Russian imperialism

Nato and Russia: Georgia on their minds

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What lies behind the conflict between Georgia and Russia? Dave Crouch explains why the Caucasus has become the new front for US imperialism.

The British media coverage of the war that erupted in the Caucasus last month almost universally portrayed a fragile little democracy terrorised by its big Russian neighbour. But a closer look at what happened reveals something different - a frightening escalation of the "war on terror" that masks the US drive for markets, oil and influence around the globe.

A Russian Diary

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Anna Politkovskaya, Harvill Secker, £17.99

Anna Politkovskaya was a journalist who never stopped investigating the abuses of power no matter what the odds. But last October she was shot dead in the lift of her block of flats in Moscow.

There was some publicity in the West for her courageous stand against the Putin leadership, but she was in a media tomb well before the headlines were swamped by the poisoning of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who seems never to have taken a stand against one authority except for payment by another.

Chechnya

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Tony Wood, Verso, £12.99

A small country is repeatedly invaded by a mighty nuclear power. It takes up arms against the invaders, framing its struggle in terms of Islam. The mighty power brands the resistance as terrorists while using massacres and atrocities to subdue them.

Is this Iraq? Afghanistan? No, it is Chechnya, the tiny Caucasus nation occupied by Russia.

The principled anti-imperialist position on this war ought to be a no-brainer. Yet still it divides the Western left.

Russia: Rising from the East?

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A few years ago post Communist Russia was commonly dismissed as a basket case, argues Pete Glatter, but today fear of a resurgent Russia is driving a new agenda.

Just how democratic is post-Communist Russia? Why does Russia feel the need to dominate many of its neighbours? And how is Russia positioned in relation to the main imperialist powers? There are all questions that have a habit of recurring. The poisoning in London of the former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, the assassination of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the threats to cut off gas supplies to Georgia and its decision to halt oil exports to Belarus - cutting off supplies to much of Europe - earlier this month, have all put the Russian questions back on the agenda.

Russia: Putin's Place in the New World Order

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Upheavals in the former Soviet Empire have added to Vladimir Putin's headaches.

Vladimir Putin has many things to be grateful for but the situation along Russia's southern borders is not one of them. The so called 'rose revolution' in Georgia in November 2003, the 'orange revolution' in the Ukraine in 2004 and now the 'tulip revolution' in poverty-stricken Kyrgyzstan in 2005 have all complicated his life. When the USSR disintegrated into 15 parts in 1991 the new states around Russia's borders became known in Russia as its 'near abroad'.

Ukraine: 'Glory to the Miners'

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When Yanukovych bussed thousands of his supporters into the city, all fired up for a fight, the Yushchenko-supporting orange crowd began winning them over with flowers, kind words and kisses.

'Glory to the miners!', 'Lugansk, Donbass, come and join us!' were the chants. Yanukovych supporters began seeing through the lies they had been told and joining the revolution.

The movement also began splitting the state. Police and soldiers have come forward to pledge their support. On the main TV channels a revolt by journalists smashed through the censorship regime last week, enabling many Ukrainians to see a very different picture of what is going on.

Neither Washington nor Moscow

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Ukraine's 'Orange Revolution' is not all it seems.

The crisis that erupted in the Ukraine at the end of last month has had liberals of all sorts slathering at the mouth. Here, they declared, was a new people's uprising, a display of popular power inaugurating a 'velvet revolution' like that in eastern Europe in 1989.

In fact, what occurred was a fight between rival groups inside a corrupt ruling class, each side of which has been happy at various points to preside over a government given to muzzling opposition and fixing ballots.

Russia: Putin's War on Democracy

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Widely billed as 'Russia's 9/11', the Beslan hostage tragedy in September, and the downing of two passenger aircraft by Chechen suicide bombers the same month, have seen the Kremlin do its best to ape Bush and Blair's 'war on terror'.

President Vladimir Putin threatened 'pre-emptive action' against terrorist bases. His remarks raised new fears that Russia would lash out at Georgia, which it accuses of harbouring the Chechen resistance. Putin also clamped down on democracy, announcing that the elected leaders of Russia's 89 regions would now be appointed from Moscow. Local government elections will be restricted, making it almost impossible for independent candidates to stand.

Azerbaijan: Haydar and Farewell

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The death of Haydar Aliyev, the 80 year old president of Azerbaijan, was less than headline news in the west. Once a key figure in the 'evil empire' of the Soviet Union, Aliyev ended up as one of the US's favourite Muslim rulers.

The first 30 years of his career in the dreaded Soviet secret police included the worst periods of Stalinist terror, when there were nearly a million political executions and up to 10 million political prisoners. By 1967 Aliyev was the chief of the Azerbaijani secret police. From 1969 he ran the country on behalf of his Russian masters. However, like other agents of Soviet rule in republics outside Russia, he also built up a network of local bureaucrats who were beholden to him for their jobs, perks and privileges.

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