Yesterday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy bestowed the Legion d’Honneur (Chevalier) to Russian dark prince Sergey Chemezov.
Chemezov is one of those oft-cited, scary strongmen who ran the Kremlin — and the rest of Russia — under Vladimir Putin’s rule, which has yet to expire. Putin brought in Chemezov because he knew him well: the two were undercover KGB agents in Dresden in the 1980s. He is, how you say in English?, a scary motherfucker.
I would ask why the French have honored Chemezov thusly, but they also Honneured Russian-Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli who is wonderful at his job, which is to make loads of money on really kitschy, oddly-proportioned, hyper-literal monuments that beat you senseless with Significance. (He is also the author of the 9/11 memorial in Bayonne, New Jersey, which a friend once referred to as, “Oh! That vagina sculpture!”)
But if Tsereteli was the odd choice, Chemezov is the cravenly obvious one. For the past six years, he has overseen Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state monopoly on military exports. It oversees 90% of the Russian arms trade and owns the crippled AvtoVAZ car plant, in which Renault is a major shareholder. Oh, and let’s not forget Airbus, which gets titanium from Chemezov’s fiefdom, which also has links to French electronics company Thales, whose products are used in Russian military equipment.
So now you know.