Daily Archives: September 28, 2006

Anti-Americanism Explodes in Russian Duma

La Russophobe has already reported on the attempt by the slobbering maniac Valentin Falin to introduce his rabid brand of Neo-Soviet anti-Americanism into the Russian Duma. Now, Georgy Bovt of the Moscow Times explores the issue further. Now is the time to ask: Will all those crazed Russophiles who vociferously condemn “Russophobia” now come forward to condemn anti-Americanism with equal zeal? Don’t hold your breath. Just like the Soviet Union, Russia is baiting American into a confrontation that Russia cannot win.

Last week, a remarkable document titled “On a Likely Scenario of Action of the United States toward Russia in 2006-2008” was circulated in the State Duma. It is undoubtedly the largest-scale and most comprehensive anti-U.S. program that post-Soviet Russia has seen.

Yes, of course, a lot has been written over the past 15 years. But the fundamental difference between this and other similar exercises is that it appears to have been approved from on high — probably in the section of the Kremlin administration responsible for drafting ideological doctrines.

Also curious is the way in which the 35-page typewritten “scenario” appeared. First, a small leak appeared in last Thursday’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The newspaper named the report’s authors as Valentin Falin — a former member of the Communist Party Central Committee and sometime adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev — who served as ambassador to Germany before turning on and pillorying his former boss at every available opportunity, and former foreign intelligence chief Gennady Yevstafyev.

The following day, Friday, Moskovskiye Novosti editor Vitaly Tretyakov devoted more than two pages of the newspaper to a copy of the report “accidentally” distributed in the Duma. He promised to publish the full text in the Politichesky Klass weekly, which he also edits. Tretyakov is a former democrat who is now a fervent, almost paranoid, anti-Western patriot who does nothing without consulting the Kremlin first, so it is unlikely that he would publish such a document without receiving direct orders.

It is impossible to recount the whole scenario here. Suffice it to say that it brings together almost all of the anti-U.S. myths of the last 15 years. For example, it says that the United States cannot “come to terms with Russia’s growing strength,” and that Washington is preparing to “bring down” the Putin regime from within, specifically around the time of the 2008 presidential elections. The United States will, the report says, work to isolate the Russian political elite, and look for a stalking horse among liberal groups — currently former-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov — and, inevitably, the CIA is drafting an “Orange project” for Russia. “For the United States, it is unacceptable in principle to have sovereign democracy in Russia … that is not built into the construction of global American leadership.” The United States will also work to undermine “Russia’s energy sovereignty,” and simultaneously push for Georgia to be accepted into NATO.

The whole document is filled with a spirit of confrontation, a paranoid search for enemies and all sorts of U.S. conspiracies. Yet in a strange way the doctrine is rather convenient, because anyone who criticizes Russian political practice can now safely be written off as an agent of U.S. influence.

Consider the war on corruption, for example. This will also become a U.S. conspiracy because, as we have already seen, the Americans are committed to the “international legal isolation of Russia’s top leadership” and will attempt to create a “tense atmosphere around the siloviki and key business representatives” and “accumulate court decisions in the West” against top Russian officials. Any anticorruption campaign in the media can simply be explained away as “incitement” by the United States.

And if, during elections in 2007 and 2008, you hear anyone talking about the authorities breaking the rules, you can rest safe in the knowledge that this is also the result of a U.S. conspiracy. The United States is provoking various Russian Kasyanovs so that they, in turn, will provoke the Russian authorities, so that the authorities will persecute them during elections. Brilliant!

Mass protests — by drivers, cheated investors or disgruntled tenants such as those in the Moscow suburb of Butovo who were stripped of their houses and apartments with insufficient compensation — also, rest assured, are out on the streets only at U.S. instigation. The United States will also be behind almost all of Russia’s spartan opposition. And any media reports about “deceitful propaganda on Russian television,” corruption among senior officials, the interests of Gazprom-esque monopolists running counter to the interests of the people, and so on.

An alternative has long been sought for the idology of sovereign democracy, but obviously little progress has been made. We have ended up with something that should long ago have been consigned to the dustbin of history. All that is left is to find out who will hoist this carcass up their flagpole. It surely won’t be Falin and Yevstafyev.

Georgy Bovt is editor of Profil.

Another Report Card, Another Failing Grade for Russia

La Russophobe has already reported on a series of disastrous performances by Russia in international evaluations for competent government and civil society. The Transparancy International think tank, prestigious Foreign Policy magazine and the World Bank itself have all condemned the Kremlin for destroying democracy and the market economy inside Russia so as to preserve dictatorship, placing Russia in the same company as the third-world African nation of Niger.

Now the World Economic Forum joins the fray. It places Russia #62 out of 125 nations surveyed in terms of “economic competitiveness”– well behind Kazakhstan and in the same company as basket cases like El Salvador and Egypt. Russia plummeted from position #53 last year, a decline of nearly 17% in just one year. Former Soviet slave states like Estonia (#25), Latvia (#36) and Lithuania (#40) are leaving Russia in their dust. If you were to remove Russia’s oil revenues from this picture, Russia’s score would barely register on the WEF scale.

Here’s what the WEF had to say about Russia’s performance:

The private sector in Russia has serious misgivings about the independence of the judiciary and the administration of justice. Legal redress in Russia is neither expeditious, transparent nor inexpensive, unlike in the world’s most competitive economies. A ranking of only 110 among 125 countries in 2006 suggests that it is time-consuming, unpredictable and a cost burden to enterprises. Partly because of this, the property rights regime is extremely poor and worsening. Russia’s ranking in this indicator during the last two years has suffered a precipitous decline, from 88 in 2004 to 114 in 2006, among the worst in the world.

That’s right, Russia’s respect for property rights is “among the worst in the world.” As Russia has gotten less poor, its respect for wealth has diminished. And these are GOOD economic times. Can you imagine how the Kremlin will deal with property rights, and other legal rights, once it’s been squeezed for a while by the falling price of oil?

Scary, isn’t it?

Time and again, what we see from outside appraisals of the Kremlin, from respected and diverse expert panels, is the indication of abject failure, fundamental corruption destroying even a semblance of morality, a descent back in to the darkness of totalitiarian dictatorship.

La Russophobe is put to mind of the character played by Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption. Released from prison, all he can think about is how difficult life is on the outside and what he might do to get himself arrested and put back into his comfortable prison home. Maybe, quite simply, Russians don’t want to be free, don’t want to shrug off the hardships of dictatorship, and don’t care who they hurt in the process. How else can one explain continuing to favor “President” Putin with 70%+ approval ratings when study after study shows the disastrous consequences of his rule?

Comparing Markets as Oil Prices Fall

Yesterday, the RTSE index of the Russian stock market gained 2.17%, clawing back some of the horrifying 15% loss the index has sustained over the past month as oil prices have begun to recede. The total value of all shares traded on the exchange was $504,972,015.

Meanwhile, the DJIA index of the New York Stock Exchange (just one of several in America. to be listed on the NYSE a company must have at least $2.5 million in earnings and at least 1 million shares) gained 0.81%, soaring to the second-best closing value in its history. Nearly three billion shares of stock were traded. Even if each share was only worth a dollar, six times more value moved on this single American exchange than in all of Russia. If the average share price was $10, then sixty times more value moved on the NYSE than in all of Russia. If we assume the average share price was $50, then three hundred times more value moved on the NYSE alone than in all of Russia, despite the high price of oil which greatly benefits the Russian exchange while undermining that of the United States. In other words, the Russian stock market, with all its recent growth attributable to oil prices, is still microscopically small compared to that of America.

As the price of oil drops, the American market surges and the Russian market slumps. Once again, we see the direct interest Russia has to inflate the price of crude oil by doing whatever it can to foment turmoil in the Middle East. This is an issue to which Americans need to begin paying increasingly close attention.