Russia descends further into the Totalitarian Mire
Late last year, when the Reporters without Borders organization released its latest index of press freedom, we learned that Russia had fallen a shocking 12 places from its ranking the prior year to #153 in the world out of 175 countries under study, for the first time dropping below the crazed dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus.
Last week, Freedom House released the latest results of its own ongoing study of press freedom. According to FH, Russia is doing even worse than RWB imagines. Russia is 26th out of 29 nations in Eastern Europe and a jolting, appalling #175 overall out of 196 nations under review. At rank number 175, Russia is tied with the crude African banana republic of Gambia according to FH’s seasoned analysts.
These ratings are eerily similar to other ratings held by Russia. It also doesn’t rank in the top 100 nations of the world in criteria like life expectancy or fertility. These facts are indicative of absolute, total failure on the part of the so-called “government” of Russia to build a successful, civilized state.
We cannot help but ask ourselves: Do the people of Russia have any shame at all?
LR Rates the Russia Blogs
It goes without saying, of course, that La Russophobe is the best Russia blog in the known universe. Considering the amount of original content (including translations), overall traffic and comment traffic, no other blog in existence can touch us.
But what about the others? Just because we’re the best doesn’t mean there aren’t a signficant number of other important Russia blogs out there, and today we take time out to recognize them. The comforting fact is that even if this blog were to go dark tomorrow by some malignant act of the Putin Kremlin, perusing these other ten blogs together would be a perfectly adequate substitute for LR. Each of them offers its own unique and uniquely valuable contribution to the world’s understanding of the true nature of Russia.
In rank order the top ten English-language Russia blogs in the world today based on our criteria (again: amount of original content, comment and overall traffic and contribution to the world’s insight and understanding of Russia) are as follows:
The New York Times reports:
Hundreds of adopted children, most of them Russian, have come here to northwest Montana to live and perhaps find healing grace with the horses and cows and rolling fields on Joyce Sterkel’s ranch. Some want to return to the families that adopted them, despite their troubles.
Others, like Vanya Klusyk, have seen far too much of what the world can dish out.
Dmitri Simes, writing in Time magazine:
President Obama has presented the new arms control treaty he signed in Prague on April 8 as a “historic accomplishment” in both nuclear security and U.S. relations with Russia. But there are disturbing signs that the Obama Administration is overselling its progress with Russia, raising unrealistic hopes that Moscow would genuinely help in addressing the danger from Iran, the most likely nuclear threat to America and its allies.
The administration, eager to show foreign policy successes, argues that the new treaty with Russia, which calls on both sides to reduce their nuclear forces to 1500 warheads, reflects a significantly improved relationship that will help to deliver Moscow’s support for strong sanctions against Tehran. But it is not clear that ties between the White House and the Kremlin have improved quite that much. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s performance in Argentina, right after the nuclear summit, demonstrates that ties between Washington and Moscow fall well short of partnership. “If somebody is bothered” in America by Moscow seeking a greater role in Latin America, he said, “we want to spit on that.” His statement led the news on Russian state television. Later in his “Spit Speech,” the Russian President made clear that his government does not favor “paralyzing, crippling sanctions” — the only sanctions that could deter an Iranian regime determined to have a nuclear weapons capability.
Despite this, Administration officials describe the arms control talks as a victory for Mr. Obama and a model for winning Russian support for sanctions. As the New York Times reported, they claimed that “Russia backed down” after the President made clear to Mr. Medvedev that the U.S. would not budge on Russia’s insistence to establish a link between offensive and defensive strategic systems. Off the record, Administration officials told reporters in Washington that the successor to the START treaty was so advantageous to the U.S. that the Russian media was hesitant to praise it.
The facts are quite different, however, and the Administration’s handling of the agreement evokes strong echoes of history.
Julia Ioffe (who blogs at Moscow Diaries), writing in the Washington Post:
About a month ago, I came home to find an odd e-mail from Alexander Parkhomenko, a man I’ve never met. “Is everything really so bad in Russia?” he wrote.
I have been reporting from Moscow for the past six months, and Parkhomenko had been reading my work. He liked the stories, he said, “but one gets the sense that you were brought back here by sheer force to this hated country, back to the funny, stupid Russians, back to a horrible city unfit for life, and that your ‘love/hate relationship’ means mostly the latter.”
This was not the first time a Russian had attacked me — in an only-I-can-make-fun-of-my-family sort of way — for being critical of Russia, which to many people here is indistinguishable from hating Russia. But something about the way Parkhomenko cut to the central dilemma of my place in Russia shook me.
Because I am back. And — aside from the detail that I now live on the same street, in the same building, where I spent part of my childhood and from which my parents, Jewish refugees, took me almost exactly 20 years ago — I am back in a way that is very easy to resent.
The Toxin of Russian Racism
We’ve said many times before that the Russia teems with the most virulent and shameless racism imaginable, and the litany of dead, dark-skinned bodies is sure and certain proof of this undeniable fact (click the “racism” link in the “categories” section of our sidebar to read four years’ worth of our reporting on the subject, which may take you days to get through) .
But we’ve also always been careful to point out that, as utterly horrific as these killings are, there is a darker, more outrageous element to the racism found in Russia, namely that it is openly supported not just by the general population but by the government itself. Russia is, quite simply, a nation of racists and they are proud of it.
Reporting from Moscow in a blog post we republish in today’s issue, journalist Julia Ioffe provides an example of what is happening in Russia on a daily basis from her own personal experience. Ioffe, whose parents fled Russia when she was a child, stood on a subway platform and watched a screaming hoard of Russian skinheads chanting about purging all non-Slavic blood from Russia. She stood and watched as hundreds of ordinary Russians clapped and cheered their message: “Russia for Slavs!” (using the word for “Russian” in Russian that means “Slavs and nobody else”).
Everyone — everyone — who has spent time living on the real streets of Russia knows that the anecdote Ioffe is relating is anything but anecdotal. It’s fact, it’s conventional wisdom, it’s the real Russia.
Julia Ioffe reports from Moscow:
Crossing the underground transfer to the Paveletskaya stop on the circle line in the Moscow metro this morning, I found myself swallowed up by a bunch of singing, rowdy youths.
Decked out in red-and-white scarves, they were on their way to Luzhniki stadium for a soccer match where they would cheer for their team, Spartak — thus the red and white. (These, coincidentally, are also the colors of Nashi, the Hitlerjugend-ish Kremlin youth group.)
The kids were warming up in the metro, having warmed up, it seems, with a couple beers beforehand.
Holding their arms out in a V or clapping, the kids sang. And here’s what they sang:
A Senator on Monday asked Washington to cancel U.S. visa privileges for 60 Russian officials and others over the death in jail last year of a lawyer for what was once Russia’s top equity fund, Hermitage.
Senator Benjamin Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who chairs the human rights monitoring U.S. Helsinki Commission, asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to scrap visa privileges for those accused of ties to the death of Sergei Magnitsky.
Human rights activists have said Russian authorities subjected Magnitsky to conditions amounting to torture in a failed bid to force him to testify in their favor in a battle with Hermitage over tax fraud allegations.
“While there are many aspects of this case which are impossible to pursue here in the United States, one step we can take, however, is to deny the individuals involved in this crime and their immediate family members the privilege of visiting our country,” Cardin said in a letter to Clinton made public on Monday.
“The United States has a clear policy of denying entry to individuals involved in corruption, and it is imperative that the U.S. Department of State act promptly on this matter.”
Vermont Public Radio reports:
In Novokuznetsk, an industrial city in Siberia, it seems like a normal April. Snow is melting. People have emerged from winter and are chatting in the town square. And, there is a corruption scandal — involving the mayor, his son and a $3 million housing scam.
“Everybody knows about it,” says Sofia Pinsker, a 22-year-old student. “And it’s not surprising.” Such is life in Russia. Citizens accept that to avoid a ticket for an illegal left turn, or to get a passport to travel abroad, it may require making a bribe. “It’s really easier to do something like that than to do something by law,” Pinsker says.
And Russians, she says, have a history of acceptance when it comes to their leaders.
Robert Amsterdam publishes a true dymanic duo, hero journalist Grigory Pasko and hero economist Andrei Illarionov (Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда):
Journalist Grigory Pasko recently had the opportunity to sit down with Andrei Illarionov, former advisor to the President of the Russian Federation, and currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute in Washington.
GRIGORY PASKO: Andrei Nikolayevich, appearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives in February of the year 2009, you said: “Today’s Russia is not a democratic country”… And further: “The members of the Corporation do share strong allegiance to their respective organizations, strict codes of conduct and of honor, basic principles of behavior, including among others the principle of mutual support to each other in any circumstances and the principle of omerta.” But is this not a characterization of a classical mafia? Can one fight with a mafia using democratic methods: honest elections, unbribable independent courts, free mass information media?
ANDREI ILLARIONOV: A very good and complex question. But I will not give you an answer now. Inasmuch as we have to make several sub-points here. First: is this phenomenon a mafia? It has very many features that look like a mafia, that are close to a mafia. Nevertheless, this is not exactly a mafia. More precisely, this is some kind of a special mafia. A mafia of such a kind – a siloviki corporation, as we have, – belongs to the group of special siloviki structures that exist in different human societies. By the way, states as such ought to be included in this as well.
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, jubilant in victory
Russia fielded a far stronger singles team against the United States in the semi-final match of the Fed Cup championships which was contested in Birmingham, Alabama last weekend.
The US did not send one player ranked in the world’s top 30 in singles, while Russia sent world #7 Elena Dementieva. The US sent only one player ranked in the top 100 in the world in singles, while all three of Russia’s players were ranked in the world’s top 80.
The outcome, therefore, was a foregone conclusion.
That’s right, the USA whipped Russia’s butt.
Putin Throttles another Newspaper
Other Russia points to a chart, displayed after the jump (click it to see it full size), which was prepared by the Russian newspaper New Times and shows the shameless cronyism being practiced by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in regard to the Gazprom energy monopoly. Putin has filled the company’s management strata with his political and personal cohorts, and possibilities for corruption, exploitation and mismanagement are obvious.
Just days ago, Other Russia reported how Putin’s gestapo had raided the offices of New Times seeking to intimidate and silence the mighty little paper run by firebrand hero journalist Yevgenia Albats, and this story gives a clear indication of just what the Kremlin is afraid of.
Vladimir Putin is systematically taking personal control of every aspect of Russian society, and just as systematically eradicating every media outlet that might report on or criticize his doing so. The people of Russia are turning a blind eye to his misdeeds, which include mounting a new cold war confrontation with the West while ignoring every social problem faced by Russian society, such as for instance the chronic issue of orphan children on which we report in today’s issue. And to make matters even worse, the so-called “leader” of the United States, Barack Obama, stands mute and watches it all unfold, ignoring the threat to American security and values presented by neo-Soviet Russia.
We are appalled by the craven cowardice of the Russian people and the American president. The systems being imposed by Putin upon Russia must bring the nation to ruin, just as they did the USSR, but before that happens, and afterwards, there will be untold suffering and danger to both the people of Russia and the world. Though Putin is the perpetrator, blaming him would be like blaming the fox if it eats chickens after the farmer places it in the hen house. The real atrocity is being committed by the people of Russia and the benighted “leadership” of the United States.
The Russophile Guide to Style.
Having spent a good bit of time observing Russophiles feverishly attempting to rationalize and defend the failed Putin dictatorship, we feel we are now in a position to offer some conclusions about their style of work.
It’s really quite simple: Russia is never wrong because Vladimir Putin is a god.
The indispensable Paul Goble reports:
Moscow’s excessive reliance on profits from the export of oil and gas — the centerpiece of Vladimir Putin’s policies – has been contributing to a significant decline in the standard of living of most Russians beyond the capital’s ring road even as it has boosted the country’s GDP, according to a UN report on “Energy and Stable Development.”
As a result, Nataliya Zubarevich, a geographer at Moscow State University who helped prepare the report says, “there is oil and gas [in Russia] but no happiness,” at least outside Moscow, the oil and gas producing regions of Khanty-Mansiisk and Yamalo-Nenets, and the processing center in Tyumen. Because the Russian government has “incorrectly” relied on oil and gas profits alone to show economic growth, she continues, there has been a decline in the well-being of Russian citizens, not only in terms of income but also in health, education and other social services.
Indeed, the report points out, in order to support oil and gas exports, Russia has to spend nearly five percent of its GDP to support the oil and gas infrastructure, an amount that severely limits Moscow’s ability to invest in the modernization of the country and that will largely preclude it as the cost of drilling increases and Russia’s production of oil and gas declines. In an interview with Svobodnaya Pressa, Zubarevich added that the sale of oil and gas abroad had helped Russia but that the way in which these profits were used now constitutes “a very serious break on development,” one that she suggests will only become worse if Moscow doesn’t change course.
With the Russian economy in tatters, Vladimir Putin needs a source of ready cash to continue his cold-war aggression. The Moscow Times reports on his latest source:
While Washington plans to pump unprecedented sums into what critics call a government takeover of health care, Moscow is moving in the opposite direction by backing legislation that could force hospitals and other public institutions to go commercial or close.
A bill scheduled to be approved by the State Duma in a third and final reading Friday aims to overhaul the financing for medical, educational, cultural and scientific institutions by giving them for the first time a free hand in how they spend state subsidies.
But opponents warn that the “anti-socialist” reform also could lead to a drop in state subsidies, forcing hospitals, schools and even libraries to increase their numbers of paid services or reduce work hours so as to make ends meet. They say this free-market approach could ultimately hurt the population, especially in poor rural areas.
Russia, Running Dry
According to a stunning, nearly 200-page analytical report released last week by the United Nations (see page 24):
The threat of depletion of Russia’s proven and accessible oil resources in 20-30 years time has become a real threat, mainly because of inadequate exploration in the past decade and more difficult extraction conditions, which require work in remote regions with harsh climate. Even during the recent boom years (2002–2008) the depletion date came nearer (from 26.3 to 21.9 years) (Figure 1.8). Reserve replacement is progressing very slowly and the crisis has clearly worsened the situation.
The situation with natural gas reserves is better, mainly due to huge deposits, which are sufficient for 70 years of production. But the expected depletion date for natural gas has moved closer by 9.4 years in the last decade, canceling out reserve replacement.
You read that right: Within this century, Russia is likely to totally exhaust its reserves of both gas and oil. Crude oil, by far more important to Russia in terms of generating essential foreign exchange, may be entirely gone as soon as 2030.
Let’s repeat that: Within two decades, three at the most, there will be no more crude oil for Russia to sell abroad unless new sources are found or the current rate of is drastically curtailed. Within one generation, Russia’s gas resources may also disappear (if the last decade’s trend continues in the next, Russia’s gas will likely exhaust in 2070). Russia’s hard currency reserves, before this century is out, will rapidly dwindle to nothing, the value of the ruble will plummet, the stock market will collapse and the price of imported goods will soar far beyond the means of ordinary people, an apocalypse in a country which produces virtually no worthy consumer products of its own.
The reason is simple: Russia is guzzling oil and gas in a pathological manner because its industry is profligately wasteful and the climate demands extreme consumption which the Kremlin must vastly subsidize since it rules an impoverished population. And Russia is selling oil abroad at a frenzied rate in order to bolster its flagging domestic economy and to fund the savage cold-war aggression of the KGB Kremlin. By contrast, Russia is failing to invest energy proceeds in development of new energy assets, squandering them instead on cold-war politics. This wicked one-two punch to the nation’s economic solar plexus will soon bring the national economy to its knees.
Ukraine suckers Russia, but Good!
Last week, Ukraine’s new president Victor Yanukovich sold a piece of his country to Putin’s Russia in exchange for wildly reduced prices on natural gas.
Specifically, Yanukovich renewed Russia’s lease on its naval base on the Black Sea at Sevastopol from 2017 to 2042. For Yanukovich, it was the deal of the century. For Russian “president” Dima Medvedev, it was yet another amazing sucker move.
The irony in light of our lead editorial in this issue is palpable: Russia is running out of gas rapidly, yet it is going to send a flow of cheap energy to Ukraine indefinitely in order to secure a naval base which offers Russia absolutely no strategic value, since the Russian “navy” is a mere figment of the Kremlin’s imagination, in reality nothing more than rusty, creaking bucket of bolts.
The Moscow Times reports:
Young people who gathered to celebrate spring by blowing bubbles at an annual flash mob in central St. Petersburg were attacked by a group of suspected neo-Nazis who mistook the gathering for a gay pride event, flash mob organizers said.
Some 500 people stood blowing bubbles on the steps of Gorkovskaya metro station and in the surrounding Alexandrovsky Park at about 4 p.m. Sunday — the agreed time for the start of the flash mob — when about 30 men ran up and started beating them and firing rubber bullets.
Several people fell to the ground before the attackers fled at the sight of approaching OMON riot police officers. A reporter saw officers detain at least one attacker. Police also detained about 30 bubble-blowers for five hours on suspicion of walking on the grass, a charge that they denied, organizers said.
Unconfirmed media reports said at least two participants were injured, one with a concussion and the other from a rubber bullet from an attacker’s gun.
Repeated calls to the police’s press office went unanswered.
Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:
During his visit to Murmansk on Saturday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin demonstrated his concern for the people by “spontaneously” popping into a pharmacy unannounced to see if Arbidol flu medicine was available and at what price.
Putin’s Arbidol visit was broadcast throughout the day and evening on national television news programs, which will surely boost the product’s sales more than the best advertising campaign could ever do.
Arbidol is made by Pharmstandard, with headquarters in the Moscow region. Why did Putin act as an advertising agency for the company, going out of his way in Murmansk to mention Arbidol by name?
Here is a short chronology of events behind Arbidol’s miraculous success:
The month of April brought five WTA tour events, including the “fifth grand slam” at the Sony Erickson Open in Miami, Florida. Five events meant ten opportunities for Russians to contest for a title.
Yet, despite having three of the world’s top ten players, Russia did not win a single title, and indeed placed only one of its female players into a final. That was Vera Zvonareva, who was brutally crushed at the event in Charleston. In Russia’s only bid for a title, Zvonareva managed to win just three of 15 games played, none in the first set, in a truly pathetic and humiliating display.
But it was nothing compared to what occurred at the vaunted Miami event.