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Third World Russia

Apparently the proud KGB spies who rule Russia believed that the world would be impressed by their military action against tiny, defenseless Georgia.  But in fact, all that has happened is that massive Russian weakness has been exposed.  The world has scoffed at the shoddy, backwards quality of the Russian military hardware that’s been paraded in Georgia (much of it broke down before ever reaching the battlefield) and now the prestigious Investor’s Business Daily remainds us that Russia is “practically a caricature of the stereotypical Third World country.”  Ouch! Nice PR work there, Mr. Putin! The author is Richard Ebeling is a senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Mass.

I was in Moscow just before the collapse of the Soviet Union and spent most of three days at the Russian Parliament building, watching as Boris Yeltsin, standing atop a tank, rallied thousands of fellow Russians to defend their emerging democracy against a then-in-progress coup attempt by Soviet hard-liners. The day after the failed coup, tens of thousands of Muscovites celebrated in a large square behind the Parliament building. As the Soviet flag was lowered and the traditional Russian colors of red, white and blue were raised, the crowd chanted in unison: “Swaboda, swaboda, swaboda” — “Freedom, freedom, freedom.”

How long ago those days now seem, as the recent conflict in the Republic of Georgia reveals. Today’s Russia has fallen back into its historical tradition of a centralized and authoritarian government, a regulated and manipulated economy, and suspicion and hostility toward the West. Gone are the days when Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to be moving his country in a free-market direction by dramatically lowering business taxes, introducing a 13% flat income tax, reducing bureaucratic regulations and using export revenues to pay off Russia’s foreign debt.

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