Daily Archives: April 28, 2008

April 28, 2008 — Contents

MONDAY APRIL 28 CONTENTS

(1) EDITORIAL: Running on Empty

(2) Kasparov on the Olympics Fraud

(3) Annals of Neo-Soviet Hypocrisy

(4) Russia, Imploding (again)

(5) Holdomor and Genocide

(6) Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Journalism

(7) More Sports Humiliation for Russia

NOTE: A newspaper and a human rights group shut down in Russia using the so-called “Anti-Extremism Law.” Think it’s only “local” and the Kremlin is not involved? Then check out #6 above and eat your thoughts. Publius Pundit has all the horrifying details, check it out (and feel free to send in an e-mail comment, Publius is now publishing reader comments as blog posts — you can make the big time!).

EDITORIAL: Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

EDITORIAL

Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

Most Russians don’t know that sickening feeling of driving on a lonely road and realizing that you are running on empty, about to run out of gas and be stranded all alone. They don’t know it because, with an average wage of $4/hour, they can’t afford to buy a car (Russia does not rank in the top 55 nations of the world in automobiles per capita, Mexico for instance has far more; likewise, Russia is not in the world’s top 50 countries ranked for per capita purchasing power GDP) — and even if they could, the spiking price of gasoline at the pump would preclude them from using it. That’s to say nothing of the horrifying prospect of dealing with corrupt police officials at virtually every intersection, or Russia’s horrific rate of highway fatalities — Russian roads are among the most dangerous in the world.

It’s quite strange, of course, to read that Russians are being oppressed by the rising cost of gasoline, since Russia is a world leader in oil production. One would think that at least one benefit of living in Russia would be cheap gas. But in fact, we’ve previously reported on how Russian oil production is falling off fast. Those who hope that Russia can replenish its production by developing offshore fields may be barking up the wrong oil derrick. The energy industry trade publication Upstream Online (hat tip: Robert Amsterdam) reported on April 18th:

Russia needs 61 trillion rubles ($2.6 trillion) of investment to develop offshore oil and gas deposits, Rosneft boss Sergei Bogdanchikov has claimed. Exploration alone of offshore regions until 2050 will cost 16 trillion rubles and production 45 trillion rubles more, Bogdanchikov told reporters and government officials in Moscow today.

UpstreamOnline also reports:

Russian gas giant Gazprom has booked a a worse than predicted 20% fall in second-quarter net profit, blaming lower sales in Europe and higher operating costs. Net profit fell to 113 billion roubles ($4.62 billion), to International Financial Reporting Standards, from 141 billion roubles in the same period last year and below the average of 129 billion roubles in a Reuters poll of 11 analysts. Revenue rose 5% to 532 billion roubles, in line with forecasts, but the bottom line was hurt by high operating expenses, which jumped 18% year-on-year to 390 billion roubles. Gazprom’s total long-term borrowings, including affiliates, rose to 1.105 trillion roubles from 806 billion roubles at the end of 2006.

So Russian gas and oil fields are running dry, trillions are needed to refurbish them, and Gazprom is deep in debt, unable to provide such funds. Blogger Tim Newman of White Sun of the Desert, who works in the Russian energy sector, adds:

The $2.6 trillion required by Gazprom and Rosneft is only that amount needed to develop Russia’s offshore fields. The onshore developments will need separate funding, as in Upstream Online tells us: “Gazprom Neft, which expects Gazprom to hand over the right to develop all of Gazprom’s 11 oilfields within the next two to three years, has said it plans to invest up to $4 billion per year to 2020, or around $50 billion, to boost output.” $4bn per year is one hell of a lot of money for a single company to invest in oil and gas projects, if not much beside the $62bn per year that they say they are going to have to come up with to develop the offshore fields. Bear this in mind next time you hear about Gazprom investing in trans-saharan pipelines, Libya, and Nigeria. Despite the political rhetoric and talks of the massive potential and influence of Gazprom, it is Russia’s most indebted company. In other words, Gazprom is unlikely to be in much of a position to be financing mega-projects any time soon, and if it is going to sink billions into places like Africa, having never run a major project on home soil let alone in a political minefield like Nigeria, Russians might be waiting a while for their offshore gas receipts.

If the #1 best indicator of the total failure of the Putin administration in Russia is the country’s rapidly declining population (Putin’s policies are wiping out Russians with Hitlerian efficiency), then surely the second-best sign is the decimation of Russia’s energy sector. Russia could, of course, solicit foreign investment to provide the needed sums, but then it would have to share the profits and the control, and it’s currently in the process of enacting legislation to make this illegal out of pure neo-Soviet paranoia. The Kremlin imagines that it can simply bleed the nation white, just as was done in Soviet times, using the funds from oil and gas proceeds not to develop the nation or even the energy sector, but to wage a new cold war with the West. Meanwhile, just as in Soviet times, the energy sector and the people themselves get sicker and sicker until finally there is a massive collapse.

Speaking at Harvard University in November 2006 Martin Dewhirst, an Oxford-trained Russia scholar who during the Cold War mixed lecturing at the University of Glasgow with translation work for Radio Liberty in Munich, said of Putin’s Russia:

“To call it post-Soviet Russia is a little bit premature. Neo-Soviet Russia might be a more appropriate term.” He said he was glad Andrei Sakharov died in 1989. The nuclear physicist who personified anti-Soviet dissent, said Dewhirst, “would have died of a broken heart in the 1990s.” Post-Soviet” does not convey the right perception to either scholars or to a reading public outside Russia, said Dewhirst, who prefers the retrograde power of the term “neo-Soviet.”

Marina Khazanov, who teaches Russian in the Department of Modern Languages at Boston University, disagreed: “If it’s a neo-Soviet regime, there is no hope. And there is hope.” She pointed to “completely free” newspapers still publishing, and to Russian movies and literature free of Soviet-style repression. One must wonder if, two years later, Ms. Khazanov still thinks so, and indeed whether she now worries that she contributed, in her small way, to delaying opposition to the neo-Soviet state, helping it consolidate power.

Russia replaced the USSR after the most recent collapse. What will replace Russia after the coming one?


EDITORIAL: Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

EDITORIAL

Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

Most Russians don’t know that sickening feeling of driving on a lonely road and realizing that you are running on empty, about to run out of gas and be stranded all alone. They don’t know it because, with an average wage of $4/hour, they can’t afford to buy a car (Russia does not rank in the top 55 nations of the world in automobiles per capita, Mexico for instance has far more; likewise, Russia is not in the world’s top 50 countries ranked for per capita purchasing power GDP) — and even if they could, the spiking price of gasoline at the pump would preclude them from using it. That’s to say nothing of the horrifying prospect of dealing with corrupt police officials at virtually every intersection, or Russia’s horrific rate of highway fatalities — Russian roads are among the most dangerous in the world.

It’s quite strange, of course, to read that Russians are being oppressed by the rising cost of gasoline, since Russia is a world leader in oil production. One would think that at least one benefit of living in Russia would be cheap gas. But in fact, we’ve previously reported on how Russian oil production is falling off fast. Those who hope that Russia can replenish its production by developing offshore fields may be barking up the wrong oil derrick. The energy industry trade publication Upstream Online (hat tip: Robert Amsterdam) reported on April 18th:

Russia needs 61 trillion rubles ($2.6 trillion) of investment to develop offshore oil and gas deposits, Rosneft boss Sergei Bogdanchikov has claimed. Exploration alone of offshore regions until 2050 will cost 16 trillion rubles and production 45 trillion rubles more, Bogdanchikov told reporters and government officials in Moscow today.

UpstreamOnline also reports:

Russian gas giant Gazprom has booked a a worse than predicted 20% fall in second-quarter net profit, blaming lower sales in Europe and higher operating costs. Net profit fell to 113 billion roubles ($4.62 billion), to International Financial Reporting Standards, from 141 billion roubles in the same period last year and below the average of 129 billion roubles in a Reuters poll of 11 analysts. Revenue rose 5% to 532 billion roubles, in line with forecasts, but the bottom line was hurt by high operating expenses, which jumped 18% year-on-year to 390 billion roubles. Gazprom’s total long-term borrowings, including affiliates, rose to 1.105 trillion roubles from 806 billion roubles at the end of 2006.

So Russian gas and oil fields are running dry, trillions are needed to refurbish them, and Gazprom is deep in debt, unable to provide such funds. Blogger Tim Newman of White Sun of the Desert, who works in the Russian energy sector, adds:

The $2.6 trillion required by Gazprom and Rosneft is only that amount needed to develop Russia’s offshore fields. The onshore developments will need separate funding, as in Upstream Online tells us: “Gazprom Neft, which expects Gazprom to hand over the right to develop all of Gazprom’s 11 oilfields within the next two to three years, has said it plans to invest up to $4 billion per year to 2020, or around $50 billion, to boost output.” $4bn per year is one hell of a lot of money for a single company to invest in oil and gas projects, if not much beside the $62bn per year that they say they are going to have to come up with to develop the offshore fields. Bear this in mind next time you hear about Gazprom investing in trans-saharan pipelines, Libya, and Nigeria. Despite the political rhetoric and talks of the massive potential and influence of Gazprom, it is Russia’s most indebted company. In other words, Gazprom is unlikely to be in much of a position to be financing mega-projects any time soon, and if it is going to sink billions into places like Africa, having never run a major project on home soil let alone in a political minefield like Nigeria, Russians might be waiting a while for their offshore gas receipts.

If the #1 best indicator of the total failure of the Putin administration in Russia is the country’s rapidly declining population (Putin’s policies are wiping out Russians with Hitlerian efficiency), then surely the second-best sign is the decimation of Russia’s energy sector. Russia could, of course, solicit foreign investment to provide the needed sums, but then it would have to share the profits and the control, and it’s currently in the process of enacting legislation to make this illegal out of pure neo-Soviet paranoia. The Kremlin imagines that it can simply bleed the nation white, just as was done in Soviet times, using the funds from oil and gas proceeds not to develop the nation or even the energy sector, but to wage a new cold war with the West. Meanwhile, just as in Soviet times, the energy sector and the people themselves get sicker and sicker until finally there is a massive collapse.

Speaking at Harvard University in November 2006 Martin Dewhirst, an Oxford-trained Russia scholar who during the Cold War mixed lecturing at the University of Glasgow with translation work for Radio Liberty in Munich, said of Putin’s Russia:

“To call it post-Soviet Russia is a little bit premature. Neo-Soviet Russia might be a more appropriate term.” He said he was glad Andrei Sakharov died in 1989. The nuclear physicist who personified anti-Soviet dissent, said Dewhirst, “would have died of a broken heart in the 1990s.” Post-Soviet” does not convey the right perception to either scholars or to a reading public outside Russia, said Dewhirst, who prefers the retrograde power of the term “neo-Soviet.”

Marina Khazanov, who teaches Russian in the Department of Modern Languages at Boston University, disagreed: “If it’s a neo-Soviet regime, there is no hope. And there is hope.” She pointed to “completely free” newspapers still publishing, and to Russian movies and literature free of Soviet-style repression. One must wonder if, two years later, Ms. Khazanov still thinks so, and indeed whether she now worries that she contributed, in her small way, to delaying opposition to the neo-Soviet state, helping it consolidate power.

Russia replaced the USSR after the most recent collapse. What will replace Russia after the coming one?


EDITORIAL: Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

EDITORIAL

Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

Most Russians don’t know that sickening feeling of driving on a lonely road and realizing that you are running on empty, about to run out of gas and be stranded all alone. They don’t know it because, with an average wage of $4/hour, they can’t afford to buy a car (Russia does not rank in the top 55 nations of the world in automobiles per capita, Mexico for instance has far more; likewise, Russia is not in the world’s top 50 countries ranked for per capita purchasing power GDP) — and even if they could, the spiking price of gasoline at the pump would preclude them from using it. That’s to say nothing of the horrifying prospect of dealing with corrupt police officials at virtually every intersection, or Russia’s horrific rate of highway fatalities — Russian roads are among the most dangerous in the world.

It’s quite strange, of course, to read that Russians are being oppressed by the rising cost of gasoline, since Russia is a world leader in oil production. One would think that at least one benefit of living in Russia would be cheap gas. But in fact, we’ve previously reported on how Russian oil production is falling off fast. Those who hope that Russia can replenish its production by developing offshore fields may be barking up the wrong oil derrick. The energy industry trade publication Upstream Online (hat tip: Robert Amsterdam) reported on April 18th:

Russia needs 61 trillion rubles ($2.6 trillion) of investment to develop offshore oil and gas deposits, Rosneft boss Sergei Bogdanchikov has claimed. Exploration alone of offshore regions until 2050 will cost 16 trillion rubles and production 45 trillion rubles more, Bogdanchikov told reporters and government officials in Moscow today.

UpstreamOnline also reports:

Russian gas giant Gazprom has booked a a worse than predicted 20% fall in second-quarter net profit, blaming lower sales in Europe and higher operating costs. Net profit fell to 113 billion roubles ($4.62 billion), to International Financial Reporting Standards, from 141 billion roubles in the same period last year and below the average of 129 billion roubles in a Reuters poll of 11 analysts. Revenue rose 5% to 532 billion roubles, in line with forecasts, but the bottom line was hurt by high operating expenses, which jumped 18% year-on-year to 390 billion roubles. Gazprom’s total long-term borrowings, including affiliates, rose to 1.105 trillion roubles from 806 billion roubles at the end of 2006.

So Russian gas and oil fields are running dry, trillions are needed to refurbish them, and Gazprom is deep in debt, unable to provide such funds. Blogger Tim Newman of White Sun of the Desert, who works in the Russian energy sector, adds:

The $2.6 trillion required by Gazprom and Rosneft is only that amount needed to develop Russia’s offshore fields. The onshore developments will need separate funding, as in Upstream Online tells us: “Gazprom Neft, which expects Gazprom to hand over the right to develop all of Gazprom’s 11 oilfields within the next two to three years, has said it plans to invest up to $4 billion per year to 2020, or around $50 billion, to boost output.” $4bn per year is one hell of a lot of money for a single company to invest in oil and gas projects, if not much beside the $62bn per year that they say they are going to have to come up with to develop the offshore fields. Bear this in mind next time you hear about Gazprom investing in trans-saharan pipelines, Libya, and Nigeria. Despite the political rhetoric and talks of the massive potential and influence of Gazprom, it is Russia’s most indebted company. In other words, Gazprom is unlikely to be in much of a position to be financing mega-projects any time soon, and if it is going to sink billions into places like Africa, having never run a major project on home soil let alone in a political minefield like Nigeria, Russians might be waiting a while for their offshore gas receipts.

If the #1 best indicator of the total failure of the Putin administration in Russia is the country’s rapidly declining population (Putin’s policies are wiping out Russians with Hitlerian efficiency), then surely the second-best sign is the decimation of Russia’s energy sector. Russia could, of course, solicit foreign investment to provide the needed sums, but then it would have to share the profits and the control, and it’s currently in the process of enacting legislation to make this illegal out of pure neo-Soviet paranoia. The Kremlin imagines that it can simply bleed the nation white, just as was done in Soviet times, using the funds from oil and gas proceeds not to develop the nation or even the energy sector, but to wage a new cold war with the West. Meanwhile, just as in Soviet times, the energy sector and the people themselves get sicker and sicker until finally there is a massive collapse.

Speaking at Harvard University in November 2006 Martin Dewhirst, an Oxford-trained Russia scholar who during the Cold War mixed lecturing at the University of Glasgow with translation work for Radio Liberty in Munich, said of Putin’s Russia:

“To call it post-Soviet Russia is a little bit premature. Neo-Soviet Russia might be a more appropriate term.” He said he was glad Andrei Sakharov died in 1989. The nuclear physicist who personified anti-Soviet dissent, said Dewhirst, “would have died of a broken heart in the 1990s.” Post-Soviet” does not convey the right perception to either scholars or to a reading public outside Russia, said Dewhirst, who prefers the retrograde power of the term “neo-Soviet.”

Marina Khazanov, who teaches Russian in the Department of Modern Languages at Boston University, disagreed: “If it’s a neo-Soviet regime, there is no hope. And there is hope.” She pointed to “completely free” newspapers still publishing, and to Russian movies and literature free of Soviet-style repression. One must wonder if, two years later, Ms. Khazanov still thinks so, and indeed whether she now worries that she contributed, in her small way, to delaying opposition to the neo-Soviet state, helping it consolidate power.

Russia replaced the USSR after the most recent collapse. What will replace Russia after the coming one?


EDITORIAL: Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

EDITORIAL

Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

Most Russians don’t know that sickening feeling of driving on a lonely road and realizing that you are running on empty, about to run out of gas and be stranded all alone. They don’t know it because, with an average wage of $4/hour, they can’t afford to buy a car (Russia does not rank in the top 55 nations of the world in automobiles per capita, Mexico for instance has far more; likewise, Russia is not in the world’s top 50 countries ranked for per capita purchasing power GDP) — and even if they could, the spiking price of gasoline at the pump would preclude them from using it. That’s to say nothing of the horrifying prospect of dealing with corrupt police officials at virtually every intersection, or Russia’s horrific rate of highway fatalities — Russian roads are among the most dangerous in the world.

It’s quite strange, of course, to read that Russians are being oppressed by the rising cost of gasoline, since Russia is a world leader in oil production. One would think that at least one benefit of living in Russia would be cheap gas. But in fact, we’ve previously reported on how Russian oil production is falling off fast. Those who hope that Russia can replenish its production by developing offshore fields may be barking up the wrong oil derrick. The energy industry trade publication Upstream Online (hat tip: Robert Amsterdam) reported on April 18th:

Russia needs 61 trillion rubles ($2.6 trillion) of investment to develop offshore oil and gas deposits, Rosneft boss Sergei Bogdanchikov has claimed. Exploration alone of offshore regions until 2050 will cost 16 trillion rubles and production 45 trillion rubles more, Bogdanchikov told reporters and government officials in Moscow today.

UpstreamOnline also reports:

Russian gas giant Gazprom has booked a a worse than predicted 20% fall in second-quarter net profit, blaming lower sales in Europe and higher operating costs. Net profit fell to 113 billion roubles ($4.62 billion), to International Financial Reporting Standards, from 141 billion roubles in the same period last year and below the average of 129 billion roubles in a Reuters poll of 11 analysts. Revenue rose 5% to 532 billion roubles, in line with forecasts, but the bottom line was hurt by high operating expenses, which jumped 18% year-on-year to 390 billion roubles. Gazprom’s total long-term borrowings, including affiliates, rose to 1.105 trillion roubles from 806 billion roubles at the end of 2006.

So Russian gas and oil fields are running dry, trillions are needed to refurbish them, and Gazprom is deep in debt, unable to provide such funds. Blogger Tim Newman of White Sun of the Desert, who works in the Russian energy sector, adds:

The $2.6 trillion required by Gazprom and Rosneft is only that amount needed to develop Russia’s offshore fields. The onshore developments will need separate funding, as in Upstream Online tells us: “Gazprom Neft, which expects Gazprom to hand over the right to develop all of Gazprom’s 11 oilfields within the next two to three years, has said it plans to invest up to $4 billion per year to 2020, or around $50 billion, to boost output.” $4bn per year is one hell of a lot of money for a single company to invest in oil and gas projects, if not much beside the $62bn per year that they say they are going to have to come up with to develop the offshore fields. Bear this in mind next time you hear about Gazprom investing in trans-saharan pipelines, Libya, and Nigeria. Despite the political rhetoric and talks of the massive potential and influence of Gazprom, it is Russia’s most indebted company. In other words, Gazprom is unlikely to be in much of a position to be financing mega-projects any time soon, and if it is going to sink billions into places like Africa, having never run a major project on home soil let alone in a political minefield like Nigeria, Russians might be waiting a while for their offshore gas receipts.

If the #1 best indicator of the total failure of the Putin administration in Russia is the country’s rapidly declining population (Putin’s policies are wiping out Russians with Hitlerian efficiency), then surely the second-best sign is the decimation of Russia’s energy sector. Russia could, of course, solicit foreign investment to provide the needed sums, but then it would have to share the profits and the control, and it’s currently in the process of enacting legislation to make this illegal out of pure neo-Soviet paranoia. The Kremlin imagines that it can simply bleed the nation white, just as was done in Soviet times, using the funds from oil and gas proceeds not to develop the nation or even the energy sector, but to wage a new cold war with the West. Meanwhile, just as in Soviet times, the energy sector and the people themselves get sicker and sicker until finally there is a massive collapse.

Speaking at Harvard University in November 2006 Martin Dewhirst, an Oxford-trained Russia scholar who during the Cold War mixed lecturing at the University of Glasgow with translation work for Radio Liberty in Munich, said of Putin’s Russia:

“To call it post-Soviet Russia is a little bit premature. Neo-Soviet Russia might be a more appropriate term.” He said he was glad Andrei Sakharov died in 1989. The nuclear physicist who personified anti-Soviet dissent, said Dewhirst, “would have died of a broken heart in the 1990s.” Post-Soviet” does not convey the right perception to either scholars or to a reading public outside Russia, said Dewhirst, who prefers the retrograde power of the term “neo-Soviet.”

Marina Khazanov, who teaches Russian in the Department of Modern Languages at Boston University, disagreed: “If it’s a neo-Soviet regime, there is no hope. And there is hope.” She pointed to “completely free” newspapers still publishing, and to Russian movies and literature free of Soviet-style repression. One must wonder if, two years later, Ms. Khazanov still thinks so, and indeed whether she now worries that she contributed, in her small way, to delaying opposition to the neo-Soviet state, helping it consolidate power.

Russia replaced the USSR after the most recent collapse. What will replace Russia after the coming one?


EDITORIAL: Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

EDITORIAL

Putin’s Russia, Running on Empty

Most Russians don’t know that sickening feeling of driving on a lonely road and realizing that you are running on empty, about to run out of gas and be stranded all alone. They don’t know it because, with an average wage of $4/hour, they can’t afford to buy a car (Russia does not rank in the top 55 nations of the world in automobiles per capita, Mexico for instance has far more; likewise, Russia is not in the world’s top 50 countries ranked for per capita purchasing power GDP) — and even if they could, the spiking price of gasoline at the pump would preclude them from using it. That’s to say nothing of the horrifying prospect of dealing with corrupt police officials at virtually every intersection, or Russia’s horrific rate of highway fatalities — Russian roads are among the most dangerous in the world.

It’s quite strange, of course, to read that Russians are being oppressed by the rising cost of gasoline, since Russia is a world leader in oil production. One would think that at least one benefit of living in Russia would be cheap gas. But in fact, we’ve previously reported on how Russian oil production is falling off fast. Those who hope that Russia can replenish its production by developing offshore fields may be barking up the wrong oil derrick. The energy industry trade publication Upstream Online (hat tip: Robert Amsterdam) reported on April 18th:

Russia needs 61 trillion rubles ($2.6 trillion) of investment to develop offshore oil and gas deposits, Rosneft boss Sergei Bogdanchikov has claimed. Exploration alone of offshore regions until 2050 will cost 16 trillion rubles and production 45 trillion rubles more, Bogdanchikov told reporters and government officials in Moscow today.

UpstreamOnline also reports:

Russian gas giant Gazprom has booked a a worse than predicted 20% fall in second-quarter net profit, blaming lower sales in Europe and higher operating costs. Net profit fell to 113 billion roubles ($4.62 billion), to International Financial Reporting Standards, from 141 billion roubles in the same period last year and below the average of 129 billion roubles in a Reuters poll of 11 analysts. Revenue rose 5% to 532 billion roubles, in line with forecasts, but the bottom line was hurt by high operating expenses, which jumped 18% year-on-year to 390 billion roubles. Gazprom’s total long-term borrowings, including affiliates, rose to 1.105 trillion roubles from 806 billion roubles at the end of 2006.

So Russian gas and oil fields are running dry, trillions are needed to refurbish them, and Gazprom is deep in debt, unable to provide such funds. Blogger Tim Newman of White Sun of the Desert, who works in the Russian energy sector, adds:

The $2.6 trillion required by Gazprom and Rosneft is only that amount needed to develop Russia’s offshore fields. The onshore developments will need separate funding, as in Upstream Online tells us: “Gazprom Neft, which expects Gazprom to hand over the right to develop all of Gazprom’s 11 oilfields within the next two to three years, has said it plans to invest up to $4 billion per year to 2020, or around $50 billion, to boost output.” $4bn per year is one hell of a lot of money for a single company to invest in oil and gas projects, if not much beside the $62bn per year that they say they are going to have to come up with to develop the offshore fields. Bear this in mind next time you hear about Gazprom investing in trans-saharan pipelines, Libya, and Nigeria. Despite the political rhetoric and talks of the massive potential and influence of Gazprom, it is Russia’s most indebted company. In other words, Gazprom is unlikely to be in much of a position to be financing mega-projects any time soon, and if it is going to sink billions into places like Africa, having never run a major project on home soil let alone in a political minefield like Nigeria, Russians might be waiting a while for their offshore gas receipts.

If the #1 best indicator of the total failure of the Putin administration in Russia is the country’s rapidly declining population (Putin’s policies are wiping out Russians with Hitlerian efficiency), then surely the second-best sign is the decimation of Russia’s energy sector. Russia could, of course, solicit foreign investment to provide the needed sums, but then it would have to share the profits and the control, and it’s currently in the process of enacting legislation to make this illegal out of pure neo-Soviet paranoia. The Kremlin imagines that it can simply bleed the nation white, just as was done in Soviet times, using the funds from oil and gas proceeds not to develop the nation or even the energy sector, but to wage a new cold war with the West. Meanwhile, just as in Soviet times, the energy sector and the people themselves get sicker and sicker until finally there is a massive collapse.

Speaking at Harvard University in November 2006 Martin Dewhirst, an Oxford-trained Russia scholar who during the Cold War mixed lecturing at the University of Glasgow with translation work for Radio Liberty in Munich, said of Putin’s Russia:

“To call it post-Soviet Russia is a little bit premature. Neo-Soviet Russia might be a more appropriate term.” He said he was glad Andrei Sakharov died in 1989. The nuclear physicist who personified anti-Soviet dissent, said Dewhirst, “would have died of a broken heart in the 1990s.” Post-Soviet” does not convey the right perception to either scholars or to a reading public outside Russia, said Dewhirst, who prefers the retrograde power of the term “neo-Soviet.”

Marina Khazanov, who teaches Russian in the Department of Modern Languages at Boston University, disagreed: “If it’s a neo-Soviet regime, there is no hope. And there is hope.” She pointed to “completely free” newspapers still publishing, and to Russian movies and literature free of Soviet-style repression. One must wonder if, two years later, Ms. Khazanov still thinks so, and indeed whether she now worries that she contributed, in her small way, to delaying opposition to the neo-Soviet state, helping it consolidate power.

Russia replaced the USSR after the most recent collapse. What will replace Russia after the coming one?


Kasparov on the Olympics

Garry Kasparov, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

The international community is justly concerned about China’s crackdown in Tibet in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. But perhaps some attention could be spared for the suffering of Russians ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, scheduled to take place in the Russian town of Sochi.

An International Olympic Committee official visited Sochi last week and remarked: “Here you start from nothing.” Jean-Claude Killy went on to say that the complete lack of infrastructure only meant it was “an incredible chance” to build a resort.

The original estimate for the Sochi Games was $12 billion, more than was spent on the last three Winter Olympics combined. Now the organizers are saying $20 billion, and it’s only 2008. This is only the beginning of yet another massive shift of Russian assets from public to private hands – this time under the cover of the Olympic rings.

Three weeks ago, I and other Russian opposition members held a press conference with residents of Sochi. We read aloud from a new law pertaining to the Olympic site. It gives the state the ability to confiscate as much land as it wants in the area, with no possible appeal. With one decision, people will lose their homes and businesses and will have no avenue of protest.

The government announced that it will soon begin to appropriate land, and that the current owners will get a “fair-market price,” which of course will be set by the government. During the IOC’s visit, a group of local protesters tried to unfurl an “SOS” banner and were physically attacked by the police.

President George W. Bush recently visited Vladimir Putin in Sochi and did not object to the Kremlin’s assault on private ownership. Perhaps this is the same “quiet diplomacy” advocated by U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley a few weeks ago, when he was asked about the Chinese crackdown in Tibet. In other words, we are not going to hear this U.S. president say “I am a Tibetan” any time soon.

I have had a painfully close-up view of over seven years of Western quiet diplomacy toward Russia. “Quiet diplomacy” can be roughly translated as, “we’ll cut a deal no matter what.” During this period we have moved from a frail new democracy to a KGB dictatorship. Based on such results, it is long past time to try something noisier.

Despite their bluster over missile defense, Kosovo and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, there are only two things that Mr. Putin and his gang really care about: total control inside of Russia and legitimacy outside of Russia.

Legitimacy in Western eyes is clearly important to Mr. Putin. Otherwise, why not simply change the constitution, or ignore it entirely, and remain as president for a third term? Why did he even bother with the rigged elections?

The answer: the hundreds of billions of dollars flowing out of Russia in the hands of Mr. Putin’s oligarchs need a safe home. London’s capital markets, Swiss banks, real estate, energy companies across Europe – this is where much of the Russian treasury has been going for the past eight years. In order to maintain such a cozy arrangement of mutual enrichment with the West, Russia must maintain a democratic façade.

I used to compare our vanishing democracy to that of countries like Venezuela and Zimbabwe. But events have shown how wrong I was to make such comparisons – and how unfair I was being to Hugo Chávez and Robert Mugabe. Venezuela’s Mr. Chávez, little more than an oil-empowered hooligan, actually lost a recent referendum on expanding his powers by 2%. Vladimir Churov of the Russian Central Election Committee would never have stood for such an embarrassment!

Even Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s old-fashioned despot, is too shy to publish victorious results in the latest elections. Perhaps Mr. Churov can be rented out to other would-be dictators who wish to maintain pleasant relations with the champions of democracy in America and the European Union.

After Mr. Putin’s handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, “won” the Russian presidency last March, the leaders of the free world lined up to congratulate him on, as German chancellor Angela Merkel put it, “a smooth transition of power.” Were phone calls made to celebrate a similar transition in Cuba, when Fidel Castro handed the reins to his brother?

Legitimizing their capital in the West is the Kremlin’s top priority, and those congratulatory phone calls to Mr. Medvedev were worth countless billions of dollars. The last hurdle, transition of power, has been surmounted with barely a word of protest from the leaders of the G-7 nations. The return of Silvio Berlusconi, a self-declared European “advocate” for Mr. Putin and his gang, can only make things worse.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of courage to criticize the rule of Fidel Castro or Kim Jong Il. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sounded quite tough criticizing Zimbabwe’s elections. But when it comes to nations like Russia and China, issues of basic human rights suddenly become “complicated.”

I am all for refusing to bless the Chinese show. But at the same time, it’s not fair to suddenly drag the world’s greatest athletes into a battle that politicians should have had the courage to fight. Will Russians have to wait until 2014 to see support for our own struggle for human rights?

Reuters reports:

Russian police clashed on Wednesday with local people opposed to the destruction of their homes under plans for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, during a tour by Olympic inspectors. A resident said police beat some people and detained several others at a local cemetery near the site for the main Olympic venues, during a traditional visit to relatives’ graves ahead of the Russian Orthodox Easter on Sunday. In a statement, police in the Black Sea resort of Sochi denied beating anyone, saying they were only trying to prevent a group of about 100 local residents from disrupting the IOC inspection. Locals in Nizhne-Imeretinskaya Bukhta have been protesting over the Olympic construction plans, which are likely to involve the demolition of some houses in the settlement, but deny they were planning to stage a protest there. “We were at the cemetery. Our village was surrounded by police. There were 200 of them. They did not let anyone in or out. They came to the cemetery and beat people up,” local resident Andrei Korutun told Reuters by telephone. One local official “grabbed my wife, who is pregnant, by the stomach and threw her to the ground,” he said. Police parked buses to conceal the cemetery from the visiting IOC officials, who were about 800 metres (yards) away at the time of the clashes, Korutun said. “We shouted out to them for help, we are sure they would have heard,” he added. Sochi police said in a statement that reports “in some media about a supposed fight between Sochi police officers and Sochi residents, about people being beaten, are not true.” Steps had been taken to ensure public order in line with normal practice in Russia and other countries, it added. Russian Olympic officials say very few homes will be demolished to make way for games venues, and that owners will be properly compensated.