FP Passport (USA):
Putin supports new term limits…for the next guy
Vladimir Putin says he wouldn’t mind amending Russia’s constitution to prevent future presidents from doing what he did — returning to the presidency for a non-consecutive third term:
On Wednesday, during a Q&A session in Parliament, Putin said it would be “reasonable” to remove the mention of consecutive terms. But he added that this would not affect him because such a legislation cannot be retroactive — implying that his third term would considered his first term under the new law.
“Once it’s passed, I will have a chance to work for the next two terms. There’s no problem here,” he said in televised remarks.
Now he tells us.
In Moscow’s Shadows (New York)
Is Putin planning on building a new Russian national guard?
According to Nezavisimaya gazeta (April 2, 2012), President-elect Putin is planning to create a new National Guard, a domestic security force uniting the MVD VV Interior Troops, the MChS Ministry of Emergency Situation forces and various other security and military elements.
This Natsionalnaya gvardiya would include not just paramilitary security forces but also light airmobile units with their own transport aircraft, specialized motorized infantry brigades, and special forces. The Guard would also assimilate the 20,000 officers in the new Military Police, making it in many ways similar to the French Gendarmerie Nationale or Italian Carabinieri: a parallel police service, parallel military and internal security force all in one.
Scott Horton (New York):
Yesterday the Obama Administration, after a delay of several years, released an important document relating to the Bush Administration’s torture policies: a memorandum by Philip Zelikow, a high-ranking State Department lawyer and confidant of Condoleezza Rice, which aggressively refuted Justice Department memoranda that sought to authorize the use of thirteen “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA. Zelikow’s memo concluded that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies—war crimes. As Zelikow explained in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2009, his memo, when it was circulated in February 2006, caused senior figures in the Bush White House to go ballistic—they actually sought to collect and destroy all the copies.
The memo is not only a significant historical document, it may also provide important evidence in future criminal prosecutions arising out of the Bush-era torture programs. Indeed, the Bush White House fully appreciated this possible consequence, which explains why they tried so hard to make the memo disappear and why Bush-era officials apparently pressed their successors to withhold the memo, delaying its release for three years.
Echoes of Vietnam in Afghanistan
Somehow, over the endless years, no matter what any American president tried, The War — that war — and its doppelganger of a syndrome, a symbol of defeat so deep and puzzling Americans could never bear to fully take it in, refused to depart town. They were the ghosts on the battlements of American life, representing — despite the application of firepower of a historic nature — a defeat by a small Asian peasant land so unexpected that it simply couldn’t be shaken, nor its “lessons” learned.
National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was typical at the time in dismissing North Vietnam in disgust as “a little fourth rate power,” just as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Thomas Moorer would term it “a third-rate country with a population of less than two counties in one of the 50 states of the United States.” All of which made its victory, in some sense, beyond comprehension.
Syrian Revolution Digest (Washington, D.C.):
The fight for Syria’s future reaches the capital
A Good Treaty (USA):
Nationalism and the possibility of a ‘color revolution’ in Russia
With Russia’s sixth presidential election having reached its preordained conclusion, what remains unclear is how Moscow’s already seething political opposition will respond to the prospect of six more years of Vladimir Putin.
If the protests continue, will they be met with harsh reprisals? That was the route taken in Belarus when Alexander Lukashenko won a fourth consecutive presidential term in 2010. Police intervened as soon as demonstrators assembled the night after the election, and hundreds of protesters along with seven presidential candidates were jailed.
Alternatively, could we see a repeat of Ukraine’s 2004 “Orange Revolution”, when demonstrators camped out in downtown Kyiv and the authorities backed off, allowing a re-run of the election, which the opposition won?
In the Russian case, neither wholesale repression nor revolution is likely. After the State Duma elections triggered demonstrations last December, the Kremlin cannily abandoned its initial response of arresting protesters, and started issuing permits for demonstrations. Since then, the opposition has generally cooperated with the authorities in limiting their protests to officially sanctioned locations and times. The March 5 demonstration was approved for Pushkin square, about one mile from the Kremlin, and participants were only arrested after the officially-designated time had elapsed.
If protests continue in their current pattern — peaceful gatherings at approved locations — then the opposition movement is likely to subsume into the background noise of Russian urban life. Opposition figure Aleksei Navalny has suggested that the time is ripe for escalating the level of confrontation, by protesting directly in front of government buildings and daring the authorities to crack down. Last week he wrote on Twitter, “Only Lubyanka. Only hardcore.”
Ballots & Bullets (UK):
Have French twenty-somethings deserted the Socialist Party?
Much has been made in recent days of Nicolas Sarkozy overtaking François Hollande for the first time in polling for the first round of the French presidentials. This symbolic croisement may or may not reflect a change in Sarkozy’s fortunes and the first step towards an historic electoral turnaround. It certainly reflects a trend to date found only in the IFOP polls, well within the margin of error and not replicated in the second round polls, which still all give Hollande a clear if reduced victory. This campaign key moment has overshadowed a potentially more interesting – and troubling – polling phenomenon overlooked by most of the press.
On 14 March, the French press reported that an IFOP poll of les primo-votants – first-time voters – put François Hollande way out in front, with 31% of vote intentions, followed by Marine Le Pen (23%) and Nicolas Sarkozy (21%). The same day, a CSA poll carried out amongst those in the 18-30 age category concluded that Hollande was out of step with the young electorate, managing only 18% of this group, against 26% for Le Pen and 25% for Sarkozy. On Monday evening, amongst 18-24 year olds, an ostensibly earlier IFOP poll had 27% for Hollande, 26% for Sarkozy and 16% for Le Pen.
Informed Comment (USA):
Top ten Catholic teachings Santorum ignores
Rick Santorum is claiming that if he wins the Illinois primary, he has virtually won the Republican nomination. It seems an appropriate time for this golden oldie:
The right wing Republican politicians who have been denouncing the requirement that female employees have access to birth control as part of their health benefits as an attack on religious freedom completely ignore the church teachings they don’t agree with. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are both Catholics, and wear their faith on their sleeves, but they are hypocritical in picking and choosing when they wish to listen to the bishops.
1. So for instance, Pope John Paul II was against anyone going to war against Iraq I think you’ll find that Rick Santorum managed to ignore that Catholic teaching.
2.The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans. I.e., Rick Santorum’s opposition to universal health care is a betrayal of the Catholic faith he is always trumpeting.
3. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in almost all situations. (Santorum largely supports executions.)
4. The US Conference of Bishops has urged that the federal minimum wage be increased, for the working poor. Santorum in the Senate repeatedly voted against the minimum wage.
5. The bishops want welfare for all needy families, saying “We reiterate our call for a minimum national welfare benefit that will permit children and their parents to live in dignity. A decent society will not balance its budget on the backs of poor children.” Santorum is a critic of welfare.