Daily Archives: November 22, 2008

November 24, 2008 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Putin’s Vicious Circle

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Much Ado About Gazprom

(3)  Essel on Imperium

(4)  EDITORIAL:  Russian Workers, Once Again, Go Begging

(5)  Annals of Russia’s Nuclear Nightmare

(6)  Race Murder Explodes in Putin’s Russia

(7)  The Night that the Lights went out in Moscow

(8)  Putin’s Russia is a Land of Thugs

EDITORIAL: Putin’s Vicious Circle


Putin’s Vicious Circle

“It’s clear to everyone that this work will make sense only if it is on an equal basis and won’t boil down to attempts to use our resources to solve the problems that have arisen that were not of our making.”

Vladimir Putin, Monday November 17th, speaking to his “presidium”

It’s amazing how much meaning Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is able to pack into a single sentence. Here’s what he said:

  • I rule Russia, not Dima Medvedev. Two days ago he promised Russia wouldn’t raise tariffs as part of a worldwide effort to respond to global recession? So what. I unpromise
  • Russia is no more bound by its signature on paper than was the USSR
  • Russia’s economic collapse had nothing to do with me, I’m innocent
  • Even though Russia’s economic collapse was controlled from abroad, I still say I’ve built a powerful and independent country fully able to provoke a new cold war with the world’s only superpower

Putin spoke of “protection of our national interests” as if his own conception of them justified humiliating his own “president” by undermining his authority, trashing Russia’s reputation, and ignoring the massive economic and political catastrophe unfolding around him.  Only a dictator increasingly detached from reality can make statements of this kind and believe he can get away with them.

But it’s far from clear how much Putin can really get away with.

Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Much ado about Gazprom


Much Ado about Gazprom

Is Gazprom a tempest in a Russian teapot?

Is Gazprom a tempest in a Russian teapot?

Blogger Robert Amsterdam points to a recent post on the EU Energy Policy Blog that shows Russia’s power in Europe is far less than some like to imagine.  According to the article, natural gas only accounts for 25% of Europe’s energy consumption, and Russia’s share of Europe’s imports of gas, as shown in the table above, has been precipitously declining as Europe’s energy usage has increased.  Indeed, in the past two decades Europe has slashed its reliance on Russian energy by half.  The report states:  “Since 1990, 80% of the growth in European gas imports has originated from countries other than Russia, especially Norway, Algeria, Nigeria and middle eastern countries. Accordingly, Russia’s share of EU gas imports has declined sharply, from 75% in 1990 to just over 40% today.”  The author’s stark conclusion:  “Europe’s gas supply is not dominated by Russia.  93.5% of the energy consumed in Europe is covered by sources other than Russian gas.”

What’s more, even if Europe did depend on Russian gas, it’s far from likely that any intention action by Russia would turn off the spigot. 

Continue reading

Essel on Imperium

Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński

A book review by Dave Essel

imperiumI find Western Europe’s foreign and domestic political outlook more and more weak-kneed, morally relativistic, and appeasement oriented. In a word – deplorable. But them I’m a Brit and therefore an involuntary member of the European Union. Clear-sightedness is to be sought elsewhere, in certain quarters across the Atlantic but also, and importantly for the Russian theatre, in Eastern Europe, where the stance is clear and the knowledge direct. Nowhere more so, it seems to me, than in Poland, whose citizens have had centuries of experience in dealing with the Bear.

I was therefore delighted to come across this by no means new book – Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński – the other day. Herewith a couple of excerpts which I think demonstrate the peculiar genius of the Polish way of thinking (and of the author, of course).

Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Russian Workers, Once Again, Go Begging


Russian Workers, Once Again, Go Begging

Once again, Russian employers are stiffing Russian workers

Once again, Russian employers are stiffing Russian workers

Robert Amsterdamhas translated an article from the Russian press which discloses, as shown in the above chart, that the level of unpaid wages in Vladimir Putin’s Russia rose to the level of 4 billion rubles in November, up from 3 billion on October — a shocking increase of 33% in just one month. It has been steadily increasing since the August crisis began. 300,000 workers are affected by these arrearages, nearly half of them in the manufacturing sector, where economic growth has totally halted.  Each worker is owed on average more than 13,000 rubles — three weeks worth of full-time average wages — and this is just the data that the Kremlin is willing to admit.  The Wall Street Journal states that “economists say the real figures are likely to be higher” and quotes “a Moscow-based advertising executive said she hadn’t been paid her salary of 40,000 rubles a month since September” as stating:  “I keep going to work because I don’t want to lose all the money I’ve earned.  I’m hoping I might get paid before the New Year.”

When Russia’s financial crisis began, any number of malignant, scurrying Russophile cockroaches were quick to claim that a fall in the Russian stock market has no effect on on ordinary Russians.  Now, a few months later, even Russian “president” Dima Medvedev admits that was a lie, and any idiot can see the dire consequences that have befallen Putin’s Russia.  It is right back the same situation, where people work for free and property has no clear or reliable value, that it faced before Putin took power.  Only the accident of rising world oil prices hid reality for a short time, and the crazed policies of the Putin administration attacking the United States, whose demand for oil is the only arbiter of world prices, have now contributed to Russia’s perilous current position.

It’s time for the people of Russia, if they care about their children’s future (and it’s far from clear that they do) to step forward and demand that the KGB regime of Vladimir Putin step aside before it is too late, and Russia goes the way of the USSR.

Annals of Russia’s Nuclear Nightmare

Thinking of visiting Moscow, or even moving there? Best think again, my friend, best think again. The Moscow Times reports:

What many children in a densely populated eastern Moscow suburb used to think of as a good little hill to play and toboggan on has turned out to be a radioactive waste dump — one that local residents and ecologists say could spill over and contaminate a larger area.

The radiation-emitting dump on Bulvar Marshala Rokossovskogo, which was unearthed during incomplete cleanup works, poses a danger to Muscovites, said Vladimir Chuprov, head of Greenpeace Russia’s Energy Unit. He said the works, suspended half a year ago, were not done properly, leaving the site in a potentially dangerous state.

“The bad news is that the water has flowed in,” Chuprov said. “This water might contain radioactive materials. Liquid is much more difficult to recover and keep from spreading.”

Continue reading

Race Murder Explodes in Putin’s Russia

The Moscow Times reports that already this year Vladimir Putin’s Russia has seen a shocking 114 race-motivated murders, a shocking average of than two each and every week.

More than 100 people have been killed in hate crimes in Russia this year, with natives of Central Asia being the most frequently targeted victims, according to figures released this week by the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights. Through Nov. 15, a total of 114 people died in racist attacks, 37 of whom hailed from the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, according to the nongovernmental organization.Alexander Brod, head of the NGO, said this week that another 357 victims were injured in the 269 hate crimes that his organization managed to register in the same period, Interfax reported Tuesday.

Continue reading

The Night that the Lights Went out in Moscow

The Moscow Times reports:

A senior government official angrily called up Dominique Fache, the Russia manager for Italian utility giant Enel, to complain that the electricity had recently been cut off to his apartment because of overdue bills. “I couldn’t help him with anything — just advised to pay on time,” Fache said, smiling, in an interview. “Everyone’s equal.”

Electricity suppliers across the country are cracking down as the number of delinquent private and corporate customers surges. They have little choice.

The dilapidated industry is mired in debt linked to unpaid consumer bills and the multibillion-dollar investment programs that investors signed onto when they acquired electricity assets from the state during the privatization of Unified Energy System, which wrapped up just weeks before the financial crisis struck. A chunk of the industry also operates on a system of short-term loans — funds that have dried up in the crisis.

The situation threatens to grow worse as winter approaches and the crisis spreads into the real economy. Russian and foreign investors alike are hoping for help from the government, which in turn has shown a lack of enthusiasm about getting involved. But the problem cannot be ignored as electricity providers teeter on the brink of bankruptcy. Rebuilding the largely inefficient industry is vital to ensuring continued economic growth, and the heating that power plants generate is equally important in a country where the chilly winter months far outnumber the sunny days of summer.

So when a consumer — even if he is a senior government official — fails to pay his bills, electricity providers are reacting fast.

Continue reading

Putin’s Russia is a land of Thugs

Hudson Institute senior fellow Laurent Murawiec, writing on HI’s website, explains how to get ahead in Vladimir Putin’s Russia without really trying:

In the badly overcrowded Moscow metro, a third perhaps of the young male population, by hairstyle, facial expression and body language, projects an image of themselves as thugs. The dress emulates the rest: it is drab and mostly black. They’re defiant tough guys. Immediately beneath the surface lies a strain able to explode at the next minute. All behave identically: they push, they crush, hard and mean, they display a callous indifference toward all others, including bent old women who hobble in corridors. Civility is not only absent, it is unlikely.

Continue reading