Sunday, May 27, 2018

Blaming Medicine Shortages on Sanctions, Putin Regime Seeks to Kill Two Birds with One Stone

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – The decision of the Duma not to ban the import of American medicines as part of a new counter-sanctions regime and Russian commentaries about it has allowed Vladimir Putin to kill two birds with one stone, giving him yet another set of victories he doesn’t deserve.

            On the one hand, by suggesting that any shortages in medications in the Russian Federation are linked to sanctions – even though the sanctions that have are Putin’s own counter-sanctions -- he has distracted Russian attention from the fact that his government has failed to produce the drugs they need to survive and prompted them to blame the West.

            And on the other, the Kremlin leader has handed Western opponents of sanctions yet another argument against their continuation.  No one wants to see people suffer and die as a result of policies, a propaganda theme that some useful idiots and others in Western countries have picked up with alacrity and some success. 

            The discussions about sanctions and medicines may leave the impression that “before they were adopted, everything [in Russia] was more or less normal,” doctors say. “In fact, that was not the case.” There were many medicines patients need that are only available as imports and the health ministry doesn’t always buy them (

            One survey of doctors found “more than 40 types of medicine” which have “disappeared from hospitals and apothecaries” in recent months. Some of these are imports; others are of domestic manufacture. But Putin’s health “optimization” program means there is less money  for either, and there are now serious shortages.

            Russian doctors are forced to substitute other, less effective medication. As a result, Russian patients suffer more side effects and even in some cases die.  That is especially true in cases where there are no good Russian substitutes such as in chemotherapy treatment for cancer or anti-retroviral therapy for those suffering from HIV/AIDS. 

            In one notorious case, a woman who had been taking warfarin for 12 years was forced to replace that blood thinner with a veterinary medicine. That too came from abroad, but Moscow was still prepared to buy it, possibly because it was less expensive. 

            And Russian experts say that the problem with the supply of medicines in Russia will get worse regardless of what happens with sanctions. If they stay in place, Moscow will likely buy ever fewer medications and blame the West. If they are lifted, Moscow has created a system which takes so long to approve new drugs that many will suffer and die in the meantime.

Putin is Consistent but the West isn’t, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – At the very moment that the international investigation of the downing of the Malaysian jetliner concluded that Moscow was behind that terrorist act, Western leaders and businessmen were in St. Petersburg to cozy up with Vladimir Putin and to try to make deals to enrich themselves, Vitaly Portnikov observes.

            Indeed, at his press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin was even asked about the report and of course as is his custom acted as if he knew nothing about the downing of the Malaysian plane, a statement that was enough for useful idiots in the West to argue that he wasn’t involved.

            But Portnikov says, “the obvious contradiction is not in the actions of Putin. Putin is consistent. He is cynical, cruel, and indifferent to human lives. Rather the West is by on the one hand condemning Putin and on the other trying to reach agreement with this inexorable man” (

            “The West can’t act without following procedures. Its jurists were forced to investigation the destruction of the jet and sooner or later they had to declare the names of the gulty in this crime and the threads led to Putin and his closest entourage.  Its politicians couldn’t close their eyes to the violation by the Putin regime of international law,” the Ukrainian commentator says.

            Moreover, they “mustn’t forget about Crimea or the Donbass or the crimes in Syria.” But “of course,” he continues, “there are businessmen who want simply to make money in Russia” and “there are voters who are interested only in their own wellbeing” and are only shaken out of their lethargy by pictures of “the latest child killed in Syria.”

            Given this environment, Portnikov says, “Western politicians all the same continue their attempts to reach agreement with Putin. With each passing day of his rule, the Russian president becomes ever more ‘toxic’ and far from an understanding of reality. But they all go [to Russia to see him], now Merkel, now Macron, now someone else.”

            “What are they hoping for?”  That Putin will want to be like “one of them”? But Putin considers himself the equal of the US president and looks down on all the rest.  But “nevertheless, this marching in circles continues.” However, it is important to call this by its proper name: “This isn’t politics; this is the imitation of activity.”

            Portnikov argues that “it will be possible to negotiate with Putin only after his country will be completely isolated from the world economy, after oligarchs from Abramovich to Fridman will be blocked from entering all Western countries and from using the services of all Western banks, including Swiss and Israeli, and Putin himself together with his closest comrades in arms will be condemned in absentia for destroying the Malaysian Boeing.”

            “Only then,” he says, “can Trump, Macron or Merkel expect that   he will call them with constructive proposals and even then not immediately.  For the time being, he will simply give his guests flowers, take them to the theater and wipe their feet” because they will do be doing him an invaluable service as far as the Kremlin leader is concerned.

            These Western leaders will be making their contribution to “the inadequate picture of the world” inside of Putin’s head that is the basis for his continuing aggression.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Rare Glimpse of Just How Horrible ‘Dedovshchina’ in Fact Is

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – A film produced by the Turkmenistan military’s training branch and intended to warn against the non-standard behavior in the ranks known across the former Soviet space as dedovshchina has leaked to the media. What is shows is just how horrific such actions can be.

            The 16-minute film shows victims of such activities in such detail that the Alternative News of Turkmenistan agency says that “for ethical reasons and in accordance with the demands of Youtube, [it] cannot publish the video itself,” but only certain pictures and descriptions from the film (

                The narrator of the film points out that Ashgabat declared 2014 to be the year for establishing order and doing away with dedovshchina in the Turkmen armed forces but that, unfortunately, there “continue to occur violations of military discipline” some of which have led to serious traumas, deaths or suicides.

            The news agency lists the names, dates and outcomes of more than a dozen recent incidents of dedovshchina in the Turkmen military, providing pictures in approximately half of them.  It also details cases in which soldiers have inflicted harm on themselves in order to escape from further service.

            In putting out this report, which has been picked up by other news services in Central Asia, the agency says that this film despite the intentions of its compilers “shows the entire world a side of the life of the Turkmenistan army, an army in which as before dedovshchina and irregular actions flourish … and in which it is dangerous for life and health to serve.