perhaps, he’s a moderate statesman in the KGB regime
of a malignant little troll named Vladimir Putin.
Remember, this man was voted sexiest in Russia, is
regularly among the top vote-getters for president and
commands a mighty faction in the Duma.
Thrilling Wonder offers the following cyberpunk images of neo-Soviet foreboding:
The Darkness at Noon blog offers the following horror story with which all those foolish enough to venture into Russia are well familiar:
My absolute worst experiences in Russia have always revolved around visa issues. The first nightmare occurred about 4 years ago when my passport and visa were stolen on the St. Petersburg metro. Replacing the passport was a snap: a couple of hours at the consulate and I walked out of there with a replacement. Replacing the Russian visa so that I could leave the country was a different matter. I ended up having to remain in Russia an extra week, pay $150 in special “fees” (read: bribes), not to mention the cost of a week’s worth of hotel lodging and the inconvenience of rearranging flights during a high-traffic season. Perhaps the worst part was putting my mother, in tears, into a cab to the airport by herself because I couldn’t leave the country. What a way to punctuate her first (and possibly only) trip to Russia… In retrospect, I should have gone to the airport with her and slipped a couple hundred bucks into my passport. How’s that for an exit visa? I guess I was afraid of getting arrested, as at least the bureaucratic nightmare of visa replacement has a door marked “exit.”
The second nightmare was related to the visa for my current trip. When I was informed that my invitation wouldn’t be ready in Moscow until early January, I was quite worried, as I was due to leave only two weeks later. That didn’t leave much time to receive the invitation and get the visa, so I contacted my handler at the Russian university where I was to be affiliated, asking if perhaps there were some “fee” (read: bribe) I could pay to expedite things.
Someone named “Nick Slepko” posted a claim recently on Russia Blog, that infamous fountain of Russophile disinformation, which stated:
Using census data from 2005 and rates of homicide given by Russian and American government sources, Moscow’s rate of homicide is 9.13 per 100,000 inhabitants, whereas Washington D.C.’s comes in at a whopping 35.42 per 100,000 inhabitants. Knowing this, perhaps it is understandable why some aspects of emulating America can be troubling to foreigners who grow weary of the “rule of law”-mantra when these invectives are lobbed from a glass house.
Mr. Slepko is, to put it mildly, an outrageous liar, and his editors at Russia blog are either incompetent fools or equally dishonest propagandists.
Where shall we begin in illustrating his manifold dishonesty and propaganda, victimizing the unwary explorer of the blogosphere?
Let’s start with this: The source material Mr. Slepko links to states that Moscow had twice as many murders as New York City and five times as many as London, two cities with comparable populations to Moscow. Yet, Mr. Skepko does not mention this fact. Readers would only know it if they clicked his links and read them. His source material also shows that Moscow’s murder rate increased by a shocking 20% from the prior year. Yet, Mr. Slepko ignores that fact too. Perhaps not surprising that he would ignore the information about Moscow’s murder rate, since murders declined in Washington DC from 264 in 2002 to 195 in 2005 (the year Mr. Slepko is discussing), a drop of over 25% over the course of three years. Murders were down to 195 in 2005 from 198 in 2004.
Next, consider this fact: Washington DC is a tiny city with a population under 600,000. It had 195 murders in 2005, but the Washington Metro area, with a population of 5 million still only half Moscow’s size, had a murder rate of just 8.3 per 100,000, significantly lower than Moscow’s. The source material Mr. Slepko cites to does not give a murder rate for Washington DC, he had to calculate it based on its population. The source was giving conclusions about the Metro area, obviously because it felt that was the more meaningful sample. Moscow is a city of 10 million. So Washington DC is comparable to the highest 600,000-person crime REGION of Moscow (just as it’s the highest crime region in DC metro area), not the whole city. Mr. Slepko doesn’t mention this fact because he’s not interested in truth, he’s interested in propaganda, attacking America to deflect attention from Russia and make himself feel better, just like the old Politburo used to do.
For that same reason, Mr. Slepko doesn’t mention that Russia as a country has the #5 murder rate in the whole world, while America is #24, five times lower. Russia’s murder rate is 0.201534 per 1,000 while America’s is 0.042802 per 1,000 people — nearly five times safer. Given the fact that Americans enjoy almost limitless personal freedom while Russians live in a draconian dictatorship presided over by a proud KGB spy, one might think the results would be opposite, that Russians would buy safe streets with the loss of personal freedom, but it’s not the case, clear proof of the utter failure of the Putin regime at the most basic level. At least in the Soviet dictatorship, there were safe streets. Russia has the worst of all possible worlds. The whole point of Mr. Slepko’s post is to argue that both George Bush and Vladimir Putin preside over equally high-crime cities. In fact, that’s a blatant lie. Neither Bush nor Putin run the cities they work in. Moscow is run by mayor Yuri Luzhkov, while Washington DC is run by mayor Anthony Williams (a Democrat George Bush likely has little influence over; the city voted overwhelmingly against Bush in both his presidential elections). Obviously, if you want to compare Bush and Putin on crime, you have to compare the national data, since they are national leaders. But if you do that then Bush kicks Putin’s ass all over the place, so naturally Mr. Slepko doesn’t.
Finally, as a commenter to the Russia Blog post pointed out: “You cannot compare USA and Russia in crime rates because USA is honest with statistics and Russia is not: According to Russia’s Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, the registered number of crimes in the country underestimates the real number by three times.” In other words, Russia’s position as #5 in the world is almost certainly an understatement, and the same is true for data concerning Moscow’s murder rate. As if to confirm this, the source relied upon by Mr. Slepko for America’s data is a formal scientific report of data, while his source for the Russian data is a brief news blurb from a state-friendly wire service.
This kind of shocking dishonesty and incompetence ought not be tolerated by blogosphere consumers. To their credit, a number of Russia Blog readers jumped on the outrageous content of this post, but this likely won’t be enough to stop the villains at Russia Blog from continuing their relentless campaign of pro-Kremlin propaganda.
Mr. Slepko, you may recall, is the same lunatic whom LR mentioned last Sunday in regard his amazing burst of dishonesty and propaganda in regard to a cartoon showing Vladimir Putin taking on the Soviet Bear’s fangs. Apparently, his chief claim to fame is writing letters to the editor at the eXile. We who favor honesty and accuracy in the blogosphere must do all we can to out propagandizing maniacs like Mr. Slepko before they mislead unwary lay people and undermine our ability to achieve democracy in Russia.
Writing in the Financial Times, Russophile maniac Alexander Bulygin (CEO of “Rusal,” the Russian aluminum conglomerate) says “there’s no mystery in Russia pursuing its interests.” Indeed. And there wasn’t any about Nazi Germany or the Communist USSR doing so either. Here the full load of crap, with LR’s running commentary:
Russian commentators citing Winston Churchill’s memorable but often misquoted 1939 radio speech “It [Russia] is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” regularly omit the adjoining insight that, when seeking to predict Russia’s response to any event, the key is: “Russian national interest.” There is nothing mysterious about the Kremlin’s robust defence of national interest. Like any other government, it is simply protecting what it holds important for the country and for its people. It surprises me that anyone questions whether Russia should rightly, proudly, fairly protect its interests. Russian businesses, especially those championing the drive to the international capital markets, must naturally do the same.
LR: Can you imagine a Gestapo officer writing “it surprises me that anyone questions whether Nazi Germany should rightly, proudly, fairly protect its interests”? Can you imagine what Russians would say if Shamil Basaeyev wrote “it surprises me that anyone questions whether Chechnya should rightly, proudly, fairly protect its interests”?
Rusal commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit to conduct a study, including interviews with 300 multinational chief executives, into perceptions of Russian business. The report, The Russians are Coming: Understanding Emerging Multinationals, makes compelling but at times alarming reading.
LR: Only Rusal, huh? Kremlin had nothing to do with it, right? Ummm . . . ok. If you say so, dude.
The emergence of new multinationals in Russia is part of a broader global phenomenon. As economic power has shifted towards emerging markets, Asian and Latin American companies were the first to break on to the global business scene. Russian companies are relative latecomers but their expansion, facilitated by oil liquidity, has been rapid. Russia is now the third largest foreign investor among emerging markets. The emergence of Russia as a global player has clearly surprised the established business world. Some chief executives interviewed by the EIU saw the extent of the corporate advance as a strategic move by the Kremlin to entrench Russia’s geopolitical influence. Russian companies were perceived by some as having poor management practices and structures, using outmoded and defunct technology. Such misinformed views greatly disturb me.
LR: “third largest foreign investor among emerging markets” in translation means “third least poor of all the desperately poor, backward countries, sucking up wealth from the people to play silly power games.
Chief executives doing business in or with Russia had a more positive view: they recognised that Russia had changed and for some time now had offered first-rate opportunities for growth. Several suggested it was vital that a broader spectrum of the international business community recognised that Russian business was primarily driven by commercial logic and competitive advantage not by political agendas.
LR: Notice how he doesn’t quote a single “chief executive”?
The rapid pick-up in Russian investment abroad is driven by factors such as gaining critical mass to survive consolidation; gaining access to new markets, raw materials, technology transfer and management know-how; coping with excess liquidity; and the lack of expansion opportunities at home. Russian companies enjoy significant competitive advantages over established players: emerging markets know-how, a powerful but flexible corporate structure, liquidity, a highly educated staff pool and enormous ambition. These characteristics allow Russian businesses to act quickly, operate at low cost and consider acquisitions in emerging and developed markets that are too risky or problematic for other companies.
LR: “significant competitive advantages” in translation means Russians work for slave wages and perish before they need much healthcare or pension.
As the drive to listing and cross-border transactions continues, Russian business is adopting best practice, rising to the challenge of transparency. This commitment is far-reaching from operational structure and financial reporting to corporate citizenship and sustainable development. This cannot be a fast-tracked process. Changing behaviour and stripping away long-standing, stereotypical perceptions of Russia will happen in years, not months. Even for non-listed companies, there have been important changes in corporate governance and disclosure. Rusal, for example, has developed an 18-month corporate governance programme, with the help of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Finance Corporation, appointing an independent board among other activities. There is often less criticism of western private equity firms than of private Russian enterprises.
LR: “rising to the challenge of transparency” in translation means that those who dare to challenge the Kremlin with ideas of transparency, like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, go to prison in Siberia (if they’re lucky enough not to get poisoned or shot).
Russian companies are taking dramatic steps to shed a debilitating image: we are not only credible business partners, but real competitors to and, indeed, owners of, some of the world’s largest, most innovative companies. The combined strength of Rusal, Sual and the alumina assets of Glencore making an enlarged company and the number one player in the global aluminium industry demonstrates that the Russians are indeed coming. With the encouragement, understanding and healthy competition of the international business community, I am confident that the enigma image can be put aside for good.
LR: I bet if asked in 1999 he’d have said Russians wouldn’t have elected a proud KGB spy as their president. LR is confident that this neanderthal’s ravings can be put aside for good. But she’s not sure they will be, not in the neo-Soviet Union led by a proud KGB spy (note how he’s conspicuous by his absence from this venal little diatribe).