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David A. Andelman: The Metropolitan Opera in the Service of Putin?

David A. Andelman Throughout the Nazi era in Germany, while Hitler and his minions were in the process of enslaving much of Europe, Wilhelm Furtwaengler served as chief conductor of the renowned Berlin Philharmonic, bringing his baton and his fabulous ensemble into the service of the propaganda machine of the Third Reich. Now, it seems, Valery Gergiev, longtime principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and now the London Symphony, is performing the same service for his masters in Moscow. As the Associated Press reported Thursday morning in a dispatch from Georgia, “Valery Gergiev, who is Ossetian, was to lead a requiem concert for the dead in the devastated central square [of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali] Thursday night, part of an effort to win international sympathy and support for Russia's argument that its invasion of Georgia was justified.” Okay, so Valery Abisalovich Gergiev is Ossetian. Wilhelm Furtwaengler was certainly German. Yet Furtwaengler had a far more compelling motive to sweep his baton into the services of Hitler and the Nazis than Gergiev does bringing his to bear in the service of Vladimir Putin. At the start of the Nazi era, with the Weimer Republic in the grip of a crushing economic meltdown, the once proud Berlin Philharmonic, had become, quite frankly, flat broke. The livelihood of Furtwaengler’s 80-plus musicians, indeed the survival of their families, some of them at the time Jewish, were at the mercy of the hyperinflation that was sweeping Germany at the height of the Great Depression. Without question, Furtwaengler sold out. And his reputation, eventually, indeed that of his great institution, suffered for decades as a result. Should Gergiev pay no less a price? It is, after all, Putin who’s accusing the democratically elected government of Georgia of “ethnic cleansing.” It’s Russian tanks that have dug into hillsides and roadblocks across the borders of this tiny, independent nation—an action that should be no less abhorrent than Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland which then, weeks later, was to include all of Czechoslovakia. Gergiev has certainly been in Putin’s hip pocket for much of his career. Each is godfather to the other’s children. Putin, at least indirectly, placed him at the helm of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, the pinnacle of the Russian musical establishment. Until now, this profoundly interlocking relationship could be ignored in the West. After all, Russia was all but an ally. Putin and President George W. Bush were great pals. They rode in the same golf cart together. No longer. Now, suddenly, the West is searching frantically for a means of sending a message to the Kremlin.

Jonathan Power: From Lagos with Georgia

Jonathan PowerKosovo, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya, the Bakassi Peninsula. All disputed territories but only one (the last named), a sizable oil-rich wedge of land lying between Nigeria and Cameroon, has been taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for adjudication. Why not the others? To my mind, I can think of no good reason apart from, in the latest conflagration, hubris on the Russian side and an inflated sense of self-importance on the Georgian side, partly borne of America’s encouragement. Six years ago, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo (on whom I reported for the summer issue of World Policy Journal) was confronted with growing tensions with neighboring Cameroon over the Bakassi Peninsula, long ruled by Nigeria. In a show of restraint, he decided to resist the advice of his minister of defense, who pushed for a military solution, and turned the dispute over to the ICJ. Local newspapers ridiculed Obasanjo and public opinion was nationalistic, but he held his course and did so even when the court ruled in Cameroon's favor. Yesterday, Bakassi was formally turned over to Cameroon. Unlike South Ossetia, there was something to fight over—large quantities of oil—but Nigeria swallowed its pride. This doesn't happen as often as it should, but it does happen.

Vladimir Kvint: Russia Looks to 2020

Vladimir KvintAfter the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its disappearance from the political map of the world, the Russian central planning system was abolished. It was an inevitable and positive result of 70 years of brutal dictatorship. However, the complete destruction of a planning system was one of many mistakes made during the transition from a centralized system to a free market economy. Until 2008, the Russian government did not have a long-term plan or vision. Learning from the Soviet experience, other countries like France, Italy and Germany have used planning systems in their national policies with varying levels of success. Planning systems have also been developed in several emerging market countries. At the beginning of the 1990s, when I worked at Arthur Andersen, I participated in the analysis of Malaysia's 2020 strategic plan. Seventeen years later, a program with the same horizon is being developed in Russia. Here is my take on it.



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