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Hullabaloo


Saturday, March 01, 2014

 
Back in the USSR

by digby

Jonathan Schwarz reads that silly Snowden book so you don't have to. I think this probably tells you all you need to know about the evidence it summons to make its case:
Here's a good example, one so portentous that it's the last sentence of book's last chapter:
[Blogger Catherine] Fitzpatrick has identified the background to one of the rare photos of Snowden in Moscow: on the basis of the distinctive striped pavements, the logo on a supermarket trolley he is pushing, and other visual clues it is, she believes, a shopping centre in Yasenevo, near Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service [SVR] headquarters.
Let's leave aside the fact we don't know if this photo (published by a Russian tabloid) actually shows Edward Snowden. And let's leave aside that if it does show Snowden in Yasenevo, him being two miles away from SVR headquarters would not actually mean he's a secret Russian agent. Let's just focus on what Fitzpatrick says.

And what she says is that she's "going to take a WAG" about the photo—i.e., a wild-assed guess. This guess is based on these features of the photo:

• The stripes on the curb, which she says are found near shopping centers and metro stations in Yasenevo…and also the rest of Moscow.
• The logo on the shopping cart—which I find totally illegible but she believes starts with a Russian D, so "maybe" it's Dialayt. There's a shopping center called the Dialayt Torgovy Kompleks in Yasenevo.
• The trees, which are the "same kind" as in Yasenevo. I'm not an expert on trees or Moscow or Moscow trees, but my guess is such trees are found in more than one Moscow location.
• The metal kiosks, which she (incorrectly) says look like those close to Dialayt Torgovy Kompleks.

That isn't cherry-picked—literally the entire book is like that.
There you have it.

Equally idiotic is the idea that Snowden's documents have something to do with the current events in Crimea. As Russia expert Mark Adomanis tweeted earlier today:

I know it's truly shocking to imagine, but not everything that happens in the world is about America or Americans.

What's happening in Ukraine is very worrisome for a whole lot of reasons. Anything could happen, although according to what I'm seeing on TV today from people actually in Ukraine, the most likely outcome is a vote in Crimea, backed by Russia, to secede from Ukraine and form an autonomous country. (Crimea is mostly Russian ethnicity --- after all it was Russia until 1954 --- so one assumes those two countries would have a cooperative relationship if that were to happen.) Russian partition sounds like it's unlikely. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, and there is no bloodshed in getting to that point, this would seem to be a better outcome than we might expect.

On the other hand the usual suspects are starting to fulminate about the usual nonsense about US "credibility" and "toughness" and "sending messages" and talking up the idea that Russia is on the verge of invading Europe --- and the Neocons were already getting very over-stimulated at the prospect of a new cold war.

I don't think I have to point out that because we know that Vladimir Putin is a corrupt and repressive autocrat, and he certainly is, ginning up a new cold war as the old Soviet borders continue to disintegrate is a counterproductive idea. It will not help the people of Russia or the Ukraine or anyone else.


Update: Here's a realistic piece on what's happening by Russia expert Julia Ioffe. I'm afraid that unless we can get the Marvel Comics superheroes to get on the case there's just not much to be done except exhort the Russian government to eschew violence and hope to hell that a bunch of local hotheads don't get out of hand.

Update II: When I say "realistic" I'm talking about what can be done, which is very little. I have no idea about what's in Putin's mind and frankly, I don't think anyone else does either.  The fact that he's worried about losing influence in his region seems like a fairly obvious concern but beyond that I have no idea whether the chest beating and nationalism is any more strategic than the chest beating and nationalism of any other militarily powerful country.
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