Daily Archives: August 4, 2008

August 4, 2008 — Contents


(1) Another Original LR Translation: Essel on Russia by the Numbers

(2) EDITORIAL: The Trouble with Vladimir

(3) Putin’s “Divide and Conquer” Strategy for Europe

(4) The Dance of the Mad Swans

(5) A Neo-Soviet Ghetto Rises in Russia

(6) Annals of a Russian Sports Bloodbath

NOTE: Another stunning piece of work by Dave Essel (#1) opens another window into real life in Russia, and a second translation, by Robert Amsterdam’s translator at our request, is republished here as well (# 5). We continue to open doors to understanding the real Russia as nobody else in the world. As we say in our sidebar: “You don’t understand the real Russia unless you read La Russophobe.”

Another Original LR Translation: Essel on Russia by the Numbers

“So the total number of people who produce nothing and get their wages out of the [Russian] state budget or from wealthy fellow-citizens is 109,397,600.”

Russia by the Numbers

by Dave Essel

The R&F Agency, “established 1989”, claims on its website that it is the oldest immigration consultancy service in post-Soviet Russia. It offers legal and other advice on a whole range of immigration/emigration subjects, from e.g. how to apply for Canadian residence permits to where best in the West to buy housing and businesses. R&F’s home page goes on to say that “the main thing that distinguishes us from other companies is the asymmetricality of our approach to problem-solving and our non-traditional ways with typical situations.” And they’re not lying: for the sake of customer-entertainment, the site contains a couple of pages of general interest information. And these stun with their asymmetricality and an approach that is far from the traditional Russian one.

Here, to follow my short translation regarding Russia’s performance ratings compared to other nations in LR’s 1 August issue, is a longer piece of ‘sad fun’ published on the site. Whilst every fact may not be absolutely correct, as whole it presents a totally true and terrifying picture of the reality of Russia today. It is an interesting example of the illustrative power of concatenating statistics. To mangle metaphors to the max, read this and you will no longer wonder why Pooty and his Teddy Bear are turning blind eyes left, right and center and are keeping their heads firmly buried in the sand like ostriches

Russia: Statistics, Facts, Comments & Predictions

Before selling your dacha, car, and apartment, then packing your bags and emigrating to somewhere, it is highly advisable to find out about the place to which you are proposing to go, to enquire about how life is lived there from sources others that guide books and so on. The best thing to do is to speak with someone you know who has already been there and who knows all the little things about life in your proposed new country of residence.

Now let’s think about Russia in the same way and see what we can find.

Our consultant (a person from a very serious and powerful organisation) [TN: it could well be the person behind this blog] provided us with what to our mind is a load of very interesting statistics. We therefore consider it to be a good and useful thing to share this information with those of you who might be thinking of taking up Russian citizenship and residence – forewarned is fore-armed.

Russia covers an area of 17,075,400 square kilometres, over 45% of which are North of the Arctic Circle, where permafrost and polar nights reign. Russia’s frontiers run to 58,222 kilometres in length. The country has 157,895 towns and villages; of these 30,000 do not have a telephone service and 39,000 actually have no inhabitants. Most of these ghost town and villages are located in the Central Federal Region, the North-West, the Far North, Siberia, and the Far East.

Russia’s population, according to the latest figures available, is 132,000,000 people. Of these 74% (97,680,000) live in towns and town/villages. This breaks down further as follows (counting temporary registrations but not illegal migrants):

Moscow – 10,969,000
Moscow Region – 7,900,000
St. Petersburg – 6,897,000
Leningrad Region – 3,350,000

The following towns have populations of a 1 million or so:

Novosibirsk – 1,391,900
Yekaterinburg – 1,315,100
Nizhny Novgorod – 1,278,300
Samara – 1,139,000
Omsk – 1,134,800
Kazan – 1,116,000
Chelyabinsk – 1,091,500
Rostov-on-Don – 1,051,600
Ufa – 1,022,600
Perm – 990,200
Volgograd – 986,400.
Out of the total population:

• 81,840,000 (62) are people of pensionable age or approaching it;
• 1,736,000 are servicemen of all kinds (career military and national servicemen) and employees of military-related enterprises and scientific institutes (this figure includes 1,686 generals and admirals);
• 2,140,000 are serving members of the FSB, FSO, FPS, FAPSI, SVR, FMS, etc etc [TN: Federal Security Service (=KGB), Federal Protection Service, Federal Frontier Service, Federal Agency for Government Communications, Foreign Intelligence Service, Federal Migration Service);
• 2,270,000 are serving members of the Ministry for Emergency Situations, Ministry of the Interior [TN: police], Internal Armed Forces, Ministry of Justice, Narcotics Control, and State Prosecutor’s Office;
• 1,957,000 are employed in the customs, tax, sanitary and other inspections services;
• 1,985,000 are civil servants employed by federal ministries and organisations;
• 1,870,000 are civil servants in various authorities and local representation;
• 1,741,000 are civil servants in various licensing, inspection and registration bodies;
• 2,439,000 are clerks in pension, social service, state insurance and other offices;
• 797,000 are employed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and government representations abroad (UN, UNESCO etc) • 692,000 are priests and others involved in the maintenace of religious buildings and so on;
• 2,357,000 work as public notaries, in legal services, as lawyers, or are in prison;
• 1,775,600 work as security guards, detectives etc in private security agencies;
• 5,780,000 are unemployed (Rosstat figure).

So the total number of people who produce nothing and get their wages out of the state budget or from wealthy fellow-citizens is 109,397,600.

That leaves 22,602,400 to do everything else. That’s the lot of us and includes all small and middle-sized business, farmers, one-man businesses, and market traders. By the way, this number also includes babies, schoolchildren, students, housewives, homeless tramps, refugees, etc etc.

This also partly explains why Russia’s GNP is not much greater than that of Los Angeles county in the USA.

Only 20% of people in Russia think that the situation is calm and wealthy. Over half the country’s citizens (51%) believe that Russia is going down the wrong road and only 38% of respondents say the believe the country is going in the right direction. 18% of respondents say that they are well-off, 54% think they are badly-off but bearably so, 24% consider their situation to be “no longer tolerable”. 14% hope that their material situation will improve in the future. 22% think that it will get worse. 24% are prepared to take part in mass protests. 19% are prepared to go on strike. 64% of respondents do not have a good opinion of what the government is doing.

The majority of Russians in their daily lives use proverbs, sayings, and popular expressions; 66% use quotes from books, films and song lyrics; 61% use obscene language.

32% of Russians believe that a person’s fate can be affected by magic; 58% do not believe in magic or sorcery; 10% don’t know. Belief and disbelief in magic is distributed more or less evenly in both towns and rural areas. Only in Moscow do 74% of those questioned not believe in any occult sciences.

Over 40% of goods sold in Moscow are adulterated. The most frequently adulterated goods are vegetable oils and butter, condensed milk, tea, coffee, mineral water, bully beef, honey, and cakes. Topping the list we find: cottage cheese and products thereof, 40-45% of which do not conform to regulations; smetana (33.3%); kebabs (40%); salads (20%); and cakes (18%). These days, nearly 70% of prepared foods are made only to conform to the TU (technical conditions [TN: basic sanitary etc regulations] and not to GOST (actual defined state standards).

In Russia the price of vegetable oil has risen five times more than than the average European rise. Vegetables prices have risen 10 times more than in Europe. Amongst EU countries, the biggest food prices rises in April to May were to be found in Hungary – 2.4%; Slovenia – 1.7%; Finland – 1.3%. In Bulgaria and Greece prices actually went down – by 0.6% and 0.4% respectively.

Moscow has 257 public lavatories, St. Petersburg has 275. That’s one public lavatory for each 22,000 inhabitants, not counting tourists. And they all close at 7 p.m. (Ancient Rome had 144 public lavatories.)
The number of lifts (elevators) that have served beyond their designed safe service time is 36% in Moscow and 49% in St. Petersburg.

Municipal open-air spaces for overnight parking cost 4600 roubles a month – for 2×5 metres of bare tarmac.
Rent on a 60.5 square metre (650 sq.ft) government housing project apartment with three inhabitants is 1800 roubles a month including utilities (heating, hot & cold water, waste, gas, entryphone, TV antenna, garbage collection, stairwell cleaning, and yard maintenance. The basic shopping basket on consumer goods in Russia consists of 407 goods and services. In England it is 650.

According to Agent 002 Realtor Agency, the cost of 1 square metre in an élite apartment in Moscow now exceeds $109,000. The most expensive residences are now to be found on Zachatyevsky, Korobeinikov, Chisty, and Butikovsky Lanes (by Kropotkinskaya Metro station). Apartments cost between $40,000 and $80000 near the Park Kultury, Polyanka, Arbatskaya, and Smolenskaya Metro stations. The most expensive apartment currently on offer is priced at over $22 million. The most expensive apartment on offer in the SW District is priced at $8.19 million and in the W District at $7.42 million.

Russia today has 87 billionaires with a combined capital of $471.4 billion.

The average pension in Russia is 3000 roubles per month. It costs 6800 roubles per month to keep one person in a strict régime labour camp.

According to RBK [RosbiznesKonsulting] Magazine (Issue 11, 2007, p42) the national and ethnic makeup of Moscow is as follows:

Russian 31%
Azerbaizhanian 14%
Tatars, Bashkirs, Chuvash 10%
Ukrainians 8%
Armenians 5%
Tadzhiks, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kirghyz 5%
Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese 5%
Chechens, Daghestani, Ingush 4%
Byelorussians 3%
Georgians 3%
Moldavians 3%
Gypsies 3%
Jews 2%
Others 4%

Over 11 million people live in Moscow and of these Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians together make up 4,260,000. In Russia’s capital the Slavs are an ethnic minority! [TN: here and elsewhere one cannot help but be struck by the unconscious Russian chauvinism of some thoughts.]

Just over 60 million roubles of state funding was allocated to dealing with problems of homeless and unsupervised juveniles.

Moscow’s budget include 87 million roubles a year for the sterilisation of feral animals. That worked out at 13,000 roubles per sterilisation. And 27 million more roubles than was spent on homeless children. Over 30,000 people get bitten by dogs in Moscow every year. In Kazan, in just one week 3 people were killed by wild dogs.

In Moscow, hundreds of people suffer from hypothermia every year and 25% of them die.

Moscow has recently closed down a chain of Chinese restaurants which was selling as lamb dishes that actually were made of feral dogs. The Chinese cooks slaughtered the dogs right in the restaurant kitchens and served the dishes as specialities to their fellow-citizens and as lamb to Russians. They didn’t waste much either; the dogs’ intestines were used to prepare soup base. The figures for 2004 show over 4 million Chinese living in Russia.

Russia has over 20,000,000 people professing Islam as their religion, who officially consider themselves Moslems. At the same time, the number of genuine Russian Orthodox is no more than 6,000,000 (4.5%). The number of Moslems in Russia has risen by over 40% in the last 15 years. There are more Azerbaizhanians in Moscow than there are in Baku (and more Tatars than there are in Kazan). By the middle of this century one in four Russian citizens will be a Moslem. Moslem leaders are demanding that Russian Orthodox symbols be removed from the state coat of arms. If the numbers of Moslems continues to grow at today’s rate, the Moslem community will soon be raising the question of having a Moslem vice-president. It was maybe with this situation in mind that Vladimir Putin asked the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to accept Russia in its ranks.

In 2007 Russia allocated 800 million roubles of state funding for the development of Islam in the country, we are told by Alexei Grishin, an advisor to the Presidential Administration’s department of internal policy-making. “Cooperation between the state and Moslem organisations is managed at many levels and in a number of directions”, he commented. The main trend would appear to be support for Islamic education, for which the government allocated 400 million roubles last year.

Only 8% of citizens attend Russian Orthodox services at least once a month. 18% attend once a year. 15% less frequently than that. 59% never go to church. 2% make confession once a month or more; 6% a few times a year; 10% once a year or less frequently. 21% did not understand the question.

According to spokespeople for the National Organisation of Russian Moslems, each Friday at least three Russians convert to Islam in St. Petersburg. Most of these converts are of student age. A second mosque will open in St. Petersburg in November, not far from the Pionerskaya Metro station. The old mosque by Gorkovsky Metro station has room for 7,000 worshippers but that is not enough to accommodate all those wishing to worship the Almighty.

Number of officially registered:

Disabled over 12,000,000
Alcoholics over 4,580,000
Drug addicts over 1,870,000
Psychologically ill 978000
Tubercular approx 570,000
Hypertensives over 22,400,000

Over 30 people per day join the ranks of the HIV+ in St. Petersburg. Analysts forecast that there will be over 8 million HIV+ in Russia by 2010.

Russia occupies the #2 place in the world for the distribution of counterfeit or adulterated medicines. 92% of medicines sold through drugstores are counterfeit or have passed their sell-by date. The usual thing is for insufficient quantities of the active ingredient to be added to the medication or for there to be none at all – placebos containing perhaps some honey and starch. Sales of counterfeit medication is valued at 300 million Euro.

Roszdravnadzor [the public health inspectorate] has begun drafting a law on medications permitting clinical trials of medicines using children. According to current law, research into the effects of medical preparations using minors is not permitted.

In 2007, Russia’s international rating from Transparency International for corruption went down sharply. Last year, Russia was placed 126th but this year it is 143rd, on a level with Gambia, Indonesia, and Togo. The World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group Doing Business’ 2008 rating places Russia 106th, just above Tadzhikistan. In that organisation’s section on “licensing as a way of promoting business”, Russia earns itself 177th place out of 178, just one step above Eritrea.

The real volume of corruption in Russia is greater than the country’s economic growth. And it won’t get any better since the law enforcement sector was increased in size by 2% in 2006, the law courts segment by 3.8%, and enforcement by 20.4%. The Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service increased in size by 176% and now employs 20,469 people. The number of employees of the RF Prosecutor’s Office increased by 2,000. Rosstat’s [the Statistics’ Office] roster grew by 1.4% and now employs 23,796 people.

At 1 January 2008 Russia’s foreign debt was up by 38.7% over the previous year and stood at $430.9 billion. Also at 1 January 2008, the RF Stabilisation Fund stood at $156.81 billion [reserves being formed from the oil windfall]. Norway’s State Oil Fund held $220 billion in early 2006.

Between 1993 and 2006 capital outflow from Russia amounted to $190 billion. In 2005, $14.8 billion fled the country; in 2002 ‘only’ $9.2 billion did so. Capital outflow for the first six months of 2007 amounted, according to preliminary data, to $22.8 billion. In October 2007 the banks alone moved $2.6 billion of foreign currency out of Russia, a little over twice as much as the previous month. Cash transfers out of the country in October 2007 were $1 billion.

Retail vodka sales in 2006 were 2.12 billion litres – 80% more than the total legal production of all vodka distilleries in the country (1.35 billion litres). Excise tax on ethyl alcohol was paid on only 84.6% of the alcohol produced.

Moscow has just opened it first sobering-up station for underage alcoholics – the Children’s Narcological Dispensary with the 12th Narcological Clinic.

In early 2006, the public opinion researcher Globescan questioned 39,435 people in 33 countries. Their replies produced a list of the least popular countries in the world, with Iran, the USA, and Russia at its top. Around the world, Russia is least popular in Finland (65% negative feelings), France (62%), Poland (56%), Great Britain (50%), and South Korea (48%). Russia enjoyed the most popularity in Nigeria (55% positive).

In 2004, every 15th house sold for over £1 million in London went to a Russia. According to data from estate agents Knight, Frank, in 2003 Russians spent more than $93 million on homes in England. This went up to £396 million in 2004. In 2006, Russians spent £799 million. This means that Russians hgave so far spent £2,2 billion on property in the UK (the total value of the town of Merthyr Tydfil in Wales (pop. 55,000). Properties value at under £1 million were not included in this calculation.
Civil servants’ privileges include the use of 400,000 automobiles in a fleet worth about 1.5 billion pounds sterling.

By the end of 2006, local government employees (excluding law enforcement etc) numbered 1.58 million, up 7.9% over 2005. St. Petersburg civil servants earn more (average 34,722 roubles) than their Moscow counterparts (average 30,600 roubles).

An audit by the Counting Office [~the Treasury] found that as at 29 December 2003 the register of federal property abroad was only 3% complete. The value of that 3% was over $21 million. Not accounted for are an estimated $2.6 billion’s worth of property belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Transport, Chambers of Commerce and other organisations.

Russia has over 160 control bodies with the right to enter your property to conduct checks. Some of these (the Prosecutor’s Office, the FSB, the MVD, Customs) have the. right to draw up charges against you, decide if a crime is suispected, and carry out arrests.

In 2003, the Qualifications College discharged 68 judges from their posts and brought disciplinary charges against another 220. In 2004, 4 federal judges were sentence to actual prison terms of considerable length.

In Russia, the yearly total of bribes paid to court officials amounts to $210 million. Russia is #43 in a list of corrupt legal systems, putting it on a level with Venezuela, Chile, Congo, Morocco, and Senegal. The average size of bribe paid to court officials in 9,750 roubles.

The country’s judges rate 5th in a rating of the most corrupt branches of government, coming after higher education, ‘free’ medical assistance, call-up, and housing allocation. Russia’s citizens spend in the order of $3 billion a year on bribes.

Russia has an official list of a little over 1000 big-time criminals [TN: tellingly called ‘authorities’ in Russian!]. Of these some 200 consider themselves to be vory v zakone [lit. ‘thieves-in-law’, the criminal crème de la crème – the lawmakers of Russia’s criminal underworld]. The majority of vory v zakone are to be found in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Moscow, Leningrad and Tver Districts, and in the Krasnodar and Stavropol regions.

According to the Department of Personal Security of the State Department of Internal Affairs of St. Petersburg, the number of criminal charges brought against law enforcement officers has risen nine-fold since 2004. About 35% of the crimes committed by policemen are common-or-garden crimes such as robberies.

80% of officers in the Russian army frankly and openly admit to not feeling loyalty to the state. This should come as no surprise since 99% of the officers in the Russian Armed Forces come from children’s homes and never had a home of their own. This is the only logical explanation for the battle for officers’ housing being waged on all fronts by the Ministry of Defence since way back in Soviet times. It also explains the passion with which Russian generals (of whom the Ministry of Defence has over 1,500) carry on building personal villas (modestly denominated ‘dachas’). The actual number of soldiers doing their compulsory military service who are engaged in this building work is the army’s main military secret. Over 2,000 officers with criminal records continue to serve in the Russian armed forces. By 2015 Moslems will make up a majority of the soldiers and officers in the Russian army. The land holdings of the Russian military have an area greater than that of Austria and the Czech Republic combined, much of it prime land within city limits.

No new equipment was delivered to the Air Defence Force between 1994 and 2007. The Air Defence Force has for a long time been not much more than a shadow of its former self, providing protection to only a very few important potential targets. The cover it provides is full of holes, the largest being everything between Khabarovsk and Irkutsk (2,200 kms as the crow flies or 3,400 kms if the winding of the frontier is taken into account). Not even all the Strategic Missile Force’s divisions enjoy cover from the Air Defence Force, in particular the 7th, 14th, 28th, 35th, and 54th divisions. Such centres of Russian military-industrial production as Perm, Izhevsk, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, Tula, and Ulyanovsk do not have full air defence cover.

The Russian Navy has been reduced in size by 60% over the last 10 years. Of 62 nuclear submarines, 12 remain. Of 32 warships, 5 remain. Of 17 escorts only 9 remain and of these only 3 are in active service. As at November 2007, the navy has:

Aircraft carrier 1
Heavy missile craft 2 (1 in dry-dock)
Missile carriers 4
Destroyers 9 (4 in dry-dock)
Large submarine hunters 9
Small submarine hunters 31
Small missile craft 14
Minesweepers 51
Large landing craft 20
Small landing craft 21
Diesel submarines 15
Deep diving craft 10

Look at it this way: that’s more than enough to protect our oil pipelines.

Minister of Transport Igor Levitin supported a proposal by St. Petersburg city councillors to convert the Baltiisky Zavod Naval Works, the leading naval shipyard in NW Russia, into a pleasure port for cruise boats and yachts. The works occupy 64 hectares (158 acres) which it is proposed to turn into a business district.

Russia was unable to fulfil a Chinese order for 38 IL-76 cargo planes and IL-78 airborne refuelling craft and the contract has been put into abeyance. Earlier this year, Algeria returned a delivery of MiG-29 fighters bought from Russia on the grounds of poor quality. Russia’s latest fighter, the Su-35, is nothing more than an upgrade of a 20-year-old design and to compare it in terms of speed and stealth with the US F-22 Raptor is less than sensible.

In 2005, embezzlement to the tune of 19 billion roubles was found in military spending alone. Starting 2006, such information has been classified secret, just in case.

Military production plants managers sometimes refuse production contracts for the military because the required kickbacks mean the contracts have to be filled at a loss.

2,464 servicemen died as a result of crimes and accidents in the Russian Army last year. Of these, 469 were suicides. Data on physical harm done to soldiers undergoing military service in hazing incidents are not made public by the military. It’s as easy as pie to “serve your way to heaven” in the Russian army.

The Ministry of Defence plans to increase the pensionable age for senior officers. The Vice-Minister, General Nikolai Pankov, stated that lieutenant-colonels will no longer be able to retire at 45 but at 50, full colonels at 55, and generals at 60.

Military call-up continues to cost parents plenty. A price list of sorts actually exists: a leave of absence – 1-2,000 roubles; visitor entry to the unit – 50 roubles; also 500-800 roubles per month protection money to stop seniors from hazing you. Everyone – seniors, sergeants and officers – accepts the payments. As a result, parents are faced with a difficult choice: pay a bribe of $5,000 to buy your son out of the army, or spend over $10,000 during his 2-year stint and still risk having him hurt or made sick.

According to the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, between August 1999 and June 2007, in Chechnya alone, no fewer than 18,750 servicemen were killed. The number of wounded and crippled is easily calculated using the army’s standard rule of 1:5. Note additionally that the numbers of insurgents (by the way, also citizens of Russia) killed in the course of operation was another 16,900. And that’s killed alone.

Russia has written off Libya’s debt of $4.5 billion. Prior to that, it had already written off Afghanistan’s debt of $11.6 billion and Iraq’s of $12 billion. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani welcomed the move.

Russia has handed over to China parts of its island territories on the Amur river. Sceptics notwithstanding, this is said to have been done voluntarily with no loss of territory for Russia. On the contrary, the reasons for this action were pragmatic and in Moscow’s long-term interest. (Wording from a Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release).

According to the Central Bank of Russia, in the first 2 months of 2008, credits issued amounted to 15.449 trillion roubles. Furthermore, this was on a rising wave since credit given in February were 8.3% higher than in January. Problem debt is also on the rise. In the first three months of the year, repayment defaults rose by 11 billion roubles for a total of 107.4 billion.

Capital flight was also notable, staring in January, when $9 billion left the country. Back then, it was put down to foreigners divesting themselves of investments because the stock market was fluctuating violently. However, by February, things really got going and the total for the two months reached $20 billion. As the Ministry of Finance admits, this amount is more than after the default of 1998 when only the very lazy did not get their money out of the country.

Despite the fact that banks deposits earn at best 12% p.a., 20% of the population keeps its money in banks. 16% keep their money under their mattresses and over 60% have no savings to keep at all. Average monthly income per person in February this year was 8,092 roubles ($344).

But let’s go back to the question of population. Russia has given up on demographic matters. Not that it’s possible to do a detailed analysis of the demographic situation and get at the reasons for the low birth rate: since 1997 to date, data has not been gathered in any meaningful way. The birth rate has gone down in 79 Russian regions and the death rate has gone up in 60. There are 8 million abortions a year in Russia, 1.5% of them late-stage ones. 90,000! – A whole townfull of children killed for money.

The average life span of a Russian male is 59 years. Women survive to 72. Back in 2001, Russia was placed 100th in the longevity tables, already hopelessly behind dozens of developed countries: Russian men then died 15-19 years earlier than their counterparts and women 7-12 earlier. Now we have got ourselves a prize position at #122, ranking along with Guyana and North Korea. Not a great surprise really when the average salary is 5,522 roubles a month. The official minimum subsistence level is 2,493 roubles (1,747 for pensioner, 2,259 for children). 42,200,000 Russians earn less than this.

According to Rosstat, the cost of the minimal food basket in the capital is 1,819.6 roubles (in St. Petersburg it’s 1,647.2). The cheapest place to live is Tatarstan and Chuvashya where the same basket costs 1,277.8 roubles and 1,295.7 roubles respectively. The most expensive is Chukotka – 4,990.1 roubles.

Minister of Regional Development Vldimir Yakovlev thinks that migration and demographic matters are now the number one issue for the country. “There will soon be no one left to work in the country. Up to 60% of Russians are old people, children, and invalids. Of the 20 million people of working age, about 1 million are in prison camps for various crimes, 4 million are serving in the MVD, MChS and FSB systems. Another 4 million are chronic alcoholics with a million drug addicts on top of that,” he stated. The Minister then went on to add that male mortality in Russia was 4 times higher than female. “Loss of healthy men is on a scale similar to the USSR’s losses during WWII,” says Yakovlev.

The number of poor in Russia was down by early 2006 to ‘just’ 27,456,000 or 20.8% of the population. However the gap between rich and poor remains as great as ever, standing at 17:1 then as against 15:1 in 2005. For every 1,000 Russians of working age, there are over 600 of non-working age.

About 2 million children aged up to 14 are beaten by their parents, many to death. 50,000 children run away from home every year to escape domestic violence. 7,000 become victims of sexual crimes. Furthermore, over 2 million children are officially registered as orphans. In St. Petersburg 3,000 more orphans join their fellows every year.

The number of sex crimes against minors has gone up 25-fold. 129 such crimes were registered in 2003, over 3,000 in 2007. In 2007, 2,500 minors were killed and acts of violence committed against a further 70,500. The Russian Prosecutor’s Office stated than 161,00 crimes were committed against children in 2007 and that 2,500 children died as a result.

According to the Rosgosstrakh insurance agency, 160,000 people in Russia have incomes of over $1 million and 440,000 families earn more than $100,000.

According to the Ministry of Social Development, “180,000 people die yearly in Russia from the effects of harmful and dangerous manufacturing conditions” and over 200,00 suffer work-related injuries. 10,000 cases of work-related illnesses are registered each year and 14,000 people become invalids. Russia’s economic losses as a result of unhealthy working conditions costs the country the equivalent of 4% of GNP.

5 people die every minute in Russia, 3 are born. The death rate is 1.8 times that of the birth rate and in some regions 2-3 times.

Every year Russia loses the equivalent of the population of the Pskov district (or of the Karelian Republic or a large town like Krasnodar). Over the last 10 years, the population of the Far East has gone down 40% and of the Far North by 60%. In Siberia, 11,000 villages and 290 towns have disappeared. Deaths from cardiovascular diseases carry off in excess of 1,400,000 a year. Smoking kills 270,000 a year. Nearly 70% of men and over 30% of women smoke. 26,000 children fail to reach the age of 10 every year in Russia. 50 babies die at birth every day, 70% of them in maternity hospitals.

The ambulance stations in Ulyanovsk verge on the catastrophic: they are fuelled on credit and 70% of the vehicles an in an unfit state. In Omsk, 50-60 people a month die because of the late arrival of ambulances. Call for an ambulance in Vladimir and you will be told: “We don’t go out for people under 70.”

Roszdrav [public health service] is planning to release 750,000 socially dangerous psychiatric patients for “treatment in the community”. The police are preparing for extra work.

The State Duma is proposing to abolish some sections of the criminal law relating to the legal responsibility of doctors for negligence. Medical negligence causes 50,000 deaths a year.

Russia is getting older: the average age of the population is 37.7 years. The number of children under 16 has dropped sharply. The average Russian family consists of 2-3 people. It’s no use hoping for any sort of population growth given 8 million abortions a year even if there is a birth rate of sorts – all of 0.3% (402,000). However, in the whole of Russia excepting Daghestan and Ingushetia, the birth rate is lower than the natural replacement rate.

The country loses 1 million potential mothers every five years as they cease to be of birth-bearing age. There are twice as many abortions as births. According to the World Health organisation, we have 8 times as many abortions as the USA, 10 times as many as France and England, 20 times as many as the Netherlands. Badly performed abortions leave 20% of patients no longer being able to give birth. The average Russian woman has 2.1 abortions. 170,000 first-time pregnancies are terminated every year. 64.2% of all pregnancies are terminated by abortions. In Europe any figure above 25% is considered a catastrophe. One in five abortions are performed on minors. The number of Russian women unable to bear a child grows by 200-250,000 per year.

In Russia 30% of children are born out of wedlock. Ten years ago it was 14.6%. An interesting detail: in Russia there are 65,000 more married women than there are married men.

If UN-recorded growth and reduction rates continue the present trend, Yemen’s population will be larger than Russia’s by the middle of the 21st century.

On the other hand, if Russia continues its current raw-materials-based road to development, it will simply not need a population of than 50-60 million.

However, Russia’s persistently falling population is not just the result of “natural wastage”, as officials so delicately put it.

According to the State Prosecutor’s Office, the real level of crime in Russia is 3 times higher than that given in the statistics. In 2004, 1,000,246 crimes, including 5,635 murders, were unsolved. Over 150,000 people a year lose their lives as the result of crime (official MVD statistic).

Road accidents, of which there were 189,000 last year in Russia, lead to 35,000 deaths a year and a further 215,000 injured. Financial losses due to road accidents amounted to 243 billion roubles. All the above are rising at a rate of 16% a year.

The new MVD [police] uniform costs 34,000 roubles (~$1,500), twice as much as the current one. Instead of being green, the cloth of the new one is blue. The Trud sewing factory in St. Petersburg (proprietor: Taimuraz Bolloyev, the Chechen ex-owner of the Baltika Brewing Co.) has the contract. One third of the MVD’s force is to get the new uniforms – 870,000 people. This contract is worth 29,580,000,000 roubles. It would cost the same to give 10 million pensioners an extra month’s average pension.

Imports account for 95% of the clothing market in Russia.

The cost of 1km of ring road in St. Petersburg is $8.7 million. The cost of 1km of the Scandinavia Highway leading from Helsinki to the Russian border was $3.4 million.

The seizure by terrorists of the Norf-Ost theatre complex on Dubrovka in Moscow lasted 57 hours. All TV channels carried live broadcasts. Of the 912 hostages, 48 died when the the complex was stormed, 73 died in the buses to which they were taken and in hospital as a result of lack of medical care and because they were not given antidotes. 97 medals, included five ‘Hero of Russia’ Stars, were awarded to members of the storming party. One each went to soliders of the special force Vympel and Alfa groups. FSB Generals V. Pronichev and A. Tikhonov also got one. The fifth star was awarded to the chemist who infiltrated the gas into the building. Iosif Kobzon, the popular singer, was awarded the Order of Courage. Fifty Nord-Ost commemorative medals inscribed with the word “In sympathy” were awarded to members of Moscow City Hall.

34% of 500 St. Petersburgers questioned were in favour of single-sex couples being allowed to register their relationship. 17% wanted homosexual relationships to be re-criminalised.

According to the MChS [Ministry for Emergency Situations], there are about 300,000 fires every year in Russia in which about 20,000 people die and over 12,000 are injured. Losses from fires cost on average 17.2 million roubles a day. No fewer than 40,000 people die every year as a resulting of consuming bad alcohol.

Every local government sub-division of the Russian Federation is legally obliged to have financial and material reserves to be used in case of emergencies: to pay for emergency rescue work, house and feed victims, make one-off assistance payments to the needy etc. 83 local governments do have such reserves; only the Tyva Republic and Moscow District do not. Total material reserves are value today at 5.377 billion roubles (85.5% of what they are supposed to be). That averages out at 37.95 roubles per citizen. The highest reserves are held in the Chukotsk AR – 11,722 roubles per person and the lowest in the Ulyanovsk Oblast – 2.62 roubles per person. Only 9 local government subdivisions hold emergency reserves of more than 130 roubles per person. Emergency rescue funds for the whole of Russia amount to 11.37 billion roubles or 79.95 roubles per person. Indexed by region, we see Chukotsk AR with the highest (1368.58 roubles), Moscow (519.51 roubles), and St. Petersburg (273.45 roubles). Saratov oblast keeps aside 0.39 roubles per person.

Russia is the world’s #1 for premeditated murders – 21.5 per 100,000 people. Nearly 75% of premeditated murders, about 80% of acts of hooliganism, and up to 75% of rapes take place between 6pm and midnight. In 2005, the police registered 30,800 murders and attempted murders; 18,000 people died in this way. 14,000 left this world thanks to criminal driving offences, 15,000 died in fires, 20,000 disappeared without trace, and more than 40,000 unidentified bodies were found. Total: 137,800. In 2006, the police recorded 140,000 criminal deaths. You can add 58,000 suicides to this.

St. Petersburg’s crime-solving rate is the lowest in the country – 60%. It gets worse as the crimes get worse: only 23% of serious and especially serious crimes are solved.

Russia comes 3rd in the world for numbers of people in prison – 605 per 100,000. The USA is in front of us with 710. Behind us come Kazakhstan (598) and Byelorussia (505).

There are 58,000 suicides and 40,000 murders in Russia every year. Peak time for such death are in Spring.
Highest risk groups include called-up soldiers (up to 70% of suicides in the army are first-year soldiers doing their military service), prisoners (60% of their suicides take place in the first 3 months of incarceration or just before being let out), retired officers, and pensioners. According to the Social Security Agency, the young also commit suicide a lot – 53 per 100,000.

Between 12 and 14 million foreigners, of whom 8.8 million have no legal status, live within Russia’s borders. Recently this inflow of foreigners has begun to be seen as positive and has become almost a government policy to compensate for depopulation. At the same time, the country has 6 million Russian unemployed and 4 million homeless.

A state programme has been set up to encourage Russians to come back home from both the far and near abroads. Plans were drawn up for 50,000 such arrivals this year, rising to 100,000 and 150,000 in 2008 and 2009. The state allocated 4.5 billion roubles to this programme which also gets extra funding from the regions involved in it. 252.3 million roubles have already been expended: 400 people have been resettled.

In 2004, 49,821 foreigners were expelled from Moscow, twice as many as in 2003. According to the MVD, since the beginning of 2004, foreigners have committed 41,000 crimes – 20.6% more than in 2003. Most of these crimes consist of using false documents (27.6%), burglaries (17%), illegal drug trade (10.5%), to which can be added robberies, extortion, and assaults.

The most criminally active foreigners in Russia are citizens of other CIS countries. They account for 92% of the crimes committed. Particularly outstanding in this respect are Ukrainians (2004 share – 18.9%), Tadzhiks (16.1%), Uzbeks (12.6%). From the far abroad, criminality is most frequent among the Chinese, the Indians, and the Vietnamese.

Over 70% of teenagers in our country suffer from chronic illnesses. According to the Ministry of Health, 16% of Russian schoolchildren have tried drugs at least once, another 8% constitute a high risk group, and 3.1% of schoolchildren are actually addicted. 178 schoolchildren died of drug overdoses last year. As for higher education, 30% of students have used narcotics, 20% constitute a high-risk group, and 4.8% are drug addicts.

Russia is world #1 for number children and teenagers who smoke tobacco. According to the World Health Organisation, 33% of children and teenagers in Russia are regular smokers and many already suffer from smoking-related chronic illnesses by the age of eighteen.

The Unified State Exam (on finishing school) was passed with full marks of 100 by 496 pupils (0.05% of the 830,415 schoolchildren who took it). 2,000,000 Russian teenagers do not know how to read.

Russian literature as a subject is to be dropped as a compulsory subject for the Unified State Exam. School-leavers may still take the test voluntarily. This decision of the government’s is in line with the de-Russification of the Russian Federation and is on a par with the abolition of the “nationality” entry in Russian passports. Of course, one cannot force anyone to take an exam, but making Pushkin and Tolstoy ‘non-compulsory’ is basically to make Russian culture as a whole non-compulsory.

According to UNESCO figures, in 2007 a total of $520 million was spent on bribes in the higher education sector.

In 2003, 13,000 schools were closed because they failed to meet fire safety standards. The Ministry of Emergency Situations demanded this after checking fire safety in 150,000 schools. At greatest risk from fires were village schools, most of which were built right after WWII.

35 million people have left Russia in the last 35 years (Ministry of Foreign Affairs data). In that time, 3 million have immigrated legally, mostly from the republics of the former USSR.

Every year, in accordance with programmes for the acceptance of migrants and refugees from Russia

56,000 people leave for the USA
13,000 people, despite everything, choose Israel
12,000 people go to meet the Australian quota
9,000 smartly choose Germany
7,800 prefer Canada
6,900 marry foreigners and for some reason also leave the country.

Total 103,300 people per year, And of course they are of the most educated, businesslike, and energetic. Bear in mind that these are the official figures of those who registered officially for permanent resident abroad status. Who’s counting those who leave on tourist, student, and work visas and never come back?

Russia holds 3rd place in the world for number of science workers per million population – 3,494. Above us stand only Norway with 4,377 per million and Sweden with 5,186. On the other hand, try counting internet users: Russia only has 42.3 per thousand population while the numbers for Norway and Sweden are 502.6 and 573.1 respectively. Jamaica records 228.4 per thousand.

Experts estimate that about 20,000 Russian scientists are working for EC countries whilst still officially remaining employees of Russian scientific institutions, most of these of the “closed” [TN – i.e secret, military] type.

According to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit and IBM, Russia dropped last year from 48th to 55th place in a ranking of IT usage in 64 major economies. Only 5% of Russian families have internet access and the country spends only 1% of GNP on scientific research. Only 15% of families own a PC. 80% of the traffic on Runet [the Russian-language internet] consists of pornography downloads.

Russia heads the blacklist of countries where it is dangerous to fly. Civilian flights in Russia and the CIS end in disasters twice as frequently as in Africa and 13 times more frequently than the world average.

Passenger flights are now one-third as frequent as in the past and Russia now makes 10 times fewer aircraft. Between 2003 and 2005, Russia made 11-18 airfract a year. America’s Boeing and Europe’s Airbus each produce 350-400 aircraft every year.

Russia has 1,443 electric passenger and freight trains. They are between 70% and 100% worn out.

The human development potential index is one of several general indicators used to express a country’s level of development. Russia’s rating on this index is 0.795, giving it 57th place out of 177 and slotting it between Bulgaria and Libya.

America’s Heritage Foundation rates 155 countries for economic freedom. The most free economy in the world is Hong Kong’s, the least – North Korea’s. Estonia gets a surprisingly good rating – 4th place. Russia is #124, ahead of Romania and Cameroon but trailing Indonesia and Rwanda.

Reporters without Frontiers consider the worst place in the world for press freedom to be North Korea, which it lists in 168th place, Turkmenia – 167th, Eritrea – 166th. Byelorussia is in 151st place and Russia 147th.

Gazprom subsidiary GazPromMedia holds controlling shares in the NTV, TNT, NTV+, NTV-World and NTV-America television channels. It also controls the Ekho Moskvy, Radio Troika, Popular Radio 1, Do-Radio, Sport-FM radio channels, Sem Dnei Publishers (magazine publishing), the Tribuna newspaper, NTV-Kino film production company, film theatres, the NTV-Media advertising agency, Radio Next, the Izvestiya newspaper, Kommersant publishing. Additionally it is buying up Komsomolskaya Pravda, Express Gazeta, and is currently negotiating for the purchase of the RuTube website.

Russia’s central TV channels allocate 90% of news and informational airtime to positive news about the government. The independent Institute of Communications Science investigated the media and found that over 80% of Russia’s media are controlled by the state. The Council of the Federation is preparing an amendment to the media laws to make it a legal requirement for all websites which get more than 1000 hits a day to be registered as a mass medium as they will be considered to be such.

World oil production reached its maximum level in 2006, far earlier than many experts had expected. Oil production is set to fall from now on by about 7% a year. The world today produces 81 million barrels a day. Energy Watch Group’s experts believe that production may fall to 29 million bpd by 2030.

It will cease to be cost effective to produce a number of natural resources by 2013-2035, states a press release by the Counting Office of the Russian Federation, following a audit carried out between 2005 and 2007.

According to well-known politician Zbigniew Brzezinski Russia will cease to exist as a state by 2012.

Analysts at the Massachusetts Crisis Centre [TN: can’t find it in Google] reckon that a territory the size of Russia’s cannot be controlled by fewer than 50 million people (a population density of 2.9 persons per square kilometre). Compare this with some other population densities: Germany – 235 persons/sq.km; USA 26.97. Considering the data quoted above, Russia could be in this situation in 3-5 years’ time.

A decision has evidently already been taken about the country. Furthermore, it was taken quite some time ago.
And maybe that is why Russia’s politicians find it so easy to promise the electorate absolutely anything at all, so long as it is ten years hence. Consider: at today’s consumption/production rates, oil, uranium , copper, and gold reserves will be exhausted by 2015 and gas in 20-25 years’ time maximum. That will leave forestry. But who will be there to chop down the trees?…

By the way, only 11,700,000 of Russia’s citizens have passports for foreign travel.

Respondents were asked to select from a list what they considered to be the most important items. Alla Pugacheva’s [TN: vile Russian pop lady] wedding was the top choice, Litvinenko’s murder was 2nd, Russia’s sporting failures 3rd. Russians are just not interested in other things.

37% of Russian say their favourite stage artist is stand-up comic Yevgeni Petrosyan.

Afterword from R&F Agency:

So that’s how things stand, dear Russians….

NB: Any differences between figures given above and official statistics are NOT erroneous. It was by no means easy or simple to obtain the more accurate figures. R&F would be grateful for any assistance in establishing true numbers for the quantitative and qualitative composition of the Russian population within the RF and the diasporas.

Suggestion: Become part of your country’s history. Help in the popular re-write of the country’s official statistics!

Wish: We always welcome information that quotes sources.

Warning: Perception of the contents of this publication is a matter for the reader. Any textual analysis will be viewed as an act of personal creativity and will not be commented upon. Appeals to data published by the State Committee for Statistics will be considered as having the same level of probity as data from the Central Electoral Committee [TN: Nice one, R&F! Ram it home!] R&F will accept no complaints of any sort on such grounds.

A Word of Advice: If reading the above has generated negative emotions and feelings of dislike for the authors, these may easily be relieved by watching TV programmes such as Anshlag [a low amateur comedy show], Vremya [the news], Krivoye Zerkalo [Petrosyan’s comedy show], Selski Chas [programme about farm life] and so on for 10 minutes each three times a day.

EDITORIAL: The Trouble with Vladimir


The Trouble with Vladimir

Russia has the fifth-highest murder rate of any country on the planet. But that is only a statistic. To begin to understand the true nature of this problem, take a look at the four gentlemen show above.

Writing on Robert Amsterdam’s blog recently, hero journalist Grigori Pasko tells us that this in early January this year that very quartet of Russians took a 25-year-old man named Alexei Denisov (that’s him pictured below) to the “eternal flame” monument in the village of Kolchugino, located in Vladmir region, less than 100 miles northeast of Moscow, beat him senseless and set him on fire using the eternal flame.

Alexander Andreyev, Mikhail Danilov, and Nikolai Kuragin were all graduates of Russian vocational school with certifications as painters, and two of them were gainfully employed at the time of the incident. The fourth member of the quartet was anonymous in the court papers because he was a junior high school student, studying in the eighth grade. His name was Alexei Goryachev and he was 15 years old. The drunken group came upon Denisov on the evening of January 1st while he was walking home, beat him unconscious and threw him into the eternal flame, where he burned alive. Some accounts have it that Denisov chastised the wolf pack for desecrating the monument by smoking and drinking on it.

As Pasko writes: “Supposedly, even though the event was horrible, it wasn’t typical for the country as a whole. But I think otherwise – I think it is typical. And that there are more than enough events like this throughout the entire country. They simply don’t all fall into the mass media’s field of vision.”

The trial of the group was to have been carried out on Victory Day but was delayed to avoid spoiling the holiday. Russians convened in Kolchugino to celebrate the holiday with a ceremony at the site of the “eternal flame” monument (shown above) just as if nothing had happened. The sentencing took place about a month ago.

That very spot, by the way, was the same one Alexei’s parent’s had visited on their wedding day, as per the Russian tradition (and as shown in the above snapshot from the family’s photo album). When Alexei’s mother appeared in the court, the victims openly laughed at her, according to Pasko.

Pasko writes: “There are thousands just like them all over Russia. They live in their cities, towns, and villages, in general quite poorly. There is often no electricity in their homes. They travel on horrible roads. And they vote in elections the way they’re told to. They couldn’t care less who is in power in the country. The powers couldn’t care less how they live or whether they’re even alive.” The valiant Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Anna Politkovskaya’s employer, published an account of the killing in English a few weeks after it occurred (and included most of the photographs shown here). Its reporter echoes Pasko: ” Yes, they often get detained by the police. Their animal instincts often dominate over their feelings. I mean if they are hungry they can just take a bun from the shelf in a bakery and they will not think about consequences. Then again, they are easily influenced. If you are elder – I mean if they take you for an adult – and if you just offer them an apple or a chocolate bar, they will do anything you ask for. A thief might ask them to take the things out of someone’s flat and they would do it. They cannot think.”

All this hardly fits the narrative being spun by the other Vladimir, the dictator Mr. Putin. But it certainly does fit his modus operandi. Putin doesn’t want his fellow citizens to be able to think, because if they could they might challenge his idea that Russia should be a neo-Soviet state. He wants them to be ignorant, too, with no means of acquiring real information about the world, both because sources of information have been liquidated and because they are too impoverished to afford those that remain. He doesn’t want them to be healthy, because sick people are much easier to control. And above all, he wants them to be afraid, just as they were in Soviet times, when they were like a bunch of cattle and just that easily controlled by the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin is killing Russia in exactly the same manner that Josef Stalin killed the Soviet Union. The country may stagger on a while after the fatal blow is struck, but it will stumble and fall just the same. That is, unless the Russian people rise to stop this horrible progression of history in its tracks.

The Kremlin’s Plan to Divide and Conquer Europe

Writing in the Washington Times Janusz Bugajski, director of the New European Democracies program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warns of the Kremlin’s “divide and conquer” mentality towards Europe:

Despite speculations in European Union capitals about a bright new dawn in Europe-Russia relations following the installation of President Dmitri Medvedev, dark clouds have already gathered. Europe faces an intensified challenge to its integrity, effectiveness and alliances from a Moscow buoyed by its oil wealth and fortified by claims that U.S. leadership is on the decline.

During a recent visit to Berlin, Mr. Medvedev proposed creation of a pan-European security pact that would sideline NATO and undermine U.S. influence in Europe. Mr. Medvedev asserted that “Atlanticism as a sole historical principle has already had its day. NATO has failed to give new purpose to its existence.”

In reality, it is not Atlanticism that is effectively over but the post-Cold War era as the West and Russia are embroiled in a new strategic confrontation. Russia is reasserting its global reach by opposing further expansion of the Euro-Atlantic zone and reversing the United States’ global role. The Kremlin believes the U.S. has passed its zenith as a global power and Pax Americana is crumbling. This provides an invaluable opportunity for a resurgent Russia to extend its interests in nearby regions, particularly throughout the wider Europe.

Russia’s European ambitions were formulated during Vladimir Putin’s presidency and will be consolidated under Mr. Medvedev. They revolve around expanding the “Eurasian” zone in which Russia is the dominant political player. “Eurasianism” involves two interconnected strategies: transforming Europe into an appendage of the Russian sphere of influence and debilitating Atlanticism by undercutting Europe’s connections with the United States.

Moscow deploys a range of tools to weaken and disarm the West, including divisive diplomacy, political subversion, informational warfare and institutional manipulation. A primary weapon is energy entrapment, whereby Russia pursues a monopolistic position as Europe’s energy supplier and converts energy dependence into increasing intergovernmental influence.

The EU occupies a pivotal position in Russia’s strategy as it can either strengthen or weaken the Kremlin’s approach. A unified EU foreign policy synchronized with Washington that undercuts Russia’s aspirations is viewed as a source of threat that needs to be neutralized.

For instance, the EU’s democratization agenda is seen as a pernicious ploy to undercut Russia’s policy of maintaining pliable governments in neighboring post-Soviet states. Additionally, EU standards for government accountability, business transparency, market competition and environmental protection endanger Russia’s economic penetration, which is primarily based on opaque business practices and personal connections.

However, EU institutions or specific member states can also buttress Russia’s long-range strategy. This is evident where EU capitals such as Berlin, Paris and Rome have convinced themselves that “common interests” will lead to interdependence but fail to question the policy objectives disguised behind Russia’s offer of “strategic partnerships.” The absence of a common and realistic EU strategy toward Russia will have several negative consequences.

c First, it will allow Moscow to fracture the EU by bilateralizing or nationalizing relations with member states by providing diplomatic and economic incentives to some capitals and exerting pressure on others. Moscow offers lucrative contracts to German and French business while imposing embargoes and energy blackmail on Poland, the Baltic States and other states that criticize its policies.

c Second, it will increase disputes within the EU concerning the approach of individual states toward Russia. This will undermine the development of common positions on a broader range of foreign and security policies such as NATO deployments and the role of the United States. The Lisbon treaty, badly damaged by the recent Irish vote, will be buried alongside the EU constitution.

c Third, it will restrict further EU and NATO enlargement eastward as a result of an accommodationist approach toward Moscow. This can unsettle the reformist prospects of aspirant states in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region, including Ukraine and Georgia.

c And fourth, the EU’s internal divisions and acquiescence toward Moscow will harm relations with the United States. They could disable the pursuit of a common Western strategy when a new American president will be reaching out to reinvigorate the Alliance.

The most effective and concerted long-range strategy toward Russia necessitates a combination of “practical engagement” with “strategic assertiveness.” “Practical engagement” concentrates on the pursuit of cooperative relations where Western and Russian interests can coincide, as in countering international terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“Strategic assertiveness,” as an essential complementary approach, must focus on vital long-range Western security interests where Russia’s negative policies need to be effectively countered by the EU and NATO working in tandem to strengthen trans-Atlanticism.

As a primary principle, the Allies must not compromise core interests by forging agreements with Russia that sacrifice one Western security priority to gain Moscow’s support in another security area. For instance, NATO enlargement eastward must not be traded for Russia’s promised assistance in dealing with Iran and North Korea. This not only undermines Europe’s commitment to expand the zone of security and democracy but also allows Russia to implement its Eurasian agenda.

The Dance of the Mad Swans

Alexander Golts, writing in the Moscow Times:

If you were to believe what is written in the Russian-language media, you would think that this country is on the verge of war — not with tiny Georgia, but with the big United States.

Izvestia published an article titled, “Have White Swans Settled on the Island of Freedom?” It quotes an unidentified, highly placed source as saying Russia’s Tu-160 strategic bombers (known as “White Swans”) have started flights to Cuban military bases. The same day, an Interfax interview quoted another unidentified but supposedly well-informed source from “military and diplomatic circles” as saying, “Should the appropriate political decision be made, the Tu-160 nuclear bomber and the Tu-95 strategic bomber could refuel at one of Cuba’s airfields.” The Interfax report added that Russian specialists had already carried out the necessary reconnaissance for such a move.

For three days, comments by retired generals caused a sensation when they told journalists how great it would be if our strategic aircraft would land and take off at Cuban military bases right under the noses of the arrogant Yankees, and how that would be a great “asymmetrical” military response to the U.S. decision to deploy its missile-defense system in Eastern Europe. As a result, a Defense Ministry representative was forced to refute all of this nonsense about strategic bomber flights and to state that “Russia is not building any military bases in foreign countries.”

On the very same day, however, the Russian media nonchalantly wrote and spoke about a new idea for a “military response” to the U.S. expansion. A former chief of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in the General Staff, General Viktor Yesin, recalled how the Soviet Union developed its breakthrough “orbital missile” in the 1970s. The missile was designed to carry a nuclear warhead into space and fire its payload from any point along its flight path. This would enable the missile to strike any location on the planet, and it would make it impossible for the enemy to determine the intended target in advance.

The orbital missile was decommissioned as part of the SALT II Treaty in 1979. But Yesin suggested that if Russia were to produce this missile again and if Moscow fired it at the United States over the South Pole, the U.S. missile-defense system would not be able to intercept it. Moreover, Russia needs to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and deploy Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region.

Unfortunately, every military response that was mentioned is either pointless or impossible to develop. For example, there is absolutely no military necessity to refuel strategic bombers on Cuban military bases. For 30 years, Russia has placed a prime value on the ability of its long-range aircraft to reach any point on the globe without having to land to refuel, and it built a fleet of aerial-refueling planes to make this possible.

Even from the standpoint of mutual deterrence, our military leaders long ago found a much shorter patrol route that would theoretically allow them to strike U.S. territory by launching cruise missiles from the border of the Faroe Islands. As for the orbital missiles, they were manufactured in Ukraine during the 1970s, not in Russia. Thus, it would require the construction of a gigantic new manufacturing facility in Russia to produce them again, and that would require many years, if not decades.

So why all of these information leaks? It would seem to be an illustration of the domino theory, in which one ridiculous remark inspires a second, and so on, ad infinitum. The first foolish move was to threaten a military response to the planned deployment of a U.S. missile-defense system in Europe — if for no other reason than this system does not threaten Russia’s nuclear potential in any way. The first serious attempt to carry out a military response would inevitably lead to reciprocal measures from the United States and NATO. For example, deploying Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region would practically put us back to the beginning of the 1980s, when U.S. medium-range missiles stationed in Western Europe were targeted at Moscow.

The only way Russia’s nuclear weapons can carry any weight in international disputes is if its adversaries detect Moscow’s brinkmanship — specifically, its willingness to start a nuclear war if its point of view is not accepted. Washington had a good share of that brinkmanship — or, more accurately put, insanity — when it dealt with certain Soviet leaders, and that is why the nuclear standoff during the Cold War was so serious and frightening.

The United States suspects Iran’s current leaders of the same sort of madness, and that is why Tehran’s hypothetical plan for building a nuclear bomb is also taken very seriously. But for some reason, the United States is finding it hard to believe that the leaders in the Kremlin today suffer from the same illness as their Soviet predecessors.

The only possible explanation for this whole concoction in the media about flights of Russian White Swans to Cuba is that Moscow is trying to convince Washington that its lunacy is serious and chronic.

A Glimpse of the Neo-Soviet Ghetto

At our request, the wonderful translators who work for Robert Amsterdam have offered the following piece from the Russian press:

Ghetto for guest workers

The capitoline powers want to solve the housing problems of migrants with methods that are far from humanism

by Nikolai Kireyev

It is entirely possible that there will soon appear in Moscow temporary villages for labor migrants from the CIS countries and the far abroad. They will be designated in first order for housing-and-public-utilities workers. Such a proposal was advanced yesterday by the prefect of the South-Eastern Municipal District, Vladimir Zotov. They are planning to erect dormitories for arrival workers in the districts of Lefortovo, Maryino and Vykhino. If the prefect’s idea receives the support of the capitoline powers, construction will begin as early as next autumn. In the meantime, independent experts have met the bureaucrats’ initiative with bayonets. In their opinion, it could create the soil for inter-nationality conflicts.

It is no secret that many migrants arriving in the capital for earnings immediately run up against a housing problem. Inasmuch as the majority of enterprises can not provide their new workers with even temporary housing, the search for a roof over one’s head falls squarely on the shoulders of the latter. In the meantime, according to the data of the city administration, capitoline housing-and-public-utilities for the year 2009 is intending to attract more than 8 thsd. foreign workers. And this means that the new street sweepers and construction workers will need to be lodged someplace at least for a time. “Very many arrivals from the near and far abroad work in the housing-and-public-utilities structure”, told «NI» the press secretary of the SEMD prefecture, Svetlana Govorukhina. “Migrants from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Moldavia [sic] have to live someplace, while they’re toiling here. And the construction of a temporary village for them, as it seems to us, could solve this problem”.

Independent experts, by the way, consider the bureaucrats’ idea not excessively felicitous. “In the scales of a megacity, construction of separate villages for migrants, most likely, will turn out to be a step towards ethnic quarters, living their own life”, told «NI» the head specialist for migration of the Center of the Demography and Ecology of Man, Nikita Mkrtchyan. “Multi-nationality dormitories could turn into a closed ghetto, separate from the other part of the city, with its own culture, economy, social relations. And this will complicate even more the process of the assimilation of the arrivals in a society alien to them”.

Also subscribing to the opinion of the specialists on migration are representatives of the labor migrants themselves. “The problem is not just that the enclaves will turn into a kind of reservations, living by their own laws”, clarified to «NI» a representative of the All-Russian Movement of Labor Migrants of Tajikistan in Russia, Karomat Sharipov. “Such villages could turn out to be a real magnet for various extremist groupings. Those same skinheads will no longer need to ponder where to seek a victim. It will be sufficient simply to come to an officially published address. And the capitoline administration, to my view, will simply not be able in the current situation to ensure reliable protection to arrivals. Conflicts will be unavoidable”.

In the meantime, even less humane ideas for solving the housing question for arrivals are already sounding in the capital. “In the prefecture of the Central District, for example, they have proposed to lodge the migrants in evicted and semi-evicted houses prior to their demolition”, explained to «NI» Ms. Govorukhina. “And likewise in buildings undergoing reconstruction. If these proposals are liked by the capitoline administration, it is possible, already in the nearest years a roof will appear over the head for migrants”. A roof, of course, will appear, but from all appearances, full of holes…

Such proposals, smelling of nationalism, ought to be discarded, consider experts. Migrants need to be lodged together with migrants from the cities of Russia and certainly not in deserted five-stories [built in the 1960s; popularly known as «khrushchevkas» in honor of the Soviet leader who championed their construction—Trans.] “Why limit oneself to the construction of houses only for natives of Central Asia?”, continues Nikita Mkrtchyan. “In Moscow there are enough labor migrants, who have come to the capital from the regions. They likewise are in need of improvement of housing conditions. But the separation thought up by the Muscovite powers could become an additional stimulus for hatred on the basis of nationality. Let this be small apartments, in not the best districts of the city, but accessible to both Tajiks and, let us say, migrants from Bashkiria and Udrmurtia”.

It must be said that Moscow is not the first city that is trying to solve the problem of housing arrangements for labor migrants. “In Samara now they are preparing to open a Center for arrivals working in the sphere of construction and housing-and-public-utilities”, told «NI» a representative of the press-service of the FMS RF [Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation]. “It will represent a dormitory and at the same time play the role of a cheap income-generating house. For an insignificant payment, migrants will be able to lodge in it for the time of work in the city”. In the words of employees of the FMS, the project is being invested by local entrepreneurs, who in addition to a cheap labor force are hoping in such a manner to get a profit too.

Postcards from a Russian Sports Bloodbath

It’s difficult to describe in mere words the full humiliating extent of the massacre of Russian female athletes which occurred last week on opposite ends of the globe. It was a new low in the annals of Russian sport.

First there was the disqualification of not one, not two, not three, not four but five — count them, five — top female Russian athletes from the Bejing Olympiad due to doping charges. Two other Russian athletes, of lesser stature, we also suspended from their sports. And making things even worse was the response of the Russian sports authorities. Sergei Vasilyev, the coach of the offending players, stated: “This is pure politics. If these athletes, who are the main contenders for gold medals, are forced out of the games, the new favorites will automatically be the Chinese.” Interesting. Is that what Mr. Vasilyev would have said if the disqualification of Americans left Russians in dominant position? Anyone who thinks so needs to have his head examined as closely as these cheating Russians have been. Welcome back to the USSR!

And then there was the tennis. Oh, the woeful, atrocious, jaw-dropping Russian female tennis at the Tier I Rogers Cup WTA tour event in Montreal Canada.

Russia started out the tournament in fine shape on paper, with half the sixteen seeds and six of the top eight. Then the trouble started. They stepped on the court, and that was a mistake. Two of the eight seeds lost their opening-round matches, and four more were eliminated after pathetic efforts in their second match of the tournament, in the third round (most of the seeded Russians had byes in the first round). Here’s an overview of the carnage:

  • #3 seed Maria Sharapova barely survived her opening match against an unseeded Polish player, then quit the tournament claiming “injury.” She then withdrew from Russia’s Olympic team by publishing a note on her website, leaving her Russian coach slightly confused and saving her from the possiblity of having to play for her so-called country (of nationality only) against the one where she’s actually lived most of her life.
  • #5 seed Elena Dementieva lost her opening round match in straight sets to an unseeded Slovakian, managing to win only six games in the entire contest.
  • #6 seed Anna Chakvetadze lost her second match of the tournament, in the third round following a bye. At least she, however, went down in three sets to a (lower) seeded payer.
  • #8 seed Vera Zvonareva lost her opening round match to an unseeded Frenchwoman. At least she did better than “the Demented One,” pushing her opponent to three sets.
  • #12 seed Nadia Petrova was pulverized in her second match by the same Slovak who had crushed Dementieva out of the gate. She too, at least, outdid the higher-ranked serveless wonder, taking eight games in the straight-set loss.
  • And finally #13 seed Maria Kirilenko went down in her second match to an unseeded Canadian who was only in the tournament because of a wild card assignment.
  • Incidentally, just for good measure, the “world #1” Ana Ivanovic, who hails from Russia’s beloved “little brother” Serbia, also lost in her second match (the third round) in humiliating fashion, to an unseeded Austrian player not ranked in the world’s top 90 players (Ivanovic needed three sets to struggle past her unseeded first round opponent, just like Sharapova). “World #2” Serbian Jelena Jancovic had the chance to decisively pass Ivanovic and take the #1 ranking if only she could beat her unseeded quarter-finals opponent from Slovakia (a woman not ranked in the top 30 in the world). But she too suffered a humiliating straight-set blowout, winning just seven of nineteen games played. Showing what a ridiculous fraud the WTA ranking system really is, Jankovic is slated to become #1 anyway based on technical number cruching; she’s ever even been in a grand slam final in her entire career, much less won one, and she didn’t even make the semi-finals of the tournament that made her “#1” — now that’s justice Russian style!

So while Russia should have held six of the eight quarter-finals slots according to the seeding, in reality in attained only two of them — and only one of Russia’s eight tournament seeds managed to get that far without the helping hand of being able to face a fellow Russian along the way. #4 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova needed three tough sets to squeeze past her third-round opponent, an unseeded (and unheard of) Portuguese player who had, luckily for Kuznetsova, defeated the seeded opponent she would otherwise have had to face. #7 seed Dinara Safina was fortunate enough to draw a Russian opponent in her second-round match, thus giving her an easy road to a third-round contest with the #9 seed, where she became the only seeded Russian to beat a seed and advance to the quarter finals (beating the lower-seeded opponent in dominating fashion).

In other words, with six of the top eight seeds the only reason Russia even had a single berth in the semi-finals was the luck of the draw, that the only two surviving Russians happened to be in the same quarter of the draw and so they faced off in a quarter-finals match, guaranteeing a Russian spot in the semis regardless of the outcome.

The higher-ranked Russian, of course, Kuznetesova, then lost in disgraceful fashion, taking only five games total in the second two sets of a three-set contest.

So while Russians (and Serbians) held all of the top eight seeds in the tournament, only one of them managed to get as far as the semi-finals. The other three spots there were filled by the 10 and 11 seeds as well as one player who had no seed at all. Over and over and over and over again the Russians (and Serbians) collapsed in spectacular, humilating fashion at the hands of much lower ranked non-Russian (and non-Serbian) competition.