FRIDAY FEBRUARY 27 CONTENTS
(1) Another Original LR Translation: Nemtsov, Volume III
(2) EDITORIAL: Russia, Land of Morons
(3) EDITORIAL: Blaming the Jury System
(4) Russian Provocation in Kyrgyzstan
(5) Golts on Fraud in the Russian Military
NOTE: Once again through the heroic efforts of our own Dave Essel we alone offer the world Boris Nemtsov’s valiant continuing effort to confront the malignant regime of Vladimir Putin with he withering light of truth. All Russians, and indeed all those who understand the threat Russia offers the world, owe Dave an enormous debt of gratitude for his blood, sweat and tears on this ongoing project.
NOTE: A reader directs your attention to the following YouTube recording a speech by the always-brilliant Edward Lucas on the Putin dictatorship delivered at Brown University recently.
Putin and the Crisis
by Boris Nemtsov and Vladmir Milov
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
Click here for PDF version.
A note from the Translator: The authors have provided this third installment in their White Paper series to Novaya Gazeta and Grani.ru for publication. “Putin and the Crisis” will also be published in brochure form. The authors are Boris Nemtsov (First Vice Premier of the Government of the RF 1997-98) and Vladimir Milov (RF Deputy Minister of Energy in 2002). Both are members of the Bureau of Solidarity, the united democratic movement. This is the authors’ third White Paper. The first two –- “Putin: The Bottom Line” and “Putin and Gazprom” are well-known both in Russia and abroad and were translated into English by this blog. They have been censored by the Kremlin.
Official propaganda would have it that this crisis is a “made in the USA” event and that the mistaken economic policies of the American government are the root cause of all our misfortunes in Russia. It is true that the origins of the crisis lie in America; however the crisis that has developed in Russia is far more serious and painful than in the West. We are facing a deep devaluation of the rouble – over 50%, the collapse of our stock markets where the indices have dropped 75% (40% in the USA), a budget deficit of 20% in December 2008 (not equalled even during the collapse of the USSR), a 36% drop in rail transport volumes in early 2009, a fall in ferrous & non-ferrous metals output, a rise of over 1 million unemployed, a sharp reduction in real salaries, rising poverty and the destruction of the middle classes.
Why did the crisis virus hit Russia’s economy so hard?
Russia, Land of Morons
There is an old saying that “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” This expression never had any greater applicabilty to any land than it does to Russia, which explains the only reason why foreigners ever go to Russia — washed up though they may be abroad, in Russia even the most idiotic foreigner seems somewhat sensible.
Russia watchers may remember that back in June 2008, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller boldly stated:
Russia’s Gazprom, the supplier of a quarter of Europe’s natural gas, expects the price of crude oil to almost double within 18 months and to take gas prices higher with it. “We think it will reach $250 a barrel in the foreseeable future,” Chief Executive Alexei Miller told reporters at a presentation in France, adding high demand rather than speculation was the primary factor for high hydrocarbon prices. A spokesman said the company, which is also one of Russia’s largest crude producers, expected the price to hit the $250/barrel level sometime in 2009.
Even someone who knew nothing about Russia or the oil industry but merely possessed rudimentary critical reading skills would see the anomaly: Gazprom sells gas, and its CEO is making public predictions about the price of oil. Maybe not such a wise move.
In the event, of course, oil prices went rapidly in the other direction, over the course of the next six months dropping by over 70%, and the Russian stock market went right down with them, plunging by an even larger amount. Gas prices are just about to follow. Russia will be lucky to see a per-barrel oil price of $50 as the 2009 average, one-quarter in other words of what the Gazprom CEO predicted.
And Gazprom’s CEO? Think he has made a public apology or been taken to the woodshed by the Kremlin? Think again.
Blaming the Jury System
It can’t have surprised anyone vaguely familiar with Russian politics these days to learn, from Kremlin bagman Alexei Pankin in the pages of the Moscow Times, that the Putin regime plans to use the Politkovskaya trial acquittal to lay the Russian jury system in its grave.
Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times, writing in the San Fransisco Chronicle, documents Russia’s brazen, aggressive challenge to Barack Obama:
America’s competitors and adversaries are certainly not greeting President Obama with open arms. During his first month in office, many have given him the stiff arm. Pakistan made a deal with the Taliban to give it a huge swath of territory in the middle of the country for a new haven. North Korea is threatening war with South Korea. Many in the Arab world who had welcomed Obama are now attacking him because he did not denounce Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Iran launched a satellite into space, demonstrating that it has the ability to construct an intercontinental ballistic missile to match up with the nuclear weapons it is apparently trying to build.
There’s more, but none of it can match the sheer gall behind Russia’s open challenge to Washington.
Defense expert Aleksandr Golts, writing in the Moscow Times:
It is a well-known fact that the prosecutor general plays one of the most important roles in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s “managed democracy.” Clearly, that role is not to lead the struggle against crime or to ensure the rule of law. Chief Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky is no exception to the rule. However, Fridinsky recently had what appeared to be a sudden fit of honesty. While speaking to colleagues in the Military Prosecutor’s Office, he alarmingly reported that criminal acts in the armed forces were sharply increasing. Out of nowhere, the number of crimes has surpassed 20,000. One-fourth of those crimes were committed by officers — the highest rate in the past five years. It turns out that corruption has seized the highest echelons of the military establishment. An illegal scheme involving apartments for military personnel was uncovered in the army’s high command that cost the government 250 million rubles ($6.9 million).