Daily Archives: October 25, 2006

Russian Logic 101

It’s becoming an interesting parlor game, almost a spectator sport, trying to guess whether Russia is run by people who are merely stupid, clinically insane or mouth-frothingly evil. Here, take a whirl at it yourself.

Something strange to chew on: Moscow Times columnist Alexander Golts reports that Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov has announced that “it is essential to work on the question of raising insurance compensation for passengers killed or maimed to international levels — to at least $75,000.”

Actually, the figure Ivanov quotes is considerably more generous than many international standards. For instance, in the state of New York the minimum level of automobile insurance coverage for an accident with no fatality is just $25,000 and just $50,000 for one with a fatality. That’s a common standard in the U.S.

But even if America required $75,000 in coverage, since when does Russia need to match an international standard? According to the “purchasing power parity” formulation, a Russian doesn’t need to earn as much as a Westerner because things are cheaper in Russia. Some people argue that Russia’s nominal GDP should be doubled before it is compared to that of Western countries. If that’s so, why doesn’t Russia need, say, only $37,500 in actual insurance coverage in order to match the level of the West?

Could it be that Ivanov knows “purchasing power parity” is an utter fraud? Is he, perhaps, aware that Moscow was recently annointed the most expensive city in the world? Or is he remembering the fact that when Boris Yeltsin needed heart surgery, he brought in foreign doctors? Maybe, he was reading the recent report indicating that Russia has three of the top seven most polluted cities in the world, meaning that a glass of water from a Russian faucet is perhaps not quite the same as one from an French one (especially since an average Russian lifespan is much shorter than that of a Frenchman).

All that’s quite possible. Then again, it’s also quite possible that Ivanov is simply stupid, babbling gibberish without the slightest knowledge of the facts.

On the other hand, it seems equally possible that he’s insane. That seems to be Golts’s hypothesis. Golts notices that although Ivanov, wearing his “deputy prime minister” hat, screams about increasing compensation for the victims of traffic accidents, when the topic of injuries to Russian soliders comes up, and he’s wearing his “defense minister” hat, suddenly he turns into Jack the Ripper. Golts writes:

Captain Vyacheslav Nikiforov, an officer of the Railway Troops convicted for the murder of Vyacheslav Penteleyev, a conscript under his command, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. But the soldier’s family received a mere 200,000 rubles ($7,450) from the Defense Ministry. Some grim math reveals that this values the lives of air passengers at 10 times those of soldiers, for whom Ivanov’s ministry is responsible. In total, the family of a conscript killed while serving in the armed forces receives a one-off payment of about $5,000 and then an extra $1,000 in insurance payouts for each family member. Andrei Rudenko, a soldier who had been rented out by his commander to a local businessman in Chita, was brought to Moscow. Rudchenko had been found lying on the side of the road after being hit by a car in an accident that resulted in the loss of one an eye and a leg. Ivanov has yet to make any public comment about the case or what kind of compensation the victim would receive. Paying out $75,000 in each of these cases would bury the armed forces. If every officer who failed to prevent crimes as dangerous as drunk driving were cashiered, then at least 1,000 officers would have to be dismissed every year.

Golts concludes:

Ivanov ends up exhibiting the symptoms of professional schizophrenia when itcomes to the question of putting a value on life. He ends up with a higher number whenspeaking as deputy prime minister than he does when speaking as defense minister. But this is based more on tradition than a split personality. Ivanov and President Vladimir Putin treat the state’s unique right to dispose of the lives of citizens as holy, much the same as their predecessors — tsars, party general secretaries, military commanders and generals — have done over the past 300 years or so. It is this and not financial considerations that engender the lack of sympathy on the part of the army. For Ivanov, it is as if military service should not be considered a profession, but something more like a tax on the country’s population. The armed forces should remain, as the Soviet expression went, the “school of life.” Here people learn that those at the very top decide everything and that the greatest virtue is unconditional submission. A person’s life belongs entirely and unconditionally to the state. Private Pantaleyev was disposed of in an irrational way from the state’s point of view, so the offending party was punished. But there is no sense that the state is responsible as well.

Yet, who can rule out the possiblity that Ivanov is evil? It’s certainly another way to explain Golts’s findings. Maybe he wants the killings in the army to continue without compensation to families. After all, that’s raw expression of the the power of the state, bound to strike terror into the hearts of Russians that will make them more docile and easier to control, especially where military matters are concerned. Josef Stalin tried to govern the country that way for decades.

What do you think? Is Ivanov just stupid? Or is he insane? Evil? Or is this just an ordinary case of “being Russian”?

Russia is #1!

Russia is the world leader . . . in producing grievances to the European Court on Human Rights. Last year, the Court received about 45,000 petitions regarding abuses from domestic courts of law, and a stunning 24% of them — 10,583 in total — came from Russia alone. 46 countries are members fo the ECHR, but Russian complaints make up nearly a fourth of its workload. And virtually all the complaints are legitimate. Russia is 10-352 in the 362 cases where it has been accused of human rights violations before the Court.

Russia is #1 . . . not!

According to a survey by Reporters without Borders, there are only 21 countries in the world that have less press freedom than Russia. Zimbabwe has more, and so does Palestine under the PLO. Kazakhstan has much more. Apparently Finland, with the world’s freest press, is not rubbing off on neighbor Russia. The report states: “Russia, which suffers from a basic lack of democracy, continues slowly but steadily dismantling the free media, with industrial groups close to Vladimir Putin buying up nearly all independent media outlets and with passage of a law discouraging NGO activity. Each year several journalists in Russia are murdered with complete impunity.”

And you thought La Russophobe was tough!

Check out this comment from Antiwar.com to see how well Russia is impressing the 0utside world these days (and remember, these guys are American-haters):

At the risk of offending Russians, I feel I really must chime in on the subject of the quite notable suckiness of their country. I’ll just recount current events which have irked me — if I have to mention everything that has bugged me about the behavior of Russia’s government and the brutality of its culture, we’ll be here all day. Sure, maybe nobody can pin the murder of Anna Politkovskaya on Vladimir Putin — but then he is the president and he was in the KGB in commie days. If anyone could cover up his involvement in a crime it would be Putin. This is all really irrelevant, because this isn’t any kind of isolated incident in Russia — journalists and businessmen are offed routinely in this mafia playpen. But truly the proof that Russia is at best a thin mockery of a Western culture is the outrageous way Georgian citizens living in Russia have been treated ever since Georgian authorities arrested four Russian spies. Georgian businesses have been shut down, merchants at markets have been swept from their stalls, and even school children who dare to have “Georgian-sounding” surnames are spied on like ethnic criminals — it’s enough to ask if the gulags will really be reconditioned as theme parks after all. The plain fact is, anyone who didn’t at least try to run screaming from Russia 90 years ago (like many of my relatives did) had to have been some kind of mental defective. Anyone who stays now, well… I think I have risked too much offense as it is.

Hard to argue. What’s that you say? Not tough enough for you? Well, try this on for size then.

LR on PP

If you’d like to comment on the recent attack on political art in Russia, including the seizure of satirical images of Putin at the Moscow airport and the ransacking of an art gallery, check out La Russophobe‘s most recent posting at Publius Pundit, which discusses the issue. Is freedom of artistic expression next on the Kremlin’s Neo-Soviet hit list? Can we do anything to protect artists from the Kremlin’s wrath? What do these actions mean for Russia’s future? How can Russians allow their government to repeat the same mistakes of the Soviet overlords?

Russians Say: Sure Putin lies to us and kills us, but we love him anyway!

The New York Times reports:

The preponderance of Russia’s people think the Russian authorities have withheld information, lied about or covered up the handling of the terrorist siege in a Moscow theater in 2002, according to a new poll. The poll, conducted by the Yury Levada Analytical Center of 1,600 people in 128 municipalities, found that just 9 percent of Russians believe that the government has been truthful about the siege, which ended when special forces pumped in toxic gas and stormed the theater, where hundreds of hostages were held by a Chechen terrorist group. At least 129 hostages died.

But despite this belief, Russians continue to favor “President” Putin with 70%+ approval in polls. So pray tell La Russophobe: Who’s to blame for the suffering of the Russian people?