be hard not to make an improvement.

    Crimeans wooed back to Russia with promises of investment and stability
    Russia pledges £650m a year for region while businesses could invest £3bn more – but burden on Moscow may be far higher
    Crimea has a special place in the Russian historical memory, and Soviet Crimea during the 1960s and 1970s was relatively prosperous, functioning as a sort of idealised shop-window for what the Soviet Union could be. Far from the industrialisation and gulags of the icy Siberian tundra, Crimea was a sun-drenched land of wine production and resort life.

    "We were used to good infrastructure, people who travelled a lot, and a relatively free intellectual life," said Sergei Kiselev, a pro-Russian professor at Taurida University in Simferopol. "That was why when it all collapsed, and we had the pain of perestroika, the bandit capitalism of the 1990s, and then the mess of the Ukrainian state, it was so painful."
    "The problem with these Ukrainians is that they don't know how to steal properly. They want the whole 100% for themselves and leave nothing for us," said 62-year-old Vasily, a Simferopol resident. "Putin is corrupt of course, but he steals in a cultured way. He says: 'I will take 50%, and give 50% to the people. We will get something at least.'"

    •  But still: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Claudius Bombarnac

      Will the money get to the people? In South Ossetia, most of the money lined the pockets of the big shots. Russia promised the same thing when they took over there.

      "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

      by Eternal Hope on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 05:31:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think more money will get to where it is (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        unfangus, Eternal Hope

        intended in Crimea. The pension increases are automatic as are the natural gas subsidies. Wages should also automatically go up to match Russian - especially military.

        Other monies will go directly into infrastructure such as a new Kerch Straight bridge to be built next year and a number of other state funded projects.

        In South Ossetia, most of the money lined the pockets of the big shots. Russia promised the same thing when they took over there.

        Corruption is a severe problem in every developing country when funds flow in rapidly in large quantities. The US has direct experience with this sort of thing in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example,  Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko has said the $102 billion spent for reconstruction and security has been wasted to fraud and "rampant corruption".

        The current president of South Ossetia fired his cabinet over failure to follow orders and corruption. Russia has spent about $1 billion there in the last 5 years.

        South Ossetia has very few natural resources and depends on Russia for 90% of it's economy. There are elections coming up in May.

        I would have preferred a report on South Ossetia from a source other than the NYT (or WaPo). Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any in English.

    •  Corruption and poverty won't be (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Claudius Bombarnac, unfangus

      disappearing from Ukraine, either. Look who the new Provisional Government has appointed as its provincial governors for East Ukraine: billionaire oligarchs.

  •  just a little note... (3+ / 0-)

    Russia and Ukraine are both kleptocracies, and if anything, the last Ukrainian government under Yanukovych was completely shameless about it.

  •  Western Ukraine will have the same issues... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, Claudius Bombarnac, unfangus

    ...if not even worse. Who do you think the right wing elements embedded in the coup government will blame when the EU and IMF hit the regular citizenry with crippling austerity?

    The only ones who "won" in this situation were the oligarchs in the EU/US (and their plutocratic functionaries in Western Ukraine) and in Russia (and their plutocratic functionaries in Crimea).

    The Grand Bargain must be stopped at all costs to protect the 99%.

    by cybrestrike on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 01:16:57 AM PDT

    •  There may be a fierce battle between (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, Claudius Bombarnac, cybrestrike

      the hard-line ultranationalist Svoboda and Pravyi Sektor politicans in the new government and Prime Minister Yatseniuk, who will be responsible for dictating IMF austerity terms to Ukraine. Those nationalists oppose Ukraine entering the EU, and they'll be further tempted to demonize Yatseniuk because he's part Jewish.  

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