Sunday, February 27, 2005

Thank you, Another Misha, for the comment I totally agree with and for the link to the Washington Post piece!

As I wrote yesterday, this part of Kolesnikov's press conference question was easy to miss: " far as Russia is concerned, everything is clear more or less."

The Washington Post's Peter Baker did just that - he totally missed it:

Although some print media in Russia remain lively and critical of the government, coming to Putin's defense at yesterday's news conference in Slovakia were two reporters who belong to the Kremlin press pool. The first was Andrei Kolesnikov, a correspondent for Kommersant, a business newspaper owned by Putin critic Boris Berezovsky. But Kolesnikov just released two books about his time covering Putin that the Kremlin likes.

Kolesnikov challenged Bush, asserting that "it's impossible to call Russia or the U.S. fully democratic" and questioned Bush about the "enormous powers of the security services" in the United States that had resulted in "the private lives of citizens falling under the control of the government."

Luckily, Baker didn't appear as clueless writing about the other guy who asked Bush a wrong question:

The second reporter, who questioned Bush's assertion that Russian media are not free, works for Interfax, a news service that often closely hews the state line.

To paraphrase Kolesnikov, as far as Interfax is concerned, everything is more or less clear.

An editorial in the Washington Post, Soft on Mr. Putin, sounded more like the Kommersant's Kolesnikov than their own Peter Baker:

The low point of President Bush's generally successful tour of Europe came at his news conference Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Fresh from a private discussion in which he said he raised such issues as the rule of law, free press and respect for political opposition, Mr. Bush issued what sounded like an endorsement of Mr. Putin's handling of "a country that is in transformation." Lauding the Russian ruler as a man who means what he says, Mr. Bush declared that "the most important statement . . . was the president's statement when he declared his absolute support for democracy in Russia."


The United States has pragmatic interests in cooperating with Russia on issues such as nuclear proliferation and the weapons programs of Iran and North Korea, and so Mr. Bush has good reason to avoid a rupture with a leader who has concentrated most political power in his own hands and is likely to remain in office until at least 2008. Yet it shouldn't be necessary to give Mr. Putin the message that his declarations of commitment to democracy will be accepted at face value even if his practice is the opposite. Better to state the truth, as former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov did in Moscow the same day: "The direction has changed," he said of Russia's political developments. "It's not the right one. The country is on the wrong track."

So here's what we've got:

Bush is soft on Putin, Kolesnikov is tough on Bush - according to the Washington Post.

The Washington Post is tough on both Bush and Kolesnikov.

Mikhail Kasyanov, according to the Washington Post, speaks the truth - while President Bush doesn't.

In a way, Mikhail Kasyanov sounds like Kolesnikov: "The country is on the wrong track" isn't too different from "as far as Russia is concerned, everything is clear more or less."

Kolesnikov, however, never held important positions in Russia's Ministry of Finance under Yeltsin, didn't spend four years as prime minister in Putin's government and isn't considered a potential candidate in the 2008 presidential election - unlike Mikhail Kasyanov.

Go figure.

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