Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fight Erupts Over Hard-Hitting Piece on Carnegie

Leonid Bershidsky, an author and Bloomberg View columnist who was the founding editor of Russia's top business daily Vedomosti, has just penned a retort to James Kirchick's piece in The Daily Beast slamming the Carnegie Moscow Center for being too close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Here is more:
...That, however, doesn't make the office [Carnegie Moscow Center] a Putin puppet. No one who follows Carnegie's Andrew Weiss, a Russia expert, on Twitter or reads his writings about the Ukraine conflict would suspect him of a pro-Kremlin agenda; he watches the Russian operation closely enough not to allow it to be subverted. If the center does indeed serve as a channel of unofficial communication between Russia and the U.S., that's a legitimate function that helps forge useful, sometimes lifesaving, deals, such as the Minsk one. A think tank is not designed to fight unsavory regimes; its job is to make them more understandable and transparent by filtering out the noise and distilling the substance.
The Kirchick piece offended the staff at Moscow Carnegie Center. "The world of American Kirchick, like the world of a bad Russian TV presenter, is divided into those who work for the State Department and those who work for Putin," editor Alexander Baunov, a polyglot ex-diplomat (also my former colleague at two Moscow publications, and assuredly no fan of Putin), posted on Facebook. "His piece is written as a complaint to the U.S. authorities: Pay attention, these guys are deviating from the party line. There's only one excuse for the author: Americans have never lived in a totalitarian state and they haven't developed an immunity to the urge to write such complaints."

In Mr. Bershidsky's piece, entitled "Putin Hurts a Think Tank by Not Banning It," he also wonders if the think tank will eventually end up on the Kremlin's list banning NGO's that are deemed undesirable:
At the same time Carnegie employees must be wondering when they might end up on the "stop list." The think tank, unlike the MacArthur Foundation, doesn't fund any activities but its own -- it's a recipient of funds, not a donor -- so it may be perceived as less dangerous to the Kremlin. That, though, would be a weak source of immunity. 

Mr. Bershidsky has taken his anger to social media as he defends the think tank:

And Mr. Kirchick has had his own fits of rage:

Mr. Bershidsky notes that Carnegie Moscow Center has 10 senior researchers but is considered influential.  He also notes that former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul once worked there.