A mistake we will all have to pay for
by Boris Nemtsov*
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
Today’s recognition by Medvedev of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a strategic and long-term mistake, the consequences of which will be felt by practically all of Russia’s citizens.
1. This marks the beginning of an arms race. Georgia, it is obvious, will very shortly become a member of NATO. Next, NATO bases will of course be established in Georgia. Military and political tension on our borders will increase. This will inevitably lead to a rise in military expenditure, this at a time when we are already spending about $40 billion. Clearly, this extra money for the armed forces will be found at the expense of social programmes – pensions, teachers’ and doctors’ salaries, child benefits, etc will be raided. The impending bankruptcy of the pension system has already led to Putin making revolting suggestions that social security payments and income tax for the young be raised from 13% to 16%. Teddypoot [TN: “Медвепут” in Russian, from Медве(дев) and Пут(ин)] will not of course be cutting back on the civil service.
2. Extra spending on the armed forces will not mean that they will be modernised. Teddypoot does not want a professional contract army. Meanwhile, corruption among high-ranking officers together with the monopolisation and backwardness of the military-industrial complex will make it impossible for modern weapons to be purchased.
3. The world community will obviously not recognise Russia’s decision. What this means in real life is: the decision to hold the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 will be cancelled on security grounds due to proximity to a permanent conflict zone; ubiquitous discrimination against Russian business abroad; visa restrictions in the first place for civil servants and businessmen connected with them and possibly for all our country’s citizens; Russia’s expulsion from the G8. And of course forget about any joining of the WTO or other international organisations.
4. By his decision today, Medvedev has placed himself beyond the pale of international law by breaking a UN Security Council Resolution that speaks of Georgia’s territorial integrity for which Russia had previously always voted. This looks positively awful when set against the refusal to recognise the independence of Kosovo. What this means is that since we refuse to recognise international law, then international law will not be applied in others’ dealings with us. Everyone knows that the arms race and the Cold War brought the Soviet Union to its knees. Russia is no USSR (less than 3% of world GDP compared to America and Europe’s combined total of 50% of world GDP.)
We need to realise that we may actually lose Russia thanks to these adventurists.
*First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, 1997-1998 and author of the Nemtsov White Paper