New US Secretary of State Kerry is an idiot? No surprise here.

You’ll have to forgive us for not being big John Kerry fans here at the Mendeleyev Journal. Stupidity usually doesn’t qualify one for public office, even in a dumbed-down America.

(photo: US State Department)
(photo: US State Department)

We recall the 2004 presidential debate when Kerry claimed that he had been to Moscow’s most famous prison to check KGB files. Really, John? Even if we’d have believed you had a reason to ask the Russians for permission to sift through KGB files, and we don’t, not only in the debate did you mislabel the name of the prison but you got the address wrong too.

For your information, Mr. Secretary of State, your Treblinka was a World War II era Nazi death camp in Poland, not a KGB prison in Moscow. You might also be interested to know that there was a Lubyanka Prison located inside the KGB headquarters at Dzerzhinsky Square in Moscow.

Back then we were a little surprised that the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer being a seasoned journalist and all, didn’t seem to know the difference either. Moderator Lehrer should have caught that and called you on it, but perhaps he isn’t as bright as we’re told either. If you are reading this, Mr. Lehrer, when supporting a candidate you really have no business moderating a debate featuring your own guy and the opposition.

But that was a debate back in 2004, so who’s counting, right? We are, especially now that the new US Secretary of State has apparently invented a new country amongst the former Soviet Republics.

Mr. Secretary, there is no such country as “Kyrzakhstan.” Some in the media have quickly risen to say that it was a slip of the tongue, that you were confused between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Yes, we agree. You were confused, undoubtedly remain confused, and will continue to proceed in a state of confusion, not just on countries that don’t exist but on a whole range of important issues. So you’ll have no mercy from this corner, no free pass just because some seem to think that you can manage cool and stupid at the same time as long as you are aligned with the correct political party.

By the way, when we speak of you being in a “state of confusion” yes, it is where you are at any moment, but not really a place on the map. Oh goodness, so many new concepts–ask someone on your staff to explain as we just don’t have the time.

We do have an interest in the region however so since we’ll have to put up with you for a while, perhaps we can offer some assistance to aid your understanding of this part of the world, as limited as that may be. So, let’s get started:

– There is a county named Kazakhstan and another one named Kyrgyzstan. The Republic of Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world, located in Central Asia, and borders Russia. It is a an important member of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and a member of the “Customs Union” with Russia and Belarus. Kazakhstan’s military, as part of that union, is coordinated in some degree by Russia.

We’d suggest you learn a little about Kazakhstan as earlier today (Tuesday) in the historic city of Almaty, the so-called “P5+1” countries consisting of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France plus Germany met with Iranian leaders to demand that Iran stop their programme of uranium enrichment.

"P5+1" talks with Iran in Almaty, Kazakhstan. (photo: presstv.com)
“P5+1” talks with Iran in Almaty, Kazakhstan. (photo: presstv.com)

– In spite of your gushing over supporting “democratic institutions” neither country is democratic. Kazakhstan continues to be ruled by the same man who controlled the country during the Soviet years, Supreme Chancellor Nursultan Nazarbayev, who holds various titles such as president for life, chancellor, etc. He maintains strict control over the country and while declaring himself as president-for-life allows elections to “reaffirm” his title but with his party (there is only one party) getting 90+% of the vote, nobody is really counting.

Chancellor Nazarbayev has the right to veto Parliament at any time and he’s a good pal of US President Obama who praised the Chancellor in 2011 for contributing to nuclear peace and safety around the world. Kazakhstan is a nuclear power, something you might wish to know.

Kazakhstan is an important member of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation and where launches and coordination of the International Space Station take place.

– Meanwhile neighboring Kyrgyzstan, yeah that other country, has a new president elected in 2011 after the bloody revolution which began in 2010. At best it is an interim government in power as long as it can stave off the revolutionary opposition. Kyrgyzstan is closely aligned with Russia via the CIS and a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Other than frequent revolutions, ethnic strife, transitional governments, and occasional skirmishes with bordering Uzbekistan, the US State Department considers this to be a pretty stable place. The country was ruled by China until 1876 when it was handed over to Russia by treaty and they’ve pretty much maintained some semblance of revolution whether against their Chinese lords, then Russian Tsars and later the Soviets. Today they just don’t like each other very much.  The 40-ray sun on their flag refers to the forty ethnic tribes which make up the tribal regions of Kyrgyzstan but did we forget to mention the little matter of ethnic conflicts?

The USA maintains the Manas Transit Center, an air base in Kyrgyzstan. Located just outside the capital city of Bishkek, US Air Force jets can be in Afghanistan in about an hour and round-the-clock refueling missions for NATO warplanes are conducted from Kyrgyzstan. As you can imagine, Russia has never been happy about this arrangement but the local economy is so (f) mucked up that the country simply needs the $200 million in annual rent.

Some might say that the most intelligent thing you’ve done in life was to marry into money. We agree and your secret is safe with us, Mr. Secretary. Although you clearly have no idea where you’re going on this first diplomatic trip, the US State Department has already scrubbed clean your error in the official transcript of last Wednesday’s speech. Unfortunately the State Department doesn’t control outside sources, such as YouTube. Well, at least not yet.

In the 2004 presidential campaign at one point you proclaimed your roots as being solidly “Irish-Amercian.” In another part of the country during the same campaign you claimed to be “part Jewish.” At some point in the future you’re sure to visit Asia and when there we’d advise against using that “part Jewish” claim and for the love of all that is good and holy, please don’t claim to be “part Asian.”  Trust us, they’ll know better so don’t even try it.

While making your first foreign trip as secretary of state we have a small but important suggestion for you, Mr. Secretary. Once you’ve settled into the flight with a cup of coffee and a copy of the comics from the New York Times, we suggest you quietly lean over and ask this very important question to one of your aides:

Where the hell am I going?

(Editor’s footnote: When in the Senate Mr. Kerry was the ranking member and chairman since 2009 of the Foreign Relations Committee. Apparently geography wasn’t much of an issue during his tenure. Secretary Kerry’s first foreign trip began Monday in London in meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague. Other scheduled stops include Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Let’s hope he knows how to read a GPS unit.)

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Another US-Russian “reset” or maybe not?

Russian officials complain that at any moment it is difficult to know where they stand in relationship to Washington. Thinking it to be a lack of respect instead of ineptitude, some in Moscow believe the USA simply doesn’t find Russia to be worth the effort needed for successful cooperation on areas of mutual interest.

We wince when Washington so often sends mixed signals and it seems that nobody in the Obama administration understands what is necessary to build constructive relations with the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Just last month the White House was quietly hinting that the plan was to downplay relations with Russia but wait, this month it’s different–again.

For at least this week, the Obama administration would like to try yet another attempt at resetting American-Russian relations so on Vice President Biden’s early February trip to Munich he expressed the idea to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. You may recall the first attempt just after Mr. Obama’s 2009 inauguration when his staffers didn’t trust their own Moscow Embassy and ignored advice on how to approach the Russians. They even bypassed an ample Moscow Embassy staff of fluent Russian translators and kept the creation of a “reset” button under wraps in Washington.

You perhaps know the story of then-new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presentation of the famous reset button to the Russian government. Unfortunately Obama’s staff had used the wrong word for “reset” when translated into Russian and upon presentation of the button to Mr. Lavrov, with cameras clicking and videos rolling, Mrs. Clinton quickly became the laughingstock of Europe when Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov called her out on the mistake. The word chosen by the Obama team meant “overloaded” in Russian. Mr. Lavrov, who is a fluent English speaker, chuckled for the moment but in the halls of the Kremlin it wasn’t funny and while publicly the Russians tried to be gracious over the gaffe, privately they wondered why the hell they should take Obama seriously if the relationship wasn’t important enough to use a spell checker or dictionary.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t really all that interested in a reset either. Washington has already surrendered on the idea of missile defenses in Poland and the two sides will never agree on Syria, so in spite of pressing issues like Iran and North Korea, apparently there is little for the two governments to discuss. Mr. Putin has used his own version of a new “cold war” with the USA to temper opposition at home and rather enjoys making America the scapegoat for problems more likely to be traced to policies at home.

An interesting indicator of the success of Putin’s anti-USA tactic is the reaction in Russia over how Americans have reacted to a photo of Mr. Putin riding a bear in the wilderness. To some Russians the very idea that Americans would think the photo to be photo-shopped is apparently just not acceptable. One Russian friend sent the Journal this message: американцы на фейсбуке всерьез обсуждают, фотошоп это или нет (Americans are seriously questioning whether the photo was photo-shopped) as if the very question was offensive.

In the same spirit of seeing photos of an American president pretending to shoot skeet when he clearly doesn’t know how to properly shoulder a gun, well, absent some real-time video coverage to back up a photo of Mr. Putin riding a bear…

Putin bear

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavro has announced that newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry may visit Russia shortly with the intention for Moscow and Washington to work at mending their strained relations.

In reality there is much the two countries could accomplish as partners instead of adversaries so let’s hope that Mr. Kerry keeps mum if the subject of Mr. Putin riding a bear comes up in conversation.

Kamchatka region. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin)
Kamchatka region. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin)

Russia set to raise drinking age to 21?

Will Russia continue the battle to reduce alcoholism by raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 21? This past Thursday a bill raising the legal drinking age was introduced in the State Duma for consideration by lawmakers.

beer ban

Earlier in the week First Deputy Prime Minister V. Zubkov had told RIA Novosti news service that Russia has seen a fall in alcohol sales over the past two years from 18 liters to 15 liters per capita a year. Alcohol advertising has been banned and the government has forbidden the sale of alcohol at nighttime and reduced the number of shops allowed to sell alcoholic beverages.

beer mkt

Yevgeny Bryun, the Health Ministry’s chief drug-addiction expert, told the Moscow Times last month that the effort has reduced the amount of alcohol sales by a third over the past two years. Then President Dmitry Medvedev banned the sale of beer at street kiosks last year.

In a report on Russia Today TV, today there are more than 28 million alcoholics in Russia according to the Ministry of Health and Social Development. RT reported that out of the nation’s 10 million children who are between the ages of 11-18, more than 50% use alcohol and beer regularly.

(RIA Novosti News Service)
(RIA Novosti News Service)

Language trivia: Пиво is the Russian word for beer, pronounced as “PEE-vah.”

Russian opposition figure Sergei Udaltsov under house arrest

Moscow Times:

A Moscow court on Saturday placed outspoken leftist opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov under house arrest in connection with criminal charges that he orchestrated anti-government riots last year. The ruling marks the first time since the rise of the opposition movement in December 2011 following disputed State Duma elections that a prominent anti-Kremlin figure has faced such a restriction.

Sergei Udaltsov at a Moscow protest rally.
Sergei Udaltsov at a Moscow protest rally.

Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front, had been under travel restrictions since October but had repeatedly violated them, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Friday. His violations forced investigators to ask the court to limit his freedom further, Markin said.

Under the new restrictions, Udaltsov will be prevented until April 6 from leaving his Moscow apartment without permission, and from communicating with anyone except his family, lawyers, investigators or prison officials by any means, the Basmanny District Court ruled. On Friday, Udaltsov denied that he had violated the travel restrictions imposed on him in October, saying authorities were seeking to limit his public activism.

In a bizarre episode, the judge also said that Udaltsov and his wife, fellow activist Anastasia Udaltsova, fought frequently and that Udaltsova had left for Ukraine because of her husband’s threats.

People in the courtroom burst into laughter at the claim, since Udaltsova was standing right in front of the judge at the time. She put her finger to her temple and turned it back and forth to indicate what she perceived as the absurdity of the statement.

 

Volgograd or Stalingrad – Волгоград или Сталинград

Should the southern Russian city known today as Volgograd be returned to it’s Soviet era name of Stalingrad? Originally named as Tsaritsyn (Царыцын) when the area was established in the mid 1500s, Tsaritsyn was named for the Tsaritsa River which met the mighty Volga River nearby. Readers will recognize the term “Tsar” in the original name and it wasn’t until 1925 when the city was renamed as Stalingrad for the supposed accomplishments (exaggerated) of Josef Stalin in defending Tsaritsyn during the Russian Civil War.

Царыцын (Tsaritsyn) is highlighted at the annual city day celebration.
Царыцын (Tsaritsyn) is highlighted at the annual city day celebration.

The recent celebration of the 70th anniversary of victory over the invading Nazi army in the Battle of Stalingrad has reawakened an internal debate inside Russia, asking the question of whether the city should be called Волгоград или Сталинград, Volgograd or Stalingrad?

City light show on Volgograd  Hotel displays Stalingrad, Сталинград.
City light show on Volgograd Hotel displays Stalingrad, Сталинград.

In recent years Russian authorities have said that the city of Volgograd could regain its wartime name but for now only for six days a year when celebrating wartime victory events. However lawmakers in Russia’s Parliament have indicated that a nationwide referendum could be organized to rename the city permanently. Russia Today television has reported that Vladimir Churov, Russia’s Central Election Commission Chief, is ready to organize a vote if instructed to do so by lawmakers.

Newspapers and websites across the country are asking readers to respond in straw poll fashion and so far the trend seems to be widely in favour of changing the name back to Stalingrad, but such polls are neither scientific nor are the results an indication that the country is slipping back toward a more Soviet model.

This newspaper poll shows the name change idea clearly leads those who oppose.
This newspaper poll shows the name change idea clearly leads those who oppose.

Not everyone is in favour of the idea and some fear it will signal that Russia is seeking to reclaim her Soviet past. Others don’t think a change necessary and would just like to leave things as they are without changing the city’s name, yet again.

Caption: "I Love Volgograd."
Caption reads: “I Love Volgograd.”

If you are a Russian citizen, have an opinion on the matter and would like to participate in the poll here is a link: http://www.nr2.ru/moskow/325874.html

The Boy Scouts of America should move to Russia.

The Boy Scouts of the USA should pack up and move to Russia. Apparently out of step in a country that has embraced political correctness and intent on lunging ineptly into socialism, the Boy Scouts and the USA are clearly at odds.

Certainly the national administration of the Boy Scouts of America may decide to betray their roots and give in to an increasingly dictatorial Washington Tsar who appears hellbent on destroying what he sees as a Colonial America. Enter the Boy Scouts who have slipped into the cross hairs of a president who supposedly shoots skeet but can’t provide photographs to back up his claims. Russian citizens wouldn’t hesitate to call that lying.

The Boy Scouts do have options other than surrender but may not see the options at play amidst all the din of America’s politically correct and fawning media.

In Russia the state pays for pro-life advertising to stem the tide of abortions and it is the state that welcomes and actively promotes the teaching of faith in public schools and other public institutions. This same state is not afraid to stand up to a same-sex marriage agenda and has their own version of the Boy Scouts, called кадеты школы, “Cadets School.”

Some young students attend Russian military style cadet school.
Some young students attend Russian military style cadet schools.

Russian children are given the option to join the youth cadets, a school system that teaches all the academic disciplines while adding basic military cadet training at early ages. Think of the Boy Scouts with guns. Gasp! California Senator Feinstein would faint at the thought. It would seem that she believes only her personal bodyguards should handle guns.

Moscow Cadets school.
Moscow Cadets school firearms introduction.

Hell, this is a country where the president wrestles with lions and shoots big game in the forest. He doesn’t need to fabricate stories about shooting skeet. Russian student cadets are taught to responsibly handle real guns. They learn other things too like responsibility and truthfulness, and being helpful and serving their country–the very themes that resonate so well with American Boy Scouts.

Moscow Cadet School #9. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko II)
Moscow Cadet School #9. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko II)

Only one in 10 applicants are accepted and parents decide whether to enroll their children in Cadet classes. A review board meets with both parents and student to ascertain the students willingness to participate. There are over 500 cadet schools in Russia.

Kyiv (Kiev) capital of Ukraine

Kiev, spoken as “keev”” instead of ke-evh, is the birthplace of Russia. Modern day boundaries aside, the capital of Ukraine is the birthplace of Russia. So that you don’t offend your Ukrainian friends remember that there is no definite article “the” in the name of Ukraine. Just as odd as it would be to say “the France” or “the Canada” it is a country with a one word name, Ukraine.

A beautiful country with beautiful people, closely tied to Russia of course, not only as next door neighbors but as brothers and sisters sharing a common birth place. Here is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world, “Keev.”

Kyiv (Kiev) Independence Square.
Kyiv (Kiev) Independence Square.