From where I am now sitting in deepest, most peaceful North Cornwall, Lord knows how the problems in Russia are going to be resolved. According to the authorities, 28,000 people turned up for a rally to protest against Vladimir Putin and demanding that he doesn’t stand for election for president next year.
According to the protesters themselves, over 100,000 turned out. According to the BBC, there were also protest rallies in other cities, including as far east as Vladivostok. Some have pointed out that, as in Egypt, the number protesting rather dwindles into insignificance when seen as a proportion of Russia’s total population. Quite possibly, but it can also be pointed with that we don’t know how many of Russia’s total population support the protesters. If each protester on the street represented, say, 20 who stayed at home but support what is going on, the proportion of those opposed to Putin is rather larger. But note the ‘if’. The truth is that we simply don’t know.
What we can be reasonably certain about is that it is not necessarily going to end in peace and harmony: not only are the protesteres demanding a re-run of the parliamentary elections held at the beginning of the month, but they are also demanding that Putin doesn’t stand. The problem is that for all his prominence, Putin is not quite as secure as many would believe. He is there because it is useful to have him there. And if the powers behind the throne believe their cause - which is quite simply making sure it is their fingers in the till rather than anyone else’s - would be better served by offering Putin up as a sacrificial lamb and coming up with a new ‘face’, well it’s bye, bye Vladimir. This is, of course, all speculation.
It will not surprise anyone that the hotline running from Lanke Cottage, Higher Lank, St Breward, North Cornwall to the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia has yet to be installed. But what, it seems, is quite beyond doubt is that a great many people in Russia are getting thoroughly fed up with the corruption which, I understand, permeates every strata of Russian society from the Polish border to the Chinese border. Pertinently, the number protesting is approaching a critical mass and no amount of replacing Tweedledum with Tweedledee will be of any use if the corruption doesn’t end. But who is there who will end the corruption? It will most certainly not be those who are benefiting from it. And given the imprisonment of the former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and - more seriously, the death in custody of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was active in fighting corruption, it would seem pretty obvious that whoever is in power is more prepared to play hardball than hold up his hands and say: ‘OK, chaps, you win, we’ll go quietly.’
. . .
Well, who’d have thought it! There’s me worrying that I might not make it to 95 - another heart attack, cancer, diabetes, that kind of thing - when in fact there is definite proof that I shall only make it to 63 years and one month exactly! Why? Well, apparently every 25,800 years, all the planets in our solar system align in one straight line to the Sun and a resulting massive solar flare will incinerate everything man, I mean totally! Like the end of everything as we know it. And if that weren’t enough, the planet Niburu, which has a huge ellipitical cycle, comes close to the Earth every 3,600 years and that is also going to cause shit, man, I mean totally! It’s all there in Sumerian and Mayan history, dude, and these ancient people knew what they were about!
Actually, we don’t have to look to ever so wise ancient folk to know that, if not about to end, the world is going to go through something of a sticky patch and that things might very well look just a tad iffy on December 21, 2012. Well, I say ‘world’, but let’s leave South America and rather large parts of the Far East out of this, because it would seem all the crap that’s going down has more to do with the Middle East, Europe and the U.S. Of all the worrying trends, it would seem that what is developing in the Middle East has the greatest potential for nonsense we could well do without.
After all the whistling and cheering which heralded the ‘Arab Spring’ in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, it isn’t quite going to plan. It was long known that the Egyptian army had substantial business interests and it should have come as no surprise that they weren’t going to relinquish them without a fight. It was far easier to throw President Mubarak to the wolves, promise elections and then carry on with business usual. And the several thousands demonstrating in Tahrir Square shouldn’t, apparently, cheer up us liberally minded folk too much. In a country of more than 80 million, many of whom are devout muslims, they are an insignificant number, and the vast majority of Egyptians, I read, are by nature quite conservative and simply want peace and a stable life. And that is something many believe the Muslim Brotherhood will bring them.
So until the elections, the Brothers are wisely keeping their heads down, associating themselves with neither the army strongmen nor the libertarian Tahrir Square rabble, and when the time is ripe, they can portray themselves as ‘the alternative to it all’. Further south is all the pushing and pulling which is going on in Syria and now Iraq. Actually, I feel rather ashamed of myself for adopting such a flippant tone - it isn’t quite as silly if you actually live there. I’m not expert on Middle Eastern affairs (to put it mildly) but I do wonder whether at heart there won’t eventually be a stand-off between Sunni and Shiite muslims.
Most certainly the major rivalry in the Middle East is between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, and both have their client states, not least Iraq whose Nouri Al Maliki many believe is Iran’s placeman. He denies it. But then he would, wouldn’t he. Iraq’s fugitive vice President Tareq Al-Hashimi claims that a recent car bombing in Iraq were, in fact, the work of the country’s own security forces and designed to discredit Iraq’s Sunnis. A similar claim is made by the opposition in Syria about two recent car bombings in Damascus.
So what with young Vlad’s problems in Russia - or is that Russia’s problems with young Vlad? - it should be a fascinating New Year. As the old Chinese curse runs: May you live in interesting times.