Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Sovietologist puzzled by Russia

Day 2 of Condi Rice's rough visit to Moscow. Her irony-free discussion of the dangers of unchecked presidential power has been widely noted. A few other clangers. First, it seems that Putin wasn't joking when he referred to putting an anti-missile system on the moon, in the context of the disputed system that the US wants to put in the Czech Republic and Poland --

QUESTION: Did his -- does that concept include lunar -- (laughter). Because fundamentally, you know -- because, you know, the Russians -- the Kremlin spokesman, you know, their interpretation of that comment was a bit of a shock.
QUESTION: Was that, you know, he was not trying to make fun of it. He was trying to say that, look, you know, we can get to a point where this -- is that --
SECRETARY RICE: I thought it was kind of a joke. I don't know what you --
QUESTION: You didn't see it as derogative form?
SECRETARY RICE: No. Look, President Putin does have this kind of way of speaking, you know, and he makes these sort of offhanded comments from time to time. That's how I read it. It didn't really occur to me that it was a comment that was serious.
QUESTION: Did you laugh?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, actually, I did, I think.1

In addition, things with Turkey may be worse than has been discussed so far. This also came up in her chat with journalists --

QUESTION: What is the status of General Ralston?
QUESTION: He's gone, right? So now it's --
QUESTION: His resignation has been accepted or --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have not had a chance to talk, so let me not comment. I know that he is -- he is desirous of, you know, not having to continue. But he has said that he'll try to help where he can and when he can. And he's terrific. He's really done a good job in trying to bring that together.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) so you're hopeful that he'll stay on?
SECRETARY RICE: No, I think that we will have -- it'll be a different relationship. But I know that he has offered that when he can help, he will.

General Ralston is the US Special Envoy for countering the PKK. So for some reason he doesn't see much point in continuing in his job. On the other hand, it was also revealed that arch neocon Eric Edelman, last heard from accusing Hillary Clinton of treason -- is being sent over to soothe the Turks. Great.

1 Media accounts indicate that this is an accurate representation of her reaction to Pootie-Poot's "joke".

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