WEDNESDAY APRIL 14 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The Pathetic Failure of Putinomics
(2) EDITORIAL: Russia, Perishing
(3) Obama and his Noxious Nuclear Nonsense
(4) Sokolov on Katyn
(5) Zakayev on the Subway Bombings
NOTE: A website has won a Pulitzer Prize for the first time, confirming the growing importance of the blogosphere. We warmly congratulate both the winner for its tremendous reporting and the Committee for recognizing the invaluable contribution of the Internet to the our knowledge of the world around us.
The Pathetic Failure of Putinomics
In the annals of “signs of the Russian economic apocalypse,” we can’t think of many more jolting revelations than the report last week that Aeroflot — yes, Aeroflot — was planning to open a “budget carrier” subsidiary.
Do you dare, dear reader, imagine what it might be like to fly on a version of Aeroflot that openly cut corners? Aeroflot itself is already world famous as one of the cheesiest, most offensive, revolting and dangerous airlines in world history. What will it be like when Aeroflot starts cutting back on services? It’s not something we care to contemplate and as for boarding such a plan, even if bound for Vladivostok from Murmansk in winter, we’d rather walk. Or crawl.
A recent economic analysis of Putin’s Russia by the British website WhatInvestment pulls no punches in echoing the dark warnings of economic doom echoed by Aeroflot’s decision.
Just for starters, it calls the overall Russian economy “shockingly imbalanced.”
At a recent conference on Russia’s lethal population collapse Nikolay Gerasimenko, the first deputy chairman of the Duma Health Committee, said bluntly that “the birthrate will fall whatever we do,” despite the Kremlin’s claims of success in reversing Russia’s declining birthrates in recent months. Garasimenko stated that he “expects high birthrates to continue for two more years, [but] unfortunately since December , there has been a slowing of the birthrate” and as a result Russias brutal “mortality has exceeded berths by 22,000, driving the population down.”
Gerasimenko confirmed that the Russian government does not have any type of viable plan for lowering mortality rates. In addition to reducing alcohol consumption, he said, the authorities need to reduce the use of tobacco and increase access to medical care in order to “reduce the super high rates of morality,” although he too was pessimistic. He stated that because so many of the mothers are ill themselves “they give birth to ill children,” whose life expectancies are less than normal, creating a vicious circle.
Michael Bohm, writing in the Moscow Times:
Josef Stalin once said, “It’s not important how the people vote, but who is counting the votes.” This could also apply to counting the warheads in the New START agreement. Despite all the hyped-up talk about “30 percent reductions” in nuclear weapons in what U.S. President Barack Obama has called “the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades,” the real reductions in the nuclear arsenals of both sides are modest at best.
As Peter Baker reported in The New York Times, Russia and the United States have agreed to apply “creative accounting” to pad the reductions on both sides to get to the much-desired 30 percent figure -— at least on paper. For example, one trick was to count the 20 warheads on B-52 bombers as only one. At the end of the day, the real net cuts, according to Hans Kristenson of the Federation of American Scientists, will be only 100 U.S. deployed warheads and 190 Russian ones.
Based on Kristenson’s figures of deployed warheads currently on the U.S. side (2,100) and the Russian side (2,600), the arsenal of deployed warheads will be reduced by only 5 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Thus, creative accounting has produced creative disarmament.
But this was not the only nuclear sleight of hand.
Paul Goble reports:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has received enormous and largely uncritical international praise for taking part in the commemoration of the Katyn tragedy and for allowing Andrzej Wajda’s film about the Soviet execution of 22,000 Polish officers there in 1940 to be shown on Russian television. But a careful reading of his remarks, Boris Sokolov suggests in an essay posted on Grani.ru, shows that Putin not only was unprepared to acknowledge many aspects of that horrific act but openly lied about it to bring pressure on Poland to stop raising the issue either bilaterally or internationally.
In his speech, the Grani.ru commentator notes, Putin spoke about “the joint path to making sense of national memory and historical wounds” as being a means to allowing Russians and Poles to “avoid the dead-end of a lack of understanding and eternal settling of scores, the primitive division of peoples into right and guilty, as some dirty politicians sometimes try to do.” The Russian prime minister added that “in our country has been given a clear political, legal and moral assessment of the misdeeds of the totalitarian regime, and such assessment is not subject to any revisions.” His Polish counterpart Donald Tusk agreed that “the truth about Katyn must not divide the Russian and Polish peoples.”
Such words sound entirely correct, and compared to earlier statements by Russian officials, they represent a significant step forward. But one cannot fail to be struck, Sokolov says, that “the Russian premier spoke more about his sympathy to the victims and said almost nothing about the responsibility of [their] executioners.” Moreover, Putin declared that for decades, people had attempted to distort “the truth about the Katyn shootings” and to “lay the blame [for them] on the Russian people.” Such a formulation misstates the case of all those who have examined the Katyn murders: those who do hold responsible for them “not the Russian people but the Russian state.”
Marsha Karp, reporting on Rights in Russia:
I first met Akhmed Zakaev in February 2005 when he was President Maskhadov’s envoy and was taking part in talks, under the auspices of the European Union, with a group from the Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee of Russia, who came to London to negotiate an end to the bloodshed in Chechnya. A Memorandum outlining a way forward was signed, but less than two weeks later Aslan Maskhadov was killed and the plan came to nothing. After the deadly attacks on the Moscow underground trains on 29th March, and the following explosions in Dagestan, I asked Zakaev, now Head of the Ichkeria government in exile, for an interview.
MK: Who is behind the latest attacks?
Akhmed Zakaev: It is difficult to give a simple answer. We can only analyse these events and compare them with the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Russia over the last ten years since Putin came to power. All the major terrorist attacks, or rather mass murders, that have taken place in Russia have inevitably been followed by reforms of one kind or another, whether political, social or economic.