Daily Archives: September 5, 2008

September 8, 2008 — Contents

MONDAY SEPTEMBER 8  CONTENTS

(1)  Ethan Burger on the Putin Doctrine (LR exclusive)

(2)  EDITORIAL: Russians bashing Russia

(3)  Annals of Neo-Soviet “Education”

(4)  Third World Russia

(5)  At Least 25% of Russians are Criminals

(6) U.S. Open Recap:  More Russian Humiliation

NOTE:  We are pleased to publish today, original to La Russophobe, an op-ed by the eminent Russia scholar Ethan Burger. This material might just as well have appeared in a major newspaper, but Professor Burger has chosen our forum to air it.  We welcome other submissions from those who wish to speak out on Russia, and offer distinct benefits compared to conventional newspapers:  We can publish at any length, insert hyperlinks to source material, and allow complete freedom of speech.  We can also publish anonymously if desired.  Contributors have control over comments published on their posts.  Submit by e-mail to larussophobe@yahoo.com.

NOTE:  Items 3-5 in today’s issue make for a devastating, conclusive condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Across every sphere of social and economic life, Putin has failed to serve the needs of the Russian people — even as he provokes and alienates the outside world with his misguided foreign policy.  Nobody can peruse these three items and come away with any conclusion other than that Putin is Russia’s worst enemy.  Our editorial shows, encouragingly, that there are those in Russia who clearly understand this.

NOTE:  Check out a great piece on the dangers of “Putinism” in the context of the Katyn massacre over at Pajamas Media.

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Burger on Responding to the Putin Doctrine

Responding to the Putin Doctrine

by Ethan S. Burger*

(original to La Russophobe, all rights reserved by Professor Burger)

Professor Ethan Burger

Professor Ethan Burger

In its Communiqué following its Emergency Summit on Georgia, the European Union took little significant action except announcing that it would “postpone” entering into a long-term partnership until Russia withdrew its troops from Georgia.  While expressing its concern about Russia’s “disproportionate” use of force against its neighbor, the EU sought to maintain a dialog with Russia (or more precisely, its current leadership).  It is most unfortunate that the EU leaders underestimate their countries’ long-term “soft” power.

Russia’s invasion and partial dismemberment of Georgia violates international law, even if Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvilli foolishly provided the Kremlin with a pretext by seeking to assert control over South Ossetia. The Russian leadership has issued a challenge to the EU and NATO members, one that can now be characterized as “the Putin doctrine.”  The West in turn must come to appreciate that the appropriate responses are not merely issuing condemnations or increasing defense spending (with the notable exceptions of that needed to combat “cyber attacks”); more creative approaches must be pursued.

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EDITORIAL: Russians Bashing Russia

EDITORIAL

Russians Bashing Russia

The United States gave it to Russia with both barrels over the weekend.

With U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in Ukraine and loudly denouncing Russian aggression and imperialism, the U.S. warship Mount Whitney sailed into the Georgian port of Poti with relief supplies even though it is still being held by Russian stormtroopers. It was an in-your-face moment Russia was just as helpless to do anything about as was tiny Georgia when Russian tanks rolled in.  How does that feel, Russians?  “President” Medvedev whimpered: “I wonder how they would feel if we now dispatched humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean, suffering from a hurricane, using our navy.”  Maybe they’d feel like sinking those ships, and do it — except that the U.S. hasn’t really rolled tanks into any Caribbean countries lately, has it? But if that’s how you think about the Whitney, Dima, excellent. Mission accomplished. So go ahead, Dima, sink the Whitney and block its delivery of humanitarian aid if you have the guts and the ability. Show the world what Russians are made of. And while you’re doing that, ask yourself how Russia would have felt if America behaved in Chechnya the way Russia has behaved in Georgia.  Ask yourself why U.S. warships are in the Black Sea, where they weren’t in July. But Medvedev wasn’t pondering those questions, nor did it appear there was any connection whatsoever between his brain and his mouth.

We have to admit, it’s rather startling to see the whole world — including many Russians themselves (Putin even lost his title of Russia’s sexiest man to, of all people, Boris Nemtsov) — talking about Russia in exactly the way we have been doing ever since April 2006 when this blog was founded (even far off Australia is considering repudiating its deal to sell uranium to Russia; it should do so). Then, we stood virtually alone in the world sounding the clarion call of warning.  Now, we’re conventional wisdom, even in Russia.

Let’s take a look at what three Russians are saying about their country these days.

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Annals of Neo-Soviet “Education”

Here’s another brilliant bit of reporting from the mighty Moscow Times, exposing the fundamental fraud and horror that lies under the rock known as Russia’s “education” system. Hopelessly corrupt, impoverished and insular, Russia is churning out a generation of hackneyed, robotic morons incapable of doing anything to challenge the quagmire that is the Putin regime — which, of course, is exactly how the regime wants it.

When economics student Mikhail Popov struggled with a final exam at a regional university, he was offered an alternative — pay $200 and get a good grade. “I wasn’t sure of how well I would do, so I agreed in order to avoid any problems,” Popov said.  It is a common practice at his university, he said: “A lot of people do it — the majority.”

Once the pride of the Soviet system, the education system helped unite the population, giving millions a similar start in life. Its strengths included science and mathematics.  During the 1990s, however, inadequate state financing shook the system to its core, encouraging the growth of now-rampant corruption. At the same time, the market opened up to private education, particularly at the university level, where institutions offering in-demand courses in economics and law sprang up. State institutions also began to fill their coffers by offering paid courses.

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Third World Russia

Apparently the proud KGB spies who rule Russia believed that the world would be impressed by their military action against tiny, defenseless Georgia.  But in fact, all that has happened is that massive Russian weakness has been exposed.  The world has scoffed at the shoddy, backwards quality of the Russian military hardware that’s been paraded in Georgia (much of it broke down before ever reaching the battlefield) and now the prestigious Investor’s Business Daily remainds us that Russia is “practically a caricature of the stereotypical Third World country.”  Ouch! Nice PR work there, Mr. Putin! The author is Richard Ebeling is a senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Mass.

I was in Moscow just before the collapse of the Soviet Union and spent most of three days at the Russian Parliament building, watching as Boris Yeltsin, standing atop a tank, rallied thousands of fellow Russians to defend their emerging democracy against a then-in-progress coup attempt by Soviet hard-liners. The day after the failed coup, tens of thousands of Muscovites celebrated in a large square behind the Parliament building. As the Soviet flag was lowered and the traditional Russian colors of red, white and blue were raised, the crowd chanted in unison: “Swaboda, swaboda, swaboda” — “Freedom, freedom, freedom.”

How long ago those days now seem, as the recent conflict in the Republic of Georgia reveals. Today’s Russia has fallen back into its historical tradition of a centralized and authoritarian government, a regulated and manipulated economy, and suspicion and hostility toward the West. Gone are the days when Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to be moving his country in a free-market direction by dramatically lowering business taxes, introducing a 13% flat income tax, reducing bureaucratic regulations and using export revenues to pay off Russia’s foreign debt.

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At least 25% of Russians are Criminals

Paul Goble reports on the shocking level of criminality in Vladimir Putin’s Russia (Robert Amsterdam has translated the entire article Goble discusses). Vladimir Putin told Time magazine it’s wrong to think of Russians as being “a little bit savage.” This data shows he’s clearly right. They’re a lot savage.  Note that this information comes from the Kremlin itself, which means two things. First, it’s likely an understatement (after all, even if the Kremlin isn’t lying, think of all those who simply don’t get caught, or bribe their way out of trouble using Russia’s equally corrupt “justice” system). Second, it’s probably a sign that the Kremlin intends a new round of neo-Soviet crackdowns on civil society under the guise of law and order, the same thing Stalin did. And, after all, crime was non-existent in Stalin’s Russia, wasn’t it?

Nearly 25 percent of Russian men have passed through their country’s prison system at some point in their lives, an enormous share of the total and a group whose experiences are shaping Russian society, politics, and even the country’s image in foreign capitals, according to a retired Supreme Court justice. In a recent edition of “Rossiiskaya gazeta,” Vladimir Radchenko provided extensive data to support his argument that the percentage of Russians who are in or who have passed through what he calls “our ‘prison population’” has reached a critical level in terms of its impact on the broader society. The impact of those who returned from the GULAG in the 1950s has received a great deal of attention, but that of those who were convicted or jailed at the end of the Soviet period or since 1991 has received less, Radchenko notes. But he points out that the numbers in each case are large and current judicial arrangements suggest the numbers and impact are on thel increase.

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U.S. Open Recap

You know things are going rather badly for Russia’s female tennis players when they have the same number of representatives in the fourth round of a tournament as Russia’s woeful men do — and that’s exactly what occurred at last week’s U.S. Open tournament in New York City last week.

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