Feb 29, 2008

Jessica Simpson is Ukraine's Barbie

No, seriously.

In America, Jessica Simpson is a robot transvestite with a nation wide average opening weekend gross of $1,332 (fact).

But in Ukraine, well: "In Ukraine, her film is a huge success. Not only are people flocking to theaters to see Jessica on the big screen, they want her to come visit. 'She is really the ideal of American beauty and style, like Barbie,' Alex Shpiluk, a film producer and member of the Ukrainian Film Commission."

“She is very famous here. The Dukes of Hazzard was shown 10 times on TV last month,” says Arama Gevorcyan, a leading Ukrainian film producer.

And before anyone protests, InTouch weekly is a legit news outlet.

Thanks Vika!

Azerbaijan's Death Star Hotel

Azerbaijan is about to demonstrate the power of this fully armed, fully operational battle station....with room service!

"Three sons, and the wife - a beauty! I vote for, for Bogdanova Andrey!"

Chalmers sends along this beauty...

Click here to hear "democratic" presidential candidate Andrey Bogdanova's campaign song (headphone alert).

Did you know, Russia needs a president? Thanks Bogdanova!

Anyway, with a slick media machine like this, he's sure to win his grandmother's vote (pictured).

Feb 28, 2008

Speaking of Nukes...

Back in May 2007, we noted how President Putin promised to deploy better, faster, cheaper MRV'ed nuclear missiles. This is intended to counter the US missile defense program and earn some of that sweet, sweet R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

The other side of the story is that Russia's existing MRV'ed rocket force is about to reach its "use by" day. So the Kremlin's number crunchers figure its cheaper to put more warheads on fewer rockets, rather than replacing the existing models.

This brings us to Russia's newest contribution to the Peace Race, a bright new member of the nuclear family: the RS-24.

Duck and cover, baby.

Feb 25, 2008

Pakistan Nukes its Own Internet

Located in the soft underbelly of Eurasia, we don't usually run stories on Pakistan. But this one is just too good to ignore.

When the government of Pakistan blocked its citizens from watching Youtube videos over the weekend, it bit off more than it could chew. The global chain reaction which followed, not only shut down Youtube access world wide, but also nuked Pakistan's own internet infrastructure.

"By suddenly rerouting YouTube-content requests from around the world to be handled in Pakistan, a volume of Internet traffic far greater than usual for the country, 'the leadership of Pakistan just created a massive Denial of Service on their own country.'"

Way to go.

Feb 22, 2008

Soviet Art Gets Classy

Today, the Chelsea Art Museum in New York will open an exhibition of Soviet-era artwork.

Russia's oil economy has propelled a new generation of collectors. New York's art universe has taken notice. The works on disply are inteded to highlight the "current of Russian alternative culture and describe the history of independent, or 'non-conformist,' art."

Brute Force

Back in October, we noted that Putin had dispatched everyone's favorite nationalist lunatic, Dmitry Rogozin, to serve as NATO Ambassador.

Since then, Rogozin has made himself at home in Brussels and distinguished himself for little gems like, "Polish colleagues must be reminded of their recent history...which indicates that attempts to place Poland 'on the confrontation line' have always led to tragedies. That way Poland lost nearly one third of its citizens during World War II." (Thanks Leopolis).

Now we assume that Rogozin is speaking of ye ol' Molotov-Ribbentrop pact here -- the part where Russia put Poland 'on the confrontation line.' But he could also be giving a wink to the Warsaw uprising, where much of the city was cut to ribbons while Russian troops watched idly.

But we digress.

Yesterday, Russia's lone gun at NATO weighed in on this Kosovo business. Did he ever. With his his usual tact and subtlty, Rogozin noted that "Russia would 'proceed on the basis that in order to be respected we need to use brute force'" to keep the Kosovo business from getting out of hand.

That's right, Kosovo has disrespected Russia by exercising its rights under Article 1.2 of the UN Charter to disassociate itself from a country that twice in the last 20 years attempted to exterminate its population...and it wasn't Russia.

Now, this only makes sense to Dmitry Rogozin. But that's all that matters. Because the only thing more dangerous than someone like Dmitry Rogozin, is someone like Dmitry Rogozin who is not trapped in Brussels as NATO Ambassador.

Feb 21, 2008

Hey Buddy, Got a Light?

Angry Serbs set part of the United States Embassy in Belgrade ablaze. The small fires in the Embassy were quickly extinguished. The smoldering resentment of having yet another chunk of Greater Serbia jettisoned, well, that part continues to burn.

“As long as we live, Kosovo is Serbia,” Prime Minister Kostunica said.

Rule of Law in Romania

In a victory for Romania's decade long effort to buttress the court system and promote the rule of law, "An ardent fan of former Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci (pictured) is suing Romania president Traian Basescu for not awarding a special sports merit medal to his idol," Reuters reports.

My how far we've come.

To be sure, this kind of legal silliness is not unique to Romania. But if the trend continues, Romanians may also find themselves hopelessly trapped in a universe of "Caution, Coffee May Be Hot" and shotguns which remind you to "Point Away From Self." All the happy outcomes of an over-litigious society.

Feb 18, 2008

So is it KosovO or KosovA?

At long last, it's happened. Birth of a nation. Pop the bubbly. Kosovo is a state.

The whole process was carefully stage managed (state managed?) by the US, so as to avoid any overt 'up yours' to Serbia. No songs glorifying dead independence leaders killed by Serbs, etc.

Thus far, it's all gone pretty much according to plan. "President George W. Bush and leading European allies offered diplomatic backing to Kosovo, pledging to support the newly independent state in the face of Serbian and Russian opposition....France and Britain became the first EU countries to extend diplomatic ties to Kosovo." Serbia "vowed restraint" and Russia called an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to protest, saying there was "no legal basis'' for the proclamation and that it should be "disregarded by the international community.''

No legal basis?

Russian Amb. Vitaly Churkin might want to brush up on his UN Charter, specifically Article 1, Section 2. "The Purposes of the United Nations are: to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples."

But who reads that dusty old thing anyway?

Besides, the fun part is that self-determination, like terrorist or freedom fighter, means just about anything you want it to mean. Either way, no word yet on any Russian recognition of Abkhazia. All that will have to wait till after the party dies down.

Kosovo still has no economy to speak of, no highly-valued natural resources to export, and generally exists off of the good will of foreign donors, NATO peacekeepers, and the trade in sex workers to supply said peacekeepers.

But so much for all that. Let's all strip off our shirts and give a guzzle from the ram's horn.

Welcome to the party Kosovo. You are in for one long ass Eternal Remont.

Feb 15, 2008

Medvedev & Putin Talk Two Different Games

Soon-to-be Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said this week that freedom, private property and an independent judiciary would be the central planks of his administration.

He also noted that Russia and the United States share common values and have no choice but to cooperate.

This follows statements by current President and Soon-to-be Prime Minister Putin that Russia would resume the moribund arms race with the West and target nuclear missiles on Eastern Europe.

Putin said the same thing about Bulgaria in 2007, then promptly signed a multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline deal with said target for nuclear annihilation. So this might be the only way he knows how to make friends.

Either way, Medvedev is talking like it's 1996 (See you at the Ugly Duck on Friday!), while Putin is rocking out to 1976 (I buy your blue jeans. Do you have dollars? I buy your dollar).

Feb 12, 2008

Trouble a Brewin' on the Polish-Uker Border

There's a great article by Adrian Erlinger in the most recent ToL.

"The expansion of Schengen on 21 December was a Pyrrhic victory for the development of Polish-Ukrainian relations. The EU has created a de facto cordon sanitaire with its eastern neighbors, limiting free travel rather than deepening cross-border exchange..."

Feb 7, 2008

GLONASS Sputters, Again

Remember GLONASS, Russia's answer to GPS? In 1994, the system worked for about five minutes, right before the satellites fizzled. Hell, it happens. So now the Kremlin is plowing petro dollars into reviving GLONASS....with little success.

Jamestown reports, "During a televised Cabinet meeting [in December 2007], Putin asked Ivanov when his pet Labrador, Koni, would get a working GLONASS positioner “'so that she will not run away.'” Ivanov confidently projected mid-2008.

Opps. Ivanov now says 1) GLONASS is inaccurate 2) does not cover all of Russia all of the time 3) the satellites are unreliable 4) Russian companies aren't even making devices for the GLONASS system 5) everyone at the Federal Space Agency should be fired.

Ego plays a role here. But so does Russian's desire to use its own GPS to target precision-guided weapons, just like the Americans. Why not use the US GPS system? Partnership, cooperation, and all that? Russia's playbook still intends to use said cruise missiles against NATO and US targets.

Here Koni, Koni... Where is that damn dog?

Feb 6, 2008

Putin's Love Life on DVD

Just what I wanted for Valentine's Day...

BBC: A new film purported to be based on Putin's normally very private life is soon to be released in Russia. The film, called A Kiss - Off the Record, is due to come out on Valentine's Day, but only on DVD.

Its fictional hero is a German-speaking St Petersburg Russian with a secretive job who marries a stewardess, has two daughters and rises to the presidency. This matches the president's life story although his name is not mentioned. The film was completed 5 yrs ago, but there has been speculation that the Kremlin delayed its release until now, weeks before Putin leaves office.

Feb 4, 2008

The Sad Death of Anna Loginova

Anna Loginova, d. 2008: Martial arts expert, supermodel, bodygaurd, and apparently, lover of Porsche Cayenne SUVs. Dragged to her death in a Moscow carjacking. Store not ye treasures on earth...

(Thanks to Aleksandr Griboyedov for the keeping us abreast of the living and the dead in the cut-throat world of Moscow's glamour media.)