FRIDAY AUGUST 13 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Russia’s Jackass President
(2) OP-ED: Would you buy a Used Car from Vladimir Putin?
(3) Putin’s Childish, Self-destructive Grain Embargo
(4) Does Russia hate America . . . or Love it?
(5) Killing Russia, Slowly
(6) Authoritarianism: It Just doesn’t Work
NOTE: LR is pleased to welcome Stalin scholar Paul Gregory back to our virtual pages with a second op-ed analyzing the Putin years. Our next issue will carry an op-ed from legal scholar Ethan Burger. We welcome op-ed submissions on any topic involving Russia, they can be submitted by email to: email@example.com.
NOTE: Watch Russia go up in flames.
Russia’s Jackass “President”
Last week, the farcical spectacle of Russian politics became even more ludicrous. And Russia edged that much closer to the abyss from which there can be no return.
Even as Vladimir Putin took the wheel of a fire-fighting aircraft to “prove” he remains the same superhero who single-handedly “saved” Russia from collapse, when asked his puppet “successor” Dima Medvedev said he had no idea who the candidates for “president” of the country would be in 2012, giving rise to howls of derision from Putin’s flunkies. Finally, Russia’s top doctor said there was no health risk to Russians resulting from the massive cloud of smog hovering over their homes as a result of the national wave of wildfires, not even if that smoke was radioactive.
It could not be more clear, then, that Medevedev is not the master of his domain, that he does not even have the requisite authority to decide if he will seek reelection — just as we have been saying since his first took “power” two years ago. It could not be more clear, by his own words, that the Medvedev presidency is simply a shameless fraud being perpetrated on the sheep-like denizens of this benighted country.
Nor could the failure of the policies of Medvedev’s lord and master Vladimir Putin, whose incompetence is now palpable.
Would You Buy a Used Car from Vladimir Putin?
By Paul Gregory
Author of Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin’s Kremlin
Exclusive to La Russophobe
Professor Paul R. Gregory
The Russian government announced last week it is selling shares of eleven state-owned companies to new shareholders. The companies include the national railroad, two state banks, a state oil company (Rosneft), and the state oil pipeline company (Transneft).
Proceeds from the sale are to be applied against the state budget deficit. In all cases, the government will retain majority ownership. Although there may be strategic investors, purchasers will clearly be minority shareholders. Notably, the announcement coincided with Conoco’s withdrawal from Russia after its billion dollar investments in the Russian oil industry soured.
Although most major investors in Russia have seen their investments collapse after confrontations with tax authorities, environmental agencies, Russian courts, and Kremlin-favored oligarchs, buyers of shares in these eleven Russian companies are supposed to be protected. After all, minority shareholders now have the state on their side. Buyers should, however, beware for three reasons!
Paul Goble reports:
The embargo on the export of grain Vladimir Putin has announced will hurt Russia’s image as a reliable supplier to the world, Moscow experts say. Moreover, they say, it will not necessarily keep bread prices down as Putin said but rather may allow Russian companies and officials to profit through the sale of grain later after prices rise. At the end of July, Russia’s agriculture ministry said that Moscow had no plans to impose an export embargo on grain despite indications of a serious decline in the size of the crop because of the drought and despite already dramatic increases in the price of bread and other products in some regions.
But then, last week, Putin called for and the Russian government imposed a temporary embargo on the export of grain for the period August 15 through December 31 in order to ensure that there would be enough grain for the domestic market to prevent any further increases in bread prices.
The Jamestown Foundation reports:
The Galygin television show is perhaps the best popular representation of Russians’ idiosyncratic relationship with the United States.
The show copies Seinfeld, the quintessential American sitcom, with its own standup comedy bits sprinkled between the daily lives of Russian versions of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer. While the former is familiar, Galygin.ru characters are deep patriots. In one episode, for example, they throw a Western tourist out of a bar while cheering on the Russian team in a televised hockey game (STS TV channel, February, 2010).
Russian mainstream press outlets, mostly controlled by the government, convey a rigid narrative about what the West (Europe and the United States) means to Russia. In the crudest terms, the narrative claims that the West is trying to undermine Russia by luring former Soviet states into its own sphere of influence. Broadcast by the national TV channels, it portrays United States as a competitive power.
However, little is known about what ordinary Russians believe the West has to say about Russia.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
Behind President Dmitry Medvedev’s superficial and meaningless words of “modernization” and “freedom is better than a lack of freedom,” Russia continues its repression of opposition members, human rights activists and independent journalists. A good example of how Medvedev’s “modernization and freedom” is flourishing can be found in the republic of Altai, a picturesque, mountainous region in West Siberia. Criminal charges were filed by Altai Governor Alexander Berdnikov against Sergei Mikhailov, editor-in-chief of the local Listok newspaper, for its critical articles against Berdnikov and other bureaucrats in his administration.
Dani Rodrik, professor of political economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, writing in the Moscow Times:
On July 31, several hundred pro-democracy activists congregated in a Moscow square to protest government restrictions on freedom of assembly. They were promptly surrounded by police officers, who tried to break up the demonstration. A leading critic of the Kremlin and several others were hastily dragged into a police car and driven away.
This is par for the course in a country that is ruled by the strong hand of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, where persecution of the government’s opponents, human rights violations and judicial abuses have become routine. At a time when democracy and human rights have become global norms, such transgressions do little to enhance Russia’s global reputation.