Racing To The Precipice: Prof Noam Chomsky (March 2017) Unde

Racing To The Precipice: Prof Noam Chomsky (March 2017) Unde

Postby admin » Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:51 am

Racing To The Precipice: Understanding Climate Change
by Prof Noam Chomsky
March, 2017

Russia: 1:11

Q: What do you think about the alleged meddling of Russia, the Kremlin, in our 2016 elections?

A. That has most of the world cracking up in laughter. You know, it's just the truth. Suppose every charge is correct. Let's say the most severe charges are correct. It's not even a joke as compared with what we do constantly. Just take a minor example of what we do with the Russians. In the early 90s, when Yeltsin was Clinton's favorite, he was supposed to be the hope for the future, when he destroyed the parliament and overthrew the formal democratic system, he was strongly supported by the U.S. In 1996, when he was extremely unpopular for pretty good reasons because of the shock treatment, the sort of free market policies imposed by American advisers, just wiped out the economy and led to the deaths of millions of people, which was highly destructive. This led to the rise of the oligarchs, the former apparatchiks in the Communist system, who stole the resources. It was a total disaster. And Yeltsin was the symbol of it. Clinton moved in quite openly -- there was nothing secret about it -- and very openly gave loans to advice to direct involvement to make sure his fair boy won. That is 1996. And these are minor examples. I mean, the kind of thing we do constantly is overthrow the government and institute a military dictatorship. And not in the past. I mean, it just happened under Obama in 2009 in Honduras.

There was a mildly reformist government and the tiny elite of super rich who run the country didn't like it, so he was kicked out in a military coup. The U.S. is one of the very few countries that supported it and claimed that the election taking place under military dictatorship was legitimate. That is basically supporting a military coup to overthrow parliamentary government. Is that "meddling" in the election?

I mean, it just goes on and on like that. So as I say, this is just making the U.S. a laughingstock in the world, even if every single charge is correct, and most of them have no basis.
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Re: Racing To The Precipice: Prof Noam Chomsky (March 2017)

Postby admin » Fri Jun 09, 2017 1:06 am

The Myths of ‘Democracy Assistance’: U.S. Political Intervention in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe (EXCERPT)
by Gerald Sussman



‘Americans to the Rescue’—A Russian Assignment

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the U.S. electioneering industry began to operate in a more globalized environment, sustained by state funding and encouragement to establish in the name of “freedom” new bridgeheads for neoliberal economic conquests. As a former bête noire, Russia was an electioneering plum for U.S. foreign policy planners. Initially, with production of political television spots in 1993 and then in the 1996 Russian presidential election, the first American consultants were invited to Moscow to spin the blessings of capitalism and Boris Yeltsin over communism and Communist Party (KPRF) challenger Gannady Zyuganov. Just prior to the election campaign, the United States helped bankroll Yeltsin with $14 billion in loans. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl committed an additional $2.7 billion, most of which was fully unconditional (thereby permitting its use for massive vote-buying), and French Prime Minister Alain Juppé added $392 million to the kitty, “paid entirely into Russian state coffers.” International Monetary Fund managing director Michel Camdessus committed his organization, as a “moral obligation,” to supporting Yeltsin’s privatization plans. Most of the IMF funds went to the state treasury for discretionary spending—with the caveat that financial assistance would be suspended in the event of a Communist Party election victory. “In the end, though, the KPRF’s door-to-door campaign was obliterated by the heavily researched, well-financed, media saturating, modern campaign waged by the Yeltsin team.”9

Operating under cloak in the Yeltsin campaign were American consultants, George Gorton, Joe Shumate, and Richard Dresner, who previously had worked together on Pete Wilson’s California gubernatorial campaign.10 At a moment when Yeltsin fared poorly in the polls, the three were asked to use their American razzmatazz to help “rescue” Boris. They were joined in this task by Steven Moore, an American public relations specialist, and a Russian TV advertising production company, Video International. Dresner was a former business partner of Dick Morris and former gubernatorial campaign consultant to Bill Clinton. Morris, in turn, was Clinton’s main political advisor (previously having worked for conservative southern senators, Trent Lott and Jesse Helms) and acted as a liaison between the U.S. president and Morris’s friends on the Yeltsin team. Despite these close associations, the consultants denied any connections between the Russian campaign and the White House.11

Video International (VI) staff were trained for the election by the American advertising firm Ogilvy and Mather (part of the worldwide WPP advertising group). The campaign strategy, including use of archival footage of Stalin’s brutality, was to attack the KPRF and Zyuganov with an assortment of anti-communist tactics. Within just a few years of the fall of the Soviet Union, this was an extraordinary turnaround in Russian (formerly Soviet) politics. As one scholar found in her interviews with VI, the company’s producers mocked Zyuganov for failing to grasp the importance of political marketing, which suggested yet another remarkable adaptation in Russian political thinking.12

VI was run by former KGB member Mikhail Margolev, who had previously spent five years with American advertising agencies. Margolev next joined the Putin public relations team for the 2000 election campaign. Since then he has became a “senator” in the Federation Council, Russia’s legislative upper chamber. He and other close advisors to Putin have been receiving “first-hand insights into strategies and techniques of American campaign practice,” a tutelage they presumably assume will assist their leader’s grand political ambitions. Another VI company executive, Mikhail Lesin, became Putin’s press minister. Lesin is known in Russia for harassing media outlets that are critical of the Putin government, marking the growing authoritarian style of that leadership.13

The American campaign consultants worked closely with Yeltsin’s daughter and campaign operations manager, Tatyana Dyachenko, passing on to their Russian counterpart the American techniques of spin-doctoring. According to a published news report, “they advised the campaign on organization, strategic and tactical use of polls and focus groups” with a “central campaign message of anti-communism,” a role they shared with Burson-Marsteller and other American public relations firms. They also urged Yeltsin to assert authoritarian control and think in terms of how to make the state-run television stations “bend to your will.” Boasting that they had saved Yeltsin from certain defeat and Russia from a return to the Cold War, the consultants admitted to employing a host of manipulative tactics in their advertising strategy to sow fear among Russians, a style that has been well-rehearsed by many Republican political strategists. A Time magazine report on these events came with the brazen cover lead, “Yanks to the Rescue”—later inspiring a Showtime (cable TV and subsequent DVD) film undertaking, Spinning Boris, about how the heroics of American political consultants “saved Russia from communism.”14

The consultants’ political ads, mostly aired over state-run television and radio stations, which Yeltsin fully controlled, repeatedly pitched the theme that a Zyuganov victory would bring back a command economy and a climate of terror. For “personality” styling designed to capture the youth vote, the Americans asked Yeltsin to appear at rock concerts and had him “jitterbug” onstage at one of them. Some of Yeltsin’s Russian advisors did not approve of the stunt, possibly because it caused the candidate’s heart attack in the midst of the campaign. Ignored in the campaign slogans, and by the Clinton administration, were the out-of-control economy, Yeltsin’s poor health and alcohol addiction, and his broad use of repressive policies. Despite his autocratic tendencies, disregard for constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, frequent money-laundering scandals, and brutal war in Chechnya, Yeltsin received the unreserved endorsement of the leaders of the main market economies, as if open markets were the true measure of a democracy. A Time correspondent rationalized the American intervention in pure Machiavellian logic: “Democracy triumphed—and along with it came the tools of modern campaigns, including the trickery and slickery Americans know so well. If these tools are not always admirable, the result they helped achieve in Russia surely is.”15

Russians too have learned the dark arts of Machiavellian political chicanery. Moscow hosts a Center of Political Consulting, more popularly known as “Niccolo M”—referring to the famed theorist of political manipulation and spin. By 2002, Niccolo M, whose organizers were trained in NED-funded seminars by the NDI and IRI, was joined in Russia’s new electioneering business by several other new political consulting groups, such as the Center of Political Technologies, which helps design campaign strategies and arrange contacts between businesses and Kremlin officials. Niccolo M staff used all the methods learned from their mentors, including candidate marketing, polling, focus groups, direct mail, phone banks, heavy use of the mass media, attack ads, and spin doctoring. Following its 1996 election defeat, the KPRF began studying Western campaign manuals and adopting the same tactics. Russian business groups have learned to give their money directly to the consultants rather than to candidates for tighter control over policy making, a practice that corresponds to soft-money election financing in the United States.16

An NDI assessment congratulated itself on the role it played in transforming Russian society through the introduction of American electioneering techniques. Under U.S. influence, Russian political parties, the study confidently claimed, were now

targeting their communication to voters based on demographic and geographic information…conducting research on voter attitudes through focus groups and polling…small meetings, coalitions with civic groups, door knocking, phone banks, and public leafleting; organizing more sophisticated press operations that attempt to create news and respond to events….Much of this change can be attributed to NDI training. (emphasis added)17

If the U.S. influenced Russian politics as much as the NDI claimed, then the accession of Vladimir Putin suggests that American campaign practices have little to do with institutionalizing democracy.

In fact, American “democracy assistance” to Russia has been part of a larger project to transform that country into an open market economy and place it under the control of stable and reliable pro-capitalist, pro-U.S. elected officials, regardless of their anti-democratic history or inclinations. In the early 1990s, Harvard University’s Institute for International Development (HIID), which “served as the gatekeeper for hundreds of millions of dollars in USAID and G-7 taxpayer aid, subsidized loans, and other Western funds,” sent a team of economic “shock therapists,” led by Jeffrey Sachs. HIID’s influence extended to the coordination of $300 million in USAID grants that went to the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller and the “big six” international accounting firms operating in Russia to help sell the privatization program.18 Working closely with Anotoly Chubais, Yeltsin’s first deputy prime minister, minister of finance, and chief of staff, HIID support led to the conversion of major state enterprises to private ownership. The Harvard group actually “drafted many of the Kremlin decrees” to this effect.19 The policies the Sachs group advocated have been widely discredited as disastrous, as measured by subsequent Russian quality of life indicators.
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Re: Racing To The Precipice: Prof Noam Chomsky (March 2017)

Postby admin » Fri Jun 16, 2017 10:09 pm

Branding Democracy: U.S. Regime Change in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe (EXCERPT)
by Gerald Sussman




U.S. political support for new regimes always has behind it the implied promise of foreign assistance. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the community party system in Central and Eastern Europe quickly attracted the United States to the region's midst, which has since been a major target of opportunity. Following the collapse, millions of Russians were left without means of subsistence. The first post-Soviet Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, turned to the United States for assistance, and just prior to the 1993 parliamentary elections, [8] the Clinton administration responded with a strong endorsement of the country's new market economy, backed a $10 billion loan from the IMF, and turned its back on the brutal war carried out in Chechnya (Cohen 2005).

The collapse of the Soviet Union triggered an acceleration of democracy promotion in the United States and made it into a major industry. For the United States, of all the countries constituting the former Soviet sphere of interest, Russia, with the largest population, a wealth of resources, and a source of potential resistance, is the crown jewel. From 1992 until 1996, when Boris Yeltsin was reelected as president, the United States made Russia its third largest recipient (at more than $2.1 billion) of bilateral foreign aid. [9] The World Bank and IMF bailed out his government with a $22 billion rescue package, turning a blind eye to Yeltsin's 1993 use of military force to dissolve the Russian parliament and other repressive measures (Hook 2002, 124; Ralph 2000, 202; Rutland 2000, 254).

As inconvenient as Yeltsin's corruption, repression, massive social dislocations, dictatorial behavior, and his personal chronic alcoholism may have been for his foreign backers, his Western supporters had little difficulty in backing him and his embrace of disastrous neoliberal "shock therapy" policies against the challenge of his main Community Party rival. For U.S. policy planners, a convenient depiction of Yeltsin was the false propaganda that he was a democrat, indeed a combination of George Washington and Adam Smith (Rutland, 2000, 244). Responding to Yeltsin's violent seizure of parliament in October 1993 in which 500 people were killed and almost a thousand wounded, the U.S. secretary of state at the time, Warren Christopher, remarked, "The United States does not easily support the suspension of parliaments. But these are extraordinary times" (Klein 2007, 229).

The United States and its allies, including the international banking community, exercised a double standard in the case of Yeltsin. Russian studies professor Stephen Cohen found U.S. behavior toward Russia terribly misguided:

When in the 1990s the U.S.-supported Yeltsin overthrew Russia's elected Parliament and Constitutional Court by force, gave its national wealth and television networks to Kremlin insiders, imposed a constitution without real constraints on executive power and rigged elections, it was "democratic reform"; when Putin continues the process, it is [called] "authoritarianism."

America's "triumphalism" in the CEE region not only ignores the realities of the Russian and Soviet past, he argues, but represents an unnecessary provocation, which has led to a buildup of Russia's nuclear and conventional arsenal and the country's defensive nationalist reaction to the West and hostility to Western-supported "color revolutions" within the former Soviet region (Cohen 1996).

U.S. support for Yeltsin was linked to a campaign of fear, a key element in shock therapy that would open the floodgates to a neoliberal, IMF-approved economy, with its attendant cutbacks in social protections, carried out in the name of modernization and economic efficiency. [10]

The region was filled with factories employing thousands of workers they didn't need, to produce shoddy goods that no one wanted. For years, the whole system was propped up by subsidies and noncommercial trading relationships and sustained by wasteful use of energy that polluted the land, air and water.

That system crumbled when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union imploded. Today, the countries of the region are moving—some quickly, and some far too slowly—toward open, market-driven economies. Prices have been freed. State-owned enterprises have been sold to private owners. New economic institutions are leading to improved economic policies and management. A commercial law framework is being put in place and enforced. Sound banking systems and practices are beginning to emerge....

During the Soviet period, the price of natural gas was kept so artificially low that Russians joked it was cheaper to leave a gas stove on all the time than to waste matches lighting it. The result, of course, was that huge amounts of natural gas were wasted. Although the wholesale price of gas rose after 1991, consumers did not conserve, mainly because most Russian apartments do not have individual gas meters. A USAID program that links a U.S. utility and Russian counterpart is helping to change that. Vladmiroblgaz and Brooklyn Union Gas have conducted a pilot residential metering project designed to determine how best to improve revenue collection and conserve energy. With USAID financing, 500 meters were purchased and installed in apartments just east of Moscow. Natural gas consumption dropped dramatically. Since then, the pilot program has been expanded. The Vladmiroblgaz-Brooklyn Union Gas program and others like it are now helping conserve natural resources in cities across Russia....

Creating market economies and establishing democracy offer the people of Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia the best long-term hope for higher living standards and a better quality of life. In the short and medium term, however, the weight of change has taken a heavy toll on social services and benefits and caused unemployment and poverty to rise....

A hallmark of the old socialist system was the provision of a basic level of social protection to all its citizens, including universal subsidies for housing, utilities, and social services, and income after retirement, irrespective of need....

Early in the decade, the Ukrainian Government recognized that it had to take a close look at government spending levels and begin to tackle the issue of universal subsidies. In close coordination with local governments, Ukraine initiated a policy which introduced the recovery of real costs for housing and utilities while also protecting the neediest. Universal subsidies for communal services were replaced with financial assistance targeted to help the poor. USAID provided technical expertise to help the municipalities conduct income surveys and objectively determine cut-off points for government aid. Three months after enactment of the enabling legislation, the national housing subsidy program opened 750 offices across the country. As many families started to pay for housing and related services, those in the low income brackets received subsidies. By 1999, over four million families were being helped with targeted subsidies and the government was realizing a net budget savings of $1.2 billion....

A large and stable middle class -- a keystone to enduring democratic systems and dynamic private economies -- still needs to develop. In too many cases, these societies are polarized between a few very wealthy beneficiaries of change and a great number of people who have been unable to access the benefits of reform. At the same time, social services are woefully insufficient, adding to the burden of the common citizen. Toward the end of the decade, one-half of Eurasia’s population and one-quarter of Southern Tier citizens were living in poverty. The turmoil and pain resulting from incomplete reforms have discouraged citizens and led many to long for the certainty of the old Soviet days.

-- A Decade of Change: Profiles of USAID Assistance to Europe and Eurasia, by USAID

According to Cohen, the United States saw the disintegration of the Soviet Union as an opportunity not for strategic collaboration with a remaining major political and military power but for "a relentless, winner-take-all exploitation of Russia's post-1991 weakness" (Cohen 1996). Going beyond the threats to the security of the Soviet Union, the United States and its NATO allies expanded the encirclement of Russia by extending NATO membership to countries in the CEE region and placing or planning military bases in at least half of the former Soviet republics (Cohen 1996).

America's aid package to Yeltsin required a radical restructuring that forced the end of price controls and state subsidies, the privatization of state industries, the floating of the state currency, and reduction of barriers to and restrictions on transnational trade and investments. Led by economic shock therapist Jeffrey Sachs and the Harvard Institute for International Development, and backed with $57.7 million in USAID funding (and some $300 million in USAID money granted to other American contractors), U.S. economists and business firms worked closely with Yeltsin's first director of economic reform, Yegor Gaidar, and later his main architect of privatization, first deputy prime minister Anatoly Chubais, "a darling of the U.S. and Western financial establishments" (Wedel 1998).

The program was intended to dismantle remaining state economic structures and put in place a disciplining infrastructure of market-based institutions. In this vein, George H.W. Bush had earlier announced (1990) a startup initiative of $300,000 for "establishing a center and clearinghouse for American private-sector assistance and volunteer activities in Eastern Europe" that would "support democratic change and market-oriented economic reform" (Devroy 1990). What the Russians had anticipated, but the United States would not deliver, was some degree of equitable partnership. But, as Russian specialist Cohen observed, what the Russians got was an American withdrawal from the ABM treaty, U.S. and NATO military expansion in former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic, aggressive access to Caspian oil and gas, and hostility to Russian domestic and foreign policies (Cohen 2006).

The collapse of Soviet communist power in 1991 brought chaotic changes. Almost immediately, Russia experienced an explosive proliferation of political parties. Nineteen parties contested elections for the Duma in 1993; two years later, there were 43 (Carothers 2006b, 26), the Communist Party being the largest among them. Initially, two of the beneficiaries of IRI and NDI assistance in the Russian parliament were the pro-Western, "reformist," and personality-centered Yabloko Party and the Russia's Choice party, later reformed as the Union of Right Forces (SPS). The "larger parties such as the Community Party, Unity [Putin-aligned party, now merged as United Russia], and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's [right-wing nationalist] Liberal Democratic Party appeared to them as unsuitable partners for Western aid." IRI in particular was committed to blocking the leading Communists from coming tot power (Carothers 2006b, 102-103).

The conversion of the Russian economy to a haven for foreign investments and trade, with its security supervised by NATO and its politics guided by the West, is a dream of supremacy that would even surpass the wartime "Grand Area" strategy of American global planners. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a rush of American consultants arrived to train their Russian counterparts in the dark arts and technologies of political consulting (discussed in Sussman 2005). By the late 1990s, Russians had developed a political consulting and electioneering industry of their own. A Russian academic (Pshizova 2007) found that the professionalization of politics in Russia rationalizes the lack of a civil society, which permits the concentration of power in the hands of new political formations, former Soviet Community Party apparatchiks and nomenklatura, their billionaire allies, former KGB agents, and other closely associated groups and individuals, including those in the state-controlled media.

The management of Russian-style democracy by professionals enables political groups to bypass popular mobilization by citizen activists, an activity in which only the current Russian Community Party (CPR) is particularly strong. Inasmuch as professional management of politics invites more expensive forms of lobbying and campaigning, business patrons stand to benefit, which works against the political ambitions of the CPR. To wit, in the 1999 Russian parliamentary elections, 78 percent of political party expenditures (83 percent for victorious parties) went to television advertising. The pattern seen in Russian electoral politics, much like the United States, indicates a low level of party identification, close ties between parties and state bureaucracies and the latter's resources, increasing use of political technologies (polling, focus groups, advertising, media appearances, and the like), and image-making and personalization of political "leadership" (Pshizova 2007, 4, 10, 15). Russia's Niccolo M website boasts that several of its top managers are members of the American Political Consulting Association ("Niccolo M" 2007).

Russia's greater a sorption into the world economy is made more certain by the presence of global consumer-oriented corporations, including Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Ikea, American Express, Nestle, Wrigley, Procter & Gamble, Unilvever, Nike, Levi Strauss, PepsiCo, Philip Morris, GM, and others. Their presence is supported by the consumer marketing data delivered by such brand research companies as WPP's TGI and TNS Gallup (O'Leary 2008). The operations of leading Western PR consultants, such as Rory Davenport, managing director of the fast-growing Washington-based Qorvis Communications, is another reason behind Russia's accelerating market status. Paced by Russia, whose annual advertising market expanded an an average of 41 percent from 2000 to 2006 and reached sixth place internationally by 2006, Central and Eastern Europe as a region has the fastest advertising growth rate in the world (Campaign Magazine 2007).

After an initial delirium with the U.S. market model, Western economic and political assistance eventually became unwelcome in Russia. Before the 2003 legislative election, Russia's centrist Yabloko Party turned down the offer of foreign assistance. Yabloko and the right-wing SPS party questioned the motives behind Western backing, which they came to see as focused more on campaign victories than long-term party development (Carothers 2006b, 103, 169) -- and perhaps because association with the West damaged their reputations as genuinely Russian parties amidst a climate of intensifying nationalist sentiment. Nonetheless, $45.2 million in U.S. assistance to Russia was targeted to democracy programs in FY 2006. Putin himself expressed skepticism about the "civilizing role" that democracy assistance represents (Wilson 2009, 378).

Since Putin's ascendancy to Russia's presidency and then prime ministership, the country's political disposition toward the United States and its program of democracy assistance has significantly changed. One target of the Putin government's political crackdown as been the NGO community, both domestic and foreign, consisting of several hundred thousand non-profit organizations, which the Duma, passing by a wide margin, forced into reregistration under a restrictive 2006 law. Many foreign NGOs were shut down. Speaking for the Duma, Alexei Ostrovsky, a Duma deputy, said to the parliament: "We have seen what happened in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova [11] and how these local branches of foreign NGOs that are funded by the CIA functioned .... We want to defend our citizens from the chaos which our country can be dragged into by these foreign NGOs" (Page and Evans 2005). Over 90 percent of funding for human rights NGOs is from foreign sources, particularly NED (Abdullaev 2007). Russian officials also distrust local NGOs as being either corrupt or inefficient, leading to their underfunding and the substitution by Russian corporation philanthropy. Responding to criticism from the Council of Europe, Putin's presidential successor, Dmitry Medvedev, agreed in 2009 to revise the 2006 law to permit greater freedom for human rights and other NGOs.

Apart from civil society, there has been a degree of foreign political engagement in Russia. An NDI assessment congratulated itself on the role it played in transforming Russian society through the introduction of American electioneering techniques. Under U.S. influence, the study confidently claimed, Russian political parties were now

targeting their communications to voters based on demographic and geographic information ... conducting research on voter attitudes through focus groups and polling ... small meetings, coalitions with civil groups, door knocking, phone banks, and dpublic leafleting; organizing more sophisticated press operations that attempt to create news and respond to events ... Much of this change can be attributed to NDI training (cited in Carothers 1999, 152; italics added).

If the U.S. influenced Russian politics as much as the NDI claimed, the accession of Vladimir Putin suggests that either the American organization is seriously misguided or the real intent behind U.S. political assistance actually has little to do with institutionalizing democracy.



8. According to a New York Times account, Clinton's secretary of state, Warren Christopher, acted like a "politician passionately endorsing a candidate at a campaign whistle-stop" during his visit to Russia just before the December 1993 parliamentary election. Christopher supported Yeltsin's suspension of parliament in September of that year (Sciolino 1993).

9. In 1996, a group of American consultants, including a team that had previously worked on Pete Wilson's gubernatorial campaign in California, went to work on the Russian presidential campaign for Boris Yeltsin. Unfortunately for Russia (Sussman 2005), Yeltsin failed to require a non-disclosure agreement from his American advisors, which resulted in an embarrassing cover story in Time magazine that made the Russian president look sadly dependent on foreign patronage (Vuijst 2008a). The American campaign advisors pushed a hard line anti-communist strategy, creating a false choice between going back to Stalin or going forward with Yeltsin (Steele, personal communication, 2008).

10. Shock therapy also had the early support of conservative Central European economists, including Poland's Leszek Balcerowicz and the Czech (currently president) Vaclav Klaus, "experts [who] were integrated into transnational networks of exchange" (Brier 2009, 347).
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