Bloggers on Vladimir Putin's new pick for Russian prime minister.

Bloggers on Vladimir Putin's new pick for Russian prime minister.

Bloggers on Vladimir Putin's new pick for Russian prime minister.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Sept. 12 2007 6:54 PM

Back in the USSR?

Bloggers become Kremlinologists after Russian President Vladimir Putin dissolved his government Wednesday and nominated a new prime minister. Also, Fox News reports of White House plans to bomb Iran—again. And the English pint is saved!

Back in the USSR? Vladimir Putin took many by surprise Wednesday when he nominated Viktor A. Zubkov, a little-known head of the financial crimes ministry, to become the next prime minister. Said to be part of Putin's inner circle, Zubkov's selection adds new intrigue to the forthcoming presidential race, which many see as just a pro forma change in leadership.

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Foreign Policy's Passport invited Dmitri Trenin, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment's Moscow Center, to comment on ongoing events. Noting that Zubkov is the father-in-law of Putin's minister of defense, Trenin surmises: "[T]he main features of the post-Putin regime are becoming slightly clearer. There will be a rotation of personalities at the top, but the positions of power will remain in the hands of a small group of people closely associated with the outgoing president. It is also clear that Putin will continue to exercise enormous influence after the formal handover of the presidency. This, however, will mean a de facto change of the Russian Constitution, which invests all power and authority in the reigning head of state. What is more difficult to assess is: Will this arrangement hold? If so, how long?"

Conservative Publius Pundit points to the "wild" irony "that Russia has just spent weeks railing against the alleged lack of qualifications of Europe's choice to head the IMF when in fact not only Fradkov and Zubkov but Putin himself were totally devoid of any credentials or qualifications to be prime minister when they received their appointments -- that is, other than slavish obedience to the 'president.'"

At theeXile, the popular American expat-run magazine in Russia, former Prime Minister Fradkov is remembered for not "serv[ing] the interests of some monster-sized business interest (see: Kasyanov-YUKOS; Chernomyrdin-Gazprom; Gaidar-IMF) or his own presidential ambitions (see: Primakov). Instead, like Sergei Kiriyenko before him, Fradkov was chosen primarily because he had no ambitions at all except to serve the President, and return power back into the Kremlin's hands. The only thing that set Fradkov apart was his striking resemblance to Porky Pig."

Foreign-policy blogger Nikolas K. Gvosdev, the Washington Realist, says: "It's difficult to see Zubkov as being the designated 'heir' to become president. It is important to note that if one looks at the last years of the second term of the Yeltsin Administration, a series of prime ministers were appointed, in part to keep the political establishment off balance."

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Read more about the Russian dissolution of government.

Bomb Iran? Fox News reports that Germany will oppose any new sanctions against Iran aimed at stopping its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The more interesting subtext of this stance, however, is that would appear to light the way for an American-led bombing of Iran, which some diplomats think would be tacitly approved by Germany.

The radical moderate at Radical Moderation writes: "Let's assume that an attack would be a sustained air campaign, with limited or no ground forces committed. The US has huge capabilities in this area, while the ground forces simply don't exist for an invasion of Iran. So, whatever is done, it will be an unqualified tactical success, but it'll be over in a month or two and is unlikely to be repeated. Iran will eventually recover. It will be really mad when it does."

Susan Duclosat conservative Wake up America wonders if Germany would privately welcome a U.S. bombing of the Islamic Republic? She writes: "Knowing the tensions between the U.S. and Iran, knowing that diplomatic measures and UN sanctions are the only recourse other than massive air strikes, that could possibly back Iran up in their quest for nuclear weapons, the timing of this statement by Merkel … is politics at its worse and a very dangerous game in the minds of those of us that believe harsh sanctions could accomplish the international communities goals and prevent any bombs from falling on Iran."

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Anti-war liberal Scott-o-Rama argues we've got the wrong country in our sights: "A sane person might ask why on earth would we want to go after Iran when we're still bogged down with Iraq.  A popular reason right-wing pundits like to give is that Iran is helping supply the insurgents in Iraq.  Unfortunately, they leave out a very important fact: About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia.  Iran is responsible for less than 10%."

Read more about plans to bomb Iran.

The pint lives! The metric system, now the standard system of measurements for all European Union members, will not come to Britain. Thus the imperial measurements "pint," "mile," and "pound" are unshakable institutions of the scepter'd isle.

"England will endure," rejoices British expat Andrew Sullivan, "despite the evil bureaucrats in Brussels, who never saw a tradition they didn't want to streamline."

Righty Allahpundit at Hot Air also applauds the stick-it to bureaucracy: "In 1984, there's a passage about Socialist metricization being an extension of demoralizing mind control. I remember it concerned an old prole lamenting, over his beer, that a half liter was too little, and a liter was too much, and that he missed his old comfortable pints which had been just right. That's it exactly. Feet and inches are a likewise a useful, human scale. NOTHING is a meter long. (Or are we supposed to switch to one-third-meter hot dogs at ballgames?)"

Read more about the English pint.

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.