Daily Archives: September 22, 2006

Russia Brutalizes Women

A new report from the United Nations excoriates Russia for its brutality against women. La Russophobe has already reported that Russia has the second-highest rate of divorce in the world and that one Russian woman is murdered by her husband every 40 minutes. Now the U.N. concludes that Russia is also brutalizing women economically: “In the Russian Federation, the adverse impact of political and economic transition had disproportionately affected women.” The report includes Russia with a group of barbaric regimes known for shocking abuse of women: Iran, Mexico, Afghanistan and Sudan’s Darfur region.

In classic Neo-Soviet fashion, rather than acknolwedge Russia’s problems with the abuse of women (leading to chronic shortalls in population), the Kremlin sought to paint the U.N. as a bunch of crazed russophobes. The Russian envoy to the U.N., Valery Loshchinin, called the report “politicized” and complained that “it gave the impression that there was a State policy of violence against women, which was occurring against a background of prevailing insecurity at large.” He stated that “those familiar with the contemporary reality in Russia and the role of women in society could not accept these affirmations.”

This is through-the-looking-glass, Neo-Soviet stuff. Loshchinin simply ignores basic facts about Russian life known by everyone, as if he were still living behind the Iron Curtain’s cloak of secrecy which prevented those in the West from disputing many Russian propaganda assertions. Just as in Soviet times, the regime simply refuses to acknowledge problems and therefore can’t reform to alleviate them. The problems fester and grow until the consume the nation’s vital organs and destroy it.

Ironically, even as Loshchinin was speaking it was being reported that Russia is considering imposing a tax on women who don’t have children so as to penalize them and force them to contribute to the population (apparently, the Kremlin has already given up on the idea that women could be bribed into having more babies). Heaven forbid that Russia should change to make women happier and more desirious of having children; instead, Russia prefers to resort to the methods of Stalin, the same ones that destroyed the USSR and will just as surely bring Russia to her knees.

Putley on Bakhmina

David McDuff’s blog One Step at a Time contains a letter from reader Jeremy Putley to the Financial Times regarding the Kremlin’s assault on Yukos attorney Svetlana Bakhmina. Bakhima’s story is that of one of Neo-Soviet Russia’s first victims, and it is a cause that deserves ongoing attention. Jailing the lawyer of a person the state doens’t like is a signal hallmark of crude authoritarian dictatorship and demonstrates that nobody is safe from the Kremlin’s petulant, wrath, just as in Soviet times.

Putley writes as follows (shame on the FT for failing to publish it!):


In your second editorial today you are right to say that investors presented with the opportunity to buy into Russia’s oil riches, in the planned stock market flotation of Rosneft, must consider the moral dimension. It is not only the question of whether they will be buying “stolen goods”. There is also the matter of the abuse of legal process to persecute former Yukos employees, and not just Mikhail Khodorkovsky.It has not been widely reported that last week the Yukos lawyer, Svetlana Bakhmina, was sentenced by a Moscow court to seven years imprisonment in a labour camp. She had denied any wrongdoing. Now 36, she has been detained since 7 December 2004, and has not been allowed to see her two children, aged 3 and 7 in that time. Bail was refused for apparently no justifiable reason.The Russian opposition politician, Boris Nemtsov, is reported as saying that Ms Bakhmina does not deserve the sentence, which he calls an act of repression, considering it part of a campaign by the Kremlin aimed at intimidating business employees in order to prevent them from expressing independent views on society in Russia.This appalling case of abuse of legal process in a European capital should arguably carry rather more weight withinvestors even than the other matters that arise in considering potential investment in Russia, such as the unexplained exclusion from Russia of the investor Mr William Browder.

Jeremy Putley

McDuff continues the Bakhmina saga as follows:

Svetlana Bakhmina, the YUKOS lawyer sentenced to six and a half years of imprisonment in a labour camp, has appealed to a Moscow court to have her sentence deferred for nine years, until her youngest child reaches the age of 14, gazeta.ru reports. Public figures and human rights activists in Russia have condemned the sentence given to Ms. Bakhmina, saying that she does not deserve it. Ms. Bakhmina herself has denied any wrongdoing. The Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has called it an act of repression, considering it part of a campaign by the Kremlin aimed at intimidating business employees in order to prevent them from expressing independent views on society in Russia.

It is truly mind-boggling the Kremlin could be so weak and cowardly that destroying Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s company, himself and his family would not be enough; just like the mafia, the Kremlin cowards need to go after everyone associated with him, even the mothers of young children. More terrifying, the Kremlin couldn’t care less about the public image this presents or how many nations and peoples it alienates in doing so. In other words, this act is an unmistakable echo of the way the USSR treated people like Solzhenitsyn, clear proof that Russians have learned nothing from the decades of despair they suffered under Soviet rule.

NB: No page exists in Wikipedia for Ms. Bakhmina. La Russophobe suggests to readers that somebody take the initiative to create one (anyone can do it, everyone can edit/help).

Brilliant Felgenhauer Exposes the Horrors of Iran-Russia Alliance

Writing in Eurasia Daily Monitor, the brilliant (essential!) Pavel Felgenhauer exposes the prospects of a Russian-Iranian nuclear alliance. David McDuff has a wonderful, awful post analogizing the recent spewing of venom into the U.N. by the Iranian and Venezuelan dictators to the similarly lurid acts of Nikita Krushchev decades ago. Instead of using their U.N. platform as an opportunity to call for peace and cooperation pursuant to the U.N. mandate, these maniacs chose to use it as an opportunity to provoke war (the height of hypocrisy, as they attack the U.S. for doing so). But we must now ask whether today’s Russia is any different, indeed much worse. However revolting the behavior of the other maniacs may be, at least they were open and honest in their barbaric warmongering. Vladimir Putin is supplying a massive amount of assault weapons and attack aircraft to Venezuela and nuclear power to Iran, even as he poses publicly with a face of respectability. As Felgenhauer shows below, it is a hop, skip and jump from Russia’s support for Iran to its obtaining nuclear weapnos. So, who is more dangerous to democracy – Putin or Kruschchev?

Here’s Pavel (how the Moscow Times dared to fire him, La Russophobe will never understand):

On Monday September 18, the chief of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), Sergei Kiriyenko, told reporters in Vienna that Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power reactor will be operational by September 2007 and is scheduled to begin producing commercial electric power in November 2007. Kiriyenko also confirmed that Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (in charge of Iran’s nuclear program), will visit Moscow next Monday, September 25, to finalize agreements to launch the Bushehr reactor (RIA-Novosti, September 18).Bushehr was partially constructed in the 1970s by Germany’s Siemens and abandoned unfinished after Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1978. The Russian company Atomstroiexport has been rebuilding Bushehr for over 10 years.

It has been reported that today the reactor is over 90% complete, although the previously announced launch date of October 2006 will pass without the reactor becoming operational. Now Kiriyenko insists that the new September 2007 deadline is final (RIA-Novosti, August 29, September 18).Sources at Atomstroiexport say the long delay in completing Bushehr has been simultaneously technical, political, and financial in nature. In the 1990s when oil prices were low, Iran was not paying Atomstroiexport and its Russian subcontractors on time or in full for services rendered.

Nowadays most of the $1 billion stated Bushehr price tag has been already disbursed by the Iranians to Russia, according to former Atomstroiexport officials, including former CEO Kakha Bendukidze, a well known Russian industrialist in the 1990s and early 2000s and, since 2004, a Georgian government minister.With the financial problems ostensibly solved, Kiriyenko has blamed technical difficulties, including the failure of Russian subcontractors “to deliver some assembly units” (RIA-Novosti, August 29).

At the same time, it is clear that there are serious politics involved: While there is no internationally acceptable solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, Moscow has apparently been dragging its feet in making the final, irreversible step of actually launching Bushehr — a step that could provoke a major Russo-American crisis.For some time now, the Iranians have pressed Moscow to deliver the nuclear fuel rods for Bushehr well ahead of the reactor launch. The fuel — some 100 tons of low-enriched uranium — is ready for delivery and is currently stockpiled at a Rosatom plant in Novosibirsk. The fuel must be delivered to Iran to be loaded into the reactor at least several months before it may be launched, and that is when the principal Russo-American problems may begin.

Most nuclear experts agree that the nuclear arms proliferation threat posed by the light water Bushehr VVER-1000 (1,000 megawatt) reactor is limited: It will produce tons of plutonium, but consisting of an isotope mix that cannot easily be used to make bombs. Moscow has also secured an agreement with Tehran that the spent fuel must be sent back for reprocessing.However, plutonium is not the only proliferation danger. Iran today ostensibly possesses all the technologies needed to enrich uranium, but the principal problem is that it lacks uranium to enrich. Any natural uranium deposits that have been so far discovered in Iran are small, while the United States has up to now managed to block all attempts by Tehran to buy natural uranium oxide (yellow cake) on the world market.

The arrival of the Russian nuclear fuel may drastically change the situation: By diverting a relatively small fraction of the 100 tons of the 4% enriched uranium 235 fuel, the Iranians could dramatically speed up their nuclear program and produce hundreds of kilos of arms-grade uranium (over 90% enrichment) in a year or so, using a limited amount of enrichment centrifuges. It is technically much easier to move from 4% to 90% enrichment, than from 0.7% as in natural uranium, to 4% and a nuclear weapon requires only 20 kilos of arms-grade uranium to make.Washington has already told Russia that, while the continued slow construction of Bushehr is OK, the actual transfer of nuclear fuel without a comprehensive solution of the Iranian nuclear problem is unacceptable. Will the Russians heed this warning?

While in Palestine on September 8, Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov angrily told a news conference that it is “a clear provocation” to suggest that Russia may stop constructing Bushehr and move its specialists out (RIA-Novosti, September 8, 2006).The pro-Kremlin news site Strana.ru reported on September 11 that Russia will not only sell Iran modern anti-aircraft Tor-M1 missiles (a billion-dollar deal announced last November), but also provide more powerful, longer range S300 anti-aircraft missiles and other modern weapons “needed to defend Bushehr and other strategic targets” against possible U.S. air and missile attacks.It is obvious that at least part of the ruling Russian elite is ready to openly side with Iran against the United States, to block the imposition of any sanctions in the United Nations while providing Tehran with modern weapons and nuclear materials. But will Russia’s ultimate decision-maker, President Vladimir Putin, risk a showdown? Up to now Putin has opted to postpone a decision, which has meant Bushehr has also been postponed. But the time for pondering is rapidly running out, and Washington and Tehran are both pressing for a clear answer — something Putin always hates to give.

Russia’s Report Card Shows it Needs to Repeat a Century, not Skip One

A string of high-level surveys of social development over the past year have equated Russia’s level of achievement with that of the African nation of Niger, a landlocked sub-Saharan state of 14 million roughly half of whose national budget is derived from foreign aid.

In October of last year the “Corruption Perceptions Index” from the German think tank Transparency International surveyed 159 nations and found that only 30 (less than 19%) were less corrupt than Russia. Russia found itself tied for 9th most corrupt nation in the world with Niger and Sierra Leone.

Then in June, Foreign Policy’s “Failed States Index” for 2005 identified sixty such “failed states” based on various indicators of instability, and Russia was named as one of them. Only 43 nations in the world are bigger failures than Russia according to Foreign Policy. Laos was a slightly bigger failure than Russia, Niger slightly less. Criteria such as human rights, distribution of wealth, flight, police corruption and elitism were reviewed.

And now last week came the World Bank with its “World Governance Indictors” reports, providing results eerily similar to those of TI. The WB study covered over 200 or more countries and territories in each of several categories. Only 57 nations out of 208 surveyed (less than 28%) had lower scores in such areas as voice and accountability, political stability, effectiveness of the government, the quality of regulatory bodies, the rule of law and control over corruption. Here, Russia was trailed Zambia (148), Uganda (149) and Swaziland (150), with Niger (152), Kazakhstan (153) and East Timor (154) just behind it.

When three different studies from three different well-respected organizations spanning the globe all find that Russia’s government and that of Niger are closely linked in terms of their level of accountability and systemic corruption, you know they are on to something. And a question inevitably arises: Is it an oversight that Niger has been excluded from the G-8, or is it an oversight that Russia has been let in?

To be sure, Russia has nuclear weapons. But so do India and China, and they aren’t members of the G-8. True, Russia has oil. But Saudi Arabia pumps out just as much, and its reserves are far larger than Russia’s and far easier to reach. Yet, Saudi Arabia isn’t in the G-8 either. If every nation with some type of claim is admitted, the G-8 will become the United Nations.

Why then admit Russia, especially when so many Russian actions betray hostility to the organization principles of the G-8? Russia is providing nuclear technology to Iran, assault weapons and attack jets to Venezuela and financial support to Hamas. It has obstructed the efforts of the other G-8 nations to impose sanctions on Iran and it has obstructed their efforts to deal with the terrorist uprising in Lebanon directed by Hezbollah. Russia refuses to recognize either Hamas or Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. Russia provided U.S. military secrets to Sadaam Hussein during the war against Iraq and it is violating its treaty with the U.S. concerning nuclear missiles on submarines. It is seeking to oust U.S. oil interests from Russia, most recently those of Exxon. It has been condemned by a resolution of the U.S. Senate for its failure to protect the civil rights of journalists and it recently announced that it will not bow to the United Nations within its sphere of influence in the former USSR. It is brazenly interfering in the domestic politics of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine as well as those of Belarus and the Baltic nations. Violent racism is running rampant (incidents increase by 20-30% each year) and Soviet-era ideology is on the rise. Russian energy monoliths, particularly Gazprom, are being used for political advantage without regard to the economic rights of their shareholders.

It’s time to wake up and realize that there is a fox in the G-8 chicken house. Saying that some sort of leverage may be gained over Russian policy if it is “at the table” might just as well have justified admitting the USSR to NATO or the Cosa Nostra to the College of Cardinals. It’s time to understand that the old canard about Russia needing “time” to develop into a progressive state has been repeated for centuries now without results. Not only won’t time heal any wounds in Russia’s case, but even if it could it’s a luxury Russia can’t afford. Every year the country’s population gets smaller and more unhealthy (by 2020 10% of the population will have HIV), so by the time sufficient time has elapsed there may be nobody left to benefit from the changes.

Instead of demanding that Russia repeat the grades it has failed, we are allowing Russia to skip grades it isn’t even ready for and go from elementary school to MIT. No good can come of that. Russia’s low scores come in a climate of rising oil prices and impressive GDP growth; when the business cycle strikes Russia and the Kremlin is forced to play hardball to keep control, Russia’s scores will be off the charts and the world will have a disaster on its hands.