FRIDAY OCTOBER 10 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Masha Lipman Just Gives Up
(2) EDITORIAL: Discovery Insitute up to its Neck in Corruption
(3) Russia, Collapsing
(4) Felgenhauer on the New Cold War
(5) Russia’s Dwindling Oil Resources
NOTE: The wheels have come off the Putin dictatorship, sooner and more spectacularly than even we ever dared dream possible. The stock market is down over 12% in just the few hours of trading it has been allowed to operate this week, demographer Murray Feshbach (#3 above) shows that Russia’s population is going south just as fast as the nation’s bourse, and #5 exposes the horrifying reality that Russia is between a rock and a hard place in terms of its core economy. It is utterly dependent on crude oil, and running out of it fast.
Masha Lipman Just Gives Up
It’s hard to think of an organization that has proved itself more totally irrelevant to the struggle for human rights and democracy in Russia than the Carnegie Center — or more just plain boring. Try as you may, you will not be able to name a single significant action the Center has taken in Russia to stand up against the rise of the neo-Soviet state or, much more important, simply to directly criticize the appalling behavior of the nation’s citizens as they repeat their neo-Soviet mistakes.
And now, CC’s Masha Lipman, who at least in the past has offered some meaningful academic insights about Russia, has jumped the rails and crashed into Russia’s moutains of despair. In a recent Washington Post column, she sighs and states: “It may sadden Russian liberals, including me, but political rights and civil liberties simply do not matter much in Russia these days.” So, apparently, she thinks the U.S. should stop demanding respect for such concepts in Russia, and she doesn’t have a single critical word to say about the craven cowardice and greed that motivates Russians to adopt this view.
But worse that that, her column is full of hopelessly inane contradictions and dead-end roads that lead nowhere.
The Discovery Institute: Up to its Neck in Corruption
Readers of this blog know only too well the malignant evil represented by the Discovery Institute’s pro-Kremlin propaganda outlet “Russia Blog” (a/k/a “the Real Russia Project”). But with all its faults, Russia Blog does at least offer one advantage over another DI blog called “Evolution News” — which argues in favor of teaching the crackpot doctrine of “intelligent design” in schools across the world. At least RB allows some comments to appear (though nobody from this blog is allowed to write any). EN doesn’t allow anyone at all to speak. Ever.
So, when Bruce Chapman — the boss of DI who often pontificates about Russia on RB — wrote a post July 23rd attacking Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, nobody was allowed to point out that Chapman’s crazy diatribe was chock full out outrageously false lies. Reviewing them should give our readers an important reminder of just how utterly wicked DI’s efforts to propagandize on behalf of Vladimir Putin, using Russian citizen Yuri Mamchur as their mouthpiece, really is.
Some of the most important reporting on Russia in the past two decades has come from demographer Murray Feshbach, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a research professor emeritus at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and author of books such as Ecocide in the USSR: Health and Nature under Siege. History will record the Russian people’s ignorance of his warnings about Russia’s population crisis as one of the lowest ebbs in their inglorious history. He’s a true giant in the Russia-watching world, and his recent column in the Washington Post entitled “Behind the Bluster, Russia is Collapsing” is simply required reading. That the people of Russia can choose to be governed by a proud KGB spy, a relic of the failed past that has brought them to the brink of utter annihilation, is one of the great tragedies in humany history.
The bear is back. That’s what all too many Russia-watchers have been saying since Russian troops steamrolled Georgia in August, warning that the country’s strongman, Vladimir Putin, was clawing his way back toward superpower status. The new Russia’s resurgence has been fueled — quite literally — by windfall profits from gas and oil, a big jump in defense spending and the cocky attitude on such display during the mauling of Georgia, its U.S.-backed neighbor to the south. Many now believe that the powerful Russian bear of the Cold War years is coming out of hibernation.
Not so fast. Predictions that Russia will again become powerful, rich and influential ignore some simply devastating problems at home that block any march to power. Sure, Russia’s army could take tiny Georgia. But Putin’s military is still in tatters, armed with rusting weaponry and staffed with indifferent recruits. Meanwhile, a declining population is robbing the military of a new generation of soldiers. Russia’s economy is almost totally dependent on the price of oil. And, worst of all, it’s facing a public health crisis that verges on the catastrophic.
Writing on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, the always brilliant Pavel Felgenhauer describes Medvedev’s participation in Russia’s provocation of a new cold war with NATO, and a new arms race:
At the end of August President Dmitry Medvedev announced five foreign policy priorities. The first and third points are benign: Russia will “recognize the fundamental principles of international law” and “does not want confrontation with any other country” nor does it intend to isolate itself. The other three state, first, that Russia does not accept the current world order, which Medvedev calls “single-pole,” as it is “unstable and threatened by conflict.” Medvedev declared, “The world must be multi-polar.” Second, Russia claimed the right as an “unquestionable priority” to “protect the lives and dignity of our citizens” as well as its interests “wherever they may be.” Finally, Medvedev claimed, “there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests,” an apparent reference to a geographically unspecified sphere of interests, that obviously includes Georgia, Ukraine, and other neighboring nations in Europe and Asia (www.kremlin.ru, August 31).
The oil fields in Russia are drying up fast (click to enlarge)
The Russian Energy Ministry on Oct. 2 released its oil production figures for September, indicating that oil production fell for the ninth straight month. Oil production fell 0.4 percent in September compared to the same period last year, to 9.83 million barrels per day (bpd). If this decline continues — and it most certainly will, since output normally contracts during the winter due to the lack of river shipping options — for the rest of the year, it would be the first time since 1998 that Russia has experienced an annual oil production decline.
The carnage continues
Interesting doings on the Russian stock market. The news, needless to say, is not good. The market is rapidly approaching one-third the value it had less than half a year ago.