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Odds & Ends: Russia Politics LQD Edition.

by poemless Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:17:55 PM EST

Contents: A Lot of Like Serious News about Russian Politicians and Stuff, with Pictures of Hot Guys too.

What?  

You think I cannot write a Lazy Quote Diary?  

You think I am incapable of a quick copy and paste job, followed by a cigarette and lounging about in bed?  

Ok.  You are right.  But right after I post this I will stretch out and act lazy-like.  

Eventually...


Propaganda in the Western Press I Can Finally Get Behind

1.  NYT: U.S. Is in No Shape to Give Advice, Medvedev Says

MOSCOW -- Russia's new president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, less swaggering than his predecessor but as touchy about criticism from abroad, said in an interview that an America in "essentially a depression" was in no position to lecture other countries on how to conduct their affairs.
With soaring oil revenues bolstering the Russian economy and Kremlin confidence, Mr. Medvedev brushed aside American criticism of his country's record on democracy and human rights. He also said that a revived Russia had a right to assume a larger role in a world economic system that he suggested should no longer be dominated by the United States.

(...)

"The Group of 8 exists not because someone likes or dislikes it, but because objectively, they are the biggest world economies and the most serious players from the foreign policy point of view," Mr. Medvedev said. "Any attempts to put restrictions on anyone in this capacity will damage the entire world order."

He added, "I am sure that any administration of the United States of America, if it wishes to succeed, among other things, in overcoming essentially a depression that exists in the American economic market, must conduct a pragmatic policy inside the country and abroad."

Mr. Medvedev said world leaders should realize that the credit crunch and a gathering global recession signaled that the worldwide economic architecture needed to be overhauled. He did not specify how this should be done, but indicated it should entail a reduction in the influence of the United States.

Sargon, how do you say, Schadenfreude in Russian?  

The FP Passport blog headlines this article with the following oh-so original silliness:  "In an interview with the New York Times, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sounded a lot like you-know-who."  <---Everything that is wrong with journalism today.

2.  AFP: Medvedev eyes 'rational' democracy for Russia

MOSCOW (AFP) -- President Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged Thursday that domestic political competition was critical for Russia's development but said it must be "rational" and overseen by a strong executive leader.

In an interview with media outlets from G8 countries, the new Russia leader also called for creation of a "multi-currency" world economic system relying less heavily on the United States and its dollar.

"To ensure that our country remains competitive on a global scale, we must have political competition" at home, Medvedev said in the wide-ranging interview ahead of next week's G8 summit in Japan.

"But it must be rational," he added. "It must be competition built on the law."

Medvedev's Kremlin predecessor, Vladimir Putin, was heavily criticised in the West for rolling back democratic freedoms and Russia's G8 partners are watching closely for signs that Medvedev could take a different approach.

The new Russian leader, Putin's hand-picked successor who will make his debut on the G8 stage next week, has made clear that he may differ from Putin in form but that there was little daylight between them on policy substance.

Like Putin, Medvedev insisted that Russia was a country that required a strong executive leader and cautioned that introduction of a parliamentary system of government here "would mean the death of Russia as a country."

"Russia must remain a presidential republic for decades or even hundreds of years to come in order to stay united," he said.

So, it looks like we've moved from "Sovereign Democracy" to "Rational Democracy."  Er, I think we were kinda hoping the "rational" bit was implied in "democracy."  Crazy brainiac Russian, deconstructing everything and thinking about old concepts in new ways.  

IHT Op-Ed Pages Have Field Day with Reason and Sanity

1.  Wrong on Russia, by Stephen Cohen

...

Oh, you've already read this article a zillion times in my previous diaries.  That fact, however, should not prevent you from reading it again.  This is what I like to call "Good Old-fashioned Brainwashing."  Go on.  Read it again.  Nabokov, you know, said, "there is no reading, only re-reading."  I'll wait.

2.  Global security and propaganda, By Dmitry Rogozin

As the official representative of Russia to NATO I have to deal with what NATO representatives give as arguments, which are in fact fusty propaganda rhetoric of the Cold War. These dogmas threaten both progress in Russia-NATO relations and the prospects for global security, and even the process of cementing democracy in Russia.

(...)
Dogma No. 4 also resembles propaganda: NATO pursues an "open-door policy."

Russia cannot enter these doors - unlike, for example, Albania or Croatia. That means the enlargement of NATO diminishes the political weight of old European democracies in favor of the United States and to the prejudice of a security environment in Europe that could address real threats.

On the issue of the American plans to deploy elements of strategic missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic: We are reassured again and again: "Russia is not our enemy"; "The missile defense is an umbrella to protect us against bad guys from Iran who threaten the good guys in America and Israel."

In fact, nothing consolidates and compromises opposition better than an outside enemy. As one who lived a significant part of his life under the Soviet regime, let me tell you that if it had not been for the Cold War, democratization would have begun in the USSR decades earlier.

Secondly, plans to intercept Iranian missiles over the Czech Republic and Poland is a joke. Even if we assume Iran is ready to produce these missiles, wouldn't it be more logical to deploy defenses in Turkey, Bulgaria or Iraq? Yet Washington persists in reiterating its arguments, which gives us grounds to believe we are not being told the whole truth.

Then there are the references to the famous Munich speech made by President Vladimir Putin and other claims that Russia is getting more aggressive.

What, did Putin reveal some dark secret? The secret that NATO is enlarging, opening new military bases and establishing division lines in Europe? Is it a secret that NATO has been challenging the UN and ignoring international law?

It's just that Putin said these things in an open and honest manner, as befits a leader meeting with foreign colleagues, urging them to share his concern.

Smackdown.  I can't wait until they take over the world.

3.  Unconventional wisdom about Russia, by Kissinger

With respect to the long term, ever since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, a succession of American administrations has acted as if the creation of Russian democracy were a principal American task. Speeches denouncing Russian shortcomings and gestures drawn from the Cold War struggle for pre-eminence have occurred frequently.
The policy of assertive intrusion into what Russians consider their own sense of self runs the risk of thwarting both geopolitical as well as moral goals. There are undoubtedly groups and individuals in Russia who look to America for accelerating a democratic evolution. But almost all observers agree that the vast majority of Russians consider America as presumptuous and determined to stunt Russia's recovery. Such an environment is more likely to encourage a nationalist and confrontational response than a democratic evolution.

It would be a pity if this mood persisted because, in many ways, we are witnessing one of the most promising periods in Russian history. Exposure to modern open societies and engagement with them is more prolonged and intense than in any previous period of Russian history - even in the face of unfortunate repressive measures. We can affect it more by patience and historical understanding than by offended disengagement and public exhortations.

This is all the more important because geopolitical realities provide an unusual opportunity for strategic cooperation between the erstwhile Cold War adversaries. Between them, the U.S. and Russia control 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. Russia contains the largest landmass of any country, abutting Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Progress toward stability, with respect to nuclear weapons, in the Middle East and in Iran, requires - or is greatly facilitated by - Russian-American cooperation.

Confrontational rhetoric notwithstanding, Russia's leaders are conscious of their strategic limitations. Indeed, I would characterize Russian policy under Putin as driven in a quest for a reliable strategic partner, with America being the preferred choice.

Russian turbulent rhetoric in recent years reflects, in part, frustration by America's seeming imperviousness to that quest. Two elections for the Duma and the president also have given Russian leaders an incentive to appeal to nationalist feelings rampant after a decade of perceived humiliation. These detours do not affect the underlying reality. Three issues dominate the political agenda: security; Iran; and the relation of Russia to its former dependents, especially Ukraine.

Issues with Henry aside, I think "ever since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, a succession of American administrations has acted as if the creation of Russian democracy were a principal American task" may be one of the most spot-on things I've ever read in any paper in my whole life.  

Like Access Hollywood, only for Russian Politics Junkies

They say politics is Hollywood for ugly people.  That's because "they" were thinking only of American politics.

So, if Medvedev is running the joint, what is Vovochka up to these days?

1.  Reuters: Putin calls for bobsleigh site to be moved

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for the transfer of a proposed Olympic bobsleigh site over ecological concerns, Russian media reported.
The planned Sochi-2014 Winter Olympics venue, next to a mountain nature preserve above Russia's summer resort city on the Black Sea, was criticized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) last month as "environmentally unfriendly".

"I consider it necessary to move these venues to another site, as agreed with the International Olympic Committee," Putin said at a meeting with Russian Olympic officials in Sochi, news agency RIA said.

In a nine-page summary of its April inspection, UNEP said Grushevy Ridge, where the bobsleigh course and competitors' accommodation had been due to be built, is home to endangered flora and fauna.

As the official consultant to the International Olympic Committee for environmental protection up to and through the 2014 Olympic Games, UNEP visited Sochi's proposed venue sites at the invitation of the Russian government.

A source close to the Russian government told Reuters: "They have taken the environmental concerns very seriously, including the U.N. report, particularly when it comes to Grushevy Ridge."

Russian and international environmental organizations had also been calling for the bobsleigh site to be moved from Grushevy Ridge, and Greenpeace said it had proposed 16 alternative sites.

Greenpeace Russia hailed Thursday's announcement.

Why, moving bobsleigh sites and saving the environment.  When he's not secretly running the country and stealing innocent civil rights from the Whos of Whoville, of course.  

RIA Novosti: Putin to continue televised Q&A sessions

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has confirmed during his meeting with the United Russia leaders late last week that he would continue his televised question and answer sessions.

The Kremlin and the government are considering ways to divide public addresses between President Dmitry Medvedev and the prime minister, according to sources there.

Medvedev is unlikely to use the forms Putin has used, said a Russian official. It would be logical to create a new medium for public functions for the new president, such as online conferences. Medvedev is comfortable with the Internet because he has used it for discussing national projects.

Putin has held annual televised Q&A sessions and major press opportunities since 2001. He has held only one online conference, in 2006, and the net users were disappointed with censoring by moderators and with the president, who answered the most pointed questions only after the conference was over.

Political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said online conferences were not Putin's cup of tea, and that he looks better on television.

Are you kidding?  He looks better anywhere.

So very very excited to hear his Q&A shows will continue.  That is some serious Must See TV.  

2.  Kommersant: Medvedev Accepts Abramovich's Resignation

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree on the early release of Chukotka Autonomous Area Governor Roman Abramovich from office, Interfax reports. The text of the decree, which has been released by the Kremlin press service, indicates that Abramovich had submitted his resignation. "The resignation of Chukotka Autonomous Area Governor R.L. Abramovich is accepted at his desire," it affirms. The president has appointed Roman Kopin temporary acting governor of Chukotka until Abramovich is replaced. The decree goes into force on the day it is signed.

This sucks, as that was the only reason I ever liked the guy.  I have Chukchi-philia, convinced they are my people.  But I guess Roman wants to spend more quality time with his ... boat...s.  Considering how many people these things can accommodate, I bet owning one is not entirely unlike governing a whole republic.

3.  MN Weekly: Liberal Yabloko gets New Leader

A massive overhaul of Russia's oldest democratic party, Yabloko, has lead to the replacement of its founding leader, Grigory Yavlinsky, with Sergei Mitrokhin, a deputy in the Moscow City Duma that some members of this oppositionist party have described as a hardliner.
"We are going to keep a single team, one in which the roles have changed," Mitrokhin told The Moscow News Tuesday, when asked what kind of relationship he would maintain with Yavlinsky.

(...)

Yabloko emerged in 1993 as a public organization with a social-democratic and liberal-democratic ideology. Its name, which means "apple" in Russian, comes from the first initials of three founders: Yavlinsky, who was an economic advisor to President Boris Yeltsin in the early 1990s, Yuri Bol­dyrev, and Vladimir Lukin.
Yabloko faired relatively well as a parliamentary force in the early 1990s, winning 27 seats in the Duma in 1993 and 45 seats in 1995. But by 2003, it gained just four seats, and failed to pass the 7 percent threshold in the latest parliamentary elections in December.

While the party has blamed its failures on a flawed vote, observers have pointed to its repeated failures to form a bloc with Russia's other liberal party, SPS (Union of Right Forces), an oppositionist movement that supported liberal economic reforms, although Yabloko contends that notion.

Negotiations to merge had ap­peared hopeful ahead of the 2003 vote, but by 2007 seemed to have turned into a mere formality. It was argued, meanwhile, that Mitrokhin would be the hardest to persuade to accept concessions that would allow for a bloc.

When asked about the possibility of merging with SPS, Mitrokhin said his party has a "wider goal."

"We want to unite all... forces under one platform," he told The Moscow News. "This platform must be democratic, and it must accept the mistakes that were made by... movements during the 1990s."

Mitrokhin said his party has the "moral right" to speak about the "mistakes" because it did not support the decisions that were behind them. Among some of the "mistakes" supported by liberal forces in the 1990s, the Yabloko leader singled out "loan for shares" auctions, under which state companies were privatized in exchange for a loan to the cash-strapped government; privatization reforms that led to inflation and left many people without their savings; and policies that led to the economic crisis of 1998.

"These mistakes have discredited... movements" amongst the population, he said.

What?  You didn't know there was a liberal democratic party in Russia?  That's because you only listen to the moronic Western journalists who think "you-know-who" is the devil, or else they would not be so afraid to say-his-name.  Or the lackeys of United Russia.  Speaking of which, you-know-who, who heads up the United Russia party, gave them all a stern talking to recently.  I guess he's going all Howard Dean on their asses.  As UR is about as competent as the Democratic Party.  

Here's more on Yabloko:

Ivanov: Yabloko: The Beginning Of The End?

Attempts to explain Yavlinsky's resignation by succumbing to the pressure of the "opposition" -- led by Maxim Reznik, the head of the St. Petersburg branch -- ignore the fact that Mitrokhin has won 75 of the total 125 votes of the Yabloko top brass (to Reznik's 24).  Given that margin, there is no doubt that had Yavlinsky decided to stay, he would have been re-elected in a landslide.
The key to understanding Yavlinsky's decision and his future -- and, by implication, the future of the party -- is his early March meeting with Putin.  Reportedly, Putin offered Yavlinsky "a position in the executive branch of government", something Yavlinsky neither confirmed nor denied.  However, now that his protege Mitrokhin is taking over day-to-day operations, Yavlinsky can do something else, while still retaining control of the party.  Tellingly, a newly adopted amendment to the Yabloko charter allows its members to participate in "state structures."

"Izvestiya" has reported that Yavlinsky may become Russia's Ambassador to Ukraine.  Also possible, however less likely, is that he will join a (state-controlled) commercial structure and spend the next few years earning big bucks.

As for Yabloko itself, I suspect that Yavlinsky's departure signals the beginning of its end.  My prediction is that within a year or so, Yabloko will merge with Just Russia.

Jerome: remind me again, is Just Russia Medvedev's or Putin's?  Robert Amsterdam has something up about Surkov and a possible split in the Tandemocracy.  I only mention this because I'm absolutely obsessed with Surkov and his nefarious hotness:  

Uhm, speaking of that...

4.  BBC: Yukos boss faces new fraud claims

Former Yukos chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky is facing new charges of embezzlement and money-laundering.
Russian prosecutors have accused the former oil tycoon of misappropriating 350 million tonnes of oil and laundering billions of US dollars.

Lawyers representing Mr Khodorkovsky have dismissed the charges as absurd.

Mr Khodorkovsky is currently serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion and fraud in a case critics of the Kremlin have said was politically-motivated.

Russian authorities have always denied such claims.

News of the latest charges have dampened hopes that the Kremlin may have been planning to pardon Mr Khodorkovsky.

Misha!  They will never let you go!  They cannot handle the fabulousness your freedom would unleash on the world!  ...  There are several seriously odd things about this story.  First off, everyone thought Medvedev would pardon him.  Secondly, er, no one can find anything new in the new charges.  All very Double Jeopardy.  Alex, I'll take Misha for $1000.

And this is sad:

MT: Khodorkovsky Faces 15 More Years

At our last meeting, he looked bad. Some kind of blotches have appeared on his face," she said, after a three-day visit to the far eastern city to mark Khodorkovsky's 45th birthday last week.

This Week In Russian Affronts to Media Freedoms

1.  RIA Novosti: Russian parliament rejects controversial media bill

MOSCOW, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's parliament voted down on Friday a widely criticized bill that would have allowed the authorities to close media outlets prosecuted for libel.
The amendments to the current law were proposed by Robert Shlegel, a member of the dominant, pro-Kremlin United Russia faction and a former radical youth group leader. They were overwhelmingly passed by the State Duma in their first reading on April 25.

Media representatives slammed the bill, initiated under then-president Vladimir Putin, as aimed at further strengthening control over the media.

The editor-in-chief of the popular tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets, Pavel Gusev, was reported to have called the amendments "an extra tool for shutting down the media and fighting free speech."

President Dmitry Medvedev later also gave a negative assessment of the amendments.

Earlier reports said U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin had approached Medvedev over the bill, urging him to stand up for free speech in Russia.

Vladimir Putin was accused in the West of stifling media freedoms during his eight-year presidency, when leading television channels were taken over by the state or Kremlin-connected businessmen.

Speaking after the vote, Oleg Shein from the Just Russia faction called it "an unarguable success for democracy in Russia."

Under the current law, media outlets can be shut down for publishing state secrets and the statements of extremist groups.

LOL.  Having a parliament act as a rubber stamp for the President is baaaad when Vovka's President, and a "success for democracy in Russia" when Medvedev is.  Face it.  We don't give a crap how you are running your countries so long as the outcome is that You Agree With Us.

2.  S-P Times: Cyrillic Web Sites Approved

MOSCOW -- Russia will be able to create its first Internet addresses using the Cyrillic alphabet next year, communications ministry official Vladimir Vassiliev told Interfax news agency on Sunday.
The move follows a decision by the organisation that regulates the Internet to deliver a radical shake-up to the domain-name system.

Russia, which currently uses two top-level domain names .ru and .su, will be able to create a third in Cyrillic by the second quarter of next year, Vassiliev said.

Some Russians have trouble using the Latin alphabet and being able to surf the web entirely in Russian would lead to an increase in the number of users, he said.

At the beginning of June, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, an internet enthusiast, said it was very important for Russia to have domain names in Cyrillic, mainly to reinforce the role of the Russian language in the world.

Because right now it's just far too easy for the whole entire rest of the world to understand Russia...

Additions to the Blogroll in my Mind, and to the Birdhouse in my Soul

1. Peter Lavelle's new blog

Thomas Jefferson said that, "Every new generation needs a new revolution."  Pasha might have said, "Every new thought needs a new blog."  Or maybe he didn't.  Anyway, one more incarnation of Untimely Thoughts.  Because how can you ever get enough of those tortoise-rimmed specs?  

2.  Natalia Antonova

Here's a post from her gig at Feminste: Cover up, woman!

It bugs me when "women as sex objects" gets trotted out to make me feel ashamed. Men rarely get shamed like this, even though the lucrative romance novel genre tells me that women frequently see men as sex objects too, not to mention men seeing other men as sex objects as well. There's a reason Fabio has had a lucrative career, and it doesn't have to do with his revolutionary post-modernist thought.
Having said that, I do not deny the damage and danger that befalls women when they are defined strictly in terms of their bodies and their desirability level. There are double standards at work here, and women get the short end of the stick. I still remember how, in 2003, Tara Reid complained about being ridiculed for her free-wheeling ways and displays of sexuality, while Colin Farrell was being lionized for the same damn thing. Five years later, not a whole lot has changed. And Hollywood isn't even the worst of it. Do people make fun of Michael Bernard Mukasey's looks like they did of Janet Reno's? Do conservative clerics make "uncovered meat" statements about men?

This is beside the endless litany of "she was wearing object X, hence she asked for it"-type comments that immediately crop up whenever a rape case is mentioned. I mean, just look at the post below mine.

If you're a woman, you can't win. If you're seen as attractive, you're probably a slut, and deserve to be treated accordingly. If someone thinks you're unattractive, well, you hardly count for a human being, and deserve to be treated accordingly.

I do believe that telling women that they have the responsibility to make sure that no man within a 10-mile radius "gets the wrong idea" about them (whether this idea involves sexual availability, level of intelligence, level of confidence, etc....) is misguided. First of all, it allows the assholes to set the standard. Second of all, it, once again, allows for the perpetuation of the idea that men are animals guided solely by instinct (funny how that "animal" label is immediately jettisoned when we start talking about, say, male achievement in the realm of physics as a means to prove that women are intellectually inferior - just which one is it, guys? Are you all Einsteins? Or Neanderthals?).

In feminist circles, there can be pretty harsh disagreements over appearance. While many of us will readily admit that submitting to the pressure to look conventionally attractive is certainly understandable, enjoying an attractive aspect of one's persona is often seen as the result of brainwashing, or immaturity, or irresponsibility. It's an interesting subject for me, because I identify strongly with a certain beauty culture that's practiced in my family. Now, I'm not going to pretend that beauty culture in general, and Ukrainian beauty culture in particular, is all hunky-dory. It's a complicated subject, and it has both obvious and not-so-obvious dark sides.

But having examined it, I have not outright rejected it, and the issue here was more than just fitting in for the sake of convenience. I think this goes for a lot of feminists. It's like acknowledging the sorry nature of most of mainstream programming, yet refusing to toss out your TV set because hey, "Lost" is on.

Living in Jordan has given me a whole new perspective on this, because you tend to watch what you wear here, and what is acceptable in a private gathering isn't at all acceptable for a stroll down the street. While I sincerely wish to refrain from offending people I come across, it is hard to conform. You can feel defensive. Or you can feel like a fake. In these moments, you start clinging on to those strappy high-heeled shoes of yours (and this is coming from a person who prefers flats) with trembling fingers, as if they are a holy relic. It's a freakishly weird situation, for me, but it's what happens when your choices become even more potentially problematic than usual.

Ultimately, I don't pretend to have the answers. I'm not here to tell anyone what to do with themselves. I just want to say that if someone who barely knows you tells you how you really feel about yourself and how you ought to look and dress and behave (regardless of whether you're wearing overalls, a cocktail dress, or a cyborg costume), probably the best comeback line for that was once sung by Madonna:

"I'm not your bitch, don't hang your shit on me."

Oh, yes.  Preach it, Natasha!

And from her personal blog:  I am working on a new essay, so check out the Beautiful Men, Euro 2008 Edition

From Russia, my Russia: Roman Shirokov (who looks like he should be in the Marines).
From Italia: Luca Toni (smile for me, Cheshire Kitty).

From France: Thierry Henry.

From Spain: Iker Casillas (rocking my face off since 2002) and, since I can't resist, Fernando Torres.

From Portugal: Helder Castiga and... OK... OK... I trash him in my column, but he's hot and talented... OK? Happy now? HAPPY NOW? Here he is, Mr. Cristiano "Ferret Grin" Ronaldo.

From Germany: Piotr Trochowski.

Roman Shirokov:

I don't need to explain to you why I am a fan.  What?  I mean of Natalia Antonova.  Sheesh.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Sometimes, I am famous.

Check out the SRB post, as I get into it with a buch of Western men about who is stereotyping whom when it comes to women and Russia.  

~~~~~~~~~~~

OK, I gotta run.  I'll be away relaxing for the holiday.

Thanks for reading & recommending & have a lovely weekend, mes amis!

Ciao!

Display:
that I have to learn Russian?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:41:55 PM EST
If this is in reference to the title, do you suggest I change it?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:50:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh no. It's an excellent title. I am just being pragmatic. I have many friends who have learned Russian. Your persuasive and optimistic  diaries just make me wonder if I can get away with NOT learning Russian.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:04:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, of course I highly encourage everyone to learn Russian.  Not only because your new leaders will make you, so best to get a head start, but because it's a beautiful language.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:32:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And sexy, too; just ask Wanda.

Karen in Austin

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 06:50:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or me.  You can ask me. ;)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 03:27:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking only for myself —

by Magnifico on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:04:26 PM EST
Bit of both. No black and white. There's so much grey in the Finnish skies at the moment. But tomorrow I'll see a presentation on a new sharing site that may cause the clouds to scud off.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:07:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that Ned is nearly in Rodin's The Thinker pose.

It's a bad shot, I'm trying to track down the museum where that Neanderthal model was photographed.

by Magnifico on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:16:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If they buried their dead with flowers, then they loved.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:19:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another good paragraph from the NYT piece on Medvedev.

Mr. Medvedev made his comments on Tuesday in a meeting with a small group of foreign journalists a day after the American treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., appealed in Moscow for Russian investment in the United States. The symbolism of the visit resonated here, in that only a decade had passed since the Russian economy was in shambles and the country was desperate for Western aid.

Isn't the Russian economy bolstered by having oil and gas? Is Moscow taking steps to deal with the already downward turn in production? I doubt Russia would have recovered if it didn't have oil to pump.

Anyway, that's at lease a future years in the future. Now, if America wants Russian investment so badly, then maybe Medvedev should drive the shiv in a little deeper and negotiate a price for Alaska?

by Magnifico on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:13:11 PM EST
Gazprom wants to build a pipeline from Russia to Alaska.  

Negotiate?  What leverage are you suggesting the US use?  Its good looks?  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:38:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying the U.S. has any leverage.

I'm saying if Paulson, on the behalf of the U.S., wants investment from Russia, then Medvedev should offer to buy Alaska back or at least secure it as collateral in case of U.S. default.

by Magnifico on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:57:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary, Poemless.

I just hope Medvedev doesn't model "competition," at least among large corporate entities, on US models.

I see that Rogozin, as I would expect from his Soviet education, retains a firm grasp on the Hegelian Dialectic as it applies in international relations.  Would that US "Foreign Policy Experts" had comparable competence.

Finally something sensible from Henry, not that this atones for his role in the destabilization of Cambodia and overthrow of Allende in Chile.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 11:11:16 PM EST
Putin and Medvedev are failing in a strategic and profound way in their role as leaders of Russia.

The revenues of energy are finite and temporary. They should be used to build up the country infrastructure (trains...) and public services, improve public housing, etc, so as to prepare Russia for the coming crunch.

It is a unique opportunity, it won't happen again, and they are doing absolutely nothing about it. Winter games in Sochi ? Come on ! They behave as if oil and gas would flow for ever.

This point was made obvious last time I tried to get to Sheremetevo (sp?) airport from Moscow's center : the traffic jams were horrendous, public transportation in the same state as 10 years ago, ie not as good as in the Soviet times.

by balbuz on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 12:52:05 AM EST
~Putin and Medvedev are failing in a strategic and profound way in their role as leaders of Russia.

Could you expand upon this?  From what Medvedev has said, domestic infrastructure is to be one of his top priorities.  I generally don't write about such things because I assume foreign policy is of more interest to people here.  Also, what one says and what one does (or is able to do - it's amazing what local or low-level corruption and incompetence can prevent well-intentioned leaders from accomplishing) are not always the same thing, I understand that.  But Putin and Medvedev are not stupid and must be able to see the same limited-time-only opportunities that we do.  Er, I hope.  

~I've repeatedly made my feelings on the Olympics clear.  :)

~I don't know what public transport was like under communism, but I can say with some authority that 10 years ago it was the best system (speaking of Moscow now) I've seen to date.  I read a lot about the increasing level of traffic hell (which was hell even 10 years ago) so that it is nothing less than absurd now.  But have heard nothing about defunding public transit.  In fact, I recently read that a new high-speed train from Sheremetevo to the city has just opened.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 03:26:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hesitate to post given the asinine attacks I was subjected to a couple of months ago on DKos for having the temerity to post on Russia, especially by a pair of individuals who demonstrated the truth of the proposition that engineers, while useful, need stored in secure facilities between projects, but here I go.

I don't know what Balbuz is specifically referring to, but I know I have seen reports that Russian oil production has already plateaued.  Western Europe is paying attention to this, but there is little indication Russia is (unless you consider its efforts to open up the Arctic "paying attention," which I don't, any more than I consider the White House's efforts to open up ANWR to oil drilling to be "paying attention" to US oil consumption) (Speaking of the US, we aren't paying attention to any these issues, which is to be expected as we pay attention only to what Rupert Murdoch tells us to.).  If Russia isn't careful, it can find itself down the road (and not too far down the road, either) having squandered the economic advantage its resources provided, lost the political muscle that advantage created, and created an infrastructure that is not sustainable given the reduced revenue nor is even applicable given the new economic reality.  And that is something the US can lecture Russia on.

by rifek on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 01:59:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
having squandered the economic advantage its resources provided, lost the political muscle that advantage created, and created an infrastructure that is not sustainable given the reduced revenue nor is even applicable given the new economic reality

Jerome's writing during the gazprom "crisis" eighteen months ago (or so) underscored all of this, although he wasn't discussing it from that angle. The Soviet Union made the same mistakes.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 06:59:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My microcosmic view comes from visiting there, not from some budgetary or economic figures I could produce.

Russia is a few islands of limitless prosperity, Moscow and some energy-rich towns such as Ekaterinburg : there, you will find just the same consumption excesses, SUV, large German cars, traffic jams, as any in the "West".

Yes, they are finalizing this rail link with Sheremetevo, but that's Moscow, and Russia is vast.

Outside these islands of extreme wealth, absolutely nothing is being done. Hop onto a train towards Kazan or Yaroslavl, and you will be transported in the same wagons that were used 40 years ago. The public buses or tranways in the little provincial towns are in an appalling state of disrepair. The local authorities show no interest in taking care of their own.

Many, many villages are just abandonned, inhabited by a few old women, old churches crumbling, local roads in an awful state, perfectly good houses just left empty. You could say it's just the same phenomenon as everywhere else, people leaving the countryside, but at least here in France some wealth still percolates from the large centers towards the most outlying villages. Not in Putin's Russia.

The order is the order of the powerful. An example, I filled up the tank of the little Moskvitch I was driving, and was asked to pay for more liters than what the tank actually contains. When I suggested to my friends that maybe we should complain to the authorities, I was told that they were part of the scheme.

The local hospitals can't any more pay decent salaries to their doctors, so most of them just move to larger towns. So those who stay, well, may not be the best.

What I am trying to say is that with all his smarts, Putin still is a short sighted politician, who couldn't be bothered with optimizing Russia's energy windfall. He isn't any better than a Sarkozy or a Brown. He does not have a strategic long term view of what to do for the future of Russia. Why, if he did have one, he would have nationalized oil and gas and aluminium a long time ago, he would build high-speed train links across the country.

Trains are vital in Russia, because of the winters, and because of the distances.

Now, I'd be quite happy to be proven wrong, because I just love those Europeans from the East, and I wish them the best...

And sorry for the rambling post.

by balbuz on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 11:24:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trains are vital in Russia

They carry all the freight, unlike in western Europe where trucks do it. And they are the future of passengers traffic, when liquid energy is just too expensive.

by balbuz on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 06:23:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My microcosmic view comes from visiting there, not from some budgetary or economic figures I could produce.

Same here.  Have I been throwing about some budgetary or economic figures?

Russia is a few islands of limitless prosperity, Moscow and some energy-rich towns such as Ekaterinburg : there, you will find just the same consumption excesses, SUV, large German cars, traffic jams, as any in the "West".

On this we don't disagree.

Outside these islands of extreme wealth, absolutely nothing is being done. Hop onto a train towards Kazan or Yaroslavl, and you will be transported in the same wagons that were used 40 years ago. The public buses or tramways in the little provincial towns are in an appalling state of disrepair. The local authorities show no interest in taking care of their own.

Your comment was about Sheremtevo & that is what I was responding to.  

Here's what I don't get.  The freakish need to find somethingng to lecture Russia about.  Like anyone in the West gives a flying!@#$ about the poor people of Yaroslavl.  I mean, I wish we did, but I'm guessing they are in our thoughts oh about the same amount of time as ... Alton IL (American river town in a very similar demographics/financial situation.)  Yaroslavl is actually a lovely little town, btw,  I & one I had little trouble getting to.

Many, many villages are just abandoned, inhabited by a few old women, old churches crumbling, local roads in an awful state, perfectly good houses just left empty. You could say it's just the same phenomenon as everywhere else, people leaving the countryside, but at least here in France some wealth still percolates from the large centers towards the most outlying villages. Not in Putin's Russia.

How on earth do you expect to get away with comparing FRANCE and RUSSIA?  Again, we see the icky desire to be like God and create Russia in our own image.  Do you have any clue how much larger Russia is than France?  So let's for a moment not even think about Siberia and limit the discussion to areas like the Golden ring.  After the fall of communism these areas were in a fierce state of disrepair.  We can blame the current administration for not doing enough to improve them, but they are hardly responsible for creating the situation.  I'm astounded by the complete lack of perspective.  70 years of communism.  10 years of anarchy.  And in the last 8 years, small villages have not been successfully gentrified!  What a disgrace!  Putin's Russia is not like France.  Maybe Sarkozy should go Napoleon and try to make it so.  Meanwhile, the task is finding jobs and food for the people.  

The order is the order of the powerful. An example, I filled up the tank of the little Moskvitch I was driving, and was asked to pay for more liters than what the tank actually contains. When I suggested to my friends that maybe we should complain to the authorities, I was told that they were part of the scheme.

It's ceratianly not a culture for complaining to the authorities.   If you are looking for a place where everything is fair and utopian, I don't suggest going to Russia.  
The local hospitals can't any more pay decent salaries to their doctors, so most of them just move to larger towns. So those who stay, well, may not be the best.

FWIW, this is a problem in the US too.  But it is a problem.  That is true.  Jobs, food, health care.  I believe it was Putin's admin which wanted to privatize the whole system of health care.  Medvedev has been talking more and more about social welfare.  They know there is a problem.  Solving that problem could not have been priority #1 under Putin's administration, which was focused on establishing some semblance of civil society and for lack of a better term, "getting their act together".

What I am trying to say is that with all his smarts, Putin still is a short sighted politician, who couldn't be bothered with optimizing Russia's energy windfall. He isn't any better than a Sarkozy or a Brown. He does not have a strategic long term view of what to do for the future of Russia. Why, if he did have one, he would have nationalized oil and gas and aluminium a long time ago, he would build high-speed train links across the country.

You're entitled to your opinion.  But you are acting like all of Russia lives in Siberia.  You are acting like the government hasn't taken a hand in optimizing Russia's energy windfall which was previously solely going into the pockets of a few individuals.  It's now being redistributed in a way in which most people have benefited from at least a little.  The poor?  You think giving them high-speed trains is the answer?  There are trains and busses.  They work fine.  Sometimes.  You really sound like someone working in or investing in the high-speed train industry who is just miffed more money hasn't been spent on your baby, and are saying therefore it is the poor in Russia who suffer.  

The poor in Russia suffer because industry towns were built where people were never meant to live.  They suffer because the social safety nets of Communism were pulled from under them.  They suffer because a corrupt system has some of their regions going badly governed.  (Not all.  Apparently the Chukotka area is getting new hospitals and schools and other Oligarch hand-outs.)  They suffer because they are out in the middle of nowhere with little means of living.  

But their suffering HAS improved, if marginally in some cases.  Small business and farmers' grants and loans are being made available.   Some reform has been made in the way regions are governed.  (And yes, I think it is an improvement to go from gangsters being able to just buy a governorship and shoot anyone who opposes them to having to be appointed by the President.)

I don't think the Putin administration was perfect, uncorrupt or accomplished everything that needed to be accomplished.  Who knows what Medvedev will do.  But I do know that despite imperfection, corruption and term limits, what the Putin administration did accomplish is admirable.  Russia's not France.  Russia has never been and never will be.  Even if everyone did everything right.  There is too much working against it, from geography to history to global ignorance.

Everyone who says Russia is stupid if it squanders this window of opportunity:  I could not agree more.  I just disagree on the extent to which they have done so and are even able to do so.  There is always room for improvement.  I just think you're overestimating how much room they've been given.  I mean, they are still in the process of working out a new system of government.  And generally, making sure people can eat and aren't shot walking down the street is a higher priority than ... a pretty new high-speed train to the Urals!

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 11:57:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
great discussion, balbuz and poemless!

russia is really coming alive for me in these comments.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:09:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for calling this a "discussion."  I was afraid I'd been a bit too rough on balbuz.  He struck a nerve.

I do think he makes some important points, though.  I probably should have made that clear earlier.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:14:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you're getting better at handling opinions you don't completely agree with, imo.

plus, you're one feisty babe..

<ducks>

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:50:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks. :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:52:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite surprised by your tone. Won't be caught again.

Randomly :

Here's what I don't get.  The freakish need to find somethingng to lecture Russia about.  Like anyone in the West gives a flying!@#$ about the poor people of Yaroslavl.

I do. I know people there. And my Russian friends over there make the exact same remarks as I have done in my comments.

How on earth do you expect to get away with comparing FRANCE and RUSSIA?  Again, we see the icky desire to be like God and create Russia in our own image.

Unfair.

Do you have any clue how much larger Russia is than France?

Of course not.

by balbuz on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 04:08:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite surprised by your tone. Won't be caught again.

:)
As Melo points out, I am getting better at these things.  Baby steps.  Also erm, it's not excuse, but I was just in from a rainstorm and soaking wet when I read your post.  No excuse, of course, but know you're not entirely responsible for my bad attitude.  Just a little. ;)

I do. I know people there. And my Russian friends over there make the exact same remarks as I have done in my comments.

You do.  Your friends do.  I do.  But I doubt most of the world does.  

Unfair.

Not entirely, given how the west has behaved toward Russia in the past 17+ years.  It's exactly how we've acted.  Now that Russia's decided it's not a country to be moulded into whatever the west wants it to be, we're quite quick to point out how they are doing it wrong.  And by "it" I mean, "fixing a slew of problems we actually helped to create."  

Of course not.

:)

Look, I'm a bit reactionary about these things.  I generally am very uncomfortable thinking I or anyone outside Russia knows or should say what is best for Russia.  Which does not mean there are not things to criticize.   Moreover, almost all of the criticisms I see are not sincerely motivated by the welfare of the Russian people.  They are motivated by our insecurities and by scapegoating.  I will not doubt your sincerity.  But for the most part, the people I now hear bemoaning the plight of poor Russians, ruled by a corrupt system, victims of the current leadership, were either perfectly silent when the same people were living in desperation in the 90's or were even cheerleading the system that was creating such desperation.  So incredulity is my default position.  Another default position is to not underestimate the difficulty of the tasks Russia has before itself.  

Also, given what has been accomplished in the past 8 years, Putin may be many many many things, but I have seen little evidence to suggest he is "stupid" or simply enjoying today's spoils at the expense of tomorrow.  I don't think he is a humanitarian by any stretch of the imagination.  But he seems to be acutely aware that his legacy will be that of Russia's, for better or for worse.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 04:40:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, thanks for the serious commentary.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 04:43:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hesitate to comment, but I shall. My position is somewhere between yours and poemless's. I too have the impression that Russia is wasting its oil wealth. But it is not true that there is no spending on railways.

Russia is indeed large, with one of the largest railway network lengths in the world (three times France's, with much greater investment needs), for an economy about the same size as France's. So there is a lot of work to do. But Russia under Putin did in fact re-start rail investment: the TransSib electrification was finished, the BAM's is ongoing, both lines are upgraded (including expensive tunnels), new lines are built both in Siberia and the European North. There are major new orders for locomotives delivering from this year. Around Moscow, new multiple units made appearance on suburban lines, and some lines were upgraded. In fact, there is special attention to the three airport links, all of which are now in service - thus in fact, a train line directly to Sheremet'yevo 2 (from Savyolovskaya) operates since June 10 this year (timetable in Russian).

poemless is ridiculing the mention of high-speed railways. I disagree partly because in Russia, long-distance travel is significant, as is air travel which high-speed railways could also supplant. Now in fact, there were plans for a high-speed network from Yeltsin's time, but time and again, the plans were scrapped, with the argument that upgrades on the conventional network are more urgent. But the latest is that the plans were digged up again, and at last the first batch of Siemens's broad-gauge Velaro-R trains (related to German Railways' ICE-3 trains) reached the construction phase last year (also see photo), and the eight units are expected to connect St. Petersburg, Moscow and Nizhni Novgorod at 250 km/h from 2009. OK, dedicated high-speed lines are still only in discussion.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 05:10:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and subways are expanding again, too. Check the UrbanRail network map for Moscow (on which you can also see the suburban lines including the three airport links).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 05:24:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And FWIW, they were expanding under Yeltsin too...  They probably never stopped expanding.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 11:06:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<checking> Finishing short extensions to Line 9 and starting Line 10, you are right! And added line length seems similar to the more numerous Putin-era additions. (And they are probably more connected to the city government than that of the Federation.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 02:00:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<checking further>

  • Kazan': all new in the Putin era;
  • Samara and Nizniy Novgorod: now these are more the pattern I was thinking of, with some extensions finished in the early Yeltsin era and construction re-starting in the Putin era;
  • Sankt Petersburg: one line got extensions throughout the Yeltsin era, but under Putin, three lines expanded simultaneously and Line 5 is now in the works.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 02:10:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Keep in mind that opening under the Putin Admin doesn't mean the projects weren't started under Yeltsin.  I don't know that the av. time it takes to finish an extension is, but work on the stop after Prazhskaya, which opened in 2000, was underway in 1995.  Likewise, if a line opened in 1992, I'm sure it was started back in the USSR...

Interesting question about who funds it.  In Chicago everyone is always screaming because the CTA is a mess, but the funds come from the state and federal government, which don't seem to grasp how important it is to the city...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 02:28:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What, you don't trust me?  I didn't do any fact checking.  I lived at the end of the grey line, and they were busy working on the new stations while I was there.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 02:19:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought that maybe all that happened was the same as in Samara and Nizniy Novgorod: merely finishing what was begun in Soviet times.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 02:25:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The undeground metro rails are financed by local governments, and Luzhkov always had money in Moscow, no matter who was the president at the federal level. BTW, that's the thing to keep in mind while discussing infrastructure: many bits are not a direct responsibility of the federal government.

Say, suburban rails on UrbanRail.Net is the responsibility of a private but state owned RZhD, some sea ports are private, some airports are essentially concessions to operating companies. The tendency is to privatize the bits of infrastructure and expect them modernize from the profits without state or local government help.  

by blackhawk on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 04:09:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that's the thing to keep in mind while discussing infrastructure: many bits are not a direct responsibility of the federal government.

Interesting that you brought this up.  I was just reading the following:

Abramovich's Chukotka Miracle

And he did just that over the next seven years of his governorship. His professional team of managers pulled Chukotka out of its state of crisis. New schools and hospitals were built, housing units were repaired and investment flowed into the region. Last year the government approved a development program for Chukotka based on the region's mineral resources that was submitted by Abramovich's Millhouse Capital company, which owns two gold mines there.

Already, cash revenues in Chukotka are among the highest in Russia, lagging behind only Tyumen, Yamal-Nenets and the Moscow region, and average salaries surpass those in both Moscow and Tyumen. In addition, while Abramovich was governor, the number of people who left Chukotka for other cities dropped, and both alcoholism and the crime rate declined.

The "Chukotka miracle" is a result not only of modern and effective management. The taxes on Abramovich's enormous personal income, which were about 1 billion rubles, went to the region's treasury. Moreover, until 2006, 60 percent of the regional budget was financed by business deals connected with Sibneft, which Abramovich sold to Gazprom for $13 billion in 2005.

After the Sibneft sale, however, Abramovich had to compensate for the lost income to the budget by drawing on his personal funds. From that moment on, it is believed, the governorship became a burden for Abramovich, and he began looking for ways to tender his resignation. Another reason why Abramovich may have decided to resign is that for a person who is so creative and loves starting new ventures, the Chukotka governorship became too routine.

In contrast to all other governors, Abramovich's political weight is not affected by whether he serves in a government post. But it is unclear how Chukotka will fare without Abramovich as its main patron. Abramovich's representatives have announced that he will continue to pay his personal taxes in Chukotka and that two of his charitable funds in the region will continue operations. Chukotka can only hope that Abramovich will fulfill all of his promises.

Seems as if it is local to the point of personal charity in this case...

I think your point further underlines mine, that it's hard to criticise the President, or at least only the President, when rural outlying areas are in disrepair.  However, the federal government has been playing a direct role in the choosing/appointing of those who are responsible for local infrastructure.  This is "managed democracy."  


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 04:25:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]


However, the federal government has been playing a direct role in the choosing/appointing of those who are responsible for local infrastructure.  This is "managed democracy."  

Not really, the new system of elections of the governors is pretty new, and about 3-5 governors were changed this way. At the moment the rest 80+ owe their post to popular elections.

by blackhawk on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 04:45:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand your comment.  Do you mean to say that since the Putin-era law of appointing governors, only 3 to 5 governors have been appointed, and the rest remain from the previous system of elections?  

Either way you look at it, many of those who were elected or appointed have been so or stayed so because they've worked out a deal with the federal government.  Though I hear there are some rogue opposition governors out there. ;)

Hey, how is it all divided up?  How are people chosen?  I really know extremely little about the ins and outs of Russian governance.  You should write a diary!  Just for me.  :)  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 05:05:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, 95% of governors are from the old system of popular elections dating back to perestroyka times, so mostly the governors are chosen by the ability to deliver populist message most vocally. Say, when UK was bullying Lugovoy and he was all over TV, the guy had a chance to become a governor in half of Russian regions had Russia still have popular elections.

For new appointments, it is hard to tell if there is a pattern from such a small set of appointees: some, like Boos in Kaliningrad, are imports from Moscow, some, as it seems, are suggested by local elites/legislations.

Tendency seems to be to have competent managers appointed. Also some time ago there were noises about having a formal rating system which could be used to weed out under performing governors.

BTW, "managed democracy" is a hostile frame usually used by Lukas and alike.

by blackhawk on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 05:52:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ack - I have to leave soon so I have to give a short answer.  At one point I'd found the origin of the term but now I don't want to go through this again.  It was a term used in particular by Kremlin ideologist folks.  McFaul, Lucas, LR. etc ran with it as a derogatory term to describe a kind of corruption and authoritarianism.  Then Russia was like, "actually, it's soveriegn democracy, yeah."  Now Medvedev is talking about rational democracy.  Whatever.  I realize many people use it as a derogatory word, but it does seem like a very good descriptor of system, and one with origins in the Kremlin itself.  I'm ambivalent as to whether it is nefarious or not.  The tendency does seem to be to have competent managers appointed.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 06:25:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Medvedev is not talking about "rational democracy", you (and AFP) are. AFP glued together phrases from different parts of the interview and then invented "rational democracy" (once again,  never used by Medvedev) for the headline based on this chopped sentence.

"Managed democracy" is introduced by Tretyakov in 2000 for the description of Yeltsin's regime from 1993 to 2000, especially the Voloshin and Putin as PM period and referred to the state and oligarchs manipulating the political process using media, spoiler parties, defining democracy as power of the democrats and using authoritarian means were result from democratic process was not guaranteed.

Since then it was used for some time in Russian expert circles, but was never dubbed as official ideology. By 2003 it became mostly derogatory term  used by professional fighters with Putin "regime". At this point in time I'm not sure if the term actually describes anything and if it does, why I don't see why it is not applied to all of the new Europe, Italy, Japan, UK and US, to name a few countries.

by blackhawk on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 09:27:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1. Medvedev is not talking about "rational democracy", you (and AFP) are. AFP glued together phrases from different parts of the interview and then invented "rational democracy" (once again,  never used by Medvedev) for the headline based on this chopped sentence.

Dima talkin' about rational democracy at the G8.  Brought to you by the official Kremlin website.  

Russian text

English text

"разумной"  rational, reasonable, translate it how you wish, but this is the "condition" on which he accepts a politically & economically competitive system a.k.a. "democracy."  (as opposed to autocracy...)

The AFP comment is in quotes, and while I'm no fan of the MSM, I don't think this quote was used misleadingly.  Which is surprising, frankly.

2.  Thanks for the Tretyakov source!

Here is something in English for interested readers.

Diagnosis: Managed Democracy
I will put a name to the situation at which we arrived long ago. It is not dictatorship, not despotism. This is an authoritarian-proto-democratic type of government, existing in the form of a presidential republic and in the form of a nomenklatura. It is a bureaucratic, feebly federalist, in places quasi-democratic, and heavily corrupted state. In two words, the name I give for all of this is: "managed democracy." In 1917, the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, took power. They had their own democratic slogan, "All Power to the Soviets!" But they could not ignore the no less popular slogan in society, "All Power to the Constituent Assembly!" The Bolsheviks, however, lost the elections to the Constituent Assembly; they didn't have a majority.

What was Lenin to do? Correct: He unlawfully disbanded the Constituent Assembly, and then, suppressing the resistance (included the armed uprising) of his followers, turned to revolutionary terror.

Managed democracy emerged in the country in a Soviet guise. Real democracy, however, remained in the party, at the party congresses.

Stalin came to power. Under his rule, Soviet-style managed democracy became quasi-democratic, but democracy remained in the party. Then Stalin, through the method he perfected ("the main thing is not how they vote, but how they count the votes") turned an internal party democracy into a nationwide managed democracy. Stalin finally, using terror, turned even that managed democracy into a quasi-democracy. Yet another cycle in the history of the Russian representative council was completed.

Decades later, Gorbachev was unable to democratize the party, although he did practically give "All power to the Soviets." As a result, he was crushed and overthrown by both the undemocratic wing of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [the State Committee for the State of Emergency] and the power of Yeltsin's Soviets, which had turned into the "ochlocracy" [mob rule] of the intelligentsia.

Yeltsin, the leader of the democratic-ochlocratic movement, ascended to the throne. Yeltsin was faced--as Stalin, Lenin, and Czar Nikolai II were before him--with an old problem: Parliamentary democracy (in all its forms throughout Russian history, from the Czarist Dumas, to the Constituent Assembly, to the Soviets, to the party congresses) was interfering with the country's highest executive power.

So what did Yeltsin, who spent only a few years honestly fighting unmanaged democracy, do? That's right: He did the same thing that the Czar did with the Dumas, the same thing Lenin did with the Constituent Assembly, the same thing that Stalin did with the soviets and the party congresses: He moved against them.

But Yeltsin next did something completely new in Russian political history. He took a step away from dictatorship and despotism. He called for Duma elections, precisely with the purpose of establishing managed democracy.

In 1996, during the presidential elections, the manageability of our democracy was demonstrated in all its elegance. The problem was something else: Yeltsin managed the country poorly. But he did not extinguish the democratic impulse and did not swerve toward despotism, even though the managed democracy that he constructed wished to overthrow him.

And then Yeltsin, at the height of his power, pointed to Putin.

Putin, along with Yeltsin, intelligently decided to extend the life of the managed democracy for at least another term. Why? Selfish reasons, of course, were there. But the main reason was fear--a rational, grounded fear--that a departure from managed democracy would lead the country form ochlocracy, to unmanaged democracy, to anarchy.

In a managed democracy, the people vote, but the people who are in power correct the people's choice ever so slightly. In whose favor? In their own favor, of course.

I was basing my own understanding on sources like the following:

Wikipedia

Lately this term is also widely employed in Russia, where it was introduced into common practice by the Kremlin theorists, in particular Gleb Pavlovsky.[1]

CSMonitor

Gleb Pavlovsky, the head of the Effective Policy Foundation, a Kremlin-funded think tank, says that "a regime of managed democracy had to be established [after Putin came to power] in 2000, in order to counter real threats from shady groups who had seized power in Moscow and in the regions. That task has been accomplished now. Today, Putin's power is based on the moral authority of a leader of civil society and not upon an authoritarian dictatorship."

BBC

Russia has no real history of dealing "democratically" with these questions.

There is no tradition of Western style presidential campaigns or even of really "credible" presidential elections.

Under Mr Putin, the Kremlin has learned about spin.

The chief "spin-master" is Dimitri Pescov, a suave and urbane chain smoker with an easy charm and fluent English.

He defends what he calls the "managed democracy" of Russia by claiming that there is no single model of democracy, so each country carves out its own style.

"And as for the Russian style?" I ask.

"Just because it is different does not necessarily mean that it is wrong," he tells me.

3.  At this point in time I'm not sure if the term actually describes anything and if it does, why I don't see why it is not applied to all of the new Europe, Italy, Japan, UK and US, to name a few countries.

I think it describes it well.  Of course, I don't know what "democracy" means anymore.  But again, I don't care who uses it or not, I will.  But I don't attach an implicitly negative connotation to it, even if the whole world does.  Why?  I live in Chicago.  Chicago is run like Russia.  I also think it's a fine place to live.  But it's no anarcho-democracy.  There is a political machine.  It's corrupt.  There is graft and patronage.  There are also elections in which, if people actually wanted to they could swiftly vote the machine out of power.  The mayor loves his city.  And he's hard not to like.  I could go on.   What I am saying is this:

I'm far less interested in the purity of the system than with the outcomes of it.  So I don't really care what kind of democracy you are ("democratic" being a term used by everyone from South Korea to America to Finland, thereby signifying nothing), just what you do with it.  

Why don't we call other places out for "managing" their democracies?  Because it's only bad when Russia does it, silly.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 12:42:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems blackhawk is protesting against the word combination "rational democracy", which was a combination created by AFP in the article title. It may be seen as gluing together distant parts of the press conference, since Medvedev was not talking about democracy directly, but about managing corruption:

President of Russia

FABRICE NODET LANGLOIS: I have another question on corruption. In March, you said that you want to change people's behaviour and that people in Russia are not always keen to follow the law. Speaking recently in St Petersburg, [Anatoly] Chubais said that reform, and I quote: 'will be ineffective without competitive political mechanisms and a strong opposition'. Do you agree with this view?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV:  Corruption, clearly, is the possibility of using one's monopoly situation to pursue what are generally selfish aims. Officials have exclusive powers and use them not in the state's interests but in their personal interest, in order to line their own pockets. All kinds of competition are therefore useful. We are taking a firm line, for example, on introducing tender procedures in the economy, perhaps not always exactly as we would like, but our policy is a firm one. Why are we doing this? We are doing it precisely because when there is a choice between several different options there can be no corruption. We know that results can be manipulated, and such cases occur here and in other countries, but the system is at least an open one. In this sense, competition between different political groups is also necessary in order to make the political system as a whole more stable.

The system built on the truth of one party alone proved its weakness 20 years ago. It was unable to cope with the new challenges arising and ceased to exist. In order to make our country competitive at the global level, we need to develop political competition too, but this should be reasonable competition, competition based on the law. This should be competition based on the law between political parties that want to take part in normal competition for building the best future for Russia. Without this kind of competition there can be no full-scale fight against corruption.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 01:38:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We can sit here and parse words for the rest of our freaking lives - no - I won't.  But I think the point still stands.  

"we need to develop political competition too, but this should be reasonable competition,"  

The whole discussion is about the use of qualifiers to explain the reasons for what is perceived to be an undemocratic system.  He did not say "reasonable democracy," but "reasonable [political] competition," in a conversation about how the lack of political competition engenders corruption.   That is true.  But there is not any significant difference between that and "rational democracy."  It's very clear what he's saying here.  You guys are getting very angels on a pinhead with me, I think.  I'd like to maintain some perspective.  

I'm also forced to ask: why is this even an issue?!  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 02:06:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And from here on out, I would be delighted to talk about real issues, I'd be delighted to learn about the actual political structure and process in Russia -as opposed to whatever made up term they're calling it or the legitimacy of the usage of these made up terms, which I personally love for their sheer audacity and cleverness - or talk about silly meaningless nonsense.

But this is the Odds&Ends!  

The word police don't have much of a place in this forum.  A forum I have created for two explicit purposes: promoting Russia, and making words bend to my evil will!  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 02:23:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I won't speak for blackhawk, but I do see a possible meaning that is both more than angels and pinheads and has to do with political structure. Considering what he talked about earlier about the need for Presidential power, Medsvedev might have meant that a free-for-all political competition will only be a free-ride for corrupt forces, thus the end result is the same: officials will use exclusive powers not in the state's interests but in their personal interest, in order to line their own pockets. So the President of the Russian Federation sees his job as steering national politics between two dangers, hoping that these forces will weaken eventually and parties with a non-personal-enrichment agenda will emerge somehow - all this in the interest of prosperity in a globalised world...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 03:35:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see at all how one can read "rational democracy" in his interview. If anything, for someone willing to parse words, either he gets too academic in his answer or sounds a warning to nefarious forces planning anti-constitutional actions.

When he references this "reasonable/rational" bit the second time, it's clear that by "rational" he means legal and constitutional.

I can not find the translation of the original 2000 "Diagnosis: Managed Democracy", only can find the Russian original.

Returning to "managed democracy", I still contend that it is not accurate to name it an official ideology. I can not find Peskov describing Russian systen as managed democracy, and given New European BBC, I would not be surprised if they invented him saying that. Pavlovksy, being a head of a (private) political PR and consulting company, can shoot his mouth off whenever he likes, but when he does that, he does not speak in any official capacity.


The system built on the truth of one party alone proved its weakness 20 years ago. It was unable to cope with the new challenges arising and ceased to exist. In order to make our country competitive at the global level, we need to develop political competition too, but this should be reasonable competition, competition based on the law. This should be competition based on the law between political parties that want to take part in normal competition for building the best future for Russia.
...

MICHAEL LUDWIG: After your election, you said that some people have been trying to undermine your partnership with Vladimir Putin. Mr Surkov said recently that, I quote, "some destructive forces in the country are trying to drive a wedge between you and Vladimir Vladimirovich".

Is this true? And who are these destructive forces?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV:  Everyone has the right and the possibility to comment on this or that process. My colleagues do this too, and this is absolutely normal. I am sure that there are some politicians out there who do not like the current power configuration, and part of the population no doubt does not like it either. But that is what democracy is all about. When elections take place the majority chooses a head of state, who in turn proposes the Government, and in this composition they work. I accept that not everyone may like the current set up, and I think that this is normal.

It would be ridiculous to list the names of destructive forces. I am not a supporter of conspiracy theories. Everything is a lot simpler in real life. But it is very clear that there is a system of political competition in any developed state. You asked me before about this too, about political competition. I think that this is a normal thing for any country. The main thing is not to let this political competition turn into anti-constitutional confrontation. Our country already had more than its share of this in the twentieth century. The President of Russia is the guarantor of the Constitution in order to be able to ensure general order in the country, ensure respect for the law and for rights and freedoms, give opposition forces the possibility to freely express their position, their views in the state structures, in the legislative bodies, in the parliament, and in the street, but all in accordance with the laws in force. Everything else is a question of evaluation.


by blackhawk on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 05:44:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can ET host a Blackhawk v. Medvedev debate?

B: I can not find Peskov describing Russian systen as managed democracy, and given New European BBC, I would not be surprised if they invented him saying that.

M: I am not a supporter of conspiracy theories.


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 06:36:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I still can not find any direct quote of Peskov calling   Russian democracy "managed".

But I can find this from the same time frame: Surkov, Jun 2006, direct quote:


"By managed democracy we understand political and economic regimes imposed by centres of global influence - and I am not going to mention specific countries - by force and deception."
by blackhawk on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 07:57:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I probably came upon this just as you were posting:

Surkov's "Sovereign" and "Managed" Democracy

Sean:

The deputy head of Putin's administration, Vladislav Surkov gave a rare press conference this week. His comments touched on energy geopolitics and Russian democracy. The latter topic has generated the most press as critics have tried to ascertain the meaning of Surkov's use of "sovereign democracy" versus "managed democracy". For the latter he gave this definition: "By managed democracy we understand political and economic regimes imposed by centres of global influence - and I am not going to mention specific countries - by force and deception." Of course Russia doesn't try to install "managed democracies" on its borders. Yeah, right. In this sense, Russia does what every power currently does. It uses the rhetoric of democracy as a tool of geopolitical maneuvering.

Take Surkov's democratic rhetoric as an example. His definition of "managed democracy" is a direct reference to America's view that the only democracy is American democracy or at least the only viable democracy is one that conforms to American interests. Surkov made these comments in the context Dick Cheney's hypocrisy in labeling authoritarian states "democracies." "When [Cheney] was in Kazakhstan after criticizing our democracy, he gave the highest rating to Kazakhstan's democracy. The Kazakh people are our brothers. But I will never agree that Kazakhstan has gone further in building democracy than we have." I'd have to score one to Surkov here. For Cheney to suggest that Nazarbayev's regime approaches anything close to a democracy should evoke rancorous laughter. The point however is Russia is itself playing the "democracy" game by measuring others and itself against imagined, and self-referential idealism about its own democracy.

In contrast, western critics use the term "managed democracy" to describe Russia as "backsliding" into authoritarianism. Surkov essentially turned the Western usage on its head. According to Surkov, "managed democracy" is given to states that are under the American neo-imperial umbrella. So Karzai's Afghanistan, Musharaf's Pakistan, Mubark's Egypt, and Iraq are democracies, while Russia is not. "They [the West]," charged Surkov in specific reference to American attempts to dominate the globes energy resources, "talk about democracy but they're thinking about our natural resources."

What we're talking about here is one phrase being used for multipe frames.  I agree with Sean's "Yeah right."  I agree with Surkov's legendary take-down of American policies.  However, you'll notice Surkov and Tretyakov are not using the same definition.  Because Tretyalov was doing analysis and Surkov was doing PR.  

I will give you this one, blackhawk.  On the sole basis that I'm coming up empty handed trying to provide anything you'd consider passable evidence for the term originating in the Kremlin.  

However, on some level I'm not totally convinced because I explicitly remember being long under the impression it was a phrase made up by the western press and then one day stumbling upon something (trying to jog my memory, I know it was in one of the half dozen books abut the Putin Admin I've recently read...)  in which people from the administration were explaining how they came up with this idea of managed democracy!  I seem to remember Surkov being in on that too, which, given politics and his PR mission, does not strike me as impossible.  And those whole thing was causing all kinds of grief and fallings out within the administration.  And I was like, "Oh!  I stand corrected!"  And now I'm standing corrected yet again.  So, frankly, I do not know.  I can go through life believing nothing I read (so why read at all) or reading everything and trying to glean some sense from it all.  

and quoting Sergei Roy (from the SRB post):

Consider the controversy concerning "managed democracy" vs. "sovereign democracy." Certain "purists" insist that either you have democracy or you don't, that real democracy comes without any adjectives, that any additions to the concept make it less of a democracy or no democracy at all. Well, those purists should pay attention to the frequency with which the phrase "effective democracy" is used in the US ideological environment and, still more, to the practice of imposing this "effective democracy" throughout the world -- most notably in Iraq, of course. Surkov's, and quite a few other people's, insistence on sovereign democracy means, quite simply, that to have a democracy in Russia, there must first be a Russia, recognizable to its people as their birthplace with a thousand-year history and a certain future as a single, indivisible country. A sovereign country. No wonder this term, sovereign democracy, is so virulently attacked by the said purists, for whom there can be only one kind of democracy the world over -- American democracy. We see only too clearly, however, that American democracy abroad is democracy for Americans abroad and at home, not for the peoples of that "abroad." Countries like Georgia and Ukraine are too close to Russia for us to miss the effect of the loss of sovereignty on democracy. To the US, these lands may appear to be beacons of freedom and democracy. At closer range, they look more like what the irreverent French call bordel de Dieu, the brothel of Our Lord. They are not even managed democracies, as Surkov calls them. They are mismanaged pseudo-democracies.

This is what I was getting at earlier.  Russia's being given an ongoing democracy purity test.  (And if you imagine that is NOT exactly what was going on at that G8 interview with Medvedev, you're naive.)  Any qualifier, regardless how it got there, how valid it may be as a descriptor or how maliciously it may be used in the press, means they're failing.  <--This is the message the world wants us to get.  Perhaps for you, and for Russia, and for its leaders, the desire is to deny or back away from these qualifiers.  For me, I say, own them.  Democracies probably SHOULD be managed, sovereign and rational!  And if they didn't create these qualifiers, they should co-opt and go fiercely after the mythology that the rest of the world are not doing the exact same thing, that only America or wherever is a genuine democracy, that for every "democracy" on earth, there are infinite PR spins to distract from the aspects of those democracies are anything but pure.   They need to change the frame and turn the tables (as Surkov was doing) but not just to point the finger at someone else, but to illustrate and reject outright the fallacy implicit in the suggestion that ANY country can be a pure democracy!


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jul 10th, 2008 at 02:16:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The undeground metro rails are financed by local governments

To what extent? What poemless told for Chicago is pretty standard around the world: due to the lopsided share of taxes, capital-intensive local projects are usually co-financed by various levels (in the EU, that can be four successive levels: local-regional-country government and EU funds), wih the local part as the samallest and the national as the largest.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 04:49:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]

It's the same, with local governments driving the planning. The problem with federal money is that Finance Ministry fights infrastructure spending and does not execute the budget for the items it considers "pork" introducing random cuts to fight "inflation".

I can not find authoritative source, just an article with Luzhkov's complaints were he says that metro extensions are self financing, with some city help: in 2008-2010 city will spend 5 bln $; last few years effective federal part in overall financing was 10%. Luzhkov was asking for 50% federal financing but seems to have lost this battle inside his own party.

by blackhawk on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 05:23:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's still one of the best systems in the world, I think.

rhetorical question: When is Luzhkov not complaining?!

Complainy Luzhkov:

OMG.  Roman's everywhere!  I google Luzhkov (to find out what his latest complaint is, something about Ukraine and Georgia and gays) and get this:

Abramovich Suggested as Next Moscow Mayor

And Lebedev is a ... blogger?!   They're keeping it real over there....

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 05:33:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lebedev ran for a mayor against Luzhkov at some point and lost and yes, he does have a blog.

BTW, amazing how Luzhkov manages to keep his post. Everyone knows guy is corrupt, but he keeps getting elected for getting things done and for the increased salaries to state employees (including teachers and doctors).

by blackhawk on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 05:48:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One problem is that economic policy is being run by free marketers and state takes a hands off approach to economic development. There are little mechanisms to spend money on targeted industries/projects.

Also there was concern that high oil prices are not going to last and budget should not include any extra oil profits as those profits are not stable.

And yet another one was inflation risk and chances of economy overheating with extra petrodollars.

And finally, oil and gas industry is private so the good chunk of the money is going to the owners as profit.

Lately the government reserves grew just beyond reasonable and it became politically impossible for free marketers to limit government spending on investing. Check this interview with Gref for some of the details:

    Opinion & analysis Interview with Economy Minister German Gref (Part 1)


So, you are also interested in the most popular question in Russia now, "How should we spend the Stabilization Fund's money?" In fact, the danger lies not in spending the state's huge savings, but in making ill-considered attempts to spend it on the country's domestic needs, thereby accelerating inflation. This is a difficult subject, because it is necessary to determine the exact ratio of monetary and non-monetary components when spending the savings. I believe that we are partially succeeding, at least judging by the gradually falling influence of the money supply on the growth of consumer prices.
by blackhawk on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 06:35:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
poemless is ridiculing the mention of high-speed railways

You know, I'm not against them in principle.  And agree they could only help.  

I'm just suggesting that 8 years ago the national priorities were quite literally matters of life and death.  And even those have not been entirely adequately addressed (which is why we hear Medvedev speaking of "legal nihilism.")  I can't say for sure, but I would assume that most of the obscene wealth and boomtown growth we read about has come from private, not State money.  They are not entirely distinct, I know.  But actually getting some of that money from private hand and into State coffers has not been easy, and as sure as it is done, someone screams foul and starts going on about the return of communism and authoritarianism.  I mean, I'm not even certain there was anything one could confidently call a "national economy" 10 years ago.  So to say that Russia is failing on the basis of a lack of high speed trains strikes me personally as a little perverse...  

Thanks for commenting, Mr. Trains Expert!

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 11:17:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the info and the links, Dodo. I'll definitely use the map and the timetable next time I get there. No need fighting shady pseudo-taxi drivers any more, or trying to locate the shuttle to Rechnoï Vakzal !
by balbuz on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 12:05:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

As one who lived a significant part of his life under the Soviet regime, let me tell you that if it had not been for the Cold War, democratization would have begun in the USSR decades earlier.

Why politicians play the politics of fear - and how the right wins.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 07:08:47 PM EST
Issues with Henry aside, I think "ever since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, a succession of American administrations has acted as if the creation of Russian democracy were a principal American task" may be one of the most spot-on things I've ever read in any paper in my whole life.

I'm surprised you agree with this. Plunder and pillage do not indicate a preoccupation with democracy, in any meaningful, non-PR definition of the term IMHO. What, supporting Chubais and Gaidar, demonstrates an active involvement in creating Democracy? How exactly did these administrations act to create "democracy" in Russia?

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 08:18:21 PM EST
LOL!  Uhm, have you checked out the kinds of "democracies" America has been creating throughout the world and at home?!  I think you've misunderstood - or I did not clarify.  Actually, looking at the original article, which I simply copied and pasted here, you will see it reads like this:

With respect to the long term, ever since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, a succession of American administrations has acted as if the creation of Russian democracy were a principal American task. Speeches denouncing Russian shortcomings and gestures drawn from the Cold War struggle for pre-eminence have occurred frequently.

So as you can see, the thrust of the comment is not Democracy but America's role.  

Whether or not America had sincere intentions for creating a Democratic system in Russia is an extremely complicated subject.  Like the Kremlin, there are many actors in Washington.  I don't doubt that some actually believed that supporting Chubais and Gaidar was supporting democracy.  I don't doubt that for many "democracy" -as has been the case in so many regions we've attempted to bestow with it- was/is simply code for "submission to America" and/or "casino Capitalism."  I'm currently reading Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe.  Interesting stuff.  America is not solely to blame for Russia's ills.  But the arrogance with which we we prance about the globe "solving" everyone's problems has not helped.  I think this is Kissinger's point.  His point is not about "democracy" which is an almost meaningless term in my opinion, but about America's image of itself and its relationship to the world, about our attitude.

Make more sense now?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 10:56:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, it's kinda ironic.  I spent half as must time on this diary as I do most of them, or less, but the quality of comments has been remarkable!  Thanks so much!  Even if I'm disagreeing or in a bad mood, these are really the very kinds of conversations I wanted to be having when I started writing this series, having no idea what I was talking about and wanting people who do to chime in and inform me, correct me, debate it out.  Molodets!

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Jul 10th, 2008 at 03:14:20 PM EST
Sargon, how do you say, Schadenfreude in Russian?

Probably злорадство.

Sorry I wasn't around lately - too much work, and what is worse, too much travelling around.

by Sargon on Sat Jul 12th, 2008 at 06:13:28 AM EST


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