FRIDAY FEBRUARY 25 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The Coming Russian Depression
(2) EDITORIAL: Long Live Luke Harding!
(3) EDITORIAL: Russians — You just can’t Trust Them
(4) EDITORIAL: Home Sweet Home for Vladimir Putin
(6) Russia’s Stunning Failure in Chechnya
(7) Latynina: Why are Russians so Gutless?
(8) The Downfall of Education in Putin’s Russia
(9) CARTOON: Alien, 2011
NOTE: One of our favorite Russia bloggers, Julia Ioffe is interviewed in Russian on Russian radio here.
NOTE: A defamation lawsuit by former parliament member Vladimir Ryzhkov and former Kremlin officials Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov has begun its trial in Moscow. The defendant? Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
NOTE: Ever wonder what the lives of Russian customs officials are like? Wonder no longer.
The Coming Russian Depression
Even by Russian standards, the economic news last week was exceedingly grim.
A new report released by Standard & Poors revealed that as Russia’s population crashes to near 115 million by 2050, a loss of well over 15% from today’s level, and as it ages while younger workers disappear, the country can expect national debt to soar to stratospheric levels nearly six times what Russia produces in value in a given year. Russia will produce less and less value with fewer and fewer productive workers (Russian workers are already among the world’s least productive and most corrupt), yet it will be called upon to pay out more and more to unproductive, aging workers.
S&P’s conclusion was stark indeed: “By 2035, we expect that Russia’s fiscal indicators will have weakened such that they would be more in line with sovereigns currently rated in the speculative-grade category, because, in our view, the projected improvement in GDP per capita would not be able to offset the potential fiscal deterioration.”
Long Live Luke Harding
On December 1, 2010, Luke Harding, Russia correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, published a story based on leaked confidential government documents which concluded that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin approved the murder of dissident KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko.
Six weeks later, the very next time Harding tried to enter Russia, his visa was revoked and he was sent back home. More than three dozen foreign journalists have been refused entry to Russia since Vladimir Putin came to power and many others, like Paul Klebnikov of Forbes, have been murdered outright.
But it’s pretty hard to think of a single pro-Kremlin journalist who has been arrested or exiled or murdered by the Putin Kremlin, isn’t it?
Posted in editorial, iron curtain, journalism, journalists, neo-soviet crackdown, russia
Tagged Alexander Litvinenko, KGB, luke harding, moscow times, Paul Klebnikov, russia, The Guardian, vladimir putin, Walter Duranty
Russians — You just can’t Trust Them
When the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed 200 members of the Russian elite recently, it found that “Russia’s elite are the least likely out of 22 world nations to trust their country’s business institutions. Only 41 percent of those surveyed expressed confidence in businesses.” The level of trust, already pitifully low, slipped from last year.
Do Russians think their government and/or the media is their champion, honest itself and fighting against business corruption on their behalf? They do not. The Moscow Times reports:
The survey revealed that Russians are also wary of their political and social institutions, with confidence ratings falling at least 14 points below the world average in each category. Nongovernmental organizations got the highest confidence vote, 42 percent. But only 39 percent of the elite trust the government, while only 37 percent believe the media.
It’s exactly what one would predict in a country that has chosen to allow itself to be ruled by a proud KGB spy whose raison d’etre is lies and deception.
The MT explains that the financial costs to the Russian people of all this suspicion are astronomical.
Home Sweet Gold-Plated Home for Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin's new front door, complete with Russian Eagle
Last week Vladimir Putin announced he intended to spend more than $20 billion over the the next five years on housing for Russia’s impoverished, homeless masses. We wonder if he includes himself in that group, and if so how much of that $20 billion will go into Putin’s personal pocket.
He needs the money, of course, if he’s going to go on building personal palaces plated with gold at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, and maintain them for decades.
Joshua Yaffa, writing on Foreign Policy, says that Russians brought the Domodedovo terrorist attack upon themselves:
For over a decade, suicide attacks have been a persistent and macabre feature of Russia’s battle with militants in the North Caucasus. The suicide bomber who took the lives of 35 people in the arrival hall of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Jan. 24 provided only the latest chapter in a dark history that, for many Russians, is also the history of Chechnya’s struggle for national self-determination. In reality, however, the violence is no longer political — for the residents of this troubled region, it has become something much more noxious and potentially unsolvable.
Under Vladimir Putin, whose rise to power was intertwined with Russia’s second invasion of Chechnya in October 1999, Moscow marginalized the nationalist, secular wing of the Chechen rebel movement. The conflict’s unapologetically violent extremists, inspired by the language of global jihad, filled the gap — allowing the Kremlin to plausibly claim that further negotiations were impossible. The current generation of militants is not motivated by the prospect of a realistic political settlement — unless the establishment of an Islamic “emirate” in the North Caucasus can be called realistic.
Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times, asks why her countrymen are so pathetically spineless:
In an interview with Gazeta.ru, Natalya Vasilyeva, assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin in the second criminal case against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said Danilkin had to obtain approval from the Moscow City Court — and higher — for each of his actions, and that the city court wrote the verdict that Danilkin read at the trial.
There were two surprising things about the interview with Vasilyeva. The first is her claim that Danilkin considered the process unjust and was out of sorts as a result. If that is true, it is unexpected because people tend to rationalize their actions. I find it hard to believe that the average NKVD officer really considered himself an inhumane executioner, despite the historical record showing him to be exactly that.
The second is that, if Vasilyeva spoke the truth, it is amazing how easily Danilkin buckled under pressure and sold out his ideals. After all, what would have happened to him if he had acquitted Khodorkovsky?
Vladimir Ryzkhov, writing in the Moscow Times:
The Education and Science Ministry headed by Andrei Fursenko has a good shot at winning the dubious title of Least-Loved Federal Agency, an honor once incontestably held by the Health and Social Development Ministry when it was headed by Mikhail Zurabov. He was disgraced after trying to monetize pensioners’ benefits, which sparked widespread protests in 2005.
Criticism has not subsided over standardized university-entrance exams that were intended to end corruption by leveling the educational playing field for rich and poor, urbanites and people from the provinces. But the exams have only given the advantage to the most corrupt regions and turned the educational process into a mindless rote process of memorizing facts instead of testing students’ intellectual ability.
The title reads: “Alien 2012, the Saga Continues”