Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Putin triumphs in 2013 yet tough challenges loom

MOSCOW — Displaying the killer instincts of a chess grandmaster, Vladimir Putin rang out 2013 with an exceptional list of accomplishments.

The Russian president humiliated the United States by sheltering NSA leaker Edward Snowden, brokered a Syrian chemical weapons deal that averted a seemingly inevitable U.S. military strike and outmaneuvered the 28-nation European Union in the wrestling match for influence over Ukraine.

Putin also surprised both his own people and the world by pardoning his old foe, former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and allowing an amnesty that got two Pussy Riot punk band members and over two dozen Greenpeace anti-oil drilling activists out of prison.

“It’s Putin’s moment. He should feel quite happy,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, a political strategist and onetime adviser to the Kremlin.

But as the 61-year-old leader prepares for his pet project — the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — to begin in February, dark clouds are hovering. Two terrorist attacks in the southern city of Volgograd this week raised the specter of continuing violence in the run-up to the games. In addition, the Sochi Olympics are still dogged by fierce criticism over the Russian law signed by Putin that bans so-called “gay propaganda” for minors.

And beyond the Olympics, bigger risks loom.

Russia’s ailing economy continues to depend almost entirely on oil and gas. Even though energy prices have remained high, the country is on the brink of recession with growth at just over 1 percent, not enough for Putin to meet his generous social obligations.

Russia’s rampant official corruption and its politically tainted justice system have spooked foreign investors, while its smoldering ethnic tensions and widening gap between rich and poor are increasing social instability.

James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House, said while Putin has had a “spectacularly good year,” it has masked the almost “insurmountable problems” facing Russia.

“Absent major league reform and an entire removal of the Russian elite who do not desire any significant structural change — because it would be fundamentally contradictory to their interest — you’re just not going to see a Russia which moves on,” he said.

But for now, Putin is basking in the limelight after a series of political victories.

“Putin looks like a man who controls developments,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine and head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, a top expert group. “That makes him different from many other leaders, who have to react to somebody else’s actions.”

By providing a refuge to Snowden despite U.S. demands for his extradition, Putin dealt a painful blow to Washington.

“It turned out that Russia was the only country capable of resisting the (U.S.) pressure,” Lukyanov said.

Putin has insisted that Snowden isn’t being controlled by Russia, but many observers doubt that Russian security agencies would have missed the chance to learn what they could from the American.

Annoyed by years of Western criticism of Russia’s human rights record, Putin clearly relished the chance to highlight the U.S. National Security Agency’s questionable surveillance of citizens and foreigners alike.

“I feel jealous because he can do that unpunished,” Putin said this month about President Barack Obama, commenting on the Snowden case.

Obama canceled a Russia-U.S. summit amid the Snowden fallout, but he attended September’s Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, where he had a brief conversation with Putin. The meeting took place as Obama was considering a military strike on Syria over its use of chemical weapons against civilians and Putin used the occasion to play his Syria game.

He proposed that Moscow and Washington pool their efforts to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to surrender his chemical arsenal and have it dismantled under international control. Syria quickly agreed, the U.S. called off the strike and Assad became a party in the deal that eased international pressure for his removal.

A year ago, Putin “was seen as the villain on Syria” while “this year he has appeared as the person who was right on Syria,” said Pierre Lorrain of France’s Institute of Social History, noting that Putin had warned about the rise of Islamic extremists in Syria and pushed for a peace conference that the West has now agreed to sponsor.

Nixey said Putin succeeded thanks to his relationship with the Assad regime and the Western reluctance to go to war.

“The combination of the two meant he could produce a quick diplomatic two-step, which confounded the West,” he said.

Another tally in Putin’s win column came in November, when Ukraine’s president abruptly spiked a pact with the EU that would have made the ex-Soviet nation closer to the West and limited Moscow’s influence over its neighbor. Realizing that Ukraine was on the verge of bankruptcy, Putin circumvented the EU by offering Ukraine a $15 billion bailout and a price discount for gas supplies. The EU, in contrast, was coy about any financial assistance.

Lorrain said the EU misunderstood the situation “until too late.” He likened Putin’s strategy to that of a “good judo combatant, using the adversary’s arguments against him.”

Nixey said Putin put the symbolism of reclaiming Ukraine above Russia’s economic realities, which could come back to haunt him.

“Ukraine is a basket case run by some very nasty oligarchs and a president who is weaker than a newborn baby. It is to Russia’s disadvantage that it takes it on,” he said.

Putin was so confident in 2013 that he could announce on television that he was divorcing his wife of three decades and not fear any political fallout.

That hubris contrasts sharply with a tense period two years ago, when massive demonstrations in Moscow made Putin look cornered and nervous.

He responded to the urban, middle-class protests by consolidating his support base of blue-collar workers and state employees, branding the opposition as Western stooges and accusing Washington of fomenting unrest in Russia. After his victory, the Kremlin squashed the opposition with a series of draconian laws and arrests and unleashed a campaign against non-government organizations.

Russia’s image abroad darkened further after a ban on adoptions of Russian children by U.S. parents and the passage this year of a law banning “homosexual propaganda among minors.” Gay rights groups say the law gives authorities and others a green light to harass the country’s LGBT community and have called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics.

Obama and several other Western leaders are not attending the Sochi Games — a painful jab but one the Kremlin and Putin have tried to ignore.

“Their refusal to come is an important signal, but it won’t hurt the Olympics too much,” Pavlovsky said.

As 2013 drew to an end, Putin added a twist to his traditional New Year’s Eve message to the nation, doing two speeches this year instead of one.

The first, broadcast in Russia’s Far East, was the usual call for citizens to work together. The second, taped just hours earlier Tuesday and broadcast in later time zones, noted the Volgograd bombings this week and vowed to destroy any terrorists challenging Russia.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

All Things Art Festival organizers seek artists, vendors

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Mother’s Day fair returns to Suisun waterfront

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 2 Comments

.

Opinion

Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

 
Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 3 Comments

Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jean Sophia Ruckdeshel

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Robert James Carty Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9