Two weeks ago, investors began worrying that the Chinese government would raise interest rates in order to keep the reins on inflation as the Chinese money supply outstrips production. If it happened, it would be a sign that China’s recovery from the global financial crisis was faltering, since increasing rates would reduce the amount of capital available for investment and growth. That would mean reduced Chinese demand for many foreign imports, chief among them crude oil.
Immediately, the price of crude began to fall, between January 19th and January 29th shedding over 6% of its value.
Russian stocks immediately fell as well, dropping well over 5% of their value during the same span. The Goldman brokerage house issued a warning to investors to abandon their Russian positions in order to avoid being caught in a wicked backlash.
Russia was revealed, once again, to be a helpless slave of the crude oil markets even though it is ranked as the 55th least globalized of 60 major world economies because of the relentless isolationist policies of Vladimir Putin. That is a true testament to the pathetic weakness of the economy Putin has built.
Russia’s Thugboat Diplomacy
Last week, Russian military forces opened fire on two defenseless Japanese fishing boats in the Kuril island chain north of Japan. The boats returned home riddled with bullet holes. Any number of the fisherman could easily have been killed.
The lessons to be learned from this atrocity are many.
Maria Gromakova in China
Global Voices reports:
The common notion that the Internet empowers those with democratic and liberal values is occasionally challenged by stories coming out of Russian online communities. The blogosphere can certainly be a place where people share valuable content with wide audience, but it can also become a platform for attacking virtual identities. Unfortunately, availability of information and growing connections between virtual and real personalities make online harassment as real as it gets.
Maria Gromakova, a young blogger from St. Petersburg, experienced the evil potential of the Internet first hand. Constant attacks of Russian radical nationalists on her blog turned Maria’s life into a living hell and made her and her small family leave Russia.
Maria studied philology at St. Petersburg University where she concentrated on teaching Russian to foreigners. She also played at a local theater and worked as an anchor at a local TV station. In 2007, Maria started teaching Russian at one of the universities in China. There she met Bo, a professional athlete and her future husband.
Maria has been keeping a blog on Livejournal.com [RUS] since 2005. Colorful posts about life in China quickly made her online diary popular with more 1,500 regular subscribers to the blog posts.
Justine Henin, Russian Killer
Of the five titles on offer at this year’s Australian Open grand slam tennis tournament, Americans won over half of them: women’s singles, women’s doubles and men’s doubles.
Russians? They won exactly zero. Ouch.
Two Chinese female players made the semi-finals. As for the “dominant” Russians? None made it that far. Double ouch.
But the worst news for Russia didn’t come from the USA or China, it came from Belgium, in the person of Justine Henin.
MONDAY FEBRUARY 1 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Russia’s Disappearing Children
(2) EDITORIAL: Russia’s Toxic Kremlin
(3) EDITORIAL: Barack Obama, Rat Bastard
(4) Khodorkovsky Speaks
NOTE: Care to watch Russian police officers, via hidden camera, carrying out their sworn duties to uphold the law? Behold!
NOTE: A video tribute to Natalia Estemirova, fallen Russian hero, who gave her life for her country.
NOTE: Novaya Gazeta is once again under attack by cowardly cyber terrorists. Of course, the Kremlin is doing nothing about it.
Russia’s Disappearing Children
In 1995, according to the Russian Kremlin’s own data, Russia had 38 million children. Over the next five years, it lost 5.5 million of them, and over the ten years following, the years of the so-called Putin “presidency,” it lost seven million more. Over the past 15 years, Russia has lost nearly one-third of its children, well over half of them during the Putin years.
That’s right, seven million children lost from Russia’s population on Putin’s watch. And that’s the statistic the KGB Kremlin is willing to admit. Do you dare to imagine what the real facts would show?
It gets worse. The Moscow Times reports: “Babies are also sicklier now than in 1996, the UNICEF report said. The percentage of babies born sick or who fell sick soon after birth reached 37.3 percent in 2008, compared with 28.5 percent in 1995, the report said. The most widespread children’s illnesses were those that affected their respiratory systems.”
What more emphatic proof of a failed civilization could one imagine than that it is liquidating its children at breakneck speed?
Russia’s Toxic Kremlin
We were awash last week in the toxic sludge that is the Moscow Kremlin’s effluent of dictatorship.
We looked left, and we saw the Kremlin’s insidious effort to build on a protected nature reserve in Sochi a palace for its new royalty, the KGB.
We looked right, and we saw the Kremlin’s malignant stormtroopers descending on the valiant environmental activists who dare to challenge the efforts of a dastardly Kremlin-friendly oligarch to pour filth in to Russia’s most valuable environmental jewel, Lake Baikal.
We looked right again, and we saw the Kremlin’s apes at work again, this time tossing people out onto the street and razing their homes in direct contravention of written promises not to do so, driving the desperate citizens to offer to defect to the USA and Germany.
Barack Obama, Rat Bastard
Russophobes though we may be, we reserve our most potent ire not for Russians but for those among us who facilitate their evil ways. You know, your Pat Buchanans, your Ron Pauls . . . your Barack Obamas.
Just as Martin Luther King held his greatest scorn for the “white moderates” who pretended to be his friends, loathing them more than the virulent monsters of the KKK, we simply cannot abide the likes of Barack Obama. When we read last week about the contemptible behavior of his representatives at the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission’s Civil Society Working Group, our stomachs turned.
Exactly as Obama had done when he visited Moscow, his emissary Michael McFaul, in a truly repugnant display, ignored all the basic human rights issues that plague Russian society and portend a neo-Soviet state, and talked instead only about corruption and child adoption. It was as if McFaul was reading directly from the Kremlin’s own playbook. McFaul babbled: ““I think that kind of exchange is useful for breaking down stereotypes and for advancing American national interests and I hope in the long run Russian national interests as well.”
Indeed. If only Americans could adopt more Russian babies and have less of their money stolen when they deal with Russia, all would be right with the world!
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, writing in the New York Times:
For Russia, the past decade started out on an optimistic note. The country was emerging from a severe financial crisis and the political upheavals of the ’90s. Industry and agriculture were rapidly recovering and the financial system had been rescued and strengthened. Business attracted millions of people to apply their efforts and talents. The institutions of state had begun to work more reliably and the structures of a real civil society had begun to form.
Today, many people recall with sadness that Russia once had a real, working parliament, where social and business interests engaged in dialogue, where compromises were sought and found. They recall how the country’s judicial system had begun to feel its independence, and how they discovered that they had a civic role to play in the places they called home. There was hope that people in Russia would become active participants in a dynamic, full-fledged civil society.
In the international arena, the voice of a new Russia began to be heard — the voice of a responsible and benevolent good neighbor. Before us lay a long yet well-lit road.
But in the years that followed, Russia turned from it. Today, for all practical purposes, we do not have a real parliament, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech or an effective civil society. The hopes for the formation of a new Russian economy turned out to have been misplaced: Our industrial output, other than raw materials, is not capable of competing even on the domestic market. Russia’s international role has changed drastically as well — now we are more likely feared than respected.
Who is to blame for this turn of events? Not just the Kremlin. Responsibility for modern Russia’s transformation must be laid on the elites — the people involved in the adoption of the most important political and economic decisions.
The Putin Pogrom
“Large-scale and systematic persecution.”
That is how the latest report from the Liberty of Conscience Institute characterizes Vladimir Putin’s policy towards religions other than the state-sponsored Russian Orthodox Church.
The Kremlin’s attack on non-Orthodox religions is beginning with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, an easy target. Last month, Russia’s highest court banned their activities and authorized burning their literature. Many Russophiles will say: So what? The Witnesses, they will say, are a bunch of extremist freaks that Russia is better off without.
But those Russophiles are not well versed in developed Western political thought. Those of us who are understand that one cannot preserve religions diversity without allowing extremist freaks. They are the price of diversity and liberty.
If you choose not to pay that price, then you pay a very different and much worse price. You end up with a monolithic dictatorship which cannot be creative, which stifles and destroys rather than encouraging and building, which is unable to adapt. You end up with, in short, the USSR.
ABC News reports:
Political turmoil, a brain drain of scientists and waning interest have transformed Russia from a nation that launched the first satellite into an increasingly minor player in the world of science, according to a Thomson Reuters report released on Tuesday.
An analysis of research papers published by Russian scientists shows an almost across-the-board decrease, which reflects Russia’s shrinking influence not only in science but in science-based industries such as nuclear power, the authors of the Thomson Reuters report said.
“Russia’s research base has a problem, and it shows little sign of a solution,” the report reads.
Vladmir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
Although we won’t see any real political modernization as a result of the State Council session on Friday, there is one big benefit from the meeting: Russia’s rulers effectively admitted that the authoritarian vertical power structure is in a crisis. What’s more, the leaders showed their confusion and fear over that crisis in front of the entire nation.
Kaliningrad Governor Georgy Boos gave the most candid assessment of the increasing turbulence in Russia’s police state. He said what everybody had been thinking but had been too afraid to say. “Accusations of falsification of election returns should not become systemic in nature. Otherwise, public opinion might question the legitimacy of the authorities. … This is very dangerous,” he said.
David J. Firestein, a career U.S. diplomat who served as deputy spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1998 to 2001, and is now director of Track 2 Diplomacy at The EastWest Institute, writing in the Moscow Times:
A year ago, when the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama initiated its “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations, two things were clear: First, the U.S. Congress, particularly the Senate, would have an outsized role to play in the process; and, second, the Democrats would likely have a fillibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate, making the advancement of Obama’s major Russia policy overtures a bit easier than might otherwise be the case. A year later, the first proposition remains true, but Republican Scott Brown’s recent upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race complicates the second since Democrats no longer have 60 seats in the Senate— the threshold that allows a party to pass legislation on a “fast track” by depriving the opposing party of its ability to filibuster. All of this means that there could be some turbulence in U.S.-Russian relations in 2010.
While the reset was partly about changing the tenor of U.S.-Russian relations, a lot of it was about policy. Congress is a decisive player on much of that policy. The Obama administration’s two major Russia initiatives — the follow-on agreement to the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or the CTBT — will require Senate ratification.
Posted in obama, russia
Paul Goble reports:
Moscow officials this week have been celebrating figures showing that for the first time in 15 years, Russia’s population did not decline in 2009, but a leading Russian demographer warns that this statistic, while true, is neither the result of President Dmitry Medvedev’s pro-natalist policies or the harbinger of an end to the decline. Instead, Anatoly Vishnevsky, director of the Moscow Institute of Demography, says, this year’s figure reflects a conjunction of positive developments that will not last and that within five years, Russia will again see its population fall, unless Russian can attract and are prepared to accept more immigrants.
Let’s look back on the Russian women’s results at the year’s first grand slam tennis event, the Australian Open in Melbourne. But be warned, there’s lots of nasty carnage to behold as usual. Dominance? We think not.
- Russia’s most famous player, Maria Sharapova, seeded #14, lost her first match of the tournament in humiliating fashion. She struck 77 — yes, seventy-seven — unforced errors. Yikes.
- Russia’s #1 seed, Dinara Safina, quit in the first set of her fourth-round match, cheating fans out of their hard-earned cash.
- Russia’s #2 seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova, lost her fourth-round match to a player not seeded in the top 15.
But Safina and Kuznetsova did great compared to Russia’s #3 seed, Elena Dementieva, who lost her second-round match in straight sets to an unseeded opponent despite winning the prior week’s warm-up event in Oz over the number one player in the world, just as we predicted. All four of these players should in theory have reached the quarter finals. Not a single one actually did.
Russia’s #4 seed Vera Zvonareva also went down in flames before the quarter finals, but unlike the four Russians mentioned above she at least could say she lost to a higher seed, the #7 whom she pressed to a third set which she then surrendered meekly without taking a single game from her Bulgarian rival.
Dymovsky in the Dock
A month ago we reported on the announcement of criminal charges against Russian Police Major Alexei Dymovsky as a result of his YouTube appeal to Vladimir Putin to help him stop corruption in the ranks.
Now, Dymovsky has been arrested. He faces up to ten years in prison and a period of pretrial incarceration, next to criminals he may have personally jailed, for an indefinite period without bail while he awaits trial. He’s already been fired for speaking out against the abuse of his profession.
The Moscow Times reports:
Jailed businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky and writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya were jointly awarded a literary prize by the literary journal Znamya on Wednesday for a series of letters between the pair.
For obvious reasons, Russia’s former richest man — who was jailed for eight years on fraud and tax evasion charges that he says were fabricated and is currently on trial for laundering billions of dollars in Moscow — was not at the ceremony. His daughter, Anastasia Khodorkovskaya, accepted the prize on his behalf.
Oksana Chelysheva writes us via Facebook:
New proofs of the innocence of the Gataev couple and the role of the security police of Lithuania in fabricating charges against them were announced at the press-conference held in Helsinki on January 22.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
Bring up the topic of democracy in modern Russia with the director of the Anatoly Sobchak Museum of the Foundation of Democracy in Modern Russia, and she blanches. “I’m not a connoisseur of politics,” Olga Bozhchenko says apologetically. And then, “I emphasize the past, not the present. It’s more interesting for me. It’s not that it’s inappropriate. It’s just — I — I have nothing to say.”
She is a young woman, dressed all in black, with thick black-framed glasses, a gold cross at her throat and a blond ponytail down her back, presiding over a museum about current events that exists detached from current events.
The museum was created, Bozhchenko says, “to overcome the negative attitudes of society toward democracy.”
“What’s happening now in the country, people don’t like democracy and they connect it to negative things.”
What negative things are those? She stammers for a moment.
- Russians: Unauthentic and Offensive
“Unauthentic and offensive” is how ice skating critic Maggie Hendricks describes them.
The people they are trying to honor, Australian Aborigines, can only gape slack-jawed and remark: ‘They have got the whole thing wrong. Look how stupid these fellas are.”
They’re Russians, of course. Specifically, they are Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, performing at the European Championships in the so-called “sport” of ice dancing.
Required to celebrate a national culture with one of their routines, the pair painted themselves in the ridiculous, childish, crude and gaudy getups depicted at left, complete with plastic leaves, and made a foreign culture the butt of many jokes.
Nice work, Russians.