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Post Russian Orphanages and Politics, Continued
Created by John Eipper on 01/16/13 2:17 AM

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Russian Orphanages and Politics, Continued (Gilbert Doctorow, Belgium, 01/16/13 2:17 am)

In response to JE's comments to my post of 15 January, I am not "suggesting," but rather saying directly that everything the liberal opposition says has only one purpose, to discredit Putin, the Russian leadership, and, en passant, the vast majority of their own fellow citizens for whom they only have contempt.

For all the malicious put-downs of Gerard Depardieu in the French mainstream press, the newly minted muzhik has 20-20 vision. When interviewed on Russian television two days ago, he pointed out that the Russian Opposition has no ideas, and that the Pussy Riot gang would have been torn to shreds had they tried their antics in a French mosque.

JE comments: I'd like to hear Gilbert Doctorow's thoughts on what a healthy political opposition in Russia might look like. Gerard Depardieu is not a spokesperson for the government, but isn't a claim that political dissenters "have no ideas" one of the oldest tricks in the book? If the opposition truly has no ideas, then why see it as a threat?

And finally, a curiosity: how is ol' Cyrano de Bergerac making out with his Russian language studies?

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  • Who Is the "Russian Leadership"? (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 01/16/13 6:25 AM)
    In addition to JE's questions to Gilbert Doctorow (16 January), I would also like to ask Gilbert to whom he personally is referring when he writes about "the Russian leadership." Are these Putin's pocket oligarchs like Abramovich and Deripaska, members of the Ozero cooperative, or maybe somebody else who "leads" Russia in whatever totalitarian direction it moves?

    In what concerns the new muzhik Depardieu--he is simply a clown, so why should one bother about what he says?

    JE comments: Ah, but if Depardieu is a clown, he is a rich and famous one. Thus (like E. F. Hutton of yore), when Gerard talks, people listen.

    Great to hear from Boris Volodarsky. I'm not sure I've wished Boris a happy 2013 yet, so allow me to do so now.

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  • What Would a "Healthy Political Opposition" in Russia Look Like? (Gilbert Doctorow, Belgium 01/17/13 4:36 AM)
    In answer to JE's question, "what would a healthy political opposition in Russia look like?" (16 January), I return first to my basic point of the day before, namely that there is a healthy opposition in the form of the three loyal opposition parties which together absorb the approximately 50% of the Russian voting population which is Communist-minded: meaning in favor of heavy state intervention in the economy, in favor of strongly defended state sovereignty, in favor of a very extensive social security net for the general population.

    However, this opposition to United Russia's right-of-center, pro-market policies receives zero attention in the media of the "international community." For purely self-serving reasons, in the hope of helping to bring to power another weak and preferably besotted Russian leader à la Yeltsin, the US Government and media focus all attention on the 3% of the Russian population that demonstrates against the Putin "regime" on behalf of self-proclaimed "democrats" (yes, in response to Istvan Simon, I use inverted commas intentionally)--people like Navalny, about whom they know nothing except that he is anti-Putin. Then there are the loudmouths whom the US backs, though they have lost what popularity they once had among these 3%, people like former deputy premier, former governor of Nizhny Novgorod Boris Nemtsov, or the former world chess champion, current member of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, Gary Kasparov. Most of these self-proclaimed "democrats" share a lack of scruples and possess personality types that suggest they would be true dictatorial monsters if power came their way.

    If I may speak of what Russia needs in terms of an opposition, it is genuine political parties built from the ground up, not the top down, because at present there are none. This is especially evident when you look at those who organized and participated in the anti-Putin demonstrations last year and this spring. They are bound together by nothing more than sedition, the will to overturn the government.

    The statement that these protest leaders, pretended opposition have no ideas is not a judgment, but a description of what is prima facia true: the many would-be leaders of the protests dare not utter a positive statement of intent, lest they lose what little support they have. They are totally unable to combine forces, because they are, as a rule, egotistical Napoleons who have no tolerance for each other. They have spent no time building parties among the people, because they do not believe in hard work, wanting instead for power to fall into their hands, with American help, by bringing down the regime and seizing the opportunity amid chaos. For all these reasons, American and West European support for the "pro-democracy" forces is totally irresponsible, but on a par with support for the forcible overthrow of Assad in Syria when there is nothing in place to pick up the pieces other than al-Qaeda.

    It is for these reasons that I find it very difficult to understand why the world's hegemon, the country which gains most from the status quo, is so busily at work acting as an agent of irresponsible change, with little or no reckoning of what comes next.

    JE comments: Why, in Gilbert Doctorow's view, is "the West" unable to see Russia's "pro-democracy" forces through a critical lens?  Can it be so simple that "we" only care about removing the strong and resolute Putin, in favor of a malleable puppet?  Put more bluntly, is there never any place for political idealism vis à vis Russia--or Syria, for that matter?

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  • Russia's Anti-Adoption Law; View from a US Diplomatic Corps Officer (Randy Black, USA 01/17/13 5:08 AM)
    After Gilbert Doctorow's spirited back-and-forth discussions with me and other WAISers regarding adoptions by Americans of Russian orphans, I wrote to a former US Diplomatic Corps friend whom I've known since 1993 (see various recent posts from Gilbert, me, Istvan Simon, Cameron Sawyer, and others). My friend arrived in Moscow straight out of college the prior year, and worked her way up in various sections of our Embassy.

    By the following year, she had a high level of responsibility and expertise at our embassy across a range of adoption issues. I shared many a lunch with her at the Embassy cafeteria, where I enjoyed the only taco salad in Moscow every other Thursday for more than a year during 1994-1995.

    After her years at the embassy, she worked additional years in the nuclear disarmament project originated by the Nunn-Lugar initiative, aka the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program.

    Her Russian is at the native-speaker level, her security clearance at the highest levels and her integrity is unquestioned. I sent her Gilbert's and my posts for review and feedback. The following is an abbreviated copy of her email:

    Dear Randy,

    It is such a pleasure to hear from you! I echo your wishes for a Happy New Year as we begin 2013.

    ...I was very interested to read both your [WAIS] post and the one from Mr. Doctorow. I have to say that I absolutely agree with you that he is off track when it comes to both "the point and the facts," as you say. Although I believe that he is correct that at some points the severity of illness or handicap was exaggerated in order to qualify some children for adoption (because at one point Russian law forbade the adoption of healthy children to foreign parents).

    However, as you point out in your response, I am sure that for every case of exaggerated hydrocephalia that was used to qualify a child for adoption, there is at least one if not more cases where supposedly healthy children had hidden maladies that came to light only later--results of physical and mental abuse, "developmental delays" in a young infant that became severe learning disabilities as they grew, severe diseases that were hidden until the "deal" was done, etc.

    Adopting a child anywhere is a game of chance, but of course everything is far more chance-y in Russia. Of course, any child that is removed from a system that turns them out onto the street at the tender age of 16 with no support network or anyone to turn to is infinitely better off if adopted--regardless of the adoptive family's nationality.

    If Russia were able to show that the numbers of adoptions of their own so-called orphans have increased so greatly that there is no reason to allow foreigners to adopt, then I would have to say that it is unnecessary to encourage international adoptions.

    However, historically and culturally the Russians are not well-disposed towards adoption--and I do not believe that there has been a renaissance of caring and civic duty of such a scale that they are adopting up all of the available needy children!

    This is yet another example of how cheap human life is to a certain breed of Russian politician--better they should die in the Motherland than live well in the West is a mindset that is nearly impossible to combat.

    These are the same people who still long for the days of Stalin. Well--I think that they are much closer to those glory days of yore than most Westerners recognize.

    And using their orphaned children as pawns in this game is just another symptom of what is deeply and un-fixably wrong with that nation!


    All the best - XXXX

    JE comments: I thank Randy Black for soliciting this comment. Gilbert Doctorow, I suspect, would say that the note reveals nothing more than the usual US thinking vis à vis Russia, where any articulation of muscular nationalism can only be seen in terms of Stalinism.

    What, specifically, is Gilbert's response to the writer's "better [the children] should die in the Motherland than live well in the West" gloss of Russia's anti-adoption law?  Or her suggestion that there would be nothing objectionable in the law, if Russia truly took care of its neediest children?

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    • Changes in Russia's Policy towards Orphans and Adoption (Gilbert Doctorow, Belgium 01/18/13 2:14 AM)
      When commenting the letter sent by a US Diplomatic Corps officer to Randy Black (17 January), JE asked: "What, specifically, is Gilbert's response to the 'better [the children] should die in the Motherland than live well in the West' gloss of Russia's anti-adoption law? Or [the writer's] suggestion that there would be nothing objectionable in the law, if Russia truly took care of its neediest children?"

      My answer is "watch this space." The Duma is now receiving various bills aimed at dealing with the problem of orphans and orphanages in Russia. Wednesday's RBK online news agency reported that one objective of the legislators is to simplify adoption by Russians, which, bystanders say, is presently very bureaucratized and unnecessarily expensive. Another initiative will give children in orphanages preferential admission to all institutions of higher learning in the country.

      Previously the whole question of orphans was left in the dark. Now, thanks to the debates surrounding the anti-Magnitsky bill, the issue is getting focused attention of Russia's legislators and opinion leaders.

      This is a Russian problem which will be solved only when Russians address it.

      Exporting kids abroad is tokenism and unhealthy for the society. As I said previously, there is too much trafficking and profiteering by middlemen, about which the Western press is strangely silent.

      JE comments:  I don't think the press has been silent about the profiteering that goes on with international adoptions.  I've read many bucket-of-tears narratives on the extortion of adoptive parents in Russia--and I've heard a few stories from parents themselves.

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