Archive for Russia

Valentine’s Day: From Russia With Love

russiaRussia dominated headlines this Valentine’s Day in America.

Most of it related to the resignation of Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser to the President just 24 days after Donald Trump was inaugurated. I won’t bore my readers with a rehash of all the news coverage online and in the media about this story, although I will point to this piece by John R. Schindler at The Observer as well as a late-breaking New York Times piece tonight. The NYT story details contacts between Russian intelligence officers and Trump campaign staff ahead of the 2016 election.

I will touch on Schindler’s piece briefly before I move on to my focus. Schindler, a former National Security Agency analyst, discusses the “war” between Trump and the nation’s spy agencies. The scariest part? That the agencies are withholding intelligence from the White House because they don’t trust the administration. One official even told Schindler that they assume the Kremlin has had ears inside the White House Situation Room since President Trump took office.

Schindler’s report is so concerning, along with all the other news about Russian ties to the Trump administration, because of other items in the news that don’t get the wall-to-wall coverage on cable news.

Just last week, Russian military aircraft buzzed a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Black Sea. The flyovers were described as “low altitude” and “high speed.” Russia denied the reports. There were several encounters between Russian military aircraft and U.S. ships in aircraft in 2016.

It also came to light today that the Russians have apparently placed themselves in further violation of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty by secretly deploying a new missile system that they had been testing since 2014.

There are also reports today of a Russian surveillance ship in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Delaware. This ship made a port call in Cuba before proceeding up the East Coast in international waters.

Additionally, The Moscow Times reported on a story in pro-Kremlin paper Komsomolskaya Pravda. The report included an interview with a Taliban warlord who wanted to build ties with Russia to get the United States out of Afghanistan.

Throw in all the latest intrigue with Russian spies and apparent poisonings, as well as the Flynn issues, and it’s very important that the United States keeps its eye on the ball with the Russians. They are an adversary and we shouldn’t cozy up to them or let them take advantage of us.

I’m really not sure what to make of reports the Kremlin is worried about the unintended consequences of their Trump fandom, but I suspect there’s something else behind those reports getting out.

Buckle up, the bumpy ride will apparently continue.

‘Little Obama’ ice cream for sale in Russia

Little ObamaAccording to The Moscow Times, a new ice cream product called Obamka, or Little Obama, is on sale now in the Russian republic of Tatarstan.

It went on sale last month in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny.

A Soviet-era cartoon called Chunga-Changa, about an island inhabited by African children, is reportedly the inspiration for the product.

The product is currently only available locally.

The name of the product isn’t political, according to the manufacturer:

Deputy development director at the Slavitsa ice cream factory Rasil Mustafin, said that the name was not political but chosen due to the product’s chocolate flavor. “There’s no political underpinning. We have no intention to offend anyone,” he said. “Someone at the factory came up with the idea.”

Little Obama not the only Obama product overseas

little obamaIn 2014, it was reported that Chinese vendors near the Great Wall of China had been forced to temporarily stop selling Obama-Mao t-shirts. The reason for the moratorium was a visit to the area by First Lady Michelle Obama. These shirts depicted President Obama dressed as Chinese Communist icon Mao Zedong. Plenty of other “Obamao” products have been for sale in the People’s Republic.

Obama isn’t alone in this regard there:

As I walked through one hutong, I saw a paper fan sporting the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s face beside the caption: “Do not miss me, I’m already a legend.”

During a 2009 Summit in Russia, there were nesting dolls featuring Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and Dmitry Medvedev.

When President Obama visited Kenya in 2015, it was seen as, “a prime opportunity for otherwise impoverished citizens to make some fast money selling Obama souvenirs.”

The Wall Street Journal‘s lede in a story on this subject goes into further details:

Kenyan street hawker Enokh Mulure and two friends recently spent about $1,300 on a truckload of Barack Obama mugs, calendars, baseball caps and T-shirts. Mr. Obama is making his first trip to Kenya as president this week, and to Mr. Mulure that means one thing: “Business.”

Natty Boh, PBR now owned by Russian company

Print

NBC reports:

Attention, hipsters. Pabst Brewing Company — and its signature Pabst Blue Ribbon, the ironic, iconic favorite of the young and the cool — has sold to a Russian beverage firm after a century and a half of American ownership, an investing firm announced Thursday. Oasis Beverages, the largest independent brewer in Russia, bought Pabst, which also produces Colt .45, Old Milwaukee and Lone Star beers, according to a statement by the American investment firmTSG Consumer Partners, which will hold a minority stake.

Pabst, which is based in Milwaukee, also makes National Bohemian, a.k.a. Natty Boh. Colt .45 was original owned by National Bohemian as  well. National Premium, another brand that used to be owned by Natty Boh back in the day, is being made by an independent local brewer in Maryland now.

Natty Boh is not brewed in Baltimore or in Maryland anymore, yet local publications still put it in the best local beer category in their voting for best local beers and it often wins, largely because Baltimore denizens, like many people nationally, have low standards and expectations for their beer quality. There are much better local Baltimore and Maryland craft beers that people should give a try if they haven’t already.

Even Governor Martin O’Malley made a bet with the governor of California before the 2012 Super Bowl that included Natty Boh beer until the Maryland Brewers Association busted his chops on it and he deleted the tweet and changed the bet to some actual local beer.

I doubt this move will have an impact on most people who drink Natty Boh, honestly, and to be nice I won’t go much further into detail on that other than saying almost 90% of Natty Boh sales are in the Baltimore area.

No word if the slogan will be changed from “From the Land of Pleasant Living” to something more in line with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Russians crack down on anti-Obama posters

obama-posters

The Moscow Times reports on an investigation by prosecutors in the Perm region of Russia:

One poster featured Obama pictured with a large banana. The president appeared to be chewing vigorously. The banana was labeled “Ukraine.” The words “Banan-Obama” feature prominently at the top of the poster, along with the phrase, “Don’t choke!”

Another poster featured a sheep whose wool was painted to resemble the U.S. flag. The sheep stood below the heading “Baran Abama.” In Russia, the word for sheep is “baran.” The heading thus seems to have been a nod to the president’s full name, Barack Obama. The phrase, “Get your hooves out of Ukraine! We don’t abandon our own,” was strewn across the base of the poster.

More on the motivation of the people behind the posters:

The head of a local advertising firm, Mikhail Vasilkin, took credit for the posters, telling online news portal Newsru.com that he had erected them to express his personal discontent with U.S. affairs.

“The posters have been up since practically winter. Now, since the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service and prosecutors launched an investigation into them, we have taken them down. With these depictions I was trying to get across my stance on current political events, so it is unlikely they would fall under the category of advertisements,” Vasilkin said in comments carried by Newsru.com on Monday.

Russia and free speech don’t go together so this is no real surprise.

Russians threaten to block Twitter and Facebook

putin

FT.com

Russia’s internet regulator has threatened to block Twitter, in the most detailed warning on the options Moscow is considering in its efforts to tighten restrictions over the internet.

“We can block Twitter or Facebook in Russia tomorrow within a few minutes,” Maksim Ksenzov, deputy head of Roskomnadzor, the telecom, IT and communications supervisory agency, said in an interview published by daily newspaper Izvestia on Friday.

“If at any point we believe that the consequences of ‘switching off’ social networks will be less significant than the damage done to Russian society by the unconstructive position of the leadership of international companies, we will do what we have to under the law,” he added.

The remarks come as bloggers, civil rights advocates and internet companies are fretting over legal amendments which could transform Russia’s so far freewheeling online sphere into a much more controlled space.

This should be no real surprise for anyone. Russia is just staying true to is autocratic tendencies, just like China and other countries who have done this.