Made in Skolkovo*
29 June 2010
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
Hero journalist Yulia Latynina
President Medvedev was visiting Silicon Valley. Our Comrade President was told of the achievements of our American colleagues and in turn invited them to take part in the modernisation of Russia. President Medvedev’s visit had two components – one of them was political.
President Medvedev does not in fact have any authority. He can’t fire and replace anyone in the “power” ministries [TN: Interior, Defence, Justice etc...], can’t get into moneymaking deals, can’t push his pals into important posts. In short, he can’t do anything of what it means to be in power in Russia today. What he can do, though, is tweet on Twitter and lunch with foreign presidents so that they can believe that there are some liberal trends in the Kremlin. That is the job that he was given to do by Vladimir Putin and Medvedev puts his all into it, hoping against hope that the West will one day back him instead of Putin.
What the White House really thought about Medvedev’s to California is easily deduced from its pre-visit briefing given to journalists and its press release following the visit.
Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times (if you read Russian, there is a longer version of this article posted on Yezhedevny Zhurnal):
It may seem strange that I am writing about the 2009 report by the European Union fact-finding commission on the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war since it was published a year ago.
But the report is still very important today — in some sense, even more important than the war itself. The report, which was lead by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, is a blatant appeasement to Russia — a new Munich Agreement of sorts.
If you build policy and the economy on lies and self-deception, if you sincerely believe that you are the defender of freedom but out of fear and indifference you appease a dictatorship, and if you sincerely believe that you have a market economy despite having long ago sunk into debt and micromanaging the economy, the eventual consequences will be catastrophic.
To be honest, I was shocked by the report. My first thoughts after reading it were: “Europe has gone into retirement” and “Europe is no more.” Now one year later, Europe is falling apart.
Yulia Latynina at the Brooklyn Public Library
Other Russia reports:
On May 8, 2000, Vladimir Putin took office as president of the Russian Federation. Since that day, Russia has acquired $1.5 trillion in oil and natural gas revenues. As a country suffering from severely neglected infrastructure and in desperate need of development and modernization, Russia has been in an ideal position to benefit from such staggering windfall profits. At a talk earlier this month at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York City, award-winning Russian journalist Yulia Latynina spoke about how all of this money is actually being spent, and what condition Russia now finds itself in as a result.
“A modern transport infrastructure is the real road to Russia’s future,” said then-President Putin to a gathering of highway construction workers in the city of Krasnoyarsk in late 2007. And yet, not a single highway or expressway and only a smattering of smaller roads have been built in Russia over the past two decades. By comparison, China has laid more than 40,000 thousand miles of high-volume roadways over the same amount of time. “Naturally,” said Latynina, “this raises the question: Has anything been built in Russia with this money? And if yes, then what?”
It turns out that something was.
The fearless and heroic Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:
In an authoritarian society, public opinion surveys are meaningless. The problem isn’t so much that survey data are falsified. It’s that the results themselves do not provide an accurate reflection of reality — just as a thermometer placed outside the kitchen window cannot give you the temperature indoors.
As soon as word of the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant accident became known to residents who lived downriver from the dam, most relocated immediately to higher ground. If you were to ask those people in a poll if they have faith in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, they would surely answer positively. They are convinced that Putin brought stability to Russia, restored the power vertical and saved our citizens in South Ossetia from Georgian genocide.
It is not that respondents lie when surveys ask for their opinions. But consciously they believe one thing, and subconsciously quite another. Consciously, they love Putin, but subconsciously they know that if the dam had burst and the Yenisei River had swept them all away, Putin, if asked by the media what had happened to the victims, would not hesitate to quip, “They sank” — just as he did in 2000 when U.S. television journalist Larry King asked Putin what happened to the Kursk submarine.