Daily Archives: January 26, 2010

EDITORIAL: The Putin Pogrom

EDITORIAL

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.

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Russia: Marginalized in Science

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.

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Ryzhkov: Putin is starting to Freak

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.

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Uh-oh, Russia: Here come the Republicans

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.

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Demographic doom for 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.

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Australian Open Wrapup

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.

Ouch.

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