Obama called Medvedev, India’s Singh was in Mosocw and Ukraine greeted new Ambassadors

Random thoughts…

– What time zone is it anyway? Today President Medvedev took a phone call from President Obama. Mr. Obama is concerned about the attitude of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as of late. Listen Barack, it isn’t just as of late. He has disliked you from day one and it won’t go away. Don’t bother with misspelling another reset button, as he wasn’t that amused by the first botched attempt and would be even less tolerant of a second. Buy a pair of gloves and wool overcoat cause the world could get chilly again.

Mr. Obama congratulated President Medvedev on Russia’s entry into the WTO. About time. The two made meaningless small talk of continued good will and cooperation; exchanged New Year and Christmas greetings, etc. They talked about another meeting but no dates were set. Have my peps call your peps, etc.

– Off the phone call, Mr. Medvedev got back to the business at hand–the meeting with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. That guy comes to Moscow every time he gets a chance and he is always smiling! That is what is so striking– every time he arrives with that head covering and he is always smiling. Perhaps up top is where one hides the vodka?

On a more serious note, India is a very important trading partner with Russia. In fact, bilateral trade increased to a figure of $7 billion over the first nine months of 2011 and that figure will increase in coming years. India is buying Russian military technology and Russia is building nuclear plants, dams, and railroads in India. The two are also planning a joint rail project in China and have invited Ukraine (trying to get the Ukrainians interested in big brother again) to join in some small role in the China rail deal.

This is the 65th year of diplomatic relations between the two countries and it has been beneficial for both. One of the more “kodak moments” of the early Medvedev presidency was the Indian visit to the Kremlin Grand Palace and the state dinner for President Smt. Pratibha  Devisingh Patil. You might have thought it was the Obama visit when he astonished Medvedev by bringing the entire family along with hundreds of additional staff. You couldn’t fault him for the kids as I would have done the same. Nor was it the moment when “W” (George Bush) dropped his jaw as President Medvedev escorted him thru those hall doors leading to the splendor of the Kremlin Palace.  Hey, when it comes to palatial splendor, America just has nothing like it.

– Did you realize that yesterday (16 December) was the 20th Anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence? President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has been in power all that time. If you think that Russia’s elections were rigged…and at least Mr. Putin has not declared himself as a president for life.

Kazakhstan was the last Soviet republic to declare independence. Hard to believe that Uzbekistan, who received a fax from Moscow confirming the breakup of the CCCP (and nobody in Tashkent noticed the fax for a day!) actually beat them to the punch. Kazakhstan is a Turkish country and the women have that blend of Asian and Russian features–breathtakingly stunning at times.

Kazakh is the official language but Russian is spoken and understood in every nook and corner and with the Customs Union with Russia and Belarus things are likely to stay that way. Over 70% of the country is Muslim and Orthodoxy most of the remaining percentage. Geographically it is a very large country but the population is less than 18 million.

– It isn’t a Christmas song at all, in fact it is a funeral/memorial part of the liturgy, but for some reason “Pie Jesu” just fits at Christmas. Perhaps it is the part of “lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” that makes the song so appropriate this time of year.

So I stepped into the “Smooth Favorites” radio studio (www.MyFavoriteChannel.com) to see how many versions of the song is played around Christmas. Answer: Celtic Woman, Sissel and by Gregorian, the new age group.

Here is a sample:

I wondered why the version by Anna Netrebko, the beautiful Russian singer hadn’t been included? That prompted some action and apparently it will be added soon. If you had to choose to listen to Pie Jesu by either Sissel and Gregorian, which would you choose?

Shameless plug: If you don’t mind having to put up with listening to my voice all day and night, you might enjoy the jazzed up Christmas favourites on “Smooth Favorites” (jazz and pop oldies) radio at www.MyFavoriteChannel.com, and during the Christmas season several international songs, including “Silent Night” and a couple of others are interspersed in Russian.

– Finally, it was Russia’s turn last week and so yesterday in Ukraine President Yanukovich met with the diplomatic corps in a presentation of credentials ceremony.

If you’ve never attended one, it is a ceremony in which each Ambassador presents his credentials (as if one of them might be there by mistake!) to the president of the host country. The host president welcomes the Ambassadors, introduces the new envoys to the rest of the assembled diplomats, and then they stand in a long line to shake hands with the president and foreign minister of the host country and are handed a toast.

You may be interested to know that presidential staffs do track this sort of thing and a Muslim diplomat or a teetotaler is handed a flute with juice for the toast. It is amazing that the host president is still standing on his own after greeting and toasting a line full of Ambassadors from around the globe. Shoot, events like this were right up Boris Yeltsin’s alley…

Speaking of Ukraine, former President Kuchma will literally get away with murder. This week a Ukrainian court threw out murder charges against the man who ruled Ukraine in such a fashion that more than a small number of opposition candidates and independent journalists routinely died in mysterious circumstances. Simply mere happenstance one can suppose?

I think the term “murder” more closely fits his profile. But what I think doesn’t matter in a Ukrainian court.